Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Here are some of the main points in this must-read article about the future of the Russian Space program. They truly sound light years ahead of the rest of the world.

  1. De-dock the Russian portion of the International Space Station and use that piece as the cornerstone of a new Russian space station as the ISS’s lifespan goes no further than 2020.
  2. Build the components of the new station with the understanding that each component has a lifespan and can and should be replaced. However, this does not mean the entire station should be destroyed. Rather, the parts should be constantly renewed.
  3. Without the Russian portion of ISS, there is nothing physical keeping  the ISS in space. Uh oh, that could get ugly.

And the rest sounds like pure science fiction. And very exciting. I highly recommend reading the article. Via the BBC.

With the first launch of the new Russian spacecraft optimistically set for 2018, it would probably reach the launch pad by the time Nasa ends its support for the ISS.

Unlike the ISS, which was advertised primarily as a platform for scientific research, Russia’s future space station, dubbed the Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex (OPSEK), would have the main goal of supporting deep space exploration.

Behind the scenes, Russian engineers have drawn up ambitious plans for orbital stations around the Earth and the Moon, and eventually in the orbit of Mars. These would be linked by re-usable tugs, shuttling between them continuously to support the sustained exploration of the Solar System.

After separation from rest of the ISS, the station’s 20-tonne service module could eventually be replaced by a 40-tonne living quarters launched by a new family of rockets.

In turn, this module could ultimately serve as a construction site and a base for the Martian expedition complex, which could be assembled in Earth orbit in the mid-2030s to carry the first humans to the Red Planet.

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The Implied Observer apologizes for being offline for so many days. I was moving this weekend and then unpacking. Just about the only thing I managed to do that was fun was see the new Star Trek movie. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then please do not read on. There will be spoilers a plenty.

Overall the movie was a fun two hours plus. I should add the disclaimer that I am not a huge fan of the original series, though I do like The Next Generation. So I should be in no way beholden to the original series like my friend Tom. And yet…..

Spock is not supposed to have emotions, and presumably the fact that he does not makes him a fun character. That’s why everyone loves Spock. And that’s why everyone loved Data in the TNG. So why would you take that one great part of the character and compromise it? Spock has a girlfriend? The girlfriend is Uhura? Again, not beholden to the original but this seems pretty out there and I don’t think it added anything to the film.

There was an utter lack of science fiction in this film. This is an adventure film pure and simple. All of our current technologies are replaced with newer technologies, but somehow those newer technologies don’t seem to change any aspect of human nature or cause people to reflect differently on how things are done. This is futuristic but it is not science fiction.

I think Leonard Nimoy was completely wasted and it was kind of embarrassing to watch.
One thing that was fun was that they appeared to make a conscious effort to cast actors that looked like the original actors. I especially enjoyed the guys they got to play Dr. MacCoy, Chekhov and Scottie. Sadly Sulu was the weakest link. Whether that be because they gave the actor nothing to work with or all his stuff ended up on the cutting room floor, I won’t try to guess. As for Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike? Fun, but minimal.

So have you seen the new Star Trek? Any thoughts?

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This study came out last week. I may be overstating it a bit to call it explosive, but I think it could spark a big change in what type of contraceptives women use.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young women who use oral contraceptives (OC) may not get as much out of their weight-lifting routine as women who are not on the pill, according to a study released today, which suggests that OC use impairs muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.

“The factors that explain the differences in the magnitude of the responses to resistance exercise training between individuals are largely unknown,” Chang-Woock Lee, from Texas A&M University in College Station, told Reuters Health.

“The present study is meaningful in that we have identified a potential new factor that may be independently associated with the characteristics and variability of muscle responses to a controlled resistance exercise training program,” the researcher added.

In the study, 73 generally healthy women between 18 and 31 years old participated in whole-body resistance exercises three times per week for 10 weeks. Thirty-four of the women used oral contraceptives and 39 did not. The women were encouraged to eat enough protein to promote muscle growth.

In the article, which I highly recommend, they posit that women taking the pill may not have enough testosterone to build muscle.

Why do I think this is explosive? The pill is most popular with young women. Young women are more likely to care about their appearance and weight in such a way that they would be reluctant to use the pill as their contraceptive if it negatively impacts their workout routine. Think I am painting a vain and petty portrait of young women? Perhaps.

But given that the pill is advertised to women in such a variety of  petty ways, the advertising companies at least believe women would make their contraceptive choices on even flimsier grounds. Like the pill that will help with acne. Or the pill that you take once a month. Or every two months. Or every two weeks. Or every year. How about patch? Or a ring? Or an implant under your arm? It’s just so dang difficult to take a pill everyday. The pharmaceutical companies have taken one drug and turned it into a million different varieties of the same thing thereby creating multiple patents.

Will this lead  to an increase in non-oral contraceptives? More children? More abortions? I think it’s too soon to tell, but I’m interested in following this.

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Random thoughts

It’s been really hard posting lately. Work has been somewhat difficult and then there is the fact that I am once again moving. The third time in less than 2 years.

What have I read lately that I like? Well this was a great Explainer article at Slate about preventing flu. On the same topic of science you can read about the rise and fall of high fructose corn syrup, also on Slate.

Everyone says the film Bob Roberts is very poignant right now. I’ve never seen it. Care to recommend it to me?

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Pink Elephants

More on the BBC.

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Last year I posted about Bushman, the most misunderstood gorilla in the world. This year again we humans have again missed the point:

Many zoo visitors have witnessed chimpanzees throwing, uh, stuff, in the direction of people, but a particular chimp in Sweden has the scientific community abuzz because a study released Monday shows that primates possess the ability to plot and execute plans.

The report, in the journal Current Biology, cites the actions of Santino in the Furuvik Zoo near Stockholm. The 31-year-old alpha male was observed beginning preparations before the zoo opened. It collected rocks and other debris and stored the cache in a strategic location until midday, then opened fire on visitors beyond a moat.

“These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way,” the report’s author, Lund University doctoral student Mathias Osvath, told the Associated Press. “It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events.”

I can just imagine the thoughts of these chimpanzees: What is wrong with these humans? Can’t they get the point? I’m throwing rocks at them and yet they seem to bother me even more than before. What does it take with this species? Can’t they get the f—ing hint? Lord almighty just shoot me down now why don’t you.

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A friend once told me that if I wanted to brought down from my temporary high of Barack Obama’s election and what it said about America, to just look take a look at the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It did the trick.

This is perhaps an even more potent tonic. How can you defend a country full of people like this?

Darwin still making waves 200 years later

A century and a half later, the legacy of history’s most noted naturalist continues to make headlines.

After a contentious debate, the Texas Board of Education is set to vote in March on how evolution should be taught in the state’s public schools. Last week, actor-comedian Ben Stein backed out of giving a commencement speech at the University of Vermont because of student complaints about his views challenging the theory of evolution.

The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, conducted in May, found that only 14 percent of Americans believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. Forty-four percent believe that God created human beings almost overnight within the past 10,000 years, and another 36 percent believe that God guided humans’ evolution from animals over a much longer period of time.

“The problem is, there are a number of fundamental people on both the left and the right extremes,” said Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project, which seeks to find common ground between scientists and the clergy.

Yeah, those extreme scientists. Who do they think they are explaining the world, finding cures for diseases and all. I sure wouldn’t want to be in a room with one of those crazies.

Evolution is only contentious because American fundamentalists make it so. There are plenty of religious countries around the world where you don’t see these statistics.

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