Category Archives: Science

And That Ends the Entomology Lesson…

About a year ago my son, Ben called from his apartment in a Minneapolis suburb, he had just returned from a week of camping at an outdoor concert when he noticed a massive beetle about the length of his hand on his bag. He thought it was dead so he poked it. The beetle began vibrating, opened its massive wings and took a flying leap to his wall.

Ben was quite on the phone for a minute then said…”yeah,” in a low quiet voice, pausing again, “…all I could do was scream.” He paused, “I gave the guy down the hall beer to kill it”

Yesterday, my oldest son Nick called me over to an area of the driveway where a similarly large beetle had landed on the dogs rear end before falling to the ground. It reminded so much of the beetle Ben described that I decided to take a picture and see if it was the same bug and maybe even find out what kind of beetle it was.

As I snapped the camera the beetle vibrated, opened its wings and took a flying leap at me.  Like my son,  I screamed, so loud that all noise from activity in the neighborhood went silent including the birds and the only audible sound was Nick mumbling “…and that ends the entomology lesson.”

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Filed under Fiction Writing, Home & Garden, Humor, Life, Minnesota, Science, United States

Ant Jumps off Ledge

Is it just me or is it unusual to see an ant jump off the edge of something as opposed to walking down the side of it. Any other species okay but it didn’t seem very ant like.

My son said it was probably a phenomena like Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), leave it to Nick to dish up some  run of the mill theory. I naturally asked what CCD was and he said it was when worker bees stop working and leave hive.  I laughed…I’m still laughing… its sounds so postmodern. Of course bees are exhibiting disorders because Pfizer has a pill right?  Send them to bee therapy because they keep getting passed over for promotions.

Wiki sites among possible causes GMO’s with pest control (can’t imagine that being an issue) or cell phone radiation (really its negligible!)

But truthfully, if anyone in my house needs therapy it’s the cat, he lies.

Food Irradiation: City Pages, Let Them Eat Shit

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How I’d Improve the American Education System

My daughter is immune deficient and has been an online high school student for about 2 years. I think the best and most cost effective solution to improving the American education system is to build a hybrid that blends the best online education has to offer in a public school setting.

Here’s how it could work:

Each student is provided a laptop computer to work off of  and they independently study digital textbooks, watch podcasts on  subjects they are studying and complete assignments, all within an online learning environment.

At first blush it doesn’t sound earth shattering but consider these net impacts:

The use of podcasting would allow the US Dept of Education (DOE) to hire the worlds best and brightest educators to deliver the curriculum because the person doesn’t need to be in each classroom to teach students. (Imagine  Stephen Hawking podcasting a high school physics course.) Such a change in the delivery of material would allow the US DOE to establish uniformity in the quality of instructors and instruction being provided to all schools EVERYWHERE regardless of the communities financial health. On site teaching staff can then focus on the students who are struggling and need additional instruction.

An education hybrid of public and online education would also allow the US DOE to offer a huge variety of courses to ALL schools everywhere regardless of who is available in that geographic location to teach. As a public school student my daughter could choose from a couple foreign languages, as an online student in rural Minnesota she studied Mandarin Chinese.

Even more important, these courses are self paced, students can move through coursework as quickly as they like or they can take the the time they need. Unlike the current industrial model of education, a 9th grader could work well above grade level while remaining grouped among his or her peers, students could even graduate early and or start college from the very same classroom environment. This would mean that the best and the brightest in our country would no longer have to wait for average learners to catch up and it can all be done within the confines of a single classroom.

Individual schools could allow rural students  the option of attending in person or online cutting the need for additional space and busing. Students with health problems, like my daughter, could still attend their local school by attending online when they are sick. School districts could eliminate the need for home-bound tutors, substitute teachers and even snow days.

Digital textbooks are cheaper to produce than standard textbooks and easier to update without mowing down a forest. They are also hyperlinked to dictionaries and wikipedia’s should students needs more information to grasp a given concept. Whereas a standard textbook might have offered a photo of an Egyptian tomb, in online schooling teachers can podcast an actual tour inside a tomb where students can pan the interior of the tomb right from their computer.

As as a parent of an online student I can log on and see the teachers grade books, I can see how my student scored on each assignment and I can see how much time she is spending studying each subject. This allows me as a parent a clearer view of daughter’s education and more importantly, her work habits.

The post-industrial model I’m suggesting also relieves the pressure on overburdened instructors and quells the issue of classroom size by allowing the human resources within our education system to concentrate on the areas they are most needed.  Even better, this model would allow the US to deliver the highest, most uniform standard of education to learners everywhere regardless of how wealthy or impoverished their community. Equal education could truly mean equal quality and an equal opportunity regardless of geography and its highly likely we’d save money doing it.

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Filed under Education, Fiction Writing, Government, Life, Science, Technology, United States

Vaccine Makers Enjoy Immunity

NEW YORK - JANUARY 26:  A Pfizer sign hangs on...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I haven’t read this in its entirety, I don’t always agree with the Wall Street Journal but it was one of the few publications that recently covered the issue of vaccine injury and the liability limits of the pharmaceutical industry. There are also limits established by government when an “epidemic” is formally announced, I’ll have to do some additional digging to find that information.

Wall Street Journal,  Feb. 23, 2009

One of the little-noticed reasons that Wyeth was attractive enough to command a $68 billion price for rival Pfizer Inc.’s planned takeover sits in a building catty-corner from the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue. That is where a special “vaccines court” hears cases brought by parents who claim their children have been harmed by routine vaccinations.

The court — and the law that established it more than two decades ago — buffers Wyeth and other makers of childhood-disease vaccines from much of the litigation risk that dogs traditional pill manufacturers and is an important reason why the vaccine business has been transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s to one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most attractive product lines today.

The legal shield, known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, was put into place in 1986 to encourage the development of vaccines, a mainstay of the nation’s public-health policy. A spate of lawsuits against vaccine makers in the 1970s and 1980s had caused dozens of companies to get out of the low-profit business, creating a public-health scare.

Read More…

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How to Recognize GM Produce in the Supermarket

These apples have PLU stickers with the number...
Image via Wikipedia

Often the fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarket carry a sticker with a PLU code, that code doesn’t just tell the cashier how to ring up your produce it tells you how the food was grown and whether or not it was genetically modified.

Produce that has been conventionally grown consists of 4 numbers and organically grown produce has 5 numbers prefaced with the number 9.  The PLU code on produce that has been genetically modified also has five numbers but the number is prefaced with the number 8.

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Tweeters in US Government

For full  details or more up to date information check out: Source Watch

Legislative Branch: U.S. Senate

  1. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  2. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  3. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  4. John Cornyn (R-TX)
  5. James DeMint (R-SC)
  6. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
  7. Richard Durbin (D-IL) (unofficial)
  8. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  9. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
  10. James Inhofe (R-OK)
  11. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
  12. John McCain (R-AZ), presidential candidate in 2008
  13. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  14. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  15. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) (unofficial)
  16. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), former NH Governor
  17. Mark Udall (D-CO)
  18. Tom Udall (D-NM)
  19. Mark Warner (D-VA)
  20. Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Legislative Branch: House of Representatives

  1. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI)
  2. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)
  3. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
  4. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
  5. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Minority Whip
  6. John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader; also runs GOP Leader
  7. John Boozman (R-AR)
  8. Michael Burgess (R-TX)
  9. Dan Burton (R-IN)
  10. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
  11. John Carter (R-TX)
  12. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
  13. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
  14. John Culberson (R-TX)
  15. Steven Driehaus (D-OH)
  16. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
  17. Mary Fallin (R-OK)
  18. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  19. Randy Forbes (R-VA)
  20. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
  21. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
  22. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
  23. Mike Honda (D-CA)
  24. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  25. Randy Kuhl (R-NY)
  26. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
  27. Tom Latham (R-IA)
  28. Robert Latta (R-OH)
  29. Ben Lujan (D-NM)
  30. Dan Manzullo (R-IL)
  31. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  32. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
  33. Cathy McMorris (R-WA)
  34. Kendrick Meek (D-FL)
  35. Candice Miller (R-MI)
  36. George Miller (D-CA), also runs Educ & Labor Democrats
  37. Ron Paul (L-TX)
  38. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House
  39. Jared Polis (D-CO)
  40. Tom Price (R-GA)
  41. George Radanovich (R-CA)
  42. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT)
  43. Dave Reichert (R-WA)
  44. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  45. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
  46. Joe Sestak (D-PA)
  47. Christopher Shays (R-CT)
  48. John Shimkus (R-IL)
  49. Zach Wamp (R-TN)
  50. Joe Wilson (R-SC)
  51. Rob Wittman (R-VA)
  52. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
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December 12, 2008 Largest Full Moon of the Year

 According to NASA, on Dec. 12th the Moon becomes full a scant 4 hours after reaching perigee, making it 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser full Moons we’ve seen earlier in 2008.

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