Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 16th, 2010

Cleaning produce: Easiest way

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Thanks to TYD for pointing out this article by Anahad O’Connor in the NY Times:

The prospect of ingesting pesticides and other contaminants can make supermarket produce seem less than appetizing. Buying organic lowers the risk, but is no guarantee against food-borne pathogens.

Scientists have found some effective household measures that can eliminate germs and pesticides. The simplest? Rinsing with tap water, which works as well as a mild soap solution or fruit and vegetable washes.

In studies at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in 2000, for example, scientists compared pesticide removal methods on 196 samples of lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes. Some were rinsed under tap water for a minute; others were treated with either a 1 percent solution of Palmolive or a fruit and vegetable wash. Tap water “significantly reduced” residues of 9 of 12 pesticides, and it worked as well as soap and wash products, the studies found.

Water temperature was not the key; friction was. “The mechanical action of rubbing the produce under tap water is likely responsible for removing pesticide residues,” scientists wrote.

For micro-organisms, try rinsing produce with a mild solution of vinegar, about 10 percent. In a 2003 study at the University of Florida, researchers tested disinfectants on strawberries contaminated with E. coli and other germs. They found the vinegar mixture reduced bacteria by 90 percent and viruses by about 95 percent.

THE BOTTOM LINE To remove pesticides and germs, rinse produce with a vinegar solution, then wash with tap water for at least 30 seconds.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2010 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Mandelbrot dies at 85

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Jascha Hoffman writes in the NY Times:

Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed an innovative theory of roughness and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.

His death was caused by pancreatic cancer, his wife, Aliette, said. He had lived in Cambridge.

Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.

“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”

In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.”

For most of his career, Dr. Mandelbrot had a reputation as an outsider to the mathematical establishment. From his perch as a researcher for I.B.M. in New York, where he worked for decades before accepting a position at Yale University, he noticed patterns that other researchers may have overlooked in their own data, then often swooped in to collaborate.

“He knew everybody, with interests going off in every possible direction,” Professor Mumford said. “Every time he gave a talk, it was about something different.”

Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline.

“Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”

In the 1950s, Dr. Mandelbrot proposed a simple but radical way to quantify the crookedness of such an object by assigning it a “fractal dimension,” an insight that has proved useful well beyond the field of cartography.

Over nearly seven decades, working with dozens of scientists, Dr. Mandelbrot contributed to the fields of geology, medicine, cosmology and engineering. He used the geometry of fractals to explain how galaxies cluster, how wheat prices change over time and how mammalian brains fold as they grow, among other phenomena.

His influence has also been felt within the field of geometry, where he was one of the first to use computer graphics to study mathematical objects like the Mandelbrot set, which was named in his honor.

“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot said. “I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.”

Benoît B. Mandelbrot (he added the middle initial himself, though it does not stand for a middle name) was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools.

After the war he enrolled in the École Polytechnique in Paris, where his sharp eye compensated for a lack of conventional education. His career soon spanned the Atlantic. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, returned to Paris for his doctorate in mathematics in 1952, then went on to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for a postdoctoral degree under the mathematician John von Neumann.

After several years spent largely at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Dr. Mandelbrot was hired by I.B.M. in 1958 to work at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Although he worked frequently with academic researchers and served as a visiting professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was not until 1987 that he began to teach at Yale, where he earned tenure in 1999.

Dr. Mandelbrot received more than 15 honorary doctorates and served on the board of many scientific journals, as well as the Mandelbrot Foundation for Fractals. Instead of rigorously proving his insights in each field, he said he preferred to “stimulate the field by making bold and crazy conjectures” — and then move on before his claims had been verified. This habit earned him some skepticism in mathematical circles.

“He doesn’t spend months or years proving what he has observed,” said Heinz-Otto Peitgen, a professor of mathematics and biomedical sciences at the University of Bremen. And for that, he said, Dr. Mandelbrot “has received quite a bit of criticism.”

“But if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences,” Professor Peitgen said, “he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2010 at 9:26 am

Posted in Daily life

Arguments against California’s marijuana legalization

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From a NY Times article by Adam Nagourney:

Washington has generally looked the other way as a growing medical marijuana industry has prospered here and in 14 other states and the District of Columbia, but Mr. Holder’s position — revealed in a letter this week to nine former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration that was made public on Friday — made explicit that legalizing marijuana for recreational use would bring a whole new level of scrutiny from Washington.

Mr. Holder did not fully spell out the reasons for the decision, but he did allude to the reluctance of the federal government to enforce drug laws differently in different states. “If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens,” he wrote.

The Los Angeles County sheriff, Lee Baca, who has been one of the leading opponents of the measure, quickly embraced the Justice Department’s stance. He said that the initiative was unconstitutional and vowed to continue enforcing marijuana laws, no matter what voters do in November.

I am unpersuaded by arguments based on reasons that cannot be revealed: who can tell whether the reasons makes sense or not if the person making the argument refuses to give the reasons. My assumption is that Holder won’t give the reasons because he knows they don’t make sense.

So far as having differing laws from state to state: I wonder whether Mr. Holder is aware of how alcoholic beverages are sold: each state decides for itself how to handle those sales (and my natal state, Oklahoma, did not allow spirits to be sold in the state until around 1958—it was a dry state, and kept that way for a long time by a coalition of temperance preachers and bootleggers, neither of whom wanted the legal sale of spirits). The Federal government doesn’t have to worry about enforcement of those laws because it is not a Federal matter—and the same should go for marijuana: why on earth is that a Federal concern? (The reasons, if any, are secret.) Texas manages to police alcohol sales despite having a county-option policy: what is legal in one county may be legal in the adjoining county. Doesn’t seem to cause terrible problems.

Los Angeles has had a long string of terrible sheriffs, and Baca seems to be in that tradition. Someone should explain to him (using diagrams if necessary) that it is not the sheriff’s job, responsibility, or right to decide which laws are constitutional or not: that is the job of the courts. (Of course it is not unusal for a sheriff to believe that he can assume the powers of the court.)

But Roger Salazar, a political consultant who has been directing the effort to defeat the proposal, said that Mr. Holder’s statement should reinforce deep concerns about the initiative, including the way it was drafted and what he called inflated claims by its backers of what legalization might do.

“This is sort of a shot across the bow from the federal government: They’re saying that, ‘If this thing moves the way we think it is, we’re going to come after you guys,’ ” he said. “That gives California voters one more reason to take a deep breath.”

Vague threats are all very well, but such an approach seems highly improper for the US Attorney General. If a majority of voters in California believe that marijuan should be legal in California, it should be. And the Federal government should get out of the game—unless some of those secret reasons make sense. But they are secret.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2010 at 8:03 am

Mitchell’s Wool Fat

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I forgot to pack my shave stick, which remains with TYD. Fortunately I had sent some MWF to The Older Grandson, so I used that this morning. Immediate great lather, using the Muhle shaving brush. Three passes with the Feather Premium holding a new Feather blade, a splashof Royal Copenhagen, and I am groomed for the steakhouse tonight: Fleming’s in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, just at the foot of the Jones Falls Expressway.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2010 at 7:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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