Some random links and thoughts to end this hectic week.
- Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have developed and tested a marijuana vaporizer. Would you expect anything less from a college based in San Francisco? Turns out this new vaporizer provides the same 'biological effect as smoking cannabis, but without the harmful toxins'. Where were all these 'scientists' when I was in school? Ever feel like you were born in the wrong generation?
Since this is legitimate science, it was conducted under the guise of medicinal purposes and alleviating the pain associated with HIV related neuropathy. As part of the study patients, or as I call them 'willing volunteers', were given pot three times a day using differing methods (smoking or vaporization) and varying strengths of weed. When pot was smoked CO levels rose to expected levels (bad). When vaporization was used, little or no increase in CO occurred (good).
More importantly, 'Patients rated the “high” they experienced from both smoking and vaporization and there was no difference between the two methods'. In the end isn't all that matters? It's just a matter of time until 'vaporizer raves' become part of the teenage culture. Hell, I'm already considering which room I should use.
- John Zimmerman has created a 'Reverse Alarm Clock' designed to keep children asleep throughout the night. He may call it that, but I call it 'The Answer To All My Problems'. Using sunrise and sunset programming, the clock is designed to put the responsibility on the kids for when they get out of bed and go to sleep. They can even program their own sleep and wake up music. The clock uses a wall projection to let the kiddies know when it's ok to get up. If the moon is showing, it means 'go back to sleep, you little brat' whereas the sun display would mean 'you can get up, but leave mom and dad alone or you will be beaten and chained in the basement'. Or something. If I ever meet Mr. Zimmerman, I will hug him.
- Did you know there was a World Rock-Paper-Scissor organization? I shit you not. You can go to the site http://www.iamacompletedork.com for all the details. OK, not really. Go here if you really want to see. The Philadelphia competition is sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and I still can't decide who should be more insulted. Let's just call it a toss up.
- Remember our bee friends that have disappeared? Remember how I said that we haven't developed methods for pollination and that if the bees all died off we were basically fucked? Remember how I'm wrong about nearly everything? Cornell researchers are looking into identifying the gene that self pollinating plants use. Apparently these plants can turn their self pollination on and off and they want to see if the gene can be somehow used for plants that currently do not self pollinate. You know the ones that need actual bees for their pollinating. Still, no guarantees.
- My ill informed rant against Ethanol created quite the commentary from people I never knew read this humble little blog. They actually seemed to know what they were talking about, too. Quite a rarity for this space. Here I thought I was entertaining myself and two or three others (Note: The term 'entertaining' is being used in the broadest sense here). Anyway, it turns out I'm not the only one who was wondering about the legitimacy of this alternative fuel. An article in the Sacramento Bee raised the (in my opinion) relevant question of whether we are ignoring other, more viable alternative fuel options with our hard-on for ethanol. Here's the link, but you have to register and sign in to read it.
You can, however, check out this op-ed piece in the LA Times that reinforces my belief that ethanol is now big business and the amount of money being invested and made from this fuel source may be warping perspectives (corn prices have doubled in the last year). It also points out that since corn byproducts are used in all sorts of different foods any 'shock to corn yields, such as drought, unseasonably hot weather, pests or disease could send food prices into the stratosphere'.
More importantly, the article says 'although corn is a renewable resource, it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel (such as soybean oil) or ethanol from other plants. Moreover, ethanol yields about 30% less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly'
This rundown on ethanol from Business Week gives some solid info, both negative and positive. Among the more notable items is the belief that producing ethanol actually uses more fossil fuels to create than it gives back. Fantastic.
I happen to agree with friend Bob Moffitt who commented in this space that any step away from fossil fuels is a positive step, but we shouldn't be focusing solely on corn based ethanol at the risk of ignoring other, more effective fuels. When you put all your money on 24 or 36, you tend to ignore all the other colors and numbers on the wheel.
- In related news Norwegian Scientists have put together a table for rating alternative fuel sources. I can't link to the table, however, as it means I have to subscribe to some scientific publishing community and there is no way in hell that is happening. These brainiacs have rated a bunch of different environmental impacts each fuel can have and come up with what they call 'a simple ranking system' that I couldn't make heads or tails of. I will try and find a free version of this table and link to it later.
- In my searches for new robots to be afraid of, I ran across the Robot Hall of Fame. No, really. This year's inductions will be the one legged Raibert Hopper, the NavLab 5 self- steering vehicle, the LEGO Mindstorms kit and Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. They will be joining HAL from '2001: A Space Odessy', R2D2, C3PO, and the Mars Pathfinder Robot among others already in. I want to know when the robot from 'Lost in Space' will be inducted. 'Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!'
- Hey, did you hear about that crazy storm that blew through the Boston area on Wednesday? Guess who got caught in the second phase of that storm on my walk back from the subway? Me! Lucky me. I was halfway home with no coat (it was 80 that morning!) and no umbrella when the sky turned black, lightning flashed and within 30 seconds I was soaked. On the positive side it was 50 degrees out. We usually don't see weather like that unless it's 90 and humid.
- Last, but not least, I would like to wish LeF and LaF a fun time at Fenway tonight. I believe attending this game will officially mean they've attended more games this season than I have in my lifetime. I may like them, but that doesn't mean I don't hate them. On the other hand, good things seem to happen with the Sox when they go. They were in attendance for the '4 homers in a row' and 'Dice-K complete' games. They still suck, though
Today's distraction: One of the greatest games ever is now available online. Good luck playing just one game of Battleship. When I first found this I played 5 games in a row.
Blog note: I'll be touring the Baltimore/DC area for work next week, so not sure how often I'll be able to post. Will try to keep the same schedule, but can't promise anything.