Category Archives: Science

Time to Stop Ignoring Birth Control!

For the past few weeks I’ve been cutting down on reading blogs and paying any sort of attention to news,  because all of the rage-worthy material coming from politics and media seemed to have exploded and I couldn’t quite handle the cavalcade of stupid.

One of the biggest things causing me to avoid any media besides that containing colorful ponies was Rush Limbaugh’s recent inability to understand anything at all about birth control, health care, and basic human sympathy. As soon as I heard the gist of what happened, I pretty much decided that that was enough politics for now and cut myself off. Because of that, I never heard the exact details of the situation.

Until now! Luckily they were surrounding by commentary by Stephen Colbert or my brain would have exploded.

Of course Jon Stewart turned out to have a considerably better video, so I’ll be linking him instead.

I’m convinced he has therapeutic qualities. Not that Colbert doesn’t, he’s just not quite as wonderful. I’m still going to make a point to take my birth control with some Americone Dream someday though.

Anyways, there’s unfortunately more to Rush Limbaugh’s failing-to-act-like-a-human-being than which comedy news show host handled it better. That being, Rush Limbaugh’s failing-to-act-like-a-human-being.

As I mentioned before, I never quite got the entire picture of what exactly he did before now. There were details I missed. Namely, that he thinks that women receiving insured birth control need to post sex tapes on the internet. Of course there’s a lot more wrong with all of the awful things he said besides that, but the misunderstandings on how birth control and private insurance works along with how terrible a human being he is have been covered extensively already. This in particular actually wins the award for “Most Revolting Thing Said in 2012 So far” in my book. It’s a special kind of creepy to me.

Now of course any person with any human decency will probably be disturbed by this. Women, moreso. Women on birth control, even more than that!

But there’s a little nuance that I picked up on that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet, that makes it that much more cringe-worthy.

Does Rush realize that there are women under 18 taking birth control? I started on it when I was about, say, 13. Granted it was medical, but Rush doesn’t make that distinction, so  there’s not much a point of me making it either. Not to mention that where I needed ( and still need) it to make periods livable, there are girls who do take contraception for contraceptive purposes who are that age, and younger.

Does Rush realize that in feeling he has a right to watch every woman on insured contraception have sex, he included a good handful of preteens in there? Young teenagers? People under 18 in general?

Would he care if he realized that? Not entirely sure. Actually, I completely doubt it. He’d probably care less about the fact that he gave off the impression that he’d be up for child porn than he would about the idea that women under 18 actually use birth control. In fact, I can kind of hear his little tirade now. Something about feminazis and liberal agendas and… probably the gay agenda, and sexualizing children before he wanted to sexualize them. I also have a feeling he wouldn’t hesitate to call an eleven-year-old a slut. Hell, he’d probably jump at the chance. Prostitute, too.

Finally, on top of all of the different terrible things about Rush Limbaugh, there’s one thing that makes him that much more disgusting to me. That being that my dad actually listens to his talk show.

Limbaugh is frightening enough from a distance. Having someone who lives in the same house as you who follows his nonsense is a whole new level of disturbing and incredibly creepy, especially considering the subjects of this recent issue. Granted he’s claimed that he doesn’t necessarily agree with what Rush says, he just enjoys listening to him. But, you know, being able to listen to Rush without going into a rage, much less enjoying the experience, might as well be the Terrible and Frightening Person litmus test.

Why can’t we send all of the GOP to Siberia?

Holy Shit, Science

That’s basically the most descriptive title I can come up with right now.

Researchers have discovered a way to store 1 bit of data using 12 atoms.

one byte requires 96 atoms.

Going by that, one terabyte would require 105,553,116,266,496 atoms.

For comparison,  one gram of iron is 10,750,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms.

If my math is correct, this means that we could store a terabyte of data on roughly 10 nano-grams of iron.

That is an amount so small that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

 

Of course, there are still problems to be worked out. So far, these atoms can only be controlled at temperatures incredibly close to absolute zero, and on top of that, it requires special machinery to manipulate the atoms in such ways.

There’s a part of me that knows that I shouldn’t be too excited, because even if all of the problems are worked out of this and it is proven to be worth it (I would have to imagine that creating entire hard disks with this method would be extremely expensive), it’ll probably still be quite a long time before this technology becomes mainstream.

That said,

Holy shit.

Vaccines, Stupidity, Disproportionate Responses, et. al.

I went and got vaccinated against meningitis the other day, as per a requirement for enrolling in community college.

I tend to complain a lot when I get vaccinated against things. I elect to have it done in my left arm, because I use it considerably less and so I can pretend that it’s been lopped off  and I can’t use it for a few days while I wait for the soreness to go away. I treat my vaccinated arm like it’s a volatile explosive or something– If I exert any pressure on it, if I lift anything more than a few ounces, well gee, that fucker may very well blow right off. I sleep on the other side of my body so that I don’t crush and destroy my poor, weakened arm.

I keep the bandage on for about a day, even though after an hour there’s a voice in my head saying “Okay seriously, if you’re still bleeding now you probably have leukemia.

I’m basically a complete nut about it.

And yet I go and get all of the vaccinations required of me. Hell, I even get the non-required ones like Gardasil, because you know what doesn’t seem fun? Cancer. Kinda like how meningitis sounds like a real downer, and tetanus would just really ruin my day.

It helps that my “reaction” to vaccines are pretty much me being a hypochondriac, but the thing is? Even if I went and got vaccinated and then spent the rest of the day feeling like I’d eaten rotten poison and dead kittens, vaccines would still be worth it.

But apparently, there’s a growing number of people who go along with the thought process “Little Suzy might get the sniffles? Fuck that,   Measles sounds considerably better.”

But of course, they don’t think like that; they believe that since they don’t see people with measles, they can’t possibly get measles. Which in a sense is entirely true! It’s why vaccinating parents/caregivers/etc. against whooping cough is an effective way of preventing it in babies, who can’t be vaccinated but certainly can get whooping cough. It also provides a bit of a safety net for people who can’t get vaccines for legitimate reasons (read: too sick, not too stupid).

Those two things work, though, because we’ve got a nice thing called herd immunity, which works similarly to a plastic bubble of immunity. To expand this metaphor, we have a big plastic dome-o-notmeasles that we all live in. Some of us have our own little notmeasles bubbles, which is great for us. However, some of us don’t have our own bubbles. Ideally, that “some of us” would be entirely composed of those who are too sick to be vaccinated, but due to this anti-vaccine crusade, that “some of us” is growing. Those people still live under the big plastic dome, and so they’re pretty much safe as long as measles does not penetrate our bubble.

The thing about diseases, though, is that they like penetrating bubbles. It’s kind of what they do, how they survive. It happens when someone who isn’t personally immunized comes in contact with a disease, catches it, and then goes back into the bubble where everyone else is. Suddenly, this isn’t a notmeasles bubble, it’s a measles bubble. Full of measles.

This metaphor is becoming a bit stretched. Let’s change it from a bubble to, say…

A school?

Right. So we have our school with 100 students. A few years ago perhaps, only 1 of these 100 were not vaccinated- maybe she has a weakened immune system?  But the other 99 were vaccinated, so they kept her safe.

Fast forward a few years, one kid has autism. The parents, who don’t understand how correlation doesn’t equal causation, assumed that this was caused by a vaccine (protip- that doesn’t happen, if there was any doubt). The parents then go and start a crusade against vaccines! Fun.

Now 50 out of the 100 students are unvaccinated. This poses a problem.

I don’t know the actual statistics, so I’m going to pull one out of my ass. let’s say that, while unvaccinated, you have, oh… a 2% chance of catching the disease. 1 out of 50.

When we only have one unvaccinated child, it’s sort of like  rolling a 50 sided die once. There’s a very low chance she’ll end up with measles, and if she does, only she is affected. That’s a maximum of 1 child out of 100 getting a horrible disease.

But if we roll that dice 50 times, it’s statistically probable that we will land on measles atleast once. Let’s pretend we did roll the measles dice, and now one of our kids has measles.

So, 50 unvaccinated kids (one with measles!),  50 vaccinated kids (one with autism!)

Fast forward a very short amount of time, those 49 other unvaccinated kids were exposed to measles from the single child, and now 90% of the children who weren’t vaccinated have measles. In real life, schools would close pretty damn quick, but keep in mind that there’s a sizable amount of time between that one child becoming infected and then showing enough symptoms to be diagnosed in which he could infect any number of other students.

so now we’ve got 45 kids with measles. 45 kids who wouldn’t have had measles if they had been vaccinated. 45 kids who wouldn’t have spread it to other kids and infected other kids if they had been infected.

One goddamned kid who infected the whole unvaccinated population of the school just because his parents thought vaccines were evil.

One kid who couldn’t be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, who relied on the herd immunity to protect her, and who was infected by people who don’t understand how that works.

And one kid with Autism that wasn’t caused by a vaccine, whose parents jumpstarted this whole thing.

 

Anti-vaccination crusades are bad, okay?

Why Apple Sucks, Reductio ad Communum

For Christmas, everyone in my family got a new phone. I got an android phone, fulfilling  my fetishes for both Google and open source software. My first reaction was to download an app development kit. This is probably not the normal response to being given new technology, but I do not care. I just want to inject my own programming into its sexy, sexy operating system.

But that’s not the point of this post!

The point is  that my mother got the newest iPhone, to replace her old one. As such, she got to deal with the fun that is iTunes and Apple and scooting over apps and music from her old phone to her new phone.

By “fun”, I mean she got to fuck around with how Apple likes to have a deathgrip on all that it can get its hands on. I decided to top this fun off by letting her know that she better be incredibly careful about what she clicks on as she syncs her phones together, because she might end up wiping her entire phone’s contents. Fun! But also a warning I felt was very much needed, as I dealt with it a year or two ago when toiling under Apple’s tyranny myself.

You see, I have a computer that hates to cooperate. So much so, that at one point it seemed like the best solution to its plethora of problems was to blast the whole goddamned thing to hell, a la factory reset. It seemed like a fine and dandy solution, really, because I had all of my files backed up anyways. So I reset my computer, setting it back to how it was before I’d ever  touched it.

This includes not having iTunes anymore.

All of my music/apps/etc were backed up on my iPhone of course, so it seemed to me that all I would have to do was sync my iPhone back to iTunes. However, when I attempted this, iTunes informed me that it wanted to wipe my iPhone clean of everything I had on it. Which in effect would synchronize my phone to my computer, but in the wrong direction. I understand why Apple does this- they don’t want to possibly let you put their music on more than one computer. Of course, when I say that I understand why, I mean in the same way that I understand why some people worship a Jewish zombie; Because they’re fucknuts insane, which is also an acceptable answer for why Apple wanted to delete all of the music that I paid for.

I eventually got my files backed up onto my computer, after much Googling and annoyance. And luckily, by the time my mother was trying to back up her iPhone, Apple seemed to have fixed that little problem (or atleast my mother didn’t run into it).

But I think the whole things highlights how awful Apple is. To highlight it more, I’m going to compare it to communism! Whee!

See, Communism isn’t an inherently bad thing. Karl Marx didn’t write his Manifesto while twiddling an evil goatee or anything. It’s a system that sounds very nice in theory- people giving based on ability, receiving based on need- that’s an admirable goal for a civilization. And yet, we don’t all live in Communist utopias, because it has a fatal flaw. It relies on the good of the people to turn it into an actually good government system. Unfortunately, this means that as long as we have shitty people, Communism doesn’t work (as it is meant to). Shitty people can take advantage of Communism easily, and then it becomes, well, shitty. And as long as we can’t get rid of shitty people, Communism will forever be a bad thing.

Apple is the same way. It’s meant to be user friendly, good, etc., and yet it’s not. Ideally, I would be hooking up an apple iPhone to a Macintosh computer with Apple iTunes already on it, and all of my music backed up there forever. I wouldn’t have to deal with putting music back onto my computer, because it would never crash and die. I would never fight with getting non-itunes music onto my iPhone, because all music ever would be on iTunes. Similarly, I’d never deal with hearing that the music that I bought couldn’t be played on another device because it’s a special format, because all of my technology would be Apple.

If that sounds like bullshit, then your bullshit detectors are functioning well. Because anyone familiar with computers knows that sometimes the fuckers break down and die. Anyone can logically realize that all music can’t be on iTunes, or that you can’t expect all devices to be Apple devices. The fact that none of this is accounted for is similar to how Karl Marx didn’t account for shitty people. Apple designs its products, or at least seem to design their products, with only themselves in mind, and very little accounted for in the “what about when shit hits the fan” sector. And so, we’re not living in an Apple-y utopia.

We choose to use phones that allow us to drag and drop music on to them, that allow us to connect to a computer without special software. We use computers that are self serviceable, that don’t have a special store dedicated to fixing them. And we look at people who get caught up in a monopoly-o-apples and think they’re silly.

Or at least I do.

And sometimes I go on a rant and call them all Communists.

Filthy Commies.

Note- Reductio ad Communum is basically Reductio ad Hitlerum (Godwin’s Law), except Communism flavored.

And no, I don’t really think Apple users are like Communists. Except a little.

Obscure cats

So I’ve noticed something.

Anytime somebody wants to make an obscure science joke, they seem to usually reference Schrödinger’s Cat. Now, I can understand why it’s the go-to material for a joke- essentially anybody who has it described to them can understand it, but at the same time it’s a concept from quantum mechanics. This means that while the only qualification for understanding this concept is having found the wikipedia page, you’re still able to make jokes about it loudly in public and when people don’t understand it, respond with “Oh don’t worry about it, it was an obscure  reference to quantum physics, so most people don’t understand it.” It’s basically an easy way to make yourself seem smart pretentious, while not forcing you to actually understand the experiment past “if you look away from a cat, well gee, that fucker could very well be dead. But not dead. At the same time.

But that’s not the problem here. The problem is that this is turning into the obscure reference. You can find it on a multitude of different webcomics, for one, many of which I didn’t link because hell, Schrödinger references have their own wikipedia page. Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to make Schrödinger jokes or anything, because that would be stupid. Making jokes about it (or anything) for the sake of sounding smart is, but that’s a whole different problem.

This problem is that we now have a popular obscure joke. The joke, for the most part, comes from how it’s supposed to be obscure and something most people won’t understand

But if it’s a popular reference, then it can’t be obscure, and therefore there’s not really a joke.

So it goes something like this: Either “obscure Schrödinger” jokes are popular, rendering them not obscure. Thus, there is no joke. But if there is no joke, then it most certainly can’t be popular and is once again obscure, making the joke exist again. But if it’s a joke, then it’s suddenly popular and no longer obscure, and if it’s popular… etc. ad infinitum.

In a simpler form, Obscurity = Popularity = Non-obscurity = Non-popularity = Obscurity, in an endless cycle that is all happening at the same time. So all at once, a Schrödinger reference is both obscure and not obscure at the same time, meaning that a Schrödinger joke is simultaneously a joke and not a joke.

Essentially, an affinity towards obscure references in popular culture has created Schrödinger’s Schrödinger joke.