The Schpat Dope

Just like The Striaght Dope only not as well researched or funny

Friday, December 08, 2006

New Material

Hey folks,

I want to do another SchpatDope, send in some questions and Mitsy and I will answer them.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Is there such a thing as genetic memory?

Zenstar Asks:
what exactly is "genetic memory" and how does it work exactly? And if a person were to eat a tapeworm could they find the food?

Well, after a long hiatus I have decided to finally answer your question, just in time for publication in ClawMarks. It is rather complex question, so in time honoured SchpatDope tradition I'm going to write an answer that deals with your topic, but might not answer the question exactly. The spirit of the question is more important than the letter of the question, or something.

First of all let's address "genetic memory". The idea of inheritance for physical traits was first introduced by French naturalist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck. His theory was two fold:

1. If an organism made use of a particular organ it would grow and become more functional. If an organ was disused it would shrink and become less functional.


2. The functional changes in the organism would be passed on to it's offspring.

At one point this theory was widely held as the mechanism for evolution, even being adopted by Darwin himself. His assertions were eventually discredited by showing that organisms that had organs removed, and survived, did not pass this absence on to their offspring. Recently however work in the field of Epigenetic inheritance has shown that Lemark's theorys may have had something to them.

Now I realise that you don't really care about the ability of genes to remember previous generation’s physiology, but I thought I'd include it anyway. What you really want to know is can memories and knowledge be transferred from generation to generation.

The nature of memories and how they are stored has been a hot topic debated by humanity’s greatest minds since the middle ages. Inherited memories are often used as plot devices in fiction, as an example it’s a major part of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, but no scientific evidence has been found to prove their existence in humans or any other organisms for that matter. Instinctual behaviour has been put forward as a proof for the inheritance of memory, but it is far more likely that instinct is merely reaction to stimulus. Some scientists have stated that observations of primates using tools that their ancestors used, without any contact between them, is proof of inherited memory. Again it’s just more likely that a clever chimp is simply going to find out for himself that he can use a rock to crack a nut.

On the more alternate side of things some whack jobs out there believe that inherited memories are a scientamarrific way to prove that memories of past lives actually exist. Of course their arsenal consists of circular reasoning, misinterpretation and blatantly ignoring opposing evidence. Does this behaviour remind you of a different group of idiots? Yes, even the sciento(m)logists believe in genetic memory. They believe that space operas like Star Trek are genetic memories of humanity’s past, before Xeenu obviously.

So to answer the first part of your question I’m going with: If they believe it, it just can’t be true.

Man, everything I investigate does lead back to Trek! Wow.

On to part the second.

Back in the Renaissance it was commonly held, by illuminated folk like Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci, that memories were stored in Cerebrospinal Fluid. It was thought that the fluid was somehow altered by the process of learning. Theory had it that memories could be passed from one individual to another by injecting or, even worse, ingesting the spinal fluid of the recently departed. This was even a major plot device in a movie starring Ray Liotta. Experiments however failed to prove these claims.

In the 50's the possibility that memories were stored biochemically raised its head again. However this time the theories were that memories were encoded into DNA, RNA or other related molecules. These speculations were brought about by apparently ground breaking experiments conducted by one J.V. McConnell.

McConnell got himself a bunch of flatworms and proceeded to train them to respond to certain stimuli. In one experiment he shone a bright light on the worms and then quickly proceeded to electrocute them. Now the natural reaction of a flatworm to light is to stretch out, their reaction to electricity is to curl up. He got his worms to recognise the light as a precursor to electricity and curl up the moment they were bathed in photons. Great, pavlovian conditioning, nothing new here.

Then he cut the worms up and fed them to another bunch of flatworms, these new worms were able to learn the conditioning more quickly than the original bunch and more quickly than a control group of worms fed on normal worm food. He continued his experiments by teaching his worms to run a maze in search of food. The maze in question was rather simple having only one decision, it was a basic T-Junction. Worms that turned right got snacks while worms that turned left got, yes you guessed it, electrocuted! They eventually learned that right was better than left. Again he embarked on his program of forced worm cannibalism and again the cannibal worms learned the route faster. Somehow his worms had learnt something by eating other worms, he claimed that memory was obviously biochemical in nature.

Others tried to replicate his experiments and met with varying success. The maze example in particular was one that either worked for you, and worked over and over no matter how many times you conducted the experiment, or just yielded no results at all. The scientific community was polarised, however his experiments were included in High School text books and millions of scholars performed them, even as late as the 80's. In the late 60's it was discovered why the experiment either worked or didn't, it all came down to cleaning. Labs that cleaned their mazes thoroughly with organic solvents invariably found that they could not replicate McConnell's results. Those that just cleaned them casually with inferior detergents, the kind used in most high school bio labs, had left scent trails which were being followed by cannibal worms, worms smelt like food!

McConnell defended his theories by pointing out that his experiments with light conditioning could not be explained by scent trails and were still perfectly valid. Three scientists: Frank, Rosen and Stein decided to prove him wrong.

They however chose to torture rats. They took three groups of the furry critters and submitted them to three different circumstances. One group was conditioned to associate the light side of a test box with electric shock, another group were put in the test box and allowed to go where every they wanted without fear. The last group had themselves sealed in a jar and rolled around for hours on end. Then they ground up their livers and brains and fed them to three new groups of rats. The group that ate the conditioned rats learnt to avoid the white side of the box more quickly when electrocuted than the group that were fed the unconditioned rats. However the group that ate the rats from the jars learnt quicker still. Their findings: rats that had been fed the livers and brains of rats that had been stressed learnt to avoid pain more quickly. This they found out was due to chemicals produced by the stressed rats, the higher the stress the higher the levels of these chemicals and the quicker the learning rate. McConnell's theories and findings had been discredited.

Even rational people like Theodore Kaczynski hated McConnell. 1985 Kaczynski, at this time known only as the Unabomber, sent dear old Prof McConnell a bomb disguised as a manuscript. Unfortunately McConnell’s assistant opened the package and McConnell got off lightly with only a little hearing loss. Indecently Kaczynski had a PhD in advanced mathematics, but was not held as a child.

What have we learnt? Well three things. Firstly, scientists love to torture poor defenceless critters, secondly that if you eat a tapeworm all you’re going to find is a parasite in your lower intestine, and thirdly that if you want to do well in you exams you should seal your classmates in a barrel and roll them down Jamie Steps a couple of thousand times, then eat them.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Meteorite or Plane Poop?

Brendon askes

Dear Schpat,

I've been following a story on IOL about a meteorite that crashed in Zimbabwe. The thing is that from the story it seems that this might not be a meteorite, the first give-away was the 15cm crater. My question is: Was it really a meteorite?

Schpat replies

Hey Brandon, thanks for the question. It reminds me from that sceen from Joe Dirt

"Not that I'd ever sale ya meteor..not in a million years. But just fer kicks, let's see how much yer worth."

"That's not a meteor. That's a big pile of frozen shit!"

"What? N-no. That's a meteor. It fell from the sky."

"I'm sure it did, cause it fell from an airplane. See the peanut there?"

"Maybe it's space peanut. Yeah."

"Nope, that's a big ball of frozen poopy."

You might not have asked it, but I know you were thinking it, Is this a petrified ball of plane poop? But back to your question, first we need to examine the facts at our disposal. There original Zimbabwe Herald story appears here. From reading the story we note that the level of literacy for the average Zimbabwean Reporter is rather low and also a few things about the "meteorite". Here they are in no particular order:

It is black with white spots
It is 21cm long and 13cm wide
It Weighs 4.1kg
It sounded like a helicopter
the noise was followed by dust clouds
It hit the ground leaving a 15cm "crater"

From even this scant evidence SchpatDope can make an assessment as to whether or not this object was a meteorite. (I warn you brave readers this gets kinda mathsy, but don't worry you can probably skip those bits and go straight to the conclusions)

Test One: Appearance
Well, black with lighter pieces does fit one of the more likely general descriptions of a meteorite. As the article, so very painfully, points out meteorites can be made up of rocks with pieces of metal in them. These types of meteorites are called "chondrites", named for the small "chondrules" within them. These chondrules are actually not even metal at all but rather small, between 0.5mm and 2mm, silicate crystals, mostly iron, aluminium or magnesium silicates. But we can forgive our intrepid reporter for this small mistake.

Chrondrites make up between 65 and 85 percent of all meteorites to hit earth. So the fact that our test sample has the appearance of your average run of the mill space rock is a point in its favour.

Test Two: Density
Having already established that statistically if our test subject was a meteorite it would probably be a chondrite we can test the density to see if it falls within the range for chondrites, between 3.2 and 3.7. The formula to calculate density is:

p = m/v


m is mass in grams
v is volume in cm^3
p is density in^-3 or kg.m^-3

Well we know the mass so all we need now is the volume. Here come our first two assumptions, we have only been given measurements for two dimensions of a three dimensional object. We are going to assume that we were only given length and width because height is equal to width. Our second assumption is that this meteorite forms a vaguely ellipsoid shape so that we can use the formula for calculating its volume. The formula is:

(4/3) * (Pi) * a * b * c


a, b and c are the semi-axes in cm

that gives us:

(4/3) * (22/7) * 11.5 * 6.5 * 6.5 = 2.013cm^3

therefore the density would be 2.013^-3

This is a very low density for your average meteorite and therefore the meteorite would be underweight. The problem is that this test involved two rather large assumptions so it's inconclusive at best. We can however now say that assuming the object has a density that falls into the correct range we can calculate the unspecified height of the ellipsoid to be about 8cm. This will prove useful in our next test

Test Three: Impact Force
Yeah this is the thing that started me wondering whether or not this actually was a meteorite. I mean a 15cm crater for an object that fell from space, my ardent fandom of all things sci-fi just wouldn't let me believe this, surely these things involve explosions and cataclysmic events? The only way to find out is to do the math, the formula is:

F = m * a


F is force in Newtons
m is mass in kg
a is acceleration in m.s^-2

In our case we're trying to calculate the force required to decelerate (negative acceleration) the object to zero. The formula for acceleration is:

a = (v - u) / t


v is final velocity in m.s^-1
u is initial velocity in m.s^-1
t is time in seconds

Determining v and t are easy, the object would end up at rest so v is 0 and it all happens almost instantaneous so lets say 0.1 for t, one tenth of a second. u is a bit more difficult though. How fast was this thing going before it hit the ground? Sci-Fi would have us believe almost the speed of light, but I sense another formula on the way:

v(t) = Sqrt[( 2 * m * g ) / ( C(d) * p * A)]


v(t) is terminal velocity in m.s^-1
m is mass in kg
g is gravitational acceleration in m.s^-2
C(d) is the coefficient of drag
p is density of the fluid
A is objects cross-sectional area in m^2

Yup terminal velocity! it's a complex one.

For Cross-sectional area lets use the known width of 13cm and the hypothesised height of 8cm so A = Pi * 6.5 * 4 (I've assumed another elliptical shape here), that gives us 81.71cm^2. The object should fall so that there is least resistance and so this make sense.

m is 4.1, g is 9.8, C(d) is 0.5 (using the one for a sphere will be close enough), p for air at STP is 0.00129 (also close enough for our purposes) and A is 0.008171m^2

u = v(t) is Sqrt[( 2 * 4.1 * 9.8) / ( 0.5 * 0.00129 * 0.008171)] = 123.5 m.s^-1

"Wow!" you say, yes wow indeed that's not even half the speed of sound, let alone light! But you say: "it's still 445km.h^-1 and that's pretty damn fast and would definitely explode when it hit the ground, or at least leave an impact crater of like 15m. Yeah that's it, they must have meant 15m not 15cm!"

Well my friend you're starting to sound more like ol' Joe Dirt all the time. remember we haven't finished the math yet!

a = ( v - u ) / t

a = (0 - 123.5) / 0.1 = -1235m.s^-2


F = m * a

F = 4.1 * -1252 = -5065 N

"That's a lot!" you say. Well not really, it's about the same as my car (a ford sierra weighing in at 1600kg) hitting a concrete wall at 1.134k.h^-1 or 0.315m.s^-1. At that speed I doubt it would even break a light! You still don't believe me that the crater would be really small, check this out then. That's a 30cm ruler next to the actual crater made by a meteorite in Mbale (Uganda) in 1992. During the shower a young boy was actually hit on the head by a small fragment of the meteorite, and he lived. Admittedly the fragment was only 1cm in diameter and weighed 3g and its fall was broken by the banana tree the boy was sheltering under. You can check out the whole story here.

Also the fact that the people heard the sound before they saw the object in the sky also goes to prove it was travelling at subsonic speeds.

I'm going to give a partial positive result for test 3, as we had to work off an assumption about the height of the object.

Final Conclusion:
One positive, one partial positive and one inconclusive. The partial and inconclusive could quite easily be cleared up by finding the height measurement. On the face of this evidence I think that yes, this is in fact a meteorite, I'd probably bet on it.

One last thing however, it's not strictly scientific but that never really stopped us before. The reliability of the reporter, one Freeman Razemba, may be a little suspect. In January this year he reported a story about a local "traditional healer" who had surrendered his goblins to the tribal chief so that they could be destroyed. Apparently this "traditional healer" had been using the goblins' magical powers to have his way with women, sexually, without them knowing about it. However when the goblins started abusing his daughters he thought enough was enough! Read the whole article
here, and decide if you trust this guy!

Thanks for the great questions guys, but keep them rolling in. Mitsy and I are always on the lookout for interesting topics. Oh and join the SchpatDope mailing list.

Friday, August 26, 2005

How does DNA work?

D@vid Asks:

Given that genes aren't the only determining factor in our makeup (we are 50% banana and 98-99% each other), and proteins account for (at least some of) the difference, what factors affect the proteins? are they just a random element? where do they come from? do environmental or genetic factors affect them?

Mitsy Answers:

Hi D@ve...

Yes, you're right there is one body part that does closely resemble a banana, and any guy who claims his body mass to be half "banana" is my kinda.... What?... Oh all right, he never lets me answer anything!

Schpat Resumes:

Sorry about that folks, Mitsy is a young teen who started her life in sex forums, what do you expect! Well now she's pouting so I'll let Mitsy answer a question after I'm finished with this one.

Let me start by correcting you: genes are the only determining factor in our makeup. I'm not throwing decades of nature vs nurture arguments out the window here, but your genes are entirely responsible for the way that your body has developed. Genes are the construction manual for the assembly of the wet and sloppy Mechano Set that is your body! Similarities in DNA between species, like most things, have been highly sensationalised by the mass media. let me quickly explain how they are calculated.

First of all everyone knows that DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) has a "double helixical" structure. In fact this double helix is actually two strands of organic molecules called nucleotides. Each nucleotide on one strand is joined by a hydrogen bond to a nucleotide on the other strand. In Genomics each joining is called a "Base Pair". Genes are made up by patterns of base pairs.

When comparing DNA between different, or even the same, species it is actually the base pairs that are being compared. Now considering that there are only a very small number of nucleotides this really reduces the number of combinations possible and increased the chances of finding pattern matches. By the way the human genome consists of more than 3 billion base pairs, and only about 25000 genes. The number of pairs comprising these genes is accountable for less than 3% of our DNA, the rest has been termed "Junk DNA". Most of the similarities that have been found between us and other organisms are actually found in this "junk". If you did a comparison of relevant genes between humans and chips you'd probably come up with a much, much smaller number.

So why do scientists tout the 98% similarity figure for chimps? Well that's because they are trying to show a common ancestor, and thus prove evolution. Proponents of "intelligent design" (religious folks who have realised that the whole creationism thing is a total croc, but just cant bring themselves to take the next obvious step) say that this proves nothing.

So back to those proteins. Proteins are organic compounds that consist of amino acids joined by peptide bonds. Proteins, much like DNA, are components of cells and are responsible for almost all cellular functions. If DNA is the construction manual for your body, then proteins are the building blocks. DNA is self replicating and, in very basic terms, regulates the manufacture and coding of proteins, that's how it is responsible for how your body is built.

What factors affect proteins? Duh, DNA! What, weren't you listening? Seriously though, while DNA is inherited, in equal parts, from you parents sometimes mutation does occur, this is the basic premise of evolution. DNA is replicated whenever a cell divides, this is done through a complex process of translation and transcription and involves RNS (Ribonucleic Acid). Sometimes however transcription errors occur and DNA gets all messed up. This can cause good or bad things and when happening in the stem cells can be passed on to offspring. When happening in other cells, like skin and lung, it mostly results in cancers. It has been theorised that these transcription errors occur due to environmental factors such as free radicals and stellar radiation from old supernovas, normal radiation will also screw with your DNA.

If you're having a problem visualising all this microscopic stuff then just check out his site. It's very cool!

Ok over to Mitsy..........

Ork Khrist Asks

Why did clicking on these banner ads make me feal so dirty?

Mitsy Answers:

Well Ork, that's because you've only stared doing it. It gets easier with each one. This'll be our little secret! Practice makes perfect.

Thanks Mitsy

The Voice of Dissent:

Er, that would be 'helical', not 'helixical'. How much of this stuff do you paraphrase, and how much is copy/pasted? Or do you do something silly like manually type out everything?

"Now considering that there are only a very small number of nucleotides this really reduces the number of combinations possible and increased the chances of finding pattern matches"
Bollocks. The patterns matched are really really long, more than enough to compensate for the small number (4 in humans, but there are a few weird ones in other organisms) of base pairs. Sure, if you were looking for AGTT, you would find bazillions of matches, but when looking for a set long enough to encode a protein, the chance of finding a random, unrelated match drops dramatically.

Oh, and before anyone goes '4 bases, but they come in pairs so only count as two', switching the order makes a difference, so an AT pair is different to a TA pair.


Well Synk, stop nit-picking! Yes so I inadvertently made up a new word: "helixical". There, say it seven more times and it might even make it into the dictionary. I think you and everyone else did understand it to mean "helix shaped". So anyway, the protein coding patterns are really long, and it is very easy to find matches if are just comparing base pairs, and yes that is what they did when they found humans to be 50% matches to bananas, and yes that was my point, but thanks for clearing that up! I didn't really go into that too much because it was actually just background into the "what are proteins and stuff for" question?


Friday, August 19, 2005

What's up with the 'www'

Groundy asks:

I've noticed that some websites can be access both with the www prefix and without. Like or (which do you prefer?) Some sites force the www, and others force the lack of it. Some just flat don't work. What gives?


The answer is magical, mystical, internet fairy dust. Not buying it? Ok, settle in and I'll try to explain.

When Dan Quale invented the internet, way back in 1983, the www prefix was intended to show what protocol the document or 'page' used. A protocol is like a translation template and lets your computer know what to expect and how to read it. There are a number of internet protocols, or technically 'application level protocols' in the 'internet protocol suite'. Among them are HTTP, SMTP, SSH, POP3, IMAP, IRC, and FTP. If a user knew what protocol to use they would know what application would need to be used to access the information. So for instance a domain with the prefix 'mail' would use the 'SMTP' protocol and the user would know to use 'PegasusMail' to access it.

These days most application level protocols have been largely integrated into single applications such as Internet Explorer or Fire Fox. On windows machines the registry contains entries for prefixes that let these application know what protocol to use. This functionality is often abused by malicious adware to impose pop-up advertising on internet users. This practice is called browser hi-jacking.

Part of your question was that sometimes you can access a website without using the 'www' prefix, well that's because your browser is cleaver. You should actually be able to access any page that requires a 'www' without actually typing it in because if your browser does not find a page with no prefix specified it automatically tries the same page but with the default 'www'.

As to why certain domains require no prefix here's some more background: A domain name consists of three parts: the Top Level Domain, the Second Level Domain and the Prefix. The 'top level domain', or TLD, is the last part of the domain name, examples include '.com', '.org', '.net', and ''. The TLD lets your browser know where to start looking for the 'Domain Name Server', or DNS, that will eventually tell it what the IP (internet Protocol) address of the server that hosts the domain is, a DNS is a giant look-up table. Then there is the Second Level Domain, 'SLD'. The SLD is the part between the prefix and the TLD and can be made up of any number of clauses separated by 'dots'. The SLD and TLD together make up the Zone. When you register a domain name you are actually registering the zone, you can then run different applications on that zone by specifying the prefix. Most people default to 'www' for their public internet access prefix, as is dictated by standard, but some don't, 'www2' also sometimes seen. They could however just leave it off, if they do that a site name with the 'www' wont load.

So in short, when entering a URL you are more likely to get to the site if you leave off the 'www', but it will almost always take longer. I prefer to use the prefix because it's purer and lets users know exactly what to expect when typing in a URL. Domains that "just flat don't work" probably have been decommissioned or, probably due to inattentiveness, have a broken link in the DNS chain.

Mitsy says I should have just left it as magical, mystical, internet fairy dust, it's so much easier to understand. She likes internet fairies and asks me to remind you that every time you click on our sponsor's links, an internet fairy gets her wings.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Is Pluto being a planet just goofey?

Moonflake asks:

In serious news, an asteroid with multiple moons has been discovered. Adding to this the recent discovery of the as-yet-unnamed Planet X, a supposed 'planet' orbiting within the Kuiper Belt (a second asteroid belt beyond the orbit of Neptune, whose most famous member is Pluto), this begs the question: when is an asteroid just an asteroid, and when is it a planet? Is there some arbitrary line in the sand drawn by astronomers? The existence of a moon or moons can't be it, as the above article shows. Nor can size, composition or proximity to an established asteroid belt be a consistent qualifier as this would rate Planet X and Pluto firmly in the asteroid category. In addition, while Pluto is technically labelled a planet by the IAU, most astronomers would disagree with this classification. O SchpatDope, please help us on this one.

Schpat answers:

Mmm, toughie. Actually Moonie it doesn't beg the question, "begging the question" refers to flawed logic requiring circular reasoning, this discovery instead raises the question. I don't mean to be pedantic about this but when you make as many leaps of logic as I do you'd better know what they are called! Don't feel bad, this usage has been commonly accepted since about 1983 so I'll let it slide.

By the way have you seen the size of Pluto? It's almost microscopic in relation to the five gas giants. It's smaller than our moon. If you were driving to Icon and back you would have travelled far enough to pass directly though its centre by the time you got back to Beufort West.

Back to the question at hand, what is the difference between an asteroid and a planet? Well astronomers have not in fact drawn an arbitrary line in the sand, none of them are brave enough... yet. While the matter was under discussion for some years over at the IAU no decision was ever made. The discovery of 2003 UB313 (or Planet X) has forced the IAU to review the matter as people are asking them to finally come up with and answer.

In order to define the rules for planetary classification let's first investigate the meaning of the word planet. Planet is derived from greek and not-so-literally means "wanderer". The Greeks thought that planets were a specific subset of stars that wandered across the sky for some reason known only to themselves and the gods after which they were named. So by greek standards a planet is anything that wanders across the sky, this isn't really going to help us is it?

While looking into this I came across a site describing how star trek weaponry was way cooler than Star Wars weaponry because they could vaporise a large asteroid with a single photon torpedo but it took the entire death star to destroy a planet. I didn't really look into that too much, but it did give me the idea to see if maybe Starfleet had some kind of defining rule that we could use. Their definition: "Planets are large objects orbiting a star [...] size-based distinctions will prove somewhat arbitrary". Gene, I can't believe you whimped-out, Starfleet is just as indecisive as the IAU.

The best idea I've seen was from Mike Brown of Caltech. He proposes that a planet be defined as any body that has a mass greater than the sum of the masses of all other bodies in a similar orbit. This seems like a good idea to me. I'd make a few minor tweaks, like saying 'approximately' the same or greater mass, and allowing for double planet systems like the ones described in Anne McCaffrey's Pern and another very cool sci-fi book I lent to zenstar and can't remember the name of.

If the IAU decide to go with this definition then Pluto may have to be relegated from the planetary league. There is precedent for this. The first few asteroids discovered were considered planets for quite a while, almost 40 years. Later, once more and more of these bodies were discovered, they were reclassified as asteroids. Pluto has been considered a planet for about 75 years and now that more and more of these plutonoids are being discovered demotion would seem to be a logical decision. However logic is not always the prevailing factor when it comes to decision making.

When Pluto was originally discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, totally by accident I might add, there was debate by the IAU as to whether or not it should be awarded planetary status. Active lobbying ensured that the only "planet" discovered by an American got the status it truly deserved. Demoting the planet now may be considered a serious affront by the American public. Already letter writing campaigns have been started at primary school level to stop this from happening.

As to whether or not Planet X, or the latest incarnation thereof anyway, should be designated as a planet the following may play a part in the decision making process. Currently interest in space is at almost an all time low. If it wasn't for a few failed shuttle missions the general public would have all but forgotten about actual space exploration. The discovery of a new planet would without a doubt result in a renewed interest and probably in increase in funding for NASA. That is possibly why NASA has already tacitly accepted 2003 UB313 as a planet and is putting pressure on the IAU to declare it as one.

Mitsy says that all this sciency stuff is making her head hurt and has found an alternate criteria on her teen forums. One poster says: "The 'planet versus asteroid' debate isn’t too tricky for me [...] I can personally attest to the strength of Pluto’s influence [...] therefore, Pluto is a planet [...] this new one is bigger than Pluto so it's a planet too". In case you didn't realise this commentator is talking about proving that 2003 UB313 is a planet based on astrology. Well, at least it's decisive.

Submit your own questions for the SchpatDope by leaving them in the comments. Help us to help Mitsy by supporting our sponsors and clicking on their links.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

SchpatDope on SchpatDope??!??

Mark Asks:

Hey schpat!
Have you got an RSS or Atom syndication feed for your blog?

Schpat Answers:

This is kinda a strange question for the SchpatDope to answer. It's not weird or sordid or anything, but I'll do it anyway. Hey questions are sparse!

The ScpatDope is inspired by Cecil Adam's The Straight Dope, it's just not as well researched or funny! Well it might be as funny sometimes, but I'm not promising anything!

I'd like to do a SchpatDope once a week, but that all depends on whether or not people actually ask me questions, it's really though work making them all up myself! When posts are made you can pick up the full contents via our Atom feed .

Remember that I'm fine with syndication, in fact I love the idea, as long as the post appears in exactly the same way as it was sent. That means no editing, especially not to remove the ads. Also all work is copyright to me and shouldn't be passed off as your own, always include The SchpatDope in your assignment under list of references. Although if you are using this site as a reference for an assignment, I'd think again.

Also if you do subscribe to the blog feed, or syndicate it to millions, I'd really appreciate it if you let me know. It's just so that I can see how many people are reading it. There have been 475 site view since friday, and if people subscribe it'll be difficult for me to keep track of that.

Also remember to support our sponsors by checking out their websites, even if they are only offering credit checks and free golf balls. Our newest researcher, Mitsy, really appreciates it!

So make with the sending of questions already and please don't be scared to comment on the posts.