snopes.com: Microwaved Water – See What It Does to Plants

snopes.com: Microwaved Water – See What It Does to Plants.

This wouldn’t work.  Microwaves simply make the water molecules vibrate a lot, and the more they are vibrating, the hotter the water is.  Microwaves at the energies present in consumer and commercial grade ovens cannot change the chemical or nuclear structure of water at all, much less to the extent that it would be dangerous to anything.  But, machines malfunction?  Maybe somehting could go wrong that would do this?

Hydrogen peroxide can be created from water through electrolysis with specific electrode materials.  But this requires a very careful, deliberate setup.  So while microwaves can induce currents in conductive materials, this isn’t something you can do accidentally in a microwave.

The other possibility I could almost see would be creating radioactive isotopes of the hydrogen and/or oxygen.  This requires a hideous amount of energy.  Knocking neutrons out of the oxygen might do it, especially if some of these neutrons are captured by the hydrogen.  To do this with small, very stable atoms, requires a hideous amount of energy- especially so when the beam is not focused specifically to the oxygen nuclei, and in fact has a wavelength so high that proper focusing is fundamentally impossible.  No consumer or commercial grade oven is capable of handling this sort of power- they would literally melt down/explode if you tried to send that much through.

But hey, maybe you have a super oven that can handle that much power running through it.  At this point, you’ve got a plasma going on.  You are breaking up oxygen nuclei.  You have hydrogen floating around that’s long since separated from the oxygen it was bound to.  Nuclear fission + free hydrogen = hydrogen bomb.

So basically, if this urban legend was real, the water would never hurt the plants because the person boiling the water would have been killed in a nuclear explosion.

Now, as Snopes said, contamination of the water, its container, or experimental error all could have created the appearance of something bad going on.  Also, there could have been contaminants in the water that, while not in themselves bad, react under the presence of heat to create a plant poison.

But the water itself?  If it survived to be given to the plant, it’s not the problem here.

» The War On Men: 10 Ways Masculinity is Under Attack Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!

» The War On Men: 10 Ways Masculinity is Under Attack Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!.

Something of a decent point is approached in 8 and 10- those are real issues that should be fixed.  Women do get too much of an automatic edge in custody, and male victims of domestic abuse are often treated like they don’t exist, even moreso than women.

The rest is total crap.  Well, the pay gap one also amost reaches a decent point- there are many factors other than workplace discrimination that lead to the pay gap.  Of course, most if not all of those other factors are themselves the result of discrimination- news flash: It still counts as discrimination if it happens somewhere other than your workplace.

And back to the domestic abuse thing- Yes, domestic abuse against men could probably use some more attention, but the best information we have suggests the problem is much worse for female victims.  Looking at just male domestic abuse, yes, it needs more attention.  Looking at all of it, the overal balance should tilt towards women.

But it’s just as bad, the writer is likely to say- Maybe.  Maybe men are abused just as much as women.  You know what would really help in getting a better picture of this problem?  Stop promoting this hypermasculinity garbage that makes men feel lesser if they are victims.  More men would report, we’d get a more accurate picture of who the victims are and be better able to allocate resources to deal with the problem.  Articles like this will only make the problems faced by male victims of domestic abuse worse.

Please, stop using this pro-GMO argument

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This picture is a dumb argument.  It equates selective breeding with genetically modified organisms(GMO).  While both involve deliberate manipulation of the genome, they are rather different.

Selective breeding alters the frequency of alleles(gene variants) that are already present in a population.  You aren’t likely to get hairy tomatos, because the genes necessary for that don’t exist in the tomato genome.

GMO, however, actually adds genes and alleles that were not present in any frequency.  This manipulates the organisms genome on a much more fundamental level.  It’s the difference between swapping to high performance tires on your car and adding a machine gun to your car.  The implications are much more complicated- genes can interact with each other in unexpected ways.

Now, I’m not saying GMO should be banned- if nothing else, without GMO we’ll eventually have the choice between culling and allowing people to starve to death.  It is an absolutely crucial technology for the future of humanity.  But using selective breeding to argue in favor of it is pretty much irrelevant.

What Americans Don’t Know About Science

What Americans Don’t Know About Science.

Interesting and troubling.  Though I’m not entirely sure all of these questions were all that great.  The big bang one, for instance, from my more recent reading on cosmology- if you are picturing an explosion like those seen here on Earth, you are probably picturing something not even close to what happened.  Some of the people saying it wasn’t an explosion, may have an understanding of what happened that exceeds those who said it wasn’t.  Simplicity is a virtue, but sometimes it is taken too far.

New laser-printed material is lighter than water, as strong as steel | Ars Technica

New laser-printed material is lighter than water, as strong as steel | Ars Technica.

Did anyone else immediately want a boat made of this stuff?

With strength comparable to steel, it’s going to be able to take a lot of abuse compared to things like wood and at least some types of fiberglass. Being less dense than water, unlike steel, will do great things for bouyancy. Fewer design constraints placed on the vessel due to weak materials or the need for a bouyant shape, and a hull breech is likely to be less catastrophic.

It’s nowhere near the point where we could build anything that large out of the stuff, but it’s something to watch.

I can also imagine things like laptop and smartphone cases. Make those devices significantly sturdier and lighter at the same time.

OF course, “as strong as steel” is a fuzzy concept- something can be as strong as, or stronger than, steel- but still utterly fail in a particular application where steel is amazing. Still, this stuff is interesting and I’d love to see where they go with it, if/when they can start commercial scale production.

Genetics class discussion

So, I’m doing a Genetics and Evolution MOOC at Coursera.  A class forum discussion on the heritability of homosexuality went way off the rails.

First, there was hate group evidence brought in.  This did lead to a possibly useful discussion of when and how you should consider a sources political stances, and why.  It left the original topic of the relative contribution of nature and nurture in homosexuality very quickly, but this branch of the discussion was still useful.  Learning how to evaluate sources is an important part of a science education.  Forum moderators let this branch go pretty far, and it would likely still be going if it was still the only one.

That branch had a sub branch discussing whether or not homosexuality was inherently harmful.  This was edging into irrelevance, but the political implications of genetics and evolution has been touched on in lecture videos, so this was allowed to continue as long as it stayed respectful.

The discussion then was forcefully pushed to abortion, it didn’t naturally track in that direction, guy just pushed it that way out of nowhere as if the political stuff upthread meant any political stuff was relevant.  Claims of the US Constitution as a Christian document were dropped too.  I stopped posting at this point. There was little new stuff to help learn more about genetics and evolution, or evaluating sources, or how science can inform politics.

Thread didn’t last long at that point.  I doubt it lasted longer than it took for someone with mod powers saw where it was headed, which was time for a couple more posts that looked like a brewing theist/atheist flame war.

Wages rise in Right-to-Work states | Springfield News-Leader | news-leader.com

Wages rise in Right-to-Work states | Springfield News-Leader | news-leader.com.

Interesting points as far as it goes, but many relevant factors are left out.  Ok, wages rise faster, at least when compared to local cost of living.  But generally, union pay is higher to start with.  There’s less room for it to go upwards, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a slower increase, except possibly for a newly established union at a place with crappy pay.  And this assumes his numbers are accurate, I haven’t checked that.

And wage/salary is not the only element of compensation.  Benefits matter too.  And union jobs typically have more and better benefits than non-union jobs.  With the right benefits package, someone could easily be financially better off with a lower pay rate.

Also, aside from compensation, unions can also do a good job of  things like training and safety standards.

 

I’m not saying that this piece is entirely irrelevant to the RTW debate, just that there are other factors that are very important in addition to speed of pay increases.

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