Fun video with an explanation of the physics behind what might seem like the surprising action shown in the video.
Posts about Science
Scientific Inquiry Process Finds That Komodo Dragons Don’t have a Toxic Bite After All
This articles is another showing the scientific inquiry process at work. Scientists draw conclusions based on the data they have and experiments they do. Then scientists (sometimes the same people that did the original work) seek to confirm or refute the initial conclusions (based on new evidence or just repeating a similar experiment) and may seek to extend those conclusions.
Sometimes the scientists conclude the initial understanding was incorrect, such as with Komodo Dragon’s: Here Be Dragons: The Mythic Bite of the Komodo
It’s a truly fascinating way for an animal to feed — well, truly fascinating in that it’s not true at all.
Mabel Mercer sings Experiment by Cole Porter
Mabel Mercer sings Experiment by Cole Porter:
Lyrics for Experiment:
There’s just one final message I would give to you.
You all have learned reliance on the sacred teachings of science
So I hope through life you never will decline in spite of philistine defiance
To do what all good scientists do.
Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment and it will lead you to the light.
The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve,
So take an example from Eve, experiment.
Be curious, though interfering friends may frown,
Get furious at each attempt to hold you down.
If this advice you only employ, the future can offer you infinite joy
Experiment and you’ll see.
How Do You Lose Weight While You Sleep?
In this interesting webcast, Derek Muller, (a physics teacher in Perth, Australia) explores how much weight you lose while you sleep. As physics teacher he asks the sensible question: how do you lose weight while you sleep, what weight do you lose?
His conclusion is you lose weight through perspiration, water vapor in your breath and expelling carbon dioxide. Losing the water weight is pretty straight forward. The process of adding carbon to the breath we expel is not something I thought of. He calculates that we lose about 100 grams of carbon during a night of sleep. In his somewhat scientific experiment (measuring himself for several days) he lost about 150 more grams, which he attributes to water vapor and perspiration.
It seems to me the amount of carbon we lose during sleep is probably much more consistent than the amount of water weight we lose (both between people and variation between different days).
Related: Can You Effectively Burn Calories by Drinking Cold Water? – CDC Urges Reducing the Amount of Salt We Eat – Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations? – How Caffeine Affects Your Body – Why Does the Moon Appear Larger on the Horizon?
Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why Placebos Are Getting More Effective
Fascinating article from Wired: Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.
Potter discovered, however, that geographic location alone could determine whether a drug bested placebo or crossed the futility boundary. By the late ’90s, for example, the classic antianxiety drug diazepam (also known as Valium) was still beating placebo in France and Belgium. But when the drug was tested in the US, it was likely to fail. Conversely, Prozac performed better in America than it did in western Europe and South Africa. It was an unsettling prospect: FDA approval could hinge on where the company chose to conduct a trial.
In one study, Benedetti found that Alzheimer’s patients with impaired cognitive function get less pain relief from analgesic drugs than normal volunteers do. Using advanced methods of EEG analysis, he discovered that the connections between the patients’ prefrontal lobes and their opioid systems had been damaged. Healthy volunteers feel the benefit of medication plus a placebo boost. Patients who are unable to formulate ideas about the future because of cortical deficits, however, feel only the effect of the drug itself. The experiment suggests that because Alzheimer’s patients don’t get the benefits of anticipating the treatment, they require higher doses of painkillers to experience normal levels of relief.
Benedetti often uses the phrase “placebo response” instead of placebo effect. By definition, inert pills have no effect, but under the right conditions they can act as a catalyst for what he calls the body’s “endogenous health care system.” Like any other internal network, the placebo response has limits. It can ease the discomfort of chemotherapy, but it won’t stop the growth of tumors. It also works in reverse to produce the placebo’s evil twin, the nocebo effect. For example, men taking a commonly prescribed prostate drug who were informed that the medication may cause sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to become impotent.
Moreover, a pill’s shape, size, branding, and price all influence its effects on the body. Soothing blue capsules make more effective tranquilizers than angry red ones, except among Italian men, for whom the color blue is associated with their national soccer team—Forza Azzurri!
Medical research presents significant difficulties. The funding of the health care system also distorts behavior and pushes companies to focus on being able to justify selling drugs instead of focusing on finding effective solutions. Even without incentives distorting behavior, the challenges are difficult enough. Adding the distortions just makes it worse.
It is wonderful we have so many scientists accepting these challenges and spending their careers fighting the odds to help find us wonderful health breakthroughs.
Related: The Majority of Clinical Trials Don’t Provide Meaningful Evidence – System for Approving New Medical Options Needs Improvement – Medical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof) – Discussing Medical Study Results
Webcast: Examining the Scientific Basis Around Exercise and Diet Claims
Tim Noakes is the Director of UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Science, University of Cape Town and Professor, Discovery Health Chair of Exercise and Sports Science, University of Cape Town.
Tim examines some questions on science and exercise and health in the webcast. He shows the problem with drinking too much during exercise and the correlation of hospital admissions correlated to the sport drinks marketing and changing of the official drinking guidelines. He also discusses the outdated ideas related to lactic acid and muscles.
He is currently studying the science of food and human health and is skeptical of low fat health claims: “No evidence that dietary fat is related to heath disease.” He is certainly more knowledgable than I but I would still be cautious of completely accepting that premise. It does seem to me there is lots of evidence that claims of causation between eating a high fat diet and heart disease were too strong (many other factors were critical – such as weight, exercise, genetics, unsaturated fat v. saturated fat…).
Tim Noaks: “50% of what we teach is wrong; the problem is we don’t know which 50% it is. Our job as educated people is to spend our lifetime trying to figure out which 50% is which. Until it is disproven accept that for which the evidence appears solid and logical and is free of covert or overt conflicts of interest, because unfortunately industry is driving what you believe in many many things. But don’t ever dismis lightly that for which there is credible evidence… and there is such clear evidence the diets we are eating are horrendous.”
As I have said before, scientific literacy is critical to allow us to make those judgements about what is credible evidence and what are outright lies, foolish claims or highly suspicious claims tainted by conflicts of interest.
Related: Can You Effectively Burn Calories by Drinking Cold Water? – Static Stretching Decreases Muscle Strength – Lack of Physical Activity Leads to 5.3 Million Early Deaths a Year – Science Continues to Explore Causes of Weight Gain – Study Finds Obesity as Teen as Deadly as Smoking
Europe Bans Certain Pesticides, USA Just Keeps Looking, Bees Keep Dying
For years the bee colony collapse disorder has been showing the difficulty of the scientific inquiry process. And that difficulty often becomes more difficult if interests with lots of money at stake want to block certain conclusions.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we don’t have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,” said entomologist Dennis vanEngelstorp of the University of Maryland, who led the survey documenting the declines.
Beekeepers lost 31 percent of their colonies in late 2012 and early 2013, roughly double what’s considered acceptable attrition through natural causes. The losses are in keeping with rates documented since 2006, when beekeeper concerns prompted the first nationwide survey of honeybee health. Hopes raised by drop in rates of loss to 22 percent in 2011-2012 were wiped out by the new numbers.
Most losses reported in the latest survey, however, don’t actually fit the CCD profile. And though CCD is largely undocumented in western Europe, honeybee losses there have also been dramatic. In fact, CCD seems to be declining, even as total losses mount. The honeybees are simply dying.
“Even if CCD went away, we’d still have tremendous losses,” said entomologist Diana Cox-Foster at Pennsylvania State University. “CCD losses are like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The system has many other issues.”
Pew Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz
The Pew Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz is a simple 13 question quiz to get a very simple look at scientific understanding in society. Obviously these types of quizes are just extremely simple views, still it is interesting to see how you can do and what questions people struggle with.
I am surprised the fewer than 50% of the people got 2 true or false questions correct, including “Electrons are smaller than atoms. Is this statement…” Looking back at my previous post, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, in the 2009 Pew Science Knowledge Quiz it is also the case that under 50% got the are electrons smaller than atoms question right.
They also provided a breakdown by demographic factors. Men had better percentages of correct answers, for the 2 true or false questions men were correct 55% of the time while women got 40% correct. The two other true of false questions had much higher correct answer rates 77% (83% for men 72% for women) and 66% (70 for men, 63 for women).
There was also a substantial tendency for the youngest ages to do better and the performance to decline for each age group. I am not surprised by the question answered incorrectly most often (only 20% got it right), see if you can guess which it is.
Can You Effectively Burn Calories by Drinking Cold Water?
Neil deGrasse Tyson stated on Twitter:
What if your body is trying to cool down? I would imagine we have to use energy to cool off (though I am no expert on this)? So if you drink cold water and your body has less need to cool off, couldn’t this actually end up “saving” your body needing to burn calories – and thus cause yourself to gain weight?
This model would be similar to a server room that was cooled with air conditioning and cold winter air to cool off the servers. If there was less cold air used then more electricity would be used running the air conditioner to cool down the servers. I don’t know if it is a decent analogy though – maybe that isn’t an usable model for how we cool off.
I know we cool off partially by pushing water out onto the exterior of our skin to have it evaporate and cool us off. I would think that takes energy to do.
I do get that it takes energy to raise the temperature of the water you consume. It does make sense to me that if you were cold (like say I was during the winter living in the house I grew up in) you would use energy raising the temperature of the water.
What the overall energy situation is if your body needs to cool down seems questionable to me. Please let me know your thoughts. In any event his statement is accurate. It is just that the implication may lead people astray; that you can consume 1,200 Calories extra to balance the 1,200 Calories drinking cold water uses (or loss weight by having reduced your excess Calories by 1,200 if you eat exactly the same things you would without the cold water).
Related: Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations? – Does Diet Soda Result in Weight Gain? – Why Does Hair Turn Grey as We Age? – How Corn Syrup Might Be Making Us Fat – Why Wasn’t the Earth Covered in Ice 4 Billion Years Ago (When the Sun was Dimmer)
Building A Better Bed Bug Trap Using Bean Leaves
Although its mechanisms weren’t known at the time, the tactic dates back to at least 1678, when the English philosopher John Locke wrote of placing kidney bean leaves under the pillow or around the bed to keep bed bugs from biting as he traveled through Europe.
In the early twentieth century, the approach was also common throughout the Balkans, according to a 1927 report from the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Army. That report suggested the leaves stunned the bloodsucking bugs as they traveled from hiding places to their sleeping hosts during the night; in the morning, the bug-covered leaves were removed and burned.
“The inconvenience of bean leaves is that not everyone wants them scattered around their bed room.” Synthetics mimicking the surface of the bean leaf, however, could be placed “as a ring around the bed legs, a floor mat at the door, a strip on the bed board, it could be something one put’s in one’s suitcase,”
Very cool. The chemical assault on bed buds is failing all over the world. A new vector to assist in the fight against bed bugs will be most welcome. It is interesting to learn the scientific reasons that explain why some folk remedies work.
George Box 1919 to 2013 – A Great Friend, Scientist and Statistician
Reposted from my management blog.
I would most likely not exist if it were not for George Box. My father took a course from George while my father was a student at Princeton. George agreed to start the Statistics Department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and my father followed him to Madison, to be the first PhD student. Dad graduated, and the next year was a professor there, where he and George remained for the rest of their careers.
George died today, he was born in 1919. He recently completed An Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box which is an excellent book that captures his great ability to tell stories. It is a wonderful read for anyone interested in statistics and management improvement or just great stories of an interesting life.
George Box was a fantastic statistician. I am not the person to judge, but from what I have read one of the handful of most important applied statisticians of the last 100 years. His contributions are enormous. Several well know statistical methods are known by his name, including:
George was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. He also served as president of the American Statistics Association in 1978. George is also an honorary member of ASQ.
George was a very kind, caring and fun person. He was a gifted storyteller and writer. He had the ability to present ideas so they were easy to comprehend and appreciate. While his writing was great, seeing him in person added so much more. Growing up I was able to enjoy his stories often, at our house or his. The last time I was in Madison, my brother and I visited with him and again listened to his marvelous stories about Carl Pearson, Ronald Fisher and so much more. He was one those special people that made you very happy whenever you were near him.
George Box, Stuart Hunter and Bill Hunter (my father) wrote what has become a classic text for experimenters in scientific and business circles, Statistics for Experimenters. I am biased but I think this is acknowledged as one of (if not the) most important books on design of experiments.
George also wrote other classic books: Time series analysis: Forecasting and control (1979, with Gwilym Jenkins) and Bayesian inference in statistical analysis. (1973, with George C. Tiao).
George Box and Bill Hunter co-founded the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. The Center develops, advances and communicates quality improvement methods and ideas.
The Box Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Industrial Statistics recognizes development and the application of statistical methods in European business and industry in his honor.
A few selected articles and reports by George Box
- William G. Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement
- The Scientific Context of Quality Improvement
- Statistics for Discovery
- Statistics as a Catalyst to Learning by Scientific Method
- Improving Almost Anything – collection of great articles and reports