Thursday, February 19, 2015

Getting to the heart of the sucker and other obscure but somewhat interesting stuff

Over the years but particularly as a youngster, lollipops were a licking good treat offering long term flavor at a reasonable cost. For the record, lemon was a personal favorite with grape coming in a close second. It was also a versatile offering in that it could be picked up and put down numerous times until it slowly disappeared altogether.

Haven't actually given it deep thought or even superficial reflection but obviously a branch of science has pondered the dilemma of the amount of licks it takes to get to the center of a lollipop. This begs (at least in my mind ) the question as to why bother. When a lollipop is gone - it's gone. Right? What's important is the enjoyment is gave the lick-er and the taste thereof. People in the scientific community, however, who enjoy delving into numbers, have studied this mind-boggling enigma.

Researchers at New York University conducted experiments to analyze and test how lollipop solid dissolves. The conclusion reached based on mathematical principals was that it takes approximately 1000 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Why Tootsie Roll Pop? Who knows. The real question is do sucker-lovers care?

But I digress.

The scientific study involved the creation of custom-making candy spheres and cylinders to test how materials dissolve in a flow. I'm no scientist but let me state for the record that lollipop+tongue+saliva and a warm mouth causes the solid lollipop to slowly dissolve into nothingness. Anyway... Study leader and physicist, Leif Ristroph,  found that the presence of the solid interrupts the flow, forces it to bend and change directions. Wow! Never would have thought the true sense of the word.

Furthermore (how much more excitement can we take, one wonders), tests of both spherical lollipop-candies and Jolly Rancher style cylinders resulted in the same half-sphere shape after a little time in the fluid flow. I mean, go figure and be still my beating heart! But wait - there's more! The researchers deduced from the experiments that a lollipop with a radius of 0.4 inches (1 cm) licked at the equivalent to a flow rate of 1 cm per second would reveal its center in about 1,000 licks. So this makes one wonder what would be the end result of say...a person licked faster or slower? Does speed enter into this mind boggler?

When it all said and done or written, still have to wonder the rationale behind conducting this type of research. All good things come to an end, even lollipops and I'm no sucker.

Crawling on...

Cockroaches Have Personality but do we care?

A small but generally unknown fact that people reading this might not have been aware of or even made a point of investigating, but it appears - wait for it - researchers have made the amazing (at least in my eyes) finding that your ordinary cockroaches have personality! I mean, who would'a thought it!

Once again, one ponders and/or wonders the motivation behind taking time to study the social aspects of cockroach life. For most people.. Okay. For many people, the mere sight of a cockroach is enough to elicit a high pitch noise from the throat followed by the appearance of a means in which to eradicate the source. But I digress.

The findings were part of a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, who ascertained that when cockroaches spend enough time with each other, they tend to flock together. Thinking further (too much time on my hands), one ponders if it's for social reasons or perhaps and more likely, the sharing of information as to the best food offerings. Whatever... it was all part of an experiment in which cockroaches were placed together in an illuminated arena along with a couple of dark shelters constructed from plastic discs. Researchers studied how the various roaches responded to the sudden glare of light, given that they are night freeloaders. Some sought shelter quickly while others stayed out longer. However - now this is telling - when 16 roaches were thrown in the arena together, they came to a consensus as to when and where to seek shelter. Group bug telepathy, perhaps? But I digress...again.

What does this all mean in the big picture? One could deduce that some cockroaches are night crawlers preferring to seek food and goodies in the cover of darkness, while others aren't so fussy and will tolerate light depending on what's accessible. On a personal note, surely there are scientific studies that could help man/.woman-kind than studying cockroaches. Next thing we'll hear about is the creation of sunglasses for cockroaches and other night foragers. For most of us, the only good cockroach are those that can no longer see the light of day if you get my drift.

Sometimes you can't win for losing

The arrival of Groundhog Day in February, is an opportunity for a few lucky and pampered rodents, the most well-known among them being Punxsutawney Phil, to leave their den in the name of science and predict the early or late arrival of Spring. However, given the various geographical locations and weather variations, regional groundhogs located across the country are consulted as local harbingers of Spring.

For whatever reason, some groundhogs don't enjoy the limelight and one Jimmy the Groundhog who has a burrow in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, showed his displeasure by taking a nip out of the ear of then Mayor Jon Freund. Nip or not, Freund proclaimed that an early Spring was on its way. Too bad that Jimmy wasn't politically inclined or he could also have predicted that Freund, who was appointed mayor of Sun Prairie in 2014, would place third in the primary election knocking him out of Sun Prairie's Mayor's race. Seems that sympathy goes only so far among voters.

How was your week?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

This'n'that and the other - random thoughts about saucers

Don't ask me why but saucers have been on my mind, lately. Perhaps it's the result of a decreasing availability that's bothersome and somewhat perplexing. Just to clarify for people reading this and wondering if there have been visitations by unworldly beings, the saucers in question are the one's that go with teacups and act as receptacles for teabags.

Could be my early British origins in that there are conventions which have remained part of my essential nature. The afternoon tea ritual is part of a daily routine whereby life stops for a half hour or so to sit down for a "cuppa",  however, therein lies the problem. Over time it seems to me that saucers  have all but disappeared. In conducting some personal research, it appears that your matching tea cup and saucer have been slowly replaced by  your pedestrian mugs. Not that there's anything wrong with mugs per se, the choice of coffee drinkers, but tea drinkers need somewhere to place their used teabags and saucers fulfill that need. We tea drinkers have needs or requirements that coffee drinkers don't need to worry about.

For whatever reason, tableware manufacturers appear to have made the decision to eliminate or phase out the need for saucers. Perhaps there was a move to acquiesce to the world of coffee drinkers who are content to consume their beverage of choice out of paper cups. Consuming tea out of a paper cup is sacrilege for tea drinkers - okay - it is for me, anyway. In my view, paper interferes with the flavor and once again, what does one do with the used teabag, which leads me back to my original point.

"Spread the word," a dishware manufacturer might have told his workers, "we're cutting back on the production of saucers. If it's good enough for coffee drinkers - it's good enough for them teabag soakers."

"But what are they supposed to do with their used teabags?" a worker and tea drinker might have asked.

"Let 'em drink iced tea," the dishware manufacturer could have responded off-handedly and hence that could have been the creation and impetus for a new beverage. But I digress.

Thinking back, my grandfather who hailed from Russia, loved his afternoon glass of tea. The act
of sipping the hot liquid slowly until it cooled, was part of a ritual consisting of blowing on the surface for a short time followed by pouring the tea into a saucer and sipping it slowly for the finishing touch. What would he have used had a saucer not been available? A soup bowl? One can only speculate but somehow and knowing grandfather, it wouldn't have sufficed.

When it comes to the subject of tea time and societal correctness, Debretts is one of the best sources, at least in my eyes. Although no mention is made directly regarding the tea saucers and their disappearing act, the source does provide some interesting advice on how to drink tea and the important role of the saucer. According to Debretts, a spoon should be used to stir the tea  - this is important - without clinking it against the side of the cup and - still more very important and telling information regarding the saucer - should be placed back in the saucer. Note the usage of the saucer here. Once more saucers are the focus with advice that includes saucers remain on the table and never raised when the cup is lifted up to the lips. Perhaps - pure speculation - keeping the saucer on the table would prevent the breakage of the saucer in case some tableware manufacturers decide in the future to phase out the saucers. But I digress.

I'm wondering why the emphasis on not clinking the spoon against the cup. Is it the noise factor one wonders. Can't speak for others (why would I want to, anyway) and keep this to yourself but I'm guilty of hitting the side of the cup when stirring my tea. Actually I never gave stirring a second thought to be honest and nobody has drawn this faux pas to my attention, or perhaps they were too polite to mention it.

"Excuse me, Eleanor, but you appear to hit the side of  the cup with your spoon when stirring your tea," somebody might have but hasn't as yet, asked. To which my response would be, "oh really? Yeah - and?"

"Where there's tea, there's hope." - Arthur Wing Pinero. Along with the return of the saucer.