Tag Archives: Science

The Amazing Clock Batteries

I was Bar Mitzvahed on December 3, 1988.  That day, I received a slew of gifts, as any young Jewish man becoming a Bar Mitzvah does.  One of the gifts I received was a Seiko “World Clock” from the Webber family.  I remember using it almost immediately, so either December 4 or December 5 of 1988 is when I gave the clock its first breath of life.

ClockThe clock came with generic batteries.  They were a brand called “National Hi-Top.”  I can’t say I’d ever heard of them — before or since — however, I used them anyway. This clock became my “main” clock right away.  I used it beginning at age 13 for school.  Its distinctive alarm chime – “Beep beep beep beep! Beep beep beep beep! Beep beep beep beep! New York: six forty-eight, AM!” would repeat ad nauseum until I dragged myself out of bed to turn it off.

Nonetheless, the World Clock worked for me through the remainder of junior high, all of high school, and all of college without flinching.  Sometime around the end of college I started to realize that the batteries in the clock had lasted a pretty long time.  In fact, the were about to mark a decade of action despite being in use 24 hours a day for 10 straight years and housing an alarm deployed over 200 days a year.

December 4, 1998, I called my parents to let them know that the National Hi-Tops were still kicking.

I noted sometime in December of 2003 that the clock was still plugging away, marking 15 years of action.  Pretty impressive for a clock, but much more impressive for generic batteries.  If you go to your local CVS, Walgreens, or where ever you buy your batteries, you’ll note that batteries generally have an “expiration date” about 10 years hence.  This is because, in time, the liquid inside a battery can dry.  The lifespan of a shelved battery is about a decade.

BatteriesSo imagine my surprise come December 2008, when my little clock celebrated its twentieth year of service.  I’m not entirely sure that this is common today in either batteries or electronics, to have a solid build like this.  My clock has journeyed from the confines of Simsbury, CT, to Harrisonburg, VA and back many times.  It moved with me through Virginia from Vienna to Fairfax to Arlington to Fairlington, then to Florida from to Orlando, Deltona, and Altamonte… twice.  This clock has actually been with me, on the same batteries, for more of my life than it hasn’t.  Pretty crazy.

Sometime in the last year or two, I moved on to a different clock for day to day use largely because there is no snooze button on the world clock.  However, it still sits here in our house running.  When I played with it last week, upon tapping the time zone keys, I noticed the electric, but very British lady’s voice began to warble a little.  The ol’ girl has since gotten back on track, but it was the first sign she has ever shown of aging.

tn_clocksm31tn_clocksm41 I love my world clock, but mostly I love that she just keeps hanging in there. It’s gone from a hope that the clock survives to a simple interest in seeing how long the batteries will live. It’s impossible to predict how long AA batteries should last, as that fact is governed entirely by the device they are powering and much much power it draws.  However, I think it’s safe to conclude that these are fairly extraordinary.

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How Funny is “Fart for Free”?

I was stuck in pretty terrible traffic last night, as a result, the 5 mile commute home took well over an hour forty five, during which time, I had to entertain a 15 month old. To pass the time, my daughter and I conducted an experiment: to find out which of the 16 fart noises that come in the iPhone’s “Fart for Free” application is funniest.

Fart for Free

Fart for Free

I can now report the results.

I find fart #6 to be funniest. Each time I listen to it, I continue to laugh, unlike some of the others, which are funny the first time but no longer surprising or funny thereafter. 1 is good, a simple pop, but 6 continues to make everyone laugh.

But the science part of it is thus: will a 15 month old, who doesn’t speak any real English, whose comprehension is limited to just a few short syllables, find any fart funny at all?

The answer is an enthusiastic yes! Jillian found fart #13 to the funniest, if her reaction is to be believed. She did not laugh at all at fart #1, however, she gave a good smile for #6. She cried during farts 10 and 11, which either means she didn’t find the herald blast variety funny or she was fed up with her car seat, but I’m inclined to believe the former, given that 13 led to fantastic laughter.

There you go: the most objective viewpoint, someone who, thus far is ambivalent towards farts as a whole, someone who has no preference for any particular brand of fart humor, someone who has no sense of embarrassment in this arena, a blank slate, totally unmarred by experience or shame laughed hardest at fart #13. Another great human mystery has been solved: the funniest variety of fart sound effect.

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The Blue Fugates

I came across a crazy story about a rural Kentucky orphan name Martin Fugate, who, along with many generations of his descendants, it appears, had blue skin! The condition was due to a missing enzyme in his blood.

What was even crazier about this was that due inbreeding (not so much brother-sister as about 5 families continuing to refold similar genes into the same genetic pot), the recessive condition remained active for over a century. Even wilder than that was that by taking the proper supplement, the body could be oserved slowly changing from blue to pink! Searching the web will yield several versions of “The Blue People of Troublesome Creek,” a 1982 article that introduced the Fugate story to the world.

Fugate Family

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Evolution in Progress?

Humanity is wonderful. It’s naught short of amazing to see science in action. Humans are the only animal in the world to drink the milk of other animals. But in the last hundred years or so, what do we see? Calcium is available in many other places, and milk still has to be pasteurized and homogenized, etc. And as time goes on, what are we seeing? The rise of lactose intolerance, because we no longer need milk for vital nutritional vitamins and minerals.

So today, I found a wonderful tidbit on a woman who is “allergic” to electromagnetic radiation. If she is too close to microwaves, gamma rays, and other electric signals, she develops a rash. So she painted her house with a black carbon based paint and silver lined shades to block out the signals. She bought a plasma TV and has only wired phones. No microwave, no computer, no wireless connectivity. In the last few decades, we’ve bombarded the planet with all sorts of radiation, and there’s little doubt that eventually we’ll see some consequences of all the radio waves we’re just dumping into the atmosphere.

'Science.  It works, bitches' by XKCD

There are currently about 500 people labelled “electro-sensitive.” I would venture a guess that within 50 years, this will be much more common.


I *knew* it!

This is friggin cool.

They talk about it like it’s a known thing that yawns are contagious, but I’ve never heard anyone really speak about it as a known phenomenon. But dammit, it should be. Because simply talking about yawning gets me yawning. FAKING a yawn gets most people to yawn. It’s really amazing.

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