Archive for June, 2007

June 19, 2007
BBC NEWS | Health | Coffee ‘could prevent eye tremor’:

Italian researchers looked at the coffee drinking and smoking habits of 166 people with blepharospasm.

Sufferers have uncontrollable twitching of the eyelid which, in extreme cases, stops them being able to see.

It usually affects people aged between 50 and 70 and someone with blepharospasm may be unable to prevent their eyes from clamping shut, so that, at times, they are effectively “blind”.

The first symptoms may include eye irritation and discomfort, sensitivity to light and increased blinking.

Professor Giovanni Defazio and colleagues from the Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences University of Bari in Italy said a previous study had suggested smoking had a protective effect on the condition.

They compared smoking and drinking habits in patients with the condition with patients with hemifacial spasm (a similar muscle spasm that usually begins in the eyelid muscles but then spreads to involve other muscles of the face) and people who were relatives of patients.

Doubts raised

In the current study there was no significant association found with smoking but those who drank coffee were less likely to develop the condition.

The effect was proportional to the amount of coffee drunk and the age of onset of the spasm was also found to be greater in patients who drank more coffee – 1.7 years for each additional cup per day.

Can anyone name the enormous set of confounders available for this study?


Sony apologies over virtual cathedral firefight

June 19, 2007

From The Registere:

Sony has gone down upon penitent knee and apologised to the Church of England for including Manchester Cathedral as a location for a brutal gun battle in its Resistance: Fall of Man video game.

Next they’re going to call up the shade of TS Eliot, and then the ghost of Lon Chaney for playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (or is that OK because it was just a french church?)

So if it’s not standing water, what is it?

June 13, 2007

Mars rover finds “puddles” on the planet’s surface – space – 08 June 2007 – New Scientist Space:

Update: The researchers have retracted their claim about the possibility of standing water on Mars after readers pointed out the terrain lies on the sloped wall of a crater – see our blog explaining what happened.

A new analysis of pictures taken by the exploration rover Opportunity reveals what appear to be small ponds of liquid water on the surface of Mars.

The report identifies specific spots that appear to have contained liquid water two years ago, when Opportunity was exploring a crater called Endurance. It is a highly controversial claim, as many scientists believe that liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars today because of the planet’s thin atmosphere.

Even if it’s ice that’s pretty weird. Makes you wonder if it’s entirely an artifact.

Annoying economic stupidity

June 13, 2007

The Reality-Based Community:

Are gas prices pretty much competitive? Well, either they are or they aren’t. If they aren’t, we have to ask why gas prices aren’t $3.52 already, or maybe $3.54, or maybe $13.54, or why they ever go down.

Whether prices respond to changes in supply or demand has only a little to do with whether there’s competition in the market, and an academic purporting to speak about economics should recognize that. Monopolies are perfectly capable of responding to demand signals by changing their prices or the amount that they’re willing to supply.  (The supply curve for a monopoly is different from that for a competitive market, but that doesn’t mean the monopolist can set whatever price they want.)

On the matter of whether stations should have temperature-compensating pumps, it’s obviously the case that gasoline companies can adjust their prices to get back to the status quo ante, but it should be equally obvious that consumers will do a better job of adjusting their demand if they know what the real price of gas is.

The devil is in the details (still a good title)

June 7, 2007

Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children:

Through the eyes of three women, Inez, Lakeisha, and Elena, (names have been changed) readers see first-hand how well-designed policies can make a difference in the lives of working poor adults and their children.

The devil is in the details

June 7, 2007

Incoherently Scattered Ponderings: Supersolid He not so super after all?:

If instead of water you use He and cool the system down, at some point the contribution from He vanishes as it becomes superfluid (through a process known as Bose-Einstein condensation). This is a well-known phenomena – but what Moses Chan and group at Penn State have discovered in 2004 is that the same effect can be seen for solid He, which can be obtained by applying a relatively modest pressure at low temperatures.

and from the comments

As someone active in the field, I want to make one point clear: despite the role of defects the flow is super; that is, it is it behaves in the way an ordinary superfluid would in at least several respects. So even if it is carried by defects/along faults in the crystal, it is still a superflow, and not just the usual flow due to defects (this latter flow obeys laws more akin to a normal fluid).

This is just weird

June 6, 2007

ScienceDaily: Brain Inflammation May Be Friend, Not Foe, For Alzheimer’s Patients:

In the June 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a team of scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that a key inflammatory regulator, a known villain when it comes to parsing out damage after a stroke and other brain injuries, seems to do the opposite in Alzheimer’s disease, protecting the brain and helping get rid of clumps of material known as plaques that are a hallmark of the disease.

SF After 1906 Earthquake

June 6, 2007

American Memory Digital Item Display – 2007663901:

digital file from intermediary roll film copy

SF After 1906 Earthquake

June 6, 2007

Way cool aerial picture. From kites no less:

Jump kits

June 6, 2007

Emergency Kits: