October 14, 2006
Helpful Hints from joeeze: What is the best way to store an unfinished loaf of French bread?
From the current (November/December 2006) issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine:
A. Unless you store it correctly, there's often no good way to salvage a half-finished loaf of day-old French bread; your best bet is to use the stale pieces for bread crumbs, strata, or French toast. We tried several methods of keeping our leftover French bread fresh, both at room temperature and in the refrigerator: in its original paper bag, folded shut; wrapped tightly in aluminum foil; wrapped tightly in plastic wrap; and inside a large zipper-lock bag with the air pressed out.
Two days later, the room-temperature bread stored in the paper bag was hard, stale, and inedible. The foil-wrapped bread, on the other hand, was the best of the bunch. While it wasn't quite up to the standards of a fresh loaf (the crust had softened considerably and the interior crumb had gotten slightly chewier), it wasn't half bad, especially when crisped and "refreshed" for a few minutes in the toaster oven (or for five to seven minutes in a 375-degree oven). The bread stored in the zipper-lock bag was comparable, while the sample wrapped in plastic wrap — not quite as airtight as foil — was slightly staler. The refrigerated loaves didn't fare as well: They were drier, tougher versions of those left at room temperature.
So the next time you have a bit of baguette left over, store it at room temperature, tightly wrapped in foil or in a zipper-lock bag, and don't wait longer than a couple of days to eat it.
Urinal Sculpture — The sensational creations of Clark Sorensen
He hails from San Francisco.
four and eight months
from start to finish
due to the extremes
of size, complexity and color vibrancy
required to meet
his exacting standards.
They start at $6,500 and the sky's the limit.
Call him: 415-401-0383 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
[via Brian Nelson]
Why don't woodpeckers get headaches?
Ivan R. Schwab, in his paper "Cure for a Headache," which appeared in volume 86 of the British Journal of Ophthalmology in 2002, asked, "What if you spent your life battering your head against a wall — intentionally. How would you avoid headaches, concussions... or even retinal detachments?"
Long story short: woodpeckers strike the hard, woody surface of a tree at rates up to 20 times per second with deceleration forces of up to 1200 g, equivalent to striking a wall at 16 mph — face first — each time.
Read about it: the article follows.
- Cure for a headache
Sometimes it seems that you are simply banging your head against a brick wall, as the frustrations of contemporary life seem to conspire against you. For us, life’s headaches are common enough, but what if you spent your life battering your head against a wall—intentionally? How would you avoid headaches, concussions, "shaken baby" syndrome, or even retinal detachments?
The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) illustrated on this month’s cover is North America’s largest woodpecker, with only the ivory billed and imperial woodpecker of Mexico, if either species is not extinct, being larger. Woodpeckers hammer their lives away for feeding, nest construction, and drumming. A canopy dweller with a voracious appetite, D pileatus depends on a diet rich in protein, with ants the preferred food. Various berries and wild fruits may represent a mainstay in the autumn and winter months. The hollowed nest cavity is extraordinary in size, up to 8 inches in diameter and 2 feet deep. The drumming is species specific and may be used for communication or territorial display, but is not related to feeding. As a result of these activities, D pileatus may strike the hard woody surface of a tree at a rate of up to 20 times a second (not a misprint) and up to 12 000 times a day with staggering deceleration forces of as high as 1200 g with each impact. That is equivalent to striking a wall at 16 miles an hour—face first—each time.
This crow-sized, furtive, and wary woodpecker, as well as most of the approximately 300 known woodpecker species, has evolved several unique mechanisms to prevent brain damage, retinal haemorrhages, and retinal detachment.
The bird’s name comes from Linnaeus (1758) who chose the name pileatus, which is Latin for "crested." The bird eventually became known as the pileated woodpecker, although it was called other, more picturesque, names such as log-cock, stump-breaker, and laughing woodpecker.
To equip the bird for its ecological niche, evolution has provided the woodpecker with a thick bony skull with relatively spongy bone, especially at the occiput, and cartilage at the base of the mandible to partially cushion the incessant blows. Inside the skull, there is almost no cerebrospinal fluid in a very small subarachnoid space. The mandibles are attached to the skull by powerful muscles that contract a millisecond before strike, creating a tight, but cushioned structure at the moment of impact and distributing the force of the impact to the base and posterior aspects of the skull, thus bypassing the brain (May et al, Lancet 1976;1:454–5[Medline]). The neurological mechanisms must be superb since these birds strike in a perfect perpendicular stroke to eliminate the torsional shear force that would otherwise tear the meninges or cause concussions (May et al, Arch Neurol 1979;36:370–3[Medline]). Although not studied, this mechanism probably also protects against intraretinal haemorrhages and retinal detachment. Additionally, the woodpecker is protected, at least to some extent, by its size. Its brain is relatively small, resulting in a small ratio of brain weight to brain surface area. Any impact force would be spread out over a relatively large area making its brain somewhat more resistant to concussion than a human’s brain. Nevertheless, the woodpecker will use the leverage of its entire body weight to increase the force of impact of its bill, and it becomes a full body hammer.
The same high speed photography that has documented its strike mechanism has revealed that in that millisecond before strike the thickened nictitans closes over the eye. This would protect the eye from flying debris and chips, but would also act as a "seat belt" to restrain the eyes from quite literally "popping out of its head." Woodpeckers enjoy a cushioned choroid with an as yet unknown mucopolysaccharide filling the interstices. The pecten probably also has a role in maintaining an effective cushion as the pecten can fill with blood to briefly elevate intraocular pressure thus maintaining firm pressure on the lens and retina to prevent damage.
The woodpecker has other unique adaptations that deserve recognition and may contribute to the protection from intracranial injuries. The tongue is most unusual as it originates on the dorsum of the maxilla, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides into two, arches over the superior portion of the skull and around the occiput passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mandible, and uniting into a single tongue in the oropharyngeal cavity. The muscles encase the bony hyoid throughout this muscular course into the oropharynx and are additionally secured in the floor of the mouth creating an apparatus that allows for extraordinary protrusion of the tongue of up to 4 inches beyond the tip of the bill! These musculotendinous bands create a curious sling-like structure that probably functions as an isometric shock absorber if contracted before each strike. This sling would also serve to distribute the potential shearing forces (May et al, Lancet 1976;1:454–5[Medline]). Such length is useful for penetrating insect nests beneath the bark of trees. The sharp tongue (literally) is coated with sticky saliva for smaller insects such as ants and has backward pointing barbs that are useful in impaling larger insects and grubs. For added emphasis, the tongue is equipped with excellent tactile abilities to allow for recognition of smaller insects, such as ants. The chisel tipped mandibles are constructed of individual fused plates of keratin called rhamphotheca, and the longitudinal trabeculae are reinforced with calcium.
So, when you complain about your headache, think of the industrious woodpecker.
I was delighted to learn this work has just been awarded a 2006 Ig Nobel Prize in ornithology.
Solar-Powered Talking Bible — Something old, something new
Question: Why hasn't Apple brought out a solar-powered iPod (yet)?
If someone else beats them to it, either with a music player, PDA or cellphone, they're gonna have a hard time 'splainin' to the faithful.
From the website:
- Solar-Powered Talking Bible
All you have to is listen while you go through your daily routine.
If you have ever wanted to read the Bible from cover to cover but found yourself without the time necessary to sit and read, your prayers have been answered.
Our Talking Bible allows you to simply push a button and listen to a pleasant human voice read the complete Bible, both Old and New Testaments, or go to a specific book and chapter to hear a specific verse.
Imagine listening to the Bible as you meditate, sew, garden, relax... and it's a godsend for the vision-impaired.
Powering this Bible is easy as well as all you need to do is place it near a light source and it recharges.
There are no batteries to worry about replacing before being able to listen.
You also have the option of listening to it through its built-in speaker and sharing what you are hearing, or you can have a more personal experience by using the earbud headphones that come with it.
It also comes with a lanyard (neck strap) to allow you to wear it while you are moving around your house doing housework, or you can flip out the attached stand and place it on a table to listen.
Either way, all you have to do is listen and enjoy what you have always wanted to read.
I thought this up on the way back from the post office this morning.
I'm offering it gratis to National Reading Week or whomever wants to use it.
Keyboards for little people
From the website:
These days, I am constantly on the computer and my wrists are killing me. In this day and age, I'm not the only one on the computer. So are both my little boys. Both my kids started using the computer when they turned three years old.
If adults have so many problems because they use the computer so much, I can't imagine how difficult and painful it must be for our kids (and anyone who is smaller than the average adult) to use an adult-sized computer keyboard. Thank goodness other people are on the same wavelength and have created interesting solutions... many inventors are way ahead of me on this one.
[via Michelle Blu and americaninventorspot.com]
Flydome — Beyond Thunderdome: Two Fighting Fruit Flies Enter, One Fly Leaves
Nicholas Wade, in the October 10 New York Times Science section, wrote about these superflies, selectively bred for aggressiveness until they were over 30 times more warrior-like than average.
It took only five generations for the fierceness trait to appear, but Herman A. Dierick and Ralph J. Greenspan, biologists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, kept the selective pressure on through 21 generations to get the ultimate crop of warrior flies.
Above, vidcaps from the movie.
Watch the premiere of "Flydome: Two Flies Enter, One Fly Leaves" here (left sidebar: scroll down).
The Times story follows.
- Flyweights, Yes, but Fighters Nonetheless: Fruit Flies Bred for Aggressiveness
What can stand on its hind legs and duke it out with its front feet, boxing and tussling like a four-armed pugilist?
The answer: a strain of laboratory fruit flies bred for shameless aggressiveness toward their own kind.
These miniature gladiators flail at each other with a zeal and tempo that make professional boxers look like milquetoasts. A video, available here, shows a Drosophilan version of Mike Tyson forcing an opponent to fly the court.
The fighting flies have been bred by Herman A. Dierick and Ralph J. Greenspan, two biologists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. Their goal is to discover the neural circuits that are genetically modified when flies develop aggressive behavior.
Fruit flies in the wild are quite hostile toward one another. Males will fight off other males from prize real estate, like a rotten peach, where females like to congregate. But when kept in the laboratory, subsequent generations soon become domesticated.
Dr. Dierick and Dr. Greenspan figured that since this behavior was easily lost, it should be easy enough to regain if the right selective pressure were applied. So they took a laboratory strain of tame fruit flies and set up pots of food that could be protected by single males.
The males that fought the hardest in these encounters were sucked off their little arenas with a pipette and rewarded by becoming the fathers of the next generation.
More aggressive males started to appear after only 5 generations, and by the 21st generation, Dr. Dierick found that the aggressiveness of male fruit flies had increased more than 30-fold, according to a scoring system he developed.
At this point he was able to perform an experiment that would have been quite messy had he been working with larger animals. He chopped off the heads of 100 aggressive individuals, ground them up and ran a test to measure changes in the activity of their brain genes.
About 80 genes — the fruit fly has about 14,000 — were either more or less active in the brains of the aggressive flies, compared with flies of the original population from which they were selected.
Two of the most changed genes were ones involved in the detection of pheromones, the hormonelike scents with which fruit flies signal their activities.
One of these genes seems to make the aggressive flies unusually sensitive to the pheromones emitted by other males. Another, which is repressed in the aggressive flies, mediates sensitivity to the pheromone with which male flies mark their territory. The aggressive flies seem less able to recognize others’ boundaries.
Dr. Dierick hopes to identify the neural circuit in the fly’s brain that mediates aggressive behavior and that is modulated up or down by inputs from pheromones and other sources. Dr. Greenspan said an understanding of how genes set up circuits to govern behavior would be of broad significance in understanding what makes either flies or people tick.
Pewter College Koozie
Be true to your school.
42 of them to choose from.
From the website:
- Collegiate Koozies
Pewter koozies keep 12 oz. drinks cold until the very last delicious drop.
Koozies come in your choice of team logo, in smooth or new diamond-track finish.