Friday, August 29, 2008

Fred Flintstone's voice

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Toothpaste for Dinner: Material Balance (Dog)

toothpaste for dinner

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Oh, crap" indeed!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Name that hairdo!

Name That Hairdo

Score: 83% (10 out of 12)

5 weird water facts

5 Really Weird Things About Water

Water, good ol' H2O, seems like a pretty simple substance to you and me. But in reality, water - the foundation of life and most common of liquid - is really weird and scientists actually don't completely understand how water works.

Here are 5 really weird things about water:

1. Hot Water Freezes Faster Than Cold Water

Take two pails of water; fill one with hot water and the other one with cold water, and put them in the freezer. The hot one would be frozen before the cold one. But wait, you say, that's counterintuitive: wouldn't the hot water have to cool down to the temperature of the cold water before proceeding to freezing temperature, whereas the cold one has "less to go" before freezing?

In 1963, a Tanzanian high-school student named Erasto B. Mpemba was freezing hot ice cream mix in a cooking class when he noticed that a hot mix actually froze faster than a cold mix. When he asked his teacher about this phenomenon, his teacher ridiculed him by saying "All I can say is that is Mpemba's physics and not universal physics."

Thankfully, Mpemba didn't back down - he convinced a physics professor to conduct an experiment which eventually confirmed his observations: in certain conditions, hot water indeed freezes before cold water*.

Actually, Mpemba was in good company. The phenomenon of hot water freezing first, now called the "Mpemba effect" was noted by none other than Aristotle, Francis Bacon and René Descartes.

But how do scientists explain this strange phenomenon? It turns out that no one really knows but there are several possible explanations, including differences in supercooling (see below), evaporation, frost formation, convection, and effects of dissolved gasses between the hot and cold water.

*In reality - of course - it's much more complex than that: hot water freezes first (it forms ice at a higher temperature than cold water), whereas cold water freezes faster (it takes less time to reach the supercooled state from which it forms ice) - see discussion on our previous blog post about this topic.

2. Supercooling and "Instant" Ice

Everybody knows that when you cool water to 0 °C (32 °F) it forms ice ... except that in some cases it doesn't! You can actually chill very pure water past its freezing point (at standard pressure, no cheating!) without it ever becoming solid.

Scientist know a lot about supercooling: it turns out that ice crystals need nucleation points to start forming. These nucleation points could be anything from gas bubbles to impurities to the rough surface of the container. Without these things, water would continue to be a "supercooled" liquid well below its freezing point.

When nucleation is triggered, then a supercooled water would "instantly" turn into ice, as this very cool video clip by Phil Medina of MrSciGuy shows:

Note: Similarly, superheated water remains liquid even when heated past its boiling point.

3. Glassy Water

Quick: how many phases of water are there? If you answer three (liquid, gas, and solid) you'd be wrong. There are at least 5 different phases of liquid water and 14 different phases (that scientists have found so far) of ice.

Remember the supercooling we talked about before? Well, it turns out that no matter what you do, at -38 °C even the purest supercooled water spontaneously turns into ice (with a little audible "bang" no less). But what happens if you continue to lower the temperature? Well, at -120 °C something strange starts to happen: the water becomes ultraviscous, or thick like molasses. And below -135 °C, it becomes "glassy water," a solid with no crystal structure. (Source)

4. Quantum Properties of Water

At a molecular level, water is even weirder. In 1995, a neutron scattering experiment got a weird result: physicists found that when neutrons were aimed at water molecules, they "saw" 25% fewer hydrogen protons than expected.

Long story short, at the level of attoseconds (10-18 seconds) there is a weird quantum effect going on and the chemical formula for water isn't H2O. It's actually H1.5O! (Source)

5. Does Water Have Memory?

In the alternative medicine of homeopathy, a dilute solution of a compound can is purported to have healing effects, even if the dilution factor is so large that statistically there isn't a single molecule of anything in it except for water. Homeopathy proponents explain this paradox with a concept called "water memory" where water molecules "remember" what particles were once dissolved in it.

This made no sense to Madeleine Ennis, a pharmacologist and professor at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Ennis, who also happened to be a vocal critic of homeopathy, devised an experiment to disprove "water memory" once and for all - but discovered that her result was the exact opposite!

In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These "basophils" release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions - so dilute that they probably didn’t contain a single histamine molecule - worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths’ claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out.

So how could it happen? Homeopaths prepare their remedies by dissolving things like charcoal, deadly nightshade or spider venom in ethanol, and then diluting this "mother tincture" in water again and again. No matter what the level of dilution, homeopaths claim, the original remedy leaves some kind of imprint on the water molecules. Thus, however dilute the solution becomes, it is still imbued with the properties of the remedy.

You can understand why Ennis remains skeptical. And it remains true that no homeopathic remedy has ever been shown to work in a large randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial. But the Belfast study (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) suggests that something is going on. "We are," Ennis says in her paper, "unable to explain our findings and are reporting them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon." If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry. (Source)

So far, other scientists failed to reproduce Ennis' experimental findings (throughout, Ennis herself was skeptical of the result's interpretation that water has a "memory" but maintained that the phenomenon she saw was real).

See also Jacques Benveniste's Nature controversy | Louise Rey's thermoluminescence study

More recently, a team of scientists at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Max Born Institute in Germany, studying water dynamics using fancy multi-dimensional nonlinear infrared spectroscopy did find that water have a memory of sorts - in form of hydrogen bond network amongst water molecules. Problem for homeopathy was, this effect lasted only 50 femtoseconds (5 x 10-14 seconds)!

Bonus: Ice Spikes

photo: SnowCrystals

Ice spikes are, well, spikes that grow out of ice cube trays. They look like stalagmites found in caves, and you can make 'em yourself using distilled water. Kenneth G. Libbrecht of SnowCrystals explains:

How do Ice Spikes Form?

Ice spikes grow as the water in an ice cube tray turns to ice. The water first freezes on the top surface, around the edges of what will become the ice cube. The ice slowly freezes in from the edges, until just a small hole is left unfrozen in the surface. At the same time, while the surface is freezing, more ice starts to form around the sides of the cube.

Since ice expands as it freezes, the ice freezing below the surface starts to push water up through the hole in the surface ice (see diagram). If the conditions are just right, then water will be forced out of the hole in the ice and it will freeze into an ice spike, a bit like lava pouring out of a hole in the ground to makes a volcano. But water does not flow down the sides of a thin spike, so in that way it is different from a volcano. Rather, the water freezes around the rim of the tube, and thus adds to its length. The spike can continue growing taller until all the water freezes, cutting off the supply, or until the tube freezes shut. The tallest spike we've seen growing in an ordinary ice cube tray was 56mm (2.2in) long. (Source)

Bonus 2: Make Instant Snow with Boiling Water

What do you get when you throw boiling water to the air in subzero weather? Instant snow. Interestingly, it only works with boiling hot water:

[YouTube clip]

These aren't the only things weird about water. We didn't talk about how water density changes with temperature (ice, for instance, is less dense than water so it floats - a key property of water that made life possible in the oceans and lakes). Nor did we talk about the weirdly strong surface tension of water, ordered clustering of liquid water, and so on. If you are interested, check out the Anomalous Properties of Water article by Martin Chaplin.

bunny ear massage!

rabbit massage

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

spaghetti cat!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2008 Olympics opening ceremony

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

no pet rental in Massachusetts!

Yay! Great news:

Dear Friends,

It was exactly a year ago that I first heard of Flexpetz, which was renting companion dogs by the hour in California, with plans for NYC, DC, the UK and Boston. My instant reaction was “no way, this has to stop.” Not everyone shared the sentiment. So I did my research--and became even more concerned.

In desperation, I blogged and sent e-Alerts far and wide, urging people to contact legislators. Mass. Animal Coalition was the first to post an alert to its membership. Over time, others followed, and so did the filing of legislation at the state and municipal levels.

The rest is history--history that all of you made. On July 16, Boston became the first city in the nation to prohibit the cruel “disposable pet” trade. And now Massachusetts is the first state.

You stopped the pet rental trade here before it had a chance dumb down attitudes and numb compassion. Just as important, the legislation you passed will serve as a warning to future business models built on animal exploitation. Now they know: You won’t let that happen, not in your backyard.

Legislators call your accomplishment “amazing.” That a bill filed the end of February moved through the pipeline to passage in five months is unprecedented. You did that. You are animal rescue volunteers and behavior professionals...ACOs and dog walking groups...and simply caring individuals, with and without pets of your own. Some of you know one another, others may never meet.

Coalition to Prohibit the Renting of Pets was a virtual organization, linking most of us only by email and all by dint of our commitment to protecting animals. We worked without funds, meetings (thankfully!), slick publications, a lobbyist or even a formal structure. This was grassroots activism at its purest--and most effective.

Celebrate but stay vigilant: Flexpetz has announced plans for 120 U.S. locations. And it's just the door opener; spin-offs already have surfaced. We’re fortunate that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has embraced this issue, will provide leadership to his counterparts nationwide. As among the most respected of the big-city mayors, his support is invaluable.

Hopefully, the legislation you passed also will inspire other states as it has the UK, where motions have been raised in Parliament to ban pet renting. You even sparked a great strip by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau.

Keep the dialogue going by blogging and writing letters to the editor; keep challenging pet renting myths. (Yes, some still think it's "rescue.") Reach out to advocates across the country too. Please don’t let this new form of animal abuse proliferate, because once it does, there’s no turning back.

It has been said that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. In Massachusetts, cruelty was defeated because good people did something. Everyone has the power to make a difference. Continue to use yours.

Bravo to all of you!


Special thanks to our Consulting Experts:

• Patricia McConnell, PhD Zoologist, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist; Public Radio Host; Author
Raymond J. McSoley, Founder, Behavior Department, Angell Memorial Animal Hospital; Owner/Behavior Therapist, Animal Behavior Associates (Westwood); Author
Paul Waldau, PhD, JD, Director, Center for Animals and Public Policy, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Author

All three, preeminent in the world of animal behavior and ethics, joined our campaign without knowing me—and without a minute’s hesitation. Despite the enormous demands on their time, they gave their all, providing testimony, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and contacting legislators.

Want to thank them? Make a tax-deductible donation in their names to an all-volunteer shelter or rescue group. Every penny will provide direct services to animals. Every penny counts. Here’s a small group that made a huge impact on our campaign:

Friends of the Plymouth Pound, PO Box 578, Manomet, MA 02345 ( )

Under the leadership of Gayle Fitzpatrick, many dozens of volunteers crossposted every one of our e-Alerts, blogged, leafleted, wrote letters to the editor and made endless calls to legislators. Gayle’s been known to reach into her own pocket to buy the freedom of abused animals from their tormenters, and to fund spay/neutering in the South. On top of working round the clock—without pay—to keep FPP afloat and care for her own fosters, she’s in the trenches on a daily basis, rescuing the dogs and cats others throw away.

Donations to FPP or the all-volunteer rescue/shelter of your choice will support these heroics. (And they make thoughtful Christmas/Chanukah gifts for clients, friends and other special people in your life!)

Thank you to those who went above and beyond:

Laura Allen, Esq., Animal Law Coalition
Deni Michele Goldman, Animal Control Officers Assn. of Mass.
Candace Hertzel and Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA
Donna Fournier Cuomo, The Joey Fournier Services
Jonathan Stone Rankin, Esq.
Stacy Wolf, Esq., American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
and especially
Sheryl Rapee-Adams, Best Friends Network

We’re also grateful to:

Kara Holmquist and Bryn Conklin, MSPCA, and Gary Patronek and Alan Borgal, Animal Rescue League of Boston, for their testimony
Susana Abbott
Jeffrey Birnbaum
Pat Canning
Ken Casanova
Barbara Favermann
Jamie Kordack
Bettiann McKay
Pat Miller, CPDT, CDBC
Lauren Nealley
Georg Schmieder and Sam Wallace
Julie Rembrandt Seeley
Sinead Scott-Lennon, Dogs Trust, London
Rachelle Cohen and Laurel Sweet, Boston Herald
David Ertischek and Steve Ryan, Community Newspapers
Art Goody, NECN
Michael Graham, WTKK-FM
Bob Katzen, Beacon Hill Roll Call
Garry Trudeau, Universal Press Syndicate
Victoria Warren, WHDH-TV

And most of all, thank you to our legislative champions:

Rep. Vincent Pedone and Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, without whom the state bill would not have passed. It could have died in committee as so many others did. They refused to let that happen. The senator has a dog, the rep doesn’t. Both acted on principle, the conviction that renting pets is bad for animals, bad for people, bad for society.

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who filed our ordinance and worked very hard, very effectively to pass it, guided only by his moral compass; none of our core group is a constituent. Councilor Turner was in daily contact, advising us every step of the way. It was his advocacy that caused a rare occurrence in Boston politics—a unanimous vote.

Rep. Paul Frost, who filed the state bill, and aide Matthew Carleo, who fielded more calls and emails in five months (mostly from me!) than anyone should have to in a lifetime.

Sen. Edward Augustus, Jr., lead Senate sponsor.

Rep. Will Brownsberger, who gave generously of his time and counsel to keep us on track.

Gary Anderson, Legislative Director for Sen. Petruccelli, and Liana Pedi, aide to Rep. Pedone, who researched, informed, advised and advocated for us. Patience is among their many virtues.

The state bill’s cosponsors: Representatives Will Brownsberger, Jennifer Callahan, Stephen Canessa, Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Jamie Eldridge, John Fresolo, Denis Guyer, Lida Harkins, Brad Hill, Thomas Kennedy, Kay Khan, Karyn Polito, Denise Provost, Mike Rush; and Senators Robert Antonioni, Edward Augustus, Jr. and Cynthia Stone Creem.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray, whose leadership was instrumental in expediting the bill.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino for signing the state bill and City of Boston ordinance into law, and Mayor Menino for advancing our effort nationally.

Let’s not forget the aides who took our many, many calls—especially the following, who went out of their way to help:

Neel Chaudhury, aide to Rep. Eldridge
Marissa Hunnewell, aide to Rep. Canessa
Josh Krintzman, aide to Sen. Augustus
Jake Lambert, aide to Rep. Balser
Amanda MacDonald, aide to Rep. Guyer
Adam Marx, aide to Rep. Harkins
Barbara Miranda, aide to Rep. Brownsberger
Lisa Sears, aide to Sen. Creem
Darrell Villaruz, aide to Rep. Khan

Very big thanks to April Botta, Regional Marketing Coordinator, and Petco, which opened its doors for us to leaflet, and whose managers and staff couldn’t have been more supportive. This is a chain that genuinely cares about animals; it deserves your patronage.

Finally, my own heartfelt appreciation to our core group for their outreach, advice, leafleting, testimony at the Boston and state hearings…and moral support.

Leslie Burg, Former Alderman, City of Newton
Sandra Finder, Social Worker; Volunteer, Northeast Pyr Rescue
Gayle Fitzpatrick, Founder, Friends of the Plymouth Pound (
Jinny Fuller, Board Member, Buddy Dog Humane Society
Jordan Gallagher, Animal Advocate
Jo Jacques, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (
Cheryl Major, Volunteer, Buddy Dog Humane Society; NECN Animal Adoption
Guest; Realtor, ReMax Landmark (

Kathleen Sabina, Animal Control Officer
Jordan Star, Student, Pollard Middle School—who, among other things, delivered awesome testimony!
Lisa Westwell, Web Designer (

And as you know by now, Coalition to Prohibit the Renting of Pets is a grassroots effort of animal rescue volunteers, animal behavior and welfare professionals, and caring individuals with the support of:

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Animal Control Officers Association of Mass.
Animal Law Coalition
Animal Rescue League
Boston Dog Rescue, Inc.
Buddy Dog Humane Society
Friends of the Plymouth Pound, Inc.
Humane Society of the United States
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Milford Humane Society
Northeast Pyrenees Rescue
Salem Vegan Society
Stray Pets in Need of Massachusetts, Inc.

Thanks to one and all.

Books by our consulting experts:

Patricia McConnell, PhD
The Other End of the Leash
For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend
Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household
Family Friendly Dog Training
Puppy Primer

Raymond J. McSoley
Dog Tales: How to Solve the Most Troublesome Behavior Problems of Man’s Best Friend

Paul Waldau, PhD, JD
A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics
The Specter of Speciesism