Categories:
  Archives:  
Search Site:

 18 December 2014

Excellent Article On the Origin of Chemtrail Conspiracy Theories

October 8th, 2014

Of all the conspiracy theories out there, it’s one of the strangest and dumbest.  The idea that contrails, which have been a common site since aircraft started flying at high altitudes in the 1940′s, are, in fact, chemicals designed for something evil.  Depending on who you ask, it could be mind control, depopulation, weather modification or something else.  Those who subscribe to the conspiracy theory take it very seriously and think those who don’t must be blind “sheeple.”

But where on earth did this whole concept come from?

IO9 has an excellent article on the history of the chemtrail conspiracy theory, tracking it back to the 1990′s, when a combination of sensational reporting and speculation on weather modification resulted in the first claims that aircraft were actively spraying chemicals in some kind of conspiracy by the government. There is a grain of truth in the original claims – namely, that the military did investigate cloud seeding and other forms of weather modification and even employed them during the Vietnam war.  However, the conspiracy theories quickly went far past that.

Documentaries came later, along with online communities.  There were some “investigations,” if you can call them that, which are cited as evidence of chemtrails.  Among these are analysis reports that found aluminum in rainwater.  This is not surprising, because aluminum is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust and rain typically picks up some dust, such as soil blown into the wind.

The article is worth a read as a case study in how a wacky conspiracy theory is born and eventually becomes populare.

 


Posted in Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Culture, Just LAME, Links

Trying out ads again

September 29th, 2014

Apologies in advance, but I could use some extra cash.  Feel free to use your favorite ad-blocker if you really don’t want to see them.

We’ll see how this works out.  If they’re just too obtrusive, I’ll get rid of them.


Posted in Announcements, Website

Where Humans Can go in the Solar System

September 29th, 2014

In recent years there has been much discussion about human space exploration venturing beyond the earth-moon system to take on Mars and possibly other planets.  In light of this, I decided to do a little research to determine exactly what celestial bodies are suitable for human exploration.  Certainly, humans can fly by most any part of the solar system, should they have an advanced enough spacecraft.  But there are a limited number of places where surface exploration is possible.  What qualifies these places is the ability to survive in any current or foreseeable space suite or any kind of reasonable habitation module.

Since we are far from having any kind of faster than light travel (which, if possible at all, requires warping space or using some kind of artificial wormhole) and we are not ready for multi-generational spacecraft, the solar system is pretty much what we are stuck with.

It seems the places we can actually send humans are pretty limited.  There is definitely Mars, but after that, what comes next?   Possibly some of the moons of Jupiter, assuming its worth our while to send humans there in the future.   Mars appears to be the best candidate for any kind of permanent or semi-permanent colonization or station.

Places humans could visit with reasonable habitat modules and/or spacesuits:

Mercury - Possibly on the side that faces away from the sun, but it’s questionable whether it would be worth visiting.

Venus - The temperature and pressure on the surface are far too high for a spacesuit.  Manned flybys, however, have been considered in the past.

Earth’s Moon - Yes, obviously, since it has been done.  The environment is certainly harsh, but well within the capabilities of a spacesuit.

Ceres - A dwarf planet that is the largest member of the asteroid belt.  It could be visited by humans in spacesuits for surface study, but it is so small that it would be possible to jump off it into space.  The gravity is not sufficient to allow walking around on it.  Therefore, it would be more like clinging to the surface and floating around it than it would be “landing” on it in the normal sense.

Other asteroids - Again, lack of gravity makes surface exploration in the sense of walking impossible.  It’s possible human exploration of an asteroid would be worthwhile.  Some asteroids may have orbits that make them easier to get to than mars or other planets.  The scientific value of this may be questionable.  An asteroid does not seem like a good place to position any kind of manned outpost or colony.

Mars - The environment on mars is certainly within the capabilities of a spacesuit.  The gravity is more than sufficient for relatively normal movement.  Mars is also close enough to earth to make a trip to and from Mars practical for a crew.  This is probably the best place for exploration beyond the earth-moon system, although asteroids have been suggested as well.

Phobos - The largest moon of mars, but still much smaller than our own moon and more similar to Ceres in size.  There is no atmosphere and it should be within the capabilities of spacesuits, but again, hard to really walk around on because of the small size and lack of strong gravity.  It has the advantage of being easier to take off from than the surface of mars, due to such little gravity.

Jupiter - No.  The gas giants are out of the question.  Not only is it a massive ball of gas, with nothing to stand on, but the pressure is far too high for survival, not to mention the crushing gravity.  Probes that visited the area around Jupiter discovered that it has powerful radiation belts, which could be a problem for even a manned flyby.

 Io (Moon of Jupiter) - Quite possible.  It is only slightly larger than our own moon, so it has a fair amount of gravity.  Radiation might or might not be an issue.  The distance from the sun would make it very cold, necessitating heated space suits.

Europe (Moon of Jupiter) - Also possible.  Good size, but the surface characteristics are less well known.  It is believed to be covered with either ice or a cold brittle rock.  The surface therefore may or may not be suitable for exploration.  Again, radiation and cold are issues.

Ganymede (Moon of Jupiter) - Similar to Io, but larger and thus more gravity on the surface, but still much smaller than earth.  Possible, but cold and radiation are concerns.

Callisto - Possible, rocky moon similar to Io and Ganymede

Saturn - No.  Again, as with Jupiter, the gas giant has massive gravity and no place to stand.

Titan (moon of Saturn) - It’s hard to say but it might be possible.  It’s larger than our own moon.  It has its own dense atmosphere, which is unusual for a moon.  It would be very cold and harsh, but maybe within the capabilities of future space suits and habitats.   With Saturn and its moons, the distance of the travel and thus the time exposed to cosmic radiation and weightlessness become an issue, although this could be overcome with a powerful enough rocket, such as a nuclear pulsed propulsion system.

Other moons of Saturn - Saturn has dozens of moons, with Titan being the largest.  Most of the moons are small and unappealing for manned exploration.

Uranus - No. It is a gas giant, though smaller than Jupiter and Saturn.

Moons of Uranus - Some might be possible, but the extreme distance becomes a concern.  None appear especially appealing.

Neptune – As with the others, no landing on this gas giant.

Moons of Neptune - Only one moon is of substantial size, Triton.  It might be possible, but cold, distance and radiation are issues.

Pluto and Satellites - Though no longer considered a planet, it could be a target worth investigating.  Probably not worth human exploration.  Not only is it far enough from the sun to be super cold, but the distance would necessitate many years in transit to and from it.   The same is true with other Kuiper belt objects.


Posted in Good Science, Misc, Space

How to prevent cancer – real, scientifically proven ways

September 26th, 2014

Since alternative medicine seems to claim that it can prevent cancer completely and that conventional medicine does not seem to care, I thought I would share some medically-proven methods for reducing your chances of cancer mortality.  Note that not all of these prevent cancer from happening, but most cases are very treatable when caught early, so it will prevent dying of cancer.

It’s not 100% of course.  You are just reducing the overall probability that you will die of cancer.  Eventually, something is going to kill you.  Some system is going to stop functioning or something will go wrong.  There’s a fairly good chance cancer will kill you, although heart disease is even more probable.

 

#1 Live an overall healthy lifestyle - This is a bit vague, but basically you can reduce your chances of cancer, and damn near every other ailment by doing some common-sense things like exercising regularly, maintaining an optimal weight, without a lot of extra body fat, keeping your calorie consumption in check, getting plenty of sleep and trying not to stress out too much about things. It’s not rocket science, but few of us are nearly perfect in this regard.  Good health means less stress on cells, a more robust immune system and thus your chances of cancer are lower.  Although the effect may not be that dramatic.

#2 Avoid known lifestyle carcinogens - People get very worked up about potential carcinogens like industrial chemicals or ionizing radiation.  But in fact, there are some very common ones that can make a huge impact on cancer risk.  The most obvious is tobacco use.  It increases the risk of lung cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer and oral cancers.  Another big one is exposure to sunlight or artificial tanning beds.  It is best not to intentionally tan keep sun exposure to a minimum, as sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen can be helpful in this regard. Finally, excessive drinking may increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus and of liver cancer.  Light drinking does not seem to be associated with an increase in risk.

Ionizing radiation, benzene, formaldehyde, PCB’s and alike are not usually worth worrying about.  Of course, you should still avoid excessive exposure to such compounds, should you be in a situation where you work with them.

#3  Get all recommended regular screenings – This includes prostate exams, skin cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and similar other procedures that detect cancer or per-cancerous growths early.  The recommendations have changed for some of these procedures, so check with your doctor.  Just visiting the doctor for a regular checkup can be helpful in catching conditions early.  Additionally, oral cancers are often first detected by dentists, so dental exams shouldn’t be skipped either.

#4 Be vigilant and do self-examinations - Between appointments, keep an eye on your skin and look for moles or blemishes that are unusual looking, are new or which have changed in size or shape.  Women should do breast self-exams and men should do testicular cancer self-exams.  In the event that you find something, get it checked out right away.

 

So, yes, conventional medicine does include preventive methods, which are scientifically proven.  You don’t need a magic herbal product or an organic diet to reduce your risk of cancer.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, your risk will never be zero.  But that’s life.


Posted in Bad Science

Spectroscopy Now For the Everyman

September 17th, 2014

For those who don’t know, I have a bit of a side hobby fixing and using radiation detection equipment, such as Geiger counters.   If you’re not into amateur science and nuclear science/energy, this may not seem very exciting.

Geiger counters and other basic radiation detectors are great for getting a general idea what the background radiation is or finding radioactive materials.  However, they have their limitations.  A Geiger-Muller detector only tells you when a gamma photon (or alpha or beta particle) is detected.  It does not provide the energy level of the radiation.  Since Geiger-Muller tubes respond differently to different energy levels of gamma emissions, it’s difficult to get a completely accurate assessment of what the dose rate is.  A rough approximation is still possible, but a reading of the energy levels provides much more information.

In addition to better dose estimates, being able to measure the energy levels of gamma photons allows for identification of isotope which is being detected.  Gamma-emitting isotopes produce emissions at characteristic energy levels, and by measuring these energy levels it is possible to determine what kind of isotope is present.  It is also possible to tune a detector to measure only the desired energy levels and thereby pick up on a desired isotope’s emissions.

Bellow is a graph showing gamma measurements of a variety of radioactive materials.

Fig-4-3

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Good Science, Misc, Nuclear

Anti-Vaxers Now Against All Life-Saving Injections

September 10th, 2014

Vitamin K shots have been a mainstay of care for newborns for some time. 0.5 to 1.0 mg vitamin K1 is administered to newborns shortly after birth in the US and similar standards exist in most industrial countries. The occurrence of vitamin K deficiencies in newborns and bleeding problems associated with it has been estimated as high as 1.7%. It is more common in premature infants and can lead to hospitalization, brain damage, or death.

It turns out that the routine supplementation of vitamin K for all babies is a very effective way of preventing these problems. It’s also simple, cheap and safe.

Unfortunately, despite the importance of the shots, many are not refusing them. Predictably, deficiencies have gone up.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Bad Science, Quackery

Raw Milk Is Making People Sick

September 6th, 2014

Milk: in western society it’s one of the most basic foods.  It usually comes from cows, but sometimes goats.   It also has a history of not always being safe to drink.   That’s because milk happens to be a good growth medium for bacteria.  The bacteria can get into the milk any number of ways.  It may simply be that while a cow’s utters are cleaned before milking, they are certainly not sterilized.

Thankfully, we have pasteurization.  Just a quick heat treatment and the milk is safe, with pathogenic bacteria reduced to levels that won’t cause illness.  The milk keeps longer this way too.

Considering this is a very basic safety precaution and one of the things that is the foundation of modern food safety, pasteurization has been a standard requirement for food safety regulations.  But many have fought to have their milk raw, just as it came from the utter (except having some extra time to let what is in it grow).  In some US states they have won their battles and now raw milk can be purchased in a number of states, although usually only through local suppliers.

The claims are similar to anti-vaccine and organic food claims.  It’s said that raw milk is healthier, that it cures various conditions or that pasteurization is causing lactose intolerance or some other condition.

Now that people have the right to drink raw milk, some are, predictably, getting very sick.

 

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Agriculture, Bad Science, Culture, Quackery

25 Reasons not to vaccinate your children

September 1st, 2014

 Thinking Of Vaccinating your Kids?   Think again.   I’d like to give you some reasons not to

<sarcasm>

1.  You had to go through being sick with Chicken Pox, Measles and other painful and unpleasant conditions.  Why should your kids get off?   Does it seem fair that they don’t suffer when those before did?  I think not!

2.  Not everyone can be protected directly by vaccines.  Some people are immune compromised.  Others have parents who believe it will cause autism.  That makes vaccines elitist.  Do you want to teach your kids elitism?

3.  There is no mercury in vaccines.  Sure, people will try to tell you that you get some free mercury when you get your kid vaccinated, but you don’t.  You’re totally jipped.

4.  In nature humans and pathogens are in a constant struggle to out-evolve and overtake each other.  Vaccines take pathogens and turn them against their own kind by modifying and attenuating them.   It’s like hunting deer with a grenade launcher.   There’s no challenge.  That’s not sporting at all. It’s just not fair.

5.  Vaccines have the potential to condemn vibrant and beautiful species to extinction.  We’ve seen it happen to Small Pox.  Next it will likely be polio, unless someone does something to stop the decimation of these beautiful pathogens.

6.  Vaccination will upset your Scientologist friends.

7.  Vaccines are unnatural.  So are automobiles, central heating and the internet, but who’s counting, right?

8.  You can act all high and mighty about being informed if you don’t vaccinate.

9.  Vaccines protect not only your children but other children… screaming, slobbering, nasty children who deserve to get sick.

10.  Bill Gates promotes vaccines and you don’t like Windows much and find the interface of Mac to be easier to work with and more stable.

11.  Being sick when growing up can be kinda fun.  I mean, as long as you’re not really sick and you get the day off from school.

12. Deep down, you hate humans and want to see an infection win every once in a while.

13.  You don’t understand exactly how vaccines work.  Only scientists and doctors seem to really know the deep down mechanisms.  Would you put something into your kid you are oblivious to?

14.  Should your child become autistic, you’ll at least know it wasn’t the vaccines.

15.  There are likely anti-vaccine groups in your area who through “pox parties” these are delightful social events.

16.  Drug company employees, doctors, nurses and others rely on illness for their livelihood.  If you vaccinate you will surely ruin their careers by taking away the business they need.  Do you really want to do that?

17.  Vaccines are often delivered by needle, which kinda hurts a little.

18.  Jenny McCarthy said not to.  She’s hot.  Granted, she used to be hotter, but still.

19.  All the health authorities say you should vaccinate.  It’s fun to be defiant.

20.  Taking your kid to be vaccinated takes time, like, potentially an hour or so.  That’s time you could be watching TV.

21.  Vaccines contain mercury.  Forget for a second that we already said they don’t.   Mercury -> Freddie Mercury -> Gay.  See the connection?   Mercury will make your kids gay glam rockers.  The science says so!

22.  You didn’t even read all of these, did you?  I bet you didn’t read this.  But hey, there’s 25 reasons here, so that must mean something.

23.  If vaccines stopped disease, why is there still disease?  checkmate.

24.  You are likely already getting all the vaccines you need from chemtrails.  So it seems redundant to have to get more.

25.  Vaccines are just a substitute for keeping your children quarantined.  You separate them from all other humans (and animals and the environment) and vaccines will be unnecessary.

</sarcasm>


Posted in Bad Science, Humor, Quackery

Recomended Facebook Groups and Pages

August 27th, 2014

I have not always been a big social media fan, but I have to admit that Facebook is pretty great for keeping in touch with people and for finding groups of similar interests.

There are some great Facebook pages and groups that are anti-bad science.  Many of these are funny and all are worth checking out

Note that some of these are closed groups, where you have to apply for membership to the group before you can post to it, and, in some cases, read all the posts.

 

Anti Vax Wall of Shame - The worst comments, posts and quotes from anti-vaccine activists and websites.

Australian Vaccination Network – Not to be confused with the actual Australian Vaccination Network, this is pro-vaccine. How they got to use the name, I have no idea.

Conspiracy Theorists Say the Darndest Things – Comically bad conspiracy claims from around the web.

Fundies Say the Darndest things – Comically bad quotes and posts from religious fundimentalists, mostly.

New Age Woos Say the Darndest Things -Similar comically bad quotes, these from newagers, quacks and similar.

GMOLOL - Crazy GMO claims refuted and poked fun at.  Also general advocacy for good science regarding genetically engineering technology.

GMO Skepti-Forum – A place for skeptics of outlanding GMO claims (not as funny as GMOLOL)

Anti-Alternative Medicine – A group opposing and exposing quackery.

 

Please feel free to add recommended groups and pages in the comments!


Posted in Culture, Links, media, Misc, Website

Gas Turbines in Cars: The seemingly promising engine that never was

August 17th, 2014

icewikidiagranToday nearly all cars are powered with a conventional, reciprocating internal combustion engine.

In such an engine, pistons (usually at least four) move up and down and are connected to a crank shaft that translates this into rotational motion.  As they move up and down, fuel vapor enters the combustion chamber and is ignited by a spark plug.   Then the exhaust must be expelled and the cycle repeats.  All of this is controlled by mechanical valves, with each cylinder having at least two.   The valves are pushed open and closed rapidly by cams that are driven by the engine.  Each valve must make a very tight seal and then reopen in a fraction of a second.  All of this, the sparks, the cams and the piston strokes must be perfectly timed.

While all this is happening a separate system continuously pumps oil through the cylinders, keeping their walls coated with oil.  The pistons have rings which allow this lubrication to happen while maintaining a seal around the piston. In addition to the oil pump, most internal combustion engines require water cooling, with a separate pump circulating water around the engine and through a radiator.

If that is not complex enough, the torque curve of an internal combustion engine is far less than ideal.  Too much load on the engine will make it stall.  Too little will mean the engine is not operating efficiently and only slow speeds will be obtainable, despite there being enough power for much higher speeds.  Thus, for the engine to operate efficiently, provide good acceleration and for the vehicle to run in reverse, a complex mechanical transmission with multiple gear ratios and a reverse gear is required.

Given the mechanical complexity and the need for such precise timing, it’s amazing these engines operate as well as they do and are as reliable as they are.

A better way?

On its face, a gas turbine seems to be a better solution to the problem of generating rotational motion from the burning of fuel.   It natively produces smooth rotational power, with no need for a crank shaft.  There are no cams or valves.  Although gas turbines require lubrication, the system is simpler.   The torque curve is far more favorable.  A turbine will not stall in the same way a conventional engine will.  If torque load is reduced, it will spin faster, exactly as you would want it to.  The transmission is therefore much simpler.  It may not even require separate speeds and is only vital as a way of providing reverse capabilities.   Gas turbines also are self-cooling, using only the air that flows through them to maintain temperatures.

There are some other, perhaps less important, advantages of a gas turbine.   The hot exhaust gas can be used to provide vehicle heat that is nearly instantaneous, with no need to wait for the engine to warm up.   The same gas turbine can burn a variety of fuels.  So a vehicle powered by a turbine engine could run on diesel, kerosene, gasoline, alcohol or perfume.  This is one reason gas turbines are used on the M1 Abrams tank, simplifying the logistics of providing fuel.

It seems logical that an engine that is so mechanically simple, with far fewer moving parts and a near perfect torque curve would be the next big thing in automotive propulsion.

And many tried…

gmfirebirdThe big three US automakers all spent considerable amounts of money to try to adapt the gas turbine to automotive use, each building a number of prototypes of varying success.  GM built a number of futuristic concept cars in the 1950‘s that featured a gas turbine engine.

But no automaker put nearly as much time, money or effort into the gas turbine car as did Chrysler.  From the 1950′s until the 1970′s, Chrysler spent millions on programs to deploy gas turbines in cars.  They built numerous prototypes, including some which were placed in the hands of various test motorists, who drove them for over a year.  Overall, the response from test groups was positive, but there were a number of issues that were never really solved.

The image bellow is of Chrysler’s CR1, arguably the most successful gas turbine car.  Fifty five were built and, in 1963, they were given to a group of lucky motorists to evaluate over a year of driving.  Although reviews were generally good, the project did not go anywhere.  After taking back the cars, Chrysler ended up destroying all but nine of them.  Today they are in museums or in Jay Leno’s garage.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Bad Science