Science hurts

After an unplanned scientific experiment I conducted this morning while cleaning out a pantry cupboard, I recorded the following observations:

-Cheeze-Its™ brand snack crackers decay in a non-exponential fashion, with a half-life of roughly 18 months from time of initial unsealing.

-When smashing one’s head forcefully into an open cabinet door to the extent that stars and birds become visible, said stars and birds revolve around the victim’s head in acounter-clockwise orbit, rather than a clockwise pattern as commonly depicted in both classic and contemporary cartoons1.

  1. see also: Tunes, Looney; anvils.
posted 8/29/09 at 10:08am to Science!, Slightly Too Long For Twitter · 0 replies · permalink

“An experiment to put pressure on the eye”


I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.

If [the] experiment were done in a light roome so [that] though my eyes were shut some light would get through their lidds There appeared a greate broade blewish darke circle outmost (as ts), & [within] that another light spot srs whose colour was much like [that] in [the] rest of [the] eye as at k. Within [which] spot appeared still another blew spot r espetially if I pressed my eye hard & [with] a small pointed bodkin. & outmost at vt appeared a verge of light.

[illustration and text From Isaac Newton’s handwritten notebook essay ‘Of Colours’, c. 1666]

I cannot even apply eyedrops without flinching, and Isaac Newton willingly stuck a bodkin1 into his eye socket and rubbed it around, just to see what would happen.

We all celebrate Newton as a genius, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that he was also the height of 17th century whatthefuckery.

  1. The kind of bodkin which was likely, in Newton’s time, a long and blunt needle used as a hairpin. Think of it as the equivalent of jamming a modern butter knife into your eye. Yeah.
posted 8/6/09 at 3:33pm to History, Science!, WTF? · 8 replies · permalink

Sector 7G

Slouching towards Bethlehem is a photo essay by Martin Miller on The Manhattan Project — J. Robert Oppenheimer’s program to develop the first nuclear weapon.

All I could think of when I saw this photo is that it’s what Homer Simpson’s workstation would look like in real life.

(via David Kaneda)

posted 7/15/09 at 9:32am to Geekery, Science! · 1 reply · permalink


Blown glass bottle, Roman, circa 1st century CE

For that awesome artifact-digger-upper @bsheepies.

posted 5/29/09 at 3:20pm to Art, Photography, Random, Science! · 0 replies · permalink

Intellectual infrastructure

On his DotEarth blog at the NYT, Andrew Revkin talks about the need to rebuild the nation’s intellectual infrastructure as part of the growing call to center an economic revival around so-called “green jobs”.

Rebuilding the actual physical infrastructure is all well and good, he argues, before going on to declare that so far there is very little public talk about the massive spending on non-defense research and development that would be required to make such a “green” economic revival possible.

His points all make complete sense; yes, money alone will not help the technical problems and yes, we need to reestablish science as a pillar of our educational system.

Yet with many research universities facing massive devaluations of their endowments and higher education becoming less affordable (if not impossible) for even many upper-middle-class families, I wonder if there will be enough properly educated domestic brainpower to even conduct the amount of R&D Revkin calls for.

At the risk of being called a socialist1, I don’t see any reason why part of an economic recovery plan can’t include federal grants for college students who pursue science degrees related to the green technologies being tapped as the key to an economic turnaround. That’s not to say that other fields aren’t as important, but if we’re collectively agreeing that we’re fundamentally behind in R&D in the green science we’re depending on to pull us out of recession, shouldn’t we be enabling the intellectual infrastructure by actually getting students into research programs?

  1. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
posted 12/11/08 at 11:36am to Our Doomed Planet, Politics, Science! · 1 reply · permalink