Rocket brain
A study found that rocket scientists and brain surgeons aren't smarter than the general public.  I was actually just thinking about this recently.  Those disciplines aren't some sort of obscure, hidden knowledge obtained through a secretive quest.  It's just people who had some sort of baseline ability and interest in a topic, then studied and worked hard for a while.  Not to understate their accomplishments or overstate my abilities, but I could do that.  Most people could.  There's a huge caveat that it depends where you live and how your local schools are and all sorts of things.  But in general, most people can do most things. 

I think it's weird that rocket science and brain surgery are put on a pedestal, when really any specialized discipline is essentially equally difficult and impressive.  Electricians regularly work with an invisible death force, yet the average person has no idea how it works much less how to wire an electrical outlet.  Modern life would essentially stop if electricians stopped showing up to work.  Similarly, I hired a guy to redo some drywall in my house, not because I'm unable, but because I'm not good at it.  The work he produced nearly brought tears to my eyes because it was so good.  In other words, trust experts

I think rocket science and brain surgery get singled out at least partly because those subjects are inherently more risky.  Or more specifically, the likelihood of an incident is higher, and the consequences are quite bad.  Getting a rocket to lift off and fly straight is difficult, and if it fails it causes a big boom with lots of fire (high likelihood, high consequence).  This happens frequently enough that it's a legitimate concern for engineers and safety people.  A similar discipline like structural engineering is just as difficult, and the consequences of a bridge or building falling down are just as bad, but the likelihood is much lower (low likelihood, high consequence).  It's the same for brain surgery, but in the reverse order.  If a dentist screws up a tooth surgery, they can just try again next time (low likelihood, low consequence).  If a surgeon screws up a brain surgery, that patient is permanently altered (low likelihood, high consequence). 

[This has been your introduction to Risk Assessment.]

Finally, rocket science doesn't really exist.  Science is the application of the scientific method to further knowledge about a subject.  Not to put too fine of a point on it, but we pretty much know everything we're gonna know about rockets (dangerous claim to make, but I did it).  The science is essentially settled (combine some chemicals or ignite them to produce an energetic reaction).  What we're really talking about when we say "rocket science" is "rocket engineering", i.e. how do I apply this scientific knowledge to shoot a person at another planet?  But "rocket engineering" just doesn't have the same ring. #science

Here's a weird video about giruses (giant viruses) with this terrible quote: 
Most Giruses we've found so far hunt amoebae and other single-celled beings.  When they find a victim, they connect with it and use its natural processes to enter the cell.  Like all viruses, their goal is to misappropriate the victim's infrastructure and procreate.  Imagine a mouse crawling into your mouth and using your guts and bones and fat tissue to build a mouse factory.
No. #science

Torque is probably my favorite physics concept because it's so simple and appears in all kinds of places.  Torque is a measure of force times distance.  You can generate more torque by applying the same force at a greater distance from a rotation point.  It's the reason why wrenches tighten things better than screw drivers.  It's the reason why those little Allen keys are double-sided -- one side is for quickly screwing something in; the other side is for tightening.  It's the reason you do bicep curls by holding a dumbbell in your hand and not on your forearm.  It's the reason why, when my ax gets stuck in a piece of wood, I grip it as far away from the ax head as possible to get it unstuck.  It's the reason why branch-cutting shears have really long handles.  It's the reason why lug nut wrenches are sometimes double-sided (double the torque) or have really long handles. 

When in doubt, use a longer lever. #science

From what I understand about evolution (hint:  not much), the phrase "survival of the fittest" is a little misleading because it brings to mind a tough individual surviving in a difficult environment by being specially adapted.  But really, the organisms that survived weren't simply the ones that "fit" the best.  They were the ones who reproduced the most successfully.  Being "fit" in an environment can probably lead to reproducing, but that doesn't mean that the ones who reproduced were necessarily the most "fit".  They were just the best at reproducing. #science

On blood
Donating blood likely has no short-term effects on heart rate, blood pressure, or blood chemistry (assuming the donor doesn't pass out) because the human body has homeostatic mechanisms that constrict blood vessels to increase blood pressure as well as kidney functions that increase fluid retention.  It takes about 8 weeks to regenerate a pint of donated blood. 

Blood transfusion recipients typically get just one pint.  A normal human body contains about 10-12 pints of blood.  Children have about the same volume of blood as adults.  Except newborn babies, who have about a cup. 

Blood donor DNA is detectable in recipients, but only through specialized tests that specifically look for it.  Otherwise it's in small enough quantities that it can be ignored. #science

On steroids
Bottom line up front:  I'm not on steroids. 

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about anabolic steroids is that they magically make people stronger, better, and faster.  That seems to be how they're perceived in sports:  An athlete takes steroids, a known performance enhancing drug, and is temporarily or permanently banned or is forced to have an asterisk next to their name. 

I think a more accurate way to look at it is that steroids don't make you stronger, they give you the ability to work harder.  You still have to actually work harder, but your body is able to recover faster, which enables you to put in more hard work.  Steroids aren't just a magical pill that give you an ability.  They give you recovery, so you can keep doing what you would otherwise be doing to develop your ability. 

I'm not trying to make the case that steroids are good or that they don't provide an inherently unfair advantage.  I just think their vilification detracts from the immense amount of time and effort their users actually put into their craft. #science

Flu shot effectiveness
The second most common excuse people use for not getting a flu shot, after "I didn't get one last year and I didn't get the flu", is that it's not even 100% effective.  It's true; the CDC says, "recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60%", which is indeed less than 100%.  But here's another way to look at it:  A flu shot is 50% effective, while not getting a flu shot is 0% effective. #science

Living on Mars
A lot of people think we'll live on Mars someday, and possibly someday soon.  These people are idiots.  Here's why: 
  1. Mars ain't got no air.  Air-breathing humans would have to either constantly wear ventilation masks or live in pressurized bubbles.  It would be like living underwater.  All the time.  Forever.
  2. Mars is fucking cold.  I feel like this point gets overlooked a bit because Mars is in the "habitable zone" i.e. there can be liquid water in some places sometimes.  But a summer day can swing from 70°F to -100°F.  That's a negative sign there.
  3. There's no sun.  There's some law of physics that relates the sun's power output to the distance a planet is from it.  Mars is farther from the sun than Earth.  Less sun means less heat, less solar power, less plant energy, less everything.
  4. Mars ain't got no stuff.  Stuff like water (ok there's some), plants, animals, building materials, factories, fast food establishments.  Point is, you'd have to bring literally everything you'd ever need for anything.  Yes you can 3D print some stuff, and yes you can maybe grow potatoes in your poop, but for the first many years of settlement there you'd have to come with your bags packed.  People underestimate how ridiculously difficult and expensive it is to shoot a rocket from Earth to Mars.  Yes it's been done before, but it's kind of a big deal every time it happens.
  5. We're not gonna terraform it.  Yes it's hypothetically possible, and hey we've terraformed Earth so it can't be that hard.  But the amount of energy required, and the international (interplanetary? intergalactic?) agreements it would require, and the choice of the best actual way to terraform, means it'll never happen.  It's a science fiction idea.
Earth is really good at sustaining human life.  It has the gravity we're used to, the air pressures and chemical components we enjoy breathing, the temperatures we can deal with, and the food we like to eat.  Maybe instead of trying to terraform a planet that has none of those things, we could try to make our current planet a little better. 

Many times throughout history, an unwise person made a proclamation about the future that turned out to be utterly false.  Perhaps I'm that unwise person. #science

Sometimes it feels and sounds like we humans are running out of things.  There's overcrowding, homelessness, and poverty; people talk a lot about living on Mars (which is completely ridiculous). 

A recurring thought I've had is that there's enough of pretty much everything for pretty much everyone.
Sure there's overcrowding in cities, but go literally anywhere else and all you see is open space.  Most of the state of Arizona, for example, is just empty.  Sure it's hot and dry, but that didn't stop Phoenix or Las Vegas.  Overcrowding is a solvable problem.  It might be difficult, but it's not existentially impossible. 

Poverty is also completely solvable.  I haven't done the math, but my hypothesis is that there's enough money for everyone.  The ultra-super-mega rich can part with a few extra dollars, and poverty and homelessness would disappear in an instant.  Obviously it's a bit more complicated than that, and not all problems can be fixed by throwing money at them.  And then there's the whole "welfare makes people lazy" argument, which is dumb, but also irrelevant for my point.  My point is that there's enough money in the world to buy everyone enough food, clothing, and shelter.  There are a multitude of reasons why this doesn't happen, and few of them are reasonable. 

I'll add to this list: energy, which isn't limitless, but with the perpetual nuclear reaction happening at the center of our solar system (i.e. the sun), is essentially limitless.  We're running out of oil, and gas, and the wind doesn't always blow, and ... climate change.  But seriously the sun will put out more energy than we will ever use for much longer than our species will exist

Each of these are technological, organizational, and logistical problems.  There are enough resources, there's enough space, and there's enough energy to do pretty much anything. #science

Human animals
An episode of the Freakonomics podcast called The Invisible Paw asked what makes humans different from other animals.  One scientist said,
The answer is: absolutely nothing. One by one, the supposed attributes that we had thought were unique to humans have been shown to be present in other species. Crows use tools. Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror. Whales form social networks of the same size and complexity as we do. Penguins mourn their dead. Gibbons are monogamous. Bonobos are polyamorous. Ducks rape. Chimpanzees deploy slaves. Velvet spiders commit suicide. Dolphins have language. And the quicker we get over the Judeo-Christian notion that we are somehow qualitatively different from the rest of the biome, the quicker we will learn to live healthier lives for ourselves and for the planet."

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