Expectant Hunan mother lops off the hair she’s grown for 13 years

Expectant Hunan mother lops off the hair she's grown for 13 years
CHANGSHA — Zhu Qing 祝青, an expectant mother from a nearby town, made a difficult decision recently — to cut off the hair she’s grown for the last 13 years. She chose to cut her hair both for practical reasons — washing and drying 1.3 meters (4 feet 3 inches) of hair takes a lot of time — and for traditional medical reasons — the belief that such long hair would deprive the baby of nutrition and strength. She began growing out her hair at 14, after reading Chinese romances in which the heroines only cut their hair upon marriage. Zhu and her husband went to a hair salon in Changsha to get hair cut short. As this photo below shows, her feelings were definitely mixed. Photos and story from news.qq.com . . . . . .

Teaching, 30 years on 5

Teaching, 30 years on
JISHOU, HUNAN — Thirty years ago this month, I started teaching. It seems like an incredibly long time — nearly half my life — but at the same time, those years have slipped by quickly. In that time, I have taught more than a thousand students on three continents, in several subjects, from kindergartners to adults. And I gotta say, I still like it. As with most careers, everyday work in teaching is fairly routine, run-of-the-mill stuff. At times, it is downright boring (reading essays, grading homework, marking tests, in-service meetings — ACK!), but most times it’s one of the most rewarding occupations in the world — not in the financial sense, but in a deeper and more significant sense. I get to watch young people grow and learn, and at the same time, I grow and learn. Every teacher can list his or her success stories, I think: students who were nondescript at first, but who later achieved something, no matter ow small, that was noteworthy in some way. It’s those moments that make teaching so worthwhile. After 30 years, I have lots of stories to tell, but I will offer three examples from the last several weeks to ...

Housekeeping is a relativistic quantity

Arsenic-based lifeform? Maybe, maybe not. 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Just a few days ago, the Internet was in a hub-bub about the discovery of a strain of bacteria that thrives in an arsenic-laced environment. Several biologists, however, are not so convinced, and have pointed out weaknesses in the scientific paper announcing the discovery. Carl Zimmer at Discover magazine just published a summary of some of these objections. The late astronomer and author Carl Sagan once wrote that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” In other words, if you claim you saw a UFO zipping across the sky from your backyard, your photographic “proof” had better not look like blurry shot of a modified dinner plate. Briefly, that’s what critics of the arsenic-loving bacteria paper are saying. They believe the authors’ methodology and analysis is flawed, so they want further evidence that these bacteria have really incorporated arsenic into their DNA, for example. This is how science works. Even Newton and Einstein, whose theories of gravity and relativity are now considered foundations of modern physics, had their critics when they were first published. Science is all about testing and verification of hypotheses. Peer-reviewed journals, like Science, run submissions past a panel of editors, who judge in part whether ...

News of the week: new life forms and Noah’s Ark in Kentucky 8

JISHOU, HUNAN — You win some, you lose some. In the nifty cool corner, we have NASA scientists discovering a strain of bacteria that actually likes arsenic so much to incorporate it in their DNA. No word yet on their reactions to old lace. Or elderberry wine. In the dunce-cap corner, we have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear crowing that the Commonwealth is giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to a Noah’s Ark-themed (as in religious) amusement part. The first bit of news is exciting, because until this week biologists believed all life on Earth is based only on CHONPS (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur). Now we know some bacteria can live on CHONAsS. (I can just hear the jokes in high school biology classes now …) Phosphorous and arsenic are neighbors in the periodic table, with similar chemical properties. It’s what makes arsenic (As) poisonous. Our cells grab hold of the arsenic, thinking it’s phosphorus, but, alas, it’s just different enough that it kills us. These bacteria, found in an arsenic-laden lake in California could care less. Arsenic, shmarsenic. Chances are, they were not aboard the Ark with Noah’s kin and all those animals. Genesis says nothing ...

Call Roto-Rooter! 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Recently, we’ve had a lot of rain here, which is typical for this time of the year. When it rains heavily, some parts of campus get flooded. It happened once last year, and twice this year (so far). Basically, the storm drains can’t seem to handle the runoff, and the area around the dorms and the stadium ends up with knee-deep water. Someone took a video of the flooding last week, and uploaded it to www.youku.com, one of China’s answers to Youtube. The title, “吉首大学校园再次被淹” (Jishou Daxue Xiao Yuan Zai Ci Bei Yan), means “Jishou University Campus Flooded Once Again.” You can see the street between the stadium and the dorms, where a bus is parked, the greens near the dorms, people walking along the sidewalks, some stores, and workers setting up temporary “bridges” so the students can get out of their dorms to go eat or take their exams. My dorm is on the top of a hill, so we send all our rainwater down to the student dorms. So thoughtful we are. Incidentally, Youku is one of the best sites to watch TV and movies online. There are English language movies, too. If you visit ...

Hubble telescope finds methane on an exosolar planet

And that’s a big deal because methane is an organic molecule that can be a precursor to life. We know methane exists in our solar system, but the Hubble’s discovery is the first evidence it exists on planets outside our solar system. Whether it means life is out there remains to be seen. Methane is a simple enough molecule to be created by chemical means. Its existence does not mean living organisms are producing it. (Y’know, like extraterrestrial cow farts.) Details are at the Hubble Space Telescope site.
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