Kids Can’t Identify Tomatoes

This is a serious problem in America. This isn’t about mass farming versus local farming. This isn’t about organic versus traditional.

I could go on for days and days about those topics.

But this isn’t about that.

This about kids being so out of touch with food; so removed from the entire process.

It doesn’t matter if you work minimum wage for your entire career. It doesn’t matter if you have a personal chef. Everyone in this country, regardless of education, economic status, or anything else–everyone, should know how to identify the ingredients their food. They should know what they look like, where they come from, and how to cook them a differently.

I’m not saying no processed foods ever. I’m not saying if you can’t pronounce don’t eat it (I have a minor in chemistry, you’d be surprised what I can pronounce). What I’m saying is there are sometimes foods and their are everyday foods.

You, and your kids, should know what everyday foods look like, how to cook them, how to buy them, and mostly, you should be eating them.

Watch this video from TEDPrize winner Jamie Oliver and when the kids don’t know what a tomato is, you should either be horrified or disgusted. Personally, I was both.


Mail Order Disease

Sometimes a story so shocking comes along, I have to share it.  Usually, it’s a case of good shocking. This time, it’s a case of oh-my-gosh-what-are-they-doing shocking.

Pox parties; you may have heard of such a thing. Parents get kids together to play with one another when someone in the group has chicken pox. Chickenpox can be a pretty nasty disease–particularly in adults, but is usually not too bad in children. In fact, for many, it seemed a right of passage to get the pox and the associated fever.  I remember my case of chicken pox, despite it being maybe 25 years ago.

The idea of the pox party is that all kids in a group get chicken pox at the same time, and by getting it as children, they don’t face the wrath that comes with pox in adults. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but we’re not talking about giving everyone soda at the same time so they all crash and take a nap together. We’re talking about an extremely contagious disease being forced upon kids by their parents. If this doesn’t scream human rights violation, I don’t know what does.

Now, what happens when parents don’t know someone with chickenpox? It seems some moms have been linking up through Facebook to find pox across the country. Live disease is being sent through the mail to moms. Of course, not only does no one know the viral load being sent, since these are strangers even the disease itself can’t always be known or trusted. Parents unknowingly getting hepatitis or meningitis through the mail and giving it to their children is just around the corner.

The biggest kicker here: there’s a vaccine for chickenpox. That’s right, a safe and effective way to build immunity to chickenpox is a doctor’s visit away.

What these parents are doing is dangerous, not based on facts, and most likely illegal.

Read more at Mike the Mad Biologist (PG-13 for language) and Aetiology (includes video)

Rogue Amoebas Killing Swimmers! oh noes

You may have heard that there have been a few deaths from amoebas this summer.  As your friendly neighborhood amoeba, I can tell you that amoebas don’t intend to cause harm. However, sometimes they do. Here’s the lowdown:

When a natural fresh water source, such as a lake, warms up to about 80 F amoebas tend to get quite cozy. And that’s when they start to multiply pretty fast.  If a certain amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, makes its way up your nose, it can cause amoebic meningoencephalitis. Like any “mening” or “encephalitis” this is bad. It usually results in death.

Amoeba don’t want to be in your nose anymore than you want them there, so there a simple way to prevent them from getting in there: hold your nose–or keep it pinched shut.  Particularly when thrashing around in a way that would cause water to go up your nose–like diving bombing into the water.

It’s pretty darn rare to get this little guy in your brain, but it can happen, so have fun but take a little precaution in warm waters.



Note the article titles below… they seem to suggest these are zombie amoebas! lol

Temperature’s Effect on Toad Speed

This little gem caught my eye on G+ thanks to Carl Zimmer.

Remember yesterday’s movie of the toad eating in slow motion? Now watch this one. It’s still a toad eating a cricket, but this time it’s filmed at two different temperatures. Keep two things in mind – first, the toad’s body temperature is the same as the air around it, and second, muscle works faster when it’s warm. That’s why it takes a lot longer for the toad to pull its tongue into its mouth and close its mouth at 17°C than at 24°C. But there’s no real difference in the time it takes to for the toad to fling its tongue out of its mouth. That’s because tongue extension is powered by elastic recoil. Slow muscle contractions pull elastic tissues inside the tongue tight while the toad’s mouth is still closed. When it opens, the tongue flies forward like an arrow from a bow. So whether it’s hot or cold, the toad’s always ready to go hunting. (see Deban and Lappin 2010:

Diane Kelly

Here’s the video:

In as little as twelve degrees Fahrenheit  difference, you can clearly see how much slower the muscles in the toad work.

Next time you’re trying to evade a predator in winter, be thankful you’re an endotherm. 😉

The Inside of a Space Shuttle Flight Deck, The End of an Era

The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-memb...

Image via Wikipedia

America’s manned space missions are close to complete hiatus. This is a sad time for many, who like me, dreamed we’d be sending men to Mars the way we did with the Moon.  People think we haven’t done anything since getting to the Moon, and that really couldn’t be further from the truth. Many great technologies have come to us from the space program from the simple cordless power drill to the ubiquitous smoke detector.

A relatively small number of people have ever seen a space shuttle up close. Even smaller a number have seen inside one.  Take a look at all 360° in every direction of the flight deck of space shuttle Discovery.

My dad, a big space junkie, sent me this link. What I told him was what I’ll tell you. I’m glad we’re retiring the space shuttle program. I’m just very sad we don’t have a replacement program.

Look at how old the electronics in the flight deck look. Minus the rare upgrade–not overhaul, but upgrade–you’re looking at 30+ year-old technology.  We’ve had more technological achievements in the past 30 years than in possibly any other 30 year period in the history of the planet.

My dad seems to think with the bloat that NASA has become swollen with over the past 50 years, the only manned space flights we’ll see in the near future will be private space exploration. Have to agree with him on that. Most taxpayers see NASA as a big waste of money. I’ll save the politics for another time and place, but that is the prevailing theory across our land.

Space Shuttle Program: 1981-2011

Another Miracle of Science!

The New York Times has a piece on the latest in science successes.  For only the 2nd time in history, the United Nations is calling a disease completely eradicated from the face of our planet. And like the first, smallpox, this one is a major killer.  Unlike smallpox, though, you probably haven’t heard of it.  It’s called rinderpest, which is German for “cattle plague,” and is a cousin of the measles virus.  The last case was seen ten years ago in a buffalo in Kenya.  You can read more about the monumental undertaking of eradication and more about  the thousand-year old rinderpest itself by reading the entire article.

World Tapir Day

April 27th is World Tapir Day. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the tapir, let me introduce you.

Tapirs are large herbivorous mammals about 7 feet long, 3 feet high and weigh a few hundred pounds. They live in South and Central America as well as parts of Asia. Some species can be found in rain forests, while others live up in the  mountains.  There are 4 species of tapir and the species have different colorings, with the Baird’s tapir being a dark brown, Malayan tapir being black and white, Mountain tapir being dark brown (but thicker fur), and the Brazilian tapir being dark grey/brown (babies are light brown with white markings).

But the thing you’ll probably notice first about the tapir is its proboscis, which is shorter than anteater’s. It’s very flexible and aids in grabbing foliage like an elephant’s.  As you can guess, the tapir has a very good sense of smell. It also has good hearing, both of which help compensate for the fact that tapirs don’t have excellent eyesight.

Like dogs and cats, and so much other wildlife, tapir are most active at dawn and dusk.  They are related to horses and rhinoceroses, which means they shared a common ancestor a long time ago.

Tapirs are big enough to not have much in the way of natural predation. When they are attacked, a tapir’s defenses include running away, hiding under water, and using its strong herbivore jaws to bite. Humans are the tapir’s biggest threat. They can live up to 25 years or more, but more research has to be done to learn more about their typical lifespan.

To the tapirs of the world, today, we salute you!

World Tapir Day card

Click for full size

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