I discuss the myths about why our fingers go “pruney” in the bath or swimming pool in my book Deceived Wisdom, the truth seems to lie in the work of Mark Changizi. In this cartoon, we see the explanation and get to hear his theory in his own words.
And strange? Well, let's get this straight: All great books are strange. Every lasting work of literature since the very weird "Beowulf" has been strange, not only because it grapples with the strangeness around us, but also because the effect of originality is startling, making even the oldest books feel like brand new stories.Strange: Out-of-the-ordinary, unusual, curious. "The strangeness around us," says Handler. There is a paradox here. What could be less strange than the world around us? It is the same world that was here yesterday, and the day before that. More to the point: It is a world ruled by law. Inviolable causal bonds. That's what makes science possible.
The tabloids were screaming at new parents this week desperately yelling at them not to share a bed with their newborn because it could be lethal, causing sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. The research said so. SIDS is tragic, of course, but a little composure, please.
As NHS Choices explains: “The researchers estimate that the absolute risk of SIDS for room-sharing infants was 0.00008 (eight per 100,000) when neither parent smoked and the baby was less than three months old, breastfed, and had no other risk factors.”
That’s 8 of every 100,000 infant deaths for babies sleeping in the same room, not the same bed as their parent(s). The research showed that bed-sharing increased this death rate risk to 0.00023 (that’s 23 per 100,000) deaths. Both tiny proportions of the total number of deaths. There is a world of difference between absolute and relative risk. The tabloids said a fivefold increase in risk (actually looks like it’s less than threefold), but the risk is tiny either way. Absolutely tiny. Of every 100,000 babies that die, the “cause” is referred to as SIDS in just 0.023%.
Exactly what SIDS is and what causes it are yet to be determined. Two of the bullet points given in the article hint at the specific risks: “do not share a bed with your baby, particularly if you have been drinking or have taken drugs”, do not let your baby get too hot and keep your baby’s head uncovered.
NHS Choices alludes to the fact that smoking, alcohol and drug use are also risk factors and that the risk of SIDS decreases as baby gets older. Like I say, tragic for the parents and families affected, I’m not belittling the tragedy, just trying to point out that the risks are small and while parents should listen to advice from their healthcare workers, they shouldn’t become neurotic about the safety of their child on the back of tabloid headlines.
To create the flower structures, Noorduin and his colleagues dissolve barium chloride (a salt) and sodium silicate (also known as waterglass) into a beaker of water. Carbon dioxide from air naturally dissolves in the water, setting off a reaction which precipitates barium carbonate crystals. As a byproduct, it also lowers the pH of the solution immediately surrounding the crystals, which then triggers a reaction with the dissolved waterglass. This second reaction adds a layer of silica to the growing structures, uses up the acid from the solution, and allows the formation of barium carbonate crystals to continue.The researchers were able to manipulate the chemical reactions to create the flower-like structures. For example, increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide helps to create broad-leafed structures.
Remember that strikingly inept poll analysis about the Tea Party movement from The New York Times last month? Well, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll addresses the same topic, and the Post’s analysis seems to actually be rooted in reality:
The conservative “tea party” movement appeals almost exclusively to supporters of the Republican Party, bolstering the view that the tea party divides the GOP even as it has energized its base.
That conclusion, backed by numbers from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, also suggests that the tea party may have little room for growth. Most Americans — including large majorities of those who don’t already count themselves as supporters — say they’re not interested in learning more about the movement. A sizable share of those not already sympathetic to the tea party also say that the more they hear, the less they like the movement.
Overall, the tea party remains divisive, with 27 percent of those polled saying they’re supportive but about as many, 24 percent, opposed. Supporters overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents; opponents are even more heavily Democratic. The new movement is also relatively small, with 8 percent of supporters claiming to be “active participants” — about 2 percent of the total population.
(Emphasis added by me.)
These numbers are somewhat similar to last month’s New York Times-CBS News poll, which found that 18% of Americans support the Tea Party movement. Despite the Times doing as much as it could to hype these results, I pointed out that this wasn’t very meaningful, since that poll found that 78% of these “supporters” had never attended a Tea Party rally or meeting or donated money to the Tea Party cause. So, doing a little math, we find that about 4% of people could be labeled as active Tea Partiers based on that poll (compared with 2% in the current Washington Post poll).
The difference in both of these numbers (27% vs. 18% for supporters, 4% vs. 2% for active participants) could be due to a real drop in support for and participation in the Tea Party movement, or just a difference between the two polls. My point in bringing it up is that The Washington Post’s analysis actually makes sense.
On the side, it is also of note that there’s some good news in the poll for the Democratic Party:
The percentage of people who say the Democratic Party represents their personal values and is in tune with the problems of people like themselves hasn’t changed since November. The percentage siding with the GOP, however, has dropped by almost precisely the numbers now siding with the tea party.
Some 14 percent of Americans say the tea party is most in sync with their values, nearly matching the 15 percentage-point drop-off for the GOP over the past five months.