Friday, 2 September 2011

09:08 – I keep a small stock of drugs on hand for emergencies, typically 100 capsules or tablets of each. Antibiotics like amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, metronidazole, tetracycline, and so on, as well as diphenhydramine, tramadol, and several other common drugs. In the event of a catastrophe like Katrina, I don’t want any of my family or friends dying for lack of a common drug. I keep them in the freezer at -20C, where they’ll remain usable for probably 20 years or more.

So, the other day I (finally) received my order from Home Science Tools, 25 bottles of 30 g each of potassium iodide. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to stick one of them with my emergency drug stock. If a reactor meltdown occurs and I-131 is released, 30 g of potassium iodide provides 230 adult doses of 130 mg each. I haven’t measured, but I’d guess that a 2-liter soda bottle full to the brim holds 2,300 mL, or close enough not to matter. That means that dissolving the contents of that 30 g bottle of KI in a 2-liter soda bottle full of water provides 230 adult doses of 10 mL each, which happens to be two teaspoons.

Not that Barbara or I or her family has any need of KI, nor do many of our friends. The goal of taking KI after an I-131 release is to saturate one’s body with non-radioactive iodine, to prevent uptake of radioactive I-131 by the thyroid, which ultimately increases the incidence of thyroid cancer. However, thyroid cancers typically take decades to develop, so there’s little point to anyone over 40 years old taking KI.

Jerry Coyne posted yesterday about something I’ve been going on about for years: the incredible rip-off that is academic journal publishing.

Here’s the way it works, at least for science academic publishing. We, the taxpayer, fund science studies. Scientists do the work and write up the results as academic papers. Each paper goes through the peer-review process, in which other scientists–working for free–review, edit, and comment on the paper. The final paper is submitted to an academic publisher, who then copyrights the paper and publishes it, usually both in-print and on-line. The journal then charges very high fees to anyone who wants to read the paper. None of the money the journal charges is returned to the taxpayers, nor to the scientists who did the original work and wrote the paper, nor to the scientists who peer-reviewed the paper.

The companies that own these science journals–notably Elsevier, Springer-Verlag, and Wiley-Blackwell–make massive profits at the expense of the taxpayers and the scientists. The journal publishers contribute next to nothing to the process, and earn profit margins of 30% or more. Not gross margins. Profit margins. As Coyne says, this has to stop.

There are now some open-access academic journal publishers who post their work for free download. The problem with most of those is that they’re paid up-front, charging scientists (which of course means the taxpayers) thousands of dollars to publish a paper. The real answer to this problem is for the US government, Google, or some other large entity to start publishing science papers for free. No charge to publish them, and no charge to read them. I’d go further. Elsevier and the rest have unjustly profited on a huge scale for decades. It’s time for someone like the US government to say enough is enough, and to put all of those old papers to which Elsevier and the others have unjustly claimed copyright into the public domain, where they belong. They were produced with taxpayer funds, and by any reasonable standard they should have been in the public domain all along.

Alaska, where men are tough and women are tougher. This young Alaskan woman let her small dog out to pee one evening, heard a ruckus, and found a large bear in her yard trying to eat her dog. So she did what any Alaskan woman would do: stormed up to the bear and punched it in the snout. The bear, knowing what was good for it, dropped the dog and fled. Woman and dog are fine, and the bear probably learned its lesson.

Which reminds me of the old joke about the young guy sitting in a bar, listening to the old guys talking about what it takes to become a Yuker. The old guys tell him that if he wants to be a real Yuker, he has to kill a polar bear and rape an Eskimo woman. So, a few days later the young guy staggers back into the bar, all torn up. “Okay,” he says, “where’s that Eskimo woman you want me to kill?”

I think I mentioned a few days ago some interesting work that scientists had done on DNA recovered from victims of the Black Death. Abbie Smith speculates convincingly that the Black Death was caused by morons.

I’ve talked before about the strange phenomenon of people’s hands getting smaller. The other night, I happened across this page, which has a graphic illustration (scroll all the way to the bottom) of how to choose the proper grip size for a tennis racket.

So, I measured my hand. Sure enough, the yardstick told me that my proper grip size was right on the line between 4-3/4″ and 4-7/8″, which according to that article is one or two sizes larger than a man with a “really big hand” needs. I don’t think of myself as having particularly large hands. I can just barely palm an NBA basketball, or at least I could before I started to get arthritis in my hands. If you have a ruler handy, measure your own hand and see what your proper grip size is. My guess is that if you’re a guy with small hands it’ll be 4-1/2″ (11.43 cm); if you’re a guy with average-size hands, it’ll be 4-5/8″ (11.75 cm); and if you’re a guy with larger than average hands, it’ll be 4-3/4″ (12.07 cm) or more.