Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kolbert and her last words

Of course, my attention certainly peaked when she began writing about the advances Burlington, Vermont has made when it comes to reducing carbon admissions. I know for a fact that I am certainly guilty of the idling violation that would get me a ticket there. I think I may have even done that in Burlington before, but luckily enough I was not caught. It is also interesting that she brought up that China has been known to follow in our footsteps. After the Olympics, I do know that the country was forced to fix their standards, but other than that they haven't really done anything to change. In fact, they have refused to do anything at all. Even though they may become the most advanced country in the world and will be number one, their own environment will tear them apart if they don't get their shit together.

Chapter 10 basically went along the lines of what she does through the rest of the book. She can't really seem to discuss the facts without having to give her own two cents on the topic. If anything, chapters like these make her seem very self-involved and to be honest, I stop listening to people like her because the way she presents facts is very off putting. It is evident that she is a very good reporter, but she let's her own opinions get in the way of that.

I like though that she would at least acknowledged what has happened since she had written the book. What she wrote here was straight facts, something that was very absent in the rest of the book. So to be honest, she had presented nothing new to be in this book. I really think I wouldn't have had to read this, it was just another way for someone advocating against global warming to make money. If anything, she is working against herself in that aspect.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kolbert and her plea for Global Warming

Our discussions have gone along the lines of describing Kolbert's writing as very convoluted, as she goes on off on rants that add nothing to the discussion of Global warming. Another flaw in her writing is her lack of continuity. Most of the time she describes images created by the destruction of Global Warming, or the many journeys she goes on and the people she meets. In chapter 5, she decides to all of a sudden break out the science of it all on us. As much as it is helpful in describing the grid based observations in certain regions. To be honest, she almost seems to throw in the towel when she suggests that even we did start doing something about climate changes, the chances of us being in a situation of, "There's no going back," could still be a possibility.

In the film called the Global Warming Swindle, they make the suggestion that the earth is just going through a cycle, that we are just going through a warm period. During the Vikings era, the climate was exponentially higher than normal, and then there was a cooling period. At one point, recently, there was fear there would be a cooling period and that things would get too cold. So what gives? Kolbert makes the comparisons to civilizations before us, basically hurting her theory that global warming is man made. Again, lacking consistency.

In chapter 6, she goes back to the image based examples. She creates the image of amphibious houses due to the fact that the ocean levels are rising because of the expansion of the water when it does get warm. This again is not introducing anything new to the conversation. It is something that regular can people can visually see on a regular basis, and it is information that is constantly in the news. The only thing she adds that is new are odd comparisons to different images, which adds nothing to her argument. She is basically trying to entertain everyone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Global warming and its happenings

Elizabeth Kolbert is fantastic at what she does. She is very passionate about what she is writing about and it can be seen in her work. It is what retains my attention and keeps me reading on. She is able to really set in the scenery as she goes from town to town, discussing how hunting is used for necessary purposes, and then describing how the melting glaciers effects the every day people as they look out from their homes. The different words used to describe the condition of the ice and how it is softening much sooner than normal..

She also introduces the topic of permafrost with Romanovsky. I was actually unaware that the shrinking of permafrost is what gives way to huge gaps in the ice. It is also interesting to note that the warming of permafrost is a good indicator that global warming has occurred because while the top layer of permaforst is supposed to be the coldest, it is warm while the middle is colder.

Albedo, which is the division of incident light and reflected light, is apparently a large cause of the Arctic circle warming very quickly. More specifically the ice-albedo which is the open water that is exposed when the snow melts. This to me, was a very interesting process that was explained, and that the open water transfers a lot of heat the goes into the ocean because of the process. Kolbert is able to make something that could be very complicated and simplify the process for many people's understanding.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Don't Care If I Lose My Hearing, I Want It Loud!

Every time my mother asks for me to wear ear plugs when I'm going to a concert, or when I'm practicing with my band in a tiny, cramped basement, or when she asks me that the music in my headphones, I just never listened (that could be a bit of a pun, maybe?) Of course when I don't listen, I'm bitching for the next few days that there is a constant ringing in my ears that I can't get rid of.

In my foolish opinion, music needs to be turned up, it needs to be vibrating throughout your entire body in order for you to be able to capture the true essence of it. What I am also learning at too young of an age is that it is a fast and easy way to lose your hearing. Sure, I am in complete and total denial that I'm going to want to have the ability to hear at age 50, but at the rate my hearing is diminishing, it is a daily concern that I won't be able to rock out to "A Certain Shade of Green" any longer.

Where is this heading, ah yes, the ringing in the ears. What I always ask myself while it is irritating me, is how in the world the noise is created. Turns out, there is a bit of science behind it (who would have thought?). On the website for the Cornell Center for Material Research, a reader asked the question, "Why Do your Ears Ring?" When your ears receive an excessive amount of punishment from the speakers blaring heavy metal right next to your head, "delicate cells inside your ear" push through what are called "sound messages" to the brain. This is called tinnitus.

These delicate cells have things sticking out of them that look like tiny hairs, basically cells with beards (not basically, but that's what I would like to think.) Soon your brain is interpreting sound when pressure waves travel through the air into your ear, making your ears vibrate. This whole process then begins to effect the fluid inside of your ears, and once the fluid is effected, their movement will bend those hairs. The bending of these hairs soon cause your brain to think there is more sound, since there are "electrical signals" being sent to the "auditory nerve." This would be the reason why it may sound like a hear monitor is flat lining inside your ears.

This is supposed to only last for a short period of time, but if you are like me and 44 million other Americans, the ringing tends to be a bit more persistent. the article suggests that it is too loud if you have to shout over the noise. Thank god they don't know that I'm constantly stuck in the situation of someone shouting something to me, and all I get is that their mouth is moving.

All right, I'm in trouble.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Never do I want to think about Halle Berry and my Grandmother at the same time...

I've decided after reading a few of the articles in Discover magazine, the headlines do a fantastic job of tricking you into reading a story. What I mean by this is that I identify with a very well written lede , I think it is one of the most important parts of the story. it shows whether you can write on your own rather than spew a bunch of quotes from various sources. There is so much more that goes into a story, but the lede could be the one thing that has you throwing your computer out the window even though you have a full fleshed out article in your possession.

Coming away from that ridiculous tangent, when you read the headline "Can a Single Neuron Tell Halle Berry from Grandma Ester" you're probably expecting a gut-splitting, or at the most clever, lede. Luckily for them, the first thing I saw was the headline. The headline was the reason I decided to read it, and fortunately for author CarlZimmer, I was interested enough in the subject to read the whole thing. His lede reflects his whole writing style, bland and unoriginal. The lede jumps right into technical informati0n that would lead any other reader to search for Perez Hilton's Twitter page.

What is difficult for a story like this is trying to write the information in an enjoyable manner. What he does very well is covering all sides of the argument over the presence of the "grandma cell", a group of processors, or a "sparse coding network." he went in full detail about Jerry Lettvin's theory of "grandma cells" as they are neurons responding to a certain stimuli, such as Halle Berry or your Grandmother. Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of the University of Leicester in England tested this theory by showing several pictures to participants and marking the responses to a photo of Halle Berry he gathered from some neurons. There have been several disputes of this from other scientists saying that while that neuron may be responding so strongly to one image does not mean it will not do the same for another.

The rest of the article all describes different theories with no true conclusive evidence to declare any of the arguments true. Quiroga himself even admits that the "grandmother cell" theory is not an exact one, feeling that he may have missed millions of other neurons that could be firing off at other photos while only collecting 100. If anything, Zimmer's scientific research is very well done, the results themselves are what is lacking.

Much of what Zimmer discusses does not require much metaphor usage. The writing is pretty straight forward and very easy to understand. For example, it was easy to understand the description of the computer programming using processors to identify a certain individual by giving random guesses, but eventually narrowing it down to give a more perfect identification system.

Overall, the article is very interesting and poses some interesting questions. The purpose of the article seemed to be just a means of rasing those questions, not giving any conclusive evidence. What was missing were a few more interesting examples of how the "grandmother cell" is put into action. The flow of the article was fluid, as each paragraph had no problem transitioning from one to the other. All I have to say for Zimmer is, well, he needs to get working on lede writing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How is Music Remastered You Ask?

Recalling the sound of a chainsaw revving its engine, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, the legendary guitarists of Pearl Jam, slide their fingers down the fret of their guitars to open one of the most prolific PJ songs known as "Even Flow." When it was first released on vinyl/cassette/CD, producer Rick Parashar did the best with what was available to him when it came to recording PJ's first ever full-length album, Ten. What it lacked was some serious low-end. The bass was almost non-existent, and after seeing bassist Jeff Ament perform live several times I knew there was some crunch in that bass that has never been heard before on CD.

I became immensely jubilant upon hearing the news that producer Brendan O'Brien was tapped to do the remastering and remixing of the tracks on Ten because of his work on albums such as Yield where songs like "Brain Of J" had the deep vibration I've been wanting. I never knew the intricacies of Ament's performance on the album until I heard the remastered version, and the levels of McCready and Gossard made their riffs more prominent.

Some bands prefer the analog approach because they feel it might add character to the music, or it is just a more natural way of doing things. The Beatles discography is getting a digital treatment. In an article in Fast Company, they discuss how the original Beatles discography is now being converted into digital files. The way it was originally executed was by taking the analog recording and putting it straight onto compact discs. While trying to "keep the integrity" of the original recordings, with digital remastering producers are able to take out some microphone pops, electrical clicks, that hissing sound on some recordings. What it is doing is giving the recording a much more polished sound and relevant sound.

In an interview I did with the band Barefoot Truth, they discussed how it is a "digital world" in the music industry these days and the only way to compete is by going digital. They use the process of recording in Pro-Tools, a recording software, and then transferring those tracks onto analog tapes. They are still able to keep their organic sound while keeping things a bit more professional sounding.

It just shows that everyone is trying to keep up with the times, even if its Pearl Jam, who are known to be set in their ways, or The Beatles, who don't even exist anymore. Barefoot Truth said it best though, "We live in a digital world."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If we're on the topic of interesting ledes

While reading all the different ledes on Discovery Magazine's website, the story "For Proteins, Evolution is a One Way Street" (though "Toothy Sea Monsters Need Sanctuary, Too" was a very close second), had a very interesting first paragraph that had me drawn to read the rest of the story. It reads:

"Organisms evolve to fit the world around them–but if the changes don’t work out, can a creature reverse the process? Say, for example, an insect originally eats a wide variety of tree leaves, but then evolves to live exclusively on the leaves from one type of tree that is abundant in its habitat; if that tree goes extinct, can the bug reverse course? A new study in Nature sheds some light on such questions, which have perplexed evolutionary biologists for many decades."

It wasn't so much that the lede was mind-blowingly compelling, it posed a question that tickled my curiosity and led me to find out if the process of evolution can be reversed. Well, the headline itself does not lie, they have proven due to constant mutations in evolution. They had performed tests by reversing 7 mutations in order to see if its "ancestral functions" would present themselves, but the case subject inevitably did not pull through with what they wanted.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Girl You Are Wearing That Beard!

I am a proud member of the beard club.

I fancy growing out a beard no matter what the season is there is usually some form of facial hair on me. In some cases, women will tell me how much they enjoy my beard. Now, I'm not trying to use this as some forum about how great my beard is (trust me there is room for improvement, especially in the mustache area).

What if the gender roles were switched around, what if Hillary Clinton grew out a devilish goatee, what would you do if your mom challenged you to a beard growing contest. I really did not see any of this as being at all possible but women do have the ability to grow beards.

It is said that before and after menopause, women have a sudden increase in facial hair growth. The reasons behind this is because of a decreasing amount of estrogen and there is an increase of androgen which creates the growth of a nice, bushy beard like that of an old Civil War General (a bit of an overstatement).

The science of it all is quite intriguing. Estrogen usually produces the growth of what is called sex hormone binding globulin. This prevents the male hormones from greatly effecting women. When the estrogen levels drop as a woman goes through menopause, the male hormone androgen goes into action and trigger more hair growth.

The other situation is not necessarily a fun one. Porphyria cutanea tarda is a metabolic disorder of hemoglobin bio-synthesis.While it is rare, it can be an explanation why Grandma is sporting a brand new handlebar mustache. This can be caused by heavy alcohol consumption, excess of iron intake, and "estrogen administration."

So these are the few reasons of why some women might grow beards, though it is rarely uncommon mainly because women would never allow something like that to happen. Well, some women at least.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adam and his introduction to Eve...

As written from the Times' article, New Clues to Sex Anomalies in How Y Chromosomes Are Copied, the lede goes as follows:

"The first words ever spoken, as fable holds, were a palindrome and an introduction: 'Madam, I'm Adam'"

While we don't know for sure if Adam used such a proper introduction when he first met Eve, the lede written by Nicholas Wade caught me off-guard. It made me unsure of what the article itself was about, yet I was also curious why he chose to open up a story with that lede. My curiosity outweighed my confusion and it lead to a very interesting read.

The story is tells of David C. Page of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts finding palindromes in the Y chromosomes sequence of bases. It led to the discovery that the Y chromosome is able to recombine with itself and do away with bad genes. The problem it can lead to when creating these palindromes is that the Y chromosome and its palindromes can conjoin with its counterpart, causing the two Y chromosomes to fuse together. This leads to everything at the point of connection to the end of the chromosome being lost. This process can cause differences in sexual appearance. The result of some of these palindromes can lead to Turner's Syndrome in women, meaning though they do not have Y chromosomes in the female gonads, they can be found in the blood cells.

I would not known any of this if it wasn't for such curious looking lede. While the information can be a bit overwhelming, it will be stored as a little nugget of information that might come to use some day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Things We Don't Know About What's Most Common

Calves burning as my right foot puts all its weight on a rock in order to make that last inch up the mountain. Hiking Poke-O-Moonshine is not a difficult task, but climbing it for the first time with a pack on my back full of clothes, food, and other camping supplies introduced a whole new world of physical exercise.

We had reached our destination; the lean-to that was only 10 minutes away from the summit, depending on how fast you walk, and all I could think of doing was taking a seat while I grab a drink of water. Soon enough, I began to feel something crawling on my leg. The wide space between all its legs stretched across my lower calf as it trickled its way up to my thigh. I knew immediately that it was a Daddy-Longlegs spider.

While most people are afraid of spiders in general and at a sight of one that is the size of a Daddy-Longlegs, many don't know that it is harmless. The sighting of such an Arachnid sparked a bit of a conversation amongst all who were sitting in the lean-to. It made me realize that none of us really knew why the spider was so harmless, but we did know a few things that we weren't sure was true.

To my own surprise, there are two different types of creatures referred to as Daddy-Longlegs. One is the Daddy-Longleg, which is referred to as Opiliones. These creatures show segmentation on its posterior, and is known for only having one body segment. A report from the University of California Riverside says that the body is the size of a pill. They get their name for having such long, outstretched legs, and also for the fact that they do not have teeth or venom glands. They mainly eat vegetation and animal remains since they have no means of attacking their food. They are mainly found underneath rocks and are apparently uncommon in public, so this may not have been the species I had seen.

Most likely, the spider I saw was what is referred to as the Daddy-Longlegs spider. They are apart of the Pholcidae family. These spiders have two body parts, which are the abdomen and the cephalothorax, have eight eyes, and has no segmentation on the body. These spiders are mainly found in cellars as well.

Unlike the Opiliones, they do produce silk and can make webs. There have actually been no tests done to see if the spider is deadly because of rules and regulations against killing the spider and injecting its venom into humans. These spiders do have teeth, but there is no scientific evidence stating that their teeth are too short to bite. What has been speculated is that the spider does not have a strong musculature to bite because it is able to use its web to catch its prey. Still, there is no evidence this spider has bitten a human and causing it any harm.

What we were always led to believe was that all Daddy-Longlegs spiders were extremely venomous but did not have any teeth to use the venom with. What I did not know was that there were two different types of Daddy-Longlegs. Something I see so often, I had no idea what it actually was. I am not entirely sure of which one I had spotted, but through the description I had read, the Daddy-Longlegs spider seems most probable.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I went for a run on Saturday afternoon when I began hearing a loud incessant knocking. I decided to run over to it since the bird had caught my eye. Though I know of a woodpecker, I don't know too much about the bird itself.

The pileated woodpecker, whose scientific name is dryocopus pileatus, seems to be an incredibly hard worker as it's head is in constant movement trying to get food from inside the tree. The bird's beak has a sharp, pointed beak in order to get through the wood for insects. What took me by surprise was to discover that the woodpecker has a glue-like substance on the end of its 4-inch tongue in order to grab insects. It also has two clawed toes that point in each direction, allowing it to grasp onto the tree for balance. Besides insects, they also eat fruits, acorns and nuts.

While most would say that the sole purpose for woodpeckers knocking on trees is to search for food, they do it to communicate with other woodpeckers as well. It is also known to be a form of mating call.

The bird is quite small as it average from 19 to 21 inches in height and weighs only 1 pound. With being such a small bird, it is greatly harmed by human settling and different pesticides. This has led to some woodpeckers being listed on the endangered species list. The specific ones are the ivory-billed, the red-cockaded, and the imperial woodpeckers. This was something I found interesting because I had no idea that there was any sort of true threat to these birds. Most of it, I am sure, is due to the building of several developments and apartments around the United States. The human population itself has unfortunately been a very destructive force.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

And the Winner Is... Who Knows?

In the article A Clash of Polar Frauds and Those Who Believe, writer John Tierney discusses the debate on between explorers Dr. Fredrick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary regarding who made it ti the North Pole first. There is also a debate whether either of them even made it at all. The expedition made by both was conducted a century ago and there is still new evidence coming to light.

The proof that each explorer was expected to provide have been negated by several experts who say that Cook didn't make it past 400 miles away, and that Peary didn't make it past 100 miles away. Tierney points out that when a human believes in something so strongly, that their brain tends to block out any information that may refute the fact. He then uses the example of the Bush Administration's reasoning for going into Iraq. President Bush was sure that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. With all of the evidence, such as H.W.'s absolving Hussein, Republicans felt that they were allowed to have their own "counter factual" opinion. This is all due because of what Tierney refers to as, "a feel good dopamine surge."

The article itself is what I have a problem with because I feel Tierney's focus is all over the place. While trying to explain why the New York Times and the New York Herald were adamant in believing both Cook and Peary, he haphazardly goes on a rant about the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq. I can agree with the article because I know I am guilty of such things when I strongly want to believe something is true. Though I used politics as my example, his rant was a little out of place, along with being unnecessary. Regardless, it was an interesting article about an issue I had no idea existed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

There's this constant debate between the faithful and the scientifically savvy over the belief of what created mankind and the universe we all exist in. Currently at the French-Swiss boarder there are a multitude of scientists huddled underground working on explaining the creation of our universe and also the "billionths of a second" after the earth was created by using what is called a Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC is the world's biggest particle accelerator according to the LHC UK's website that is intended to, as reported in a Science Times article titled , "to accelerate protons to 7 trillion electron volts and smash them together," in order to recreate the scene and give scientist's evidence that this instance had occurred at the dawn of time.

I have been thrilled and excited by this experiment since I had first heard about it a few years ago. My interest was severely heightened as I watched an hour long documentary about the project on my flight over to Australia, in between viewings of the film Burn After Reading. Lately, I have been having long discussions with friends, family, and strangers on what really caused the creation of the universe. The idea of an intelligent designer, to me, sounds like a great deal of fiction. I have tried to open myself up to the idea that a being inconceivable to man is what led to the creation of Earth and the universe as a whole, but again it is a theory hard to wrap my mind around. With the LHC experiment that is taking place just outside of Geneva, Switzerland, it will hopefully give some on the fence of the debate a little more insight

The LHC has made recent headlines such as the Times article, Particle Collider Will Operate, but at Half Power, where there are reports that the particle collider will begin again in November, but not at its desired speed. The collider has run into a few malfunctions in the past year after an explosion that ended up "vaporizing magnets" causing costly damages to the machine. They are hoping to have the LHC running at 3.5 trillion electron volts, and slowly increase the speed in the coming years.

Though this seems like an experiment that will take years and possibly decades to gain a substantial results, it is a project that is certainly worth pursuing. There are unfortunate doubters who are blowing ideas out of proportion. In an article in the Science Times in September last year called Suits to Halt Big Collider in Europe is Dismissed, a trial in Honolulu was tossed due to lack of jurisdiction in Europe. There was belief that the LHC could bring about the end of the world. The idea that the project would create a black hole has been shut down by safety studies. Either way, the idea seems like a bit of a stretch.

Truly these are exciting times we are living in. With such an extensive project that will hopefully be underway in Mid-November, the prospect of learning about the beginning of time as well as hopefully proving the Big Bang theory correct is enthralling. I personally believe that people should at least look at both sides even if they denounce the other. With this project and it's results, it will hopefully give people some new insight.