June 11, 2007
The 10 Worst Jobs in Science
• Whale-feces researcher: The feces part just smells bad.
• Forensic entomologist: Studying bugs on corpses combines two unpleasant things.
• Olympic drug tester: Watching athletes urinate into cups and testing samples thousands of times during the Games can't be fun.
• Gravity research subject: Stays in bed for three weeks and lets muscles atrophy.
• Microsoft security worker: Deals with every Microsoft user's problems.
• Preserved-animal preparer: Bottles frogs, cats and pigs for biology students.
• Garbologist: Sifts through garbage, literally, to analyze consumption patterns and how quickly waste breaks down.
• Elephant vasectomist: Elephants are big, and so are their testicles.
• Oceanographer: Pollution, overfishing and coral reef destruction mean the oceans keep getting worse.
• Hazardous-materials diver: Swimming in sewage is a dirty task.
Above, in order from not-as-bad (whale feces) to "downright terrible" (poop diving) as ranked by Popular Science magazine in a story to be published tomorrow.
Beth Sussman leaked the news in today's USA Today; her story follows.
- Scientists Get Down and Dirty on Job
Tired of sitting in a cubicle punching numbers and pushing papers? Imagine searching for whale feces or diving into the waste lagoon at a pig farm.
Those are among the 10 worst jobs in science, says the July edition of Popular Science magazine, out Tuesday.
Jobs on the list range from studying garbage to diving for hazardous materials to gravity research subjects and Olympic drug testers.
"We realized that the best jobs in science are just kind of boring," Popular Science editor Mark Jannot says.
"But bad jobs are bad in amazing and funny and gross ways."
The staff of Popular Science votes on the rankings based on personal judgments.
"There's nothing scientific, ironically enough, in the way we rank these," Jannot says.
The magazine declared hazardous-material diver the worst job in its ranking. Hazmat divers often work in water contaminated by toxic spills and everyday pollutants.
Steve Barsky, the author of Diving in High-Risk Environments, tells the magazine the worst example he'd heard of was the hazmat divers who had to retrieve the body of an accident victim from the waste lagoon of a factory pig farm.
Barsky says divers face short-term safety risks and long-term risks to their health from exposure to pollutants.
"These guys are doing this day in and day out, and nobody thinks much about it," Barsky says. "They're basically putting their lives on the line. It is a big deal."
But while some occupations make the list as dirty tasks, others are just disheartening. Oceanographers never seem to get good news about the state of the oceans, and Olympic drug testers battle increasingly sophisticated drugs used by athletes.
"That's a reflection of the staff thinking the despair in the face of seeming tremendous challenges would be more of a soul-sapping, difficult thing to face than just to swim around and collect a bunch of whale poop," Jannot says.
Although most of the scientists included in the ranking are proud of their professions, they did acknowledge the downside of their jobs.
Oceanographer Carl Safina, founder of the non-profit Blue Ocean Institute, says dealing with overfishing and pollution does make oceanography a legitimate "worst jobs" pick, but he still loves his work.
"We work on these things not because we like to be mired in bad news," he says. "We work on them because we see how things could be so much better."
Safina adds that he would rather work in any job in science than perform a job focused on making money.
Jannot says that though the magazine writers highlight some of the negatives of these jobs, they are actually honoring the people who perform jobs that most people wouldn't want to have.
Says Jannot: "As soon as they realize we're not doing this to make fun of them but to celebrate them, they pretty much always embrace the spirit of it."
Bonus for reading to the end: here's a link to a post from September 2, 2004 on the deep-slime divers of Mexico City (pictured up top, ready to take the plunge).
joe knows bad jobs.
Trust him... he's had plenty of them.
From the website:
- Balcony Planter
The modern answer to the traditional balcony planter.
Can be attached to any banister with a maximum diameter of 6 cm.
Two separate compartments makes combined planting easy.
Currently available in black, white or red.
$80 Canadian (click here, then click on "Home Accessories").
Ocho Cinco by several lengths — Chad Johnson v racehorse throwdown ends in convincing Bengal triumph
Said the horse's jockey, P.J. Cooksey, after this past Saturday's match race, "That was phenomenal. When I looked over at him, all I could see were his legs; they looked like a windmill. He was a blur. I was beat bad."
Videre est credere.*
Now if only the Patriots could do a deal to bring him in to line up opposite Randy Moss... whooosh!
Mutant Tire Pressure Gauge
Every now and then a chromosome splits in a funny fashion and the result is something like this.
Witness the Mutant Extension Cord, first spotted running through the Amazon rain forest back on August 9, 2005.
From the website:
Balancing Tire Pressure Gauge — Check and fill two tires at once!
Just attach the sturdy steel chucks to each front or rear tire’s valve stem, then add air through the fill valve.
The gauge is accurate to +/- 2% and helps you inflate both tires to the proper pressure level simultaneously.
A bleed valve assists in adjusting pressures from 0–100psi.
You’ll enjoy better handling, longer tire wear and improved fuel mileage.
I'm not so sure this item is suitable for TechnoDolts™ — that picture just above made me a little dizzy as I tried to visualize all the tubes and valves in my mind's eye — where they're supposed to go and what they're intended to do and all.
I got a sense that I might end up accidentally putting one end of the device into my ear instead of my nose, with less than optimal results.
Flautist, what do you think?
Oh, sorry — didn't realize you already have one steel chuck in your mouth and can't talk just now.
Best local (Charlottesville and vicinity) print ad of the year to date
Made me chuckle, anyhow, when I espied it this morning on the back page of the June 2007 Home Style supplement to the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
I must say that I have extreme respect for electricity and will undertake no repairs in this arena.
I did take, pass and in fact get an A in Electrical Shop at Washington High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — but that was a long time ago.
such that the iPhone could serve as a 3-D wireless mouse for Apple computers.
Sorry if I leaked, Steve — but it came to me in a vision rather than an unauthorized email or phone call from someone in your skunk works.
I mean, it's not as if the iPhone and Apple's wireless mouse (below)
came from different planets, what?
Get your underground electric, gas and water lines marked — free
Tell us more, 'cause we like free.
Short story shorter: This spring marked the launch of a new national "Call Before You Dig" number to make it easy for homeowners to arrange to have subterranean lines marked instead of being electrocuted or blowing themselves up when they decide to finally dig that hole out back.
What's the number?
Wouldn't you like to know?
Here's Terri Sapienza's story, from the May 31, 2007 Washington Post.
- A 'Call Before You Dig' Number
If you're planning home improvements this summer, the first thing on your to-do list should be to dial 811. By calling the new, national "Call Before You Dig" number, launched this spring by the Common Ground Alliance, homeowners can get their underground utility lines marked for free and avoid problems. More than 700,000 incidents of utility damage occur each year, according to the alliance.
Whether you're building an addition, adding a deck, installing a fence or irrigation system, putting up a mailbox or simply planting a tree, an 811 call before embarking on any digging can prevent personal injury, potential fines, repair costs and the disruption of service to an entire neighborhood.
As the Web site suggests, do you really want to be the one who takes out your neighbor's power lines or cable connection the day of "The Sopranos" series finale?
Visit www.call811.com for more information, and remember: Call a few days before your scheduled project to allow time for the request to be processed.
Casserole Caddy — Because, contrary to what you may have heard, you can take it with you
Enough already with the Bladerunner pets and their ilk.
From the website:
Casserole caddy doubles as serving placemats.
Keep your casserole (not included) warm when closed, then unfold to reveal a summery tabletop setting.
Included wooden utensils serve as handles, inside pocket holds recipes and extra potholders.
Perfect for picnics and tailgating!
Quilted nylon and vinyl with adjustable Velcro closures to fit any size and a sturdy base.
12" x 13".
$29.98 (note that the casserole is not included — except for Flautist, who will receive, at absolutely no extra charge, my boyhood tuna noodle surprise complete with grey-green peas [not pictured]).