Thursday, May 18, 2006

Science & Politics Tidbits for 5-18-06

The science tidbits come first, because politics is mostly depressing, and matters far less in the long run anyway. Also, this order is the opposite of what the MSM always does, when they cover science stories at all.


  • Remember how your PE teacher, cross country coach, and the whole rest of the world kept lecturing you about the horrors of lactic acid? Turns out they were completely, totally, spectacularly wrong. Lactic acid is your friend. Thus pointing out yet again the dangers of relying on received wisdom from authority figures, even when they claim science is on their side. Scientists are prone to this as much as the rest of us, and the guy behind the new research had a hell of a time getting it published. Everyone laughed at continental drift too, back in the day. No word yet on whether food and beverages high in lactic acid will help athletic performance. If they need a human guinea pig to knock back a lambic or geuze or two and then get on the treadmill, hey, sign me up. I'm your guy.
  • The media's all over today's story about ancient humans and chimps interbreeding. I picked that particular story to link to because it comes with an amusing cartoon.
  • While that story's kind of gross (which is why they're printing it, of course), I can also easily see it being true, especially if there are bonobos involved. They'll bonk anything, anytime, anywhere, which is why you don't see them in the zoo even in enlightened cities such as ours. That might be just a little too educational for most visitors' tastes.
  • I can also see some people having more chimp DNA than others. Consider, for example, the strong evidence presented at They don't call him the for nothing, you know.
  • In other primate news, a newly discovered species of monkey, , which the locals just call "kipunji". It turns out the kipunji is the sole representative of an entirely new genus, the first one discovered in 83 years. And as is usual these days, this newly discovered species seems to be critically endangered, with only 500 or so left in the wild.
  • Also, some new research into the surprising linguistic abilities of Nigeria's putty-nosed monkey.
  • And an overview of ongoing debate over Homo Florensiensis, better known as the ancient "hobbit" people from Indonesia.
  • Switching to space news, here's the latest research. The newly-discovered solar system has three planets about the size of Neptune. The story mentions in passing that two are close to the star and therefore probably solid objects "like Mercury" (but vastly larger). Not so long ago it was big exciting news to find a large solid planet around another star, but not anymore. That's how extrasolar planet research works. You find one of a given type, and it's front page news. You find a second one, and already you and everyone else are terribly jaded about it. It's really sort of remarkable how fast this happens.
  • Speaking of Neptune, there may finally be an explanation for how the planet's moon Triton got into its peculiar orbit.
  • There's also yet another Titan flyby coming up on the 20th. Even I'm starting to get just a little blasé about these.
  • And here's a fresh new Silky Anteater item: Montclair State University in NJ has a page with some fun Silky-related games and activities for the kids. Kids these days, they just don't realize how lucky they are. Back in my day, we had no class materials about silky anteaters. Also, we trudged to school barefoot every day, seven days a week, five miles through the snow, uphill, both ways.


  • Well, the voters of Oregon mostly didn't listen to me. At least Erik Sten was reelected, just barely avoiding a runoff against The Burdick in November, but everyone and everything else I, ahem, "endorsed" lost by a huge margin. Which is about what I expected, really, and I'm not losing any sleep over it. To put a positive spin on it, I'm pleased to know that about 5-10 percent of everyone in Portland and Multnomah County agreed with me.
  • Admit it: Oregon politics are boring as hell. We collectively just don't have the same instinct for the jugular you see in more red-blooded parts of the country. Even our Republicans are less nasty than elsewhere. This is probably also why no Oregonian has ever been elected president, and also why we have only one Fortune 500 company based here. Even California is nastier than us, sometimes, as seen in this Wonkette piece titled "Best Piece of Direct Mail Ever", which indeed it is, in a morbid sort of way.
  • In other California political news, the Wonkette folks have just announced their official endorsement for governor of the state. Not to spoil the suspense, but apparently she's a famous, um, "movie star", sort of like Aahhhnold, in a way. This sort of thing would never fly here in Oregon. There would be dowdy Columbia Wear involved, and probably a great deal of shivering, and the whole effect would be ruined.
  • Two bits about Tom Friedman,everyone'ss favorite globalizin' windbag. His latest column rips into GWB over cronyism and bungling. But his own hands are far from clean, as seen in his ever-changing analysis of the situation in Iraq. It's just one decisive moment after another for this guy.
  • Following up on a story I was covering earlier, the EU's frozen the assets of top leaders of Belarus, following Lukashenko's reelection farce, and the subsequent arrest of opposition leaders.
  • Singapore had a somewhat farcical election recently, as well. The ruling party lost seats this time, but not enough to make any difference.
  • Let's wrap up with today's Reliable Source at the WashPost, but not because of all that political crap. Scroll down the page, past some random country music guy, until you see the National Zoo's new baby kiwi. Awwwwww.... (Although silky anteaters are still much cuter, of course.)

and now, the mother of all tag farms:

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