Category Archives: Cool Science Stuff

What’s the deal with blood types?

Today I booked an appointment for next week to go and give blood. I’ve never done it before, but I’m healthy and definitely willing, so I figured it was about time. I think my mom told me my blood type but I have forgotten what it was if she did.

This reminded me of a video a watched not that long ago, and thought I had already posted (because it’s so simple and clear), but a quick search of my own blog reveals I in fact did not. So now I am!

If you’re healthy and willing and have never given blood before, I recommend you do it. It really can save lives and it’s a small sacrifice to do so. Here in Canada I called the Canadian Blood Services (1-888-236-6283), if you’re in the US I suspect you could call The Red Cross?

Either way, consider it. I am also a registered Organ Donor, which is another thing I support and recommend. I’d rather my remains potentially save lives rather than wastefully get buried in the ground. I suspect the worms have enough food already down there 🙂

Heterochromia Iridum aka multicoloured eyes

I only recently learned that this had a name, and since I find it interesting, I wanted to do a post about it. Apparently, there’s one player in the NHL (Shawn Horcoff) who has this, and actually, I grew up with a pet dog (a gorgeous Siberian Husky) that had it too.

Heterochrowhatia?Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)?

From WikiPedia:

In anatomy, heterochromia (Greek: heteros ‘different’ + chroma ‘color’) is a difference in coloration, usually of the iris but also of hair or skin. Heterochromia is a result of the relative excess or lack of melanin (a pigment). It may be inherited, or caused by genetic mosaicism, chimerism, disease, or injury.

Heterochromia of the eye (heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridum) is of two kinds. In complete heterochromia, one iris is a different color from the other. In partial heterochromia or sectoral heterochromia, part of one iris is a different color from its remainder.

Eye color, specifically the color of the irises, is determined primarily by the concentration and distribution of melanin. The affected eye may be hyperpigmented (hyperchromic) or hypopigmented (hypochromic). In humans, usually, an excess of melanin indicates hyperplasia of the iris tissues, whereas a lack of melanin indicates hypoplasia.

So, either both eyes can be different colours (as was the case with my childhood dog), or one eye can have two different colours, or the eyes can simply be a different colour from the hair or skin. But since it’s not something we see very often, it always catches our attention and fascination.

You can actually see it somewhat in this closeup of the iris that I found and posted recently:

eye closeupPretty darn cool huh?

So, if you want something pretty to look at today, I suggest googling “heterchromic eyes”, and behold. I’m partial to any images with green or blue, personally.


A science and safety lesson re: Microwaves

Short post here, busy week, but this is pretty interesting, and does a good job of explaining a concept quickly and succinctly. I don’t microwave a lot of stuff, but this is definitely good to know:

SciShow “Why can’t I put metal in the microwave?”

One Big Hockey Puck Molecule

Today in “Huh, I had no idea” – ice hockey pucks are technically one single molecule. That molecule is called polyisoprene. Here’s a little history on how rubber was invented, and also how pucks (and car tires!) are each one single molecule:

Then there comes onto the scene a tinkerer named Charles Goodyear. In the winter of 1839 Goodyear was in Massachusetts trying to figure out how to make natural rubber more useful so that he could finally make a living at his until-now fruitless tinkering. He had mixed rubber latex and sulfur together when he had a little accident. He spilled the mixture on a hot stove top. When the mixture was through frying, Goodyear couldn’t believe what had happened.

Wouldn’t you know sulfur was just the extra ingredient he needed to make rubber work in cold weather. After mixing hot gooey rubber latex and sulfur and letting the mixture cool, he took the rubbery solid that resulted and tacked it to the outside of his door. The cold Massachusetts winter didn’t make it brittle. What’s more, it didn’t become gooey when heated anymore, either. Goodyear was onto something here. This process for making rubber more useable became known as vulcanization.

What Goodyear had done was this: he crosslinked the rubber. Let me explain. The sulfur molecules each contain eight sulfur atoms, arranged in a ring. When these sulfur molecules are heated with polyisoprene molecules, something nifty happens. The sulfur rings open, and fall apart. Fragments of the sulfur rings will join with the polyisoprene, joining the chains together.

Here’s the intriguing part. Once the rubber has been crosslinked, all the molecules have joined into one big molecules. Polyisoprene molecules are big as molecules go already, having molecular weights sometimes over one million. But now they have all joined into one molecule, one so big that a person can see it, feel it, and pick it up. A piece of crosslinked rubber contains one molecule. Amazing, isn’t it?

This crosslinking makes the rubber stronger. It also allows the rubber to keep its shape better when it is stretched over and over again. It keeps the rubber from getting gooey in hot climates because, think about it, a single molecule can’t flow like a substance made up of many molecule. Think of the way you can pour a bucket full of gravel, but you can’t really pour a boulder, and you’ll get the idea.

So this sounds pretty useful right? It sure does to hockey players, and arguably to anyone who owns and drives a car. However, there are some downsides:

Now there are some drawbacks to this crosslinking which makes natural rubber so useful. First of all, because it doesn’t get gooey and flow when it gets hot, one has to mold it into whatever shape one wants before crosslinking. But that isn’t a really big problem, just something for an engineer to keep in mind when making things out of natural rubber. But it’s related to a bigger problem. Because rubber doesn’t flow when hot after it has been crosslinked, it is very difficult to recycle. This is a big problem. Just think of how many tires are used up each year by all the cars in the world. That’s a lot of waste to dispose. Several experimental processes are being investigated for recycling crosslinked rubber.

I’ve kind of been on a hockey kick lately, so it was cool to actually find something sciencey to be able to post about it here.

Are blue eyes and red hair going extinct?

Two good videos here from SciShow on YouTube.

Are blue eyes endangered?

The truth about “Gingers”

Humans Need Not Apply

I had the nerve to say on twitter that “CGP Grey may have just made the most important video of our generation” about this next video. I fully admit that’s hyperbolic, but as I was watching the video, each succeeding segment made me feel as if all the safety and security that I know in modern times, is pretty much an illusion. The robots, they’re takin’ over mate. And we’re programming them how to do it.

Luckily, since Grey narrates all his videos, there is a transcript on his site (because I’ve learned it takes me roughly 3x as long as the video’s length to type out the transcript of what it says), so I don’t have to type one out and post it below. You just get the enjoy the video. I will include a list of topics though.

Physical Labour
Luddite Horses
The Shape of Things to Come
Creative Labor

I will highlight part of the closing statements:

Right: this might have been a lot to take in, and you might want to reject it — it’s easy to be cynical of the endless, and idiotic, predictions of futures that never are. So that’s why it’s important to emphasize again this stuff isn’t science fiction. The robots are here right now. There is a terrifying amount of working automation in labs and wear houses that is proof of concept.

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren’t unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There’s little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own.

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

In the words of a clever friend of mine: “Good morning, unemployed horses 🙂 ”

Of course, I don’t imagine this will be a problem in my lifetime, but it is kinda scary to see the first blushes of things we’ve seen in Sci-Fi movies, becoming reality. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who has been alive since before or during World War 2. Looking back at what the world was like then, just 70 years ago, compared to now, it seems so archaic and quaint. Now I feel like I am getting a glimpse into the future, what the world might look like in another 70 years. It’s a bit mind-bending.

Cell Fate Conversion in the form of a subway-like map

This one I found on twitter. I find these sorts of visualizations both cool, and helpful for understanding something I would otherwise have a very hard time wrapping my head around. I like maps, and visualizations!

From GenEngNews, “Mapping Cell Fate Conversion via CellNet, a Network Biology Tool”.


Learn about some very cool physics phenomena with Derek Muller (Veritasium)

This video made my inner science nerd squee. Physics can be so fascinating.

Like for example, how cereal is actually magnetic.

How the sun sees you (and why you should wear sunscreen!)

Holy crapoli! This is pretty shocking. I ride my bike a lot, and I pretty much never wear sunscreen unless I know I’m going to be in direct sunlight for more than say, 30 minutes in a stretch. I’m absolutely re-thinking that now!

An ultraviolet camera can show not-yet-visible changes to your skin. Mostly freckles. Also other stuff. Everyone’s born with good skin, pretty much. It ages at different speeds. Healthy skin is easy to spot.

Glass blocks UV, so glasses look black. Sunscreen also blocks UV. So, this is what sunscreen looks like. Stay beautiful. It’s that easy.

Like I said, this is pretty surprising to watch. Some things you can just never really understand or imagine until you see them clearly presented like this. Check other more videos (playing and experimenting with light) by Thomas Leveritt here.

It’s also worth pointing out, I’ve got lots of posts about light here on the blog, so I recommend checking out the search results for “light”. Happy learning!

Playing violin during brain surgery

Well here’s one you definitely don’t see very often, because it’s a first! From Elite Daily, “Violinist Plays During Brain Surgery To Help Surgeons Find Exactly What’s Causing Tremor”.

Roger Frisch, a concert violinist, had started experiencing a conditional called “essential tremors” that made it difficult for him to play (and thus to earn a living). Finally he went to a specialist to try to determine if there was anything that could be done. The doctor suggested an experimental procedure. This is a pretty amazing story:

Hooray for science!