Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Thursday, October 12, 2021

feel the burnIt’s the dream of sugarwater addicts everywhere: Pouring that sweet elixir down your throat, and losing weight as a result.

Okay, tell me another one.

But that’s the story behind Enviga, a joint venture of Coca-Cola and Nestlé. It’s a canned cocktail of sparkling green tea, caffeine, calcium and artificial flavors that somehow jacks up your metabolism, leading to increased calorie burn. Sounds like a cross between Slim-Fast and Red Bull.

I’m sure jittery types will be clutching cans of this stuff all day long. I’ll probably be among them, too. Even though the prospect of some sort of carbonated chemical reaction taking place in my innards is slightly unnerving.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/12/2021 11:56:25 PM
Category: Food, Science | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Tuesday, September 19, 2021

In the middle of my narrative rumination on an alternate political destiny for North America if the South had won the Civil War, I inserted a casual geographical development:

The [Louisiana Free State] maintains a balance of power through its extensive petroleum resources and the status of New New Orleans (formerly Morgan City, before the Mississippi River changed course through natural causes during the 1920s) as an international world-class trade center.

Anyone paying attention might have dismissed this as just a wholly fantastical plot device, as unreal as the general prospect of a balkanized North America.

But that betrays a poor understanding of the principles behind counterfactual historical speculation: The adherence to real-world developments, as closely as possible given altered circumstances. Therefore, the idea that the Mississippi River would re-route its output is not only rooted in fact, but also under serious consideration today, as a way to restore some balance to Louisiana’s coastline.

Not to worry, as the eggheads advocating a river run wild aren’t calling for a completely natural flow:

Simply letting the Mississippi shift to the Atchafalaya would do a lot for the sediment-starved marshes west of the Mississippi. But it would leave cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans — and the petrochemical infrastructure between them — without fresh water or a navigable waterway.

The diversion the scientists propose would be much farther downstream, but where exactly is not at all certain. One possible location is near Davant, about 45 miles southeast of New Orleans. Another is near Empire, further down the river, where the levees could be opened. In either case the river flow into wet and marshy areas to the west. Another way would have to be found — or constructed — for ships to reach the shipping lane, possibly something engineers call a slack-water channel.

That Atchafalaya path, which was first detected during the 1950s, would indeed roll right past Morgan City. Thus my basis for the fictional New New Orleans (forming in the 1920s, on the assumption that U.S. Army Engineering construction never would have existed, thus leading to an earlier topographical realignment).

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/19/2006 11:20:40 PM
Category: Political, Science, History | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, August 10, 2021

Until recently, I had no idea that cats could eat and purr simultaneously.

But they can; I’ve seen/heard it. I guess the feline physiological capacity for purr-fection has a multi-tasking element to it. Besides, what better time to express your contentment than when you’re filling your gullet?

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/10/2021 11:24:18 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Things are looking good(?) for the price of oil to top $100 a barrel this year.

In the near future, that might not be the only form of liquid gold to flow. The world’s exploding population promises a growing billion-dollar business for nascent water processors:

Globally, water problems are even more immediate. Many experts estimate that water-related equipment and services already make up a $400 billion global market.

“Water is a growth driver for as long and far as the eye can see,’’ said Deane M. Dray, who follows many water companies for Goldman Sachs.

Lots of others agree. Last month GE Energy Financial Services announced its first investment in water: $18 million in a wastewater reclamation plant in Atlanta. Alex Urquhart, the unit’s president, said he wanted to be holding $1 billion in water assets before long. General Electric’s industrial executives have even higher aspirations. In the last few years, G.E. has bought four water companies: Betz Dearborn in 2001, then Osmonics, Ionics and, most recently, Zenon Environmental Systems, which makes ultrafiltration membranes.

But if an “addiction to oil” is hard to tolerate, relying on a water broker is even harder to fathom:

Eugene P. Corrigan Jr., an entrepreneur in Charleston, S.C., has mapped out the logistics for sending empty oil tankers back to the Middle East with their ballast tanks full of excess water. He has yet to get a Middle Eastern country to adopt his idea — “I sense a real reluctance to be dependent on a source beyond their borders for a water supply,’’ he said — but he continues to try.

Brave new world. Parched one, too.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/10/2021 11:10:39 PM
Category: Business, Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, August 07, 2021

In his new book “Mean Markets and Lizard Brains: How to Profit from the New Science of Irrationality”, former Goldman Sachs trader Terry Burnham argues that the instinct-driven side of the human brain is ill-suited toward the forward-thinking strategizing required of successful financial planning.

In fact, the competitive arena that is market investing sets up our primitive lobes for sabotage:

But “by its very nature, investing requires us to be forward-looking, to anticipate events. Our lizard brains, however, are designed to look backward. Thus, the lizard brain causes us to be optimistic at market peaks (after rises) and to be pessimistic at market bottoms (after falls).” So whether it’s optimism or pessimism, greed or fear, emotions do our trading, not reasoning.

And it’s not just you. The best and the brightest are also trapped by this saboteur, their primitive brains. There’s a great story in SmartMoney magazine, “Outsmarting Your Brain:”

Harvard Business School Prof. Max Bazerman was speaking to a conference of 75 Wall Street big shots, guys commanding six- to seven-figure incomes for managing your money. Bazerman opened by auctioning off a $100 bill. Simple rules: The highest bidder gets $100. And the second highest pays what he bid, but gets nothing. Forty hands quickly pushed the bidding to $95. Then an institutional money manager and a pension-fund trustee broke the $100 barrier, where both were guaranteed losers.

Imagine: Two of America’s financial geniuses caught up in a hotly contested duel, pushing the bids up, up, up … to $465! Bidding $465 for a $100 bill!

If you’ve ever doubted that investors are dominated by an irrational rat brain the professor adds this scary observation: “I’ve played this game perhaps 600 times, and I’ve never seen the bidding stop below $100.” Yikes! The best and brightest managing our $8.3 trillion mutual fund industry are just as irrational as the rest of America’s 95 million average folks who trust them with their money.

Somewhere, the suddenly unfortunately-named Gordon Gekko weeps.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/07/2021 11:27:58 PM
Category: Publishing, Business, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, July 30, 2021

While all those nanotech geeks are focused on the prospect of green and/or gray goo drowning Earth’s ecosystem, a decidedly more mundane threat is starting to poison the planetary well. Runoff pollution, combined with overfishing of larger aquatic lifeforms, is leading to a toxic oceanic stew that produces virulent organisms.

In many places — the atolls of the Pacific, the shrimp beds of the Eastern Seaboard, the fiords of Norway — some of the most advanced forms of ocean life are struggling to survive while the most primitive are thriving and spreading. Fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are growing unchecked. Where this pattern is most pronounced, scientists evoke a scenario of evolution running in reverse, returning to the primeval seas of hundreds of millions of years ago.

Jeremy B.C. Jackson, a marine ecologist and paleontologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, says we are witnessing “the rise of slime.”…

Industrial society is overdosing the oceans with basic nutrients — the nitrogen, carbon, iron and phosphorous compounds that curl out of smokestacks and tailpipes, wash into the sea from fertilized lawns and cropland, seep out of septic tanks and gush from sewer pipes.

Modern industry and agriculture produce more fixed nitrogen — fertilizer, essentially — than all natural processes on land. Millions of tons of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, enter the ocean every day.

These pollutants feed excessive growth of harmful algae and bacteria.

Basic water chemistry that an intermediate aquarium owner knows, really. The more junk in the water, the better the breeding ground for bio-goo.

Instead of fearing the menace of phantom hordes of nanobogs, we should be concerned about the old-fashioned filth we’re unleashing on the environment.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/30/2006 02:06:59 PM
Category: Tech, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, July 22, 2021

It be hot out there this summer, folks. So if “Right Guard will not help you here”, maybe Neosporin will kill your armpit stenchiness:

After all, the stink isn’t from the sweat but from the bacteria, and Neosporin kills that stuff. I’m half surprised the deodorant companies don’t start adding antibiotics to their products. I mean, it probably isn’t good for you in the long run but then again, everything kills you anyways so you might as well not stink.

A capital idea. This sort of thing has meme-like potential; I wouldn’t be surprised to see “With Anti-Bacterial Action!” taglines all over those “X-Treme” deodorant sticks by next summer.

The only drawback I can think of: As you know, germs tend to mutate to the point where they develop resistances to all those sanitizing hand-wipes and such. So if they start jacking up underarm sticks with this stuff, the effectiveness will work for only so long. In fact, the armpit stinkers may evolve to the point where they’re impossible to expunge. So maybe this idea should stay under wraps.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/22/2006 02:41:47 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback (5)

Tuesday, July 04, 2021

You’ve seen and/or heard about it by now: The fun to be had by plopping a Mentos into a 2-liter of Diet Coke.

It must be catching on, because Mentos has embraced spectacle by linking to the Web video on its U.S. site. (The Coke people are less enamoured with the fizzy phenomenon, apparently taking their diet brew’s brand image a bit too seriously.)

I decided I had to experience this thrill for myself. So I bought my 2-liter and my roll of candies, and found a clearing for the setup. I unscrewed the bottlecap, unwrapped the candy wrapper, and dropped the Mento into the sugarwater.

And… I was disappointed.

I mean, yes, the combination gushed up the bottleneck and tiny little mess. But that’s just it: It was a little mess. The agitated Diet Coke didn’t shoot up high in the sky, like it did for the Eepybird pranksters. It shot up a couple of inches, coated the bottle itself, but that was it. No spectular geyser shooting up into the sky and raining down some sticky-sweet rain. Just a minor puddle of mess that didn’t extend too far from its source.

Did I not use enough Mentos? Should I have used the cinnamon-flavored variety instead of the mint? Did I need to mess with the bottle to maximize the carbonated pressure that was created? I can’t figure out where I erred, if I erred at all.

I was hoping for a liquified alternative to Fourth of July fireworks. But I guess that’s not going to happen.

And despite the assurances that this nucleation gone silly is perfectly safe, I’m treating this foodstuff chemistry in the same vein as the Coke-and-Pop Rocks stomach-bursting urban legend. Just don’t ingest, kids.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/04/2021 02:31:33 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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