LOL bard

(Shakespeare poster from I Can Has Cheezburger?)

Ball lightning in the lab

National Geographic reported on 22 January 2007 that

“Brazilian scientists may have solved a shocking scientific mystery by creating ball lightning in the lab. Physicist Antonio Pavão and doctoral student Gerson Paiva of the Federal University of Pernambuco have created orbs of electricity about the size of golf balls that mimic natural ball lightning. The fluffy-looking spheres spin, throw off sparks, and vibrate. They also move erratically about the lab, rolling around on the floor, bouncing off objects, and burning whatever they touch (see enlarged photo for stills from laboratory video). People have reported seeing ball lightning in nature for hundreds of years, but there is no scientific consensus as to what causes the phenomenon. …”

Posted in science. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Crime rates highest in small cities

The big city has a bad reputation. But that’s because we think of each city as “my town” whether it’s large or small. However, statistics show that overall, small cities have higher crime rates, but rural areas have the highest murder rates.

The overall crime rate in small urban areas was 43 per cent higher than in large urban areas and 58 per cent higher than in rural areas.

Rates of total violent crime, total property crime and break-ins were also highest in small urban areas.

Of the 658 homicides in Canada in 2005 with a known location, 427 were committed in large urban areas, 95 in small urban areas and 135 in rural areas.

Taking population into account, the homicide rate of 2.5 homicides per 100,000 people in rural areas was actually higher than the rate of 2.0 in large urban areas and the rate of 1.7 in small urban areas – a pattern that has held constant over the past decade.

Here is a link to a report from Statistics Canada.

Teaching about risk

SmartRisk is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to reducing harm to young people. They specialize in tested and effective messages to change behaviour and reduce risk. For fifteen years, they have been doing the research, fine-tuning the messages, and expanding the programme. What they have found is that the message must be adjusted to the audience. A high school has as many as fifteen different demographic groups, which have different worldviews and interests and which interpret messages differently. They also acknowledge that the people ordering or evaluating the messages are not the intended audience.

For example, in an attempt to discourage smoking, non-smokers like to see pictures of diseased lungs; but those pictures are likely to make smokers puff away defiantly and actually smoke more.

Another difficulty is that treatment or rescue is visible and dramatic, while prevention is invisible and boring. But it can be much more effective. I hope that this programme will expand and prosper.

LOLhovind or "Why do people laugh at creationists? 3"

See Greg Laden’s post, “Why do people laugh at creationists?” Greg has a video (WDPLAC? 3) showing biblical literalist Kent Hovind explaining how the mammoths got frozen, with follow-up comments by a physicist.

If you want to skip directly to the video, it’s here:

Sandwalk on Calico Cats

Male cats can be black and white or orange and white, and so can female cats; but with the normal number of chromosomes, only female cats are black and orange and white, or “calico.” The reason is that the colour gene for black or orange is on the X chromosome. Males have only one to express. Females are expressing sometimes the X chromosome from their mother and sometimes the X from their father, and thus expressing different colours. The white is caused by another gene that suppresses colour, and can be expressed on more or less of the cat’s hide.

Dilute calico (Peek-A-Boo)

There’s been a discussion on Talk.Origins about calico cats—do they have to be female? The color pattern is an interesting combination of sex-linked genetics and epigenetics. Epigenetics is the inheritance of characteristics other than nuleotide sequence. In this case, it’s inheritance of an inactivated X-chromosome

Go to Larry Moran’s Sandwalk: Calico Cats for a detailed explanation.

The tortoiseshell cat has more blended colours than the calico, but the same sex-linked rules apply. This image from is called “Oswald and his sisters.” You can tell which kitten is Oswald because three of the kittens mix orange and black, while one has only black fur—so he’s the male.

four kittens, three tortoise-shell colour and one black

I had a long-haired, tortoiseshell cat given to me when she was thirteen years old. She lived for ten more years, making her the oldest cat in my veterinarian’s practice.

Queen Elizabeth opens Commonwealth summit

Queen Elizabeth presided over the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda. The article points out,

When she first addressed a meeting of Heads of Government of the Commonwealth thirty years ago, Papua New Guinea and the Seychelles were welcomed as its 32nd and 33rd members.

The queen remarked,

She remarked that the theme chosen for the Kampala CHOGM, Transforming Societies, conveyed a clear commitment to change for the better.

“No single society has achieved perfection, and there is no single recipe for success. No-one could expect that. But we do know that giving people the greatest possible voice in the way they are governed, and the greatest possible access to education, are two of the most important ingredients.”

The outgoing chairman, Malta Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi, said

Commonwealth countries were faced with new challenges, such as climate change, globalisation, the digital divide, the price of oil and the rising price of cereals.

On climate change, he said the Commonwealth nations should send a strong message of support to the forthcoming UN conference on climate change in Bali.

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