Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Seed Grew 30,000 Years Ago...

And now a Pleistocene-era plant is once again growing on earth.
Our thanks go out to the hero of science who made this all possible: 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Big One

We keep hearing about the big earthquake that may happen off the coast of Vancouver Island. A new paper says that Japan's latest quake makes our next quake more likely. Estimates put the likelihood between 10-35% that we will get one in the next 50 years. Oh did I mention it was a 9.0.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunshine: It's Good For You Again

Are you tired of the nanny state telling you to wear your sunblock? Vindication at last! For some months, I have been hearing murmurs that sunlight does more good than harm. It is one of those subjects where a bunch of evidence exists that goes against accepted science and government recommendations. This is not yet accepted as fact in the mainstream, so treat it as such. Even so, I guess it is time to write a post.

According to Dr. Michael Holick, "Vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world." It leads not just to rickets and osteoporosis, but hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and cancers including, surprisingly, skin cancer. See here for a summary.

It is still recommended to wear sunglasses and limit exposure of your hands and face. They already get plenty of sun.

Yes, Virginia There is Controlled Fusion

A student was asking me if humans had ever achieved controlled fusion. I was pretty sure the answer was yes, but couldn't think of any examples. (Note We have not achieved a controlled fusion reaction that released more energy than was input.) Well here is an example put together by a 14-yr-old who also dreamed up a practical near-term use.
Going for a walk...with my Geiger counter
Update (Jun'14):
Taylor is 19 now. Here is a NBC feature and a report on another guy doing fusion in his garage.
Finally, my old colleague, Michel Laberge gives a TED talk about his exploits in Fusion. General Fusion has a plausible shot at being the first company to produce practical fusion.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hobbies Getting Out of Hand

Theodore Gray, the Mad Scientist of Popular Science speaks frankly while doing chemistry demos. Did you know that Pyrex is no longer pyrex? He shows why this matters at 28:00 (it involves a blow torch). He also makes salt(think about it!), a cutting torch out of bacon and appears on a Japanese game show. Don't you wish my classes were like this?
  Along the way, Gray has made the periodic table website, book and table; re-popularized the song (slower). He put all his columns into a book: Experiments You Can Do At Home--But Probably Shouldn't. He even praises the iPad for enabling the Harry Potter version of his book.

Full circle: Harry Potter sings the element song.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wood Stove. Big Deal!

The four biggest killers of the world's poor are hunger, dirty water, indoor smoke and malaria which kill 7, 3, 3 and 2 people per minute (p.338). There are 500,000 minutes in a year.

Now consider the Envirofit G-3300 stove. "These stoves reduce smoke and harmful gases by up to 80 percent, reduce fuel use by up to 60 percent and reduce cooking time by up to 50 percent compared to traditional cooking fires and stoves."

the facts

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Operation Red Flag

48 min IMAX video of modern dogfight simulation.
Inspired? Flight Simulators: Flight Gear, YS Flight Simulator (works will on slower computers), Microsoft Flight Simulator X (Demo or paid versions), or X-Plane (the best?)