Some Wu Flu Hacks

We’re all getting into social distancing big time, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  And everyone knows about wash-your-hands-don’t-touch-your-face-sneeze-into-a-tissue precautions. But here are four more behavior changes to help avoid infection: avoid those hot-air hand dryers in public restrooms, they’re germ blasters use disposables instead of  reusable shopping bags, they’re mobile petri dishes clean your freakin’ cell phone periodically, it’s a crud collector ditch the face mask, it may increase your risk, and it just makes you look like a poser a$$hole Oh, a pilon:  THE FIVE SECOND RULE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY. Over at Breitbart, John Nolte unleashes a … Continue reading Some Wu Flu Hacks

News Flash! Men and Women are Different…

..despite the fact that some folks wish is wasn’t so Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains https://t.co/OOtJaICQ0t — Gina Rippon (@ginarippon1) February 27, 2019 In fact, the National Institute of Health requires that sex be included as a variable in all studies: Sex can influence health & disease in many ways, which is why NIH requires that researchers consider sex as a biological variable (SABV) in all stages of research: https://t.co/G2fy2PxLrJ. Visit @NIH_ORWH for #SABV research tips. #WomensHealthInFocus #ThisIsNIH — NIH (@NIH) January 8, 2019 My favorite line from the review: “The mammalian brain is clearly … Continue reading News Flash! Men and Women are Different…

Hunting the Wild Placebo

The New York Times’ Gary Greenberg asks “What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?” and gets some interesting answers.  Along the way, he tells the interesting history of the placebo and how it has become a standard in FDA=approved clinical trials.  My only question for the FDA is this:  if someone were to attempt to certify a placebo effect, what would you compare it to? Tip from Drudge, who, like a blind squirrel, occasionally finds a fresh nut, and never leaves a permalink. Continue reading Hunting the Wild Placebo

The Fourier Transform, explained beautifully

At the Better Explained blog, Kalid Azad hits another home run with An Interactive Guide to the Fourier Transform. Here’s a plain-English metaphor: What does the Fourier Transform do? Given a smoothie, it finds the recipe. How? Run the smoothie through filters to extract each ingredient. Why? Recipes are easier to analyze, compare, and modify than the smoothie itself. How do we get the smoothie back? Blend the ingredients. Here’s the “math English” version of the above: The Fourier Transform takes a time-based pattern, measures every possible cycle, and returns the overall “cycle recipe” (the amplitude, offset, & rotation speed … Continue reading The Fourier Transform, explained beautifully

Our National Blind Spot

Want to save the planet?  How about starting by saving the birds.  Here’s a Pareto graph that gives a strong hint of where to start: That’s right, get the cat population under control.  Eradicate feral cat colonies, and euthanize cat collections (oh, and institutionalize obsessive cat ladies).  The whole country needs to grow up and get that “cute little kitty” lie out of their heads, and replace it with something more realistic, like “bird murderer.” Tip from Bird Note, by way of Sarah Hoyt at the Instapundit. Update:  One Dallas suburb is infested with feral cats, protected by a well-connected … Continue reading Our National Blind Spot

Science is getting exciting!

Five very interesting articles recently popped up on the web, suggesting that current science is much more interesting than the average Joe might think: At FiveThirtyEight*, Christie Aschwanden’s Science Isn’t Broken gives a great exposition on scientific fraud, p-hacking, and why science is much more difficult than most folks realize. Robert Matthews, writing in UAE’s The National, says Lone researchers with radical ideas may hold the keys to science’s unanswered questions.  One of those “loners” is “Eleonora Troja, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who studies X-rays, had hoped for years to detect the light from a neutron-star … Continue reading Science is getting exciting!

Deus ex Machina, on steroids

…is the tagline I’d use to describe Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds’ The Medusa Chronicles, the startling sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “A Meeting with Medusa.” Baxter and Reynolds are up to their usual tricks of piling wonder atop wonder in their usual over-the-top scenarios, while cleverly maintaining Clarke’s style and tone, AND sneaking in episodes strongly reminiscent of 2001, A Space Odyssey.  An added bonus is the introduction of a “new physics” based on the Mach Principle, which is still puzzling serious researchers today. …local physical laws must be shaped by the large-scale structures of the universe.  … Continue reading Deus ex Machina, on steroids

Art Meets Science

On a day that I’m overbooked, running around campus doing minor, but essential chores, and feeling a bit grumpy about the whole academic enterprise, I stumble upon a jewel like this: Not in a gallery or the administration building, but in a hallway between classrooms.  Where thousands of students, and the odd faculty member, can marvel at what talents sometimes pop up where we least expect them. Continue reading Art Meets Science

The Invention of Nature

I’m neck deep in Andrea Wulf‘s biography of Alexander von Humboldt, and it’s absolutely riveting.  Von Humboldt was some kind of scientific maniac, who caught the interest of everyone from Goethe to Thomas Jefferson to Simon Bolivar.  Von Humboldt was arguably the first naturalist to think ecologically, as well as one of the earliest abolitionists.  He didn’t get to go everywhere, and he didn’t get to meet everyone, but damn close. Continue reading The Invention of Nature

Are you a turtle?* Is this a fluke?

Just when you think science can’t get any more weird,  we get something like this A new species of blood fluke was found infecting the lungs of turtles in Malaysia. This parasitic flatworm has been dubbed Baracktrema obamai, in honor of the President of the United States (who is the fifth cousin twice removed of one of the discovering scientists). A parasitic flatworm? I thought this was a spoof until I followed the link to the Jounal of Parasitology.  For reals. Tip from the Drudge Report. * Classical reference: Welcome to the Turtle Society.  The only duty of membership is … Continue reading Are you a turtle?* Is this a fluke?