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In the past 10 years or so, I’ve become more and more of a skeptic. Especially in the last 5 or so years, the American public has become increasingly susceptible to scaremongering and inflated fears about health issues, doomsday nonsense, and other junk science that has no basis in reality. The myth about cell phone radiation causing brain cancer is one example of this. The flat truth is that there had been no proven link between cell phone use and brain cancer. In fact, according to Christopher Wanjek’s column on LiveScience there has been no significant increase in brain cancer that correlates in any way with the increase of cell phone usage. We all know how much cell phone usage has risen in the last 2 decades… if they cause brain cancer, why the hell hasn’t there been a corresponding increase in the disease? Because there’s no connection. That being said, this article on NewScientist is one of many covering research into the effects of cell phone radiation on the brain, and in fact it does affect brain tissue, and there have been some hints that extremely prolonged exposure could cause some degree of tissue damage, but tissue damage is not the same thing as brain cancer. Furthermore, another recent study actually showed that cell phone radiation reversed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice! (And if you look at the bottom of that article, you’ll see that the study wasn’t funded by any cell phone companies…) We might even soon be seeing cell phone radiation used as a treatment for the disease. So, the jury may still be out on whether it causes tissue damage or has therapeutic effects on memory, but with as many studies as have been done on the link between the radiation and brain cancer, it’s pretty obvious that cell phones don’t cause brain cancer. Unfortunately some companies have tried to capitalize on the scaremongering by marketing products that are supposed to “protect” you brain from the radiation. These don’t work, and several have been shut down by the FTC.

Now that I’m off my skeptic soapbox, something actually interesting:

Biologists have discovered a species of sea slug that is the first know organism to be able to produce chlorophyll. This creature actually has aspects of both plants and animals, and thus sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. But it’s real. Scientists have determined that it somehow “borrowed” the plant genes that allow chlorophyll production from the algae that it consumes. Exactly how it did that in it’s evolutionary path is still a mystery. It still can’t produce the actual chloroplasts (the cells that are responsible for the conversion of sunlight into energy) without consuming algae, but it apparently can produce chlorophyll entirely on its own.

And just for kicks: How the main LOST characters would each make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. (Via Yewknee’d)

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Yesterday Virgin Galactic revealed their SpaceShip Two to the public. This is officially the first publicly accessible spacecraft ever. For a pretty penny (about $200,000) you can book yourself a ride on this thing, and it will take you to the edge of space. You’ll experience about 5 minutes of virtual weightlessness. Check out this video animation showing the flight from launch to landing: (pardon the cheesy sound effects…)

I suppose it’s reasonable to hope that one day, during my lifetime, it will become affordable for the average individual to take spaceflights like these and experience such a humbling and inspiring sight as the earth from space….

I’ve always been a logical and reasonable person who respects the efforts of science and thorough research, however I do keep my mind open and understand that there’s a lot we don’t yet understand about all aspects of science. Medicine is a part of the scientific field of study. While this LiveScience article points out that many fields of “alternative medicine” have taken a beating this year, it’s important to note that most of the “treatments” they mention have been thoroughly dis-proven many times before, yet some people still continue to push these methods as legitimate treatment. I have to admit that I laughed a little after reading the section on Reiki. Anyone who believes that someone standing over them holding their hands above their head is going to heal their cancer is absolutely insane. Do these people still believe in Santa Claus? Or the tooth fairy? There’s a little thing called reality. Reality is testable and provable. And reality is all there is. Period. Please read that article if you have ever considered one of those “alternative treatments.” My own father is currently undergoing what some would call “alternative treatment” for early stages of prostate cancer, but what he’s doing (very specific dietary guidelines combined with some herbal supplements) has at least some proven results. It’s more of what you would call an “experimental treatment” that hasn’t been studied thoroughly enough to be accepted in the mainstream. I have nothing against this and of course hope the treatment works, but I also hope it will get more thorough research. But the treatments mentioned in that article have been debunked. They are total bullshit. If you believe in them you might as well believe the moon is made of cheese.

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:

Image via Stargate Universe blog

Image via Stargate Universe blog

Ok first of all I have to get out my excitement about Stargate Universe, the third show in the Stargate TV franchise. The 2-hour series debut will hit your screen this Friday at 9pm (8pm Central) on SyFy. io9 posted a fairly revealing clip from it today. Don’t get me wrong, no real spoilers there, just a good idea of the vibe and overall tone of the show. This series will be a much more serious take on the Stargate saga. I’m thinking it’s going to end up taking on a similar mood to Battlestar Galactica.

Ok now that’s out of my system….

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about how water was discovered on the moon recently by NASA’s mineral mapper instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe launched in 2008. First of all, this does NOT mean that water is swirling around on the surface of the moon. The moon has no atmosphere and therefore water can’t even exist in a liquid state at all. What’s happening is that the incoming solar rays are reacting with the material on the surface to create a thin layer of hydroxyl (OH) and normal water (H2O) in the very top milimeter or so of regolith. This layer is so thin that it would amount to 1 liter of water per ton of surface soil. That’s a VERY small amount, but it’s a lot more than we ever thought would be there. What does this all mean for the future of human exploration on the moon? Read this Universe Today article to find out.

Here is a great Daily Galaxy article about something that I had honestly never even heard or known before. I hadn’t the slightest clue that there are more bacteria/microbes in our bodies than there are actual human cells. That’s to say that if you counted the number of human cells and the number of microbial/bacterial cells in your body, there would be more bacteria/microbes. In fact it’s utterly awe-inspiring (and slightly terrifying) to think that some of the species if bacteria actually don’t exist anywhere else outside our bodies, and that we could NOT survive without them. Essentially they’re as important as any organ. We’re literally more germ than we are human, and it couldn’t exist any other way. Of course, we look more like us because human cells are MUCH bigger than bacteria cells. The crazy thing, as the article points out, is that doctors still don’t know anything about most of these bugs that live inside us. But they’re trying to change that.

Nashville’s own independent radio station WRLT (Lightning 100) has announced a new Thursday night concert series called “Live on the Green” that will include Ricky Young, Space Capone, Here Come the Mummies, among others. The events will be co-sponsored by the Mayor’s office and Team Green. It’s good to see outdoor live music events returning to downtown Nashville. Dancin’ in the District, River Stages, and Uptown Mix have been sorely missed these past few years. Kudos to the sponsors for making this happen. The first event will be Sept. 3rd. You can follow them on Twitter for more info.

sidnancy

Photo by James Gooding/Via Pitchfork

I really don’t know how this video clip is meant to be taken. It’s Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt redoing the famous apex scene from Sid & Nancy for a new web series called Cinemash. The sheer fact that the sexes are reversed and they didn’t even attempt to shave JGL’s scruffy chin makes me think it’s meant to be humorous, but it’s still odd. See the clip here. Via Nashville Cream/Pitchfork.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention former Titans quarterback Steve McNair’s death on here. I do follow the Titans (football is my biggest all-American guilty pleasure), and I was a huge fan of McNair. It’s hard to see through the PR spin surrounding professional athletes, but they guy seemed to be a genuinely good person, and he was one hell of a player. The Tennessean has posted a video clip of coach Jeff Fisher’s heartfelt remarks in a press conference yesterday. It deserves a look.

In what appears to be a move taken straight from the plot of I Am Legend, doctors have used the HIV virus to kill lung cancer in mice. This news is simultaneously exciting and terrifying to me. Yes, anything regarding a cure for cancer is awesome, but engineering a retrovirus to do exactly what you want is potentially one of the most dangerous pieces of technology ever created. It’s right up there with the H-bomb. It still has a long way to go before becoming a viable human treatment, though. Via io9.

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.

Tatally tatts!

Totally tatts!

Like, TOTES OMG!
I think Hipster Runoff is my favorite new thing. I’ve linked to them a lot lately but it’s really worth it. Today they make fun of people obsessed with myspace, or “myspacers.” And who do they choose to pick on? None other than TRACE CYRUS. Let me explain why this is exceptionally hilarious for me. While in college I had a great friend named Blake Healy. We even lived together for a year. After graduation in the spring of 04, he moved to LA. A couple of years later, he joined this new band called Metro Station with, you guessed it, Trace Cyrus (and his friend Mason Musso). Now they’re getting pretty big. So yes, this is exceptionally funny because one of my best friends is in this guy’s band. They are becoming quite the synthpop tweenage sensation, and Trace is totally playing into that crowd with emo hair, tatoos, and being a “myspacer,” so I can’t really blame them. They know how to make make a lot of money and have fun and get famous while doing it. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to do that? Maybe not the famous part, but the money+fun.. hell yes!

More from the music world:

Ryan Adams is engaged to Mandy Moore. I didn’t even know they were dating. Shows you how much I care about Ryan Adams.

So we all know Conan is heading to LA to take over Jay Leno’s place on the Tonight Show. Pitchfork reports that he’s tapped his red & white buddies The White Stripes to play on his last edition of Late Night. Check the article, as they have a lot of good links to old WS performances on Conan.

I’m proud to announce the launch of my new photography website! The extremely talented Michael Eades (aka Yewknee) put it together for me. He also posted a blurb about it on his blog so make sure to head over and check that out, in addition to my website! www.stevecrossphotography.com

From the department of WTF?!? in the science world, apparently a breed of cattle exists in Belgium which has a mutation of the gene associated with Myostatin, a protein that limits muscle growth in some mammals, resulting in this:
Researchers are attempting to use this protein to treat muscular dystrophy. Via Kottke.org.

A U.S. communications satellite collided with a dead Russian military satellite yesterday, creating a huge debris field, further cluttering up the already dangerously crowded low-earth orbit sector of space. Scientists say that it shouldn’t pose a major threat to the International Space Station, and that the ISS can always execute evasive maneuvers to avoid a deadly impact. The military has sophisticated radar techniques that can track almost every little piece of space junk, so if the ISS or Space Shuttle is on a collision course with an object, they can let them know and the ship can avoid the object. You wouldn’t think tiny pieces of junk floating around would pose a major threat, but you have to remember that in order to be in orbit, that piece of debris has to be traveling at around 17,000 mph. That’s many, many times the speed of sound, and when even a piece of dust hits you at those speeds, it can cause serious damage. Thanks to Matt Sullivan for the tip.

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