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How Do You Have Sex In Space?

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Source: Gizmodo

You don’t. At least, you CLAIM you don’t.

That was basically the response of Alan Poindexter, commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery. At a recent press conference in Tokyo, Poindexter was quoted as

“Personal relationships are not an issue. We don’t have them and we won’t.”

There are two things I find amazing about this story.

1) There is actually an astronaut named ‘Poindexter’.

2) That people don’t have sex in space. I mean, c’mon!

First of all, there are more women being put into space than ever before. Don’t think me a sexist, I’m just saying that the possibility is there.

(Aside: Of course homosexual sex is an option, but I will assume it is less common than heterosexual sex.)

Second: How could you not want too? Zero gravity. The possibilities seem endless, and awesome. I find it hard to believe that these days, with astronauts (and cosmonauts) spending months aboard the International Space Station, that they don’t get lonely enough in the vastness of space to kill a bit of time with some space nookie.

Sure most astronauts are married or in a relationship. But I think its unlikely that it hasn’t happened at least once.

What do you guys think? You think its happened already? Or at least will happen in the future? Don’t be shy, we’re all adults here!

You Can Save a Child’s Life Just by Reading This!

June 29, 2010 3 comments

I’m mad. I mean I’m really really REALLY mad!

The anti-vaccine movement has been gaining strength in recent years. This will result in the deaths of young children and infants.

It is already happening.

An epidemic of Whooping Cough (Pertussis) is currently in progress in California. Pertussis is a disease preventable through vaccination. Even though the vaccine is not 100% effective, when enough people get vaccinated the incidence of the disease declines.

Unfortunately, vaccination rates in California have been dropping for several years. We are seeing the largest outbreak of Pertussis in California in over 50 years.

5 infants under 3 months of age have already died.

Why is this happening? Well, in 1998 a British man named Andrew Wakefield was developing an alternative to the Mumps-Measles-Rubella (MMR) vaccine. So, with funding from a law firm (which was suing the current manufacturer of the MMR vaccine), Wakefield performed a study.

He paid 12 children who were attending his child’s birthday party £5 to take a blood sample from them (yes, at the party). He then used these samples to draw a link between the MMR vaccine and Autism spectrum disorders.

This study was poor, the data was faked, and the paper was later retracted by the journal in which it was published. Wakefield was then stripped of his medical license. He moved from the UK to the United States.

There, he got himself a foot soldier: Jenny McCarthy.

I sure wouldn’t mind her on MY team…

She went on Oprah and other TV shows shouting to the rafters that vaccines gave her son autism. These claims were not scientifically grounded.

In the years since, the MMR vaccine and others have been studied and re-studied by labs all over the world. The conclusion is unanimous:

VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.

But sadly, this is not the end of the story. The anti-vaccine movement has gotten very good at being conspiracy theorists. They think the pharmaceutical companies are all behind these studies. This is false.

They claimed it was Thimerosol, an ingredient in the MMR vaccine. Thimerosol was removed, and autism rates have not dropped. They were wrong.

They are extremely proficient at using the ad hominem fallacy by personally attacking those who are trying to get the truth out there. Their attacks are pathetic, ungrounded, and often flat out lies.

They use straw man arguments to attempt to discredit the studies done by real scientists. This is a tactic used by other pseudoscience proponents like those who believe in Sasquatch, Astrology, and Homeopathy. It is misleading and horrible that they would do this.

Let me make this perfectly clear. WE are the good guys. The science guys. The ones who know that vaccines work. WE are the ones trying to save children’s lives.

We are losing.

But we will continue to fight. We will continue to spread our message and save as many children as we can.

You can help. You can read the literature, you can spread the word. You can also go out and get your booster shots. As a population, we can completely eliminate Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and many others. It is possible.

We just need YOUR help.

“Damned Fools Won’t Pay 10 Minutes Attention to Science and Technology…”

June 28, 2010 1 comment

So if you’ve read this blog, you know I am more than displeased at how Science is reported in the media, and how little credit is given to the work of scientists.

People find Science boring. And while I do sympathize sometimes, at other times I get pretty frustrated.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I’m a big Sci-Fi/Fantasy geek. I just started reading “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Its about a comet which strikes Earth and civilization needs to rebuild. Pretty cool.

Photo from Wikipedia

There is one part near the start of the story where a news reporter is speaking with an Astronomer. It sums up my feelings really well, so I thought I would share it with all of you:

“Yet the damned fools won’t pay ten minutes’ attention a day to science and technology. How many people know what they’re doing?

Where do these carpets come from? The clothes you’re wearing? What do carburetors do? Where do sesame seeds come from?

Do you know? Does one voter out of thirty? They won’t spend ten minutes a day thinking about the technology that keeps them alive. No wonder the research budget has been cut to nothing. We’ll pay for that. One day we’ll need something that could have been developed years before but wasn’t -“

And get ready for my next post, its gonna quite a rant…

Chimps Doing Science

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This chimpanzee from Congo’s Goualouga Triangle investigates a (not-so-well) hidden camera near a termite nest.

The chimp demonstrates the most fundamental of scientific investigational methods:

If you don’t know what something is, poke it with a stick.

Humans to Go Extinct in 100 Years?

June 25, 2010 1 comment

Grandparents say and do some funny things sometimes.

One of them once told me that our current member of parliament was involved with the Mafia, because he was Italian. Another keeps a BB gun near the back door so he can shoot the squirrels when they try to eat out of his birdfeeder.

But what are ya gonna do? They’re old. They can pretty much do what they want. Who is gonna stop them?

That’s why I’m gonna cut the Australian Professor in microbiology Frank Fenner some slack. He is 95 years old (Wow!). In 1980, he was the one who announced that Smallpox had been eradicated. A pretty famous dude with quite a distinguished career.

But last week, the Australian scientist said in an interview that “Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years…It’s an irreversible situation.”

Man, talk about a supreme downer.

Everyone knows mankind has its problems and that they need to be addressed if we are to continue our domination of the planet, but its already too late? Shitty.

But I actually don’t buy it. Sure climate change is a problem. Overpopulation and food shortage is looming in the (near?) future. But we are an industrious species. We are intelligent.

We harnessed electricity, have sent spacecraft out of the solar system, cured disease and built the iPad.

Once we set our minds to it, we can invent/build/create whatever we need too.

Perhaps more importantly though, once it becomes profitable to invent these things that will avert our disaster, corporations will jump all over it. Capitalism will save the world; you heard it here first!

So good for Prof. Fenner for speaking his mind, he’s earned it. I can’t wait till I’m 95 and can say whatever I want.

I can wear those awesome old-timey hats too.

Dinosaur Graveyard Found Near My House!

June 24, 2010 1 comment

What did people find near YOUR house today?

Ok, so maybe its a couple hundred kilometers away from me, but the same province still counts as nearby…right?

Anyway, researchers have found the world’s largest ‘Dinosaur Graveyard’ in Alberta, Canada. The site is roughly 2.3 square kilometers in size and contains thousands of bones from the herbivore Centrosaurus.

Centrosaurus

Centrosaurus lived roughly 76 million years ago in the Alberta area, which at that time was a lovely, warm, tropical area. Too bad its not like that now…

Alberta Weather, Present Day

The huge number of bones in the site suggest that Centrosaurus traveled in herds much larger than we originally thought.

It’s hypothesized that large collections of skeletons like this occur because of a rapid onset of a tropical storm. With the lack of high ground nearby, the dinosaurs pretty much drowned and were buried along with the whole herd.

What I love about dinosaurs (besides the fact that they are awesome) is that we are constantly learning more about them. I was really into dinosaurs when I was a kid, and even though I’m in my mid-20s now, I still find them interesting.

Think I’ll go watch Jurassic Park for the 1000th time.

X-Rated X-Rays

June 22, 2010 4 comments

Just when you think you’ve seen everything.

This came across my attention whilst reading one of my favourite blogs, Bad Astronomy. It seems a company which makes displays for medical devices called EIZO, got the memo that “Sex Sells”, and jumped on the bandwagon. They hired an advertising agency called Butter, based in Germany, and Butter came up with an x-ray pin-up calendar. Awesome.

I dunno. I realize its an x-ray, and you really can’t see anything. But I think these are kinda sexy.

It’s the lingerie prinicple I suppose. Keeping something hidden is sometimes even sexier than being totally revealed.

So this is a science blog after all, and if you are interested at all in how X-rays work, here is a brief and simple description (and heres a link to another explanation on How Stuff Works).

X- ray images are made in a similar fashion as to a regular photograph on film. Only in the case of x-ray images, it is photons in the x-ray range of the electromagnetic spectrum (about 0.1 to 10 nanometers) rather than visible light photons (wavelengths in the 400-750 nanometer range) which make the image.

When x-ray photons pass through the body, they will interact with the various tissues. Bones are very good at absorbing x-ray photons, thus not many x-rays make it through to expose the film, making bones appear light on the resulting image. Tissues with a lower density, such as muscle and fat, will allow the x-rays to pass through, and appear dark on the image.

Thats it in a nutshell. But at the end of the day, x-rays are just freakin’ cool.

[Update: If you would like more information on how x-rays work, I have written a new post about it here. Check it out!]