13 things that do not make sense – Features

Everyone else has blogged about this by now, but what the heck:

New Scientist 13 things that do not make sense – Features

My favourite:

bq. 1 The placebo effect

bq. DON’T try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

bq. This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it’s not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

Who woulda thunk it? An interesting twist on the usual “mind over matter” explanation…

posted at 1:03 am on Monday, March 21, 2005 in Current Events, Links | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    That’s a very nice article. There are movies out that explain some of those things. Unfortunately the most recent movie I saw was filled with errors and so was an introductory book on philosophy. It seems there are a lot of people who want to get outside of scientific reasoning because it’s “just philosophy”. A problem is the tendancy to solipsism, or something like it these folks have. For example, in this case, it appears the simple release of (a limited amount of) neurotransmitters (or maybe endorphins?) by action of imagination is taken by some to be evidence that their minds “create their own reality”. Alas, no new philosophy or metaphysics is required, just Occam’s Razor & chemistry. Pretty dull, huh? I can also prove solipsism is false in 2 sentences if you would like… hm, I think I just did.

    Normally I’d provide a citation to the books & movies, but I’m too embarrassed to admit I read/saw them and they’re too innaccurate to act as true introductions to this.

they’re insane

* “Christian creationists bully IMAX theaters over evolution”:http://www.boingboing.net/2005/03/19/christian_creationis.html

* “Legislator wants cheerleaders to keep their routines clean”:http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/rssstory.mpl/metropolitan/3090937 – Bill would ban sexually suggestive performances at school events

* “Canadian blogger blocked from U.S.”:http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/business/11176472.htm – “His response was, ‘You can’t make a living from blogging. Stop lying and tell me why you’re really here.’ ”

* Baseball, steroids, and the U.S. Congress – where the heck did *that* one come from?

* “Terri Schiavo”:http://blog.sethgodin.silkblogs.com/My-story-is-better-than-your-story.3903.entry – isn’t it atually “illegal”:http://www.skyseastone.net/jvstin/unjvst/004515.html for the US government to make laws that apply to a single individual?

posted at 12:59 am on Monday, March 21, 2005 in Current Events, Rants | Comments Off on they’re insane

The African Cliff

I knew it was bad over in Africa, but “this stunning graph”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/02/the_african_cli.html really drives it home. Check it out.

(via “Antipixel”:http://www.antipixel.com/blog/archives/2005/03/04/the_african_cliff.html)

posted at 8:07 pm on Thursday, March 10, 2005 in Current Events, Links | Comments Off on The African Cliff

koko sued?

So while I was in the shower today, I heard a report that three women are suing Koko the gorilla for “pressuring them to see their nipples”. My first thought was: what has the world come to when people are suing a _gorilla_?

Of course, sanity prevailed, and I checked Google. Turns out that the women are suing the Gorilla Foundation because the women were informed that failing to expose their nipples would cause their employment to “suffer”. When the women reported health and safety violations rodents in the food preparation areas, for example) they were dismissed.

The truth is entirely more reasonable than the radio report. Of course, the radio report was more sensational…

See “Google News”:http://news.google.com/news?q=koko+%22lawsuit%22 for more stories…

posted at 6:07 pm on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 in Current Events | Comments Off on koko sued?


There’s a news story today about how antibiotic resistant bugs are on the rise again. Ah, but this time doctors are blaming patients; it seems we’re “demanding” antibiotics for all of our ailments.

Here’s the kicker: antibiotics are prescription drugs (up here in Canada). If you don’t think the patient needs them, *don’t prescribe them*! Passing the buck to patients is just plain irresponsible.

posted at 12:05 am on Friday, February 18, 2005 in Current Events, Rants | Comments Off on antibiotics


MSNBC – First Amendment no big deal, students say

bq. The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

bq. Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.


bq. They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security. — Ben Franklin

or even better:

bq. I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it. — Voltaire

posted at 8:55 pm on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 in Current Events, Links | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    I saw that in the news too and was momentarily stunned when I read it. *This posting approved by the Ministry of Truth* It puzzles me that with a similar pluralty of high school students in the U.S. having tried illicit drugs, they would want to see *more* government intervention, but logic does not factor in here. This is an example of the “Tragic Vision” (that is, right-wing politics) at work. Apparently, when looked at as a “Tragic Vision” broad nationalistic and militaristic tendencies become compatible with individual liberty.

    Then you realize that the story is couched in notoriously liberal terms by media outlets selling themselves so they picked the two best questions suited in this goal (“The Utopian vision”). End of mystery. (Well except for why young people are becoming right-wing)

    Reference: Stephen Pinker, “The Blank Slate”, Chapter on Politics — Utopian vs. Tragic Vision, 2002. (NYT National Best seller 2002).

Cote d’Ivoire

Scary statistics from the CIA world factbook. The 45% of the population is under 14; the median age is 17; the average life expectancy is 42.5. Why?


posted at 9:43 pm on Friday, November 19, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on Cote d’Ivoire


I’m going to (briefly) break a “long standing trend”:http://blog.cfrq.net/chk/archives/2003/01/16/blogging-politics/.

I find myself completely apathetic about the events of Tuesday. In fact, I didn’t even know what was going on until Wednesday morning when I arrived at work and my cow-orkers were chatting. But I know several people who are majorly bummed about the results. Is this simply part of my whole “If there’s nothing I can do, there’s no point getting worked up” philosophy, or am I missing something fundamental about what it means to have “W” back in power for another four years?

I think the coming crisis for the US (and therefore world) economies has little to do with which president is in power; it has more to do with greedy multinational corporations and lax regulation (which isn’t going to change anytime soon), and with the impending energy crisis; neither of which is going to be affected by any US president…

posted at 10:44 am on Thursday, November 04, 2004 in Current Events, Politics | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    If Bush’s doctrine turns the Middle East into more of a cauldron of hatred than it is already then it’s bad news for us all. If he stops stem cell research it’s bad news for us all – to take but two issues. And of course while Kerry would not have solved the problems of greedy multinational corporations, lax regulation and the impending energy crisis he was at least on the right side of those issues while Bush will be doing what he can to make things worse on all three of those issues.


There was a “major accident on the 401”:http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2004/09/29/hwy_crash040929.html this morning. Two trucks collided, and one caught fire. The cleanup closed the express lanes in both direction through Yonge Street during the morning rush hour; traffic was backed up all over the city as a result. (The westbound collectors are under construction through that section, so the highway went from 5 lanes to only 1 through that stretch, if I remember correctly). Worse, the fire damaged the roadbed in the westbound lanes, which means it’ll be a while before they can re-open them. I suppose it’s possible that the fire damaged the underlying bridge structure, in which case we’re completely hosed…

Anyway, I don’t drive the 401 (although I cross over it every day; that was a bizarre sight). However, there was a huge traffic backup across the bottom of the city this morning too; the Gardiner Expressway / DVP were stop and go from about Gerrard all the way across to _Islington_. Apparently our traffic network is so overloaded that a 401 closure causes backups on the other side of the city…

posted at 11:48 am on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (2)
  1. Reid says:

    So, what route do you take to work? Where is work? Downtown? So you zip down the DVP to.. Richmond? Or do you take the Gardiner across to Jarvis or Spadina or something?

    Inquiring minds want to know! Oh but wait, then terrorists would know your route and you would be targetted for sure!

  2. Harald says:

    I go south on Don Mills to the DVP, then south to the Gardiner, across the bottom of the city where I get off at the Spadina/Lakeshore exit. I take Lakeshore across to Strachan, where I park. Pretty straightforward …

    In the summertime, when traffic is light, I’ll usually get on the DVP at Lawrence instead; saves a few minutes (and avoids several annoying traffic lights). In winter, when traffic is heavier, there’s no point because the DVP is too slow.

luddites beware?

Avoiding technology has it’s drawbacks:

Hurricane JEANNE


Jewish law does say that personal safety is more important than religious observance. So, for example, it should be ok to drive one’s car in order to evacuate from the hurricane watch zone. But the question remains: how many people will miss the warnings? Current predictions have the storm making landfall in Florida before sunset tomorrow…

Stay safe, everyone.

posted at 9:59 pm on Friday, September 24, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on luddites beware?

outsourcing quote

The commentary is the usual, but I loved Mr. Greenspun’s way of phrasing it:

bq. American labor is wonderful but it is a luxury that most American families can’t afford

(from Philip Greenspun’s Weblog:)

posted at 12:07 pm on Monday, September 20, 2004 in Current Events, Links | Comments Off on outsourcing quote


I’ve been paying a lot more attention to Hurricanes all of a sudden. I could claim it’s because of the upcoming Kitefest (we were worried about getting rained out, but it seems Ivan is going to stall in the Appalachians and leave us alone), but I think it’s simple fascination.

But for some reason, I’ve got a Tragically Hip song stuck in my head…

posted at 9:08 pm on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 in Current Events, Personal | Comments Off on Ivan

false security?

That’s the first time _ever_ I’ve had to remove my belt to get through the airport security checkpoint. My wife had to take her shoes off!

Keep in mind, when reading this, that I have travelled in Europe during their anti-terrorism crackdowns; there’s no comparison. The United States is more interested in the appearance of security. For example, I watched two separate TSA agents walk into the bathroom, look at an “abandoned” suitcase sitting there, and walk out again…

Anyway, we’re home, safe and sound. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see the VAB _before_ Frances punched great big holes in it…

posted at 9:19 am on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (4)
  1. David Brake says:

    Yeah that happened to me too back in September in the US – seemed stupid to me then too. Better hope suicide bombers don’t stick dynamite up their asses!

    Glad you made it back safely…


  2. Jeff K says:

    VAB = Vehicle Assembly Building. Gee, this is the first I heard of it, but intrigued, I found a lot of news, rocket displays are down etc.:

  3. Harald says:

    Wow. About 100 yards from that rocket was the KSC “Hurricane Status” sign that we all posed in front of on our way out (they kicked us out of the visitor center early, and were sandbagging the doors behind us :-).

  4. Debbie says:

    I’ve never heard of belts having to be taken off before. Was the security guard female? ;-)

wind, and wind, and wind…

The north eyewall (what’s left of it) is less than 40 miles south of us, according to Channel 13’s spiffy doppler radar. The storm has lost quite a bit of strength; it’s impressive out there, but no flying alligators yet!

The big hassle with this storm is its size; we’ve been under it for over 18 hours now, and it’ll be at least another 18 before it calms down enough for emergency crews to start opening everything up again. Fortunately we have power, and Footloose is on VH1 right now :-)

posted at 12:40 pm on Sunday, September 05, 2004 in Current Events, Personal | Comments Off on wind, and wind, and wind…

everyone knows it’s windy

So I’m staring out the window at rain falling at 45° and the trees starting to lean over… Part of me wishes Frances would just _get_ here already; the suspense is wearing. It was supposed to arrive Friday, then Saturday, now Sunday early morning.

Our hotel is open, and packed with people who have fled their homes, both from Orlando and farther east. We still have power; we’ll see how long it lasts, as they’re predicting that most of Florida will be darkened by this storm. The hotel is currently planning a curfew at 10PM tonight, until at least 10AM tomorrow. But the storm has stalled, so I’m not sure if they’ll change those times.

On the plus side, the storm track has moved; we’re no longer centered in her sights :). The hurricane is predicted to move across Florida and keep going west. That means that there is _some_ chance that our airplane will actually leave Toronto on Monday, so that we can go home again!

posted at 4:05 pm on Saturday, September 04, 2004 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    Yikes! Try to stay out of the news. Send digital photos if you see any flying alligators though ;-)

looming energy crisis?

These days it is stories like these that keep me awake at night.

* “China – An Energy Timebomb?”:http://alt-e.blogspot.com/2004/08/china-energy-timebomb.html
* “Basic Choices and Constraints on Long−Term Energy Supplies”:http://www.aip.org/pt/vol-57/iss-7/p47.html

Basically: We’ll run out of oil in my lifetime; long before that, it will be expensive, and then rationed. Alternative sources simply can’t fill the gap; we do not have the capability to replace just our electricity needs with renewable energy, never mind our other energy needs. Even if North America switched to nuclear power, we’d run out of fuel in 35-58 years, a mere band-aid for the problem.

Meanwhile, SUVs are the fastest growing market segment in China, and GM is actively marketing them.

I haven’t the faintest idea what we’re going to do about this looming crisis; I do know that our current technique (hiding our heads in the sand) isn’t going to cut it.

posted at 6:38 pm on Friday, August 20, 2004 in Current Events, Science and Technology | Comments (5)
  1. Greg Wilson says:

    When OPEC turned the screws in the 70s, the market responded very quickly. Within five years, German and Japanese compact cars had made significant inroads into the American market, American manufacturers were downsizing their vehicles (as well as their plants) in response, and energy-efficient appliances were coming onto the market. As energy becomes more expensive over the next 20 years, I expect the same market forces will have the same effect. The real question is whether any of our elected leaders will be forward-looking enough to push us that way ahead of the rest of the planet, so that we can sell to them the way the Germans and Japanese sold to us 25 years ago. Reducing income taxes, while increasing sales tax on both fuel and fuel-inefficient machinery (factories and cars in particular) would be a revenue-neutral way to do it…

  2. Jeff K says:

    “Forward-looking” “elected leaders”? Hell, I hope you like horses!

  3. Harry Neff says:

    One statement and 3 responses to this crisis…. That should show us the real apathy around this country on the subject…. When we’re out of reserves, fule is $8+ per gallon and we’re all buying/riding horses or bicycles, maybe the collective will wake up.
    My grandchildren (now 1 – 7) will be left to solve this, I’m afraid.

  4. Jeff K says:

    I think even saying it is our grandchildren may be optimistic. I’ve read a number of books on the subject, and they all think that military might will protect the oil reserves for the western world. Unfortunately, might is not always right, *money* often trumps, and if China needs fuel to produce goods for the rest of the world, a worthy task, the people paying for the goods coming from China will be driving up their own fuel costs. My guess is that it would be less than 20 years before we’re making serious choices in the west to our personal transportation in order to keep the economy running efficiently because production is in Asia, not here. I’ve met people who said 3 years ago they couldn’t pay $1/L for gas. I often pay close to $1/L now for 94 octane gas… For some people then, the future is *now* (although, I’ve noticed these same people still buy the gas)

    Anyway, there is risk to any planning. I think the plan should be to estimate the cost and time to electrify suburban & inter-city rail, build the nuclear power-plants to power them, eliminate the tax on diesel fuel and ban the use of diesel in personal autos and ban the use of natural gas in power-plants. Then the plan should sit on a shelf waiting for the crisis to become more obvious to the stupid.

  5. Jeff K says:

    Btw, on Thu or Wed the National Post ran an article about the worsening crisis. Apparently not only do we have to worry about China, but the U.S. may want to reduce its dependance on mid-east oil, thus increasing its desire to buy Canadian oil. I think in the long run that’s fine, but there’s a lot of construction that has to be done before supply can meet demand in that situation, I believe.

Kids Plus Rocks Equals 120,000 Angry Bees


Yahoo! News – Kids Plus Rocks Equals 120,000 Angry Bees

Reminds me of watching “The Swarm”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078350/ when I was a kid. Not so amusing is that African “killer” bees are “slowly moving north”:http://www.txtwriter.com/Onscience/Articles/killerbees.html across the USA, and interbreeding with our European honey bees…

posted at 10:02 pm on Monday, August 16, 2004 in Current Events, Science and Technology | Comments Off on Kids Plus Rocks Equals 120,000 Angry Bees

Canadian Politics


Quebec has 75 seats in the House of Commons. Quebec has the Bloc Québécois, a Federal party that really serves Quebec interests over those of the country (if you believe their critics, anyway :-).

Ontario has 106 seats in the House. I think we should form and elect the Ontario party and get _our_ special interests taken care of at the Federal level…


I thought I was being funny, but then I went digging around on the “Elections Canada”:http://www.elections.ca/content.asp?section=pol&document=index&dir=par&lang=e&textonly=false website, and found that “The Ontario Party of Canada” does/did exist, but lost their eligibility to be registered. I found a “canoe article”:http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/LondonFreePress/News/2004/05/01/442912.html describing the party and its brief history.

I guess I’m not as original as I thought :-)

posted at 10:10 pm on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 in Current Events | Comments (3)
  1. Greg Wilson says:

    There already is a party in Ottawa that represents Ontario’s interests at the expense of those of the rest of the country: the Liberals.

    — Greg “I’m from the West, eh” Wilson

  2. Jeff K says:

    The Liberals *are* the Ontario party. I have relatives in Alberta, and they tell me this. Actually, I’ve started to notice that any region that has oil contains people who think all the money from oil is theirs.

    This is problematic because Calgary is in Alberta and Alberta is in Canada, and the companies making all of the money are *public* (that is, world-wide), and oil companies are some of the most widely held stocks. In my experience (so far), oil company shareholders are not being as badly reamed as say, tech stock folks. Hm, I was going somewhere with this. Oh well.

  3. JitterbugP says:

    Maybe not right now, but 20 some years ago the Government of Canada (Trudeau) decided we should have a made in Canada energy program. It was called the National Energy Program and it devistated the whole economy in Alberta. I doubt any tech stock had to endure this.

USDA denies beef testing request

A Kansas company wants to export beef to Japan, despite the Japanese ban on all American beef. The Japanese have said they will accept beef that has been tested using a $20/head, government approved, “rapid test”. The USDA told them not to.

bq. The rationale for the USDA decision was that the rapid testing was only approved as a measure for surveillance of animal health and that Creekstone’s 100% testing proposal would have “implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted.”

There is apparently _way_ too much cattle money in Washington…

(via “Plastic”:http://www.plastic.com/article.html;sid=04/04/11/16342611 )

posted at 9:37 pm on Sunday, April 11, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on USDA denies beef testing request


* “Phil Ringnalda”:http://philringnalda.com/ has a “good comment”:http://philringnalda.com/blog/2004/03/i_want_a_new_country.php on “this village voice article”:http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0409/conaway.php on Bush’s anti-gay constitution ruckus by Laura Conaway.

* “chuqui”:http://www.plaidworks.com has “a rant about the NHL”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/001374.html and the whole Bertuzzi thing.

posted at 9:47 pm on Monday, March 22, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on Quickies
« Previous PageNext Page »