Monday, July 13, 2009

The Big Bang Theory...

The fact that I live in a five-bedroom apartment initially shocks people. The fact that I live with four guys deepens that astonishment. But the real icing on the cake is the fact three are physicists, well, candidates for their Ph.D.s in the field. 

The picture to the left is my very first attempt at cake decorating with any effort. It is a replication of the issue of "Nature" in which my German roommate was published last year. Do not ask me what that white/red/green blob is. I didn't know then, and I don't know now. But it is faithfully represented in frosting.

I often explain my life as a version of the Penny character in "The Big Bang Theory," which I don't think my roommates appreciate all that much, considering the degree to which stereotypes are exaggerated on that show. It is, however, apt. I'm about as far from science-minded as they come, yet most of my new friends are physicists. I think the best example of this is having gone to a good-bye party for a science friend a few weeks ago and watching, stunned, as someone made ice cream using frozen nitrogen (I think). 

Regardless (or perhaps because) of my lack of aptitude in this area, what my roommates (including the one who recently moved to France for two years to join an experiment) can do amazes me. So today's post is dedicated to cool things in science.

Several of my friends (or their wives) have recently had babies and several more are due in the next few months. So this story on caught my eye. A pilot study by the University of Toronto has shown evidence that a redesign in delivery rooms may be in order. By moving the bed to the corner of the room to allow for more space to move around the room as well as adding visually and aurally stimulation, the need for a drug that speeds up slow deliveries was decreased. Some women even reported an overall more connected and pleasant birthing experience. also had a story on the other end of the life spectrum. Testing done in mice who are the equivalent of the human age of 60 has shown a compound found in the soil of Easter Island can extend lifespans. Testing done on 20 month-old mice shows a 28-38 percent extension in lifespan. This verges into creepy science fiction a little for me, but apparently the compound can also be used in cancer treatments (yay!) and other drug therapies as well. 

Finally, has a story that I can wrap my head around. Fifteen years and $3 million later, Tim Kehoe has invented colored bubbles. When I was little I used to love blowing bubbles outside. I chased them around the yard and tried to catch them again on the tip of my bubblewand. I remember the spritz I used to get when they burst. Apparently bubbles as entertainment have been around for 400 years, but in all that time, no one had been able to figure out how to dye the bubbles without staining whatever came in contact with the bubbles upon bursting. The guy in this story has a pretty funny sense of humor, at one point likening an experiment with red dye to a scene from "Braveheart." 

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