1000 facts

I got tagged. In fact, I got tagged in two different blogohedrons. Given the differences between these two blogs, I thought I’d treat the worlds of comics and science/skepticism/religion as Non-Overlapping Magisteria, and cover this meme separately.

However, the claim that these two blogohedrons have nothing to say about each other is patently ridiculous. It is a tedious cliché that this blog is here to discuss matters of science and religion, while my other blog is meant to discuss matters of comic books and geekery. But we know for a fact that these matters are not wholly separate. Comic books and science are intimately intertwined, and we find that there is even an overlap with matters of religion. Indeed, doesn’t all of this fall under the combined heading of geekery? There is simply no way to separate these two areas of study, and it is foolish to suggest otherwise.

Nah, just kidding. I’m quite enjoying The God Delusion, if you couldn’t already tell. I’ll hit up another eight facts here, right after the rules.

– I have to post these rules before I start.
– I have to tell you eight facts about myself.
– I have to tag eight people to participate.
– I’m supposed to leave a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read my blog.
– And the tagees need to write their own blog post, telling us eight things and posting the rules.

Now, since this is a blog where I often discuss matters of science and belief and whatnot, matters that are tied up in observable facts, I figure I should change things up a little. I’m a big fan of facts; there are few things I like more, so I’m going to tell you 1000 facts about myself! Think you can handle it?

1: I really dislike the new Blogger autosave feature. I had this post about half-done and even hit the “Save Now” and everything before leaving for the weekend, and now it’s all gone. I know I ought to just type in another word processor and copy to the text window, or something along those lines, but that’s a pain in the ass. I’m trying to weigh whether that’s a bigger pain than losing the occasional post.

10: I have a pet crayfish. Several, actually. More than I can count. See, last term I was in a mixed-discipline science course that went heavy on the Biology, and we had to do an experiment that explored the effects of some variable on both biotic and abiotic factors. Eventually, and after much experimental redesign, we decided to test the effects of ammonia-based fertilizer on crayfish and water. We realized early on how difficult it was to test two different things, especially when one was “living creatures” and it was all on a shoestring budget. The experiment was plagued by serious problems from the very start. By the end, we had absolutely no significant data trends, and realized that the dechloraminating treatment we’d been told to add to the water so as not to kill our crustacean specimens was probably neutralizing our ammoninum chloride fertilizer.
Well, about halfway through, we had a pair of crayfish mate, and most of the eggs had hatched by the time we were done with the experiment. We were told that we couldn’t release the crayfish into the wild (what with them being non-native species), and the other main option was donating them to someone in the Biology dept. for next year’s labs, which meant freezing the lot of them. Being somewhat reluctant to consign so many newly-hatched crayfish to such an abrupt fate, I went out and picked up an aquarium. So, I took Mama and her brood, who now occupy the place where my DVD spinner rack used to be.
At this point, I’ve settled into a pretty comfortable place with them. Not as many have died from fights and cannibalism as I expected, and a bunch of them have molted again over the past week or so, which means they’re getting really big (2-4cm) compared to when they first hatched just a couple months ago. People have asked me since I took them what I’m going to do when they all get big, and I haven’t had a real answer. It looks like I’m going to have to come up with one in the next month or two.

11: I love cooking. I’m no gourmet, but I like to think that I’m pretty decent at it. I’ve been steadily increasing my repertoire of meals over the last couple of years, and I’m at a place where I can toss a decent dinner-for-one together in a pretty short time, with not too much mess (though I have a tendency to use about twice as many dishes as I need to for any given meal). Recently, I’ve worked primarily with pasta and Italian-style stuff, since it tends to be quick and filling. I fancy myself a wizard with regard to ground beef and charcoal grills. For some reason though, the Building Manager frowns upon Weber grills in the apartments.
I’ve always been a very picky eater, so this interest in cooking has really led to a broadening of my palate. I’m pretty reluctant to throw out something I made, after all. Unfortunately, I’m also fairly reluctant to eat leftovers, which presents several problems that I need to get over.
So, if you’ve got any great recipes or know of good recipe sites, let me know.

100: I love science fiction, and I always have, though I haven’t read much in the last several years. I’m taking a class on sci-fi author Octavia Butler, and I’m really enjoying Parable of the Sower, but I’m starting to realize that I’m not nearly as well-read in sci-fi as I’d like to be. I blame a lot of that on my childhood reading habits; instead of raiding my parents’ huge collections of classic SF, I spent most of my time reading Star Wars spin-off novels and various Young Adult series. Some of it was fantastic (I will trumpet the wonders of Animorphs from the rooftops), some of it less so (The Eyes of Kid Midas? What the hell was I thinking?). I’ve read a good deal of Bradbury and a Heinlein novel or two, I’ve read The Time Machine but not War of the Worlds, and I’ve read virtually nothing from Asimov or Vonnegut, and absolutely nothing from Clarke, Herbert, Verne, Zelazny, Card, Niven (excepting of course “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”), and most of the other luminaries of the field.

So, my question to you: when August rolls around and I’ve finished my classes for 20 days or so, where do I begin? I’d like to get into some of the Asimov robot stuff; I’ve heard nothing but great things about Ender’s Game despite Card’s religious weirdness and political idiocy; I have War of the Worlds, Stranger in a Strange Land, Welcome to the Monkey House, Neuromancer, and Lord of Light all sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read (and in some cases, partially read already). Anything else I could get without too much trouble. Where do I start?

101: I did DNA Gel Electrophoresis in Bio lab today. It was pretty cool, and would have been even cooler if it had worked right. It’s crazy to watch biology (DNA), chemistry (the gel and solution), and physics (the current and charge) come together like that. I’ve spent the last several years lightly making fun of Biology as a ‘soft science,’ but working with genetics the last week or so has reminded me that I used to enjoy it. I can’t stomach dissection, and it bothers me that even the simplest experiments in Biology have way, way too many variables to control and account for. But as I was drawing out a Punnett Square the other day, counting up all the phenotypes and genotypes, I got to thinking “there has got to be a better way to do this, with factorials and exponents.” It made me realize that I could really get into Biology if I stuck to theory and genetics and math-type-things. I love learning about evolution, for instance, and I’m really kind of digging the DNA stuff, which is the most enjoyment I’ve gotten from Biology since I was in High School.

110: I’m not convinced by the Superstring Hypothesis (what some scientists are prematurely calling “String Theory”), not in the least. I doubted it after seeing Brian Greene’s Nova special, I almost completely dismissed it after seeing him talk about it, and I warmed up to a different version of it through the dulcet tones of S. James Gates. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard much from the Gates camp recently, and specifically nothing that would constitute currently testable predictions or solid observable evidence. I was all set to pick up Lee Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics, which criticizes the string movement, though I’ve been a little curious since I saw that book what his alternative might be. I’d seen his name associated with Loop Quantum Gravity, and what little I’ve heard of that seems to be about the same level of plausibility as the strings.
Anyway, I recently came across Smolin’s name in The God Delusion, and I’m a little bit more wary of him now; assuming Dawkins’ brief summary of Smolin’s cosmology is correct, then Smolin hypothesizes that black hole singularities give birth to other universes, and that these ‘daughter’ universes have similar properties to their ‘parent’ universes. For universes to propagate, then, they must have physical laws that are conducive to the production of black holes, and thus to the formation of stars and massive bodies. There’s a certain logic and elegance to this idea, and I’m certainly willing to give it a chance, but it seems to me that such an idea would require us to change quite a lot of what we know, or think we know, about black holes. Does the mass and energy, then, become the starting mass of the new universe? Can inflation be explained by the influx of mass and energy from the parent universe? Does this mean that mass and energy can effectively be destroyed in some reactions? What, then, is Hawking Radiation? How can something only as massive as a collapsed star contain the necessary quantities to produce an entire universe? Why do black holes continue to exist in our universe? And so on. Smolin’s got some hurdles to overcome if he’s going to prove that one.

111: Following from the last few facts, I am apparently a colossal nerd.

1000: I understand binary. Do you?

At this point, I don’t think I know 8 people who haven’t yet been tagged. If you’re reading this and you haven’t already done an “eight facts” thingy, then consider this your tagging.

Edit: Fixed all the broken links up-top.

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