17 January 2006

Today in the Science News

"Ben Franklin's quirkiest ideas":
How about the idea that positive charge flows? How about that? Pretty quirky and hilarious to make every frickin' thing in electronics ass-backwards, huh? (Yes, positive charge flows in an aqueous electrolytic solution like interstitial fluid. But my point stands.)

You had a 50-50 chance and you were wrong, Ben Franklin. I hope your guilt haunted you all through the drunken stupor in which you spent the Constitutional Convention.

Unmanned planes for the UK military:
A glider and a jet-powered plane. Looks like they're a bit behind us in UAV technology. Not that I am an expert on the subject, of course.

Health research requires personal data:
Now this is a very interesting issue. On the one hand, obviously patients should have their medical data kept private. But at the same time, it's difficult to do studies without medical data.

Can't records be given to researchers without any names? I mean, they need to know that Patient #3 647 785 suffered brain damage after smelling dry-erase markers, not that he lives in Beehive Court, Redbridge.

Old people are less kooky when they exercise:
But the really interesting part about the article is this sentence: "The participants reported how many days per week they had exercised for 15 minutes or more, in activities varying from walking to callisthenics to swimming." Now the British spell "calisthenics" with two L's? When will it end?

Seriously, the study shows that exercise has a beneficial effect for people at risk for dementia. Good news.

New Horizons launching today (we hope):
It will be the fastest spacecraft ever, and will get to Pluto in about...actually, I can't tell how long. The article just says it's going to slingshot around Jupiter in a year, so, over a year.

New Scientist also says, "Pluto is the only planet in the solar system that remains unexplored by robotic probes." Well, you know what? They're wrong, because IT'S NOT A FRICKIN' PLANET!

Another entry for the list of side effects:
Now Viagra and Cialis are linked to optic nerve damage. Hoo boy.

Some people have too much time on their hands:
And by "people," I really mean scientists. This guy is spending all his time teaching computers to analyze music the same way humans do. To understand the beauties of classical music? To contribute to the dream (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) of an AI? No, he wants to sell CDs:
"I want to help people find music, and I want artists and labels to find people," said Dr Whitman.
Goals just don't get much nobler than that.

Brits less opposed to nuclear energy:
But only because it's greener than coal. Sheesh, I've been saying for ages that enviros ought to support nuclear energy. Of course, they also ought to support genetically enhanced crops, because they can reduce the need to spray insecticide, which increases biodiversity.

Bats with big frickin' ears:
Or so the article claims, but there's no picture, so we can't judge for ourselves. The part of the story that irritates me is that the landowner is no longer going to be allowed to cut his timber since the bats are endangered. He's been compensated, but still.

That's about all we've got today. I'm also distracted by watching the New Horizons launch on NASA TV. I'm starting to suspect it won't happen today...


Anonymous someone said...

Now Viagra and Cialis are linked to optic nerve damage. Hoo boy.

See, it does make you go blind...

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

They're wrong, because IT'S NOT A FRICKIN' PLANET

I know. Pluto is Mickey Mouse's dog.

Dang some people are stupid.

2:24 PM  
Blogger James Aach said...

Regarding the Brits and nuclear power - it's certainly a good idea if we understand what we can about our energy present, so we'll make better decisions about our energy future.

With the above in mind, FYI: there is a new techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, written by a longtime nuclear engineer and available at no cost on the net. "Rad Decision" provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of a nuclear power plant and how an accident might be handled. The book is at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com in a downloadable PDF file and also as short episodes for on-line reading.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog, who recently called for a second look at nuclear energy.

5:48 PM  

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