Category Archives: Science

What I Really Want To Do On My Birthday ( A Self-Indulgent Wikipedia Facts Poem)

Saludo al coraje de los hombres de Puebla en esta dia,

But what I really want to do today

is go to Saint Helena  and throw a party in Napoleon’s cell,

and just to piss his spirit off,

 fly back to the States,

  and throw an original Memorial Day in our Waterloo.

When I get tired, I’ll make the trip international,

go to Ethiopia, see the second coming of  Haile Selassie,

have him lend me a few minutes to sit on his throne

  as he puts Kublai Khan’s crown on my head

while Marx takes my oath of office with my hand over On the Origins of Species,

before I throw it at William Jennings Bryan’s head before his opening statement.

Once I become a one-day king,

I’ll send a package of loaded Iranian guns to Oliver North’s house

snitch on his ass and laugh with my friends

as  the ATF arrests him on Fox News.

After the antics, go bar-hopping with Kierkegaard

 in a free West Germany,

get arrested with Sacco and Vanzetti after too many drinks,

and if I get too rowdy, take a caning on the ass by Singaporean dancers.

I want to start a one-man riot in Greece

just to get an article written by Nellie Bly and Bryan Williams.

I want to rock out to a band with me on guitar,

 Ian McCulloch and Adele on vocals,

 Bill Ward on drums,

and have the album produced by Delia Derbyshire.

I want to take acting lessons from Roger Rees,

 John Rhys-Davies, and Lance Henriksen

just so I can kick Henry Cavill out of his Superman gig.

And then, right before I go to sleep,

wave at Alan Shepard along con mi familia

as Mercury-Redstone 1 blinks its way  across the night.

– Note: I just wrote this and cleaned it up five minutes before midnight West coast time while  sober. Go me.

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Rockets to Reality

Neal Stephenson’s article on rockets and innovation over at Slate is a good read. He goes from zero to Hitler pretty quick in it.

We are soon to run out of internet addresses.  I can’t wait for the  IPocalyspe to start (props to Wired for the article)

It’s taken decades, but we finally have jetpacks…kinda (thanks to CNN).

Philip K. Dick’s essay “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” is a must for anyone trying to write in sci-fi or fantasy story (Thanks to Mr. Warren Ellis and deoxy.org)

Pre-Incan Trumpets to IKEA Physics

To start of this round of ToTs, some Stanford acoustics scientists played a marine shell trumpet for the first time in almost 3000 years . They were grabbed from a 2001 excavation of the Chavín de Huántar site in Peru.

For a real interesting graphical look at the Human Development Index and how it affects the US, check out the maps from the Measure of America project. You can compare down to congressional districts how your area fares in education, health,  and life expectancy along with other criteria.

CollegeHumor has given us this funny quantum physics/IKEA mashup with the Hadronn Cjolidder:

Afrocyberpunk to Genocide

It’s really cool to see sci-fi writers from other parts of the world getting some press, so let’s all give  Jonathan Dotse props for actively trying to bring the cyberpunk genre to Africa. Sci-fi fans should check it out regularly to see a different take on what has become a rather played-out genre.

Turing it back to just regular science (if you can call it that), a group of British scientists have found a way to transfer all the genetic material of one egg  without mitochondria. The reason this is interesting is in how this could save many people in the future from diseases caused by mitochondrial defects.

Here’s an eye-opener: approximately 600,000 workers in China die a year making the parts for the computer or mobile phone you’re reading this from. They even have a name for it: guolaosi, which is Mandarin for “worked to death”.  The Consumerist article got its info from this Johann Hari article. Hari also wrote the amazingly good article on horrible work conditions in Dubai that I mentioned a while back.

For all you conspiracy theorists, reading up on the mysterious mass poisoning at  Pont-Saint-Esprit has a pretty interesting theory: instead of the ergot poisoning that has mainly been seen as the main cause of the psychosis people felt, one Hank P. Albarelli Jr wrote a book claiming that the CIA used Pont-Saint-Esprit as a LSD testing groundLSD as part of that tin-foil hat favorite,  MKULTRA . Add Rennes-le-Château to it and you can start making a pretty weird road trip in southeast France.

Comic artist Cameron Stewart, who happens to have a blog for all his artwork, has won a Shuster and Eisner Award for his own webcomic,   Sin Titulo. It’s a good noir fantasy story about one man’s descent into some dangerous people and some of his own personal demons as well.

I just got into reading the poems written by Jeremy Prynne, and I seriously don’t know what to make of it. There’s this odd lyricism that exists in his almost stream-of-consciousness poems that works somehow. Check out this introduction into the man and his work, and here is a link for one of his pieces, ‘Rich in Vitamin C’ to learn more.

To cap it all off, here’s a video of  Carlos Andrés Gómez’s amazing spoken word poem, “What’s Genocide?” (here’s a link to the written version):

FoldIt to Heinlein

It’s always cool to find some science articles, so I’m going to start of a bit strong with it today. First off,  some researchers over at the University of Washington have used video games to start  FoldIt, which is a game where users can guess how the protein will fold. Now, anyone who knows about the structure of protein knows how difficult it is to determine it (if you don’t, here’s the Science article for FoldIt that can help you understand it a bit better). Using crowd-sourcing to figure out some of the things of the universe is not a new idea of course ( Seti@home comes to mind), but the gaming angle brings other ideas to mind. If this game or another one like it could capture the same amount of users as say, Farmville, this could really help with research efforts in the future.

Alasdair Wilkins over at io9 posted a pretty interesting article on how our ticket to a longer life is not in the DNA in the cell nucleus, but in the mitochondria. I also read the abstract posted, and for some reason it set off certain flags in my mind. I conferred with a friend to help me figure things out, and to make things easier for those of you that don’t know much about cell or molecular biology, there’s a lot of other external factors that need to be addressed when it comes to DNA (Like how metabolism affects evolution in bats, for example).  While this take on aging  is a new and interesting one, I’m going to have to see some more research before we can start rubbing beetle juice on our faces.

While reading an article on James Franco he mentioned this poem, “The Clerks Tale“, by Spencer Reese. All you nine-to-fivers, give it a read, it’s a good one.

Top end it, I found one of my favorite quotes and decided to put it up. It’s from one of sci-fi’s greats, Robert Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Ayahuasca to Witch Trials

Now that the World Cup is over I can kick-start the dump of info I’ve been grabbing since kick-off. First up, courtesy of Mr. Warren Ellis is this article talking about an evolution of ayahuasca called changa, if you can call smoking an Amazonian hallucinogenic plant and DMT “evolution” from drinking it. Now, as a South American I do take a bit offense to some new-agers freebasing off of plants from my neck of the woods. Still, it did make me wonder if sometime in the future some psychedelic genetic engineers would try to make a one-stop shop plant that had both MAOIs and DMTs needed for the trip instead of needing two, for experimental purposes of course.

Moving on, one of my favorite Asimov stories, “The Last Question”, is up for your reading pleasure, thanks to Thrivenotes.  Check it out, and make sure to read the last line.

This one needs no details: DNA robot nanospiders. Just kidding, what that really mean is that scientists from four universities (Caltech, Columbia, Arizona State, and U of Michigan) have found a way to program DNA molecules to act much like the robots you’d make with a Lego Mindstorms set, only you know, at the nanoscale. How could they do this with such a small sort of material like DNA, you ask? Well, that’s when my good old friend DNA origami comes into play, which I mentioned in a post a while back. This is just at the proof-of-concept stage, they aren’t curing cancer or building new cells yet, but give them time. We’ll be killing ourselves with ourselves soon enough.

And to finish this off, the Central African Republic’s issues with taking witchcraft to court seems like something out of Franz Kafka and Terry Pratchett, but this is actually happening.


Cloning Neanderthals and other Science Links

I wanted to do a large one year anniversary post for this a couple of days ago, but honestly I have so much to do already that I don’t have time to fawn over that fact . It did remind me, however, that it has been a while since I’ve put up some stuff on science, so I’ve decided to put a little something down on this question: should we clone neanderthals? This article points out the way in which we can do it, and all the ethical implications of doing something like this.

On the cool side, German scientist have made a 3D invisibility cloak that covered a gold surface. This is a great proof of principle for how transformation optics can actually bend light around objects. what made me smirk was this little comment right here:

He added, however, that it would be many years before anything as large as a person, car or tank could be made to disappear with this technique

Leave it to a German to be thinking of invisible panzers.

Moving right along to another post-Axis nation, Japanese designers have made some cool elastic iron alloys. What’s really cool is that beyond its super-elasticity, the developers are trying to find ways of using it for stents for heart surgeries where the normal nickel titanium wire is too weak along with other uses.