Archive for January, 2013

  • Perceivings: You ain’t healthy until you throw up

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Modern medical science is a never-ending wonder. There are medicines for malaria, shots for flu prevention, pills to reduce fever, and vaccines to pnip pneumonia in the bud. X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans let us see deep inside the living human body. I’m old enough to remember when a CAT scan meant that your favorite tabby was fixing you with an unbroken feline stare. There are surgical techniques that permit the repair of nearly every part of the corpus humanus except the back. (Ask anyone with back problems.) Artificial knees and hips are readily available for installation, just like you’d replace the worn-out springs on an antique auto. Even the brain is known in detail and can be operated on with a reasonable degree of safety (except in Washington D.C., where brains are apparently immune to manipulation as well as being in short supply). It seems there’s a pill, prosthetic, or pre-op for anything and everything. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Is there such a thing as scientific overkill? Take cholesterol. My wife’s parents were good country folk from west-central Texas. Had a small farm, raised much of their own food. Their diet, like those of their friends and neighbors, would give a modern heart doctor palpitations. Real ham with eggs and toast with butter for breakfast. Everything else was fried. There were fried potatoes,

  • 4rt Page: Gutter Finds

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 4rt Page, 5enses1 CommentRead More »

    ***** Follow Nancy Ibsen online at NancyIbsen.com

  • The Absurd Naturalist: An X-rated Nature Essay

    By Gene Twaronite Certain members of my family have long tried to persuade me to try writing something more lucrative, something that might have a better chance of making it to the best sellers list than a bunch of essays. If I would write just one good pornographic novel, they tell me, or even one that is not so good—just sinfully shocking—then I would at least have a steady source of income to support my writing habit. Being an essayist, however, I decided to first try my hand at a pornographic essay. Furthermore, I decided that my characters would all be non-human, since other writers had long ago exhausted most of the interesting possibilities of the human anatomy. With millions of different kinds of plants and animals from which to choose, each with a unique sexual story to tell, I knew I had the makings of a hit essay. … Not to mention future novels and movie rights. The trouble with writing such an essay is that it’s not always easy to define pornography, even within our own torrid species. What is art or of redeeming social value to one creature may not be so to another. Non-human organisms certainly don’t write about their sexual activities (at least nothing that has yet been published). Nor do they take explicit photographs. But there are other ways to depict erotic behavior that

  • Prescott Astronomy Club Presents: The Pleiades—young stars, ancient stories

    Nothing in winter’s nighttime sky quite matches the beauty of the open star cluster known as the Pleiades. This cluster of several hundred stars is visible in the evening all winter. The Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus the Bull, is known by several names—most commonly the “Seven Sisters” and “Messier 45.” In Japan, Pleiades is “Subaru” (unite) and is the Subaru auto company’s logo. The stars of the cluster bind to each other by gravity and travel through space at about 25 miles per second. From Earth, this appears to us to be about 5.5 arc seconds per century. At this rate, it takes about 30,000 years for Pleiades to move the apparent diameter of the Moon. These stars probably formed about 100 million years ago from the same cloud of gas and dust, making them young, hot, and very luminous. They’re nearly 430 light years from Earth, so, when you view them on a cold winter night, you’re seeing them as they were 430 years ago. One way to find Pleiades is to follow Orion’s Belt (three bright stars in a row) to the right to a bright star called Aldebaran; just past Aldebaran is the Pleiades cluster. Aldebaran is Arabic for “the follower.” It’s as if the follower forever chases Pleiades across the heavens because the cluster rises in the eastern sky before Aldebaran rises and sets in

  • Valentine’s & Frankensteins: The science of love

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Guide16 CommentsRead More »

    Man is a social animal. So, too, naturally, is woman—although, apparently, Spinoza was so busy burying wives and children he lacked the tact to couch his famous observation in broad, inclusive (and broad-inclusive) language. We talk, we flirt, we kiss, and, sometimes, we fall in love. You can manipulate the process to a degree—perhaps even a great degree. But if teenage-movie adaptations of classic dramas are any indication of reality, sooner or later your artifice will crumble and your true nature will reveal itself. Still, you’d like a leg up in the proverbial dating game. Science has you covered. The ideas in this guide come from actual studies. Rarely are results definitive—in fact, most are ambiguous, conflicting, or inconclusive—but, with a little imagination, they can be put to practical use. Luckily this is one time you don’t have to worry about the observer effect (not to be confused with the Heisenberg uncertainty principal): Relationships rarely occur in a vacuum. These ideas could help you spark a new love, stoke waning passion, or rekindle an old flame. At the very least, they’ll help you recognize when someone is trying to influence or impress you with or without a fire metaphor. You experience the world through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Why not put those five senses to work in your love life? Sight If you want to dress for success,

  • News From the Wilds: February

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the Wilds18 CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris February in the Central Highlands is a quiet time, but it’s also when we get our first glimpse of awakening plants and animals. Some days are sunny and warm, though large storms often pass through, and are sometimes the year’s largest source of precipitation. In warmer periods, most animals are active and visible. Foraging is a good way to stay warm, and finding food between storms can be critical to survival. One of the best times of the year to see mammal tracks is after storms, as fresh snow provides a good, blank substrate. Snow is often ephemeral, so get out first thing in the morning to see the stories that tracks tell after a night of activity. Most non-human residents focus on reproduction, though some, such as the Mule Deer, are midway through gestation, and will bear young mid-summer. Birds migrate back to the area, or in many cases, past it, northward, and are looking for nesting sites or reoccupying last year’s. Many lowland mammals breed or bear young. Plants and insects, however, are largely dormant. One of the defining qualities of our region is variability. Most months, the Central Highlands lack distinct, predictable patterns when it comes to precipitation, temperature, or ecological activity, but some are fairly predictable from year to year. February is not one of these months—rainfall and temperature vary widely enough that

  • Highland Center for Natural History’s Oudoor Outings: Let it snow

    By Jill Craig White curtains of snow drift down from dark clouds. They obscure the sun for hours as they cover rabbit holes and chipmunk burrows with fluffy white flakes. Finally, winter comes to Prescott! Granted, the snow comes and goes throughout the winter.  It seems that just as the streets are cleared and the slush sloshed away, we get another storm and start the entire process over again. I love to be outside during snow flurries. I’m not talking about the big, blustery storms, but the ones that dust your scarf and hat and make the forest sparkle like a fairy land. It’s the perfect time to be outside. Everything is quiet and, if you close your eyes, you can imagine you’re the only person in the world. You’re not, of course. A keen eye can easily detect animal tracks ruffling the white blanket of snow. Over there—a murder of ravens recently played in the freshly laid snow. Some preened, dipping their heads in the soft mounds and shaking them off with vigor. A few walked as if out for a Sunday stroll.  Heads cocked to one side, maybe they inquired about the ensuing snow party. Others squawked and jumped as if dancing, jumping up a foot or two with a flap of wings and landing again in the soft snow. Along with the tracks remains a question: Were

  • Pixel pong & digital surrealism: The art of Dale O’Dell

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Portfolio15 CommentsRead More »

    Cattle abduction was a serious problem for Dale O’Dell in the early 2000s. “I tried to talk them out of it,” said the Prescott resident. “I worked my way up to the president trying to talk them out it.” O’Dell sipped coffee from a mug that read “Extraterrestrial Highway,” jutted his lower lip, then voiced his objections, which were twofold and thus: 1. Cattle abduction is only one step away from cattle mutilation. 2. The joke might get stale. “You can only beam up a cow so many ways, right?” O’Dell said, laughing as he described his standing gig with Willow Creek Press—a yearly calendar he populates with hoaxed UFO photos. “We started with UFOS, then UFOs and cattle abduction, then cattle abduction and other cryptids, and, finally, we’re back to UFOs and cattle abductions.” It’s a surreal conversation, made only more so by the fact that O’Dell looks like a cleaner-cut version of Brent Spiner’s Area 51 scientist from the movie “Independence Day.” “Sure, I’m having fun with it,” O’Dell said. “I’m a surrealist—all this goes hand in glove.” Fashioning UFO illustrations from photos helps O’Dell hone his computer chops for his primary passion. He creates digital art that challenges contemporary photographic conventions and evolves the artistic surrealism movement of the 20th century. Or, as O’Dell put it: “I want to get on the path of the surrealists were

  • Heads or tails? Science flips, spins & manipulates coins

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Feature22 CommentsRead More »

    By James Dungeon Coin flips are supposed to be impartial. We trust them to settle bets, referee arguments and even make the occasional life-altering decision. One side heads, one side tails, the coin appears to embody fairness—a 50-50 arbiter of chance without bias. But it’s not. And you’d be wise to take note. Pattern recognition Say you flip a coin 10 times and it comes up heads 10 times in a row. What would you bet on for the next flip? Tails seems like the natural choice, but that’s your brain’s playing tricks on you. The odds for the 11th flip remain the same as the first: roughly 50-50. What if you flip heads 100 times in a row? Well, it’s the same for the 101st. Over the long haul, you’ll eventually get close to even. Seems fair, right? Well, that may depend on starting conditions. Counter-intuitive intuitiveness Natural coin flips aren’t exactly 50-50 propositions. They’re probably 50.8 to 49.2 in favor of whatever side of the coin is up before the flip. If you want to test this, you’d better have a lot of time on your hands. In the literature review of a landmark 2011 study, Persi Diaconis et al note there’s only one large data set: 10,000 flips, and it shows 50-50 results. Testing Diaconis’ more-precise results in the real world requires at least 250,000 trials to

  • Around … … The Corner: February

    Jan 31, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Around ... ... the Corner32 CommentsRead More »

    After months of the “Coming Soon” sign on It’s Possible Bakery, 410 W. Gurley St., I finally noticed an “Open” sign in late December. “Fresh Pastries Daily” is enough incentive to get me into any business. … I think growing up near a bread factory with the constant smell of rising and cooking bread left a permanent impression on me. Anyways, a recent stop showed an array of offerings, from French bread, ciabatta, sweet croissants, cookies, danishes, and elephant ears. Cooked up in the House of Prayer (literally) with a few star bakers, this endeavor is sponsored by the Judian Society, and all proceeds go to single mothers in crisis. I took home a ciabatta, and was given a free snickerdoodle to sample. The ciabatta was good, but I’m telling you, I could taste the love that went into that cookie─it was a little piece of heaven. Admittedly, the storefront feels a little like a church bake sale, but don’t let that stop you from going in. The Aloha Grille is no more, but luckily former owner Sharon has put her culinary talents into a new venture at the same address─Café 520, still 520 W. Sheldon St.  You’ll find a few of the old favorites on the menu, but the new place has a definite Indian slant, with naan pizzas, tikka masala, and even their own version of baba ghanoush. 

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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