Wednesday, 28th March 2012
Q. Body jewelry is quite fashionable but some people prefer to hold the jewelry in place with magnets instead of undergoing piercing. Is there any danger to wearing magnetically attached nose rings?
A. A young woman wanted to wear magnetic earrings as nose rings; each ring was to be held by a magnet placed inside the nostril against the outward side, says Jearl Walker in "The Flying Circus of Physics." When she tried to mount the second ring, the two magnets strongly attracted each other and jumped to the narrow septum separating the two nostrils, fairly high up in the nose. "There they stubbornly clung to each other, requiring her to make a trip to the hospital emergency room to have them removed."
Q. This infamous meal consisted of three barbecued pork ribs, two helpings of onion rings, fried okra, three beef enchiladas with cheese and two slices of lemon cream pie. Who was the eater, and who might not have been so happy with the order?
A. This was reportedly the last food chosen by Texas inmate Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004, says Rachel Zurer in "Wired" magazine. For Canadian painter Katie MacDonald, who paints pictures of the remnants of death-row inmates' last meals, the problem is that to do her art, she has to cook and eat the same food. "I really have a hard time with ribs now. They stick in my throat." A lot less taxing would have been Oklahoma City convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh's choice of two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
MacDonald, who has eaten and painted a couple of pre-execution "feasts" a year since 2006, is just one of several artists around the world who have found their muse in the final menus of doomed convicts. "Most don't go so far as to consume the food themselves," Zurer adds, "but their re-creations ensure that these meals are remembered long after the last bite."
Q. Few people think much about the simple act of opening a door by rotating a knob or pushing on a lever to release a bolt. What might motivate someone to set up a camera to record such an act?
A. Duke University civil engineering professor Henry Petroski observed his orange tabby cat Ted operating the lever on a patio door to unlock it and let himself out! "I first saw Ted open the door by himself one night when I was reading in a nearby chair," said Petroski in "American Scientist" magazine. Doubtful that others would believe his cat tale, he started keeping a camera at the ready to catch Ted in the act.
How unique was Ted in doing this, Petroski wondered. So he did a Google search of "cats opening doors" and uncovered 3,130 images and 344 videos of feline door-openers as of September 2011. "Indeed, I found that not only do cats learn how to operate door levers, they also manage to operate doorknobs." Using two paws, cats can evidently develop enough frictional force between their paw pads and the doorknob surface to turn it and release the latch bolt. "The rest is easy."
Q. From a reader: "In my daughter's darkened bedroom, I was pulling the covering off a Band-Aid for her when there was a teensy flash of lightning. We both saw it. 'Do it again!' So I unstuck a second Band-Aid, and again the flash. Soon the whole family was watching as the boxful was used up. We then tried it with adhesive tape and it too flashed. What was going on?"
A. Just about any two things that stick together can generate tiny sparks when pulled apart, known as the "triboelectric effect" (from the Greek "tribo" for "rubbing"). As the two dissimilar materials are separated, an electric field extends across the gap and may ionize the air and create a spark. Just walking across a rug may also do this.
Even more remarkable, peeling off ordinary tape can generate bursts of X-rays intense enough to produce an image of the bones of the fingers, reports Jessica Griggs in "New Scientist" magazine. Using a motor to unwind a roll of sticky tape, Seth Putterman of the University of California, Los Angeles, recorded electromagnetic emissions lasting a billionth of a second each. Though not exactly sure what was going on, Putterman marveled, "All we were doing was peeling tape, and nature set up a process to give us nanosecond X-ray bursts!"
Q. Why can't you see the dark side of the moon? If you could, what would you see?
A. Due to the particular gravitational forces between the moon and the Earth, the moon takes just as long to rotate on its own axis as to revolve around the Earth; thus, the same side always faces us, says Clifford Pickover in "The Physics Book." The "dark side of the moon" is the common expression for this "far side" that can never be seen from the Earth.
The mysterious far side led to speculation that it might contain an unseen ocean of water, or harbor a hidden base for extraterrestrials. Then in 1959 we Earthlings got our first glimpse of the far side when it was photographed by the Soviet Luna 3 probe. "Physicists suggest that the far side might be used for a large radio telescope that is shielded from terrestrial radio interference."
The dark side is actually a misnomer, as both the near and far sides receive similar amounts of sunlight. But curiously, they have vastly different appearances, with the far side bearing a strangely rough and battered surface. In 1968, humans finally viewed the moon's far side directly during the U.S.'s Apollo 8 mission. Astronaut William Anders described it this way: "The backside looks like a sand pile my kids have played in for some time. It's all beat up, no definition, just a lot of bumps and holes."
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Google AlertWhen a company which has it's European Headquarters here in Ireland is called 'evil' and 'immoral' by M.P.s in The House of Commons you tend to sit up and take notice. The particular company that was being referred to was Google and the reason it had enraged M.P.s in London was because even though it has a big operation there and conducts a lot of business there it pays no corporate tax. It does this by having all of its financial transactions finished here in Ireland. And the company here is …
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