Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2009 July 31

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July 31[edit]

Grated Puffin[edit]

What does it taste like please. Jermy clarksson said he had some —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Puffins are fatty aquatic birds. The fatty aquatic bird most often eaten is duck. Therefore, all others tend to be compared to how similar they are to duck. So, to someone who hasn't had puffin, you'd say "It is almost just like duck." -- kainaw 00:53, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I was under the understanding that sea-birds taste fishy - in contrast to freshwater birds. This biased search seems to confirm that : (talk) 06:28, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Two heat transfer questions[edit]

1. Assuming a constant internal temperature, how rapidly does a wall-mounted room air conditioner lose its ability to cool the room (or, at least, lose efficiency) as the outside temperature rises? By way of example, suppose the room is at 27 degrees C, the air conditioner is continuously attempting to cool the room to 25 C, and the outside temperature starts at 32 C and rises to 37 C. I'm not using the numbers to try to get someone to cough up a formula; I'm just using them to illustrate what I'm trying to get at.

2. When cooking a grilled cheese sandwich on a frying pan which is atop a gas stove, I imagine a smaller pan will transfer heat into the sandwich faster, assuming the pan surface is heated more or less evenly by the gas flame. If it's as I expect, does a pan with half the surface area heat the sandwich twice as quickly? Tempshill (talk) 02:30, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

  1. You would need to measure the temperature of the condenser at the outside of the air conditioner. Its ability to transfer heat to the outside is a function of the differential temperature between the condenser and the ambient air; as the difference becomes smaller the rate of cooling decreases. There is a formula somewhere, but I lack the engineering background to dig it up. Someone else I am sure will.
  2. Actually, it depends on how you cook the sandwich. Once the pan is "at temperature", it is mainly acting to transfer the energy directly from the flame to the food. Metal, being a good thermal conductor with a low specific heat will basically pass the energy quickly and efficiently from the flame to the sandwich. Placing a cold sandwich will sap some of the heat from the pan, and the amount of energy that is lost is a function of the mass of the pan. A heavier pan will lose less of its energy to the cold sandwich, so a heavier pan will cook a sandwich faster assuming that both pans are "preheated". If you are starting with a cold pan and a cold sandwich, then the lighter pan will heat up faster, and thus start cooking the sandwich faster. So it depends on your methodology. --Jayron32 03:25, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
As a first approximation to question 1 - the rate of heat flow is proportional to the temperature difference (see Heat transfer), however as mentioned above ^^ this is the temperature difference between the outside air, and the temperature of the 'radiator' on the outside of the air conditioner (which is by default always hotter than the temperature inside the air conditioned room). However the temperature the radiator reaches will depend on the outside temperature. maybe someone else will be able to finish the answer. (talk) 06:24, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

For question 1 only : I understand the question but more information is required. I don't know if you know how air conditioning work but u can model it as a heat engine. So what is the power (watts) of the AC? What kind of coolant? Efficiency? For simplicity go read —Preceding unsigned comment added by Alvi123 (talkcontribs) 00:56, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Retain Martian water using deuterium!!??[edit]

Woke up with this BRILLIANT{??} idea! Heard that Mars and other planets significantly lighter than Earth gradually lose their water as it evaporates into space. What about flooding Martian plains with "heavy water". This means the H in H2O are the deuterium or tritium isotypes, and heavier than ordinary water, while being chemically exactly the same. Would this tactic permit Mars to retain water better? All you would have to do is find a vast reservoir of this kind of water. Btw, if a person only drank heavy water, and ate foods that had been irrigated with this water, how much heavier would they be than persons who only drank normal water? Myles325a (talk) 02:52, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes. All you would have to do is find an ocean of heavy water, which sounds simple until you consider that the natural abundance of deuterium is 0.015%, so there are no such vast reservoirs. – ClockworkSoul 02:56, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't know if heavy water evaporates more slowly and acts as vapor differently than regular water, but our heavy water article does say that mammals die when about half their body water has been replaced with heavy water. It goes into some detail about the death rate of other life forms. Everybody dies except for bacteria. Tempshill (talk) 03:04, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Heavy water has a slightly higher boiling point. With care (and huge amounts of time and energy) one can use distillation to separate (or at least enrich) a mixed sample. But there are other, more efficient ways of doing it than direct fractional distillation. DMacks (talk) 05:32, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Which leads to an answer to the first part of the question - no - heavy water is so similar to normal water that it would be lost (almost) just as fast. (talk) 06:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Also, to answer your last question: this site cites Review of Physiological Chemistry, 16th ed. in stating the hydrogen composes 10% of the human body by weight. Since deuterium has 1.998 times the mass of hydrogen, if all hydrogen in the an ecosystem was replaced by deuterium, and our biochemistry was sufficiently altered so we don't, you know, die... our mass would be increased by a total of about 10%. – ClockworkSoul 03:26, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Do artificial sweeteners taste like sugar to non-human species?[edit]

Do artificial sweeteners only fool human taste buds, or do they taste like sugar to other species too? If the latter, do they taste like sugar to all animals? Do insects confuse artificial sweeteners with the real thing? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:27, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

They don't even fool human taste buds. Just about anyone can tell the difference between real sugar and any artificial sweetener. Merely because both are sweet, doesn't mean that they taste identical. --Jayron32 03:32, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I think this is a legitimate question. Say for example, you make a big mound of artificial sweetener right next to an anthill. Will the ants collect it and take it back to the nest? Or will they say "screw that, that stuff isn't food"? Dcoetzee 04:15, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Oh, it is a perfectly legitimate question; I did not address whether or not animals would eat artificial sweetener or not; however the premise that it "fools" humans, except those that willfully allow themselves to be fooled, is incorrect. Artificial sweeteners are readily recognizable as not-sugar by anybody. Again, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it doesn't mean that they are indistinguishable from sugar by humans. --Jayron32 04:22, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I left a half-empty bag of popcorn out overnight, and because I leave the windows open, I now have a trail of ants marching across my floor. I removed the bag earlier, but they are still here (and I don't want to spray and kill them). So I have just poured a small mound of Sweet 'n' Low (saccharin) next to their trail. Surprisingly enough, about a dozen ants have actually stopped at the mound, but I don't know why. They don't all respond to it like thye would if it were a pile of real sugar, though. HYENASTE 06:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Insects - at least some of them - have pyranose receptors and furanose receptors; so anything that elicits response from either one will presumably taste to the insect as a corresponding type of sugar. --Dr Dima (talk) 06:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

What's this about fooling taste buds? Sweet reception works by combining different chemical effects. Try"Simply put, they proposed that to be sweet, a compound must contain a hydrogen bond donor (AH) and a Lewis base (B) separated by about 0.3 nanometres. According to this theory, the AH-B unit of a sweetener binds with a corresponding AH-B unit on the biological sweetness receptor to produce the sensation of sweetness." + a third nonpolar London force binding site. If you look at table sugar, sucrose, sure enough, you get a hydrogen bond donor (the OH groups), a weak Lewis base region (the ether oxygens with their lone pairs) and some nonpolar regions. And then there are more elaborate theories based on the study of the sweet receptor with 5 more regions or something, but that's the basic idea.

The thing though, is that I also guess that the sweet receptors also send inhibitory signals to bitter receptors -- or the sugar molecules in themselves activate bitter-inhibiting receptors at the same time they are exciting sweet reception. This would be in order to suppress the sugar's OH groups binding to the receptors that give alcohols their bitter taste; some sweeteners inhibit less effectively or trigger receptions that normal table sugar wouldn't. (At sufficiently high concentrations the bitter receptors will be uninhibited again -- have you tried eating pure sugar, or lived near a sugar factory? At sufficiently high concentrations even sugar becomes bitter.) But the basic motif of the sweet receptor I would think be conserved. John Riemann Soong (talk) 07:08, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Rats prefer saccharin to sucralose. Indeed they really don't like sucralose. The black blow fly Phormia regina likes glycyrrhizin. Axl ¤ [Talk] 09:05, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

What do hummingbirds think of artificial sweeteners, as a matter of interest? It's reasonably common for people to troll bird forums/newsgroups with suggestions that people put Nutrasweet and similar in their hummer feeders, deliberately feigning ignorance of the lack of nutritional value in the stuff... --Kurt Shaped Box (talk) 09:11, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
It's a common legend that hummingbirds will drink nutrasweet (or other zero-calorie sweeteners) to the point of starving themselves if it's more easily available than real sugar. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a good confirmation or debunking of this legend. (Usually would-be debunkers miss the point and repeatedly insist that nutrasweet isn't toxic!) I'd be interested to know the answer to this question, but I'm not eager to run the experiment myself. APL (talk) 14:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Hummingbirds are not interested in artificial sweeteners. Axl ¤ [Talk] 18:18, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Cool. Thanks. One less thing to wonder about. APL (talk) 18:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Sweet. Thanks, guys. --Kurt Shaped Box (talk) 07:23, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

how are scientists able to see something that is billions of light years away[edit]

On July 11, 2007, using the 10 metre Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea, Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena and his team found six star forming galaxies about 13.2 billion light years away

How is this possible. If it takes Light 13.2 billion light years to reach, which is an insane distance, how in the hell can we see these objects. Ivtv (talk) 03:31, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

We're seeing the light that these objects emitted 13.2 billion years ago which is just now reaching us. That's why looking at far away objects is also useful for figuring out what the early stages of the universe were like. There's also the concern that the farther away something is, the lower the intensity of the light is that reaches us and the smaller the objects appear, which is why we need extremely sensitive detection devices (very large and powerful telescopes) to see these things. Rckrone (talk) 03:47, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Because galaxies are huge. Imagine every second you have ever driven in the past say, 15 years, passing by in 1 second and maintaining that speed for 1000 years and still have gone only 1% of the size of a galaxy. The telescope is a million times the area of your pupils combined and accumulates the picture over hours. Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 04:28, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Be sure to see Size of the observable universe and Distance measures (cosmology) for an explanation of why a comoving distance can have a value in light-years that exceeds the age of the universe. -- Coneslayer (talk) 15:30, 31 July 2009 (UTC), who used to have an office across the hall from Richard Ellis
Don't forget Gravitational lensing. ParadigmShift51 (talk) 00:41, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Did the Apollo lunar missions have a contingency plan for damaged space suit during EVA?[edit]

Did they have a plan for dealing with a torn/punctured/leaking space suit during EVA? Would something like duct tape be able to stop a small leak from a space suit? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:54, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Whatever will stop a leak in the base of a 3 story aquarium will hold back the vacuum. Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 04:40, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
It's much less than that. Spacesuits are kept at a pressure only about 1/3 that of the atmosphere at sea level. Dragons flight (talk) 05:01, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Oh right, inconstant volume issues caused by and making it harder to bend the joints. Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 05:27, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
This doucument on Page 2-79 shows a mantenaince kit for lunar spacesuits with fiberglass repair tape. Whether the suits could be repaired while being worn I don't know. (talk) 06:11, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
For a very serious leak, this might have been deployed. --Sean 14:11, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm. Interesting seed for an Alternate History novel. (talk) 14:21, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Oh, the annoyance of snippet view in Google Book search. A glove was the most llikely spor for a puncture, because they handled core drills and other tools. The following suggests that for a glove puncture on more recent (Russian?) suits, a cuff in the arm could be inflated to prevent a fatal loss of oxygen in the suit and helmet, perhaps giving time to get inside: "Walking to Olympus: an EVA chronology‎ - Page David S. F. Portree, Robert C. Treviño, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration. History Office - 1997 -"The suit was sized for specific cosmonauts by pulling or releasing cables and pulleys in the arms and legs. • In the event of glove puncture, a forearm cuff..." Another snippet, from "Protecting the Space Shuttle from Meteoroids and Orbital Debris‎ - Page 17 , NASA, 1997, refers to time a small puncture could be survived: "... a 30 minute supply of oxygen in case of a 4 mm puncture in the space suit" On an EVA at the ISS, an astronaut noted that a cut had gone through several layers of the glove, but had not penetrated the pressure layer, so he ended the EVA early. Edison (talk) 14:58, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
If we aren't limiting ourselves to lunar suits, there has been one documented puncture: on STS- 37. See Talk:Extra-vehicular activity#What really happened on STS-37. (talk) 17:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Good thing for him that he bled. (talk) 00:21, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
The Apollo/Skylab A7L space suit had a 13 layer Integrated Thermal Micrometeroid Garment that was worn over the Torso Limb Suit Assembly. If the outer garmet were breached and the inner presure suit punctured, I would think it would be very difficult if not impossible to gain sufficient access to the puncture to attempt a timely repair. -- Tcncv (talk) 20:25, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Name of body groove?[edit]

Is there a name for the groove that male athletes have? It starts from both hips comes forward diagonally down toward the groin area. A groove between the upper thigh and the lower abdomen. It's kind of hard to describe without a photo. -- (talk) 06:53, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Inguinal ligament. Tempshill (talk) 06:59, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I think a bit more correctly, or pedantically if you will, the surface feature is the inguinal groove, which marks the path along which the inguinal ligament runs. - Nunh-huh 09:28, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Colloquially, this is sometimes called the Apollo's belt. That article also refers to the "iliac furrow", which turns out to be a redirect to Apollo's belt. --LarryMac | Talk 15:48, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Why do attractive parents have more daughters?[edit]

Hi guys. Here's an article from I understand the first bit of that article about how "attractive genes" are selected for. But I don't get the following three sentences near the end:

A study in 2006 by scientists at the London School of Economics found that good-looking parents were far more likely to conceive daughters.

He suggested this was because of differing "evolutionary strategies" that each sex has adopted to survive, and which had been subtly programmed into their DNA.

Mr Kanazawa said: "Physical attractiveness is a highly heritable trait, which disproportionately increases the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons.

If attractiveness increases the reproductive success of daughters more than sons, surely all this means is that those daughters of attractive parents will have more children than their brothers. I don't see why a gene causing attractiveness would also cause one to have more daughters. Please help. TIA! Zain Ebrahim (talk) 07:52, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Every child is an investment for the parents, with the pay-off being further offspring. For females, their reproductive success depends on attractiveness. For males, it depends on other factors (smarts, I would hope ;-). So if you are attractive, you can make sons that have an average number of offspring, or daughters, that have a larger number of offspring. The second strategy is better, and natural selection will hence favor that combination of traits (attractive+propensity for daughters) over the other 3 combinations. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 09:16, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I get it now. Thank you, Stephan. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 10:00, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Not to mention, although we don't seem to have an article on it, organisms can change the average gender of their offspring (for example, reptile eggs can assume gender based on temperature; and there are more indirect genetic examples) or more directly by infanticide; they would want to do this because by Fisher's law the ESS for sex ratio is 1:1 - if there's a temporary deviation then there're arbitrage opportunities. (If there're only a few females, then female offspring are a win; if there's a shortage of males, obviously you might want to have male kids.) --Gwern (contribs) 10:34 31 July 2009 (GMT)
I'm very bothered by the phrase "scientists at the London School of Economics"...what is a reputable scientist doing at an economics school? SteveBaker (talk) 13:13, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Slumming? (talk) 14:18, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
A look at London School of Economics might be enlightening. There's economics and economics... --Stephan Schulz (talk) 14:31, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps you might consider enrolling in the London School of Economics, you might get some really valuable insights from it (that is, if they'll let you in). ;-) (talk) 05:44, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Um, because evolutionary biology involves game theory? Maynard Smith and Price (1973), anyone? Also, selfish genes transmitted cytoplasmically can upset the sex ratio balance. See cytoplasmic male sterility. Genes that perhaps upset the viability of male progeny may be transmitted favourably through mtDNA ... John Riemann Soong (talk) 23:45, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Be sure to read this criticism of Kanazawa's ""Beautiful parents have more daughters..." paper. Based on my understanding, his paper is quite flawed and I haven't noticed a quality response to these criticisms, therefore I am skeptical. And this coming from someone who is planning on attending graduate school for evolutionary psychology, so it's not as though I am dismissive of the entire evopsyc subfield.--droptone (talk) 12:11, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Water for both nuclear coolant and hot coffee?[edit]

Would it be possible for a nuclear power plant to do part of its cooling with potable water, remove that water before it went well above 100C, and use it to provide hot beverages or showers for staff? NeonMerlin 08:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

well, maybe? :-) Withouth checking our reactor articles, I believe that they need heavy water in the reactor core, but that this water is used to heat ordinary water. This ordinary water drives a turbine and the "smoke" rising from nuclear powerplants are in fact the steam escaping. Nuclear powerplants then emit a lot of warm water to nearby rivers. So much that there's actually regulations in some countries to stop them from damaging the river from it. I would think that you could build a comfortable outdoor pool around this warm water, though I don't know what the typical temperature is. EverGreg (talk) 09:01, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
A related concept is greywater. --Gwern (contribs) 10:08 31 July 2009 (GMT)
It seems a fair bit safer to let it heat way above 100 degrees, and use the hot pipes to heat up some water that has not been in touch with the reactor core. It is also cheaper to get clean potable water only for the coffees, not the whole operation, which is often done with ordinary river water.-KoolerStill (talk) 11:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
A more closely related concept is Combined heat and power, although it's more common to do this with small power stations built in residential areas. The water/steam coming out of the generator turbines is already used to preheat the water going into the reactor, it may be practicable to heat water for "domestic" use in this way. If you had a turbine trip, you might lose "domestic" water heating though. Taking water out of the steam generator part-way through wouldn't be allowed, because it would make the system needlessly complex and more prone to failure.
EverGreg, many or possibly most reactors don't use heavy water in the reactor. Candu does, but many other reactors use normal water, or carbon dioxide, or other fluids. Temperature limit is covered in the USA by the Clean Water Act, and as an aside, I've known people go swimming downstream of Beznau Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland to enjoy the warm water. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 11:20, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
In a serendipitous coincidence, I see that Beznau Nuclear Power Plant provides District heating (i.e. hot water) to 20,000 homes. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 11:28, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Reuse of the waste heat from a power plant (for applications like heating) is cogeneration ("combined heat and power"). It's perfectly possible to heat whole districts of towns near powerplants (and this is done in Russia, for example), but the district has to be close to the plant for this to be efficient, and generally (even in Russia) people don't live that close to nuclear plants. You probably wouldn't want to drink the light-water secondary coolant, as it'll likely be contaminated with lubricants and maybe solvents left over from manufacturing (and if you're not heating the secondary coolant to boiling point, and staying at low-ish pressure, then you'd be drinking warm river water, which also isn't safe). There's no reason you couldn't pass the secondary coolant through a heat exchanger to heat regular treated potable water, although it's questionable if there are enough people in the plant to make it worth while (I can't see there's that much call for showering in a nuclear power plant, it's a fairly clean place). Now there is talk about small, sealed-unit, plug-and-play reactors being used in places like Alaska, so there may be more utility(sic) to CHP there than elsewhere (although the additional complexity of running and maintaining the district heating pipe system may again thwart real efficiencies). -- Finlay McWalterTalk 11:38, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Build some sort of factory next to the plant, to use the hot water. John Riemann Soong (talk) 23:48, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

A desalination plant would be perfect for this purpose. (talk) 00:17, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

A course of drugs that can be taken before conception to reduce the risk of fetal abnormalities?[edit]

I'm not asking for medical advice, I'm asking for this is bullshit/not bullshit.

I live in China, the land of Chinese medicine... today I was talking to a former coworker and she informed me she was going to start trying for a baby at the end of the year. She further informed me that she would begin a 3 month course of pre-pregnancy drugs in October that ensures (or improves the chances) that your baby will be healthy.

I called bullshit on anything other than vitamins and a balanced diet, but she not only insisted it was legit, she insisted that it was "xi yao" (Western medicine -- as opposed to some random animal's foot, or some fungus from a back alley dumpster).

I am highly skeptical, but I defer to the collective wisdom of the reference desk.

Note that this woman is only 26 and has nothing wrong with her - we're not talking about fertility treatments for women who have proven difficulty conceiving.

Also note that China is notorious for prescribing anything for everything in order to inflate hospital bills... (talk) 11:13, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Sounds like folic acid#Human reproduction -- Finlay McWalterTalk 11:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
That's a vitamin, though, which he accepted as a viable/non-bullshit way of improving the baby's health. (As should anyone!) -- Aeluwas (talk) 14:24, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm sceptical too. I can't see how it would work. The man taking drugs before conception to improve the quality of sperm might make sense as a way to reduce the chance of chromosomal abnormalities, for example (I don't know of any such drugs, but I can't see why they couldn't exist). That wouldn't work for women though since the ova are all made before (or maybe shortly after) birth, so if they are faulty it is too late to do anything. Other than good nutrition and making sure you are in good health, I can't see how what you do before conception can have any effect on birth defects. --Tango (talk) 18:43, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Total bullshit -- most drugs actually increase the risk of birth defects. As for folic acid, if she eats her veggies every single day, she'll have enough of that stuff to prevent complications. (talk) 05:50, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Is there any actual evidence she was not referring to vitamins? Did you actually ask her if she wasn't referring to vitamins? While from a medical context, it's probably not accurate to call vitamins drugs, such distinctions are not always made and in any case we don't even know if the words 'drugs' was used. And I'm guessing Mandarin Chinese was involved in this some where in the line so the potential for confusion is even greater. (Even worse perhaps if other dialects were involved.) For example, the compulsory fortification of bread with folic acid was widely described as mass medication here in NZ [1] [2] and that's pure English. Vitamin supplementation, when supported by peer reviewed science and recommended by health experts are definitely a part of Western medicine. (When used in the alternative medicine field or without the support of peer reviewed science, as well as in things like Megavitamin therapy obviously that's a different matter.) Folic acid supplementation as has already been mentioned, is widely recommended for women planning to get pregnant, 98s comments not withstanding (you may be able to get sufficient levels without supplementation but clearly most people don't and I suspect knowing if you are or not is difficult without testing your blood level which is likely to be expensive, so just taking the supplements is probably simpler and less risky), and the benefits are AFAIK widely supported by peer reviewed science. There may be others, it's not something I'm that familiar with. In other words, unless it's clear that the lady involved to was not referring to vitamin supplementation, I don't see any evidence for any sort of contradiction here, just some confusion resulting perhaps from differing understanding of terminology. Nil Einne (talk) 07:49, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
OP here. Vitamins were brought up and dismissed by the claimant. My bilingual and equally skeptical wife was assisting in the discussion. There were no misunderstandings. This is China. You wouldn't believe the stuff they pass off as medicine here... (talk) 11:13, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
In this case, this is worse than total bullshit, it's a deliberate scam on the part of some filthy bastard of a doctor who's trying to make some extra bucks off of that Chinese woman while putting her future baby's health at serious risk. As stated before, vitamin supplements (especially folic acid) are the only drugs she should be taking before and during pregnancy. Anything else will only hurt her chances of having a healthy baby. (I hope that the filthy bastard that I'm talking about ends up in prison where the other inmates will beat him up every single day.) (talk) 19:45, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
While I was wrong about the vitamins part, I still don't see any reason to presume he/she's actually giving her some drugs. I'm guessing much of the stuff passed off as medicine in China includes vitamins or even sugar pills as well as of course herbal remedies and the like. Just because the doctor claims it's 'Western medicine' doesn't mean it is. Think of it this way, if the doctor has a choice between real drugs, which probably costs a bit, and something else which is far cheaper, which do you think they would choose? I'm not saying that what he/she's giving her is harmless or that the scam is acceptable, just that I see no reason to presume he/she's actually giving some drug Nil Einne (talk) 18:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Many so-called "herbal remedies" can also be very harmful to pregnant women / unborn children. It don't have to be "Western medicine" to cause great harm this way. Plus, "herbal remedies" in general don't get FDA certification, so they can be downright poisonous even to people who are not pregnant. So in fact the "herbal remedies" scenario could be even worse. (talk) 06:17, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Well that's a different issue. Your earlier post seemed to suggest you believed she was being prescribed random drugs to me. Regardless though, you're right that they can be. You're also right they're not tested or regulated, although the FDA part is irrelevant, since nothing in China needs FDA certification. However, the vast majority do very little, which is one of the reason's why they're mostly bull. It's worth remembering that many of the herbal remedies are just stuff people eat every day (or at least on occasion, especially in somewhere like China), perhaps somewhat concentrated but often not really that different, other stuff is probably most inert (e.g. bone). That means they often do very little, which can be a good and a bad thing (bad if you want them to do something, good in that they don't do any harm). Personally I don't go hear that shit, but the point remains, taking random herbal remedies is a lot less likely to cause major harm then taking random prescription drugs (which have been tested and are known to have a significant effect). One thing to bear in mind is that's it's not always entirely clear who is fooling who. It's not necessarily the case that this doctor has made this shit up. They could just as well have gotten it from someone else. They may genuinely believe it's beneficial, or they may just not care. Obviously as the doctor who is prescribing it, they have a great responsibility to make sure what they are prescribing is likely to be beneficial and that this is supported by the available evidence which they are failing to do. But this doesn't mean they themselves are perpetuating a hoax on purpose. We just don't know who is doing what from the available evidence, nor do we even know what is being prescribed. P.S. Just to be clear, I'm not denying that herbal remedies can and do cause harm. They do and personally I believe they need far greater regulation, but that's neither here nor there. And just to repeat again, I'm not defending the doctor's actions, simply pointing out that as things stand, we don't really know what's going on here. Nil Einne (talk) 16:00, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
A doctor "genuinely believing it's beneficial"? I don't think so -- a real doctor would know better than to prescribe some untested drugs / herbal remedies / whatever to a woman who's planning to become pregnant! It definitely sounds like a scam to me. (talk) 03:32, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Identification of an NZ tree[edit]

I frequently visited the Wairarapa in my childhood days and would always see trees like this in little clumps by the side of the road, but was never sure exactly what kind of tree they were. For some reason I always got the impression that they weren't endemic to NZ. Is anyone able to help? AustralianMelodrama (talk) 11:46, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

looks like a juniper --Digrpat (talk) 20:33, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Macrocarpa - not native to NZ but naturalised, and extremely common in farmland for shelterbelts. The wood is quite versatile also. Good firewood, too: you'll see stacks of it on farms. Gwinva (talk) 23:05, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Not hungry in the morning[edit]

What is that condition called when you are not at all hungry when you first wake up? As if you will puke even if you swallow water? Some of my friends wake up hungry and can't wait to eat while I feel like my stomach cannot deal with processing anything (maybe a few sips of coffee). It almost feels like heartburn but not really. I have been like this all my life. --Reticuli88 (talk) 14:34, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Asking us to name your condition sounds like a request for diagnosis; and we cannot give medical advice (even if your condition is mild, you are still asking for a diagnosis). See our medical disclaimer. Nimur (talk) 15:35, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I doubt it has a name. I think it's just something with the biological clock. Some people are hungrier when they get up, some aren't. You say that yourself when you say "some of your friends" are like this, implying some aren't. It's just like some people are "morning people" and some aren't; some function well, all bright and bushy tailed, int he morning, some don't.
As an aside, if you have a doctor but because of some autism spectrum disorder can't verbalize things well, write what you just wrote down and give it to them. (Something that should probably be inaour medical disclaimer as a suggestion. Because I have experience in that area, I wouldn't be surprised if there are at least a few people with that who come on here because they want to be able to tell the doctor "I think I have 'x', rather than verbalizing their symptoms and engaging in a discussion. Writing your symptoms down is the best way to go there, not asking random strangers to say something that might be wrong and might lead a doctor downt he wrong path.) (talk) 15:56, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Of course, presenting such a list may get you diagnosed with the maladie du petit papier, or as William Osler put it, neurasthenia. - Nunh-huh 18:01, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Hey! How did you know I have Asperger's? --Reticuli88 (talk) 17:41, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

It's called morning sickness, heh heh (sorry). No, it's more commonly called "morning anorexia", and there are lots of possible causes, including nighttime overeating or alcoholism -- but some people are just that way all the time with no apparent health impacts. Looie496 (talk) 17:03, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I saw this artcle: Night eating syndrome --Reticuli88 (talk) 17:57, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

In weight loss programs some members, when told to start the day with a healthy breakfast, reply that they never eat breakfast. The trainer may point out they in fact they ate supper at 7 pm then breakfast at 11 pm while bingeing in front of the TV set: crunchy snacks, ice cream, cookies, extra helpings of supper leftovers. After 8 hours of inactivity during the night, that could explain the lack of appetite at breakfast. Edison (talk) 18:45, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
WP:OR: I know (from personal experience, don't ask) that severe sleep deprivation (as in cramming for exams all night long) can lead to a lack of appetite, nausea, and other symptoms similar to "morning sickness". I wonder if it's related to some kind of hormonal effect... (talk) 06:46, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

DST Boston Mass 1964[edit]

Was there a Daylight Saving Time for Boston, Mass in 1964? If yes, please include dates. Thank You —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:22, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Accoriding to our article on History of time in the United States, the federal government did not institute DST from 1945-1966, though it says that many states and localities did have their own versions. It does not, however, specifically mention Boston. There are some sources in our article, specifically book sources, which may give you more information and places to research. --Jayron32 17:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Old newspapers would be a good place to check on this. By going to a large reference library, or perhaps a smaller library if it's in or near Boston, it should be possible to find copies of the Boston Globe from 1964 (probably on microfilm or scanned into an online format). In the parts of the US and Canada that used DST at that time, it normally ran from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. So I would suggest looking at the newspapers for Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26, 1964, and October 24 and 25, 1964. If DST was in use, you would expect at least a short note on the front page reminding people to change their clocks; if not, there might be articles or letters-to-the-editor talking about how other places used DST and Boston did not. --Anonymous, 00:47 UTC, August 7, 2009.


what organism has the fewest known number of neurons —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:31, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Hmm, interesting question. My best guess would be the hydra, a microscopic coelentrate. It has probably less than 100, but counting is tricky, because there is evidence that in hydras the neuron phenotype is plastic -- that is, cells can switch between functioning as neurons and functioning in other ways. The lowest actual count I know is for the roundworm C. elegans, which in the hermaphrodite form has exactly 302 neurons. Looie496 (talk) 16:54, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Exactly 302 neurons sounds very suspicious. I just checked the source cited for that line, Collective dynamics of 'small-world' networks. There is no mention whatsoever of "302 neurons" in the full article (not even for an individual specimen), let alone that this is valid for all C. elegans. It seems strange for that kind of consistency across all individuals of C. elegans - can anybody find a source which explores this in more detailed? In the mean-time, I tagged the statistic as unverified in our article. Nimur (talk) 19:51, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Apparently I can buy the neural circuitry schematic on 5.25" floppy - AYs Neuroanatomy of C Elegans for Computation - to verify... Nimur (talk) 19:56, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
One of the things that make C. elegans so useful in study of growth and development is that it has a specific number of cells (959 total cells, including 302 neurons[3], 111 muscle cells, 34 intestinal cells, and 213 epidermal cells [4]) each of which has a specific and well-characterized lineage. It's a degree of precision uncharacteristic of biology, but thoroughly cool, I think. – ClockworkSoul 23:21, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
The source I used for this information in the Brain article is the Specification of the nervous system chapter of Wormbook -- it's stated in the second sentence. The original source that everybody cites is this 1986 paper. Looie496 (talk) 23:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Awesome - thanks for clearing up the detail, and I'm glad to see that somebody added a good source to the C. Elegans article! Nimur (talk) 05:24, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Well actually I think a deterministic number of cells is fairly common for many of C. elegans' relatives, especially other nematodes. Remember, C. elegans is a protostome with spiral cleavage, so its gestation is fairly deterministic. John Riemann Soong (talk) 23:51, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Does zero count? Because most organisms are unicellular and so have no neurons at all. --Sean 17:49, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Like some people... :-( (talk) 06:48, 1 August 2009 (UTC)


I recently had to make a presentation for Biology about Genetic Engineering and recombinant DNA. In it, I mentioned that vaccines can have either dead or inactive viruses, and the teacher corrected me by saying that they only have "dead" viruses. I recently looked it up on Wikipedia, and found that they can be of both types. Can somebody please explain this to me? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:38, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

There are many different ways of making viral vaccines, and if you read our article on Vaccine, especially the "types" section, you will find there are all sorts of vaccine types, from completely dead to inactivated to fully living and functional. Indeed, the very first vaccine from Edward Jenner contained fully functioning cow pox viruses, which as a less deadly cousin of small pox, worked quite well as a vaccine (the name vaccine even comes from the latin for cow, vacca). Not that Jenner even knew what a virus was in the 1770's, but it still is true that there are a wide variety of ways a vaccine is made. If you teacher insists that there are not, they are mistaken. Don't look to this as an opportunity to "show them up"... Just be silently content with the knowledge that you are right. If you wish, you can direct your teacher to, say, any introductory High School Biology textbook written in the past 50 years, which will explain the way different methods of vaccination work. --Jayron32 17:12, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
As a teacher myself, I believe very strongly that students should feel free to correct teachers when they are wrong. You shouldn't do it in a way that is offensive or that obstructs the flow of a lesson, but when your own understanding conflicts with that of a teacher, it helps everybody to make that clear. Not all teachers react well to being corrected, but the good ones do. Looie496 (talk) 18:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

The majority of viral vaccines are live attenuated versions. The Salk polio vaccine, some influenza vaccines, and Hepatitis B vaccine are notable exceptions.

Axl ¤ [Talk] 17:57, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I have a followup question: What do we mean by "dead" and "killed" and "live" in the context of a virus anyway? They are basically non-living things - so are we talking about preventing them from inserting themselves into our cells so they don't get replicated? What is the distinction between "inactivated" and "dead" anyway? What exactly are we doing to them that's different in the two cases? I understand that our immune system can be trained to recognise little bits of a virus - and that this is enough to result in the real virus being recognised clearly chopping up into little bits is one kind of "dead". SteveBaker (talk) 18:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
"Dead/killed" in this context means that the material previously contained viable virions (complete virus particles), capable of infection and reproduction. This material has been treated, usually chemically, to render the virions non-viable, incapable of replication. There is no distinction between "dead" and "inactivated". Axl ¤ [Talk] 18:49, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, that's what I thought - in which case our OP and the teacher are both right (or is that both wrong?)...anyway, they agree. SteveBaker (talk) 19:35, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
However, in the context of vaccines, "inactive" could also mean "attenuated" rather than completely dead; the student's point was that there are multiple ways to make a vaccine, and the teacher seemed to (incorrectly) state that there was only one... --Jayron32 19:48, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Steve: both the original questioner and the teacher are wrong. Jayron32: I suggest you read the articles "Inactivated vaccine" and "Attenuated vaccine". Axl ¤ [Talk] 20:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
So, how exactly do they attenuate a virus in a live-virus vaccine? (talk) 05:56, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
See "Attenuated vaccine". During culture, the existing ("wild type") virus will undergo spontaneous mutations. One or more of these mutations causes the virus to become less virulent. Scientists conduct experiments to prove this and show that the new mutant virus is suitable as a vaccine. Axl ¤ [Talk] 07:10, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
That's what I wanted to know. Thanks, and clear skies to you! (talk) 08:15, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

F-104 engine[edit]

I was looking at some pictures on a blog and noticed that on a particular F-104 Starfighter, there was something on the tail. Here is a link. Could it be a JATO? --Blue387 (talk) 20:51, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

No not a JATO this was a special test NF-104A, according to One of three NF-104As constructed. These aircraft had 6,000 lbs thrust Rocketdyne AR2-3 rocket engines installed at the base of the vertical fin to enable them to climb to over 100,000 feet. Lot more information at Lockheed NF-104A. MilborneOne (talk) 21:22, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
There's an Lockheed NF-104A article. -- Finlay McWalterTalk 21:29, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

What proportion of people with flu have swine flu?[edit]

Now in the UK for example. (talk) 21:31, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

According to a UK government site: "The Health Protection Agency estimates there were 110,000 new cases of swine flu in England last week. This is only slightly up from 100,000 the previous week." - people who recover from the disease generally recover in about three weeks - so there are probably around 300,000 cases on any given day. The population of the UK is around 60 million - so the proportion is around one in every 200 people. That's a very rough estimate though - the number of cases is an estimate and the duration of the disease varies quite wildly - so you have one estimate multiplied by another...and that's never good for data reliability. Part of the problem is that in some people, the symptoms are so mild that they may be missed completely - or mistaken for a simple cold or something. SteveBaker (talk) 00:45, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

You have answered a different question from the one I asked. (talk) 13:20, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Nobody knows, is the answer to your question. The swine flu is new and being tracked. Ordinary flu has been around for ages (although different strains of it) and nobody bothers to keep count, as it is not notifiable. In fact many people (or their doctors) diagnose "flu" without doing any tests to establish the strain, then may or may not prescribe Tamiflu. So a great number of flu cases are not recorded anywhere to be counted. There are figures on annual deaths from the flu, but these are usually not reported. Only an unusual strain that catches the public/media imagination gets reported. Now many more people are being tested, to eliminate swine flu, so there may be figures on how many are "passing" the tests, but I've not seen any reported. Many still are not being tested, so they'd not be accurate anyway. - KoolerStill (talk) 15:37, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Indeed. I don't know about other countries, but the UK doesn't even try and identify strains. It doesn't even try and identify if the patient is actually ill... --Tango (talk) 15:44, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
As of a month ago in Australia, at least 40% of influenza A cases were swine flu, and that proportion was expected to rise to 60 to 70%, according to the story. From what I recall (though I can't find references to hand) more recent reports suggest that the majority of flu cases in Australia at the moment are swine flu. --Robert Merkel (talk) 07:33, 4 August 2009 (UTC)


So you have a maternal grandfather, and a paternal grandfather (2). But how do you distinguish between your four great-grandfathers? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:50, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I would just say "My mother's maternal grandfather" vs. "My mother's paternal grandfather" vs. My father's maternal grandfather" etc. etc. --Jayron32 22:26, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
You might also consider asking at the Language Desk. This is one shortcoming of English - we have non-descriptive terms for various relatives. Many other languages have specialized terms for different types of cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents etc. It seems likely that they might follow suit with great grandparents. Nimur (talk) 05:56, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
What one views as a shortcoming the other views as a blessing. OR We often joke that our family tree is best represented in 3D. We have cousins that are also half-brothers/ sisters, great aunts that were also grandmothers etc. I assume with more special expressions we'd just resort to "relative" for everyone :-) (talk) 07:18, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree that it's more of a blessing than a shortcoming... we have relatively simple terms for describing kinship; I do not envy languages that divide things up further than we do! I have never had a need so far in life to distinguish between various great-grandparents on a regular basis. -- (talk) 14:20, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree, it took me long enough to get to grips with the rules for "Xth cousin Y times removed", if I had to distinguish between parallel cousins and cross cousins as well I doubt I would ever have got it! I don't want to have a take a module at university on the naming of cousins... --Tango (talk) 15:48, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
But those are rather distant relations. Part of the difference between English and some other languages, e.g. most? Chinese dialects is in the clear difference between far closer relatives. And while I'm not extremely familiar with the Chinese system, what I do know (mostly relating to Cantonese) suggests to me the system is not necessarily infinitely more complex or difficult to understand but often follows a clear pattern that isn't that hard to understand if you know it. E.g. the numbering of aunts and uncles (although I don't know if that's commonly done in ordinary speech). [5] (warning: has sounds). And I would say there are clear examples where the English system is a clear shortcoming, it's not that you may ask someone or at least wonder whether they mean grandparents, cousins, uncles/aunties on their father or mother's side. Or in the case of cousin's it may be whether you are referring to first cousins or other counsins (although that is less of a problem since it's rare, at least in my experience for second cousins to come up). Indeed in some cases the English system can IMHO be more confusing (frankly I've never understood the cousin removed part). English even often lacks the norm of expressing a clear difference between older siblings and younger siblings which I believe is quite common in a number of other languages and can also sometimes be confusing, particularly at a younger age (some people may make the difference clear, particularly when they think it matters, but it's not uncommon to hear of a brother or sister without being clear of the age relationship when the age relationship may be considered of significance). (Of course some languages have other problems of their own, e.g. Malay has a term for older sister, older brother and younger sibling. The distinction between male and female basically is made by adding male or female and of course is often not done in ordinary discourse. I guess some may think of this as an advantage. ) The problem 71 is referring to relates more to the pedigree collapse caused by a close degree of consanguinity in relationships that was quite common in some societies, particularly royal ones, but was far less common in others. The degree of course varies a fair amount, for example first cousin couples are not uncommon in some cultures by highly taboo in others. And of course, the changing nature of relationships nowadays means that many of the traditional terms break down even in English, I suspect other languages with clearer distinctions may sometimes find it more difficult (or in some cases they may already have a term.) Nil Einne (talk) 18:06, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
You can unambiguously specify any ancestor by giving their Sosa number. Your four great-grandfathers are numbers 8, 10, 12, and 14. - Nunh-huh 17:43, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
That will work fine for the OP, who asked about great-grandfathers, by Sosas don't work for any ancestor, only levels of parentage. My sister and I have no Sosa number relation, for example. Matt Deres (talk) 16:05, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm guessing that you misread "ancestor" to mean "relative". —Tamfang (talk) 00:23, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
At least in Swedish (and AFAIK also Danish and Norwegian), distinguishing between grandparents (and great-grandparents) is very simple. One word for "mum" is "mor", and the male equivalent is "far". The maternal grandparents then are "mormor" and "morfar", and the paternal ones "farmor" and "farfar". Then you can just go on to specify "mormors far" (the s is formally the genitive), "farfars mor" or even "farmors farfars morfars mor"... (talk) 16:39, 5 August 2009 (UTC)