Monday, February 28, 2005

The Award for Best Revolution in the Middle East goes to...

Lebanon! Congratulations to the citizens of Lebanon who have forced their own government to quit in the wake of massive protests and the impending Parlimentary no-confidence vote of Prime Minister Rashid Karami. Most agreed that the Lebanese were the favorites to win this particular award given the bloodless nature and sheer speed with which they removed their tyrannical puppet goverment and potentially the Syrian thugs who run it. The Palestinians came in close second for the wave of reforms that has occured under new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and a renewed push for peace. The Iraqi revolution comes in 3rd place of course due to the massive waves of violence and the forced nature (ie invasion from a foreign power) of the revolution.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The scariest Pseudoscience watch yet...

I need to make a confession. I am actually a little afraid to post about the latest pseudoscience website. These people actually scare me. Follow this link to discover what makes a so called True Christian and be amazed by what you read. Here are a few examples of "Christian Science"...
1) Clouds are dust from God's feet.
2) The Earth is flat.
3) Pi = 3

Note to all who read this post: This post is not an attack on mainstream Christians or Christianity. The "True Christians" are religious extremists and practioners of pseudoscience. Therefore they are worthy of a Pseudoscience watch post.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Meatwad make the money see. Meatwad get the honeys G

According to a study just published in Nature, meat and animal products in the diet are vital to proper development in children. In this two year study, Kenyan school children one control stayed on their normal diet while other groups were given either 60 grams of meat, a cup of milk or the equivalent energy in vegetable oil. The results of the study were that the group fed the meat had 80% more muscle in their upper arms versus no supplement, while the milk group had 40% more than the group with no supplement. In addition, the group with the meat supplement outperformed their peers in tests of intelligence, problem solving and arithmatic.

"There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans." -Lindsay Allen-University of California, Davis - Author of the study

Well, the only thing I want to know is why I ended up being so short and skinny? I guess I'll have to supplement my diet with an additional double-double from In-N-Out Burger each week.

Help to stop the genocide in the Sudan

The editorial today in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristoff focused on the genocide in Sudan, which is now being estimated at 220,000 by some independent sources. The Sudanese government is not only allowing the "janjaweed" militas to commit mass rape and killings, but is also using its own air force to bomb civilian targets. We can all take 5 minutes out of our time and help to stop this.

Senator Paul Simon, who died in 2003, said after the Rwandan genocide, "If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different."

If you don't have a NY Times subscription, then just go here and sign the two petitions.

Update: Both The Disgruntled Chemist and The Anti-Capitalist Patriot have posted on this issue. I personally just donated $20 here for 10 wristbands. Anyone who wants a wristband, just let me know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Bush Flip-Flop

I have so many reasons why I dislike Bush. A quote from one of todays editorials in the L.A. Times nicely sums up one of the big reasons I hate George W. Bush so much.

"I've sinned and I've learned" becomes his campaign mantra. He tells Wead, and now us, "That's part of my shtick, which is, 'Look, we have all made mistakes.' "Odd that the same man, once in office, would be incapable of admitting them.


Physicist Woman = Physicist Man

Here's an article from the NY times that might interest those who think women are somehow inferior at Physical Sciences, and physics in particular. A study by the American Institute of Physics shows that women who get a bachelors degree in Physics have the same degree of success in graduate school as men. While physics remains the most male dominated field of science (a fact which myself and many other male grad students are painfully aware of), there has been progress in the last 30 years to increase the number of women in physics, as seen in the graph below.

Nytimes Posted by Hello
In fact, the study finds the disparity in the number of women in physics occurs between high school and college. While half of the physics students in high school are female, only a quarter of the physics bachelor degrees are earned by women. So, the I suppose the real question is why are so many women not choosing to pursure physics after high school? I'd like some conjecture from anyone out there, PARTICULARLY women in physical sciences who might read this.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Second term

If you haven't seen the latest movie from JibJab, you should check it out. It tackles the reaction to the Bush getting elected again, and some of his goals for his second term. My favorite part is when Bush amends the constitution with crayons.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

PseudoScience Goldmine

The Crystal Links website is a gold mine of pseudoscience. Ellie Crystal, the creator of the website, is a fantastic example of a particularly insidious type of scam artist. She uses a combination of pseudoscience, cult spirituality, and mixes in some actual science she cut and paste from to lure vulnerable people into buying her book. Check out her bio, in which she wows you with her tales of encountering telepathic aliens, the ghost Z that guides her, and of course her emergence as a famous psychic. It would take too much time to list all the examples of pseudoscience in her website, but I'll just list a few highlights

1) Tachyon Energy - She claims that Tachyon particles(particles that go faster than light) form the human spirit energy known as chi, Aura, etc. For any nonscientists out there, Einstein's theory of relativity states that no particles may travel faster than light, and so far no experiment has ever detected a particle that exceeds the speed of light.

2) Healing and Energy - A concise list of spiritual healing quackery that rips off trusting consumers of billions of dollars a year. Some of the more famous examples listed in her directory of medical scams are magnetic healing, and psychic surgery.

3) Pendulums and Dowsing - If you believe this crap, you need to take a high school physics class. The pendulum knows all! But make sure you only ask your question once. (I died inside a little after reading this garbage)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

How the other side feels

So I found myself reading quite a number of blogs from the Arab world today. The general sense I got was alot of anger and desperation. Whatever you think of the war, I think it is important to actually go and read some of these blogs. It's easy to presume what the Arabs think of what we are doing in Iraq, but it's another thing to actually listen to them writing on the internet. You should definitely read the comments on these blogs. What is particularly shameful is the Americans who make threats or say how we should kill all Iraqis. Some of these blogs are pretty scary though, alot of Arabs really hate. Here's a few that I've perused...

Raed in the Middle - He's pretty extreme sometimes, but the comment sections are huge on several posts and worth skimming through.
A Star from Mosul - 16 year old girl living in Mosul. Pretty well written for a teenager, has several pretty compelling posts as well.
Arab Blogger - Has tons of links to Arab blogs, and is currently featuring the 2004 best Arab blogs awards

Monday, February 14, 2005

Missile Defense Fails again

Well, for the THIRD time in a row, missile defense has failed in a test. So far, we have wasted nearly $130 Billion (that's right.. BILLION!!) and is scheduled to cost another $50 Billion over the next 5 years. The hitting a bullet with a bullet concept is not the smartest way to tackle this problem. I think it is becoming obvious that our current level of technology is not up to the task of shooting down a missile. The missile defense concept was a useful psychological advantage for a while, but it is so blatantly obvious that our system doesn't work that advantage is effectively neutralized. I have an idea how we use that $50 billion; give all the troops a raise, body armor, and armor for their humvees! Anyone else who has a better idea of what we can use $50 billion for, feel free to chime in.

The true division in America

Ah, Valentines Day. The most divisive holiday of the year. How could the "holiday of lovers" be divisive you say? Well, that's simple... it further divides the single people of the world from the all the couples in the world. Couples already tend to divide themselves from the single people of the world. How many of us have had friends get a bf/gf, and then not see them for months until the relationship is over? Hell, we have all been guilty of this from time to time. When couples go out, they usually try to find other couples to do things with. It's almost as if being single was a disease that they were desperately trying to avoid.

As a single person, there is nothing more annoying than watching couples making out by my coffee stand. On Valentines Day, this effect is amplified all over campus. Couples already have anniversaries and birthdays to show their affection for each other. Why must they have yet another day of the year to celebrate?!?!

So, to Valentines Day I have two words: Screw You. To end this post, I will end with the two most bitter things that come to mind:
1) Most relationships fail within a few months.
2) Half of all marriages end in divorce.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What the hell is that crap in my belly button?

If you've ever wondered what the hell that little ball of fluff is in your belly button, then take a little trip to the Incredible World of Navel Fluff. Graham Barker currently owns the world record for the largest collection of navel fluff. His website also has some good information on what makes up navel fluff, and the current theories on why it forms. He's done appearances on several radio shows and even had an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. If you are feeling a little bold, then take his navel fluff survey.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My official endorsement for the Texas 2006 Governorship

As many of you know, before moving to California I was a longtime resident of the state of Texas. As such, I would like to officially endorse Kinky Friedman as the next governor of Texas. Go to About on his website and you will see many of his campaign promises. A few of my personal favorites are

  1. Abolish political correctness “We didn't get to be the Lone Star state by being politically correct”
  2. Outlaw the de-clawing of cats
  3. I'm a Jew, I'll hire good people

He couldn't be any worse than Bush's successor, Rick Perry, who never met a veto he didn't like.

I guess god doesn't want people to eat...

An interesting article in the L.A. Times discusses the new budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration and its redistribution of money to faith based programs. The article shows that Bush is pushing the advance of faith-based charities who do work with marriage preservation, abstinence programs and drug awareness. However, he is also pushing massive cuts in food stamps, Medicaid, and community developement. So, Bush is essentially taking money for food, medicine, and housing from the poor so he can push his faith based programs ahead. I think this is all nicely summed up by the following quote...
"The administration wants to abandon commitments that the federal government has made to serve low-income families, and to replace those practical commitments with very small pots of money and lip service about the faith community," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of social welfare agencies and labor unions.

I am uneasy about giving federal money to religious charities. I think that most religious charities do great work, and many are certainly worthy of federal money, but how do you distribute that money fairly amongst all the religions? I personally think it's a dangerous door to open, but I guess we shall see in the next few years whether faith based programs are worth all these federal dollars they will receive. My biggest concern with faith-based programs is people who need help will always wonder one thing BEFORE they seek aid... Are these people here to help me or convert me?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pseudoscience Watch

I've decided as part of the Science part of this blog to do a weekly pseudoscience post. This week is a link to The Museum of Unworkable Devices. This website has alot of good information on perpetual motion machines. The author does a good job of explaining conservation laws, and why various devices will not work. Of particular interest is the link to Ken Amis' document on why perpetual motion will work. I especially enjoy his following critique of thermodynamics

"Perpetual motion machine inventors shouldn't be intimidated by the laws of thermodynamics. The thermodynamic laws were invented by engineers and physicists during the industrial revolution to discourage those restless minds seeking alternatives to those incredibly inefficient coal-burning engines. Then physicists tried to add clout to the laws by cloaking them in an incomprehensible mathematical theory called statistical mechanics. Not one in a hundred degree-holding physicists or engineers really understands where these laws come from. Even the great physicist Maxwell had to enlist the aid of a demon to make sense of it all. Instead of making laws about what can't be done, scientists should instead invent laws that show us the ways things can be done. The negative character of thermodynamics laws does nothing but stifle and discourage creative and inventive minds from the quest for perpetual motion machines. Scientists nurtured in this climate of negativity have not, and never will, discover the secret of perpetual motion. They haven't a clue how it might be accomplished. "

The best part about his argument, is that it has no actual scientific substance to it. Instead, he cloaks his lack of results by presuming that scientists are out to discourage people like him from discovering perpetual motion machines. In fact, no one would be happier than scientists if he did discover a PM machine because then we could form better laws to describe the universe. As far as this mysterious theory of "Statistical Mechanics" that no physicists actually understand.... well, actually, every physics graduate student takes a course dedicated to Statistical Mechanics.

Last Dance with Mary Jane

On the night of the Super Bowl, I had my first experience with ole Mary Jane. I'm not exactly sure why I decided to eat that fucking brownie, though I'm guessing it was a combination of alcohol, the general gluttony of the Super Bowl, and curiosity. In the spirit of science, I will now relay what I remember of this experience...

It really starts to hit me at the poker table. My vision begins to become disoriented and my concentration begins to fail. My mouth and throat go completely dry. I try to counter this effect by drinking water, but it is not working. My desire to smack the annoying guy sitting next to me is overwhelmed by disorientation. I lay down on the carpet. My body does not feel right. I am completely miserable. A sudden urge to vomit strikes, and I run to the kitchen in order to prevent messing up the carpet. This attempt to prevent a disgusting disaster fails, as there is vomit all over the place. I am crouched over the kichen sink, with pieces of vomit on my shirt and face. I stay hunched over the sink for what feels like forever. I lay down on the floor, and the worst of the experience starts to set in. My body temperature is quickly switching between freezing cold and burning hot. Many of these rapid changes in body temperature are accompanied by my heart pounding and racing out of control. I feel like my heart is about to push its way out of my chest. Fear sets in. I am very afraid that I have been poisoned. This seems to go on forever. I finally fall asleep. I wake up. I feel like shit. I am so cold on that kitchen floor that I am shivering. I have my own vomit on my shirt, in my hair, and on my face. I get up, and wash the vomit off of me, but I can still smell it. I crawl into the living room to sleep on the slightly warmer carpet. At first I use my coat as a blanket, but I then realize there might still be a few small pieces of vomit on me, so I put my coat on to prevent the further spread of vomit. I lie down on the couch, in my coat, and cover myself with a blanket. I am finally warm. I am woken up by the host of the party, he informs me that I need to go so he can get to class. I am overwhelmed at the feeling of shame for what I did to his apartment. I leave. I get home. I feel like garbage for the rest of the day.

That is a rough summary of that night. That was the worst night of my life. I will never endure that again. That was my first and last dance with mary jane. If I ever have children (doubtful), I will relay this experience to them with all the gory details to dissuade them from using drugs. To the host of this gathering, I offer my deepest regrets and apologies for what happened. I am truly sorry.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The need for real political discourse

I'm sure many of you are following the hate fest going on at the Disgruntled Chemist's Blog. What really makes me sad is that the Disgruntled Chemist gave an informed opinion on a blog, and then had his blog inundated with personal and cultural attacks. These conservatives had the chance to give great informed opinions that could have made for a real political discussion. Instead, they adopted the strategies of the conservative leadership and resorted to intimidation and insults. I urge any conservatives out there to stop with personal attacks and get back down the issues. Conservatives are in power now, but that won't last forever. The political pendulum always swings the other direction eventually. The more enemies you make now, the less friends you'll have later when liberals are in power again.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Let your unhappiness be heard!!

Law Students, Medical Students, and former grad students should all chime in on the poll as well.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union play by play

So, about 2 hours before the big speech, I decided I'd do a stream of consciousness post on the State of the Union address. Here's the results:

6:05pm - Here comes Bush, smug as ever.
6:07pm - Wolf Blitzer just keeps talking about nothing. Please shut up already!
6:09pm - Wow, Bush just went right into the Iraq elections to start off, that's a bold strategy.
6:12pm - John McCain looks very unhappy after Bush's remarks about the economy. Bush just said the government spends too much money and he'll cut the deficit in half by 2009. I think that's going to be pretty hard to do once invade Iran and Syria just for fun.
6:15pm - Bush wants to increase Pell grants. Hopefully that will get funding, unlike No Child Left Behind.
6:16pm - Bush just said we need to stop frivilous asbestos claims!!! I guess people don't need to breathe in their own homes.
6:17pm - 1st Standing Ovation
6:19pm - 2nd Standing Ovation, this time the Democrats stood up too. Good ole fear of foreign oil.
6:20pm - 3rd Standing Ovation, reform tax code.
6:21pm - 4th Standing Ovation, this one was for guest passes for illegal immigrant workers. Never thought I'd hear a Republican actually be an advocate for that idea. 5th Standing Ovation, here comes the big Social Security pitch. Another fucking stand ovation, I'm not counting these fucking things anymore.
6:22pm - Ahhhhhh, there's that famous Bush smirk we've all been waiting for.
6:24pm - Whoa! The Democrats were loudly scoffing at Bush's Social Security collapse prediction. Another standing ovation, but the Democrats are all sitting down. They are not clapping. The Democrats are pissed!
6:28pm - Here comes privatization, or in the nicely packaged, sanitized for your protection Republican version, "Volunteer personal retirement accounts".
6:31pm - Oh joy, here comes the morals and values crap.
6:32pm - Holy shit, he just endorsed the constitutional amendment against gay marriage. I can't believe he actually brought that up in the State of the Union address.
6:37pm - Bush wants to expands the use of DNA evidence and provide millions in funding for defense lawyers in capitol cases. Wow, that's a reasonably enlightened position, especially from a guy who oversaw so many executions in Texas when he was governor.
6:41pm - Nice standing ovation for supporting the military. Mad props for the military.
6:45pm - Bush is back to the elections in Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Dick Cheney just started coughing, damn that guy is old.
6:47pm - $350 million for the Palestinians, that's a good step. It's not quite the $6 billion we give to Israel every year, but a step in the right direction.
6:51pm - Pretty good words about Iraqis' courage in voting under threat of death. Bush just recognized a woman Iraqi human rights activist who just voted in the elections.
6:56pm - I have to admit, Bush is at his best when he talks about freedom and democracy, he's doing far better in the foreign policy part of his speech than his domestic policy section.
7:00pm - That's a nice moment, the mom of a marine who was killed in Fallujah is hugging that woman Iraqi. Did he just play the emotion card? Yes. Was it still a great moment? Yes.

That's it folks. I'd say it was one of the better Bush speeches I have seen, but I think his domestic policy section was pretty weak. Overall, he started off weak, but ended pretty strong. I just watched a few minutes of the Democratic response... (long sigh) damn the Democrats need better leaders and speech writers.

Hot tub hot topic

Sunday night, my science grad student friends were all gathered around the hot tub, and we noticed that our hands were wrinkled. So we all attempted to figure out why your hands get wrinkled after being underwater for a while.

Being brilliant scientists, we assumed that some sort of osmotic effect was causing our hands to dehydrate. However, we couldn't figure out how reverse osmosis was occuring since the cells in your hand have a higher salt concentration than the hot tub water. In fact, one quick google search later, I found that biologists claim the cells in your skin swell with water when submerged in a pool or hot tub as osmosis would dictate. The result of the swelling is your skin stretches and forms wrinkles. So, we were right about the osmosis and wrong about the skin dehydrating.

(Note: In the rare event that someone without a science background ever reads this post, here is a basic explaination of osmosis.

Two solvents with solutes separated by a semi-permeable membrane. A semi-permeable is a membrane that allows a solvent (ex. water) to move freely between the two liquids, but not a solute (ex. salt). In such a system, the solvent will spontaneously flow from the lower solute concentration to the higher solute concentration until the two concentrations are equal. This process is Osmosis.)

Mission Statement

So, I guess The Disgruntled Chemist and his blog have now gotten me officially addicted to blogging, so I guess I'm go to start my own blog now. My guess is I'll post about 5 times and then never again. I'm going to try to do a 50/50 mix of science posts and current event posts with an occasionally rant about my life.