People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Question Prompts a Question

A headline in this morning's New York Times:
What's Worse Than Getting Sick? Getting Sick While Traveling (link)
To which I respond with a question:
What's worse than getting sick while traveling? Getting sick because you travel.
In my lifetime, I've had the opportunity to spend several thousand nights in hotel rooms around the country. Good and bad. Expensive and cheap. Clean and dirty. Germ-free and ... not.

I've had the occasion to settle down for a good night's sleep in a hotel somewhere, only to find, when I awoke the next morning, that I've come down with a serious cold. Or flu. Or in one instance, a life-threatening disease. I have often thought - and can't dispel the idea - that I've contracted these maladies only because the person(s) who slept in the bed(s) the night(s) before I did had a cold, the flu, or a life-threatening disease.

I try not to think of these things. Such thoughts don't make for a good night's sleep. And I try really hard not to ponder what went on the night before in the bed I'm laying in, if you know what I mean. Try as I might though, I can't escape the reality that hotel rooms - at least to my knowledge - are not disinfected each morning. (In some cases they are not even cleaned well. There's a hotel in Elgin, Illinois I checked out of within an hour of arrival because of a pubic hair being found above the sheets on the bed. Yick.)

So. Consider this a cautionary note. Next time you pay that $199.95 for that luxury hotel room in Cancun, think about the bugs and germs and hairs and pestilences and unmentionables that await in that bed you're about to climb into.

Oh, and have a good night's sleep. "Don't let the bedbugs bite."

Well, They Did It Anyway

Ms. Elenaeous is not going to be happy about this news out of New York:
Transit Union Walkout Follows Collapse of Contract Talks
By Steven Greenhouse and Sewell Chan, The New York Times

The transit workers' union ordered a strike this morning, shutting down New York City's subway and bus system after contract talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority broke down - a disruption that will prevent people from going to work, cause millions of dollars in economic damage and seriously upend the life of the city in the week before Christmas. (link)
I hope the transit union members and all you folks in The City who pay their paycheck have a Merry Christmas.

On Science, Fraud, & My Email Buddies

I received an email one day last week that was dismissive of an argument I had made with regard to scientists having major disagreements over global warming. I forget the words used but essentially the reader's point was: The scientists who support your argument that global warming is a myth are all paid by corporations for their opinions - corporations with a stake in the results of the researchers' studies - and those scientists' reputations (and ability to analyze data, presumably) are, therefore, tainted by all the research money that is thrown at them.

My immediate thought, when I read the email was, "Yeah. Like problems with questionable research and crooked researchers are localized to corporate-funded scientists."

On that note, I refer you to an article appearing in this morning's New York Times about science, scandal, and the lure of fame and funding:
Global Trend: More Science, More Fraud

The South Korean scandal that shook the world of science last week is just one sign of a global explosion in research that is outstripping the mechanisms meant to guard against error and fraud.

Experts say the problem is only getting worse, as research projects, and the journals that publish the findings, soar.

Scientific fraud as a public danger burst into public view in the 1970's and 1980's, when major cases of misconduct shook a number of elite publications and institutions, including Yale, Harvard and Columbia.

Experts now say that the explosive growth of science around the globe has made the problem far worse, because most countries have yet to institute the extra measures that the United States has put in place. That imbalance is at least partly responsible for a rise in scientific scandals in other countries, they say. (link)
In addition to disgraceful scientific frauds discovered at Harvard and at Emory University, the Times article goes on to cite scandals that erupted at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and at Bell Labs in years past.

But oddly there's nary a mention of General Motors or British Petroleum.

So. Can the prospect of receiving corporate money influence unscrupulous scientists' "research"? Of course. But fraud and a lack of principles aren't limited to scientists who are, in part, funded by corporations. The chance for fame, a Nobel, and government funding will produce the same result if a scientist tends toward the disreputable.

More On Biodiesel

I received the following information regarding the alternative fuel that I mentioned yesterday - called biodiesel - from a reader:
Biodiesel has been a garage project for many truckers and farmers for a few years. They weren't using new oil, but collecting the deep fry waste from fast food joints. It takes a few large barrels and quite a bit of time to allow the particulate matter (potato and breading bits) to settle and filter to where the oil is usable.

Since a diesel combusts from compression, rather than ignition, they have always been a multi fuel engine. The problem with biodiesel is that it lacks the lubricity of diesel fuel. In fact, since the EPA got into the act, diesel lacks the lubricity that it used to have. The need for this lubrication is for the internal parts of the injector pump. It isn't lubed by an outside source, as most engine parts are, but uses the fuel it is pumping to keeps the innards moving smoothly.

For this reason, additives must be used to get the same properties as the diesel. I can't recall what they are at this time. You can tell when you are following someone who collects the fry oil and uses it. It smells like french fries....no kidding.
Now you know.

Hattip to Phil Toth