Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Pre-K, Full Day Kindergarten and the Studies

3 May 2017

I am told that the studies are inconclusive as to the benefits of pre-K and full day Kindergarten when examined at later grades, such as middle school. I think there is a failing in these studies, though I am no expert. My issue is how we teach to the lowest common denominator. The lack of funding for teaching to accelerated students basically means that they would, in general, be slowed down from what they could potentially achieve. We cannot ask one teacher to be an expert at teaching three or four different levels in the same classroom but without more funding there isn’t the money available to add additional educational resources in each classroom. Of course there are socioeconomic issues here as well. I don’t have a solution to school funding but I would like it if the broad consensus on the initial benefits of pre-K and full day Kindergarten were not watered down with studies showing what happens later when we underfund schools in general.

Small, but really significant, Pox

18 May 2014

How does it make sense to say you need to have an old sample of smallpox in a freezer in case there is an outbreak. If there is an outbreak then wouldn’t you have access to all the new samples one might need though of course not want? Also, wouldn’t it be just as likely that a new outbreak would be enough genetically different that the old sample in the freezer provides no value? I’m not saying they need to destroy live (well frozen) vaccine but I think that the samples of actual incredibly deadly virus and any potential contaminated biological material could be destroyed.

I’m more worried that cold war era politics and people not trying to loose their jobs or their funding is real reason smallpox still exists in a lab. Stupid conspiracy theories, right?

Alright California, here is my crackpot idea to deal with drought

27 February 2014

Remember Star Trek: TNG? Atmospheric condensers!

Well a little more complicated than that. Have floating ocean based platforms that take in humid sea air and cool the air using deep water geothermal cooling which should condense out some reasonable amount of fresh water. Generate electricity for the pumps with tidal power. Hopefully better than desalination.

Nature versus Religion

21 September 2013

I recently have begun to question the validity of my argument for abortion and gay rights based on my assumption that the opposing arguments were entirely religious based and therefore invalid as part of a secular discussion. However, what if instead the opposing argument claimed the religious view was based on nature and not a dictate from a supreme being? This self doubt did not last long as I decided that the natural argument did not have sufficient merit. Once you remove the religious moral objection against the two topics then what remains is based on weak genetic science, some of which the religious teachings fundamentally oppose (that of genetic drive which is related to evolution). Abortion and homosexual relationships happens in nature, a fact that is well documented. So, by nature, these things are natural.

There are other aspects of laws related to these subjects arising from the economic and social impacts. I would argue against these rationale here too but will leave that for another time.

Prius – It Really Does Have Great Fuel Economy

15 June 2011

Some potential car buyers may think the advertisements for the Prius are just a sales pitch and that when you get it on the road you will never actually see 50 mpg. Well I can assure you that you do get good fuel economy and you don’t have to drive it like a golf cart. In 834 miles of both city and highway driving, the average fuel economy I got was 55 mpg. So if your considering buying a car, take a look at the Prius and how much the Prius’s fuel economy might save you when comparing prices.

What amazes me is that in most respects, the Prius seems like a normal car. Sure a little under-powered in gas saving mode, but not horribly so. I know all about the regenerative breaking system and the electric motor and all of that. But other companies have made hybrid cars of the same size that don’t even come close in terms of fuel economy. Toyota has just implemented the technology much more successfully than their competitors and at a lower price too. Take a look at the Ford Fusion hybrid. Sure a nice looking car but at $6,000 more and only 40 mpg. The economy for the price just doesn’t make sense. The Volt, or plug-in hybrid with extended battery range, seems the right way to go in the near term, with a plug-in Prius and Ford Escape hybrid coming out next year. If those cars qualify for tax breaks, they might just be worth it.

The Cons and Cons of Fracking

18 January 2010

The FRACK signs started appearing about a couple months ago now. At first I thought it was some sort of Adult Swim reference that I wasn’t getting. Which is odd to think because I am much more likely to get a cult reference than the average home owner in my residential area.

FRACK refers to fracking which is short for hydrofracking which is short for hydraulic fracturing which is a method of obtaining natural gas from shale by fracturing the shale using hydraulic pressure. You drill a hole down into some deep porous shale layer which is holding natural gas in the porous structure. Then you pump water with a bunch of nasty chemical down the drill hole and the pressure and chemicals cause the shale to fracture. This allows the natural gas trapped in the porous rock to leak out at a rate suitable for recouping the cost of the drilling operation and making a tidy bonus for some already overpaid energy company executive. Sure it increases domestic natural gas production by a not entirely insignificant amount, but at an amount much smaller than the saving that could be obtained by the cheaper route of replacing old electrical components with new more efficient models or increasing renewable energy production.

But I digress from the really important parts of this plan, which is hydraulic part of the equation. Water is the most important resource in the world (okay maybe air is). The use of water for any activity not related to food and health should be seriously examined. It is true that water is already used for many industrial applications such as turning petroleum into gasoline, power plants, metal refining, mining, and so on. But the world is already suffering from a lack of clean fresh water and using any more of it for a new and otherwise barely logical endeavor is hardly what I would call a good idea. Further, those other chemical added to the water only serve as additional sources of contamination for the remaining sources of clean water.

I heard an argument from the mountain top removal companies that other mining operations already cause pollution so why should their requests for new permits be held up just because they will cause huge areas around the removed mountain top to be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic substances. I guess the thinking goes that someone else got to ruin part of the planet so why shouldn’t I be allowed to? Sounds a lot like the climate summit talks. This kind of thinking really annoys me for how short sighted and foolish it is.

Too bad for the planet that greed, rather than logic, is the driving force behind human activity.

Solar Halo and BattleTech

8 August 2009

I have now three times seen the phenomenon known as the solar halo while having a camera. Unfortunately the pictures have all failed to do justice to the visual effect. The latest one seen today during a hike at the Finger Lakes National Forest with Laura and Oliver.

Solar Halo

The phenomenon is caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere creating the same effect as rain for a rainbow. In this case there actually were several layers of clouds resulting in some shadow effects as seen with the contrail. Alternatively it is a huge explosion and I’m just covering up the details. One thing I can assure you is that this is not a trick of the camera – look up solar halos if you don’t believe me.

Last night I played BattleTech for the first time. The following will be way too much detail for anyone who does not know or care about BattleTech. It was a 9 player free for all over 4 maps using Clan heavy Mechs. The winner was determined by most damage scored with a 50% bonus going to the last pilot standing. I took 10 medium pulse lasers and a targeting computer because, having not played before, it seemed like a good idea. After 6 turns, I scored 370 points of damage which, it turns out, is enough to vaporize a heavy Mech. On the 6th turn I lost my right leg, right arm, and took an engine and a gyro hit. Crippled in one corner I waited till someone, too far away for me to fire at, finished me off. The last man standing scored 246 damage and with the 50% bonus ended up at 369 – giving me a 1 point margin of victory. Not bad for a first time.

Schrödinger’s Cat Revised

30 July 2009

You have a table with four chairs. An approximation of quantum mechanics is that before you pull out a chair, every chair is simultaneously occupied and not occupied by cat. At some length of time later you pull out one chair and the chair is either occupied by cat or not. Sometimes there even is more than one cat in a chair. If you find an occupied chair and then push that chair back in and pull out another chair, then that chair may also have cat. This is true even if you have less than two cats and is a perfect example of quantum physics (or the finickiness of cats). The observation can only tell you about the status of things at the time of the observation. Even though there was only one cat, in four observation you may determine that all four chairs are occupied by a cat. Of course the same test could result in finding no chairs occupied by cats. Hence the idea that before you pull out a chair that all the chairs simultaneously have cats and don’t have cats.

This approximation is even true if you do not have a cat, the probabilities are just smaller unless you like to leave your front door open a lot.

A New TV and I Learn About HD Cables

18 December 2008

I did finally buy a new TV. The problem I talked about previously was resolved by a store manager calling me later in the week. I got a new TV delivered on Sunday, December 14th. It was hooked up in time to watch my football team loose another game they could have won.

Hooking the new TV to the set of older equipment that I have was an interesting task. The DVD player is connected via component cables while the DVR is connected using a video cable. The RF (coaxial) cable resulted in a low signal message. I expected to use HDMI, but sadly I have no equipment with a HDMI output. I only learned that after I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what cable I needed to get a HD signal. The S-Video also did not work. So it is time to go to Time Warner and get a HD cable box to solve multiple problems with the old DVR and also to be able to see a full HD signal on the TV. Eventually I will need to upgrade the DVD player, but so far I have been happy with the quality.

We watched Iron Man, Lord of the Rings, and The Kingdom on the new TV so far. Iron man was good. The special effects in LofR are starting to seem dated, but I still like the movie. The Kingdom seemed rather poorly written, but the special effects were nice. Lots of cool explosions.

I was going to post a picture of the TV, but the pictures I took do not do the TV justice.

In other news, Laura is a little under the weather. I hope she feels better soon.

JJ is back on a little diet after he was caught in a bag of cat food. Actually, he was in the plastic bag that held sample bags of cat food. The only reason he was caught is because he was stuck in the bag and made so much noise trying to get out that Laura went to check on him. I am glad he got over the trauma. It seems that JJ had been supplementing his diet in whatever way he could and now needs to loose a little weight again.

Lucy is having problems with her eyes. There is a lot of junk forming under her eyes every day now. In good news, she and Oliver seem to be getting along better. They even sniffed each other without either making a sound of complaint.

Allergies and Medications

10 July 2008

As you may know, I have allergies. Some of my allergies attacks can be very disruptive, but those attacks do not happen that frequently. The real annoyance is waking up every morning having to blow my nose, and then blow my nose some more. Sometime I am congested and my nose runs through lunch time. I tried taking Clortrimeton, Claritin, and Zyrtecc without improvement. So I decided to go to the doctor and get some prescription medication. They gave me prescriptions for Nasonex and Allegra. They also gave me some samples of Nasonex. I have used the sample these last two days. I do not enjoy sticking a sprayer up my nose. I am not certain if it is improving things yet or I am just going through a natural cycle towards less allergy response. I am really hoping that it does help.

Nasonex is a topical steroid delivered by aerosolized spray that helps prevent histamine responses in the nose. The documentation with it indicated that they don’t exactly know how it works. Many require days or even weeks to notice a difference. A phrase the documentation kept using was “not statistically significant.” I couldn’t tell if they were talking about the effects or the side effects of the drug.

Allegra is another antihistamine. Unlike Benadryl, it does not cross the blood brain barrier so it should not cause me to be sleepy. That is a good thing. The problem with Benadryl is that I cannot take it during the day at work. There are times when the allergies get so bad that I cannot work without taking something. If Allegra works then maybe I will have something I can take.

The last option is to get allergy treatments. The description given was that they would scratch my arm with a bunch of allergens to see which I respond to and then give me shots to desensitize me to that allergen. Every scratch sends off my allergy response and I hate needles. I think I will try to avoid this option as long as possible.