The Phoenix

Monday, August 20, 2007

Airport Security: Turn That Frown Upside Down

Once again, I am not making this's crap like this that makes my blogging so much easier. I will never run out of ways to show you that science is stranger than fiction.

The wonderful people at the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is working on training its already highly skilled personnel the art of reading passangers' "micro-expressions."

Okay, what the hell?

Body language is a very powerful form of language, as we all know. Learning to read it is an excellent way to learn about the motives of others. However, micro-expressions include very subtle facial expressions that surface when a person is trying to conceal fear and disgust - the two main emotions these Behavior Detection Officers are looking to identify.

So let's get this straight: if a Behavior Detection Officer spots you trying to conceal fear and disgust by little tiny facial expressions you're making, you are in trouble.

If you are singled out by the "Face Police," one of them will probably approach you and ask you stuff like, "How are you doing?" or "Where are you heading?" When you reply, they will be employing their Ninja-like powers in determining if you are a terrorist.

Here's my assessment of this new science: What a crock of bullshit.

Since when was hanging around at the airport fun? Most of the time I'm dealing with cancelled flights and delays; I'm always fearful and digusted. Everytime I go into the men's restroom at any airport I am full of fear and disgust. I once spent nine hours stuck at Cincinnati's face was probably chock-full of fear and disgust. I'm pretty damn sure I was Mr. Fear and Mr. Disgust all rolled into one pissed off passenger up until we boarded our flight home at 12:47 AM.

O'Hare Airport is probably one of the most depressing places in the world! Practically every single flight out of there is late. In fact, O'Hare leads the country in delays. TSA is going to have to do body cavity searches of pretty much every single person waiting for their stupid flights.

This is America, damnit. I have a right to frown. I have a right to be cranky. I have a right to be in a foul mood at the airport. But with plans of having at least 500 of these Behavior Detection Officers in place by the end of 2008, just remember to turn that frown upside down...or else.

And if you're constipated, just rent a car.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Easy Bake Hyundai

I don't know where you live, but here in the Midwest, it's f@#!ing hot. We've had 13 straight days of 95 degree temperatures, and there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight. At the height of this current heatwave, I thought about all of those goofy urban legends about the heat.

I've heard that taking a cool or cold shower after mowing the lawn or exercising in the heat is actually a BAD thing. They say that doing so will only make you sweat more after your shower. So I decided to put it to a conclusion: taking a cool or cold shower feels fantastic after being in the heat all day. As long as you've got air conditioning, you will not sweat more after a cold shower.

I remember frying an egg on the sidewalk when I was a kid, so that urban legend proved to be true.

How about baking cookies in your car? I know that if it's 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside, that the interior of your car can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. During our heatwave, temperatures would reach near 100 by afternoon, so the interior of....let's say a Hyundai...could reach 200 degrees!

Perfect for baking chocolate chip goodness, I say.

Fellow blogger, Siren, decided to conduct her own experiment. She made sure to park her car out in the open, facing the sun. Siren then placed square blocks of cookie dough on an ordinary baking sheet. She strategically put the baking sheet on the dashboard of her Hyundai. Here is what they looked like at 10 AM :

Mmmmm...don't they look yummy?

Six hours later, this is the result:

Voila! The Easy Bake Hyundai works!

Now, I cannot attest to these cookies tastic as yummy as they look. Siren would not eat one, and she wouldn't allow me to take a huge bite out of a delicious Hyundai baked cookie. Something about the temperature not getting hot enough to destroy any bacteria...blah blah blah. I thought about shoving one in my mouth when she wasn't looking, but then I decided against it.

I will say this, the cookies didn't quite look right. They were baked, that's for sure. I do consider myself a coinnoseaur of cookies, and in my expert opinion, these cookies appeared to be very strange.

On the underside, the cookies had a "belly button." There's no other way to explain it. It was as if someone had poked a finger right in the middle of each cookie as it was baking. If there's anyone out there that's an expert in heat convection, please explain this to me.

The outside of the cookie was quite hard, like stone. Not very appealing at all.

Allthough we proved our hypothesis correct: that indeed, you can bake cookies on the dashboard of a Hyundai when it's freaking hot, the cookies were inedible.

On the other hand, Siren's car smelled incredible for two weeks, and she now had projectiles she could zing at other motorists while fighting traffic.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Phoenix Podcast - Episode 10

Click HERE to play my podcast.

Episode 10 is jam-packed with all kinds of goodies, including...

Science News:
Giant Chimps
Aggresive Men Not So Smart
Canadians Master Checkers
What Songs Help Sharks Get Their 'Fins On'

Whacky Inventions:
Neuticals, Prosthetic testicles for your doggie (done in the style of the Bud Light's Real Men of Genius Ads)

Main Article:
Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
Case Studies from Dr. Raymon Moody's Life After Life
An Athiest's Story

And I'm sure you really want to hear me sing 'The Love Boat' theme...

Music by The Podsafe Network

Phoenix by Nijole Sparks
I Love You
by 37Hz
Getting Old Sucks by The FuMP
Time Grows Long by 2012
Dance of Devil by Blazej Lindner
Appeal to Heavens by Alexye Nov

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tunes For Sharks To Have Sex To

I am not making this up.

I swear.

It's stuff like this that really makes me happy that I write about how "science is stranger than fiction."

In Germany, scientists studied what kinds of music could help put sharks "in the mood." Gee, and you thought scientists were running out of areas of study. The sharks at the ten Sea Life centers contain mostly younger shark, and they haven't been exposed to adult role models when it comes to courting and reproducing (I would think that that was a GOOD thing).

So for two hours every day, each of the ten facilities played all kinds of music. Visitors and staff were then asked to observe the behavior of the sharks during this time, and to document their findings. All-in-all, over 1000 songs were played.

Here are the top five songs that the scientists noted helped sharks get horny:

#5 Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry."

#4 Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body."

#3 James Last's "Traumschiff." (Which is the German version of the "Love Boat" theme).

#2 Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On."

And finally...the top sex-inducing song for sharks is...

Salt 'N Pepa's "Push It."

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Serendipity Baby! Part Three

I've written about serendipitous moments in recent scientific history HERE. It really is amazing how so many of our most important discoveries have been made by complete accident. Sometimes, the genius is in identifying something groundbreaking in the middle of a big fat ooops.

Most recently, there's been an amazing discovery found amidst controversy and shame. South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang (how would YOU like to be named a name that sounded like "you suck wang?") was the once decorated geneticist that fell from grace when it was discovered that he had faked his work. In 2004, Dr. Hwang had declared that he had extracted the world's first stem cells from a cloned embryo.

It was soon discovered that Hwang used eggs from his female researchers and that the stem cells he had "extracted" weren't from cloned embryos at all. He was stripped of his job and charged with fraud and embezzlement.

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute decided to review Hwang's work. What they found was something spectacular: the stem cells that Hwang extracted have come from embryos produced through parthenogenesis, or "virgin birth."

In other words, Hwang must have stimulated the eggs to divide while trying to clone them. The stem cells harvested from these eggs were created without needing sperm to fertilize them. The whole controversy surrounding stem cell research is the moral one - the need to create life in order to get those precious stem cells.

But if you could somehow make eggs divide without being fertilized - you're not creating a life in the first place. This would allow scientists to get stem cells, which are the building blocks of life, without having to resort to first having to make human embryos.

Now the only question will be, how will the lack of having paternal DNA affect the the quality of stem cells? Scientists are pretty sure, however, that the quality of these "virginal birth" stem cells will be of higher quality that cloned ones.

So, Woo Suk Hwang, maybe South Korea can reinstate you for your accidental breakthrough. At the very least, maybe your parents can issue you a public apology for naming you after a porno flick.

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Welcome to the blog that aims to examine the lighter side of science. From the paranormal to wacky inventions, to strange mysteries and goofy experiments, I cover it all. Thanks for stoping by science is always stranger than fiction


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