One of the perks of being a scientist is that sometimes you discover something, and get to pick the name. One of the serious drawbacks is that if you pick a dumb name it will haunt you forever. Cool names include the naming of a mesozoic reptile Attenborosaurus conybeari after David Attenborough because it had previously been misnamed. Or naming a bunch of bunnies after the Playboy king himself when he funded some key research.
For naff names, you need look no further than this site. My personal favourite is the brainbox who named the magnesium iron silicate hydroxide molecule after his hometown, Cummington. Put an ite on the end of that word and you’ll see why. And while you’re there, look for the origins of penguinone, apatite, draculin, arsole, moronic acid, traumatic acid, and fucitol.
I was on the digg swarm today and I found this story about bath toys which has 943 diggs and counting. It’s been floating around in the news ever since it happened, and it’s just bobbed up again. It’s basically the latest installment in a delightful saga that began on a dark and stormy night in 1992.
A container ship en route to Hong Kong got caught in a storm, and shed some of its cargo into the Pacific Ocean. Amongst other things (including Nike trainers and green plastic frogs) 24,000+ yellow plastic duckies were tipped out into the sea, and have been drifting ever since. But not aimlessly, oh no. They have been closely monitored by Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his team of oceanographers, who have been learning masses about ocean currents by watching the ducks. We don’t know much about what happens out there in the wild and watery oceans of our globe, and this is a good a method as any. He has faithfully recorded every sighting, and is now convinced they are about to arrive on our shores, via the North Pole, the Bering Strait, and more.
No ducks have yet been reported, but Ebbesmeyer just wants to make sure that the British beachcombing public is ready for the invasion. Apparently, the ducks are no longer yellow, having been bleached by the sun. If you find one, you could even be eligable for a reward of $100 per duck. So eyes peeled, people.>
I do love a good time lapse. And this one is a doozy. It comes to you via Antzarctica, and it’s called A Year On Ice: Antarctica Time Lapse. It’s divided into two sections, Summer and Winter. The music is slightly questionable, the Summer segment features what sounds like a Scottish jig on speed, and the Winter segment has the woo oo oo Edward Scissorhands music. But the images are amazing, particularly the aurorae and clouds. Enjoy.
For the past little while, I have been researching some stuff about death. Despite the intrinsic morbid factor, I find it to be pretty darned interesting, verging on fun (actually, I always love the research phase...so many pdfs so little time). I squealed with delight leaning back and telling Anne about the latest horrifying thing I learn. I think she found it fun at first; her excitement is beginning to wane.
So for her, and for you, a treat:
The CDC’s death map tool. Here you can chart nationally or by state, the hot spots for certain causes of death. Like poisoning. Alaskans, it seems, are seriously poison-prone. They also score above the 90th percentile on suicide death rates, death by fire and drowning. They are, however, less likely to die by falling. Sounds like my kind of country.
So maybe everyone else already knew this and I am like, bumpkin girl, but I just have to take a moment and point everyone to this USDA research site on the massive inflationary trend in daily caloric consumption over the past three decades.
1970 - Americans ate an average of 2170 calories per day
2000 - Americans ate an average of 2700 calories per day.
That’s an extra 530 calories per day - enough to gain about one pound a week or 52 pounds per year. What’s more, the majority of those increased calories came from refined carbohydrates (like white flour/bread/pasta) and fats. I mean HELLO, no freaking wonder we’re busting out of our collective pants. STOP ALL THE OBESITY RESEARCH, WE’VE FOUND THE REASON.
Other points to note: we eat more cheese and soft drinks and less milk. We eat lots and lots of meat and oil and sugar. We suck.
Now we just need to figure out how to get people to eat less. I understand how hard that can be, what with all the Doritos around every corner. Those 99 cent grab bags are just lethal.
(PS. the US Department of Agriculture is kind of my favorite website ever. They have the world’s best food database, figures for lots of food consumption levels - haven’t’ you wondered how many kiwi fruits we import? - and tons of food research...can you tell I’m hungry right now?)
Are you stuck in a rut? Looking for a new experience that’s out of this world? The European Space Agency are looking for volunteers for a new simulated mission to Mars. If you are European, aged 25-50, of good health, have ‘high motivation’ and stand no more than 185cm tell, and have 520 days to spare, your country needs you. But not if you’re a smoker. And only if you can speak Russian.
ESA want to put a team of 6 people in a small fake spacecraft for 17 months, the amount of time they reckon you’d need to get to Mars and back. They want to do all sorts of psychological and physiological tests to see how the people manage, and say they will subject the volunteers to all the usual conditions of space travel. So they’ll experience the cramped living space, shortage of supplies, rubbish toilets and no privacy, without even the fun of a unique view of Earth and weightlessness to ease the misery.
There’ll be those who think that not televising the experiment is a wasted opportunity, but you can totally see why they don’t want to. You’d have to be a certain breed of person to want to lock yourself up in a tiny capsule for 17 months, but another person entirely to want to do that live on tv.
The BBC News article says that only 150 people have volunteered so far, so get in there quick. Bear in mind that you’ll only be paid $128 per day, but with no opportunity to spend any of it you’ll have quite the nest egg when you ‘land’.
IMAGE: NASA SKYLAB
The best part about his get up, which he recently and successfully sported in Tanzania, is that he got the idea from a kid (as explained on the Nat Geo Channel’s blog):
Not long ago I was speaking to a group of children and explaining to them what I do and one small boy raised his hand and said, “Dr. Brady why don’t you dress up as a crocodile and just join their club?” I laughed and continued my lecture, yet couldn’t shake this crazy idea form the back of my mind.
Lo and behold, Barr got the creative engineers at National Geographic to build him a croc suit all fortified with a protective metal cage covered by a Kevlar shield, all cloaked in a life like latex cape. And it worked. He managed to sidle up the to the crocs, which reach 20 feet in length, and stick data loggers on them. The data loggers will upload data on the temperatures in their dens for example.
If the idea of deadly animal suits tickles your fancy, then let me introduce you to Troy Hurtubise, who dedicated a large portion of his life to making a grizzly proof suit. Here’s a clip of some of the beta versions running the gauntlet.
I had just a WONDERFUL trip to the hospital on Wednesday night. Anne and I had gone for a 5pm cake-break to help us work long long long into the evening. But even though I asked, very specifically “does this apple pear torte have nuts in in?” And even though she answered “NO”, I ended up in a trauma bed with an IV. It was my worst allergic reaction in about 7 years.
My mom came to pick me up from work and sat with me for the couple of hours they watched me turn from purple-inflated, swollen girl, to a more normal shade and dimensioned person. I chatted with my nurses and medical student (she was very nice; her boyfriend is allergic to nuts, too).
It kind of sucked, but not so much really. At least this time I had underwear on.
PHOTO: JEAN SCHEIJEN
Exhibit A. Cause what we need in this world are pain-killing pears...NZ scientists discover aspirin keeps pears fresh. Two horticultural scientists from New Zealand have found that dunking pears in salicylic acid, AKA aspirin, keeps them fresh for longer. I just had to share ‘cause well, you never know when you might crave some crisp pristine slices of pear when you have a headache. Uh. That’s it really. FYI.
Exhibit B. If modern science can’t figure out how to make THE perfect bacon sandwich, we might as well go dwell in caves again. So thank god humanity is now enlightened on the subject.
This story is a bit dated, but boy is it timeless. Leeds University researchers have formulated the perfect bacon sandwich. No joke. They spent more than 1,000 hours testing 700 variations of the simple pig/bread combo at the behest of the Danish Bacon and Food Council (DBFC).
To see the equation of all equations for yourself go to the DBFC page here. Here’s the key:
Top of the list according to the bacon boffins, are the two ‘C’s - crispiness and crunchiness. The research revealed that, ideally, the ‘crunching’ sound made when you tuck in to those crispy rashers should measure 0.5 decibels when eaten, and they should break when 0.4 Newtons of force is applied through chewing.