Remember that meteorite from Mars that caused a huge stir back in 1996 when NASA announced that it thought it had found remnants of fossilized bacteria in it? If you don’t, just know that this meteorite, named the “Alan Hills meteorite,” had what we initially thought was a fossilized remnant of ancient Martian bacteria. But then some other scientists came forth with an equally plausible hypothesis for a non-microbial origin of the microscopic formation. So ever since then, the scientific community has been at odds, with one camp saying “Yes, it’s an ancient Martian microbe! There really was life on Mars!” and another camp saying “Nope. That formation wasn’t biological in origin.” But new technology has shed some light on the subject that wasn’t possible back then. Researchers at the Johnson Space Center have used more sophisticated High Resolution Electron Microscopy than was available in 1996 to study the meteorite, and their findings contradict the nay-sayers. So, if no new nay-saying hypotheses come out, then we can be pretty damn certain that microbial life once existed on Mars. AND it may even still exist there, under the surface! (Via Universe Today)

Kottke.org is one of longest-running blogs in existence, and it’s almost always full of random awesomeness. In this case, it’s all about the H1N1 vaccine, and how it and other vaccines are made. I had no idea it took soooo many chicken eggs. Do yourself a favor and read all about it.

Now here’s yet another hilarious comic from xkcd:

Suckers.

Suckers.

So they found West Nile virus in some mosquitoes in East Nashville. I hate those damned insects as much as anyone, but I get the feeling that media tends to overhype WNV a bit, so I’m here to give you the facts about it. The fact is, it’s not really that big of a deal. Most average, healthy people who contract WNV will never even know they have it; they will be asymptomatic. First of all, there are millions of mosquitoes in the Nashville area, and only a small fraction of them carry WNV (this number varies from state to state and from season to season, but it’s always relatively small). So your chances of getting bitten by one that has WNV are pretty small. Secondly, ~80% of people infected are asymptomatic and will probably never know they had it. Of the ~20% who do show symptoms, only a very few will develop the severe form of the disease (West Nile encephalitis). The CDC estimates that only 1 in 150 people (in other words, less than 1%) infected will come down with the severe form of the disease (which does require hospitalization). Only 44 people died from WNV in 2008 in the U.S. Approximately 36,000 died from the flu. In other words, your chances of dying from the flu are MUCH higher than your chances of dying from WNV. One major thing to remember though, is that people over 50 are more likely to get the severe form of the disease. That being said, you should still take precautions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. No one likes having mosquito bites all over their legs and arms. Use bug repellent and if possible, wear long pants/sleeves, especially if you’re going to be outside during the dusk hours. That’s when mosquitoes are active. Also, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so if you have any around your house (inside old tires, buckets, cans, etc…) simply empty them out. But for heaven’s sake if you have symptoms get your ass to the doctor. I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t be mindful of this virus, I’m just providing the facts and statistics, and trying to counter the unwarranted media frenzy that happens every year. Information taken from here, here, and here.

Though I’ve posted before (though ATTM I don’t care to dig up exactly when that was…) about the world’s fastest clapper, this entertaining video has the world fastest…. everything! (Via Kottke)

Do you have a cat? Have you ever gotten the strange feeling that your cat is somehow secretly controlling you, or that it was plotting to kill you in your sleep? The last part of that statement is a bit far-fetched, but some scientific research has discovered that in a way, cats really do control humans’ behavior. They’ve learned to make a unique combination of meowing and purring to create a sound that is universally unpleasant to humans. They use this sound when they want to be fed. More at Live Science.

Today I leave you with this video. It’s a cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” Thank me later…. (Via A.V. Club)

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way 1st… Camera Obscura was amazing last night, and we got to chat with TracyAnne for a minute. She seemed to like Nashville and I told her to be sure to come back on their next tour. Let’s hope they do. Oh, and the sound was exceptional too. Mercy has good sound for the most part, but this mix was especially good. Perfect night.

final-logo-2The Green Wagon is an awesome little store that only opened 6 months ago on Murphy Road in the Sylvan Park area, and just as I expected, the girl who runs it is opening another location on the east side. I must say it’s much sooner than I expected, though! She’s also opening a vegetarian cafe along with it. I’ve been to the current store a few times and it’s pretty awesome. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. And if you’re on the east side you’ll no longer have an excuse not to go. Via Nashvillest. Also, thanks to Morgan for pointing out my error regarding the age limit of the Opryland’s Poolapalooza events on yesterday’s post. They are actually all-ages this year.

Some cool sciene-y tidbits today:

The next mission to Mars will be called “Curiosity” thanks to a 6th grader name Clara Ma who won NASA’s essay contest to name the rover. Up until now it’s been called “Mars Science Laboratory.” This next rover will be by far the biggest we’ve sent to the red planet- about the size of a small sedan. Via Bad Astronomy.

Just when you thought Blu-Ray had totally killed the DVD, some scientists in at Swinburne University in Australia have come up with a new 5-dimensional storage technology that may put the DVD back in 1st place. Their idea is to use sophisticated multi-surface gold nanoparticles in the disc. It will not only use the different layers of the disc (as DVD’s currently do), it will also use polarization and the color of the laser light to encode information. The end result will be a DVD that can potentially hold about 7 TERAbytes of data. TERA-bytes. More at the Daily Galaxy.

Remember those crazy devices on Star Trek that doctors could just wave over a patient and tell what was wrong with them? Well, that technology is slowly becoming reality with the invention of a new portable device that identify pathogens in about 5 minutes. The Ostendum corporation has developed a prototype and is currently testing it. Although you still have to take blood or other fluid samples from a patient to use this thing, it’s still pretty damn cool, and will be a HUGE advantage in the battle against pandemics such as the H1N1 (Swine) flu. Via Science Daily.

squirrelGot an itch? Ever wondered exactly what the hell an itch is, and why the hell scratching relieves it? Apparently even the best doctors didn’t even know why and how of itch vs. scratch until recently. Science Daily has an interesting report on research that was done to answer this very question. I think it’s funny how the simplest things sometimes are still medical mysteries.

Speaking of medical mysteries, I’ve got one for you- WHY THE HELL IS EVERYONE FREAKING OUT OVER SWINE FLU? I guess it’s actually a media mystery because they’re the ones responsible for the unnecessary freak-out. Chill the fuck out people! From what I can gather, this strain of the flu has caused about 160 deaths, and 2,500 illnesses in Mexico. Guess what? The NORMAL flu kills 36,000 people just in the U.S. every year! Do we see scaremongering about the normal flu? Nope. This is exactly the same kind of bullshit that surrounded the bird-flu. This swine-flu isn’t any more dangerous than the regular flu- basically the same symptoms and same risk of dying (you’ll only die if you have a weakened immune system due to being really old or really young, or have AIDS or other autoimmune disorder). Want more facts about the regular flu? Go to this CNN.com article.

On a happier note… if this doesn’t make you smile then you should have your head examined. A group called Playing For Change recorded the base track of the Ben E. King classic, Stand By Me, then had members of their group from all around the world hit the streets to get random musicians to add tracks to the recording.

I don’t post enough news about green technology and environmental issues on here… which is why I’m linking to this. As usual Europe is way ahead of the rest of the world in environmental legistalation and regulation. According to this report, there’s a proposal in Norway to ban the sale of any new gas-only cars starting in 2015. Even though the proposal is likely to fail because it has very little support, it’s a step in the right direction.