Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fighting panda extinction

Well, not really, this time.

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin Zoo denied media allegations on Tuesday that Knut the celebrity polar bear cub was responsible for the sudden demise of one of its older attractions, a 22-year-old panda who was found dead in her cage.

Just four days after the euphoria over the debut of three-and-a-half-month-old "Cuddly Knut", the mysterious death of Chinese-born Yan Yan stole the headlines in Tuesday's German newspapers.

Top-selling Bild reported the influx of visitors to the zoo -- about 30,000 a day -- could have stressed the black and white bear, who spent much of her time lying on her back chomping at bamboo shoots.

"Lots of people gave up on seeing Knut because of the long queues, so they went to see Yan Yan instead. She seemed intimidated and anxious," wrote the paper, suggesting Yan Yan could have had a heart attack.

Berlin Zoo denied any link.

What's amazing is that people in the media -- in this case -- seem to believe that the panda became so stressed out by being looked at (in a zoo!) that she died. If -- BIG "IF" -- this turns out to be true, that trait doesn't strike me as an evolutionary strength. And the pandas could be in more danger than we thought!

Anthropomorphizing a jumping dog's actions

I seriously doubt this dog knew what he was doing.

CALVERT, Md. - Toby, a 2-year-old golden retriever, saw his owner choking on a piece of fruit and began jumping up and down on the woman's chest. The dog's owner believes the dog was trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.

Debbie Parkhurst, 45, of Calvert told the Cecil Whig she was eating an apple at her home Friday when a piece lodged in her throat. She attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself but it didn't work. After she began beating on her chest, she said Toby noticed and got involved.

Sometimes, dogs' actions just don't make sense, and we shouldn't attribute human motivations to them. After all, a lot of dogs will eat poop, given the chance.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dreaming of a hazy moon

Titan, Saturn's moon, is such a fascinating place.

Clues to Titan's smooth finish can be seen in the presence of vast tracts of sand dunes, river channels and evidence for cryovolcanism visible in Cassini images.

It is likely that a combination of burial in sand, erosion by methane or obliteration by the cold hand of cryovolcanism is responsible for paving over the craters. Cassini has already spotted vague circular features among Titan's sand dunes that may be evidence of craters undergoing burial.

Pinning down the rate of crater removal will be an important factor in dating the age of Titan's surface features, including those craters that have survived. 'We have no way of knowing how recent the known craters are, although Menrva is old enough that it has a fairly eroded rim, cut by river channels,' [Ralph] Lorenz [of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory] said.

This is what space exploration is all about. And this incredible stuff is in our stellar backyard! Imagine what waits to be discovered beyond our solar system.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Debate on interspecies cloning reignites"

I'm usually all for medical and technological advances, but the creep factor is all over this story.

At least three respected teams of British scientists have reignited the moral debate over inserting human genes into animal eggs by proposing experiments similar to [Jose] Cibelli's.

Their goal is to eliminate the need for women to donate eggs for the cloning of human embryos, a research goal they say will enable them to better understand the genetic causes of many diseases and design personalized medicines.


But Cibelli, who will soon publish data in a scientific journal detailing his failure to clone monkey genes in a cow eggs, doubts the proposed experiments will work.

"It could be that we are doing something wrong," Cibelli said. "But it looks like the farther apart the species are on the evolutionary tree, the harder it will be to clone."

This is the stuff of science fiction. Or, should I say, Sci Fi.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eagle afternoon

Nothing but a picture of a bald eagle on a sunny day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Resurrecting a myth

I read this: "Acids in Popular Sodas Erode Tooth Enamel"
The erosive potential of colas is 10 times that of fruit juices in just the first three minutes of drinking, a study last year showed. The latest research, published in Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) journal General Dentistry, reports that drinking any type of soft drink hurts teeth due to the citric acid and/or phosphoric acid in the beverages.

And I immediately remembered reading this (from Snopes.com) some time ago:
Coca-Cola contains acids (such as citric acid and phosphoric acid) which will eventually dissolve items such as teeth (given enough time), but so do plenty of other substances we commonly ingest (such as orange juice). The concentration of acid in these products is so low that our digestive systems are easily capable of coping with it with no harm to us. [emphasis in original]

So, why is this tooth-dissolving claim in the news again? Oh, the Academy of General Dentistry is an advocacy group.
In renewing your membership, you will continue to be a part of the AGD’s commitment to quality oral health care through advocacy efforts and continuing education opportunities, as well as receive valuable member benefits to assist you in your dental career.

And, it doesn't seem to be very keen on the most basic of facts. Here is an excerpt from the AGD's press release relevant to the news story:
Root beer products, however, are non-carbonated and do not contain the acids that harm teeth, according to a study in the March/April 2007 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD’s clinical, peer-reviewed journal. [emphasis added]
And here is the description of root beer from Steve Mercer's "Root Beer Concentrate" (and supported here and here):
Root Beer is a sweet carbonated beverage flavored with sassafras. [emphasis added]

Hmm. If the AGD's primary claim is that colas are bad for your teeth (refuted by Snopes.com, an outfit that specializes in investigating the validity of myths), and they get the basic facts about root beer wrong (it does have carbonation in it), should we really believe the press release's claim that "[d]rinking any type of soft drink poses risk to the health of your teeth"?

I'm beginning to wonder if the AGD is in the lawsuit business as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Malaria-resistant mosquito developed"

This sounds like excellent news.

Working with the mouse form of malaria — not the human type — Rasgon's team was able to genetically engineer mosquitoes that were resistant to malaria.

Malaria infection does exact a toll on mosquitoes and in laboratory work they found that the resistant insects were able to outcompete nonresistant mosquitoes.

Starting with the same number of resistant and nonresistant mosquitoes, they found that after nine generations the resistant type made up 70 percent of the population — raising the possibility of replacing regular mosquitoes with resistant ones that don't spread disease.

Now, can we get them to stop biting altogether?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Immense ice deposits found at south pole of Mars"

This sounds like good news for those of us who like the idea of terraforming.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A spacecraft orbiting Mars has scanned huge deposits of water ice at its south pole so plentiful they would blanket the planet in 36 feet of water if they were liquid, scientists said on Thursday.


The deposits, up to 2.3 miles thick, are under a polar cap of white frozen carbon dioxide and water, and appear to be composed of at least 90 percent frozen water, with dust mixed in, according to findings published in the journal Science.

Let's get to melting it. Sooner than later.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Michael Jackson greets troops in Japan"

Wow. I never thought I would have any admiration for Michael Jackson, but, being the supporter of the military that I am, this endears him to me just a bit.

About 3,000 troops and their family members gathered at a fitness center at Camp Zama. Jackson walked around shaking hands and exchanging words to thank them for their service.

"Those of you in here today are some of the most special people in the world," Jackson told the crowd, reading from a statement. "It is because of you in here today, and others who so valiantly have given their lives to protect us, that we enjoy our freedom."

As freaky as he is, I think he's sincere here. He truly supports the troops, and I admire him for that.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"New Mexico Lawmaker Petitions to Restore Pluto's Planet Status"

There must not be much to do in New Mexico.

The state of New Mexico could effectively secede from the astronomical community if a resolution to call Pluto a planet is passed.

Joint House Memorial 54 was introduced by representative Joni Marie Gutierrez, who represents Dona Ana County. It states that Pluto, the recently demoted object, "be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared 'Pluto Planet Day' at the legislature."

Faugh. It doesn't matter what classification we give to Pluto. It is still a part of our solar family, and we are still going to explore it. This arguing over whether or not it is a planet is risible.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


When you open the box, you will find set of glides, before you assemble the glides you need to separate glides. For example, how to separate the Left glides:

There are I1 and J1. You should undraw the J1, at the same time, you will find a black plastic at the end . You should hold the plastic and drive up it (If separating the right glides please hold the plastic and drive down it), then undraw outside, you will find glides had been separated. Following the instruction, you will found the production is assembled easily.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Magicking words II

Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log talks about the word "faggot" and its magical properties wherein mere mention of the word causes dark and mystical things to happen.

[Ann Coulter] stated that use of a certain word (which she mentions but does not use) is now so destructive of one's place in society that entering a rehabilitation facility is required afterwards (the reference is to Isiah Washington), and therefore ("so") she can't discuss Edwards. The remark is clever, funny, and highly indirect, and it conversationally implicates that Edwards is a faggot but does not call him that. ...

But keep in mind that Coulter is not a serious commentator or writer. She is a performance artist specializing in scurrilous allegations, slanderous insults, wild exaggerations. ... To object to what Coulter does is to confuse showbiz with the business of government. [emphasis in original]

But, that showbiz status isn't getting her a free pass from the outrage.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Engrish: Gun Bluster

Gun Bluster




Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dazzling Saturn

Magnificent. Truly magnificent.

Read more about this image here.