"Illegitimis non carborundum"

From alt-usage-english.org comes an explanation for the pseudo-Latin mottto “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” or “Illegitimis non carborundum.”

LOL creationists

LOL Cordova:

Infodesign Calendar Challenge

Information designers have been challenged to come up with a new form of calendar. You can browse the results on Flikr.

What about the previous Niagara Falls?

Young-earth creationists occasionally mention the Niagara River and its gorge, eroded as the Niagara Falls work their way backward through the Niagara Escarpment. The recent age of the falls (about 10,000 years) is somehow supposed to prove that the earth isn’t any older than that. They forget to mention that the famous whirlpool marks where the current gorge cuts through a previous gorge, now filled with rock debris from the most recent glaciation. Because the silted-in gorge is softer than the surrounding rock, the river penetrates the old gorge, creating the whirlpool, before it goes on its way.

Mumps ground Canadian naval ship

A certain age-group in Canada is susceptible to the formerly common childhood disease mumps. The mumps virus infects the salivary glands, making them swell painfully and giving the patient the appearance of a chipmunk with its cheeks full. Complications include viral meningitis, sterility, and deafness. When the first vaccinations were given, only one injection was used, giving rather weak immunity. Older people may have had the mumps; younger ones get two injections and have better immunity. What’s happening now is that mumps is spreading in the weakly immune group. The disease, which is spread by contact such as kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food and utensils.

This is Nova Scotia’s third outbreak in two years, centred in Halifax, this time at Dalhousie University. More than 300 cases have been reported.

From the National Review of Medicine:

Physicians’ fears that Nova Scotia’s troubling ongoing mumps outbreak would spread farther afield have been realized. In mid-May a slew of new cases cropped up in Ontario, Alberta and BC, on top of a smattering already diagnosed in New Brunswick and PEI. All the cases have been traced back to NS.

Dr. Robert Strang, medical officer of health, said that:

Those born between 1970 and 1992 are more likely to lack immunity to mumps, measles and rubella because they had a single dose of the vaccine, rather than the double dose that is recommended now. As well people born during those years grew up when there was a lower circulation of natural disease.

Dr. Strang said two other regions with mumps outbreaks — the United Kingdom and Iowa — both offered mumps immunization for university students, but the uptake for the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) shots was only at 20 to 30 per cent.

The recent outbreak has spread to a ship of Canada’s East Coast navy: crew member of HMCS Glace Bay was found to have the highly contagious disease. The Glace Bay, based in Halifax, is manned by reservists and has a crew of about 60.

About 50 the ship’s crew have been sent home for at least a week on sick leave.

Lt.-Cmdr. Marie-Claude Gagne said the leaves are a precautionary measure to make sure the disease does not spread to other areas of the navy community or the Halifax area. “We erred on the side of caution and sent many more people home because documents weren’t available to confirm immunization or confirm prior contracting of the disease,” she said. “It’s safer to just send them home and isolate them.” The risk of contracting mumps is low among Canadian Forces members because of routine immunization programs as well as close medical followups and surveillance, Lt.-Cmdr. Gagne said.

If you’re interested in the mumps virus, here’s a high-level look at its evolutionary tree, the paramyxovirus family:

This image and more can be found at Microbiology 208 course notes from UCSD School of Medicing.

Put those fingers to work!

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are planning to replace nonsense words in the “are you a human?” keystroke test with short segments of digitally scanned text to be verified.

Luis Von Ahn is working with the Internet Archive, which runs several book-scanning projects, to use CAPTCHAs for this instead. Internet Archive scans 12,000 books a month and sends von Ahn hundreds of thousands of files that are images that the computer doesn’t recognize. Those files are downloaded onto von Ahn’s server and split up into single words that can be used as CAPTCHAs at sites all over the Internet.

If enough users decipher the CAPTCHAs in the same way, the computer will recognize that as the correct answer.

“If we can correct these books so that they are really in good shape, then you can go and use these books in other type devices more easily” such as handheld computers or in programs for reading to the blind, said Brewster Kahle, co-founder of the Internet Archive.

Seed magazine on avian flu

Seed magazine offers a number of “cribsheets,” in other words briefing notes, on current topics in science that affect us. Here’s their cribsheet on avian influenza. It describes how the H5N1 virus infects a host cell and answers the question: How is the world preparing for avian flu? Follow the link to read more.

Here’s a cartoon from Swarthmore College showing how the proportion of Americans who believe in evolution will increase after the avian flu carries off 52% of those who don’t get vaccinated because they don’t believe in evolution of viruses.

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