Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lemming Tracks: What's With All the Quotes?

The Lemming's had quite a weekend. Shoveling manure on Tuesday probably caught up with me Friday night.

My left lumbar region and I are on speaking terms again, but the sensations I've experienced were a bit distracting. And, there's a local Knights of Columbus bulletin that needed to be done this weekend.

I didn't have time to do my usual look-around for post topics, and didn't want to leave today postless, either. ("Postless?" If that wasn't a word before, it is now.)

Hence, the quotes.

The Lemming plans to be back tomorrow, with a more diverse set of micro-reviews.

Yet Another Thought for the Day

"Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."
G. K. Chesterton, The Quotations Page

Another Thought for the Day

"There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person."
G. K. Chesterton, The Quotations Page

A Thought for the Day

"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."
G. K. Chesterton, The Quotations Page

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Online

the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

"'The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.' - Leonardo"

This website is mostly a collection of drawings done by Leonardo da Vinci. He drew quite a few subjects, and names given to his drawings show that: Study of a Tuscan Landscape; Siege Machine; Study of Brain Physiology; Study of Horse and Rider; Five Characters in a Comic Scene; Studies of Concave Mirrors of Differing Curvatures; Anatomy of the Neck; and Head of Saint Anne.

Looking at five-hundred-year-old drawings isn't for everyone, but I think this is a good place to start looking at what a remarkably artist, engineer, and researcher was doing.

There are also links to related resources, like the Milan Science Museum and Leonardo da Vinci Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science.

"Up" House Really Could Fly

"How Pixar's Up House Could Really Fly"
Wired Science (May 29, 2009)

"The conceit of the new Disney/Pixar cartoon epic, Up, is that an old guy’s house gets attached to a bunch of helium balloons which lift it up out of the city and on a wonderful adventure.

"That got Wired Science thinking: Could that actually work? And if so, how many balloons would you need?

"We called Wolfe House Movers, which specializes in moving old structures and had Kendal Siegrist, a manager, take a look at the images from the movie to see how much the house might weigh.

" 'A building like that, you’d figure right around 100,000 pounds,' Siegrist said...."

The Wired Science author takes the reader through some fairly simple math, and shows that, yes: you could lift a house with balloons. It would take a whole lot of the little balloons "Up" shows - but it could be done.

The trick would be rigging supports for the house. Wood frame houses aren't designed to be lifted by their chimneys.

This article gives an interesting look at the science of "Up" - and tells a bit about how house moving works in the process.

VB 10: Tiny Star, Big Planet, Exciting Possibilities

"Discovery: Even Tiny Stars Have Planets " (May 28, 2009)

"A Jupiter-like planet has been discovered orbiting one of the smallest stars known, suggesting that planets could be more common than previously thought.

"This exoplanet finding is the first discovery for a long-proposed tool for hunting planets, called astrometry.

" 'This is an exciting discovery because it shows that planets can be found around extremely lightweight stars,' said Wesley Traub, the chief scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. 'This is a hint that nature likes to form planets, even around stars very different from the sun.'..."

The article briefly describes astrometry, a half-century-old planet spotting technique. The author is right: until now, the technique hadn't identified a real exoplanet. I remember, though, that it turned up a few false positives: including a rather famous one involving Barnard's Star.

This is a pretty good look at an exciting development in the hunt for new worlds. What's special about the VB 10 system is that it shows that very low-mass stars can have planets. And, since there are a great many low-mass stars out there, that ups the odds that we'll find another rocky planet with liquid water - eventually.
Related posts, at

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Serious Search for Other Worlds, Life, and - Maybe - Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Searching the stars for "new life and new civilizations" is the stuff of science fiction. And, to an increasing extent, the job of professional scientists.

We're living at a point in history where humanity is rapidly discovering new worlds: some so strange that scientists are having to change old assumptions, and develop new models to explain what their instruments detect.

I would be very surprised if my children's children see something like Star Trek's warp drive. On the other hand, Alcubierre's intriguing equations suggest that we'll be able to travel faster than the speed of light: as soon as we figure out how to build machines that can warp space-time on a fairly large scale.

While physicists are exploring the horizon of their field, speculating on how a practical interstellar spaceship could be designed, and biologists are learning more about how life works, astronomers and others are putting together an increasingly extensive list of places to check out:

Ultra-Zooming for Science - Cool New Information Technology

"Billion-Pixel Pictures Allow Ultra-Zooming for Science"
National Geographic (May 27, 2009)

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a thousand-megapixel picture worth?

"Such 'gigapixel' pictures allow viewers to zoom in from say, a panoramic view of President Obama's inauguration to the solemn expression on his face—as in one of the new technology's most famous applications.

"For scientists—many of whom gathered in Pittsburgh last week for training in new gigapixel technology—these ultra-zoomable images are becoming tools to improve the study of archaeology, geology, biology, and more...."

There's a description of how the technology works - and a eye-popping sample: a zoomable picture of the Great Temple Excavation at Petra, in Jordan.

Visitors start with a fairly ordinary-looking landscape photo with a lot of sand, rocks, and what's left of an ancient temple. You can zoom in to get a really close look at the grit on top of one of the columns, or anything else in the image.

I can see where this technology could be very useful.

And, a lot of fun.

Lisa Strong: Doctors' Bungling Leaves her Without a Leg to Stand On

"Fla. amputee gets rare second chance to sue docs"
The Associated Press (May 29, 2009)

"When the sharp pain shooting through Lisa Strong's back got worse, she thought it was another kidney stone and expected the discomfort to pass. This time was different.

"Through a series of mistakes, miscommunications and misdiagnoses, she wound up having her arms and legs amputated. She sued the doctors, who essentially blamed one another for what everyone involved agrees were profound errors.

"Everyone except the jury that ruled against Strong.

"The verdict came in the face of such overwhelming evidence that in a rare move, the judge tossed out the jury's decision and ordered a new trial...."

The bad news is that, due to what appears to be a nearly perfect storm of medical nincompoopery, Lisa Strong is four limbs short of her quota.

When she tried to sue the doctors whose bungling caused the mess, a jury decided that she didn't have a leg to stand on. Never mind the facts of of the case. Why this happened is a puzzle.

"...Lawyers involved think so many mistakes were made, the jury had a hard time fixing blame....

The Associated Press article does a pretty good job of summarizing how an in-your-face-obvious - and treatable - kidney stone got called "cholecystitis, a gallbladder condition unrelated to the kidneys." And, how the good doctors sliced and diced Lisa Strong before noticing (finally) and removing a kidney stone: and eventually cutting off her arms and legs.

What the AP doesn't say is how much they charged for their services.

Finally, Something Went Right

"...Broward County Circuit Judge Charles M. Greene reversed the jury's verdict and concluded the it was 'contrary to the law and the manifest weight of the evidence.'

"Such reversals are extraordinary. According to the National Center for State Courts, judges set aside jury verdicts in only 78 of 18,306 civil trials nationwide in 2005, the most recent year complete statistics are available. That's less than one-half of 1 percent...."

Two doctors involved are fighting the judge's decisions. I can't say that I blame them. Even in the medical profession, a screw-up on this scale must be embarrassing. I'm sure they'd like to hang on to the jury's exoneration.

Lisa Strong has a website: - A journey in faith and spirit. ("Read Lisa’s story, hear about her new ambitions, and be inspired by her will to live life to the fullest despite one set back after another.")

Her account is not, I think, particularly vindictive. On the other hand, I'd stay away if you want to believe that 'doctor knows best.'

Most Doctors Mean Well, I Hope

I think a lesson here is that doctors are people. Many - I hope most - are in the business because they want to help people, not for the pay and perks. Or, for a culturally-sanctioned opportunity to play God now and then.

I think the same can be said for judges and others in positions of power and authority.

It's anyone's guess whether the doctors will succeed in keeping their little oopsie from going through the courts again. On the one hand, there's that "manifest weight of the evidence" thing. On the other, doctors as a group have a much higher standing in society than Lisa Strong.

That's changed in my lifetime. I remember when shows like "Ben Casey," "Dr. Kildare," and "Marcus Welby, MD" reflected a widely-held veneration of doctors. Back then, many people really believed that 'doctor knows best.' And, sometimes, doctor does.

I don't know whether it was a more educated population, or the lobotomy craze that did it, but Americans don't have quite the same unquestioning trust in the medical profession that they did in the good old days.

Which I think is a good thing.

Doctors and Patients: With Me, it's Personal

I've got a personal stake in the issue of doctors paying attention. My mother suffered a debilitating stroke in the sixties, and took about four decades to die. She was comparatively functional for much of that time, thanks more to her iron will than to contemporary medicine.
It Started With a Headache
She'd gone to a doctor because she had headaches. Maybe the doctor was busy that day. At any rate, he didn't bother with little formalities like taking her blood pressure. He just whipped out a prescription, and sent her on her way.

Later, after she'd taken the medication, her blood pressure crashed. And some of the blood vessels in her brain collapsed. By the time we got her to a hospital, important parts of her brain were dead.

Turns out, the prescription was for a drug that's useful: when someone has lethally high blood pressure, and medicos have to get the pressure down NOW - and deal with damage to the system later.

Reconstructing what happened, I think that the doctor may have heard "headache." Knowing that some headaches may be caused by high blood pressure, he decided - illogically, but understandably - that these headaches must be caused by high blood pressure.

Why he used such a dangerously effective drug, I don't know.
Anther Stroke of Luck
Then there was the doctor who used me as part of a medical experiment. But that's another story.

So What?

My family and I see a doctor now and again, and I'm walking on replacement hip sockets. I have no quarrel with traditional Western medicine.

I do not, however, have blind faith in anybody with a "MD" after his or her name.
Doctor Shopping
"Doctor shopping" has been used to describe people who want a particular prescription drug, or are convinced that they have a particular condition, and 'shop' until they find an obliging doctor. I don't think that's a good idea.

Actually, I think it's rather dangerous.

On the other hand, I think it's simple common sense to 'shop' for a doctor who seems to be competent, willing to listen to the patient, and whose attitude toward euthanasia is similar to the patient's.

I also think it's a good idea to use the online resources at places like the CDC and Mayo Clinic (Like Mayo's Symptom Checker).

Even a real-life Marcus Welby, MD, won't have quite the same sort of interest in your well-being that you do.

Related posts:

Bernoulli Numbers Solution Reached: After Three Centuries

"Iraq-born teen cracks maths puzzle"
Agence France-Presse via Yahoo! News (May 28, 2009)

"A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden has cracked a maths puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300 years, Swedish media reported on Thursday.

"In just four months, Mohamed Altoumaimi has found a formula to explain and simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, the Dagens Nyheter daily said.

"Altoumaimi, who came to Sweden six years ago, said teachers at his high school in Falun, central Sweden were not convinced about his work at first...."

But when they went through Mohamed Altoumaimi's notebooks, they found that his math checked out. He's been offered a place at Uppsala University. Mohamed - wisely, I think - decided to keep going with his school work. Which includes "summer classes in advanced mathematics and physics...."

A remarkable achievement: followed up by a demonstration of really good sense. I like reading success stories like that, now and again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Searching for 'Work From Home,' 'Free Games,' or 'Screensavers' ? You Might Find Trouble

"The Riskiest Search Terms On The Internet"
WebProNews (May 27, 2009)

"Some of the riskiest searches on the Internet currently have to do with finding items for free, or looking for work that can be done from home, according to a new report from McAfee.

"Search categories like these are used to lure unsuspecting consumers to their websites. Cybercriminals are often able to convince users to download files carrying, malicious software that can cause people to expose personal and financial information...."

I'm not going to stop searching online, but I'm also glad I use software that's supposed to help avoid these traps. AVG and Google work together, so that when I'm signed on at Google, there's a go/no-go mark by most search results. It's handy: although I'm sure it's not foolproof.

Some of the results given by McAfee didn't surprise me: "...the riskiest set of keyword variations was 'screensavers' with a maximum risk of 59.1 percent. Nearly six out of the top 10 search results for 'screensavers' contain malware. One of the single riskiest search terms in the world is 'lyrics,' with a maximum risk factor of one in two...."

I think this is a good article to read, for people who do searches with Google or other search sites. Being constantly scared isn't smart, but staying ignorant isn't all that bright a decision, either.

The article includes McAfee's top 12 dangerous terms, from "screensavers" to "Viagra."

One more thing: "...People looking to save money, and/or searching for means of additional income should be aware that clicking on results that contain the word 'free' have a 21.3 percent chance of infecting their PCs with online threats, such as spyware, spam, phishing, adware, viruses and other malware."

A New Way to Search for Life on Other Worlds

"Search is On for the Light of Life" (May 28, 2009)

"Although Captain Kirk and crew could zip over to a planet at warp speed and teleport down to the surface to check if it was inhabited, current-day scientists will generally have to search for life from a distance. New research gives some hope that we could detect a 'handedness' beacon from a planet full of microbes.

"This handedness, or homochirality, is characteristic of life on Earth. The molecules that make proteins and DNA all have either a left-handed or right-handed orientation. Both orientations are made in equal quantities by non-biological processes, but life prefers to have just one type of hand over the other.

" 'Homochirality is a fundamental aspect of self-replication,'...."

The article gives a pretty good introduction to homochirality, with examples. It also touches on other ways that could be used to detect life from light years away. Most of them, like looking for chemically unstable mixtures of gasses in a planet's atmosphere, or reflection spectra (a detailed analysis of what colors are reflected - including colors we can't see), could give false positives. Volcanoes, for example, can add chemicals to an atmosphere that don't last long, and some minerals have an infrared signature that mimics that of plants.

The 'handedness' of chemicals used in living organisms is something that biologists have known about for decades, although the knowledge hasn't seemed to filter into the medical and pharmaceutical population too well. Which is another topic.

What's exciting is that the technology - and a telescope - exists, that could be used to look for asymmetric light from other worlds.
Related posts, at
Other related posts:

Twitter: Free For Now; Fees in the Future

"Twitter co-founders are mum on revenue plans"
The Associated Press (May 27, 2009)

"Twitter Inc.'s co-founders say the rapidly growing online communications company will eventually charge fees for its services, but it's unclear which ones and what will drive revenue.

" 'There will be a moment when you can fill out a form or something and give us money,' said Evan Williams, co-founder and chief executive officer.

" 'We're working on it right now,' Williams said at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference...."

Twitter's been growing fast. The AP article notes that it employs 43 people: "double" the number it did in January. That must be an approximation, unless Twitter had half a person running around then. Or, more plausibly, had someone working part-time.

The article is a pretty good glance at an online service or community that's gone through very fast growth recently.

I hope that the individual Twitter accounts remain free. I'm a Twitterer (I'm Aluwir there): but have no budget for online memberships right now.

I've met some interesting people there - as well as friends and acquaintances from other networking sites.

Some of the possibilities mentioned by the article for Twitter making money make sense - like the option to pay for a verification service, so that someone couldn't pretend to be an existing business, and set up a Twitter account as that business.

Although I couldn't afford it at any price, I have no problem with Twitter making money: maintaining a service like that takes effort - and someone has to pay for the connections and servers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

House in Rio, With the Latest Environmentally-Friendly Technology?

"The Breezy, Beautiful Brazilian Leaf House"
inhabitat (November 12, 200)

"Outside of Rio de Janeiro, on a beautiful little beach with amazing blue water, sits a little house with a flowering roof that shades and protects like a big tropical banana leaf. Designed by Mareines + Patalano, the open air abode is meant to encourage interaction and connection between man and nature...."

The 'inhabitat' post has more photos - eight or nine, depending on how you count them - than the World Architecture News article they cite as their source.

(from inhabitat, used w/o permission)
'Here's Looking at You' - remarkably anthropomorphic design.

Aside from supporting the impression that 'ecological awareness' and 'environmental sensitivity' are for the very rich, this is a pretty good post about a visually and technologically interesting house.

(from inhabitat, used w/o permission)
"Above all the Leaf House is amazing inspiration for organic design that brings the outdoors in. It protects the inhabitants from rain and sun, while bringing in fresh breezes to cool the interior...."

Living in a part of the world where "fresh breezes" don't blow thirty miles an hour at minus ten Fahrenheit for part of the year helps, of course.

Still, designing ventilation into a house makes good sense. We've got the same sort of thing in our house: it's basically a two-story farm house built around 1900. We call our environmentally-friendly passive ventilation system "windows."

Ten Newly-Discovered Species - Including Bacteria in Hairspray

"10 Strange Species Discovered Last Year"
Wired Science (May 26, 2009)

"Every year, biologists brave the world’s deserts, jungles and industrial ecosystems looking for new species.

"And what wonderful things they find. It turns out that the real world is totally like the internet: If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything. This year, scientists found caffeine-less coffee plants, tiny seahorses and a 23-inch long bug that looks like a branch, not to mention a strange white slug no one had ever described that was found in a Welsh garden...."

One of my favorites is Opisthostoma vermiculum - a Malaysian gastropod with a shell that coils on four axes. Most coil around three.

Another is a bacteria that teaches a strange lesson in biodiversity. To keep this new species alive, we'll have to keep manufacturing hairspray. Microbacterium hatanonis's habitat is - I'm not making this up - inside hairspray.

Spectacular Photos from Shuttle Mission

"A view from above "
KOMO News (May, 2009)

"Atlantis astronauts carried out five back-to-back spacewalks to fix and upgrade the 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, adding five to 10 years to Hubble's the observatory's lifetime. Scientists hope to begin beaming back the results by early September...."

Not much text, but all 23 (large) photos are identified. That thumbnail is 1/5 as wide and tall as the original.

This post/article is an eyeful, with a good variety of subjects from the recent Atlantis mission.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Passive House in France

"franklin azzi architecture: passive house, normandy france"
designboom (undated: probably May, 2009)

"franklin azzi architecture designed 'passive house', through renovating a former hunting house in normandy, france. the extension consists of wood, canvas covers a camouflage of the cuban army. above is a wooden terrace overlooking the valley. slabs of the house to the left and right include a heated floor and external industrial sockets. in front of the house is a bunker made from concrete for an office...."

the very e. e. cummings-ish lack of capitalization shows, i suppose, how terribly creative and aesthetic the blog is. or maybe their shift key broke.

Typographical conceits aside, this is a quite good post about a building project in France. There isn't much descriptive text, but the fifteen pictures (a mixture of architectural models and on-site photos) illustrate the progression from a nearly-roofless wreck to a high-end house.

One with hybrid solar power, recyclable materials, and rainwater collection.

(from franklin azzi architecture, via designboom, used w/o permission)
'passive house'

That last item, rainwater collection, caught my eye. Older houses, when I was growing up, often had gutters and downspouts leading rainwater from the roof to a cistern. People didn't drink the stuff: but it was clean enough for washing. Quite a few of these 'new' technologies aren't all that new.

Five Floors, Three Bottles of Vodka, One Incredible Story

"Russian man survives five storey fall - twice"
Ananova (undated, at least as early as April 16, 2009)

"A Russian man survived after downing three bottles of vodka and leaping from a fifth floor balcony - twice.

"Alexei Roskov says he jumped the second time because he couldn't take his wife's nagging about the first time.

"Wife Yekaterina had watched in horror as her drunken hubsand opened the kitchen window of their Moscow apartment, and hurled himself out...."

Alexei has decided to stop drinking: which seems like a good idea. At two incredible survivals in close succession, I'd say he's over quota.

Working on the Moon? Pack a Blanket

"Giant Moon Blanket Could Protect Astronauts" (May 26, 2009)

"Solar flares and powerful cosmic rays can shred DNA and increase cancer risks for future astronauts who might make long-term stays on future moon missions.

"As NASA considers this issue in its plans for a return the moon by 2020, a team of college students has proposed a solution: giant blankets.

"Engineering students at North Carolina State University (NCSU) designed a 'lunar texshield,' a layered blanket made of lightweight polymer material. The outer surface of the shield is a flexible array of solar cells that generate electricity. Underneath, a layer of radiation shielding deflects or absorbs incoming particles, to better protect astronauts in lunar outposts...."

Looks like NASA is serious about getting back to the moon. The article is a pretty good overview of the sort of planning it takes to develop technologies that will help people work on the moon - and be practical enough to carry along.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Excel: Spreadsheets are for Numbers *And* Words

"Beyond Numbers: Manipulating Text in Excel"
PC Magazine (May 21 2009)

"Excel is great for crunching numbers, but it's also a simple database solution for many. Luckily, with a few handy formulas, Excel can learn to crunch your alpha-bits too."

"Common wisdom is that word processors are for text and spreadsheets are for numbers. The reality, however, is that while spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel let you work with numbers in every imaginable way, they're also quite adept at manipulating text. This ability comes in very handy, and Excel is often used as a lightweight database to manage a wide variety of data lists.

"Unfortunately, the text in your spreadsheets often won't be stored in a manner suitable to your needs. For example...."

This is a pretty good article for people who have Excel, could use a simple database, and don't have some combination of a large IT staff, programming skills, and unlimited time.

That first 'for example' shows how to take "a list of people's names where each name is stored as firstname lastname (for example, John Doe) in a single cell...." and turn it into something you can search and sort by last name.

There's specific advice for dealing with domain names, file names, zipcodes that start with a zero, and extra blank characters in your text.

A supervisor of mine once told me that he could do just about anything with a text editor and a spreadsheet. I didn't quite believe him at the time, but tried doing things his way, anyway. He had a point.

I've used Excel for quite a few off-label functions: including what this article describes.

This article is particularly helpful, because it shows some of the functions you'd need to use.

Remembering the Gold Star Families: Memorial Day 2009

Memorial Day, as celebrated in America, is our unofficial start of summer. It's a time to grill (and occasionally incinerate) meals, drive to vacation spots, or just relax during a three-day weekend.

There's more to it than that. I've already written about the parades and history of the day. ("Memorial Day 2009 " (May 25, 2009))

This editorial, re-posted with permission, covers an often-forgotten part of the military community: the gold star families.

Remembering the Gold Star Families

Editorial by Army Col. David Sutherland, Middle East Region Division Chief – Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

While immense honor is paid to our men and women who have died in combat, I was recently reminded of a void where we, as citizens of this brave nation, often fall short.

A mother of one of my fallen Soldiers recently expressed sadness at how unfamiliar most American's are with the concept of Gold Star families, those who have lost loved ones in a time of war. They bravely remain at home with a silent fear, constantly praying they never receive that dreaded knock on their doors.

Unfortunately, Memorial Day has been embedded with the myriad of holidays we often forget the true meaning of and take for granted. Unless directly affected, it often becomes a reason to sleep in, party or shop, rather than the day of remembrance and tribute it was declared to be.

However, this amazing American, like many Gold Star mothers before her, turned her sacrifice and loss into inspiration for service—leaving a lucrative position at a consulting firm to serve in a Contractor Team in Iraq. Other Gold Star families have started non-profits focused on serving those that protect and harness our freedom. They devote their lives to the service of our service men and women, shipping supplies to schools in Iraq, forming support groups for others mourning loss, or by becoming politically active to advocate veterans' causes.

Through all of their difficulties, the dedication of our military families remains. It is, after all, their support that allows us to remain the greatest fighting force in the world. As our servicemembers raise their right hand to enlist or re-enlist, our families are right there with them. These families are the cornerstone of our strength – their sacrifices are great.

I recently had the honor of presenting General David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command commander, with the No Greater Sacrifice Foundation's Freedom Award. During the ceremony, which honors the children of our fallen men and women, there were many Gold Star families in attendance. It was an honor to be amongst such strength and perseverance.

I asked one of the spouses what she would want the world to know about her husband, Staff Sgt. Donnie Dixon. With a moment of reflection, she boldly said, “Donnie was not just known for his sacrifice in the Army, but also for his family.

The love for his wife and four children – Shabria, Donnie Jr., Ta'Mya, and D'Andre, was his strength. “When we did our video teleconference [just before he was killed], I remember asking him why was he back out on patrol after [having been wounded in a recent suicide bombing]. His response was, ‘Ma, this is my job.'

“Right then I knew that after serving 17 years in the military, his heart was much bigger than I realized. Donnie not only lived his life Army Strong, but left us with a smile that would last a lifetime.”

Donnie and countless others unselfishly left their Gold Star families behind to continue the struggle in their absence. These families have lost their father, brother, sister, mother, son, daughter and the love of their lives while serving a cause far greater than most can imagine.

As I reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, I humbly honor those members of the military I had the pleasure of serving with, most importantly my fallen and wounded Soldiers, who fought as true warriors and ultimately paid the greatest sacrifice. They are my heroes – their sacrifices are great.

Today, extensive security tasks remain before us as we achieve our objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, defeat the al Qaeda network, and build greater partnership capacity. We execute this mission with the support of a great cadre of Veterans looking forward to a Middle East region of secure, stable, independent, peaceful and responsibly governed states, where the freedom and dignity of the peoples of the region are protected.

So this Memorial Day I ask you to join me. Recommit yourselves to not only remember our fallen service members, but the other half of our fallen who quietly serve, and often continue serving on their Soldiers' behalf after their loved ones are gone. Never forget that this day is not only a symbol of our Soldiers' sacrifices, but the sacrifices of their families, friends and comrades in arms.
Col. David Sutherland is Middle East Region Division Chief on the Joint Staff and served as the commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, deployed to Diyala province, Iraq from October 2006 to December 2007.
A tip of the hat to lindykyzer, on Twitter, for providing this editorial.

Memorial Day 2009

It's Memorial Day in America. It's the unofficial start of summer; a time to:
  • Clog metropolitan roads with urbanites seeking relaxation in holiday traffic jams
  • Worry about rising gasoline prices
  • Listen to fishing experts on the radio discuss the relative merits of fly fishing and trolling
  • Remember
A few mini-micro-reviews:

"Memorial Day 2009 Parade"
WHIZ (May 23, 2009)

"This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and today hundreds of people lined the streets at Buckeye Lake for the annual community Memorial Day Parade.

"This was the fourth year for the event, which took place along Route 79...."

Buckeye Lake's Memorial Day parade stands out for me, since it's an annual observance that's just beginning. These things ebb and flow. The small town I live in doesn't have a parade, and the Kandi Klassic Morgan Show at the fairgrounds just isn't the same thing.

"Memorial Day History"

"Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.... While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966...."

"...Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery...."

Behind the traffic jams, fishing lures, and horse shows, there's a solemn event. The War Between the States is far behind us now, the American Legion has been running Memorial Day since World War I, and we're still discovering that freedom isn't free.

I wrote my take on Memorial Day a few years ago, for the Brendan's Island website.

I'll wrap up this post the same way I did then:

Carved on the tomb of explorer Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809):

Immaturus obi: sed to felicior annos
Vivemeos, Bona Republica! Vive tuos

(I died young; but thou, O Good Republic, be more fortunate,
Live out my years! Live your own.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brother, Sister, Separated in 1977, Find Each Other

"Sis finds long-lost brother living across the street"
CNN (May 20, 2009)

"For years, Candace Eloph searched for her half-brother, who was given up for adoption in 1977. She found him -- living across the street.

" 'I never thought it would happen like this. Never. Ever,' Eloph of Shreveport, Louisiana, told CNN television affiliate KTBS.

"Three decades ago, Eloph's mother gave birth to a boy at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. She was 16 and gave him up for adoption...."

Moving into a new neighborhood, a conversation with a neighbor, and DNA tests, tied up the three-decade-old loose end.

Fire Started by - Water in a Glass Bowl? It's Possible

"Can a dog bowl start a fire? Test shows idea does hold water"
Seattle Times (May 23, 2009)

"Turns out, blaming a fire on a dog water bowl isn't as goofy as it sounds.

"A Bellevue Fire Department investigator said earlier this week that he suspects a house fire started when a partially filled glass bowl, resting in a wire stand on the home's deck, concentrated the sun's rays like a magnifying glass.

"There was nothing else in that area of the house — no smokers, no electrical devices — that could have caused the fire. The blaze last Sunday destroyed the deck, badly burned the adjacent kitchen — and left some people wondering if the investigator was serious.

" 'People were trying to guess as to whether or not he had lost his mind,' joked Lt. Eric Keenan, the Fire Department's community liaison officer...."

The cause of the fire still isn't officially identified, but a test at the Bellevue city hall showed that, under some conditions, a glass bowl and sunlight could start a fire.

It doesn't take extreme conditions, either. Keenan set up a glass bowl with water on a day when it was 70 degrees and sunny, like the day of the fire. At 1:45 in the afternoon, it took sunlight concentrated by the water and bowl about 15 to ignite cedar.

The fire started about an hour later in the day, and Keenan wasn't sure what sort of wood the deck was made of.

Still, I'll be more aware of things outside that could act as lenses or mirrors.

Praying for America & America's Leaders: Something to Think About

"Praying for America and America's Leaders: Think About it"
A Catholic Citizen in America (May 24, 2009)

"I didn't come up with this idea, but it's a good one.

"We have been cursed enough: by ourselves and by people in other countries.

"Let's resolve - beginning July 4th, 2009, to bless - not only our country, but our leaders. I suggest this schedule...."

This is a post from another one of my blogs. No pressure, but if you think it's a good idea to pray for countries and leaders, I've made a list running from the United States of America to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas; one a day; from July 4 to July 16. Like I say, no pressure: but it couldn't hurt.

Life Could Have Survived Earth's Late Heavy Bombardment

"Life Could Have Survived Earth's Early Bombardment"
LiveScience (May 20, 2009)

"An asteroid bombardment of Earth nearly 4 billion years ago may have actually been a boon to early life on the planet, instead of wiping it out or preventing it from originating, a new study suggests.

"Asteroids, comets and other impactors from space have been suggested as the causes behind some of the world's great mass extinctions, including the disappearance of the dinosaurs...."

"...the new study uses a computer model to show it would have melted only a fraction of Earth's crust, and that microbes - if any existed in the first 500 million years or so of Earth's existence - could well have survived in subsurface habitats, insulated from the destruction.

" 'These new results push back the possible beginnings of life on Earth to well before the bombardment period 3.9 billion years ago,' said CU-Boulder Research Associate Oleg Abramov...."

The researcher's model had survivors on Earth, even when they had ten times as many asteroids hitting Earth.

The article points out that some microbes, like those found in Yellowstone National Park's hydrothermal vents, live at temperatures around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (at above-sea-level pressure, of course). Individual species, like koalas or green-cheeked parrots, may disappear with the slightest breath of change.

The possibility that organisms could have survived the Early Bombardment is important. "...'Exactly when life originated on Earth is a hotly debated topic," says NASA's Astrobiology Discipline Scientist Michael H. New. 'These findings are significant because they indicate life could have begun well before the [Late Heavy Bombardment], during the so-called Hadean Eon of Earth's history 3.8 billion to 4.5 billion years ago.' "

'Life,' though, seems to be a great deal more durable. Take the cockroach, for example. Cockroaches were around when more appealing creatures like the triceratops came in. And, they kept nibbling their way through Earth's history long after the triceratops left life's stage.

Don't get me wrong: I think koalas are cute, and don't think it's smart to strip-mine a nature preserve. But I'm also aware here on Earth, change happens.

Related posts:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Top 50 Acronyms Every Parent Should Know, Times Two

Or, maybe, as Gilda Radner's character used to say, "never mind!"

Please, before looking over the Top 50 times two, see my update.
"Top 50 Internet Acronyms Parents Need to Know:"

Knowing this list might help parents understand what their teens are texting - until texting conventions change. And, might help identify issues before a kid disappears.

If noting else, it's an interesting look at a new way of communicating. IMO

  • 143 - I love you
  • 182 - I hate you
  • 459 - I love you
  • 1174 - Nude club
  • IMEZRU - I Am Easy, Are You?
  • IWSN - I Want Sex Now
Think that's enough? There's also "Top 50 More Acronyms Every Parent Should Know:"

Don't get me wrong: I think the way that people make more people is great. But, I also think that feeling with the endocrine system and thinking with the brain are good ideas. (More about what I think is so, at A Catholic Citizen in America.)
Update (May 23, 2009)

On the Other Hand - - -

"Secret Sex-Message Codes Your Teen Is Using -- or Probably Not"
FOXNews (May 22, 2009)

" Did you know that when your teenager texts '8,' he -- or she -- is suggesting oral sex? Or that "FOL" means 'fond of leather'?

"You don't even want to know what "FMLTWIA" means.

"That's according to a new list entitled "Top 50 Text Acronyms Parents Should Know," which is is making its way around the Internet and has caught the eye of some local TV news reporters.

"The problem is ... Many people who see the list wind up howling with laughter, since many of the terms are completely unknown to most people, teenaged or otherwise.

" 'Some of these are absolutely hilarious,' writes 'FirstCuts,' who posted the link to the online aggregator site Digg. 'Honestly, it's probably one of the dumbest things I've ever seen in local network news, and that's saying something.'..."

As one of Gilda Radner's characters used to say, "never mind!"

Been There, Done That

I remember when "Reefer Madness" made its comeback. The 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film was hilariously wrong about the effects of marijuana.

It's still popular enough to warrant re-release in DVD format.

Looks like netlingo may be in danger of making an Information Age equivalent of Reefer Madness. If so, it's not the worst thing that could happen. We all like a big laugh now and again.

On the down side, I remember the 'good old days,' when PCP became popular. PCP wasn't the safest recreational drug to use: "...In toxic doses, the user can become hostile and violent, acting in a bizarre or psychotic manner...." (Cumberland Mountain Community Service Board)

Problem was, that's how "Reefer Madness" portrayed people who had smoked a joint or two. It took a while before people caught on that warnings against PCP weren't just another bit of ignorant drivel.

'And the Moral of This is - - -'

Take assertions with a grain of salt.

I still think those netlingo lists are interesting - but may not be *ahem* entirely accurate.

Aerogel: Remarkable Stuff

"Aerogel: See-Through, Strong as Steel & Lighter than Air" (undated)

"Despite its incredibly low density, aerogel is one of the most powerful materials on the planet. It can support thousands of times its own weight, block out intense heat, cold and sound - yet it is...."

Quite a remarkable material. What stood out for me in this post was the use of photos to illustrate (dramatize might be a better term) the physical characteristics of aerogel.

Silica aerogels are discussed by dornob. There are other types.

dornob's post doesn't say where the photos came from. I think you'll find some of them familiar.


Physicists Visualize Extra Dimensions (Caution! Geeky Content!)

"Physicists find way to 'see' extra dimensions"
University of Wisconsin-Madison News Release(February 3, 2007)

"Peering backward in time to an instant after the big bang, physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised an approach that may help unlock the hidden shapes of alternate dimensions of the universe.

"A new study demonstrates that the shapes of extra dimensions can be "seen" by deciphering their influence on cosmic energy released by the violent birth of the universe 13 billion years ago. The method, published Feb. 2 in Physical Review Letters, provides evidence that physicists can use experimental data to discern the nature of these elusive dimensions...."

This 2007 press release goes on to discuss string theory, and how six dimensions affected space-time in the first moments after the Big Bang.

All of which won't get the lawn mowed, or your car fixed.

I think it's interesting, though.

For quite a few years now, physicists and cosmologists, some of them, anyway, have thought that there's no particular reason why the universe we're in had to be the way it is.

The mathematical models this release describes can be used to compare what's observed to what the models predict: which helps researchers understand more about what makes the universe tick.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Your Brain: Use it or Lose it

"To Keep Your Brain Nimble As You Age, Stretch It"
All Things Considered, NPR (May 12, 2009)

"Nowadays, some scientists say, you can exercise your brain the way you exercise your body.

"If you sleep more, eat less and get plenty of exercise — using your body and your brain — says Richard Restak, you can improve your intelligence over the years and help stave off the dementia that comes with old age....

"...The key, Restak says, is to exercise the three different types of memory: long-term memory, sensory memory and working memory...."

The idea that staying mentally active helps you stay mentally active isn't new. What makes this article interesting, I think, is the details you'll learn.

And, Restak's emphasis on "sensory memory." Or, as the article explains, paying attention.

Makes sense.

78 Ways to Start a Book: or Maybe 77 - or 101??

"78 Ways to Start Your Next Book or Article"
André Bell, Writer's Gazette (2004)

"So many people want to write books to generate passive income, gain credibility and recognition, to leave a legacy, and just to be heard.

"The biggest challenge they find is not coming up with ideas to write about, the biggest challenge is often figuring out how to begin a book or article...."

"...Here are my 'quick start' opening lines that anyone can use for any book or article to help get started right now at becoming an author...."

I couldn't help notice that the title refers to "78 ways," the text says "101 opening phrases," and the numbered list goes from 1 to 77. But, as the author writes: "Don't get tied up by perfectionism."

There's a fairly long discussion about how to use the phrases, and the list.

This is a pretty good resource for writers of non-fiction. Or, with a little tweaking, fiction - in my opinion. As the author says: "The exercises are designed to help prompt your creativity."

Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter from Pennsylvania

"Google Doodle: Mary Cassatt" (May 22, 2009)

"Check out the Google Doodle of the day. Look familiar?

Google is celebrating the birth of the American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt with a Cassatt-inspired Google logo.

A fitting and lovely tribute to a woman whose tender yet unsentimental paintings of women and children....

Mary Cassatt was born May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. That's part of Pittsburgh now. She spent a lot of her adult life in France, near Paris, as artistic people were expected to do in those days.

Although she was conventional in that respect, she managed to step on a few toes with her paintings.

"Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)"
The Artchive

" '...Mary Cassatt especially liked children, doting on her nieces and nephews and the offspring of friends. Naturalism and sensuality of a pure, elemental, and nonsexual sort are the hallmarks of Cassatt's portrayals of childhood during the 1880s and 1890s. An example is Children on the Shore...

" 'The physicality in Cassatt's work seems to have made some uncomfortable. Eloquently capturing a moment between rest and play, Portrait of a Little Girl portrays the daughter of friends of Degas in an interior with Cassatt's dog. Cassatt submitted the painting to the American section of the 1878 Paris Exposition universelle: its rejection enraged her....' "


Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Grand Unification of Cutlery - Some of These Would Actually Work

"Towards a Grand Unification of Cutlery"
Eat Me Daily (May 20, 2009)

"The Ragbag posted this great Venn Diagram: Towards a Grand Unification of Cutlery. Says The Ragbag, 'half the fun of hybrid cutlery is the peculiar names.' "

I think my favorite is the knork, although the spife sounds funny, too.

We've already had sporks for years: I don't know about the other unified utensils.

$20,000 Kobelco Digger Auctioned to 3-Year-Old

"Toddler buys $20,000 digger on TradeMe" (May 21, 2009)

"Three-year-old Pipi Quinlan bought a $20,000 Kobelco digger on auction website TradeMe, prompting immediate damage control by her mum when her purchase was revealed.

"Most parents are used to little ones sneaking treats into the supermarket trolley, but Pipi's deal must take the cake.

"Parents Sarah and Reid Quinlan, of Stanmore Bay, were astonished to wake one morning to find Pipi had bought the huge excavating digger in a TradeMe auction...."

Good news: The Quinlans don't have to pay for the digger, and the seller was reimbursed for auction costs. The Kobelco digger is up for auction again. This time, let's hope that an adult gets there first.

And the Moral of this Story is - - -

"...Perhaps it’s a lesson for many parents or childminders to keep a close eye on little ones around computers."

Yep, I'd say that's a good idea.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The New 'Terminator' is Creepy: Psychologist Says Why

"Why 'Terminator' Is So Creepy"
LiveScience (May 20, 2009 )

"Hollywood and robotics researchers have long struggled with the 'uncanny valley,' where a movie character or robot falls into the unsettling gap between human and not-quite-human. One psychologist likes to demonstrate this by holding up a plastic baby doll and asking audiences if they think it's alive. They say no.

"Then she takes out a saw and starts cutting the doll's head off, but quickly stops upon seeing the uncomfortable audience reactions.

" 'I think that part of their brain is thinking the doll is alive, and you can't shut that off,' said Thalia Wheatley, a psychologist at Dartmouth College...."

This article leans heavily on the "Terminator Salvation" movie and its marketing. It also gives a pretty good overview of what's known about the "uncanny valley," a catchy term used to describe a situation where something/someone looks and acts human, but not quite.

The idea's been around since the 1970s, and is more than geeky speculation. A repeatable lab experiment has people looking at a human face that morphs into a doll's face. We notice that it's 'not human' when it's 70% human, 30% doll. We think it's 'creepiest,' though, when it's more definitely a doll's face.

The idea that LiveScience presents is that this is because parts of the human brain are hard-wired. Wheatley says a deeper part of the brain interprets anything with two eyes, a nose and a mouth as a 'face' - and that another part, not so deep, is more discerning. The latter part is 'social,' interpreting emotions - and any of the motions that happen around the face of a living creature.

"...'Even though your sophisticated analysis says it's not alive, you still have a primitive part of the brain not getting it,' Wheatley said...." And, presumably, that set of conflicting interpretations is that 'creepy' feeling we get in this new "Terminator" movie.

Aside from being interesting for "Terminator" fans and some psychologists, this sort of research could be important for robot developers.

From a marketing point of view, you probably don't want your household robot to be 'creepy.'

Frank Lloyd Wright - - - LEGO Sets?!

"Frank Lloyd Wright LEGO Sets"
PrairieMod (May 15, 2009)

"We got word today of the official announcement of the new line of licensed Frank Lloyd Wright LEGO sets! Created in conjunction with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Brickstructures, Inc. and the LEGO Architecture brand, the first two sets in the series are The Guggenheim and Fallingwater...."

Here's the deal: the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation gave LEGO Group and Brickstructures, Inc. permission to produce and distribute Frank Lloyd Wright Collection® LEGO® Architecture Building Sets.

There are a few photos in this post: They show distinctly LEGOish reproductions of the Frank Lloyd Wright structures named. I think they'd be fun to have. But then, I'm a bit of a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture.

Cutting-Edge Surgical Tech of the 1800s

"1800s Surgical Kit - Unboxing"
medGadget (May 20, 2009)

"We don't often unbox things here at MedGadget. For whatever reason, Phillips and GE keep forgetting to mail us their latest CT scanners for review. And Intuitive Surgical, where's our da Vinci? We need something to make our morning lattes. That being said, recently we got our hands on a wonderfully preserved, rare 1800s surgical kit, made by the famous pre-civil war surgical equipment manufacturer Henry Schively out of Philadelphia, PA. We thought we'd use this opportunity to reminisce on surgery of the past, you know, before ether was given a try...."

I can't tell you how glad I am to not live in the 'good old days.'

(from medGadget, used w/o permission)

'It Slices! It Dices!

Seriously: This is a good, solid article about a particular bit of 19th century medical technology, and how things worked in those days.

"...In the late 18th century most American surgeons were buying their instruments abroad, or from agents who had imported them from England. Henry Schively (1761 - 1811) is described in Edmonson's book on American surgical instruments as 'the Premier Philadelphia surgical instrument maker of the era of heroic surgery' which was the period from 1774 to 1840. He along with a number of other local artisans (there were 50 master smiths registered in the thriving city of Philadelphia, 10 of whom were listed as 'instrument makers') contributed to Philadelphia becoming the centre of the American instrument trade...."

This article seems to be well-researched, and has several links and references to other sources.

It's not light reading: but I think it's a pretty good look at what living in 'the good old days' was like.

Seeing With Your Tongue? This isn't Science Fiction, Folks

"Seeing with your tongue: BrainPort device brings sight to the blind "
Wisconsin State Journal (May 20, 2009)

"Roger Behm lost his sight at 16, the victim of an inherited disease that destroyed his retinas. Both of his eyes were surgically removed.

"Now 55, Behm has made himself at home in a sightless world. He started his own business in Janesville selling devices that help the blind cope with day-to-day tasks. He and his wife have raised five children and just adopted another child from China who is also blind. He fishes, canoes, camps and scuba dives.

"But Behm can remember seeing. Which is why he couldn’t believe it when, three years ago, he slipped a device over his head, turned it on, and was once again able to discern light and dark, shapes and shadows, letters and numbers, and even a rolling golf ball.

You'll be able to get BrainPort commercially by the end of the year, according to this article. It's a gadget that takes data from a video camera and feeds it into the user's brain via the tongue.

My guess is that a person couldn't use it while eating: but apart from that it sounds quite useful.

Erik Weihenmayer, another person who lost sight in his teens, likes BrainPort. He uses it to hike in the woods, play tic-tac-toe with his daughter, and pet his dog.

The article does a quick overview of the science involved - basically, that the brain can sort out data from non-standard sources, to get sensory input.

This year's model of the BrainPort is black-and-white, which is better than nothing.

What impresses me about BrainPort is that it is essentially external: a video camera on sunglasses, something you put on your tongue, and a small control unit. I suspect that high-resolution, color imagery may require something implanted in or near the brain - but we'll see how that works out.

Kudos to Paul Bach-y-Rita, his brother George, and everyone else who worked on the project.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Electric Cars Recharging While Driving? Could Happen

"Recharging road could power cars" (May 18, 2009)

"South Korea's top technology university has developed a plan to power electric cars through recharging strips embedded in roadways, using a technology to transfer energy found in some electric toothbrushes.

"The plan, still in the experimental stage, calls for placing power strips about 20 cm to 90 cm wide and perhaps several hundred meters long built into the top of roads.

"Vehicles with sensor-driven magnetic devices on their underside can suck up energy as they travel over the strips without coming into direct contact.

" 'If we place these strips on about 10 percent of roadways in a city, we could power electric vehicles,' said Cho Dong-ho, the manager of the 'online electric vehicle' plan at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology...."

In principle, this is a great idea. In practice, I'm not so sure.

I've read about really cool uses for embedded sensor strips and other technologies in pavement for about four decades: and so far, the practical applications seem limited to sensors near traffic signals; and pavement heaters. Both of which involve only a few square yards of paving.

This power-transfer technology might be practical in the limited urban application that Cho Dong-Ho described.

Either way, it's ingenious - and, I think, worth trying.

Happy Old Republican Men: Also Fish and Evolution

"Happiness Is ... Being Old, Male and Republican" (May 15, 2009)

"Americans grow happier as they age, surveys find. And a new Pew Research Center survey shows the tendency is holding up as the economy tanks.

"Happiness is a complex thing. Past studies have found that happiness is partly inherited, that Republicans are happier than Democrats, and that old men tend to be happier than old women.

"And even before the economy got nasty, seniors were found to be generally happier than Baby Boomers. Some of that owes to the American Dream being lived by past generations, while Boomers work two jobs and watch the dream wither...."

All in all, an interesting article. I'm 57, so I'm in the group "... age 50-64 who've 'seen their nest eggs shrink the most and their anxieties about retirement swell the most,'...."

I'm a trend-setter of sorts: I got laid off in the spring of 2006. Then, I was in and out of a hospital four times to get hips replaced and hands fixed. Aside from that, though, things have been pretty good. has a related article, "Key to Happiness: Location, Location, Location" (May 17, 2009), that takes a look at seaside property, happiness, fish, and evolution.

Monday, May 18, 2009

R & D & Rovers: Back to the Moon and Mars

"Weird New NASA Rovers Really Get Around"
Wired Science (May 18, 2009)

"At some point on their five-year journey, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have both gotten their feet stuck in the soil, and NASA is taking notes for the design of the next generation of rovers.

"In 2005, Opportunity spent five weeks spinning her wheels in a dune later dubbed 'Purgatory.' Last week, Spirit sank into a sandpit scientists are calling 'Troy,' and could stay there for weeks — or forever.

"But rovers of the future may have an easier time of it. NASA scientists are building an army of prototypes with new and ever weirder ways to rove...."

About a half-dozen photos go with this article. It's a pretty good overview of 'next-generation' surface vehicles for the Moon and Mars.

They're not all like Lemur (shown in the thumbnail), but quite a few of them have a vaguely insectoid appearance. The one that's probably going to get used first, Mars Science Laboratory, is more conventional: a WALL-E-esque scaled-up version of the existing Mars rovers.

Junk Science: Not Everyone in a Lab Coat Is Right

" 'All the Junk that's Fit to Debunk' "

Haven't heard of "junk science?" The website provides this definition:

" 'Junk science' is faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas. The junk science 'mob' includes:..." The list runs from "The Media" and "Personal Injury Lawyers" to "Individuals."

This isn't, as far as I can tell, your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory site. It does, however, have facts and resources that may run counter to what "everybody knows" in some circles. Steven J. Milloy, the man behind, has an annoying (to some) habit of researching topics, finding out what's fact and what's fabrication, and publishing what he finds.

I've touched on junk science now and again ("Silly Science: Hourglass Figure Not Good for Women" (December 17, 2008)). I haven't made it a personal cause, but I do think that knowing what's true and what's not is important.

Which reminds me: has quite a bit of material on the silicone breast implant shakedown, toward the end of the 20th century, including "In the Shallow End of the Jury Pool: Can Junk Science Be Used to Influence Prospective Jurors?" (1997)

Interestingly, women who had a silicone boob job had better health than women who didn't. You have to dig a bit to find that, though. (A nationwide study of connective tissue disease and other rheumatic conditions among Danish women with long-term cosmetic breast implantation. (May, 2007: Epub February 26, 2007), a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health) (It's true that some women with silicone implants had specific health problems. But roughly the same percentage of women who hadn't had the surgery had those problems, too.)
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