Saturday, August 30, 2008

Court: US can block mad cow testing

Creekstone tests all its animals because than enables it to sell them for a higher price to overseas markets.;_ylt=AqJvsF_Jnge7QhtFcQQ33yWs0NUE

By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer Fri Aug 29, 1:42 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease. Mad cow disease has been linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Great Britain. Only three cases have been reported in the U.S., all involving cows, not humans.

A federal judge ruled last year that Creekstone must be allowed to conduct the test because the Agriculture Department can only regulate disease "treatment." Since there is no cure for mad cow disease and the test is performed on dead animals, the judge ruled, the test is not a treatment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that ruling, saying diagnosis can be considered part of treatment.

"And we owe USDA a considerable degree of deference in its interpretation of the term," Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote.

The case was sent back to the district court, where Creekstone can make other arguments.

udge Karen LeCraft Henderson (born 1944) was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in July 1990, by President George H. W. Bush.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eat your seed corn?

How warped, to think God created the many species on the earth for us to destroy.

The second group is a bit nastier. They believe that their own deity will show up at the end of time and save people like them, and only people like them, whisking them away on the Rapture Express to their own gated community in the sky. The rest of us mud people can stay behind on a spent core of an earth, waiting to face a fiery Armageddon. To them, environmentalism makes no more sense then painting a house right before an arson. Black Friday is like an eviction party for this crew.

Whatever you do, however, don’t write these folks off as fringe nut jobs. Their ranks include current and former US government officials who are or have been responsible for our environmental and economic policies. Notable among them is the former Reagan administration secretary of the interior, James Watts—the man responsible for axing Jimmy Carter’s sustainable energy and environment initiatives a generation ago. Folks like him aren’t just waiting for the apocalypse—they’ve been actively working to bring it on.

George W. Bush hangs with this crowd as well. At the White House, rapture-ready end-timers aren’t viewed as fringe lunatics—no. White House records show that they’re regularly received in the Oval Office as religious advisors. Their religion, however, feels like it’s lifted from an Indiana Jones film. The rapture they so impatiently await, it seems, won’t come until the state of Israel occupies all of its Old Testament stomping grounds and rebuilds the ancient Temple of Solomon on the site of the 1,300-year-old Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosques. With all this heeby-jeeby going on, who needs to worry about global warming—especially when the Israelis are only about 10 years away from firing up the rapture escalator to the heavens—which of course the Israelis won’t be allowed onto, but that’s another story.

This all fits with the Bush administration’s modus operandi. Their plan for the Iraq war is to leave office and let the next administration sort out their mess. Likewise, their plan for the environment is to leave the planet. Of course, however Bush leaves the planet, there’ll be someone here to have to deal with the mess that’s left behind.

Ecological Society Of America Criticizes Administration's Overhaul Of The Endangered Species Act

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — The Ecological Society of America today criticized the Bush administration's August 15 proposal to reinterpret the Endangered Species Act, which would impose regulatory changes eliminating the requirement for federal projects to undergo independent scientific review.

The proposal would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves whether their projects would harm endangered plants and animals.

"The concept of independent scientific review has been in practice since the 18th century and is crucial to ensuring that ideas and proposed work are scientifically sound," said Alison Power, president of the Society and professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. "This overhaul of the Endangered Species Act would place the fate of rare species in the hands of government stakeholders who are not qualified to assess the environmental impacts of their activities."

The Endangered Species Act protects more than 2000 of the United States' rarest plants and animals. Ranging from green sea turtles to Santa Cruz cypress trees, these species are not only national treasures, but also biological resources and often integral parts of their ecosystems.

Under the current Act, which has been in effect since 1973, agencies are required to consult with scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess potential ecological threats of their proposed projects. The administration now claims that agencies possess the expertise to judge the potential risks of their own projects and could opt to forgo the consultation.

The Bush proposal would present a conflict of interest, erasing the distinction between scientific review and politics. But proponents argue that the agencies would be held accountable and would suffer strict repercussions if their work negatively affected endangered species or their habitats. Power says, however, that this logic would provide little incentive for agencies to assess their work as rigorously as an unbiased reviewer.

"What if we allowed pharmaceutical companies to approve and distribute drugs without consulting the Food and Drug Administration?" she asks. "The result would spell potential disaster for humans. In this case, the vulnerable party is our environment."

Recently, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management conducted an internal assessment to determine the effects of wildfire prevention projects on endangered species. A follow-up evaluation by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service revealed that about half these evaluations were lawfully and scientifically invalid.

The Society believes that independent scientific review is a critical part of the Endangered Species Act and that eliminating this part of the process will result in environmental neglect at best and species extinctions at worst. The administration's proposal would compromise our ecosystems' capacity to provide essential services, such as mitigating pollution, regulating climate and providing natural resources. Exposing the most vulnerable species to the threats that will result from the Bush proposal will endanger our ecological support system.

Why Wind Turbines Can Mean Death For Bats

Hopefully scientists will devise a method to keep birds and bats away from windmills.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — Power-generating wind turbines have long been recognized as a potentially life-threatening hazard for birds. But at most wind facilities, bats actually die in much greater numbers. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology, a Cell Press journal, on August 26th think they know why.

Ninety percent of the bats they examined after death showed signs of internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure (a condition known as barotrauma) at turbine blades. Only about half of the bats showed any evidence of direct contact with the blades.

"Because bats can detect objects with echolocation, they seldom collide with man-made structures," said Erin Baerwald of the University of Calgary in Canada. "An atmospheric-pressure drop at wind-turbine blades is an undetectable—and potentially unforeseeable—hazard for bats, thus partially explaining the large number of bat fatalities at these specific structures.

"Given that bats are more susceptible to barotrauma than birds, and that bat fatalities at wind turbines far outnumber bird fatalities at most sites, wildlife fatalities at wind turbines are now a bat issue, not a bird issue."

The respiratory systems of bats and birds differ in important ways, in terms of both their structure and their function. Bats' lungs, like those of other mammals, are balloon-like, with two-way airflow ending in thin flexible sacs surrounded by capillaries, the researchers explained. When outside pressure drops, those sacs can over-expand, bursting the capillaries around them. Bird lungs, on the other hand, are more rigid and tube-like, with one-way circular airflow passing over and around capillaries. That rigid system can more easily withstand sudden drops in air pressure.

The majority of bats killed at wind turbines are migratory bats that roost in trees, including hoary bats, eastern red bats, and silver-haired bats. While little is known about their population sizes, the researchers said, those deaths could have far-reaching consequences.

Bats typically live for many years, in some cases reaching ages of 30 or more. Most also have just one or two pups at a time, and not necessarily every year. "Slow reproductive rates can limit a population's ability to recover from crashes and thereby increase the risk of endangerment or extinction," said Robert Barclay, also at the University of Calgary, noting that migrating animals tend to be more vulnerable as it is.

All three species of migratory bats killed by wind turbines fly at night, eating thousands of insects—including many crop pests—per day as they go. Therefore, bat losses in one area could have very real effects on ecosystems miles away, along the bats' migration routes.

Baerwald said there is no obvious way to reduce the pressure drop at wind turbines without severely limiting their use. Because bats are more active when wind speeds are low, one strategy may be to increase the speed at which turbine blades begin to rotate during the bats' fall migration period.

Low and High Cholesterol Associated With Cancer In Diabetics

As in most things, balance is important

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — Low levels of LDL cholesterol as well as high levels are associated with cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes, found a new prospective cohort study.

Researchers from the Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity, the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences and The Chinese University of Hong Kong conducted a study of 6107 Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes and found a V-shaped risk relation between LDL cholesterol and cancer in patients not receiving statin therapy.

"LDL cholesterol levels below 2.80 mmol/L and levels of at least 3.90 mmol/L were both associated with markedly elevated risk of cancer among patients who did not use statins," state Dr. Juliana Chan and coauthors.

The study excluded people on statins as statins obscured the association between LDL cholesterol and all-site cancer.

Increasing data suggests an association between type 2 diabetes and an elevated risk of cancer, including breast, colorectal, pancreatic and liver cancers. An elevated risk of cancer in patients with low LDL was linked to cancers of digestive organs and peritoneum, genital and urinary organs, lymphatic and blood tissues as well as other areas. Patients with an LDL cholesterol level above 3.80 mmol/L had heightened risks of oral, digestive, bone, skin, connective tissue, breast and other cancers.

Broccoli Could Reverse The Heart Damaging Effects Of Diabetes

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — Researchers have discovered eating broccoli could undo the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels.

Professor Paul Thornalley and his team from the University of Warwick have found a broccoli compound called Sulforaphane. This compound can encourage the body to produce more enzymes to protect the vessels, as well as reduce high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Past studies have shown that a diet rich in vegetables – particularly brassica vegetables such as broccoli – is linked to decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes have a particularly high risk of heart disease and stroke and other health impairments, such as kidney disease, are linked to damaged blood vessels.

How lazy can people get

I thought the tendency of many "songs" written today, to consist of one or two phrases sung over and over, to be really lazy.

I heard an even lazier singer the other day. She or he (I think she) sang the first verse of "Scarborough Fair" several times, with none of the other verses. I don't need to do my own web search, or go to a music store to look at music books, to know that it is easy to find the words to this song.

Polar Bears Found Swimming Miles From Alaskan Coast

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — An aerial survey by government scientists in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea has recently found at least nine polar bears swimming in open water – with one at least 60 miles from shore – raising concern among wildlife experts about their survival.

Geoff York, the polar bear coordinator for WWF's Arctic Programme, said that when polar bears swim so far from land, they could have difficulty making it safely to shore and are at risk of drowning, particularly if a storm arises.

“To find so many polar bears at sea at one time is extremely worrisome because it could be an indication that as the sea ice on which they live and hunt continues to melt, many more bears may be out there facing similar risk,” he said.

“As climate change continues to dramatically disrupt the Arctic, polar bears and their cubs are being forced to swim longer distances to find food and habitat.”
In May, the US Department of Interior listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited the strong body of science pointing to the significant loss of Arctic sea ice habitat as the primary reason for protecting the bear with federal legislation.

However, the state of Alaska has opposed the listing and has sued the federal government over its decision to list the bear.

Professor Richard Steiner of the University of Alaska’s Marine Advisory Program said: “While these bears are swimming around in an ice-free coastal Arctic Ocean, the only thing the State of Alaska is doing is suing the federal government trying to overturn the listing of polar bears.

“The bottom line here is that polar bears need sea ice, sea ice is decaying, and the bears are in very serious trouble. For any people who are still non-believers in global warming and the impacts it is having in the Arctic, this should answer their doubts once and for all.”

And of course, Republican McCain's answer is to select the governor of Alaska as his running mate.

Big Misconceptions About Small Business and Taxes

August 29, 2008
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
By Chye-Ching Huang and James R. Horney


Supporters of various tax benefits for high-income households often claim that failure to maintain them would have an undue effect on many small businesses. But even assuming a broad definition of “small business,” these claims are very often exaggerated or false.

Only 1.9 percent of taxpayers with small-business income face either of the top two income tax rates. Thus, allowing the 2001 reductions in these rates to expire as scheduled in 2010 would not affect most small-business owners. Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit could help more than seven times as many small businesses as extending the reductions in the top rates.

Claims that the estate tax must be largely or entirely eliminated to protect small businesses are misleading as well. Only a very small number of small businesses (just 740 nationwide in 2008, according to the Tax Policy Center) owe any estate tax.

The typical small business is not a wealthy hedge fund. Closing a lucrative tax loophole used by hedge fund managers would have no effect on “mom and pop” businesses.

A poem for Labor Day

Surplus Goods
copyright Patricia M. Shannon 1996

Won't you please give me a job,
I've been out of work so long,
I have used up all my savings
and they foreclosed on my home.
I had paid ahead by four years,
but it didn't count at all;
the mortgage company now does own it,
well there ought to be a law.

I was never a big spender,
I paid off loans ahead of time,
I did just what they told me,
saving for when I retired.
I have gone on few vacations,
and at K-Mart I did shop.
Might as well have been a spendthrift,
'cause my credit is all shot.

I went at least for six months
without a single interview,
made worse by new age so-called friends who said,
"You never should be blue."
There's a special place in hell
where there will be sent
George Bush and Alan Greenspan
and Redstone Federal Credit Union president.

"You have too much experience,"
that is what they say.
They want somebody younger,
who won't expect much pay.
Well, I've always tried to work hard,
and to do the best I could.
Now they tell me I'm not needed.
I'm just worn-out, surplus goods.

The Golden Rule at work

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Anxious college freshmen can relax. No matter who will be sharing their dorm room, they have the power to make the relationship better, University of Michigan research suggests.
"Roommate relationships can be really good or they can be really bad. And the fear is that they'll go from bad to worse," said Crocker, a social psychologist who studies how our own behavior and attitudes affect the kinds of relationships we experience. "But our study shows that you can create a supportive relationship and turn the stranger who's your roommate into a friend."
Crocker and Canevello found that students who were invested in enhancing and protecting their own self-images were less likely to report that their relationships with their roommates were getting better.

An essential element in reducing loneliness and building a good roommate relationship involves moving away from what Crocker calls an 'ego-system' approach, in which people focus on their own needs and try to shore up their self-image, toward an 'eco-system' approach, in which people are motivated by genuine caring and compassion for another person.

"Basically, people who give support in response to another person's needs and out of concern for another person's welfare are most successful at building close relationships that they find supportive," Canevello said. "We get support, in other words, by being supportive."

Monkeys Enjoy Giving To Others

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have shown capuchin monkeys, just like humans, find giving to be a satisfying experience. This finding comes on the coattails of a recent imaging study in humans that documented activity in reward centers of the brain after humans gave to charity.

Empathy in seeing the pleasure of another's fortune is thought to be the impetus for sharing, a trait this study shows transcends primate species.

79 Million US Adults Have Medical Bill Problems Or Are Paying Off Medical Debt

I can really relate to this. I couldn't afford a cataract operation until my vision was on the boundary of being illegal to drive. And I could only afford to have one cataract removed. I hope Medicare will take care of the other one in a few years.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — The proportion of working-age Americans who have medical bill problems or who are paying off medical debt climbed from 34 percent to 41 percent between 2005 and 2007, bringing the total to 72 million, according to recent survey findings from The Commonwealth Fund. In addition, 7 million adults age 65 and over also had problems paying medical bills, for a total of 79 million adults with medical bill problems or medical debt.
The report finds that in 2007, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults under age 65, or 116 million people, had medical bill problems or debt, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time, or were underinsured—insured but had high out-of-pocket medical expenses or deductibles relative to income.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trees Kill Odors And Other Emissions From Poultry Farms

ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2008) — Planting just three rows of trees around poultry farms can cut nuisance emissions of dust, ammonia, and odors from poultry houses and aid in reducing neighbor complaints, according to scientists from the University of Delaware.

Some of the emissions were cut by almost half, George W. Malone, Ph.D., and colleagues said here today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Trees also provide farms with the added benefit of reducing energy consumption, he noted.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet

Rory Carroll in Port-au-Prince
The Guardian, Tuesday July 29 2008

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti's most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.
It is not for the taste and nutrition - smidgins of salt and margarine do not disguise what is essentially dirt, and the Guardian can testify that the aftertaste lingers - but because they are the cheapest and increasingly only way to fill bellies.

"It stops the hunger," said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, 35, a producer, eyeing up her stock laid out in rows. She did not embroider their appeal. "You eat them when you have to."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Annual rates of employment growth, by president

Annual rates of employment growth, by president:

U.S. economic health thru the years

Richard H. Serlin says...

Historically, and for very good reason, the economy has been far better under Democratic administrations, and there are many sources reporting this, for example these two posts on the blog of Princeton Economist paul Krugman:

What's much less known is that the stock market does tremendously better historically under the Democrats than under the Republicans. UCLA financial economists Pedro Santa Clara and Rossen Valkanov report this in a 2003 paper published in arguably the most prestigious journal in academic finance, the Journal of Finance. The paper, "The Presidential Puzzle: Political Cycles and the Stock Market" can be downloaded at:

From the abstract, they report just how amazingly better the market does under Democrats:

"The excess return in the stock market is higher under Democratic than Republican presidencies: 9 percent for the value-weighted and 16 percent for the equal-weighted portfolio. The difference comes from higher real stock returns and lower real interest rates, is statistically signicant, and is robust in subsamples. The difference in returns is not explained by business-cycle variables related to expected returns, and is not concentrated around election dates. There is no difference in the riskiness of the stock market across presidencies that could justify a risk premium."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Contraceptive Pill Influences Partner Choice

There has been a large increase in children diagnosed with autism in recent years. At least some of the increase is bound to be due to children being diagnosed as autistic who would previously been diagnosed as developmentally disable, or retarded, previous to that.
If there is a real increase, it might turn out that the following situation is causing part of the increase. I also expect that pollution has a role.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2008) — The contraceptive pill may disrupt women's natural ability to choose a partner genetically dissimilar to themselves, research at the University of Liverpool has found.

Disturbing a woman's instinctive attraction to genetically different men could result in difficulties when trying to conceive, an increased risk of miscarriage and long intervals between pregnancies. Passing on a lack of diverse genes to a child could also weaken their immune system.

Humans choose partners through their body odour and tend to be attracted to those with a dissimilar genetic make-up to themselves, maintaining genetic diversity. Genes in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which helps build the proteins involved in the body's immune response, also play a prominent role in odour through interaction with skin bacteria. In this way these genes also help determine which individuals find us attractive.

The research team analysed how the contraceptive pill affects odour preferences. One hundred women were asked to indicate their preferences on six male body odour samples, drawn from 97 volunteer samples, before and after initiating contraceptive pill use.

Craig Roberts, a Lecturer in Evolutionary Psychology who carried out the work in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, said: "The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odours.

"Not only could MHC-similarity in couples lead to fertility problems but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners."

The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Newly Detected Air Pollutant Mimics Damaging Effects Of Cigarette Smoke

Of course, some lung cancer will occur in non-smokers simply from random mutations, like from naturally occuring gamma rays and such.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2008) — A previously unrecognized group of air pollutants could have effects remarkably similar to harmful substances found in tobacco smoke, Louisiana scientists are reporting in a study scheduled for presentation today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Inhaling those pollutants exposes the average person up to 300 times more free radicals daily than from smoking one cigarette, they added.

The discovery could help explain the long-standing medical mystery of why non-smokers develop tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, said H. Barry Dellinger, Ph.D., the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of Environmental Chemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

"Free radicals from tobacco smoke have long been suspected of having extremely harmful effects on the body," Dellinger said. "Based on our work, we now know that free radicals similar to those in cigarettes are also found in airborne fine particles and potentially can cause many of the same life-threatening conditions. This is a staggering, but not unbelievable result, when one considers all of diseases in the world that cannot currently be attributed to a specific origin."


Well, I consider myself honest and empathetic. I never cheated in college. I cheated once in high school, and was relieved that I failed the test, because I felt so guilty. If I hadn't failed, I might very well have confessed. And I guess I fit the mold in another way, because I find it hard to believe that as many as 80% of college students cheat as a matter of course. I would consider the student who cheats once or twice in four years, when they feel desperate, to be a different case from those who blithely cheat as a matter of course.

The Psychology Behind Students Who Don't Cheat

ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2008) — While many studies have examined cheating among college students, new research looks at the issue from a different perspective – identifying students who are least likely to cheat.

The study of students at one Ohio university found that students who scored high on measures of courage, empathy and honesty were less likely than others to report their cheating in the past – or intending to cheat in the future.

Moreover, those students who reported less cheating were also less likely to believe that their fellow students regularly committed academic dishonesty.

People who don’t cheat “have a more positive view of others,” said Sara Staats, co-author of the research and professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Newark campus.

“They don’t see as much difference between themselves and others.”

In contrast, those who scored lower on courage, empathy and honesty – and who are more likely to report that they have cheated -- see other students as cheating much more often than they do, rationalizing their own behavior, Staats said.

The issue is important because most recent studies suggest cheating is common on college campuses. Typically, more than half – and sometimes up to 80 percent – of college students report that they have cheated.

Quantam weirdness or human weirdness?

Actually, it appears to me that this idea of quantum entanglement arises from human's hubris and insecurity, to say that something like a photon has no real position and speed until a mighty human measures it. Plus, for some, it is more fun to believe something that seems to go against the previous establishment; again, hubris.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quantam weirdness?

No matter how many times researchers try, there's just no getting around the weirdness of quantum mechanics.

In the latest attempt, researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland tried to determine whether entanglement—the fact that measuring a property of one particle instantly determines the property of another—is actually transmitted by some wave-like signal that's fast but not infinitely fast.

Their test involved a series of measurements on pairs of entangled photons (particles of light) that were generated in Geneva (satellite view at left) and then split apart by optical fiber to two villages 18 kilometers (11 miles) apart where the team had set up photon detectors. (In 2007, researchers transmitted entangled light 144 kilometers between two of the Canary Islands.)

The idea in the new experiment is that the photons in each entangled pair are hitting the distant detectors simultaneously, so there's no time for them to exchange a signal. By comparing results from the two detectors, the researchers determined whether the photons were entangled or not, using a test known as Bell's inequalities.

The photons were indeed entangled, the group reports in "Nature". But in reality, no experiment is perfect, so what they end up with is a lower limit on how fast the entanglement could be traveling: 10,000 times the speed of light.

To appreciate the weirdness of entanglement, consider that the outcome of a single quantum measurement is random. By all tests, a photon *has* no definite polarization until it hits a detector capable of measuring it. So it's like the entangled particles share one big quantum state.

I don't believe that quantum entanglement will turn out to be accurate. I haven't seen a description of an experiment that convinces me that it shows it. Being a liberal, I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong.

If they want to convince me, they could do something like bounce one of the photons off an object, changing it's polarization or transforming it into heat or something, and prove that it affects the other photon that is supposedly entangled. If a big change in one photon doesn't affect the other one, why would I believe a tiny change would?

It sounds to me more like evidence that the photons do have a definite state to start out with. If two photons start out sharing the same state, measuring one would then "determine" the state of the other, not because it changes that other state, but because it discovers it. But that is not such a fun idea.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Choice

Patricia Shannon says...

The Choice
copyright 1993 Patricia M. Shannon
(can be sung to the tune of "Holy, Holy, Holy"

As I go out a-walking in the forest peaceful,
climbing up the mountain trail until I reach the top,
looking o'er the valley I feel a sense of wonder
rising within me, filling all my soul.

How wonderful is nature, tiny lifeless atoms
bring forth the multitude forms of all life.
We are one of many, sharing genes with one-celled beings,
dependent upon the interwoven web of life.

We have developed powers of terrible destruction,
wiping out whole species that used to roam the earth,
Threatenning the whole earth with utter devastation,
blithely ignoring what we don't want to know.

It is our own choice which path we choose to follow;
do we love our children enough to change our ways?
Will we change our pattern of long-term self-destruction?
History says "No", but we can prove it wrong.

Mass Extinctions And 'Rise Of Slime' Predicted For Oceans

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2008) — Human activities are cumulatively driving the health of the world's oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.

Such is the prognosis of Jeremy Jackson, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in a bold new assessment of the oceans and their ecological health. Jackson believes that human impacts are laying the groundwork for mass extinctions in the oceans on par with vast ecological upheavals of the past.

He cites the synergistic effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.

Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, has tagged the ongoing transformation as "the rise of slime." The new paper, "Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean," is a result of Jackson's presentation last December at a biodiversity and extinction colloquium convened by the National Academy of Sciences.

"The purpose of the talk and the paper is to make clear just how dire the situation is and how rapidly things are getting worse," said Jackson. "It's a lot like the issue of climate change that we had ignored for so long. If anything, the situation in the oceans could be worse because we are so close to the precipice in many ways."
To stop the degradation of the oceans, Jackson identifies overexploitation, pollution and climate change as the three main "drivers" that must be addressed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McCain's divorce

I notice that the on-line news keeps talking about John Edwards affair, and he's no longer in the race for president. But no mention of McCain's divorce of his first wife, although it has been covered in some newspapers. Why do Republicans think it's more moral to divorce a sick or disabled wife to marry a rich younger woman, than to have an affair, but remain with and support your wife and children. Seems twisted to me

Star Light, Star Bright

Since it's too cloudy in Atlanta to see the meteor shower, here's a song about stars.

Star Light, Star Bright
copyright 1994 Patricia M. Shannon
(I wrote a verse a day on the way to work when I had a long commute, and my car
radio didn't work. Unusual for me, since most of my poems/songs take weeks or months to write.)

Oh please, start light, star bright,
first star I see tonight, oh yes,
I wish I may and I wish I might
have the wish I wish tonight.

I wish the whole world would live at peace,
and no one hungry be, oh yes,
and every child would have a home
in a loving family.

I wish for tolerance for those
who are not hurting anyone.
And that people would be careful
where they put their chewed up gum!


I wish political candidates
would be less negative,
and the media would give some news
that is more positive.

I wish that people would behave the way
they would like others to.
Then highway 85 would be less like
a rabies-infested zoo!


MSG Use Linked To Obesity

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2008) — People who use monosodium glutamate, or MSG, as a flavor enhancer in their food are more likely than people who don't use it to be overweight or obese even though they have the same amount of physical activity and total calorie intake, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health study published this month in the journal Obesity.
Animal studies have indicated for years that MSG might be associated with weight gain," said Ka He, M.D., assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health. "Ours is the first study to show a link between MSG use and weight in humans."

Because MSG is used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods, studying its potential effect on humans has been difficult. He and his colleagues chose study participants living in rural Chinese villages because they used very little commercially processed food, but many regularly used MSG in food preparation.

"We found that prevalence of overweight was significantly higher in MSG users than in non-users," He said. "We saw this risk even when we controlled for physical activity, total calorie intake and other possible explanations for the difference in body mass. The positive associations between MSG intake and overweight were consistent with data from animal studies."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You ate what? and other true tales from real travelers

Since I often cook a mixture of whole grains from scratch, I really relate to this story :)

"We cooked when renting a house on Mexico's Soliman Bay. At the produce stand, one of the grains looked familiar. We cooked it for over an hour, but it still tasted oaky, so we cooked it longer and added seasoning. The property manager and the caretaker stopped in as we were about to eat. They were in awe of our ignorance. We had cooked a bag of birdseed." -- Brenda Bluske, El Verano, Calif.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Testosterone poisoning

ScienceDaily (Aug. 10, 2008) — High levels of testosterone may be a key factor in spreading disease among mice, according to biologists. The findings could help explain why males in a population are often more likely to get infected, and transmit disease.

Previous research has linked testosterone, the male sex hormone, to immune system suppression. Studies have shown that males, compared to females, experience more bouts of disease, and account for a larger share of disease transmission. However, it is not fully clear what makes males such super-spreaders of disease.
"These findings suggest that even if some individuals in a population have high levels of testosterone, they can impact the behavior of those around, and drive the transmission of diseases transmitted by close contact such as the respiratory pathogen bordetella," explained Grear, whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

universal truth

This quote has been attributed to Goebbels, who was propaganda minister for Hitler, (but the authenticity of the (full) quote appears to be disputed). Himmler was chief commander of the SS, and not particularly known for intellectual pursuits.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Some African Drought Linked To Warmer Indian Ocean, NASA Data Show

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2008) — A new study, co-funded by NASA, has identified a link between a warming Indian Ocean and less rainfall in eastern and southern Africa. Computer models and observations show a decline in rainfall, with implications for the region's food security.

Rainfall in eastern Africa during the rainy season, which runs from March through May, has declined about 15 percent since the 1980s, according to records from ground stations and satellites. Statistical analyses show that this decline is due to irregularities in the transport of moisture between the ocean and land, brought about by rising Indian Ocean temperatures, according to research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This interdisciplinary study was organized to support U.S. Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Child Development: Lack Of Time On Tummy Shown To Hinder Achievement

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2008) — The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging parents and caregivers to ensure that babies get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised, in light of a recent survey of therapists who say they've noticed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs while awake.
APTA spokesperson Judy Towne Jennings, PT, MA, a physical therapist and researcher from Fairfield, Ohio, said, "We have seen first-hand what the lack of tummy time can mean for a baby: developmental, cognitive, and organizational skills delays, eye-tracking problems, and behavioral issues, to name just some complications." She added, "New parents are told of the importance of babies sleeping on their backs to avoid SIDS, but they are not always informed about the importance of tummy time."

Jennings explains that because new parents now use car seats that also serve as infant carriers – many of which fasten directly into strollers and swings without having to remove the baby from the seat -- this generation of babies spends prolonged periods of time in one position. She recommends that awake babies be placed in a variety of positions, including on their tummies, as soon as they return home from the hospital. "Ideally, babies should be placed on their tummies after every nap, diaper change and feeding, starting with 1-2 minutes," she said.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched its successful "Back to Sleep" campaign, which helped reduce the number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases by educating parents on the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs, rather than on their stomachs. While putting infants to sleep on their backs is still vitally important in reducing infant deaths, according to APTA, many physical therapists believe that there should be more education to parents on the importance of "tummy time" while babies are awake and supervised.

Abrupt Climate Changes

This article was about the opposite situation of the current problem of global warming. The possible relevance is that it shows that the current assumption that climate changes are gradual is wrong. For all we know, we could be on the verge of a tipping point already.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2008) — Researchers in Germany, Switzerland, and the United States have shown, for the first time, that an extremely fast climate change occurred in Western Europe. This took place long before human-made changes in the atmosphere, and is causatively associated with a sudden change in the wind systems.
The proof of an extreme cooling within a short number of years 12,700 years ago was attained in sediments of the volcanic lake Meerfelder Maar in the Eifel region of Germany. The seasonally layered deposits allow to precisely determine the rate of climate change. With a novel combination of microscopic research studies and modern geochemical scanner procedures, the scientists were able to successfully reconstruct the climatic conditions even for individual seasons. In particular, the changes in the wind force and direction during the winter half-year caused the climate to topple over into a completely different mode within one year after a short instable phase of a few decades.