Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

We're doin' it our favorite way. Dick Clark on TV with the sound off, the KCSM New Year's special on the stereo and the cats for entertainment.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Xmas. War is hopefully almost over

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, sung by 11-year-old Gayla Peevey in 1953.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World's smallest aquarium

MIT has created a planktonic ecosystem on a microscope slide. They're using it to study the carbon cycle in the oceans and they wanted to focus on plankton without all the other creatures getting in the way. It's the perfect new conversation piece for our downsized economy!

Photo credit: Donna Coveney

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why we are here

Via Palaeoblog there's an interesting paper by a father and son research team out of Finland that considers why life arose. Not why-because-God-was-bored why, but why an assemblage of chemicals on an infant planet became flora and fauna.

The reason is due to entropy. In this case, the entropy being the reduction of energy differences between chemicals on early Earth. It's like when you put a hot object next to a cold object. The hot object warms the cold one, and the cold object cools the warm one until they're the same temperature. Since the sun and the Earth's core were (and are) pumping energy into the system, the reactions between chemicals and the chemicals themselves got steadily more complex until they fit our definition of life. Physorg gives a more thorough description here.

Creationists will go nuts over this because they make two points. One is that life is ultimately a series of reactions that can be described by thermodynamics.  The other is that life didn't arise by an event. It became what we describe as life gradually by simple reactions growing in complexity.

In a nutshell, we're here because life was brewed. Like beer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can we haz January yet?

Now that the election is over, I don't have as much to get riled over, so I'll have to find something else to blog about. Of course, our economy's collapsing due mostly to Republican policies, so if I lose my job, that should give me fodder. I'm not in imminent danger of that. Yet.

So, pretty much like everybody else, I'm taking care of holiday business and trying not to spend too much and looking forward to this season's big day, January 20th. I scheduled the day off and will be watching the inaugural on TV. Most likely saying "buhbye dickhead," over and over, louder with each drink. And I will drink.

Uhh, Laura?
41 more days.