Christmas 2017 Leads to Science!

The earliest bits of this website date to 2003, fifteen years ago. That’s nearly half of my life! I keep telling myself that I need to tend to this site (currently called Dammit, Rick!, but who knows what it’ll be called next time I post here), but for the past few years, I’ve been objectively lax in creating meaningful content.

(Wait, have I ever produced meaningful content?)

Anyway, we’re fresh out of the 2017 holiday season, and my daughter enjoyed her sixth Christmas, at our house and elsewhere, with some awesome gifts, such as the fantastic My Little Pony Canterlot castle.

I can’t deny that when it comes to toys, she’s not at all wanting, and to totally parent-brag, she’s a pure joy to go shopping with: it is absolutely rare for her to get the “I want! I want! I want!” attitude, even in aisles filled with her favorite things!

What is going to define this year, though, is not an abundance of toys, but science! That’s right, science! My mom gave my daughter two really amazing gifts which I’m eager to get up and running: an ant habitat and a carnivorous plant garden! 

The Vault

Contribute to the Frontiers of Science with Nothing but Your Smartphone

Just over a decade ago, I had finished a months long DIY project: I had built, from parts old & new, a pretty powerful (for its time) desktop computer. Doing so was, of course, a pretty remarkable feeling in and of itself, but then having a beast of a computer let me do something even cooler: I loaded it up with a couple distributed computing programs and donated my idle computer power to protein folding research, the search for extraterrestrial life, or various other projects.

I loved the feeling of being able to contribute in a direct way to the scientific bettering of humankind, but when I transitioned entirely to a MacBook laptop, I abandoned the distributed computing scene; don’t get me wrong, I did try it, but it made my laptop run incredibly hot regardless of how I set the throttling on the research. Rather than shorten the life of my computer, I cut the distributing computing projects from my life. That was about half a decade ago, thereabouts.

Flash forward a few years, and I now have a smartphone — a powerful device that, particularly when it’s charging, sits idle, doing little more than awaiting the next push notification. The idea that my phone could be crunching numbers for SETI or some other research group has crossed my mind numerous times since first getting my phone, but searches of the App Store have never turned anything of that nature up.

That was frustrating because smartphones are incredibly versatile in just what they can process or detect. I remember when I first heard about phones containing barometric pressure sensors — useful for fitness apps to detect whether you’re going up and down stairs, for instance, by detecting variations in atmospheric pressure) — thinking that a clever climatology group could take advantage of the distributed weather stations that smartphones represent, data mining atmospheric information on an extremely local scale. Of course, a phone would probably have to know whether it was indoors and outdoors to provide good data, but crowdsourcing the weather isn’t that farfetched of an idea.

As it turns out, thinking about the weather was thinking too small.


Lab-Grown Meat: Mmm Mmm Good

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

Genesis 9:3–4, King James Version

I’ve yet to hear one argument from a vegan or vegetarian which could convince me that eating meat is an immoral or otherwise negative practice. Simply put, animals are a gift, explicitly given to us by Yahweh for meat, provided that the blood is removed and cooked out, for “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11a, KJV).