Friday, December 31, 2010

Half a Cup of Rock and Rye

I was wandering around the local liquor store a couple weeks ago, and I ran across a bottle of "Rock and Rye".  I have been singing about "Rock and Rye" for a few years, but never realized it was a particular drink; I just thought it was rye whiskey on ice.  Turns out, it is rye whiskey with a heavy dose of rock candy or horehound, and some lemon.  You can either make it at home or buy it premixed.  It was widely used as a home remedy in the past; after all, nearly everybody feels better after drinking a little whiskey, and "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down".  Of course, I had to buy a bottle, and I've been nursing it along a half a cup at a time.

Now that we're going to do Atkin's for a while, I guess I'll have to give it up, or try making it with Splenda...

And the song?  Nearly my favorite Dead song. A lousy video, but the sound is decent, and the solo outstanding.

Time to Start Over

The jar of shark's teeth (and other small miscellaneous fossils). Each year for the past several, we have started with a fresh jar on Jan. 1 and added our new fossils to it.  This year we failed to fill it to the brim, due to weekends away, brush that had slid down into our path, and bursitis.  Below is our take for the year:

The total weighs 1 lb 5 oz according to our highly accurate kitchen scale.  In front of the jar are some of the nicer or more unusual pieces, including the extinct mako shark teeth (thought by some to be the ancestor of today's great white), a snaggle toothed shark's tooth, a collection of black drum's teeth (the small black bead like teeth) a couple of cow shark's teeth (multiple points, like a saw), and a cluster of joined ray plates (Georgia found that yesterday), and a long skinny intact ray plate, that we've never intact before.  You can see some better photos of teeth from Calvert Cliffs here.

Happy New Year!

And to welcome 2011, a few old-time cuties:

From one of the foremost Pinup Artists, Alberto Vargas, from 1942

A little older

A whole lot more recent...

and finally an NSFW Vargas from Playboy

Thank Goodness for the Space Program

NASA invention leads to SmartBra
NASA developed its intelligent memory foam in the '60s to make its aircraft seating safer and more comfortable.

It's still experimenting with the stuff, looking at potential uses in spacecraft parts and structural engineering products for the future.

But, for today at least, it's being used to make bras.
 NASA has credited itself with a large number of spinoffs from it's technology, but I don't know if this one has made the list yet.
"A derivation of the foam is used in the memory foam mattresses. It's also used in the safety lining of racing car helmets, and so I realised it could have a lot of practical uses, and this softening and expansion could have a lot of benefits."
Hang on. Softening and expanding? What exactly does this bra actually do?

"It can boost the cleavage when it detects a rise in body temperature," Dr Nielsen said.

"Such as when a woman gets a little flushed when she gets excited. It can kind of do some of the flirting for you."
But we're not supposed to be looking, or are we?
"But it also has a lot of practical benefits."

"For example, if you're exercising and it detects a rise in body temperature, it can expand to offer more support when you need it."

"The bra, according to Dr Nielsen, can also adapt to a woman's changing shape and size, meaning you're less likely to have to shop for another bra down the line.

Dr Nielsen, who holds a PhD in biochemistry and has used it to pursue his business in what he calls "biocosmeceuticals", says the product may also make life easier for women dealing with ill-fitting bras."
Well, then, if it's just for support, I guess it's OK.

We got a memory foam mattress recently, after 30 some years of sleeping on a water bed originally purchased as a poor post-doc. Great support, a little warm sometimes.

And because TPIWWP:

Thoughts on One Month and 1000 Page Views

Yesterday was the one month anniversary of this blog. By my count, this is the 110th post. And sometime yesterday, it received the 1000th page view, not counting a few tens that I have inadvertently generated by looking in from devices that were not signed in. A thousand may not seem like much, but it may very well exceed the readership of all the scientific literature I've written to date.

First, I want to thank all of you who came to view (even if you only came once, and won't see this). It is a small bit of narcissism on my part to presume that I have something interesting to put out there, and you're rewarding it.

I know who a fair number of you must be, because the software shows the source of originating traffic. A large number of you are from message board forums that I have frequented (to say the least) for the last several years. I can see that when I post a link on one or more of these boards to a blog post, the hits spike for a while. And so I have reason to believe that I'm on a first name basis (at least digitally) with many of you. However, these forums also have a fair number of "lurkers" so I suspect that there's a fair number I don't know. I got a hit from Russia yesterday. Probably a wandering robot, or a lost soul. Who knows?

I've had a few major themes going: Chesapeake Bay, and its environs, both from a personal and from a scientific and policy perspective. Science in general, especially the weird and provocative. Music, good and bad. I haven't spent enough time on this one. Politics; a bit, but I have tried to keep it toned down, and related to one of the other themes. Obviously, I come at this from a conservative bent, but there are many great conservative political blogs out there, and I won't pretend to compete with them. I have a post simmering in the background about how science and conservatism make sense to me. And last, but hopefully not least, a little humor tucked into most of it.

Anyway, before this post wanders off too far, I'd like to plug for a little feed back. If you found a post interesting, what was it? If you found a post lacking, which one and why? Have a suggestion for a post, e-mail me (the link is at the top of the page). I'd like to get a dialogue going in the comments sections if possible.

And thanks again, for indulging me.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bait and Switch

So now that DADT is repealed, ROTC will come back to the Ivy League schools, right?  After all, they were using DADT as the excuse not to allow ROTC on campus.  Never mind, it wasn't ROTC or the military that put DADT in place; it was Congress.  A college damn sure isn't going to bite that hand.

Not if former Washington Post columnest Colman McCarthy has his way.

It should not be forgotten that schools have legitimate and moral reasons for keeping the military at bay, regardless of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." They can stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts.

They can stand with Martin Luther King Jr. and his view of America's penchant for war-making: "This madness must cease," he said from a pulpit in April 1967. Even well short of the pacifist positions, they can argue the impracticality of maintaining a military that has helped drive this country into record depths of debt. The defense budget has more than doubled since 2000, to over $700 billion. They can align themselves with colleges such as Hobart, Earlham, Goshen, Guilford, Hampshire, George Fox and a long list of others that teach alternatives to violence. Serve your country after college, these schools say, but consider the Peace Corps as well as the Marine Corps. 

Will the Ivies have the courage for such stands? I'm doubtful. Only one of the eight Ivy League schools - Cornell - offers a degree in peace studies. Their pride in running programs in women's studies, black studies, and gay and lesbian studies is well-founded, but schools have small claims to greatness so long as the study of peace is not equal to the other departments when it comes to size and funding.


I admire those who join armies, whether America's or the Taliban's: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home. In recent years, I've had several Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans in my college classes. If only the peace movement were as populated by people of such resolve and daring.

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.
Did you expect different?


We'll Fix It This Time, Really!

EPA unveils a new plan to save Chesapeake Bay.  First they promised to fix it by 2000, then by 2010.  I was here. I remember.  To date progress has been minimal.  As noted here previously, CBF upgraded the Bay from a D to D+ a couple days ago (coincidence?) largely due to more crabs.

Do we really think the EPA has enough political will or clout to force Baltimore and other aging municipalities to deal with their sewage problems, and farmers to deal with their nutrient and sediment problems, or will they try to solve the whole problem by de-industrializing the United States via carbon emission caps?

Seen on the Beach

Chesapecten sp. laying among the cobbles.  Looks hardly more than 1 million of it's 3-8 million years of age. Chesapecten jeffersonius (one of several species of fossil scallops), Virginia's State Fossil, was named for Thomas Jefferson.  We find they make decent soap dishes.  Click to embiggen.

Favre: Not guilty

Apparently, being a bad photographer pays off.  They couldn't identify his dick in the photos...

But just because they had to go to the trouble of looking at them, they fined him $50,000 anyway, for being one.

New Meme: Conseratives Have Better Developed Brains (or something)

A British team reports that conservatives have larger amygdalae than liberals on average, while having smaller anterior cingulate cortexes.

The "exciting" correlation was found by scientists at University College London who scanned the brains of two members of parliament and a number of students.

They found that the size of the two areas of the brain directly related to the political views of the volunteers.

However as they were all adults it was hard to say whether their brains had been born that way or had developed through experience.

Liberals in the media raced to say that therefore, political leanings were hardwired; conservatives were more influenced by the fear conditioning with which the amygdyla is commonly associated ("Conservatives have larger Fear Center"), while liberals were more influenced by the warm and fuzzy anterior cingulate cortexes role in reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion.

Some conservatives, who apparently aren't too afraid to google, quickly noticed that larger amygdalae were also associated with greater social skills (a much larger social network).

The findings correspond to previous research that found that primates also have a larger amygdala, relative to the overall size of their brain and body. Like humans, primates live in fairly complex social groups, suggesting that a larger amygdala has evolved to help navigate these landscapes. The amygdala has also been shown to be involved with fear, emotion and even seizures, said Paul Sanberg, director of the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. Sanberg was not involved with the new study. “It’s part of the ‘old’ section of the brain,” he explained. [U.S. News & World Report]
“People who have large amygdalas may have the raw material needed to maintain larger and more complex social networks,” said Barrett. “That said, the brain is a use it or lose it organ. It may be that when people interact more their amygdalas get larger. That would be my guess.” [The Guardian]
Interesting, but, much as as I asked in a previous article:
  1. Do these patterns persist after a change in government for liberal dominated to conservative dominated or vice versa?  Does the amygdala grow in response to being in power?
  2. What happens when a person shifts political orientation.  Does the amagdyla grow as a person shifts from liberal to conservative?  If the do, do they anticipate or follow that shift?  Is is possible liberalism is a childish state of the amygdala which sometimes persists throughout life?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1+1 = 2, right?

100 years ago this month, the first volume of "Principia Mathematica" was published. In this monumental undertaking Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russel attempted to derive all mathematics from a simple and consistent set of axioms. It contained such notable thoughts as:

Followed by a note to the effect that "The above proposition is occasionally useful."

The authors planned a fourth volume, but confessed to being intellectually exhausted.

Sea Ice!

Or rather Bay Ice:

I don't think it's going to last, though. Temperatures are going up. To see the state of Sea Ice world wide check out Anthony Watts Sea Ice Page.

Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?

Political Leanings Revealed by the Eyes

"Across a variety of tasks, we are beginning to find a consistent pattern where conservatives are more responsive to threat/disgust, more responsive to angry faces, and less sensitive to gaze cues than liberals," Dodd wrote in an e-mail to LiveScience. "Liberals, on the other hand, are proving to be more responsive to positive/appetitive stimuli, more responsive to happy faces, and more sensitive to gazes."
Consistent with the observation that "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality".

There are several possible explanations for the result, Dodd said. One possibility is that liberals are more empathetic and thus more responsive to others. Another theory is that conservatives are better at following instructions and were thus more likely to listen when the researchers said to ignore the face.

Dodd and his colleagues believe that a more likely explanation is that conservatives value personal autonomy more than liberals, making them less likely to be influenced by others.

The results are correlational, meaning there's no way to know whether your tendency to pay attention to others influences your political beliefs or whether political beliefs change behavior.

"Both possibilities exist," Dodd said. "I do tend to think that it is more likely that basic cognitive biases influence how you process the world, making you more or less likely to seek out liberal or conservative ideals."
 There are a number of interesting follow up questions to be explored:

  1. Do these patterns persist after a change in government for liberal dominated to conservative dominated or vice versa?
  2. What happens when a person shifts political orientation.  Do these patterns shift or not?  If the do, do they anticipate or follow that shift?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Was the World's Oldest Man Jewish After All?

Earliest modern human fossil found in Israel:
Archeologists from Tel Aviv University say eight human-like teeth found in the Qesem cave near Rosh Ha’Ayin - 10 miles from Israel’s international airport - are 400,000 years old, from the Middle Pleistocene Age, making them the earliest remains of homo sapiens yet discovered anywhere in the world.

The size and shape of the teeth are very similar to those of modern man. Until now, the earliest examples found were in Africa, dating back only 200,000 years.

Other scientists have argued that human beings originated in Africa before moving to other regions 150,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Homo sapiens discovered in Middle Awash, Ethiopia, from 160,000 years ago were believed to be the oldest 'modern' human beings.

Follow the link to Youtube to listen to Parts 2 and 3.

Illegal, Immoral, or Fattening

So what's your New Years resolution going to be?

Swiped from Ann Althouse

The Tiny Dancer Illusion

Which way is she turning?

I can see her turn clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on where I start the clip.  Another example of the way our brain interprets and imposes a perception on us that may not be real.

The Bay Gets its Annual Report Card - D+

Every year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation grades the Bay on a number of factors. This year they upgraded it to a D+ from a D.

Factors listed as excuses for the improvement included higher crab abundance, spreading sea grass beds, and higher oxygen concentrations in the bottom waters.  Areas of no progress or continued  decline include nutrient pollution, and the striped bass.

Certainly, blue crab populations appear to have responded positively to attempts to throttle back the fishery.  Crabs appear to be on the ragged edge of being over-fished. However, crab populations are well known to be highly variable, and one or two years of good numbers should not be construed as proof that the problem is solved for good.

IMHO, much of the improvement noted this year (other than the crabs) may be due to a favorable climatological year; in 2010 we had no massive spring freshet that brought massive amounts of sediments and nutrients into the bay a massive pulse, setting up the conditions for greater oxygen problems later in the year.  That is improvement, and we'll take it and be happy, but it's nothing to count on.

More troubling, at least to those of us who fish, is the apparent decline in rockfish abundance.  It's been quite apparent to me for the past several years that the large schools of small and medium sized (6-17 inch) rockfish that we used to see off my stretch of coast have been declining in size and frequency.  It is these fish that will provide the sport and commercial catch for the next several years to come.  Many of us have been predicting a return to rockfish moratorium, and I had a DNR fisheries scientist echo this sentiment in a private conversation.

Sunrise or Sunset?

What Will Those Crazy Engineers Come Up With Next?

Filling a beer from the bottom!

I predict that the first household models will hit the stores this year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Great Fleas Have Little Fleas Upon Their backs to Bite 'Em...

...And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum. And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
[1872 A. De morgan Budget of Paradoxes 377]

There's Got to be a Morning After

The hopefully final "blizzard of 2010" dropped about 3 inches of snow on the ground ending overnight. We managed to stiff Skye for a walk yesterday, but she was having none of that today. When we left this morning it 29 F and the wind was gusting to 35 from the north, but the sky was blue:
The beach was largely bare of snow, but it drifted nicely among the dunes, with some sand mixed in.

I'm Buying a Bottle Just to Encourage More Ads

Of course, you can count on the usual suspects to complain about blowing up the crocodile, so, below the jump, the apology:

I Guess There's Someone for Everyone...

But why doe Hugh Hefner always get the cute Playboy Bunny?

WASHINGTON - Hugh Hefner, the twice-married founder of Playboy, is taking the plunge again.
Hefner, 84, said on Saturday in a posting on Twitter that he and his girlfriend Crystal Harris, 24, got engaged on Friday.
“When I gave Crystal the ring, she burst into tears. This is the happiest Christmas weekend in memory,” Hefner tweeted.
Hefner, whose magazine was founded in 1953, was divorced from his second wife, Kimberley Conrad, earlier this year. His first marriage to Mildred Williams ended in divorce in 1959.
Harris was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for December 2009...

Oh, Yeah...

Somewhat racy picture of Crystal below the jump:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Aren't Alpacas Cute?

Let Uncle Sugar help you buy one!

Abstractly, supporting family-based agriculture sounds good. Government policies often harm small farms by favoring corporate agribusinesses. Government could help family farms by ending the subsidies that mostly go to the big guys. But that doesn't interest the politicians. They prefer to do things like creating tax breaks to encourage livestock breeding.
The tax breaks have led to a boom in alpaca breeding. Twenty-five years ago, there were 150 alpacas in America. Now, there are 150,000.
One website even advertises: "Have Uncle Sam Help You Buy Your Alpacas."
Rose Mogerman raises alpacas in New Jersey, the most densely populated state. "I fell in love with them," she said.
But she fell in love with the tax break first.
"Yes. I have to be honest," she said. "I might have had two. I wouldn't have had 100. ... I was looking for a tax shelter."
The Alpaca Breeders Association asked its members, on a scale of 1 to 10, what motivated them to get into alpaca breeding. More than half rated "tax benefits" a 10.

To Lay Me Down

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Santa done good.  I got a Kindle 3G, and Georgia got an allegedly squirrel proof bird feeder.  Had breakfast at IHop, and saw a few flakes of snow on the way.  Stopped at the liquor store (again) on the way home, and got ready to be snowed in, if necessary.

Offered in the Spirit...

of Roger Zelazny's "Agnostic's Prayer":
Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
You can blame Ted for this...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joy to the World

Christmas Cuties

And Hold the Fruitcake!

Atkins is Back!

Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."

It's a confusing message. For years we've been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. "Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1," says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. "Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar."...
I used the Atkins Diet to lose over 50 lbs a few years ago, and kept most of it off for at least three years.  We kind lost it after I switched jobs and donuts became more readily available.  Our health stayed good through out the time, contrary to everyone's fear of cholesterol and all.

With the planned events around the nuptials of #2 son next Sept, Georgia and I are planning to give it a shot again, to get a little trimmer.  Somehow, walking on the beach twice a week just isn't enough.

US gasoline use falls, never to rise again

Report: Americans using 8% less gasoline than 2006 peak, will never go up again

... Here's the hard data: Americans averaged about 8.2 million barrels of oil, or 344 gallons, per day in 2010, which is an 8-percent drop since the country's peak in 2006. Experts seem to agree that gasoline usage in the States will continue to drop – as much as 20 percent by the year 2030, despite millions of additional cars on the roads – barring any unexpected periods of economic boom or another meteoric drop in fuel prices...
 So stop bitching at us. Use by the Chinese and Indians will continue to rise, however.

Update:  Did you catch the typo in the quote?  What's a few orders of magnitude among friends?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Human Tree Gets a New Root

Genome of Extinct Siberian Cave-dweller Linked to Modern-day Humans

...Researchers have discovered evidence of a distinct group of "archaic" humans existing outside of Africa more than 30,000 years ago at a time when Neanderthals are thought to have dominated Europe and Asia. But genetic testing shows that members of this new group were not Neanderthals, and they interbred with the ancestors of some modern humans who are alive today...
...Another type of analysis reported by the study's authors showed Denisovans contributed 4-6 percent of their genetic material to the genomes of present-day New Guineans. "They are ancestors of people in Papua New Guinea but not of the great majority of people in Eurasia," said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research's population genetics analysis...

 OK, now this is cool.  In addition to neanderthals, who were recently shown to have contributed a small fraction of the genes of modern humans, this study finds a new group of primitive humans, co-existent with neanderthals, who contributed a larger share of their genome, although to a more limited geographic range of modern humans.  They have been dubbed the "Denisovans" from the Denisova cave in Siberia where the fossils were found.

Will they get their own series of Geico commercials?


Political Taxonomy

'African Elephant' Actually Two Separate Species

It seems that populations of elephants in Africa have been evolving long enough in different habitats that they look somewhat different, and have distinctly different DNA.  There is a large branch of biology, taxonomy, charged with identifying and naming separate species.  This is not necessarily a simple task.  As one group of organisms splits and evolves into two or more, there is a period where the distinction is inherently difficult to categorize.  Traditionally, the basis for separating species is whether they successfully interbreed to the point that gene flow is maintained between the populations (Many different species that could interbreed in captivity don't in the wild due to behavioral or other differences).  Do these elephant populations interbreed at the edges of their separate habitats? Perhaps the DNA is informative of this, but it was not clear from the article.

One thing that struck me in the article is that it is now considered important to classify the African elephants into two species for political reasons:

It's important to classify the two as different species for the conservation aspects. You would want to develop a separate conservation plan for each one," Roca said. The African elephant is listed as endangered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and splitting the population into two different species places the forest elephant in much more dire straits. A little over a fifth of Africa’s 500,000 elephants are forest elephants, and their numbers are dwindling quickly as their habitats disappear and poachers kill them for their ivory tusks, Roca said.

I certainly have no objections to identifying the forest and savanna elephants as different species, and I'm completely on board with efforts to protect both.  However, I object to making taxonomy a political tool.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'd Carry One for Self-Defense

But I'd probably just eat it before I could use it.

Ethanol is for Drinking, not Driving

Can E15 Gasoline Really Damage Your Engine? Yes. Here's how.

Gasohol  is just a bad idea that keeps on giving.  It's bad for cars.  It's really bad for boats.  It's driven up food costs, and put more demand on the land.  It doesn't even save any fossil fuel use.  Now the ethanol producers want the right to force even higher concentrations into gasoline, even though many cars, boats and other motors now in use will be threatened with damage, and EPA has indulged them.  Time to contact the legislators and just say No!  This has been a bipartisan boondoggle.

Both times I was stuck on the bay it was caused by water in the gas that caused the E10 to separate out of my 60 gallon gas tank.

But Do Young Male Chimps Use Them as Guns?

Young female chimps treat sticks like dolls:

Researchers have reported some of the first evidence that chimpanzee youngsters in the wild may tend to play differently depending on their sex, just as human children around the world do. Although both young male and female chimpanzees play with sticks, females do so more often, and they occasionally treat them like mother chimpanzees caring for their infants, according to a study in the December 21st issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

The findings suggest that the consistently greater tendency, across all cultures, for girls to play more with dolls than boys do is not just a result of sex-stereotyped socialization, the researchers say, but rather comes partly from "biological predilections."

Ah, the old nature vs. nurture conflict.  Expect a counter study to be reported ASAP.  As usual, the correct answer is a mixture.

Spotted at Instapundit.

More $%!* my brother sends

I'm not sure it's a good thing to make fun of your target audience, but there's a lot of people in Los Angeles County and parts of it are still surprisingly rural.

Both Ted and I are Los Angeles expatriates, having left and never looked back once we went to college. Our younger brother Mark briefly escaped to the Nirvana of Pismo Beach, but became a lawyer and fell back in to the clutches of city life.

A couple more below the jump:

Science from the Duh! Files

Coed Dorms Fuel Sex and Drinking

It's no secret to students that coed dorms are more fun than same-sex dorms. But they can also fuel very unhealthy behavior that might otherwise be moderated.

A new study finds university students in coed housing are 2.5 times more likely to binge drink every week. And no surprise, they're also likely to have more sexual partners, the study found. Also, pornography use was higher among students in coed dorms.

Some 90 percent of U.S. college dorms are now coed.

More than 500 students from five college campuses around the country participated in the study. Among the results:

* 42 percent of students in coed housing reported binge drinking on a weekly basis.
* 18 percent of students in gender-specific housing reported binge drinking weekly.
Really, we're supposed to be surprised when having your men and women live together leads to more sex and drinking?

To be fair, most Science from the Duh! Files result from reporters reading a bit of science and reporting the only thing they can understand in it, in this case, sex and drinking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away

A pretty decent article on sea level rise and the Chesapeake Bay today - Sinking land, not rising seas, a bigger worry

The highlights:

First, the good news: Sea levels around the Chesapeake Bay are not rising as quickly as other places in the world - actually, they are moving about half as fast as the global average.
Now, the bad news: Coastal lands around the Bay are sinking more rapidly than elsewhere around the planet, especially in Hampton Roads.

It is this sinking phenomenon, called subsidence, that makes Hampton Roads one of the spots in the United States most vulnerable to rising sea levels and to events such as flooding, tidal surges and storms. Only New Orleans is more susceptible.

Such are the findings of a study released Monday by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a branch of the College of William and Mary.
More after the jump

Busy as a Beaver

Beaver Dam and Pond near Weir 101
Beavers have recently reoccupied a pond at work (known as the "old" beaver pond, as opposed the the "new" beaver pond a half a mile away or so).  They have built an elaborate dam across the exit of the pond and raised the level 6 inches or more, and flooded a large area of grass around the edge.

Some scientists are less than thrilled about this; one is concerned that the beavers will alter her long-term study of the rate of mercury methylation by freshwater ecosystems.  She has a technician trying to discourage the beavers by tearing a hole in the dam and allowing the water to drain.  However, every time he does, the beavers have the dam repaired and maybe even further reinforced by the next morning.  A bit like a cartoon. I think it would be easier to adapt the science to the beavers, but, maybe that's just me.

Beavers were once hunted to near extirpation in the eastern United States, mostly for their fur which was used to make felt for the elegant top hats of old, and the hunt for more beavers led the mountain men into the west, and helped open the west for settlers.  The fur from the beaver pelts was treated with mercury to make better felt, and this was one of the historical sources of mercury pollution. It also led the term "mad as a hatter" as the felt makers fell victim to mercury neurotoxicity from lingering over boiling pots of fur in mercury solution, and ultimately, the Lewis Carol's famous character, the Mad Hatter.

About Damned Time

Senate passes shark protection bill

The Senate passed a landmark shark conservation bill Monday that would close loopholes that had allowed the lucrative shark fin trade to continue operations off the West Coast.

The measure would require all vessels to land sharks with fins attached and would prevent nonfishing vessels from transporting fins without their carcasses. Cutting off a shark's fins and then dumping its body overboard, which is now banned off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico but not in the Pacific, has expanded worldwide because of a rising demand for shark's fin soup in Asia.
The Senate bill does include one exemption from the shark finning ban, for the smooth dogfish shark fishery off the North Carolina coast, to win the support of Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
 Now we need to do something about the North Carolina Fishery.

UPDATE: The bill passed the House yesterday.

Death Don't Have No Mercy

Deaths from all causes spike on Christmas.

Welcome Winter

Lunar Eclipse ca 3:30 AM 12/21/2010
I didn't quite get the focus right, but here it is, the Solstice Lunar Eclipse of 12/21/2010.  Shot with my Nikon D40, using a 20 second exposure.
I hadn't planned on getting up, but finding myself awake at 3:15 AM, well, it just seemed to be the thing to do.

Boy, was it cold out there in slippers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I couldn't have said it better...

Oh yeah, I didn't...

Ask, Tell, Whatever
As somebody who’s considered a conservative, or at least a conservative sympathizer, I’m probably expected to be up in arms about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But I’m really not. I was ambivalent about it to begin with, and the more I think about it, the more I’m okay with putting it aside.
The way I see it, making the sacrifice to serve your country is one of the noblest things you can do. If you’re physically and mentally fit to serve, can we really afford to turn you away? Isn’t stopping the bad guys more important than protecting the feelings of people who hate gays?
I understand that there will be drawbacks, unintended consequences. It’s going to be tough at first for gays in the military who come out, but it’ll be their choice to make. I understand the concept of unit cohesion, but I also know we have the greatest military in the history of the world. I trust that they can make it work. They stopped the Nazis; are they really going to fall apart over the Nancies?
This isn’t to say that if you’re gay you have the right to serve, or that you’re entitled to it and anybody who says differently is a big meanie and you get to scream at them. No. That might make you feel better, but no. I just figure, hey, we can use all the help we can get defending America.
Besides, it’ll give the terrorists yet another reason to hate us. The Gitmo detainees already go out of their minds when addressed directly by a female with her whole face showing. Just think how these 12th-Century dip$#!+s will react when they get their butts kicked by some gay dudes. It’ll just add to the humiliation.
Besides, Gary Johnson said so. And the Dems have had a really bad couple of months. They need a victory to cling to.
Okay, go ahead and yell at me in the comments. If haranguing a cripple makes you feel better…

Global Warming Makes Arctic Animals Horny

Is there anything it can't do?

An odd-looking white bear with patches of brown fur was shot by hunters in 2006 and found to be a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. Apparently, grizzlies were moving north into polar bear territory. Since then, several hybrid animals have appeared in and around the Arctic, including narwhal-beluga whales and mixed porpoises.

The culprit may be melting Arctic sea ice, which is causing barriers that once separated marine mammals to disappear, while the warming planet is making habitats once too cold for some animals just right. The resulting hybrid creatures are threatening the survival of rare polar animals, according to a comment published today (Dec. 15) in the journal Nature.

When in doubt, blame it on global warming climate change...

How About This for a Start? Turn Off the Scanners!

Napolitano Says DHS to Begin Battling Climate Change as Homeland Security Issue

 It's generally acknowledged that the scanners aren't going to catch much, if anything, so they're just a waste of electricity.

Are We Headed Towards a New Period of Great Art?

During the Dalton Minimum, a period of reduced sunspots and solar activity lasting from 1790 to 1830, the world experienced a number of very severe winters.  It was a great time for Dutch Painters:

Andreas Schelfhout - Skaters in Stormy Weather
Click to embiggen

A guest poster over at Watts Up with That argues that the sun may be entering another period of reduced solar activity, leading to more severe winters in the future.  The post is kind of dense, and the evidence, while suggestive, is not dispositive.  Skepticism is good.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This recipe seems a little sketchy

Jail for man accused of marinating cat 

..The animal was found in a liquid mixture of oil, crushed pepper, salt and other ingredients, and Korkuc told police it was in preparation for a meal.

The cat, a male, survived. Several baths cleaned him of the concoction, and he seemed to be in good health otherwise, said Erie County SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning...

 Sezchuan, Cantonese, Hunan? 

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Winter

The Picnic Table and Volleyball Court Looking Forelorne

I Hope This Never Shows Up on YOUTUBE...

On Friday had our annual lab Christmas Holiday party. Like the last 5 years, I was in the unofficial band that plays at the event. This year, one of our members re-wrote a few songs to have the lyrics match events around the lab.  He flashed the lyrics up on the screen in PowerPoint as we played and sang. As with many things in life, it went not as well as I hoped but better than I feared. To my knowledge, no video was recorded, but, instead, here are some more professional artists doing the songs they were based on.

Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin

I got to play Jimmy Page using my Laguna 524 I got this year from a local thrift shop.  At least I didn't have to sing.  The lyrics were something about the clearing the snow off the road into the lab, "The Snow Removal Song"

See the rest below the jump:

Check out the Sunday Funnies

At Flopping Aces

Giant Coyote Shot in Missouri

Hunter Kills 104-Pound 'Unusually Large' Coyote
Coyote About 3 Years Old

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- DNA testing has confirmed that a large animal shot and killed by a hunter a month ago was an "unusually large" coyote, the Missouri Department of Conservation announced Monday.

The hunter killed the animal on the opening day of Missouri's November firearms deer season on Nov. 13.

Coyotes are legal game during deer season, so the hunter shot and killed it, the department said. But when the hunter got a closer look at the animal, he wondered if he had mistakenly shot and killed a wolf, which is a protected species in Missouri, the department said.

The hunter contacted the MDC, which tested the animal's DNA and determined it was in fact a coyote.

The MDC said the 104-pound coyote was about 3 years old.

 Coyotes were once a considered a  western species, confined largely to the far side of the Mississippi River.  Compared to their cousins the wolves, however, coyotes do very well in the presence of people, eating livestock, pets, and raiding garbage while living very secretly.  For much of the last century they have been invading the lands farther east.  It is reported that eastern coyotes are often larger than western coyotes, having acquired a few stray genes from dogs and even the occasional wolf.  While I have not yet seen a coyote here in Slower Maryland, they have been reported many times, and it would not surprise me at all to see one scavenging on the beach one day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Did the UN Bring Cholera to Haiti?

I’m from the UN and I’m Here to Help

That human action or activity often has unintended consequences is not a new observation.
Among the activities that often have results very different from those envisaged or desired is foreign aid. There is probably not a single case of a very poor country being hauled out of poverty by such aid; there are many instances of dictators being kept in power and of civil wars virtually funded by it.
A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine for December 9 from Harvard Medical School shows that the strain of cholera that has caused an epidemic in Haiti probably originated in South Asia, that is to say Bangladesh. The authors arrived at this conclusion by genetic analysis.
Rather coyly, they state:
Our findings have policy implications for public health officials who are considering the deployment of vaccines or other measures for controlling cholera.
This is indeed the case, and the implications are serious. The strain of cholera, that could easily spread, is more virulent than the strain already resident in Latin America; and while the measures necessary to prevent spread are known in theory, they may be difficult to put into practice. Among other things, there is a world shortage of cholera vaccine.
There is a terrible irony to all this that the authors do not mention. The Bangladeshis now suffer from the largest mass outbreak of arsenic poisoning in the history of mankind, thanks to the wells in their country drilled (with the best of intentions, no doubt) by UNICEF. The arsenic was in the groundwater, and millions of Bangladeshis now suffer from chronic arsenic poisoning; and one in four deaths in Bangladesh has now been attributed to it...

Read the rest

Double Dog Day

A dog day (for us) is a day when we don't have to go to work, so the dog gets to take us on a walk on the beach.  A double dog day is when there is also snow on the ground.  Huskies like nothing more than snow on the ground (unless it's killing small furry animals with snow on the ground).

Hunting Mode

More pics after the jump:

Help my friend, Bill Curry


Bill is a friend, a fellow fisherman, a former soldier, a hell of a nice guy, and a true craftsman. Vote early and often.  You can vote once a day, from one machine (hint, hint).

UPDATE 1/11/11: Voting has ended, but you can still enter a testimonial. Thanks to everyone who came through here to vote. We hope for a favorable decision ASAP.

Bill with one of the biggest stripers I've ever heard of...

While I'm reluctant to take a lawyers word on anything, but...

I think this  needs some serious examination:

This goes out to Michael Stipe....

just in case he wants a new one

Ripped off from Aces Overnight Thread

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Brother on the Bay

New tools to help keep bay safer?

Capital Gazette Communications
Published 12/16/10
Maryland's Natural Resources Police yesterday unveiled a new software system designed to provide real-time radar and information to enhance security and law enforcement on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
  E.B. Furgurson | The Capital Natural Resources Police Superintendent Col. George F. Johnson IV talks about the state's new marine law enforcement radar and camera internet system that will aid not only NRP officers but other law enforcement, military and crucial commercial installations to keep the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries safer. He is aboard an NRP quick response boat at Sandy Point State Park.
The initial deployment of four radar stations and one long-range camera, all tied into an online network, is the first step toward covering the entire bay. When fully operational, the system, with up to 20 radar stations, will aid search and rescue, homeland security, and maritime and conservation law enforcement efforts.
"This has been four years in the making," NRP Superintendent Col. George L. Johnson IV said.
Since 9/11, there has been a push to identify gaps in national security measures and access to the bay is one of them, Johnson said. The project is funded primarily from grants from the U.S. Coast Guard that support homeland security missions.

The system is designed to link all law enforcement and other agencies with maritime interests through the online network, so information can be shared. It also will combine input from agencies such as the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the Port of Baltimore, and the Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility. The Navy will be adding some of its radar capability to the system early next year ...

I was stopped by the Coasties while fishing just outside the exclusion zone at Calvert Cliffs a few weeks ago.  When I saw their boat coming down the Bay I figured I would get stopped.  I don't really mind the Coasties, who have always been very polite.  They just check your gear to make sure you're safe, and write up a report.  They also give you a "ticket" on the stop, which, if you get stopped again inside a short period, you just show them and, they usually give you a pass.  The guys were interested in whether we were catching any (we were) even though they aren't responsible for enforcing MD game laws.  I was told fishing there was legal, but to expect to be stopped again if I stayed that close.  I said that was a fair trade.

I've always thought the "exclusion zones" around these sites is largely "security theater".  If someone really was threatening the plant or gas dock with a bomb aboard the boat, they would simply drive it in an detonate it.  There would be essentially no time for the coasties to react, as they are rarely close enough to intercept a boat.  But now, with all this electronics it maybe that the coasties will be driven nuts by all the calls reporting boats close to (or crossing) the lines.

In the good old days, before 9/11, we could do virtually anything short of actually landing at the plant.  I remember boats tying off to the curtain wall, and fishing over the top into the intake water bay.  Sometimes big schools of fish (striped bass or blues) would  hang out in there.  I never did that, but I did bump it a few times.  We also used to bang around between the pilings at the Gas Dock, which now has a huge exclusion area.

Trevor with a good sized striper with Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in the background

Not my Problem!

The Gift of Endless Memory

The memory equivalent of perfect pitch.  I don't have that problem either...

As Donovan Said...

Quite Rightly!

Shoppers Shrug off Fears about Lead in Reusable Bags

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — So you care about the environment, and you take a reusable shopping bag with you to the grocery store to avoid polluting the planet with countless plastic sacks. Now you find out your bag is made with potentially harmful lead. What’s an environmentalist to do?
If you’re like Elnora Cooper, nothing.

“I’m not eating the bag … and I’m not going to get rid of it,” Cooper, 68, said with a chuckle after walking out of a Wegmans Food Markets store in Rochester this week with a reusable bag under her arm.


I could have posted a YOUTUBE of Donovan doing "Mellow Yellow", but I'm not that cruel.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This is Your Brain on Drugs

WASHINGTON - D.C. Councilman Marion Barry had his car stolen over the weekend, according to D.C. police. The former mayor parked his 2002 Jaguar outside the Patricia R. Harris Education Center in Southeast D.C. Sunday morning with the keys still in the ignition.
When he left the building, the car was gone.
D.C. Police have no suspects.
Police spokesman Paul Metcalf says the car was recovered Tuesday afternoon.

The Woman With No Fear

A middle-aged woman known as SM blithely reaches for poisonous snakes, giggles in haunted houses and once, upon escaping the clutches of a knife-wielding man, didn’t run but calmly walked away. A rare kind of brain damage precludes her from experiencing fear of any sort, finds a study published online December 16 in Current Biology.

So this woman has a minimal brain damage, and has absolutely no fear.  It's very interesting how it shows our brains work, a little area here or there responsible for particular feelings or actions.  Eerily machine like...

Fantasy Art - Snow Edition

The incomparable Frank Frazetta:

Click to embiggen

No Picnic in the Garden Tdoay

Our first significant snowfall today.  Slower Maryland doesn't do well in snow.  They cancel school before the first flake arrives on radar, let alone the road.  The snow we get is often wet and slick, because we're usually close to the snow/ice/rain line.  Our drivers aren't used to it, and it makes idiots out of a lot of us.

Time to hit the road...

$%!* my brother sends

Fishing message boards have similar discussions

NSFW language....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#2 son sends some pieces to be evaluated

 Monogahela Mosey

 That's where I'll be

Alex says comments desired, good and bad.

When the truth is found to be lies...

Atomic weights of 10 elements on periodic table about to make an historic change

For the first time in history, a change will be made to the atomic weights of some elements listed on the Periodic table of the chemical elements posted on walls of chemistry classrooms and on the inside covers of chemistry textbooks worldwide.

The new table, outlined in a report released this month, will express atomic weights of 10 elements - hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, chlorine and thallium - in a new manner that will reflect more accurately how these elements are found in nature.

Modern analytical techniques can measure the atomic weight of many elements precisely, and these small variations in an element's atomic weight are important in research and industry. For example, precise measurements of the abundances of isotopes of carbon can be used to determine purity and source of food, such as vanilla and honey. Isotopic measurements of nitrogen, chlorine and other elements are used for tracing pollutants in streams and groundwater. In sports doping investigations, performance-enhancing testosterone can be identified in the human body because the atomic weight of carbon in natural human testosterone is higher than that in pharmaceutical testosterone....

UPDATE:  EPA declares saccharine OK!

Say Goodbye to Veeger

Bye bye!

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached the outer edge of the solar system where wind from the Sun is no longer blowing outward, but sideways, the US space agency said. The spacecraft was launched in 1977 and has since snapped images of Earth and other planets in the solar system and provided NASA with crucial information as it makes its long journey into outer space.

NASA researchers think Voyager 1 will leave the solar system and enter interstellar space, or the area in between the end of the Sun's influence and the next star system, in about four years.

For now, Voyager 1 is 17.4 billion kilometers from the Sun in "an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero," the space agency said.

A Rough Day for Ducks

A friend of mine and occasional reader (he says) took yesterday to go duck hunting up the upper Chesapeake Bay area.  BrianC is a committed hunter, and has a well trained Lab to do his retrieving, in classic style.  He posted these pictures and comments on a message board, and I asked his permission to share them:

Got out for the morning and afternoon hunt. Morning sucked because the river was frozen. We broke it up with the boat but it would refreeze in 4 minutes. 14* and gusting to 35 mph and we never fired a shot.

Lots of geese sitting nearby but they don't come into season until tomorrow.


Dog coming in with a bull canvasback. That dog is something else
The afternoon was much more productive in very snotty conditions. It was gusting to 40mph and we were fully incased in ice and the boat was a skating rink. The clothes I was wearing were still iced over when I got home (40 minute ride) as the blower in the hunting truck shit the bed. I have to say I was comfortable out there except for my exposed face when the wind whipped spray onto us during the boat ride

Ended up with 2 drake Bluebills, 2 drake Canvasbacks, and a Bufflehead.

HIV cured with stem cell transplant

What reports seem not to be emphasizing is that the "cure" was the outcome of an adult stem cell transplant, not an embryonic stem cell transplant.  The cure is the result of a bone marrow transplant, a relatively common and noncontroversial transplant of marrow stem cells from one person to another.  The cure apparently resulted when marrow containing a rare mutation called CCR5 delta32, occurring in about 1-3 people in 100, was transplanted in an HIV patient suffering from leukemia.  This rare mutation appears to prevent the HIV virus from infecting the newly transplanted immune system cells.

It has long been my belief that by the time we understand cell development well enough to be able to use embryonic stem cells for therapy, we will understand it well enough to use more common adults stem cells and even differentiated tissue.  I have no moral objections to investigating either embryonic or adult cells for therapy, and I think the angst expressed by both sides of the debate is misplaced.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"Everyone yawns, but no one knows why. We start when we are in the womb, and we do it through old age. Most vertebrate species, even birds and fishes, yawn too, or at least do something that looks very much like it. But its physiological mechanisms, its purpose and what survival value it might have remain a mystery"

Fracking: Not Just a Curse on Battlestar Galactica

The hard facts about fracking.

Erin Brockovich: Never Mind!

No Cancer Cluster in Erin's Town

HINKLEY, Calif. -- A California state study has not revealed elevated cancer levels in the town of Hinkley, a small desert community that inspired the award-winning Hollywood movie "Erin Brockovich" through its struggles with contaminated groundwater.
The California Cancer Registry has completed three studies on Hinkley, where a toxic plume of cancer-causing chromium 6 is once again growing. The studies found that cancer rates remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008.

But Julia Roberts sure was cute wasn't she?

Cold Enough for You?

NASA says global warming may have averted a new ice age...

Earth's orbit around and orientation toward the Sun change over spans of many thousands of years. In turn, these changing "orbital mechanics" force climate to change because they change where and how much sunlight reaches Earth. (Please see for more details.) Thus, changing Earth's exposure to sunlight forces climate to change. According to scientists' models of Earth's orbit and orientation toward the Sun indicate that our world should be just beginning to enter a new period of cooling -- perhaps the next ice age.
However, a new force for change has arisen: humans. After the industrial revolution, humans introduced increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and changed the surface of the landscape to an extent great enough to influence climate on local and global scales. By driving up carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (by about 30 percent), humans have increased its capacity to trap warmth near the surface...

 It was 18 F this morning and it's likely to be colder tonight.  We had a trace of snow yesterday, and it's still lying around in a few places along the commute.

It's True; Ginger Kids are Different

Redheads require more anaesthesia, or less, depending.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cool New Weather Site

At least to me.  See  recent record high and low temps, and snow and rainfall:

Gratuitous Sunrise

Nope, couldn't find anything exciting in the news.

RIP Hard Drive!

The hard drive in my 6 month old Windows7 desk top computer started doing odd things late last week, clicking, and responding very slowly. I blogged etc on an old lap top over the weekend, somewhat painfully, because my accustomed applications weren't available.  I managed to back up all the data and took the computer back to the shop I bought it from on Saturday afternoon, and they replaced the hard drive under warranty  (1 TB Seagate).  I got it back basically stripped, just the operating systems.  I've spent the last hour and a half getting it 75% up (Firefox, Anti-virus, E-mail) but the good news is it mostly over.  I'll have a few installs left over the next couple days, but I should be back in business.  Now, if I could just think of something interesting to blog about...  Or maybe I have a pretty picture among all those back ups.

Update:  Thanks to Ted: