Archive for December, 2013

A Surprise: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Cancer!

Posted by on Monday, 9 December, 2013


Cute cartoon about smoking pot


Have you ever smoked a joint?Because those things aren’t exactly full of wonderful stuff.  There are a lot more cancer causing things in marijuana smoke than in cigarette smoke. And marijuana smoke causes pre-cancerous changes in bronchial tissue and leaves four times as much tar in the lungs as cigarettes.

Even worse. Pot smokers hold the smoke in their lungs four times longer.

So just how bad is marijuana for you?


That’s the thing. A study by Donald Tashkin, M.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles was a big surprise. For pot smokers – even heavy pot smokers – there was  no detectable cancer effect in the head, neck and lungs. None at all. None.

The study was an epidemiological study that looked at hundreds of cigarette and marijuana smokers. Dr. Tashkin speculates that maybe marijuana smoke is so potent that the cells that are affected are too damaged to even become cancerous cells. I hope you find that comforting. Other studies seem to show there’s something in marijuana that inhibits cancer.One shows its active ingredient cutting the growth of lung tumors in half.

What does MISTER ScienceAintSoBad think?

The result seems crazy. Maybe another study will refute this one. Or not. There were some studies that pointed to long term brain damage but they got upended too. Newer studies say no. Seriously. There isn’t much proof that this potentially bad thing is a bad thing.

If you’re a grown up, you can make your own call but don’t forget it’s not exactly legal most places, okay?

If you’re a kid, don’t be s-t-u-p-i-d. You don’t need this.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is surprised about all this. Maybe I missed something? Let me know, okay?

– – – – – –

The drawing is mine

And don’t forget the old saying “Better safe than high.”


Posted by on Saturday, 7 December, 2013
Cute cartoon about tinkering with everlasting youth.



MISTER ScienceAintSoBad wishes he could immunize you against old age but, what can I do? It’s nature, right?

Is there a way to “change the rules”?

Maybe there is.

Dr. Aziz Aboobaker (Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences) studies planarian worms. Planarians – those that reproduce asexually –  don’t get old. They  don’t get wrinkles or gray hair, don’t hobble around on canes and don’t need hearing aids.

Being worms.

But get this! They do repair skin, muscles, brain, and bones so that they stay pretty much daisy fresh throughout their weirdly long lives. The secret? Dr. Abbobaker says its the way they regenerate all the stuff in their body whenever needed. Their cells  don’t “run out” of the ability to keep dividing. Ours do. If we could learn their trick, we would be beautiful and healthy for a ridiculously long time.

Chromosomes have a  telomere “cap” at the end. In humans, the cap gets shorter. When it gets too short, it can’t keep the strands of DNA in place and cell division goes haywire.

Planarians don’t have that problem Their telomere caps don’t  shorten  so cell division remains orderly. If we can teach our telomeres to maintain their length,  we’re on  our way to 125 years.

I’m not kidding.

What are the planarians doing that that we non-worms aren’t? There’s an enzyme (telomerase) which is responsible.  It’s more active in the worms that reproduce asexually, protecting the length of their telomere caps. It seems to make these particular worms “immortal”.

Could this work for humans? Would we want it to work?

We are a long way,  biologically speaking,  from asexual worms. What works for them might not work for us in a million ways. And,  If it did? Old age is “natural”, right? It was always thus. You’re a kid,  then a youth,  then your first grey hair. A little pot belly that just won’t quite  go away.  Some wrinkles. Grandchildren. And then golf.

A lot of golf.

Fix the cap on a telomere and all that could change in ways we can’t foresee. A Pandora’s box of unforeseen consequences.

Am I nervous? Well no. This is a nice piece of science but it seems unlikely to rock that boat. More needs to be done to fully understand what this “lab curiosity” means for biology.

A lot more before you can tear up your will.

– – – – – – –

The drawing is mine.



Posted by on Thursday, 5 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about teens and passwords



MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has many passwords. I keep a list. If it ever fell into the wrong hands, a stranger – maybe a scientologist or an astrologer  – could impersonate me. A fake MISTER ScienceAintSoBad could ruin  our relationship. I would hate that. So I work hard to protect my list of passwords.

You’re careful with your own passwords, right? But not everyone is as crazy meticulous as you. Most people do stuff like 123456 for their passwords. And use it over and over too.

Stupid? I guess. But people have other things on their minds. And they usually get away with it.

Sometimes they don’t.

Billions and billions of dollars are lost to account hacking. McCafee said it might be a trillion dollars worldwide. Maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s bad.

Supposedly, every single account should have its own login and password. And these should be changed often.

And crocodiles?

They have wings and a single horn in the middle of their snouts.

Most people aren’t ever going to manage their passwords right. They’re just not.  As long as we rely on people using passwords right, we’re pretty much screwed.

So Google has developed a device that can make passwords unnecessary. It has as much of a stake in getting rid of passwords as anyone.

Here’s its plan.

YubiKey Neo

Google wants people to own a thing.

Right now it’s called the Yubikey Neo. It will probably get a better name and a cute Google-like icon. The Yubikey Neo has  some impressive technology behind it and it’s already gaining support from other big players who don’t like passwords either.

Where did I find this?

It’s in an article by Amadou Diallo (Forbes Magazine) which describes the idea. Yubikey Neo plugs into the USB port of your computer. Or your tablet or your phone.  When it’s plugged in, security gets easy.  Once you log in, all you need is a simple four digit pin.  The real security is in Yubikey Neo.

The first version  is only for stuff with NFC (Near Field Communication chips) – mostly Android phones and tablets.  The “pilot project” has gone great. It shouldn’t be too too long til the wraps come off publicly and, by next year, it should be available for non-NFC stuff meaning pretty much everything.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad likes this. PayPal, Mastercard, Lenovo, LG, and NXP are already lined up. That means it should have a good chance.

I hope so.

– – – – – – –

The cartoon is, as usual, mine



Posted by on Wednesday, 4 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about North Korean tablet computer


 Because of North Korea’s intense web censorship, the tablet has no way of connecting to the internet — relying instead on the country’s state-controlled intranet, which has proved sparse and difficult to access for many reviewers. – Russel Brandon, The Verge


Russel Brandom (The Verge) reports on a new tablet from North Korea.

It’s not all praise. He says the country has a “crushingly oppressive government and comically inept space program”. But he says their new tablet is surprisingly good. It “mostly works” and it doesn’t  lag that much playing Angry Birds.

Hair stands up on the back of my neck.

I tried to imagine how a review of a (completely fictional)  tablet built in a Nazi  death camp might have read. I took a stab at writing one to make my point.

It seemed tasteless. So I let it be.

Russel Brandom gets points. He’s trying to find interesting stuff where nobody else is looking. But this is too creepy. Who uses tablets in North Korea?  A teeny tiny part of the whole  population. They’re the bad guys. The regular people don’t know tablets exist.

Not even the ones who aren’t in a prison colony because a distant relative didn’t suck up enough.

The review says “In a distinctively North Korean touch, the tablet also contains an analog TV receiver and comes pre-loaded with a stock of revolutionary literature, which one reviewer speculated could make it very useful as a research tool. Still, there are drawbacks. The tablet has no way of connecting to the internet — relying instead on the country’s state-controlled intranet, which has proved sparse and difficult to access for many reviewers ”

I bet it has.


Hard to be sure. Russel Brandon might have written with tongue in cheek. Sometimes you try to be funny and nobody gets it.

I’ve screwed that pooch a few times myself.

For this review? ScienceAintSoBadRating = 0 .  Enough with North Korea. Let’s get back to Samsung, okay?

( To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.)

– – – – – – – – –

The drawing is mine.



Posted by on Tuesday, 3 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about drones



Cool doesn’t last forever.

Amazon had it. Now it doesn’t.

I need your help, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, told his secret planning group. People expect innovation these days. They were meeting in the “Black Board Room” in a trailer behind the executive offices.

Yeah, Said the woman next to him. We better shake things up some. My kid told his class he thinks I work for Sears.

Oh no!

We’re drying out.

Bezos looked flustered. Drying out?

Like an old pastry. The last creative idea we had was when you copied the idea for those Android tablets.

Yeah. THAT was outside the box! said the guy across the table.

Bezos gave him a warning look.

The woman slumped. Maybe we just accept the fact that we had one amazing,  huge idea. Why not just keep milking it? We’re doing okay.

Except we’ve never made a profit.

Another warning look. Sharper.

Undaunted, she went on. What about drones?

Drones? Like in Afghanistan?

We could say we’re testing drones to deliver packages.

That’s not exactly practical.

If Benjamin Franklin thought that way, we wouldn’t have electricity. It’s kind of crazy, yes. But – you know what? – it would change the subject from “When are you going to make money?”

I’m all for that Bezos said.

Here’s how it would work. You order something, right? That part doesn’t change.. But when you get to the “shopping cart”, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you would find a new shipping method called by drone. If you select it,  an order goes out to the  Amazon Drone Operations Center where the product you ordered is hustled onto a specially equipped Amazon Flying Machine. The rotor spins up, the drone leaps into the air, and, as it is stabilizing itself, the shipping address shows up wirelessly.

No lost time.

The machine then charts the fastest delivery route and, within 60 minutes, carefully delivers the package as close as possible to the delivery point.

I love it, Bezos said. What about the details? What would it do when it arrived at a high rise? One with buzzers? And what about accidents and practical stuff like cost and reliability?

Let me ask you something, Jeff, she said. Did you drive here in a self driving car?

He looked confused. Self driving? I have a driver. . Oh. One of those Google things?

 He paused.

I guess I do see your point. They’ve been yacking about self-driving cars for years. Nobody takes this stuff seriously. It’s only innovation, right? A way to change the subject from profitability?

Ding! Said the woman across the table, a smile spreading across her face.

Call the PR department. We’ll get working on this immediately.

( To leave a comment, click “comments” which can be found at the top right of each article just beneath the headline.)
– – – – – – – – –

The drawing is mine. You probably figured that out from the copyright.