“Save the planet, skip the salad.”

Why sald is so overrated [WaPo]

Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition. The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources.


Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table. When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.

I’ve been saying this for years: lettuce is for rabbits.

August 24, 2015  |  

“Race is a medieval European invention.”

Meredith Talusan:

The fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people’s is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary. Transitioning is the product of a fundamental aspect of our humanity – gender – being foisted upon us over and over again from the time of our birth in a manner inconsistent with our own experience of our genders. Doctors don’t announce our race or color when we are born; they announce our gender. People who are alienated from their presumed gender and define themselves according to another gender have existed since earliest recorded history; race is a medieval European invention. Thus, Dolezal identified as black, but I am a woman, and other trans people are the gender they feel themselves to be.

There is no comparison between transgender people and Rachel Dolezal [Guardian, via CommonDreams]

June 16, 2015  |  

Q: What would happen to me, and everything around me, if a black hole the size of a coin instantly appeared?

Suppose a nickel in your pocket magically collapsed into a black hole. A US nickel has a mass of 5 grams. This black hole would have a radius of 10-30 meters. For comparison, an atom is about 10-10 meters. If atoms were made of atoms, this black hole would be the size of the micro-atom that makes up the milli-atoms that makes up real atoms. Basically, it’s unimaginably small.

Such a small black hole would have a similarly unimaginably short lifetime to decay by Hawking radiation – it would radiate away what little mass it has in 10-23 seconds. This 5 grams of mass will be converted to 450 teraJoules of energy, which is comparable to the detonation of about 100,000 tonnes of TNT, and will produce an explosion three times bigger than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. In this case, you die.

Of course, if the black hole has the radius of a common coin, then it will be considerably more massive. A nickel, again, has a radius of about 10 mm. This black hole has a mass of 1024 kilograms – slightly bigger than the mass of the earth. Its surface gravity is a billion billion times greater than earth’s. If it is in your pocket, you will find yourself being drawn towards the black hole at breakneck speeds. Literally breakneck. The difference between your chin and your teeth is about ten trillion g’s of acceleration. You’ll cross the event horizon before you even realize what’s happening. The black hole is now a dominant gravitational piece of the earth-moon-black hole of death system. If you watch sci-fi movies a lot, you might think that the black hole sinks towards the center of the planet and will consume it from the inside out. In actuality, the earth will also move up onto the black hole, and begin to bob around as if it was orbiting the black hole, all while having swaths of mass eaten with each pass. The bulk of the planet earth is consumed after some time, leaving a scattered disk of hot dust and rock in a tight orbit where the earth once was. The black hole grows slowly during this time, eventually doubling its mass by the time it’s done feeding.

The effects on the solar system are awesome, but moreso in the Biblical sense of “awesome”, which more closely means terrifying. The moon’s orbit is now highly elliptical. Tidal forces from the black hole could disrupt the asteroid belt, sending rocks careening through the solar system – bombardment and impacts may become commonplace for the next few million years. The planets are slightly perturbed, but they stay approximately on the same orbit. The black hole we used to call earth will now continue on orbiting the sun, in the earth’s place. In this case, you also die.


June 15, 2015  |  

“The unskilled are motivated to ignore (be unaware of) their poor performance so that they can feel better about themselves.”

Previous research found that poor performers tend to overestimate how well their performance compares to others’. This unskilled and unaware effect has been attributed to poor performers’ lack of metacognitive ability to realize their ineptitude. We contend that the unskilled are motivated to ignore (be unaware of) their poor performance so that they can feel better about themselves. We tested this idea in an experiment in which we manipulated the perceived self-relevancy of the task to men and women after they had completed a visual pun task and before they estimated their performance on the task. As predicted, the unskilled and unaware effect was attenuated when the task was perceived to have low self-relevance.

Unskilled and Don’t Want to Be Aware of It: The Effect of Self-Relevance on the Unskilled and Unaware Phenomenon [PLOSONE]

June 14, 2015  |  

The Problem With California Wine

Interesting comment from a reader regarding to this NYT Magazine piece:

The problem with California wine has always been that it is company-based, not geographic. French and Italian wines are geographic. Of course there are differences label to label, chateau to chateau. But you can count on a Chassagne-Montrachet to have a distinctly different flavor than a Sancerre. It’s not that one is better than another, it depends on the situation as to which one you choose to open.

I can go into a wine store and get a $25 bottle of Gigondas and pretty much know what to expect, regardless of the producer. That’s because Gigondas is a place, a relatively small village in the southern Rhone, and its soil, rainfall, sun, and surrounding vegetation tend to be generally similar for all producers in the AOC. The same cannot be said of California wine. Napa wines run the gamut and if you don’t know the company, you could easily find yourself spending $40 for a bottle of purple oak juice.

What California wines need is a more widely accepted AVA system of sub-regions, which exists now but is largely ignored by the general public. St Helena AVA, Stag’s Leap AVA – not the companies, but the sub-regions within Napa – will lead to a much more reliable appellation, and wine-drinkers will be able to know what they are getting without relying on the taste of one individual expert who may favor heavy and oakey to light and expressive.

Spot on.

June 1, 2015  |  

“More than 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced.”

[Israel] treats 86 percent of its domestic wastewater and recycles it for agricultural use — about 55 percent of the total water used for agriculture. Spain is second to Israel, recycling 17 percent of its effluent, while the United States recycles just 1 percent, according to Water Authority data.

Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought [NYT]

May 31, 2015  |