Orgasms During Childbirth
Lisa Belkin in The New York Times
It appears giving birth may cause women to have an orgasm. But ladies, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m sure you and I can work out something that doesn’t (necessarily) involve so much screaming and blood.
Atul Gawande in The New Yorker
I like it when I don’t die. Giving doctors and nurses a checklist of things to do to not kill me is good. Here, Gawande puts the word out. I wouldn’t be shocked (although I guess somewhat surprised) if the publicity of a Gawande article in the New Yorker led to much greater adoption of checklists in US intensive care units. And as always, Gawande makes for an engaging read. I doubt the checklist would be quite the panacea he makes it out to be, but it wouldn’t be good rhetoric if the effectiveness of the checklist were downplayed the whole time.
Space Elevator Trips Could Be Agonizingly Slow
Rachel Courtland in New Scientist
Space elevators just won’t go away. You can never kill an idea that sexy.
Check Your Chinese Characters
The Omnibrain at Of Two Minds
A German research journal mistakenly printed the advertisement for a Chinese brothel as the cover to their latest edition. It’s ironic, because at the same time, the brothel mistakenly conducted fundamental research on the excited states of an entangled quantum oscillator. They studied the coupling (in a super position).
Can Science Help Solve the Economic Crisis?
Short summary: Yes
Longer summary: Yes, but you have to use our science, which is way better than your science.
Mike Hettwer at The Big Picture
Broad Use of Brain Boosters?
Emily Singer at Technology Review
I have never used Adderall, Ritalin, or related drugs, so I don’t have any direct experience with how good/bad these things are. As far as I know, they’re not actually going to make you smarter. They’re more in the department of helping you get stuff done. That seems fine to me. We’re already giving them to kids willy-nilly, even if they don’t want them, just because they’re rambunctious in the way that boys normally are. Still adults can’t decide to use them for themselves? Sounds messed up to me. On the other hand, I’m not fond of the “let scientists use Ritalin because it’s good for the world” argument, which is pretty damn conceited.
Let’s End Drug Prohibition
Ethan A. Nadelmann in The Wall Street Journal
How well does the current prohibition of recreational drugs mirror the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s? I’m not enough of a historian to know, but it certainly sounds plausible that they’re similar scenarios.
One issue that occurs to me is that if we legalized drugs, we would undoubtedly do it in a series of incremental steps. At first, the barrier to entry of becoming a legal drug dealer could easily be so high, and the work required to buy the drugs legally so great, that legal drugs aren’t cheaper than illegal drugs are now. This is the current situation in California. You can obtain marijuana legally by going to a doctor and saying you have migraines or something, and that you think medicinal marijuana is the thing you need. Then you get a prescription and buy the authorized marijuana, grown by authorized growers, from authorized vendors. But the medicinal marijuana is still much more expensive than the street version, so the incentive for illegal activity has been reduced, but not eliminated by this semi-legalization.
We actually want drugs to be cheap. If drugs are cheap, they aren’t profitable for criminals. Also, addicts don’t have to steal your shit to pay for their habits. If street drugs became cheap, we’d get rid of an awful lot of Denzel Washington-Ethan Hawke type nastiness, as well as those rather mean drug lord guys running South America. Or maybe I’m being naive.
Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles
Millikan didn’t believe in the photoelectric effect. He didn’t like it, anyway. But he did the experiment and dutifully reported the results he got. Now we know it’s true. Go science.
Aquatic Clean Energy from Vortex-Induced Vibration
from Skulls in the Stars
I still don’t really get this all that well. But it’s something related to energy I hadn’t heard repeated in a hundred different places before. Sounds pretty cool.
Barack Obama’s weekly address, on choosing his scientific advisors: