Updated 4 February 2010

Miscellaneous Notes and Facts

This page will contain miscellaneous facts and other odd topics...

The Space Shuttle...

Contrary to what many Americans appear to believe, the Space Shuttle does not and cannot go to the Moon! The Space Shuttle can go no higher than about 1000 miles (the Moon is about 250,000 miles farther out). The Space Shuttle was never intended to travel to the Moon. It is designed as a transport vehicle to bring people and hardware to orbit typically a few hundred miles above the Earth.

Do you object to taking surveys?

Are you a person who is very protective of personal information? Do you hang up on phone callers who ask you to take a brief survey? Do you walk away from people who ask about your personal consumption habits? Are you wary of even typing in your full name when you try logging in to the application for your mobile broadband connection? Well, if you use a "shopping card" at your local supermarket, you may be giving away a ton of information every time you shop with it!!! The cards I'm referring to are often called "scan cards", and are used at the checkout counter to "automatically" credit you with discounts (instead of the "bother" of clipping store coupons). The store will have you believe that this is a great convenience. What they aren't telling you is that they finally found a way to collect a ton of marketing information from you without your even realizing it! Keep in mind that your "shopping card" is scanned by a computer... and that very computer can easily be programmed to note everything that you buy. The computer knows who you are, and it knows what days and times you come into the store, and it knows everything that you bought... what brand, what size, how many, if you used a coupon, if it was a sale item, etc. Not all stores may be doing this, but most probably are. The detailed level of information collected by these "scan cards" is very valuable to marketing people! So, when the store claims that they've gone "high tech" and are making things convenient for you, keep in mind that what they've really done is managed to get even the most protective person to take a very detailed survey on a regular basis!

Microwave Ovens

There seems to still be a lot of misconceptions about microwave ovens, even 30 years after becoming popular! For example...

  1. Microwave ovens do not cook food from the "inside out". A microwave is simply a form of electromagnetic radiation (light is also electromagnetic radiation, but at a much higher frequency). When the microwaves strike the food, they are absorbed and converted to heat. The microwaves penetrate the food only to a shallow depth. The center part of the food is cooked by thermal conduction, just like in a regular oven. The microwaves in a microwave oven are very efficient at heating water; this is why foods low in water content do not cook well in microwave ovens!
  2. If some food item happens to explode in your microwave oven, it is not because it cooked from the "inside out". Most likely, some water trapped inside the food turned into steam and built up pressure to the point where something had to give. That's why the food instructions often tell you to poke "vent holes" in the food before cooking!
  3. Microwave ovens do not make your food radioactive! The only "radition" danger to yourself is if you intentionally deactivate the safety mechanisms on the door of the microwave oven and operate it with the door open. If you stuck your hand in the oven under these conditions, you would probably get the equivalent of a bad sunburn. You would have a radiation burn, you would not have a case of radiation sickness (as in the aftermath of a nuclear attack)! Incidentally, if you are worried about being exposed to electromagnetic radiation, you better get rid of your cellular phone... that 3 watt transmitter running right next to your head exposes your brain to a much stronger electromagnetic field than any microwave oven will (unless you operate it with the door open!).

Oh my God, the Moon is out during the daytime!

No, the Moon is not "out of its orbit". If you see the Moon out during the day, do not be alarmed... the Earth is not coming to an end (at least not because of the Moon anyway). A first quarter Moon rises at about noon, and a last quarter Moon sets at about noon. A Full Moon rises at about sunset, and sets at about sunrise. If you ever happen to see a Full Moon high in the sky at mid day, then you can start saying your prayers!

The Planets are all lined up... it's DOOMSDAY!

Recent planetary alignments have once again brought out people who claim that the "gravitational effect" will tear the Earth to shreds. This is an absolutely preposterous claim. While it is true that the giant planet Jupiter has a very powerful gravitational field (compared to Earth), it is so far away that it is for all practical purposes negligible! The Moon and Sun are the dominant forces on the Earth as far as tidal stress is concerned. The Moon is of negligible mass compared to the Sun, but its closeness to us (by about 400 times) makes up the difference. If you are still concerned about the planets lining up consider this: A 747 jumbo jet flying overhead at 30,000 feet has more gravitational effect on the Earth than all the planets combined!

Can I request a Song?

When you call a radio station to request a song, and they actually play it, most likely you "got lucky". Most commercial radio stations operate from a "play list". A play list is basically the schedule of songs that will be played (in order) on a particular day. The list is generated based on a number of factors, such as listener requests (requests from the previous day that is), sales and trade info, and other data. The list is rarely deviated from. Some stations have "request and dedication shows", and these are the shows that you can actually get a song played (if the station has it). But during "normal" hours, if you make a request and you hear it shortly thereafter, it just happened to be coming up on the playlist (in other words it would have come on whether or not you had requested it).

Are you sick of Junk Mail?

If you are like most people, you get enough junk mail to wallpaper a room with in a matter of days. There are ways you can get your name off "junk mail" lists, but if you are really mad, you can hit some of these firms in the pocketbook. You can do this if the junk mail has a "business reply" envelope. Take the envelope and fill it with junk to make it as heavy as possible, then toss it back into the mail! (just be sure to not put anything in the envelope with your name on it!). These firms will be slapped with first class postage for this return mailing. Truthfully, it will probably not have an effect on these firms, and may even cause them to raise the price of their goods. But what the heck? Might as well mail all their junk back to them and let them take it to the recycle station!

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