A Hole In The Tree

One of the sights you see in spring here in the Adirondacks is that some of the fir trees have big square holes dug into them.  The explanation for them is that woodpeckers make them.   The question I often had was:  Why?  You see, it’d be understandable if they were digging out a nesting hole, except that the holes aren’t high up, they’re usually waist level or lower.  They’re also not obviously going after something like a grub which would be nearer the bark of the tree.    This spring, I finally got my answer as to what was happening.

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Some Science Stuff

One of the things that has caused me to lose serious respect for many environmental action groups is their hysteria over genetically modified organisms.   Their attacks rely on a lot of junk science, and some other things:

Well, it owes to a mishmash of anti-corporatist ideology, natural fallacy (GMOs are not natural!) and precautionary principle extremism. But here’s the odd thing. If you read through the reader responses to the NRO article, you’ll see lots of GMO-fearing conservatives who also hate Monsanto.

Over the years I’ve seen more crap about this than anything else.   It doesn’t help at all, and particularly when you have well-known people pushing it through sloppy, plagiarized books and using their reputations as an appeal to authority.  It needs to change.

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Sharks and Other Critters on A Tuesday

In a previous post, I talked about a fossil jaw that had stumped scientists for over a century.  It belonged to a fish called Helicoprion.  Well, we have some video:

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Thursday Science

One of the great tag lines for a movie was for the movie Alien:   “In space, no one can hear you scream.”    Well, scientists being the curious type, have decided to test that hypothesis.

A smartphone has been blasted into orbit from India by a team of researchers from the University of Surrey.

They hope to use a purpose-built app to test the theory, immortalised in the film Alien, that “in space no-one can hear you scream”.

The phone will play out several of the screams submitted by people online.

Hey, who knows, maybe you can hear a scream in space!

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Some Science – and Some Fun With It.

It’s possible to do science  “at home.”  It may not be good for your waistline, but you can do some interesting experiments making ice cream.   A few ziplock bags, some half-and-half, a few other ingredients, and you can do some science.  You can even eat the results.   You may need multiple repetitions to get things “just right.”

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More Metor!

Nice video of 2012 DA14 passing by the Earth:

 Video Credit & Copyright: Daniel López (El Cielo de Canarias)

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Meteors, Bigfoot, and a Frog

Yesterday was a busy day for space enthusiasts.  The “big news” leading into Friday was the close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14.   It was the subject of various news reports with astronomers being interviewed to reassure everyone that no, the asteroid would not hit Earth, it was going to be close (inside geosynchronous orbit) but not a danger.   The ultimate in “dumb questions” – yes, there are dumb questions! – was when a CNN anchor asked Bill Nye if the asteroid was the result of climate change.

“We want to bring in our science guy, Bill Nye, and talk about something else that’s falling from the sky, and that is an asteroid,” said Feyerick. “What’s coming our way? Is this the effect of, perhaps, global warming? Or is this just some meteoric occasion?”

“Except it’s all science,” Nye said rescuing Feyerick. “The word meteorology and the word meteor come from the same root, so…”

OK, if anyone wonders why the media has so little respect these days …

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Snow Day Musing

The latest winter storm, or as The Weather Channel calls it, winter storm “Nemo,” is moving off.    While we were under a winter storm warning, the actual brunt of it was off to the southeast of us.    Around here, we weren’t all that concerned, it’s stuff we’re used to handling.  A few years ago, we had a lot of snow fall, and while we’ve had more than last year – which was a very mild winter – we’re still not even in the ballpark of “heavy snows.”

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Tuesday Science Round Up

Last week I talked about the anti-vaccination groups and the problems they cause.  Yesterday, Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy had a much more detailed diatribe about that, and one of their media spokespeople:

McCarthy is the most famous face of the anti-vax movement. More than perhaps anyone else she has mainstreamed the incredibly dangerous claims of the anti-vaxxers, saying vaccines gave her son autism and that she cured him using what are known to be noneffective treatments. She decries vaccines as toxic, yet boasts about getting injected with Botox, which in reality contains the single most deadly protein toxin known (botulinin). What she says is phenomenally dangerous, and I consider her claims to be a substantial threat to public health.

I recommend reading the entire thing, along with the imbedded links.

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Anti-Vaccination Conspiracies and Darwin

Way back in the early 60’s, I, along with my classmates, had to stand in line for a nurse to jab us several times with a pronged needle.  Almost 20 years later, I stood in another line while an Army medic did the same thing.  Yes, I was vaccinated against smallpox.  Today, of course, most people don’t get this vaccine because the risk isn’t worth it.

There are side effects and risks associated with the smallpox vaccine. In the past, about 1 out of 1,000 people vaccinated for the first time experienced serious, but non-life-threatening, reactions including toxic or allergic reaction at the site of the vaccination (erythema multiforme), spread of the vaccinia virus to other parts of the body, and to other individuals. Potentially life-threatening reactions occurred in 14 to 500 people out of every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time. Based on past experience, it is estimated that 1 or 2 people in 1 million (0.000198%) who receive the vaccine may die as a result, most often the result of postvaccinial encephalitis or severe necrosis in the area of vaccination (called progressive vaccinia).

The reason is that smallpox no longer exists as a disease.   There are two known stocks of it in freezers, but as a health threat, it isn’t.  But at the time, the risk of the disease far outweighed the risk of vaccination.

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