23 August 2019

In Sweden, a "fart" can go backwards or forwards

Explained at Neatorama.

The "hygiene hypothesis" of allergy and autoimmune disorders

This abstract from Clin Exp Immuol provides a concise summary:
According to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, the decreasing incidence of infections in western countries and more recently in developing countries is at the origin of the increasing incidence of both autoimmune and allergic diseases. The hygiene hypothesis is based upon epidemiological data, particularly migration studies, showing that subjects migrating from a low-incidence to a high-incidence country acquire the immune disorders with a high incidence at the first generation. However, these data and others showing a correlation between high disease incidence and high socio-economic level do not prove a causal link between infections and immune disorders. Proof of principle of the hygiene hypothesis is brought by animal models and to a lesser degree by intervention trials in humans. Underlying mechanisms are multiple and complex. They include decreased consumption of homeostatic factors and immunoregulation, involving various regulatory T cell subsets and Toll-like receptor stimulation. These mechanisms could originate, to some extent, from changes in microbiota caused by changes in lifestyle, particularly in inflammatory bowel diseases. Taken together, these data open new therapeutic perspectives in the prevention of autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Some other excerpts from the publication:
The hypothesis was first proposed by Strachan, who observed an inverse correlation between hay fever and the number of older siblings when following more than 17 000 British children born in 1958... The leading idea is that some infectious agents – notably those that co-evolved with us – are able to protect against a large spectrum of immune-related disorders...

In 1998, about one in five children in industrialized countries suffered from allergic diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis. This proportion has tended to increase over the last 10 years, asthma becoming an ‘epidemic’ phenomenon... The prevalence of atopic dermatitis has doubled or tripled in industrialized countries during the past three decades, affecting 15–30% of children and 2–10% of adults... Part of the increased incidence of these diseases may be attributed to better diagnosis or improved access to medical facilities in economically developed countries. However, this cannot explain the marked increase in immunological disorder prevalence that has occurred over such a short period of time in those countries, particularly for diseases which can be diagnosed easily...

The "Sprinkler Rainbow Conspiracy"

An old video, but apparently I've never posted this before.   Just a reminder that people like this exist.

First day of school

The BBC has some context.
When Jill saw the "state" of her daughter on Monday afternoon, she asked what Lucie had been up to.  "Nothing much," Lucie said,

21 August 2019

Divertimento #167

A month and a half since my last non-gif linkfest; incredible amounts of material have accumulated; 
this is less than a third of what I've bookmarked.

She was born during the reign of James I, was a youngster when René Descartes set out his rules of thought and the great fire of London raged, saw out her adolescent years as George II ascended the throne, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off, and lived through two world wars. Living to an estimated age of nearly 400 years, a female Greenland shark has set a new record for longevity.

Remember: bottled water companies do not produce water; they produce plastic bottles.

A beautifully-designed longread from the BBC on a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils in Wyoming.  ""There's probably enough dinosaur material here to keep a thousand palaeontologists happy for a thousand years."

Plastic recycling is a myth. ‘It’s going to be recycled in China!’ I hate to break it to everyone, but these places are routinely dumping massive amounts of [that] plastic and burning it on open fires.”

Eight questions to ask to jumpstart a conversation when you are getting to know a stranger.

Barack Obama's summer reading list.

Why bounty hunters can break into the wrong home, injure/kill someone and plead innocence.

Man who donated his mother's body to an Arizona center for Alzheimer's research discovers it was sold on to the US Military for $6,000, strapped to a chair and blown up in 'blast test'

The feral dog is one of the most destructive animals in the natural world.

Why you can't find wild broccoli.

American basketball player Donell “D.J.” Cooper has been banned from the sport for two years after his urine test showed evidence of pregnancy.

Why you won't get $125 from the Equifax security breach settlement.

OpEd piece in the Los Angeles Times: "Health Insurance Companies are Useless: Get Rid of Them."
Health insurers have been successful at two things: making money and getting the American public to believe they’re essential.”

Climate change has left a graveyard of abandoned ski resorts on the Italian Alps

Warshipping: Mail a snooping device to a company.  When it gets to the company mailroom, "The device scans for visible wifi networks; once it senses a network associated with its target (indicating that it has arrived on the target company's premises), it alerts its controllers over the cellular radio, and then scans the local wifi for instance in which users' devices are initiating new connections to the network. It captures the handshake data from these connections, transmits them over the cellular network to its controllers, and they can then crack the password offline, send login credentials to the warshipping device, login to the target network, and attack the network from within."

"The Trump administration has reauthorized government officials to use controversial poison devices – dubbed “cyanide bombs” by critics – to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals across the US."

"...lots of election officials, including many in heavily contested districts that have determined the outcomes of national elections (cough Florida cough) just leave their machines connected to the internet all the time, while denying that this is the case, possibly because they don't know any better."

Retail stores are closing in New York City, including Fifth Avenue: "According to recent estimates, certain swaths of Manhattan now have vacancy rates of 25%, when 5% is considered normal. And the carnage is getting worse, with the US forecast to lose 12,000 stores this year – far above 2018’s record losses of more than 5,800 sites."

"The bacteria in and on our bodies make thousands of tiny, previously unidentified proteins... The proteins belong to more than 4,000 new biological families... Because they are so small — fewer than 50 amino acids in length — it’s likely the proteins fold into unique shapes that represent previously unidentified biological building blocks..."

A tiger shows the "eyespots" behind its ears while drinking water (photo at right)

There is a difference between service animals and emotional support animals.  "Nothing can stop people from lying, or exploiting others’ confusion by using the terms “service animal” an “ESA” interchangeably. “The majority of folks who slap a vest on their pet have already crossed that line..."

"As canned cocktails, including ready-to-drink fizzy wine concoctions and portable hard-liquor classics, have become more available across the country, their sales have climbed more than 40 percent in the past year. Sales of boozy seltzers have nearly tripled in the same period... Even real-liquor cocktails such as those packaged by You & Yours tend to keep the alcohol content pretty light, which is a selling point that might feel counterintuitive to older, harder-drinking people. Adults under 40 are reshaping America’s relationship with booze, and for many of them, that means seeking out low- or no-alcohol options."

The Candyland board game was invented for polio patients.

"Contrary to President Donald Trump’s assertion that “our nation is stronger today than it ever was before,” the “Salute to America” looked more like a military antiques road show than a display of a 21st-century military power... The M-1A2 Abrams tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry combat vehicles parked near the Lincoln Memorial represent a generation of armored vehicles that were designed in the 1970s and procured in large numbers during the 1980s. More than three decades later, they remain, albeit with modification, the mainstay of the U.S. Army and have been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...The wars of the future may depend not so much on the kinds of things you can put on parade, but on new technologies that reimagine warfare."

A subreddit devoted to documenting desire paths.

"Scott Amos found the game in the attic of his childhood home in Reno this past Mother's Day after his mom asked him to pick up a few boxes of his childhood stuff. Among the contents was a Nintendo game cartridge for Kid Icarus, still in the bag from J.C. Penney's catalog department three decades earlier."  It's expected to bring $10,000 at auction.

 A cloud that sort of looks like a farting squirrel (at left).

Incredible Zigzag Curveball Illusion.

The counterargument when someone says girls wearing skimpy clothes are "asking for it."

"Former President Reagan in a newly unearthed tape disparaged “monkeys” from African countries during a phone call with then-President Nixon while Reagan was governor of California."

"The 13-year-old boy was flown to Spokane after receiving temporal skull fractures in the incident that happened at the Mineral County Fairgrounds. Witnesses tell MTN News that Curt Brockway grabbed, picked up and slammed the boy on the ground because he did not remove his hat during the national anthem."

"We attached miniaturized radio transmitters (less than 300 mg) to monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and common green darner dragonflies (Anax junius) and tracked their autumn migratory movements through southern Ontario, Canada and into the United States using an automated array of over 100 telemetry towers. The farthest estimated distance a monarch travelled in a single day was 143 km at a wind-assisted groundspeed of 31 km/h."

Redefining a "billionaire."

"On Monday, a Iowa man's request that charges against him be denied for burning LGBT-related library books was denied... Representing himself in court this week, Dorr filed a motion to dismiss his case, arguing arrest violated his First Amendment rights... "Mr. Dorr isn't being sent the message that he cannot burn books when he disagrees with the contents of those books," Mazurek wrote in her ruling. "He is being sent the message that he cannot burn books that do not belong to him."

If you don't like the government of your country, should you leave or stay?

"The Dutch scouting tradition is known as a "dropping," in which groups of children, generally preteenagers, are deposited in a forest and expected to find their way back to base."

The Minnesota Twins have established a new all-time major-league record for most games (nine) in a season with five or more home runs. There are still 36 games to be played before the season ends.

First human case of this parasitic eye worm.  Photo (at right) credit CDC.

A true Cats fan won’t settle for seeing the show once, twice or even 10 times. Just ask Hector Montalvo, 62, a retired product demonstrator from New York. “I wouldn’t call myself a legend,” he says. “Just a patron who loves the show.” But before Cats ended its first Broadway run in 2000, Montalvo had seen 703 performances.

Variety magazine's concise bio of the late Rutger Hauer.

"People who can smoke a bowl and go about their day will find that when they eat a weed candy (or two—is it even working?), they feel like their hands are about to detach from their body. Though cannabis is safer than many other drugs, edibles feel scary to some people because of the heightened delusional symptoms they seem to induce... Indeed, in Colorado, edibles are responsible for a disproportionate share of emergency-room visits, relative to their sales."

"What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist, Steve Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense."

Why does Ilhan Omar hate America?

How invasive grasses are overwhelming environments (especially reed canary grass).

If you listened to the BBC's fascinating "Death in Ice Valley" series of podcasts, you'll want to read this followup article.

An Ohio lawmaker who routinely touted his Christian faith and anti-LGBT views has resigned after being caught having sex with a man in his office.  I can't even count the number of times I've read similar reports.  But someone else has tabulated them.

A National Geographic longread about the Canadian tar sands and their environmental impact.

Darius Brown, an awesome kid from Newark, New Jersey, makes bow ties for shelter animals to help them get adopted.

Teens committing hate crimes on a campus didn't realize that their cell phones autoconnected to the school's WiFi under their usernames.

A gallery of "begpackers" - people who backpack to other countries and beg locals for funds to cover their travel expenses.

Rude zipper (image NSFW).

20 August 2019

Down Syndrome couple, married for 25 years

The video is worth three minutes of your time. Photo below cropped from this via.

Cleaning up an old car

It's a bit hyperbolic to call this the "dirtiest car ever!", and the 18 minutes is probably TMI for readers who are not named The Car Guy, but there are some interesting tips and observations made during the video that apply to cleaning a regular car.  Try browsing through it, at least.

This tree stump is "undead"

One of the most interesting things I've learned in recent years is the degree to which trees and other plants communicate with one another.  An old Radiolab podcast covered the topic, and more can be found by asking Mr. Google.  Here's more from a Gizmodo article:
A tree stump in New Zealand is very much alive, thanks to an interconnected root system that benefits both the stump and its neighboring trees. Scientists say this unusual symbiotic arrangement could change our very conception of what it means to be a tree...

On some occasions, these elaborate root systems involve a seemingly dead tree stump, an observation first made in the 1830s. Why living trees should expend resources to support leafless cohorts is not fully understood, nor the extent to which resources are shared among living trees and stumps...

These measurements indicated that the kauri stump is inactive during the day when living trees transpire. But during the night and on rainy days, the tree stump becomes active, circulating water—and presumably carbon and nutrients—through its tissues...

For the stump, the advantages of this arrangement are obvious—it gets to stay alive despite not being able to produce carbohydrates. But as the authors point out in the study, this arrangement may actually be symbiotic in nature.  Joined together, for example, the living trees have enhanced access to resources like water and nutrients. This setup also increases the stability of the trees on the steep forest slope, with the firm, healthy roots working to prevent erosion.
It all makes perfect sense.   There is so much to see in the world if you only take the time to look.

Washing removes numbers and scale from a measuring cup

Discussed at the mildlyinfuriating subreddit.

Professional trucker records his travels

There's an app for this (Fog of the World).  Discussion at the Dataisbeautiful subreddit.

Manure-laden tap water in rural Wisconsin

"Kewaunee County conservation officer Davina Bonness collected this tap water from a homeowner in 2016. It contained animal waste that matched manure spread on a nearby farm field."
As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal:
The majority of private wells in southwestern Wisconsin are substantially polluted with fecal matter as concerns intensify over pollution of rural drinking water, according to a new study.
Results from the independent study released Aug. 1 indicated that 32 of 35 wells — or 91% — contained fecal matter from humans or livestock, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“As a researcher of groundwater for 25 years now, I continue to be amazed by the level of fecal contamination in Wisconsin groundwater,” said Mark Borchardt, a research microbiologist for the U.S. Agricultural Research Service...

During testing in April, it was discovered that some of the wells contained illness-causing pathogens such as salmonella, rotavirus and cryptosporidium...

On July 31, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed new rules aimed at farmers and their use of manure and fertilizer. The regulations would focus on the regions vulnerable to nitrates, another source of groundwater pollution.
But those measures will require authorization by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Rhabdomyolysis urine

The brown color comes from excreted myoglobin, resulting from the breakdown of skeletal muscle.  An impressive specimen, made moreso because it resulted not from major trauma but from participation in a squatting competition.
Xiao Tang, a 19-year-old sophomore at a college in Chongqing, China, was not used to exercise. This, combined with an apparent competitive streak, led to her being hospitalized when she got into an exercise fight on a video chat with an equally competitive friend... "We both did not want to lose and so we kept trying to beat each other," she explained. Neither of them willing to back down and stop squatting first, they both ended up doing over 1,000 squats.
The other girl also got rhabdo.  Brief discussion at the link re her rx and the risk of renal failure.

19 August 2019

Botryoidal chalcedony

Chalcedony ( /kælˈsɛdəni/) is a cryptocrystalline form of silica, composed of very fine intergrowths of quartz and moganite. These are both silica minerals, but they differ in that quartz has a trigonal crystal structure, while moganite is monoclinic. Chalcedony's standard chemical structure (based on the chemical structure of quartz) is SiO2 (silicon dioxide).

Chalcedony has a waxy luster, and may be semitransparent or translucent. It can assume a wide range of colors, but those most commonly seen are white to gray, grayish-blue or a shade of brown ranging from pale to nearly black. The color of chalcedony sold commercially is often enhanced by dyeing or heating.

The name chalcedony comes from the Latin chalcedonius (alternatively spelled calchedonius). The name appears in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia as a term for a translucid kind of Jaspis. The name is probably derived from the town Chalcedon in Asia Minor. The Greek word khalkedon (χαλκηδών) also appears in the Book of Revelation (Apc 21,19). It is a hapax legomenon found nowhere else, so it is hard to tell whether the precious gem mentioned in the Bible is the same mineral known by this name today.
Image viaI rather suspect this specimen has been dyed.  It was described as "natural" at the link,  but the word may have applied to the structural formation rather than the color.

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging cap (and my rockhounding sunhat) to an anonymous reader who found a discussion of this "grape" chalcedony in a mindat discussion thread.  Apparently the color can be natural, and it may be appropriate to consider this a form of amethyst! 

Hundreds of strangers attend an El Paso funeral

Earlier this month, Margie Reckard, 63, was gunned down along with 21 others in the El Paso, Texas, massacre that authorities believe was driven by racial hatred. Two weeks later, strangers amassed by the hundreds to honor Reckard and surround her widower, Antonio Basco.

"Never had so much love in my life," Basco said on Friday as he beheld the crowds, many who waited in triple-digit heat to attend Reckard's memorial service and support a man they had never met.

When Reckard was killed, she left behind Basco, her partner of 22 years, who considered her his only close family. The couple had moved to El Paso a few years earlier and didn't have many local relatives and friends...

The funeral home where Reckard's service had been planned put out a call on Facebook on Tuesday, issuing an open invitation. "Mr. Antonio Basco was Married for 22yrs to his wife Margie Reckard, He had no other family," the post read. "He welcomes anyone to attend his Wife's services."

The response was overwhelming... When he bowed to kiss his wife's casket, it was adorned by flower arrangements sent in from across the world.

"We lost count after 500," Perches said.
The story continues at NPR.

Coal-powered energy plants continue to close

As reported by Scientific American:
When the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona shuts down later this year, it will be one of the largest carbon emitters to ever close in American history.

The giant coal plant on Arizona’s high desert emitted almost 135 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2017, according to an E&E News review of federal figures.

Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. Of all the coal plants to be retired in the United States in recent years, none has emitted more.

The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap. Bruce Mansfield, a massive coal plant in Pennsylvania, emitted nearly 123 million tons between 2010 and 2017. It, too, will be retired by year’s end (Energywire, Aug. 12).

And in western Kentucky, the Paradise plant emitted some 102 million tons of carbon over that period. The Tennessee Valley Authority closed two of Paradise’s three units in 2017. It will close the last one next year (Greenwire, Feb. 14).

 “It’s just the economics keep moving in a direction that favors natural gas and renewables. Five years ago, it was about the older coal plants becoming uneconomic,” said Dan Bakal, senior director of electric power at Ceres, which works with businesses to transition to clean energy. “Now, it’s becoming about every coal unit, and it’s a question of how long they can survive.”..

There’s also this: The vast majority of super-polluters have no closure date in sight. That’s because massive coal plants generally benefit from large economies of scale. Because they crank out power around the clock, their cost of generating electricity is relatively cheap.

“The coal plants remaining have generally installed all the environmental controls,” Larsen said. “There are no additional regulatory threats, or they are cost-effective in a world where gas is $2.50 per MMBtu.”
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