Thursday, January 01, 2009

Simple Example of the Lenz Effect

Someone posted a YouTube video to Reddit Science of the Lenz effect (or Lenz's law) on block of aluminum in an MRI machine that was intriguing. Since I do not have an MRI machine or any other superconducting magnets, I followed the advice of another poster that the effect is observable with hard drive magnets and sheet aluminum. It worked. The magnets are from a dead DeskStar hard drive that failed with the "click of death", and the aluminum strips are from a soda can. Contrast the way a piece of cardboard falls between the magnets with the way the aluminum strip falls through.

Be sure to click on the video and then click the "watch in high quality" link below the video. It's much clearer.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Finding Darwin's God

Ken Miller's book will probably be my next book to read. In the mean time, here's a YouTube video of a talk he gave: Ken Miller on Intelligent Design. He is a Roman Catholic biologist who describes why Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Update on Diet Foods

Time has published a new article, "Do Diet Foods Lead to Weight Gain?", on an experiment using rats who are fed diet foods that is related to a previous story I linked about diet sodas being linked to obesity. When rats ate diet foods and non-diet foods that tasted the same, this tricked their bodies into not being able to eat the right amount of food to get the calories they needed.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

What I think science is not

I read this article, which is about an interesting model of the universe before and after the Big Bang, or Big Bounce as is the case in the model, and then I read the comments. The comment below struck me as being from someone who does not understand the philosophy of science and who thinks "the scientific community" is supposed to come up with dogma that everyone is supposed to accept. I think it's an easy notion to hold only as long as one does not have a grasp that science should make theories based the evidence, and science is not about making determinations about the physical world from a lack of evidence. It reflects the same desire for certitude whose ridiculousness is exhibited in the "Creationism Museum" to the extent that one is willing even to contradict physical evidence to satisfy this desire: (image from

staring points (I assume the Creationism Museum promoters prefer the simple arrow rather than the exaggerated, meandering path of empirical knowledge about the physical world which they apparently confound with human reason only on the "evolution" side and not with any regard to their understanding of "God's word". Whether by malice or ignorance, I think it is a mistake.)

This is the comment:

The scientific community is going to have to make up its mind about 'the big bang' theory and black holes. It will have to determine which really exists: big bang, or black holes. As I see it, the two are mutually exclusive and cannot exist in the same universe. If, as postulated, a black hole's gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can escape it, not even light, then the big bang could not possibly have existed, as nothing would have been strong enough to escape it. If the big bang is true, then black holes cannot exist as currently postulated. So, science must make up its mind which one of these theories is valid and which must be discarded as being illogical.

While the universe may be one way or the other, it is not required that the scientific community declare it to be one way or the other at this point by "making up its mind" from a lack of conclusive evidence on the subject.

When people hold such notions that science is supposed to provide these absolutes so that their own world-views are neatly packaged and free from uncertainty, it's easy to see why people rebel against what they mistakenly view as a failure of science when they are simply expecting science to be something it is not. There is clearly something, such as a certainty on which to anchor a worldview, many people are looking for, and directing them to science for that is a solution only as stable as the evidence that science uses, and that evidence is likely to change. Science has no problem with these changes, and science leaves gaps where the evidence is not conclusive, but an attempt to force the universe to obey one's myopic view of how the universe is and was and will be is highly quixotic, especially when playing with a God of the Gaps whose gaps are being filled.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Diet Soft Drinks Linked to Obesity

As reported from a study at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, diet sodas are worse than regular sodas. I'm assuming so far that the "regular" sodas are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which has it's own metabolic issues, rather than sucrose cane sugar.

In fact, when the researchers took a closer look at their data, they found that nearly all the obesity risk from soft drinks came from diet sodas.

"There was a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day," Fowler says.

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Antibacterial Products Can Help Breed Superdiseases

According to this Scientific American article, triclosan and chemicals like it help select for resistant bacteria because they have specific targets in bacteria that are shared by some antibiotics, and antibacterial products leave behind a weaker residue that contributes even more to resistance selection because it is not as effective at killing. Products like alcohol and bleach, on the other hand, evaporate leaving less residue, and they do nonspecific damage to the bacteria, so the risk of bacteria developing cross-resistance with antibiotics from traditional cleaners is less.

We are harming ourselves and our children by continued, widespread use of antibacterial products by breeding more resistant forms of bacterial diseases and by the contamination of our crops, streams, food, and water with these products. If this is true, none it should really be surprising despite the SciAm article's title. It makes sense, and the concern has existed for several years.

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