October 27, 2006

From David MacDonald:

Re: Math vs. vampires: vampires lose (Oct. 25): This is a cute lesson in exponential math but falls short for several reasons. First of all, you can’t prove that something supernatural can’t exist using math or science, since by definition the supernatural doesn’t obey these laws. Secondly, the classic vampires which are referred to (eg. Bram Stocker) are only created when a person drinks a vampires blood, not vice versa. Most victims of vampires are just drained of blood and eaten by the wolves. Dracula is described as feeding his future companions blood from his breast, in a morbid allusion to mother’s milk. And also, people can kill vampires too which would eventually keep the two populations in balance. In fact all they would have to do is kill the first one (with a Bowie knife?) and that would be it.

As for the ghosts the first argument still holds true. Also, ghosts are described as being able to walk through walls in spots where there were no walls during the persons life. The ghost simply follows the path the person did in life, so it could also walk through floors to as has been described in accounts of seeing ghosts submerged into a floor where the ground was lower during its life. Therefore there is no contradiction in terms of Newtonian physics here.

And for the zombie bit the authors could have saved themselves some time if they just watched the movie “The Serpent and the Rainbow”.

October 26, 2006

From Jedidiah Palosaari:

Re: A wild, and gay, kingdom (Oct. 24): Seems like a major problem with this study is a confusion of terms. Perhaps because it’s on the bridge of two different disciplines. I would imagine (not knowing for sure) that in anthropology, sex refers to two individuals enjoying each other in reference to their reproductive organs, often with orgasm. However, in biology sex refers to the mixture of gametes. Unless Boeckman has a rather novel proposal for how this might occur between two sperm or two eggs, gay interactions between animals are not sex, by biological definitions. There is no way they can be. Hence previous researches are quite correct to not refer to this as sex.

Jedidiah Palosaari
Seattle, WA

From Nick Semenza:

Re: Report: dinos took repeat pounding before final exit (Oct. 26): I recently wrote a paper on this very subject and came across the Shiva Hypothesis from Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University. He suggests, also, that there was a multiple impact event. Documented additional impacts, though smaller, were the following (www.unb.ca):

Chatterjee agrees that the Chicxulub impact even happened 300, 000 years before the K-T mass extinction and claims the real impact was from a 40 km wide object off the west coast of India leaving a 400-600 km wide crater and possible accelerating mid oceanic rifting in the area. This hypothesis has only been presented as an abstract and never published for peer review which makes me question his hypothesis. It’s still an interesting idea though. His theory makes far more sense than the nemesis theory proposed by Hut in 1984. [Ref.: Chatterjee, S. (2003). The Shiva Crater: implications for Deccan volcanism, India-Seychelles rifting, dinosaur extinction, and petroleum entrapment at the K T boundary. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, 35(6), 168.]

Nick Semenza
Geology undergrad student, ISU

October 20, 2006

From L. Prior:

Re: Facial Expressions May Be Inherited (Oct. 16): I’d be very interested to know if ways of walking are partly inherited or whether they are 100% copied behaviour learned subliminally by a young child watching parents and mimicking them.

I am almost certain that a particular gait is inherited and not something that could be consciously copied especially when to walk in a different manner involving un-natural muscle-groups would likely be very difficult and something that would have to be habituated consciously.

A simple study of seeing any blind people and whether they walk in the same manner as their parents when walking full speed (and guided as blind people have to walk slower than sighted people for obvious reasons) but it would make an interesting study to see if any traits are inherited in the gait.

October 19, 2006

From Frog9 18 @ a ol.com:

Re: Paper takes swipe at bedrock law of physics (Oct. 14): It sounds like professional jealousy and arrogance when supposed experts ridicule someone not of their ilk who theorizes on yet unknown principles of the physical universe. They seem extremely petty in their childish protection of what they see as their exclusive turf.

From David Lewis:

Re: Facial Expressions May Be Inherited (Oct. 16): While it is true that the blind could not see and therefore mimic their sighted family member’s expressions, the converse is not true. To validate their theory would require evaluating congenitally blind people who were raised apart from all of their family members.

David Lewis, Ph.D.

From Thomas R Love:

Re: Paper takes swipe at bedrock law of physics (Oct. 14): The author is piling one fantasy on top of another. When Einstein’s general theory of relativity led to the big bang, it should have been viewed as a reductio ad absurdum—a disproof of the theory. Instead it was viewed as a great new discovery. The same with black holes. Einstein wanted to develope a theory without singularities because the existence of singularities proves the theory is wrong.

Thomas R Love, PhD
Department of Mathematics and Department of Physics
California State University at Dominguez Hills

From Panagiotis Karagiorgis:

Re: Paper takes swipe at bedrock law of physics (Oct. 14): Although the author who inspired your article regards matter (or energy) creation from the point of view of a Big Bang theorist, I partially share his ideas concerning the conditions in which new particles get generated in the universe. I think you will find interesting a possible mechanism that I describe based on a mathematical approach to quantitative steady-state cosmology, in my bilingual paper titled “Exormetism:. . .”, which you can download from www.geocities.com/structor6.

October 14, 2006

From Tony Wren:

Re: For ants, one playbook fits many situations (Oct. 9): The ants thus “tune the param­e­ters of a sin­gle de­ci­sion al­go­rithm to re­spond adap­tive­ly to two dis­tinct prob­lem­s.” How easy is that? Do the ants feel a sense of urgency? What is the mechanism for converting that into “In a cri­sis, scouts simp­ly searched more, be­gan ad­ver­tis­ing sites soon­er, and waited for few­er nest­mates to agree with them be­fore start­ing to move”?

Obviously the two activities are similar (in fact the same) and it is precisely the link between the urgency of the situation and the degree of response which is interesting. If you paper over the cracks so blatantly you can probably describe human behavious in similar terms.

So maybe this work will indeed “help bi­o­lo­gists un­der­stand the de­sign of sys­tems as di­verse as bac­te­ri­al col­o­nies and hu­man brains”. . . if they feel they have “understood” the ants!

October 02, 2006

From William Hohmann:

Re: Burglars found to be as skilled as pilots (Sept. 27): “Bur­glars pre­fer res­i­dents to be at home asleep, as this en­sures valu­a­bles such as wal­lets, hand­bags and jew­el­lery are in the house.”

Not so in the USA. Burglars know many residents in the USA possess firearms, and are much more likely to get shot. Home intrusions with the resident there are a fraction of these occurences elsewhere for this very reason.

BTW: I’ve had quite a number of Brits and Ausies who have moved here come through my classes. They didn’t like living in countries where the government gives the advantage to the criminals.

William Hohmann
Certified handgun instructor