21 December 2007

Merry Christmas from Yvie

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night's sleep!

Baby Science Part 2: Lipase

When Yvie was about a month old, I started pumping milk so I could build up a frozen supply. The books all say that breastmilk stays fresh for about 4-6 days in the fridge, but it seemed that mine went sour much faster, usually in less than 24 hours. By the time I made this discovery, two months of diligent pumping had gone by, and I ended up having to trash my whole frozen supply of milk, as it had all spoiled before being frozen.

I figured the problem was:

a) the containers the milk was stored in
b) the sterilization of the pump
c) the conditions of the fridge
d) my bad habit of storing milk in the pump (not airtight) overnight

"Maybe it's you," my husband joked, after I established an elaborate scientific process to test each of the possibilities. None of the conditions I listed seemed to explain the problem.

Turns out my husband was right. Some women produce an excess of the enzyme lipase in their breastmilk. Lipase is responsible for breaking down fats during digestion - we all have it in our bodies and all breast milk has some to make the fats easier for baby to digest. My milk had so much of it, the fat in the milk was being digested in the first six hours after it was pumped, before it got to the baby or to the freezer.

The solution, fortunately, is fairly simple: scald the milk before storing it, and the lipase is inactivated. The drawback to this is that some of the immunological properties of the milk are also killed off during scalding. This would be more of a problem if I were relying on pumped milk for full-time feeding, but since Yvie only gets a bottle once at day at the most, I am not concerned about it. Since I started scalding milk, I notice it separates less and reconstitutes much more easily than it did before. And it no longer tastes sour, soapy, or metallic, even when it's a day or two old.

Yvie has been complaining about my reintroducing bottle feeding after almost three weeks off, but I am bigger than she is and I have more stubborn in me, so gradually she is getting used to having a bottle once a day. I breath a sigh of relief knowing that I will be able to leave her with Papa or with a sitter for more than two hours at a time.

26 October 2007

Inspiring Glass/Mixed Media Art

Check out this cool project! This is the work of Crystal Schenk.
Link to Schenk's work at Sculpture.org

Anyone know where I can get an antique shopping cart?

01 October 2007

Baby Science Part 1: Jaundice

Baby has jaundice, so I have learned a little more about it in the last few days. In the womb, babies need a really good oxygen supply so their blood is really thick with red blood cells. After birth, the blood needs to be thinner in order to flow into the smaller capillaries. (That's why newborns have bluish/cold feet and hands for the first few days of life.) As the red blood cells break down, a byproduct called bilirubin is produced, which is what makes the skin and eyes yellow. It is very common for newborns to have jaundice. At high enough levels, bilirubin can cause brain damage.

Bilirubin can be removed from the body in two ways - it can be processed by the liver and excreted, or it can be broken down by light through the skin. A newborn's liver is typically immature and cannot handle the large amount of bilirubin that is produced after birth, so one form of treatment is to feed the baby frequently (every two hours or so) to get the liver excreting waste (including bilirubin) more quickly.

The second form of treatment involves exposing the baby to light, often in a hospital setting in a light box. We did home phototherapy with our little one, as seen above as she napped in a sunny spot by the window. Her jaundice peaked on day four of life, and after a lot of sun time her levels were well past danger by five days old. Her eyes are still a little yellowish, but her skin tone is much more pink today.

28 September 2007

Project Mini-Me (Latest Construction Project)

Look what we made! Yvie Rae was born Wednesday morning. (Pronounced "E.V.")

My mother says all newborns fall into two categories: the ones that look like Abe Lincoln and the ones that look like George Washington. So, is Yvie an Abe or a George?

13 August 2007

Nursery Mural

Yikes, it's been a long long time. My life has been more about art than science, since chemistry class ended in May, so this is what I have to show for my absence of the last few months. I found a photo online of a quilt, which was based on a Tiffany stained glass design, which I modified (to fit the proportion of the wall and accommodate the crib) and freehanded. It took me about 20 hours, I think, since I listened to the new Harry Potter audiobook from start to finish.

26 May 2007

My Brush with Science Fame

Every science geek's wet dream? Sighting Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters in Trader Joe's this morning? I didn't speak to him. He tries not to make eye contact with people. On the show he comes across as intimidating, but maybe he's just shy....

25 May 2007

Trivial Tidbit from Modern Marvels

Ever wonder why sewer most manhole covers are round?

For the last few months, I've been working on and off on restoring the circular skylight in our old Victorian house. It involves dragging the ladder up a flight of stairs, wiggling through the access panel in the bathroom ceiling, balancing my way across the ceiling rafters because there is no floor, and doing all the work on the skylight in the dusty, hot, unventilated attic. Why? Because the darn window frame is round, and it won't fit through the hole in the ceiling so I can't lower it through to work on it in a better space.

Think back to high school geometry: though various shapes of manhole covers have been used over time (rectangular, trapezoidal, etc), round covers are the only ones that can't fall through the hole into the sewer passage below. My a-ha moment for the day.

30 April 2007

Latest Construction Project

Many of you who know me in Real Life are aware that I have been building a baby since January. Though I have learned a lot of interesting sciency things about pregnancy, I've been Too Damn Tired to blog them properly. I do hope to post some pregnancy-related sciency blogs soon, as I have recently become my own favorite science experiment, but right now I am focusing on the last three weeks of chemistry class and getting enough sleep. For now, a short quiz on celebrity baby names:

(No fair using the Internet!)

1) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Alchamy
b) Audio Science
c) Pilot Inspektor
d) Sintax Erra

2) Which of the following is *not* the name of a son of Rob Rodriguez?
a) Racer
b) Razor
c) Rebel
d) Rocket
e) Rogue

3) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Poppy Honey
b) Sweet Cherry Baby
c) True Isabella Summer

4) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Cooper Alan
b) Hopper Jack
c) Piper Maru
d) Sailor Lee

5) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Boston
b) Brooklyn
c) Ireland
d) London
e) Milan

6) Which of the following *is* a celebrity baby name?
a) Five
b) Seven
c) Ten

7) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Apple
b) Kiwi
c) Peaches

8) Which of the following is *not* a celebrity baby name?
a) Fifi-Trixibelle
b) Hannabella-Bea
c) Saffron Sahara
d) Tallulah Belle
e) Tallulah Pine

9) Which of the following *is* a celebrity baby name?
a) Kyd
b) Normal
c) Proxy

1) D
2) B
3) B
4) A
5) E
6) B
7) B
8) B
9) A

28 February 2007

For Chemistry Geeks

I finished a quiz early and got bored:

There once was an element named Cu
Who was so fast that no one could stu.
She ran all about
'til her father came out
Yelling "If she ever slows down, then I'll pu!"

My next one will be about Zn, I Thn.

Also, an incredibly useful simulation for gas laws.

27 January 2007

Finally Done!

This is my first glass project using Tiffany method (copper-foil and solder). It took about 20 hours of work, and I finished it in class Thursday night.

16 January 2007

Inventions/Inventors Quiz

This took me a day longer than it should have to post - I was hung up on the idea that a quiz had to have ten questions. This one has only seven. Answers posted below - no peeking!

1) The wheel/axle combination was invented in:

a) China
b) Mesopotamia
c) Egypt
d) Rome

2) The first televised broadcast occurred in:
a) 1862
b) 1884
c) 1923
d) 1936
e) 1948

3) Thomas Alva Edison's electric light bulb, patented in 1880, used which type of filament?
a) selenium
b) tungsten
c) carbon
d) platinum

4) The first successful use of vaccination was to treat:
a) polio
b) measles
c) smallpox
d) rabies

5) Early computers were developed to:
a) tabulate census results
b) program complicated weaving patterns into looms
c) calculate firing tables for WWII weapons
d) all of the above

6) Which inventor was hearing impaired?
a) Samuel Morse
b) Thomas Alva Edison
c) George Washington Carver
d) Alexander Graham Bell

7) Which invention is generally attributed to one inventor when a different inventor may have actually created it first?
a) the telephone
b) the radio
c) Calculus
d) all of the above

Inventions/Inventors Quiz Answers - don't peek!

1) answer: (b)
It is almost certain that the Mesopotamians were the first to use the wheel/axle combination in the 5th millennium BC, making pottery wheels and carts that could move crops easily.

2) answer: (a)
In 1862, Abbe Giovanna Caselli, an Italian priest and physics professor, demonstrated that a still image can be transmitted over wire. Electromagnetic television was used by the German engineer Paul Nipkow in 1884. The first electronic televisions were developed in the 1920's.

3) answer: (c)
Thomas Alva Edison was one of many "inventors" of the incandescent light bulb, though he is often credited with its invention because he was involved in the R&D that led to the first commercially successful light bulb for common use. At the time of his patent, streetlights which arced electrical current between two carbon rods were in common use. Edison used carbon materials, finally settling on carbonized bamboo as his filament of choice.

4) answer: (c)
Though Edward Jenner is generally credited with developing the first smallpox vaccination procedures in 1796, it was widespread knowledge in farming communities that people who had already had the milder illness cowpox seemed to be immune to smallpox. A few years before Jenner's vaccinations, Benjamin Jesty swabbed his pregnant wife and two sons with a sample of cowpox, successfully vaccinating against smallpox. Earlier in the century, vaccinations were performed using smallpox samples from ill people. The earliest documented case in the Western world occurred in 1717. Catherine the Great and her family were inoculated against smallpox in 1768. A 1776 letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, congressman John Adams, detailed her plan to take their children to Boston to be inoculated against smallpox.

5) answer: (d)
All of the above! In the 1889, census worker Herman Hollerith (whose company later became IBM) developed a punchcard system for tabulating the results for the US census, which is administered every ten years. Previously, the census had taken seven years to tabulate, making the results obsolete by the time they were compiled. The 1890 census was completed in only two years, using Hollerith's system.

In 1801, French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard introduced a prototype loom which used punchcards to automate the process of weaving complicated patterns. His invention was met with much resistance by weavers whose livelihoods were threatened, but by 1806 his loom was declared public property, and Jacquard received royalties accordingly. Complicated weaving patterns are sometimes called "jacquard" patterns. His punchcard system was the inspiration for player pianos.

The ENIAC was the first electronic, digital, programmable computer, and it was developed during the 1940's to calculate ballistics tables for weapons being used in combat during World War II. Until ENIAC, these calculations were made by a corps of female civilian and military mathematicians. Though the ENIAC's design is credited to two men, some of the construction and all of the programming of the ENIAC was performed by women who became some of the first computer scientists of the modern age.

6) answer: (b)
Thomas Alva Edison became partially deaf in adolescence as the result of an accident. This was one reason he was successful as a telegraph operator - his hearing loss helped him block out ambient noise. Alexander Graham Bell was a teacher for the deaf and created several inventions (the telephone, the microphone) with this community in mind. Bell's mother and wife were deaf. He is a controversial figure in the Deaf community, since he believed that hereditary deafness should be eliminated by preventing deaf people from marrying, and that sign language should be forbidden in order to encourage deaf children to learn speech and lipreading skills.

7) answer: (d)
Alexander Graham Bell gets the credit for inventing the telephone, but an Italian immigrant, Antonio Meucci, demonstrated the basic technology of telephonic communication 25 years earlier. Meucci had no money for a patent, but US Congress issued a resolution in 2002 acknowledging his work in the field of telephony.

Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent just a few hours earlier than his rival, Elisha Gray. A decade later, a patent clerk admitted he had been bribed to backdate Bell's patent application so it would be accepted ahead of Gray's.

Among the many people working on radio, Nicola Tesla was among the first to have US patents issued for technology that could reliably reproduce a radio frequency. His work was chronicled in ten patents issued between 1898 and 1903. In 1904 Marconi filed a patent duplicating Tesla's work, and in 1915 Tesla sued Marconi for patent infringement. Nothing came of this litigation, and soon after, Marconi sued the US government for use of wireless communication during WWI. The ruling of this case invalidated Marconi's patent, determining that Marconi's technological developments had been anticipated by Tesla.

Calculus was simultaneously developed by Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1690's. Newton was reluctant to publish his work, though it seems that Leibniz did have an opportunity to see one of Newton's unpublished manuscripts about Calculus ("Fluxions") in 1677. Leibniz first published his own development of Calculus in 1684. Once Newton published his theory of Fluxions in full, in 1704, Leibniz's notation and methods were widely in use on the European continent. The Royal Society accused Leibniz of plagiarism, and sparked a bitter dispute that continued well beyond the death of Leibniz in 1716. It is generally accepted by mathematicians and historians that each man developed Calculus independently of the other.

Blogging Hiatus

After almost a month off, I'm back in the swing of things. While I've been away, I've encountered and survived the following:

* chemistry final exams
* jetlag (eastbound and westbound varieties)
* Christmas
* food poisoning
* a high-speed train trip from Belgium to Germany, with food poisoning
* allergic reactions to curry
* that really bad cold-with-a-fever thing that seems to be going around

None the worse for wear, I look forward to blogging again! I'm working on some stuff that should be up in the next few days. Happy New Year!