7th and 7th

A couple of weeks ago my sister called me up and asked if I was up for an adventure.  Of course! It's nice to get out of the house during these cold winter months. She asked if we wanted to go to Gilgal Gardens.  Another of course!  And with Banbury Cross doughnuts just around the corner, we made it a sugary adventure.  It was still pretty cold, but we warmed up with maple and chocolate and had ourself a good time.  Then we took Jess a doughnut at work and played in his office a bit. It's times like these that make January fun.


bp's science: singing together brings hearts together

Swedish researchers took a group of 15 people and studied their heart rates while they sang together.  They found that the singers' heart rates became the same as they sang together, rising and decreasing when the music tempo changed.  Researchers suggest that this heart rate unity is, in part, caused by the similar breathing patterns required for singing together.  They also suggest that singing brings oneness and unity.  In an interview with CNN, Bjorn Vickhoff, the chief researcher, commented, "Ultimately the knowledge that singing coordinates hearts is mind-blowing. If we, for instance, start singing a slow hymn together in church, we now know that the hearts in the hall are coordinated. And the thrilling question is: How does this affect us?"  I bet we all can make some educated guesses.  I am a firm believer in the positive power of music.



Ansel did this a while back at 9 months and he was loving it! We call this broomstick and I look forward to a baby learning it just like I look forward to a baby crawling or walking.  Very cool.


bp's science: why do apples brown after being sliced?

When apples are sliced, the moisture in the apple causes oxygen in the air to attach itself to the apple molecules (if we are getting specific, the enzyme polyphenol oxidase) and cause browning.

Now we must briefly pause and talk about oxidation.  Here is a simple explanation pulled from my handy copy of 730 Easy Science Experiments with Everyday Materials

When one substance gives oxygen to another, chemists say it is "reduced," and the substance that receives the oxygen is said to be "oxidized." Confused? Think of it this way: You have ten balls that stand for oxygen and a friend takes seven of them.  Your friend would be oxidized, because he received extra oxygen from you, but you would be reduced because you lost some of your oxygen.

In the apple example, the air gives oxygen to the apple and so the apple has oxidized.  But wait!  You can stop or slow down this reaction with a reducing agent (defined by google as a substance that tends to bring about reduction by being oxidized...), or in other words a substance that would be willing to take the oxygen from the air so the apple would not react with the air and cause oxidation.  One excellent reducing agent is lemon juice.  It is very acidic (containing ascorbic acid/vitamin C) and will react with oxygen first so that it can't react with the enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) in the apple.  Thus, the lemon juice is oxidized and the apple (enzyme) is not.

Still confused?  I sure was back in my Chemistry class in high school.  I remember the test on redox reactions and it was my lowest test score ever.  It was because I answered everything exactly opposite of what it was supposed to be.  The term "reduced" made me think that a molecule is losing something when in fact it is when it is gaining something, more specifically, gaining electrons.  And a reducing agent was something that brought about reduction by being oxidized.  In fact, all of this is still counter intuitive to me and it takes my brain a while to calibrate. 

For a more detailed explanation of the molecules, reactions, and history of the topics discussed in the post see here.  It sure helped me broaden my understanding.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in bp's science are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any individual scientist, scientific association or the scientific community as a whole. The scientific information provided on bp's science is, at best, of a general nature and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed or trained scientist, i.e., a competent authority with specialized knowledge who can apply it to a particular set of facts and circumstances. Please contact a local scientific society or similar association of scientists in your area if you require a referral for a particular scientific question or experiment.  Neither the author of bp's science nor anyone else connected to this blog can take any responsibility for the results or consequences of any attempt to use or adopt any of the information or disinformation presented on this blog.


Is that me?

Loving the camera feature on the iPad.  Just look at the joy on that kidlet's face.


Book Review: The Great Divorce

Gee, it's been a while since I've posted a book review.  Reading has not received priority around here, even when I had a great book like C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce.  This book is a study on the differences between Heaven and Hell when measured within the characteristics of a person.  It doesn't go into too much detail about the physical surroundings of each place, but really focuses on what keeps a person from accepting Heaven when they have every chance to.  This book will make you think.  And like all C.S. Lewis works, the words open up a pathway to delve deeper into the thoughts and ideas he presents.  Good stuff.  My sister mentioned that this book would probably be better well-known if the title was different, and I tend to agree.  I had no idea what it would be about but picked it up because I like C.S. Lewis.  What could be a better title?  Get Off the Bus?  No.  You Just Need to Give Up Your Selfish Ways?  No.  Choose Heaven or Hell?  Would those make you want to read it?  The original title is sounding better and better now.


bp's science: other planets out there like earth

Recently, I heard that scientists are making discoveries about planets in other galaxies.  Specifically, they have been involved in the search for planets that have earth-like characteristics and could possibly house living inhabitants.  Using telescopes and measuring the light given off by stars, scientists are able to deduce that there are planets out there that are earth-like.  The planets (and one planet in particular) are about the same distance from the center star as our earth is from the sun and the planet(s) are about the same size, maybe a bit bigger.  This has lead them to speculate about the type of life that could exist on the planets, given the increase in gravity because the planet is just a bit bigger.  It is wild stuff.  If you are at all interested, try watching Alien Planets Revealed on PBS.

And by the way, PBS has some excellent programs on right now, don't you think?  Jess and I are enjoying:
Downton Abbey | yes, we are still watching regardless of the ending of last season
Sherlock Holmes | to begin next week
The Poisoner's Handbook | fascinating stuff about forensic science and how it began
Chasing Shackleton | shocking and somewhat painful to watch especially if you've read Endurance


A Hawaiian Christmas

We spent this past Christmas in the delightful rays of the Hawaiian sunshine.  We were spoiled.  Oliver woke up and immediately went to the beach, jumped in the ocean, and wrote in the sand.  Ansel crawled all over the shore (making a snail trail in the sand) and then he'd head for the water.  He was going non-stop.  You should have seen the kid's knees; by the end of the day, they were as dirty as could be from climbing all over the place.  Jess and I basked in the sun, relaxed, enjoyed good food.  But best of all, we enjoyed good company since we were there with Jess' family.  Jess' parents made it possible.  We did everything from open ocean kayaking to snorkeling to hiking to enjoying a pineapple ice cream cone (or Dole whip).  Before we left, Oliver asked, "Will home be sunny like Hawaii?"  I think - no, I know - we all wished that it would be.  I don't think any of us were ready to leave.

We wake up super early (due to time change) and took in the beautiful sunrise, it was worth it

Ansel and Jess up at the summit of the Makapu'u lighthouse hike

Our view at the top

Enjoying the splendor that is Hawaii

Oliver climbs a huge tree!

Lots of good times on the beach in the sand

Look at that pineapple!

Palm Circle is a sight I love

The sunset at Waikiki

This kid loved crawling in the sand, he even had a few bites but decided it was not for him


bp's science: smartphones are great, but give yourself a break sometimes

This week's bit is taken from The Week's December 27, 2013 issue:

"Smartphones make it easy to socialize and search the internet, but the ability to constantly connect can have a downside.  A new study of 500 college students found that those who use their cellphones most often are likely to be less happy, more anxious, and less successful students than those who sometimes ignore them. "There is no 'me' time or solitude left in some of these students' lives," Kent State University researcher Andrew Lepp tells the Daily Mail (U.K.). "I think mental health requires a bit of personal alone time to reflect, look inward, process life's events, and just recover from daily stressors."  After tracking the students' cellphone use, Lepp and his team found that those who could put their cellphones aside for periods of time earned higher GPAs and experienced less anxiety and greater happiness in their lives than more frequent users. "The social network sometimes just makes me feel a little bit tied to my phone," one student said. "It makes me feel like I have another obligation in my life."


Hawaii in bad gif

This gif does not do our Hawaiian trip justice, but who doesn't like a gif?

gif maker


To lean back or not to lean back

We recently look at trip as a family. It was a splendid time, complete with sandy beach days to kayaking in the open ocean. More on that later. But first, to get there, we had to take a plane. And thankfully, the plane ride was very smooth considering we have two children who like to be up and doing things. Oliver was very happy with a gift that grandma gave him before the flight: ABC stencils (who knew a child could be entertained by a set of stencils for over 6 hours? Plus, he is still using them as I am typing this very post). And Ansel slept a good bit and was entertained by toys fairly easily. We had nothing to complain about.

But this very trip prompted a conversation between Jess and me. A conversation about leaning chairs back in airplanes. There are two types of people in this situation: (1) those who lean their chairs back and (2) those who do not.

I am in the second camp. I never lean my chair back. I feel bad about doing so and therefore never do it. The place is pretty small anyway, and if I lean my chair back that lessens the space for the person behind me by about, what is it? Like 10 millimeters? And if the person behind me is a person who does not lean their chair back, then they are really going to be feeling it like I have, on numerous flights, because, like I said before, I never lean my chair back.

Then there are those who lean their chair back. They bought the ticket. They have the right to 10 more millimeters of comfort and they are going to take it. In fact, there are those who really can't wait to get that space. They lean that chair back the very minute the captain comes on and says, "We have reached so-many-thousand feet." They do it quick and settle right in, adjusting their bodies into the most comfortable position that the extra millimeters has allowed them and continue to snooze throughout the flight. Then there are others who try to lean their chair back slowly and as kindly as possible, as if to say, "Hey you back there, I'm sorry about this but I kind of want to be comfortable. And you know, you can lean back too if you want to. Again, I apologize." They may even lean that chair back in seemingly unnoticeable increments of 3 millimeters each. And then there are those who are not apologetic at all. In fact, they kind of tease you with the lean back. They decide to lean their seat way back, trying to push it beyond the 10 millimeters, to will it beyond the 10 millimeters. But no matter how far the chair goes back, they refuse to lean their body back and settle in. No, they eat a snack or play a game or type on their computers or talk all while sitting straight up. Leaving a void in that 10 millimeters. A void of suffering for the person behind them. A void of mockery for them.

This leads me to the two types of responses a person can have when a person has pushed their chair back. But I will leave that for another time.


Happy New Year 2014

It's the sunrise of a new year (okay, I just came up with that saying so I could share this awesome photo Jess snapped during our holiday)!

Here's to wishing you all a wonderful 2014!