Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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Nashua;81.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/skc.png;2014-09-02 19:53:28

Those ice bucket challenges may help Maine's lab-mouse-breeding facility


Jackson Labs, one of the nation's best-known breeders of mice for laboratory experiments, may benefit from all those "ice bucket challenges," reports the Portland Press-Herald:

The lab distributes thousands of mice with ALS each year to about 200 research facilities around the world, and lab scientists say demand for the mice could double, depending on how money raised by the viral video campaign is allocated.

Jackson Lab’s mice are genetically mutated to develop ALS. There are now more than 40 “mouse models” – types of mice with ALS – that can be sold to research facilities. Lutz said additional research money will help the lab develop more mouse models, to give scientists more tools to work with.

The strength of Jackson Labs, headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, is its ability to breed or genertically create mice with specific diseases or other diseases that allow drug companies and researchers to test possible treatments. That sounds kind of cruel, and it is from the point of view of the mice - but you and I and all of humanity benefit enormously from the results.

If New England cottontails had better eyes, maybe they wouldn't be endangered


Here's looking (sort of) at you, kid

The New England cottontail is in trouble because its favored habitat - scrubby land, not developed land or groomed fields or woodlands - is increasingly rare. But the almost identical Easter cottontail is doing fine; in fact, it's moving north into New Hampshire.

Why the difference? As I discuss in my Telegraph column today, it's not entirely clear - but one possibility is eyesight:

The Eastern cottontail “is more of a generalist,” said Kovach. “Their habitat preferences are broader: They’re the ones you’ll see on a golf course, even; they’re not as reliant on a thicket, on cover.”

That may be because the Eastern cottontail is better able to detect aerial predators, apparently due to differences in eye structure between the species. As a result, they don’t freak out so much when there are no thickets to hide in.

Vermont biologists asks bear hunters to save them a tooth (ursine, not human)

From Associated Press: The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the state’s successful bear hunters to submit a tooth to biologists so they can collect information about the bear population. Teeth are used to determine the age of the bear.

Biologists use age and sex data to get an estimate of the number of bears in the state and to determine the status and health of the bear population.

Vermont’s early bear hunting season starts on Monday. Instructions for removing the tooth can be found on the back of an envelope that will be provided by big-game check stations.

Manchester science museum & art museum join hands over - who else? - M.C. Escher


The geekiest of artists has to be M.C. Escher, he of the beautifully drawn optical illusions. (Yes, I had an Escher print on the wall of college dorm room - just like you.) So it makes sense that SEE Science Center and the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester would use him to create semi-overlapping exhibits.

On September 20, "M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion," an exhibition of Escher’s original drawings and prints, will open at the Currier and "Escher: The Science Angle," an exhibition filled with hands-on and interactive exhibits, will open at the SEE Science Center.

There are various extra events associated with both, including a tesselation workshop at the Currier on Oct. 26 that could be fun. (At first I thought it said "tesseract workshop" - that would have been even more interesting, what with that fourth dimension and all.)

The SEE Science Center is at 200 Bedford St. in the Manchester millyard, and it has a masively cool Lego model of the whole millyard. The Currier Museum of Art is at 150 Ash St. They're both worth a visit.

Bigger is better for wind turbines, so UMaine tests a 180-foot-long blade

The Univeristy of Maine's Composites Center ie one of two places in the country that can do stress tests on a 180-foot-long wind turbine blade, reports the Bangor Daily News.

During the next few days, center employees will place about 150 sensors on the blade to measure stress as they apply pressure and bend it or twist it in various directions. Dagher said the blade should deflect about 20 or 30 feet under the pressure loads they’ll be using.

I once drove past a bevy of trucks carrying wind turbine components, including a blade that wasn't 180 feet long but was at least 120 feet. Even that is very, very big, especially when it crawls past you on a winding Maine road.

The power of Nature: Ripping my porch apart



We have a lovely wisteria plant growing up over the railing of our porch, which overlooks a dugout basement, so it's kind of on the second floor. The plant looks great, having grown over the porch in the past half-dozen years, weaving between the railings to the point that it feels like you're peering out at the world through a jungle. Very cool.

But we noticed tonight that one of the branches had snapped off a railing that it had woven through. That's a lot of strength, and it doesn't bode well for the rest of the railing. Maybe the whole porch.

Such destruction is not uncommon behavior for this climbing vine, it seems: "They can clog the rain gutters, lift roof shingles, rip up flimsy trellises, and strangle small trees" says this site, one of many that warns of the plant's power.

That Mother Nature - she sure doesn't fool around.

N.H. veteran G4 Communications (which started as a BBS) purchased by NY firm


New Hampshire Business Review reports:

FirstLight Fiber of Albany, N.Y. announced Wednesday that it has reached an agreement to acquire G4 Communications, one of New Hampshire’s oldest Internet service providers, further consolidating state’s telecommunications industry and stepping up its challenge to FairPoint Communications and Comcast in the battle to gain share of the business broadband market. The firm will acquire G4’s customer base – residential, business and institutional – and its data center in Manchester, one of the largest in the state, to add to its centers in Lebanon and Keene.

G4 has been around since 2003, but its roots go back a decade earlier: "The company started as a local BBS (Bulletin Board Service) in Derry, called GIN in 1993, and evolved in to a full facilities based ISP."

I haven't typed the acronym BBS in a long time.

Public electric vehicle charging station comes to Keene, via Antioch University


Antioch University Prof. Jimmy Karlan charges his scooter at the school's new charging station.

Antioch University New England in Keene has installed an electric vehicle charging sation, which is say si the only publicly available charging "within a 50-mile radius of its campus." (The local Nissan and Ford dealers have them, but that seems to be it, according to Plugshare.)

The school received one of five station rebates from Public Service of New Hampshire.

"The success of the station will not only be measured through carbon reductions on campus, but by the awareness it will raise, the way in which it will promote electric vehicle usage, and the way it will connect the campus to the larger community by providing a free service aimed at reducing the overall collective carbon footprint," said the school in a press release.

"Our commitment to walking our sustainability talk is admirable," said Dr. Jimmy Karlan, director of Science Teacher Certification for the Department of Environmental Studies.

Karlan has been riding his electric scooter to Antioch for the last two years in order to commute 60-miles round-trip. He says he looks forward to the day that he is no longer the exception to the rule.

Even in the digital age, the sound of typewriters can drive deadline (says Rupert Murdoch)

OK, this is weird.

The British paper Independent reports that The Times of London has installed speakers that blare the sound of typewriters, as a spur to meeting deadline.

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

I started out in the business in the typewriter era and the sound of typing makes me happy. But even I think this is kind of silly. DING!*

*that's the bell signaling that I was about to type off the right-hand margin

States with medical marijuana see fewer opiate overdoses

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says states that legalized medical marijuana had fewer deaths from opiate painkillers that similar states which didn't legalize it. Check the Medical News Today report here.

The matter is a bit confusing because all states saw opiate deaths rise during the study period of 1999-2010. But where medical marijuana was legal, the rise was slower than in other states - by about 25 percent.

This is correlation, not causality, of course. The hypothesis is that some people used dope instead of pills to reduce their pain, and it's really hard to overdose on marijuana - but that's just a hypothesis.

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About this blog

David Brooks has written a science column for the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph since 1991 - yes, that long - and has overseen this blog since 2006.

He chats weekly with New Hampshire Public Radio about GraniteGeek topics, around 5:50 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can listen to old sessions here.

Contact:   E-mail or call 603-594-6531.


Free, informal get-togethers at a bar that feature discussion among the audience (everybody is welcome) and experts in various fields. Check the website here.

NEXT CAFE: Wednesday, September 17 (we take the summer off)

TOPIC: Marijuana, the biology of what it does and doesn't do to us.

Location: Killarney's Irish Pub, 9 Northeastern Boulevard (Holiday Inn, just west of Exit 4 on the turnpike).


Fluoridation in public water. May: Organic gardening. April: Tele-medicine, or doctoring from afar. March: Bitcoin - what is it? February: The science of allergies. January: Electric cars.

Multiple sclerosis. October: Genetically modified organisms. September: Aquaponics. June: Flying robots (drones!) May: PTSD and brain tauma in veterans. April: Cats vs. wildlife in NH. March: Mosquito-borne disease. February: The science of brewing. January: 3-D printing, with MakeIt Labs.

"Dark skies and light pollution" with Discovery Center. October: "The science of concussion." September: "The science of pain management." June: "Arsenic in our environment." May: "Invasive species in New Hampshire" April: "Nanotechnology in business and the lab". March: "Lyme disease in NH". Feb: "Seasonal Affective Disorder." Jan: "Biomass energy"

Nov.: "Science of Polling." Oct.: "Digital Privacy." Sept: "Vaccinations." June: "Future of Food." May 2011: "Climate Change"


Alternative power map

Click here to see my alternative-power Google map showing large-scale solar, wind, hydro and nuclear plants in N.H., plus intriguing alternative-power items.

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