Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Proof That God Exists And Loves Us: Part 3.
Okay, in my wine-besotted joy, I may have jumped the gun on this one. The story at ScienceDaily.com isn't quite clear on the process but the initial testing apparently was conducted in laboratory conditions. Wine bottles dripping into petri dishes filled with streptococci? At any rate, testing on humans goes on. So don't throw away your floss and toothbrushes yet.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to hedge your bets and drink some wine regardless. I wager Blaise Pascal would. (Here.) What have you got to lose? If you live your life drinking wine as if it helps fight tooth decay, and it does, your health will benefit. If it doesn't, you'll have lost nothing and enjoyed some good wine in the process. But if you live your life a teetotaler as if drinking wine doesn't help fight tooth decay, and it does, your teeth may fall out and you'll be condemned to a life of eternal tapioca. If it doesn't, you'll have missed out on the joys of drinking wine. Either way, you win if you drink wine and you lose if you don't. Wouldn't you rather be a winner?
Technorati: health, dentistry, wine, religion, atheism, science.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Give 'Em An Inch.
For instance, there's this story from the United Kingdom:
"Recycling rates have risen, and the UK is on schedule to meet EU targets, but the key to dealing with our escalating waste problem lies in changing our buying habits and our attitudes to consumption, according to the authors of a new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) publication." (Here.)Recycling isn't enough, you see, there's too much consuming going on out there. How do these experts propose to get us to change our bad habits of buying too much stuff? By using commercial marketing techniques to convince us that doing without is good for us.
"[Professor] Ken Peattie explains that social marketing can be successful because it focuses on the target audience's point of view, taking account of any emotional or physical barriers that may prevent people from changing their behaviour. 'Guilt messages are ineffective. A focus on the benefits of a greener lifestyle has been shown to be a better way to encourage people to reduce their consumption,' the report says."If that fails, they can always force us to comply.
From San Francisco comes this story about Mayor Gavin Newsom's latest executive order. No water bottles for city departments. That's right. No water bottles.
"In a decision announced Thursday, Newsom said the ban will go into effect July 1 and extend to all city and county water coolers by Dec. 1. The decision will save taxpayer money and fight global warming, the mayor's spokesman said." (Here, third story down.)Some cities just can't be satirized. You think bottled water is expensive now? Wait until you have to buy your water bottles on the black market. When bottled water is outlawed, only outlaws will sell water bottles.
Technorati: environment, global warming, San Francisco.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Snit Of The Underlings.
The White House didn't ignore their request. In fact, three top Administration officials responsible for the budget and the space program offered to meet with the Congressmembers.
"The President agrees we need an open and candid dialogue on the path forward to sustaining a balanced, robust space program. With that in mind, we, along with Administrator Griffin, would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss civil space and other important topics in coming weeks, as permitted by your schedule." (Here.)The Democratic response is to complain that the President himself won't meet with them.
"We are deeply disappointed that the President has decided not to seize the opportunity to meet with Members of Congress to discuss how best to ensure that NASA will have the resources needed to carry out a balanced and robust program of science, aeronautics, and human space flight and exploration initiatives." (Here.)Our tax dollars at work.
The posturing about personal face time with the President is a bit of a joke, isn't it? The Administrator of NASA and the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy aren't high enough on the decision-making food chain to meet with the Committee Chairmen? All of them are underlings in their respective organizational charts of the executive and legislative branches. Get over it. Just meet already.
Technorati: NASA, Congress.
Carnival Of Space, Week 8, Is Up.
Labels: Carnival of Space
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Birds Of Paradise: Part 10.
So, here's another bird photo taken in my San Diego backyard. Too bad the Toronto Blue Jays aren't in town. Eh?
What the heck, here's another photo of the same bird taken moments later.
Republished once to add second photo.
Technorati: birds, birding, photography.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
America's Iconic Rifle: The M-1 Garand.
The M-1 Garand is a great target-shooting rifle but it is NOT a sniper rifle. It was the standard issue rifle for American GIs in World War Two. Watch nearly any movie set in World War Two and the rifles being carried by the Americans are M-1s.
The news story then says this. "The gun is a showpiece, and possessing one is not illegal, the prosecutor said." Not only is it not illegal to own one, you can buy one from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), which was set up by an act of Congress long ago. To be plain about it, the United States Government enables law-abiding American citizens to buy surplus military rifles such as the M-1.
The CMP was set up "to provide civilians an opportunity to learn and practice marksmanship skills so they would be skilled marksmen if later called on to serve the U.S. military." (Here.) (Note to liberals and libertarians. That's the purpose of the Second Amendment right there. The right to keep and bear arms is not about target practice and hunting. Nor is it about arming citizens so they can fight off the government when it comes for them. Instead, it's about having an armed citizenry, trained in the use of guns, available for use by our government in the military, the organized militia, or the unorganized militia, to combat enemies both foreign and domestic. But I digress.)
To get a gun from the CMP, you have to submit to a background check, and send proof of participation in a CMP-sponsored shooting match, an application form, proof of American citizenship, and your money ($550 when I bought mine) to the CMP. (Here.) A few weeks later, your rifle arrives in a box delivered by Federal Express. (That's mine pictured above.)
The fact that law-abiding American citizens can buy surplus military rifles from their own government is one of the things I love about this country. It says a lot about the relationship of trust between the federal government and its citizens that Americans can buy surplus military firearms from their own government. So much for the idea that governments should fear the people. In a free society such as ours, the ideal relationship between the people and their government should be one of trust. But as Reagan used to say about the Soviets, "trust but verify."
In that vein, watch for some in Congress to start making noises about banning sales of the M-1 to American citizens. Don't let 'em do it. Go out and buy your own instead. You'll be glad you did.
Technorati: Guns, gun control,politics.
Monday, June 18, 2007
To Eris Is Human.
Technorati: astronomy, planets.
Et In Circadia Ego
"New research from Colorado State University shows that the function of all genes in mammals is based on circadian -- or daily -- rhythms. The study, refutes the current theory that only 10 percent to 15 percent of all genes were affected by nature's clock. While scientists have long known that circadian rhythms regulate the behavior of the living, the study shows that daily rhythm dominates all life functions and particularly metabolism." (Here.)The fact that the Earth's 24-hour "daily rhythm dominates all life functions" has got to have implications for long-term human settlement of other planets in our Solar System.
Mars has a day that is about 40 minutes longer than 24 hours. Some JPL Rover scientists and engineers lived on Mars time early in the mission and the experiment played havoc with their lives. Some of that can be attributed to what was, in essence, trying to live on two planets at once. (Here.) But other research has shown that living non-Earth standard days harms human health and productivity and leads to "jet lag in space." (Here.)
Research by Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s (BWH) Division of Sleep Medicine has shown that humans can function in a longer day by resetting their circadian rhythms through modulation of the brightness of artificial light over the course of a day. (Here.) But the purpose of the BWH research was to find measures that would allow humans to work effectively in a non-Earth standard day on missions with a defined length.
How will humans cope with living non-standard days for their entire lives? And if every single life function down to the genetic level is tuned to Earth's 24-hour daily rhythm, how will humanity change once new generations are born and die off-Earth?
Technorati: NASA, space, mars, science.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The Birds Of Paradise: Part 9.
Friday, June 15, 2007
No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
The site recently looked at the feasibility of ethanol replacing gasoline. Turns out it's not as easy as the Presidential wannabes and their allies in Big Corn and Big Green would have us believe.
"Still, even if the oil companies immediately began giving 1 percent of their profits toward the installation of E85 pumps, other obstacles — like limitations on how much corn the nation can produce or the fact that many flex fuel vehicle owners aren't even aware that their cars can run on E85 — are significant.-tdr
We do not dispute that ethanol along with other renewable fuels such as methanol and biodiesel have the potential to play a significant role in moving the U.S. away from foreign oil consumption and lessening greenhouse gas emissions. But ethanol has a long way to go before the campaign promises made by Clinton, Edwards and Obama can be fulfilled." (Here.)
Technorati: elections, politics, energy, environment.
Proof That God Exists And Love Us: Part 2.
"The Fukuoka Colorectal Cancer Study – using a newly developed personal-computer software for registering semi quantitative food frequencies – found that intake of beef/pork, processed meat, total fat, saturated fat or n-6 PUFA showed no clear association with the overall or subsite-specific risk of colorectal cancer." (Here.)That's good enough for me.
There are more quotes in the story about eating lots of fish or something from a University doctor, and not some mere professor doctor like those who teach 19th Century literature, either, but a real white-coat wearing, Dr. M.D. Will do, doc. But don't mind me if I have a steak first.
Gentlemen: start your grills!
Technorati: health, religion, atheism.
Carnival Of Space, Week 7 Is Up.
Labels: Carnival of Space
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Flag Day In The Home Office.
If you click on the photo you should be able to make out the books. Parts of the Bs, Hs, Ls, and Ms are visible. Too bad the Vs aren't visible. You could see my guilty pleasure -- nearly everything written by Jack Vance.
Of the books visible in the photo, I highly recommend anything by Dashiell Hammett and much of John Barnes. If you want to go literary, the slim novel Hunger by Elise Blackwell* is unique, and Cormac McCarthy's mythic Blood Meridian has the most vivid prose.
I like writing that reminds me of the scene in the movie, A River Runs Through It, when the father is teaching his sons to write. He has them write essays and when they give their essays to him, he returns them and says, "now cut it in half." He does this several times until the writing is stripped to its essentials. Not that I can write that way.
What does any of this have to do with the American flag and the republic for which it stands? Well, as an American I received a public education at no charge and learned to read and write and appreciate knowledge. I've heard there is more literacy in Cuba than in America. So what. In Cuba, you can't read anything you want. How cruel is that? Teach your citizens to read and then deny them the right to read books of their own choosing. But as an American I can read and write just about anything I want. That is the greatest gift our country bestows on those who live within its borders.
So, show your patriotism. Read a book. Any damn book you want.
Technorati: America, Education, literacy.
*Full disclosure: Blackwell is a friend.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Immigration Cultural Divide.
Brooks sees the divide as being between those who went to university and those who didn't. And it's not liberal versus conservative. As he explains:
"Liberal members of the educated class celebrated the cultural individualism of the 1960s. Conservative members celebrated the economic individualism of the 1980s. But they all celebrated individualism. They all valued diversity and embraced a sense of national identity that rested on openness and global integration."His thumbnail description of the clash is this. "People with university values favor intermingling. People with neighborhood values favor assimilation."
Like all dichotomies Brooks's analysis is a bit false. People rarely choose so neatly between competing philosophies; ideologues may but most people, I think, tend to run back and forth between the extremes. Few people favor a total lack of assimilation just as few favor allowing for no diversity at all.
Still, Brooks seems to have hit on something and he has put his finger on one reason today's culture clash is so heated.
"What has made the clashes so poisonous is that many members of the educated class do not even recognize that they are facing a rival philosophy. Many of them assume that anybody who disagrees with them on immigration must be driven by racism, insecurity, or some primitive nativism. This smug attitude sends members of the communal, nationalistic side into fits of alienation and prickly defensiveness. It is what makes many of them, in turn, so unpleasant."He's right about that but only partly. Anyone who has listened to Laura Ingram or watched Lou Dobbs or read Patrick Buchanan, or in Southern California tuned in to Rick Roberts in San Diego or John and Ken in Los Angeles, knows just how unpleasant the neighborhood values set can be.
That unpleasantness can't all be attributed to an angry reaction at being looked down on by smug university values people. For instance, I've heard San Diego's KFMB Radio talk show host Roberts run promotions for his show in which he rants that once we are done in Iraq and Afghanistan, we do something about Mexico. And I don't think he had in mind asking Mexico to please, pretty please do something about the border. Other promotions he's run have had him crowing about how he's warned us all before that one day we'd wake up and there'd be a Mariachi band in the front yard, and then taunting us to do something about it. He wants his country back, you see.
Another thing Brooks doesn't acknowledge is how much those on the nationalistic side of the immigration debate discredit the motives of those on the other side. To many of them, pro-immigrationists have all sold out America to corporations or foreign governments, Mexico especially, and are willingly paving the way for the destruction of America's sovereignty and the replacement of our country with an international union of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The thought that maybe the pro-immigrationists also love America never seems to cross their minds.
Technorati: politics, immigration.
More News You Can't Use From Mars.
The most interesting part of today's discovery, and the bit that really matters, doesn't come until the seventh paragraph of this Space.com story on MSNBC.com. (Here.)
"Somewhere along the way to toppling over 50 degrees to the north, Mars probably lost some of its water, leaving the Deuteronilus Ocean's shoreline exposed. 'The volume of water was too large to simply evaporate into space, so we think there is [sic] still some subterranean [sic]* reservoirs on Mars,' [Taylor] Perron said."Okay, I'm being harsh. That part about Mars toppling 50 degrees is kind of interesting, too. Nevertheless, that happened a heck of a long time ago.
This story and all the other Mars stories that regularly get reported are part of what's wrong with the mainstream view of space. Space travel or exploration, however you want to describe it, is viewed as being all about science. And so what exciting news do we learn? Mars had water billions of years ago, it toppled, we don't know why, but it probably has something to do with something going on inside the planet way back then. And some scientists are really excited about it. My own personal guess is the Big Topple might have had something to do with the formation of that giant impact crater, Hellas Basin. But what do I know? I'm not a scientist.
To be frank, I'm not nearly as interested in the ancient history of Mars as I am in whether the Mars of today offers any promise of being able to support humans by the time we finally get our slowpoke butts over there. Today's stories about Mars suggest it does.
Yet here we've got a story about Mars and the part where the scientist says there's probably the remnant of an ocean under the ground on Mars just gets swept by as if it means nothing. But if humans ever want to visit Mars and stay there for long periods of time, or even, here's a thought, make the planet another home for humanity, the fact that an ocean of water may still exist deep below the surface of our dry and dusty neighbor is the most important piece of Mars news we learned today. It's a shame the discovery doesn't get reported that way.
Technorati: NASA, space, mars, science.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Birds Of Paradise: Part 8.
Keeping with the informal tradition in which I sometimes post a bird picture on game days, here's another photo.
The plummeting bird reminds me of a bird of a different composition. This one*. Who said this blog doesn't have posts about space anymore?
Technorati: birds, birding, photography, NASA, space, space tourism.
* The SpaceShipOne photo was taken from the Wikipedia article about the craft (here), which claims to have gotten it from this website (here), which has a lot of cool rocketry photos. Use of this photo is not an endorsement by anybody but me.