Don’t walk and chew gum (or wear headphones) at the same time, stop licking your fingernails, and for God’s sake, don’t drink the shampoo!

Breaking health news:

Here’s a roundup of a couple of health stories in the news. Two of them come from the “Times of India,” which I’m going to have to start following because of their rapid publication of breaking science news.

The first story is entitled “Slower walking speed a sign of dementia.” The subject is a summary of three studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada, which correlate walking behavior with cognitive performance among the elderly. The author of the article sums up one study this way:

“The study led by researcher Dr. Stephanie Bridenbaugh, found that those participants with declines in cognition tended to walk more slowly than their memory-savvy counterparts, particularly when asked to perform a simple task — such as counting backward — while walking.”

No mention was made of chewing gum; they’re probably saving that juicy data for their next publication. Here’s the complete link:

I believe it was Garrison Keillor who proposed the counter-hypothesis, that old people walk so slow because they have so much to remember. Now we know… Stop smelling those roses as you stroll along the street, otherwise the guys in the white trucks may scoop you up in a net.

(I heard that in Germany, if you were stopped on the street and were unable to give the correct date, they could lock you up for being mentally incapacitated. This is probably a rumor, but since I rarely know the date I have begun memorizing it before venturing out on the streets.)

Even more dangerous to your health is walking while wearing headphones, which can get you killed, as reported in the following article:

The article cites Satyendra Garg, who is Joint CP (whatever that is), as saying not much can be done:

“Apart from creating awareness through advertisements and campaigns, there is nothing else that can be done. But it is very strange – education de bhi toh kya – everyone knows that any sort of distraction while crossing the road should be avoided. Now if people chose to be so careless, I don’t know how much of our educating campaigns will help? But we will run a few ads on radio and print… They’re all pedestrians, and we can’t punish them with a challan or anything. And what should we punish them for, when they are ready to pay such a high price – with their life – anyway.”

I certainly wouldn’t want to be punished with a challan, especially since I don’t know what it is. And creating awareness through advertisements and campaigns might actually increase the problem. Presumably those ads would be broadcast via… the radio? Internet? Imagine the irony, you’re listening to a podcast on your iPod about the danger of wearing headphones while walking around, and… WHAM!

And if you were walking more slowly as you listened, you run the double risk of being killed or diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

For a few final health tips of the week, please stop licking your painted fingernails and drinking shampoo. Women whose urine contained high levels of phthalates (and can anyone tell us how to pronounce that?), found in such products, were much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with low levels. The article states,

“The findings held even when other risk-factors were taken into account, like how many calories were consumed.”

The real question is whether all risk factors were taken into account, such as the number of times strangers in a bar buy mixed drinks for people with fingernail polish versus those who just have naked fingernails…

The studies are cited in an article at the following link:

Thank goodness for the Internet. I feel like it has saved my life several times already this week, or at least kept me out of an asylum.


Dominating your twin (planet)

Ray Villard, a commentator on the website “Discovery News,” just put up a new post about the Pluto debate: Is it a planet? Or just some odd object captured by our solar system, or a moon of Neptune’s that went astray, or something else?

Then he suggests that Pluto is actually a double-planet system (or un-planet system) because its moon Charon has 12% of Pluto’s mass. This is so much that the center of gravity between the two “bodies” lies in space between them, causing them to orbit each other at a periodicity of 6.3 days. This doesn’t happen with the Earth and our own moon because the moon has only 1% of the Earth’s mass, and the center of gravity lies somewhere inside the Earth.

All of this is fine astrophysical commentary, until Ray moves out to the looney fringe. He remarks that there are probably plenty of double planetary systems out there in space (although Hubble hasn’t discovered any yet). And heeeere comes the weird part. Ray comments:

Nevertheless, there might be binary planets that are habitable. The consequences would be extraordinary. The planet where intelligent life first arose on would dominate the companion planet. One can imagine a “space race” to colonize the twin world — and no doubt subjugate whatever was living there. Travel and trade between the two worlds would become commonplace.

Wow! Be glad we don’t have a double planet. If you want the reap the rewards of Ray’s full wisdom, here’s the link:

Maybe the best part of this is that Ray recently wrote another article (see below) in which he complained that our notions of aliens are simply “lame” projections of humans (onto insects, or bugs, or crustaceans, or whatever…). Hmm…

Just to round out this post, if you’re having trouble remembering the names of the planets and their positions relative from the sun, here’s a mnemonic sentence that Jerry Roberts taught us in eighth-grade science at Eisenhower Junior High School:

“My very educated mother just served us nine pickles.”

Which led one bright bulb in the class to write, on a test, “The planets are, in order from the sun outwards:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pickles.”

Get ready for the God particle (or maybe not)

Oh boy, oh boy. Just when I was getting excited… Here’s another really good one. Have a look at the headline, and then how things get watered down, piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph.
This comes from the source:
(I quote below… Emphasis in blue comes, of course, from me…)

APNewsBreak: Proof of ‘God particle’ found

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — Scientists working at the world’s biggest atom smasher plan to announce Wednesday that they have gathered enough evidence to show that the long-sought “God particle” answering fundamental questions about the universe almost certainly does exist.

But after decades of work and billions of dollars spent, researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, aren’t quite ready to say they’ve “discovered” the particle.

Instead, experts familiar with the research at CERN’s vast complex on the Swiss-French border say that the massive data they have obtained will essentially show the footprint of the key particle known as the Higgs boson — all but proving it exists — but doesn’t allow them to say it has actually been glimpsed.

It appears to be a fine distinction.

Senior CERN scientists say that the two independent teams of physicists who plan to present their work at CERN’s vast complex on the Swiss-French border on July 4 are about as close as you can get to a discovery without actually calling it one.

* * * *

Get on the hype bandwagon, guys! First call something “God whatever,” then announce in flashy headlines that you’ve found it, and then we discover that the discovery hasn’t really been announced yet, and then we find that when it will be announced, we may not know whether it has actually been discovered or not…

My head spins.

Eugene, a ghost with a sense of irony

All right, this isn’t strictly science communication, although some people would certainly like it to be…

Here’s a lovely piece about a haunted library in… you guessed it!   Tennessee… Here are some ghosts with a real sense of irony…

The link:

Once again, the blue parts are my emphasis, and my comments are in parentheses…

Haunted books: Paranormal activity cited at Chattanooga Public Library

On March 17, the Global Paranormal Society and members of the library conducted a full-on paranormal research of the downtown library at 1001 Broad St. On Friday, they shared their results from the investigation and confirmed what so many people assumed: paranormal activity takes place at the library.

“But,” added society member Gabriel Kordics during his presentation, “there’s not enough to make it haunted. I’m sorry.”

“That’s only one investigation, though,” Kordics said afterward. “This place deserves more than one investigation.”

About 30 people sat in the library’s auditorium Friday as Kordics and his crew presented their results. He first gave a history of the area, saying that the library currently sits on part of what was once a Cherokee nation settlement, explaining the possible roots of the specter that library employees refer to as “Eugene.”

(Note: Eugene being a typically Cherokee name)

Spooky happenings were evidently afoot that one night in March. The investigation captured 68 Electronic Voice Phenomena recordings, seven personal experiences and a couple of loud bangs in the second-floor children’s area and fourth floor.

(GEE! Loud bangs from the children’s area!)

“It was a long investigation,” investigator John “Taz” Ramsey said. “It took about eight or nine hours. It’s pure excitement.”

Kordics played some of the captured EVP recordings. Using high-tech implements allows the Global Paranormal Society, based out of Cleveland, Tenn., to pick up frequencies and sounds that can’t be heard by the human ear — what he said was the sounds of spirits coming through.

As if librarian Della Phipps wasn’t freaked out enough at the prospect of her place of employment being haunted, the EVP clip that played a phantom, female voice saying, “I got you,” did the trick.

“I got chills every time I heard that one,” Phipps said.

BUT SHE DIDN’t “GET IT…” oh my oh my oh my…

Note: this piece is attributed to the author Adam POULISSE… Should that be pronounced puhlll-eeease???

A bit of confusion: astronomy, astrology, and Health Care

This comes from an article entitled, “Did NASA Unearth Life and a Hidden Ocean on Saturn’s Moon Titan?” published at:

NASA announced a few days ago that the Cassini spacecraft had made measurements of changes in Titan’s shape as it orbited Saturn, which they interpreted to mean that a huge underground ocean on the moon was undergoing tidal shifts due to the pull of the planet’s gravity. 

The whole article is worth reading due to its bizarre mix of science and… something. Here are the highlights:

From the article:

“Cassini’s detection of large tides on Titan leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that there is a hidden ocean at depth,” said Luciano Iess, the lead author of the report and a Cassini team member at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy in a news release issued by NASA.

Donna Stellhorn, an astrologer from somewhere (presumably the Earth), reached the following conclusions:

“From an astrological point of view this discovery signals that we should be asking ourselves is: ‘where do we need to stretch ourselves’ to gain what we want?”


“Saturn in Libra brings us a strong sense of duty and obligation to others whether they be friends or the community at large (hence the passing of the Affordable Care Act),” she said. “But Saturn in Libra can also make us inhibited around others, we want to guard and protect ourselves from potential danger and ridicule.”


Saturn will leave Libra around October 5 and “as he leaves he will take something from each of us; a friendship or relationship may end, your career may shift, or an opportunity may escape you.”

Gotta keep our eyes on those NASA satellites, eh? Never has it been clearer that space data can guide our lives, telling us how to vote and when to end relationships…

Tennis player Andy Roddick states basic principle of (science) communication

When asked about a possible return to next year’s Wimbledon tournement, ousted player Andy Roddick stated:

“If I don’t have a definitive answer in my own mind, it’s going to be tough for me to articulate a definitive answer to you,” he said.


Serena Williams racks up Wimbledon-record 23 aces; Andy Roddick ousted – The DenverPost