Archive for January, 2012

At The End Of WHAT Day???

Posted by on Friday, 27 January, 2012


Mister ScienceAintSoBad. What’s happening? My brothers and my sisters, my parents, the people on television? They keep repeating this THING. Over and over and over again. It’s annoying. They keep saying “At The End Of The Day”. I don’t know WHY they’re doing that or what it means. Can you help me out here? You’re a pretty smart guy (when you aren’t r-e-a-l-l-y clueless). RachelFromIdaho

Dear Rachel,

Thanks. Nice compliment.

The End-of-the-day thing? I hadn’t noticed. But I watched some TV and, like you say, they’re all doing it. Here’s an example of what I found: Mr Obama’s been able to combat some of the charges of his worst critics, but at the end of the day…

End of WHAT day? What are they talking about?

When I did my little TV experiment, I tuned to CNBC. The CEO of a company you probably know was on Closing Bell.  He was explaining why his company had such a bad quarter. Suddenly, he stopped and stared at Maria Batiromo and said “at the end of the day”. Then he ripped off the lapel mike, and left. Just like that!

An article in Neurobiological Sciences (Dr. Jaimes Dinwitter, Harvard Medical school) explains that this is a bug. It likes light and warm temps. TV studios are perfect (the lights). Broadcasters, in particular, seem to be infected. Public personalities, too.

It goes right to the brain.  Broca’s Area which has a lot of the functions of speech. And, here’s the thing. It plays you like a piano. At-the end-of-the-day, At-the end-of-the-day, At-the end-of-the-day . Nobody understands why that phrase. Nobody understands the mechanism behind the repeated vocalizations. Worse, nobody understands how this new bacterial strain can be defeated. Right now, according to the National Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, 24% of the adult population and almost all public figures have this supposedly harmless mental hiccup.

Mister SASB congratulates Dr. Dinwitter on figuring out what this is. At the end of the day, this may be an important first step to dealing effectively with an annoying and potentially serious pathogen.

Why The Concordia Flipped

Posted by on Thursday, 19 January, 2012



You know the Costa Concordia? The gorgeous cruise ship that sunk off the coast of Giglio?

Normally (when it’s not turned over on its side) 26 feet of the ship is underwater. The rest sticks straight up for thirteen stories.

Top heavy, right?  No WONDER it flopped over!

Modern cruise ships are very high tech. The architecture says “Physics be damned! I look impossible because I AM impossible!” So is this a bad way to design a ship? Did top marine architects not notice that their leviathans aren’t stable in the water? Did the insurance companies insure half billion dollar sinkers because they were foolish? Were the insurance agents too busy to drive out to the dock and actually take a look at the the mess they were insuring?

To answer these oh-so-great questions, MISTER ScienceAintSoBad, did a little research. An article  in the New Scientist by Paul Marks helped. These “ships of the future” are “engineering intense”. In spite of their Towering Inferno look, they’ve got plenty of “ballast” down below – enough to pass tough, tough stability tests where the ship is pulled from vertical with weights and released. It’s part of routine shipyard testing and it’s a tough exam. The ship has to recover from a vicious lean and right itself  fast enough or nobody’s going anywhere.  There are watertight compartments too which are designed for water ballast to be pumped around. This is to provide stability and compensate for forces that might tip the ship. And the lifeboats aren’t old days, either. They’re self-righting covered pods. If you can get yours down to the heaving seas, you can sail twice around the world. Guaranteed.

Engineering marvels.

But here’s the thing. With science we like to test our theories. We like evidence.

What’s the evidence that the Costa Concordia was a safe ship? Did it fail safe? You’re thinking “no”, aren’t you? And you’re saying this because it was over on its side and would have sunk if it hadn’t had the good luck/bad luck to have found itself a rock!

Okay. Maybe NOT so accident resistant. I’ll give you that one.

These ships aren’t perfect. Their huge profiles can make them hard to handle in strong winds. And they’re “tender”. If they turn  too fast, bad things happen. They roll like crazy. The steering limit system is supposed to prevent this. You can’t turn too sharply if your life depends on it. (I realize that it does. Thank you for that comment.)

For the moment, most of the attention seems to be on the way the crew handled things and that makes sense. But that ship’s going to get a good look over too. Maybe 13 stories is one too many.



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Thanks to Robert Lender for the photo: Creative Commons License
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Posted by on Saturday, 7 January, 2012



Dear Mister SASB, I live out in the woods with three dogs. I get a lot of ticks on me. No Lyme disease yet but it’s just a matter of time!!! Is there anything I should do? – WoodyLane5

There sure is, Woody. You should move to the city.

You’re right to worry. Lyme disease can be nasty.  And you can’t be hauling yourself off to the clinic every time a tick sticks its bloody proboscis into your sweet epidermis. But, if the tick bite  that you choose to ignore happens to carry a bacterium called lime borreliosis, suckiness will be knocking at your door. Soon you will have headaches, joint pain, and possible “organ damage”. How does THAT sound?

But a group of researchers  (Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI in Leipzig and others) is testing a new gel. If a tick bites you, all you will have to do is  remove the tick (make sure you get the head) and slap their gell on the bite. After that? No worries.

I hope testing goes well. For Woody’s sake.


Image credits” Yersinia Pestis. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.