Archive for Science

Let’s Play the Forest Fire Blame Game!

Politicians in California and the federal Government have already begun their bickering over who is responsible for the poor response to the fires in southern California, with Ruben Grijalva, the head of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, blaming the Marines and the federal Forest Service’s poor leadership for grounding two dozen water dropping helicopters. To tell the truth, I’m not all that interested in this fight, since I already know where to put the blame.
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Just Say No (To Drug Laws)

Turns out that punishment doesn’t decrease the number of people smoking marijuana. My source? No, not Cannabis Culture. Actually, the British Crime Survey (the equivalent of FBI crime statistics) released today found that the number of 16- to 24-year olds using marijuana has fallen 7 percent in the last decade, even though it was downgraded from a class B illegal drug (up to 5 years in prison) to a class C drug (up to 2 years) in 2004. In fact, since it was downgraded, it has fallen each year. Aside from being an ostrich-sized egg in the face of PM Brown, who’s taken up Reagan’s mantle, spreading urban myths about “super-weed” and trying to put marijuana back on the B list, it’s a bit of a blow to American drug policy, especially the “lock kids up ’til they have gray hair” part. Which is, of course, the only part of American drug policy.

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How to Identify Different Types of Pseudoscience From Very Far Away

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of diseased imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead— your next stop, the Pseudoscience Zone! (Intense apologies to Rod Sterling.)
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I’m Back (Re-Redux)

This is, if I haven’t lost count, the third time I’ve had to take an extended hiatus from blogging, and the second time for a surgery. I now have screws, pins, and pieces a dead guy’s hip in my back. So, once again, I apologize for my body’s noncooperation.

Yesterday, I woke up to the news that Al Gore had won the Nobel Prize. Since I can’t add anything to his speech and Stockholm’s decision other than “Yay!”, “Take that, Bush!”, and “Damn, I wish he’d run!”, this post is not about him. Instead, I’m ranting about something a little less time-sensitive.

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She Invented. She Invented. She Invented.

There’s a lively discussion at Feministing over whether Google’s algorithm is sexist (it isn’t, everyone else is) and whether D&D fans are all misogynist teenage boys (all the ones I’ve known are). Turns out that if you search for “she invented” on Google you get as a recommendation “he invented.” Now, as a self-identifying geek, I’m fairly sure that it’s because people search more often for “he invented” than “she invented” more than for any other reason (certainly not because Google has some secret anti-woman-scientist agenda). But, I also think that’s sad. So, here are a few “she invented”s for you and Google.

  • Hedy Lamar. She invented radio control for torpedoes that used frequency hopping.
  • Madame C. J. Walker. She invented a special soap and brush used for straightening hair.
  • Maria Telkes. She invented a solar heated house, a solar oven, and a distiller for life rafts.
  • Hypatia. She invented the astrolabe and hydrometer, and was murdered by monks who believed math and science to be immoral.
  • Ada Lovelace. She invented the binary system used in modern computers, and developed the programming code used in Charles Babbage’s computer.
  • Mary Walton. She invented one of the first systems for scrubbing pollution out of exhaust (essentially an enormous bong).
  • Beulah Louise Henry. She invented, among other things, a vacuum ice cream freezer, a typewriter that made four copies of whatever was typed on it, and the first bobbinless sewing machine.
  • Gertrude B. Elion. She invented many different medicines, including Purinethol, the first leukemia treatment; Imuran, an immuno-supressent used in organ transplants; the antibiotic Septra; and Zovirax, a treatment for viral herpes.
  • Erna Schneider Hoover. She invented a computerized telephone switching system that eliminated system overload.
  • Stephanie Kwoek. She invented Kevlar.
  • Katharine Blodgett. She invented, among other things, invisible glass, poison gas absorbents, the color gauge (an amazingly accurate ruler inspired by soap bubbles), and a method for deicing aircraft. She was also the first woman to get a Ph.D. from Cambridge.
  • Mary Anderson. She invented the windshield wiper.
  • Helen Blanchard. She invented several different sewing machines (including the first zigzag sewer) and different types of surgical needles.

And if you want to see more things that “she invented” go to this partial list of patents awarded to women in the US.

BTW, I’m going to be contacting Google, asking them to fix their algorithm so that it doesn’t suggest “he” for “she.” If you want to do the same, their contact info is:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
phone: (650) 253-0000
fax: (650) 253-000

I’ve yet to find a support e-mail address, but if I find one, I’ll update this page.

Update: Due to the large numbers of searches for “she invented,” on Google, “she invented” no longer triggers a recommendation for “he invented.” I’ve been out of touch, but it doesn’t look like Google made any changes to their algorithm. Score one for the wisdom of the masses.

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Idiots Run Our Country

Watermelons are vegetables, at least in Oklahoma. I am so not kidding. Oklahoma’s legislature voted to make the watermelon the official state vegetable because it is related to cucumbers. Sorry, but cukes are also fruits. But, what do you expect? It’s Oklahoma.

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Okay, I Lied. Sue Me.

I’m really back this time, but posts may be sporadic until mid-May. Aside from finals, I get to go doctor-hopping again (yippee!). Long story short(er), I’ve been having back pain and numbness again, so I’ve been trying to get in to see my neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, he’s insanely busy, and I couldn’t get in for a month. I went to my family doctor, who said that I had very distinct chyphosis (hunching), which I didn’t have a month ago, and that a few spinous processes were missing. So, my grandpa, bless him, e-mailed his doctor, who e-mailed my surgeon, who phoned me and said to come in that night. So, I was up at OHSU Thursday and Friday, having tests run, and they’re stumped so they’re sending me to a metabolic specialist to figure out what’s wrong with my spine. So I’m sorry for the sudden dearth of intelligent commentary in the blogosphere. (No, the fiasco hasn’t popped my inflated ego.)

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