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Showing posts with label Fun with Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fun with Science. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Did none of you read "At The Mountains Of Madness"?!

Russians successfully drill to the surface of Lake Vostok, entombed in ice.

A weird, atonal ululating ended the last broadcast made by the base.

No, seriously--it is really fascinating. And it will be helpful for probes to Europa.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

From the people who brought you collective farming, Chernobyl and the near-destruction of the Aral Sea...

...a proposal to blast a wandering asteroid.

Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

The plan itself is actually pretty sensible. I just have my doubts about the guys offering to do it. Russia's historical "HULK SMASH!" approach to various problems has been fraught with unintended consequences from the beginning.

In an interesting follow-up to this story, French scientists unveiled a back-up plan: offering Apophis our unconditional surrender.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hilary warned us. We wouldn't listen.

And now we pay the price for our arrogant blindness: The Invasion Has Begun.

The squid hunt in schools of up to 1,200, can swim up to 15 mph and can skim over the water to escape predators.

"I wouldn't go into the water with them for the same reason I wouldn't walk into a pride of lions on the Serengeti," said Mike Bear, a local diver. "For all I know, I'm missing the experience of a lifetime."

The squid are too deep to bother swimmers and surfers, but many longtime divers say they are staying out of the surf until the sea creatures clear out. Yet other divers, including Shanda Magill, couldn't resist the chance to see the squid up close.

On a recent night, Magill watched in awe as a dozen squid with doleful, expressive eyes circled her group, tapping and patting the divers and gently bumping them before dashing away.

One especially large squid suspended itself motionless in the water about three feet away and peered at her closely, its eyes rolling, before it vanished into the black. A shimmering incandescence rippled along its body, almost as if it were communicating through its skin.

But the next night, things were different: A large squid surprised Magill by hitting her from behind and grabbing at her with its arms, pulling her sideways in the water. The powerful creature ripped her buoyancy hose away from her chest and knocked away her light.

When Magill recovered, she didn't know which direction was up and at first couldn't find the hose to help her stay afloat as she surfaced. The squid was gone.

"I just kicked like crazy. The first thing you think of is, 'Oh my gosh, I don't know if I'm going to survive this. If that squid wanted to hurt me, it would have," she said.

Other divers have reported squid pulling at their masks and gear and roughing them up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Because it's become art. I call it Entrope': With Gourds."

"It's a statement about how all things are passing."

"Daddy, mine has a river of mold and dirty water in it."

"Dead mold, sweetheart. The freezing weather's almost certainly killed it."


Fine, I'll get rid of the jack o'lanterns on the stoop.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Speaking of going down swinging.

I spent two and a half hours GOTV phone-banking yesterday. Remarkably easy (we were hitting self-identified GOPers with a history of needing a kick to the backside). Don't have any real (as opposed to anecdotal) impressions, but I wasn't the only first timer.

Alas, no canvassing the undecided voters. Which meant I wasn't able to use my Barry White impression on the ladies and my R. Lee Ermey drill sergeant on the gents.

Oh, and another trespasser decided to try his origamy skills on my McCain sign (again sparing the No On Human Embryo Research sign), during the daylight (!) hours of Saturday while we were gone. I decided to respond by duct-taping a C battery to the sign, running a wire to the battery lead, taping that in place and digging a hole to run the other end of the wire into the ground. It won't do anything but make them think, but so far, so good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

She'll have the salad.

What did Churchill say about fanatics?

Someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject?

Meet Jennifer Thornburg.

Remember, she's just 19 so it's hopefully just a phase.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Suffering from a bad case of plutoids.

I love things astronomical. Feeds the sci-fi geekery woven into my soul. Land an astronaut on Mars? Meh, OK--nice start. After cities on the Moon, permanent stations at the Lagrange points and a newer, bigger version of Hubble to scan the cosmos with.

Yeah, OK--after we get our budget in order.

I even wanted to be an astronomer once, but my mathematics teachers started tossing the alphabet into the mix, needlessly confusing the elegant simplicity. My genius (seriously) friend Steve Gibson should have developed cauliflower ear in 8th grade, given all the time he patiently tried to explain algebra to me over the phone (he might be an atheist, but he's earned saint credit for that). After a brief rally in trigonometry, I gave up the ghost in pre-calculus. Time to join the wordslinging world.

Anyway, I still have a telescope and long for a deck-mounted version at my future non-light-polluted estate (working name: Chartwell West) in the Upper Peninsula. I can't explain stellar phenomena, but by Obama I will look at them.

All of this is a needlessly long prologue to explain that while I admire astronomers, I think they need to hire some wordslinging consultants from time to time.

Like this time.


Sounds like something I need a prescription for. Perhaps a topical cream. Not to mention a whole lotta euphemisms.

I know the IAU has a plucky Rebel Alliance battling Pluto's demotion, and ironically, I think this is probably the best news they could hope for. Now every science teacher in the English speaking world will join the rebellion, lest they hear the Beavisesque snickering for months on end.

"He said 'plutoids.'" "Yeah yeah yeah--plutoids!"

Oh, and here's an article on the naming of the tenth planet, Eris.

Old Solarism--a stand for sanity.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

See you on the dark side of the moon.

Details on tonight's lunar eclipse, visible throughout the Eastern 2/3 of North America and in Western Europe to just shy of the Oder River (look it up).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rodents of unusual size.

Posting will be light for the next couple of weeks. You don't pay me, after all.

So, I will leave you with quick hitters.

Like 1 ton prehistoric rodents.

Story problem: How much D-Con would it take to bring down Uber-Mickey here?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Interesting quiz about personal environmental impact.

Via Rod Dreher, you can find it here: Consumer Consequences. Some of the assumptions seem to be a little off, but overall, it's a thought-provoking exercise. For the record, our family graded out at 3.6, which was far better than that top-hatted, styrofoam burning MSM plutocrat Dreher.

Where we ran into trouble was with transportation. Good luck finding light rail in Detroit, alas.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

That's my girl!

We went to the Detroit Science Center on Sunday afternoon with the Siekierskis. There's a lot to do there for families, including live presentations every two hours where some scientific principles/concepts are explained in a fun way. Sunday's show was about the Solar System.

Madeleine was geeked. So geeked, that when they called for volunteers to participate in a quiz show, she sprinted toward one of the podiums before being called. The staffers remedied that by calling her up to Podium Number 3. Maddie was the youngest by two years of the three kids participating. You had to buzz in to answer the questions, too.

Six questions were asked. Final score? Madeleine 3, the tall kid 2, and the other girl 1.

I'm not proud or anything.

Thanks to Matt for the photo. The young chap intently watching the proceedings in the foreground is The Boy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting a bead on asthma.

The culprit may be a substance called chitin, found in everything from shellfish to molds.

I have it, and Maddie has a (much milder) case of it than I do, despite my requests to God that they avoid it altogether. I guess I'll settle for milder. Plus, I've pretty well outgrown my case, and I was able to play football in my youth, so it wasn't crippling. At least attack time gave me the opportunity to read.

A lot.

So this study is of great interest to me, especially an intriguing finding that common harmless bacteria can break down chitin:

So what are we to do—live knee-deep in bacteria to prevent allergies and asthma?

"That's a big question, and a loaded question since it's tough to say, 'Go out and get dirty!'" Locksley says with a laugh. "If there really is an association with chitin, maybe the response is not so much to worry about the bacteria in a household, but to worry about the chitin. One approach might be to develop ways to break down chitin in the environment."

Amplifying his point, Locksley cites a compelling example of bacteria and chitin at play.
"The snow-crab industry is a big part of a seasonal industry up in Alaska and Canada," he begins, emphasizing that the shells of crabs are a rich source of chitin. "College kids come in and they work in these crab processing plants. It's the food industry, so the first thing they do is get all the bacteria out of the environment by using microbicides. Then you’ve got these kids in there pulverizing chitin shells for hours on end.

"The attack rate for new onset asthma in that industry is something like 25 to 28 percent per year," he says. "It's now a major cause of disability in Canada."

Monday, May 21, 2007

How much switchgrass can I grow in our yard?

Yep--the gas prices are officially ridiculous. We've decided to pass on our usual Memorial Day trip up north, instead only going up for the Great Annual Vacation at 26 Pines.

Gonna be a long summer if this trend holds.

Guess it's not all bad the DIA is going to be closed through Thanksgiving. We were there Saturday, and there wasn't much out if you weren't going to the Ansel Adams exhibition. I am slightly happy to report that the Byzantine collection has grown some in the past six months, if not to huge proportions.

Monday, May 07, 2007

That's "God-Emperor Rube Goldberg" to you, chump!

A pointless but fun contraption made by obviously unmarried (or divorcing) men.

Via a poster at the Stirling Yahoo Group.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a bit of a drive, though.

Potentially Earth-like planet found. It's so leavened with qualifiers and speculation that I'm not sure why it's news. But definitely cool if it pans out.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Saturn's polar hexagon (apparently the Voyager missions photographed it too--news to me) has now been photographed by the Cassini mission:

The scientists say it shouldn't exist, but the planet doesn't seem to care.

Photo via