A KATU/SurveyUSA poll of some 600 likely voters—coming out just days before Tuesday's election—has fluoridation down 53 percent to 40 percent, with only eight percent over respondents listing themselves as undecided.
That's pretty much a worst-case scenario for fluoridation supporters, including the Mercury (our endorsement is here) and every other major newspaper in Portland. The same poll last week showed 14 percent of voters undecided, with 48 percent opposed and 39 percent in favor—implying that as people figure out how they want to vote, most are breaking toward the opposition.
The phrasing of a poll question is always interesting. A bad question led a lot of people to write off the arts tax when polls showed it lagging—only to win with 62 percent of the vote. But in this case, it's impossible to blame the phrasing—which is pretty straight-up:
On the ballot measure concerning the fluoridation of Portland's drinking water supply, are you ... Certain to vote yes? Certain to vote no? Or not certain?
The crosstabs are filled with good tidbits. Fluoride is up big among "affluent" voters, but doing awfully among people who aren't and people who still have land lines. But here's an even more interesting detail, especially in a low-turnout election where every ballot actually in hand counts: Among respondents who said they already turned in ballots, fluoridation is losing BIG.
When I first saw this I couldn’t tell if it was cringeworthy or simply awesome. But listening to the whole thing I’m gravitating heavily toward option two. This is Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, performing Bowie’s Space Oddity from … well, space.
Behold, the artificial hamburger, created in a plastic cylinder for your enjoyment:
The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality.
Does it make it extra appetizing to know that it's environmentally friendly?
As Alison noted on Friday, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is the world's best astronaut. His time in orbit has been spent doing all sorts of science-y space things, I'm sure, but he's also been making fantastic videos for all of us poor bastards who're trapped on Earth (not to mention doing things like discussing the intricacies of space travel with James T. Kirk). All this week, he's going to be talking about how our senses operate in space, and yes. He is the world's best astronaut.
Via @CanadianSpaceAgency, which, due to the fact that they have a Chris Hadfield and NASA does not, is currently kicking NASA's ass.
I am in love with International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield. His videos from the space station pretty much justify the existence of the internet. See: Wringing out a washcloth in space and brushing your teeth in space. (He swallows his toothpaste, OH NOOOO!)
Hadfield will be returning from orbit on May 13; the Independent has a nice look at how Hadfield has used social media to share incredibly cool snapshots of life in in space. quote from his kid:
[His] winning combination of profundity and giddy enthusiasm is not new to Hadfield's son Evan. "It's tough not to be biased," he says from Germany, where he lives, "but Dad's one of those people who only come along every once in a while."
The City Club of Portland has been trying to get fluoride into the city's drinking water for almost 60 years. So the central conclusion of a report the club sent to media outlets Wednesday—with strict instructions it wasn't to be reported on until this morning—comes as no surprise: the City Club still wants our water to have fluoride.
At least, one of its committees does.
"The general scientific consensus and 65 years of experience in other communities demonstrate that fluoride is safe at the recommended level that will be implemented in Portland's water supply," reads a majority recommendation from the committee that authored the document, "and that it is an effective way to reduce dental cavities and to promote dental health in an equitable manner."
As with anything surrounding this bitterly contentious debate, though, the matter is not so clear cut. The report also contains a minority opinion.
"The minority feels that fluoridating the public water supply will be done without the informed consent of some portion of the Portland population," the report reads. "Further the minority believes that fluoride, used to reduce cavities, is best administered in a doctor's or dentist's office."
The club will take a formal stance on the issue later this month.
Meanwhile, Measure 26-151—which would authorize fluoridation of the water supply—will be decided by voters on May 21. Council first approved fluoridation in September, but opponents gathered enough signatures to put the matter on a ballot.
If approved, fluoridation would cost roughly $5 million to implement—paid with water rates—with significant yearly expenses after.
This is me right now:
Ahem. Here we go.
So we're old, and it’s been 20 years since the game-changing Jurassic Park came out. I bet that since that time, you, like me, got obsessed, got it on VHS, watched it too many times, eventually gave the VHS to Goodwill, then maybe found an old roommate’s DVD, or caught pieces of it on TNT a bunch, and every time it seemed awesome, but you thought maybe it was just the nostalgia, because surely not everything that seemed cool in 1993 is actually all that cool.
But you guys: You’re wrong. It’s not just the nostalgia. Jurassic Park is still. Fucking. Fantastic.
And get this: in IMAX and 3D, it's better.
The dinosaurs are louder, huger, and badasser than you have ever seen them before. On the giant screen, with the volume set to “loud as shit,” this rerelease made me feel 10 years old again: small, scared, and totally awestruck. The conversion to 3D is not without some bumps, but at the most important times—like when the T-rex is trying to eat Tim and Lex in the Jeep, and whenever Jeff Goldblum has his shirt off—everything works beautifully. Beautifully! God I love this movie.
Aside from Lex getting excited over an interactive CD-ROM and calling herself a hacker, everything has held up with time. The only thing that could have made this rewatch better is if I’d let myself get pregnant eight years ago so I could have taken a kid to see it for the first time. I was actually jealous of parents with kids at the screening. That never, ever happens.
Sidebar: While obsessing about the movie in anticipation of the screening, I discovered this gem:
“A baby triceratops was built for a scene where one of the kids rides it. Special effects technicians worked on this effect for a year but the scene was cut at the last minute as Steven Spielberg thought it would ruin the pacing of the film.”
That does not have anything else to do with this review, but let the record reflect that I will buy whatever future Blu-ray release has this deleted scene. Also, I first read that as “baby tyrannosaurus rex” instead of baby triceratops, and how sweet would that have been?!
Sidebar sidebar: A kid riding a little T-rex makes me think of the human/dino hybrids that will NOT be in JP4 and now I’m mad about that all over again. Moving on.
Okay, yes, it is kind of bullshit for a studio to rerelease something that already made a bajillion dollars with the cynical intention of making a bajillion more, but come on. It’s fucking Jurassic Park. It is always wonderful, best on the big screen, and you don’t have to beg for an advance on your allowance to see it this time. Even though it’s been around for 20 years, you should, without a doubt, pay $20 to see it again.
Jurassic Park 3D opens today. Showtimes are here.
If you are tired of feeling like you're in the minority—and by that I mean the smartest person in the room—you may want to try the latest in IQ-lowering pharmaceuticals, called MinusIQ. Let Dr. Cornelius Grouppe explain. NOTE: If you are a regular commenter on Blogtown (with the possible exception of three of you), there's no need for you to watch the following.
There's been a hubbub among roller derbers (hmm?) over the last couple days about a scientific study that's been making the internet rounds—all about germs and full-contact sports. Basically after an hour of sweating and slamming into each other, roller derby players have a different batch of microbes covering their bodies after a game than when they started. Yeah, eeew. That's the opposing team all over 'em. It's a really interesting scientific study that was conducted during a big derby tournament in Eugene, where scientist/roller derby gal Jessica Green, director of the Biology and Built Environment Center at the University of Oregon, and her fellow scientists swabbed skaters' arms before a game and then after the game. The after results showed that scientists could no longer accurately say which swabbings were from which team—all skaters' microbes (AKA the good and bad bacteria and viruses that live on our skin, AKA cooties*) had commingled considerably. Which kinda seems like a no-duh—of course, you're going to exchange bacteria with all that skin-to-skin hitting—but it raises a lot of questions, like how long those different cooties stick around, the health benefits of hosting other people's good microbes, and how teams share much of the same microbial makeup throughout their seasons. As I saw one skater describe it, maybe that's why individual teams have individual aromas (again ewwww, but cool, teammies sharing smellies). Check it out, it's a good read!
* Hey, I'm no scientist.
We all know humans do it. Some people will even show their boobs to a prison guard for a chocolate chip cookie, but penguins?! Those adorable animals dressed like banquet waiters who engage in Morgan Freeman-narrated lifelong monogomy? Yes. They're prostitutes.
It's not exactly new news but an alert reader Jake H. pointed me towards a 1998 study that somehow didn't make it to my daily reading habits because it's too amazing. Apparently when the small rocks they use to make nests get scarce, some penguins will exchange sexual favors for them. Not only do they prostitute themselves, they do it for pebbles!
According to this excellent Wikipedia article, prostitution has also been observed in chimpanzees, Capuchin monkeys, and the crab-eating macaque. That's not super surprising: chimpanzees and Capuchins are gross. And of course something called a "crab-eating macaque" would sell its body (am I right ladies?). But penguins? PENGUINS? I feel let down.
Read some more about the behavior (and make sure to hear Morgan Freeman's voice in your head):
The female penguins observed under the study were coupled with males. The females will go outside alone to collect pebbles, but the males did not suspect their female partners. According to the observations and analysis made by Hunter, the prostitute penguins targeted single males, because if instead they picked a male penguin with a partner, the male penguin's current partner will come in conflict with the prostitute female.
All that stuff about sitting on the egg waiting for their partners to come back is less romantic when you know they're being cuckolded. You're not a faithful husband penguin, you're a fool. While you're making dinner for your unborn chick, your woman is out Roxanning it up for building materials, perhaps sucking a macaque or two.
Today is a sad, sad day. Well, some day in 1998 was a sad day, but I've fallen behind on my penguin sex Wikipedia reading.
You know what happens and how you sound when you inhale helium right? Well, Neil Patrick Harris and Kelly Rippa inhale sulfur hexafluoride—and the results may surprise you!
[Mercury friend Robert Fortney recently went to Vandenberg Air Force Base for a NASA social, where he had VIP access to a rocket launch. We think rockets are neat, so we asked him to blog about his experience.- Eds]
It’s 7:30 A.M. I’m standing in front of the South Gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base, trying my best to shield my cold hands from the freezing air that belies every PRcampaign produced about “Sunny California.” The crowd of strangers gathering around me looks just as spasmodic as I feel—but little of that has anything to do with the cold.
Most of us, I’d imagine, would brave harsher extremities than this for the chance to participate in the next two days of activities NASA has in store for us. I'm not here as a member of the press or because I've achieved anything of importance. I'm here because of a life-long fascination with space; and because, after years of
applying, I was finally chosen to take part in a NASA Social.
This series of events (open to anyone with a social media account) is described on NASA's website as a way to "provide NASA followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers.” This particular event—the reason 80 strangers are happily stammering in the cold—is for VIP access to both the logistics and actual launch of the world's longest running series of Earth-observing satellites, known as the Landsat Data Community Mission (LDCM). That $855 million dollar payload will ride atop an Atlas V rocket to reach its projected polar orbit 400 miles above us.
Peter Parker had it preeeetty lucky if you ask me. A radioactive spider bites him, and he only gets spider powers that would be convenient to a human? If it REALLY happened things would be preeeeetty different, as demonstrated in this very catchy and informative video entitled, "Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man." (Audio a touch NSFW.)
Most of the letters I receive come from one or two diligent Oregon inmates—including one who was very upset about the hard pears served up by the prison commissary. But today was special. Ahead of the coming fight over fluoridation, a passionate anti-fluoride advocate from Washington State sent us some new information I couldn't help but share.
So... learn something. And not just about fluoride, but chemtrails, too!
(The Loo toilet paper, for the record, was not part of the mail package. It's been lying around the office for months, and it made me think of former Commissioner Randy Leonard, who served as the fluoride movement's political padrone.
I’d just seen a bird hit my neighbors’ window. And hard! So hard in fact it appeared that—as if by an occult hand—the chicken-sized animal had been plucked from the heavens and tossed around like some vivid marble. But I’ll give whatever capricious god played with this animal his or her due, because what a bird it was. It’s feathers were a kaleidoscope of pigments that ended in an elongated red tail. It looked like no fowl I had ever seen. And as I marveled at the discombobulated ornithological wonder from my bedroom window this past Sunday, I had to ask myself, “What-in-the-fucking-hell-kinda-funky-ass critter is this?” As of yesterday afternoon, I got my answer.
My mystery bird was a golden pheasant, an
invasive "exotic" species native to China, and probably somebody’s exotic pet. (This is not to be confused with the much less dapper common pheasant, also a Chinese native, but now super-abundant in America, especially the plains states—hell it’s even South Dakota’s state bird). Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, broke the news in an email.
And as beautiful as it is, it might also be illegal. And if that's the case, Oregon probably would have wanted me to let it die.
UPDATE: 5:30 PM Bob Sallinger just informed me the animal is legal to possess in the state of Oregon, with the right paperwork.
Here's his full response to my inquiry.
As far as I know, golden pheasants are legal to possess in Oregon and are not becoming prolific in the environment. They are listed as controlled which means there are some rules governing their possession. However people are allowed to keep them in captivity. If one were brought to Audubon or another rehab facility, we would transfer or refer it to either somebody who is qualified to have them or to domestic animal shelter that could adopt it to an appropriate home. We would not be required to euthanize it. The terminology gets confusing...but there is a difference between an exotic species and an invasive species.
The one place that legality might come into question would be if it was deliberately abandoned into the wild. It would not be legal to just dump a bird like this into the environment if it was not longer wanted..
Here’s some optimistic news: 71 percent of Americans are confident humans will get to Mars in 20 years, according to a new poll. Here’s some disappointing news: Americans think NASA gets way more of the federal budget than it really does.
The second sentence doesn't surprise me at all. Most Americans think the majority of our budget goes to foreign aid, NASA, NPR, Big Bird, and giving condoms to five-year-olds. But the first sentence surprises the hell out of me. What evidence is there that we're on the verge of sending a human to Mars? We seem to be stuck with the same dead-end space technology that we've had for the last thirty years or so. Sure, we've sent Curiosity to Mars, but that's the baby step at the very start of a long journey.
But what do I know? Technology moves quickly. Maybe we will get there in two decades. What do you think?
Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows that I'm not on. OMSI is one of my favorite places to spend $28 to have children push me out of the way so they can play with the block crane when I WANTED TO PLAY WITH THE BLOCK CRANE. And now those two things have come together in a great new exhibit called "Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition."
[Full disclosure: OMSI gave me free pizza to try to influence my reporting and it worked. For the rest of this review please consider the source and how much he likes pizza.]
The Explosive Exhibition is in three parts. The first part is a bunch of actual props from the show. This is not science but is really, really exciting. They brought the robot shark! The robot shark is in Portland right now! You guys! Robot! Shark! There's also a machine-gun cross-bow, lacerated airplane, and (in a rare bad decision by the producers) a flatulence chair. There's also a slightly creepy display of the Mythbuster's clothes.
Part 2 of the exhibit is a bunch of "myths" that you test. This part is really well designed and thoroughly fun. (A note on the myths: "Mythbusters" ran out of actual myths to test in like season four. Most of what they test are YouTube videos, movie scenes, and stuff they make up. "There's this myth that if you fill a corvette with strippers and dynamite and drive it off a cliff nothing bad will happen. Let's try it in the small scale!" The exhibition has a couple really good actual myths and at least one BS one.) You can test whether walking/running in the rain gets you wetter (or you can watch people do it because you just came in out of the rain and don't feel like getting rained on indoors), whether fake-toast always lands fake-butter-side down, whether you can pull a table cloth out from under dishes without breaking them, and more. It's pretty great, although admittedly I was at a mostly-adult press event. Had it been overrun with children it would have been less fun. I advise you go to an After Dark event if at all possible.
***After the jump, they shoot me with a paintball***
The study everyone is talking about:
Researchers at Louis H Lafontaine Hospital, affiliated with the University of Montreal, tested the levels of cortisol—a stress hormone—and other indicators of strain in homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals. "Contrary to our expectations, gay and bisexual men had lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels (a measure of body stress) than heterosexual men," lead author Robert-Paul Juster said.
The study also found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals who were out to friends and family had lower levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—compared to gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals who weren't out to friends and family. But it's the "gay and bi guys are less stressed out than straight guys" finding that people are latching on to. Stephen Colbert says the answer is obvious: gay guys don't have to deal with women, and bitches be all crazy and shit. (But what about bi guys, Stephen?) Andrew Sullivan linked to Joseph Stromberg's analysis of the study: being out isn't just a matter of integrity or dignity, but of public health. Encourage gay and bi men to be out—instead of doing the opposite—and their stress levels will drop, improving their mental and physical health.
But no one is talking about why cortisol levels are higher in straight guys and what can be done to bring their levels of cortisol down to gay/bi levels. Shouldn't the mental and physical health of straight guys matter just as much?
So, hey, maybe all straight guys come out as gay or bi—would that help?
Let's find out... after the jump.
As if wandering around our local science museum after hours with other big kids wasn't awesome enough, OMSI's next After Dark edition centers around the always-fascinating subject of food. Think microwaving marshmallows and setting things on fire* and demonstrations involving hard-boiled eggs. Presented by the museum's new eatery, Theory, "Science is Cooking" sounds like a delightful way to spend this probably rainy Wednesday evening, safe inside with a beer, some edible entertainment and the delicious company of other food nerds. Also, to celebrate the opening, the first 250 attendees are promised a free glass of wine (the event runs 6-10 pm, so get there early). Tickets are $12 for non-members, $6 for members, and free to After Dark members. It's a cash bar, too—plan accordingly. See you there, fellow gastronomic geeks!
OMSI is located at 1945 SE Water.
*Liberty may have been taken in interpreting the remark on their event page about exploring the burning of calories. Things may actually not be set on fire... but you never know.
So we were all at Sarah Mirk's going away party last night, and naturally, the topic came up of dogs licking peanut butter off of genitalia—and how, you know, that's gross and dogs should know better. But then I made the wise observation that dogs are so obsessed by peanut butter that it is genetically IMPOSSIBLE for them to stop themselves from licking peanut butter off of anything!
We then spent the next 20 minutes trying to come up with a single thing that a dog would NOT lick peanut butter off of—and we couldn't think of a single thing. For example, vomit. A dog would happily lick peanut butter off that. The closest we came was either a burning hot radioactive isotope, or a pile of broken glass... but the dog would still happily lick both of those things before the pain would eventually force him to stop, or die in the process.
So a query, Blogtown: WHAT WILL A DOG NOT LICK PEANUT BUTTER OFF OF? Science awaits your answer.
In this week's Mercury, Sarah Mirk wrote of two Portland men who gallantly shot a hot dog into space. That was pretty cool. However, was it as cool as these guys who turned their Christmas tree into a rocket? I don't know the answer to that question. Shoot me into space and I'll think about it.
Like we all knew would happen, the Portland City Council yesterday officially moved up a referendum on putting fluoride in the water to May 2013—a full year earlier than fluoride foes had been hoping for when they went out gathering tens of thousands of signatures in hopes of summarily ending the whole affair.
It was a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Dan Saltzman out on an excused absence and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, concerned about low turnout and a rushed campaign, voting a full-throated NO. The vote also marked an official send-off for Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard, both of whom are stepping down in 10 days. And, like every other fluoride hearing to date, it didn't disappoint. In fact, it was pretty much just like every fluoride hearing to date, because everyone pretty much said pretty much the same things they said every other time.
I was live-tweeting it all yesterday. I got punchy. Enjoy some highlights.
People from our comments section have questions for me... I try to answer them. Today commenter EinsteinStupid asks, "What's going on inside your underpants, Hump?" GOOD QUESTION. I am intrigued by the science of microbiology, so the moment I received this question, I ran down to the science store, picked up a microscope, and shoved it down my pants. The video I captured was fascinating, educational, and a thought provoking look at the "universe of life" currently crawling around my genitals. Enjoy.
Only it's the boys doing it. And they're guppies:
Some female animals are known to show a preference for mating with males they had observed coupling with other females in a phenomenon known as "mate choice copying." This allows them to evaluate the quality of a potential mate from a distance. For this study, the researchers set out to show that homosexual behaviour in the tropical freshwater fish Poecilia mexicana would similarly boost a drabber male's chances of heterosexual coupling.
"P. mexicana females increase their preference for initially non-preferred males not only after observing those males interacting sexually with females, but also when having observed them initiating homosexual behaviour.... As homosexual behaviour is regularly seen in small P.mexicana males, we speculate that it might represent an alternative mating tactic used by subordinate, and thus, less attractive males," the University of Frankfurt researchers wrote.
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