HUMAN: Ugh! Gagh! I don’t see how you guys can eat that stuff. Even dead it’s gross but you eat it while it’s still alive! Still moving!
KLINGON: Really? Do you really want to go there? You humans eat tiny, helpless creatures that are having sex.
HUMAN: Ugh! Gagh! I don’t see how you guys can eat that stuff. Even dead it’s gross but you eat it while it’s still alive! Still moving!
KLINGON: Really? Do you really want to go there? You humans eat tiny, helpless creatures that are having sex.
There’s an interesting “by the way” in one of Erin’s Hundred Dresses posts.
I’m not a fan of purple, not really sure why. I understand it’s a color that grows on you when you’re older; I saw some research somewhere about how your eyes perceive different wavelengths or perceive the same wavelengths differently or something (could I be more vague? no, I could not) and it somehow explained the tendency of older women to wear more orangey lipsticks. Which I thought was probably complete and utter BS, but that factoid has stayed with me and here we are, no better off than we were before, but prepared for the possibility, however remote, of someday feeling more kindly towards purple.
Of course that sent me googling but I wasn’t able to come up with anything except for several articles saying elderly people lose some of their ability to see colors. I’m not sure I believe that or maybe I just don’t want to believe it but I have never noticed anything to suggest that in the older people I have known.
I did come across a couple of interesting color related things though. This one about Ancient Greek Color Vision seems bizarre.
And… Don’t take this test if you are confident in your ability to distinguish different colors. I didn’t do really bad but not nearly as good as I expected. I might try it again later.
My “favorite colors” change from time to time but overall I don’t really have a “favorite” color. I used to think blue was boring but I like it much better now. I like purple but it’s never been one of my top favorites. I’m attracted to pink, yellow, orange, and red. But I also like brown.
Brains are interesting. Fascinating, in fact. Sometimes I think I should have been either a neuroscientist or a psychiatrist but, with the former I might have to dissect actual brains and with the latter I would have to deal with annoying, messed up people all the time, which is not one of my talents. (You see why I never decided what I want to be when I grow up?)
Anyway, like I was saying, brains are fascinating. We’ve been watching the series (on the History Channel) Your Bleeped Up Brain. It’s very similar to another series, Brain Games, but it’s better, I think. They seem to try a little more to explain the science instead of just, “Watch this; see how we can trick you!” So far nothing in the series has surprised me. It’s all stuff I knew already but it is still interesting to me. Last night we watched the episode about superstition. They seemed to be trying to avoid offending anyone. It was more about our brains finding explanations for things we don’t understand and why we cling to those explanations even when they are proved to be wrong.
They showed a bit about seeing faces in random patterns. Like everyone else, I do see faces everywhere but I don’t ever see it as a sign of any kind. To me it’s just another way for me to entertain myself. It’s a kind of optical illusion. I do sometimes fantasize about finding a picture of Jesus on a rock or in the grain of a piece of wood or something and selling it for a fortune on eBay.
The thing I think we all have a hard time with is accepting that other people’s brains are in some ways different from our own. For example, my brain likes words and it likes for them to be correct. (“Correct” meaning, the way I first learned them, whether they are actually correct or not. “Kilometer” is one that I think the majority of us in the U.S. learned to pronounce incorrectly. I know how it’s supposed to be pronounced but to me right sounds wrong and always will.) I understand – and on one level I accept – that not everyone’s brain likes words the way mine does and that this is not a sign of intelligence or lack thereof, but still, my brain wants what it wants and it very much wants everyone to stop typing “there” when you mean “their” or “they’re,” and other common mistakes.
My brain also has a bit of a problem with hints and I sort of think this might be part of the liking words thing. Whenever someone is hinting or trying to convey something to me non-verbally, even if I do get what they are trying to tell me, my brain keeps urging me to shout, “Just say it already!” I really try not to do that because I know I’m the weird one in this case but again, my brain wants what it wants so I have a bit of difficulty responding to hints. Strangely, that doesn’t mean that I don’t use hints myself sometimes. Yeah, my brain is bleeped up too.
What other people’s brains want I don’t entirely understand. I am an intelligent and tolerant person (At least, I understand that tolerance is a virtue and I should be more tolerant.) but I have a hard time understanding what drives other people, especially obviously intelligent people. Idiots (and there are a lot of those in the world) can be easily dismissed but when I run into an obviously intelligent person whose understanding of the world is completely different from mine (such as people who voted for “the other guy”) a part of my brain automatically wants to label that person “idiot” also, even though I know better. This seems to be one of those things, like seeing faces, that all of our brains have in common. And when the other person is someone we know and like our poor brains may not know how to handle the situation.
I guess most people don’t think about this stuff. Maybe if more people were educated about the way our brains work the world would be a more peaceful and tolerant place? Or maybe not. We all believe what we want to believe – that we are right and they are wrong – so even if we understand how our brains work we will each continue to think that our own brain is somehow better than all the other brains even if some of those other brains can do calculus and ours can’t.
By now you’ve probably all heard that there’s a gigantic hole in the sun. Actually it’s just a coronal hole, an area that is “darker, lower-density, and (relatively) colder than the rest of the plasma on the surface” of the sun. But of course the news sites couldn’t pass up such a perfect opportunity for scare headlines, could they?
Well, I am capable of recognizing opportunity myself so let’s have some fun with this and see if we can make the ol’ hit counter go up a bit.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by secret government weather control experiments.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by nuclear testing on Earth.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by too many satellites orbiting the Earth.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by a probe that NASA launched into the Sun.
* The Hole in the Sun is a punishment from God for allowing gay people to live.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by Republicans.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by Democrats.
* The Hole in the sun was caused by the North Koreans.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by aliens from an ice planet who are planning to cool off the Earth so they can inhabit it.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by friendly aliens who have come to help us with our global warming problem.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by obese people sucking all the heat out of the sun.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by the death of algae in the oceans.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria due to the excessive use of anti-bacterial hand cleaners.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by zombies.
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by vampires. (Well, it makes sense… vampires like the dark.)
* The Hole in the Sun was caused by cell phones.
Okay, your turn. What “really” caused the “hole” in the sun?
Science has pretty well established that we are all part Neanderthal as well as part African, which I’m sure is highly disturbing to some people. There’s nothing in this article that is very new or surprising. What’s interesting and kinda funny is the picture accompanying the article. It shows a blonde, modern European woman and a dark, brutish pre-human male nose to nose looking adoringly into each other’s eyes. Mouseover the image and read the annotations, especially #’s 3 and 5.
History has never been as pretty as we would like it to be.
Do digital devices change the rules of etiquette? In some ways, I think so. I can sort of understand the example of the thank you email but I’m not sure I entirely agree. I can understand that if you get a lot of email one more “unnecessary” email could be considered a burden but, personally, I like getting a response of some kind. If I send someone an email I want confirmation that the person read it.
When texting I often use complete sentences and always correct spelling. (Well, at least I intend to use correct spelling.) Are long texts rude? Well, if you’re not going to reply to my emails what the hell do you expect!? That’s the way I feel about it. If you don’t want people to keep bugging you then communicate with them.
One change that I do like is that sending a text is considered more polite than calling. I totally understand and agree with that. A text can be ignored for a few minutes if you’re too busy to respond but a phone call traps you. Not that phone calls are not okay. The old-fashioned telephone call is appropriate sometimes.
Not that I have all that many people with whom I communicate. Just family, and digital communication works great for us. We all seem to be in sync as far as knowing what’s expected.
There’s a good chance that some of what is served as calamari is actually pork bung. Well, I think I’m safe; I wouldn’t knowingly eat either one. But, sadly, that’s not all.
Samples sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates (87 and 59 percent, respectively), with the majority of the samples identified by DNA analysis as something other than what was found on the label. Only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually red snapper. The other 113 samples were another fish. Halibut, grouper, cod and Chilean sea bass were also mislabeled between 19 and 38 percent of the time, while salmon was mislabeled 7 percent of the time.
“Our study identified strong national trends in seafood mislabeling levels among retail types, with sushi venues ranking the highest (74 percent), followed by restaurants (38 percent) and then grocery stores (18 percent). These same trends among retail outlets were generally observed at the regional level,” Oceana said in their summary report.
And it’s not just seafood that might not be what it seems:
But what about honey? Or extra virgin olive oil?
These are products most of us believe we could spot as fraud. However, most of the honey sold in American chain stores does not meet international quality standards.
Testing done for Food Safety News found that most store honey isn’t honey, with ultra-filtering techniques removing pollen and hiding the honey’s origins.
“More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce.
I knew about most honey being excessively processed, if not outright fake. I try to always buy honey produced in Oklahoma. There’s not a huge difference in taste and I can’t tell if it’s less processed than other honey available in the grocery store. We have a beehive in our back yard but haven’t been very successful at beekeeping. We got honey from them only one year.
This is really cool: stretchy batteries. The first place my mind went was to Neal Asher’s Polity universe. There are, of course, more down to Earth applications. They say it would not produce enough power to run a laptop but who knows? Maybe someday a thin computer that could roll up into something the size of an ink pen?
This is what I always say, but she said it better:
Here’s a question that could get us in trouble. Are dogs smarter than cats?
It’s a very difficult question to answer in any meaningful way. I could ask you, which is a better tool, a hammer or a screwdriver? They’re designed to do different things. Compare the origins of these animals in the wild, their progenitors, the wolf and the wild African cat. You have one that is an endurance runner, a pack animal that relies on cooperation. You have another that is a relatively asocial, stalking hunter that relies on stealth to be successful. These are completely different social systems and ways of life, and evolution shaped those minds to be really different because they do completely different things in terms of how they make a living.
From this interesting article about dog intelligence.
There’s one thing mentioned about dogs that I’ve noticed in my cats: deceptiveness: “dogs avoid misbehaving if you are watching them”. My cats are geniuses at that.
This happened at about 9:30 this morning local time. Follow the link for the news and more videos.
I found this interesting series of videos, with simple answers to various science questions. It was hard to pick just one. There are videos about “The Monty Hall Problem”, “Motion Sickness”, and even “Zombie Apocalypse Science”.
The Science of Choosing Space Pioneers – They will probably get it wrong. I think they should forget science and look to history. Some of the most successful colonists have been misfits and adventurers – people who didn’t fit in back home.
Did you know that temperatures below absolute zero are possible? Kinda makes 13°F (the current temperature here) seem almost like a warm spring day.
As cat owners know, cats shed the outer layers of their claws when they sharpen them on your furniture. This is one of those shed pieces.
A study has found that “low-intensity vibrations led to improvements in the immune systems of mice compromised by obesity.” The vibrations also reversed obesity related bone loss in the mice.
The second I saw the headline my mind went to the vibrator belt machines that were popular in the 60′s.
Immediately after I wrote the last post I thought, “All I really want from the future is to live to be at least 150 and be healthy, weigh what I weighed when I was 30 and never have any more wrinkles than I have right now.” And of course for all my family to be there with me to enjoy it. That’s the main thing but then I thought of some other things that might be nice…
What about those thin, flexible, paper-like displays like we saw in Firefly? Then we could have an e-book reader that looked and felt like a real book with pages you could turn but what was on the pages could change so you could have a gazillion books in one.
A small, lightweight, affordable, super battery that could power cars, our houses, everything, and last at least as long as the average watch battery. It wouldn’t have to be as small as a watch battery of course; maybe the size of a lantern battery or, to power cars and houses, I guess something the size of one car battery wouldn’t be bad at all.
Star Trek style medicine. Just lay on a bed and the computer tells what’s wrong with you; the doc waves a little hand held device over the affected part and you’re cured.
The ability to design any product (shoes, appliances, etc.) and have it created exactly as I want it and have it delivered. I guess I just described the replicator but it wouldn’t even have to be instantaneous. Just to be able to get exactly what I want, even if I have to wait a week or two, would be enough.
A really big space station, spin for artificial gravity, with comfortable hotels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities. Even if I never went there myself it would make me happy just knowing it existed.
What about you? What’s on your technology wish list?
I get the impression that many people think that the days when world-changing innovations could come from someone’s basement or garage are long gone. Well just look what some people are doing in their basements now. I’m not sure how I feel about some of this stuff. Brainwave headsets are okay but when you start implanting stuff… Well, it sounds cool when you read about it in one of Neal Asher’s books but to think about it in reality… I just don’t know.
All week I have been very up about the skydive from space and it has made me realize how hungry I’ve been for a really exciting historic, scientific event. Progress happens all the time. Just look at us now compared to 20 years ago, or even just ten. But progress has been coming in a lot of small, unexciting steps and the fact that they come along practically every day helps to make them even less exciting.
While Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the surface of the moon was “a giant leap for mankind,” Felix Baumgartner’s skydive from the edge of space was a literal giant leap but, in the big picture of scientific progress, I suppose it was really just another small step. I don’t know… first person to fall faster than the speed of sound? That seems pretty big to me. But, again, maybe it’s just because I want it to be big… because I’m hungry for something big.
There is a robot on Mars digging up shiny bits. Why can’t I get excited about that? It is interesting but it’s not the same as seeing a human being do something that has never been done before.
I also wanted to say something about corporate sponsorship. Some people are not happy about Red Bull’s involvement, calling it a necessary evil. I do not agree that it’s evil. Some endeavors are so expensive and risky that only a government can attempt them. But government is very inefficient so once they have taken the first few steps it is best for private industry to take over. Otherwise nothing will ever come of all the expense and risk taking other than the ability to say, “Look what we did.”
The commercialization of space is, in itself, exciting. It means we’re going to the next level. Finally. I would have happily gone out Sunday afternoon and bought a case of Red Bull to celebrate but, frankly, energy drinks sort of scare me a little bit.
Roger Green answers the technology questions, “What piece of technology would you hate the most to lose? Which piece of technology do you wish would just disappear?” and so does Jaquandor, and the topic turns to word processors and typing.
I can’t remember if our Adam computer came with a learn-to-type program. I have this vague notion that it did but maybe not. I definitely remember getting a program called Typing Tutor for our first real PC. That’s how I first learned to type. The last time I used it it said I typed 20 WPM. Then I got a job that required using a computer but not necessarily to type very fast. So I got some practice every day. And of course we continued to buy newer, better computers every few years and then in the mid-90′s we got connected to the Internet and that’s when I started getting lots of practice.
I still can’t do the top row, the numbers and symbols, without looking but I think I do pretty good. But let’s see. Here’s a Typing Test. It said I type 40 WPM. I probably do a wee bit better than that when I’m just normal typing, not copying something and not doing a test. But I’m neither surprised nor disappointed.
I like typing. It’s sort of a funny thing. I just think words and sentences and my fingers go to the right keys without me even having to think about what the fingers are doing. Like magic, almost. Sometimes my fingers do funny things though, like typing a short word twice so I end up with something like “my fingers go to to the right keys”. And sometimes they will leave out a word. When I go back and proofread I find that a sentences is missing an “I” or an “a” that I was sure I typed. Even weirder than that, sometimes they will type completely the wrong word. I will think one word and my fingers type a completely different word. I can’t think of an example right now. It’s really freaky. But mostly I do okay. Typing is like a part of thinking. It sort of fascinates me the way it seems to just happen.
Now to go back to the questions: What piece of technology would you hate the most to lose? That is a really difficult question. I don’t want to loose any of it. If I had to pick just one thing I guess I would have to say Internet access. That’s not “a piece” of technology but, you know… all the pieces that enable me to get on the Internet.
Which piece of technology do you wish would just disappear? I can’t think of any technology that I wish would disappear. There are several that I would like to change in some way. The biggest thing is that I want everything to stop beeping at me. My microwave beeps loudly four times to tell me it’s done. I’m glad it has a signal to tell me it’s done but couldn’t it be something more pleasant? A nice little bell like the older ones had? It also beeps each time I push a button. That is totally unnecessary. I know when I’ve pushed a button. I don’t need a beep to tell me I just pushed a button. Whenever I have to reset the clock on my range it beeps once for each time I press a button. So if the power has been off for 30 minutes I have to listen to 30 beeps as I reset it. My washer and dryer also beep but at least I can choose to have those not beep. But the default is to beep so every time I change the setting on the dryer I have to tell it, again, that I do not want it to beep. Beep beep beep. Everything these days beeps. I am so tired of all the bleeping beeping!
There are other things too. Little details of the way things function. And printers. Don’t get me started on printers. Someone needs to re-invent the printer and build one that actually works all the time and for more than a few months. But no, I don’t want any piece of technology to disappear. I just want them all to work better, to work more the way I want them to work. I want to have freedom of choice. I want to be the boss of the machines instead of having the machines be the boss of me.
This is probably not the creepiest thing that ever washed up on the beach, but it’s gotta be way up there. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if I had found it. Probably I would have been grossed out but at the same time… “Oh wow! This is so cool!” So, sort of like a ten-year-old boy I guess.
Well, there in front of my TV, that is, but some events give you such a feeling of thereness even if you are not really there. You know what I mean? The last time I was “there” for a historic scientific event was many years ago. I was lucky to have caught this latest one. Of course I had heard about the upcoming sky dive from the edge of space, but I didn’t know when it was to be and I expected that I would hear about its success or failure as one of those fifteen second gee-whiz tidbits on the news. But Sunday morning I got up, made my cup of tea and turned on the TV as usual. After an hour of HGTV I started channel surfing and found on the Discovery Channel a several hours long program labeled “Space Jump Live”.
It had very much the same feel as the NASA broadcasts I saw as a child – a view of a mission control room alternating with a view of a space-suited person in a tiny capsule and exterior shots of the craft and surrounding landscape. The TV commentators spoke in quiet, almost reverent voices, explaining what was happening, and sometimes there were long silences. They didn’t try to fill up every minute with talk. The thing that was different was that instead of “NASA” we saw the Red Bull logo everywhere.
We watched the balloon ascend, with the altitude and speed displayed on the screen. Finally, via cameras on the capsule, over 24 miles above Earth, we saw Felix Baumgartner step out of the capsule. Infrared cameras on the ground showed a tiny, white, human-shaped speck rapidly tumbling through the sky. After nearly four and a half minutes the parachute opened. They briefly cut to a scene of Baumgartner’s family cheering and hugging each other, then back to the tiny parachuted figure.
I expected a hard landing but he landed gently on his feet, took a couple of steps and sat down. I thought, “The parachute maker is a hero too.” Everything went so smoothly one might almost think that it was easy but of course it wasn’t. This was not at the same level as the moon landing but this was a significant scientific achievement, not merely an elaborate stunt. Think of some place that is 24 miles from where you are now. Now imagine falling that distance, faster than the speed of sound at one point. And landing safely.
The involvement of Red Bull seemed at once both cool/futuristic and a little bit wrong. But mostly cool. Profit is neither a dirty word nor a sacred one. Many atrocities have been committed for profit but the hope of profit also provides incentive to do stuff like this. There are two main forces that drive progress: war and the desire to make money. I know which one I prefer.
UPDATE: I see that the video has been removed. [dirty words... lots of really bad, highly imaginative profanity and curses] Maybe you can find it at the link above. I don’t know; I haven’t looked today.
UPDATE II: Okay, found another video. Let’s see how long this one lasts. It’s a little bit shorter than the one that was here originally and maybe not quite as good but it still shows the entire jump.