Category Archives: Science

Five? Thirty? Damn It, I Need to Eat!

This doggie cares not for your 5 second rule.Mr Thursday has long subscribed to the 5 Second Rule. In fact, we’ve subscribed to it fairly liberally. If we drop our orange peel on our own floor, then we’re picking it back up, whether it be 5 seconds or 10, or even 20 (though, I wonder what circumstances would constitute a 20 second gap between Drop and Pick-Up). If we, however, drop said peel into the kitty litter, then it’s dead to us, regardless of duration. This philosophy may be foolish, willfully ignorant, and rambunctiously stupid, but it is, nonetheless, our modus operandi. So back off.

Some news has come to light that cannot be overlooked, though.

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Fact or Fiction

The Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV)- AIDS theory….that’s an incredibly contentious issue. I don’t pretend to be a biologist or epidemiologist, but I do have to say that I find the theory interesting. Recently, I finished reading The River by Edward Hooper after two years of trying to get through it. College kept getting in the way. Now college is over, and the book likewise, so I have, for you, a short, amateur critique of the book, its theory, and its agents.

The OPV-AIDS theory basically contends that the AIDS pandemic was an accidental, man-made disaster that was brought about by large polio vaccinations that took place in the late 1950s in the Belgian Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. The particular vaccine under suspicion is the CHAT vaccine created by Dr. Hilary Koprowski, a virologist and renowned scientist of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Hooper suggests that chimpanzes were used for Monkey Kidney Tissue Cultures (MKTC) in order to create the vaccines. Koprowski and others involved refute this claim and say that African Green Monkeys were used although there is no hard, written evidence for either claim.

Nevertheless, Koprowski did create a chimp colony outside of Stanelyville (currently Kisangani) with the help of his friend, Ghislain Courtois, which housed between 400 and 600 chimps between 1956 and 1960. Koprowski suggests that these chimps were used for testing the polio vaccines and it’s effects and not for creating vaccine. However, with such a large, available pool of viable MKTC, it is hard to believe that a scientist would be able to resist. Especially in the era before we realized the dangers of using chimp MKTC.

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Google Earth

Google is a benevolent empire that has invaded every portion of our technological lives from basic information search to U.S. patent searches to shopping. Everything is on Google. Therefore, it wasn’t much of a stretch that their new feature: Google Earth would be equally amazing. “Hey! I can see my house from space!” Who doesn’t enjoy that?

When exploring Google Earth, one can scan over areas of the entire world. The United States and much of Western Europe are highly detailed. When you zoom in enough, you can pick out roads, favorite parks, cars, etc. When you drift farther away from the West, the picture becomes a little fuzzier. Tajikistan shows all of the physical characteristics of the country, but I couldn’t see one hut. (But if you want to look at something fun, find Mount Everest). However, there is one part of Google Earth that stands out when you scan the world. In the middle of Africa, you can see a series of fires, videos, and what appears to be a chaotic conglomeration of links and pictures. This is Darfur.

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Lion vs. Hyena

Why are there not more videos like this? Hat tip is inadequate: Captain Caveman, we genuflect before you for this find. Amazing. Thank you.

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I Sing the Body Cosmic

[Link] In 1993, NASA announced they were going to build a space station that would orbit the earth and allow astronauts to take very pretty pictures of space from really far away. The station would cost an extraordinary amount of money, and recieved a lot of criticism since it had no percieved purpose. The public view of the station was a combination of NASA’s vanity and science-fiction. We’d fly up into space, build a big station, and ya know, sit there, enjoy the view, whatever.

In 1995, a good deal of the criticism was relieved by Dr. Samuel Ting, who is a Nobel Prize winning particle physicist, which means he’s significantly smarter than anyone who reads or writes this blog. Doc Ting proposed building a big ole machine that would look for, and hopefully find, antimatter.

(A quick aside on antimatter: For those who are curious what antimatter is, well, no one at the Curious Mechanism is any sort of science major, but here’s the gist as I understand it: for every particle (proton, electron, etc) there is an antiparticle. Now, this antiparticle has the same properties as its particle [size, and, uh, I don’t know, color?] except that its charge is opposite. Now, particles make up matter, by extension, antiparticles make up (da-dada-DAA!) antimatter. We cool? Let’s move on.)

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Never Before Seen

So, as spoken of on Friday, Discovery played its “Planet Earth” special, which, as it turns out, was created over the course of 5 years by BBC. Basically, HD existed, and as soon as it did, BBC and Discovery decided to take a bunch of these shiny, new HD cameras and head out to just about everywhere to film animals and plants.

The result is visually spectacular. The first three (of eleven) hour-long episodes aired last night, “Pole to Pole”, “Mountains”, and “Ocean Deep”, and are incredible enough to make me look into buying an HD TV. The series is capably narrated by Sigourney Weaver, and despite doing an excellent job, I’m somewhat disappointed to not hear the excellent David Attenborough describe to me the hunts of snow leopards and wolves. A remarkable number of the scenes are “never before seen”. We know this because, not only do they look like nothing we, the general viewing audience, has ever seen before, but because the scriptwriter has Sigourney mentioning the rarity of each instance: unusual, rare, very rare, or never before seen. It’s a minor distraction in a superb broadcast.

For anyone looking for real meat on specific subject matter, look elsewhere. The lack of details about the habits of some of the creatures of a given habitat are not a shortcoming. Planet Earth isn’t for the most thorough examination of caribou. It’s an overview of the planet, mostly looking at the fauna. It’s a display of Earth’s diversity.

I have no clue when it’s going to re-air, but every Sunday at 8PM for the next few weeks, Discovery will air the rest of the episodes. Seriously, watch it. And if possible, watch it on HD.

[Planet Earth Official Website]

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I Love Earth. I’ve Lived Here My Whole Life.

Okay, I suspect I’ve advertised for Discovery Channel programming in this space in the past (what? I haven’t? Okay, well, watch the Discovery Channel.) I love Discovery. I watch repeats of MythBusters just about whenever they air to the point where I can provide you the following list, off the top of my head:

Professions/Unusual Skills Held By MythBuster Jamie Hyneman (The One With the Sweet ‘Stache)

  1. Special Effects creator
  2. Fluent in Russian
  3. Certified scuba diver
  4. Pet shop owner
  5. Machinist
  6. Chef
  7. Sea Captain

He may also be entirely insane. I’m actually somewhat afraid of him.

Anyway, Discovery has a new 11 part series called (dum dada DUM!) Planet Earth starting this weekend. I’m going watch it. And then I’m probably going to write about it here, because, well, sometimes I can’t help but write about random crap on TV.

So, Sunday night, 8PM, watch it. Discovery Channel.

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None of This Makes Any Sense

This news is a month old, but it had to come all the way from Idaho to reach the Curious Mechanism in Philadelphia, so I hope you understand the delay. 

Bill Sali, a freshmen Congressman from Idaho, decided that raising the minimum wage defied “natural law” and so, to respond, he sponsored the “Obesity Reduction and Health Promotion Act”.  This bill, ahem, reduces gravity.  By 10 percent. 

To repeat: Bill Sali is trying to abolish gravity. 

Now, the man was clearly kidding.  The bill was a symbol to make a point.  We don’t think he’s a fool for trying to make his point in an utterly hilarious fashion.  Oh no, that deserves applause.  Right now the most sarcastic person in government is Dick Cheney, and he’s also scary, so it’s tougher to appreciate the humor. 

We question, however, the intelligence of the point he’s trying to make.  The argument seems to go like this: “People are fat, and this is a problem.  How can we solve the problem?  Oh, let’s repeal gravity!  No, that won’t work, because it’s not physically possible.  Also, people are poor.  How can we solve that problem?  Oh, let’s pay them more!  Oh, that won’t work either, because it’s ALSO a violation of natural law.” 

We don’t think, first off, that Sali understands what a natural law is.  Or what economics are.  Certainly, raising the minimum wage doesn’t solve all the problems of the impoverished, but we struggle to see how this will cause catastrophe, or in what way in violates nature.  Also, we can’t figure out how lowering gravity will also lower body fat.  Shouldn’t we raise gravity?  Wouldn’t everyone have to work harder to move, so they’d burn more calories just from walking around than before? 

Anyway, Bill Sali: Comedic Genius, and one of our new favorite Congressman, though we’re grateful he gets only 1/435th of the vote.


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