Saturday, April 28, 2012

How the Freak Does Dry Cleaning Work?!

You've been lied to this whole time.

Dry cleaning is not really dry at all.

It just isn't water wet.  In the 1855s Jean Baptiste Jolly, an industrial dyer, noticed that his table cloth became cleaner after his made spilled a kerosene lamp on it.  The use of petroleum based cleaners continued  until enough cleaning facilities had exploded that after WWI cholorine based cleaners were being used.  By the mid-1930s, perchloroethylene, commonly called "perc," became the standard solvent.  It had the advantage of not occasionally erupting into deadly and costly fires.  The down side was that it was the first substance to be classified as a carcinogen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  While it is still in use, other methods have growing popularity.

Some of the cooler new methods (but not the only, at all):

  • Liquid carbon dioxide--it doesn't explode and isn't going to give you cancer.  However, it may heat up the atmosphere a little...The machines are 90k more than conventional ones because of the high pressure they need to keep the gas out so that it  doesn't turn into a gas.
  • Liquid silicone (decamethylcyclopentasiloxane) - twice as expensive as the traditional perc, but it breaks down into silica, water and carbon dioxide.
  • More:
Many dry cleaning machines use huge quantities of solvents--as much as 200 gallons.  Since the washing machines also function as dryers they reclaim, re-condense, filter and recycle as much as 99.99% of the solvent.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Meaning of Life Personality Test and Video

Below is a test I made to determine what you think the meaning of life is. See more here.

Five Meanings of Life Questionnaire
Rate yourself for each. ‘1’ is strongly disagree, ‘3’ is neutral and ‘5’ is strongly agree.

• Causes
• I often donate time, money and talents to organizations that I believe in.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can help change the world for the better.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• My biggest heroes are people that tried to change the world.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• My deepest sense of identity comes from the activities I participate in to help improve
humanity and the planet.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Life is about serving a cause greater than myself.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Experiences
• I spend a lot of time planning and pursuing new experiences, adventures, interesting
vacations/weekends, the next thrill.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I consider myself a connoisseur of certain items.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• It’s important that I surround myself with beauty and the finer things.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I focus a lot of my time on hobbies.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• You only live once, experience as much as you can while you can.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Challenges
• I spend a lot of  time thinking about how I’ll accomplish the goals that are important to me.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I can easily look back on my life and name important accomplishments I’ve reached.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• My biggest heroes are those that succeeded in achieving difficult personal objectives.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• A large portion of my identity centers around significant achievements I’ve accomplished.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Life is about reaching meaningful goals.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
Personal Growth
• I spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve myself and/or how I can model my life
off of exemplars.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I often read about how to grow as a person or in a certain field.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I care very deeply about how I’ve improved personally.  
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I regularly engage in personal growth activities like prayer, meditation, exercise, reading to
learn, developing better habits, self- and other-directed education.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Life is all about becoming the best person you can.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Relationships
• I spend a lot of time connecting with family and friends in person, via phone, Facebook, and email.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I plan activities/vacations around other people.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• My deepest sense of identity is from the relationships I’m connected to.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• I experience a strong sense of loneliness when separated from others for extended periods of time.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
• Life is all about meaningful relationships.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

Total for Causes:  ______.   
Total for Experiences:      ______.  
Total for Achievements:______.  
Total for Personal Growth:______.  
Total for Relationships: ______.

Note your dominant and next most dominant ways to find meaning.  What thoughts come to mind?

This is a video I edited compiling people describing how they add meaning to their life through the above five methods.

How Do Magnets Work?

Update: This video explanation is wonderful:

You're probably within 10 feet of a half dozen magnets--speakers, fans, hard drives, etc.  They're everywhere, but how do they work?  You've probably gotten supperficial answers before, but if we keep pushing the question a step further and a layer deeper what can we find out?  Well, I wasn't satisfied with the answers I had gotten and set out to find some answers on how magnets really work.

A piece of metal is a magnet because the atoms within the magnet are also tiny dipole magnets and their charges, since they point in the same direction, add their forces together.  (This is the lame non-answer answer that we're usually force fed.  Bump that.  I want to really get it!)

Well, why are atoms dipole magnets?  Why wouldn't their charge be emitted equally in every direction?  Because the electrons have a constant spin orientation.  You see, electrons come in two types--up spin and down spin.  As far as my understanding extends, this really is the kind of spin that we think about, like a globe spinning on its axis, but in completely alien ways--electrons are point particles that have no three dimensional structure.  Weirder yet, they always spin at the same exact speed, even though they can change spin direction.  (Edit: I no longer am confident that magnetism is caused by the spin of electrons.  It may be due to  the spin of protons or an interaction between the two or something else entirely.  I am not a physicist, only a curious biologist.  I welcome you insight, input, and points in the right direction.)

So, how magnetism works is there are electrons spinning in a certain stationary direction all the while buzzing around the nucleus of the atom.  So...why aren't all elements magnetic?  Couple reasons.

First, not all atoms have a balanced ratio of up and down spin electrons.  It turns (o, pun!) out that up spin electrons like down spin electrons (or, they don't repel like those with a similar charge do).  Another seemingly arbitrary rule that physics follows is that up spin electrons move in to open orbitals within electrons subshells up spin first (it has to do with being a lower energy state).  Down spin electrons get pushed to the back of the line for entrance to the electron cloud ride.  It's these imbalances that create a situation  that can cause a directionality to the magnetic field of the atom.

We still have a problem.  A very large, glaring one.  There are plenty of elements that have more up spin than down spin electrons--so called paramagnetic because they are attracted to a magnetic field (their up spins want other down spins).  Ferromagnetism, or the magnetism that we think of, only happens in a pitifully few amount of elements (and depends on what temp you're at)--typically we only really think of iron (hence the 'ferro' prefix), nickel and cobalt.  There are others like gadolinium and dysprosium, et al, but we typically just think of three as magnetic.  Think of it...just three elements out of roughly one hundred and twenty.  Wth?

I must plead your help in finding more answers than this.  I've reached the limit of my knowledge and time constraint to further research why magnetic substances can have their individual magnetic fields align when you place a magnet next to them or run a charge through them while heated.  Could it have to do with a crystalline lattice structure of the atoms?  Could it have to do with the way that the metallic atoms share outer valence electrons?  Do they maintain their spin orientation while moving across atoms?  Could it have to do with an additive effect that the various layers of shells have that work together within a Goldielocks window (Iron, cobalt and nickel all have roughly half filled d orbitals within the first row of d orbitals and the other magnetic metals have roughly half filled f orbitals within the first row of f orbitals...Coincidence?  Not likely.)?  My reading seems to suggest that it is stability of the way the molecules orient in a crystalline structure...And that has to do with the odd and quirky shape of orbitals, which is a whole other blog!  (More like 10 blogs!)

I'm pretty sure that the red is the iron, the neodymium is blue and boron is green.  Together they  make the world's strongest permanent magnet.

We're also still left with the problem of why having 'spin' causes this magnetic field to start on one end and then cycle around to the opposite side of the electron...I have no answers there.  We've reached the frontier of knowledge.

Electrons aren't the only thing with spin.  Nucleuses have spin and MRI machines use the interactions of these spins to make an image.  Photons do, too.  That's what polarization is all about--a particular orientation of photon spin...So much to learn in this field!!

Curie Point demonstration below.  This is the temperature when the atoms become so hot that their bouncing around negates all magnetic domain orientation.

Pix cred:


Saturday, April 7, 2012

School Update - Back to Bio

I'm back to bio and I couldn't be more thrilled.  It's been quite an adventure and there have been many times that I've considered changing the subheading of my blog because I haven't been in school for a bit.  Now I don't have to.  Let me fill you in on some details in brief.

  • Fall 2008 I dropped out of seminary with no intention of returning.  Life felt very dark and like I was drifting in an unknown ocean far from land.  What was I going to do with my life?  I had no idea.
  • Fall 2009 I joined the Peace Corps and got a commission to teach English in a Central Asian country (Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, etc.).  After research and soul searching I declined the offer.  This was my experimental, feeling trapped phase where I just wanted to run away from people's disappointment and judgement for dropping out of seminary and changing my beliefs.  Still working at the Christian ministry, Ligonier Ministries, that I'd worked out for 6 years, but feeling chokingly claustrophobic. (There were great times, though.  And wonderful, wonderful coworkers.  Sincerely some of the best people I know, but doctrinally very condemning of my beliefs.)
  • Fall 2010 I moved to Tallahassee, FL to take courses at FSU and the local community college TCC.  Found out there were rules that prevented me from taking courses at both institutions at once.  So, I took the maximum amount of courses I could at TCC on federal loans since my parents refused to cosign on a private loan.
  • Mid-Fall 2010 - My savings were drained and I attempt to transfer the federal loans to my bank account online.  Was unable.  Called the school and they said, "Let me pull up your account...O...I see...How about you come to campus to discuss this."  So, I did.  I talked to a low level adviser, then his boss, then her boss.  Finally I was told that I should wait to get a phone call from one of the VPs.  I was enrolled at the school, but the courses I was taking didn't fit within a degree at the school and couldn't count as electives for me since I had a bachelors already.  I spoke the VP on the phone and he said that there was nothing that they could do and that the federal loans would not be able to go through.  I had just moved to a town that I knew no one in, had no job, no money and no loans.  I literally started crying on the phone with the VP.   I don't think I've ever done anything like that before.  I was scared.  He felt so bad that, and since they were somewhat culpable for helping me get into the situation (although, I should have known better, but I've never done any of this before and had no clue what I was doing.) that they offered to refund my money.  I took the offer.  I had to.  So, more than half way through the semester with all 'A's I dropped out.  The next day I showed up at TCC with a resume in hand and asked, "Is there anything else we can work out?"  Waiting to hear back on the job I remember staying in bed for several days.  I was crushed.  Turns out, however, that it pays to cry since I ended up getting a job working in their advising department functioning as a secretary.  It ended up being one of the best jobs I've ever had.  The people were so gracious and a joy to be around.  I still keep up with some of them (I'm dog sitting for one of them in 2 weeks).
  • Spring 2011 - I couldn't afford any courses, so I tried for the next best thing--jobs in bio.  Picked up a lab tech job at TCC because I knew the lab manager through the Unitarian church in town.  I picked up two marine education jobs at FSU working with local elementary and middle schools either bringing touch tanks to the school or taking students out on boats at the FSU marine lab.  I applied to UCF's science education master's program.  Got accepted, but got zero financial aid since I applied past the deadlines.  Decided I would apply again and meet the deadlines.
  • Summer 2011 - Got a job as a teacher's aide at a local science center's summer camps (Challenger Learning Center).  Later worked my way up to being a teacher there.
  • Fall 2011 - I finally had enough money to pay for one course--chemistry.  I started taking that and working as a teacher's aide in a science classroom at a school for kids with emotional and behavioral conditions.  I also reapplied to UCF's sci ed master's program.  I would have applied at FSU, but due to budget cuts their master's program was open only to internal students doing a double bachelor's/master's degree simultaneously.  The program director said they couldn't make any exception for me.
  • Spring 2012 - Got accepted to UCF's sci ed program.  Didn't want to go.  In desperation I emailed the -new- director of FSU's sci ed program at the beginning of March.  They said to come in to discuss the program.  I did.  I got accepted pretty much right then.  Two weeks later they hear of an opening in a related department - The Center for Advanced Learning and Assessment - for an assistantship that would completely cover the cost of my tuition and give me a salary that would exceed anything I've ever made in a year.  So, I spend hours and hours working on my resume all the while inundated in lesson plans for teaching at the Challenger Learning Center spring break camps.  I send in my resume on Sunday night and get an email back Monday morning asking to set up an interview.  They say they'll call me to nail down an interview time.  I get a phone call the next day at the time they said they'd call.  Unexpectedly, I pick up the phone at the time they set and it was a friend from swing dance, which I do weekly.  I was taken aback to hear from him and, honestly, a little disappointed to be tying up the phone with social stuff when I had a phone call that I was so nervous about waiting.  Anyway, he wasn't calling as a friend--he was calling as someone that was going to be interviewing me for the position!!  I had an 'in'!  
  • April 4th, 2012 - I got the full ride assistantship!  I'll be studying what I came here to study--biology--for FREE and I'll be getting paid to do it!  I'm pinching myself to believe this!  I came willing to get into a small fortune of debt to pursue a career in biology, I was completely road blocked from doing it and now I get it handed to me completely free and with a handsomely paying job!  I still can't believe it!
  • Summary of how I think I've gotten this far: I've been dogged about getting recommendations on LinkedIn for years, being involved in a church got me several tiny science jobs by knowing the right people, writing this silly blog shows that I can communicate and that I care deeply about science, keeping a ridiculous amount of Google doc entries of random ideas, living by a to-do list, texting to myself ideas/to-dos so I don't forget them, running a few marathons--gives me energy and respect points in an interview, being open about dropping from ministry--people want to help me make the career transition that I'm in (at first I was embarrassed as heck, but I think it's actually helped me), and knowing the right people (which means I need to know a lot of people--going to church and other social events, like swing dance).
  • Then I got the AFCEA scholarship which will help me pay for school when I'm doing my full time internship.
  • I also had my degree requirements change the first week of classes such that I could graduate a semester early and the only reason that worked out is because I HAD LEFT 1 RANDOM CLASS ON MY SCHEDULE THAT I DIDN'T NEED.  No reason.  Just had it on there.  It was totally full with a waiting list but I had it.  And now I get to graduate a semester early because of it. :)