Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recent Press: Remove the Occupy Protesters

Last night, CBC Radio One ran a story highlighting the desire of some (or arguably, most) people to have the Occupy protesters removed from their encampments indefinitely. The story was part of the The Current hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti. Guests on the show included:
  • Ric McIver- an entrepreneur and former alderman in Calgary who believes the protesters have worn out their welcome,
  • Ralph Young- the President and CEO of Melcor Developments Ltd. - a real estate development company that owns the land where the Occupy Edmonton group has set up camp, and
  • Dean Douglas Stoute- the Dean of St. James Anglican Cathedral in Toronto. Occupy Toronto has set up in a park that's jointly owned by the church and the city.
In Edmonton, the protesters are camping out on private land, and the owner is asking them to leave the premises at night (from 11:00pm to 6:00am), just as they would be required to do if this were municipally owned land. There has been little or no compliance with this request.

What I found most interesting was a quote by a young Occupy protester in Edmonton- the young man claims that his grandfather fought in the Canadian military for his right to protest, and that he does not believe that he should have to leave the premises at night.

I saluted Ric McIver who suggested that this young man's grandfather also fought for the Rule of Law here in Canada, and that his grandfather would likely not be pleased by his grandson's blatant disobedience. In Canada, I believe we have a responsibility to respect both public and private property. The issue isn't protesting...I'll be the first person to stand up for this young man's right to protest...but my support will end where this protesting is affecting the livelihood of others.

Another quote by a young female organizer of the Edmonton Occupy movement suggested that it would be too much of an inconvenience to dismantle and re-assessmble all of their tents, equipment, etc. I was once again impressed by the response, this time by Ralph Young, that this young lady does not wish to be inconvienced in her protests, but has not given consideration to the feelings of others and her potential inconvience in their lives.

I think that these two quotes embody more than just the feelings of two individuals. I believe that this speaks to the underlying societal pathologies of entitlement (quote #1) and selfishness (quote #2) displayed by many young people, and perhaps the Occupy movement at large.

On a side note, the protesters are likely not going to leave on their own. But this is Canada, and next week marks the beginning of the glorious month of November, where temperatures can drop significantly below 0 overnight.

Give it time in Canada...the occupy movement will likely be 'frozen' in its' tracks...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The 99% movement vs the 53% movement

By now I'm sure that everyone with access to television/radio/Internet (or in today's world perhaps Twitter and facebook) has heard of the 99% movement, which is protesting corporate greed on Wall St, and in government, more or less. The idea is that the 99% of people are fed up with the 1% of people who control a significant amount if wealth.

Recent polls suggest that the majority if Americans support the movement (unfortunately, I am without solid Canadian data, please comment if you know of any).

Well there is a new movement coming from the conservative American right- they call themselves the 53%. The idea is that these are the 53% of people who pay income tax, work hard, and who don't expect things to be handed to them. A common theme of social or financial hardship, any ultimately overcoming said hardships, characterizes the lives of members of the 53%.

The 53% are quite critical of the 99% (sorry about the numbers...)- they understand that there are major critiques of both Wall st and government, but they suggest that "what the 99% are missing is the critical element of individual responsibility for their own lives and futures."

Clearly, more that 53% of people in the United States pay income tax...but that's not really the point of the movement.

I live in a cohort of young people (say 18-25), that are overwhelmingly self-entitled and lazy, and who expect handouts at every turn. Unfortunately, although there are young people who do not live up (or live down, rather) to this stereotype, I would consider them to be the minority. The 99% (most of whom are young people) aren't wrong, they're just misguided...

The issue lies in how young people in my cohort were raised- they were raised to believe that they were 'special'. Indeed, children should be special in the eyes of their parents and families, as this promotes a culture of love and care. Where this is a disfavor to children (and now, to young adults) is when children learn that they do not have to work hard for what they receive because of the very fact that they are special. This is fine when Johnny wants a pack of gum at the corner store- surely, it would ridiculous to suggest that Johnny ought to start working at the age of 5 to earn this pack of gum- but when this behavior (and I'm talking about the behavior of parents here, not children) continues on into adolescence and teenage hood, it can completely distort how young people view work, reward, success, and others around them.

Being 'special' at a young age is a good thing, until a child reaches an age where they are out on their own in the real world and suddenly have to cope with the fact that the rest of the world no longer sees them as being special. Young people who were raised like this may still believe that they do not have to work for that 'pack or gum', the only difference in that the treat at the candy store is now college tuition (yes, lower tuition people, I'm talking to you), employment, or housing.

I have much respect for young people who were raised in such a way and actually accept that they are no longer special, and realize that people in the world do not exist to serve them, and that they are going to have to work for what they receive. Many will not accept, or realize, this, and can likely be found at protests such as Occupy Wall St, still demanding something for nothing, and still believing that they are special.

Obviously, the lesson here isn't to teach your kids that they're just like everyone else...children's individual talents and skills should be nurtured and praised. But it is important that in our world today children learn the basic values that families are meant to teach: the value of a dollar, the importance of good work ethic, the fulfillment of working hard, and the reason why we should all work hard- because you're not special in the eyes of the world, and the world is not going to hand you everything in life.

I was raised to believe that I was special in the eyes of my family- that they would love me no matter what. But I was also raised to understand that I must work for what I receive, and to understand why it is important to work hard. I am proud to say that I was raised this way, and indeed, these are some of the values that I would like to pass on to my children one day.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time-orientation, the effects of video gaming on education, and the role of the family

RSA Animate has created a wonderful visual aid to Professor Philip Zimbardo's lecture on The Secret Powers of Time (link below). 
I'll discuss the following idea from the video:

The notion of time-orientation, and video games' effect on education in North American youth (primarily males).

Zimbardo lectures on the concept of 'time-orientation', and explains that one's cultural and social interpretations of time have profound impacts on everyday life. He explains that there are 6 'time-zones', or time-orientations that people live in: 2 for the past, 2 for the present, and 2 for the future.

Past oriented people are either:
Past-Positive, where they focus on all of the good things that have happened in their lives- the awards, successes, etc- these are the types of people who maintain photo albums or diaries
Past-Negative, where people tend to focus on their regrets, or failures- these are the people who blame their present, and any relative lack of perceived success, on their past, or past decisions

Present oriented people are either:
Present-Hedonistic, where they continually seek pleasure and avoid pain, probably the most basic of the time-orientations
Present-Fated, where people believe that they had might as well live in the present, because the decisions do not affect their future because it is fated- either fated because of their religion, poverty, or culture. The most obvious example here, being someone whose religion restricts them from participating fully in society.

Future-oriented people are either:
Future-Planning (my own term for what Zimbardo describes) where people learn to work rather than play, and plan for the future appropriately.
Future-Other (? Zimbardo doesn't actually finish this concretely), where people believe that life begins after the death of the mortal body. My sense is that this is similar to the present-fated orientation of time.
Zimbardo suggests that video games instil a sense of control in young people (young boys, specifically). They are able to control their virtual environment and can build entire worlds to their liking, thus they become programmed to learn in dynamic, digital environments that they alone have sole control over. He then suggests that this is the reason that boys tend to have increasing difficulty in traditional schools- schools are 'analog', they are static with one individual speaking about one topic for prolonged periods of time. Boys perceive this type of learning to be boring as it is passive, rather than active, and they have relatively little control over this environment.

Zimbardo's suggestion to resolving the issue of boys' inattentiveness and lack of motivation, as if solely due to video gaming, is to make schooling more interactive and dynamic to better serve an evolving audience of multi-tasking and control-obsessed young boys.

This could not be farther from the appropriate solution to the issue.  Re-creating the traditional learning environment in such a way that makes it more dynamic and attractive to these individuals would result in drastically reducing these young people's ability to focus their attention on specific learning objectives. Turning classrooms into gigantic iPads will enable children and youth to learn in a more comfortable environment in the short-term. However, when they become adults they may not be able to properly interpret static information, and create new ideas for themselves and for their generation.

The solution is not to change the school, it is change the video gaming.

I think Zimbardo needs to understand video gaming a little better. Video games today are designed to act as alternative parental figures for children:
  • They provide children with an immediate sense of gratification through immediate-to-short-term goal completion, thus providing children with the positive reinforcement of goal completion that should ultimately be coming from their parents,
  • They attempt to foster emotional relationships with characters/figures in the game in place of real-world emotional relationships, such as with family or parents,
  • They are designed to be addictive by allowing children to exercise a much more efficient method of self-gratification- what I mean by this, is that as a character in a video game, one can experience a life-time's worth of accomplishments in mere hours.
The point is that video games teach children and youth to be lazy. This is because video games offer an avenue of goal accomplishment, self-gratification, reinforcement, and praise that is much, much more efficient and easy than in the real world. This makes real-world tasks seem, by comparison, arduous, inefficient, and boring.

This may be a little politically incorrect, but the reason why some young video game-obsessed boys may not be doing well in school is not that they have learned to learn in a different way, and therefore we should cater to this newfound, and supposedly equivalent, method of learning. Rather, it is that children and youth who continually play video games are being programmed towards an over-arching culture of laziness.

We can make classrooms as dynamic and interactive as we want...but it will not inspire these video game-obsessed children to excel because the underlying fundamental philosophy of education is the acceptance of delayed gratification. These children are learning that gratification does not have to be delayed, because through video games it can occur as quickly as 5 minutes ago.

We are all born present-hedonists. Zimbardo argues that the purpose of schools, and education for that matter, it to transform present-oriented children and youth into future-oriented adults (depending on the culture). If schools are supposed to transform children and youth into future-oriented adults, who favour work over play, and who accept delayed gratification as a part of life, then they are going to need help.

It is time to get back to a culture focused on family values, where children are taught how to be ethical, upstanding, successful citizens in the home. This cannot happen if children are spending more time playing video games, than simply talking to their parents.  

Friday, September 16, 2011


Just publishing some of the stats from the blog...

Countries where people have read Mikepedia:
United States 
United Kingdom
Hong Kong 
South Korea

Browsers with which people view Mikepedia:
Chrome  (45%)
Firefox  (25%)
Internet Explorer  (25%)
Safari (3%)

Operating Systems of people who view Mikepedia:
Windows (82%)
Linux  (9%)
Macintosh (6%)
hp-tablet  (1%)

I think the percentaged are all rounded wrong...but its the trend that's important.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Grand Design: On the Existance of a Luminiferous Ether

"The most incomprehnsible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible"- Albert Einstein

To my faithful blog followers- I apologize for my leave of absence. A grueling summer filled with too much fun, a trip to Canada's Atlantic provinces, and a medical school application later...I am back.

Aristotle imagined a universe where there existed a 'luminiferous ether', or just 'ether' for short (1). The term is of course spelled with the Latin dipthong "ash" replacing the first letter 'e' (Æther), but I will use the modern English spelling as my keyboard does not contain Latin characters :)

This ether, considered a 'classical element', refers to the material which fills all of the universe outside of the terrestrial sphere. This material was believed to be the 'messenger' of all forces in the universe - basically, imagine a continuous series of invisible tubes connecting each and every object, like a GMAT permutation question gone mad. When an object moves, it pushes on the ether, which pushes on another object. This is how the universe was thought to operate. Of course, with no good scientific method to prove this concept right or wrong, it remained a prominent, though rarely discussed, idea for quite some time

Countless experiments were carried out in search of a method to study the ether, as well as to prove its' very existence. James Clerk Maxwell carried out one such experiment near the late 1860's- altogether, a fairly well thought-out study. He proposed that: if the Earth moves through the ether, and since the Earth moves in different directions at different parts of the year, then the speed of light must vary, even if only slightly, at different times of the year. This experiment is a good example of those which attempt to either study, or prove the existence of, the ether, because it very clearly outlines the dominant assumption in these experiments: there can be an absolute observation of physical laws, due to the absolute nature of ether- in essence, the ether is the absolute reference with which to compare an observation.

We now know that there is no 'ether'. There is not a mysterious, immeasurable material filling the voids of space with which matter does not reside. This concept of an ether died with the assumption that the laws of physics, including the speed of light, will remain constant with uniformly moving observers- an assumption made by Einstein in his theory of special relativity, where he showed that observations are dependent upon the observer. By assuming that the speed of light is the same in all frames of reference, there will be variation in time- in other words, time is not absolute. This notion, combined with Maxwell's theories of electricity and magnetism, dictates that time cannot be considered separate from the three physical dimensions; otherwise known as the concept of 'space-time'.

Space-time is not flat- it is curved and distorted by the masses and energies within it. In a hypothetical universe without mass or energy (hypothetical, because without mass and energy it could not possibly be observed) there would be no 'time' component of space-time; it would simply be a three-dimensional flat space.

Objects move within space-time, and bend and warp the fabric like a bowling ball on a mattress. It is the essence that 'fills' the universe...


Luminferous Ether...

I ask, given the scientific capabilities of his day, the limitations of previous discoveries, and lack of what we would today call the 'scientific method'...I ask, was Aristotle really all that wrong?

It has been said that Aristotle discovered and/or explained everything, and that everything since then is just a footnote...


1) Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. 2010. Random House Inc, New York, New York, United States.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Constant Content = Fail

My first, and unfortunately last, article was rejected from constant content on the grounds that they do not accept promotional material.

Now, I would like to think that I'm a straight-shooter, a tell-it-how-it-is kinda guy, but apparently contstant content thinks I'm endorsing someone (or something? They didn't really specify.) There are actually many other people on the web complaining of ridiculous reasons why their articles were not accepted, such as spelling errors when the author was using a proper noun, such as a person's name.

I've asked for more information, but haven't heard anything back. Sorry constant content...if you want people to write for you, you should probably try to treat them better. Besides...everyone is using Blogvertiser anyways!

...See, now that's promoting something :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Constant Content

I've submitted my first article to constant content- sort of a 'test' article to see how the process works.

I will be sure to update the blog when it is reviewed or sold...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

News of the World- perceptions of media around the world

The "News of the World" is a UK-based tabloid newspaper, which began in 1843, and is owned (or was owned...) by News International, a UK-based publishing division of News Corporation- the chairman and CEO of which is Rupert Murdoch. The recent phone hacking scandal involving several News of the World journalists has prompted a government inquiry, and has ceased publication of the tabloid indefinitely. But you know all of this already...

During the recent inquiry, Rupert Murdoch used language such "they" and "them", referring to "actions taken by them"...the said "they or them" obviously referring to employees of the newspaper. This language suggests, much to Mr. Murdoch's liking, that he has nothing to do with phone-hacker employees of the very company of which he is Chairman and CEO; in fact, he maintains this exact position throughout his 'testimony' (the use of single quotations is important here, as a testimony is otherwise a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter).

One can conceive of a situation whereby, for whatever length of time imaginable since Mr. Murdoch took control of the tabloid, (News Ltd. purchased it 1969, although, to his credit, cell phone hacking probably wasn't common until 90s/2000s) he would have no idea that some of the journalists that wrote for the paper were engaged in phone hacking and paying police officers. This fantasy would like likely also include flying pigs, a debt-free USA, and Greece as the strongest global economy.

Even if Mr. Murdoch is telling the truth, and he truly had no idea, or at least made absolute sure that he had no idea in case it ever blew up in his face (ie/ pinning everything on a certain female executive director...wouldn't be the first time men of power did such things), the point is that he is still the chairman and CEO. With the rights, come the responsibilities. If your company boasts a net profit that quarter, you get a bonus- and if a fiasco of unethical conduct concerning many of your own employees is blown out of proportion while other newspaper allegedly do the same thing...wait, what?

The issue isn't about Rupert Murdoch being asked if he will resign as CEO, or him lying about his reasons for not planning to, or the actual events of phone-hacking or paying off the police. The issue is that the practices may be more widespread than previously thought. Yes, what happened was unethical, and there should be serious consequences for the journalists, and News of the World, but there may be bigger fish to fry to here...

Should Rupert Murdoch be forced to resign? Of course not...he's not legally linked to any of the unethical practices himself (strategically or legitimitely), and he hasn't blatently done anything wrong. Whether or not he should for the sake of himself, News of the World, and it's shareholders is another question this really the tabloid newspaper he envisioned, the one that will forever be known as the phone-hacking newspaper? Further to this, if he truly cherishes the newspaper and wants it to flourish, maybe he should leave. Finally, the shareholders may be better off if he wasn't in charge after this scandal, if News of the World ever publishes again anyways.

When governments interfere with the management of media companies in other countries, it is usually referred to as communist propaganda, or censorship...the media is the one place where government probably shouldn't have their hands in deciding who runs the show, regardless the country.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Stuff Works- 10 Scientific theories you need to know

How Stuff Works, has recently published a piece outlining the top 10 scientific theories/laws that every human being should know.

I weigh in on the relevance of each of these to everyday life, and I'll add some of my own that they seem to have missed.

10) The Big Bang
9) Hubble's Law of Cosmic Expansion
For these two, see my post on Wilslson and Penzias's discovery of cosmic background microwave radiation in 1965: These are very important theories to understand in everyday life because they have profound implications on one's spiritual beliefs and belief of a God, or gods. Firstly, the universe did not appear out of nothing, and secondly, the universe has evolved by expanding over time. The concept that the universe started somewhere and sometime implies that before the Universe there had to be space and time- two concepts that were once thought to be static, and are now believed to be quite malleable. These are two important theories that should be incorporated into one's theological/spiritual beliefs, regardless of the extent. I caution: God can still exist if these two theories hold true...who do you think created the space and the time?

8) Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
This one is actually three laws: a) law of orbits- planets orbit the sun elliptically, b) law of areas- the area between the sun and the earth as the earth moves over a predetermined length of time is always equal, and c) the law of periods- basically that planets orbit the sun in proportion to their distance from the sun.
This third law is probably the most important, in my mind. This sets the groundwork for our understanding that different planets have different year-lengths, and is an important variable in our quest for intelligent life in the universe.

7) Universal Law of Gravitation- this one is quite obvious. As anyone living near the coast can easily see, the tides rise and fall because of the gravitational attraction to the moon.

6) Newton's Laws of Motion- these are probably the most useful of this list in everyday life. I believe that learning these three laws should be a prerequisite to graduating high school- they are integral to understand. Very simply stated:
First Law- objects will maintain a constant velocity (0 can be considered to be constant) unless acted upon by an external force
Second Law- force=mass x acceleration, basically a heavier object will require more force to put into motion at a given acceleration
Third Law- Action-reaction- to every force, there is counter-force (think of a see-saw).

5) Laws of Thermodynamics- These too, are incredibly useful in everyday life. This is the basis of the mantra "calories in=calories out". Basically this refers to the first law, that matter and energy are both conserved and to get one you must expend the other (E=mc^2)

4) Archimedes Buoyancy Principle- The force acting on a submerged, or floating, object is equal to the force of the displacement of water. Thus, if you fill your swimming pool to the top and expect to be able to fit 30-40 people in it...expect to lose quite a bit of water by the time you're done. If you've ever intend on being in a boat, make sure to review this one. As long as the mass of the volume inside the boat is less than (or, in theory, equal to) the mass of the volume of water that could be in the boat, you'll float :)

3) Evolution and Natural Selection- this theory always gets branded as the "humans came from monkeys" theory and is incorrectly positioned counter to the concept of God and Divine creation. It's more than just monkeys and humans, it refers to the change over time in one or more inherited traits within a population. In other words evolution describes the expected change in a gene pool over time given a host of external, and internal, factors (population, predation, environmental aspects, etc). The fact is, it's been used in some way, shape, or form since the late 19th century to describe why there are differences in inheritance between different subpopulations of the same species.
This is also a theory that you should incorporate into your spiritual beliefs- no has ever, reasonably, suggested evolution cannot be the work of God himself. In fact, a popular movement has recently arisen among young Christian scientists that God, in order to preserve his divine creations, would provide a system where they could adapt to changes in the natural world.

2) Theory of general relativity
Ever wonder why commercial airplanes travel in semi-elliptical flight patterns, and not in straight lines? It's because when they take off, the Earth is still moving beneath (called the Coliolis Effect- stay posted for an upcoming piece on this one). This is kind of the same idea- objects in space bend the very fabric of space-time in proportion to their mass and thus appear to orbit each other.
Why is this important to you? This work has led to explanations of black holes (by Stephen Hawking) and the understanding that light from far away stars can be bent by gravitational fields, thus improving our methods of understanding our solar system, galaxy, and universe.

1) Heisenberg's Uncertainty Princple- I don't really see how this is relevent to everyday life, but here goes.
It is impossible to know, with any degree of certainty, both the position and momentum of a particle because of the wave-particle duality: basically, particles can, and do, behave as both a particle and a wave simultaneously. Thus, when we measure the position of a particle, we are treating it as a particle, and when we measure the momentum of a particle, we are treating it as a wave. This understanding has led to, directly or indirectly, major booms in chemisty, physics, high-tech, and nano-tech in the past(at least) 30-40 years.

The theores that How Stuff Works missed:

1) Plate Tectonics- I personally believe that it is much more relvent to everday, ordinary people, to know how Earthquakes, volanoes, and tsunamis work, and to use this information to avoid areas where said events tend to occur periodically, instead of knowing that a particle exists as both a particle and wave...but that's just me.

2) Doppler Effect- see my post on this: Wouldn't it be nice to know that when a fire truck's siren sharply increases in frequency, you should probably get out of the way? Seems pretty useful to me!

3) The germ theory- how about the idea that disease can often be caused by infectious microorganisms, and not simply by curse or miasma (see Italian explanation for bubonic plague circa ~1200-1300 C.E.). This seems like an important theory to understand when one is prescribed antibiotics with a bacterial infection.

4) Herd Immunity- this refers to the idea that once a significant proportion of a population is vaccinated against an infection disease there is certain level of of protection inferred upon those who possess no immunity. Ie/ in theory, if everyone in your neighborhood is vaccinated against the flu except you, and your neighborhood is a static community where no one enters or exits, you will not get the flu. The point: get your flu shot, you'll be helping society more than you know.

5) Ideal Gas law
6) Cell theory

And the list goes on, and on, and on. The point of the How Stuff Works articles is that non-scientists should educate themselves in scientific theory to an extent, which will ultimately help them understand the world around them.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mikepedia Fact #6 - The sonicboom

A sonicboom is the sound created by an object (generally an aircraft) which breaks the sound barrier, or mach 1, approximately 1,225 km/h (761 mph) at sea level and 20 °C (68 °F). This flight is termed 'supersonic' flight, or speed.

This is caused by the compression of pressure waves (sound waves) behind, and in front of, the object. When the object (in most cases, an aircraft) is travelling at sub-sonic speed, the sound waves are able to propagate ahead of the aircraft, as they are moving faster. But when the aircraft begins to travel at a speed greater than the maximum speed of these sound waves (the speed of sound) the waves are forced to compress together, forming one large pressure wave. The boom is created by the waves that would normally propagate ahead of the aircraft being compressed together while the aircraft flies past them.

Interestingly enough, the crack of a whip is actually a mini-sonic boom, as the tip of the whip moves faster than the speed of sound- no wonder it hurts to get hit with it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Media misconception- western societal gender roles

I've noticed recently, coincidentally or otherwise, an increase in the number of television or movie scenes which confront typical male gander roles with modern 'metrosexual' conceptions of what it means to be a man. The debate is initiated, there is some talk (on either side) about whether or not metrosexualism is 'right', and the confrontation usually ends with the supporter of metrosexualism, or of a person exuding said characteristics, posing the question "do you feel threatened by this?" to the supporter of the more traditional Western male gender role. On television, and in movies, the latter supporter normally responds with anger, defensiveness, and aggression- some of the classics of traditional male hubris.

I want to comment on the basis of this question, as it may be misinterpreted, generally, by the audience due to the central/main character status that the respondent tends to hold. To discuss this, and to most sociologist's diapproval, I will have to use both modern conflict theory and structural functionalism- lets start with some lay definitions.

Modern conflict theory, the father of which is Charles Wright Mills, argues that social structures are created out of conflict- that is, a constant unequal distribution of resources between groups/individuals in society who have different interests creates unequal power distribution, and thus, creates structures like class systems, such as the old English class system of 1st class, 2nd class, and 3rd class citizens, or the North American (U.S.) system of upper, middle, working, and lower class. Conflict theory forms the basis for most class conflict theories, such as traditional feminism- the notion that men have more resources, thus have more power, and thus create, deliberately or otherwise, a class system where men tend to hold power, directly or indirectly, over women.

Structural functionalism deals with just that- the function of structures in society. This theory defines society as a series of inter-related and artificially created 'structures' and attempts to understand the function of their constituents, such as values, norms, traditions, customs, etc. To put this into context (as difficult as this may be), where conflict theory will suggest that the upper 'class', or richer groups of people, wear expensive clothing to reinforce to subordinate groups that they have more power, structural functionalism may point out that clothing is simply a structure within society that has a traditional basis in attracting a mate, or protecting oneself from the environment. Structural functionalism may also suggest that people wear clothing to uphold the social norm of not walking around naked...simple, too bad the theory isn't really used anymore...


The idea of being threatened by metrosexualism has nothing to do with physical threatening- people surely don't believe that they will be beat up by the idea of metrosexualism. The idea of the threat comes from the conflict between the two structures, or constructs (a gender role is a structure as defined by structural functionalism). If the construct of metrosexualism replaces the traditional gender role as the dominant gender structure in society, this would mean that the traditional male gender role would no longer be the dominant construct of the two (as judged by popular belief). A new norm that challenges an old norm almost always makes those who follow the old norm feel threatened. If the metrosexual construct becomes the dominant of the two, this re-defines the meaning of what it means to be a man in society, as the traditional gender role would no longer be accepted as dominant. This is the threat- if this new norm becomes the dominant of the two, the traditional male will no longer be defined as a male within society.

The point is, it is all about how a man defines himself as a man- it has nothing to do with the hatred of metrosexualism (or homosexualism for that matter). It has nothing to do with homophobia, which, by the way, is another misinterpreted concept- a phobia is a genuine fear of something based on the belief that this 'thing' can harm the person who fears it, either physically or emotionally, simply by experiencing a sensation related to this thing, ie/ touch, taste, smell, etc. A phobia is not simply a dislike, disgust for, or preference against something, it is a genuine fear. The threat is nothing more than a desire to have one's own definition fit the societal definition of what it means to be a man.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Buying Blood? The tale of why Canada really does pay people for blood.

A few disclaimers to start:
  1. I have nothing against blood donation or blood product transfusion- in fact I am very supportive of both.
  2. I do not disagree with the methods used by Canadian Blood Services to obtain blood products to meet the demands of growing Canadian need for said products
  3. I have volunteered with Canadian Blood Services, both as a greeter/guide on the blood mobile, and as a blood typer collecting blood samples from participants as part of promotional events aimed at increasing blood donation.
  4. I am a family member of an individual who has required several blood transfusions in their lifetime, and am grateful for CBS and Canadian blood donors.

In Canada, the Human Tissue Donation Act of 1989, section 15,subsection I, states that:

15.(l) No person shall buy, sell or otherwise deal in, directly or indirectly, any tissue, body or body part for the purpose of a transplant or for a therapeutic purpose, medical education or scientific research. (1)

And section 15, subsection 3, states that:

(3) A person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $100,000 or to imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or to both. (1)

Sounds pretty intense...sounds like Canada believes that no one should buy or sell blood or blood products. You can't be paid for blood donation in Canada...let's examine, shall we?

Blood products (or plasma products) refer to concentrated or purified proteins fractions derived from plasma for therapeutic use, such as albumin or intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) (2,3). Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is responsible for collecting blood samples from Canadian donors that are used in the production of plasma products (2). Over the last 10 years, the net usage of IVIG alone in Canada has doubled to more than 3000 Kg/year (3). With this increased demand in plasma products, Canada is no longer (since 1994/1995) a plasma self-sufficient nation (3).

Self sufficiency can be defined as the collection of enough plasma from Canadian donors to meet the needs for manufacturing the product in highest demand (IVIG) (3). Canada is almost self sufficient at producing albumin, but only 20% of the IVIG used clinically in Canada is derived from Canadian plasma (3). The balance of IVIG is purchased as finished product from commercial manufactures (3) by Canadian Blood Services, who purchase the balance of hospital requirements for IVIG from international suppliers (2). In fact, a significant proportion of all plasma protein product inventories are purchased in U.S. dollars (2).
The US collects 3 million litres of recovered plasma (from blood donation) and 14 million litres of source plasma (for further manufacturing) from paid donors.

Like it or not, the blood/plasma products that are used here in Canada were obtained in such a way that would violate section 15(1) of the Human Tissue Donation Act of 1989 if it were done here in Canada. If The Act exists out of some sort of moral obligation to maintain the integrity of human tissues and organs by ensuring that they are not paid for, or sold...then The Act fails to realize that we are already paying people for blood donation, by proxy, for plasma products.

(1) The Human Tissue Donation Act

(2) Canadian Blood Services annual financial report

3) Dr. Willem K. Stevens- Blood Products Division, Centre for Blood & Tissues Evaluation, Health Canada. Production and Regulation of Plasma Products. Course BPS4102 Biopharmaceutical Regulation, Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa. March 21st, 2011.

Sorry Tories, that's just not good enough

It doesn't seem like the Tory plan to 'reform' health care at a provincial level is very different from the current plan imposed by the Liberals.

The system is broken- has been for some time. Soaring drug costs, ER wait times, coupled with the fact that some people have no access at all to the 'gatekeepers' of the system...but you don't need me to tell you this- recall the last time you waited in an ER, tried to see your GP or were prescribed medication without insurance (despite McGuinty's best efforts last year).

I'm not saying the Tories should be let loose on the issue and have their way with the means to which Canadians obtain health care. This is one of the few issues that I don't mind the Liberals tackling- but some conservative influence would be nice- save for insurance companies, I'll go swinging to avoid insurance in any way, shape, or form. We need to re-open the issue to examine and evaluate the very fundamentals that the system is based on.

It's simple- a 3% increase in funding (both liberals and Tories support this figure) means nothing when health care expenditures are increasing at roughly double this each year. Yes, Harper has promised federal transfers of 6% to the provinces for health care, and considering it's a provincial issue, it seems they've done their due diligence- they've covered the cost of increasing expenses and said "well, the rest is up to you guys." We're still waiting for Ontario to realize that the rest really is up to them...3% will barely cover the cost of subsidized long-term care facilities required for the entire aging population. Oh, and then we have drug costs, ER wait times...hold on, I think I've mentioned these before...

I ask: would you consider investing in a company whose sales were increasing at 3% but whose expenditures were increasing at 6%/year with no end in sight and with a fixed market with which to sell? How about one where the 'sales' are predetermined by external influences, both political and economical? Or how about one where the owners of the company can change as frequently as a few years, with different ideals on how to run the business...I think you'd start looking at something a bit more sustainable.

Sorry Tories, but your 'play it safe' mentality on health care is not making me want to vote for you. Not when health care is the #1 issue provincially...not when the provinces spend upwards of $50 billion on health care...not when a significant number of Ontarians cannot access health care services. And cutting the LHINs...that's your big plan? Might as well buy every resident of Ontario some herbal tea and call it therapeutic...

I get it- health care is a suicide issue: even touching health care with a 10-foot pole can lose a party votes. Does the problem lie with the voters? I urge you Ontarians- fear not of health care reform! It will come whether you like it or not, but you do have a say in when it happens.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another word deriviation...sort of...#4?

The 'word': G.I.

As in G.I. Joe, or some other comando.

It is a military term that is short for Government Issue. The term was used to refer to any piece of equipment used by U.S. servicemen. Apparently, in World War II, the term G.I. was half-jokingly applied to the soliders themselves, as if they were manufactured by the government- they were G.I.!

Word derivation #3- a lesson in marketing 101?

The word: salubrious

It means 'health giving' or 'health promoting'. For example, something can be salubrious...such as exercise.

What a wonderful tool for marketing acai juice or kashi cereal...just tell people that it's salubrious! This seems much better than 'it will promote health and well-being'- just sum it all up with salubrious.

God I hope the marketers don't read blogger...

DNA computers? Smarter-than-human processing 'machines'?

Today was the first time that I had heard of the possibility of DNA computers. I may have heard it in passing once before, but I probably figured it was more likely that I learn how to use the force or accompany a stout, boyish-looking man on a quest in middle earth to throw a ring into a volcano...I'm sure you get the idea.

According to Moore's Law, which describes a long-term trend in computing capacity, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years; conversely, microprocessor size is halved every 18 months.

This means that by the year 2023 (roughly and apparently), the silicon chip will hit a physical roadblock- the microprocessor will be too small with too many transistors to allow passage of the very electrons that breathe life (so to speak) into computers. People will have to cope with sub-par processing speed (which would be quite more significant than today's PC), as the silicon chip will have reached it's maximum potential.

Now, aside from the simple solution of linking two chips together (which, perhaps by then or in the future of the future will be an option), some in the tech literature dream of a world where DNA computers exist. Computers that regenerate, grow, adapt, and perform processing tasks at enzymatic rates...all without the use of much raw material (DNA can essentially be amplified forever by techniques like PCR if enough reagents + buffer are available).

This prompts a very philosophical, but increasingly important question: can human beings create machines (or at this point, perhaps life itself) that are more intelligent than we are? Science fiction suggests 'maybe', while intuition and logic may suggest 'no.' Some would argue that computers are already smarter than us...yes, it is true that the processing capacity of computers may well exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human race combined. But this measure of computation does not imply that the computer is 'smarter'- this argument lacks content/face validity.

Perhaps the bio-technical sciences can borrow a lesson from the physicists: we cannot use current knowledge and theory to ascertain the effect of smarter-than-human intelligence because the conditions required for such a hypothetical world may approach a sort of social-singularity. Just as the laws of physics may break down when one tries to model a singularity at the centre of a black hole, perhaps the 'laws' of intelligence, and thus human society, would breakdown if such a singularity were modelled.

In sum, it may be impossible to imagine a world where computers are smarter than humans, because we are currently limited by our own intelligence through our creation of theories and our understanding of knowledge.

Other improvements in computing power may be next in line, such as fibre-optic-based computers, direct brain-computer interface, biological augmentation of the brain and genetic engineering. Whether these devices will be smarter than humans...I cannot be sure...perhaps I am both bound to, and limited by, my own intelligence.

CHEO-HALO Summer studentship

I must say, I am really enjoying my time so far at CHEO. I feel like I am a much bigger part of the team this summer. I was happy with last summer as well, but I knew that I could contribute more- and I am now getting the opporunity to.

The projects are really interesting. I am enjoying everything from background reading, data entry, SOP/protocol development and learning how to use an Actiheat (heart rate monitor + accelerometer).

Up this week: METcart training, Actiheart SOP, Actiheart pilot data, PAE study participant, and a whole lot of reading...what a life! This truly doesn't feel like a job!

I am grateful for the opportunities that the HALO team has given me, and I am excited to continue working with them.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Energy In = Energy Out

After attending a debate yesterday at UOttawa (Fork vs. Feet) I recalled an important principle of physics (thus, of science in general) called the first law of thermodynamics. Very simply put, energy in = energy out. I have, for some time, believed that this is a critical concept that must be understood by any individual interested in weight management- I, along with the large number of health professionals, still believe this today.

The first law of thermodynamics is, to simplify, an expression of the principle of conservation of energy, which states that the total amount of energy in any system remains constant over time: thus energy cannot be created or destroyed. For weight management, this is very important to understand- stored energy as fat simply will not be destroyed (or broken down) without conversion to a more useful form, such as work (exercise) or heat. The latter won't likely make you lose weight- dehydration may kick in first.

Fat is probably the most efficient form of energy storage in the natural world (to the misguided fool who argues that it is glycogen I have 3 words: water of hydration). We humans are truly storage machines- an evolutionary trait that allowed us to maintain energy stores during times of famine when eating infrequent meals- we wouldn't be here without it. But back to the point- stored energy as fat cannot be "burned" without actually burning it!

There are two sides to the coin though...the energy in side of the equation also plays a role and is just as important to understand for one interested in weight management. I would recommend simply thinking about the food that you are eating and ask yourself questions such as: how much of this is natural, or free from processing? How many of the ingredients are 'artificial'? Can you identify, within reason, the exact source of the food, ie/ wheat, oats, beef, etc (if not, it is probably too processed). Questions such as these, as well as others, should form the basis of thought concerning one's food intake- forget dieting, forget cutting food groups, such as carbs...just think a little bit more about the energy in side of the equation.

When in doubt, consider a primitive, ancestral 'you' and their dietary habits- would early humans eat Mars bars, ice cream, or pre-packaged 7-cheese lasagna (yes, even if it's PC blue menu)...I didn't think so. They would likely eat whole foods with natural ingredients and plenty of nutrients...a poor argument to make for choosing foods at the grocery store, but I think it is important to keep in mind what humans are meant to eat. After's us who is eating it.

In sum, an anthropocentric society would have people believe they are above many of the laws of the universe...the law of thermodynamics is not one them. Energy in continues to equal energy out...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Subscribe by e-mail

Hello Mikepdia followers,

You can now subscribe to Mikepedia by e-mail. You will be receive a daily update if there is new content on the blog.

I encourage everyone to subscribe! It may be easier than checking in everyday.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Time to study! Wait, what?

I can't believe that undergrad is over! Throughout the past five years I have been defining myself as a student. I have been associated with everything "student" -well some things...mostly the things that involve me saving money. For the first time in a quite a while, my answer to the question "what is it that you do?" cannot be answered by the phrase "well, I'm a student at UO." Crazy? I think so.

So what did I learn? A lot, it seems- some academic and some non-academic. The latter, as I have learned, is much more important and useful. Consider the following: my recent healthcare program development, midterm. My first answer to the majority of the questions was indeed correct- the answers that anyone off of the street would likely have the common sense to blurt out in response to such ridiculous questions. However, I changed my answers to the more fitting academic responses. They too, were right, but perhaps less-so, some may argue (for the record, I recieved an A+...I'm not just some disgruntled student who didn't like the professor, but I do challenge the external validity[aka real-world transferability] of the material).This was the point at which I realized that my real-world experience (through working, volunteering, a community project, and getting the heck out of the Ivory tower at any chance I could) is actually much more useful than my academic experience.

In short- life is not a multiple choice question. There are no right answers in life- there are better and worse answers, but 'right' is not for us to decide (enter your religious deity of choice here, ie/ God). Society may say that there are right answers...but historically these answers have changed over time- human sacrifice, witch burning, gladiator one time these were society's 'correct' answers to social injustice or socio-economic hardship.

Having said this, I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn such wonderful things. Some of these things are more applicable in my life than others, but I am grateful for them all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chretien? Really?

I am the only one who was surprised to see Chretien giving a speech for the Liberal party? Where did this come from? My guess is that this is a last-ditch attempt to rally some undecided voters since the NDP took the lead in the polls...or maybe trying to convince NDP supporters? I don't even know...

What I do know is that this is sad. If you're voting Liberal, you're not voting for're voting for Ignatieff.  This flashback is really nice and all, but lets remember the Liberal who IS running for PM. If Ignatieff is elected PM, do you think Chretien will be standing by to fight his battles for him? Doubtful...

Instead why not elect a leader who can stand up for the nation without relying on parties or leaders-past to back them up. I don't see Mulroney giving any speeches...

Once again, the choice is yours: Ignatieff-led coalition or...well you get the point.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As promised, a flashback piece

The following is an excerpt from an older article of mine discussing the link between autism and the MMR vaccine. You would be hard pressed to find a respectable authority who would suggest that a link exists between the two- this is the academic way of saying the two are not related.

Vaccines cause Autism - False. The relationship between vaccines (specifically the preservative thimerosal) and autism is based on a temporal (meaning time-relationship) argument. The MMR (Mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine is given to children at around 18 months of age (may be 16-20 months depending on the child), which is also the same time that the first clinical symptoms of autism begin to appear. This is based on one study in the UK's IBDSG department of the Royal Free Hospital in London, England done by Dr. Wakefield and colleagues with 12 children, however the relationship was only temporally linked in 8 of these children. Since then a plethora of studies have been done in the UK and US, none of which find any link between autism and vaccines. Furthermore, some studies actually report a non-relationship between vaccines and autism.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

I leave you with this: millions of children receive the MMR vaccine each year. Why then, do only a very small number of them develop autism? Further, there are children who develop autism who have never been vaccinated. Without biological plausibility and a dose-response relationship, Bradford Hill would have a blast with this one...

Where's your license now, eh Doc?

The following is an article from the Globe and Mail which discusses the professional "road-bumps" of Andrew Wakefield (formerly Dr. Andrew Wakefield), the only researcher in history to find an association (temporal at that) between autism and the MMR vaccine.
Vaccine scare fallout

A doctor who claimed to have discovered a connection between a common childhood vaccine and the development of autism has been stripped of his license to practice medicine in his native Britain.

The General Medical Council took the disciplinary action against Andrew Wakefield earlier this week, after a lengthy investigation concluded that his research amounts to professional misconduct.

In 1998, Dr. Wakefield helped to fuel a parental backlash against vaccines by spearheading a study that linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination with the onset of symptoms associated with autism. The research was published in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, adding to its credibility.

But since then, one study after another has failed to find an association between vaccinations and autism. What’s more, it’s come to light that Dr. Wakefield was getting paid by lawyers mounting a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers on behalf of parents who believe their children were harmed by the shots. Earlier this year, The Lancet took the unusual step of formally retracting the paper.

Amid the controversy, Dr. Wakefield left Britain in 2004 and moved to Texas, where he started work as a researcher at an alternative medicine clinic.

Dr. Wakefield told the Associated Press he plans to appeal the loss of his British medical licence. On NBC’s Today Show, he said the council’s penalty is just “a little bump in the road” and reiterated his assertion that vaccines can lead to autism.

Source: Globe and Mail, Health and Fitness, Accessed June 2/2010

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sounds like its pretty clear...

It has finally become a major issue...will there be a coalition government if the conservatives win a minority?

As it turns out...probably. It seems like voters have two options in this election: conservative or coalition government of liberals, NDP and separatists, led by Ignatieff.

Yes, Harper is a little intense. You may not agree with his social-political ideals, but why not let him jack up the economy for a couple years- we'll get a bit closer to eradicating our national debt and establish a solid GDP. Then we can elect a more socially responsible government to spend the earned money on programs for the general public- and they'll have the funds to do so.

Or we can elect the Liberals...who will sink Canada further and further into debt, while throwing imaginary money at problems like early childhood development and health care. The problem is, if we elect a Liberal government, we'll still have to pay all of the money back at the end of the day...all the while your taxes will rise and rise...

Am I the only one thinking of the longevity of the economy? I don't expect many young students will have any legitimate comments which promote sustainability...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stroke Recovery

Do patients recovering from stroke (ischemic) receive enough rehabilitation?

There exists a "critical period" post-stroke where specific neuronal growth factors are upregulated, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In fact, the critical period (5-14 days post-stroke) also involves a downregulation of proposed neural growth-inhibiting factors. This combination provides an excellent opportunity for cortical-neuronal regeneration following a stroke.

The problem is that patients recovering from a stroke are alone 60% of the time, and are inactive (sitting or lying in bed) 75% of the time (1). There is also a lack of stimulation and exercise, as most programs only engage patients for one to two hours of their waking day. Clearly, rehabilitation programs are not capitalizing on the timeliness of one's innate enhanced ability to recover from a stroke.

Further to this, in rehabilitation programs centred on upper-limb impairment rehab, patients engaged in a reaching exercise may only reach about 1/10 the amount, as compared to mice with similar impairments. The mice seem to make a significantly better recovery with increased reaching. It seems that the intensity of the stroke recovery program may play a major role in cortical-neuronal regeneration.

Should there be consideration for increased timeliness, duration, and intensity of stroke rehabilitation programs?

(1) Bernhardt et al. Inactive and Alone: Physical Activity Within the First 14 Days of Acute Stroke Unit Care. Stroke, 2004; 35:1005

Pecan Pie?

Does anyone know whether pecan pie should be made with white sugar or brown sugar?

Please comment if you have any advice.

Well that does it

That's certainly enough for me. I've studied biochemistry for 12 hours today...gosh darnit I'm watching a period of the Canucks game. I can't believe the hawks are up 5-1...who knew?

Lately I've been trying to live a little more- I used to study, study, study and stress myself out during exams. I've been letting loose a bit at the end of the night now, and I think my studying has been better. So far, I've done better on finals too.

It took me until 1 month before graduation to realize that I deserve (and need to have) a life outside of school- I'm satisfied with my accomplishments thus far, but I'm enjoying learning to live.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's with all the animosity?

I can't help but notice all of the blatant attacks on Conservatives on facebook lately. I'm surprised at the number of young people who are not just expressing their personal opinions on politics, political parties, or voting in general- they're actually organizing and promoting "stop harper" campaigns.

One photo even depicted an image of Stephen Harper at a rally alongside a black and white image of Adolf Hitler, as if to draw some sort of reasonable comparison between the two. I'll ignore the NDP logo in the top corner of the image for a moment, only to say that regardless of your political views, a collage of this sort is just disgusting.

At my high school is Sault Ste. Marie we were always taught to cheer for our own team- and cheer we did. We were taught not to insult or dis the opposing team, but rather to support our own team through our cheering. This is something that I've taken with me in life since those days at SBSS, which is why I have such disregard for "party-bashing" or "leader-bashing" during elections. I thought I had seen enough of it from Michael Ignatieff, but I was equally disappointed by a fellow SBSS alum's depiction of our PM as Adolf Hitler.

Point: Express your political beliefs. In fact, you're quite free to do so in this country. But sinking to the level of the current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in all his "leader-bashing" glory...please, grow up. (I hope someone catches my hypocrisy!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Word Derivation #2- what's that funny æ thing?

Æ, or æ, is an original Latin diphthong, which refers to two adjacent vowels in a word that are part of the same syllable, otherwise known as a gliding vowel. In english it is called 'ash' and is often replaced by 'ae' which, although incorrect for words originating from other languages where this is a letter, is generally accepted.

You may have seen this letter in words like archæology, hæmatology, encyclopædia, etc. So if you see the letters 'a' and 'e' beside each other where it seems like the 'a' isn't doing much, remember that it's actually representing æ, or ash.

Word Derivation #1 (the first of many installments): Alphabetical

The term alphabetical usually describes a list where the terms are arranged by their first letter's position in the English alphabet.

The term alphabet comes from the latin Alphabetum, which comes from the Greek Alphabetos. Alpha and Beta are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, and thus when we refer to something as alphabetical, we refer to it's similiarity in organization to the sequence of the first and second letters of the Greek alphabet.

Am I the only one wondering where some words come from? If you have a word for me, comment below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dear young people

As Rick Mercer points out, if you are between the ages of 18 and 24 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country: VOTE! None of the major political parties are counting on it, and the polls have very little idea of how young people will vote (if they do). How's that for being rebellious?

This is something that I've been saying to the 'lower tuition' people for quite some time. Throughout the past three years there have been countless rallies from students demanding lower tuition fees- the sad part is, they don't realize that no one is listening. Let's try a thought experiment, shall we?

You are the government in power (whichever party- take your pick) and you have X number of dollars to spend on the Canadian people. You know that a large proportion of senior citizens vote in federal elections (in fact, this is the largest voting demographic in the country), and there are a growing number of senior citizens in this country (known as the aging population). You also know that only 37% of those aged 18-24 vote in federal elections, and they comprise one of the smallest voting demographics. As a political party, your goal is to stay in power (despite what the Liberals may say, they would hold onto it with their dear life too). Who are you going to give the money to? Assuming you have a basic grasp of stats, you'll probably want to invest in the people you know are going to vote.

This little thought experiment is precisely the reason why tuition fees keep going up. Every time young people don't vote, they communicate their lack of interest in federal politics to the party in power- and the government acknowledges this by reciprocating a lack of interest in young people, ie/ raising tuition fees.

I understand that education is funded by the provinces, but at least some of this money does come from the federal purse.

Point: if you are between the ages of 18 and 24 and you are passionate about something or anything and you want your government to listen to you and take you and your passion seriously, you need to start by voting. No one is going to care about tuition, global warming, save the whales, etc unless you vote. If you're not educated, then get educated.

Start here:

Look at these:  (listed alphabetically)

If you're really lost, the CBC voting compass may help:
Make a decision, and finish at the polls on May 2nd (school will be out by then- no excuses)

Of course...if you don't want to, then don't expect to complain about who wins.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Timmy's is the winner!

Timmy's is the winner of the "who has the best coffee" poll. It earned a whopping two votes, while Starbucks and 'other' earned a measly one. Ha!

This PROVES (please don't let my epidemiology prof read this) that Timmy's is the best. Not only because I am incredibly biased towards the 18% creamy goodness that is a double-double...but also because there's a WOOSTIE who used to work there.

Thanks for voting!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heroic Death?

Attila the Hun - known at "the scourge of God" by the Romans- was the ruler of the hunnic empire from ~423-453 (the exact start date is unknown as it also correlates with his brother, Bleda's, death).

Attila was said to eat off of wooden plates while his lieutenants ate from silver, among other luxurious metals of the time. A simple man, Attila conquered a vast amount of Eurasia during his reign.His hoards pilaged, ravanged and destroyed towns, villiages, and cities- such as the city of Naissus- it is said that when the roman ambassadors visisted the city to meet with Attila several years later, they had to camp outside the city because they could not bear the stench of roting corpse within the city- in fact, no one could. His conquests included pilaging cities as prominant as Milan, Padua, and Aquileia (the present day city of Venice, Italy- actually founded as a result of Attila's attack on the city). He was truly an evil man...

And yet...with all his power, pillage, gold, and land...Attila the Hun died of an epistaxis, known more commonly as a noseblead. I guess heroes (or villians...depends on which side you're on- romans or huns) don't always die heroic deaths...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where does the time go?

I must be the only guy in the world still doing homework at 12:30 on Saturday least the Canucks are playing now- some background noise.

Off to bed soon, thanks faithful blogger readers!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Show me the $

If anybody wants to get rich in 20 or 30 years...invest in hearing aids.
Not a day goes by that I don't hear a new song on the bus. Oh its not on the radio, mind you. Its often coming from the person sitting next to me, or maybe near me, on the bus. But occasionally...occasionally it comes from someone sitting far too far away. The music is just far too loud.

And I don't mean the "I'm an old man so turn down that racket", type of loud. I mean  the "hey, you're going to have significant hearing loss throughout 50-75% of lifetime if you keep that up". What really kills me is when people will say, 'well I have to have it this loud because I can't hear it otherwise" response: "guess why you can't hear it? Now multiply that by a factor of x number of years and you have a perfect recipe for the permanent hearing loss.

Not all of these people will develop hearing loss. Most won't. My guess is, most of them will get sick of Justin Bieber or Katy Perry, and Jazz music just doesn't sound as good when it hurts. But for the ones who do, I really do hate to say it, but I told you so.

Oh and so did the Canadian Hearing Society, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. So there.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Comment Response

The following is a comment from a reader of the greatest blog ever, Mikepedia (no bias, I swear), in response to the post 'the epidemiologic transition.'

Do you know what's expected in Phase 6? Will our birth rates continue to decline, or level off... It's kind of scary to think it could continue along the current trends :s

Great question. Assuming no migration of people, the developed world would eventually die out in phase 6 using this model (as death rates would be higher than birth rates). This isn't going to happen because of immigration- the developing world (formally known as 2nd/3rd world countries) is still in phase 2- where birth rates are higher than death rates. The rise in global population in the most recent decades (and likely in decades to come) can be attributed to developing countries, not places like Canada, US or EU.

In short, thank goodness for immigrants :)

As for our national birth's a toss up. I expect that they would naturally decline as people are having less and less children. However, advancements in reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization, may actually assist many couples in having children where they would not be able to otherwise. Overall, I think the national birth rate will decline, but the reproductive biotech industry may balance some of this out.

As for death rates...this too is a toss-up. In the developed world, an aging population will likely skyrocket the death rates. However, the death rates of developing countries are generally much higher, and as medical and technological advancements reach these people, we may see a decline (somewhat) in their infant mortality rate, and perhaps an increase in life expectancy, thus contributing to a decreased death rate.

Overall, the global population will continue to grow. Overpopulation is said to be THE largest threat to human survival...not global warming, not nuclear warfare, and not availability of food or water...overpopulation will have an immense impact on our planet (and our species) by the end of generation Y's lifetime.

Global Intelligence

Is the intelligence of the average citizen of the world decreasing? With all of our great scientific and technological advancements made in the most recent century, I suspect that most would reply "no, we're definitily getting smarter." Maybe...

The idea is one of relative birth rates. In the past half-century (give or take...probably give) the most intelligent people have been having fewer children, in some cases no children at all, while the least intelligent people have been having more children. Thus, the number of 'less intelligent' people increases, while the number of more intelligent people decreases.

Obviously there are some problems with this, such as:
How do we define, or even measure intelligence? For estimates like this, level of education and relative income are used to generate a psuedo-chaste system to rank people.

To assess the relevance of level of education (ie/ high school, Bachelor's degree, etc), we turn to the infamous biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamark and his theory that the offspring of an organism can inherit traits derived from the environment of the parent. For example, if a parent loses an arm in an enviornmental accident (non-genetic), the offspring will be born without an arm. To make a long story short- thank God for Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. Obviously, one's level of education throughout life does not make one's children genetically more intelligent- it would be quite Lemarckian to say so.  To be fair...the idea relies on the observation that more educated people will be more likely to educate their offspring and they will become more educated throughout life.

BUT- who is to say that education makes anyone more intelligent?

The idea also has it that more intelligent people generally make more money. Although this might have some merit, it certainly doesn't hold up against the millions of intelligent people who don't make millions at all. I understand that more income may allows parents to purchase more opportunities for their children...but does this make them more intelligent? I for one know too many young people who have not worked a day in their life...and I find them to be quite un-intelligent when speaking with them.

In sum... this idea is not that it's based on genetics, it's based on environmental factors that seem to predict one's relative level of education. I think what this idea is trying to get at is intelligence, but all it really gets as is level of education.

The point:

Education does not equal intelligence. Yes, educate yourself and your children, but remember that most things learned in life are not learned in a classroom. The classroom may be efficient, but its not necessarily effective.

What are your thoughts on global intelligence?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The epidemiologic transition

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mikepedia Fact #5- Why can a baby T-rex be more dangerous than an adult T-Rex?

Here's a good fact...

Did you know that infant/youth T-rex have a mouth full of deadly bacteria. Their bite would not be all that dangerous to the majority of dinosaurs, but if they pierced the skin and allowed the bacteria to enter the bloodstream...a painful septic death for the unfortunate attacker.

2 points:

-Think twice about attacking small animals- they haven't been eaten yet for a reason.
-Infants are not just little adults, they are often very different in their physiology (yes...this includes humans too- topic for another post)


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As requested by popular demand...

I asked for topics to blog about, so here goes:

What's in my linen closet?

Well...linens, firstly. Tools, and grocery bags (for lunches) make up the bottom part. Linens, spare light bulbs, kleenex boxes and and laundry dusting roller are on the second shelf. The third shelf is nothing but blankets, towels, dish cloths, and bags. Finally, on the top shelf there are travel bags and spare pillows for the pull-out couch.

Nothing even close to 'memory lane,' as one of our readers suggested of her linen closet (see 600 Views blog post).

But I'm pretty sure my girlfriend will be impressed that I know exactly where everything goes...especially since I'm on the 6th floor of Morisset Library studying biochemistry!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baby Emerson?

Apparently this video of a baby from the Soo went viral late last week. It depicts a young baby's reaction to his mother blowing her nose...truly hilarious :)

How scary new things can be :)


Monday, March 21, 2011

December, January, February, April...did I forget a month?

Seems to me the greater half of the month of March has come and gone without even bothering to re-introduce itself.

Where has the time gone? Last I knew it was winterlude and the canal was packed with Ottawans. Throw in a couple of exams, a trip to gravenhurst and one to north bay and....bam! It's March 21st...what a life I tell ya.

I fell especially grateful today for the good fortune that has been bestowed upon me, and that for which I have earned. I feel lucky to have the opporunity to learn such wonderful things.

A professor of mine once told us that we should get excited about exams. She told us that it is our way of expressing all of the material that we have learned in a creative way. I would like to see an exam where my creativity is evaluated, but I suppose that's besides the point.

The Point: enjoy what you do, because you're the only one in the world doing it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

600 viewers!

The view-count for my blog is up to 600!  Thanks everyone for reading my posts and for commenting.

If there is something that you would like to write about, please comment on this post!

Thanks everyone,


To all military personnel

I would like to extend my gratitude and best wishes to those brave North American and European men and women who have recently begun operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.

Your hard work and dedication is not unrecognized by your fellow coutntrymen and women.

God Bless.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How much radiation is that?

As I'm sure everyone in the developed world knows by now, Japan was hit with an earthquake and a tsunami that damaged one of their nuclear energy facilities. Anyone who is following the story closely may wonder, how much radiation has 'leaked' from the facility- and how much of this affects the people around the facility. Depending on the news source, you may get a value in different units, such as gray, sievert, rem, rad, becquerel, or curie (most likely the milli-sievert, but news stations have been picking and choosing at their leisure).

What the heck do all of these units mean? How much radiation is that??

The Gray is the SI unit of absorbed radiation dose, and is defined at the absorption of one joule of ionizing radiation by one kilogram of matter. The key here is that it is used to measure the strength (amount of energy as defined by the Joule) of radiation that is absorbed by matter.

The Sievert is the SI unit which measures the dose equivalent radiation. It is used to measure the biological effects of radiation. Simply, the sievert measures the amount of absorbed radiation that is absorbed by a person. Often, the unit sievert/hour (or other unit of time) is used to estimate the cummulative effect of radiation.

A curie (named, of course, after the very famous Marie Curie- the discoverer of polonium and radium, the creator of several techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, the first woman to earn a Nobel prize, and the only person in the world to hold Nobel prizes in multiple sciences- physics and chemistry) is a measure of radioactivity based on the activity of 1 gram of the radium isotope Ra-226.

A REM is the customary unit (American, or "english" unit) for the Sievert. 1 rem= 0.01 sievert.

A RAD is the customary unit (American, or "english" unit) for the Gray. 1 rad= 0.01 gray

and, a Becquerel is the SI unit that replaces the curie.  1 Bq = 2.70×10−11 Ci

So, when we're talking nuclear meltdown, there are only two you need: the gray and the sievert. The gray tells you how much radiation is released into the surrounding environment. The Sievert tells you how much radiation is absorbed by people. And now you know :)

Just to put things into perspective...the highest level of radiation detected throughout the recent Fukishima nuclear problem is 0.4 Sieverts/hour. The highest level during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster...300 Sieverts/hour. The threshold for acute radiation sickness is somewhere around 1 Sievert/hour.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mikepedia Fact #4- 1% of the static on your television is caused by the big bang

Cosmic background microwave (CBM) radiation is a form of thermal radiation that exists everywhere (as far as humanity can tell) in the universe. Why? One strong theory says that it is from the big bang.

The guys who found this in ~1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, hated it- they were trying to use a large antenna owned by Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ when they were pestered by this annoying background noise. Oddly enough, about 30 miles away at Princeton University, Robert Dicke and his team were doing everything they could to identify this mysterious CBM...they eventually met up and published two papers on the subject. To give credit, the idea was originally postulated by George Gamow in the 1940s. Penzias and Wilson received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for their work.

But back to the why- or perhaps the how, rather. A quick refresh on radiation. The electromagnetic spectrum measures radiation based on its' wavelength (which determines its' frequency). I've posted a quick link to a video that explains this much more elegantly, but it's basically this: radio waves have a long wavelength and x-rays/gamma rays have short wavelength and the light that we see- virtually everything we see- is in the middle (energy increases with decreasing wavelength- this is why some rays are more powerful- and harmful- than others).

Next topic- the Doppler effect. This is when waves can become longer or shorter based on the distance that they are projected from, more or less. Think of a fire truck moving towards you with its' sirens on - at first you hear a very long siren, but as it approaches the sounds begin to increase in frequency, and thus become higher in pitch (called blueshift). If the fire truck were to be moving away from you, it would decrease in pitch (called redshift). Blue and red just refer to the direction of the shift on the electromagnetic spectrum. Wikipedia has an awesome video on the main page describing this.

Finally, here we go. This is a simple version of how CBM came to be. When the universe began, it was much smaller, denser and hotter- not to mention there was a lot of very bright light. The theory has it that Earth is always moving away from the big bang (please don't ask me to explain this- maybe I'll post another entry on this soon). As the universe expanded, it began to cool and the same photons of light had to occupy a larger space. So, if the Earth is moving away from all of this hot, bright light and cooling, we will perceive this light as being redshifted as we move away. In fact, if we move away for billions of years (how old do they figure now, 13.7 billion years or something?), the redshift can be enormous! We may actually perceive this bright light as radio waves. Low and behold, the vast 'emptiness' of space that surrounds the Earth is filled with radio waves in the form of cosmic radiation from the big bang.

The next time you turn on the television, try tuning to a station that you don't recieve a signal for. About 1% of the static that you will see is cosmic background radiation. In the words of Bill Bryson, the next time you complain about there being nothing on TV, just sit back and enjoy watching the birth of the universe.

Finally, a favorite quote of mine about the development of the universe by Edward P Tyron.

"In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time." Although the creation of a universe might be very unlikely, Tryon emphasized that no one has counted the failed attempts...