Thursday, August 29, 2013

If You Believe In Telekinesis ....

There is an oldish joke about claims of psychic powers:     If you believe in telekinesis, please raise my hand.

University of Washington University of Washington researcher
 Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind.
Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right,
wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the
left motor cortex region of his brain.
Stocco’s right index finger moved involuntarily to
hit the “fire” button as part of the first human
brain-to-brain interface demonstration.
(Credit: Image courtesy of University of Washington)
Only now, it just might be possible, with the help of the internet.

Researcher Controls Colleague's Motions in First Human Brain-To-Brain Interface

Am I the only one that thinks this is creepy?

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Here is a map of Pangaea with modern countries drawn on it.  It comes from this blog.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Maps Show More Than Oceans and Mountains

One of many maps showing some surprising things about the world, at the Washington Post.

Take a good look at map#19.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interior Department says Keystone XL Pipeline is BAD.

Quoting from the Los Angeles Times,  

The Interior Department has warned that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could have long-term, damaging effects on wildlife near its route, contradicting the State Department's March draft environmental assessment, which concluded the project would have only a temporary, indirect impact.
In a 12-page letter sent as part of the public comment on the draft assessment, the Interior Department repeatedly labels as inaccurate its sister agency's conclusions that Keystone XL would have short-lived effects on wildlife and only during the project's construction.
"Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure, access roads, and power lines and substations, impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project (i.e. operation and maintenance phases)," the letter says.

Monday, August 19, 2013

In My Back Yard

It seems that turkeys like black elderberries.

And no, it is not the House Science Committee

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fools Film Flash Flood

Photo by
Grumpy Old Scientist
In the northeast, most of our rivers flow all year.  The reason is that they are fed by the snowpack - a winter's accumulation of snow that melts slowly and feeds the groundwater that feeds the rivers.

Out in the southwest (and maybe someday here if climate change eliminates the snowpack) many rivers run only after a storm.

The problem is that the storm could be 40 miles away, and the first you know of it is when the dry stream bed that you are walking in becomes filled with a raging torrent.

Photo by Thomas Matheson,
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Here is a link to a video taken by some "flash flood chasers" (fools).  Note the large tree branches.  Note around 2:50 minutes when a huge boulder gets rolled downstream.  Note how easily they could have become dead fools.

Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for sharing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kill Your Sex Life, Then Yourself

Sugar, even at moderate levels, could be toxic to your health — or at least to your sex life, a new study says.
Scientists at the University of Utah looked at how sugar affected mice and found that the mouse equivalent of just three sugary sodas a day had significant negative effects on life span and competition for mates.
“That’s three sodas if the rest of your diet is pristine and sugar-free,” said lead author and biologist James S. Ruff. “And those are 12-ounce sodas, not double Big Gulps.”
Sugar-fed females died twice as quickly as control mice, which were fed the same total number of calories. While the sugar-fed males did not die more quickly, they had trouble competing against the control males for mates and were less likely to hold territory and reproduce.
For the rodents on the sweetened diet, sugar accounted for 25 percent of their total calorie intake. Up to a quarter of Americans consume that proportion of sugar as part of their diets.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Water Wars - Continued

Overpopulation + Climate Change = People Not Being Nice.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott disclosed Tuesday that his state is going to sue the state of Georgia because its increased consumption of shared water resources is pushing Florida's multi-million-dollar oyster industry to the brink of collapse -- the latest step in escalating litigation that has failed to negotiate a settlement on how to allocate limited water resources between Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
"Because Georgia has not negotiated in good faith to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, we are announcing today that Florida will bring suit in the U.S. Supreme Court next month to stop Georgia's unchecked consumption of water that threatens the existence of Apalachicola fisheries and the future economic development of this region," Scott said.
Scott argues that Georgia's increasing water consumption is limiting flows to the Apalachicola River, which feeds Apalachicola Bay -- located on the Gulf coast in northwest Florida. Reduced water flow to the bay has created a fishery disaster for those who harvest oysters out of the Gulf of Mexico.

The details are online at Al Jezeera America.

Thermal Pollution Becomes Electricity With a Controlled Tornado

One of the many problems with generating electricity is that it produces waste heat.  Even if we are not burning something to create the steam to spin the generator, e.g. nuclear power, there is still a lot of thermal pollution.

Canadian Louis Michaud is President of of AVEtec Energy Corporation.  AVE stands for "Atmospheric Vortex Engine".

His idea is a simple one:  Hot air from waste heat rises (convection).  By shaping the exhaust correctly, that rising air can be given a spin, turning it into a tame tornado.  The rising, spinning air can turn a generator.

Since most of that heat is contained in steam from the coal/oil/gas/nuclear generator, you get an extra boost as the steam condenses and releases its latent heat (the energy used to evaporate in the first place).

Note:  While most of  greenhouse gas that humans produce is carbon dioxide, water is also a greenhouse gas.  The problem with water is that as the atmosphere warms, more water evaporates, which increases the temperature of the atmosphere, and more water evaporates ...

Not only can an AVE be added to existing electric generating facilities, but any source of rising air, such as a tropical ocean, can provide the needed energy.

More information is available at

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Climate Change Ticks Off Moose - Then They Die

Photo by Don Bergeron, NH Fish and Game
Moose are disappearing from New Hampshire and other northern states.  They are being killed by winter ticks.  Minnesota’s moose mortality rate is so high that the state canceled its annual hunt in February.  In New Hampshire there have been years where almost none of the calves survived and only 25 percent of adults.

Winter cold used to keep the ticks under control.  Most winter tick eggs in New Hampshire would die over the winter, frozen to death.   But that hasn’t happened lately as winters are starting later and ending sooner.  

Winter ticks on the body of a Moose
Photo by Ron Moen, University of Minn/Duluth
A single female tick lays about 3,000 eggs. With warmer weather, ticks don’t die. Tens of millions of winter ticks will be hatching in September from eggs hidden in thick brush. They will wait there to hitch a ride on a moose and suck its blood until the end of May.  As the number of ticks explodes, moose have disappeared by the thousands. Many of those still alive are starving, with rib cages visible through ragged skin. 

As many as 150,000 blood-sucking insects can turn an 1,800-pound animal into a ‘ghost in the woods’, but not only by sucking out all of their blood.  The tick bites itch.

The moose lick and rub and scratch at the ticks until their fur falls off. They develop secondary infections.  They can actually freeze without their fur.  They develop anemia and starve. 

Who says climate change doesn't hurt anyone?

For more information, see this from the New Hampshire Wildlife Service.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I See Dead Obliviots

According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, the number of pedestrian vs. car deaths has increased about 10% in the last few years.  

In Los Angeles, nearly half of all car-related deaths now are pedestrians. 

The probable reason?  "Distracted" pedestrians, which is a nicer way of saying idiots texting while talking on the phone, distracted by music, heads down, reading texts or sending them, oblivious to traffic and traffic signals.

London actually padded lampposts experimentally because texters were banging into them so often as they walked while texting.

Living Streets, a well-known charity dedicated to making cities more pedestrian-friendly, conducted an unscientific survey of 1,000 texting Brits and found that 1 in 10 — or, potentially, 6.5 million people nationwide — had suffered injuries while texting and walking.

As I have so often told my students, "Be different.  Think".


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Earn More Than A College Grad

You don't need that college debt!  Or maybe you do.  It depends on what you want to do when you grow up. 

Some careers, such as astrophysicist or genetic researcher do need some serious education after high school.  If that is what you love, go for it!
Mr. Money Mustache

But as I've often told my students, there are more than enough lawyers in the world, and electricians can make a lot of money with a lot less bother.  In fact, research has shown that many two-year graduates earn more money than those with a BA!

Courtesy of Mr. Money Mustache, here are over 50 jobs that pay over $50,000 a year, with at the most a two year degree:

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Water is a Useful Thing

Wetlands are very useful things, filtering water, preventing floods, recharging aquifers, and of course providing homes for ducks and waterlilies.

Water is also a friend to anthropologists.  The low oxygen levels at the bottom of swamps preserves dead people and their toys.

A body found in Ireland by a man digging peat has been dated to 4,000 years ago.

In far-off Minnesota, archaeologists digging in a swamp have discovered the remains of an 8,000 year old campsite.

And also, a new way has been found to create hydrogen using sunlight - in other words, a non-polluting way to create a non-polluting fuel.

Lazy Sunday Morning

Today was such an amazing day that I had to get out and enjoy it.  I spent the morning paddling up the Bantam River to Little Pond.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Semipalmated Plover

Yellow Pondlily

White Waterlily

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Feeding Another 4 Billion, and Other News

The world's croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now.  How?

Just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption, according to Emily Cassidy at the University of Minnesota, lead author of a paper published in Environmental Research Letters. new research from the Institute on the Environment.

In other words, live lower on the food chain (remember entropy?) and stop burning food in our cars.

Read more about the study at ScienceDaily.

Climate Change IS Occurring Ten Times Faster Than at Any Time in Past 65 Million Years

The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years.

Remember - adaptation takes time that we might not have.

Tropical Diseases Spreading North, for Humans and Their Food.

Where human health is concerned, there is not only the direct risk from pathogens like dengue, malaria and cholera, all of which are linked to warmer temperatures, but indirect risks from threats to agricultural systems and game species crucial for subsistence and cultural activities.