Proof of why I’m not an architect

imageThis past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in something which, like most things I participate in, proved to be embarrassing. In this case, I was up against young kids designing earthquake-safe structures that are part of a hands-on exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

Each structure is made from Connexts building pieces and built on a platform that simulates movement during an earthquake — or coincidentally, how I look on the dance floor after a few drinks.

The object was to build a structure that can withstand the rigors of a magnitude 5.o quake.

*yawn*

Puh-Leez. I used to sleep through those things as a kid in California…

Apparently, I must’ve been a heavy sleeper…

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Remote-controlled rats could lead to Stepford Husbands

imageAs I’ve mentioned before, because of our home’s proximity to the local wharf, from time to time we have a problem with rodents. Now, when I say “rodents,” I mean rats.

And when I say “problem,” I mean finding mysterious entries scrawled on our grocery list that read:

Git mor cheeez

However, I know that we aren’t alone in this, and that our neighbors undoubtedly have the same rodent problem. I know this because 1) They are our neighbors, and therefore live as close to the wharf as we do, and 2) Because we routinely lob assorted cheese curds into their yards before going to bed.

[Note to neighbors: We are NOT trying to entice the rats from our house into yours; we’re simply trying to entice you to eat more cheese.]

That said, some recent discoveries could change the way we go about solving our rat problem. According to a recent article in the journal Nature, researchers at the State University of New York have created the world’s first living remote-controlled rat. By implanting tiny electrodes in rats’ brains, scientists can command the rats to turn left or right, climb trees, navigate mazes, and, in some cases, stage dramatic light saber duels while dressed as tiny Star Wars characters.  Continue reading

Evidence in my fridge supports phenomenon known as Gender-Vision®

imageYes, this is an honest, unaltered view of the current state of our refrigerator. It’s exactly how it looked when I opened it this morning. If I were a scientist, I would call this my “control subject.” I would also probably be wearing a Haz-Mat suit complete with breathing apparatus. Maybe even a caged canary. Not that our refrigerator itself is a bio-hazard. It’s actually pretty clean. It’s the stuff inside the small containers somewhere in the back, tucked behind the Christmas dinner leftovers (Hey, from 2015!) that pose the biggest threat should their air-locked containers be accidentally breached.

Me: Hey, what’s in this Tupperware container? [Pffffffft!]

My wife: WAIT! No, you fool!

Me: My GOD! I’ve KILLED US ALL!

My wife: Hey, maybe the boys will eat it?

Me: Oh, right…

However, the potential threat my refrigerator poses to anyone within a three-mile radius is not the point of this post. It’s actually to provide official documentation a phenomenon I am calling Gender-vision®, which is: The viewing of the same image by two individuals, but with different points of interest depending on their gender.  Continue reading

Larger-brained humans can only lead to race of fat heads

A gift from reader Julie Fiedler helps me demonstrate how, if the journal Science is correct, one of these human head proportions may be accurate by the next generation. The question is, with today’s television programming, which size will it be?

As if we didn’t have enough problems already now that the political season is underway, according to a report in the journal Science the human brain is getting bigger. In fact, from what I understand (based on my in-depth analysis of a five-word headline in the New York Post), there’s a good chance yours may be outgrowing your skull right now. Signs this may be occurring include: vomiting, nausea, dizziness, frequent headaches and bleeding from the ears. If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, DO NOT PANIC! They may only be the side effects of your current FDA-approved medication for acid reflux.

Then again, your brain might have actually gotten bigger since you started reading this column. And not just because of the sheer quality of writing — which is always a possibility (keeping in mind the same symptoms may apply.)

Before we go on, I should, as a responsible journalist, take a moment and actually read the article. In the meantime, I’d suggest applying equal amounts of pressure to both sides of your head, just to be safe.

… OK. Sorry — false alarm. Continue reading

Science links obesity to fat, lazy microbes

(Today, I’m posting from the Long Awkward Pause science desk, which I believe gets its name from the fact that it’s also our lunch table — where there are globs of unidentified organisms…)

image Scientists at Cornell University have created a device capable of measuring the weight of a single cell. This is big news because it moves us beyond the limits of sub-gram measurements “nano,” “pico” and “femto,” and into an exciting new realm of measurements known as “zeppo,” “harpo” and “groucho.” This could eventually lead to the smallest and least-known unit of measure, “chico.”

Many of you are probably wondering how useful this information really is when it seems most things — cars, houses, Americans in general — are actually getting bigger. Personally, I see no benefit in being able to describe my weight as “a little over 70 trillion harpo-grams.”

Nor do I want to be around when my wife discovers, after eating that extra helping of potato salad this July Fourth, that she not only gained back the 17 trillion zeppo-grams she’d lost, but also put on an extra two billion grouchos. It doesn’t matter that all of this adds up to less than a single uncooked lima bean. What matters is that I make the potato salad, and will therefore be held responsible. (More at LAP)

Want a space house? It’s hard to make a down payment in zero gravity

image With mankind’s orbiting studio apartment the International Space Station offering an extra room, and spaceflight becoming more available to the general public, let’s face it; the Re/Max hot air balloon will be replaced by a space shuttle before we know it.

For sale: One-bedroom module. Quiet setting on outskirts of gravity belt. Comes with docking port. Pressurized for maximum comfort. Solor-powered utilities. Includes hot plate. Only two days from Earth. $1 billion obo.

As exciting as the prospect of living in space is, we should temper our enthusiasm with a level of caution. Just like buying a fixer-upper in the Ozark Mountains through someone on the Internet, purchasing a residence 230 miles above the earth can be risky.

During a real estate symposium held last week in Washington D.C., agents stressed that there are a lot of things to consider when looking for a little spot in the solar system to call your own. Consumer activist Ralph Nader further emphasized that notion in his newly released consumer handbook, Don’t Get Hosed By Your Space House. Continue reading

Daily Life facts worth a Long Awkward Pause

As with each Saturday, I’ve made the long drive from my home in Oregon to the office of Long Awkward Pause at an undisclosed location. In fact, they won’t even tell ME where it’s at, which means I’ll keep driving until I eventually become desperate enough to ask a gas station attendant once I reach Omaha, Neb. In the meantime — and before I run out of gas — here’s this week’s Saturday Six!

1. The Toothpaste Conundrum

 
image

BrainRants: Sooo… stop brushing.  Problem solved.  You also stop wasting money on buying dinners and drinks in the distant hope of getting lucky.

Omawarisan – Pretty similar to my gas tank. 100 miles from the first 1/4 tank. 100 miles from the second 1/4. 100 miles from the last 1/2.

Ned: That’s because each of my kids immediately squeezes the tube in the middle as hard as they can the moment they open it, then move on to another tube like locust. I’m the only one using the last 10 percent for the next four months.

(To brush up on more Daily Life Facts, join me over at Long Awkward Pause by taking This Exit…)

Larger-brained humans will only lead to race of fat-heads

A gift from a reader helps demonstrate how, if the journal Science is correct, one of these human head proportions may be accurate by the next generation. The question is, with today’s television programming, which size will it be?

As if we didn’t have enough problems already, according to a report in the journal Science the human brain is getting bigger. In fact, from what I understand (based on my in-depth analysis of a five-word headline in the New York Post), there’s a good chance yours may be outgrowing your skull right now. Signs this may be occurring include: vomiting, nausea, dizziness, frequent headaches and bleeding from the ears. If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, DO NOT PANIC! They may only be the side effects of your current FDA-approved medication for acid reflux.

Then again, your brain might have actually gotten bigger since you started reading this column. And not just because of the sheer quality of writing — which is always a possibility (keeping in mind the same symptoms may apply.)

Before we go on, I should, as a responsible journalist, take a moment and actually read the article. In the meantime, I’d suggest applying equal amounts of pressure to both sides of your head, just to be safe.

… OK. Sorry — false alarm. Continue reading

Let’s face it, scientists: Some genes are meant to be folded

image It was 14 years ago this week that the bucardo mountain goat became extinct after a tree fell on the last of its species in northern Spain, prompting scientists to ponder the age-old question:

If a tree falls on a goat in the woods, does it make a sound?

To that end, U.S. and Spanish researchers are now collaborating to utilize cells preserved in liquid nitrogen to create the very first clone of an extinct species — beginning with the bucardo, whose scientific name is goatus stupidus. While I can appreciate the enormity of this scientific milestone, it also raises a fundamental question about our genetic science capabilities:

Should we duplicate an animal that wasn’t smart enough to avoid its own doom by moving a couple of hooves to the left? Continue reading

All cultures agree on world’s worst smell — not counting frat houses

image As some of you might have noticed, there has been very little talk lately of the Star Wars Missile Defense System, which was once heralded as the ultimate defense for our nation and the world. This highly advanced system was to have been launched into outer space where, with the push of a button, it could send out missiles capable of targeting a single movie theater — or even an entire chain — should it threaten to actually screen any Star Wars movie made after 1983. It was this threat that kept George Lucas at bay for nearly 20 years.

However, in part because of the astronomical scale and cost of building this defense system, and in part because the top secret design mysteriously began appearing as McDonald’s Kid’s Meal toys, the program pretty much went down the garbage chute. Since then, the U.S. military has been looking for a new “ultimate” weapon” that possesses world-wide applications. The result is something simple; something terrifying — and something that, according to scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, “is so universally repulsive it would be considered unbearable by people from ALL cultures.”

I’m talking, of course, about Jar Jar Binks. Continue reading