CBS News coverage of the Apollo 11 launch in 1969.

Fifty years ago on July 16th, 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins took flight to the moon in a Saturn V rocket. I was just under two years old at the time so I don’t have any recollection of this historic event.

Fortunately for me, CBS News did a live stream of four and a half hours of coverage of the event — including the commercials aired at the time — and that live stream is still available to watch on YouTube. Or you can watch it right here:

Courtesy of CBS News YouTube Channel.

I have to admit that I find this interesting not just for the historic event itself, but for the slice of America that it preserves. Between the commercials, which are surprisingly calm and dulcet compared to many commercials today, and the newscast it really puts into perspective how much has changed in 50 years. Some of it good and some of it bad. What’s also amazing is just how much of an emotional experience it still is to watch the launch even after 50 years of routine space flight with the shuttles and the space stations.

You may not want to sit through the full four and a half hours, but it’s worth watching at least some of this video. Especially if, like me, you aren’t old enough to remember it first hand. It really is incredible that we pulled this off using onboard computers with way less computing power than what your phone you carry around with you is capable of.

New study shows dubstep disrupts mosquito mating habits as well as annoying your parents.

A study on mosquito feeding and mating habits published in the journal Acta Tropica says that the bitey little bastards have a hard time eating and/or fucking when exposed to the song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. Apparently the low-frequency sounds common in dubstep not only drive your parents up the wall, but cause havoc with the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

For the experiment, researchers created a “music-on” and “music-off” environment in which they studied the Aedes aegypti and came to some conclusions.

Mosquitos in the music-on environment were less likely to feed on the provided host and were less likely to reproduce than mosquitos in the music-off environment. Researchers believe that these findings can be used to help develop more ways to control Aedes-carried diseases.

SCIENTIFIC STUDY FINDS “SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES” BY SKRILLEX STOPS MOSQUITOS FROM HAVING SEX – EDM.com

I can’t begin to imagine why this would bother mosquitoes, your mom.

So the next time your parents try to tell you to turn that shit down, just explain how you’re protecting yourself from yellow fever mosquitos and ask them if they’d rather you got sick and died.

FOX & Friends host Pete Hegseth admits on air he never washes his hands.

Pete Hegseth has prompted me to start a list of people whose hands I should avoid ever touching, along with anything those hands have touched. A list I didn’t think I would need until he admitted on air that he pretty much never washes his hands because, and I quote, “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.”

Not being one who watches FOX News I had to look up who this yahoo is and, according to his Wikipedia profile, he’s a graduate of both Princeton (BA) and Harvard (MPP) so his views that germs don’t exist because he can’t see them is surprising. I suppose he must not have taken any science classes in his time in school. Unsurprisingly he considers himself a Christian, which implies that his need to see things in order for them to exist has some exceptions.

On the plus side, if he sticks to his resolution to “say things on air that I say off air” then chances are he’ll be unemployed before too much longer. Which is a shame as his lack of hygiene may be our best bet for bringing down FOX News.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the video clip.

Using slow motion to see magnetic fields in action.

The folks over on the Magnetic Games YouTube channel put up an absolutely amazing demonstration using magnetite sand and a couple of powerful magnets that allows you to see a magnetic field in action:

Physics works, bitches!

What surprised me about this video is how it looks like scientific illustrations of magnetic fields. I had always assumed it was much like so many other scientific illustrations in that it was an approximation of reality. Kind of the same way as our models of an atom don’t look anything like what an actual atom looks like as explained by the folks at SciShow:

One of my favorite YouTube channels.

So, yeah, I was surprised when you could clearly see the lines of the magnetic field as they pulled in the sand. And that’s my science geekery for the day.

Anil Seth’s TED Talk on what is consciousness.

What is consciousness? This is one of those questions that seems to be unanswerable, but according to Anil Seth consciousness is a form of controlled hallucination that we’re all having all the time. When we agree on our hallucinations we call that “reality.” He explains the idea behind this in a short TED Talk filmed this past April:

I find the concepts being explored in this fascinating and I wish it went into more depth. I’ll have to see if I can track down more on Anil’s work in this area.

One topic he touches on lightly that I found very interesting was his conclusion that sentient Artificial Intelligence is probably not going to be a problem because consciousness requires more than high intelligence to arise. I feel like there’s a good basis for a science fiction story in that idea, but I’ll be damned if I can nail it down.

Anyway, I thought this was both interesting and informative so I figured I’d share it.

News Flash: Americans are lazy which makes us fat.

A new study from Stanford University’s Department of No Shit, Sherlock shows that Americans are among the laziest when it comes to walking anywhere other than to the fridge for more chocolate pie. Researchers used the step counters in the smartphones of 700,000 people in 46 different countries to figure this out:

The U.S. is one of the world’s laziest countries — and it’s making us fat — USA Today

Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering who co-led the research, told the BBC the “study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement.”

The least lazy, according to the study published in the journal Nature, are the Chinese, particularly those in Hong Kong, where people averaged 6,880 a steps a day.

The worst nation was nearby Indonesia, where people walked nearly half as much, averaging 3,513 steps a day. The worldwide average is 4,961 steps, with Americans averaging 4,774.

Now this study might seem pointless, but it turns out it does reveal an interesting fact. Indonesia has the lowest average steps per day for its population so you’d think they’d be much more likely to be obese similar to people in the United States, but it turns out that’s not the case because there is much less variation in the population between who walks a lot and who doesn’t. The researchers refer to this as “activity inequality” and it turns out the bigger that inequality is the more likely a nation is to be obese:

In countries with less obesity, the Stanford researchers say, people typically walked a similar amount every day. In nations with higher rates of obesity, there were larger gaps between those who walked a lot and those who walked very little.

Among those latter countries is the United States, where “activity inequality” ranks Americans fourth from the bottom overall.

“If you think about some people in a country as ‘activity rich’ and others as ‘activity poor,’ the size of the gap between them is a strong indicator of obesity levels in that society,” Delp told the Stanford news site.

Tim Althoff, who worked on the study, pointed to Sweden, with an average of 5,863 steps, as having one of the smallest activity inequality gaps. “It also had one of the lowest rates of obesity,” he said.

Additionally, whether you lived in dense urban or less dense suburban areas also plays a factor:

Jennifer Hicks, another researcher in the study, told the Stanford news site that they examined three California cities located close to one another – San Francisco, San Jose and Fremont. They found San Francisco held both the highest walkability score and the lowest level of activity inequality.

“In cities that are more walkable, everyone tends to take more daily steps, whether male or female, young or old, healthy weight or obese,” Hicks said.

I can’t speak for any other Americans, but I am a fundamentally lazy person who hates to exercise even though I know I really should.  My previous attempts at establishing a walking routine have been documented on this very blog, all of which I gave up on. I just can’t seem to get into the walking habit.

That said, the move to our new home does put me within a reasonable walking distance to a few stores, though it’s still longer than I’d like to attempt in my current shape. We’ve managed to land in a decent neighborhood where it’s not uncommon to see folks out walking for exercise during the day.

I doubt I’ll try getting into walking again simply because I already know I won’t stick with it. However, part of the my motivation for buying a house was so I’d have someplace to store a bicycle and now that I have one I’ve started looking for a decent bike that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I could start peddling around the block a few times. The reason I want one that isn’t expensive is just in case I fail at establishing that as a routine too. No point in spending $700 on a bike I don’t use. Did that once with the elliptical exercise machine I bought back when we lived in Ann Arbor. Not making that mistake again.

There’s a local bike shop not too far from my house that I would like to stop by this weekend and take a look around. I don’t need anything with a million gears on it, just something that will stand up to my weight. I used to love riding my bike as a kid well up through my teenaged years and I’m hoping I’ll still enjoy it today. Granted, it won’t do me much good during the winter months, but some exercise would be better than none.

As for the rest of the country, I’ve no solutions to offer up to get us all to exercise a bit more. If I have a hard time motivating myself to do it there’s no way I can think of some way to get everyone else to do it.

The Paulding Light shows how some folks just want to believe.

If you’re ever in the region of Paulding Michigan during the evening hours you can catch a glimpse at a supposedly supernatural local phenomenon known as the Paulding Light. At the end of the abandoned segment of US Highway 45 in a tiny speck of a town near the border with Wisconsin in the Upper Peninsula is where the mystery takes place.

The official legend says it’s the ghost of a railroad brakeman who is forever waving his lantern in an attempt to stave off the train accident that killed him, but other folks think it’s the ghost of a grandparent looking for a lost grandchild with a lantern that keeps going out. Still others think it’s UFOs. Swamp gas or maybe something to do with the northern lights.

Oddly enough the first reports of the light are from 1966 when local teenagers told the sheriff about it. Which is right around the time they finished rerouting U.S. Highway 45 in that area. You don’t suppose it could be the headlights of cars travelling along the highway, do you?

In 2010 electrical engineering grad student Jeremy Bos decided to find out. He got some of his buddies from the Society of Photo Optical Instrumentation Engineers club and made the trek up there with some equipment to put it to the test:

“When you tell them about how it’s a spooky ghost story, it got people really wanting to get involved,” said the 39-year-old, now an engineering professor at the school.

They brought a spectrograph and a telescope to the dead-end road, sent each other driving down the new highway while blinking their lights in a prearranged pattern, and recorded the results.

Every time the light appeared, one look through the telescope showed what sure looked like the headlights of oncoming cars, which could be seen clearly through the lens, sometimes with the distinct outline of the car coming down the road, which is about 8 miles away. The group even shot a video through the telescope so others could see, and posted it online. The flickering, they said, was caused when cars went over a hill.

Mystery solved, they announced.

via Mysterious light draws thrill seekers to a U.P. forest.

Science wins again, right? Here’s where it gets interesting. You see, one of the odd things about human beings is we like our mysteries and we want desperately to believe in the supernatural. There are a lot of folks up there who just don’t accept the findings of Jeremy Bos and his colleagues.

Bos still gets flak from people who refuse to give up their belief in the supernatural origin of the light. Some people say the light they’ve seen in the woods is too bright to be headlights. Some say it moves in ways no car can. And some, he’s found, don’t have a particular objection — they just want to keep believing.

“It’s the same with anything,” he said. “There is scientific evidence to disprove all sorts of things, and people still choose to believe the more fantastical, maybe because they view science as taking away the mystery of things and they want to hold onto some of that mystery.”

The human eye can see the light of a single candle up to 30 miles away if the observer is high enough to overcome the curvature of the horizon, but just because you can see the light doesn’t mean you have the ability to determine its source. Headlights 8 miles away are certainly bright enough to be seen, but it’d be difficult to judge their movement or the fact that they’re headlights at that distance.

Here’s a daytime pic of the spot you stand in to see the light:

pauldinglight

You can clearly see how this used to be part of the highway system and is now used as a run for powerlines. The light appears way down at the end of this line-of-sight. You know, where the U.S. Highway 45 currently runs by. So what does it look like? Here’s a YouTube video uploaded by Robert Wiegert in 2006:

If you watch it’ll look pretty impressive at first with a bright flare and then it changes colors and breaks into multiple lights and then you realize it’s cars. At least one person can be heard pointing out that it’s cars in the distance, but that does little to dampen the oohs and ahs of the folks who think it’s something spooky.

Here’s the video of the investigation by Jeremy Bos’ team:

It’s pretty clear those are lights from cars on the highway and that shouldn’t be a big surprise because just about any place in the country where you have a similar situation you’ll find a legend about a mystery light. A Google search for “ghost light” will turn up dozens of examples.

That won’t stop the True Believers™:

Even before the experiment was done, people from the area heard what the students were aiming to do. Some locals came by and angrily told the group this was a waste of government money — though, in reality, it was self-funded by the optics club. One woman kept bringing her photo albums featuring pictures she’d taken of the light over the years to show them her proof that it’s real. Others acknowledged that, yes, those were headlights in the lens of the telescope, but insisted that it wasn’t the actual Paulding Light.

{…} “People want to debunk this mystery and say it’s headlights,” Schulz said. “You might be able to see them from a distance. But when the real mystery light shows up, it’s a light of its own.”

There are a lot of people in this world who want to believe in fantasy rather than reality. Maybe reality is just too tough for them to deal with so imagining supernatural explanations for mundane things is a way to admit they have no real control over things. Maybe they just like the idea of the supernatural.

Regardless, there’s no arguing with folks who insist on clinging to their beliefs regardless of what the evidence shows. This is part of why religion is so tenacious. If you can’t convince folks about something everyone can actually see then convincing them about something no one has ever seen is not gonna happen.

As an aside, the Detroit Free Press — from which I took some of these quotes — made a trip up to see the light for themselves. Here’s what they captured on video:

I think my favorite part of this video is the two old guys talking about how there’s no way it could be headlights because it has a red color to it. Yeah, that’d be the taillights dumbass.

Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

Here’s a video from Veritasium that was quite a surprise to me. It turns out that what we know as the Celsius temperature scale we use today wasn’t invented by the man whose name it bears. At least, not entirely:

Despite having lived through the big push to learn the Metric system in the 70’s, like most Americans, I never really got my head wrapped around it. Thanks to Reagan the United States Metric Board (USMB) was disbanded in 1982 bringing an end to any official attempt to make the Metric system the U.S. standard. Outside of the popularity of the 2-liter pop bottle and the 9-millimeter bullet, the vast majority of measurements in the United States is still done using the United States customary system (USCS or USC) which is a mish-mash of different systems none of which are as elegant as the Metric system. There’s been a couple of half-hearted attempts to get adoption going again over the years, but they’ve been mostly voluntary efforts that no one wants to volunteer for. Sure, you’ll find it in use in various science-y professions, but the average American is largely clueless on whether they would need to wear a coat when it’s 32°C outside*.

*Hint: No, most definitely not.

A couple of videos on the subject of “You.”

We think of ourselves as a single entity, but the reality is we’re a combination of trillions of individual organisms some of which are a part of us, but not human (e.g. the bacteria in our guts). So at what point do you stop being “you”?

The YouTube channel In A Nutshell has a new video out that’ll ask you to ponder: What are you?

If that’s not enough to get your head spinning, there’s a companion video by CGP Grey that talks about how you are really two “yous” in one body. Specifically, how experiments done on folks who have had the connection between their left and right hemispheres severed has revealed that you are literally of two minds that don’t always agree with each other.

Just some food for thought.

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t understand how evolution works.

If you’ve been reading SEB for any amount of time then it probably doesn’t need to be said that my politics don’t line up with Rush Limbaugh’s politics. It’s also probably obvious that I think that Rush has said some amazingly stupid things over the years, but I’ve never thought the man was particularly uneducated. That’s probably as much due to the fact that I try to limit my exposure to his rantings as much as possible than it is him actually being educated.

On Tuesday during a segment about the kid falling into the gorilla enclosure in Cincinnati, Rush demonstrated his scientific ignorance of the Theory of Evolution. The folks at Media Matters captured his idiocy in all its glory:

“A lot of people think that all of us used to be apes. Don’t doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas.”

headdeskOK, let’s stop right here. There’s more, but this is all you really need to realize that Rush has no clue what he’s talking about. Humans did not evolve from apes, or chimps, or gorillas. We are a kind of ape ourselves. We share a common primate ancestor (Homo-Pan) and have travelled different evolutionary paths starting around 6 to 7 million years ago. Either Rush is ignorant of what the theory of evolution says or he’s intentionally setting up a strawman. Based on what he says next I’d wager it’s the former.

“And they’re looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes.”

The problem with the “missing link” is that there is no missing link. Evolution isn’t a matter of sharp delineations. It’s a matter of gradual differences. There is not, nor will there ever be, a fossil find that we can point to and definitely say that is the exact moment we stopped being Homo heidelbergensis and started being Homo sapiens. Reality is messy and doesn’t give a shit about fitting things into obvious categories. People like Rush don’t like that fact so they try to ignore it.

Here is his pièce de résistance. The statement that clearly shows his complete lack of understanding of evolutionary theory:

“I’ve always — if we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn’t become one of us?”

First, we’re not the “original apes.” As I said before, we share a common ancestor. Secondly, had Harambe spontaneously evolved into a human it would invalidate evolutionary theory as well as a number of laws of physics.

To be fair, it’s not clear if Rush is suggesting that if evolution was real that Harambe would’ve evolved into a human in the time he was in the zoo or if he’s using the old argument of “If we evolved from apes why are there still apes?” Not that it matters, both would reveal his ignorance of what the theory of evolution actually says.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s really not that hard to understand the theory of evolution if you take the time to actually read up on it. There are a number of books that lay it out in layman’s terms and provide quite a bit of the evidence that back the theory up. A good one is The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins. It’s one I think Rush Limbaugh should probably read. He won’t, but he should.

You can hear Limbaugh’s words for yourself below: