Thursday, May 27, 2010

The history of corn

I thought this was an interesting article, discussing research into the genetics of corn to find it's wild ancestor which looks to be from a grass from what is now Mexico - probably started becoming domesticated about 9000 years ago. There's a very cool photo if you want to see what the first corn farmers started with.

It's pretty amazing what they started with.

Brush twice a day

Here's an interesting study that finds brushing teeth twice a day can significantly cut heart disease risk.

From the article regarding the study to be published soon in British Medical Journal:

Neglecting to brush twice a day could lead to a 70 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new large population-based study.

The hypothesis seems to be that maybe inflammation is associate with heart disease and promoting good dental hygiene can reduce one of the more common chronic sources of inflammation in the body (periodontal disease).

Anyhow, thought that was interesting

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hardware disease in cattle?

At first I laughed when I saw this ebay auction for an Alnico Magnet to help prevent hardware disease in cattle. My first thought was that New Age remedies have made it to livestock.... And "hardware disease"? really?

So I think about it for a while and do a web search and it turns out this seems for real. Cattle apparently will eat metal pieces they encounter and potentially infect/inflame their digestive tract. The magnets are fed to cows to stay in the stomach and keep the eaten metal from moving on into the more sensitive parts of the digestive tract where it can cause problems - or at least that's what's claimed. Seems plausible I guess. I'd never heard of it though. There's a wikipedia entry.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Developing World

A good editorial by Nick Kristof today in the Times. Not politically correct, but good. There's probably lots of ways to interpret it and it's probably too easy to just be critical and dismissive, but I just wanted to the it out there as I found it a very interesting read about spending decisions and priorities of the very poor in the third world. Moonshine or the Kids?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time lapse video of solar flare

Check out this video from Astronomy pic of the day. A 10 second time lapse video showing one of the larger solar flares every recorded.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something part 2

I was wondering a few weeks ago about "Why something instead of nothing?" and it turns out some physicists may have uncovered some new science behind why there's something here.

... not that I understand any of it, mind you, but I do find it interesting that if the unexpected finding is confirmed, the conditions of the very early universe seem to slightly favor something over nothing. But why this would be so just begs the question.

Burgess Shale

The story of the Cambrian explosion and some of the earliest forms of "bigger" life told in Stephen Jay Gould's book "Wonderful Life" is one of the more memorable things I read when I was about 20yrs old. I'd always liked Gould's scientific essays, but this was a full book on some of the craziest looking creatures I could imagine that they found in some shale in Canada's Burgess Shale.

CLICK HERE FOR SOME IMAGES - You've probably seen a TV show or pics of some of these strange creatures before.

I remember in the book he talked about how it was kindof a mystery why all this life exploded onto the scene and then seemingly disappeared from the fossil record. One of the working theories was that a major extinction event knocked many of the creatures out and that life had a false start and started over.

Well it turns out some descendants of the cambrian explosion have been found in Morocco - indicating that they survived and that probably the difficulty of fossilization of soft body parts is the reason for their scarcity in the fossil record. Here's the story.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Southern Sky

See this time-lapse photo of the southern sky on the astronomy pic of the day site. Lots of things in the sky we don't see up here.

It includes Alpha and Beta Centauri - the closest start to us, and in addition to the milky way they get other patches of light like the Megallanic clouds - a couple of neighboring galaxies about 180 to 210 light years away.

Makes me want to go there - note photo is taken from a national park near border of Brazil and Argintina

parts from Hong Kong

I've recently been doing some repair work on guitars, and in the process of buying parts I've often found that I'm buying parts on ebay directly from Hong Kong. This surprises me because I'd think it shouldn't make economic sense.

- 6 insulated lead clips (alligator) for multimeter (2.50 +free shipping)
- guitar tremelo springs (10 springs for 5.46 + 3.00 shipping)
- a couple string trees (to help hold guitar strings firmly down on the fretboard (1.63 + 2.00 shipping)

Now on one level this isn't totally surprising since so much stuff gets made in Asia already, but on another level it is quite surprising because to me how should someone in Hong Kong be able to sell me such small quantities and ship them clean across the ocean and still make money on them? Why should these types of micro-orders exist so that I can order something for a couple bucks in china and in 7-10 have it arrive at my front door for only a couple bucks shipping? Granted these are small items, but still - it doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lidar images

Look at these Lidar images taken of an archeaological site in Caracol, Belize. The technology is able to penetrate beneath forest canopy unlike other methods. I find it very interesting how you can see paths/roads and lots of what I interpret as terraces for growing crops. You can also see also other "foundations" of structures that appear to be man-made on the top of several other hills shown.

Anyhow, click here for the lidar image. Very cool.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another the Darkness song - Is it just me

I posted a tune from these guys a short while ago, but I gotta say this is one of the better rock-n-roll songs I'd never heard. I don't come across these very often.

I think they came out with this song in 2005, but if they'd have come out with this in the late 80s I'm certain they would've had a hit with it. Not sure how it did in 2005 though. Anyhow - here's a performance from Letterman. Enjoy.

Quote of the Day - Marriages

I saw this today and got a chuckle:

“All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.” - Raymond Hull, Canadian screenwriter/playwright

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A band called The Darkness

A friend at work mentioned a band called the Darkness to me today. I vaguely recalled the name but couldn't remember their stuff, but I was listening to some of it today and I'm liking alot of their cuts on YouTube. I'm particularly impressed with how well they can pull some of their songs off in a live setting.

Here's probably their most popular song

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mammoth blood

I thought this was an interesting story about researchers who used Woolly Mammoth gene sequences to recreate their blood proteins - finding out that they had a variant form of protein in their blood enabling their blood to carry oxygen at much lower temperatures than living creatures today.

a quote from the article:

"It has been remarkable to bring a complex protein from an extinct species back to life and discover important changes not found in any living species," said co-author Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My first (lame) guitar soldering job

I've been buying a few cheap older guitars recently - I'm a fan of the old Japanese guitars in particular - and that has caused me to learn some about guitar setup - stuff like fretboard/truss rod adjustment, string height, intonation ... that sort of thing. I'm too cheap to have pros do the setup work for me, and I figure I ought to learn how to do it myself anyway. Gradually the setup work led me to want to mess around with the electronics.

As my first test I was wanting to see if I could fix an old P-Bass that I'd had since high school. I'd used it to record bass on a 4-track way back then, but it had a short in the wiring and also an intermittent buzzing problem. Back then there was no such thing as the internet and I didn't know how to fix it so I'd just left it in it's sorry state for probably 20+yrs. Now with the internet though I felt I could tackle the project without making a bigger mess.

Here's my first soldering project. The hum/buzzing is gone now and the signal shouldn't have a short anymore. I'd bought some new parts with the intention of replacing the old parts, but this guitar used unusually small volume/tone pots and the new ones I purchased wouldn't fit so I just reused the old ones to see if rewiring would do the trick.

My soldering iron wouldn't quite get hot enough to solder in some places - too much heat dispersal - so I'm going to look into a better iron for future jobs, so please forgive some of the clumpy joints on the back of the volume pot - my iron just wouldn't heat enough to liquify everything. It works though and hopefully I won't have bad joints develop.

I told my wife I loved the internet after doing this project - it knows everything.
1. I watched the how to videos on you-tube. Some awesome folks have put up step by step video instructions for guitar electronics repair, including prepping the layout, preparing and tinning wires, soldering technique, along with tips on what to avoid. (need a how-too video? - search you-tube)
2. I found several appropriate wiring diagrams for this particular pickup/volume/tone setup for a P-Bass online. (It turns out the wiring on this bass was done wrong at some point before I bought it - that's probably why it was so cheap in the store. The grounding was messed up and the capacitor was wired incorrectly).
3. Internet bulletin boards helped me search for questions related to the problem this guitar was having to help troubleshoot. (search google for about any problem and you'll probably find solutions)

In a world before internet I'd have never even attempted any of this. It makes us all smarter. At least I feel a little bit smarter today - at least until the vapors off the lead solder start kicking in and making me dumber again.

Flood photos

see my wife's page for some flood photos she took today.

Oil spill

This editorial encapsulates much of my thinking on the oil spill and leaking well in the gulf. We'll end up blaming everything and everybody except our appetite for oil and reluctance to tax it's consumption and support alternatives. Simply, we want cheap gasoline and the negatives that come with that are somebody else's problem. And it's not like this well didn't have safety equipment - it just seems this is one of the rare cases where everything went wrong even with the best laid plans to prevent the accident. What's happening in the gulf is apparently routine in other parts of the world - it's just visible here.

Effectively, we’ve been importing oil and exporting spills to villages and waterways all over the world.

I admit I'm part of the problem. I drive a truck that uses gas, drive it about 6000 miles a year. I was annoyed with $4.00/gallon gas as much as anyone. But I noticed it created a different thinking about energy and for the first time in a long time people were looking for alternatives and responding differently to the costs of consumption. We've gotta make the economics work for alternatives to have a chance though, and part of that involves making the cost of oil reflect it's true cost of consumption. Internalizing that cost if difficult - but somehow internalize the environmental costs as well as all the political costs of having to militarily protect access to oil.

It makes sense to subsidize and encourage alternatives or tax oil consumption more - either way would work to me it seems, but for some reasons taxes are more difficult to get people to support. (I do think there are more people who would subsidize alternative energy and energy saving investments who would not support gas taxes although the end result might be the same). What's the right amount? I don't know, but I feel very bad for the folks whose livelihoods are about to get turned upside down due the spill in the gulf.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


It's rained a bunch here in Nashville today. I was out earlier today and ran through some big pools in the road on the way home about 2:00pm, but I had no idea it was this bad. Over 11 inches of rain, and some serious flooding going on. I just saw a building floating down the interstate on the news broadcast. Here's a pic from one of the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation camaras. (click to enlarge)

Nashville flooding on interstate 24 <br /> on Twitpic

And this next pic isn't from Nashville, but I saw this looking for the pic above. Poor little pigs.