Category Archives: Science

Sky Wonder

Although it peaked Sunday night, Aug. 12, the Perseid meteor shower sounds like something worth staying up for this week.. Found this piece on Space.com:

“According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year; and in 2018, they’ll be the best shower of the year. During the Perseids’ peak this weekend, spectators should see about 60-70 meteors per hour, but in outburst years (such as in 2016) the rate can be between 150-200 meteors an hour. The meteor shower’s peak will be visible both the nights of Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, Cooke said, but he’s inclined this year to lean toward the night of Aug. 12-13 for the better show.”

We plan to go out Sunday or Monday night after 10:00, find a darkish spot in the country, and follow these guideline I heard at the above website:

– take a comfortable chair or sleeping bag for viewing

– New Moon will set before midnight, allowing for more darkness

– find a spot where you can take in as much sky as possible, with as few lights as possible

– wait ½ hour for your eyes to adjust to the dark (avoid looking at cell phone, as the bright display can prevent your eyes from adapting)

– if you need a light, use one with a relatively low intensity and a red filter

– the show starts around 10 p.m., with #s of meteors gradually increasing as dawn approaches

Have you ever gone out of your way to view an astronomical wonder, or an earthly one?

Crazy Eights

Husband and I received a lovely clock for our wedding almost 35 years ago. It plays Westminster chimes, and has traveled with us from Winnipeg to Indiana to North Dakota.

The clock worked quite well until last year, when it just stopped. We took it to the nearest clock shop in Fargo, where they told us that the innards were all worn out and it needed new ones.  We had a choice of digital or traditional.  I like to wind it, so we had them install new inner workings from Germany. It keeps time again quite well, but it has some quirks that I find alarming.

Some days, randomly, at  8:00 am and/or 8:00 pm, it chimes  continuously for up to three minutes. It plays the Westminster chimes over and over, and then plays variations on the Westminster chimes. When it has got it out of its system,  it rings eight times and gets back to its quiet ticking. It only happens at 8:00.  Some days it doesn’t happen at all.

I don’t know what to think about this.  Ghosts?  Odd German clock maker humor?  Who knows?   I don’t feel like driving it all the way to Fargo for a repair, so we will just put up  with the “Crazy 8’s” and see what new Westminster variations we get.

Tell about some infernal machine problems. What do you think it feels like to be in a time warp?

 

Bad News Bears

Well, the news from the Supreme court is discouraging.  #45 rallied yesterday in Fargo.  The weeds in my garden are horrendous.  On the other hand, there was a gorgeous, huge moon last night. My cats are charming, and I am a part of several communities that are supportive and comforting.  To cap it all off, in 1820, on this date, the tomato was proven to be non poisonous by a Colonel Robert Gibbon, who ate a tomato on steps of the courthouse in Salem, New Jersey.

How do you keep going in trying times?  How has scientific experimentation (a la Colonel Gibbon) improved your life?

Siblings

It’s been three years since the New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by Pluto, but the non-planet is still in the news. And the latest news is that Pluto has a lot more in common with our own planet than was previously thought.

Pluto has dunes; they’re made of methane ice grains but are sculpted by winds that reach 24 miles per hour. This may not seem like much but since Pluto has less gravity, the wind doesn’t need to be as strong as here at home.  Pluto also has a wide variety of landforms like we do on Earth: plains, trenches and mountain ranges.  Pluto has snow-capped peaks of methane and Pluto may have an icy sea beneath its frozen surface.  Who knew?

If you could choose ANYONE to be your twin, who would it be?

Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer.

Four weeks ago the night after I had the useless shots in my back I could not sleep and decided at 3:00 a.m. to take out the garbage. When I opened the door to the garbage room, I walked into a wall of lights.

The owners of our building finagled two grants to install LED lights throughout the building at only slight cost. I have been hearing about this for a couple months and imagined, I suppose, a few small boxes of bulbs, not that pile, which is only half the bulbs for the hallways, security lights, garage lights, and parking lot lights. Another pile even larger was in the other garbage room at the other end of the building. Reminded me of a few stories of people who failed to estimate the weight and volume of pennies they either ordered or amassed. To be fair these new lights are not just bulbs; they need new fixtures. For instance all the standard recessed tube lights in the three stories will be replaced by a same size fixture holding several LED bulbs.

What also is surprising is how much brighter are the LED lights in the garage and hallways. Our yard is almost daylight from the new security light above us. I have avoided LED lights because they gave such dim light.

On Wednesday they will install LED lights in the attached lights in all apartments, which is nice for me because I cannot reach the ceiling lights. They will also cart away for free all of the fluorescent bulbs we have. Our apartment is about the average. It will get 27 new bulbs. The building has 65 apartments, plus eight other rooms to get bulbs. 27 times 65 equals 1,755 bulbs. Add in another four dozen to get, say, 1,800 or so. How big a pile will that be? I bet each will come in a protective carton. I happened to be in the Batteries Plus store recently. The owner noticed my address and said he was supplying just the bulbs. He, too, had underestimated the volume. The supplier told him the bulbs would have to be shipped to the apartment building because they would not fit in his strip mall store.

All the medical facilities in this town will soon get LED bulbs under a grant from the same sources. There are six large clinics and the massive hospital, plus a couple smaller ones. What will those piles look like? I am pleased for this change because the tube lights give me a bad headache while I wait around.

Estimation is a vital skill. Schools are doing more to teach it, for one thing to try to get kids not to just accept what their fancy graphing calculators say. I am usually rather good at estimation, except in extraordinary events like these lights. I am very good at estimating distances and travel times. For weights I am usually far off. I know what time it is quite well without using a clock, a skill I developed working outside as a child. I don’t have to be outside seeing the sun to do this. Not sure if this is estimation, but I almost always know which way is north. When I do get turned around, I get agitated. I used to astound my partner with this ability plus the ability to remember routes we took on a previous visit, sometimes months before. In the post and common roads of the Northeast that is a challenging skill.

The students used to be astounded by how the chemistry teacher and I could quickly estimate calculations and come close. He was a very intelligent man and knew rapid calculation skills. His estimations were often exact..

I am intrigued byhow computers find complex answers through a series of estimations instead of seeking an exact answer when it is not needed. This shortens the time for calculation, often by days.

How are you at estimation of volume, distance, weight, time needed for a task? Do you know what time it is without looking at a clock? Do you know which way is north on unfamiliar ground? Can you guess the number of beans in the jar? Do you always measure carefully for recipes?

Little Rebellions

My Uncle Wink (his real name is Arthur but he’s an Arthur Junior, so he’s always been known as Wink) is a dentist. As you can imagine, this means that dental health and hygiene was a huge deal in my house when I was growing up.  Brushing, flossing, two check-ups a year – the whole shebang.

And Crest toothpaste was the ONLY toothpaste allowed, decreed by Uncle Wink. And when I was younger, there weren’t any variations… no special flavors, no gels, no nothing.  This wasn’t too big a deal until I was in high school and different kind of toothpaste began to show up on grocery store shelves and the ads for fancy formulas that made your teeth shine and sparkle began to proliferate on tv and in magazines. But it didn’t matter to my Uncle Wink (and therefore to my mother).  Crest was the only sanctified toothpaste for us.

So when I moved into my first apartment in Northfield, one of the first things I bought for myself was a tube of Aquafresh. It came out of the tube in three stripes of white, red and aqua – an unheard of thing back then.  Every night when I brushed my teeth, I felt a little thrill of rebellion run down my spine!

 

These days I buy toothpaste by price or coupon, but if there isn’t much difference between pricing the day I’m standing in the toothpaste aisle, I always reach for Aquafresh. And I still feel that little thrill each night!

When have you rebelled?

Modern Marvels

My animals are costing me sleep.   For several months, my old cat (Zorro) has been hanging out downstairs, avoiding YA’s dog (Guinevere).  Then about a month or so ago, Zorro decided he would really like to spend time on the radiator in my room.  At night.  But he’s afraid of the dog and I don’t blame him; when she gets woken up suddenly she lunges at him.  She’s never actually touched him but I wouldn’t want a 50-lb shepherd mix lunging at me in the middle of the night either.  Zorro is quite vocal about this whole scenario and this has led to me getting out of bed, turning on the light and standing between the two of them while Zorro moves from the doorway to the radiator (although once Guinevere is fully awake, she doesn’t really care what Zorro does).  Once often twice a night.  Occasionally more than that.

One of the things that I know about Guinevere is that she is afraid of pretty much everything. If I put a 5” box in a doorway, she won’t jump over it, even though I know she can; I’ve seen her practically levitate 4 feet in the air in the backyard when she thinks she might get a rabbit or squirrel.  I thought if there was a way to have a barrier between the two, then Zorro could come in at his leisure, Guinevere couldn’t get to him with her lunge and hopefully I could get more sleep.

Since assuming I can train a cat is problematic, I didn’t want to go out and spend a bunch of money on gates or tunnels before I knew if I had proof of concept.   So I collected up some cardboard boxes and built a little wall that goes from the door to the bed.  It’s just cardboard and duct tape so not pretty at all and right now I have some shoes stabilizing it in the middle section.  The theory is that I can fold it up during the day and just take it out at night.

So far Zorro is not impressed and I think the contraption is confusing him a bit. I’ve been using treats to urge him on, but a couple of times, once he got about halfway, he just turned around and went back downstairs.  The good news is that I was correct and Guinevere won’t even consider going over the barrier.  Only 2 nights so far, so I’m still hopeful.

What major engineering feats to you admire?