Archive for category Uncategorized

Nice weather for dying of thirst

Posted by on Saturday, 25 April, 2015
Climate: Not All Bad



Scientists in Zurich and in California and in North Carolina have been working to understand what the future holds for us. You’ll be glad to hear it isn’t all bad.

That business about storms getting worse and worse?

It seems  to be wrong. Scientists at ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology say their work shows the opposite. As things get hotter, they get more boring and less extreme. The future should have less in the way of  crazy weather variations.

That’s good right?

But Dr.  Anthony Parolari (Duke University) says sales of dehydrated water will be going up out west.

(That’s me, being witty. Don’t go looking for dehydrated water on Amazon. This is just my way of saying that water could get scarce in the western part of the US.)

Parolari says that he and his colleagues have re-run some of their models and have drilled down through some theoretical work and found a surprise. Rather than expecting things to get more and more extreme, they now expect the opposite. Things in the mid latitudes should be less variable and we don’t have to worry about so many fierce cold snaps.

They will come less often, not more often.

No one’s saying things won’t get hot. The warming trend is well established. But the expectation of increasing variation seems – for now, at least – to be off the table.

Here’s the thing. Predicting is part of how science works. If the predictions of a scientist turn out right, this supports the idea that he’s/she’s onto something; it is considered a form (more or less) of evidence. But these are just computer models. They’re only right if the assumptions that went into them are right and the model itself isn’t flawed. We don’t know that.

I wouldn’t move or stay based on a computer model.

Would it hurt to stock up on dehydrated water?

Why not?

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The drawing? That’s mine.

A Fix For A Neurological Disease

Posted by on Thursday, 19 December, 2013


Cartoon relating to Tourette's Syndrome




The  headline was originally KIDS WITH TICKS.

I changed it. I didn’t want to sound like a jerk.

A jerk? That’s what we call an insensitive clod? Jerk?

We bad.

Kids with Tourette Syndrome get “tics”. They are are caused by nerves that are too sensitive – hyperexcitable. Tourette’s kids can’t keep hands, feet, arms, legs, head from twitching or jerking. Sometimes Tourette’s causes vocal tics which can result in embarrassing noises or even in saying things that piss people off. Sometimes strings of profanity pop up.

Shit, shit, shit! (Imagine the consequences!)

The exact science behind Tourette’s has been elusive.  But researchers at The University of Nottingham (Journal of Neuropsychology) are tracking it down. They find that a particular piece of the brain, the “striatum”, is in overdrive in these kids which causes the  brain’s cortex to be bombarded with too many signals and too much stimulation. Their work has lead to the idea of using an electromagnetic stimulation device (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation ) to suppress the excess excitation.


The good thing is that this basic approach to the science behind Tourette’s seems to be unearthing the mechanism behind it. And, if all goes well, kids with Tourrette’s might be able to get fixed up without drugs. Just by applying an electromagnetic device to their heads for a few minutes a day.

This is all very exciting.


What’s bad is that we’re not there yet. This work is ongoing. More to be done. Maybe a device has to get approved by regulatory agencies. And kids don’t stay kids forever. We need this thing. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is hoping for fast progress.


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That drawing is mine.

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



Posted by on Friday, 13 December, 2013


Funny cartoon about spanking kids



The kids are out of control,  right?  Maybe a good smack would do the trick. It worked for you, didn’t it? Back in the day?

Dr. Murray Straus (Sociology Dept. , University of New Hampshire) says physical punishment isn’t a good idea. Neither is giving the kids to the next door neighbor, by the way. His new book “The Primordial Violence” examines the evidence from 32 different countries and 7,000 kids in the US.

Does spanking work?

It does. – If you’re goal is to get the kids to shut up and stop being a pest. You can modify behavior, using force. It doesn’t take a genius. But don’t go there, okay? Here’s why.

There are other ways to get kids to behave that are just as good as spanking without the negatives.  Spanking can mess up the bond between you and your children as well as affect their self esteem. Before you dismiss that as a lot of hooey, here’s what Straus saw from looking at what worked and what didn’t work with the thousands of kids he looked at. Kids that were spanked became “hitters” themselves. They struck out at other kids and even at their parents. When they grew up, they became physically abusive to their partners.  Kids who were spanked developed slower mentally and they did worse at school.

That’s a lot of bad stuff considering that you can do just as well by just holding back on privileges or using “time outs” to get the same result.


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



Posted by on Tuesday, 26 November, 2013
Thanksgiving Cartoon


Falling In Love More Dangerous Than Texting & Driving

Posted by on Tuesday, 12 November, 2013


funny cartoon about the dangers of falling in love




No, not exactly. But according to a study by Henk van Steenbergen  (The University of Maryland & Leiden University) being in love is pretty bad for your concentration.  The more your soul’s on fire, the worse it is.  The article was in the journal Motivation and Emotion. The study focused on people who were “newly smitten”. It was pretty obvious that they couldn’t think of much else and were, frankly, a danger to themselves and others.

If you’re going to the barbershop? Before he shaves your neck, ask about his love life. Seriously.

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The drawing is mine.

A Complete Disaster But -Who Knows? Maybe It’s Good For Business.

Posted by on Sunday, 3 November, 2013

Cartoon about bad news being god news

Dr. Alan Sorensen (Associate professor of economics and strategic management at the Stanford Business School) says you shouldn’t worry . Bad stuff happens and it doesn’t have to be a disaster because being notorious is almost as good as being glorious.

The study was based on a systematic look at book reviews. The bad reviews  – the really stinky ones – helped in the long run because, bad as they were, they got the name of the writer out there. Besides, who can read anymore? Maybe potential book consumers couldn’t tell a good review from a bad one. Especially if the wit is sardonic like my own.

Well here’s the thing.

Dr. Sorensen  worked hard. He looked at 240 reviews . Try that, okay? It takes forever. And he had to come up with a systematic way of normalizing his results so that he could crunch his numbers and reach a conclusion. But he (or someone) has stomped on the generalization pedal too hard. These were only book reviews. This doesn’t show  that an accidental poisoning at a fast food restaurant or several plane crashes in a row will be good for business.

The authors say that offers “interesting avenues for future research”. That’s for sure.

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Image by Mister ScienceAintSoBad

Note: I wrote the above article for Pirozzolo Company (, a leading public relations company in Wellesley. It’s president and founder, Dick Pirozzolo, is fascinated by all the ins and outs of what it takes to shape public opinon.

I wish I could say the same. :)


Regular reader?

Posted by on Thursday, 12 September, 2013



Posted by on Tuesday, 10 September, 2013



We love those funny little  space buggies. They scoot over the surface of Mars, poking  their little camera stalks up  on command. Click click, and the images are floating back to earth at 186,000 miles per second. They scrape, shovel, drill, and sample rocks, using microscopes, chemical analyzers, and other stuff, helping scientists understand the wonders of an alien world. It’s amazing to watch all this; also, of course, very educational. And it’s safe because, if anybody gets killed, it’s not a human anybody – just an expendable machine.

 Here’s my question.  Do these things deserve to be called robots if  we’re making all the big decisions back here?  I know there’s some intelligence on board. Obviously. There has to be. With that 15  minute delay,  we wouldn’t be able to keep the rovers from falling over a cliff. They land themselves automatically too  –  they have to – and they drive from point A to point B on their own (once commanded).

Nobody’s calling our adorable little rovers dunces.  But for the big decisions –  which rocks to take a look at,  which data set needs to get sent back to earth first, which set of experiments goes next – these  all come from “the ground”.

That ground-Mars-Ground round trip’s starting to get on NASA’s nerves.  According to Kiri Wagstaff, computer scientist at JPL (article in Geophysical Research letters) a new set of  “brains” designed around a new camera system call TextureCam will give make these new rovers autonomous enough to function much further away than Mars.

ScienceAintSoBad ConditionalRating = 10  for this excellent step forward. If it all works out (that’s the “conditional” piece of the rating, of course), we’ll be well on our way to real robots in space.

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The cartoon is mine. 



Posted by on Wednesday, 28 August, 2013




I get asked the craziest stuff.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad,  why are chemicals banned and yet  nuclear weapons aren’t?  What’s with that?

Dear boys and girls. Don’t look for a scientific explanation here, okay? People do what they do. The chemical ban was a reaction to some stuff during World War I when nuclear weapons hadn’t even been invented yet.  “Poison gas” did awful things to a lot of people including lots of civilians so an international ban was passed. Later, it was broadened  by a separate ban on biochemical weapons. Modern treaties (1972 and 1993) replaced the older language.

Now that we have even worse weapons why not ban them too?

Ha ha. Good one! It’s a miracle that we ever passed those first two. Not every country signed those accords. This is probably a terrible time to mention it, but Syria didn’t sign (although it did sign the older version so we get to claim they are still bound by the rules).

We won’t be passing other international bans anytime soon. Nuclear weapons are owned by the major nation states who are the self appointed custodians of the planet having nearly blown it up only once . Those combined nations don’t want chemical and biological weapons out there because they could fall into the hands of a single idiot who could  act even more irrationally than a  nation full of idiots.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Anyone with chemical weapons could use them as weapons of terror, threatening to release them in a crowded area such as a subway or a sporting event. Anyone with  biological weapons could eliminate complex life from vast reaches of the earth’s surface – no missiles or bombers required. You can see why there’s some concern here, right? Responsible nations with nuclear weapons feel comfortable with the status quo. Ban the other stuff and we’re good.

According to them.

I should point  out that the chemical and biological bans really apply to nations, not to individuals. So you can think of them as “See how serious we all are on this matter even though there’s no practical way to apply it to individual crazy people, just countries as a whole”.

If you’re the type that stays up all night worrying about things, I wouldn’t suggest turning in early.

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The drawing is mine. So is the shirt.