Tag Archive: Science

Astronomy Biathalon

August 27, 2008 8:08 am Published by 2 Comments

OLYMPIC SPORT PROPOSAL
SUBMITTED TO IOC 2008-08-27

SPORT NAME: Astronomy Biathlon
SUMMARY: Each competitor must run from the starting line, following a predefined route of approximately 1600 meters carrying a telescope of their choice. The route will end at a Sighting Area. The competitor must set up the telescope in the Sighting Area and accurately find and identify three (3) astronomical objects listed on a list provided. Then he or she will break down the telescope, and run the next route to the next Sighting Area. There will be five (5) Sighting Areas in all, followed by a final 1600 meter run to the finish line. Sixty (60) seconds will be added to a competitor’s time for each object not correctly identified. The competitor with the shortest final time will be the winner. Mixed genders.

POSSIBLE VARIATIONS: 4×1600 Astronomy Biathlon relay; Astronomy Biathlon medley (galaxies at first Sighting Area, binary star systems at second, etc); Astronomy Triathlon (routes alternate 1600m runs with 5km biking)

Low-carb diets

May 19, 2008 1:16 pm Published by 2 Comments

Low-carbohydrate diets predate Robert Atkins’ eponymous phenomenon by more than one hundred years. The theory behind the diets goes like this: Food contains starches, which your body very quickly converts to glucose. When glucose levels spike right after a meal, in order to prevent blood sugar levels from getting too high, you convert them into triglycerides for storage (usually in fat). When your blood sugar gets very low, said fat stores (ideally) get converted to ketones, which your body can use like glucose. Low-carb diets work on the theory that the modern American diet never allows blood sugar to fall low enough for step 2 to occur.

On a whim, M and I are trying a one-week low-carb diet. Lunch and dinner we can handle. But what do you eat for breakfast when cereal and fruit and bagels are off limits? I can only eat so many hard boiled eggs before I go nuts.

Toxic waste garden

May 31, 2007 1:23 pm Published by 2 Comments

Memorial Day weekend is a somewhat-traditional planting weekend in the Northeast. This spring, even USDA hardiness zone 6a[1] has been experiencing some quite balmy temperature, so we’ve actually had our sprouts outside for almost all of May. But this weekend, we couldn’t buck tradition, and we went ahead and planted the majority of them, and took a trip out to Milton (a.k.a. the city that got beat up in middle school) to visit some nurseries. We came home with a butterfly bush to help screen our yard from the neighbor’s. The directions on the bush said to dig a hole twice as deep and thrice as wide as the root ball.

Eight inches down, I hit a layer of something weird. It was hard, and kind of looked like paint chips. And there were a bunch of them. Under the paint chips, there were plastic bags. (Wonder Bread! Doritos!) Under the bags were cans of Schlitz (!) and empty bottles of Nair (!!). Eventually, we passed through the garbage and emerged into some nice-looking dark organic soil. Shove the bush in the hole and run. But wait.. paint chips? The Schlitz can was clearly an old-style removable pull tab. According to the Wikipedia article, the new style was invented in 1975, and was almost universally adopted by the early 1980’s. And lead paint wasn’t banned for sale in the US until 1978.

Although plants don’t take up much lead, we should definitely clean all of our vegetables thoroughly, and probably get a testing kit.

[1] Boston is in zone 6a under the official (but relatively old) 1990 hardiness zone map. But it’s been placed in zone 7 under the 2003 draft of updated hardiness zones and other more recent drafts based on new climate data.

Classic science post: Penta water

May 18, 2007 10:14 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The following is a classic science post I wrote for the coolass metablog in May 2004.


Sometime last week, Penta Water was introduced to our group. Not having any on hand, and only having vague second-hand assertions of “five-molecule water”, the usual response was “What, it’s just a very small quantity of water?” Based on the assumption that it was probably five-atom water (since that made slightly more sense to us), theories ranged from “Maybe it’s a liquid with a different molecular makeup but similar characteristics to H2O,” to “Maybe they count disassociated Na+ and Cl ions from a tiny amount of salt in the water as two additional atoms,” to “Maybe it’s total bullshit.”

The key to unlocking this marketing mumbo jumbo is understanding water.

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Medical jargon II

May 10, 2007 10:50 am Published by 4 Comments

More medical jargon you didn’t realize you needed to know:

  • emesis – vomiting
  • pandiculation – yawning and stretching
  • singultus – hiccups
  • rhinorrhea – runny nose
  • borborygmus – stomach growling
  • eructation – burping
  • sternutation – sneezing
  • epistaxis – nosebleed
  • horripilation – goosebumps

(Previously)