Water, Water Everywhere?

But Wait, Doesn’t It Cover 70% of the Earth’s Surface?

But Wait, Doesn’t It Cover 70% of the Earth’s Surface?

The following item comes from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website, and it sets me to thinking. Even in drought-stricken California, we take water for granted. The picture above takes all the known water on earth and positions it as a single mega-drop over the arid Great Basin of the United States.

According to the text that accompanies it:

How much of planet Earth is made of water? Very little, actually. Although oceans of water cover about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth’s radius. The featured illustration shows what would happen if all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball. The radius of this ball would be only about 700 kilometers, less than half the radius of the Earth’s Moon, but slightly larger than Saturn’s moon Rhea which, like many moons in our outer Solar System, is mostly water ice. How even this much water came to be on the Earth and whether any significant amount is trapped far beneath Earth’s surface remain topics of research.

I’d hate to think that the moonlets around some of the outer planets of our solar system contain more drinking water than Planet Earth.

As the most interesting man on Earth has been known to say, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”

February 30

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

This is for those of you who absolutely hate to celebrate birthdays. The problem is you would have to have been born in Sweden in 1712, on a day which was officially listed in the calendar as February 30, 1712. Since there has never been another February 30 in Sweden, you would have died before reaching your first birthday. No cake or presents or Happy Birthday songs for you! (I wonder how many Swedes were so affected.)

According to Futility Closet, where I saw this story, Sweden had some calculation problems in switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. At first, they omitted all leap days between 1700 and 1740, but in 1712, hey decided to have both a February 29 and a February 30. It was not until 1753 that the Gregorian calendar was fully implemented. Until then, there remained a lot of confusion.

Speaking of which, has Sweden ever had any notable mathematicians. Just wondering.

The Sturgeon Moon

Today Marks the Sturgeon Moon

Today—August 18—Marks the Sturgeon Moon

There is a separate name for every full moon of the year. No doubt you’ve heard of the blue moon, when there are two full moons in a single month. That, however, is more a trick of the calendar than of anything else.

The sturgeon moon of August 18 is also called the red moon. the grain moon, the green corn moon, and the blueberry moon.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, here are some other full moon nicknames:

  • January: The Wolf Moon
  • February: The Snow Moon
  • March: The Worm Moon
  • April: The Pink Moon
  • May: The Flower Moon
  • June: The Buck Moon
  • August: The Sturgeon Moon
  • September: The Corn Moon or the Harvest Moon
  • October: The Hunter’s Moon or the Harvest Moon
  • November: The Beaver Moon
  • December: The Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon

Since the Indians did not use the Gregorian Calendar, they would not be troubled by the Blue Moon. After all, it only happens once in a Blue Moon.

Watch It! He’s After Your Brain!

Doctor Daniel Amen

Doctor Daniel Amen

Is he a zombie? Not exactly, but close enough.

Watch public television at certain times, and you are likely to see various health practitioners standing in front of an audience of middle-aged and retired persons who are afraid of (1) getting cancer, (2) losing their memory, (3) blowing up like a dirigible, or (4) outright dying.   All you have to do is listen to the good doctor, buy his DVD, and read his book—and you will be on your way to becoming one of the immortals.

There are inevitably a number of do’s and don’t’s, connected with diet, exercise, sleep habits, etc. It’s like New Years Resolutions all over again—and you know how well those work! Basically, like resolutions, it’s a self-directed program with no snarky degreed individual looking over your shoulder to tell you shape up fast.

I usually associate these medical salesmen with Doctor Daniel Gregory Amen, whose audience is frightened of getting Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. So, there they sit, clapping on cue at all the good doctor’s talking points.

Perhaps his program is good: I am in no position to judge. But I am dismayed that so much of the Public Television audience has reached a point where health has merged with self-help. As for myself, I will continue to consult with my physician about any worrisome indicators. As for brain health, my readers are aware that I am past help. You might just pronounce the final Amen.

Rat Number 42


Sometimes, You Just Can’t Win

Sometimes, You Just Can’t Win

The following comes from AboveAverage.Com. I thought you might find it amusing:

Researchers at Harvard are incredibly annoyed with a lab rat they describe as “a real asshole.”

“We’re trying to research how obesity impacts brain function,” explained Dr. Stu Macho. “To do that, we got all these normal rats and started observing them. Then this little fucker, we call him #42, starts eating a ton. He got super fat and starts walking into his cage walls like a moron when we try to observe him. But then, at night, he’s completely normal. It’s totally throwing off our data. He’s being a real shithead.”


I mean, look at this little shithead.

This isn’t the first time #42 has ruined an experiment. Dr. Macho explains, “I once ran an experiment to test whether the scent of cats was frightening to rats. We gave them a treat every time they pushed a big red button. Then we sprayed it with cat scent. Literally every single rat was too scared to push the red button, except #42. He pushed it, winked, and then held his little paws out for his treat. He’s such an asshole, his data screwed my entire thesis.”

Dr. Macho believes #42’s behavior is intentional and aimed specifically at him. “I caught him laughing at me once while I was trying to sort data he’d fucked up. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Can rats even laugh? And what would it look like?’ Trust me, when a rat laughs at you, you’ll know.”

When asked why he doesn’t simply exchange #42 for a less malicious rat, Dr. Macho explained, “You can’t just use an infinite number of lab rats. They start to think you’re a psycho if you keep asking for more.” Dr. Macho sighed. “I feel like I’m living in an annoying Pixar movie where I’m the bad guy – oh, wait….I’m the bad guy. I’m the evil scientist performing experiments on a sassy, smart rat. And my name is Dr. Stu Macho? Oof, yeah, I’m the wrong one here.”

Just behind Dr. Macho, #42 winked and walked directly into his food bowl.

A Global Threat

Reprinted from The New Yorker, May 2015

Reprinted from The New Yorker, May 2015

I don’t do this very often, but I am reprinting in its entirety the Borowitz Report from The New Yorker.  When I first saw it, I laughed so hard that I am still looking for some internal organs that I spewed all over my office.

Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

“Spooky Action at a Distance”

Einstein Just Couldn’t Wrap His Head Around It

Einstein Just Couldn’t Wrap His Head Around It

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy—or even Albert Einstein’s philosophy.  It was not long after people were confused by Relativity than ever stranger things were being noticed by physicists. Here’s what drove the great physicist to exclaim, “God does not play dice!” and to call the whole affair spooky action at a distance:

How appropriate for Halloween!

  • Nothing travels faster than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), right?
  • There are experiments in which photons are fired in opposite directions, each going at the speed of light.
  • If you change the charge of one of those photons, the one speeding away from it at the speed of light is changed to the opposite polarity.
  • How is that possible, since the two photons would have to be communicating at a speed greater than the speed of light?

Let me express it another way, according to RawStory.Com:

But let’s begin with the paper, published in Nature, which proves that the world is inherently spooky. All systems described by quantum mechanics can display so-called entanglement. For example an electron, like a coin, can spin in two directions (up and down). But two electrons can be entangled so that a measurement of the spin of one electron will define the spin of the other.

According to quantum mechanics, the spin of one electron cannot be known in advance of a measurement yet will be perfectly correlated with the other, even if it is in a distant location. Einstein didn’t like this because it seemed to imply that the information can be sent from one electron to the other instantaneously—breaking a rule that says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. He instead thought that there were “hidden variables” encoded in each electron that could determine the result if only we could access them.

Things just got all crazy and non-intuitive from that point on. Could it be that “things” can exist whose parts are far apart yet could communicate instantaneously with one another? Could I flash a thought wave to my brother on Planet XZ-74Ah several light years distant and tell him to put a quarter in the parking meter because it’s about to run out? Is all really one in a way that proves Einstein wrong?

Check out this video from Doctor Quantum on the subject of entanglement, which is what this phenomenon is called.

Hmmm, maybe. Meanwhile, I have to let Schrödinger’s cat out of his box.