August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017

Filed under: 100 Days of Summer,Science — Katrina @ 8:23 pm

So like everyone else in the country, I spent a good part of my afternoon looking at the sky. The DC area is north of the path of totality, so we didn’t get the full coverage and had to settle for a maximum of 80% moon blockage scheduled at 2:40pm. I procured a proper viewer and started to watch.

1:17pm: Moon begins to cross the sun. (Right on time!)

1:45pm: Sun resembles cookie with bite taken out of it.

2:15pm: Crescent sun!

2:35pm: Skinnier crescent sun, almost time for peak…

2:38pm: Almost…

2:39pm: Oh crap…

Big Clouds: “HEY, YOU GUYS! Can we join the party?”

:irked:

This has been Day 90 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 17.

December 15, 2015

Environmental Progress

Filed under: Assorted Politics,Christmas Time!,Science,What the hell? — Katrina @ 11:42 pm

Where does anyone get this ridiculous idea that being more environmentally friendly means impeding human progress? As if it’s one or the other. As if wanting to reduce pollution is against technology or something.

I’ve seen some of my friends make this sort of claim, particularly libertarians. And it’s pure political posturing, and as with most or all political posturing, it makes no sense.

Here’s a thought. Maybe a new technology that is more environmentally friendly than its predecessor is in itself a form of human progress. What an idea!

Instead of this whole “you want to reverse climate change? how dare you disparage the invention of the telephone!”, or, more to the point of what people who say this are really thinking, “how dare you impede a business’s right to destroy the planet!”, how about “hey, climate change is a problem, we need renewable energy, let’s embark on finding ways to solve these problems via, you guessed it, new science and technology!”?

This is obvious if you think about it for five seconds. Though if you’re just trying to make some political point, thought has nothing to do with anything.

December 5, 2015

Immunity Intact

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Science,What the hell?,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 10:53 pm

I hate it when anti-vaxxers and intactivists are talked about together as if they’re basically the same thing. Unfortunately, there is plenty of overlap, from those who see both issues as part of some “natural parenting” movement (more on that another day).

Anti-vaxxers are against vaccinations. Intactivists are against infant circumcision.

Those against both see it as some issue of infant body integrity, a thing I can get behind. But there’s one gigantic difference.

Vaccinations are actually extremely necessary, to save the baby and anyone around said baby from preventable diseases. This much is fact. When anti-vaxxers deny these life-saving vaccinations to their children, they are not protecting their children’s rights to their body. They are condemning their children to serious illness, a very severe violation of their rights and an abandonment of parental responsibility. And why? Because vaccines contain ingredients they can’t pronounce and that’s scary to them?

Circumcision, on the other hand, is not at all medically necessary. There is no prevention of life-threatening illness involved in it, unless you count the ridiculous grasping of straws like “uh, we think circumcision might possibly maybe prevent HIV (even though condoms would still be necessary so it doesn’t matter)”. And even so, most of the time it’s done for cosmetic or religious reasons, and people are really goddamn attached to these cosmetic or religious reasons, so this unnecessary barbaric practice continues. This is a painful violation of a child’s body that serves no real purpose and must be stopped.

Vaccinations save lives. Circumcisions are just “durr, foreskins are gross”.

Really no comparison.

December 3, 2014

The Rest of Life

Filed under: Assorted Politics,Christmas Time!,Science,Think About It! — Katrina @ 11:28 pm

There’s a quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson floating around, from an appearance with Bill Maher a few years ago, where he recalls noticing that the backgrounds of many Congressmen and Senators is law. And that he wondered “where are the scientists? where are the engineers? where is the rest of life represented?”

I’ll admit when I started writing this, already intending to speak on this quote, I hadn’t heard/seen the quote in context. When searching for the exact text, I instead found the above-linked video and heard his whole spiel. He precedes the above discussing that, with all these politicians having a law background, being trained specifically to argue, they are trained to basically argue their side and never come to an agreement. Okay, I may or may not be summarizing it well. Just watch the video and let him speak for himself!

The context doesn’t change what I intended to say, though. In fact, it just confirms it. He asks where the scientists and engineers are. I’ll tell you where they are… being awesome scientists and engineers and not wasting their time with political bullshit!

You know what’s extremely expensive? Scientific research. Even the smallest simplest research is really damn expensive, let alone the dizzying costs of medical research or the astronomical costs of, well, space exploration. But it’s all worth it, even the research that turns out to be a dead end, because it’s the noblest cause of all. It’s gaining information and developing things with that information to make our lives better, to advance, to reach untold unimagined heights. There is no greater investment in humanity and in, well, all of life and the universe.

By contrast, you know what else is really expensive? Political campaigns. Politicians are always raising money to beat the crap out of their opponent. We’ve got people dying from cancer, Ebola, AIDS, and countless other maladies and afflictions, which many millions spent in research can do something about. What do politicians spend millions on? Running mind-numbing advertisements calling their opponents douchebags.

So I’d say we’re better off with the scientists and engineers continuing to be scientists and engineers!

Of course, before I heard the rest of Tyson’s speech, my point was going to pretty much end there. He’s right, though. It makes sense. Politicians are trained to argue incessantly, so that’s exactly what they are doing, with their campaign funds, with their House and Senate votes. They don’t want to make the world better. They just want to pretend they do in order to get money and votes, in order to beat the Other Guy, to defeat the Other Party.

He’s implying that, if more politicians had backgrounds in science and other fields, we may have politicians who don’t have that urge, who are more interested in facts and solutions and improvement than in demolishing one another. It’s certainly plausible, right?

Then I remember Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon now vocal Tea Partier who may or may not try to run for President in 2016, who equated ObamaCare with slavery.

Yeah, never mind. :irked:

September 9, 2014

Metrication

Filed under: Science,Think About It!,What the hell? — Katrina @ 9:21 pm

Why the hell do we say “a thousand kilometers”? Why don’t we say “one megameter”? Because it sounds weird? It only sounds weird because it’s not in common use. The metric system comes with all these lovely prefixes for whichever power of ten off the basic unit you’re using, but for some reason we limit ourselves roughly to kilo and milli, if that. Centi only gets to shine when followed by meter. I see 10 milliliter containers and such quite a bit, but never once is it called “one centiliter”. Why not? That’s what it is, isn’t it? Even considering the circumstantial necessity of keeping decimal places constant, you’d think it might show up at least sometimes. And I never see any big vats of things labeled as “one kiloliter”.

Distance from Earth to the Sun? About 150 million kilometers? Pfft. What do you need all them extra decimal places for? Try 150 gigameters!

Why should bytes have all the fun?

Don’t even get me started on the sheer neglect suffered by all 10 centimeters of the decimeter. Or of all 100 meters of the hectometer, who only seems to show up when squared. You know, it’s a hectometer and it’s a square so it’s a… wait for it… hectare! I totally get it! ๐Ÿ˜€

Although metric ton does sound more badass than megagram. Metric ton is also the basis of the fun-to-say metric fuckton. Does megafuckgram have the same ring to it? These are the important questions.

Isn’t this fun? Hell, I haven’t even gotten to our lovely little friends micro and nano, who make some tiny scientific appearances, such as the ever-present 200ยตL (that’s right, mu not u!) pipette tips. But these prefixes get their attention where warranted. They just don’t come up often in common use because things tend to be bigger than that. They’re just hiding out at the cellular and molecular levels. Biding their time.

So, yeah, that’s the beauty of the metric system. For the super super super big and the super super super small, there’s a prefix to fit your measuring needs! Yay metrication!

Now if only we could go the whole nine ya- er, the whole 823 centimeters, and give some of these prefixes more attention.

Failing that, might as well be using imperial! Maybe I’ll start referring to a thousand inches as a kiloinch… :cute:

May 7, 2014

It’s Not for Believing In

Filed under: Decrees!,Science,The Occasional Godliness,What the hell? — Katrina @ 9:59 pm

I hereby decree…

Anyone who says they “believe in science” needs to be slapped.

Let me explain.

Specifically, I’m referring to when people declare this belief in place of a religious belief. Such as when asked what their religious beliefs are or to describe their secular humanism, they might say something like, “No, I don’t believe in any all-powerful gods. I believe in science.”

And it’s annoying because this person who thinks they’re affirming science so strongly is actually greatly misunderstanding a most basic thing about it. Which is… science isn’t something you “believe” in. Science just is. It is fact. It’s like saying you believe in the existence of Canada or horses or diabetes. You just sound silly saying you believe in something that’s pretty undeniably real. As if a diabetic Canadian equestrian were standing right in front of you.

Furthermore, when reducing science to a mere “belief”, you’re playing the ignorant religious fundamentalists’ game and slightly validating their beliefs in unprovable divine things (or disproved things they stubbornly cling to), allowing them to deliberately deny real scientifically proven things as just some other belief they personally don’t hold, or to just insist their actual beliefs should be given the same credence.
(more…)

January 1, 2013

Best of 2012?

So I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday and looking at the science books, when I see a few that are compilations of the best science articles of 2012. Sounds neat. So I took a look. Good stuff for the most part.

And then something about brains… I had a bad feeling about this one. So I flipped to it…

*headdesk*

Yup, you guessed it. It was more “teen brain” bullshit. It starts off about how we all know teenagers are reckless and stupid and whatever other choice stereotypical traits. And says this is because their brains are still developing.

Stuff we hear over and over. But then the realization that this was a best of the year thing. That right alongside advances in real stuff like molecular biology or analytical chemistry, you get this teen brain bullshit being touted as some great discovery.

This is what’s in the mainstream and influencing policy and encouraging discrimination and making the lives of my young friends more and more difficult. While guys like Robert Epstein and Mike Males are still mostly unheard of. Shit.

December 26, 2012

A Perversion of Darwinism

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Science,What the hell? — Katrina @ 6:42 pm

You know what I fucking hate? Ridiculous and fallacious applications of survival of the fittest to human society. And it’s almost always made to mean not so much survival but rather lack of survival of the weak or stupid. While this does apply in certain areas, the idea goes way overboard a lot, to the point of sociopathy.

For example, when looking at history, one might look at, say, the conquest and deaths of the Native Americans at the hands of white settlers to be what can be expected naturally. Why? Because a nice dose of Social Darwinism states that the Native Americans were clearly the weaker and less fit party, that therefore they’d only lose out to the surviving white settlers because they were clearly the fit and strong ones. And that with the weak ones dying out and those strong ones surviving, this would somehow be beneficial to our species.

Another example. A few years ago, I wrote about kids being left to die in hot cars. The comment on that was someone signed in as “Darwin” and saying, “See my theory of Evolution for an explanation of the purpose of this behavior.” That post was mentioned in a forum thread on SnipeMe last year, and the comment got a bit of agreement. Well, there are a lot of problems with that! For one, it reduces the child from personhood and makes him merely a vessel for his parents’ supposedly-faulty genes. And for that reason makes out the child’s unfortunate death to be a good thing for our species! Not to mention that the death had nothing to do with anything the child did, that this death was because his parents killed him through THEIR neglect and stupidity.

It also broadly applies biological determinism where its appropriateness is at best poorly understood by even the people who actually would know what the fuck they are talking about.

And where the fuck does anyone come off saying the deaths of innocent children at the hands of stupid parents, or tribes at the hands of resource-hungry invaders, or any number of people who died in avoidable accidents, are beneficial to our species? That one would make a statement so outrageously callous and defend it by pretending it’s science?!

You see, there is something very advantageous to our species, and that is our ability to discover and solve problems and, you know, help each other! We are supposed to be well beyond leaving the little sick and weak ones to die, so to speak. We are supposed to know better than to assume only those whose genes are “correct” have a right to live. Because maybe, just maybe, we’ve evolved into being better than that!

December 22, 2011

Twin Fail

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Idiot Box,Science,What the hell? — Katrina @ 4:29 pm

There are two things I want to see movies and TV shows stop doing when they have twin characters.

For one, stop showing a twin brother and sister as “identical”. Identical twins are also identical sexes because of that whole identical DNA thing. They’ll look sort of alike anyway just from being siblings, but they are still fraternal twins as they came from separate eggs and sperm. But you get brother-sister twins being shown looking exactly the same except maybe one hair or facial feature so that you know the sister is female. Or Phil and Lil from Rugrats looking completely identical, and occasionally being mixed up, except for Lil wearing a dress, though that still is basically the same outfit Phil wears. Seriously, writers, stop that shit!

And this isn’t the sort of thing only biology majors or whatever know. It’s almost common knowledge.

Then comes the other annoyance. You get shows or movies that are about conjoined twins… who aren’t identical. Conjoined twins are always identical. They didn’t just get hooked together at some point. They, like all identical twins, were initially one fertilized egg that then split into two identical ones. But for conjoined twins, didn’t finish splitting, so they’re stuck together. And still identical. I mean, I’d give Oblongs leeway since on that show the family is basically all mutants anyway, but you get other shows and movies showing conjoined twins with entirely different features and trying to pretend this is how they normally are. Again, writers, stop that shit!

It takes like no time to look this shit up. You’ll save so many brain cells!

December 6, 2011

Supernatural Before It’s Natural

If you were to travel back 500 years and tell people then that we can light up a room by flipping a switch on a wall, what would they think? They’d probably think it’s magic. They’d probably try to burn you for being a witch. Or they’d probably think you’re lying, that it’s impossible. They’d probably think lighting a room by a simple switch on a wall rather than lighting a candle or lantern is just some supernatural, science fiction idea.

But now, we have long since harnessed electricity and made it light our rooms as well as do a zillion other things. It’s not some crazy supernatural idea anymore. It’s not something only perhaps some divine power can do. It’s something that through many discoveries we’ve found how to do ourselves, that such a power already exists in the natural world.

Then there’s the electromagnetic spectrum. We can only see visible light, but of course the spectrum is a hell of a lot bigger than that, with all the microwaves and infrared, and on the other side ultraviolet and ionizing radiation. But we have little to no way of knowing these invisible wavelengths are there without special technology. Before such a thing was known, if the idea of undetectable waves flying around were suggested, you’d seem crazy, like you’re believing in things you can’t prove. Although, as we now know, more accurately that statement would be “things you can’t prove YET”. Up until that point, the idea of such invisible energy was perhaps… a supernatural concept.

All that said, I do tire of religious people using “there’s so much in the universe we can’t explain” to essentially mean “so there must be a God!” Um, no shit there’s so much we can’t explain. Earth is the only part of the universe we know all that well and can live on (as of right now anyway), and even here on our own planet there’s so much undiscovered. Even as far as we’ve come, we’ve barely even left tiny scratches in the surface of all there is. But that doesn’t translate to “God did it”. It translates to “we just haven’t discovered it yet”.
(more…)

December 30, 2010

Extreme Temps, Extremist Bullcrap

Filed under: Assorted Politics,Christmas Time!,Science,Shut the Hell Up! — Katrina @ 9:22 pm

Now for an environmental, temperate edition of…

SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!

You know what I’m really getting fucking sick of? Or, at least, that I’m choosing to mention at the moment? Every time the temperature dips a little higher or a little lower than is normal for a given season, you get wingnut assholes deciding this is some definite information about global warming.

You see it from both sides…

“OMG, it’s a 70 degree day in January! Global warming has killed winter!”

“OMG, it’s a 50 degree day in July! Global warming doesn’t exist!”

Uh, hi, I’d like to introduce you both to the Hasty Generalization logical fallacy.

I mean, it’s of course not about expressing any actual scientific knowledge, as those with actual scientific knowledge on this get drowned in partisan propaganda, and many scientific studies even then get performed often by or at least funded by those who want a particular result. No, the entire point is to be a pompous ass to the other side, all like “see? I was right about global warming and you were wrong!” Who cares if the “info” you’re basing this on is even remotely sound when it can be made to fit your gloating needs at a given moment, right?

So, really, STFU both of you. If you think one unseasonably warm or cool day or week or even season totally validates your insistance that global warming is a real threat or just something Al Gore made up, then you don’t have any damn clue what you’re talking about on this issue.

And, just saying… regardless of the truth of global warming… it’s hardly the only reason to be worrying about air pollution.

February 3, 2010

Stem Cells

Filed under: Science,What the hell? — Katrina @ 12:22 pm

What the hell is the big controversy over stem cells?

Abortions are still going to happen, as are regular miscarriages for that matter, so the embryos aren’t going to turn into people anyway. But their stem cells are a gold mine of medical innovation! It’s like the little guys didn’t make it to post-uterine life, yet they still get to do some good in the world by giving their cells to help save lives.

Yet, to crazy anti-choice assholes, this isn’t good enough. And I call them anti-choice and not pro-life in this case because they really have no business calling themselves that when this is how their morals manifest, in railing against something that will preserve life. To them, because abortion is wrong, that means using stem cells is wrong.

Yeah, because women totally only get abortions to donate stem cells! Didn’t you know? Not because of life circumstances that make carrying the pregnancy to term extremely unfeasible, but because they want to contribute to DEATH SCIENCE!!! Right…

I mean, if someone is shot to death, but some of their organs are viable enough to donate, would you protest the transplant because the organs only became available because of the sin of murder? Yeah, didn’t think so.

April 24, 2009

To Prove Their Mousey Worth

Filed under: Science — Katrina @ 10:08 am

Although I touched on this subject once before in my short little piece Mouse Talk, I figured this was worth an entry spelling out my position a bit more on this. The subject is, of course, animal testing in labs.

Got to thinking about it again when I heard about a protest supporting it at UCLA to counter the protests of the violent animal rights extremists.

In general, I’m not going to think too harshly of the people against it. Their hearts are in the right place anyway. The ones who need to chill the hell out, though, are the ones that see fit to attack the researchers violently and destroy their property. I mean, what the hell does that even accomplish? It’s terrorism! They think by threatening the researchers they’ll cave and understand their position?
(more…)

April 17, 2009

Getting Better

Filed under: Science — Katrina @ 12:17 pm

There are times back in college I thought that I would major in history. It’s always fascinating and my grades in it were somewhat good. Higher than my science grades anyway, even though I was of course a science major! Then again, it is because I went with biology that I’m currently sitting here at my desk in my lab and not behind a convenience store counter some place. Hehe.

But who says history needs to be a profession? Who says learning always must involve a formal school with the goal of some sort of employment? Lots of people get bottlenecked there and it’s very sad.

Anyway, to get to my point, and it’s a point I’ve made before so I may be repeating myself a bit, there is one thing that becomes very clear the more to delve into what different societies have been like over the millennia… The world is getting better.
(more…)

August 29, 2008

Phenylephrine Phail

Filed under: 100 Days of Summer,Rants,Science — Katrina @ 9:15 pm

Alright, first of all, I know I’m seriously behind the times on this. I know I heard about it happening way back when but didn’t really think about what it meant until now. When it affects me. LOL

So a couple days ago, I came down with the telltale eustachian tube pain and runny nose. Crap. I’m getting a cold. Been 14 months since my last one, and both were the very strange summer colds. June and August are usually safe months, but nooo.

Fine, I got a cold. Okay. It’s not so bad. Not when I’ve got my trusty Tylenol Cold! I believe I’ve given a brief history of my colds and that medicine before. So I figured I’d dull the malady’s annoyances along with feeling really really good like Tylenol Cold does to me.
(more…)

August 21, 2007

Dental Hygiene

Filed under: 100 Days of Summer,Science — Katrina @ 5:39 pm

I had a thought. You know how in like elementary school, the kids are taught about good dental hygiene? Brush and floss twice a day like good little boys and girls, or else some cavity monsters will eat your teeth, and you’ll have no teeth anymore. And remember to go see your happy little dentist twice a year!

Eh, interesting curriculum. I have a better idea. Try this.

Kids, brush and floss regularly. Why? Because toothpaste and floss are relatively cheap. And if you don’t, you will get cavities and gingivitis, which requires special and very expensive dental checkups. Your parents may or may not have dental coverage on their health plan, if they even have a health plan at all. So when you’re in excruciating pain from cavities and you need to have the dentist fill it or yank the tooth, which will be more physical hardship for you, mommy and daddy will have to shell out thousands of dollars to even have it done, which will result in them going into serious debt, you will get nothing for Christmas or your birthday for the next five years, they won’t be able to make the mortgage or rent payments, so you’ll all have to move in with grandma and live in the same cramped room. Or even if you don’t need any serious dental work now, the bad dental habits now will cause lots of problems later when you’re an adult, and your mouth is in agonizing pain and you need a root canal, but you have no dental coverage and you can’t afford the procedure, so you’ll either go without it and be in misery for a long time while your teeth deteriorate more, making you need an even more expensive procedure, or you have it done immediately, but even then the cost is too much, making you unable to afford food or gasoline for the next year. You’ll then have to move back in with your parents, only to have them ride your ass for having not listened to them when you were a kid about proper dental hygiene.

So, yeah, clean your fucking teeth, kids!

This has been Day 90 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 7.

June 6, 2006

That I Overlooked Before

Filed under: 100 Days of Summer,Here's To You!,Science — Katrina @ 6:54 pm

And now, another genetically different, lucky edition of…

Here’s to You!

So I lift my glass and say, “Here’s to you, four leaf clovers!”

Always a pleasure to find. Five years ago, back at college, I was wandering around campus just sort of looking at some grass and clover patches. Four leaf clovers crossed my mind. Lucky items apparently. I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen one, though. I wondered if they even existed. I was muttering to myself while gazing into one clover patch. “Do four leaf clovers even exist?- Oh, wait, there’s one!”
(more…)

January 16, 2006

Quick! I Gotta Pick a Major!

Filed under: Quiz Results,Science — Katrina @ 6:59 pm

Hmmm. I never would have guessed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You scored as Biology. You should be a Biology major! You are passionate about the sciences, and you enjoy studying cell growth and evolutionary concepts which enable living organisms to survive. Pursue that!

Chemistry

100%

Biology

100%

Linguistics

75%

Philosophy

75%

Engineering

75%

Journalism

67%

Mathematics

58%

Psychology

58%

Art

42%

Anthropology

42%

Theater

33%

English

25%

Sociology

25%

Dance

25%

Ah, well, now that that’s done, I’ll just pull out my trusty college transcripts and see how they match up. Well, what do you know! Biology major and chemistry minor!

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