OMFG … Cell Phones DON’T Cause Cancer!

Suppose a guy holds two doctorates in physical sciences from prestigious institutions, has a long history of academic and industrial research, and has published over 200 scientific papers. Can it be assumed he isn’t a bat-shit crazy nut? What about THIS guy? That’s the guy who wrote THIS article that appeared on SALON the other day. From what I can tell, it’s the only article he’s written for Salon, and it seems to be intended to plug a book he has coming out (surprise surprise). It’s another article on the purported dangers of microwave radiation from cell phones.


There are a couple of very special diagrams that offer insane amounts of information crammed into a very small space. One of those is the periodic table of the elements, which provides a dazzling amount of information on the elements beyond just their names and atomic numbers and masses. The location of an atom on the table also tells us a lot about it’s atomic radius, electronegativity, electronic configuration, and other such properties. The periodic table tells us a lot about the physical world in which we live.

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Is a Shootout Brewing in Nevada?

What do cows, tortoises, the housing bubble, government bloat, and crazed militias all have in common?

Desert Tortoise

The Desert Tortoise: “Manage me please!” [Wikimedia]

Apparently back in 1993, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided that they needed to protect the desert tortoise. Fearing that Cliven Bundy’s herd of over a thousand cattle might strain the desert tortoise’s habitat, the BLM capped Bundy’s herd on the 158,666-acre Bunkerville rangeland at 150 head. (Really? The land can’t handle more than one cow per thousand acres?) As you might expect, Bundy was pissed. His family’s cattle had grazed unmolested on this “public” (i.e. government owned) land since the mid 1800′s, long before anybody considered assessing fees for, of all things, cattle grazing. What exactly was he supposed to do? Just get rid of virtually his entire herd, reducing it down to 150? In retaliation, Bundy stopped paying his grazing fees, effectively saying “fuck you” to the Federal Government.

You might think that somebody would have asked Bundy to pay up the delinquent fees he owed Uncle Sam before two decades had gone by. But apparently the BLM had a much richer teat to suck than those of Bundy’s cows: The Las Vegas housing bubble. According to an article on Huffington Post:

As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center’s $1 million annual budget.

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Museum of Crap Angry Over Shit Opinion

museum of crap

Eh … Google Translate may be a little off here. Click here to visit the source.

Talk about unfortunate translations! I think the museum of art’s director called the culture minister “a piece of crap.” As translated, it appears that the museum of crap’s director called the culture minister “a piece of art.” It’s harder to tell than it may first appear though, since the article really is about a piece of shit at the crap museum.

artists-shitSpecifically, it is about this can of “Artist’s Shit.” It is one of 90 cans, each containing 30 grams of feces from Italian artist Piero Manzoni. The “artist” canned his feces in 1961 for … I dunno. Art? I guess? Anyway, one of the cans at the museum sprung a leak (Ewww!), and art collector John Hunov, owner of the tinned turds, filed a lawsuit charging the museum with storing his can of crap irresponsibly. The lawsuit was ultimately settled for 225,000 Danish krone which, at today’s exchange rate, comes out to less than $42,000. That’s actually pretty cheap, considering these cans have sold as high as $171,000 at auction. At the current spot price of ca. $1300 per once, that is about 132 times the price of gold. And to think I just flush mine down the toilet!

According to this article, Piero Manzoni was inspired to defecate in the cans when his father told him, “You’re work is shit.” Parents know best. The artist’s father apparently owned a canning factory, although the article doesn’t say if Manzoni utilized his father’s factory for his crap canning project. Let’s hope not.

I’m kind of fond of paint on canvas myself.

Christina’s World

This is Christina’s World, by Andrew Wyeth. He didn’t shit in cans.

You may be wondering what led me to research poo today. I was intrigued by this link which was in a comment to my last post. I thought it was a joke until I looked it up and discovered that Sigma-Aldrich does indeed sell Sewage Sludge. For just over $600, you can buy a jar of your favorite blend, be it “mixed” or “industrial” in origin. That’s a real bargain, considering what Manzoni’s feces fetch. Anyway, while researching the poo market, I came across Artist’s Shit. I’ve read about it before, but was so amused by the way Google mangled that translation up there that I figured I needed to share. :-P

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The Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature is Mostly Crap

peer-review-literatureI’ll begin by pointing out that the statement made in the title of this post isn’t merely the crazed opinion of a lunatic blogger. It is in fact the subject of at least one peer-reviewed paper in the scientific literature: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. Of course, if that published research finding turns out to be false, well … all bets are off!

I’m going to share some personal anecdotes of my experience in the area of peer review. But first, I need to give some background. I cringe whenever I see peer review and scientific consensus being used to support arguments in the media and on blogs. I cringe when I see “consensus” being used this way because scientific truth isn’t based on a vote. I cringe when I see “peer review” being used this way because I don’t think most people understand what “peer review” means. It doesn’t mean, for example, that something has been found to be correct or has been in any way proven true. It merely means that other scientists in the field, usually three, have looked at the work and found no problems with the methodology.

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The High Price of Collectivist Tyranny

Of all the famous quotes that I have read, one in particular stands out to me. It states a fundamental belief of mine with more clarity and precision than anything I could ever hope hope to write:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” 
– C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, 1948

This type of tyranny is pervasive in our society. It can be seen in many forms, but always the end result, or the intended end result, is the same. I would like to offer some recent examples here. Some are more trivial than others, but they all have the same underlying theme of the omnipotent moral busybody seeking to usurp the rights of others to make their own choices in life.

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I’m going to go in a different direction here and try to tell a true story. That is somewhat uncharacteristic of this blog thus far, and I have no idea how well I will portray the event.

This should be an easy story to tell as there is only one character — me. I was alone at the time, about 3000 feet in the air and descending more rapidly than I would have liked. This is the story of a “cutaway” — the moment when one has to make the decision to pull the cord of his or her reserve parachute and hope like Hell things go as they should. The incident occurred on May 15, 1993. It’s been over twenty years, and I am relying heavily on memory. Fortunately, I still have my log book from the time, so I have a record of the date, equipment, aircraft, altitude, etc., along with notes taken following the jump.

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Gloriously Titled Books that Cry Out to be Proudly Displayed on One’s Bookshelf

The rise of e-books sadly means there will be fewer and fewer books displayed on people’s shelves as the years roll on. That’s a pity, I think. In addition to their sheer convenience, the books on the shelves of one’s home impart flavor and personality and say a lot about the individual who lives there.

Certain books stand out, not for their content, but for their titles. These are the books so bizarrely titled that they cry out to be displayed on a shelf or coffee table, purely for the “WTF?” effect they have on visitors to your home. Following is a list of my personal favorites in this category.

malleusMalleus Maleficarum (Der Hexenhammer or “The Hammer of Witches”)

The Malleus Maleficarum is both enormous and dry, leading me to question the integrity and anyone (other than a historian) who claims to have read more than a few isolated passages from the work. I have tried on more than one occasion. The book just screams “Read Me!” But anytime I have actually sat down and attempted the feat, within half and hour or so I’m like “Oh crap! I can’t read this shit.”

The book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with the authenticy of witches and witchcraft and seeks to refute claims of skeptics. The second section deals more with the science (Snort!) of witchraft: What they do, how they do it, and what role do others (e.g. Satan) play. The last section is the practical section, dealing with how to interrogate and torture a witch to produce a confession, how to prosecute a witch, how to conduit a witch trial, and related matters. Sounds thrilling, no? If you often find yourself wondering how to go about conduiting a witch trial, this may be the book for you!


Dynamical Phyllotaxis, Artificial Spin Ice, and Graphenic Bicontinuum: A journey through leaves and stems, rotons and solitons, magnets and arrays, one ground state lost, many found and two fields

Dynamical Phyllotaxis, Artificial Spin Ice, and Graphenic Bicontinuum: A journey through leaves and stems, rotons and solitons, magnets and arrays, one ground state lost, many found and two fields

How did I come across this lovely gem by Cristiano Nisoli? I’m guessing it was a strange quirk of timing that I happeed to be on just as that book was coming out. I did a search for Robert Frost and clicked on a volume of collected poems. There, at the bottom of the screen, I saw “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought,” followed by Dynamical Phyllotaxis, Artificial Spin Ice, and Graphenic Bicontinuum: A journey through leaves and stems, rotons and solitons, magnets and arrays, one ground state lost, many found and two fields. It was the ONLY BOOK in the list! No kidding … it really happened that way. I wish I had a screen-cap to prove it! I never bought the book, but I’ve been damn tempted over the years.



This book, together with it’s sequel, The Ageless Gergel, holds the memoirs of America’s most legendary (yet unknown to the greater public) “cowboy chemist.” The two volumes are a curious mix of beer, chemistry, and titties in the largely unregulated Golden Age of chemistry during the second half of the 20th century.

Max Gergel was (and IS … as far as I know, he’s still alive and kicking in Columbia, SC, although in his late 80′s or 90′s by now) a riot. Max and his memoirs have been written about by others (for example, here and here) so there is no point in my repeating what has already been said elsewhere. The reviews at are fairly insightful as well, for those who wish to know more about Max and the memoirs he is famous for. I would, however, like to quote a passage from the second volume (The Ageless Gergel) as I think gives a good idea as to the flavor of these two volumes.

“I had been visiting Will at the plant in Elgin, South Carolina, and noticed that he smelled goaty. For that matter, the other workers seemed to have a goaty odor, too. I inquired the reason, and he took me to the source, an isolated section of the plant, which smelled horrendous. A large glass still, one that would have delighted a moonshiner in the old whiskey-making days was stinking up Hardwicke Chemical Co. and the surrounding farms. Now fatty acids have a rank odor smelling like rancid butter. The absolute worst member of the series is isovaleric acid. This smells like rancid butter with a soupgon of goat and old sneakers thrown in for good measure. As bad as it smells, the acid chloride derived from it is worse. It is so volatile that it will chase a visitor and leave its far from subtle mark. The odor is soap, water and Lysol resistant. This acid chloride reacts with mucous membrane so that while you are rendered ill by the obnoxious odor, the acid chloride is hydrolyzing with your perspiration as a reactant and eats away your lips, eyeballs and tongue. Hardwicke, committed to make this monster, was only too happy to find’ Columbia Organic Chemicals Co., Inc., as a “farmout” and once more we were making something no one else wanted to make.

We had never had such a dreadful assignment. Anyone working with this “superstink” is branded and given a wide berth. No matter how amorous his spouse may be, passion crumples despite baths, Chlorox and Dentine. For a while we made isovaleroyl chloride at Cedar Terrace. It created pandemonium among residents who first sniffed each other, came to the plant to sniff us, and then sniffled to their lawyers.”


That is all: My current list of “Wow!” factor book titles. Only three as of this writing. I could add more (e.g. “The Vagina Monologues”), but I think these three books set the bar pretty high. I would love to add to the list though, so if anybody should happen to read this and knows of a volume that begs to be included, just drop me a note or post a comment here to tell me about it. :-)

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


Castle Romeo test, 1954. [Wikimedia Commons]

The conventional use of hydrogen has been a hot topic in recent years since hydrogen is often viewed as an alternative fuel. The more I think of hydrogen and the various problems associated with it’s use, transport, and storage, however, the more I come to appreciate the hydrogen bomb.

Conventionally, hydrogen is not, and will NEVER be, an “alternative” fuel because there is no place on Earth that it can be sourced in a usable form. Sure, it’s a common element on Earth, but it’s all locked up in the form of water and other molecules. You can produce hydrogen from water, but only by reversing the very reaction that would later be used to extract energy from the hydrogen thus generated. And since inefficiencies will exist at every step along the way, you will need to use more energy in making hydrogen this way than could ever be recovered by burning it. In practice, hydrogen is currently produced from methane by a reaction that requires considerable heat input and which yields carbon dioxide as a by-product – the very gas that alternative energy proponents want to get away from.

And then there is handling. How do you store and transport hydrogen as a fuel? There are basically three options: (1) as a compressed gas, (2) as a cryogenic liquid, and (3) as a metal hydride (solid or liquid).

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There is NO Debate!

“Are Militant Atheists Using Chemtrails to Poison the Angels in Heaven?”

Writer Bob Cesca found a rare example where the phrase “There is NO Debate!” is actually true, and then proceeded to get punked.

I generally dislike the phrase “There is no debate!” I dislike it because it is seldom true. In fact, it is usually used IN debate, by one side, to shut the other side down. It’s not simply saying “You’re idea is wrong and I disagree with it.” It is saying “You’re argument doesn’t exist and we aren’t even having this conversation … that we are having.”

There are plenty of cases where I feel a debate simply isn’t worth my time, either because I find the other side’s argument to be silly, or because I think attempting to change someone’s opinion on a subject is futile. But refusing to participate in a debate doesn’t render the debate non-existent. If there is more than one side in a debate, then clearly the debate exists.

“There is no debate: Cheetos are better than Funyuns!” Does my declaring that render the opinions of all Funyun lovers non-existent? Case closed, right? Time to move on.

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Why is Google so Shitty?

While reading an article on Wired the other day, I was astonished to discover the article originated on Google+. It was the first time I had ever heard of anything actually coming out of Google+.

Google is bigger (by far) than Walmart! They are almost as big as Exxon-Mobil!


Market capitalizations as of 3/25/2014.


10,957 of these stores are NOTHING in comparison to Google!

Let that sink in a moment. Walmart has 10,957 stores around the world. You can’t turn a corner without running into one. In fact, the last time you took a dump, it was probably at Walmart.

What does Google have? As near as I can tell, there are seven people in San Francisco who wear something called “Google Glass” into bars, where they get beat up a lot. Also, there is a car or something that drives around San Francisco or somewhere that has no driver. Big fucking deal? It’s a 400 billion dollar company!

Google Glass

This Google Glass wearer looks way too happy.

They started off as a simple search engine, and I’ll give them kudos for that. They are still (sort of) a good search engine, although they’ve started filtering my search results based on what they think my preferences are, which is kind of irritating. Google Earth and Maps are cool too. So what does that add up to, market cap-wise? $500 million? A billion? I mean, come on … both the search engine and Google Earth existed before Google was a public company. What have they done since then? What do they do with the rest of their money? Remember: Google is bigger (by far) than Walmart’s 10,957 stores.

Well, for one thing, they bought Youtube. Youtube used to be cool. I could go there and search all manner of crazy shit and be entertained for hours. And I could download MP4′s of any of the content to use in mash-ups or whatever. Since Google took over Youtube, however, a lot of things have changed. For starters, I can’t find shit anymore. If I want to find a clip from a South Park episode, for example – say “Towelie” or something from the infamous Shake-Weight episode – I’m gonna be shit out of luck. Anything I find will either be in Spanish, or it will be a shitty low-resolution video that some guy with a shaky hand made by pointing a video camera at the TV screen, with a vacuum cleaner running in the background. And they took away the add-on that let me download videos with a click. I can still download videos, but I have to go to a third party website, so I’m not sure what the rational for that change is. I mean, Google hasn’t prevented people from downloading videos: They’ve simply made it a pain in the ass. Maybe Google hasn’t noticed the exodus from Youtube to sites like Vimeo? There’s a reason for that!

For a company that prides itself on seamless interfaces, I sure wish they would stop mucking up the interface of Youtube. Anytime I want to go to my channel to add a video or to change something, I have to relearn where the fuck everything is. I’ve got various options and widgets down the left side of my screen (“What to Watch,” “My Channel,” , “Playlists,” etc.), then various things across the middle (“Home,” “Playlists” again, etc.), then top center like “Video Manager,” then a dropdown on the top-right that has “Dashboard,” “Video Manager” (again!), “Youtube Settings,” then another Goddamn dropdown over there that’s empty except “Google+ notifications” ….. Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me in the ass! For Fuck’s sake people … this is not fucking seamless!


What I see when I go to my Youtube channel. Looks like shit, doesn’t it? A company that’s bigger than 10,957 Walmart stores made this interface. [Click to enlarge.]

Have a good look at the screen grab of my Youtube interface up there. That was designed by a company that is bigger than Walmart’s 10,957 stores. And they didn’t start from scratch. When Google bought Youtube, they bought Youtube’s existing simple, clean interface. It took serious work for Google to morph that into the cluster fuck that it is today.

Oh, and that Google+ menu I mentioned up there? Yeah, I got tricked into a Google+ account the other day when, for the umpteenth time, I went to my Youtube account and had to go through screen after screen of “You’re username sounds funny. Are you sure you don’t want to be Robert327398? How about Zombie67942?” No motherfuckers – If I wanted to change my username, I would have done so long ago. So quit asking.

So now I have a Google+ account, which is empty. No, I don’t want any fucking “Circles.” I mean, I can barely tolerate Facebook’s social media as it is. Why would Google think I want yet another social media network infiltrating my life, reaching it’s tentrils into my private life like a goddamn fungus?

At least Facebook had the courtesy to be shitty from the outset. Google, on the other hand, used to be cool. They had to devolve to become this way.


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