Science & Society

In addition to shark attacks and boredom-related deaths due to mid-season baseball, the summer months are the time of food poisoning. If you live in Florida or California, you should be especially vigilant, as you are susceptible to all three (the most baseball teams, the most shark-infested beaches, and—according to the CDC—the most restaurant outbreaks of food poisoning, with a combined 143 in 2007).

In all, the CDC estimates that food-borne diseases every year cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths (salmonella alone costs the United States upwards of $5 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity).

One can only imagine the sheer volume of liquid effluvium generated by these 76 million people.
This is way better than the Geico Cavemen ads - Elisabeth Daynes' reconstructions of ancient hominins. Science Magazine featured her work in their July 10th issue. Her website has some great images. If you want an idea of what the human lineage might have looked like 1 million years ago, go check it out.

This is an oft mentioned safety rule that one should employ when driving to ensure an adequate distance is maintained with the vehicle in front of you. When conditions are wet or icy, the rule has been extended to recommend four seconds and up to 10 seconds respectively.

This effectively fixes the traffic volume to a constant arrival rate regardless of the speed of the vehicles. In other words, it presumes to maintain a constant flow of traffic despite the variations in individual drivers and makes the traffic volume absolutely dependent on the number of traffic lanes available.

Since we have a fixed arrival rate of 1 car every 2 seconds (per lane), then we can calculate how many vehicles per hour a road can handle.
I seem to recall writing an article on a similar topic once upon a time.
XKCD by Randall Munroe
I was reading about recent excavations at Amheida, a buried city in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, where it is beginning to appear that agricultural development was taking place before the settlement of the Nile valley and rise of the Pharaohs. I thereupon turned the Al-Ahram Weekly Online, in order to search their Heritage section, and read about the horrendous murder of the wife of an Egyptian doctoral student here in Europe. It is always very sad when tragedy befalls people coming from abroad to work or study in our universities and institutes, but this incident is particularly gruesome.
I just finished reading an interesting book review by physicist Martin Blume in a recent issue of Nature. Blume was reviewing Eugenie Samuel Reich’s provocative book “Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World,” and the whole thing prompted some further thoughts about scientific misconduct, objectivity, and the peer review system that is crucial to the advancement of science.

Reich’s book is apparently very well researched (I take Blume’s word for it, since material physics is not my field), but she draws exactly the wrong conclusion from the case study she so thoroughly investigated.
In case you've been living under a rock, you probably know that Monday is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.   I don't remember seeing it on TV when I was a lad, though I am told I did (I do remember watching the live liftoff of Apollo 17, since Kennedy is about an hour drive from my boyhood home in Florida and we went to that one) but most everyone middle aged and older will - it remains the most watched program in history(1).
Today's tale looks at whether ancient Sufi mystics predicted the current climate for science in the Western World.  Some see science as an ivory tower pursuit, others as a way of achieving technological advancement, still others as a path to personal glory.  But some of us see more.

A quick look at the top ScientificBlogging stories this week gives us titles seemingly ripped from summer blockbusters and beach reading.  Shark Week, Chemistry of Love, Moral Lessons, the Indiana Jones Method of Science, Super Sexy.
The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
T'is one of my favorite sayings.  "The perfect is the enemy of the good," refers to the habit of condemning a solution because it is not perfect, like rejecting a free Honda Civic because it is not a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT.1967 Shelby Mustang GT

This issue afflicts academics, religious zealots, stereotypical princesses, and Israel/Palestine.  It generally prevents compromise and, you know, getting stuff done.
The lonely nymph who waylays Odysseus for eight years on her island of Ogygia. Though the beautiful Calypso offers ease and even immortality, she is in fact selfish, caring only to alleviate her own loneliness. Watch out for self-serving kindness.


Polyphemus, the Cyclops, traps Odysseus and his crew in his cave and eats six men before Odysseus gets him drunk, blinds him with a wooden stake, and escapes with his remaining crew by hiding under sheep. Polyphemus, with his one eye, represents a person with only one point of view. Beware: If you are monofocused and that monofocus fails, you are SOL, just like Polyphemus.