Saturday, May 12, 2007

5 Second Rule

May 9, 2007, NYT
The Curious Cook
The Five-Second Rule Explored, or How Dirty Is That Bologna?

A COUPLE of weeks ago I saw a new scientific paper from Clemson University that struck me as both pioneering and hilarious.

Accompanied by six graphs, two tables and equations whose terms include “bologna” and “carpet,” it’s a thorough microbiological study of the five-second rule: the idea that if you pick up a dropped piece of food before you can count to five, it’s O.K. to eat it.

I first heard about the rule from my then-young children and thought it was just a way of having fun at snack time and lunch. My daughter now tells me that fun was part of it, but they knew they were playing with “germs.”

We’re reminded about germs on food whenever there’s an outbreak of E. coli or salmonella, and whenever we read the labels on packages of uncooked meat. But we don’t have much occasion to think about the everyday practice of retrieving and eating dropped pieces of food.

Microbes are everywhere around us, not just on floors. They thrive in wet kitchen sponges and end up on freshly wiped countertops.

As I write this column, on an airplane, I realize that I have removed a chicken sandwich from its protective plastic sleeve and put it down repeatedly on the sleeve’s outer surface, which was meant to protect the sandwich by blocking microbes. What’s on the outer surface? Without the five-second rule on my mind I wouldn’t have thought to wonder.

I learned from the Clemson study that the true pioneer of five-second research was Jillian Clarke, a high-school intern at the University of Illinois in 2003. Ms. Clarke conducted a survey and found that slightly more than half of the men and 70 percent of the women knew of the five-second rule, and many said they followed it.

She did an experiment by contaminating ceramic tiles with E. coli, placing gummy bears and cookies on the tiles for the statutory five seconds, and then analyzing the foods. They had become contaminated with bacteria.

For performing this first test of the five-second rule, Ms. Clarke was recognized by the Annals of Improbable Research with the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in public health.

It’s not surprising that food dropped onto bacteria would collect some bacteria. But how many? Does it collect more as the seconds tick by? Enough to make you sick?

Prof. Paul L. Dawson and his colleagues at Clemson have now put some numbers on floor-to-food contamination.

(Here is the link to the article, in the J of AM. All part of the service, here at the End)

(Nod to Anonyman, who counts to five very slowly. I've seen him.)


Bastiat Prize

Bastiat Prize 2007: Submission Open

IPN's Bastiat Prize for Journalism was inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher and journalist Frédéric Bastiat. The prize was developed to encourage and reward writers whose published works eloquently and wittily elucidate the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science. The prize (a total of USD $15,000) will be split among First, Second and Third placed winners.

Judges this year will include: former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lawson of Blaby and 2002 Nobel Laureate, Professor Vernon Smith.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

If Only UNC Had An Econ Department.....

TO LEARN, TO DREAM...TO MAKE MILLIONS: Couldn't Mr. Edwards have learned about economics by reading a book, or taking a course? He's all about the public service, of course, as usual....

Edwards says he worked for hedge fund to learn more about financial markets

By: NEDRA PICKLER - Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Tuesday that he worked for a hedge fund to learn more about financial markets and their relationship to poverty in the United States.

Edwards won't disclose how much he got paid as a consultant to Fortress Investment Group, but said he did keep the money.

"It was primarily to learn, but making money was a good thing, too," the 2004 vice presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the amount he was paid will be revealed when he releases his financial disclosure forms.

Fortress Investment Group, founded in 1998, describes itself as "a leading global alternative asset manager" with approximately $35.1 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2006. The company is headquartered in New York with affiliates around the world.

Fortress was the single biggest employer of Edwards donors during the first three months of the year. Donors who listed "Fortress" as their employer contributed $67,450 to Edwards' campaign and supporters who identified their employer as "Fortress Investment Group" gave $55,200 to the campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Edwards said it's legitimate to ask questions about whether there is a contradiction between campaigning against poverty while working for a hedge fund that is designed to make rich people richer. He said the job was a complement to his position as the head of a poverty center at the University of North Carolina.

"I didn't feel like I understand, and to be honest with you still learning right now, sort of the relationship between that world and the way money moves in this country through financial markets," Edwards said.

Edwards said he also spoke to some Wall Street investment firms such as Goldman Sachs besides exploring the position with Fortress. He said his role was to advise the firm about what he saw happening economically in the United States and during his travels overseas...


(Nod to Anonyman. Can a person drown in bile?)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Higgs on Science

Bob Higgs makes some points that are so obviously true that they have completely escaped us. A very fine article. And evidence that blogs are an outstanding way of getting important ideas to many people quickly.

Peer review, on which lay people place great weight, varies from important, where the editors and the referees are competent and responsible, to a complete farce, where they are not. As a rule, not surprisingly, the process operates somewhere in the middle, being more than a joke but less than the nearly flawless system of Olympian scrutiny that outsiders imagine it to be. Any journal editor who desires, for whatever reason, to knock down a submission can easily do so by choosing referees he knows full well will knock it down; likewise, he can easily obtain favorable referee reports. As I have always counseled young people whose work was rejected, seemingly on improper or insufficient grounds, the system is a crap shoot. Personal vendettas, ideological conflicts, professional jealousies, methodological disagreements, sheer self-promotion and a great deal of plain incompetence and irresponsibility are no strangers to the scientific world; indeed, that world is rife with these all-too-human attributes. In no event can peer review ensure that research is correct in its procedures or its conclusions. The history of every science is a chronicle of one mistake after another. In some sciences these mistakes are largely weeded out in the course of time; in others they persist for extended periods; and in some sciences, such as economics, actual scientific retrogression may continue for generations under the misguided belief that it is really progress.


(and a grateful nod to DoF, who adds some more interesting thoughts)

Wait, I thought WE won

So the Brits have their lacy black undergarments in a knot over a wink?

We won the Revolutionary War. Sure, the French fleet played the decisive role, we won very few pitched, set-piece battles, and our soldiers were often tattered bands of irregulars. And King "Cut and run" George III decided he had better things to do with his troops.

Still, we won. We won over the principle that birth makes one person better than another. Even GWB had to stand for election, twice. You may think his birth helped him, but it doesn't define him. GWB didn't win because of his birth. He won because Al Gore and John Kerry are two of the biggest empty suits in the history of politics.

If I want to wink at the Queen, I'll wink. Even if I were President. She is not elected, she has no authority except control over millions of pounds of financially and genetically in-bred wealth and property.

If he had MOONED her, sure, that would be an outrage. But momentarily misspeaking, "17....1976" and then winking....Give me a break.

That isn't in the top 100 of GWB's most appalling blunders.

The Brit newspapers can all just line up and BITE me.

(Nod to AE, who loves queens, and the UN, and other authoritarian structures)

UPDATE: The backrub. THAT was a blunder. You don't touch an elected leader of another country to give them an uninvited backrub. That was appalling. Of course, in 1938, when the Germans decided to give all of Sudetenland a backrub, THAT was okay. I guess it just depends who is getting the backrub....

Monday, May 07, 2007

Someday We'll Look Back on This, and It Will All Seem Funny

But not now.

Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year, the Associated Press has learned.

The odd-looking – but harmless – "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors traveling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.

The silver-coloured 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy – Canada's flower of remembrance – inlaid over a maple leaf. The unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors' accounts.

The supposed nano-technology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red color from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.

"It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. "Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top."

The confidential accounts led to a sensational warning from the Defence Security Service, an agency of the Defence Department, that mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

One contractor believed someone had placed two of the quarters in an outer coat pocket after the contractor had emptied the pocket hours earlier. "Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket," the contractor wrote.

But the Defence Department subsequently acknowledged that it could never substantiate the espionage alarm that it had put out and launched the internal review that turned up the true nature of the mysterious coin.

Meanwhile, in Canada, senior intelligence officials expressed annoyance with the American spy-coin warnings as they tried to learn more about the oddball claims.

"That story about Canadians planting coins in the pockets of defence contractors will not go away," Luc Portelance, now deputy director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, wrote in a January e-mail to a subordinate. "Could someone tell me more? Where do we stand and what's the story on this?"


(Nod to RL, who isn't scared of Canadian money, and I can prove it. In fact, he actually wants MORE of the darned stuff)

Why Liberals are Losing the Court

Interesting. The left lost the Congress, but fortunately the Republicans managed to show themselves to be incompetent and corrupt. So the Democrats got it back.

But what about the Supreme Court? There just seems to be a disconnect, and I notice it myself all the time, when we talk about abortion or civil unions. (I am on the "left" side on both issues, by the way.)

You have to try to make arguments, and understand the other side. Instead, the left has gotten lazy, and just assumed that the Court will back up their secular state religion of group rights and female empowerment.

As John Yoo, law professor at UC Berkeley and former lawyer in the Bush
Justice Department, put it:

"Rather than develop reasoned responses to the Court or the arguments of
conservatives, liberal critics resort to the mystical for easy answers. They
suggest that irrational religious faith or pure Catholic doctrine handed
down from the Vatican drives the Justices. It is much easier to dismiss your
opponents as driven by mysterious forces than to do the hard work of
developing arguments built on human reason


John Edwards, and some of the other Dem candidates, are now trying to act like they have religion. And religion was apparently okay when it was Dr. MLK doing the preaching. (I'm not sure the Rev. Al and the Rev. Jesse believe in anything other than their own fundraising....)

But you aren't going to appeal to the religious unless you make real arguments. Dismissing them as primitives is going to result in a disaster for those of us who believe in individual human rights.

(nod to KL, who believes)