Literally a Sound Sleep

Listening to music on the way to sleep or sleeping along with music is most relaxing to many people. However music may be a disturbance to other and may hinder sound sleep. This is basically true in my case. My husband and I have different taste of music; we love different genres but also have different definition of what we call relaxing music for sleep.  I love to listen to mellow, and gospel music when relaxing to bed, while my husband would love to listen to Rhythm in Blues (RNB), Classical, and slow rock. Our children of course still love their baby lullaby songs.

We have tried using earphones and listen to our personal music preferences when in bed but the earbud speakers and earphones are not comfortable in the ear. I was excited to hear about this wireless sleepphones, it is of multiple uses; can use it as eye mask, headband, and ultimately source of sound. Wow! Now we can sleep with our favorite music and without discomfort in our ears and not disturbing other people. Now this is literally a sound sleep.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Bird Migration

Just how do birds return to the same nest year after year after doing their long distance seasonal migration? Do they have a built-in map in their head? Perhaps they have magnetic compasses in their brains. Or maybe they can accurately detect sun angels by being able to see polarized light. For those that fly during the night, do they have a star map in their brains? Or maybe they can hear or smell navigational cues.

With so many different types of birds and wintering grounds, it is likely that they employ various methods. But just for fun, consider this data:

  • When moved a significant distance from their nest site first-year fledgling birds couldn’t find their way to their wintering grounds. It suggest that birds either inherit a compass heading or direction to go or maybe accompany their parents or relatives on that first trip.
  • Researchers who temporarily disrupted a group of catbirds’ sense of smell discovered that they lost their ability to navigate. Other catbirds that kept their smell but wore magnets on their heads navigated fine, implying that smell was more important than magnetic cues.
  • On cloudy days starling have difficulty deciding which way to fly. But when the sun is visible, they orient perfectly. Perhaps they depend on a sun compass for navigation.
  • Since most birds migrate at night, researchers put birds in a planetarium in cages designed with sloped sides to constantly force the birds to the middle. The birds oriented properly depending on the positions of the projected constellations, rather than any single star. When the sky was black, they became disoriented, strongly suggesting they use a star compass.
  • German scientists placed caged birds in a room with no star or sun cues.

They still hopped in appropriate  directions. When wire coils changed the direction of the earth’s weak magnetic field, it produced a statistically significant and appropriate adjustment in hopping direction, leading researchers to conclude that some birds may orient using a magnetic compass.

After decades of research, science has no definitive answers as to how birds acquire their map and their compass so that they can find their way so precisely. That is a delightful problem to keep working on thorough eternity .

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Smelly Feet

The female African malarial mosquito “prefers” getting its blood meal from the feet of its sleeping victim. Could the reason be because the buzzing of a mosquito around the head might alert the victim and doom the mosquito with a well-aimed death slap? Yet how does a tiny mosquito find the tender area between the toes during the dark of night?

In an attempt to eradicate malaria, one of the world’s biggest killers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sponsored  a great deal of research on malaria and its carrier, the Africa malarial mosquito Anopheles gambiae. The female mosquito requires blood proteins to make eggs that she deposits as rafts on the surface of quiet water, so technically she is the only one that requires a blood meal. And to find that blood, we know that she is fantastically well equipped with a huge array of chemical sensors on and under special hairs covering her antennae, her maxillary palps, and various parts of her proboscis, the elaborately wicked probe that she pokes into a capillary to get the blood.

As it turns out, she has CO2 detectors to locate the ever-expanding cloud of gas exhaled with each breath of the sleeping person. So, at full alert, she follows the ever-increasing concentrations of CO2. Since  most CO2 comes from the mouth and nostrils, the head of the sleeper, the dangerous end of the body for her, the mosquito has a problem. But as the insect gets within a couple yards of the victim, it turns out that other odors distracts the mosquito and effectively block the CO2 detectors. The mosquito’s navigation actually switches to another set of sensors that detect bacterial odors, the kind of bacteria that colonize the skin of sweaty feet and toes.  Scientists  have identified 10  different foot odors, nine of which are incredibly attractive to mosquitoes and five of which effectively block CO2 detection. This research has confirmed that repellents based on blocking CO2 detection are clearly not the answer. What may be much more effective in mosquito control would be traps baited with the delicious scent of smelly feet. With a few such traps in the house, many of the bloodthirsty female Anopheles gambiae would meet their end, thus preventing much human misery and death.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Vehicle Storage Solution

Growing a business in such a limited space or area is quite tough. A little lot area within or near the city is too expensive. My friend has started his car services center 3 years ago within the city and he had a very limited area. His business has become known for its excellent services. In a little time his business has drawn a lot of customers; so much that his little place could no longer handle. Neighboring business has complained because some of customer’s vehicles for repair are parked affront their business premises. His biggest problem was the parking space for vehicles.

I told him about how my sister-in-law and her husband managed their garage. They have three vehicles but their garage space can only accommodate one vehicle. Her husband purchased a car storage lift and so now all their vehicles are parked safe inside their garage at night.

I took my friend here in this webpage for him to have the idea. My friend was amazed that he immediately looked for the contact information and took note of the website so he can get back to it and contact the manufacturer when they are ready to avail of these products. He said that this is simply the best solution to their storage problem.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Ant Trails

Honey, there are ants in my kitchen again! Just look at them!” The anguished wail from my wife brings me running from my study. Sure enough, an occasional ant hurries along the countertop, around the sink, and over the edge, meeting, stopping, and touching antennae with another ant going the other way before continuing on, eventually vanishing into a pinprick hole between the tile and the baseboard. There aren’t a lot of them. But my wife’s kitchen is her domain, and to her the only good ant is a dead ant. She has no tolerance for those tinuy biblical teachers of wisdom scurrying through her kitchen.

But for her biologist husband, her invitation to “just look at them” is a welcome opportunity for an experiment. So, on my belly on the tile floor, I watch in wonder as the ants hurry back and forth along an invisible trail. Wetting my finger with my tongue, I wipe it across the trail as if it were a grease pencil mark. A few seconds later the next little traveler along the trail runs into my invisible swipe as if it were a block wall. It stops, turns around, and runs back to where it came from as if checking to see if it was on the right trail. Then it returns to the swiped area and halts. Ants approaching the other side of the swipe do the same thing. In moments, ants on the both side of the gap mill around in confusion, just a half inch apart from each other. They get bolder in hteir casting round for the trail. Soon they are on it again, rapidly establishing an invisible detour around an invisible gap.

The invisible trail is, for the ants with their excellent chemical detecting antennae, a very real trail of pheromones. The ants I am watching must be trail marking with their abdomen, because I don’t see them doing anyhting else but running. Using a bit of detergenton a kitchen sponge, I can wipe out great lengths of the trail – that really confuses the poor ants. But when I come back in an hour they have reestablished an alternative route.

By now my sweetheart has had enough of the experiments and wants the ants out of her kitchen. Time to move into exterminating mode.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Extermination

When ants heard the Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply, they took it to heart. Myrmecologists (those who study ants) estimate that there are far more ants than any other kind of insect. So far they have named 11,000 species, with possibly another 9,000 yet undiscovered. What makes ants so important is the sheer number of them in each colony. The ant bio-mass in the rain forests of Brazil is four times the biomass of all other jungle amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined!  The only places you won’t find ants are the poles and high up on freezing mountaintops.

For the most part, ants mind their own business, which is finding food and making babies. But too often they across paths with us, and we take exception to fire ants expanding their colonies into our yards, or harvester ants excavating our gardens, or pharaoh ants taking up residence in our homes or offices, or  sugar or grease ants foraging for food in our kitchens. Where they have food and appropriate housing, their colonies will expand, and we all see them swarming, then landing, losing their wings and going quietly underground again.

When ants invade our spaces, some spaces, some choose to call an exterminator. If entirely professional, they will know the type of pets in your area and will poke around the house before positioning ant traps and/or spraying toxic chemicals. Although effective, such toxic products lack specificity, thus killing beneficial insects and potentially harming or sickening pets and people. Is there a safe, nontoxic alternative?

When I find a trail of ants in the home, I mix a couple spoonfuls of water with a quarter spoonful of borax (shelved with laundry detergents in any store) and half a spoonful of granular sugar. I stir till the sugar and borax have dissolved. By studying the ant trail, I try to find which end is closest to their home and then present a few drops of this brew to them on a small square of aluminum foil. If the ants are sugar eaters, they will quickly discover it. Gathering around the drop, they will fill their little bellies and take it back to the colony to feed all the members including the all-important queen. In a day or two, problem solved. Mix the borax with butter if they are greater ants. Either way, borax dehydrates and exterminates completely.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

SKIN

Once you see it, its hard to take your eyes off of it. It’s just a black-and-white etching and graving attributed  to the sixteenth-century Spanish artist Gaspar Becerra now in the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Dated 1556, it is accurately entitled “A flayed man holding his own skin.” And there he is, knife in his left hand, all his muscles distinct labeled as in any good illustration of human anatomy, the largest organ of his body – his skin – held head high, draped over his right hand, and hanging to below the knees. The man’s gaze is riveted on what used to cover him and what all of us care for passionately – skin. Becerra’s flayed man appears to have been the inspiration (if not the model to copy) for one of the exhibits on display at Body Worlds, the traveling exhibit of plasticized human bodies.

Our nine pounds of skin provides a study in contrasts and wondrous construction. Gently  feel the soft suppleness of cheek, neck, or shoulder, contrasting their texture to the hard cornified resistance  of heel, ball of foot, or elbow. Look how the skin between your thumb and index finger is wrinkled and folded compared to how it’s stretched tightly over the nose, hip, or bicep. Note the relative insensitivity of skin to touch on the thigh or inside the arm as opposed to the extreme sensitivity of finger tips, lips, or around the eyes. Hairy places and hairless places, oily places and dry places, thick and thin, darkly pigmented and nonpigmented, places that can’t sweat, places that won’t stop sweating – the list goes on and on.

Our skin has so many crucial functions that losing even a small percentage of it is life-threatening. It gives us protection from dying out, giving control of body temperature, acts as a barrier to bacteria and pathogens that would consume us, and has a vast array of sensors for touch, pressure, hot, cold, and injury. Another important function of this marvelous organ, I believe, is communion with others, especially those nearest and dearest. Whether cruel or loving, skin-to-skin contact communicates powerfully. The hateful slap to the face or punch in the stomach is the same in every langage. Skin-to-skin contact is the first meaningful communication that a baby experiences, the medium for the strongest of human interactions and bonding, as well as the last hand squeeze or soothing touch for the dying. How does  my skin communicate to those around me?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Belgian Malinois

I was waiting in line to clear security at Ontario International Airport on an outbound flight to Chicago when I was saw him coming down the line of passengers, nose low, head casting back and forth, working quickly. His partner was a stocky, bulletproof-vest-clad police officer with a tight haircut typical of law enforcement. He held the leash high with one hand and low with the other, talking quickly to his K-9 partner that I later learned was a Belgian Malinios, a breed of working dogs preferred by law enforcement because of their optimal size and their coat color. Also known as a Belgian shepherd dog. It is slightly smaller than a German shepherd so it is easier to handle, and it has a fawn to mahogany coat color, many shades lighter than its German cousin, making it less susceptible to heat stress.

And as I found out standing there in line, the Belgian Malinios is a master of bomb sniffing. Thankfully the dog kept moving all the way down the line and never sat down once. In fact, the pair moved up  to the upper level of the airport and continued working hundreds of passengers in the terminal. Fortunately, the dog didn’t sit down  a single time during that shift. The animals are rigorously trained to sit immediately if they smell gunpowder or any type of commercial or military explosive. As long as the dog keeps walking and working, all is well. When they do sit, the area is cleared immediately, and the bomb squad comes in with their robots to investigate. Since the dogs are carefully trained to recognize a wide range of explosives and since they undergo weekly practice and recertification, they get really good at finding bombs of all types. During practice sessions it generally takes them only a few minutes to locate multiple bombs planted on or in a jumbo jet. Having a high energy level, they just love to work.

Maintaining public safety require takes vigilance, training, and a clear and certain mission.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Flute

Flutes are one of the simple instruments and certainly the oldest-known musical instrument, dating far back into unrecorded prehistory. Even children quickly discover that blowing across a hollow grass stem (or bottle) can make a hauntingly beautiful tone. In less time than it takes to tell, they learn that different size of grass stems (or bottles) produce different pitches. Smaller volumes produce higher notes, and larger volumes, lower ones. Closed grasses stems (or bottle) are simple Helmholtz resonators that produce resonate sound as the air blown across the top creates pulses of pressure in the chamber.

To understand how it works, think about how to create a single pulse. Some of the air going across the top hits the lip and goes into the chamber, causing an increase in pressure. The pressure inside builds and pushes back till it overcomes the pressure coming in. Because the pushback has inertia, it produces an overcompensation in the pressure, making lower pressure in the chamber. Low pressure inside causes air to  rush back in, starting another pulse. Like a weight bouncing on a spring, the air pulses go in and out of the chamber. To prevent the pulses from dying out, the airstream blowing across the top keeps adding a little energy. The pressure pulses generates the sound that resonates in the chamber.

The flute is an acoustic cavity resonator. Air in the pipe of the flute is set in harmonic motion by pressure pulses generated by air being blown across the top of the mouthpiece. The flute cavity is an open cavity. Its size (and resonant frequency) is determined by which valve is open. The larger the cavity, the lower the note. Blowing more air across the mouthpiece puts more energy in. making the sound louder.

To generate sound in a flute, you must blow air across the top at first the right angle and velocity to get the pulses started. That takes lots of skill and practice. Ducted or fipple flutes are much easier to play. Blowing air into the duct directs it across the lip at just the right angle to get the pulses started. Police whistles, recorders, ocarinas, and pipe organs are examples of fipple flutes.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Performance Anxiety

But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry  beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11, NKJV

Public speaking. Just saying the words makes my mouth go dry, my heart start racing, and my stomach begin knotting up. Or put me in front of important people, and my mind goes blank. Good ideas that I had carefully thought through and meticulously organized for the big presentation skitter away like a nicely raked pile of leaves in an autumn wind. From professional speaker, musician, or performer to novice, we all get stage fright now and again. We start breathing hard, the sweat pops out, and the blood pressure rises.

My guess is that it won’t really help to explain what is going on in your body. Those reflexes are automatic (actually autonomic) and most difficult to control through rational thought, processes. The sympathetic nervous system is firing all out, putting you in top shape for the fight or flight response, and at this point flight appears to be the preferable option. But there is too much at stake. You have to get up and make your speech, sing your song, or nail the landing of your full twisting triple back-flip.

Is there a remedy for performance anxiety? The good news is that several things do help. Perhaps the first thing to do is practice. Compose the speech well ahead, learn the music, get all the fine points down carefully, then rehearse and practice again and again. Fear derived from not being ready is normal and actually a good thing. Respond to that fear with careful preparation. Next, I like to think of the presentation as a fun opportunity. Imagine drawing energy from the eager faces of those in the audience. Good presentations are exhilarating, enjoyable events. Another strategy is to put the presentation in its proper context. How important is it, really? What would happen if you really blow it? Would your mother still love you? Would God still love you? Yes, you want to do well, to put your best foot forward. But this one thing won’t make or break you. Finally, for me, the clincher is that this life is not about me anyway. My days here will be measured, not by my success, but by how I bring honor and glory to God. He has given me the talents and the skills. How am l using them to honor Him?

Lord Jesus, You even said that the words You spoke while here on earth were not Yours but that they came from the Father. May I connect so that I can bring You glory also.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati