さまざまの言葉… random items

January 24, 2008

The Earth IS Doomed

Filed under: humankind — rithban @ 6:29 am
Tags: , ,

Commenting on the recent unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s spaceship, Graham Bailey posed a question:,

Climate change, unstable economies, and war are all factors that are putting the human race at risk, and if we don’t move soon, we may not have the option.

What are your thoughs on this?

It reminds me of a quote from the old TV show Babylon 5, set from the viewpoint of the future, the year 2258. Mankind is still struggling with essentially the same problems that it has for thousands of years. Space travel is expensive, there is pressure to pull back, and address our own problems “back home”.

Mary Ann Cramer: After all that you’ve just gone through, I have to ask you the same question a lot of people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back, forget the whole thing as a bad idea and take care of our own problems, at home?

Sinclair: No. We have to stay here, and there’s a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics – and you’ll get ten different answers. But there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us, it’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes – all of this. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars.

Babylon 5, Season 1, Episode 4 “Infection”

In the end, the Earth is doomed to being destroyed by Mother Nature. The question is whether we choose to quietly go extinct, or give “post-Terra survival” a go. Unless hit by comet or some such massive catastrophe, this is a task for us to start for future generations.

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Excited(?) Over Space Travel in My Lifetime

Filed under: goofy — rithban @ 5:56 am
Tags: , ,

Virgin Galactic is building their next generation spacecraft. News articles here and here.

Makes me start to think we will have private space flight available to the general public in my lifetime. Hmm… suborbital flight between continents in a few hours… beats the grueling 18+ hours to hit the next hemisphere.

The only thing I really fear is the kid four seats behind me getting space sick and throwing up in zero gravity. With no gravity, it’d float straight until it encountered something, and largely continue to float around until re-entry where it’d splatter all over the place. 😦

Am I the only one that thinks about these things? *grin*

January 14, 2008

Super-Simplified Food Chemistry, Part 1

Filed under: food chemistry — rithban @ 6:04 am

Food

Food is the chemicals we eat. This was the most important thing that my Nutrition and Food Science professor wanted us to remember.

We’ve been trained to think of “chemical” as something nasty and harmful. Everything in our physical world is made of chemicals of one sort or another. Pure distilled water is a chemical — H2O — two hydrogen atoms stuck to an oxygen atom.

We should not automatically think of “chemical” as something sinister. Without chemicals there would be nothing physical.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made out of building blocks called “simple sugars.” Take styrofoam balls. One colour for glucose, another for fructose, another for galactose. Alone these are called monosaccharides. That’s a fancy word meaning “one sugar.”

  • Glucose is very important for life. The body uses this as a package of food and energy for the cells. Plants create it with the help of sunlight. It is not as sweet as the table sugar we’re familiar with.
  • Fructose is common in fruits, berries, and honey. It is almost twice as sweet as table sugar.
  • Galactose is half of “milk sugar” (lactose). It is not very sweet.

If we start sticking monosaccharides together, we get different chemicals. If we stick two monosaccharides together, we form new sugars called disaccharides, which means “two sugars.”

  • Take a styrofoam ball for glucose and a styrofoam ball for fructose. Stick them together. We now have sucrose, or the ordinary table sugar we are familiar with. When we eat sucrose, the body pulls the two balls apart so it can use them.
  • Take a styrofoam ball for glucose and a styrofoam ball for galactose. Stick them together. We now have lactose, a sugar found in milk.
  • pf_whoppers.thumbnail.gifTake two styrofoam balls for glucose. Stick them together. We now have maltose, a type of sugar found in malted milk, including the candy “Whoppers.”

Polysaccharides

Starches and other polysaccharides (“many sugars”) are made from long chains of simple sugars. Take hundreds of glucose styrofoam balls and make a long string of them. This will give an idea of starch. These long chains can stick together, making branches like a tree, or sticking together along their sides.

Here is an example of long chains sticking together:

468px-glycogen.png

Originally written 30 July 2007.

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