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.

12 thoughts on “Friday, 2 September 2011”

  1. I’ve talked before about the strange phenomenon of people’s hands getting smaller.

    Probably because people don’t use their hands as much as before. 100 years ago people chopped wood, used shovels and picks, all sorts of manual labor. Large hands were better able to handle the tasks. Today it does not take large hands to operate an excavator or use a keyboard.

    My grandfather ran a road grader all his life starting with the manually operated controls, you know, the big wheels that were turned by hand to adjust the blade. Eventually he got a fully powered machine (he owned his own) but it was not with hydraulics. The controls operated transmissions and clutches that moved the blade and adjusted the front wheels (they tilted left or right). It was till an effort to operate the levers but not as much as the manual system.

    His hands were huge, and tough. He smoked a pipe and would tamp the lit tobacco with his finger. He would light his pipe and the flame from the match would curl around his finger and he never felt it. He could grab 117V electrical lines in his fingers and not feel anything unless he moistened his fingers first. I have also seen him grab barbed wire with his bare hands and tug on the wire with considerable force. The skin on his hands was almost as tough as leather gloves.

    He went to the Caterpiller dealer to get a new steering wheel for his grader. The guy at the counter asked him what was wrong with the wheel. My grandfather said it was worn out. It was. The entire hard Bakelite coating on the steering wheel had been worn down to the metal by his hands. Caterpiller featured him in their monthly magazine because of a rather unique feat. My grandfather cherished that magazine article. Oh, and Caterpiller gave him the steering wheel for free with the stipulation that it was only for just this one time.

  2. I don’t have a ruler to hand, but I reckon it’s less than 10.5cm. To give perspective, I’m ~185cm tall. Then again, I know my wrists are abnormally small. Most girls of my acquaintance, including two teenaged sisters, have thicker wrists than I do. I’ve yet to meet another male with thinner wrists than me.

  3. 4 3/4″ here. I don’t consider myself to have big hands, and in fact, both of my sons have hands bigger than I do. I’ll have to get Tomas up and measure his hands, I call him Spiderfinger, because his fingers are incredibly long. I’m going to guess 5 1/4″ for him. They are REALLY long fingers.

    My sister, when she wasn’t much older than the bear puncher from Juneau, found a bear in her garden, smashing down the produce and gorging on corn. She hit it numerous times with a long handled shovel, before it decided that the service wasn’t very good and lumbered off. It wasn’t a Black Bear though, merely a Grizzly.

    Don’t mess with women who are pissed off!

  4. Bears are basically super-dogs without the pack instincts. Like dogs, bears look at anything that runs away from them as prey and anything that stands up to them, regardless of how small it is, as a potential threat.

    I’ve watch our dogs approach birds, small animals, frogs, and even insects. If the creature rolls over on its back to show submission, the dogs sniff it. If it flees, they chase it. If it stands up to them, they back off. I’ve watched all our dogs encounter frogs and toads. They approach cautiously, but when the frog/toad jumps, the dogs levitate backwards. I suspect bears have the same world view.

    Of course, all bets are off if it’s a female with cubs present, which is exactly the situation this poor bear encountered. Male or female, it was sensible enough to realize that it was being attacked by a pissed-off mama bear. And even a full-grown male grizzly will flee from a female protecting its cubs.

  5. And that’s my point, don’t mess with women who are protecting their young. At the time, the garden was my sister’s “children”. The women in Juneau was protecting her dog (dachshund in Alaska? I’d be afraid of the eagles, too.) The Grizzly in my sis’s case was a known male in the area and knew enough to just walk away. And he did just that, walk. He did not run, he did not even acknowledge my sister was even there. He just went were there were no shovels hitting him. A female bear (especially with cubs) would have ripped my sister to shreds.

    My sister also stared down a cougar, but had enough sense to do so from the inside of her house.

    BC has lots of wildlife to be very respectful around. In fact, we’ve had as many attacks on humans by white tailed deer, than bears this year.

  6. Yeah, I think males of any species instinctively understand that females of any species are horribly dangerous when they are protecting their young. Small female grizzlies have been known to rip large male grizzlies to shreds. It’s amazing what one can do if one doesn’t really care about surviving an encounter.

  7. Regarding whitetail deer, that reminds me of something that happened to an acquaintance of mine back when I was a teenager. He’d shot a buck with his new rifle. The buck dropped instantly, and the guy posed straddling the buck with his new rifle (which, of course, by law he’d unloaded after shooting and tagging the buck) and grasping its rack so his friends could take a picture.

    The problem was, the buck wasn’t dead. It came back to life and was whipping around trying to gore him. His friends were too busy laughing to do anything. He ended up beating the buck to death with his new rifle, breaking the stock in the process. Supposedly, this was all captured on film for posterity, although I never saw the images.

    Which is why I always gag when people talk about Bambi. They’ve obviously never seen or heard about deer attacking.

  8. There was a film that went around the ‘net a while back where a guy sprayed himself with the urine of a female elk, in order to try to lure one closer during a hunt. His wife managed to catch a fair bit of the beating a frustrated male elk in full rut can inflict, before it ran off looking for a real Mrs. Right.

    Come to think of it, stay away from horny men, too!

  9. Not that Barbara or I or her family has any need of KI, nor do many of our friends. … However, thyroid cancers typically take decades to develop, so there’s little point to anyone over 40 years old taking KI.

    I’m certain you are mistaken. After all, all the blowdries on television were talking about the importance of having plenty of iodine for everyone, along with the assertion that the government is supposed to provide it or make sure vendors don’t overcharge consumers or something. It was all too confusing for me to take away anything besides “iodine is important” and “I wonder where she gets her teeth whitened?”.

    Now, who are you to argue with authority like that? You’re just some guy who does chemistry in his lab. Have you ever had your teeth whitened, even once? I rest my case.

  10. I bet he’s not even had his hair blow dried in the past thirty years, or more. My respect diminishes with more revelations. 🙂

  11. You’d win your bet, with 10 years to spare. I have a hairbrush, which I seldom use, but the last time anyone used a blow dryer on my hair was when I was 17 and my girlfriend gave me a haircut.

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