Category Archives: Science

Animal’s Science Thursday News

Science!Some tidbits from the wonderful world of science!

A Precursor to RNA?  Excerpt:

If RNA was indeed the first biological molecule, discovering how it first formed would illuminate the birth of life. The basic building blocks of RNA were available on prebiotic Earth, but chemists, including (Georgia Institute of Technology chemist Nicholas) Hud, have spent years trying to assemble them into an RNA molecule with little success. About 15 years ago, Hud grew frustrated with that search and decided to explore an alternative idea: Perhaps the first biological molecule was not RNA, but a precursor that possessed similar characteristics and could more easily assemble itself from prebiotic ingredients. Perhaps RNA evolved from this more ancient molecule, just as DNA evolved from RNA.

What’s interesting about this?  We really don’t know much about how life came to be on Earth.  We know quite a lot about what happened once there was life, but the study of life’s origins – abiogenesis – is still working out the basic details.  This may be a step towards a better understanding, maybe even a hypothesis.

Mating With Neandertals Was Hard.  I’ll forgo the obvious joke.  Excerpt:

Uncle.
Uncle.

While past studies have suggested that interbreeding improved immunity and genetics related to disease resistance, it turns out that Neanderthals might have actually passed along some harmful genes, as well.  Studies suggested that genes associated with increased risk of lupus, biliary cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, and smoking addiction were all inherited from the Neanderthals.

Whoops.  While it’s interesting to know that there are traces of these hardy, resilient humans left, we could probably do without the disease aspects.

One more, this one presenting the possibility of a revolutionary material:  Lighter Than Water, Stronger Than Steel.   Excerpt:

Materials shape human progress – think stone age or bronze age. The 21st century has been referred to as the molecular age, a time when scientists are beginning to manipulate materials at the atomic level to create new substances with astounding properties.

Taking a step in that direction, Jens Bauer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and his colleagues have developed a bone-like material that is less dense than water, but as strong as some forms of steel. “This is the first experimental proof that such materials can exist,” Bauer said.

Hank Rearden could not be reached for comment.

On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

This is interesting.  Not surprising, but interesting.  Popular Anti-Fracking Study Discredited by Colorado Health Department.  Relevant excerpts:

“It is difficult to draw conclusions from this study, due to its design and limitations,” Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said. “We appreciate continuing research about possible public health implications that may be associated with oil and gas operations in Colorado.

“With regard to this particular study, people should not rush to judgment.”

Why? Because the study didn’t distinguish between active wells and inactive wells. It also did not distinguish between vertical, horizontal, oil or natural gas wells.

“This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the actual exposure people may have had,” Wolk said.

Further, the researchers never considered outside factors that may have resulted in birth defects, such as drinking or smoking.

“Without considering the effect of these personal risk factors, as well as the role of genetic factors, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from this study,” Wolk said.

Also:

The researchers noted in the study that they never bothered to check where the mother lived during conception or the first trimester. This is when most birth defects occur, so not knowing what was going on in the mother’s life at that time is a significant problem in determining whether fracking was to blame.

In other words, shoddy science.  A case in point; the study mentioned noted a decrease in birth defect among women who live closer to wells, a seeming contradiction that should have raised some alarms on the study’s methodology.  Why?

Because contradictions don’t exist.  When a seeming contradiction is found in a study of this nature, one should check their premises; one or more of them will be wrong.

Here’s the crux of this issue; there can be no absolute right or wrong answer in a policy issue of this nature.   There can only be tradeoffs.  There is a level of mess we will accept in order to increase our energy independence and lower the cost of energy.  Worried about Shy Bearour chronically high unemployment rate?  Stagnant tax revenues?  Runaway Federal debt? Explosion of numbers on welfare?  The answer is economic growth, and cheap energy is a supercharger for economic growth.

And no matter what side of any given issue you might take, relying on shoddy, self-contradictory  science makes for a shoddy, self-contradictory argument.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearSome random notes:

A Pen, a Phone, and a Flailing President. 

The Obama Administration may well be characterized by one word: from the article:  “Uninformed.”  When the administration does admit to knowing about some screw-up or another, it invariably seems to be someone else’s fault.

Moving on to the world of tech, it seems Microsoft is looking for a recovery from the massive Charlie Foxtrot that is Windows 8.  Both of my machines are still running Windows 7, and they will stay that way until Microsoft unscrews this particular mess.   Mrs. A has a hybrid tablet/laptop that runs Windows 8, and she isn’t impressed.   PerfectAs pointed out in the article, Microsoft seems to go through this process about every other major OS release, so maybe there is some hope for Windows 9.

One more, this one from the sexy world of science:  Graphene Condoms.   Advantages?  The thinnest and strongest condoms ever made, which presumably would boost condom use.  An issue with which I have no personal interest, as a happily married man on the wrong side of fifty whose spouse is a frighteningly good shot, but interesting all the same.

Work beckons.  Stay tuned, True Believers; more to come.

Animal’s Daily News

Bear-stuffsA compendium of random notes today.

From Gallup:  65% Dissatisfied With How Government Works.  No shit.   Excerpt:

Republicans and independents are largely responsible for the overall decrease in satisfaction with government effectiveness in recent years. Satisfaction among Republicans and independents began to wane during President George W. Bush’s final year in office. This may have reflected mounting public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, coupled with the Democratic takeover of Congress after the 2006 midterm elections. Both groups’ satisfaction plummeted still more between 2008 and 2011, and has since dipped further.

With the performance of the Imperial Federal government over the last decade or so, what’s really amazing is that the number that are satisfied is still as high as it is.   Is it possible that 35% just aren’t paying attention?

Related:  Obama’s Polls Fall As Middle Class Gets His Number.  Excerpt:

Are you dazed and confused by Barack Obama, the nominal Democrat, whose conduct as president since 2009 has seen him sink from nearly 70 percent to 40 percent or less in the national polling, from which he has seemed to learn nothing, but still marches on?

Facepalm-bearFear not, the doctor is in: Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute, whose latest book, The Revolt Against The Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, explains all you wanted to know about Obama, and much else. It explains why he never became the new Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson at his best, as he and they belong to quite different wings of their party.

Read the whole thing.  It’s worth the time.

Finally, a science note:  CoGeNT Gives Further Backing to Annual Dark-Matter Variation.  Excerpt:

Science!A long-standing and controversial claim by the DAMA collaboration in Italy that it has observed dark matter has received fresh support from a US-based experiment. Like DAMA, the CoGeNT collaboration says that it continues to see a seasonal variation in the number of events registered in its detector. Such a variation would be expected if the Milky Way galaxy were shrouded in a “halo” of dark matter, but several other dark-matter searches have failed to see the effect.

Dark matter is one of the great mysteries in physics; now, we may be a bit closer to understanding exactly that that mysterious substance is.

And, on that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily News

Standing-BearThanks to Robert Stacy and Smitty for the Rule Five links!

I’m not sure why certain pundits insist on discussing the 2016 Presidential race this far out.  At this point in the 2008 election cycle, for example, everyone knew the race would be between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.  Look how that one ended up.

So, with that said, National Journal‘s Ron Fournier is wondering aloud if a Donald Trump Presidential run is in the works, due in no small part to the ongoing Christie TrafficGate flapdoodle.

My thoughts?  Trump is no dummy, but he is a buffoon.  If the GOP really wants to lose this race, nominating Trump would be the way to go.

Still.  2016 is an eternity away, election-wise.

Were I to pick my own candidate for President, I’d take a long shot and push former Colorado Governor Bill Owens for the job.  Bill was, brown-bear-1024x768once upon a time, our state representative, before he was Colorado Treasurer and then Governor.  Down side:  Bill has no intention of getting back into politics.

Still, he’s about as likely as Trump – or Christie – at this point.

A couple of tidbits:

Mike Tyson Calls Dennis Rodman an Idiot.  Pot, meet Kettle.  Kettle, Pot.

Supreme Court Appears Poised to Overturn Obama Recess Appointments.   We’ll see.

Food for Thought.
Food for Thought.

Sex Makes You Smarter.  Well, that explains my own particular genius.  (Mrs. Animal may disagree.)

And, finally, I found this interesting:  How Fish Moved Onto Land, Bone by Bone.  And yes, the juxtaposition of those last two stories was deliberate.  Heh.

Well, OK, that was four tidbits.  Oh well.  Have a superior Tuesday, True Believers.