Archive for: January, 2008

More conspiracy-mongering about anti-depressants (revised)

Jan 19 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, Science news

I normally enjoy reading Crooks & Liars, the liberal video weblog, but a post today hit upon a pet peeve of mine. To quote the original news article,

An analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that studies of antidepressants that had positive results were more likely to be published in medical journals compared with those that had negative or questionable results. The findings showed that 94 percent of all published trials appeared to have positive results, while FDA reviews determined that 51 percent of all trials, both published and unpublished, had positive outcomes.

In the analysis, the researchers examined data for 74 antidepressant studies submitted to the FDA between 1987 and 2004. The results showed that 37 of the 38 trials the agency considered as having positive results were published, compared with 14 of the 36 trials that the FDA considered negative or questionable. Additionally, of the 14 negative or questionable studies that were published, 11 "conveyed a positive outcome" that was not justified by the FDA review, lead author Erick Turner stated.

The C&L post is irksome for a number of reasons.

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Giant 'UFO' spotted over Texas!

Jan 17 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, Science news

Man, if this post doesn't get my blog stats up, I can't imagine anything will!

Citizens of Stephenville, Texas have for several weeks now reported seeing an unidentifiable object flying over the city.  To quote CNN:

Several dozen people -- including a pilot, county constable and business owners -- say they have seen a large silent object with bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets chasing it.

"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts."

Seems UFOs are on people's minds again these days, what with Dennis Kucinich admitting to seeing an object above Shirley MacLaine's house (you really can't make this stuff up).  But let's return to our new Texas sightings.

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Big, previously unknown palm tree discovered!

Jan 17 2008 Published by under Animals, Science news

From CNN, we get news that a previously unknown species of palm tree has been "discovered" on Madagascar! I put "discovered" in quotation marks because, as CNN says,

The palm tree, which grows to 66 feet in height and has about 16-foot leaves, is only found in an extremely remote region in the northwest of the country, some four days by road from the capital. Local villagers have known about it for years although none had seen it in flower until last year.

The bizarre flowering ritual was first spotted by Frenchman Xavier Metz, who runs a cashew plantation nearby. After seeing it he notified Kew Gardens.

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Optics basics: Defining the velocity of a wave

Jan 17 2008 Published by under Optics, Optics basics

How do we define how fast a wave is going? The question at first glance seems obvious. When we discussed harmonic waves in a previous post, we observed that the velocity of the wave could be measured by measuring how far one of the peaks of the wave travels in a certain amount of time. There are a number of subtle points that arise when talking about wave velocity, however, including the possibility of light traveling at faster than the 'speed of light'! In this post we'll try and define the velocity of a wave, and explain why the question is not so easy to answer.

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Robber shoots himself in groin!

Jan 16 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?

A few years back, I was very interested in reading about very dumb criminals.  My interest was rekindled by this story:

Police said a Kokomo man accidentally shot himself in the genitals as he robbed a convenience store early Tuesday.

Well worth a read!  When people teach their kids about what a life of crime could lead to, they should reference this.

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An up-and-coming musician... Jeanette Hawkins!

Jan 15 2008 Published by under Entertainment

Most of my flights around the country are rather dull, if not genuinely unpleasant.  On the flight back from San Antonio, though, I ended up having a conversation with my row-mates, one of whom is a charming young woman and excellent musician named Jeanette Hawkins!

She credits as her musical influences Sublime, No Doubt, Bob Marley, The Carpenters, though her sound is all her own (as are her songs, which are original compositions).  Her sound is somewhat folksy, and is primarily her vocals backed by her acoustic guitar playing.  If that sounds interesting, you can check out her MySpace page at this link.

I of course normally don't do musical posts, but this may be my only chance to look back in the future and say,  "I met her when..."  🙂

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Two nice books on movie physics!

Jan 15 2008 Published by under Entertainment, Physics

One of the nice Christmas gift surprises this past year was a pair of books from my girlfriend's sister!  (Thanks!) Both books deal with the physics of Hollywood movies, though from slightly different points of view:  Don't Try This At Home, by Adam Weiner, and Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics, by Tom Rogers.  Both books are quite recent publications (late 2007), and cover quite recent movies.  I give a brief description of each beneath the fold...

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Incredibly stupid conservative quote of the week

Jan 14 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, [Politics]

I'm always amazed at some of the ridiculous things that come out of the mouths of the so-called 'conservative elite'. Here's Jonah Goldberg, defending the premise of his book Liberal Fascism on (h/t Crooks and Liars):

To sort of start the story, the reason why we see fascism as a thing of the right is because fascism was originally a form of right-wing socialism. Mussolini was born a socialist, he died a socialist, he never abandoned his love of socialism, he was one of the most important socialist intellectuals in Europe and was one of the most important socialist activists in Italy, and the only reason he got dubbed a fascist and therefore a right-winger is because he supported World War I.

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A LaTeX how-to (for windows)

Jan 13 2008 Published by under Mathematics, Physics

There was a nice post on Good Math, Bad Math about Donald Knuth's classic scientific typesetting software, TeX. In the comments section, a number of people asked about how to learn to use the software. I thought I'd write a little introduction on how to install and use LaTeX, with a nice sample file to play with. Since I often have to do this for my students anyway, it'll be nice to have it all in one place.
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7 responses so far

I'm doomed...

Jan 11 2008 Published by under Silliness, Sports

I'm not sure what to make of this xkcd comic; after all, I'm active in 3 of these categories, including the top one, and I do take a lot of elevators...

9 responses so far

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