2009.10.07 If I only had a pulse

Written by David Green.

If I only had a pulse


The plan sounded really good to me. When Mailman Mark or Mailwoman Nellie walked into the office in the morning, I would be laid out on the Observer’s front counter with a drinking straw attached to my neck.

The straw would twitch with every beat of my heart.

Somewhere I ran across a link to a website called Surfing Science. Within a section called Science Tricks were the directions for making a Straw Heart Monitor.

Very simple. Get a drinking straw and a wad of poster-hanging putty. Poke the straw into the putty, lie on your back and find your pulse in your neck. Set the putty on this spot so the tip of the straw is just above your eye.

“Now watch what happens...it’s a little freaky.”

I certainly wanted to look a little freaky when Mark came in. It would be odd enough to find me spread across the counter, but add to that a twitching straw at my neck...freaky. Just what Mark deserves in the morning as he starts his route through town.

There was only one problem when I tried this out at home. I found a straw and some putty, but couldn’t find any pulse in my neck.

The website says “This cheap little gizmo will open your eyes to the amazing muscle that keeps you alive and kicking.” I felt plenty alive, but I had no kick.

That trick isn’t the only thing that the Science Surfer has to offer. Mark would be equally impressed if I put on an inside-out latex bathing cap in this magical way:

Fill it with water and have someone hold it above your head with both hands. Let it drop (accelerating to 9.8 meters a second).

“Thanks to its incredible surface tension and low viscosity, the water flows around the side of my head and turns the cap inside out.”

Surfing Scientist says there’s a stack of science involved here, most of which still can’t be explained by physicists.

Or maybe I should go with the Freaky Ice Hand. Instructions are provided for creating a hand of ice using a kitchen glove. I would love to have Mark shake hands with one of those.

What happens to youngsters who are taught by Surfing Scientist types of teachers? They probably develop a love for science, but some of them go bad and end up at the Ig Noble Awards.

The 2009 winners were honored Thursday night at Harvard University and, as always, there’s an impressive array of work highlighted.

One study found that full bottles of beer break at a lower impact rate than empty bottles, but both are capable of fracturing the human skull.

Cows that have names give more milk than nameless cows. An analysis determined why pregnant women don’t tip over.

Some Mexican researchers created diamonds in tequila. Japanese scientists demonstrated that kitchen waste can be reduced more than 90 percent in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.

In California, a man decided to determine once and for all if knuckle cracking leads to arthritis of the fingers, like your mother always warned you.

He diligently cracked the knuckles of his left hand twice a day for 60 years, but never cracked the knuckles of his right hand.

“I’m looking at my fingers, and there is not the slightest sign of arthritis in either hand,” the researcher said.

Donald Unger, now 83, worked as an allergist over his long career and published many papers, but nothing brought him as much fame as the knuckle work.

“I’ve gotten a lot of awards and degrees, and all of a sudden I get my 15 minutes of fame out of this stupidity,” he said. “But I’m happy to get any award—I've got a blank space on my wall.”

Oh, and one more. A woman invented a brassiere that can be converted into a protective face mask. Actually, into a pair of masks—one for the wearer and one for a bystander in need.

All this good science sent me back to the lab. This time I ran around the house for a bit and watched the straw twitch a little on my wrist. I quickly laid down and got it in place on my neck.

Whoa! Isn’t that freaky!

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016