Entries in the Category "science"

Eat s--t and die live

Trials in a Scottish hospital have shown patients suffering from the Clostridium difficile bug can be cured using 'donor stool' administered via a tube through the nose into their stomach.

They're finding that our guts have all kinds of freiendly stuff in them which must not be wiped out by antibiotics. So this might well work. OTOH, it's not the most appetizing notion, is it?

It's the Nobel PEACE Prize...

...not the Nobel Prize for Propagandizing Junk Science. Given that there's no peace in the world,and nobody making any, they had to give it to somebody, though there's always General Petraeus, or Lauren Canario ...and I understand that the Burmese generals made some peace recently too. So now Owlgore gets to join the distinguished ranks of Yassir Arafat, Henry Kissinger, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt (not to mention the even more distinguished ranks of nominees, which include Stalin and Hitler).

I've known this was coming for three days, but like most things out of my control, I floated it down Cleopatra's favorite river. But knowing didn't make the news any easier to take.

So let's look at anthropogenic global warming and peace, shall we? We can convince poor nations to use the farming techniques of last century so that they can sell us carbon credits, and close down their industries. That's sure to keep them happy and peaceful. Whereas turning Canada into the breadbasket of the world and drowning NYC (and the UN!) will lead to constant war. If we really want to stop global warming, why don't we just nuke our enemies and be done with it, and bring on a nuclear winter? I'm sure things will be peaceful then, though Oog might still crawl into Bam's cave and spear him (but Bam will have insurance from GEICO).

Well, we've had over a century of the Nobel peace prize (except for WW II, when they pretty much gave up), and you can see how much good it's done. And at least Al isn't using the money to pay his electric bill. So joining the nonentities (and a few true luminaries) on the Nobel list is not the end of the world.

UPDATE: European gentlemen say these things so much more suavely:

"The relationship between his activities and world peace is unclear and indistinct," [Czech President Vaclav Klaus'] statement said. "It rather seems that Gore's doubting of basic cornerstones of the current civilization does not contribute to peace."

UPDATE 10/16: Here's one of the nominees who didn't get the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Clearly it's more important to save the planet than 2500 Jewish children.

It's Friday: time to improve my memory

"There are human epidemiological data of others indicating that mild [to] moderate drinking may paradoxically improve cognition in people compared to abstention," says Maggie Kalev, a research fellow in molecular medicine and pathology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a co-author [ with Matthew During, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine - JAQ] of an article in The Journal of Neuroscience describing results of a study she and other researchers performed on rats. "This is similar to a glass of wine protecting against heart disease, however the mechanism is different."

Galileos of climate change?

In response to this:

Scientists threatened for 'climate denial'
By Tom Harper, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:24am GMT 11/03/2007

Scientists who questioned mankind's impact on climate change have received death threats and claim to have been shunned by the scientific community.

Scott Jordan, on the Yahoogroup Individual-Sovereignty, wrote:
It's bad enough that Global Warming has taken on the trappings and attitudes of a religion.

But did it have to be Islam?

With due respect to peaceful Muslims...science is no place for jihad. Any statement that requires the threat of force for persuasion is clearly not convincingly proven.

E pur, si non muove

Those who find humor in crackpot "scientific" "thought" might want to go here. Recommended by a Georgia legislator, no less.

Liposuction and biodiesel

A Norwegian businessman, Lauri Venøy, is signing a deal with Jackson Memorial Hospitals for 11,500 liters of human fat per week, for conversion to biodiesel. That's over 3000 gallons of flab, from just one hospital chain.

While I'm all for wasting nothing, I'm uneasy about this. As the value of the human body goes up, and the value of the human soul goes down, the temptation rises to use people as a resource...even if it means separating soul from body. That may someday cure childhood obesity: "Get out of those potato chips! Do you want the body snatchers to get you and melt you down?" And if fryer oil can become biodiesel, how can we be sure that some of this biodiesel doesn't end up as fryer oil? No trans fats, anyway.

Given the prevalence of tattooing nowadays, one can only wonder if lampshades are the next product.

Enjoy the heat while you can

Russian scientists are predicting a mini-Ice Age starting in 2055.

If they're right, and we cool a bit in 2012-25, will the Kyoto-signing governments crow and take responsibility for saving the planet? And if they do, will we be able to shoot the bastards 40 years later, which would also logically be their responsibility?

Gaak! The American male really IS being feminized!

Over the past two decades, levels of the sex hormone in U.S. men have been falling steadily, a new study finds.

For example, average total testosterone levels in men aged 65 to 69 fell from 503 nanograms/decileter (ng/dL) in 1988 to 423 ng/dL in 2003.

They don't know why. My suggestion: compare the fall to soy intake.

Eloi coming to your gene pool soon

Billy Beck has been expecting the advent of the Eloi for some time now. Now he has an evolutionary theorist in his corner.

From the article, it doesn't look much like science. If women get any choosier than they already are about mates, men will buy Morlocks as being better alternatives than sheep or liver. I just don't see the evolutionary bifurcation happening

Yes, Virginia, the bums do the smoking

Some anonymoose asked:

Do you have any proof or data that shows "smoking is habit associated with the poor"?

Good question. My evidence when I made the statement was anecdotal, based on a year or so doing industrial temp work in Cleveland. But anecdotal doesn't cut it, so let's see what we can find.


Smoking is associated with larger effects on income than drinking: Single equation estimates suggest smokers earn 8 percent less than nonsmokers, and the smoking penalty rises to 24 percent after correcting for endogeneity.

(p. 7-8 contain data on smoking rates in the UK associated with class, deprivation level and manual vs. non-manual trades)

(British Columbia teenagers)


(poorer parents more likely to have children who smoke)


The risk of adolescent smoking increased by 28% with each step down in parental education and increased by 30% for each step down in parental household income. These associations persisted after adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and adolescent disposable income. Parental smoking status was a mediator of these associations.

OK, this was just a couple minutes with ask.com; nothing that qualifies as real medical or sociological research.

And yes, Issue 18 IS a tax on losers, scarcely a "liberal" concept.

As for your link re price elasticity in tobacco, see this:


We find that the price sensitivity of conditional consumption, cigarettes smoked by smokers, shows no robust pattern with income and is frequently insignificant. Thus, our results challenge the conventional view that price sensitivity falls monotonically with income. Our predictions of the equity consequences of tax increases show that using all traditional measures of progressivity, whether based on tax expenditures or welfare, cigarette tax increases are not close to progressive.

This ignores the question of whether it's government's job to save the lives of those who deliberately kill themselves. If indeed it is (I vehemently disagree), shouldn't we simply ban smoking, instead of making ourselves morally complicit in it by taxing it? After all, it has worked so well with other drugs.

Eris has returned

The golden apple has rolled into our solar system. And while Michael Brown is right that it was "too perfect to resist", astronomers need to be careful about who and what they evoke fnord. Right after we got Pluto, we got the atom bomb. What gegiftet gift will the Goddess of Discord bring us?


Back to the Underworld

Pluto is no longer a planet.

Ok, so it's stuck in the same "dwarf planet" pigeonhole as Ceres. Aside from tripping up us old farts when we're asked "How many planets are there?", it's not terribly important science.

But I'm curious: what are the astrologers saying? If Pluto is no longer a planet, does its influence end or diminish? A lot of them use Ceres and other large asteroids, so this might not affect them so much. But how big does a piece of rock have to be before it affects life on earth? It will be interesting to see what kind of BS they weave.

Flipper vs. the American voter

"You put an animal in a box, even a lab rat or gerbil, and the first thing it wants to do is climb out of it. If you don't put a lid on top of the bowl a goldfish will eventually jump out.

"But a dolphin will never do that. In the marine parks the dividers to keep the dolphins apart are only a foot or two above the water between the different pools."

Perhaps, then, given current attitudes toward liberty, the question is not whether dolphins are intelligent animals, but whether humans are.

Inventing the hard way

Today's trivia:

Nitrocellulose was invented by the German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schonbein in 1846 when he accidentally spilled a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid on his kitchen table. He grabbed a cotton apron, wiped up the mess and hung the apron by the fire to dry. A violent explosion resulted that damaged much of the house. The cellulose in the cotton had undergone a process called nitration. Without realizing it, Schonbein had invented nitrocellulose.

Mommy buy me one please please?

An electric car that will go 0-60 in 3 seconds (up to 70 in FIRST GEAR), with a range of 250 miles. A little steep for me at $80K...but I want one!

Government bans chemistry

Well, not quite. But close:

“I don’t tell anyone about what I do at home,” writes one anonymous high schooler on Sciencemadness.org, an online forum for amateur scientists. “A lot of ignorant people at my school will just spread rumors about me … The teacher will hear about them and I will get into legal trouble … I have so much glassware at my house, any excuse will not cut it. So I keep my mouth shut.”
Gordon and Whitney soon learned that few of the items in Mr. Wizard’s cabinet could be included in the product. “Unfortunately, we found that more than half the chemicals were illegal to sell to children because they’re considered dangerous,” Whitney explains. By the time the Mr. Wizard Science Set appeared in stores, it came with balloons, clay, Super Balls, and just five chemicals, including laundry starch, which was tagged with an ominous warning: HANDLE CAREFULLY. NOT EXPECTED TO BE A HEALTH HAZARD.

“It wasn’t really something you could use to teach kids about chemistry,” acknowledges Thomas Nikosey, head of Mr. Wizard Studios, which handles licensing for the 88-year-old Herbert.

“A lot of schools don’t have chemistry labs anymore,” explains CEF educational coordinator Laurel Brent. “We want to give kids lessons that tie in to their real-world experiences without having them deal with a lot of strange chemicals in bottles that have big long names.”

Many students are ill at ease when faced with actual compounds and lab equipment for the first time at school. A study of “chemistry anxiety” in the Journal of Chemical Education concluded in 2000 that “the presence of this anxiety in our students could be a contributing factor in the overall poor performance of high school students in science.” (Commonly reported fears included “lighting the Bunsen burner,” “fire,” and “getting chemicals on skin.”) Restrictions on hands-on chemical experience is “a problem that has been building for 10 or 15 years, driven by liability and safety concerns,” says John Moore, editor in chief of the JCE.

And then The Powers That Be wring their hands and wonder why we aren't producing more scientists. I had one of those Porter chem sets in the mid 60s, and lived to tell the tale. Pretty innocuous, really. I couldn't make any explosives at all.

Darwinian blowback in Africa

Women with the most extensive female genital mutilation, which sometimes involves stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening, have a 30% greater risk of having to undergo a Caesarean section and also face a 70% greater risk of haemorrhage shortly after childbirth compared with women who have not had FGM.

Women with any degree of FGM also had a 15-55% increased risk of stillbirth or early neonatal death – with more extensive FGM causing the highest risk – compared with women who had not had the procedure.

Their babies were also more likely to die during labour. Banks observed one to two extra deaths per 100 deliveries of babies born to mothers with FGM, against a background risk of 4-6 deaths per 100 deliveries.

Anyone who would do that deserves to have his line die out, and it's nice to see that nature agrees to some extent.

This is not an ED drug spam

Apparently fish fillets are not the only kind of, uh, meat that scientists are trying to grow.