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Is Tycho Brahe Ready for His BioPic

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I’ve long been fascinated by the colorful life and career of Tycho Brahe, ever since first encountering his story in a couple of astronomy classes I took at UT, back when I was foolish enough to be a physics major. Whenever I’ve told others about Tycho Brahe’s metal nose, and that he1 died due to drinking heavily at a banquet, without taking time out to relieve his bladder, much wonderment ensued.

When Danish and Czech scientists exhumed the remains of the astronomer Tycho Brahe in Prague this month, they dug up much more than some bones and hairs. They found something that has eluded astronomers for thousands of years: a story with major box-office potential.

It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!).

For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant.

Naturally, the scientists analyzing Brahe’s remains are steering clear of all this gossip, including the claim that Brahe had an affair with the Danish queen that helped inspire “Hamlet.” The archaeologist leading the team cautions that even if they confirm suspicions that Brahe was poisoned by mercury, that wouldn’t necessarily prove he was murdered, much less identify the killer.

(click to continue reading Is Tycho Ready for His Close-Up? – NYTimes.com.)

So, who is working on a film treatment for Tycho Brahe’s Biopic? I’d volunteer, but I have a couple of dozen already started. Why don’t you do it?

John Tierney has a few thoughts on the matter:

The movie would open, of course, with the duel in 1566 that cost the 20-year-old Tycho a good chunk of his nose (a sword fight possibly precipitated by an argument over mathematics, or maybe a mistaken astrological prediction by Tycho). Before long Tycho has a metal nose as well as an island with a castle and an observatory, financed by the king of Denmark and equipped with the most precise instruments yet built for tracking the planets and stars.

Tycho wins renown by identifying new stars, including a supernova, but after his royal patron dies, Tycho finds himself out of favor with the son and successor, Christian IV. Tycho goes to Prague and a new patron, Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. As he prepares to publish his decades of celestial observations, Tycho hopes to prove that all the planets except Earth revolve around the Sun, which in turn revolves around the Earth.

Read more, or Wikipedia’s entry which includes this bit:

Tycho suddenly contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later, on 24 October 1601. According to Kepler’s first hand account, Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette. After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except, eventually, in very small quantities and with excruciating pain. The night before he died he suffered from a delirium during which he was frequently heard to exclaim that he hoped he would not seem to have lived in vain. Before dying, he urged Kepler to finish the Rudolphine Tables and expressed the hope that he would do so by adopting Tycho’s own planetary system, rather than Copernicus’s. A contemporary physician attributed his death to a kidney stone, but no kidney stones were found during an autopsy performed after his body was exhumed in 1901, and the modern medical assessment is that it is more likely to have resulted from uremia.

Recent investigations have suggested that Tycho did not die from urinary problems but instead from mercury poisoning—extremely toxic levels of it have been found in hairs from his moustache. The results were, however, not conclusive. Prague City Hall approved a request by Danish scientists to exhume the remains in February 2010, and a team of Czech and Danish scientists from Aarhus University arrived in November 2010, to take bone, hair and clothing samples for analysis.

(click to continue reading Tycho Brahe – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Cecil Adams adds:

It happened in 1566 while the 20-year-old Tycho was studying at the University of Rostock in Germany. Attending a dance at a professor’s house, he got into a quarrel with one Manderup Parsbjerg, like himself a member of the Danish gentry. Over a woman? Nah—tradition has it that the two were fighting over some fine point of mathematics. (My guess: Fermat’s Next-to-Last Theorem, which posits that 2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2.) Friends separated them, but they got into it again at a Christmas party a couple weeks later and decided to take it outside in the form of a duel. Unfortunately for Tycho the duel was conducted in pitch darkness with swords. Parsbjerg, a little quicker off the dime, succeeded in slicing off the bridge (apparently) of Tycho’s nose.

Reconstructive surgery then being in a primitive state, Tycho concealed the damage as best he could with an artificial bridge made of precious metals. He carried some nose goop with him always, either to polish the nose or to glue it more firmly in place. But no hooks or string, and probably no whistling either.

(click to continue reading The Straight Dope: Did astronomer Tycho Brahe really have a silver nose?.)

  1. allegedly – apparently, the newer suggestion is that he was poisoned by a rival []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 1st, 2010 at 9:47 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with ,

links for 2010-10-14

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  • “We have probably 60 or so foreign multi-national companies in our membership that we have had for decades, many of which have been in the United States for half a century or a century,” said Josten.

    The Chamber is being deceptive. In addition to multinational members of the Chamber headquartered abroad (like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens), a new ThinkProgress investigation has identified at least 84 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6). Below is a chart detailing the annual dues foreign corporations have indicated that they give directly to the Chamber

    Jean Cocteau Two screenplays.jpg
  • What the new genre of foreclosure photography reveals about the human side of the Great Recession.
  • But, if I were a teacher, I’d definitely bring in my humidifier and park it in the corner of a classroom. Leaving one humming in the background might just reduce the transmission of all those combined flu particles hanging, exhaled, in the air. Studies have shown that humidifying nursing homes reduces flu transmission – so it’s not just a theoretical benefit. So if you’re a parent, consider sharing this info, as well as the gift of a humidifier, with your kids’ teachers. You don’t need an expensive humidifier – in fact the types that simultaneously heat the air may lead to mold growth in the humidifier (something you definitely don’t want to be blowing into the air you breathe). A good old cheap type of humidifier that you dump out each day and refill is plenty good enough.
    (tags: science)
  • Two years ago today, Jonah Goldberg offered Juan Cole a bet: “Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there’s another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I’m all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc
  • The notion that Tribune editor Gerry Kern would be offended is laughable and just goes to show you how lame the whole company has become – I mean, it was lame before, but at least in a less psychotic way. We get Corporate Lame. This is the jocks vs. the nerds and I can’t take sides in that crappy fight. I hated high school. I’m with the rockers, the burnouts, the misfits, the pranksters, and the smart and witty independent outsiders who don’t care about the prom, their SATs, or tattling about beer and sex. My god, when they came for the journalists there were none of us left!

    I didn’t go to my high school prom either, can I join your club…

    Flesh Cult 1963.jpg

Written by swanksalot

October 14th, 2010 at 7:02 am

Posted in Links

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links for 2010-10-12

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  • It is the policy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce not to distribute or make public information about our members. To find out if a specific company is a member, you will have to contact the company directly.


    Secrets, secrets, I guess not many want to be associated publicly with this shady partisan organization

  • The answer should be apparent: We need to run from the “tough on crime” policies of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s time for greater emphasis on alternative sentences, an end to mandatory minimums and increased good time. There should be more spent on prisoner re-entry programs and prevention and less on prisons.
    (tags: crime Drug_War)Reefer Madness.jpg
  • In our apartment building, the windows are cleaned professionally once per year. According to the window cleaners, if you don’t do this, the windows could brown. Is this true? Or was this just a sales tactic? It is true. If your windows are not cleaned often, at least an average of four times a year, the sun will bake the dirt onto the glass and ruin them.
    (tags: diy)
  • The Waldseemüller map, printed in 1507, depicted the New World in a new way—”surrounded on all sides by the ocean,” in the words of an accompanying book—and named the continent for the Florentine merchant who had sailed down its eastern coast.

    Wish this was a bigger reproduction though

    (tags: maps history)
  • What is the andersonville galleria? The andersonville galleria, in the heart of the thriving Andersonville retail corridor, is a retail market building that currently features over 90 tenants offering apparel, jewelry, artwork, home furnishings, giftware, accessories, antiques. fair trade, and gourmet treats.

    The andersonville galleria is located at 5247 N. Clark Street, in Chicago, which is right in the heart of Andersonville

    (tags: chicago arts)
  • We called Senator Coburn’s Washington office to find out his annual operating budget. His assistant revealed that Coburn’s office has an estimated annual budget of $3 million, and that none of that recurrent funding has led to a cure for cancer.

    That is, as of 2008 or so, this country spent about $5 million funding political science research, and about $3 million funding Tom Coburn.AssholeBadge.jpg

  • Those of us in the industry have watched a series of ill-timed decisions wreck a lot of careers in the past few years, so it’s hard for me to get specifically exercised about Zell and Michaels (and you may have noticed a rash of mismanagement in other industries over the same period that, like, brought the national economy to its knees). Zell, Michaels, et al certainly deserve what Carr gave them. But the rot’s a lot deeper
    (tags: media)
  • Hang out in airports, coffee shops, or other laptop-friendly spots for a while, and you’ll find “Free Public Wi-Fi.” NPR explains that “Free Public WiFi” was never free, and never public, and not actually a Wi-Fi service. It likely started as a joke or prank, but then spread around the world because of a quirk in pre-SP 3 versions of Windows XP:
    Matisse - Dance (2).jpg

Written by swanksalot

October 12th, 2010 at 7:01 am

Toothless FDA Nibble on Frankenfish

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Unlabeled genetically engineered salmon: such a crowd pleaser that the FDA is working overtime to change the subject and make excuses, and the AquaBounty “fish” isn’t even on the market yet. Too bad we don’t have any regulatory agencies that are concerned with public opinion, and public safety.

Fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon

The FDA’s apparent readiness to approve the AquaBounty salmon has inflamed a coalition of consumer, environmental, animal welfare and fishing groups, who have accused the agency of basing its judgment on data compiled from small samples supplied by the company, rushing the public portion of the review process and disclosing insufficient information about the fish.

The FDA does not have an approval process designed specifically for genetically engineered animals and is evaluating the salmon under the process used for new veterinary drugs. That means that much of the data provided to FDA to demonstrate the safety of the fish is considered a trade secret.

The process doesn’t allow enough public participation, doesn’t give the FDA enough leeway to consider environmental factors and doesn’t give the agency enough power to withdraw the salmon from the market if something should go wrong, said Greg Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a member of the FDA advisory committee that will evaluate the agency’s findings.

(click to continue reading FDA advisors to vote on genetically engineered salmon – latimes.com.)

So is this frankenfish safe to eat or not? I couldn’t tell you, but I’d sure like the FDA to conduct more tests instead of rushing this beast to market.

Fishy Fishy Fish

Written by Seth Anderson

September 20th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck

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“The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe” (Marcus Chown)

I was lucky to have good science teachers in school, but I understand Maggie Koerth-Baker’s point about how physics is often taught in America. Sounds like a fun and educational book…

Stumble After Stumble

Physics can seem a lot like a dirty trick. You spend most of junior high and high school being told that there are rules to this thing, that the Universe functions in predictable and rational ways. Apples always fall down from the tree onto Newton’s head. Cars traveling at different speeds crash into each other with a force that you can sit down and calculate on a TI-86.

And then they pull the rug out from under you.

Suddenly, it’s all photons, antimatter, and cats that are simultaneously alive and dead. Even the Universe itself might be just one of many, with every outcome that has ever been possible playing itself out somewhere. It’s confusing. And into that gap in popular knowledge tumbles everybody who bought into What the Bleep Do We Know?

If you’re lost, Marcus Chown can help. His book, The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck, explains how science got from the macro, everyday world of Newtonian Laws to the far-out, quantum reality we know today. More importantly, he makes the latter relevant, piecing together science history, sub-atomic particles, physical cosmology and everyday life. If you read one physics book after graduating from high school—hell, if you read one physics book while in high school—this should be it.

When I say that Chown makes quantum physics relevant, I mean more than simply praise for his ability to connect complex theory to brilliantly simple real-world analogies and mental pictures. Although, that’s awesome.

One of the frustrating things about the way physics is taught in school is the way it disconnects Point A from Point Z.

(click to continue reading Read This: The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck – Boing Boing.)

If you understand physics, you understand your world, simple as that.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 19th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Suggestions

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Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits

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Interesting research. Maybe this is why I always am reading several books at once, on varied topics? Who knows.Erected by the Board of Education 1892

Yet there are effective approaches to learning, at least for those who are motivated. In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying.

The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.

For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.

The advantages of this approach to studying can be striking, in some topic areas. In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University of South Florida taught a group of fourth graders four equations, each to calculate a different dimension of a prism. Half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied.

A day later, the researchers gave all of the students a test on the material, presenting new problems of the same type. The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent. The researchers have found the same in experiments involving adults and younger children.

“When students see a list of problems, all of the same kind, they know the strategy to use before they even read the problem,” said Dr. Rohrer. “That’s like riding a bike with training wheels.” With mixed practice, he added, “each problem is different from the last one, which means kids must learn how to choose the appropriate procedure — just like they had to do on the test.”

These findings extend well beyond math, even to aesthetic intuitive learning. In an experiment published last month in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers found that college students and adults of retirement age were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections (assortments, including works from all 12) than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, all together, then moving on to the next painter.

The finding undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre, or type of creative work, said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College and the lead author of the study. “What seems to be happening in this case is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns when seeing assortments of paintings; it’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different about them,” often subconsciously.

(click to continue reading Mind – Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits – NYTimes.com.)

I’m luckily not a teacher, but I do remember how I performed best in college exams: review the material a few days before the test, let it percolate, revisit the topics the night before, sleep well, and depending on how challenging the material, review a last time the morning of the exam. Of course, not all classes benefited from this sort of regime – too boring, or too many social activities conflicting, or whatever – but the tests that I studied for in different places, at different times, I nearly always aced. I also never crammed, more so because I was lazy, and there were other items on my agenda, but also because I never found staying up all night to give a good end result.

postscript – this correction amused me:

Correction: September 8, 2010

An article on Tuesday about the effectiveness of various study habits described incorrectly the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics. The principle holds that the act of measuring one property of a particle (position, for example) reduces the accuracy with which you can know another property (momentum, for example) — not that the act of measuring a property of the particle alters that property

Written by Seth Anderson

September 8th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

New Alzheimer’s Discovery by Paul Greengard

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I have an1 irrational fear of Alzheimer’s Disease. Losing control of one’s mind is a horrible fate.

[Paul Greengard] got interested in Alzheimer’s about 25 years ago when his wife’s father developed it, and his research is now supported by a philanthropic foundation that was started solely to allow him to study the disease.

It was mostly these funds and federal government grants that allowed him to find a new protein that is needed to make beta amyloid, which makes up the telltale plaque that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

The finding, to be published Thursday in the journal Nature, reveals a new potential drug target that, according to the prevailing hypothesis of the genesis of Alzheimer’s, could slow or halt the devastating effects of this now untreatable disease.

The work involves laboratory experiments and studies with mice — it is far from ready for the doctor’s office. But researchers, still reeling from the announcement two weeks ago by Eli Lilly that its experimental drug turned out to make Alzheimer’s worse, not better, were encouraged.

“This really is a new approach,” said Dr. Paul Aisen, of the University of California, San Diego. “The work is very strong, and it is very convincing.” Dr. Aisen directs a program financed by the National Institute on Aging to conduct clinical trials of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

(click to continue reading New Discovery Encourages Alzheimer’s Researchers – NYTimes.com.)


  1. probably []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 2nd, 2010 at 7:05 am

Posted in health

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Plants can think and remember

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Remove Critter Litter

Odd. We better watch our backs – we as a species have destroyed a lot of plants. If they ever start to communicate with each other, and organize, watch out…

Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.

These “electro-chemical signals” are carried by cells that act as “nerves” of the plants.

The researchers used fluorescence imaging to watch the plants respond In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.

And the response, which took the form of light-induced chemical reactions in the leaves, continued in the dark.

This showed, they said, that the plant “remembered” the information encoded in light.

Farmers Market flowers

“We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part,” explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.

He presented the findings at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.

“And the changes proceeded when the light was off… This was a complete surprise.”


(click to continue reading BBC News – Plants ‘can think and remember’.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2010 at 7:27 am

Posted in News-esque

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Antibody Kills 91 percent of HIV Strains

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Too early to return to the Studio 54 era1, but positive news nonetheless.

Rain slicked streets 1

In a significant step toward an AIDS vaccine, U.S. government scientists have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered.

The antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. Researchers screened 25 million of his cells to find 12 that produced the antibodies. Now the trick will be for scientists to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them.

That effort “will require work,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was a leader of the research. “We’re going to be at this for a while” before any benefit is seen in the clinic, he said.

The research was published Thursday in two papers in the online edition of the journal Science, 10 days before the opening of the large International AIDS Conference in Vienna, where prevention science is expected to take center stage.

(click to continue reading Antibody Kills 91% of HIV Strains – WSJ.com or here for non-subscribers)


  1. shorthand for promiscuous, anonymous, unprotected sex, well, allegedly, I was too young to witness it myself, but I’ve heard tales []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 8th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

New Artificial Bone Made of Wood

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Pretty damn amazing, really.

Stumped and Charred

A new procedure to turn blocks of wood into artificial bones has been developed by Italian scientists, who plan to implant them into large animals, and eventually humans.

Wood-derived bone substitute should allow live bones to heal faster and more securely after a break than currently available metal and ceramic implants.

The researchers chose wood because it closely resemble the physical structure of natural bone, “which is impossible to reproduce with conventional processing technology.”

“Our purpose is to convert native wood structures into bioactive, inorganic compounds destined to substitute portions of bone,” said Anna Tampieri, a scientist at the Instituto Di Scienza E Techologia Dei Materiali Ceramici in Italy.

To create the bone substitute, the scientists start with a block of wood — red oak, rattan and sipo work best — and heat it until all that remains is pure carbon, which is basically charcoal.

The scientists then spray calcium over the carbon, creating calcium carbide. Additional chemical and physical steps convert the calcium carbide into carbonated hydroxyapatite, which can then be implanted and serves as the artificial bone.

(click to continue reading New Artificial Bone Made of Wood : Discovery News.)


Written by Seth Anderson

July 1st, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Posted in health

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Afghanistan and Toxic Sand

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Sounds like another reason to leave Afghanistan sooner than later.

Messages from Above

U.S. troops already face plenty of threats in Afghanistan: AK-47–wielding insurgents, improvised bombs, an intransigent and incompetent government. Now add a less familiar challenge to that list of woes: Afghanistan’s toxic sand.

The pulverized turf, it turns out, contains high levels of manganese, silicon, iron, magnesium, aluminum, chromium and other metals that act as neurotoxic agents when ingested. Combine the country’s frequent sandstorms and the kicked-up dust that results from helicopter travel with troops’ nostrils, mouths and pores, and you’ve got an unexpected example of how inhospitable the terrain is for the soon-to-be 98,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fighting the war.

That’s all according to new research presented this month to a neurotoxicology conference in Oregon by a senior scientist with the Navy Environmental Health Effects Laboratory. That scientist, Palur G. Gunasekar, tells Politics Daily’s Sheila Kaplan that “[a]s the sand extract dose increases at the higher concentration you see cell death.”

(click to continue reading U.S. Troops Face New Threat: Afghanistan’s Toxic Sand | Danger Room | Wired.com.)


Written by Seth Anderson

June 28th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , ,

Watching Families Is Purest form of birth control ever devised

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UCLA researchers put 32 families under the microscope:

Baby Factory

At a conference here this month, more than 70 social scientists gathered to bring to a close one of the most unusual, and oddly voyeuristic, anthropological studies ever conceived. From 2002 to 2005, before reality TV ruled the earth, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, laboriously recruited 32 local families, videotaping nearly every waking, at-home moment during a week — including the Jacket Standoff.

…But the U.C.L.A. project was an attempt to capture a relatively new sociological species: the dual-earner, multiple-child, middle-class American household. The investigators have just finished working through the 1,540 hours of videotape, coding and categorizing every hug, every tantrum, every soul-draining search for a missing soccer cleat.

“This is the richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world,” said Thomas S. Weisner, a professor of anthropology at U.C.L.A. who was not involved in the research. “What it does is hold up a mirror to people. They laugh. They cringe. It shows us life as it is actually lived.”

After more than $9 million and untold thousands of hours of video watching, they have found that, well, life in these trenches is exactly what it looks like: a fire shower of stress, multitasking and mutual nitpicking. And the researchers found plenty to nitpick themselves.

(click to continue reading Every Hug, Every Fuss – Scientists Record Families’ Daily Lives – NYTimes.com.)

and the most true thing I’ve read in days:

after a while, they said, family members shrugged off the cameras and relaxed.

The same cannot be said of the fieldworkers, most of them childless graduate students seeing combat for the first time. “The very purest form of birth control ever devised. Ever,” said one, Anthony P. Graesch, a postdoctoral fellow, about the experience.

Oh, indeed. I’m glad the human race is continuing 1, and that families exist, but I’m also positive I don’t have the patience or stamina to have my own.

  1. well, usually. Overpopulation is an abstraction, but I’ve met plenty of cool kids []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Posted in News-esque

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Arctic explorers take first-ever water samples at north pole

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Wow, finally, after so many years, some data from the polar ice

Foot of the Mendenhall Glacier

Arctic explorers have taken the first-ever samples of ocean water at the north pole after a gruelling two-and–a-half month expedition across the polar ice.

Headed by former bank manager Ann Daniels, the Catlin Arctic survey team achieved what last year’s expedition – led by polar explorer Pen Hadow – failed to do: reach the north pole and take water samples to measure the impact of a changing climate.

Pen Hadow, the survey’s director and last year’s expedition leader, said: “It’s not possible to imagine what this team has had to do to pull off this extreme survey. I consider them to be the world’s toughest to have done this.”

The survey hopes to measure how fast the Arctic Ocean is acidifying due to rising CO2 levels and what effect it has on the region’s animals and plants. Setting out in early March, the three-strong explorer team trekked over 483 miles across sea ice off the coast of Greenland to the geographic north pole.

Daniels said: “It has been an unbelievably hard journey. Conditions have been unusually tough and at times very frustrating with a frequent southerly drift pushing us backwards every time we camped for the night. On top of that we’ve had to battle into headwinds and swim across large areas of dangerously thin ice and open water.”

The team also struggled with ice cracks forming under their tent and thin ice and fierce north winds.

Last year’s Catlin Arctic survey, which found evidence that Arctic ice was thinner than expected, was beset by technical difficulties, and the team had to be airlifted off the ice before reaching the pole.

On their journey to the north pole, the Catlin team drilled, collected water samples – sometimes from 5,000m deep – and measured ice thickness.

As the adventurers forged north, a separate team of scientists undertook measurements and samples at an ice base north of Canada in -45C temperatures. Between the two groups, the survey has collected over 2,200 pieces of data from plankton collections, ice core samples and around 350 water samples. The samples will now be sent to British Columbia in Canada for analysis.

Globally, oceans have seen a 30% increase in acidity on pre-industrial levels, the fastest rate of change in 55m years. Scientists say that carbon emissions from human activity is to blame. The Arctic Ocean appears to be acidifying faster than warmer regions because cold water absorbs more CO2.

(click to continue reading Arctic explorers take first-ever water samples at north pole.)

Mendenhall Glacier

The Climate Deniers will have their spin ready, presumedly

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2010 at 7:32 am

Climategate: Officially a Fake Scandal

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But of course it is, all an independent observer had to do was look at the parties kvetching and the parties kvetched about, and weigh who had more credibility. Hint, not the Fox News team…

Eagle on Ice
[Eagles sitting on an Alaskan glacier fragment]

Despite relentless noise from climate skeptics about the so-called “Climategate” email scandal, an independent review released today cleared the scientists involved of wrong-doing.

East Anglia University, home of the Climatic Research Unit whose servers were hacked to obtain the emails in question, commissioned an independent review council to look into whether there was any evidence of malfeasance among scientists involved in the email exchange. The panel concluded:

We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
The panel did note that there is a need for greater collaboration between climate scientists, outside of just the small group at CRU. But the university called the conclusion “gratifying.”

Other independent analysis has also made it clear that skeptics are making a lot of noise out of nothing.

[Click to continue reading Climategate: Officially a Fake Scandal | Mother Jones]

Still, the ExxonMobil sponsored Rethuglicans use the strategy of the Big Lie. By the time the truth emerges, half of the folks who only pay attention to the surface of the news will be repeating the Big Lie as if it were gospel.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 15th, 2010 at 9:18 am

Do Not Listen to Right Wing Weathermen

without comments

So amazing that public opinion can be such at odds with scientific fact. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, people believe in witches and angels and so forth.

Out of your cloud again

Elizabeth Kolbert, of the New Yorker, writes:

Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. Virtually every major scientific body in the world has concluded that the planet is warming, and that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main cause. Bastardi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, disagrees. His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.

Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. A survey released by researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” (The survey also found that more than eighty per cent of weathercasters don’t trust “mainstream news media sources,” though they are presumably included in this category.)

Why, with global warming, is it always one step forward, two, maybe three steps back?

[Click to continue reading Weathermen, and other climate change skeptics : The New Yorker]

Wrap Your Dreams In Troubles

and on the crazy, oft-repeated assertion that somehow a mistake in a United Nations Report invalidated the entire evidence for global climate change:

The e-mail brouhaha was followed by—and immediately confused with—another overblown controversy, about a mistake in the second volume of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, from 2007. On page 493 of the nine-hundred-and-seventy-six-page document, it is asserted, incorrectly, that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. (The report cites as a source for this erroneous information a report by the World Wildlife Fund.) The screw-up, which was soon acknowledged by the I.P.C.C. and the W.W.F., was somehow transformed by commentators into a reason to doubt everything in the three-volume assessment, including, by implication, the basic laws of thermodynamics. The “new scandal (already awarded the unimaginative name of ‘Glaciergate’) raises further challenges for a scientific theory that is steadily losing credibility,” James Heiser wrote on the Web site of the right-wing magazine New American.

No one has ever offered a plausible account of why thousands of scientists at hundreds of universities in dozens of countries would bother to engineer a climate hoax. Nor has anyone been able to explain why Mother Nature would keep playing along; despite what it might have felt like in the Northeast these past few months, globally it was one of the warmest winters on record.

The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories—these are all a distraction from what’s really happening. Which, apparently, is what we’re looking for.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/04/12/100412taco_talk_kolbert#ixzz0kbr0IhSj

Mind boggling, and why worry about the small stuff in our daily lives? We’re all going to drown soon as the morons yell down the scientists and influence the politicians to ignore the problem, and we pass the point of No Return.

One final point: I did not realize this schmuck Joe Bastardi1 worked for AccuWeather. I’m deleting their apps from my iPhone and iPad. Why support this asshole?

  1. I’m not making the obvious joke about his name as I’m sure so many have before me []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 9th, 2010 at 7:39 am