The Watering Hole, Tuesday July 22, 2014 – Special Report

The first person I ever knew who had AIDS was a professor of Special Education at Temple University. He died a few months after being assigned to the facility where I was working. He was too weak to teach in the classroom anymore.This was in 1981, when the epidemic was just being discovered. Here we are, 33 years later and perhaps we have now found a cure. Fingers crossed.

Health: Temple University Researchers Successfully Eliminate HIV Virus In Human Cells

Open thread.

 

Sunday Roast: Supermoon? Settle, people.

My boyfriend…er, personal astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is frustrated with the “Super Moon” talk.

The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle,” DeGrasse Tyson said at the time. “Sometimes it’s closer, sometimes it’s farther away. Every month, there is a moment when it is closest. Occasionally, that moment when it is closest coincidences with a full moon. People are calling that a super moon, but there’s super half moons. Every month one of those phases is the closest. I don’t hear people saying like ‘super crescent, super half moon.’”

And…

There is something called a super moon,” Tyson responded. “I don’t know who first called it a super moon. I don’t know, but if you have a 16 inch pizza, would you call that a super pizza compared with a 15 inch pizza?”

Well, I would — if it were really good pizza!!  But I digress…

“Supermoons” are not rare, but for some reason, they’re a thing right now, and I guess they’ll continue to be so, until we find out spaghetti & meatballs are a great hair conditioner, or another movie star gets embarrassing plastic surgery, or the President persists in trying to do his job.

Really people, stop upsetting my boyfriend.  Yeah that’s right, I said it.  ;)

This is our daily open thread — Get some star-gazing done this summer!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday June 24, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics

Study links pesticides and pregnancies with increased risk of autism:

“Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, according to a new study.”

Another reason to go organic

New study shows link between bald eagle deaths and lead ammunition

“Endangered California condors have been the poster birds for calls to get lead ammunition out of our environment, but they might have to make some room for our nation’s most iconic raptors thanks to a new study showing how lead ammunition is also harming bald eagles.”

The NRA isn’t going to like this one.

Oppose the DARK act.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced a bill in Congress that would block states from enacting GE food labeling laws and make “voluntary labeling” the law of the land. Big Food is trying to kill your right to know if the food you’re eating is genetically engineered.

The food giants want to control the debate.

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 9th, 2014: Thank you, Carl Sagan

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle


earth_moon

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
carl sagan_cosmos25_02

And thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to life.

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, May 28, 2014: STATEMENT OF FAITH*

STATEMENT OF FAITH

I. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

II. We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

a. We believe in God the Father whose love was exemplified in that He gave His only begotten Son for the salvation of men (John 3:16; Eph. 1:3).

b. We believe in the Deity of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When coming to earth He never ceased to be God and that His humiliation did not consist of laying aside His Deity. As a man, He was miraculously begotten of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. By his atonement and resurrection He accomplished the redemption and justification before God of all who truly believe in Him and accept Him as Lord (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Luke 1:35; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:5-8).

c. We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and during this age to convict men, regenerate the believing sinner, indwell, guide, instruct, comfort, sanctify, seal, reprove and empower the believer for Godly living and service (John 16:7-8; Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14).

III. We believe Satan is an angelic being who rebelled with other angels against the authority of God. Satan was given temporary rule over the earth for an age to deceive as many of mankind as he is able (Job 1:6-7; Isa. 14:12; Matt. 4:2-11; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).

IV. We believe that God created the heaven and earth, including all life, by direct act, and not by a process of evolution, in six literal, 24-hour periods (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Ex. 20:11).

V. We believe God’s grace provides salvation and eternal life through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to all people who repent and receive Him as Savior and Lord. Salvation is based solely upon faith in God’s promise (John 1: 12-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:7, 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16).

VI. We believe that Christ arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He intercedes for the believers as our High Priest. We believe in His personal return for His Church. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation (Acts 2:22-36; Rom. 3:24-26; 1 Peter 2:24; Eph. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 9:24, 7:25; Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29, 11:25-26; Rev. 20:12-15).

VII. We believe that the family is ordained by God as the basic unit of His plan for His people. The institution of marriage between one man and one woman as created by God provides the foundation and definition for the family. We believe in the preservation and edification of the family to be an act of obedience to God (Gen. 2:24, 19:5,13; Lev. 18:1-30; Rom. 1:26-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Thes. 4:3; Heb. 13:4; Mal. 2:14-16; Rom. 7:1-3; Matt. 19:3-6; 1 Cor. 7:10-16).

VIII. We believe in the sanctity of all human life. This life should be protected, nurtured and helped from the moment of conception, when life begins, until death occurs normally (Ps. 139:13-16; Isa. 44:24, 49:1,5; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:44).

Questions:

1. Does this describe a cult? If so, in what way?

2. Does the education provided by a parochial school based on this Statement of Faith harm children in any way, or do they benefit from being thus indoctrinated?

3. Are there any studies showing children attending such schools either excel academically, or have one or more academic deficiencies? If so, what are those studies?

OPEN THREAD
FEEL FREE TO EXCERCISE
YOUR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHT ON THIS TOPIC
OR ANYTHING ELSE,
AS THE SPIRIT MOVES YOU

*This is not to imply that this “Statement of Faith” is adhered to by The Zoo, nor any of the members of The Zoo community.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 5th, 2014: Hubble, 24 and Going Strong

Last Thursday marked the 24th year in space for the Hubble telescope. After its inauspicious start, when it became obvious from the blurry images sent back that something was wrong with the telescope’s huge mirror, who’d have thought that we’d eventually be treated to beautiful and breathtaking images of star nurseries, a huge variety of nebulae, and glorious galaxies. The Weather Channel has a photo gallery of the top 100 images from the Hubble Telescope; here’s just a few from this amazing gallery:

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3

Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3)


Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

The mind-boggling size of these formations and their unimaginable distances from our tiny corner of the universe makes me feel about the size of a dust mote, and totally inconsequential.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 15th, 2014: Strange Views

I had never heard of the Wellcome Image Awards before, but when I saw “Stunning Science Pictures”, I had to check them out. According to the accompanying article,

“The 13th Wellcome Image Awards took place on March 11, 2014, and recognized some truly remarkable feats in scientific image creation. The contest honors “the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images” that have been recently added to the Wellcome Images collection. Wellcome Images are part of UK-based charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust, who are dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.”

Some of the images really are “Stunning”; others range from (what I would call) ‘delightful,’ to ‘disturbing,’ to ‘gross,’ to ‘frightening.’ Here’s a sampling of the 19 images:

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

I like the description of the image above: “Photograph of flowers from the plant Astrantia major. This particular variety is called Hadspen Blood, and is also known as Masterwort, Gentleman’s Melancholy [my personal favorite], Hattie’s Pincushion, Mountain Sanicle or Black-root Sanicle.” [emphasis mine]

"Wiring of the human brain:  Bird's-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain."  (Image credit:  Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)

“Wiring of the human brain: Bird’s-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain.” (Image credit: Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)


"Miniature marine organism:  Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera." (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)

“Miniature marine organism: Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera.”
(image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)


Zebrafish embryo: "A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo" (image credit::  Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

Zebrafish embryo: “A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo”
(image credit:: Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

That is one very surprised-looking zebrafish embryo!

Since you may view them with a different ‘eye,’ judge for yourselves: here’s the complete 19-image slideshow, definitely view them full-screen.

This is our daily open thread–go ahead and talk about, well, anything!

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology

Other:

I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 30, 2013: Shark Tweets

Western Australia is the world’s deadliest region for shark attacks. In an effort to make it safer for surfers and swimmers to go into the water, officials have set up a Twitter feed (Surf Life Saving WA) that notifies followers when a tagged shark enters the area. Scientists outfitted some 400 sharks with transmitters that send warnings to the Twitter feed. Here is an example of the kind of tweet the system might send. A tweet like this about a tiger shark had been sent every four or five minutes for about an hour and forty-five minutes before this one.

I think this is a brilliant idea and a fantastic way to do something useful with social media. Now you can take your cell phone to the beach and see if it’s safe to go in the water. Of course, most of us don’t live in Western Australia, so unless scientists working near our shores can tag us a bunch of sharks this innovative way to use Twitter won’t directly benefit us in North America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about sharks, Western Australia, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 11th, 2013: Amazing Space

8 New Photos from Chandra Observatory

8 New Photos from Chandra Observatory (photo composite courtesy of NASA)

A few weeks ago, NASA released eight new photographs taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope launched in 1999. According to information from the Chandra website:

“This collection of images represents the thousands of observations that are permanently stored and accessible to the world in the Chandra Data Archive (CDA). This sample showcases the wide range of objects that Chandra has observed during its over 14-year mission, including the remains of exploded stars, cosmic nurseries where stars are being born, and galaxies both similar to our Milky Way and those that are much different. In each of these images, the Chandra data are blue or purple and have been combined with those from other wavelengths.”

The Chandra “Photo Album” offers hundreds of other amazing views into space courtesy of the Chandra telescope. A website that I ran across has more technical information on Chandra’s X-Ray photography, as well as more photos from other space-traveling and land-based telescopes. Images such as these, along with the glorious wonders opened to our view by the Hubble telescope and other sources, give me a vestige of hope that there is, somewhere in all that vastness, at lease one race of intelligent beings who are living in harmony with each other and their planet. I’d hate to think that Terran humans are the pinnacle of Nature’s creations.

This is our daily open thread, say anything!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 9, 2013: Nothing To Worry About

Sometime over this weekend, or early next week, a one-ton satellite will come crashing to Earth. Where it will land is unknown right now. It could be in the middle of Central Park in New York City, or maybe it will come down onto an elementary school in Los Angeles, or maybe it will come down on your house. Despite how frightening any of those scenarios may sound, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It’s only a ton. And it’s not like the whole thing is going to come down on any one spot. It’s going to come down on 35 spots, give or take ten. Still, a whole ton and there’s nothing to worry about? Yes.

You see, in the grand scheme of things, a ton of something crashing down towards Earth really is nothing. According to Cornell University’s Ask an Astronomer webpage, a total of anywhere from 37,000 to 78,000 tons of materials fall from thje sky every year in the form of meteorites. That’s roughly 100-200 tons per day! One more ton on top of that would just be adding about 0.5-1% more. Like I said, nothing to worry about.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss satellites, meteorites, the Tea Party, or anything else that might come crashing down to Earth. This is your open thread.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 7th, 2013: Today in History

History.com is an interesting place, full of fun facts to know and tell.

For instance, on September 7th, 1776, the first submarine was employed in warfare. It is amazing to me that “submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century…” Naturally, it was an American who first thought of using a submarine in naval combat:

“David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.

Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.

During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

Despite the failures of the Turtle, General George Washington gave Bushnell a commission as an Army engineer, and the drifting mines he constructed destroyed the British frigate Cereberus and wreaked havoc against other British ships. After the war, he became commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point.”

"Turtle" submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

“Turtle” submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

120 years later, another engineering first occurred: an electric car became the first automobile to win the first auto race in the United States:

“On September 7, 1896, an electric car built by the Riker Electric Motor Company wins the first auto race in the United States, at the Narragansett Trotting Park–a mile-long dirt oval at the state fairgrounds that was normally used for horse racing–in Cranston, Rhode Island. Automobile companies sponsored the race to show off their newfangled electric-, steam-, and gas-powered vehicles to an awestruck audience. The carmakers’ gimmick worked: About 60,000 fairgoers attended the event, and many more people read about it in newspapers and magazines.

Seven cars entered the race. Along with the Riker Electric, there were five internal-combustion cars and one other battery-powered machine, this one built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. The race began slowly (“Get a horse!” the spectators shouted as the automobiles wheezed at the starting line), but the Riker soon pulled ahead and won the race easily, finishing its five laps in about 15 minutes. The other electric car came in second, and a gas-powered Duryea took third.”

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Considering the fact that electric cars have been around since 1896, one has to wonder what our world would have been like now if electric cars became the standard of the automobile industry. Unfortunately for all of us, the internal-combustion engine eventually prevailed, and we – humans, the environment, the planet – are all suffering because of it.

This is our Open Thread. Wonder what will happen today that will eventually become “This Day In History”?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 31, 2013: The Naked Greenland

Just when you thought you knew what your planet looked like, along comes a surprise – there’s another canyon on our planet that rivals our own Grand Canyon. It’s in Greenland, and it was discovered by scientists using ice-penetrating radar and decades of data.

The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

The scientists used thousands of miles of airborne radar data, collected by NASA and researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany over several decades, to piece together the landscape lying beneath the Greenland ice sheet.

As beautiful as I’m sure it looks, my fear is that we’ll be able to see what the canyon looks like, with the naked eye, in our lifetimes. Well, not the people living on the Eastern coast.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss canyons are any other topic you wish. And if you’re currently enjoying a three-day holiday weekend, you can thank Unions for that.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 26th, 2013: “…Chad Everett?”

Way back when Comedy Central was just starting out as The Comedy Channel, The Higgins Boys and Gruber was one of the fledgling comedy shows (along with Short Attention Span Theater, hosted by a very young Jon Stewart, and Mystery Science Theater 3000* aka MST3K, with the inimitable Joel Hodgson.)   [*FYI, good news for MST3K fans at this link.]

One of the sketches on The Higgins Boys and Gruber that Wayne and I always remembered – well, besides the “Sex Survey” sketch – was their game-show spoof “$99,000 Pyramid.” They’re down to the last category in the Pyramid, and the clock is ticking down while one contestant is giving the other clues like “stars”, “suns”, “comets”, etc. The clock runs out while the contestant sputters without an answer. The host says to the disappointed contestant, “Now wait, before you turn around…what if I said…Chad Everett?” The contestant, who obviously had a light bulb go on inside his head, nods and responds with the correct answer, “Things in the Universe?

[...smooth segue...]

So here’s a fabulous photo of another one of those “Things in the Universe”, the “Cinderella’s Slipper Galaxy”, part of a ‘space photo of the day‘ series [scroll down past the picture on the link for hundreds more amazing photos, as well as commentary about the photo] from wired.com. Slate’s Phil Plait wrote about it back on April 2nd, and apparently one of Plait’s Twitter followers suggested the “Cinderella’ Slipper” name.

Cinderella's Slipper Galaxy--Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Hayes

Cinderella’s Slipper Galaxy–Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Hayes

I like what Phil Plait says at the end of his article:

“I find it fascinating that the Universe is so accommodating to our inquisitive nature. It leaves clues everywhere about itself, and all you need to learn about it is a bit of math and physics, technology, and above all curiosity. With those features in combination, the entire cosmos can be revealed.”

This is our daily open thread — talk away now, don’t be shy!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 24, 2013: Weird Spiders

While searching for a topic for this week’s post, I happened across a fascinating collection of weird spiders. Some of them are jaw-droppingly amazing. One has evolved to look just like a ladybug, not known for being tasty. Another could easily be mistaken for a common red ant. (Count the legs.) All of the spiders in that particular gallery are small, below five centimeters (two inches) in diameter. Many times, the writers say they wish the spider in question were bigger. Other times they’re grateful the spider isn’t one the size of your face. I recommend you check out the link. The writers have a great sense of humor and the pictures, the work of Nicky Bay, are incredible.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss spiders or any other creature with whom you may have once inadvertently spent a night.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 5, 2013: Of Two Minds

Over the past seven years there have been at least sixteen studies done on the differences, if any, between the brains of self-described conservatives and those of self-described liberals. The results show many substantial differences, not simply in physiology but in the framework within which we view things. The studies began with a Sept 2006 report which showed Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 11th, 2013: From Morons to Marvels

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,

“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”

[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]

The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.

Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:

“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”

Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.

Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.

For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”

Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.

Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 21, 2013: Genetically Modified Salmon Will Soon Be At A Store Near You

Image

Genetically Engineered Salmon Nears FDA Approval

 The Food and Drug Administration has determined genetically engineered salmon won’t threaten the environment, clearing it of all but one final hurdle before it shows up on shelves throughout the nation — and igniting a final 60-day debate on whether it poses health risks before it’s officially approved.

Although it’s been nicknamed “Frankenfish” by critics, health professionals say they aren’t worried the lab-engineered salmon will cause more allergies or other harmful effects than any other breed of fish.

While labeling of genetically modified food of any type is not guaranteed and so we won’t know if we’re buying it.  And we certainly won’t know if it is harmful to ingest.  There is always a chance that it will interfere with indigenous species.  Should we have learned a lesson from the destruction the common carp has created since it’s introduction?

History of Common Carp in North America

A Fish once Prized, Now Despised
By the turn of the century, the introduction of the carp was such a “success” that both public agencies and sportsmen had come to regard the fish as a nuisance. While tons of free-swimming carp were being harvested from area waters, they were comparable in taste to neither the selectively bred pool-cultivated carp of Europe nor, it was believed, to many of the native “game” species, and were thus useless as a food source. Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp.

Salmon Nation: Genetically Engineered Salmon

While not on anyone’s dinner table just yet, genetically engineered salmon are just a pen stroke away. GE salmon are being developed by a U.S. company called Aqua Bounty Farms and are preferred for their ability to grow two to four times faster than other farmed salmon…

Research at both Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences points to the “considerable risks” that genetically engineered (also called “transgenic”) fish pose to nearby populations of native fish:

“Purdue University researchers have found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction.”
Sigurdson, C. (2000). Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations, Purdue News.

There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001:

“According to the Canadian government, in the past decade nearly 400,000 farm-raised Atlantics escaped into British Columbia waters and began competing with wild species for food and habitat. (That number relies primarily on escapes reported by fish farmers; environmentalists put the actual figure closer to 1 million.)”
Barcott, B. (2001). Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest, Mother Jones, November/December.

There is much more on the dangers to our waterways at Salmon Nation.  Although you’d think common sense would be enough to know that this is a very bad idea.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about salmon, genetically-modified foods, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 16, 2013: Keep Watching the Skies!

Yesterday, and be thankful to Whomever or Whatever you believe in that we can start with that word, a large asteroid given the ever so endearing name 2012 DA14 (don’t you want to adopt one?) passed within about 17,000 miles of the Earth. We have satellites orbiting at about 22,237 miles (approximately 35,787 km) above mean sea level. [Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke, for figuring that out for us.] This asteroid passed (yes, past tense!) closer to us than that. It didn’t hit anything as it passed by, but that is really just a matter of luck, no matter how you believe the Universe works. You may be thinking, “So what? It missed us, right? What’s the problem?” Think of it this way: It missed us by fifteen minutes. As famed Science Guy Bill Nye explains, that’s not the one you should be worried about. For every one of these large asteroids that they’ve been able to find, it is estimated there are 99 that that haven’t been found yet.

But just as much a matter of luck was the meteorite that came crashing down in Chelyabinsk, Russia that same day. [BTW, that link you just passed has some fascinating information in it, including an explanation of the difference between a meteor and an asteroid. Check it out.] Due to some kind of fad or obsession among the Russian people (official motto, “Screw you, Life, we’re still here!”), there are a lot of people driving around with dashboard cameras. It has something to do with insurance claims, or maybe encounters with the police, or maybe even to catch a meteorite flashing across the sky in front of you.

And, because it crashed into Russia, there were the inevitable comparisons to the Tunguska Event. And that’s where I start to get worried. Because they’re talking about a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hasn’t happened in more than one hundred years!

Good night, now. Go to sleep. ;)

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss asteroids, meteorites, conspiracy theories, or any other topic you wish.

Sunday Roast: February 10, 2013 – Reading List

Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…

Economy:

WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)

More Economy:

Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)

Austerity sucks:

The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)

Science:

We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)

Wisdom:

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin 

This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!

Brave Little Rodent – UPDATED

First of all, I have great respect for any species that can live and survive in the desert environment.  It must be a tough existence.

Here’s a link to a story about a mouse that lives in the desert, eats scorpions, and then howls at the moon.  Be sure to click on the link to the audio track that is embedded in the story.

Scientists are interested in this mouse.  It seems that there is a genetic component that prevents this mouse from experiencing pain.

In humans, Rowe says, mutations in Nav1.7 cause a syndrome called erythromelalgia. In this disease, a characteristic burning pain in the feet and hands crops up spontaneously. The researchers are now attempting to figure out exactly how the mouse’s mutation in Nav1.8 blocks pain signals, to see if it could help design a new kind of pain killer.

Our pain receptors are a means by which our body tells us that something is dangerous.  In some cases, it’s best not to feel the pain because it is “phantom pain” and it serves no purpose other than to annoy us.

UPDATED:  I found a video about this mouse.  We can hear it “howl at the moon”.

The Watering Hole: December 14 — Obamadon

obamadon

Guess who has a dinosaur named after him?  You’re right — President Obama!  Wow, you’re good guessers.

In the picture, Obamadon is the cute one in the foreground.  I think the other one is John McCain, screaming at Obamadon to get off his rock.

From examiner.com:

The lizard sized dinosaur is thought to have lived on insects, and was small in stature in comparison to other known behemoths. Researchers say that the dinosaur’s size is not in anyway a political reference. The name Obamadon was chosen due to the lizard’s tall, straight teeth. According to sci-news.comPaleontologist Nick Longrich said, “Obama has these tall, straight incisors and a great smile.”

Interestingly enough, our President has a fish and a fungus named for him as well:

Obamadon is not the first organism to be named after Obama. Other researchers have given his name to Etheostoma obama, the spangled darter or “Obamafish”, and the fungus Caloplaca obamae.

It’s nice to have a President who is so well-respected, although George W. Bush also had something named after him…

While in office President George W. Bush also had something named after him, the “agathidium bushi“; a slime-mold beetle.

You had to see that one coming.  :)

This is our daily open thread — It’s Friday, Obamadonbots!

The Watering Hole: December 7 — Star Talk

I could listen to Alan Rickman speak for the rest of my life, and I think it’s safe to say most of the ladies women of the Zoo would concur.  Rawr…

I enjoy my nerdy geeks, but this clip is a bit nerdy geek heavy, and Alan Rickman light.  Boo.  I almost used my standard Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves tactic of fast-forwarding through everything that isn’t Alan Rickman or Morgan Freeman, but I resisted.  :)  Anyhoo, I love Alan all the more, because he can talk and think about things other than his latest film.  Who’s with me on this one?

HT to someone on the Zoo who posted this clip in comments earlier this week — sorry I don’t remember who!

This is our daily open thread — How is it Friday again…?