Science & Society

Look what I found on Quark Expedition website!

In a nutshell, Quark is sponsoring a competition to send someone on an eco-cruise of Antarctica in order to blog for a week.  The Fossil Huntress apparently threw her hat in, and I think any of her readers here would agree that she'd do a kickass job of blogging from Antarctica.

But naturally, the competition is a bit more of a popularity contest than a merit-based blogging appointment; you have 300 words in which to pitch yourself, but nobody besides your friends has any incentive to visit your entry page.  (I'd wanted to enter myself, but then I remembered that I have no friends.)
House of Straw
Use six straws to create the classic house shape (a rectangular body with two straws forming the roof, all laying flat on the table). Bet that you can make four equal triangles by moving only three straws. Try it! To all but the most creatively freethinking, this is impossible. The trick is to go 3D—pick up the three straws that make the bottom and sides of the rectangle and replace them so that one end of each straw is rooted in a corner of the triangle with all three moved straws touching above the center of the original triangle, like a tent or teepee—four, equal triangles, each the size of the original roof.

Paper Match
True Math Genius
This trick will bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened math geek. First, lay matches on a table to form the equation I + II + III = IIII (crossed matches make the plus signs and parallel matches make the equals sign). Challenge your opponent to make this statement true by moving only one match and without messing with the sum after the equals sign. The trick is to pick up one match from the II, and lay it across the middle match in the III, making the full equation read:
I + I + I + I =IIII.

Two Glasses II
L'Oréal and New Scientist today announced the results of a poll revealing the most inspirational female scientists of all time. Nuclear physicist and chemist Marie Curie topped the poll which was created to celebrate 10 years of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science program, with around a quarter (25.1%) of the vote. 

Voted for by more than 800 members of the scientific community and visitors to, the poll highlights the absence of modern role models on the list; Astrophysicist Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (4.7%), responsible for the discovery of radiopulsars, and Jane Goodall, the primatologist (2.7 per cent) were the only scientists in the top ten to have research published in recent years, polled 4th and 10th, respectively. 

John Hawks reviews an article in the NY times, by Gina Kolata, on Grants for Cancer Research.  Here’s an excerpt from the original article:

Yet the fight against cancer is going slower than most had hoped, with only small changes in the death rate in the almost 40 years since it began.

One major impediment, scientists agree, is the grant system itself. It has become a sort of jobs program, a way to keep research laboratories going year after year with the understanding that the focus will be on small projects unlikely to take significant steps
toward curing cancer.

Are individuals, families and employers getting their money's worth from US healthcare?

You'd think not, given the media full court press by the Obama administration for a federal health care plan at a cost of trillions that will allegedly be paid for by 'savings' in current health care.    Like 'jobs saved', it isn't a number anyone can really track so it's up to individual belief - and likely political party registration.    The federal government wants to provide more services to more people.   And that may not be good health policy.
Someone's got issues with Web 2.0 - hell, with Web 1.0:
Of all the misguided schemes put forth lately to save newspapers (micropayments! blame Google!), the one put forth by Judge Richard Posner has to be the most jaw-dropping. He suggests that linking to copyrighted material should be outlawed.
That basically guaranteed to finish killing off newspapers - having them drop out of online discussion. It's also an outright rejection of one of the major advantages of online publication - citations that take you straight to the original document.
And why does everything have to be all about newspapers anyway?

Elsevier today announced the highlights of its journal impact factor performance in 2008. Elsevier overall saw 75% of its journal impact factors (IF) increase from 2007 to 2008. According to the 2008 Journal Citation Report(R) published by ThomsonReuters, Elsevier journals took the #1 position in 51 categories (of 229) across all of the sciences and social sciences.

In addition, 30 Elsevier journals got their first impact factor this year. Cell Stem Cell ( (16.826) entered the Cell Biology category ranked 6th (of 157 journals), while Cell Host Microbe ( (7.436) entered the Microbiology category ranked 10th (of 91 journals).

Research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada says that 4 percent of worldwide deaths are directly attributable to alcohol consumption and the rise is mainly due to increases in the number of women and Europeans drinking.
Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is an unexpected death caused by a sudden loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest, SCA). Every year, 400,000 adults die of SCD, making it one of the largest causes of death in Europe. Sudden Cardiac Death begins with Sudden Cardiac Arrest, mostly caused by an arrhythmia called “ventricular fibrillation” (a rapid, chaotic, lethal rhythm of the heart). When this occurs, the heart will abruptly stop to pump blood. Consequently, the patient feels dizzy and faints. SCD occurs within minutes, if no resuscitation is immediately initiated.