"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, March 31, 2008


When I was a kid, my teachers were not, generally, of soft-spoken temperament. John Eaton Elementary, while nestled in one of DCs tonier areas and enjoying all the benefits that entailed, was still a DC school and more importantly, still an ELEMENTARY school. Kids are loud, there's noise outside, and the building creaks. Teachers had many different ways to rise above the din of imprisoned childhood - they would shout, bang on desks, whistle, or, in one case, glare at the front row so loudly that we would all cover our ears and close our eyes in terror.

That was back in the old days. Now, teachers have infrared microphones. Does this strike anyone else as a bit ... ridiculous? If there's any population in the universe with an instinctive understanding of escalation-of-conflict, it's second-graders. And handing out the mic to the kids so their questions and answers can be heard? Awesome, yeah, but I also have met a few second-graders, and the only ones who need a mic to be heard (even in an overcrowded DCPS classroom) are the dead ones. Plus, should we really be encouraging kids to try and be like rock stars?

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for kids being able to hear and be heard better in school. This just strikes me as a good way to, ahem, amplify the problems in DCPS, as opposed to actually addressing them (smaller classes, HVAC systems that work, etc.).

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C Clarke Has Died 

SunsetLegendary scientist and science-fiction writer Arthur C Clarke died today, aged 90 years. Clarke was one of my absolute favorite writers, and had an immense influence on my becoming a scientist myself.

"Childhood's End" is my favorite of his novels, and since to pick favorites amongst his short works is essentially impossible, I'll name "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God" as the two which, without fail and upon every single reading, kick my ass six ways from Sunday.

Two of my favorite Clarke quotes, which form a solid portion of how I try to live:

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." (Clarke's Second Law)

"There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum."

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Spanking, Frogs, and Skatepark Weightloss 

Type II diabetes is a fast-growing health problem - as peoples' increasingly sedentary and BigMac-filled lifestyles balloon waistlines, the Beetis is close behind. Some keys to stemming that tide may come from interesting places: researchers have found that the South American shrinking frog produces a protein - pseudin-2 - the synthetic of which, it seems, stimulates insulin secretion and sensitivity. A whole new reason to lick toads?

A Scotish group has found preliminary evidence that two black tea constituents - theaflavins and thearubigins - appear to also mimic insulin's actions on blood glucose. The research is, again, pretty preliminary, so while a nice cup of tea is probably a good thing anyways, I wouldn't count on it to cure your diabetes.

The only real way to prevent type II diabetes (in most cases) is diet and exercise. Especially for kids, who, like their parents, are getting fatter and fatter every day. Johns Hopkins researchers found that outdoor activity and daily PE classes are, unsurprisingly, negatively associated with kids ending up obese. Skateboarding in particluar was associated with less tubbiness. So, NIMBY Tribunal, let them build that damn skate park, unless you'd rather put up with a dialysis center.

Speaking of parents and their children, a review of the literature may suggest that spanking kids leads to sexual health problems. Kids everywhere would love to tell their parents about this study, but it is a retrospective review, and the results seem a bit of a stretch. Plus, being into S+M is one of the "problems" listed, so that's an interesting question.

Now playing: Dragonette - Jesus Doesn't Love Me
via FoxyTunes

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