Posts Tagged ‘science’

Gossamer Wheel

My feet, it seems, are a medical marvel.

I don’t get colds too often. The average adult gets 2-4 colds per year, but I haven’t had a real cold in about 2 years. Until last Friday, that is, when I awoke with the surefire signs of a coming cold. Often I can fight them off, but this time I was done for.

Like any good social media flog, I mentioned my malady to the world and prepared myself for the onslaught of good wishes, virtual hugs, and sincere prayers that were going to be sent my way. They came, but with them came something new, something unexpected.

At some point, my feet became kidneys.


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There was a time when we admired people who knew stuff, people who invented things. When did that change?

We used to admire people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Albert Schweitzer. We admired our educators, our scientists, our doctors. We used to value intelligence, and it was something we thought was important for our leaders to have. After all, who wanted a buffoon running the country?

Then something happened. We started to belittle our teachers, we began blaming our doctors for every bad outcome, and we began to discount everything our scientists told us about our world. Gut feeling trumped empirical data. Sound bites overrode sound reasoning.

Soon, we no longer cared if our leaders and representatives in government were smart enough for the job. Intelligence didn’t matter; what mattered was whether they talked like we did. And now, we don’t even care if a candidate can string a coherent sentence together. High intelligence is now a detractor, a tick in the minus column. It is more important that we enjoy sitting down to have a beer with our candidate than whether s/he has a single clue about the complex and manifold issues that face this country.

The result? We now have mainstream political parties that completely deny entire bodies of established and accepted scientific analysis. We have politicians who believe that the female body has some sort of whoop-whoop alarm system that will keep women from getting pregnant in case of “legitimate rape.” And we now have a candidate for the presidency who has a budget, but his team admits that they haven’t “run the numbers.”

It’s ludicrous. Why would I listen to someone who’s “read a book” on a subject instead of someone who’s studied that subject for decades? Do I ask a scientist for spiritual advice? Hell, no! So why would I give more credence to a preacher than a scientist in areas of scientific study?

Why don’t we want our leaders to be the smartest guys we can find? More to the point, why don’t we demand it?

Aw, hell. Hand me another beer, will ya?


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I’m usually quite on top of events in space exploration; I followed the Spirit and Opportunity landings with verve, and was obsessed with the daily feeds that came back from Cassini. Somehow, this one just slipped under my radar, but thankfully, someone over at Xbox decided it would be cool to make a big deal out of it, and Friday, two days before the landing of the new Curiosity rover, I got wind of the whole thing.

Then I saw the video (below) that described the “7 minutes of terror” of landing, and saw the Rube Goldberg style method of getting this rover from orbit to the surface. My first reaction—the reaction of many and, reportedly, the reaction of some of the scientists on the team—was “That’s crazy!” Orbit, entry, heat shield, parachute, pop the shield, dump the contents, balance on rockets, and then a skycrane to lower the rover to the surface? Could the possibly have put in more moving parts? Why didn’t they just pack it in balloon-wrap and drop it like they did before? Why was this devilishly hard collection of contraptions necessary?


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