Archive for the 'Body' Category

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

How Radioactive (In Bananas) is the Room You’re Sitting in Right Now?

They only mention building materials in the paper’s abstract, so this ignores C-14 decay, which is important because people are radioactive, too — any accounting of the radioactivity of a room should be compared with what you can’t avoid because it’s an internal dose.

License to Killjoy

Did James Bond Want His Martinis ‘Shaken, Not Stirred’ Because Of An Alcohol-Induced Tremor?

James Bond’s famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” may have stemmed from his inability to stir his drinks due to an alcohol-induced tremor affecting his hands, researchers reveal in a new, tongue-in-cheek medical report.

Such a tremor would be likely in a spy who drank more than four times the recommended limit of alcohol throughout his missions, they said, writing in a special Christmas issue of the BMJ — a lighthearted edition of the medical journal that includes real research.

As the HuffPo notes, this is not serious (though this has gotten a lot of play and not all articles make this observation), but I’m going to be a killjoy anyway and apply Betteridge’s Law: the answer is no.

It’s not because of the silliness of applying medical analysis to a frikkin’ fictional character, or that the fictional data is anecdotal in nature, or even that the fictional empirical evidence says no, because Bond was a crack shot with his pistol. It’s because Bond was ordering the drinks, not mixing them himself. A tremor is moot.

But there’s more to this. One version I read (and unfortunately I can’t find the link to the specific article, but several versions are out there) included a description that a properly mixed martini would be stirred, and with a thin wooden spoon, rather than a metal one which would raise the temperature of the drink. This is baloney, but probably a case of right answer, wrong reason. The reasoning is wrong, because the drink is mixed with ice, so the final temperature is going to be the same — probably the temperature of the ice cubes.

I say probably because this is most likely not the case like where you have a pure water/ice mixture, which stays at 0 ºC because of the phase change going on. In the drink you will have a mixture or alcohol and water, and the freezing point will be lower. For a 50/50 mix, the freezing point will be -32 ºC, and the ice is probably warmer than that — freezers don’t generally get that cold. (dissolving things in water lowers the freezing point, and this is a colligative property, meaning it depends on how much stuff you have dissolved. It’s why putting salt on ice tends to melt it if you’re near 0 ºC: there’s always a little water, and when the salt dissolves the solution freezes at a lower temperature, which allows the ice to melt)

If the final temperature is independent of the spoon type, then what’s right about this? The metal spoon will absorb more energy from the solution, so while the final temperature is unaffected, this will tend to melt more of the ice, and that will water down the drink. From a thermodynamic standpoint that is more likely why you want to use a wooden spoon. Some years ago there was an episode of the West Wing where the president was complaining about “shaken, not stirred” in the context that shaking makes the ice chip, and small chips won’t get strained out when you pour the drink, which also has the effect of watering the drink down.

All of this reminds me that my parents used to complain about “shaken, not stirred” when we’d see these movies on TV. My dad was a bartender at one point, and the complaint (from both) was that shaking would bruise the alcohol. I knew enough science to know that this could not be literally true, but I never got an explanation of what “bruising” really was; I assumed that it was a euphemism for something undesirable and left it at that. Now that the internet exists, I can find something calling itself the martini FAQ and see that this is a matter of aeration.

Another addendum to this is that the link I can’t find had in it a link to some martini information, in which it was claimed that a dry martini had a lot of dry vermouth in it, but claimed that recently this had changed to mean very little (or no) vermouth. Well, that doesn’t jibe with the bartender joke I know where someone asks for a dry martini and the bartender asks how dry they want it. To which the customer responds, “Just whisper ‘vermouth’ over the glass.” That joke is probably older than I am, so no vermouth = dry is not a recent trend.

Knock Me Down With a Feather*

*Knocking me down with a feather is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Copper Bracelets, Magnetic Wrist Straps Fail to Help Rheumatoid Arthritis

I had noted a long time ago that based on the proposed mechanism, there was no basis to expect magnetic bracelets to work. No real surprise that they don’t.

The research published in PLOS ONE, show that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful therapeutic effects beyond those of a placebo, which was not magnetic and did not contain copper.

I like that they point this out about the placebos.

It’s No “Alan Parsons Project”

Physics Buzz and Uncertain Principles take on the plausibility of a purported x-ray death beam that was recently in the news.

Fermi Problem Friday: X-Ray Assassins

On “Death Rays”

Goldilocks and the Laser Pointer

Most Laser Pointers Are Too Strong

This seems a little … unfinished.

Neither the story nor the referenced study mention if the lasers are all supposed to be 5 mW and thus class IIIa (or 3R), or if, as one link claims, there are higher-power lasers that aren’t limited by this threshold because they aren’t marketed as laser pointers. Or if the violation isn’t that they are claiming 5 mW and exceeding it, but rather they are incorrectly (and presumably illegally) calling the more powerful devices laser pointers and listing them as class III/3R.

Then there was this claim.

Green lasers use a shorter wavelength of light than red ones, making them brighter and more dangerous.

This was lifted from the included link, but lacking the detail found in another link. Green lasers aren’t brighter simply because they have a shorter wavelength. If that were true, a blue laser would be brighter still, and they aren’t. In fact green lasers must fire fewer photons per second at you than red lasers do, if they all have the same power. What makes the green brighter is your eye. The eye’s response to light isn’t constant across the spectrum — it’s much better at absorbing (and thus detecting) green light then either red or blue, so the green light has a better chance at doing damage.

Seeing Red. Or the Opposite.

Why Do Doctors Wear Green Or Blue Scrubs?

Green could help physicians see better for two reasons. First, looking at blue or green can refresh a doctor’s vision of red things, including the bloody innards of a patient during surgery. The brain interprets colors relative to each other. If a surgeon stares at something that’s red and pink, he becomes desensitized to it. The red signal in the brain actually fades, which could make it harder to see the nuances of the human body. Looking at something green from time to time can keep someone’s eyes more sensitive to variations in red

I’ve noticed the opposite effect in the lab; when I work with lasers I wear laser safety glasses, which block the wavelength being used, and for quite a while this has been in the NIR. The glasses block everything above ~650 nm, so the glasses look bluish-green and deprives your eyes of any red light. After taking them off, everything has a pink hue to it.

Synaesthesia

Synaesthesia and savant syndrome: are we all superhuman?

“There are numerous different kinds of synaesthesia,” Professor Brogaard began. “One of the most common forms is grapheme-colour synaesthesia, which is where letters or numbers give rise to specific colours. There are people who have so-called mirror-touch synaesthesia who experience the feeling of being touched when they see other people being touched. There are others who see colours when they taste something and some people even see colours when they feel fear.”

I Know What You Did Last Summer, Based on Isotopic Ratios in Your Hair and Fingernails

Stable Isotopes in Forensics

[L]et’s follow a raindrop from the Pacific Ocean to Saltair Sally’s strand of hair. When water evaporates from the ocean, the heavier molecules containing deuterium and tritium and oxygen-18 do not evaporate as readily and are left behind in greater numbers. As droplets gather into clouds and eventually fall as rain, the heavier molecules fall first. This means rainwater in regions closer to oceans and large lakes is isotopically enriched compared with regions farther inland. Isotope levels are again fractionated in drinking water depending on whether it is drawn from wells or reservoirs (lighter isotopes more easily evaporate from the surface of reservoirs). Currently, scientists are busily creating maps of various isotopes’ distributions to assist investigators.
If Saltair Sally had been in Salt Lake City in the weeks preceding her death, the hair closest to her scalp would reflect the isotopic signature of Salt Lake City’s local water supply. If she had been in, say, Seattle instead, her hair’s isotopic composition would be different, giving investigators a valuable clue.

Coming Soon? To a CSI Near You

Pacemaker hacker says worm could possibly ‘commit mass murder’

There’s a conundrum of security vs access for medical devices that use WiFi access — you don’t want doctors being shut out because they don’t have the password, but no safeguards means that anyone can hack in and disrupt the hardware.

Besides reverse engineering a pacemaker to deliver a deadly shock from 30 – 50 feet away, he demonstrated how he could rewrite the devices’ onboard firmware. Jack also said it possible to upload malicious firmware to servers that would be capable of infecting pacemakers and ICDs. “We are potentially looking at a worm with the ability to commit mass murder,” Jack said. “It’s kind of scary.”

Can’t wait to see this as a TV plot, though.

Let’s Drink Beer. For Science!

Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages

Participants were 60% slower to consume an alcoholic beverage from a straight glass compared to a curved glass. This effect was only observed for a full glass and not a half-full glass, and was not observed for a non-alcoholic beverage. Participants also misjudged the half-way point of a curved glass to a greater degree than that of a straight glass, and there was a trend towards a positive association between the degree of error and total drinking time.

Wait, degree of error increased with total drinking time? Nooooooooooo!

It’s Always More Complicated Than You Think

The Hidden Truths About Calories

Odds are you sometimes think about calories. They are among the most often counted things in the universe. When the calorie was originally conceived it was in the context of human work. More calories meant more capacity for work, more chemical fire with which to get the job done, coal in the human stove. Fat, it has been estimated, has nine calories per gram, carbohydrates and proteins just four; fiber is sometimes counted separately and gets awarded a piddling two. Every box of every food you have ever bought is labeled based on these estimates, too bad then that they are so often wrong.

Everything Old is New Again

Get the lead out: Have we already forgotten this lesson?

[R]egardless, the analysis has been done; lead remediation is still a screamingly good deal. Lead remains one of the most common and harmful pollutants in the country; it’s often present in old paint and settles into soil, particularly in urban areas. One comprehensive study concluded that “each dollar invested in lead paint hazard control results in a return of $17–$221.” And that study focused on current, laborious methods of lead remediation. As it happens, scientists have developed a new, cheaper method — mixing fish bones into soil (!) — to absorb lead and render it nontoxic. Pretty cool stuff. Imagine what more research and funding could do.

Instead, federal funding for lead-poisoning prevention programs has been brutally slashed

I’m hoping the anti-spending reflex can be excised from our politics and replaced by the recognition that investment is a good idea. When the return on the spending exceeds the spending, it is a wise thing to do.

The elimination of lead from gasoline is a paradigmatic triumph of American environmentalism. A danger to health was discovered by scientists. Public-health advocates and greens pushed and pushed for decades, often futilely, to get the government to take action. When EPA finally cranked up efforts to do something about it, the agency was viciously attacked. Industry shills said it was an agenda to control Americans’ lives, driven by scientists who wanted research money and a cabal of extreme environmentalists. They said there were no viable alternatives to lead and the regulations would raise gas prices and destroy the economy. They paid their own scientists to produce counter-evidence. They flooded politicians with money.

Gosh, sound familiar? The EPA prevailed, but these tactics no doubt delayed the result and increased the damage done.

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