Category Archives: Experiments

Random Computer Find

I love when this happens. I make notes on something, forget that I made them, and then find them months later. In this case it’s a bunch of notes I made while reading the Twilight books. I apparently gave up soon into Eclipse, but I managed to write a lot about New Moon. Oh my. I’ve posted them “as is” without making them all pretty. I want them to be seen in their full “immediacy of ranting” glory. More…

MythBusters does the moon hoax

I caught MythBusters last night (note that the episode description for that episode is not up as of this posting — original airdate 27 August 2008) to see their take on some of the common claims of moon hoax conspiracy theorists. [Trailer here.] As always they did a lot of things right and some things wrong. My thoughts after the fold.

I’ll start with what they did right.

1) They covered some of the most basic arguments for the moon landing being hoaxed: the astronauts in shadow shouldn’t be so bright in the pictures, the flag shouldn’t be “waving”, footprints shouldn’t leave clear imprints in dry sand, and the videos of the astronauts are just slow-mo. Those are pretty common and easily tested, so kudos.

2) They proved that there’s man-made technology on the moon by demonstrating that a laser pointed at a retroreflector returns a signal that is distinct from a signal returned from a generic point on the moon’s surface. Pretty hard to refute that unless you’re completely deluded (yes, I know, some people are that deluded).

3) They explained why their results made sense (i.e., the scientific principles behind why the astronaut is illuminated, etc). I won’t go into these here, as Phil Plait already did a great job of this. Explaining why something is is as important as explaining why it isn’t. So…awesome.

What they did wrong.

They ridiculed. It was mostly subtle, but it was there. I get that they aren’t trying to convince the true believers, because you pretty much can’t. However, I hear lots of otherwise intelligent people express doubts about the moon simply because of a poor understanding of science, not because they’re crazy. I’m sure they would benefit from a show like this, but I doubt they’ll like it much if it makes them feel stupid. I get that the myth is perpetuated by conspiracy theorists, but it’s believed by relatively innocent (albeit somewhat ignorant) people. If this show was aimed at the fence-sitters and not-quite-convinced, they probably should have toned it down a little so as not to be too off-putting. When battling the conspiracy theorists, ridicule away — it’s not like they’re going to change their mind anyway. But we want more people interested in this stuff, so in the context of a show on Discovery aimed at the mainstream, nicer is better.

Interesting foibles.

My partner coyly pointed out to me that what the MythBusters essentially did was demonstrate convincingly how the moon landing could have been faked — retroreflector notwithstanding. For example, they set up a perfect replica of the moon’s surface and found that yes we can see the astronaut in the shadow. Say I’m a conspiracy theorist. You know what I’m thinking? “Ok fine, we were wrong about why the picture was a fake, but you just showed how they did fake it.” I don’t know how to solve that problem, except that the subsequent demonstration with the laser blew everything else out of the water anyway. But all I could do was sigh because I know he’s right.

Conclusion.
Ultimately it was a good job. It could have been improved with them providing other resources for more information (such as Phil Plait’s site) — I didn’t see that, but I may have missed it. I also would have preferred a more reasoned and inquisitive tone. They myths are ridiculous, but their show is supposed to be “we don’t just tell the myths, we put them to the test”. It’s not a true “test” when you’re cocky about the results. From a conspiracy theorist perspective, that attitude just proves they’re not giving the hoax “theory” a fair chance. We want to eliminate that argument from their repertoire — the moon hoax has been given too much consideration already, let’s not let them so easily dismiss what’s been done by spoon-feeding them criticisms.

My nit picks are really nitpicky, so I hope I didn’t give a bad impression. I just have high standards. See it, love/hate it, read about the topic further. I’ve provided several links above. I won’t link to the conspiracy sites themselves in this case, but if anyone wants a laugh/cry just Google “moon hoax” and click away.

Remember that time…

…I had a paper due. and instead of writing it I procrastinated by fake arguing with an internet troll? Good times.

The great fruit fly experiment

We are currently engaged in a fruit-fly-killing experiment in our home that has recently been infested with fruit flies given that each of us forgot there was still something left in the compost container after we stopped using it several weeks ago. That was a fantastic run-on sentence in perfect compliance with pretentious scientific prose. This is going to be fun.

I will post — ahem, I mean publish — the results tomorrow after the fold.

The Experiment
So we wanted to see if “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. We didn’t have honey, but we did have grenadine so we used that in one solution and vinegar in the other solution. So I guess what we were actually testing was “do you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar”.

Vinegar. Hands down.

Overall, the sugar solution caught 5 flies and the vinegar solution caught almost 100 flies. So that contest was over like a Mount Allison football game. However, we also found out that there’s a variety of fruit fly called the vinegar fly, so that’s not altogether surprising.

To get rid of a fruit fly infestation:
1) Try to find the breding ground. It’ll be in something moist and/or decaying and/or smelly.
2) After the breeding ground is gone, it would suck if they found somewhere else appealing. Clean where they have been breeding then empty all garbage cans in the house (wash them out if necessary), put all shoes away in the closet and make sure they are deodorized somehow (an air freshener like Febreeze or something should do), check house plants, and get rid of any old plates or food that might be lying around (bananas are the worst).
3) Set out some commercial and/or homemade traps. We used a combination of items. We filled a glass with vinegar, some dish soap, and water. This makes a sudsy layer at the top of an attractive liquid that they get stuck in. They seemed to outsmart that a bit by climbing only along the edge of the glass so we bought a commercial fly paper that they stick to when they land (sticky yellow paper — although reversed or double-sided tape would work, too).
4) Monitor the amount of flies in the house. Try to keep a vague count of how many flies are caught each day. Fruit flies live about a week, so if the breeding ground is gone, the numbers should taper off in a few days. If they are not, then the real breeding ground might not have been destroyed.
5) Enjoy your newfound fly-free existence.