March 14, 2010
Population of the dead
A little bit of infoporn to end the weekend. The folks at I Love Charts have a great infographic showing various ways to compare the current living population vs. the total population of every person now deceased. Among the points the chart demos is the fact that the total population of dead people in the earth's history is waaay higher the current living population. That's interesting for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we the living are going to be in a LOT of trouble during the global zombie war.
March 13, 2010
How good a doctor is House, anyway?
One of my all-time best ego feeds happened a few years ago, when I successfully identified the mystery disease on House before Dr. House and his team did(*).
Much of each episode of House deals with the art and science of medical diagnosis. But how realistic is the medical detective work on the show?
Enter Scott Morrison, M.D. Morrison has a family practice in Illinois and a blog called Polite Dissent, where among other things he picks apart each episode of House, explaining what's realistic and what's nonsense. Some typical observations:
I'm suspicious of Thirteen's "bubble test." While there is a bubble test that can be used to find heart defects, it is only used on a relatively small single organ. Thirteen's idea of trying to track microscopic bubbles wherever they may go over the entire body seems fruitless, especially when the overlying gastrointestinal tract is likely to have gas bubbles of its own. Plus this would only work if the cysts were connected.
It's fractures of the long bones (femur, most commonly) that lead to fat emboli. I don't think there's enough fat in a toe bone to cause a fat embolism.
Sequencing the cardiac sodium channel, in a hospital lab, in a day. Right. See me about that property in Arizona. Even with modern equipment, gene sequencing is tricky, time consuming, and a specialized skill.
(*)Leprosy FTW! But then just a few weeks later I missed the diagnosis of xeroderma pigmentosum, even though I had just worked on a documentary about it.
March 09, 2010
Scent in design
Designers work with just about everything -- form, function, physical materials, visual imagery, shapes, sights, and sounds. But almost no designer ever works with smells. Why is that? Are aromas too ethereal? Too hard to control? Too open to personal interpretation? Too boring?
Parsons The New School for Design(*) in New York City is looking into that issue later this month, when they host a symposium called HeadSpace: On Scent as Design. The one-day event will feature explanations of how smell works, how aroma alters our perceptions, how perfumes are made, how and why our modern environments are becoming devoid of odors, and more.
(*)Yes, the place really is called Parsons The New School for Design. I know, it's an odd name. But what 'ya gonna do?
March 07, 2010
Sure, Godzilla is the oldest and most bad-ass of all kaiju, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soul.
The best website I've found in months is devoted to the big guy's inner turmoil. It's called "Godzilla Haiku". I don't know anything about the person or persons behind it, but I know a work of genius when I see one.
So far Godzilla's only laid down a few haiku. Here's hoping for many more!
The first person to hear from aliens
OK, so I lied a tiny bit in the cause of having a better blog post headline. But while astronomer Paul Davies almost certainly won't be THE first person to receive a message from beings on another planet, he almost certainly IS the first person whoever detects a message from the stars is going to call.
As chairman of the Post-Detection Task Group of the SETI project, Davies will decide what happens next after we discover we are not alone. In an interview in the Guardian newspaper Davies talks about how Seti researchers fight off disappointment after decades of hearing nothing from the stars but static. He also explains how...if an alien transmission is ever detected...he's not going to tell anyone where the message is coming from:
"My strenuous advice," Paul says, "will be that the coordinates of the transmitting entity should be kept confidential until the world community has had a chance to evaluate what it's dealing with. We don't want anybody just turning a radio telescope on the sky and sending their own messages to the source."
March 02, 2010
TV Show Posters
Combining his loves of television and modernist posters, Austrian designer Albert Exergian has created a series of posters for some of TV's most memorable shows. (Pictured above, "MacGyver" and "True Blood"). They're available for purchase on the Blanka web site.