Friday, July 20, 2012

Weekend Reading: Cool Science (and Scientists) Edition

I've got science links for you this week! And they're cool ones, I promise.

First, though, I have to tell you a funny story about my husband, which I may or may not have told you before- but if I did, it was a long time ago and a lot of you weren't here yet. So I'm telling it again. Anyway, not long after he moved over here from New Zealand, he was doing laundry one night in our apartment laundry room, which you got to by going out our front door, down some stairs, and into a little room off the carport. He came back in after getting a load going, looking a little freaked out but clearly trying to look calm and not at all worried. "I don't want to alarm you, " he said, "but there is a giant rat on the steps outside."

Now, I just had to see the giant rat, so I got up and went outside with him, and there, sitting on the steps leading up to our upstairs neighbors' apartments was an opossum.

I burst out laughing, which first annoyed him, and then puzzled him, until I managed to stop laughing long enough to tell him what we were looking at. And then he burst out laughing, because he finally understood why the idea of someone importing possums into a country like New Zealand for their fur seemed so strange to me.

For those of you who don't know, here is an American possum, aka opossum:

Image source: http://www.aaanimalcontrol.com/professional-trapper/howtogetridofopossums.htm
Note the mangy looking fur.

Here is an Australian possum, which is what was introduced into New Zealand to disastrous effect:

Image source: I don't know, could be me, could be my husband. Odds are it was him.


Note the fluffy looking fur.

OK, on to the first link, which is about... possums! The American kind. Apparently, you can't poison them.

The next link needs a little story, too, I think. I had a roommate in college who delighted in making what she called "magic putt" or something like that- which was corn starch mixed with water. Have you ever done this? If not, go do it now. I'll wait.

If you make this mix, and hit it with your finger, it will feel solid. But if you put your finger in slowly, it will feel like a liquid. It is a pretty cool effect, and I look forward to showing it to my kids some day.

And now, some physicists have worked out why it behaves like this. Pretty cool.

Finally, a reader sent me a link to this post with suggestions from some prominent female scientists in the UK about how to get more women in STEM careers there.  Also pretty cool.

7 comments:

  1. Love the possum comparison and story.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! One of the few things about the US that really unnerved my husband when he first moved here was our animals. Because some of ours are dangerous- in stark contract to his homeland.

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  2. Fishscientist2:01 AM

    Loved the women in STEM article- they basically went through my wish list. It always bugs me that, as parents in science, we're expected to work out of hours, but not payed enough to do so. Either the attitude or the pay needs to change.
    Also, I've always loved playing with cornflour

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  3. Fishscientist2:04 AM

    Sorry, that post needed editing but for some reason I can't do this on my iPhone. Don't have time to write it again- taking advantage of baby nap time....

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  4. Since hearing about the big push for STEM ~ I've always thought it should be STEAM to include the ARTS. Check out Nina Kraus
    http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/
    and her work on music and the brain.

    She and other neuroscientists agree that we should be ADDING not CUTTING funding for the arts.

    Perhaps this would be one way that the door would open wider for women ...

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  5. Cornstarch and water - we call it "oobleck" around here. And my girls (5.5 and 3yrs) LOVE it. Sometimes I'll add a squirt of finger paint to lend it some non-staining color. I also set them up in the kitchen sink to play with it. It contains splatter mess. Then when they're done I fill the sink with water (to dilute the cornstarch) and rinse it down the drain (the diluting is important so you don't clog your pipes.)

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  6. Zenmoo7:55 AM

    My wool & possum fur socks are the BOMB in winter. So soft & cozy. That article about opossums was so interesting! I tend to agree with your hubby that it looks like a massive rat.

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