It's never too late!

Just when I was about to give up hope about the science fair, I got a note from The Linguist:


Are you still accepting entries to the science fair? I don't have anything particularly clever, quirky or adorable, but hopefully I can make up in quantity what I lack in quality. Here are my two proposed experiments:

1. The Effects of Sleep on Vriksasana

It seems to me that the less sleep I get, the wobblier my tree pose is. Is there a connection? Get a bunch of yogis and yoginis and assign them a certain amount of sleep to get on various days. Count how many times their "up" foot hits the floor on those days, and correlate with hours of sleep. Note that it is not good enough to simply survey the yog(in)is regarding how much sleep they got - it could be that those who get less sleep are more or less prone to wobbliness for independent reasons.

2. The Effects of Temperature on Fluid Exchange (Not that kind of fluid exchange).

I was in the bathroom at my office, and the window was open. It was pretty warm in the office, and pretty cold outside, and because of the high temperature differential, the temperature in the bathroom was dropping faster than if it had been warmer outside. But I wondered whether the air was flowing through the window faster, or if it was just that the temperature of the air was changing even if the air was staying on its own side of the window. Another way to ask the question is whether you can bring more fresh air into a room by opening a window on a cold day than on a warm day.

To test this, one could rig up an apparatus with two chambers separated by a wall. Have a hole in that wall which can be opened and closed from outside the apparatus. Fill each chamber with water containing dye. Say, red in one chamber and blue in the other. Open the hole for a fixed period of time and then close it. Measure the amount of mixing by noting the colors of the chamber (reddish purple and bluish purple). Try this with various temperatures of water. Do you get more mixing when the temperatures in the two chambers are different? Maybe you just get more mixing the hotter the water is in general?

~The Linguist

Dear The Linguist,

(Do you like how "the" has become part of your name?)  Of course it's not too late.  These are excellent ideas, and as you know, there will be prizes.  

I was talking to some young people over the weekend about the Constitution and the subject of Science Fairs came up.  To be accurate, I brought it up, because it's really not the kind of topic you can wander over to smoothly.  It's the conversational equivalent of that awkward stretch at the movies on a first date that ends with an arm accidentally around your shoulder.

At any rate, the teens were incredulous.  "You're having an actual science fair?  Who's in it?"

"Um, no one so far.  Although possibly a woman from Nova Scotia is going to study home electrolysis using an old lamp.  Or do you think she was just kidding?  And there's possibly someone else doing a study on the effects of my urine on lettuce, but again, maybe that was a joke?"

I got that look from these teens, the one that means they're imagining me home alone with a tri-fold presentation board plastered with graphs and they aren't sure whether to call someone or just let it go.

So, The Linguist, I'm glad you've come up with your project.  Mine will involve this plant, but I can't quite figure out how.  Beneficial uses?  Ways to kill?  Advice welcome.


  1. Uh ... I thought I changed my project (said in a whiny tone) to piecrust and paper mache --? I've already perfected a personal size piecrust using canola oil, so it's healthier than heck. That lamp I was going to use? My husband told me it still works as a lamp, so I haven't been using it to cook the piecrust; that stuff goes down well raw instead. No, I don't use filling. The only thing I like about pie is the crust, you know.

    Where was I? Yes, your yellow archangel (aha! yes I did go back and read that post and also the link in that post to the Sammamish River and did they actually alter the course of that? that's what it looks like). I'm thinking that if the plants you sent to the compost facility escape, we are all doomed. Telll me that's not going to happen, please?

    As to how to kill it, have you considered burning it? I can send you a working lamp which can easily be turned into a blowtorch by the right person.

    I luuurrrvve this science fair! It's much funner than in school.

    1. Oh, Jennio, Collaboration, I like that idea. Send your lamp right away!
      (I'm reading a book about pie, btw. It may tie in somehow.)

    2. Try as I might, the lamp won't go in that little drawer thing on the computer :(

      I might have to resort to carrier pigeon.

  2. I have wracked and wracked my brain and then racked the brains like pool balls or whatever you call those whacky balls you hit with a stick when you play pool and nothing, no science fair project comes to mind that I would actually do.
    However. There might be this- the more I read of your writing, the more I adore your writing. I guess that would be a whachucall it? Premise?
    Keep writing. I'll let you know how it goes. Although I'm pretty sure I already know.

  3. Well, I noticed that the dreaded DEADLINE has come and gone. My excuse it that some Jehovah's Witnesses left a flier on my front porch with a picture of Jesus--see my blog of you want the full experience--and I've been befuddled ever since.

    However I can report, in very preliminary studies, that almost everyone recoils when I tell them I 'sampled' cooked placenta back in the hippie days. Placenta encapsulation is all the rage now (nice tidy capsules of dried placenta, not icky at all). The placenta I speak of was cooked with garlic and onions and it was, um, liver-ish. Mostly the thought of eating human, er, tissue was a trifle exhilarating and gross. I'll keep an informal poll at the clinic and develop a proper graph when I have a larger sample size.

    Dr Coyote to you

  4. If you will recall my project was to determine if afternoon naps could be replaced by morning naps or by a morning AND afternoon nap as well as the ramifications of sleeping day AND night eating chocolate every time one wakes. appears that I have been asleep for a long long time, my chocolate store is gone, my sheets are a mess and I am 10 pounds heavier. So...sleeping day and night and eating chocolate NOT a good idea. On the other hand, naps can happen any time of the day and leave you equally refreshed. There you have it, my science project is complete. Now, where is that number for Weight Watchers? Oh, and by the way, what have I missed while I was zoned out?

    1. Oh, right! I would have mentioned your experiment, but i didn't want to waken you...

  5. I'm thinking I have to bundle up and hack some frozen moss off the trees and look for tardigrades, I do have a microscope or two hanging around, and why not?
    Thanks for the science inspiration :)

  6. Betsy, I started my science fair project early, about five years ago (yes, I am a bit of an over-achiever). The premise is to see how long it takes to make a word become trending slang. The word is "bovine" and I am sciencing it to mean "stupid." As in, "Oh, how bovine," or "And then he just went all bovine on me, you know?" I launched the experiment by inserting the word (in appropriate context) in personal emails and blog comments. As a control, I have also not used the term (except when referring to cows) in various emails and blog comments.

    Unless you happen to have heard any teenagers using the term "bovine," I am not yet ready to publish my results.

    P.S. I'm hoping you don't think my science project idea is bovine.

    1. Oh my gosh! An over-achiever reads this blog! Yay. I think many of us have been doing the control portion of this for the experiment for five years too, which seems uncanny, like possibly time travel is involved. Did we know we were doing an experiment? I'm not sure. (As a placebo, I've used the phrase "downer cow' but that was with a totally different meaning and not an actual experiment, so I don't know how it fits in.) I think your idea is excellent. I spent the weekend with 250 teenagers and I heard many words, but none of them were bovine, so I think you're on to something. I could write that up for you if you need it.

      I think this is an excellent project and when you're ready to publish results, please come here first!


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