My son’s elementary school had its first science fair in many years, and it was a hoot. Never mind that the participants were crammed into an upstairs hallway while the gym (excuse me, “All-Purpose Room”) was booked for Lip Sync rehearsal. (Welcome to DC public schools!) The kiddos put a lot of work into their presentations, which ranged from explorations of how smell affects the taste of chocolate to RG3′s knee surgery to how many balloons it would take to lift a cat. Many boxes of cornstarch were sacrificed for my son’s team’s green goo experiments, and one young prodigy even built a hovercraft. But the germaphobe gross-out award went to a few budding young scientists who explored bacteria in our everyday lives; one cultured microbes from surfaces in public spaces like the Metro and MacDonald’s (big ugh), and another determined that anti-bacterial soap is not as effective as good old-fashioned hand soap.
Walking around Baltimore’s newly developed East Harbor yesterday, I was appalled by the slurry of bottles, plastic, and detritus floating in the water alongside the boardwalk. I wondered how this lone duck could stand it. Then I realized, with some relief, that the bird was swimming free and clear of the trash — which was contained by booms on the storm drains that flush into the harbor. Well, I thought, that’s one sign of progress. But, clearly, there’s much to be done upstream to protect the watershed. According to this interesting story in the Baltimore Sun a couple of years ago, more than 300,000 pounds of trash and debris a year flow down from the Jones Falls. While a little more than half is organic material (leaves, etc.), the rest is manmade: an estimated 189,000 plastic bottles, 160,000 foam cups, 58,000 grocery bags, and more than 1 million cigarette butts.
The nation’s librarians have kindly made a list of delicious and demanding reads from the science division. Which of these books have you read and loved? I found Moonwalking with Einstein fascinating and fun, and I reread The Double Helix every couple of years. #books
A bench? A pedestal? This clunky piece of furniture is a kind of medical lazy Susan — a rotating examination table from the leprosy colony on the island of Culion in the Philippines. Children born and raised within the colony, which opened in 1906, were regularly placed on this table and examined from almost every angle for suspicious lesions and numb patches of skin that might indicate an active leprosy infection. This exam was known as a “reconoser,” according to Dr. Arturo C. Cunanan, who waxes rather nostalgically about the routine in a recent Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation/World Health Organization newsletter.