Tag Archives: Science

Why fresh-squeezed orange juice turns bitter.

Several times recently I have squeezed a large number of oranges, enjoyed some of the delicious fresh-squeezed juice, and then been disappointed by the rest the next day. It tastes bitter, and becomes worse rapidly. This turns out to be the result of naturally occurring limonoate A-ring lactone (aka "LARL," a tasteless substance) breaking down into limonin, which is very bitter tasting. The amount of LARL varies between oranges and throughout the growing season. If there’s any way to arrest the conversion of LARL to limonin in the home-squeezing process, I don’t know about it. 

Everything is turning into iron.

Iron-56, the most common isotope of iron, is what all material in the universe “wants” to be. That is, the nuclei of matter is all gradually exhausting its energy, and iron-56 is the form of matter with the lowest energy per nucleon. Eventually, stars will turn into iron—huge balls of iron. Everything will be iron. The good news is that this won’t happen for 10^1500 years, a period of time so long that we can’t really grasp it. That’s a quingentillion years away. For comparison, there are probably no more than 10^81 atoms in the entire universe, so 10^1500 is just a mind-bogglingly long amount of time. The universe right now is just over 10^10 years old, so you can see that it’s really just a mewling infant at this point. 

The trajectories of life-bearing meteorites from Earth.

Some Japanese researchers did the math on the fate of the billions of tons of rocks and water that were tossed into space when Earth was hit by an asteroid 65M years ago. It turns out that much of that material probably bore life, and it wound up not just on the Moon, but also on on Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Some of the ejecta (about 1,000 rocks) would have even wound up on an Earth-like planet orbiting a red dwarf star, located 20 light years away. This math tells us that life would only have needed to evolve at 25 sites throughout the Milky Way for these sorts of spores from those planets to have seeded the entire galaxy with life. 

Unsurprising research finds that some homophobia is rooted in homosexuality.

A team spanning three universities has published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finding that people who claim to be straight, but have a strong attraction to people of the same sex, tend to be hostile towards gays because gays remind them of their own repressed tendencies. Those subjects’ parents tended towards authoritarian, and held similarly strong anti-gay views. The purpose of the study was to investigate the cause of the routine discovery that people with strongly anti-gay views are closested and gay themselves. 

PPP’s survey of likely Republican voters in Mississippi and Alabama is really something.

Forget the presidential race—the other responses are pretty amazing. Only 14% believe that the presidentis is Christian (45% believe he’s Muslim, 41% don’t know). Just 26% believe in evolution. One in five believe that interracial marriage should be a crime, with just 67% supporting its legality. It’s little wonder that these two states generally show up at the bottom of nearly any state index of success or well-being. 

Links for November 25th

  • BBC News: CO2 climate sensitivity ‘overestimated’
    Of all that is very clearly known about global climate change, the one connection that is not well understood is the quantity of climate forcing that results from each unit of CO2. That is, exactly how much additional heat can the atmosphere store for each each ton of CO2 that is added to it? One new study proposes that the existing model might be too pessimistic, basing that on the authors' theory that the last ice age wasn't as cold as has been believed. Their theorized rate of increase is still globally catastrophic, but comparatively speaking, it would be good news. The team's paper is published in Science magazine.
  • Wikipedia: Franksgiving
    In 1939, President Roosevelt made the annual declaration of a day of Thanksgiving—as had been done such President Washington—but selected the third Thursday in November, rather than the traditional last Thursday. That was at the request of retailers, who didn't want to violate the taboo of starting Christmas sales before Thanksgiving, but were worried that the fourth Thursday would fall too late in the year—November 30—to give them enough sales time. The moved date split the country, both along partisan lines and along state lines. Many states declared Thanksgiving holidays on the third Thursday, some on the fourth. This was repeated in 1940 and 1941, but it was settled by Congress, who officially designed the annual holiday as being the fourth Thursday, as of 1942.
  • American Radio Relay League: US Amateurs Now 700,000 Strong!
    There are more ham radio operators in the U.S. than ever before. Over 700,000 now. When I got licensed, in the early nineties, there were just under 500,000 licensed operators. I was one of the first people to get a codeless license, meaning that I didn't need to learn CW (aka Morse code); if that new class of license hadn't been established, I couldn't have passed the test. These days, I don't think CW is required for any of the three license classes—Technician, General, and Amateur Extra—which has surely helped this surge in licensing. (Fun fact: Long-time ARRL president Harry Dannals, aka W2HD, is a Charlottesville resident.)