Quickies

Skepchick Quickies, 7.19

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Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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8 Comments

  1. I saw the chart on “Orac’s” blog. This is GREAT! It’s funny, when I was in med school ( I’m a D.O. ) I never could grasp the cranial part. I thought I was incompetent when I couldn’t feel the rhythm; now I know I simply couldn’t be swayed by peer pressure. Yay me.

  2. Firstly, I have to support any JW reference FTW.

    Secondly, though Mr. Kean’s book on the periodic table looks like a good read, and something that I will probably get, his [excerpted] section on mercury has some inconsistencies. The reason that free liquid mercury retains a droplet form has to do with surface tension, not that it is an element. Liquid mercury will combine with other materials (see dental amalgam). Water and oil, both referred to in the cite will form stable droplets on non-wetting surfaces (for example either one on the other). Neither water nor oil is an elemental substance, so clearly being an element is not essential to mercury’s beading behavior. It is all about surface energy and wettability.

  3. I had my own animals-vs-science experience many years ago, although a little indirectly.

    My master’s thesis was on data analysis for a cosmic ray experiment. The detectors were on a mountain ridge (about 1600m altitude). There was an electronics hut with racks of analog-to-digital converters and three computers which would write the data to optical disks. (This was leading edge tech at the time – before you could record to CDs.)

    The ridge had tussock and ‘vegetable sheep’ vegetation, and pretty much the only vertebrates were mice, kea and scientists. It was also subject to very high winds. (Each detector was held down by five 60kg blocks of concrete — lugged into position by us graduate students.)

    Now imagine you’re a mouse living in this enviroment. The electronics hut is easy to get into (there were hundreds of coax cables entering through the floor) and out of the wind. Once inside, you seek warmth: those computers are putting out a few watts. And you find a way inside. Now the warmest spot inside is on that handy mouse-sized black square. (The CPU – they didn’t need heatsinks back then.) Mmmm – nice and cozy here – but you need to urinate. What the heck, you’re a mouse – no need to leave the nice warm spot.

    Result: several computers needed to be replaced, and the new ones were carefully mouseproofed. (I only heard about this – I didn’t actually see the result of mouse-urination-on-motherboard for myself.)

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