Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (9): Nicole Sharp and the Boat Ride

July 19th, 2019

Here’s Nicole Sharp talking about a paddleboat ride she took when she was a child. That ride excited Nicole in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Nicole created and runs FYFD, the most popular fluid dynamics web site in this part of the universe.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

Protecting furry pets from static electricity during thunderstorms [new patent]

July 18th, 2019

Earthing mats (a.k.a. ElectroStatic Discharge – Safe Mats) are commonplace in the electronics industry, where sensitive components need to be protected against potentially damaging rogue electrostatic discharges (ESDs). Not so common, though, for protecting furry pets in the home. But this may now have changed. Inventors Thomas J. Gaskill (Haddonfield, NJ), and James S. Gatti (Delran, NJ) have just received a US patent for their Static electricity discharging pet bed.

“[…] loud noise and thunderstorm induced tumult take their toll on pets, it is the static electricity in the air during a storm which is a major, yet heretofore unaddressed problem. The highly electrically charged atmosphere during a thunder or lighting [sic] storm causes tingling and general discomfort through the fur of the animal. Moreover, electric shocks often accompany this discomfort during situations in which there is extreme lightening. [sic]

Here’s how it might work :

“The outer cover is fabricated of an electrical conductive material designed to conduct static electricity from the pet bed through an electrical conductive conductor [sic], to an electrical conductive ground wire, and then to a ground only plug connected to a grounded electrical outlet. The result is that when a dog or like furry pet is positioned on the pet bed, static electricity affecting the animal is drained to electrical ground. In this same manner, an ‘Earthing’ effect provides a number of healthful benefits to the pet as well.”

Note: It’s not specifically mentioned in the patent, but it’s crucial that the earthing wire is connected to the correct pin on the plug. Alternatively, an earthing rod could be sunk in nearby ground, and the mat’s cable connected to that instead. Some guidance on such things can be found at Groundology Ltd. (UK) who are in a position to supply grounded yoga mats and grounding socks.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Habit Versus Habit: Using Chewing Gum to Remove Coffee Stains

July 17th, 2019

A straightforward attempt to use one habit—chewing gum—to undo the unwelcome effects of a different habit—drinking coffee:

Whitening Efficacy of Chewing Gum Containing Sodium Metaphosphate on Coffee Stain: Placebo-controlled, Double-blind In Situ Examination,” S. Makino, C. Kawamoto, T. Ikeda, T. Doi, A. Narise, T Tanaka, C. Almas, M. Hannig, R. Carvalho, and H. Sano, Operative Dentistry, in press 2019. The authors report:

This study aimed to evaluate the ability of chewing gum containing sodium metaphosphate (SMP) to remove coffee stains from enamel in situ. This was a double-blind (subjects, evaluators), parallel-group, crossover, randomized clinical trial with 30 healthy adult volunteers. Each participant held an appliance with a hydroxyapatite (HA) pellet on the lower lingual side of his or her mouth for two hours to allow pellicle formation. The appliances were subsequently immersed in coffee solution at 37°C for 48 hours. The color of the HA pellet before and after coffee immersion was measured using a spectrophotometer. The participant set the appliance and chewed two pieces of test gum, which contained 7.5 mg of SMP per piece, or control gum without SMP.

BONUS FACT (not necessarily related): The theme of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be HABITS.

BONUS (not necessarily worth even reading): At least one web site claims that chewing chewing gum “can help you lose facial weight.”

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (8): Diego Golombek and Time

July 16th, 2019

Here’s Diego Golombek talking about reading and wondering about time travel—an experience that, when he was a child, excited Diego in a way that led to his eventual unusual career. Diego now studies—and experiments with—biology to try to understand some of the seemingly simply, scientifically mystifying things that happen in nature every day.

This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David HuSuzana Herculano-HouzelFrans de WaalNicole SharpDiego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

Associations : Moonlight up | Crime up [new study]

July 15th, 2019

On a broad, bright, moonlit* night would you expect outdoor crime rates to be higher or lower than on an overcast night with little or no moonlight?

Numerous investigations have shown that, as a general rule, increasing environmental light levels can lead to a decrease in outdoor crime rates. By extension then, one might think that bright moonlit nights would feature less crime than when it’s overcast. But one might be wrong. A new study by Jacob Kaplan at the University of Pennsylvania – Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, and published via the Social Science Research Network comes to a conclusion that some might find counterintuitive.

“The findings indicate that a small amount of light can increase crime.

[e.g. from the Moon]

The mechanisms for why this is so are unclear.”

See : The Effect of Moonlight on Outdoor Nighttime Crime

Also see : Associations : Ultra Violet Radiation and the number of days it takes to get a misaddressed letter back.

*Note : Strictly speaking, moonlight is actually sunlight (that’s been reflected by the Moon)

Image credit : Tomruen via Wikipedia

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