Tuesday, April 28, 2009

we are the byproducts of exploding stars

Today I am going to tell you where the atoms in your body came from.

Below you will find the periodic table of the elements. Stick with me, cuz this will melt your mind. Each of these elements has a different size nucleus. The nucleus is the very tiny very heavy part of the atom. Nuclei are made of these things called protons and neutrons, and the more protons that the atom's nucleus has, the higher the atomic number (atomic # increases left to right, top to bottom, just like reading)(different atoms of a given element can have different number of neutrons). Those are the basics, now on to the really good stuff.

Paul McCartney = the Universe

Paul McCartney at coachella 2009 was probably the best show of my life. It had everything, and made me think a lot about the universe. Read on. I could not stop feeling that this was probably one of the most amazing things ever witnessed on planet earth, ever. The songs were so perfectly crafted, the jumbo-tron so big, the fireworks so bright.

All this, happening in the middle of the desert. An artifical oasis. We drove all day, knowing that hundreds of gallons of clean, fresh water had been shipped to the middle of the desert for us, grass grown on sand for us, tents, pools, tesla coils, flames.... unbelievable. We live like kings.

Between songs McCartney addressed the crowd: "hello coachella, california, usa, earth, solar system, galaxy, universe!" Try going through this in your head from where you are right now, picturing each step...i mean it, don't just read, try it...go slow, it's better that way I think... couch, house, berkeley, california, usa, earth, solar system, galaxy, universe. I stop being able to imagine it realistically somewhere between california and earth. It's impossible to really comprehend, how tiny we are relative to everything else. The known universe is so huge relative to the milky way galaxy, which is enormous relative to planet earth... and so on.

This thought process was even more incomprehensible in front of Paul McCartney. If this show, at this time, in this place, was as huge and amazing as it seemed to be... and I think it was...then how could I possibly imagine anything bigger. How insanely big is the earth, solar system, galaxy, universe? Think about it. Would the concert have blown my mind if I was watching it from another planet?

Which is more amazing, the existence of the universe, or the existence of life within it?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Duck, Duck, Clam" or "Awesome Adaptations"

We were sitting underneath a tree in the mountain view cemetery on a sunny day in Oakland. The bay and the golden gate were laid out in front of us in all their glory and the dead bodies were laid out below us in all their sarcophagi.  Suddenly, a cute duck couple landed a few feet away from us.  They looked pretty much like this:

Cute duck couple: top left, male - bottom right, female.
We thought about giving them some food, but all we had were these disgusting circus peanuts in the shape of bunnies. We didn't want to poison the ducks with the same stuff with which we poison ourselves, so we kept the bunnies hidden.

Magic Eye of bunny-shaped circus peanuts.  Cross your eyes and a new image will appear (j/k).
The female duck was quacking and waddling around like a duck should, but the male duck was hobbling along pitifully a few feet behind.  Upon closer inspection it seemed that the male duck's foot had become totally rotten, as a dark mass could be seen on the bottom of its leg. It looked like this, except really gross:

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Weed Science" or "Activation Explained!!"

This is the chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substituent of weed:

If I were to make THC in the lab, this is how I would do it (please don't be freaked out by all the chemical structures, they aren't completely necessary to understanding this story, but I find they help):

Looks pretty easy, right?  haha!!!

Plants however, make THC like this (ref):

Notice that there is an extra COOH group on the THC when the plant makes it. This difference is critical to understanding why people use weed the way they do.