Friday, July 22, 2011

Life intrudes.

I'm struggling with about 10 (literally) thorny problems here at the moment; some local, some much larger than that, all of them requiring my full brain- simultaneously. And it's hot.

So, of course, a great deal of my brain (and body) capacity is being devoted to just not exploding. Annoying the way that works.

Sitting at the computer, fingers clacking away on the keyboard as I crank out earth-shaking words the world desperately needs- Smidgen comes up the ladder and right up to me, obviously demanding attention. Using all available restraint, since interrupting me- while the keyboard is clacking- is something she knows is really, really, really going to cause trouble- I turn to her: and 100% of the brain shifts, dropping everything. There's a tear, and a wad of pink tissue paper she's holding to her mouth-

I'm a daddy. Just am. It's a fact; my kids are the most important thing in the world.

I look in her eyes, and it's clear she's not in dire distress.

"Is it your tooth?" I ask.

"Uh-huh. Look." And pulling the tissue away, there is the loose tooth she's been showing off for weeks- now protruding at a right angle - but very definitely still attached.

"Mom says you have to get it out."

Oh, really. Spice is passing the buck. And Smidgen is looking at me - like I will, of course, handle this.

At the speed of Google, my brain searches all - and I mean all- possible ways of weaseling out of this, and can find none that will not diminish me in Smidgen's eyes. Trapped.

My fingers don't look like useful tools here, the second incisor is tiny, tapering, and slippery; and the adjacent gums tender. Trying to grab and yank would have way too much trauma potential, for all involved.

Pliers? Oh, really not. My internal reference database on tooth extraction comes up with Mark Twain's amusing version from Tom Sawyer- the thread around the tooth, and a quick yank. If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. I call for thread.

That, at least, Spice provides. Tying a slip-knot noose in thread is tricky enough, and takes 3 tries before I have one I trust to do the job. Like chopping the head off a chicken- this is not a job you want to have to do twice.

Smidgen, who cries when mean people break toys in cartoons, is a rock in any real crisis; she stands steady and trusts me to do the right thing. Hard to explain how much that matters.

I manage, with huge fat fingers, to slip the thread around what I think is the right place on the miniscule slippery bit of ivory; snug the noose up, and while chatting with Smidgen like we're not quite ready to do this yet, my hind brain pulls the trigger, surprising both Smidgen and I, and the yank happens...

No tooth. What? Did the noose slip off? Tooth fly across the room? I'm going to have to do this again??

Surprise, the thread noose just snipped through the tiny remaining bit of gum tissue, and the tooth, now out, is still there, slightly stuck to her lower lip. Got it.

All the trauma, imaginary in any case, is over, now it's all pure fun.

I wouldn't be surprised if this photo comes back to haunt her, in her teenage years. What you have here is a very goofy-looking kid, with swimming-pool hair, and a nice new gap in the teeth. It is pretty distorted by the "close-up-clown-nose" effect of the camera. I assure you, this is a child who has repeatedly drawn "what a beautiful little girl!" comments from total strangers. No, really. Hard to tell here, I have to admit- though as daddy, I can still see the beautiful little girl while looking at the Huck Finn Grin.

Off she goes.

And for today- I'm a success.

That'll keep me going a while.

(ps. If you wanna see the beautiful version; here's one.)

And some GOOD oddball science...

Coming hard on the heels of Silly Science, here is a totally simple-minded little experiment- which turns out to be brilliant; and I'd have to predict a classic demonstration for all students of physics, mathematics, and music, for eons to come:

This one was built at Harvard; and in the very best scientific tradition, they do not take the credit for it:

"Our apparatus was built from a design published by Richard Berg {Am J Phys 59(2), 186-187 (1991)} at the University of Maryland. He claims their version is copied from one at Moscow State University and they claim to have seen it first in the US, so we don't know who made one first. The apparatus we have was designed and built by Nils Sorensen."

And it came to me via email from my brother, who spends way too much time wandering the ether... :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trivial. Maybe.

I'm not really a fan of "scientist bashing"- ridiculing various research reports because they seem foolish. In a huge number of cases, work that seems trivial to the casual observer may actually have some real merit, when viewed by a specialist. I've even gone on record here as bashing the bashers- Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" being an egregious example of anti-intellectual pandering (in the comments here.)

But! Sometimes stuff really is silly. This one just escapes me- and there is a real significant question it raises - when do we "know" something?

Researchers in the UK have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money- to discover that- wearing 50 lbs of steel armor will make you more tired than not wearing it.

In the formal abstract for the research, they state: "How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers' locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown."

And end up with "Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers' physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles." Translation: old soldiers have a hard time carrying lots of steel, and maybe gasping for breath could have affected their performance."

I have to tell you- I really think "we", as in scholars interested in the field - "knew" that before the treadmill tests.

But there are a growing number of researchers who actually believe that if something is not published in a journal they recognize, then in fact we do NOT know it.

It may seem trivial- but I think it may not be. How do we decide what is in our joint pool of "true" information?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

So speaking of the weather...

Ran into this one today. We're still feeling miffed at Ma Nature for the tornado hit, followed a week later by heavy straight-line winds that knocked down a few more trees, including some quite valuable ones.

So, with weather on the mind, I took a look when the teaser about a "Phoenix haboob" popped up. Haboob being an Arabic derived word for a big duststorm.

This is a fabulous video. Particularly if you're in an apocalyptic mind frame. I recommend full screen.

The Phoenix Haboob of July 5th, 2011 from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

I've always considered there were many reasons not to live in Phoenix (lack of water, for example) - but this pretty much makes it certain I'll not be moving there. :-)

Apparently these things are not exactly uncommon there- it's just not featured on any of their tourist info or Chamber of Commerce hand outs.