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About me


I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

You can contact me at irishtrojan [at] gmail.com, or donate to my "tip jar" by clicking the link below:

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Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

Science

Obama, Clinton join the know-nothing brigades on autism-vaccine "link"

By Brendan Loy

Turn out Barack Obama is just as indefensibly ignorant as John McCain of the science surrounding vaccines and autism. Ugh. He should read Mike's comment from a few weeks back. Or, you know, anything written by anyone with the remotest idea of what they're talking about -- which would not include Jenny McCarthy, CNN's unfortunate editorial judgment to the contrary.

P.S. I sympathize with McCarthy's parental plight, and I'm sure she genuinely believes the provably false (indeed, proven false) things that she says. The same is probably true, in most cases, of 9/11 Truthers, Flat Earth Society members, etc. But genuine emotional grief and honest-but-discredited beliefs are no excuse for using a national platform to ignorantly spout nonsense.

And as for Obama and McCain? They have even less of an excuse.

UPDATE: Clinton, too!

(Hat tip: Aaron, who quips, "all tremble before the mighty Israel gun union defense autism lobby." Indeed. *sigh*)

Physics giant John A. Wheeler dead at 96

By Joe Loy

Only a vanishingly small fraction of us can ever hope to learn & teach so much before we subside back into the quantum foam. / Well done, Professor: and may infinities of angels, dancing on the singular pinpoints of Many Worlds, sing thee to thy rest. (Emphases added :) ~

John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist and teacher who helped invent the theory of nuclear fission, gave black holes their name and argued about the nature of reality with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, died Sunday morning at his home in Hightstown, N.J. He was 96.

...As a professor at Princeton and then at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature.

Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of Dr. Wheeler, “For me, he was the last Titan, the only physics superhero still standing.”

... “He rejuvenated general relativity; he made it an experimental subject and took it away from the mathematicians,” said Freeman Dyson, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study across town in Princeton.

Among Dr. Wheeler’s students was Richard Feynman of the California Institute of Technology, who parlayed a crazy-sounding suggestion by Dr. Wheeler into work that led to a Nobel Prize. Another was Hugh Everett, whose Ph.D. thesis under Dr. Wheeler on quantum mechanics envisioned parallel alternate universes endlessly branching and splitting apart — a notion that Dr. Wheeler called “Many Worlds” and which has become a favorite of many cosmologists as well as science fiction writers.

Recalling his student days, Dr. Feynman once said, “Some people think Wheeler’s gotten crazy in his later years, but he’s always been crazy.”

Yes and Feynman (who, assuredly, should Know :) would agree: we should All be so crazy :}. More after the leap jump :}.

Continue reading "Physics giant John A. Wheeler dead at 96" »

Can ManBearPig be far behind?

By Brendan Loy

Remember back in 2006, when Wonkette made fun of President Bush for randomly condemning "human-animal hybrids" in his State of the Union address? ("OMG HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS! BUSH SAYS NO TO WEREWOLVES. HEAR THAT CONGRESS? The man is taking a stand. To repeat: Hybrid cars: Good. Hybrid human-animals: Bad.")

Well, maybe ol' Dubya was on to something. If you missed the headline earlier this evening Drudge...

Here's the story:

A team has grown hybrid embryos after injecting human DNA into eggs taken from cows' ovaries, which had most of their genetic material removed.

The embryos survived for three days and are intended to provide a limitless supply of stem cells to develop therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries, overcoming a worldwide shortfall in human embryos.

Opponents decry the hybrid embryos as "monstrous." Hmm. Half man, half cow, half monster? It's ManCowHilldog!

Can a drug replace sleep?

By Brendan Loy

A nasal spray containing a drug called "Orexin A" could eliminate sleepiness.

Hey, I could use some of that for the first few months with the baby. Where can I sign up for a clinical trial?

A new species of dumb, ugly humans?

By Brendan Loy

No, I'm not talking about FEMA again. I'm talking about evolution, baby:

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed. ...

"[T]hings could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'."

So basically, it'll be Eloi and Morlocks, as the linked article photographically suggests.

Of course, the odds are we'll have blown ourselves to radioactive smithereens -- or destroyed ourselves in some other creative way, or fallen victim to some cosmic calamity -- long before then, so I'm not sure what the big deal is.

Red headed Neanderthals

By JLR

Scientists are now saying that there were some Neanderthals that were probably redheads.  Some have even claimed that those redheads have begot today's redheads.

We post, you decide.

The answer to the questions about West Virginians

By JLR

Now I understand what's going on with those folks in West Virginia.  Residents of Maryland, take note: we now know what our neighbors to the west are doing to make themselves the constant butt of our jokes:

WV mommas smoke while they're pregnant.

And I was approached by a sheep the other day.  It told me that it was seeking asylum, because it had been the victim of sexual harrassment in Morgantown.

602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

By Brendan Loy

Via e-mail, Bonnie Stone reminds me of something very important that I almost forgot: today is National Mole Day!

Huh? you ask. Well, to quote myself from 10/23/2002:

This annual holiday — which technically starts at 6:02 AM and ends at 6:02 PM — does not actually celebrate small furry animals that dig holes in the ground, but rather, a chemistry concept: Avogadro’s number, the “mole,” 6.02 x 1023. (10/23… 1023… get it?) That’s 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, for the scientific-notionally challenged among us, and it’s an inconceivably huge number. How huge? A mole of marshmellows would cover the planet Earth 12 miles high, and a mole of seconds would last so long, the universe would die out before it was done!

(Hat tip: myself, in last year's post on Mole Day.) Wikipedia explains the history:

Mole Day originated in an article in The Science Teacher in the early 1980s. Inspired by this article, Maurice Oehler, now a retired high school chemistry teacher from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, founded the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF) on May 15, 1991.

So, yeah, It's Mole Day. Have some Mole Day cake!

Blogger "RA" of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania has a lengthy Mole Day post on her blog, in which she nerdily explains:

Nestled within National Chemistry Week, October 23 celebrations glorify the mole and Avogadro’s number, approximated at 6.022 x 1023. A mole is an absolute number without a unit, similar to a dozen. A dozen is always 12, whether it’s made up of donuts or people or cars. It’s the same with a mole, except that it’s always 6.022 x 1023, which is a number of fantastic magnitude, such that a mole of oranges would be as large as the earth. Practically speaking, when dealing with elements and compounds, the mole allows us to switch between atomic mass units (which are ridiculously small) to grams, which we can see, feel, and measure. So, 6.022 x 1023 atoms of carbon (atomic weight of 12 amu), or a mole of it, would have a mass of 12 grams, which is so much more helpful because we have known atom quantity and mass. On Mole Day, we’re really celebrating the awesomeness of this one magical number.

"Nerdily" is a compliment in this instance, by the way. :) Meanwhile, in Downer's Grove, Illinois, some high-school students are using the day as an opportunity to show off their extreme dorkiness:

Classes do not begin at Downers Grove North until 8 a.m., but more than 350 students are expected to be at school at 6:02 a.m. Tuesday.

About 14 percent of the student body will be running laps and decorating windows with homemade periodic tables for Mole Day, a national celebration of Avogadro’s number, 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power, which is used as a basic measurement in chemistry. What was initially planned as a one-time event with 100 people four years ago, has grown steadily, much to the surprise of chemistry teacher Tom Redig who organized the first event. ...

Senior Jess Mulcone of Downers Grove said she first went to Mole Day as a sophomore for extra credit but got hooked on the event. Even though Jess is not in chemistry now, she said she is looking forward to going with many of her friends.

“It’s fun just being at school at 6:02 in the morning,” she said. “No one else is there, and you feel so ridiculous for being there.”

Heh. Nerds! I love it!

But this is stuffed-animal cruelty: "The run or walk starts with a bang from a mole cannon, a tube filled with flammable materials used to detonate a stuffed mole." Oh, the mole-manity!

To censor or to censure, that is the question

By Brendan Loy

Becky comments on controversial remarks by the co-discoverer of DNA about the alleged inferior intelligence of Africans, and the response thereto: "I don't mean to portray Watson as a victim of the cult of political correctness because frankly, if you make racist assumptions and statements, you should take heat for it. But the trend toward silencing opposing views rather than confronting them, toward living in an Ivory Tower echo chamber of so-called progressive thought, concerns me." Read the whole thing.

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize

By Brendan Loy

This should have posted earlier this morning as a CNN Breaking News alert, but something didn't work right. Anyway... Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.

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