Monday, November 28, 2011

Teaching Science to the Unbelievers

I was sitting here thinking about how to write about my cousin who thinks infrared light is as unlikely as levitation, when my friend Miriam sent me this link:

I teach science and as part of my ongoing propaganda to lure my grandchildren to the science side of the political debates in this country, I prepare simple scientific demonstrations for each of my visits.  For Thanksgiving, we had two nights of celebration, so I prepared two demonstrations.  

The first night, we made icosahedrons (20-sided rounded shapes) using 20 construction paper circles and glue sticks.  My cousin wasn’t there that night or perhaps he’d have thrown the paper circles in the air and insisted that there is no point in making spheres because the world is flat.

But he was there the second night, when I demonstrated that he human body makes infrared heat.

The Mother Jones article says, “we have other important goals besides accuracy—including identity affirmation and protecting one's sense of self—and often those make us highly resistant to changing our beliefs when the facts say we should.”

I’m not sure what sense of self my cousin has about infrared heat.  I once tried to teach a young woman that when she got into the bathtub, her body took up space and makes the water rise, just like when she puts dishes in the sink to wash them. She insisted that the water does not rise when she gets in the tub.  She was a slender young woman, but nobody is that skinny.  My cousin’s handshake is cool, but it’s not room temperature.

This youtube video shows how useful infrared light can be and detected as heat:

My demonstration asked my grandchildren (and anyone else who wanted to participate) to shake their hands until they feel puffy. When they put their warmed hands about ½ an inch apart, each hand can feel the heat of the other hand, without touching.  

My cousin refused to participate and insisted we were all imagining things.   I asked him to put out one of his hands and put my hands about ½ an inch away from his on both sides.  He insisted he couldn’t feel anything and then pretended I was levitating him and stood up.

Then he told my grandchildren that they go to a science emphasis school and they shouldn’t believe anything I tell them.

The Mother Jones article quotes Leon Festinger, "A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point."  

No wonder we have debates about vaccines and global warming whether the Earth is a sphere.

Most of the issues of scientific debate don’t affect our daily lives.  No decisions I make would vary if the Earth were flat, or if life as we know it is a result evolution or creationism.  But the mindset of experiment and discovery has inherent value.  I’d like to pass that on to my grandchildren. The question is – how do I interest my cousin, and in parallel, the adult population?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random Acts of Literacy

Another short blog this week.  I follow Jane Yolen on Facebook. She introduced me to

this site suggests that people give books to strangers that they meet in public places.

Usually I resell mine or trade them for credit at my local used book store.  This idea makes sense. People usually talk to me as we wait for buses, ride on buses, wait in line at the grocery store.  I usually have my backpack or bike saddle bag with me.  It's only a few ounces extra to carry.  If the person seems like they might like what I've just finished, giving it to them is a great idea that I can afford.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vitamin C Raises HDL Cholesterol

My husband, the alien, has always had low HDL in his blood.  His doctors have told him to exercise more.  He rides his bicycle to work, he goes to the gym with me every morning, he helps in the garden. In the summer, he swims after work. It would be hard to find a man who does more exercise.

His doctor tells him to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains.  I haven’t served white flour or white rice for over 40 years. We have fresh fruits and veggies (both cooked and raw) at every meal.  

I thought – maybe aliens just have low HDL.  But both his parents died in their 60's, and I have plans for him in his 90's and possibly beyond.

He thinks I’m nuts that I subscribe to health-nut newsletters. They have me doing stretching exercises on airplanes and in movie theaters. They have me eating nasturtiums and marigolds. They convinced me to switch from ubiquinone (co-q10) to ubiquinol.  They introduced me to interval training during exercise. And they convinced me to pay attention to Linus Pauling’s work with Vitamin C.

We started taking time release Vitamin C about a month ago.  My husband’s latest HDL test shows him in the normal range for the first time in his life.  He wondered aloud what he’d been doing differently.  The only thing I could think of was the Vitamin C.

He’d heard of Vitamin C to prevent colds, heal bruises, and reduce the chance of heart disease.  But he’d never heard of it raising HDL.  You’d think if it was that easy, his doctors would have suggested it to him.

So, I surfed the web, and found The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
It published an article:
High plasma vitamin C associated with high plasma HDL- and HDL2 cholesterol

Further research uncovered more links to USDA and PubMed.  This is not an unusual alien response. It’s well documented.  Since high HDL is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, such an inexpensive, low-time-consuming answer deserves more publicity.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voting for a Republican

I just voted for a Republican.  I don’t usually do that without a lot of research, without being disappointed in the Democratic candidate.  But this time, I did it on impulse.

The day before the election, I received many robo-calls.  Technically, according to the law, these recordings are not supposed to start unless I answer with at least two words.  I answer with one word.  Most of them start up anyway.  A few tie up my line with silence.  

One of these was a recording telling me Not to cast my vote for this Republican.  That I’d be wasting my vote and besides this man was dangerous.  He had endangered the lives of some undercover police officers by shooting his gun into the air.

My instinct was a – vote for this guy – he’s got somebody rich frightened.

How is anybody supposed to recognize an undercover police officer?  They’re in disguise – probably dressed like drug pushers or prostitutes.  And, while I don’t think it’s cool to shoot a gun into the air to frighten drug pushers and / or prostitutes (especially not prostitutes), I don’t think it endangers anybody.

I did some web surfing about this candidate.  If he wins, he’ll be the first Asian-American ever elected to the city council.  He’s a war hero (maybe that’s where the gun stuff comes from.)  He seems like a decent guy.  

I’ve seen signs supporting him in Chinatown.  I’ve also seen signs asking City Council to remove bike lanes from Chinatown.  I ride a bike. I WANT bike lanes everywhere.  I hope this candidate won’t vote to get rid of my bike lanes.

Online I found another interesting tidbit.  A City Council member whose office has regularly failed to return my calls is a likely candidate for President of the City Council.  He’s a Democrat.  If this Republican candidate wins, he’ll probably vote for somebody else – anybody else.  That could be good for the city.

I wasn’t going to vote for a Republican for City Council this year.  But thanks to that nasty recording, I voted for him, and so did my husband, the alien.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life Before Death

Just a short blog today.  I came across this website:

We're all going to die.  We do not need to die in pain.  But many of us will.  Advocate now so we'll have options when our time comes.

Life Before Death

Just a short blog today.  I came across this website:

We're all going to die.  We do not need to die in pain.  But many of us will.  Advocate now so we'll have options when our time comes.