Meanwhile, Mr Darwin just smiles

The idea was great, kinda sorta:

Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.

But who didn’t see this coming?

After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.

This could have been forestalled, at least to a certain extent:

Key to effective management, said the scientists, were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. Within these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that chanced to evolve in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool.

But the scientists’ own recommendations — an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent.

Elson Shields, a Cornell entomologist, is wholly unsurprised:

There’s a lesson to be learned for future crop traits, Shields said. Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists. The next pest-fighting trait “will fall under the same pressure,” said Shields, “and the insect will win. Always bet on the insect if there is not a smart deployment of the trait.”

And once again, man is done in by his obsession with quarterly revenue reports.

Comments (3)




Drools of thumb

Prompted by Jess’ list of Useful Everyday Numbers, I am herewith providing a list of numbers that may not be quite so useful.

1: The number of gallons of gas it takes to go to work and back in my current car. (Total distance is 21.3 miles; average fuel economy is 21.3 mpg.)

1: The difference in size (US) between a woman’s shoe and a man’s shoe of the same length. (If I did serious drag, I’d be looking for a d’Orsay pump in 15 wide.)

355/113: A really good approximation for pi that I’ve only been able to use once in a lifetime.

7: Number of Very Small Ponies standing on the bookshelf. Five are plastic, two pewter.

16: Lowest house number, ever.

28: The number of seconds you get before my answering machine hangs up on you. Very useful for robocallers with 30-second spiels.

28: Capacity in gallons of my ostensible 30-gallon water heater.

143: Distance in feet from the back fence to the curb at Surlywood.

773: Number of gigabytes left on this 1-TB drive immediately after moving all my stuff off the old Windows XP box.

3799: Number of files in the backup copy of this site’s graphics directory.

4990: Total miles traversed in the longest World Tour (2003).

5548: Highest house number, ever.

Comments off




Five Mississippi

The “five-second rule” will not die, and this is one reason why:

Biology students at Aston University in the UK monitored how quickly E. coli and common bacteria spread from surfaces to food such as toast (butter side down, no doubt), pasta and sticky sweets — with time being a significant factor in the transfer of germs.

Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time according to the findings.

There is, however, a variable that must be taken into account:

The type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than five seconds.

This, of course, contradicts research from a couple of years ago, which supports my ongoing hypothesis that Everything We Know Is, Or Will Be, Wrong.

(Via The Glittering Eye.)

Comments (3)




Evenly odd

In Oklahoma City, the number on your house determines the days you can water your lawn: there are more odd days than even days in a year, but so far, nobody has mounted a serious fairness challenge to the ordinance.

Meanwhile in France, something similar was envisioned for the streets of Paris:

Government officials in Paris announced over the weekend that a new plan would go into effect early Monday morning: only about half of the city’s cars would be allowed to drive on any given day. The reason, as you can probably guess, was to reduce the amount of smog in the air.

The plan, however, didn’t make it to Tuesday:

French officials say the rule banning roughly half of Paris’ car traffic from the city’s streets will not be in effect Tuesday.

Minister of Ecology Philippe Martin says 90 percent of Parisian drivers followed the rules [Monday], according to Le Monde. He said new data shows a “clear tendency toward improvement,” citing changes in weather patterns that have contributed to the city’s smog.

This is how the French differ from us: when they backpedal on something, par Dieu, they do it completely.

Comments (2)




Down the rope they go

Mozilla is abandoning the sinking Windows 8 ship:

Windows 8’s controversial Metro interface has received another blow today as Mozilla has revealed that after 2 years worth of development and testing that it is shelving the Metro based version of Firefox. Microsoft launched Windows 8 with a new Metro start screen 2 years ago and developer interest in the platform has been slow. The latest snub from Mozilla is not likely to help matters either. Microsoft have been trying to entice developers to write touch friendly apps for its new touch interface but so far the interest has been minimal.

And speaking of minimal interest:

In a blog post the vice president of Firefox said, “On any given day, we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1,000 active daily users in the Metro environment.” The blog post goes on to explain that with so few people interested in this version that bug testing would take far too long as there were not enough people actively using the software to properly test it and squash bugs.

This being Mozilla, “properly test” is open to interpretation. Still, it’s another blow to Microsoft Bob 2.0 8.

Comments (2)




Tin whistles are made of tin

If the next question is “What do they make foghorns out of?” you’re ready for this slice of quantum phenomena subtitled “Does your neutrino lose its flavour on the bed-post overnight?”

Neutrinos, which interact so weakly with normal matter that even the best detectors only manage to capture small handfuls of interactions, come in three “flavours”: electron, muon, and tau, and they oscillate between these flavours.

The SuperKamiokande detector, which comprises 50,000 tonnes of water and 11,000 photomultiplier tubes, is specific to electron neutrinos, spotting the tiny amount of Cherenkov radiation emitted when a neutrino scores a direct hit on an atom in the tank. These interactions are rare, which is why the experiments are so long-lasting.

With enough data, however, something interesting emerged: when it’s night-time at SuperKamiokande, the detector observes 3.2 per cent more electron neutrinos than during the day. In other words, when the detector is on the sun-side of Earth, the neutrinos passing through it are very slightly skewed towards muon and tau flavours, while at night-time, there’s slightly more electron flavours for the detector to observe.

Which, at the very least, justifies going on to a HyperKamiokande detector.

(With thanks to Lonnie Donegan.)

Comments (1)




You’ve seen the butcher

The Telltale Statistic for tonight is startling: the Bulls scored nothing in six and a half minutes in the fourth quarter, from 10:01 to 3:30. You have to figure that part of Scott Brooks’ pep talk on the plane to Chicago was “You guys remember defense, don’t you?” They did. The lead had changed hands several times before the final 12 minutes, and the Bulls pulled to within one at 76-75 before the Big Shutdown. By the time they broke through with a free throw (Joakim Noah hit one of two), the Thunder had run out to 89-76, and the Bulls wound up at the slaughterhouse, 97-85.

Then again, it wasn’t all defense; OKC, while not shooting particularly well (31-75, 41 percent), actually had some three-point mojo working (13-25, 52 percent), with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Caron Butler each knocking down three treys. (And it didn’t hurt that the Bulls were shooting quite a bit worse: 29-84, 34 percent.) Westbrook, after his rest last night, was up to playing 28 minutes tonight; he came awfully close to a triple-double (17 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) before the reserves came on to mop up. Durant, for his part, knocked out 35 points and collected 12 boards; Butler led the bench with 12, though Reggie Jackson was right behind with 11. And this was one of those nights when Serge Ibaka was more of a factor for the offense, scoring 15 on 6-11 while retrieving a modest four caroms and swatting only twice.

Any of the Bulls could score, assuming any of the Bulls could score, if you know what I mean: five of them — Thibs only played nine men — hit double figures, led by Taj Gibson, coming off the bench with 16. The picture of frustration, if you’re looking for one, had to be Kirk Hinrich, who in 32 minutes connected on three shots (out of 12) and collected five fouls. Carlos Boozer, in just 24 minutes, came up with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls’ only double-double; Noah, had he made that one foul shot, would have had another.

Revenge game coming up Thursday night against the Cavaliers, followed by, well, another revenge game Friday against the Raptors. Westbrook will be out for one of them.

Comments off




This offer is limited

And boy, is it. Dan Lovejoy finds a deal with his smartphone, then discovers the fine print:

Offer not valid on the following items

It might have been easier to list the things he could buy at the discount.

Comments off




Madness on display

Ronnie Schreiber has a great piece in TTAC about Earl “Madman” Muntz, entrepreneur, used-car salesman, new-car manufacturer, tape-cartridge magnate, and all-around swell guy. One paragraph, I admit, took me slightly aback:

An inveterate and flamboyant romantic, Muntz married seven times, and in between matrimonial relationships he also had a number of girlfriends, including comedienne Phyllis Diller. That seems somewhat ironic in light of the fact that all of his wives were beauties and Diller famously effected a homely comedic persona.

Which reminded me that it was, indeed, a persona. Here’s Phyllis Diller on the cover of her second comedy album for Verve, Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller?

Cover of Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller, Verve 15031, 1962

Pretty darn cute for a woman in her mid-forties (Diller was born in 1917, this came out circa 1962).

Comments (7)




One of those diastolical schemes

This tissue of organic fertilizer, with the absurd (but guaranteed click-bait) title “1 weird food that KILLS blood pressure,” showed up 14 times in my email box yesterday:

“You’re going to have a stroke or a heart attack before you leave this building.”

That’s what the nurse told my dad.

She had just checked his blood pressure and it was a deadly 155/90.

When I heard the news, my mind raced back to my own blood pressure scare just a few short years before.

Thankfully, after some frantic research, I had stumbled upon an all-natural blood pressure fix that normalized my blood pressure in a matter of weeks.

Which wouldn’t help someone about to leave the building, of course, but hey, this is spam; you’re not supposed to notice the contradictions.

Incidentally, I’ve been occasionally as high as 155/90; last I looked, I wasn’t dead, or anything close to it.

I remember when they told my dad he had six months to live, tops. And sure enough, six years later, that’s what he had.

Comments (3)




Strange search-engine queries (424)

It’s time for yet another installment of the series that gives you the reassurance you need: whatever weird crap you were looking for on Google last week, somebody else was looking for something even weirder.

snopes the cato institute is a well known and respected conservative ‘think tank.’ they released a study showing that welfare benefits pay more than a minimum wage:  And either pay better than a think tank.

amanda.king pahrump nv nude:  Not without checking with Harry Reid, she isn’t.

acura rl washer fluid low warning light wont go off:  Did you try actually adding washer fluid?

chronic false CHECK ENGINE faults on Lesxus ES300:  How does someone who can’t spell “Lexus” judge that the codes are “false”?

whats tge mist tgat gas bn awarded in a TCPA lawsuit:  Methinks the mist is affecting your typing, or something.

are amazonbucks spam:  First rule of the Internet, Subparagraph B: If you think you’re getting something for nothing, you’re too stupid to be on the Internet.

nicole kidman inseam:  I’m sure she’ll be delighted to hear that you’re making pants for her.

wood shavings falling from ceiling:  It’s that guy upstairs, making pants for Nicole Kidman.

what is the automatic trans capacity for a 97 mazda 626:  Usually they come with just one. And no, you’re not changing the fluid yourself. I know better than that.

infiniti m37 gas cap poor acceleration:  Ideally, the gas cap should accelerate at the same speed as the rest of the car.

bottemless tip jar:  I imagine it’s hard to retrieve anything therefrom.

download free song mp3 goldfinch:  I’ll be here all decade. Try the sidebar.

Comments off




Perhaps they chose poorly

Long before gametime, the Thunder organization had let it be known that Russell Westbrook, still officially convalescent, would be sitting for one game during each of the club’s remaining half-dozen or so back-to-backs. In and of itself, this is not a bad idea; however, it telegraphs exactly what the front office thinks about the opponents, and in this particular case, the Chicago Bulls were taken more seriously than were the Dallas Mavericks. It’s pretty obvious what the Mavs thought of that: starting late in the first quarter, they beat up on the Thunder pretty hard, and Dallas, who hadn’t won in Oklahoma City since 2010, made short work of the Thunder, 109-86.

Part of the problem was that the OKC bench, while it fended off the Mavs well enough while they were on the court, couldn’t score: at the beginning of garbage time, halfway through the fourth, the reserves had registered only 14 points. (Dallas sixth man Vince Carter scored more than that all by himself.) The Mavs dominated all the columns on the box score, shooting more than 50 percent all night, ruling the boards 41-33, and cashing in 13 of 24 three-point attempts. (Meanwhile, the Spurs were beating the Jazz to take a two-game lead over the Thunder in the West.) Kevin Durant did scrounge up 30 points on 20 shots, and Serge Ibaka came up with 19 on 19 shots; but Andre Roberson garnered more fouls than points (five vs. two), and OKC came up with only 17 assists, while the Mavs were serving up 26.

The Dallas attack was pretty balanced: Shawn Marion led the Mavs with 19, Carter led the bench with 18, Dirk Nowitzki collected 17, and José Calderón added 16. If you look at plus-minus stuff, Carter was the plussiest, at +23. And this season, there are only three Mavs/Thunder games, so the rubber game is yet to come.

Tomorrow: at Chicago. Westbrook will play. Will the Bulls be impressed? Will anyone?

Comments off




Try not to look

Once upon a time, fashion was intended to serve the time-honored function of making sure that boy meets girl. (There always were, and still are, other combinations possible, but they require a bit more specialization, or so it seems to me.) Today, the dynamic is utterly different.

Comments off




A puff of magical non-smoke

There’s a dealer in e-cigarettes down the road about a mile. Their presence affects me not a whit. Now there’s another one about two miles to the south, which apparently hired some seeming derelict to harangue smokers in the middle of the road last Wednesday, but that’s another story; still, apart from that bit of performance art, their presence affects me not a whit.

The half-whits in Los Angeles, meanwhile, would like to see such things banned, and there’s only one logical explanation for their behavior:

Primitive peoples who relied on magic rather than science to explain how the world works often believed in what is known as “sympathetic magic” — the idea that if item A looks like item B, that means A either shares B’s traits or gives you actual power over B… And belief in sympathetic magic appears to be enjoying a renaissance among those who oppose “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs,” basically on the grounds that a battery-operated metal tube emitting water vapor looks like a burning tobacco cigarette emitting cancerous smoke, ergo it must have the same disease-inducing power as said tobacco cigarette, right?

Or at least deserves the same stigma. Consider this week, when the Los Angeles City Council voted to treat e-cigs exactly as regular cigarettes by banning the use of e-cig water vapor wherever tobacco smoke has already been banned.

Then again, this is Los Angeles, where the highest-paid representatives of the city’s best-known industry spend much of their spare time complaining about income inequality. There’s got to be some supernatural explanation for that.

Comments (5)




Representing Bizarro Texas

Finally, a plausible explanation for Sheila Jackson-Lee:

In a speech this week, she offered praise of the Constitution of the United States, which had governed us for “400 years.” This has led some to conclude that Rep. Lee is actually from the 22nd century, a time in which said Constitution, adopted in 1787, might indeed have been around at least 400 years.

My own solution is that the Congresswoman is not from our future, but instead from a parallel universe. In this alternative Earth, the United States was indeed formed in the 17th century and the Constitution adopted in 1687. Also, the resolution of the Vietnam War was significantly different and there are still two Vietnams, as Rep. Lee suggested in 2010. And Neil Armstrong took an even bigger step for mankind than he did in our world, planting the flag of the United States on Mars instead of just the moon. Usually, Rep. Lee is able to conceal her allohistorical origins, but she occasionally slips up. I for one certainly hope that she is at some point able to return to her timeline and allow her counterpart to return to our universe, but I don’t know if anyone is researching the topic.

There is, I suspect, a back-burner project being conducted by Texas Republicans, but they dare not go public with it, lest they be accused of being parallel-species-ist.

Comments (4)




Lubed out of existence

The Instant Man pointed to this preposterous bit of Wired nonsense:

The ability to repair a car via software is especially important when the vehicle itself consists of so much new technology that traditional mechanics don’t know how to fix. The flip side is that without an internal combustion engine, there’s not as much to fix. I’ve written before that a Tesla without its outer shell looks like a cell phone on wheels. It’s basically just a big battery. That means no spark plugs, no air filters, no fuel pumps, no timing belts. In short, Teslas don’t have any of the parts that force you to take your car in for “regularly scheduled maintenance” — services that can cost dearly at the dealer. But it’s hard to charge for an oil change when there’s no oil to be changed.

I’ve seen a few Teslas in the wild, and they all had tires. Also suspension parts, which can and do wear out.

More to the point, dealers have lost a ton of oil-change business over the years to the neighborhood Spee-D-Loob, mostly because SDL’s business model — throw in the oil change as a loss leader, then scare the customer into several other services — is very attractive to people who were told by their sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin that you never go to the dealership because they’ll charge you out the wazoo, which, based on my regular inspections of the Yahoo! Answers Cars & Transportation section, is roughly two-thirds of the human race. (I expect, any day now, that someone at the blinker-fluid level of automotive competence will be asking what the fair price is for a wazoo charge.)

Perhaps even more to the point, Motor Trend has a Tesla Model S on long-term test, and this was in their April update:

A few days later I got another email: “We replaced a slightly out of spec right steering knuckle and the drivetrain.” Replaced the drivetrain! “There was nothing wrong with the power unit,” they noted, “but we heard a clicking in the transmission. The power unit isn’t serviceable in the shop so we decided to be proactive.”

The Tesla Service Center no doubt didn’t enjoy eating the cost of that drivetrain, but they knew Elon Musk had their back. And if the transmission goes out in your [some other make and model], your dealership will swap it out for a previously rebuilt unit, because nobody on staff knows how to rebuild a transmission anymore. Not so different, really.

Comments (5)