Coffee and (Carl Sagan) Apple Pie

Coffee, good for some, bad for others

I had a friend who was anti-coffee and would sneer at my ‘essence of death’, as he put it. Well, I have known all along that coffee is good for me. Scientists have waffled back and forth about the benefits and I do what most people do. I listen to the complimentary things researchers say about coffee as well as the negatives and then decide what to do based on how the research results apply to me. In my case (no high blood pressure, not pregnant, non-smoker), rejoice.

Here is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal, Good News in the Daily Grind, that discusses the latest pros and the cons:

To judge by recent headlines, coffee could be the latest health-food craze, right up there with broccoli and whole-wheat bread.

This month alone, an analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who drink three to four cups of java a day are 25% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who drink fewer than two cups. And a study presented at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting found that men who drink at least six cups a day have a 60% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer than those who didn’t drink any.

But don’t think you’ll be healthier graduating from a tall to a venti just yet. While there has been a splash of positive news about coffee lately, there may still be grounds for concern.

Continue reading here for the rest of the article and to check out the nifty ‘cup o’ joe’ graph that illustrates the pros and cons.

With that in mind

Remember when butter was bad and margarine was touted as the healthy choice? Now, years after I ignored the advice that sullied my ears, to eat margarine instead of butter, I am rewarded for my prescient consumption of the real thing as opposed to the artificial substitute by the acknowledgment by scientists that, why yes, butter is better than margarine.

Harvard Health Publications reports, in Butter vs. Margarine:

Today the butter-versus-margarine issue is really a false one. From the standpoint of heart disease, butter is on the list of foods to use sparingly mostly because it is high in saturated fat, which aggressively increases levels of LDL. Margarines, though, aren’t so easy to classify. The older stick margarines that are still widely sold are high in trans fats, and are worse for you than butter. Some of the newer margarines that are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and free of trans fats are fine as long as you don’t use too much (they are still rich in calories).

Read the entire article here.

Now if incontrovertible proof were presented that coffee was bad for one’s health, the way that smoking has been proven to undeniably be detrimental to health, well that would be a different story. Until that happens, coffee is my friend.

To go with my coffee, in happy accompaniment, apple pie. Here is, via Neatorama, Carl Sagan’s Apple Pie Recipe:


A beverage as black as ink, useful against numerous illnesses,particularly those of the stomach. Its consumers take it in the morning, quite frankly, in a porcelain cup that is passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu. — German physician and traveler,Leonhard Rauwolf, in 1583

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.  — Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

A morning without coffee is like sleep. — Author Unknown

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Related Links:

We Are All Connected, featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye
Is Margarine one molecule away from being plastic? Read The butter truth
Drinking Coffee, Decaf and Tea Regularly Associated With A Reduced Risk Of Diabetes
Coffee Consumption Associated With Reduced Risk of Prostate Cancer
Midlife Coffee And Tea Drinking May Protect Against Late-Life Dementia

Fake fingerprints: plastic surgery for fingerprints?

The BBC is reporting that a Chinese woman managed to enter Japan illegally by having plastic surgery to alter her fingerprints, thus fooling immigration controls.

BBC reports:

Lin Rong, 27, had previously been deported from Japan for overstaying her visa. She was only discovered when she was arrested on separate charges.

Tokyo police said she had paid $15,000 (£9,000) to have the surgery in China.

It is Japan’s first case of alleged biometric fraud, but police believe the practice may be widespread.

Japanese police suspect Chinese brokers of taking huge sums to modify fingerprints surgically.

Skin patches on her thumbs and index fingers were removed and then re-grafted on to the matching digits of the opposite hand.

Japanese newspapers said police had noticed that Ms Lin’s fingers had unnatural scars when she was arrested last month for allegedly faking a marriage to a Japanese man.

The apparent ability of illegal migration networks to break through hi-tech controls suggests that other countries who fingerprint visitors could be equally vulnerable – not least the United States, according to BBC Asia analyst Andre Vornic.

Blank pages
/ nonexistent fingerprints

Stories about fingerprints fascinate me. This is probably because when I was growing up my maternal grandmother’s fingerprints were nonexistent. The tips of her fingers were blank and unmarked; she had smooth whorl-free skin where her fingerprints should have been.

where most of us have reams
of DNA information written —
the paper of her fingertips
was script free

Tabula rasa comes from Latin for a smoothed or erased tablet (a tablet being a surface to be written upon) and has come to stand for a blank slate, a new beginning or something in its original pristine state.

My grandmother passed away and took the secret of her tabulae rasae, her blank slates, with her leaving me with the memory of a mystery and an abiding fascination with fingerprints.

Links of interest:
Can fingerprints wear away?
Discussion: Fingerprint scans
I have no fingerprints

One pill for straight hair and another for curly

Pharmaceutical styling?

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have discovered a “curly gene” and are working on a pill that can make hair straighter from the inside out.

It goes the other way too — straight-haired women (or men!) who have fantasized about cascading waves would take a curly pill.

The author of the research, Professor Nick Martin, told the Daily Mail that he “will be discussing this with a major cosmetics company in Paris in January.” Source

Professor Martin and colleague Dr Sarah Medland sought to find genetic variations responsible for curly hair in those of European descent.

Research showed that 45 percent of European people have straight hair, 40 percent wavy and 15 percent curly hair. The chance of inheriting curly hair is around 90 percent.

Researchers analyzed data collected from a study of 5,000 twins in Australia over a 30-year period.

The straight hair pill
Feel like straighter hair? Just pop a pill
Study Finds Hope to Restore Hair Color

We are all connected

John Boswell, of The Symphony of Science, makes videos designed to ‘deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.’

I came across this awesome auto-tuned video clip from John Boswell, We Are All Connected, featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye, over at Neatorama. I think it is a perfect ‘Sunday thing.’

The passion and exuberance these men of science bring to discussing the universe makes me fall a little bit in love with them.

Link to YouTube video clip

Links of interest:
The Carl Sagan Portal
Feynman Online
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Bill Nye The Science Guy

Free show — Leonid meteor shower

One of the most spectacular meteor showers of the entire year

The Leonid meteor shower is underway and is predicted to last from November 13 to 20. The best time to view it was this morning after 1:30 AM. But if you were unaware of the heavenly spectacle, otherwise engaged or maybe sleeping — you might still catch a glimpse of it tonight or in the coming nights through the 20th.

The new moon will allow the Leonid meteor shower to dazzle in tonight’s darkness.

Ticket’s have been comped by Mother Nature. Enjoy.

Tips for the show
Related article and poem

Chocolate to make you happy and butterflies in space

“If we are speaking of chocolate, sir, I should be happy to eat my words.”
— Annette Marie Hyder

New Evidence That Dark Chocolate Helps Ease Emotional Stress

A loud snap made them all jump. Professor Lupin was breaking an enormous slab of chocolate into pieces.
“Here,” he said to Harry, handing him a particularly large piece. “Eat it. It’ll help.” –
– Professor Remus Lupin, from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, By J.K. Rowling

Professor Lupin, quoted above, knew that chocolate was just the thing to offer Harry Potter after Harry was attacked by the soul-sucking and happiness stealing Dementor.

Besides being delicious, there is new scientific evidence to support the popular wisdom of prescribing chocolate as a mood enhancer.

ScienceDaily reports: The “chocolate cure” for emotional stress is getting new support from a clinical trial published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research. It found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Everyone’s favorite treat also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

Read the entire article here.

Butterflies in space

When NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis launches for the International Space Station today it will carry a University of Colorado at Boulder butterfly experiment that will be monitored by thousands of K-12 students across the nation.

ScienceDaily reports: The butterfly payload was designed and built by BioServe Space Technologies in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering department and will carry two butterfly habitats containing monarch and painted lady butterfly larvae and enough nectar and other food to support them as they develop. CU-Boulder, with the help of elementary and middle school students, will compare the growth and development of butterfly larvae in the weightless environment of the International Space Station with butterfly larvae being raised simultaneously in participating classrooms on Earth.

Dubbed “CSI03 — Butterflies in Space,” the project is the fourth K-12 educational experiment to be flown by CU-Boulder on ISS.

Read the entire article here.

Excerpt from Icarus and the Delicate Art of Wing Drying
From The Consequence of Wings (On Angels and Monsters and Other Winged Things)
Annette Marie Hyder

The butterflies shake their wings
the ink still wet
on every stitch-fine scale.
Wind fingers them
in mourning
reads them much like Braille.

What do lepidoptera gossamer
and shut-eyed wind
have to do with me now?

Link to butterfly related article and poem

Water on the moon!

Image courtesy MSNBC news

This NASA/JPL handout image shows an image of Earth from the Moon, acquired by NASA’s Discovery Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), that is a guest instrument onboard the ISRO Chandrayaan-1 Mission to the Moon. Water particles have been detected on the surface of the Moon by three missions, including an Indian probe.The evidence, disclosed in new scientific papers, overturns the long accepted view that lunar soil is dry and comes just two weeks before a NASA probe is to crash into the surface near the Moon’s southern pole to see if water can be detected in the dust and debris released by the impact. Australia is visible in the lower center of the image. The image is presented as a false color composite with oceans dark blue, clouds white, and vegetation enhanced green.

In the image above, the earth is seen from the moon. The moon surface, ripply and reflective, looks like water to me, with the earth hanging in the sky above it like a moon.

There is, officially, water on the moon

So, that missile launch last month (“plume on the moon”) paid off after all. NASA is reporting that the impact data from the launch indicates that there is water on the moon.

NASA reports:

The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.

Secrets the moon has been holding, for perhaps billions of years, are
now being revealed to the delight of scientists and space enthusiasts

NASA today opened a new chapter in our understanding of the
moon. Preliminary data from the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing
Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates that the mission successfully uncovered
water during the Oct. 9, 2009 impacts into the permanently shadowed
region of Cabeus cater near the moon’s south pole.

The impact created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket created a
two-part plume of material from the bottom of the crater. The first
part was a high angle plume of vapor and fine dust and the second a
lower angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material has not
seen sunlight in billions of years.

“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and by extension the solar system. It turns out the moon harbors many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Read the entire article here.

I love to hear scientists waxing poetic (“It turns out, the moon harbors many secrets.” — Michael Wargo) and who can blame them?

The moon,
Annette Marie Hyder

awesome luminary of the night sky
administrator of tides
keeper of times
holds water cupped in its hands
while mystery lurks
and secrets glitter its sands.

Luna looks down at us
with hooded gaze
and we are mesmerized.