30 August 2014

A crosseyed planthopper

I need to take about a week off to tend to some urgent family matters.  When I come back I'll offer you a series of posts about Siberia.

Image (credit June Aubrey Young) via the QI elves' (creators of my favorite podcasts) Twitter feed.

Addendum:  An interesting comment from reader Steve -
Pseudopupils are pretty neat. What you're actually seeing is ommatidia that are oriented directly toward the viewer (camera lens). Instead of seeing the pigmented walls of the ommatidium you are seeing right into the photoreceptors. The dark spots will even appear to follow you as you move around the insect but the insect is not actually moving anything. Some spiders can move their retina to look around though, which is pretty awesome. 

Richard Feynman's lectures on physics are now online

As reported by Open Culture:
Last fall, we let you know that Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website joined forces to create an online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. They started with Volume 1. And now they’ve followed up with Volume 2 and Volume 3, making the collection complete...

The new online edition makes The Feynman Lectures on Physics available in HTML5. The text “has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape,” and you can zoom into text, figures and equations without degradation. 
More at the link.  The image is my screencap of part of one of the pages.

Misinformation in televised medical dramas

"It turns out that popular medical dramas don't always portray medical treatment accurately. A new study found that seizure care in particular was depicted appropriately less than half the time on major fictional medical shows...
The study looked at the depiction of seizure care for all episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," House, M.D.," and "Private Practice," and the last five seasons of "ER." The research will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, in April.

In nearly 46 percent of seizure cases, characters on these shows delivered inappropriate treatments such as holding the person down, trying to stop involuntary movements or putting something in the person's mouth, the study said. The shows did show proper treatment about 29 percent of the time, and in the remaining 25 percent of the time, the accuracy of the portrayal couldn't be determined...

There have been other studies showing that television medical shows do a poor job of portraying procedures appropriately and accurately. Of concern is one about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, Sanders said. A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Rescue 911" found that in the episodes viewed, 75 percent of patients survived cardiac arrest immediately, and 67 percent appeared to be well enough to leave the hospital. In real life, long-term survival rates vary from 2 to 30 percent for cardiac arrest outside a hospital and 6.5 to 15 percent for arrests inside a hospital, the study said.

False depictions of CPR are probably more alarming than misrepresented seizure care, Sanders said. Normally, seizure care is left to doctors, who don't get their information on treatments from television. But CPR is a procedure that lay people do learn how to do, and they might get false impressions from watching dramas, she said."

"Swatting" explained

Militarized local SWAT teams can be tricked by hackers into raiding homes of innocent people.  The Vice video above illustrates the problem, which is also discussed at Salon:
“The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them,” the Littleton Police Department said in a statement. “He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well.”

What the cameras captured is a perilous new prank known as “swatting,” or making a false report to get the SWAT team to invade a rival gamer’s space. As evidenced by the Vice News report below, this can involve disguising the caller identity and making some potentially life-threatening claims.

Wooden toilet seat found at Vindolanda

"What is believed to be the only wooden toilet seat to be found in the Roman Empire has been unearthed at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall...

The seat was discovered by Dr Birley in the deep pre-Hadrianic trenches at Vindolanda. There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.

Dr Birley said that in the chilly conditions of what was the northernmost limits of the Empire, a wooden seat would have been preferable to stone...

The seat has been well used and was decommissioned from its original location and discarded amongst the rubbish left behind in the fort before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall started in the early Second Century. "

Christianity-based health care

"...one way Americans can avoid buying private insurance or paying into the Affordable Care Act.

The deal, made possible by a little-known provision in the health-care law, has one particularly important requirement: The Duff household of nine must abstain from general debauchery.

Samaritan Ministries, a health-care sharing group, will charge its national network to cover the family’s medical bills, but only if they agree to forsake binge-drinking, extramarital sex, illegal drugs and tobacco (with the exception of celebratory, post-birth cigars). The organization describes itself as a “Biblical approach” to health-care, guided by Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens...

Samaritan’s rules, however, extend beyond the religious realm to the practical one of saving money. Sinful behavior threatens more than a soul’s entrance to Heaven, Duff and his cohorts believe: It damages the earthly body — and amplifies the price of health-care.
Christians are just healthier people,” he says. “Think of all the physical problems we can attribute to a sinful lifestyle.”

Obamacare, the Samaritan contract states, is undesirable because it covers costs that “result from immoral practices,” such as STD treatments or out-of-wedlock births. The law creates a moral dilemma for Duff, who now works as an assistant pastor in downtown Omaha.

Simply put,” he says, “I don’t want to pay for that or encourage it in any way.
Neither do the estimated 100,000 other Samaritan users.
More at the Washington Post.

American League teams win more interleague games

American League teams have won the majority of interleague games for 10 consecutive years; this year will likely be the 11th.  Graphic from the Wall Street Journal, where there is speculation about the reasons for this trend.

Movement of Death Valley's "racetrack" rocks finally explained

Rocks of various heft – some weighing 600 pounds or more – leave trails that wiggle like snakes or form complete loops or even rectangles. The trails are cut sharply into the earth but no other tracks are visible.

Theories over the decades have included sporadic hurricane-force winds when the surface is covered with rain water, or rocks carried across the mud by small rafts of ice, or UFOs.

But until the Norrises had an incredible stroke of luck that day last December, no one had scientifically verified the phenomenon. The findings were formally presented today in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
This video, posted at GrindTV has details and video of the rocks moving.

Additional details at that link (hat tip to reader Stan Banos for sending it in).
As part of the Slithering Stones Research Initiative, researchers custom built motion-activated GPS units and fitted them into 15 rocks and placed them on the playa in the winter of 2011, with permission from the National Park Service. They expected it would take five to 10 years before something happened.

Ralph Lorenz, one of the paper’s authors from Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, called it “the most boring experiment ever.”

27 August 2014

The surprising effect of road salt on butterflies

Salting roads in winter can tweak the physiques of butterflies the next summer.

Milkweeds and oaks, plants that caterpillars graze on, collected from alongside a country road carried higher sodium concentrations than the same species growing at least 100 meters from the splash and drift of deicing salt, says Emilie Snell-Rood of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars raised on the sodium-boosted plants turned into males with extra thoracic muscles and females with bigger eyes and probably bigger brains than butterflies reared on the more distant foliage, Snell-Rood and her colleagues found.

A different butterfly, the cabbage white, echoed these his-and-hers effects when reared on a sodium-boosted lab diet, researchers report June 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So is road salt good for butterflies? “I do not want that to be the take-home message,” Snell-Rood says. Instead, she says, the study demonstrates for the first time that road salt can alter how animals develop physically.
Text from Science News, with a tip of the hat to reader Bradley Ruben for bringing it to my attention.  Photo from our yard.

Related: The double-edged sword of salting roads in winter, and Cheese brine for icy roads.

"FreeD video"

The technology is explained in this video featuring tennis coverage.

Online versions are not saving newspapers

The blue line in the chart displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation using the CPI, and appear in the chart as
millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950...
Further details and analysis at Carpe Diem, via The Dish.

Bathing suit, 1916 - updated

In the photography category of this blog,  I've occasionally posted photos of beach scenes from the turn of the last century, and I suspect a modern person's responses are "what uncomfortable clothing to wear" and "what unattractive clothing to wear."

With regard to the latter (?mis)perception, I offer the above photo, from the camera of Alfred Stieglitz (‘Ellen Koeniger’, 1916, gelatin silver photograph, 11.1 x 9.1, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), as a reminder that when wet, those staid bathing costumes must have shocked some Edwardian-era sensibilities.

Found at Consciousness is a Congenital Hallucination.

Reposted from 2010 to add a link to another of Stieglitz' photos.  The two images have different dates and names, but it appears to be the same suit.

The world's most famous iceberg

Because Titanic.
The iceberg lay at latitude 41-46N, longitude 50-14W, off the coast of Newfoundland. Newspaper reports of the time said that the visible part of the iceberg – that above the waterline – was anywhere between 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long.

The chief steward on board the Prinze Adelbert liner took the photo of the iceberg on the morning of the Titanic sinking.

Reports say he spotted a line of red paint along the bottom of the iceberg which experts believe show where it had made contact with Titanic.

Journal.ie reports that the steward was not aware at the time that it had been the iceberg that sunk the Titanic but the location, the marks on the iceberg and Titanic survivors’ descriptions of the iceberg triangulated to confirm that it was.
A tip of the blogging hat to the elves at QI, who made mention of this iceberg on their always-excellent podcast.

Calcified ectopic fetus

As reported by The Telegraph:
Doctors in India have removed the skeleton of a foetus that had been inside a woman for 36 years in what is believed to be the world's longest ectopic pregnancy...

A team of doctors in Nagpur successfully performed surgery to remove the mass that was lodged between the woman's uterus, intestines and bladder.

Skeletal remains that were removed are seen in video footage laid out on a hospital bed, and include numerous parts of a rib cage, leg and arm bones and sections of a skull, spine and pelvis.
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