Skepchick Quickies 8.15

In astronomical history, on August 15th 1977, the SETI project received a radio signal from deep space (on the Big Ear). It lasted for 72 seconds and was known as the Wow! signal because the technician made that notation on the recording paper. The signal has not been heard since then. (Maybe it was from that time that the Death Star exploded Alderaan?)


Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. Well, when I was a teenager I visited Seoul, South Korea. Indeed, the way people drove around there was terrifying. I remember a taxi ride where the driver kept edging close to this sixteen-wheeler and when he finally got up to the front cab of the truck, he started gesturing at and cursing the truck driver. Everyone was speeding, and few signs seemed to help maintain any order. There were streets where parking would have been impossible in the road itself…so people just went right up on the sidewalks.

  2. Re: Kitty Cams
    Who would have thought introducing a predator into a new ecosystem without any natural controls on its population and hyper-protective owners would be such a serious probl… oh wait.

    Re: Surprises in America
    Biggest surprise: beer at Wal-mart. Seriously blew my mind. Also I’m Canadian.

        1. The only time I’ve ever had to buy milk in a bag I was too young to have to buy milk in a bag… but I do remember it from when I lived in Toronto for a year when I was a kid. Out west we’re civilized and have our milk in either A) plastic jugs or 2) cartons.

      1. You know, I’m trying and failing to remember the last time I was somewhere in the US where I could buy beer in a grocery store or Walmart. I know some places allow that, but I don’t think that’s common on the East Coast.

  3. Typo in first headline, should read: “What Is the Real Terrorist Threat in America?”

    Kitty Cam: They ought to repeat the study in different geographic regions and seasons to see how those variables effect cat hunting behavior. I’d love to see what my cat was up to when it was out, not that I currently have any, and if I did, they would have to stay indoors because I don’t trust them outside in the city. However, I can’t imagine any of my family’s cats putting up with one of those bibs. And if you are going to make your cat wear something outside, might as well make it reflective to reduce the chances of the cat getting hit by a car.

    1. Fixed the typo, thanks!

      I have considered setting up a webcam to watch what my cats do all day at home. They probably just sleep and try to steal food from the pantry.

  4. Portions shocked me when I visited the US. I’m used to not being able to finish all that’s on my plate when I go out – I’m more of a grazer than a ‘sit down and eat a meal’ type, so I usually have a hard time eating more than an appetizer (that and I’m on ADHD meds which make me not feel hunger much), but it was kinda wierd to be able to order a meal, take away leftovers and eat them for the next three meals.

    Second: Clothes size variation store-to-store: Here in Canada, I’m a medium pretty much anywhere I go (the one exception is that if I’m shopping for tank tops, I’m a small – I only get medium because I have big upper arms relative to the rest of me and so have a hard time fitting in a small’s sleeves, or if I’m buying at Walmart, where I’m a small). When I visited the US? I could be anything from a double-extra-small to a large, depending on the store.

    Third thing: How sidewalk fullness varied so much between neighbourhoods. I visited San Franscisco, and in Chinatown, there were so many people, I couldn’t not bump into someone, while near the Golden Gate Bridge (I did tourist stuff, I admit it), the sidewalks were pretty much deserted. In my city, you go from ‘mostly emty’ to ‘about half full’ between the suburbs and the downtown, and even downtown Toronto isn’t as packed as some of the sidewalks in Chinatown.

    Finally: San Fransico is colder in July than pretty much any major Canadian city except maybe Vancouver (I’ve never been, but I’m told Vancouver gets relatively cool summers), despite being several hundred kilometers South. That shocked me. I should’ve known better considering its so coastal, but silly me bought into the ‘California = warm’ myth. No wonder the tourist shops are all filled with windbreakers, sweaters, and sweat pants there. ;) To be fair, the Americans there were just as shocked that the Canadians from my group were cold – “Don’t y’all still have snow up there? And aren’t you the ones who go swimming in frozen lakes?! How can you be cold?” Maybe until April some years, but our summers get downright hot, even if they’re short. And even most Canadians aren’t daring enough to attempt a polar bear swim. XD

    1. Mark Twain was said to have famously stated that, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Fransisco.”

  5. My sister’s currently visiting the Midwest and has been sending back her thoughts. She was surprised by the religiosity, ubiquitous American flags and intense patriotism, which we don’t usually do here in Britain (the recent Olympics being an exception). She also found the number of culturally themed places amusing (English/Irish pubs, German food festivals, etc). But as someone who tries to eat healthily and avoid meat, she wasn’t keen on the diet, which was high in meat and fatty foods. And finally, she found the sensitivity of Americans around bathrooms strange (you must say ‘restroom’ rather than ‘toilet’ or ‘loo’, apparently).

    She’s been to New York City before, but as an international, multicultural city, that was much less of a culture shock…

    1. I visited Europe recently and I admit, as an American, it is weird to ask people where the toilet is. It’s like asking where the craphole is, it just feels weird saying it.

      1. Yes, I completely agree. I visited England when I was a teen. The whole culture is so freaking polite, but then people just say “toilet” like it’s no big deal and it was just so odd.

  6. I’m probably missing the obvious but I’m going to ask this question anyway.

    The article about the Wow! signal says that the signal was detected in 1977. Later in the article it says that the Big Ear scanned that area of space for 40 years but never got another compelling signal and the observatory was torn down in 1988.

    I’m getting 11 years of searching, not 40. Am I overlooking something and making this too hard?

    1. I found this at :

      “In late 1997, after almost 40 years of operation, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, with its ‘Big Ear’ radio telescope, ceased operation. The land on which the observatory was sitting (owned by the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio) was sold by them in 1983 to land developers who later claimed their rights to develop the land. The telescope was destroyed in early 1998. An adjacent 9-hole golf course was expanded into 18 holes and about 400 homes were planned for construction on the nearby land owned by those developers.”

  7. “The Impaler” was pretty big news in Minnesota a few years back when he ran for Governor. He didn’t win, which, after some of our past winners, I really feel needs to be said.

    He was then involved in getting a 16 year old girl to run off with him. Her family had to get a restraining order against him.

  8. Maybe those statistics aren’t publicized because the media is really, really racist.

    The AP used the term “white rights group” to refer to white supremacists recently.

  9. I’d love to put a kitty cam on my cat. I’m really curious just how she manages to get so close to the skunks and not get sprayed. Are they really friends? Does she deliberately taunt the neighbour’s dog, or is that just a bonus of walking down the driveway?

  10. The one on the real terrorist threat in America isn’t quite what I thought it’d be about. And I’m glad for it.
    It definately brings up something that should also be delt with.
    And the cases mentioned are just horrible. Didn’t crap like that happen before in US history?

    The one on the presidental canidates is rather funny.

    Is there an article that features write-ins for presidental canidates?
    I imagine that would be hysterical.

  11. I grew up in Pennsylvania, where you can’t buy any type of alcohol except at “state stores”. Then I moved to Virginia and it took a long time to get used to seeing wine at Wal-mart and beer at the grocery store. I knew that it was different in that state as I had traveled to many states and countries before then. But to see it when I was just casually doing errands surprised me every time for about 6 months. It was just so weird.

    1. You can imagine, then, my culture shock when I moved from Virginia to Missouri, where vodka can be found on an aisle next to the orange juice in the local supermarket. Freaky AND convenient.

  12. Mary,

    I think I saw that New Yorker commentary on terrorism re-posted on Loon Watch a couple days ago.

  13. Mary,

    That story about nineteen wacky presidential candidates is pretty entertaining. I’m kind of glad that the chances of any of them actually winning is pretty low at this point. Than again, they might not be that much worse than Romney.

  14. I lived in England for.a while after college and the things I remember the most that we’re different we’re that our electricity was coin operated. You would put a pound coin in the box and that would keep the electric going. Since we were paying piecemeal, we also had a switch that would turn all of the electric off when we left the house so we weren’t paying while we were out. I also remember being surprised that you needed a license to own a television.

  15. “Nothing like what I saw on Friends” – A friend of mine works for the State Dept and is currently stationed in Beijing, where they have an exact (or close enough) replica of Central Perk, complete with the (all-Chinese) staff wearing nametags identifying them as Friends’ characters. All unlicensed, of course.

    For a while, they (my friend and his wife) avoided it like the plague because they didn’t want to seem like That Kind of American expat, but eventually homesickness and a desire for American-style coffee won out, and now they’re semi-regulars.

    I work for a British company, and every time we have someone from the UK office come over (to NYC) for training for the first time, they are boggled by the size of our office’s coffee mugs.

  16. It’s a while back but when I was living in France it used to amuse me that, not only could one buy wine in the supermarket, it cost less than their milk.

  17. I wish game developers would acknowledge not only the varying levels of ability in gamers but also the fact that even many of the people that are good at games like to get drunk or otherwise intoxicated. They need to have a “very easy” mode for us.

    I can see why the name “girlfriend mode” would stick. Best Friends Forever sounds like a euphemism for something they can’t call it.

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