Pretty Pictures of Nature, touching grass, microscopy

I went for a walk and took some pictures of nature today at a bunch of scales. Microscopes, macro lenses, and I even saw a couple of mallards. Just fun to get out and see some tiny bits of the world. I made a video version of this little outing on youtube.

I don’t have quite so many links, videos and articles to share this week. But I took a bunch of pictures, check them out below the fold.

Continue reading

Videos about weapons and oils plus lots of reading

This week I did a video about the Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. I love the book, I’ve read it twice: one in text and once with my wife as an audiobook. Both are great. The comic doesn’t have much to do with that, I hope, but it is based on a true story. Although… stabby robots do figure in Use of Weapons and in the comic…

Use of Weapons is a space opera, and if you like that kind of thing, you might like it. It has deeper meaning, too, which I think is rare among space opera books. Even very good and influential books in the genre, like Ringworld, often focus more on Big Ideas instead of human themes. Use of Weapons does both. But it’s not an easy book. It can be hard to follow at times. I go into that more in the video.

Last week, I put up a video about essential oils. There were a few things I forgot to mention. I talked about how there are biological effects of some plant oils, despite the fact that they are not approved as medicine. Like spearmint oil spells like spearmint, but may also have effects on human memory, maybe? I briefly reviewed a study of clinical experiments with spearmint oil (Kennedy et al.). It’s a peer-reviewed, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial on a bunch of cognitive and memory tests with peppermint oil. It’s a good example of a trial with careful controls. And it did have one result with very high statistical significance. I forgot to mention what the result actually was (whoops!). The oil improved word recall error rate.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t conclude the video more forcefully. My point in the video was just that this was the right kind of trial, and sometimes, there are some effects from these chemicals. They tend to be subtle, though. In general, eating essential oils is not safe and they are no substitute for medicine.

Continue reading

Video on the Authority of Science, Stuff I’ve enjoyed

A few weeks ago, I made a video about hydra, the little freshwater creatures, not the mythical beast or the Marvel villains. I got people up in my comments talking about a conspiracy theory I’d never heard of. According to this theory, “THEY” are adding HYDRA to the vaccines (along with NANOCHIPS with NANO-ONIONS)! My cat is more wise than i am with regard to YouTube comments (in that he has no idea they exist).

So, I started reading about what the best practices are for talking with conspiracy theory believers and science deniers. And that led to the video I uploaded last weekend.

I was inspired by this talk by Naomi Oreskes called “Why Trust Science?” Dr. Oreskes wrote a book about that topic that was published before COVID-19. It is especially relevant now, thanks to all of the anti-science talk on social media. She asks a simple but important question: why should we trust science, and more practically, why should people trust scientists?

Ultimately, scientists are people. Science is a human endeavor. There will be problems. But scientists are accountable to reality. Scientists are accountable to experiment. Scientists are accountable to observation and data. That’s the final, highest authority.

On a mostly unrelated note, here are two terrible aquatic creature jokes I made up:

  • What do you call a baby frog caught in a storm? A SQUALL-iwog.
  • What’s a jellyfish’s favorite exercise? Pull Ups (polyps).

Continue reading

Cocktail Inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune

I posted a video with some thoughts on Dune and Nootropics. I also came up with a cocktail inspired by the book. I am in love with this cocktail. The 2021 film is coming out soon on HBO(!) so if you want to make this for your screening, here’s the recipe:

Spiced Tequila Sour Of Shai Hulud (May His Passing Cleanse the World):

Assemble in a shaker with ice:

1.5 oz Corzo Silver Tequila (for the memory of the desert sands of Dune)
0.75 oz ginger syrup* (to stimulate the mind)
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice (it gives its body’s water that the tribe may survive)
Two dashes cinnamon bitters (for the Spice must flow)

Shake

Place a large, clear ice cube in a glass. Add one bar spoon of blue curacao (for the blue within blue eyes of the fremen). Strain the drink over the cube and serve.

*To make ginger syrup: Assemble 0.5 cup sugar, 0.5 cup water and ~4 ounces of sliced fresh ginger in a pot, heat over medium heat while stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture just starts to bubble. Strain into a bottle for storage.

Continue reading

Hydra Video! Links and comic, too

I just posted a Video about Hydra and Humanized Organisms. A long, strange train of thought resulted in this comic, too. Art credit goes to Snowman – I love it.

I got to thinking about humanized organisms while I was reading about hydra. Hydra make good models to study the biology of aging because they seem to be immortal: they don’t seem to age at all. If we knew how they accomplished it, it might help us understand how to slow aging. How do we know that they don’t age?

Prof. Daniel Martinez observed groups of hydra for years. He carefully fed them and kept them in separate tubes. Each one was observed making buds – little baby hydra – but the old hydra was put into a fresh tube alone every time. The researchers waited for any of them to get old and die… and none did. Well, maybe they didn’t wait long enough? We can only compare them to other creatures in the same weight class.

Longevity tracks body size and time to first offspring. So orcas (weight 1 million grams, first offspring at 25 years) live far longer than voles (weight 10 grams, first offspring within a few weeks of birth). Hydra weigh in at a fraction of a gram and have their first offspring a few days after being born. But they are still alive and reproducing for years, thousands of times longer than the trend would predict.

What allows hydra to accomplish this? How do they regenerate? What’s special about their stem cells that they don’t deplete? Can we study hydra in a way that’s relevant to human longevity?

Continue reading