Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

Friday, April 05, 2019

Destination . . . suffocate, bake or freeze as your blood boils

If 1950s album-cover artists had been in charge of the Space Race (not to mention science education in the Space Age) . . . things would not have ended well.

At all.

This Ames Brothers LP would have driven Dr. Sheldon Cooper mad.

On the other hand, this being a post-factual world, we can say with Trumpian confidence that Ed Ames is the only surviving Ames brother because the sound of lunar windmills gave all his siblings cancer, and they died upon their return to earth.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Now that's what I call a Rocket 88

Thanks, Elon Musk. We needed this.
Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster, which launched on top of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy earlier today, is going farther out into the Solar System than originally planned. The car was supposed to be put on a path around the Sun that would take the vehicle out to the distance of Mars’ orbit. But the rocket carrying the car seems to have overshot that trajectory and has put the Tesla in an orbit that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Everything I need to know about science . . .

. . . I learned from Star Trek.

If you like, I can share it with you via my Surface. And you can read it on your iPad.

UNLESS, of course, you'd rather that I just contacted you via your communicator -- uh . . . cell phone.

BUT DON'T go totally booger-eater on me here, OK?

I SHOULD have told you the booger-eater thing earlier, shouldn't I? Siri?


OH, SIRI . . . while I'm thinking about it, could you give me an update on how that warp drive is coming?
In the "Star Trek" TV shows and films, the U.S.S. Enterprise's warp engine allows the ship to move faster than light, an ability that is, as Spock would say, "highly illogical." 
However, there's a loophole in Einstein's general theory of relativity that could allow a ship to traverse vast distances in less time than it would take light. The trick? It's not the starship that's moving — it's the space around it. 
In fact, scientists at NASA are right now working on the first practical field test toward proving the possibility of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. Maybe the warp drive on "Star Trek" is possible after all. 
According to Einstein's theory, an object with mass cannot go as fast or faster than the speed of light. The original "Star Trek" series ignored this "universal speed limit" in favor of a ship that could zip around the galaxy in a matter of days instead of decades. They tried to explain the ship's faster-than-light capabilities by powering the warp engine with a "matter-antimatter" engine. Antimatter was a popular field of study in the 1960s, when creator Gene Roddenberry was first writing the series. When matter and antimatter collide, their mass is converted to kinetic energy in keeping with Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula, E=mc2.In other words, matter-antimatter collision is a potentially powerful source of energy and fuel, but even that wouldn't be enough to propel a starship faster-than-light speeds. 
Nevertheless, it's thanks to "Star Trek" that the word "warp" is now practically synonymous with faster-than-light travel. 
Is warp drive possible? 
Decades after the original "Star Trek" show had gone off the air, pioneering physicist and avowed Trek fan Miguel Alcubierre argued that maybe a warp drive is possible after all. It just wouldn't work quite the way "Star Trek" thought it did. 
Things with mass can't move faster than the speed of light. But what if, instead of the ship moving through space, the space was moving around the ship? 
Space doesn't have mass. And we know that it's flexible: space has been expanding at a measurable rate ever since the Big Bang. We know this from observing the light of distant stars — over time, the wavelength of the stars' light as it reaches Earth is lengthened in a process called "redshifting." According to the Doppler effect, this means that the source of the wavelength is moving farther away from the observer — i.e. Earth. 
So we know from observing redshifted light that the fabric of space is movable. [See also: What to Wear on a 100-Year Starship Voyage] 
Alcubierre used this knowledge to exploit a loophole in the "universal speed limit." In his theory, the ship never goes faster than the speed of light — instead, space in front of the ship is contracted while space behind it is expanded, allowing the ship to travel distances in less time than light would take. The ship itself remains in what Alcubierre termed a "warp bubble" and, within that bubble, never goes faster than the speed of light. 
Since Alcubierre published his paper "The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity" in 1994, many physicists and science fiction writers have played with his theory —including "Star Trek" itself. [See also: Top 10 Star Trek Technologies] 
Alcubierre's warp drive theory was retroactively incorporated into the "Star Trek" mythos by the 1990s TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation." 
In a way, then, "Star Trek" created its own little grandfather paradox: Though ultimately its theory of faster-than-light travel was heavily flawed, the series established a vocabulary of light-speed travel that Alcubierre eventually formalized in his own warp drive theories.

Monday, September 17, 2012

To infinity . . . and beyond!

At halftime of Saturday's Nebraska football game, you got the marching band and stuff, sure . . . but you also got to watch some teenagers commit science.

With a little help from a homegrown astronaut.

And they launched some experiment-carrying weather balloons to infinity . . . and beyond! Or just shy of 100,000 feet, whichever came first.

SUNDAY, the Omaha World-Herald got the scoop:
It takes a lot of work to gain the privilege of standing on the field at Memorial Stadium on game day in front of 85,000 fans.

It takes dedication, hours of practice, weeks of preparation.

But the cheers Saturday weren't just for touchdowns, and a football wasn't the only flying object.

A group of students and teachers led one of the biggest science experiments Husker Nation has ever seen.

During halftime, the group released three high-altitude balloons, also known as weather balloons.

The balloons, 8 feet in diameter and typically filled with helium, floated to heights of up to 20 miles into “near space” to collect data. Astronaut Clayton Anderson of Ashland, Neb., assisted with the launch.

One balloon carried specimens of E. coli, red and white blood cells, oranges, motor oil and experimental planting seeds.

A second carried special devices to collect environmental data so students could measure such things as air pressure and cosmic rays. The third carried an identification banner of the different groups.

The data were expected to fall to Earth a couple hours after liftoff.

Michael Sibbernsen, science and technology coordinator at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, said near space is an area in the atmosphere where conditions are very cold and relatively similar to those of outer space.

Many of the experiments measured how near space and high altitudes affect the specimens. Thanks to a NASA grant, such research is now accessible to students and teachers in Nebraska.
WATCH the video (above) from the university. Cool stuff from the very edge of space.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today's picture from Mars

The NASA rover Curiosity continues to send back breathtaking panoramas of the Martian surface -- this latest one from just a day ago. You'd think, if you didn't know better, that the spacecraft was in the Arizona desert, or maybe the Nevada desert near Las Vegas.

Yeah . . . Las Vegas for sure.

I don't know why; it just looks that way to me.

Monday, August 06, 2012

I love it when a plan comes together

How it was supposed to work -- and the NASA scientists themselves admit it's sheer craziness -- is exactly how it did work.

And the Mars rover Curiosity just phoned home this morning. It even texted a picture of itself on the Martian surface.
Kids today.

Meantime, CBS News and The Associated Press fill in the details:

Dutifully executing its complex flight control software, the Mars Science Laboratory silently raced toward its target Sunday, picking up speed as it closed in for a 13,200-mph plunge into the Red Planet's atmosphere and an action-packed seven-minute descent required a rocket-powered "sky crane" to lower the one-ton nuclear-powered rover to the surface. It seems to have gone off without a hitch.

"We are wheels down on Mars," came the news from JPL as engineers saw the first grainy image beamed directly back from the rover - showing one of its wheels on the Martian surface.

CBS News space consultant William Harwood reports from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California that the rover's target was Gale Crater and the goal was a pinpoint landing near the base of a three-mile-high mound of layered rock that represents hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of years of Martian history, a frozen record of the planet's changing environment and evolution.

Exploring the crater floor and climbing Mount Sharp over the next two years, the Curiosity rover will look for signs of past or present habitability and search for carbon compounds, the building blocks of life as it is known on Earth.

But first, the rover had to get there and its entry, descent, and landing represented the most challenging robotic descent to the surface of another world ever attempted, a tightly choreographed sequence of autonomously executed events with little margin for error.

"We're about to land a rover that is 10 times heavier than (earlier rovers) with 15 times the payload," Doug McCuistion, director of Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, told reporters. "Tonight's the Super Bowl of planetary exploration, one yard line, one play left. We score and win, or we don't score and we don't win.
TOUCHDOWN! In every sense of the word.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

40,800 B.K. -- Before Kilroy

We existed.

We were here, where you are now.

We lived. We struggled. We loved. We are no more.

This is my hand. I am --
we were -- human like you.

Do not forget us.

BEHOLD the power of art -- the expression of common humanity -- engaging us, challenging us from some prehistoric terra incognita that modern-day Spain now occupies. It's amazing what one can say with a simple handprint, amazing what a powerful symbol of humanity it is.

Especially when it's at least 40,800 years old -- the oldest cave paintings known to exist. Especially when it's possible, perhaps even likely, the art was created by Neanderthals.

Michelangelo famously depicted God giving Adam life -- giving Adam everything that made him truly human -- with the touch of His finger, reaching out to pour Himself into man . . . through Adam's own finger.

Is it far-fetched to think of those handprints from the mist of prehistory in a similar way? That prehistoric man, perhaps even one of an extinct branch of our own human species, put an outline of his own hand onto a cave wall so that those who came after might press their own hands into his own,
and therefore he might live on somehow?

I'd like to think that. I'd like to think we'd look at the wonder of a simple outline of a hand, one that predates the birth of Christ by at least 38,800 years, and realize that even the humblest things -- the simplest child's art, even -- is fraught with meaning. That they connect us in ways that we realize . . . and even more that we don't.

Prehistoric man could not have begun to imagine our world -- the postmodern world of 2012. But there he is, nevertheless, trying to touch us. Impart some of who he was -- that he was -- to us, either his distant descendants or the long-distant kissing cousins he would never know.

I wonder whatever our generation leaves behind for whatever, and whoever, may follow will say as much as a simple handprint. I wonder what Future Man -- if he were to find a 2012 handprint on a wall fragment amid the ruins of some long-buried, long-forgotten North American metropolis -- will think of it.

What might he think of the primitives who left behind such a thing?

Hello in there. Hello.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Perspective from low Earth orbit

I heard the trailing garments of the Night
Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care
And they complain no more.

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
The best-beloved Night!

Hymn to the Night,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The legacy of lead: A heavy weight to bear?

Omaha has one of the poorest black populations in the United States, one unusually bereft of a middle class.

Educational achievement lags in this community, while unemployment and social pathologies soar.

The city's African-American community, centered on the near north side of town, also is the center of violent crime in Omaha.

The near north side of Omaha also happens to lie within an EPA Superfund site, where scores of millions of dollars are being spent to clean up widespread lead contamination, the unwelcome legacy of some 120 years of the area's history. The legacy is that of the ASARCO lead refinery, which called Omaha home for all that time and where several smelters were consolidated at the corner of Fifth and Douglas in 1899.

The combined operation eventually became the largest lead smelter in the world, and it stayed in business until 1997.

It belched massive amounts of toxic lead particles into the Omaha sky. For decades and decades the pollution spewed, and where it landed, we pretty much knew -- the near north side, largely.

THE NEAR north side, the heart of black Omaha. Largely poor black Omaha. Often uneducated black Omaha. Often dysfunctional black Omaha.

Often violent black Omaha.

You think a century or more of lead contamination -- lead ingestion by decades of inner-city children -- might have anything to do with any of the above? After all, we do know of the neurological effects of chronic lead exposure. They're not good, FYI.

You ever wonder -- after accounting for socioeconomic, family and cultural variables -- how much of the intractable majority-minority achievement gap in education might be due to chronic lead exposure? I'm starting to.

AND IT SEEMS, concerning violent crime in America, some Tulane University researchers and others have been wondering, too.

That wondering led to extensive research and number crunching, which led to a just-published paper concluding
"Yes. Yes, lead does play a part." A story about the research appears on the Science Daily website:
Childhood exposure to lead dust has been linked to lasting physical and behavioral effects, and now lead dust from vehicles using leaded gasoline has been linked to instances of aggravated assault two decades after exposure, says Tulane toxicologist Howard W. Mielke.

Vehicles using leaded gasoline that contaminated cities' air decades ago have increased aggravated assault in urban areas, researchers say.

The new findings are published in the journal Environment International by Mielke, a research professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Tulane University School of Medicine, and demographer Sammy Zahran at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University.

The researchers compared the amount of lead released in six cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans and San Diego, during the years 1950-1985. This period saw an increase in airborne lead dust exposure due to the use of leaded gasoline. There were correlating spikes in the rates of aggravated assault approximately two decades later, after the exposed children grew up.

After controlling for other possible causes such as community and household income, education, policing effort and incarceration rates, Mielke and Zahran found that for every one percent increase in tonnages of environmental lead released 22 years earlier, the present rate of aggravated assault was raised by 0.46 percent.
IF CAR EXHAUST can do that, one has to wonder what societal havoc the onetime world's largest lead refinery might have wrought, and to what degree, upon our fair city . . . and its most vulnerable population.

You just have to wonder.

Perhaps it's high time the city's newspaper, the
Omaha World-Herald, started wondering, too. Every little bit of information helps in tackling the most intractable of maladies.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Then there was music and wonderful roses

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

-- William Congreve,
The Mourning Bride (1697)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Because you can't make this $*!# up

October 2010: Conservative nerds air their dirty romantic laundry during a panel discussion on C-SPAN.

JANUARY 2011: Science nerds from The Big Bang Theory air their dirty romantic laundry during a panel discussion on CBS.

Sorry about the tardiness of this observation. The real-life nerds, I remembered from a year ago; The Big Bang Theory, I've only recently gotten into.

Let's just say that when I saw this episode, it was a true Bazinga! moment for me.

That is all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Somebody thought they'd never find him there

Uh . . . rocks aren't the only thing the surviving Mars rover found at the edge of that big crater after a three-year drive.

Don't NASA and The Associated Press even bother to look at the pictures the little feller's taking?

NASA's surviving Mars rover Opportunity has reached the rim of a 14-mile-wide crater where the robot geologist will examine rocks older than any it has seen in its seven years on the surface of the red planet, scientists said Wednesday.

The solar-powered, six-wheel rover arrived at Endeavour crater after driving 13 miles from a smaller crater named Victoria.

The drive, which took nearly three years, culminated Tuesday, when Opportunity signaled it had arrived at the location dubbed Spirit Point in honor of the rover's twin, which fell silent last year.

"We're there," said project manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Opportunity and Spirit landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004 and used their instruments to discover geologic evidence that the cold and dusty planet was once wet.

Craters can provide windows into the planet's past because layers of material from long-ago eras are exposed. Endeavour crater is more than 25 times wider than Victoria.

MAYBE WE should just turn over the space program to the Mafia.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Picture of the day

If you knock on the door, and you're in a vacuum, does it make a sound?

Well, inside the space station, it does. Unless, of course, the airlock has been bled of air. Then . . . no.

Assuming the vibration doesn't travel past the airlock. If it did . . . probably.

Unless, of course, nobody was in a position to hear it. In that case, does it still make a sound?

Audio at 11. Or not.

Reporting from space . . . well, not actually from space . . . more like the voiceover booth at the end of the hall . . . well, not exactly at the end of the hall, more like just before you get to the end of the hall . . . Hank Kimball, Eyewitness News.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Hail Atlantis!

Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,
And the other so-called Gods of our legends,
Though Gods they were.
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new . . .
Hail Atlantis!

Way up above the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .

Way up above the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .
-- Apologies to Donovan

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Simply '70s: Future shocked

Almost 40 years ago, we were suffering from Future Shock.

Gee, I wonder what fresh hell we're suffering from today?

Too much change in too short a time? The death of permanence?

Wonder where that leaves us four decades down the road from 1972?

No, we don't change the color of our skin, we just tattoo every inch of it. The artificial-intelligence robot that finds its way around the room? We call it the Roomba . . . a self-guided vacuum cleaner.

FUTURE SHOCK, meet Louise Brown . . . and the loss of all the philosophical and ethical qualms we had about such in 1972.

And the film nailed what was coming with gay marriage.

HOME ELECTROSHOCK therapy? Who needs that when you're popping Prozac like M&Ms?

"That is the challenge of future shock, to look clearly into today's world to understand the consequences -- that what we do today determines what tomorrow will be."
Reaction No. 1: No s***, Sherlock. Reaction No. 2: We're screwed.

THIS SLICE of 1972, based on the 1970 Alvin Toffler book -- and its vision of a thoroughly shocked future -- notably has no mention of a couple of things shocking the present of 2011 and the future from here on. That would be the Internet and global warming.

Hang on, folks. The journey into infinity and beyond just might be a rough one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The trouble with translators

It started in 2006 out of necessity for American soldiers in Iraq.

They needed a microphone and a clunky laptop running a new speech-translation program to tell scared Iraqis "THIS IS A RAID! WE'LL TRY NOT TO KILL YOU!" in the middle of the Babylonian night.

Now all you need is a Google Android phone to live dangerously and
"presione 2 para español."

ONCE AGAIN, we have achieved Star Trek.

We are on the verge of the "universal translator," and it will lead nowhere good. Klingon opera, anyone -- in English?

College radio awaits.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

That settles it

It's scientifically official: Tom Dempsey da man!

As it turns out, the New Orleans Saints' place kicker made his 63-yard field goal the hard way in 1970.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Calling Marvin the Martian. . . .

It's useful to remember that we don't know what we don't know.

And that some of the things we think we know --
or that we try to do, because we want to find out what we don't know -- just might look pretty darned silly in 70 years or so.

In 1924, for example, when Mars was at one of its closest approaches to Earth, some radio engineers thought they heard something . . . unearthly, let's say. According to a 1939 article in
Radex magazine, some thought the signals originated on Mars.

(Note that the 1938
War of the Worlds scare didn't come out of nowhere.)

So, in 1939, astronomers and engineers thought they might try to communicate with the red planet -- or at least see whether they could bounce a radio signal off of it. As the writer for
Radex, a radio enthusiast periodical, put it:
It appears that most scientists believe now that life is hardly possible on Mars, but some, particularly the late Dr. Lowell, have believed that life exists there. If true, the Martians are living on a dying world, where most of the oxygen has entered the rocks, oxidizing the iron present and rusting it, giving Mars its typical reddish color. Martians would be seeking a new world on which to live, and July 27 would be the obvious time for them to make an attempt at communications.
OF COURSE, the little green men coming to Earth would be most impractical. Orson Welles' interplanetary invaders of the previous year were ultimately done in by something as simple as . . . Earth germs.

They'd all have to be little green versions of the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. If germ-free plastic bubbles had been invented yet.

The attempt to "reach out" to Marvin the Martian also got notice from Time magazine, albeit in a bit more nuanced form:

Nobody knows whether or not there is animal life on the planet Mars; nobody knows whether or not it is possible to reach Mars with a radio signal. In 1924 a group of radio engineers trying to tune in Mars heard signals which they claimed they could not identify with an Earthly source. Last week, with Mars closer to the Earth than at any time since 1924, another group of radio engineers tried a more daring experiment: sending a signal Marsward in the hope that it would be reflected back, picked up again on Earth. They thought they might succeed if: 1) the signal could penetrate the ionosphere, the ionized layer in the Earth's atmosphere whose influence on radio waves is not thoroughly understood; 2) it was not dissipated or destroyed on the way; 3) it hit Mars; 4) it was reflected toward Earth, and strong enough to be detected.

At the headquarters of Press Wireless, surrounded by the barren salt marshes off Baldwin, Long Island, gathered engineers of Newark's publicity-wise Station WOR, good-natured Curator Clyde Fisher of Manhattan's Hayden Planetarium, newshawks, photographers, announcers standing by to tell all. Before sending their signal, the engineers spent forty-five minutes twirling the knobs of 40 short-wave receivers, trying to catch a signal from Mars, where the highest form of life is generally believed to be some low form of vegetation, possibly resembling moss. Result: a potpourri of short-wave noises, most of them promptly identified.

BUMMER. That crafty Marvin probably was maintaining radio silence as he plotted his sneak attack on Earth.

Oh, wait. That was the Japanese. Target in two years: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Then again, we didn't know what we didn't know.
And more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The extended forecast: Ice Ice Baby???

It's below freezing outside, I live well above the Mason-Dixon Line, and now I read this.

"This" is from, and I think one could synopsize
the article in two words -- "Oh s***!"

In the film, "The Day After Tomorrow," the world gets gripped in ice within the span of just a few weeks. Now research now suggests an eerily similar event might indeed have occurred in the past.

Looking ahead to the future, there is no reason why such a freeze shouldn't happen again — and in ironic fashion it could be precipitated if ongoing changes in climate force the Greenland ice sheet to suddenly melt, scientists say.

Starting roughly 12,800 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was gripped by a chill that lasted some 1,300 years. Known by scientists as the Younger Dryas and nicknamed the "Big Freeze," geological evidence suggests it was brought on when a vast pulse of fresh water — a greater volume than all of North America's Great Lakes combined — poured into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

This abrupt influx, caused when the glacial Lake Agassiz in North America burst its banks, diluted the circulation of warmer water in the North Atlantic, bringing this "conveyor belt" to a halt. Without this warming influence, evidence shows that temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere plummeted.

Previous evidence from Greenland ice samples had suggested this abrupt shift in climate happened over the span of a decade or so. Now researchers say it surprisingly may have taken place over the course of a few months, or a year or two at most.

"That the climate system can turn on and off that quickly is extremely important," said earth system scientist Henry Mullins at Syracuse University, who did not take part in this research. "Once the tipping point is reached, there would be essentially no opportunity for humans to react."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Confederacy of Dunces

This is what the American university has come to.

When faced with questions so fraught with scientific, moral and ethical complexities as embryonic stem-cell research, top brass of the University of Nebraska now have been reduced to making arguments they wouldn't accept from their teen-agers for even a nanosecond.

"But DAAAAAAAAD, all the cool kids are doing it!"

"But DAAAAAAAAD, Malia and Sasha's dad says it's OK!"

"But DAAAAAAAAD, everybody will make fun of me! You're making me into a laughingstock!"

"But DAAAAAAAAD, it's not like I bought the beer with a fake ID. All I did was have two or three of them."

"But DAAAAAAAAD, everybody's going to the party. If I don't go . . . Gawwwwwd, I'll be hated. Nobody will be my friend."

I THINK that covers all the arguments made by NU President J.B. Milliken and others in favor of expanding embryonic stem-cell research at the university's med center in Omaha. From the Omaha World-Herald:

University of Nebraska scientists don't need formal approval from the Board of Regents to expand their work with human embryonic stem cells, NU President J.B. Milliken said Friday.

Citing an Oct. 2 legal opinion from the university's general counsel, Milliken said existing state and federal laws, as well as university policy, allow scientists to use new lines of embryonic stem cells, once they are approved by the National Institutes of Health.

After more than an hour of public comment on the topic during a Board of Regents meeting, Milliken recommended that the board let current policy stand.

“Embryonic stem cell research holds enormous promise, and if the University of Nebraska is to be a leading research university, it should be appropriately engaged in this research,” he said.

“To do otherwise would unnecessarily limit the opportunities for discoveries to save and improve lives. It would also risk great harm to the reputation of the university and damage our ability to recruit and retain outstanding research and clinical faculty.”

Milliken said Friday that the regents had had the opportunity for review during the past several months and that he was now prepared to open the door to expanded research. He said the board has three options: affirm the existing policy, revise it or do nothing.

The Milliken recommendation upset anti-abortion advocates.

Since the Obama administration announced a change in the federal guidelines last spring, abortion opponents have been urging regents to “draw a line in the sand” to stop NU scientists from embarking on expanded research involving cells derived from human embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

“This is unbelievable what was stated here today,” said Chip Maxwell, executive director of the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research. “It's not for the president or any administrator to set this policy.”

Regents Chairman Kent Schroeder said the board probably will take up the issue at its November meeting.

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said she and other abortion opponents will continue to urge the regents to reject expanded embryonic stem cell research.

“I will be here,” she said of the November meeting.

The regents agreed to take public comment on the research after anti-abortion groups announced that they planned to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The 12 people testifying in favor of the research included Omaha philanthropist Richard Holland, who is founder and chairman of the pro-research group Nebraskans for Lifesaving Cures; Lynne Boyer, daughter of the late Charles Durham, whose family has donated tens of millions of dollars to build research towers on the NU Medical Center campus; and Rik Bonness, a former Husker All-American football player whose two sons have Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes.
OH . . . I FORGOT an important instance of NU leadership's unleashing of its inner 15-year-old. "I'll do what I want, and you can't stop me."

But frankly, my gut tells me all you have to know about the university's willingness to scrap a hard-won cease-fire between it and Nebraska pro-life groups is this: Holland and Durham. The University of Nebraska, like most of us pathetic creatures, adheres unswervingly to the Golden Rule.

He who has the gold, rules.

It's embarrassing. And I'm not referring to the regents' potential for doing something that causes all the other cool scientists not to want to play with the little Cornhuskers anymore.

No, what's embarrassing is that a pre-eminent university can wade into a moral and ethical quagmire and think the mere spouting of inanities -- ones, in fact, barely worthy of teen-agers who act "young" for their age -- is enough to let it emerge without a lungful of fetid water.

What's embarrassing is that newspaper columnists such as the World-Herald's Robert Nelson can graduate from UNL and still think an effective column in favor of the university's stem-cell stance is little more than calling pro-lifers "zealots" and "rabble." Oh . . . that and regurgitating the party line -- if the Board of Regents gives in to the zealous rabble, that all the cool kids won't play with us anymore, blah blah blah, ad infinitum.

C'mon, I went to LSU, and I couldn't be that all-out dumb even after finishing off a couple of fifths of Early Times.

YOU WANT SCIENCE? I'll give you some basic biology.

Embryos are the result of the union of the female egg and the male sperm. When implanted into the womb and left alone (other than being given nourishment), they naturally grow into fetuses, and fetuses ultimately become (given enough academic degrees and fed enough bulls***) presidents of state universities spouting inanities to elected officials.

At what point do you say "not human, not human, not human, not human . . . AH! HUMAN! Can't gratuitously dissect it anymore!"? That is a question scientists have proven themselves unequipped to answer.

That's the realm of philosophers, theologians and clergy. That's "heavy" stuff, and the University of Nebraska should be ashamed -- in its cavalier handling of the weightiest material -- to have been revealed as such a collection of ethical and mental lightweights.