Category Archives: Science

He’s not giving up.

Ever.

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

7 billion of us now. Better than 9 billion

This month, the population of Planet Earth will reach seven billion. That’s a lot of people. Here’s a quick look at recent history.

  • 1800     900 million
  • 1900     1.6 billion (added 700 million in 100 years)
  • 1950     2.4 billion (added 2 billion in 50 years)
  • 1980     5.1 4.4 billion (added 2 billion in 30 years)
  • 2000     6 billion (added 1.3 1.6 billion in 20 years )
  • 2011      7 billion (added 1 billion  in 11 years)

Until very recently we were headed for population Armageddon; in the 1970’s demographers began sounding an alarm about what they saw in their projections. And we very likely would have gotten to that awful place, but for one thing. Contraception. In the last 20 years, access has spread worldwide in spite of the religious resistance (from Christians here in the US and from large segments of the  Muslim world). Women embraced birth control; lower birth rates led to better nutrition, more education and ultimately increased prosperity, which itself is a factor in containing population growth.

Science. Good.

Krauthammer was good and I am not off my meds

In my paper this morning came a Charles Krauthammer column that at first made me laugh out loud. It’s an elegant and beautifully written (and felt) column about . . . neutrinos. He began with a joke that is circulating on the internet:

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” said the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.

The column talks about the announcement by the European high-energy physics consortium, CERN, that they’d discovered a particle that travels faster-than-light.

. . . The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. . . .

. . . But if quantum mechanics was a challenge to human sensibilities, this pesky Swiss-Italian neutrino is their undoing. It means that Einstein’s relativity — a theory of uncommon beauty upon which all of physics has been built for 100 years — is wrong . . . deeply, fundamentally, indescribably wrong.

It means that the “standard model” of subatomic particles that stands at the center of all modern physics is wrong. . .  This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.

Why? Because we can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.

A brief and comprehensible read of what this means, for those who, like me, are scientifically illiterate.

(He didn’t mention that it could have been a US discovery had not the high particle accelerator under construction in Texas in the 90’s – which would have been the world’s largest – been cancelled by Congress in ’93. Too expensive you know. Who could afford $12billion – of which we’d already spent a few billion – when we needed a half a trillion to keep the old defense industry building already-outdated aircraft and weapons?)

Shocker: Bachmann never accepted bioethicist’s HPV vaccine bet

POSTED BY ORHAN

Yesterday was the deadline for Michele Bachmann to accept University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan’s challenge to produce a single person who’s developed “mental retardation” from Gardasil. Caplan offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of her choice if she could just locate the mystery woman whose daughter became disabled after being vaccinated for HPV. Bachmann never responded, probably because she’s been plugging her ears and humming to herself to prevent scientific facts from seeping in. Caplan says he’s still glad he made the bet because, “Politicians shouldn’t get away with hearsay. We need to hold candidates responsible for their sources.”

(Source)

You want fries with that?

A surprising new study on diet is out from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It turns some dieting sacred cows out to pasture, the most sacred being that 3,500 calories = one pound, gained or lost. (This is pretty important as our children are already the fattest in the world. Something we should care about.)

The story in today’s NY Times is by Jane Brody, a health writer I’ve trusted for 30 years. The study confirms much of the usual dieting advice – most dieters regain the weight, permanent eating patterns have to change for weight to stay off and exercise combined with dieting yields the best most enduring results.

That said,  these two nuggets surprised me – one very scary and one very hopeful:

According to the researchers, it is easy to gain weight unwittingly from a very small imbalance in the number of calories consumed over calories used. Just 10 extra calories a day is all it takes to raise the body weight of the average person by 20 pounds in 30 years, the authors wrote.

A more realistic result, he said, is that cutting out 250 calories a day — the amount in a small bar or chocolate or half a cup of premium ice cream — would lead to a weight loss of about 25 pounds over three years, with half that loss occurring the first year.

Hmmmmm . . .

And thus is born the new Flat Earth Society

Sunday funnies? Eh.

Well, apart from hearing David Gregory refer to Irene as “this monstrous storm” (while showing video of people actually outside in the rain) 24 hours after it was downgraded, I did find this:

Plus Bobblespeak will be up shortly (I hope). Meanwhile, want to weep? Sorry, I know it’s not funny, but neither is anything much right now. (same source as above)

The silly never stops: how to define revenge

See, he talks to me in one of these here ears.

Remember when Pat Robertson warned that a hurricane was bearing down on Orlando because his god was angry about all that “Gay Days’ stuff? And it turned out Orlando was spared; the hurricane hit Robertson’s backyard? Truly the silliness never stops.

Denial has its place too; turn away from bad stuff and it won’t happen. Jonathan Turley reminds us:

Earthquake Hits Cantor’s District After He Led Fight To Slash Funding

The epicenter was Mineral Virginia in the district of Republican Congressman Eric Cantor.  You may recall Cantor’s effort to slash the budget of the United States Geological Service (USGS). . . .

. . . . My greatest concern is that Cantor also defended cuts in the National Weather Service and NOAA — and there is a hurricane approaching Washington.

Bombs are threats and that is all. Also Mooslims. And teh gays.

UPDATE: Cantor got more specific today. Via TPM:  We aren’t going to speculate on damage before it happens, period,” his spokesperson Laena Fallon emails. “But, as you know, Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts.”.

 

And so does MSNBC

I am (or rather, I was) listening to Ron Reagan and an ‘expert’ talk about the observed behavior of the animals at the Washington Zoo yesterday. They are talking about how the animals ‘react’ and are ‘reacting’ and about their ‘reactions’. (Poor cable nets – they’re reaching because they were disappointed the earthquake wasn’t severe enough to warrant a week’s coverage.)

The news is not that the animals reacted to the earthquake. The news they were trying so hard to cover (and failing) was that the animals ‘anticipated’, with ‘anticipation’. Animals, vertebrate and other, can sense impending events like earthquakes and tsunamis. Most of us already know that.

Teh stupid, it still hurts!! I guess the quiet place is still there if I need it.

Who needs the Weather Channel when we’ve got Rush?

The thrice married (or is it four times?), often morbidly obese, onetime drug addict, son of privilege, college dropout Mr. Limbaugh of Palm Springs has the full dirty on those heat wave weather reports. Thanks to some good digging by Elaine Magliara at Jonathan Turley’s res ipsa loquitur,  we now know that the hot weather heat index is fake, fakety, fake, fake. But the cold weather heat index  is truly, completely, entirely on the up and up.

RUSH NOW

They’re playing games with us on this heat wave, again . . . Going to be 116 in Washington. No, it’s not. It’s gonna be like 100, maybe 99. A heat index, manufactured by the government to tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there.

116. When’s the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature? It hasn’t been, but it looks like they’re trying to get away with doing that now.

RUSH THEN

An hour ago, the wind chill factor in New York City was minus two. In Chicago, an hour ago, the wind chill factor was minus 19. An hour ago, the wind chill factor in Washington was minus one. In Philadelphia, an hour ago, the wind chill factor was minus eight. Make a note, ladies and gentlemen: whenever it’s hot outside, we get news story after news story about global warming. Now that it is freezing, record cold  [Moe’s translation: not manufactured] . . . Now that it’s cold, record cold out there, we will not see any news stories on the major networks questioning global warming. There is one in the LA Times today: “Game Over on Global Warming?” with a question mark after it. It has some interesting statistics in it, but not one story — not one story — will we see about global warming maybe not being real, in the middle of record cold.

Both measurements come from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the communist and very gay Commerce Department. The discerning Mr. Limbaugh of course, knows which is worthy of belief.

World population about to hit 7 billion!

The year I was born the population of the planet was 3 billion. The population of the US was 125 million (no wonder parking spaces came easier!).  Here’s a really nifty counter that Ed sent today:

http://www.worldometers.info/

US in space: fat lady didn’t sing after all

A discussion ensued following  yesterday’s post about the launch of Atlantis which raised a few questions about  the future of the space program. I just found this at the AP which answers some of those. I learned in the article that “NASA is under orders to build a giant rocket to go beyond Earth orbit.” Cool. Didn’t know that.

Q: Why are the shuttles retiring?

A: The shuttles are aging and expensive and their chief task of building the International Space Station is essentially done. Now NASA wants to do something new.

Q: Who decided to stop flying the shuttles?

A: President George W. Bush made the decision in 2004. He wanted astronauts to go back to the moon, and eventually to Mars. But President Barack Obama dropped the moon mission. His plan has NASA building a giant rocket to send astronauts to an asteroid, and eventually Mars, while turning over to private companies the job of carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station.

Q: Why were the shuttles built?

A: It was supposed to make getting into space cheap, simple and safe, flying into low orbit virtually every week. It didn’t accomplish that. But it was the best way to get big items — such as satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope — into orbit . . .

Q: What happens to the space shuttles?

A: They’ll be on display across the country. Endeavour goes to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and Atlantis will stay at Kennedy Space Center for its visitor complex. Discovery’s new home will be the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar near Washington Dulles International Airport. Enterprise, a shuttle prototype used for test flights, goes to New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Q: How will astronauts get to the space station?

A: NASA will continue to buy seats on Russian Soyuz capsules to ferry space station residents. The $56 million price per head will go up to $63 million, which is still cheaper per person than the space shuttle.

There’s more at the link.

Pet peeve: Shuttle up but CNN stares in the mirror

Atlantis just lifted off. For an old fan of the space program, this is bittersweet. I’ve loved watching the launches and humans mucking around outside the atmosphere. But the program was way past its use by date and is probably holding back some of the science we could be doing in less costly unmanned craft.

There’s a romance and a majesty there when we lift this craft off the earth, soemthing entirely lost on the television cables, who blather over the NASA announcers. The official NASA radio announcements are compelling; the brief silences add tremendously to the drama. But brief silences are anathema to a medium that thrills to its own voice.

Someday we’ll be reaching out further than the Space Station. For that, we must turn our money and brain power to making that happen – in my lifetime I hope.

Stop the LED; what was good enough for Thomas Edison in 1880 is good enough for me

Save the incandescent!

So sayeth Republicans in the 112th Congress.  Because there’s nothing else going on this week.

House Republicans plan to bring to the floor next week legislation that would water down a provision in a 2007 energy law that requires light bulbs to be more energy efficient . . .

Barton’s Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act would repeal a provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that requires traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient beginning in 2012.

This Rep. Barton, ardent creationist and perennially anti-science in all its manifestations:

. . . The first question from C-SPAN’s moderator: “What causes, in your perspective, global warming?” Barton’s reply: Well, the short answer would be God.

The House Committee no doubt was forced to act upon discovering to their horror that the 2007 law was totally part of a socialist-terrorist-loving-faggot-elite plot.

Incandescent light bulbs are gradually being replaced in many applications by other types of electric lights, such as fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps, cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), high-intensity discharge lamps, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These newer technologies improve the ratio of visible light to heat generation. Some jurisdictions, such as the European Union, are in the process of phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient lighting. In the United States, federal law has scheduled the most common incandescent light bulbs to be phased out by 2014, to be replaced with more energy-efficient light bulbs.[3] In Brazil, they have already been phased out (by law from 2007 until 2010)[4]. Traditional incandescent light bulbs were phased out in Australia in November 2009.[5]

When did Rush add the ‘man-made’ part to his denial script?

A decade ago, Limbaugh had a grand time mocking climate scientists (his favorite target was of course Al Gore) for their ‘hysteria’ saying that the earth was warming. “The  whole thing is a hoax” he shouted across the socialist AM radio spectrum. “There is no warming” he shouted.

Vanity Fair listened to him in 2005 as his voice dripped with scorn for those warning about the consequences of a changing climate.:

“Even though quite a few scientists are now backtracking on their once-dire predictions of melting ice caps and worldwide flooding, Algore and a few hard-line doomsayers are sticking to their thermostats.” . . . . Similarly, Limbaugh scoffed in See, I Told You So, “Despite the hysterics of a few pseudo-scientists, there is no reason to believe in global warming”.

Now, here’s Rush in 2011 in a headline at his website:

The Manmade Global Warming Hoax Thrives on Faith, Not Facts

Notice the ‘manmade’ he’s slipped in there, shamelessly adjusting the script. It had to be changed of course, since it’s gotten a little harder to deny warming outright. His words this time start with the assumption that the warming is real – just not manmade. (He used the word ‘manmade’ in his little rant seven times. I counted. That’s not by accident.)

And still they listen to him . . .

Rush Limbaugh, that son of privilege and college drop out, knows nothing about the issue, cares nothing about the issue, but he knows what sells hemorrhoid creams and survival kits.

Dana Rohrbacher is an embaressment

A spokesman for the Iraqi president has said that the congressional delegation chaired by US Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) is no longer welcome in the country. Here’s what Rohrbacher said:

“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country… we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” Rohrabacher told journalists at the US embassy in Baghdad.

“We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs.”

He said he raised the issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Rohrabacher, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, declined to give specifics on how much should be paid back, or over what timeframe.

Want another great Rohrbacher quote? Here ya’ go:

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? … Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?”

I guess he skipped fourth grade.

Captain Kirk’s replicator is here – almost

A commenter yesterday reminded me of the Star Trek ‘replicator’, that wondrous device in the wall that would, upon a voice command, deliver anything from new shoes to a cup of hot tea with lemon, easily and instantly manufactured and delivered from stored atomic information or something.

Now comes the Thing-O-Matic. It’s real alright. I saw it on Colbert last night. All the details are here:

. . .  you can simply manufacture your very own dishwasher knob. And bath plugs, drink bottles, spectacle frames, shin pads, helmets and even action figures.

It’s all thanks to the Thing-O-Matic, a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.

It creates 3-D scans of actual objects into what they’re calling the ‘printer’ and the output is itself three-dimensional and made of a hard plastic. It’s real and really wonderfully weird.