Date: Thu Nov 15, 2007
Subject: Re: What is Life?

In response to Churmy Fan’s expository and analytical presentation of Life, I would like to offer my humble definition, or rather measurement, of Life also.

It is clear that what we want to define is much less Life, than Like-Us-Or-Not-ness. Whether or not it has cells; whether or not it naturally resists entropical equilibrium. These all seem to be good measurements. However, we run into problems because some its which possess these attributes are NOT LIKE US!

Another preliminary issue is that “life” is a construct, by which I mean the collection of variables each of which we somehow like to treat as being Bernoulli. Let’s say it’s all fine. The collection of these variables turns into Binomial, sum of n Bernoulli variables. Let’s hereby call it the LUON score. For example, if it consists of the following variables:
N = 1 if it is negentropical, 0 otherwise.
C = 1 if it has cells, 0 otherwise.
L = 1 if it operates on natural laws, 0 otherwise.

Then it is obvious that human would score 3, while virus probably scores 1 or 2. Notice that L is a difficult variable as we are yet to see if one is to operate half on artificial laws and half on natural, would that make one “half living”?

In any case, the list of variables could go on and on. I am not sure if we could describe it by a finitely many variables, Newton may say yes, Quantum physicists may say no, Jesus… I’m not so certain.

Proudly, we humans would score the highest amongst all beings. This is, after all, traditional. The number of co-champions we condescend have increased over the general time line of history, lest some “knees” and “elbows”, such as that during the fundamentalist movement and racial slavery in the early history of our continent. Nevertheless, let’s not ridicule our ancestors too much.


- – -

Date: Mon Oct 01, 2007
Subject: Santa Barbara, eh? I was there for a marine biology course in the late 1960s, and ….

We had a delphinologist talk to the class one long afternoon. I’m curious if you’ve heard this story, forty years later, at the same institution.

Among other stories he told us about a conversation other dolphin researchers in a bar in Hawai’i after a conference and they’d gotten to talking about their favorite animals. They were all substantially funded by the Navy, and weren’t supposed to talk about what they actually did in the lab, but it was late and they were loose. One of them was in a lab that had been working with dolphins to identify different kinds of metal, and distinguish them from ship hull material, finding out the animals were able to tell by their sonar the difference between different kinds of metals. Another was in a lab that was training dolphins to carry backpacks. Another was in a lab working on teaching dolphins to play tag underwater, to know which ship or frogman was “it” out of a large group and come up and whack that one with its beak. They had a few more rounds at the bar, then one of them said, “The Navy brings them in, we work with them for a while, the Navy takes them away again, I wish we could study them longer. I remember one really smart dolphin, she had a little crescent-shaped scar over one eye ….”

And the others recognized the description, he said, and they figured out they were being used as a training program to teach dolphins to carry something, likely explosives, and act as kamikazes against hostile ships or swimmers that weren’t carrying the recognized material given friendlies.

His bottom line — don’t be a marine biologist if you want to work with dolphins.

He also told us about a similar conversation other marine biologists had had at another conference, back in the 1950s — an international conference on using sonar to try to track benthic organisms as they moved up and down in the ocean over various cycles. He said each country’s research labs was getting their sonar equipment from that country’s Navy programs — but each country’s Navy had submarines out there too, so their sonar gear had cutouts at particular frequencies to keep the researchers from documenting where their submarines hid in the different temperature layers around their country. And so, he said, the researchers would get together at these conferences and merge their observations — because each country’s Navy was hiding in different ways around their home bases, and each sonar set had cutouts in different ranges as a result. They were able to put together good info about how planktonic organisms behave, by doing that.

Gossip? true stories? It was 40 years ago, I couldn’t tell you.
But we heard it there at Santa Barbara.

Do you still get the beautiful warm nights when the ocean’s full of organisms that glow when they’re disturbed, and do all the students still go out and swim naked in the ocean next to campus, glowing like they’re comets, and come out onto the sand dripping stars? And then take the sample bottles back to the labs with all the lights out and look at them under the stereo microscopes and draw and photograph them to learn identification?


- – -

Date: Sun Sep 16, 2007
Subject: BT Corn and Reduced bee populations

This is only speculative, but considering what I’ve read about BT Corn, and the Toxins found in the pollen, could it have anything to do with reduced bee populations, that is becoming a serious problem to farmers here in Ohio. Also something new I’ve read about called Pharming, Where they genetically alter the corn to produce drugs, makes me wonder if the drugs cross over into the pollen, which would result in micro-doses of the engeneered drug being introduced to anybody in the area. I read about Pharming in Wired Magazine. A way to check about BT Corn effecting bee populations, would be to check areas that don’t grow corn, to see if there is a corispoding rise in the bee population, and bring bee’s into areas with high BT Corn growth and observe the hive.The problems bee’s had with mites in the past may have been a parisite taking advantage of a weakened organism, due to the toxins in the pollen. Food for thought……

Big J

* * *

Date: Mon Sep 03, 2007
Subject: RE: truth

A few months ago I was playing around to see what was possible and came across your funny, in a good way, website. As an exercise I decided to create an alternative version of your “truth” link. In fact, I am actually embedding a page from your site into my site. (which is bad manners.) But because the intentions are good I suspected you wouldn’t mind but I thought I’d let you know in case you wanted to opt out. The content is here.


* * *

Date: Sat Aug 25, 2007
Subject: RE: David Lauridsen’s article on knuckle cracking

Dear David

An interesting article, but I don’t think you are there yet. This topic is raised frequently in relation to spinal manipulation which produces similar cracking sounds. I have often had discussions with others that speak of bubbles collapsing. Unfortunately, when the noises occur there is an increase in movement (probably volume). Certainly in knuckles when they are cracked by distraction (traction) there is an increase in length that I can only imagine is an increase in volume within the capsule (bubbles forming). There is also discussion of whether the bubbles are CO2 of Nitrogen. My uninformed vote has always been for nitrogen (as in the bends). Also if you ever happen to hold the tail of a snake (at least an Australian Carpet Python) while it is trying to move away from you, there are multiple cracks and a palpable (although I have not attempted to determine if it is measurable) increase in length. I’m not a physicist, but rather a clinician and lecturer, so would be interested in your further thoughts.


Neil Tuttle
School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science
Griffith University

* * *

Date: Mon Jul 16, 2007

I am a grad student at the University of Pittsburgh.

My lab works with blood, infectious diseases, and chemicals. The only time that any of us wear lab coats, is when we are refilling the printer cartridges. Our lab coats have some pretty stains.

Additonally, the herpes’ labs have come up with a method of practical application of the science scouts. Upon acquiring a certain number of badges, you can actually graduate. We would look forward to getting any information you have about starting a science scout outpost.


* * *

Date: Thu Jul 12, 2007
Subject: Pontification and commentation

I feel like I need to comment on Paula Bourges-Waldegg’s “Ten Basic Heuristic Principles” and it’s undiscriminating assault on “The Arts,” a field that doesn’t really exist.

I couldn’t help but notice Anthropology and Linguistics were two fields she cited in particular, lumping them with Feminist Studies and Cultural Theory, both fields I can’t make heads or tails of. Anthropology is first and foremost a social science, not part of the humanities.

As a student of anthropology, my courses focus on physical anthropology and human evolution. I have taken cultural classes as well as – gasp – linguistics, and haven’t found any issues (though admittedly I’m not well-read in either). Linguistics is based in anatomy, languages, and cognitive science. The linguistic documentation of languages as research has largely gone by the wayside, replaced by research that tries to find the underlying cognitive mechanisms of language. Maintream cultural anthropology is about real, testable claims, while cultural theory has an emphasis on discourse – hence all the “towards a cohesive hermeneutics of…” titles. For a good example of this, read AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame – by a physician-turned anthropologist.

I find there’s a lot of prejudice against anyone in an arts-sounding field, because those fields are all like, totally just about whatever man. The fact is I, and any other student or social science professor I’ve met thus far, care about well-conducted research that produces replicable results. This, and the fact that anthropology and linguistics in particular encompass subjects that are traditionally seen as natural science, only confuses me when so much prejudice exists.

So, my advice to the author would be: be careful who you point the finger at. Many of us care about science and academic responsibility (and read science blogs) and are on your ‘side’.

Lovin’ science,

* * *

Date: Wed Jul 04, 2007
Subject: what would Jay Ingram cook?

More likely a curry than steaks. Although it wouldn’t barbeque that well …


* * *

Date: Mon Jun 04, 2007
Subject: O.O.T.S.S.O.E.R.A.A.A.P. Criteria

To whom it may concern:

I am very interested in joining your Esoteric “ORDER OF THE SCIENCE SCOUTS OF EXEMPLARY REPUTE AND ABOVE AVERAGE PHYSIQUE”. However, I was wondering as to your declaration that members are “not in the business of total world domination”. I find all of your other declarations to be agreeable, but would like to know if you offer a waiver for that specific criteria. Failing the availability of a waiver, I might wonder if you could define the word “total” for me. I have very little interest in Quebec, you see, and could make concessions in that regard.

Most humbly,


* * *

Date: Mon, May 21, 2007

I admire Mr. Pel’s ingenuity in mathematising Murphy’s Law, and I look forward to seeing his derivation of O’Toole’s Corollary: “Murphy was an optimist”. I suspect it will be based on the values assigned to the various constants. After all, “constants” are made to be varied, no?

Richard B. Hoppe

* * *

Date: Mon Feb 26, 2007

I’m a Med Lab Assistant instructor and no longer work in an actual medical lab. I don’t take blood, my students do. I wear my lab coat mostly to “look the part” and to catch the coffee stains. I’ve worked many places, but when I worked in the Immunology/Transplant lab at VGH, we had a two lab coat system: a blue one for inside the lab and a white one for outside. I don’t think you can presume that anyone wearing a lab coat is necessarily contaminated. You can’t even presume they’re from a lab (medical or otherwise) these days: it confuses me is why anyone other than Lab Technologists, such as myself or Lab Assistants, such as my students, wear LAB coats at all. Even hair-dressers are wearing them..

Lance Neustaeter MLT/RT

* * *

Date: Wed Feb 21, 2007
Subject: Science Scouts question

On your website at, you state: “Members are [...] not in the business of total world domination.”

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. Would this disqualify from membership a person who belonged to another organisation bent on total world domination? Or would it only disqualify that person as a member if they planned on using their membership in the Science Scouts to pursue total world domination?

That is to say, is this a comment on the society as a whole or a requirement of membership?

Thank you for your time and concern.
Chris Thompson

* * *

Date: Mon Feb 19, 2007
Subject: Left/Right Asymetry

Dear Sirs and/or Madams,

Thank you very much for providing an important public service. To wit, on the following page, you very clearly (and in nice font) display the words:


on the left (resp. right) side of the page.

For people, such as myself, who have a congenital inability to distinguish left from right, the above page provides a handy on-line reference. In the past, I have used a one-inch long scar across the palm of my right hand to help me remember where “right” really is. But now that you have this convenient on-line left/right server, I no longer need to remove my hands from the keyboard when I am in the passenger seat of a car and I am providing directions to the driver. Instead, I can browse to your site, compare the orientation of the words left/right with the desired new direction vector of the vehicle, and then confidently sing out the appropriate directional indicator.


Ps. Science rocks. I have a Ph.D. in particle physics. If you guys were in Boston rather than in Vancouver, I would join. Beer rocks, too. And so does rock.

* * *

Date: Thu Jan 18, 2007
Subject: James Weldon

Hi there,

I’m assuming that, due to privacy concerns, you wouldn’t be able to provide me with an email address by which I might communicate with James Weldon, but would you be so kind as to pass this email along to him? It would be greatly appreciated.

JAMES – I saw mouse poo and thought of you.

Babs (living in YVR)

* * *

Date: Wed Jan 10, 2007
Subject: Two Scoops

Doctors Greg and Elizabeth,

My buddy, knowing that I used to be a contractor for Kellogg (and sort of still am) sent me along a link to your quarterly and latest raisin quandry. Anyway, I used to work in the Lancaster, PA Kellogg plant where they make, among other cereals, Raisin Bran. What I can say is that there are in fact, no scoops. Just some “show” scoops that I saw in cubicles.

The way it’s done is that the flakes are on a conveyor and the raisins simply pour on them as they go by. This is done continuously, although when the conveyor stops, sometimes there is a slight increase in raisins because the machine sort of ‘bumps’ and dumps what’s left (from what I can recall.) I’m also pretty sure that there is a weight-checker on the flake belt before the raisins so that the raisins are, in fact, metered on.

I never did check with any of the operators to see how they check the quality as far as raisins/flakes. I know they look at flake quality mainly (they made corn flakes, frosted flakes, Crispix, etc., there as well).

Many workers there did say that they think there are too many raisins in the cereal.

The raisins come from California. And, although I’m sure you’ve heard this by now, Raisin Bran has more sugar than Frosted Flakes. Thanks, raisins!

Ronald N.

* * *

Date: Thu Dec 07 2006
Subject: Re: The Anti-Vaccine Disease: Rant or Reason

I just read Jasmeen Bain’s article about vaccination. While I believe wholeheartedly that vaccines are necessary, I also feel that parents (and doctors, too) are horribly uneducated regarding vaccines. My daughter has immune dysfunction, and should not have been vaccinated with live virus vaccinations.

Vaccination saves lives, yet it is not a perfect science. Vaccines are generally designed for one immune response, when there are over a hundred different immune responses! I only wish we had delayed vaccines for our daughter. It really is unnatural for an immature immune system to need to respond to so many insults. At no time in history have babies suffered so many immune challenges as they do today, thanks to our aggressive vaccination policies.

I was stunned to learn from my daughter’s immunologist that about 10% of children do not respond to the vaccines they receive.

Do yourself a favor, actually read the package inserts to vaccines. Educate yourself. I was disgusted to learn that our pediatrician had never read the package insert to Daptacel.

In 3 weeks, my daughter will undergo a lumbar puncture. After over 1 yr, and tons of research, my daughter’s doctors have finally decided that “oh no!” a vaccine reaction could have happened. It is sickening that I have had to provide all the info to her doctors concerning Primary Immunedeficiency, and the effects of live virus vaccines on individuals with Primary Immunedeficiency. What they dismissed as quackery 12 months ago, they now consider actual science. They didn’t want to believe anything, unless it was stamped by the WHO, CDC, or NIH.

Thanks for bringing to light a subject that needs much much more research.

Monica Bice

* * *

Date: Sat Nov 18 2006
Subject: haiku

Dear editors,

I am curious about your project on haiku and would like to contribute. I am published in haiku circles but have never tried to publish haiku outside those circles. It seems to me to be a splendid idea.

A little background. Nowadays, haiku are not generally written in 5/7/5 form, for various reasons. That syllable count is reserved for the Japanese and since English is quite different, with much longer syllables, the standard today is to aim for 3 concise lines, usually 2 images juxtaposed. I hope you consider this haiku even though it departs from the syllable count.

* * *

Date: Tues Aug 01 2006
Subject: Hmm

Nothing involving scientology?

Damn I guess that stops me using words such as Stupid, Gullible, Moronic and “way way too much money and not enough medication by qualified professionals”. (though that last one isn’t really a single word unless you remove the spaces in which case it becomes “waywaytoomuchmoneyandnotenoughmedicationbyqualifiedprofessionals” which sounds kinda like the horrified strangled sounds made by a baby when it realizes its daddy is Tom Cruise!

Michael Rossiter

* * *

Date: Wed June 21 2006
Subject: Which Came First? by Richard Harter

Hi this is a response to your article “Which Came first?” by Richard Harter. A chicken, by definition, is a bird. A chicken egg, by definition, is protective shell encasing the early development of a chicken. If the chicken did not exist in the egg, it would not be a chicken egg. Therefore the chicken came first.

Evolution does not complicate anything, like your article suggested — all evolution suggest is that when the first chicken was evolving, it did so in a protective shell, i.e. an egg.

Jennette Weber

* * *

Date: Wed May 31 2006
Subject: left handedness article

I was reading your article and noticed that you (or whom ever you were quoting) were complexed as to why left handed people were’nt whiped out due to natural selection……….ah idiots I’m left-handed everyone else in my family is right handed it happens it will always happen left handed people donot only create left-handed offspring so that is why we are still around. Don’t catch what I mean well hears an example……Kill every single person who is a genius…..know do you think another genius will never be born……….now what the hell is so complex or boggling about that? Find something relevent or important to study like curing diseases and shit ya morons

Mike Sonmor

* * *

Date: Fri May 19 2006
Subject: for Ms King

Ms. King,

Great article on asparagus and odorous urine; I myself like- no, pardon, me, love- that smell. I get to enjoy it for almost a whole day after eating the green stuff.

Thanks for your article. I had been curious about that scent for some time.

Scott St. Onge

* * *

Date: Tues Apr 24 2006
Subject: Author’s retort

I’d like to thank Mr. Ralston for his thoughtful response to my piece, Six Degrees of Being Small. Despite that I disagree with some of David’s comments, particularly those pertaining to what is and what is not “true,” and what “all Americans should remember,” I thought his commentary was articulate, and I’m glad that my work inspired some kind of response. I believe that is the point in general, and as such, I would like to offer the following:

Six Degrees of Being Small is not a political placard (although much of what follows in this letter may be); the political reference Ralston refers to is a minor component of the narrative. The essay is an exploration of humanity framed in six parts—conception, love, hatred, sex, war and death. Each part corresponds to a phase of the lunar eclipse referenced in the opening paragraph, providing a framework which quite literally allows for a gradation of ideas to emerge. These ideas are not meant to emerge as polar opposites (except perhaps at mideclipse when darkness and light are literally pitted against each other, as part of the evolving gradation), but the ideas as parts of a whole spectrum are not meant to emerge as emblems of right and wrong, or truth and not-truth for that matter. They are meant to entice and provoke the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about what it means to be, well, alive, and furthermore, to consider our capacity to procreate, to love, to hate, to have sex, to war and to die.

This kind of framework situates the narrative in archetype, which was the intent, so that the issues could be elevated to a place quite beyond our often inflated human experience. Indeed, we are small compared to a lunar eclipse. We are small even in the context of our own capacity to love and hate and so forth. I mean, isn’t it typical of human arrogance to believe that any of our human wars, so obviously loaded with ulterior motives, are as monumental as the archetypes they endeavor to uphold?

Freedom is what it is, but it means different things to different people. It is not strictly a North American concept. It belongs to everyone. To uphold or protect it in the context of one political agenda or another is to corrupt it, to make it a dirge. While it’s true that the Hitlers and Bin Ladens of the world are terrorists who should be stopped, it’s quite something else to declare war on the concept of evil itself, proclaiming that if one does not support the nation that has committed itself to vigilantly obliterating evil on behalf of the world, then that one shall be deemed a proponent of evil. I can’t imagine a more binary and horrifying dynamic, that any nation would fulfill its political agenda (oil, money etc.) under such a preposterous and tyrannical mandate.

It is this horrifying dynamic that compelled my comparison of America and the so-called Anti-Christ. I have the utmost respect for Islam and America, for Muslim and Christian faith, and indeed any religious discipline that upholds virtues of peace, love and respect for other human beings and animals and the natural world, but I don’t think that this conveniently named and alarmingly abstract war on terror, which seems to me to allow for the same kind of random accusation and black balling that occurred in the McCarthy era, has anything to do with democracy. I feel for the citizens of both Islam and America who have been subjected to the policy of their nations’ governments and the terror of vigilantes.

My reference that “Islam has America,” as the last of the series of comparisons involving binary opposites (“Every Christ has an Anti-Christ, every Jew has a Hitler…”) is meant to be provocative, of course, but should be interpreted beyond its most superficial profanity. While Islam does currently “have America,” by virtue of present day occupation, as has been U.S. foreign policy for decades, the comparison once again should be regarded in its most archetypal form; America is simply a country, an empire of sorts, one in a long line of many such empires thrust upon humanity as an emblem of our most glaring propensity for self-congratulation. Perhaps all countries fall into this category in a way. Perhaps we are all guilty.

However, my goal in the essay is to provide a gradation of possibilities that will allow each reader to draw his or her own conclusions about many things, of which politics is only one small part, and I would hope that we always keep questioning the various ideologies thrust upon us. I would hope, prophetically, that there would be no need to fight, but if so, that there would be no ulterior motives and we would be fighting instead for something pure. The idea of fighting a war to preserve freedom is such a novel concept, one reels at the possibility, but come on, let’s face it, our freedom is fucking killing us.

Trisha Cull

* * *

Date: Tues Apr 11 2006
Subject: Wrong Comparison

I just read Trisha Cull’s piece called SIX DEGREES OF BEING SMALL. To my regret she seemed to take an intriguing idea and turn it into a political placard. Her statement: “It’s the same with men. Every Christ has an Anti-Christ. Every Jew had a Hitler. Islam has America.” is antithetical . Her comparison of America to Anti-Christ and Hitler is both insulting to those who love freedom as well as to every Jew and Gentile who served this nation both risking and sacrificing their lives to oppose and defeat the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Saddam’s and Bin Laden’s of a world of hatred toward both Jews and Christians. These are the true Anti-Christ’s who have the spirit of death, destruction toward decent and diverse people who happen not to be like them and those who refuse to be enslaved by their radical ideas.

Trisha Cull’s little jab at America may win friends in San Francisco and the left leaning classrooms of many universities, but it is not the right comparison. It does not speak truth. The comparison should have been, “America has Islam”. It was the radical Islamic led criminals who declared war on America and murdered thousands of innocent people on Sept. 11, 2001. Even before 9/11 these delusional killers were doing their best to murder Jews and Americans of any religion in any way possible. Trisha Cull, and all Americans should remember.

David Ralston

* * *

Date: Sat Apr 01 2006
Subject: Intelligent Design…Just Plain Crappy Science

I read with interest the article by Momoko Price, INTELLIGENT DESIGN: SINISTER CREATIONISM, COMMON SENSE OR JUST PLAIN CRAPPY SCIENCE . The author’s identification of Intelligent Design as a latter-day iteration of the classic Argument from Design is persuasive.

About such a fine article, I am reluctant to raise a niggling objection. I was puzzled by the author’s statement that the Argument from Design was influential …”right through to the establishment of the Anglican Church in the 18th Century.”

I was under the impression that the Anglican establishment occurred somewhat earlier in time. Henry VIII abrogated the authority of the Bishop of Rome in the realm of England in the 16th century, Elizabeth established conformity to the Book of Common Prayer before 1580, the Anglican Church was restored in its ancient form after the Puritan Commonwealth ended in the mid-17th Century. Is there some other establishment of which I am woefully ignorant?

Peter Wimsey

* * *

Date: Thu Feb 23, 2006
Subject: Nice site design


I just stumbled across your site and wanted to compliment you on the design. It’s very simple yet very attractive and ergonomic! Nice work.


* * *

Date: Thu Feb 16 2006
Subject: Toilet Seat

Thank you for the article. As I live with two teenagers (male, and my own offspring so stop what you are thinking right now), I have printed out your article, taped it to the seat, and when they return home, they will finally have the definitive answer to the question re: advanced maths: “Why do I need to learn this stuff?”

thanks, Kim

* * *

Date: Thu Feb 09 2006
Subject: White Coat, Wrong Time

To Whom…

It apparently does not occur to Mr. Buys that the supposedly dirty lab coat he describes is in fact a clean one exchanged specifically for the purpose of going out in public. Reading his brief appended bio, it is disturbing to consider that he is unaware of the broad practice despite himself, presumably, working in laboratories. I have two lab coats hanging separately in my office. When I work in the microbiology laboratory, I wear the “dirty” one to protect my clothing from contact with icky stuff (highly scientific terminology there). If I am wearing scrubs, they are also thus protected and remain clean. When, if still wearing scrubs, I need to go out further in public and changing is unreasonable–getting a cup of coffee is a quicker errand than changing twice–I put the clean lab coat on to retain decency (since scrubs are not unlike pajamas–often being used as such, in fact). Additionally, when interacting with patients, a clean lab coat indicates my clinical, rather than administrative, status. Not really difficult. Which makes the article not really funny. Unless I am mistaken in assuming it was supposed to be an attempt at humor (it did turn up under that heading).

I did, by the way, LOVE the Game Theory Toilet Seat solution. Brilliant!

Regards, Caryn

* * *

Date: Sat Feb 04 2006
Subject: The Toilet Seat Problem


I really enjoyed reading your formal treatment of the Toilet Seat Problem. I must tell you about my own solution to the problem, though. It neatly obviates all of the probability and cost calculations, in my opinion.

My solution is to put both the seat *and the lid* of the WC down following both operations #1 and #2. I request that my wife do this as well. This way, we both have to perform a lid and/or seat position transfer both before and after either operation #1 or #2. Note that I consider a lid position transfer to be equivalent in cost to a combined lid/seat position transfer, since their masses are each effectively negligible. Furthermore, I consider the “cost” of a lid and/or seat position transfer to be dominated by its mental aspects (“remembering” to do it).

A peripheral benefit of this strategy is that it is impossible to accidentally drop anything into the bowl of the WC while using the bathroom for its other designated purposes (brushing teeth, etc).

Andrew Gray

* * *

Date: Tue Jan 31 2006
Subject: Laser Eye Surgery Article

Please extend my thanks to Mr. Mulatz for his enlightening article (and thank you for publishing it). I’ve been considering laser eye surgery for some time now (ALL of my [former] four-eyed friends have had it done – with spectacular results), but being extremely squeamish when it comes to anything eyeball-related, I’d pretty much decided that perhaps it just wasn’t for me.

I feel much more informed about the procedures and risks involved – maybe this year I’ll ditch my eyewear for good.

Warm regards,

* * *

Date: Mon Jan 30 2006
Subject: baby’s first dna model

Re: Kimberly Chapman’s article on Baby’s First DNA Model

The Science Creative Quarterly:

Firstly, very cute toy. I’m happy to see that a young tot would be exposed to the genetic material so early in life. I had a comment about this toy — the author did note that it was a left-handed helix (good call!), but I didn’t see any acknowledgment on the absence of a major or minor groove in the DNA. This is a biologically salient feature that seems to be missing!

I know, I’m picky, but since we’re advertising it as based on the standard model for DNA…

H. Courtney Hodges

* * *

Date: Mon Jan 16 2006
Subject: Easy Elecrophoresis via the McGyver Project

My name is Veronica Cortez and I teach Third grade Bilingual at Pflugerville ISD in Pflugerville, Texas. Thank you so much fo putting the “McGyver Project” online. My son, a gifted child, has chosen to do a comparative DNA analysis of he and his siblings (he is 9, future genetisist?) for his Science Fair. We have had a difficult time finding the supplies needed for the process, well we found them, we just can’t afford them (I am a teacher afterall). I came upon your website this evening and had to write to say YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!! We are going to get these everyday items at the local grocery, pet, hardware etc. stores. If there are any helpful hints you can share, he would greatly appreciate it. We will take pictures for his project, and will let you know how it turns out.

Peace, Love and Schmiles,
Veronica Cortez

* * *

Date: Wed Nov 23 2005
Subject: Timon Buys’ White Coat/Wrong Time

From Medscape to Code Blog to your essay. With thanks for a needed pruning of my ego. The “white coat” is long gone as I rarely do patient care today. But I recognized my silliness in the picture you drew. So Thanks. I have no doubt but that my Need to be ‘noticed’ will sneak up on my again but it wont be the “coat”, no siree.

M.Tula Fitzgerald RN, COHN
Occupational Health Nurse
Peace Corps, OMS, Screening

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Date: Thurs Nov 3 2005


I just read “Transgene escape: are traditional corn varieties in Mexico threatened by transgenic corn crops?“. I found it to be generally fair and balanced, but I take issue with your statement that “…Both sides may be viewing and conveying natural phenomenon through political lenses, obscuring the facts about transgene escape.” Certainly, this is a boiler plate phrase that could be used to describe any such argument, but I would like you to tell me exactly how we “obscured the facts”? Our problem was with certain results produced by Chapela and Quist that are almost certainly artifactual. We did not dispute the conclusion that transgenes were in the Mexican corn, but we saw a glaring error in some of the analysis of sequences Chapela and Quist obtained. It was not a subtle error, it was a big one that negated a major conclusion that they were making. When that happens in work published in a journal like Nature, and when it has major policy implications, we should all collectively hope that someone will say something. Well, we did, and we were branded corporate lackeys and pro-GMO activists. The unwillingness of environmental groups to cope with inconvenient scientist who insist on good science is disturbingly reminiscent of the Bush administration’s repeated efforts to ignore science that they don’t like. How about a conclusion like “…this controversy reveals once again that ideological thinking and good science will always in conflict.” As quaint as it may seem, some of us still believe that

Damon Lisch
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
111 Koshland Hall
U. C. Berkeley

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Date: Tues Nov 1 2005
Subject: RE: the SCQ

I’m not sure I get it. Please explain.


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Date: Sun Oct 30 2005
Subject: in RE: David Ng’s review of Jack and Jill

There are, of course, several very good reasons to put a well on top of a hill, the most significant of which is to prevent the well water from becoming polluted by runoff from rainwater. It should also be noted that nowhere in the text does it specify that J&J Fetch their pail of water from a well. If they were retreiving water from a stream or spring, which is the most likely source of water in their time, they would of course want to retrieve the purest and cleanest water from the source, not the much dirtier water that has washed away the wastes of countless animals, fish, insects etc. downstream. I do not believe the cause of Jacks fall is relevant to the illustration of the dangers of a gain in altitude, though the measure of the fall would certainly be.

Ryan Hemenway

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Date: Thu 27 Oct 2005
Subject: Polio Comic got its stats wrong

Cute. But Polio is now considered endemic in 20 countries, up from 6 in 2000, and there have been 1,414 cases of polio infections confirmed in 2005 (up until 25 September 2005, as reported by WHO). Also, there have been at least 5 western hemisphere cases since then, in Minnesota in the USA.

Due to religious superstition and political intransigience, the number of cases and the geographic distribution of wild polio virus has increased dramatically in the past 5 years, instead of decreasing as everyone had hoped. The single most consistent transmission vector in 2004 and 2005 is through Mecca, during the Hadj, and this is bringing endemic Polio back to Asia and Africa. It is also on the rise in the middle east, and the US has seen it’s first major outbreak since 1979. It’s POLIO, and 5 cases among 3 families is a major outbreak.

Since Jan. 1, 2000 there have been 8,847 cases of confirmed paralytic polio reported through the WHO, but WHO also estimates that these numbers could be 10 to 20 % low compared to the actual cases, and there are no longer any statistics for Somalia, and the statistics for the Sudan and the Congo are unreliable.

You might have the last few frames of your comic virus talking big about making a comeback, ala “Rocky”, as a way to bring in the alarming increase in polio around the world. Whether you can bring in the religious, superstitious, stupidity elements is something you may want to consider.


Leung Shu Ren

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Date: Thu 27 Oct 2005
Subject: RE: In reference to “Trash Talkin at the Aquarium

Ask Benji if “The piece won me a damn iPod, sucka” is spelled correctly.

Christopher Monks

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Date: Wed 26 Oct 2005
Subject: In reference to “Trash Talkin at the Aquarium

It seems to me that the author of “TRASH TALKIN AT THE AQUARIUM” meant to say “Wut up, turtle”. Tortoises are strictly land animals and are incapable of swimming. Turtles, on the other hand, are amphibions and can both swim and motate on land. Perhaps this was point. Perhaps Christopher Monks intended to be incorrect about that classification along with the grammer and spelling errors. Maybe not.

Benjamin Sandness