Aug 302012

Bill Nye, Science Guy, has a message for parents who ascribe to creationism. You are free to believe what you want, but don’t inflict your beliefs on your  children. According to Nye, such indoctrination will only hinder kids’ capacity to learn science and compete for the increasing number of science-based jobs that are sure to be part of our future economy. Nye’s comments aren’t going to win many admirers among conservatives and fundamentalists, but they reflect an interesting tactic: think of the children!

Here’s Nye’s video message. The bow tie adds that extra bit of gravitas.

Aug 062012

We should all be so lucky as to experience in our own careers the elation on display in this video from the JPL operations center during last night’s Curiosity landing.

It’s difficult to overstate how remarkable this feat is. We dropped a fucking portable lab on another fucking planet from a hovering fucking rocket! I mean, fuck! Government can still accomplish plenty when it keeps its focus. Take that, Tea Party naysayers.

And no, I didn’t manage to watch the proceedings live. I had every intention of doing so, but my aging brain decided that sleep was a higher priority.

Aug 032012

I’m leaning towards losing a little sleep Sunday tonight to watch the results of the Mars Curiosity landing. The whole retro-rockets-and-skycrane landing method still strikes me as audacious, but I’m also not a rocket scientist. Best of luck to the teams at NASA and JPL as they embark on another expedition of the Red Planet.

Jun 132012

I owe my ongoing good health to several factors. Quality nursing care. Medical technology. Good nutrition. But I may also owe a debt to the trillions of bacteria colonizing my body–my microbiome. A landmark study has found that a typically healthy human shares personal space with over a thousand strains of bacteria and many of those strains contribute to maintaining our health. The notion that we are covered with microscopic symbiotes is nothing new, but this study reveals the vast complexities of human physiology on a scale that few of us regularly contemplate.

When I was younger, my physician had me on prophylactic antibiotic. At the time, we thought it would protect me from serious respiratory infections. But perhaps it actually compromised me further.

Jun 052012

In case you hadn’t heard, Venus is currently in transit across the Sun. This won’t happen again until 2117, by which time we’ll probably be too busy fighting gladiatorial matches for the amusement of our robot overlords to take much notice of anything else. So take a moment to check it out and perhaps your descendants, enjoying a five-minute protein break in one of the lunar mine shafts, can recount the tale of how Great-Grandparent was able to watch a dot move across an actual sky.

Mar 162012

It’s nearly 80 degrees outside as I write this. I went outside for a few minutes this afternoon at work and, after I came back in, discovered a full-grown wasp crawling on my wheelchair. Most of my fellow Minnesotans are greeting this freakishly  warm weather with enthusiasm and I certainly enjoy going out sans jacket and hat. But I’m also disturbed. I understand that weather is not the same as climate and that fluke weather events are not necessarily indicative of larger trends, yet it’s difficult to ignore the increasing frequency of violent storms and plain ol’ weird weather. This is not normal and, if this is an early indication of a new meteorological normal, it doesn’t bode well for locales further south that already endure brutally hot summers.

Perhaps this really is just a fluke and I’ll never see another unusually warm March like this one. That would be reassuring, but it also seems like wishful thinking.