Barbara dropped Malcolm at the vet on her way to work this morning.
Malcolm had a urinary-tract infection, which the antibiotics seemed to
clear up mostly but not entirely. He's still leaking a bit. When he's
been asleep or resting, he'll be a bit damp underneath. The vet is
going to do an ultrasound to make sure there's no bladder tumor or any
other serious problem. It may be that the leakage is simply because
he's 11 years old, and older dogs like older people sometimes have such
problems. If so, there are several possible courses, including
phenylpropanolamine, either short-term or long-term, or testosterone.
We're hoping that Malcolm's problem won't require surgery. That's a lot
to put an older dog through.
normally don't question the truthfulness of other scientists. When one
reads a paper, one assumes that the author has reported his data
accurately. The author may have used a poor methodology. His
statistical analysis may be wrong. (It's not at all uncommon for
working scientists--particularly those in the soft sciences--to have a
very poor grasp of statistics.) His conclusions may be faulty,
unsupported by his data. But one assumes that the scientist who wrote
that paper was honest, that he reported his data accurately, and that
he did not attempt to deceive the reader. It's not that scientists are
gullible; it's that they have no choice but to trust other scientists.
In theory, the data and conclusions of any paper can be reproduced and
verified, but in practice there's simply neither the time nor the
resources to do that for the vast bulk of published papers. So
scientists trust other scientists.
The other side of that coin
is that when it does turn out that a scientist has lied, either by
falsifying or cherry-picking data or otherwise by intentional
deception, other scientists consider those actions to be a crime
against science. Everything the lying scientist has ever published is
immediately cast into doubt. The fallout is not pretty, particularly
because it can have a devastating effect on the careers of innocent
scientists and grad students who happened to be colleagues or
co-authors on the papers in question. Consequently, any scientist is
loathe to even think about such scientific misconduct, let alone accuse
another scientist of such. And that goes double when the paper in
question is outside the area of expertise of the reader.
why the AGW crowd has been able to maintain this fraud as long as it
has. When I first read about the AGW hypothesis (it's far from a
theory, in the scientific sense) I reacted the same way that any
scientist would. I assumed it was valid, or at least honest. These
scientists presented data to support their hypothesis. It never even
crossed the minds of anyone, including me, that those data might be
faked. But things started to unravel quickly.
expect to be challenged. Real scientists present their complete
methodology and provide their raw data. Real scientists respond to
questions from their peers and appreciate suggestions and corrections.
Geez, for that matter, real scientists use error bars. The AGW crowd
did none of that. They attacked and smeared any scientist who dared to
challenge them. They attempted to prevent papers that did not share
their point of view from being published. They refused to detail their
methodology, and demanded that all of us accept their manipulated data,
refusing to share the raw data upon which it was based or to explain
how they had manipulated those raw data. They attempted to
tar scientists who disagreed with them, questioning their
credentials, and sometimes even trying to get them fired.
are not the actions of scientists; they are the actions of political
Through all of this, many real scientists have become
increasingly uncomfortable, but still avoided the nuclear
option--making accusations of scientific misconduct. Over the last year
or two, that's started to change. Before then, many scientists with
impeccable credentials, including Freeman Dyson, had expressed strong
doubts about the AGW hypothesis, but most scientists kept their doubts
to themselves. With ClimateGate, that really started to change. Any
real scientist, whatever his field, must be nauseated after reading
those papers, in which so-called climate scientists calmly discuss
faking data, intentionally deceiving other scientists and the public,
obstructing those who disagree with them, and suppressing dissent.
It's gotten to the point where many real scientists can no longer
remain silent. Here's what
one of them has to say. "I would almost make that revulsion a
definition of the word scientist."
is in the process of imploding, but that implosion is going to cause a
lot of damage, direct and collateral. My one regret about this whole
shameful mess is that it tars all of science and all scientists, giving
more ammunition to creationists and antivaxxers and other
anti-science groups. After all, if these climate "scientists" are a
bunch of whores, who's to say that evolutionary biologists or physical
chemists or astronomers or vaccine researchers aren't just as bad? The
Left complains a lot about the Right's "war on science", and much of it
is justified. However, with AGW the Left has probably done more damage
to science than the Right ever could have dreamed of doing.
Malcolm spent the day at the vet yesterday. They ran an ultrasound and
found his bladder and urethra are fine. There's some minor thickening
in the bladder wall, but Sue Stephens said it wasn't cancerous. They
took a urine sample to be cultured and did some blood work. If things
turn out as expected, Sue said the next step was to try
phenylpropanolamine. It's possible that a short course of that may
solve the leakage problem, or he may have to go on it permanently. If
the PPA doesn't work, she said we could consider testosterone or PPA in
combination with testosterone. Obviously, we'd like to avoid steroid
therapy if possible.
Late afternoon, I picked Malcolm up to
bring him home. He was surprisingly well-behaved during the ride home.
He did have berserk barking spells twice when I forgot and used my turn
signal. (Malcolm doesn't like the clicking of the turn signal, and goes
berserk, literally bouncing off the roof of the truck.) And he did keep
tossing the windshield sunscreen that was in the back seat over into
the front passenger seat. But other than that he was well behaved, just
riding along and watching everything we passed.
placing more orders this week for the microchemistry kits, accumulating
the stuff I need to put together the first three dozen kits. The bulk
of it comes from two lab equipment wholesalers, but I have numerous
small orders for individual items. Three dozen composition books (lab
notebooks) from Costco, of all places. Three dozen purple Sharpie
markers from another vendor. Three dozen 9V batteries from still
another vendor. Three dozen snap-lid plastic shoeboxes from U-Line. And
And I'm accumulating newspapers, which I'll shred and use
for packing material. The SQE and ORM-D exemptions for shipping small
quantities of hazardous materials without having to pay hazardous
shipping surcharges have certain packaging requirements, including
using sufficient absorbent material to soak up any leaks. Shredded
newspaper meets the requirements, and is a lot neater than using
went to the dentist yesterday to have my fangs cleaned. While
waiting room, I picked up a copy of a propaganda sheet from the ICR
(Institute for Creation Research), a New Earth Creationist "think"
tank. Of course, they don't actually do any research in the
that anyone else uses that word, and they don't know how to think, but
it is. There was an interesting article about how christian
"scientists" should interpret evidence only in the light of scripture.
If the evidence and scripture appear to conflict, the evidence must be
wrong or has been misinterpreted. The accuracy of scripture cannot be
questioned. It is much more reliable than one's own eyes, because
seeing something plainly is no proof of anything. These people are
Pournelle keeps telling me that he doesn't
believe there are actually any people in any modern first-world society
who still believe Earth is only 6,000 years old. Well, they're all over
the place here in the South, and my dentist is one of them. We had an
interesting discussion about ape versus human chromosomes, transitional
fossils, and so on. He knows he can't change my mind and I know I can't
change his. Still, he's a nice enough guy and a competent dentist.
news around here is dominated by the case of Zahra Clare Baker, the
little girl who couldn't catch a break. At age 10, she hasn't had much
of a life. She's deaf, has cancer, and wears a prosthetic leg to
replace the leg she lost to cancer. Her home environment, by all
accounts, was indescribably miserable, dominated by a wicked stepmother
who made the wicked stepmothers in fairy tales look like sweethearts.
Over the weekend, Zahra disappeared. An Amber Alert was issued, which
made the national news.
Except that the police investigation has
raised serious questions about exactly when Zahra disappeared, and why.
It turns out that no one had seen her for quite some time before last
weekend, and the police are now treating the disappearance as a
homicide. Corpse dogs have detected the scent of human remains on two
of the family vehicles. Her stepmother has been charged with felony
obstruction of justice, and has admitted writing the ransom note she
supposedly found. Although the stepmother hasn't yet been charged with
murdering Zahra, it appears likely she soon will be. And all of us keep
thinking about this little girl who never had a chance.
surprise all my readers by coming out in support of a religious group.
There's another story that's recently made the national news about a
city park in King, NC, which is just up the road from us. There's a war
memorial there, on city property. That war memorial had a Christian
flag on display. The ACLU threatened to file a lawsuit, and the city
attorney said the city didn't have any choice but to remove the flag.
The flag was removed, and the city officials announced that they
couldn't afford the estimated $200,000 cost of fighting the lawsuit.
King is a small rural North Carolina town, and the vast majority of its
residents are Southern Baptist. The removal generated a firestorm, and
the city officials have reversed their decision and intend to fight.
am as strong a proponent of separation of church and state as
anyone, but this isn't really about separation. This is, after all,
a memorial to King's war dead. Many of those who died were
Christians, as are their families. Some, no doubt, were of other
religions, or no religion at all. I'll go so far as to say that the
government of King should not be installing or maintaining religious
flags at the site. Fine. But nothing should prevent private citizens
from installing and maintaining those flags, just as they place flowers
at grave sites. All these people want is a flag to honor their war
dead. I'm sure that they would be willing to pay for and maintain that
flag themselves. I'm sure they would understand if others did the same
for their war dead, raising flags with the Jewish Star of David or the
Atheist A. As long as no government funds are spent to install or
maintain these flags, why would anyone care?
Barbara mentioned an article in the paper this morning about a man who
underwent a sex-change operation and is now suing to be allowed to play
on the LPGA tour. LPGA rules say only women are eligible, and define a
woman as someone who was female at birth.
I told Barbara I'd
often wondered how the womens' golf and tennis tours are able to get
away with what they do. There are thousands upon thousands of guys out
there right now who could easily beat any woman playing on either tour,
and yet the women playing on those tours make millions of dollars in
winnings and endorsements, which without that artificial barrier would
have gone to male players. US law prohibits employment discrimination
on the basis of sex.
There are minor exemptions for situations
where sex is a valid criterion. For example, a guy can't sue Hooters
for refusing to hire him as a waitress. An actress can't sue because
she wasn't considered for a male role in a TV show or film. And a man
can't sue because a rape crisis center refused to hire him to counsel
rape victims. In all of those situations, it's clear to any reasonable
person that sex is a valid hiring criteria. But it's difficult to see
how sex can be considered a valid criteria for participating in a
commercial sporting event, particularly one in which ability is
supposedly the sole criteria.
The search continues for the body of little Zahra Baker. Authorities
are now draining a pond near her father's workplace. Serious questions
are also being raised about the actions of the Social Services
department, or rather its lack of action. Apparently, at least one
person reported to Social Services that this little girl was being
beaten routinely and was held prisoner, locked in her room, and allowed
out for only 5 minutes at a time to eat. Social Services
It's a pity that the neighbors didn't just
call 911 and let the police sort it out. If they had, that little girl
would probably still be alive. Of course, it's possible that the
neighbors feared for their own safety. From the news reports, the
stepmother is apparently a violent woman, one who doesn't hesitate to
use her fists or threaten people with a gun. The real question is why
she was walking around loose instead of penned up in a prison cell.
Here is something truly disgusting. If Cristina Radacovici (AKA
ZOMGitsCriss) has this right, and I have no reason to think she
doesn't, these doctors are behaving unethically, to say the least.
UPS showed up yesterday afternoon with my first order from United
Scientific. The poor guy almost had a hernia carrying the box up to the
front door. I've unpacked and checked everything in, and everything
that was supposed to be there is there. There was also no tinkling
sound of broken glass, which is always good.
So now I have a
couple gross of test tubes, a thousand polyethylene pipettes in two
different types, a bunch of reaction plates in two different types, a
bunch of polypropylene centrifuge tubes in three different types,
alligator clips, stoppers, spatulas, battery adapters, chromatography
strips, stirring rods, and a partridge in a pear tree. I managed to get
enough horizontal space cleared in the workroom to stow the stuff
neatly, but this is only part of what I need to put together the first
36 microchemistry kits. Most of the rest of it will be arriving shortly from Ginsberg
I'd planned to assemble these kits in batches of
100, which seems reasonable. I can certainly assemble 100 kits per
month, if demand justifies it, and if pressed I could probably do 100
per week for short bursts. Now I need to do some serious thinking about
detailed workflow issues.
after UPS showed up, the vet's office called with the results of
Malcolm's urine culture. He has an E. coli infection that's resistant
to amoxicillin, including amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, as well as
most of the other common antibiotics. The count was > 100,000 per
mL, so it's not a light infection. Barbara stopped by the vet's office
on the way home from work to pick up an antibiotic to which the
bacteria are vulnerable. He'll be on that for a couple of weeks,
followed by a retest.
this compound to any chemist, and the first words out of his or her
mouth will be "Jesus Christ!" or something very like it. That's
assuming he or she isn't too busy running to say anything. Looking at
the structure, my first thought was that this stuff would make
nitroglycerin look inert. Nitrogen really, really wants to be free. It
doesn't like to be bound up in compounds. Nitrogen atoms want to marry
other nitrogen atoms--gay marriage, so to speak--to form stable
nitrogen molecules and then frolick around with all their
nitrogen-molecule buddies out there in the atmosphere. So,
when chemists see a structure that contains eight(!) nitrogen
atoms in a row and very little else in the molecule, they expect it to
be unstable, to put it mildly.
As it turns out, though, this molecule is actually surprisingly stable,
not just for a compound with so much nitrogen in it, but period.
Despite what Derek says, though, I wouldn't get near the stuff. It might change its
of our neighbors is an elementary school teacher. She teaches math to
the brightest fourth and fifth graders. I ran into her yesterday while
I was walking Malcolm, and she asked if I had any ideas for a science
experiment her students could do that involved a significant amount of
math. I asked her if she had any budget, and she said whatever she
needed she'd have to pay for out of her own pocket.
about it a moment, and suggested she do Boyle's Law, which is the
pressure-volume relationship of gases (for example, with the
temperature constant, doubling the pressure halves the volume, and vice
versa). She has several classes, each of 24 students, and they can work
in groups of four. All she'll need is six oral syringes with caps, six
small soda bottles, six two-liter soda bottles, some water, and a
bit of vegetable oil to lubricate the syringes. There are no safety
concerns, which is a big issue in today's schools.
oral syringes wholesale by the bag of a hundred, so I can supply those.
The kids will start with the syringes at full scale and the tip caps
on. They'll then add water 200 mL at a time to the large soda bottles
and use those bottles as masses to press down on the syringe plungers,
noting the volume as more and more mass is added to the plunger.
They'll have to calculate the surface area of the plunger from its
diameter and then graph the volume of the trapped air at pressures from
atmospheric to atmospheric plus 200 g, 400 g, 600 g, and so on, up to
atmospheric plus 2,000 grams. They can then graph their results and
compare their experimental results to the known actual values.
I cannot say enough good things about Netflix. Understand, from their
point of view, I am the Customer From Hell. They lose money on me every
month, and have done for years. In the last two years or more, they
have been 100% efficient at sending discs to me. I receive a disc one
day, return it the next day, they log it in the following day and ship
the next disc, which I receive the next day. (The USPS also deserves
kudos; they haven't taken even one extra day on even one disc in the
last two years.) Netflix doesn't even mini-throttle me by shipping from
remote distribution centers. I get an occasional disc from their
Charlotte or Raleigh center rather than from the Greensboro center, but
that's never taken an extra day. On my three-at-a-time plan, that means
I'm averaging something like 25+ discs a month from them. All for $18
So, yesterday the mailman shows up. I was expecting
two discs. Instead, I got just one disc and a cover sheet--the part you
tear off and throw away from the Netflix mailer--for the second,
stamped "Received without contents". The cover sheet was seriously
mangled. I hope the disc survived somehow, somewhere.
So I went
over to the Netflix website to report the problem. There was a choice
on there, "Mailer received empty". That was the best description of the
problem, so I clicked on it. Unfortunately, it wouldn't accept that. So
I called their toll-free number, where I was put on hold for 17 seconds
(literally; I timed it). Then I spoke to Kevin, who apologized for the
problem and asked if I wanted a replacement sent for the missing disc.
I told him I did, and he said it would go out tomorrow. He added that
to make up for that delay he was also sending me the next disc in my
Geez, I'm someone that, if I were Netflix, I'd be praying would stop being a customer. (Well, I
wouldn't be praying, of course, but you know what I mean.) And they
treat me like their most valued customer. Seriously, if you're one of
the few people who hasn't tried Netflix, give it a shot. The price is
beyond reasonable, the selection is gigantic, you can get both physical
discs and unlimited streaming for the same monthly price, and the
company simply could not get any better.
This is a long article, but it's well worth your time to read it. FTA:
“Science is a noble endeavor, but it’s also a low-yield endeavor”
is wrong. Science is the highest-yielding human endeavor. What he
should have said was "low-percentage-current-yield endeavor". Probably
not one in a thousand papers produces information that's widely and
immediately useful, but that's not to say that those other 999 papers
are failures. Many of them will provide the necessary building blocks
for later discoveries, some of which may be hugely significant. If
nothing else, many of these papers will allow future researchers to
avoid wasting their time on blind alleys and dead ends that have
already been explored.
It's often said that great discoveries
are made only because the researchers stand on the shoulders of giants,
but it's equally true that they stand on the shoulders of innumerable
pygmies. If you want the great discoveries, the price you pay is to
pursue all those studies that don't yield any great discoveries.
Science is about false starts and failures. To lead the league in
home runs, you have to swing for the fences, which inevitably means you
strike out often. You can't have one without the other.
- Slashdot has an interesting poll
up, asking readers where they'd draw the line for things robots are
permitted to do. There's a slight bump at "... at letting them play
with kids", but robots really run into the wall at "... at letting them
run for political office", which was my choice. All of the preceding
things seem like reasonable things for robots to do, but the last thing
we need is an infestation of dishonest, lying robots.
I love it when I have to go back and re-write a lab session from
scratch. Really. Yesterday, I was working on a session about doing a
quantitative analysis of salicylate concentration in urine. One of the
items I'd ordered from United was polypropylene centrifuge tubes in
various capacities. I just ordered sample quantities of each to check
them out. One of those samples was a bag of 50 mL
self-standing centrifuge tubes, which struck me as ideal for urine
Then, as I was sitting there playing with
the centrifuge tube, my eye traveled down to the 1"x4" chromatography
strips that I'm ordering by the thousands to include in the kits. Sure
enough, those strips are an exact fit for the 50 mL tubes. I'd already
written up the lab using a 250 mL beaker as the chromatography jar, but
using the tubes is actually a faster and easier way to run
chromatograms. So I'm rewriting that session accordingly.
other news, I'd sent a preliminary pitch for a new home science book to
Brian Jepson, my editor at O'Reilly, CC'd to Dale and Tim. Brian mailed
me back last night to say they're interested, and asked me to send him
a detailed proposal. So, assuming that comes to pass, between it and
the science kits I know what I'll be doing for the next year.