Archive for June, 2015

Crater Experiment Makes a Big Impact

Craters are crazy and cool.  One that is quite amazing was created by the Barringer Meteorite that crashed into Arizona about 50,000 years ago with an explosion equal to 2.5 megatons of TNT.  Based on this detailing of what a 2 MT bomb would do I figure that Barringer would have completely wiped out my home town of Stillwater, Minnesota and its 20,000 or so residents, plus far more beyond us.  The picture my son Hank took of the 1 mile wide 570 foot deep crater does not do justice to its scale.  You really need to go see it for yourselfMeteor Crater as the two of us did.

Because of my enthusiasm for craters, making these rates number on my list of fun science projects in DOE It Yourself.  As noted there, members the Salt Lake Astronomical Society wanted to drop bowling balls from very high altitudes onto the salt flats of Utah, but workers in the target area from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management objected to the experiment.

Kudos to science educator Andrew Temme for leading students through a far more manageable experiment shown in this video.  In reply to me asking for permission for providing a link to his fantastic impact movies Andrew gave me this heads-up.  “I attended a NASA workshop to get certified to handle real moon rocks and meteorites at the NJ State Museum in Trenton.  This lab in the educator guide suggested mixing up your own lunar powder and throwing objects to simulate impact craters.  When I got home I ran the lab with a few of my classes and then made the video.  I used a Sony handheld camera that had a slow motion setting (300 fps).”  Awesome!

The other day I went up to the 9th floor of my condo building in Florida and tossed a football down on to the parking lot.  I am warming up to heaving a 15 pound mushroom anchor over on the beach side from atop one of the far pricier high rises along the Gulf.  However, I have to wait until the turtle nesting season is over.

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Pyrex—a miracle of material science—hits the century mark

A few years ago I dropped my cell phone and, to my great surprise, broke the Corning® Gorilla® glass display.  This incident illustrates how far our expectations have come for what originally was an extremely fragile material.  Tough glass is a very recent development that still falls a bit short—even the newest Gorilla Glass 4 survives drops only 80% of the time according to Corning.  But give these material scientists a little more time.  They are sure to do even better at making glass truly unbreakable and far more flexible to boot.

Resistance to temperature, on the other hand, is now a given with glass, in particular the brand Pyrex® introduced in 1915 by Corning.  They quit manufacturing Pyrex in 1998 but you can still buy it, albeit in a cheaper form made from soda-lime rather than borosilicate.*

For the whole story, see Pyrex at 100 from the May 18th issue of Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN).

*(You are advised to read these shattering details from The American Ceramic Society on the consequences of going to the less-costly Pyrex.)

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Believe it or not–sweet statistics prove that you can lose weight by eating chocolate

Keep calm and carry on eating chocolateA very happy lady munching on a huge candy bar caught my eye in The Times of India on Friday, May 25.  Not the lady—the chocolate.

After tasting a variety of delectable darks from a chocolatier in Belgium many years ago, I became hooked.  However, I never imagined this addiction would provide a side benefit of weight loss.  It turns out that a clinical trial set up by journalist John Bohannon and two colleagues came up with this finding and showed it to be statistically significant.  This made headlines worldwide.

Unfortunately, at least so far as I’m concerned, the whole study was a hoax based on deliberate application of junk science done to expose phony claims made by the diet industry.

It turns out to be very easy to generate false positive results that favor a dietary supplement.  Simply measure a large number of things on a small group of people.  Something surely will emerge that out of this context tests significantly significant.  What this will be, whether a reduction in blood pressure, or loss in weight, etc., is completely random.

Read the whole amazing story here.

My thinking is while Bohannan’s study did not prove that eating chocolate leads to weight loss, the subjects did in fact shed pounds faster than the controls.  That is good enough for me.  Any other studies showing just the opposite results have become irrelevant now—I will pay no attention to them.

Now, having returned from my travel to India, I am going back to dip into my horde of dark chocolate.

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