Category Archives: Science Light

Five Links for a Friday

OK, maybe it’s not quite Friday for everyone yet, but here’s a random collection of Cool Things I’ve Seen on the Internet This Week, in no particular order and for your viewing pleasure.  If you are Facebook friends with me, some of these might be repeats.  Apologies.

1. A North Carolina State Ph.D. student turned linguistic data from around the United States into a pretty cool series of visuals.  I just can’t get them to embed (which is OK, because 22 is too many anyway, and you should really just click on the link).  Beyond the “soda” vs. “pop” debate, the graphics explore the many pronunciations of “syrup”, where people are wearing tennis shoes vs. sneakers, and what names are given to that big crowded road without stoplights.  If you’ve lived in the US for any length of time, go have a look. It’s fascinating!

2. I often struggle to find the right balance between being confident, humble, and modest.  I (and many people, especially women <— broad generalization, please don’t hurt me) tend to err on the side of “I’m sorry”.  All of which is to say, you should listen to this TEDx talk by Dyana Valentine about why she’s NOT sorry.  [Also, it involves chocolate covered potato chips.]

3. A former classmate of mine from Drew University is a mover and shaker in the Cambodian-based accessories company basik 855.  She and her team work with local artisans to produce traditional ikat (an intricate, locally-woven fabric) and turn it into trendy accessories.  The company is built on the basic tenant of respect for their artisans, and the belief that their labors should help them build a better life (ie, basik 855 pays fair wages and benefits to their employees).  Essentially, its an awesome mixture of socially-responsible entrepreneurship and chic accessories.  If you’re inclined, check out some of their products.  Pretty neat!

Mostly, I wanted to share the awesome work they do with you.  Optionally, you can also check out their Kickstarter campaign, which they are using to raise funds for their 2013 Fall line.  The link also includes a video where you can see the team, and learn a bit about their products.  [PS I’m not sorry for using my blog to help spread the word about their work!]

4. Sierra Trading Post.  It’s hit-or-miss (their inventory changes), but if they’re carrying something you already love, you can often get it for a pretty sweet price.  During their National Running Day sale on Wednesday, I managed to snag two Moving Comfort Alexis full-length tops, usually about $35-40, for just $20.  Keep your eye out for their free or 99¢ shipping offers, too.

5. Heck, I was gonna add a fifth, but it’s an almost-summer Friday (or almost-Friday).  So go out an enjoy yourself!!

What are you NOT SORRY about today?

Seen anything noteworthy on the internet lately?

Why Getting Started Is The Hardest Part (and what the dishwasher has to do with it)

A few mornings ago, I found myself avoiding a dishwasher full of clean dishes. The “Clean!” light was on, flashing for attention, but I ignored it (if I don’t look at it, it’s not on, right?).  I ignored it while making breakfast, while emptying the dish drainer, and while tidying up the rest of the kitchen.  I ignored it while having breakfast, and when I dumped my rinsed but dirty breakfast dishes into the sink, and as I sat down to start my work.

An hour or so later, I stepped into the kitchen to reheat my coffee. Ah yes…still blinking!  My standard coffee re-heat time is either 1:11 or 1:23, depending on my mood.  [I run many miles at a time, but please don’t ask my fingers to move an inch more than necessary over that microwave keypad…]  I briefly considered how to spend the next 71 seconds.  I could…

…stare at the microwave. [Boring.]

…eat pineapple tarts.  [Tasty, but I have a 2-tarts-per-day limit, and I didn’t want to eat my whole allotment before 10 AM.]

…clean up the…nope, the kitchen was already tidy, see above.

…well, since by that time there were only sixty seconds left, I figured that it wouldn’t kill me to empty a few items out of the dishwasher.

So, I pulled open the door (take that, flashing light!) and got started.  In fact, I got the whole bottom rack emptied, dishes put away, before the microwave finished.  And guess what? It wasn’t so bad.  [Shocking, right?]  In fact, it was so “not bad” that I decided I would just go crazy and empty the whole thing.  Not doing so just seemed…stupid, really.  And about 2 minutes later, I was finished: Order was restored to the kitchen, and I had a hot cup of coffee.

So what’s the point?  [Because I know that you didn’t come all this way just to read about my dishwasher.]

The point is that, sometimes, you just have to start. Whether your goal is to empty the dishwasher, tackle a work project, do some home organization, or get out for a run  – just start.  Set a timer for 2 or 4 or 10 minutes, and dig in.  Make the first part seem as easy and accessible as possible, to help conquer your initial reluctance.  Once you get started, you’ll probably find that whatever you’re doing isn’t so bad, and you won’t really feel so inclined to stop.

My muse.  And we're actually quite spoiled - very, very few people in Singapore have one.

My muse. And quite the luxury here – very few people in Singapore have one.

I’m a science-nerd at heart, so when I think about this phenomenon, I think of two science concepts.  Let’s take a quick look (don’t worry, this will be painless!):

Concept #1: Energy of Activation (of a Reaction)

The starting materials (reactants) are on the left.  Some initial input of energy (upslope) is required to get the reaction started.  Then, the reaction begins (peak), and as it progress (left to right), it releases energy.  The products are at a lower energy than the reactants, so this is a spontaneous reaction.

The starting materials (Reactants) are on the left. Some initial input of energy (upslope) is required to get the reaction started. Then, the reaction begins (peak), and as it progresses (left to right), it releases energy. The Products are at a lower energy than the Reactants, so this is a spontaneous reaction.

Concept #2: Static Friction > Kinetic Friction.

Friction is the force that resists two object moving against each other.

Static friction is friction between two object that aren’t moving (a heavy box sitting on the floor).  Kinetic friction is friction between two objects that are moving in relation to each other (that same box sliding along the floor).

Static friction is generally greater than kinetic friction – In other words, a greater initial force will be required to start the box moving, but once you’re sliding it along the floor, less force will be required.

Both of the above examples involve situations where a higher input of energy is required to get started, then a lower level of energy is needed to maintain the activity.  It works in chemistry, it works in physics, and it will work in your life.  So what are you waiting for?  Just get started!

Is there anything hanging out on your To-Do List today that needs a “just get started” jumpstart??