Category Archives: Science

News from the lab


Life is so much more interesting with breaking news from the scientific community.

In no other arena is it more clearly demonstrated that the more we know, the more we don’t know.

Each new discovery is greeted with a barrage of new questions and, in this house anyway, we love to play along.

So here are this week’s announcements…

And the questions they inspired…



Scientist claim to be about 2 years away from creating a Wooly Mammoth embryo.

What we want to know:

Disregarding the obvious questions of: Is this a good idea? What are their plans for said embryo? And, how many lawyers and politicians will get involved? We are wondering:

1.What is the real reason Wooly Mammoths went extinct? Was it because they were slow? Or because they were delicious?

2. How many humans could be sheltered and clothed by one Mammoth hide?

And, bearing the above in mind:

3. Is it possible that the phrase “it takes a village” originated 10000 years ago as “it takes a Wooly Mammoth”?



The discovery of a star system with 3 planets in the potentially life sustaining Goldilocks zone.

What we want to know:  

First, if you haven’t already moved past the question of “is there life?” then you do not watch enough sci-fi. Of course there is. What kind of fun would it be if there wasn’t? Questions from the serious geek are:

1.Who is the advanced species? Us discovering them or them apparently choosing to ignore us?

2.Is anyone truly comfortable with either possibility?

3.What are the probabilities that any of the planets are sustaining Wooly Mammoths?



The Large Hadron Collider has proven there are no such things as ghosts.

What we want to know:


2.How is it scientists can confidently say and do these things but they still don’t know how gravity works or what makes an airplane fly?

And finally:

3.What does the LHC have to say about Wooly Mammoth populations in the Trappist-1 star system?


Inquiring minds are waiting. 




The Anarchist twitch

So, here’s a side effect of leaving Alaska that I did not see coming, I am suffering ordnance withdrawals.

That’s right, I’m desperate to blow something up.

Calm down. I can say things like this. Thanks to previous employment I’m already in a government database somewhere. Homeland security knows I’m not a terrorist, just an Alaskan feeling a little homesick.

(Now there’s a fine line…).

What’s brought this on? Who knows but I’m inclined to say the weather. It’s wet, I want fire and making one here isn’t easy without a serious catalyst.

(No matter what the fire department would have you believe. Funny story, on last week’s hike we found a CAUTION FIRE DANGER sign in what – after weeks of relentless rain – was less “trail” and more “raging river”. Honestly someone should design such posts to be invisible until the weather’s sufficiently dry enough for the danger to be believable. Otherwise it’s just one more reason for people like me to distrust authority.)

(Again, not a terrorist, just a girl from Eagle River.)

But, back to my need for pyrotechnics, it would be unfair to place all the blame on rain. Without a doubt, living with boys, creatures who are functionally deaf unless the conversation turns to explosives, is not helping me. Check our computer’s search history and you’ll find “C4” popping up with alarming regularity. Also, “Nuclear reaction” is mentioned so often around here I’m thinking of turning it into a drinking game.

(Dear NSA, CIA, SIS… lighten up…)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how I got to this mental place, the point is to get out. How? There are no fireworks here and Mowgli, God bless him, is only a fraction of the way through this countries legal maze to gun ownership. What are our options after that? Fertilizer? Molotov cocktail? Call me chicken, but the risk to entertainment ratio with both those is beyond even my unorthodox senses…so far.

Maybe I just need to relax and this will pass. Yeah that’s it, maybe I just need to drink a beer, put on some Ted Nugent and eat a cow. Maybe then I’ll be sated…

Until that time though, to the bottle rocket!

Jethro’s Zen

Curious results from a recently published study got me thinking…  that’s never a good thing…

In the name of science, researchers at the University of Heidelberg shoved a bunch of gullible saps into an MRI tube and mentally harassed them while jotting down what parts of their brains lit up. Their “research” included activities like verbally deriding volunteers for failing an impassable test then giving them a ball and heckling how badly they played with it.

(Ah, so that wasn’t high school! That was a four-year study on adolescent brains! Phew. Wait, how did I get on that list?)

While the poor (but I hope, well paid) test subjects tried to keep a stiff upper lip, scientists compiled data upon data and looked for something smart to say about it all. Their findings suggest (my choice of words because to say any study “concludes” anything hints at major hubris, fatheadedness… Come on. Historically, “experts” have “concluded” that the earth was flat, milk was bad for you, and the melodious voices of Milli Vanilli were not only awesome, but their own. Sometimes, skepticism is healthy).

Anyway… this particular study ‘suggests’ that people living in an urban environment suffer more from, and are less able to handle, stress than people hanging out in a more bovine friendly region. Rural folk, it seems (to this particular group of “know-it-alls”) have a decided edge when bombarded with pressure, trauma and strain (at least of the mental variety though I suspect a “brain images during flogging” data compilation will not be forthcoming).

Furthermore, the data indicates that if you live in a city as an adult but were a child in the sticks, you may have no need (and little inclination) to worry. Simply being reared in a country setting dramatically improves the likelihood that you would sweat less than your citified counterparts if you were all, say, contestants on Jeopardy. (Which is not to say that an Uncle Jed would actually score higher than a Donald Trump just that he would probably care less if he didn’t.)

So what do you think? (About the results, not how they got them. I’m sure we’re evenly divided into those who wonder who on earth would sign up to be a lab rat and those who instead drool over volunteer pay).

Where did you grow up? Where are you raising your kids? Think it matters? And if you do think so, why?

For this week’s disclaimer: I am obliged to inform everyone that I am a military brat and as a consequence, spent considerable amounts of my formidable years in both rural and urban setting. The only “study” I might feel strongly towards is the one proving that moving a lot as a child shapes the brains into a breeding ground for schizophrenia.

Because I’m not schizophrenic, (but don’t tell her that).

(Report by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg at the U of H and published in Nature if you’re interested in details. To Mr. Meyer-Lindenberg, Kidding! this is all in fun. Please do not prank call my house. It sounds like you’d be very good at it.)