Monday, April 6, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Whole New World

Thanks to the Hubble telescope, scientists are finding more potentially habitable planets outside of the solar system.

WASHINGTON—Calling it an unprecedented finding that fundamentally reshapes how humankind views its place in the universe, astronomers from NASA announced Wednesday the discovery of a planet that makes Earth look like absolute shit.

The space agency’s researchers told the media that the recently identified planet, HD 904790 b, wipes the floor with Earth in every possible way, pointing to the celestial body’s larger size, unblemished terrestrial surface, diverse and verdant landforms, and abundance of natural resources, all of which indicate that Earth is a festering pile of garbage in comparison.

“This is a thrilling and scientifically vital discovery that has substantially furthered our understanding of how much Earth truly sucks,” said lead researcher Lisa Shapiro, emphasizing that Earth appears to be “straight-up dogshit” when contrasted with HD 904790 b’s exceptional terrain and climate. “Just taking into account this new planet’s flawless spherical shape, not to mention its pristine atmosphere free of methane and other toxic gases, reveals that our home world is pretty fucking pathetic when it comes down to it.”

“HD 904790 b has an extensive ring system that dwarfs Saturn’s, zero tectonic plate activity, and more fresh water in just one of its massive, unpolluted oceans than we have on our entire worthless shitstain of a planet,” she continued. “God, it makes me angry just to think of how much nicer it is there.”

Can we go there now?  Please?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Short Takes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report will be released today.

A huge fire burned down an apartment complex under construction in L.A.

Ron Klain, the Ebola czar, is done with his job.

The White House says it “does not regret” the failed raid in to rescue the hostages in Yemen.

The Mars rover found evidence of large lakes and mountains on the red planet.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why I’m A Dog Person

I don’t have any pets now — except my stuffed animals — but when I did, I preferred having a dog.  Why?  Because I never felt as if Sam was plotting to kill me.

Madam 07-24-14House cats often appear aloof and indifferent toward their human companions. But it’s not just an act — they actually don’t care. A recent study of the domestic cat genome reveals why.

Scientists from the Genome Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis sequenced the first house cat reference genome, and discovered that house cats may not be that genetically different from wild cats. This may explain why house cats seem to ignore their human companions and instead behave like they have their own agenda. Maybe they’re acting like wild cats.

Generally house cats are quite adept at hunting, sharing many of the same genetic traits that make wild cats such effective predators. The genetic adaptations highlighted in the study indicate that house cats still retain many of the characteristics of wild cats, including acute vision, fast reflexes, and an innate desire for murder. Many of the behaviors house cats engage in are thought to be predator learning behaviors – pouncing, kicking with the hind limbs, and chasing prey (laser pointers) and can be seen in wild cats.

These behaviors emerge in house cats within the first 52 days of life before any prey is encountered. This supports evidence of a strong genetic link between house cats and wild cats. Even if given sufficient food, house cats will still pursue prey — though they won’t eat it.

[…]

Cats retain more similarities to their wild counterparts than dogs do. The domestication process in cats more than likely started with increased docility, making it easier for cats to interact with humans. These changes would have been a result of ‘self-domestication’, where animals selectively breed to encourage or discourage traits.

Interestingly this is somewhat similar to early genetic modifications in dogs. Some of the first genetic changes in dogs were thought to involve reduced hostility and changes in social cognition. Evolutionarily speaking, cats may still be early in the domestication process — especially when compared to dogs. Over time, as the domestication process continues, it would not be unreasonable to expect cats to become more like dogs.

I wasn’t going to wait for evolution to take its course.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spacial Delivery

The truth is out there…

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history.

The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

So that’s how we got here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Short Takes

Big banks face new round of charges from Justice Department.

Nobel in medicine goes to brain reserachers.

Nurse in Spain infected with Ebola.

Arrest made in Miami shooting that left 15 injured.

Kid brings over 400 bags of heroin to daycare.

R.I.P. Marian Seldes, stage star, and Geoffrey Holder, actor/dancer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Short Takes

Secret Service chief Julia Pierson resigns over security lapses.

Beijing warns Hong Kong of “chaos” from protests.

Questions arise over initial response to Ebola patient in Texas.

Guilty verdict in trial of Florida man in shooting of an unarmed man over loud music.

New Moon — Image forces change in theory of the moon’s formation.

The Tigers take on Baltimore in the opening game of the ALDS tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where No One Has Gone Before

This is undeniably cool.

Comet Approach 08-07-14

Europe’s Rosetta probe has arrived at a comet after a 10-year chase.

In a first for space history, the spacecraft was manoeuvred alongside a speeding body to begin mapping its surface in detail.

The spacecraft fired its thrusters for six and a half minutes to finally catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

“We’re at the comet!” said Sylvain Lodiot of the European Space Agency (Esa) operations centre in Germany.

“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of Esa.

Launched on board an Ariane rocket in March 2004, Rosetta has taken a long route around our Solar System to catch up with comet 67P.

In a series of fly-pasts, the probe used the gravity of the Earth and Mars to increase its speed during the 6 billion km chase.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Little Night Music

From NPR:

On May 20, 1964, two astronomers working at a New Jersey laboratory turned a, giant microwave antenna toward what they thought would be a quiet part of the Milky Way. They weren’t searching for anything: They were trying to make adjustments to their instrument before looking at more interesting things in the sky.

What they discovered changed science forever.

[…]

Calculations years before had shown that if the Big Bang really happened, its afterglow would still be visible. And it would show up today as microwaves coming from all directions.

The static they were getting in New Jersey came from all directions. It was everywhere. Had they just found the remains of the Big Bang?

Yep.

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Blood for Old

This sounds like something out of a 1930’s monster movie — or an episode of Star Trek — but if it works, it could be wonderful news for medicine… if not for mice and rats.

Two teams of scientists published studies on Sunday showing that blood from young mice reverses aging in old mice, rejuvenating their muscles and brains. As ghoulish as the research may sound, experts said that it could lead to treatments for disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

“I am extremely excited,” said Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. “These findings could be a game changer.”

The research builds on centuries of speculation that the blood of young people contains substances that might rejuvenate older adults.

[…]

“We can turn back the clock instead of slowing the clock down,” said Dr. Toren Finkel, director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “That’s a nice thought if it pans out.”

This reversal could occur throughout the body, the new research suggests. “Instead of taking a drug for your heart and a drug for your muscles and a drug for your brain, maybe you could come up with something that affected them all,” Dr. Wagers said.

But scientists would need to take care in rejuvenating old body parts. Waking up stem cells might lead to their multiplying uncontrollably.

I don’t know the first thing about neurology or medicine other than what I learned in first aid class, so I don’t know if it’s a real possibility or just something in the lab.  What I do know is that somewhere there’s some fundamentalist whack-job who’s going to raise some kind of holy stink about it being against God’s will and demand that no tax dollars go towards this kind of research.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the Beginning

Via TPM, astronomers have looked back into time to the start of it all.

The universe was born almost 14 billion years ago, exploding into existence in an event called the Big Bang. Now researchers say they’ve spotted evidence that a split-second later, the expansion of the cosmos began with a powerful jump-start.

Experts called the discovery a major advance if confirmed by others. Although many scientists already believed that initial, extremely rapid growth spurt happened, finding this evidence has been a key goal in the study of the universe. Researchers reported Monday that they did it by peering into the faint light that remains from the Big Bang.

If verified, the discovery “gives us a window on the universe at the very beginning,” when it was far less than one-trillionth of a second old, said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University, who was not involved in the work.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “You can see back to the beginning of time.”

Another outside expert, physicist Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the finding already suggests that some ideas about the rapid expansion of the universe can be ruled out.

Right after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot soup of particles. It took about 380,000 years to cool enough that the particles could form atoms, then stars and galaxies. Billions of years later, planets formed from gas and dust that were orbiting stars. The universe has continued to spread out.

Every now and then we need a reminder that the things that consume our lives and vie for permanence in our history are nothing more than specks, and we — all of us and everything we’ve ever known — are nothing more than echoes and dust.

To some people that might be a depressing thought, but actually its a comfort to know that we’ve always been here in some form or another.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sick People

Measles is making a comeback in New York thanks to scare tactics by uninformed people.

This is sheer lunacy.  Just over a dozen years ago this illness was considered eliminated in our country, and this year people are being hospitalized for it. All due to the hysteria about a safe, effective vaccine. All based on nothing.There is no legitimate scientific controversy about whether or not vaccines are safe.  The original study that started us down this insane path by linking the MMR vaccine to autism has been retracted outright. The evidence against administering the MMR vaccine to healthy individuals is utterly without merit.

But people continue to make the utterly baffling choice to refuse it anyway.  Dispiriting new information seems to indicate that they are immune to persuasion when confronted with facts inconvenient to their worldview. Indeed, writers at prominent online media outlets chide us for “demeaning” vaccine-deniers, saying to do so “defies explanation.”

Measles is not just some childhood disease.  People die from it.  And now more could because of some prominent stupid people and junk science.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

And some people think we spend too much money on education…

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

HT to Steve Bates and Nicolaus Copernicus.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fun With Science

This should be entertaining.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” is scheduled to debate evolution and biblical creation next month with the founder of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Nye will square off against creationist Ken Ham on Feb. 4 at the Petersburg, Ky. museum’s Legacy Hall. The debate is titled: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

In a statement on Thursday, Ham described the choice of Nye for a debate partner as a kind of natural selection.

“Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation/evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters,” Ham said in a statement on Thursday.

Get it?  “Natural selection?”  Ha ha hoo boy.