Archive for December, 2007

UP Up and Away

By Tyghe Trimble | December 23, 2007 4:45 pm

Spaceport America got some rocket-powered action yesterday, December 19, at noon, well over a year before it plans its first space-bound flight. Sadly, the action was wholly unexciting—UP Aerospace sent a rocket 2,500 feet into the air for “research and development”—meeting all technical objectives and reaching an altitude that would make a hang-glider scoff.

I wonder, does all the rocket fuel used for this test count towards Spaceport America’s carbon footprint?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom

Kangaroo-ifying Cows to Fight Global Warming

By Jennifer Barone | December 19, 2007 10:58 am

Carbon dioxide may be the greenhouse gas we hear about most often, and with good reason: It’s by far the most abundant heat-trapping culprit produced by human sources, and it’s also one that individuals can do a lot to reduce.

But methane is actually 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and about 18 percent of methane from human activities is produced in the guts of our livestock (released mostly via belching, not the back end).

Kangaroos, on the other hand, don’t produce the stuff. So now, researchers in Australia want to reduce methane from cattle and sheep by introducing digestive bacteria from kangaroo guts into livestock. They say they’re still a few years away from a successful transfer. Meanwhile, other options under investigation for cutting cow methane include garlic supplements in feed (yum, pre-seasoned beef), or just using feed plants that are easier to digest.

And lest you worry about your own digestive contributions, fear not: according to the EPA, methane emissions from the human body are insignificant.

What CDC Actually Found: No Evidence of a Slowdown in National Fattening

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | December 12, 2007 9:44 am

On November 28th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there was no increase in obesity rates for adult Americans in the past few years. The media ran with this surprisingly positive story. The New York Times headline read: “Study Sees Signs of Obesity Rates Stalling.” “For the first time in more than 25 years, Americans aren’t getting any fatter,” trumpeted the Los Angeles Times.

Skimming the headlines alone, one could easily be fooled into thinking obesity rates were leveling off, even shrinking. Unfortunately, there’s little data to think that’s the case. A CDC report titled, “Obesity Among Adults in the United States—No Statistically Significant Change Since 2003-2004” spawned the news. There may not have been statistically significant changes in American obesity rates between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006, but there were changes.

In fact, the report shows an increase in overall obesity in both men and women—about two percent each. That’s not terribly encouraging when we look at the CDC data going back to the 1960’s. Read More

Return of the Hi-Tech Condomed Finger!

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | December 7, 2007 4:45 pm

First there were Google book scanners wearing finger condoms. Now there’s a company selling finger condoms to prevent you from smudging your iPhone screen. Their site says the Phone Finger is “probably the funniest accessory for touch screen enabled devices available,” but I’m not sure that fully encompasses the ridiculousness of this item.

This reminds me of how some iPhone users have complained recently about the feature-not-a-bug that bars you from operating the device while wearing conventional gloves, which could become pretty annoying as the northern hemisphere (where, presumably, most iPhone users spend most of their time) slips into winter, even one blunted by global warming. The Phone Finger people would be better off following the lead of the people who make those Tavo iPod running gloves. Then again, that would probably lose them their funniest-accessory award. The Phone Finger people are geniuses.

Pay No Attention To the Condom-Fingered Googler Behind the Curtain

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | December 6, 2007 10:46 am

google book scannerDid you ever wonder how Google is scanning all of those books that are going in their massive Google Book Search project? Well, you can get a pretty good clue by looking at the second and third pages of The Gentleman’s Magazine: the scanning is being done by taking ordinary pictures of the pages, and the pages (at least some of them) are arranged by a lady wearing red fingernail polish, a couple of gold rings, and latex covers on her first and second fingers—covers that look notably like condoms. To this DiscoBlogger, anyway.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intelligent Design

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | December 4, 2007 10:36 am

idiot guide intelligent designThat’s the name of a book. It’s about intelligent design. It’s for idiots who don’t understand intelligent design.

Presumably, they read the book and then become idiots who push intelligent design.

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