Killer Asteroids and Comets
At 7:17 AM on the morning of June 30, 1908, an asteroid entered the earth's atmosphere in Russian Siberia causing a great explosion at an altitude roughly ten kilometers in the atmosphere. Witnesses in the nearby towns saw a luminous trail across the sky followed by a brilliant fireball. The force of the impact flattened trees 30 kilometers from the central point in the Stony Tunguska River Valley and trees were burned as far as 60 kilometers away. The blast destroyed over 6,000 square kilometers of forest.
A similar but more powerful event may have wiped out the North American megafauna and the Clovis people. Some scientist have theorized that the demise of the mammoth, the saber-toothed cat, and the American camel was due to the hunting skills of the Clovis people and weather changes. However, Richard B. Firestone of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, thinks that a 10-kilometer-wide comet could have hit North America 12,900 years ago. This event was preceded by an intense blast of iron-rich grains from a supernova explosion that impacted the planet roughly 34,000 years ago.
In support of the supernova and comet impact theory, Firestone and Arizona geologist Allen West have found 34,000-year-old mammoth tusks that are peppered with tiny impact craters apparently produced by iron-rich grains traveling at an estimated 10,000 kilometers per second. These grains may have been emitted from a supernova that exploded roughly 7,000 years earlier and about 250 light years from Earth. Also, the scientists found magnetic metal spherules in the sediment of nine 13,000-year-old Clovis sites in Michigan, Canada, Arizona, New Mexico and the Carolinas. Low-density carbon spherules, charcoal, and excess radioactivity were also found at these sites.
 Chyba, C., P. Thomas, and K. Zahnle 1993. "The 1908 Tunguska Explosion: Atmospheric Disruption of a Stony Asteroid". Nature 361, p. 40-44. [abstract]
 Supernova Explosion May Have Caused Mammoth Extinction, Berkeley Lab, [News Release]
Are you Fat or Overweight?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 2 out of 3 U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Being overweight poses an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference provide useful estimates of body fat distribution. Fat around the waist is more likely to result in health problems than fat carried mainly in the hips and thighs. Women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches or men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches usually have a higher disease risk than people with smaller waist measurements.
BMI does not take into consideration the distribution of the fat. A more accurate estimate of the percentage of body fat can be obtained with the U.S. Navy Circumference Method which takes into consideration the height, neck, waist, and hip measurements.
How much should you exercise?
= 300 Calories = 1 hour of brisk walkingExercise is good for you. Exercise has been shown to help mangage weight and stress, prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and extend life. Isn't that great? All you need to do is invest 30 minutes a day performing moderately vigorous activities that make you breathe hard.
Regular exercise strengthens your muscles, your heart, and your lungs. The rhythmic deep breathing from vigorous exercise develops greater lung capacity, and the increased muscular strength will give you mobility and independence into your old age. Your bones also benefit. Weight-bearing exercise and a proper diet help to preserve and build bone mass. You may already be getting enough exercise if you have a job that demands physical strength, but if you have a job where you are sitting most of the time, you definitely need to make the time to exercise.
Exercise can burn calories that may help you to lose weight. One hour of walking at a brisk pace will burn about 300 calories which is the equivalent of a creme-filled doughnut. If you want to lose weight, you cannot do it only through exercise. You have to cut out the junk food too.
Folic Acid Does Not Prevent Colorectal TumorsFolic acid is an essential vitamin involved in the maturation of red blood cells and the development of the fetal nervous system. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that folic acid supplementation does not reduce the risk of benign colorectal tumors and may even increase the risk of higher grade tumors when administered at the upper recommended limit.
Dr. Bernard F. Cole of Dartmouth Medical School, one of the authors of the study, was surprised to find more adenomas in the patients who had received folic acid although the risk did not differ significantly between the experimental and control groups. Cole and his colleagues concluded that: "our study indicates that folate, when administered as folic acid for up to 6 years, does not decrease the risk of adenoma formation in the large intestine among individuals with previously removed adenomas." The researchers also suggested further study: "In view of the fortification of the US food supply with folate, and some suggestions that folate could conceivably increase the risk of neoplasia even outside the colorectum, this line of investigation should have a high priority."
 "Folic Acid for the Prevention of Colorectal Adenomas: A Randomized Clinical Trial."
JAMA 2007 297: 2351-2359, Vol. 297 No. 21, June 6, 2007 [Article]
Paris Hilton jailed for her crimes against society
Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress who built a high-profile modeling career after a tape of her bedroom activities was posted on the internet, started serving a 45-day prison term for violating the terms of her probation by driving with a suspended license following a drunk-driving plea. Paris Hilton was arrested in Hollywood on suspicion of driving under the influence at about 12:30 a.m. on September 7, 2006 after driving erratically and failing a field sobriety test. The media frenzy focuses on the fashion and the glamor while winking at the issue of alcohol and drug abuse.
A more tragic case of driving under the influence of drugs was reported in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2007. Tonya Bell, a receptionist in the office of City Councilman Marion Barry, drove through a church-sponsored street festival in southeast Washington at speeds up to 70 mph after "smoking crack all day long", according to Police Chief Cathy Lanier. At least 40 people were injured as the car sent people and baby strollers flying. Some witnesses said that Bell appeared to be laughing as she drove the car with flattened tires and broken windows into the crowd.
Bipedalism and apes
British researchers found that orangutans walked on all fours when moving on thick branches, but walked upright using their hands to maintain balance on thin branches. The scientists think that this finding further blurs the distinctions between early humans and apes because bipedalism has long been a key criterion for distinguishing human ancestors.
Standing on two legs gives the apes a distinct advantage by enabling them to gather fruit from thinner branches. Isn't this how Adam got in trouble?
Upright Walking May Have Begun in the Trees [AAAS News Release]
Conversation with Madame Flora
Madame Flora conducts free psychic chats that help clients think about their problems. Everybody can solve their own problems with a little encouragement. Here is a transcript of a recent conversation with a client:
Client: future career
Mme. Flora: Do you have any goals? Your goals determine your future. What field interests you?
Mme. Flora: You sound unhappy. What did you eat for lunch?
Client: pizza, I am happy
Mme. Flora: Has your treatment made you happy?
Mme. Flora: We must have a bad connection. I am getting some typos and broken lines.
Mme. Flora: Can't you be more positive?
Client: i am positive
Mme. Flora: Positive thoughts can calm your nerves. What is your favorite sport?
Client: sleepingbag sliding
Mme. Flora: Beauty is the source of all true art and all science.
Client: is it?
Mme. Flora: Does talking about this bother you?
Mme. Flora: Moving on to greener pastures... What is your favorite animal?
Mme. Flora: You will be sorry if you kiss an elephant in the lips.
Second-hand smoke can make you sickThe World Health Organization (WHO) issued a recommendation to make all indoor public places and workplaces 100% smoke-free. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said that "there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke". Tobacco smoke has about 4000 known chemicals, and more than 50 of them are known to cause cancer. Approximately 200,000 workers die each year due to exposure to smoke at work. WHO estimates that around 700 million children, or almost half of the world's children, breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke at home.
In the United States, smoking kills over 440,000 people per year.
Learn how to quit smoking
Helping others makes you feel goodWe knew it all along. Our selfish nature may doubt the saying "it is better to give than to receive", but helping others can give us a moral boost. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants anonymously donated to or opposed real charitable organizations related to major societal causes. They found that the anterior sectors of the prefrontal cortex of the brain are more active when altruistic choices prevail over selfish material interests.
So, helping others is not only good for the people that you help -- it is good for you too. :-)
 Jorge Moll, Frank Krueger, Roland Zahn, Matteo Pardini, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza , and Jordan Grafman, Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation, October 9, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0604475103 [abstract]
Database of MisspellingsOn August 03, 2006, Google made available a database of words and adjacent word combinations, called N-grams, obtained by scanning 1,024,908,267,229 words of running text. The file of single words, or unigrams, contains 13,588,391 unique words.
On the surface, it would appear that this is a mountain of gold, but alas, the correct words are just as scarce as real gold. My unofficial estimate from looking at the list of single words is that up to 95% of the words are misspellings. Although the file has useful linguistic applications, not much can be done without great expenditure of manual effort. To give you an idea of what you can find in the unigram file, here is the word "BUSINESS" and some of the misspelled forms with their frequencies after consolidating differences in case, e.g. businnes 2771, Businnes 1692, and BUSINNES 556.
business 637134177, busines 475319, buisness 414822, busnes 325022, bussiness 267372, bussines 62980, buisiness 57730, busness 50547, busnesau 41934, businss 41188, bisiness 35434, businness 31919, busienss 29023, busniess 28329, businees 27374, businesse 26663, bsuiness 17297, busineess 16524, busuness 15509, busiiness 15095, businese 14907, buziness 14568, ubsiness 14367, bbusiness 14319, businesa 14126, busibess 13950, busineas 13819, busoness 13815, buseness 12346, busiuness 11329, businessa 11106, busieness 11081, buesiness 11048, busineass 11026, businiss 10846, buissness 10832, busioness 10817, busainess 10608, busuiness 10590, busoiness 10548, buseiness 10521, busibness 10475, businiess 10420, businessi 10330, buseeness 10234, businesso 10224, businessu 9845, businoess 9814, businoss 9813, busineiss 9732, busineoss 9704, bisnes 8466, bisness 7784, busnois 5288, businnes 5019, busseness 3596, buiseness 3252, buisnes 3186
Josh Rubin said,
2007-09-07 @ 23:24:09
I don't see the problem, and I'm not surprised by the result. 95% of the words are misspelled (I almost spelled that wrong!), but that statistic is based on unweighted data: there are half a billion correct spellings, and a few million incorrect ones.
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