Sara Does Science

Sporatically posting thoughts and amusements from a pretty rad (if I don't say so myself) lady physicist.
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Posts tagged "silly science"

I have done a very bad job of writing on this blog lately. I think it’s because now that I’m a post-doc and getting paid quite well (thanks inflated Australian wages!) I don’t procrastinate as much as when I was thesis-writing. 

But this is amazing and needs to be shared. Someone made a remix of X Files agent Dana Scully quotes about science. This needs to be my new personal theme song. Seriously, I’m considering changing the song I’m walking in to at my wedding to this.

So maybe you think cross stitching is something only grandmas or great aunts so. If so, you’re totally wrong! Cross stitching has taken a turn for the awesome thanks to the creativity (and snakiness) of us young-uns and sites like Etsy, where we can share all our funny, weird, or dirty craft ideas. However, this is a science blog, not a “Sara gets all mushy about crafts” blog (although I do a bit of cross stitching myself it tends to be on the adult side), and I’ve been collecting some kick-ass works of science-inspired cross stitchery on my romps through the internet. I encountered a really amazing one this morning and was thusly inspired to curate them into a post.

To begin, here’s the one that started it all:

How gorgeous is that?! It doesn’t even look like a cross stitch. Inspired by Carl Sagan, this design features a nebula, the birth place of stars. You can see more details over at its creator’s (nuclearArt) Etsy shop.

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A few months ago, I had a conversation with a twitter friend about how a lot of the stunts on Jackass would make great examples to show in a basic physics class. Every time those fools collide shopping carts or propel themselves off ramps on various conveyances my brain starts to buzz with physics concepts like momentum transfer and energy conservation. After thinking back to some of the episodes I’ve seen (and the one movie) I realized you can teach almost all the concepts in a basic physics class just with using examples from Jackass, which would be way more entertaining than the usual examples I’ve encountered.

I’ve had some other pop-culture related ideas as well so I thought I would put together some of my brain storms into a small list of what I’m calling Low Culture Science courses. They may not be classy, but they’ll most likely be quite engaging!  

Class: ICP – Insane Clown Physics

Course Summary: This survey course tackles a wide breadth of scientific topics using the Insane Clown Posse song “Miracles” as the outline for the syllabus. This course will touch on subjects from both the hard and life sciences as we aim to answer the big questions asked in “Miracles” and correct some of the ICP’s scientific misconceptions.  We will deconstruct hands-on and multimedia examples in order to describe the science we encounter in the world around us. And we will also study contemporary scientific publications in order to demonstrate that scientists are not, in fact, lying mother fuckers.

 Homework Question: Go on YouTube and find a video demonstrating a phenomenon involving magnetism. Briefly describe the video and, within the context of your chosen video, explain what “fucking magnets” are and how they work.

 Final Project: Working in pairs, you will each pick either one topic or several, related topics mentioned in “Miracles”.  You will then write an original rap explaining the science behind your topic(s). Each pair will film a music video for their rap, which must include visual elements that relate your topic and instruct the audience on the science you are presenting. Extra credit for creative face painting.

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Pick a science topic. Then go online and grad a bunch of papers about that topic. Read the opening paragraphs. Get a sense of variations on a theme?

I’ve just started writing the second paper to come out of my main dissertation project. And since I tend to think from beginning to end of the paper, I’m starting with the part that’s the biggest pain in the butt: the introduction. My Ph.D. work was on perovskite oxide superlattices. Pretty much ever paper on this topic starts out the same way:

"Perovskite oxides are useful because there are many materials with similar structures but a wide variety of behaviors (e.g. metallic, superconducting, ferroelectric, magnetic, insulating, and on and on). Because of this, you can put two different materials together to make a superlattice with novel properties." 

Ok…maybe the language gets a bit more formal and sciencey than that, but you get the point. Basically to write and introduction, that that paragraph and make it sound slightly different than the introductory paragraph of all the papers you are citing.

I wrote something to this effect on twitter, and @rejectedbanana happily chimed in with a better idea on how to open a paper. This lead to some back-and-forth on both our parts where we came up with opening lines to spice up any Physical Review Letter.

  • Once upon a time there were a bunch of perovskites and they made a lattice… (@rejectedbanana)

  • When two types of perovskites love each other very much, a superlattice is born
  • It was the best of perovskites, it was the worst of perovskites. It was the age of superlattices. (@rejectedbanana)

  • In a fair vacuum chamber where we lay our scene. Two perovskites both alike in crystallinity…
  • Four score and seven years ago, our physicists brought forth lattices on these perovskites (@rejectedbanana)

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that a superlattice in possession of a good interface much be in want of novel properties.
  • Alright stop, make a sample, and measure. Perovskites are back in a brand new structure. One layers grabs the other one tightly. At the interface new business is likely.

And what about going beyond the introduction? Opening lines like these have lead me to believe that my next paper should either be written in iambic pentameter (although it’s been done before), early 90’s rap, or perhaps as a romance novel.

Scientifically Accurate Ninja Turtles

Just as catchy as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” but way, way creepier. Also, turtle junk is really weird and these turtles would make very inappropriate action figures for children.

via io9

Learning about electricity with an electric fence. I’m actually impressed by the narrator. I think most high school (?) aged students would just want to see their friends get a shock, but this one correctly describes the physics behind it. Enjoy!

Many of you reading this may be familiar with and many of you may not be. ArXiv is an open access library where scientists, mostly of the physics, math and computer science varieties, put up papers or pre-prints for all the world to see. Many of these are not yet peer reviewed (and maybe never will be), so you can often find papers that are fun, pop culture based, or just plain crazy-pants (I’m going to suggest a search for papers with the word “god” in the title here.) Since I like to turn to ArXiv when I have some downtime and want to explore the lighter side of science, I thought I’d share some of my favorite findings here.

If you want to join in the fun, many of my most fruitful searches come from me poking around in the “General Physics”, “Popular Physics”, and “History and Philosophy of Physics”. You can see the week’s most recent submissions under each category. 

So without further ado, here’s a round-up of some fun papers from this past week.

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Piezoelectrics are a type of material where, when you apply a stress to them, they accumulate a charge. Additionally, when you apply a voltage to them, the materials contract or expand. Just look at this hypothetical piezoelectric in action!

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Oh Steven Chu…I wish all physicists were this awesome

My group just got done with some beamtime at the National Synchrtron Light Source. Beamtime is when we have time to an x-ray experiment at a national lab and all work in close quarters for long hours for a week or so. This experimental involved a lot of long scans, so we really get to know each other during the down time. Here are some of the highlights from this round.

  • We collected an x-ray map that reminded me a lot of a certain part of a lady’s anatomy (See similar type example here.) My adviser and I were discussing what it looked like. He insisted it looked like Yoda (?) and, not wanting to say vagina or directly reference lady bits, I told him it looked like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. I thought that was universally understood as the classy way to allude to the fact that something looks like a vagina. He said he didn’t know who Georgia O’Keeffe was. I neglected to expand on the topic.
  • I told a post-doc friend that our data looked like a vagina (well labia technically) but I didn’t want to directly say that to my adviser. He asked if I used the Georgia O’Keeffe analogy, furthering my conviction that it’s the universal way to say something looks like feminine nether regions.
  • My adviser started talking about how he thinks vitamin D and sunshine over break are starting to help him grow some of his hair back. I told him it was just migrating because he has a rather pronounced “neck scarf” (his words). He then proceeded to tell me us that he just never knows where to stop shaving and doesn’t want to be one of those guys that shaves all the way to down there. 
  • In all the talk about man-shaving, there may have been a lot of gesturing involved.
  • My adviser’s dad is apparently the best ever at BYOB restaurants. He brings a rolling cooler with a variety of wines and beers so he can select the perfect drinks to go with the meal. 
  • I am apparently the group party animal. I take this to mean that I am very good at planning social activities (read: picking out bars) during conferences. I hope that future group members will hear about me and have to live up to my reputation.
  • Also, I neglected to pay a lot of attention to our experiment because I was working on my thesis most of the time. At least I was being productive.