Quickies: LEGO, nuclear fusion, and the Clovis genome


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. The author of the LEGO story has a lot to say, but what I read the little girl saying is (paraphrased) “Playing with LEGOs as a child helped turn me into the quack I am today.”.

      1. This is the quote from Rachael Giordano, the child-model-turned-naturopath:

        “Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”

        She also says that she did a lot of commercials and ads as a kid and doesn’t specifically remember the LEGO shoot.

        It’s actually unclear from the article that she ever played with LEGO bricks more than the couple of hours necessary to shoot the ad. So I take back my comment about playing with LEGOs as a child turned her into a quack. I can’t tell if she did play with LEGO.

        When I first read the article, my thought was that the vast majority of the article was about Lori Day’s feelings and impressions of how LEGO’s advertising has changed, and not so much about Rachael Giordano’s thoughts. Re-reading has reinforced that. She never says she played with LEGO regularly as a kid, and was unfamiliar with the current state of LEGO advertising and kits until this interview (she doesn’t have children herself). While I don’t doubt that Ms. Giordano agrees with what she’s quoted as saying, it would be easy for Ms. Day to have directed the conversation that way. It doesn’t help that Ms. Day arranged the new photo shoot, and that the image contrasting 1981 and 2014 is watermarked with the name and website for Ms. Day’s soon-to-be-released book.

        The article does link to three other stories about the LEGO Friends line and advertising, two of which also use the 1981 ad as a counterpoint to today’s marketing. The article by Michele Yulo from last March (http://princessfreezone.com/pfz-blog/2013/3/5/lego-remakes-a-1981-ad-but-this-time-for-girls-only.html) is striking because it directly compares a 2013 ad by LEGO deliberately done in the same style as the 1981 ad campaign to the 1981 ad, and shows how the marketing has changed.

      2. I can’t speak for blaisepascal, but naturopathic physician = quack. She treats people with herbs, rikki, homeopathy, and any other sort of quackery that’s fashionable these days. That she has 2 clinics shows she’s got initiative and intelligence, but hardly the sort of person you want your kid to grow up to be.

  2. A long time ago (~35 years), I used to be in the Nuclear Fusion business. There’s an awful lot of hype in the business (it’s seen as necessary to get funding.) I learned to take claims of nuclear fusion with many grains of salt. Getting a few hydrogetn atoms (deuterium, tritium) to fuse isn’t all _that_ hard. Getting enough to fuse to produce as much energy in any form as you used to get them to fuse is very hard, and I don’t think anyone has done it. “Break-even” is usually defined by only considering some small component of the energy cost, and that’s the case here. And “produce energy” is also generously defined. E.g., the energy of the neutrons that come out is included, even though no one has any idea how to convert that energy to something usable.

    BTW, the general opinion in the fusion community was that laser fusion was being supported, not because anyone thought it would work, but because the research is directly relevant to weapons design. The lasers, of course, as death rays. But also the design of the hydrogen “pellets” (targets) is relevant to H-bomb design. That’s why all the research is done at nuclear weapons labs like Livermore, where it’s easy to keep any weapons-relevant details secret.

    1. Pretty much the whole point of this laser fusion research is to keep scientific teams together than could (if it was needed) design new nuclear weapons but in the absence of any testing of actual nuclear weapons. This facility is limited to relatively few shots per day because the lasers need to cool down and equalize temperature between shots. Otherwise the differences in index of refraction cause the light beams to not focus properly. It is very hard to imagine how anyone would build an actual commercial power plant using something like this.

      All the thermonuclear warheads are way beyond “break even” (but in those cases they used a fission trigger with a yield of a few hundred tons).

    1. “The peopling of the Americas via the Bering Sea land bridge is one of the more confusing events in recent history.”

      An event predating the invention of writing and probably of agriculture is “recent history.” Got to love the historical perspective of a geneticist.

      1. Yeah, my professor Dr Hatler felt the same way. ;) But Brewer is a fairly common Oglala name, which is funny, since Pine Ridge was dry until a couple months ago.

        (Seriously, I’m always afraid they’ll ‘accidentally’ deport me in Arizona.)

  3. Jon Brewer,

    Unfortunately I doubt it. Racism like creationism, or climate change denial, or homeopathy, isn’t based on facts. I mean look at the people who insist that black people never invented anything or that “anti racist” is a code for “anti white” and that non whites simply having more children than whites constitutes “white genocide.”

    1. I understand that part, but it’s interesting how much they had to lie just to get to this point. Craniometrics is, of course, a pseudoscience, but even by the rules of craniometrics, making Kennewick man caucasoid required mucking with the established classificatory criteria. (Hint: There’s a reason so much 19th-century racist pseudoscience focuses on the facial angle.)

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