Archive for August, 2017

Eclipse chasing a total success

Some time ago I hatched a plan to take a Sunday drive down to mid-Iowa from where our party of Andersons could shoot off south or east and catch today’s eclipse. Little did I know how wily the weather gods can be for obscuring the heavens. For the last week, the forecasts ping-ponged me unmercifully between Nebraska and Missouri. I went to bed last night with Nebraska in my sights, but just before hitting the road the updated outlook pointed clearly to Missouri as our only chance, albeit very slim, to get a view of the sun at totality.

Heading south through very heavy rains we went off-interstate south of Iowa once we hit the path of the eclipse, and then zig-zagged tortuously through the back-country of Missouri until we finally reached the edge of the cloud deck near Columbia—just in time for the awesome sight of the sun being snuffed out by the moon.

From a statistical perspective, it is ironic how astronomers can be so precise in their predictions of the moon shadow, whereas the meteorologists cannot provide very accurate forecasts of cloud cover. This made this whole venture of eclipse chasing very challenging, but, given the thrilling conclusion, a great experience.

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
― Helen Keller

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Buttered toast lands butter up for once

I cannot recall this happening before today, but when I dropped half a bagel, it landed on the dry side.  This allowed me to apply the 5-second rule and swoop it up for breakfast. That led me to this research from Manchester MET University reported by London’s Daily Mail that this (a fortuitous landing) occurs less than 20 percent of the time. These boffins of butter found that the height from which the bread is dropped makes all the difference.

“If you want to ensure your toast lands butter side up then you should invest in a higher table approximately 8ft high that allows the toast to rotate a full 360 degrees. Failing that – try not to drop the toast.”

– Chris Smith, Professor of Food Science and Technology

More good news from the UK food-science front came in March of this year when germ expert Professor Anthony Hilton of Aston University approved the 5-second rule.  However, I am not going along with the photo of toast being jelly-side down in this report by The Independent. Eating that would be really gross.

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54 billion bacterial cells per cubic centimeter

That’s the density of microbial growth—laden with pathogens—in a typical kitchen sponge.  For all the disgusting details, see this Nature report by German (emphasis on “germ”) researchers at the Institute of Applied Microbiology in Geissen.

I came across this while searching internet for advice on what to do about the off-putting sponges laying about the sink in our office, which no one will clean—the tragedy of the commons.  The study says that sanitation by boiling or microwave kills most of the bacteria.  However, because that bad actors are more hardy, the end result over time may be a more sickening microbiome.  The only solution is to replace sponges regularly—at least every week according to this Today show guidance.  They suggest that between times you wash your sponges in hot, soapy water, microwave them for one minute, or put them in the dishwasher.  After reading the Nature report I am tempted to do all three sanitation procedures, or just quit using sponges.

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