Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Science’

If Oliver Sacks had taught high school chemistry, we’d have fallen in love with the periodic table

September 07, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science No Comments →

Periodic cake

People we wish had been our high school chemistry teachers
1. Oliver Sacks
2. Walter White

In 1945 the Science Museum in London reopened (it had been closed for much of the war), and I—a boy of twelve with a passion for metals and numbers—first saw the giant periodic table displayed there. The table itself, covering a whole wall at the head of the stairs, was a cabinet made of dark wood with ninety-odd cubicles, each inscribed with the name, the atomic weight, and the chemical symbol of its element. And in each cubicle was a sample of the element itself (all of those elements, at least, that had been obtained in pure form, and that could be exhibited safely). It was labeled “The Periodic Classification of the Elements—after Mendeleeff.”

My first vision was of metals, dozens of them in every possible form: rods, lumps, cubes, wire, foil, discs, crystals. Most were gray or silver, some had hints of blue or rose. A few had burnished surfaces that shone a faint yellow, and then there were the rich colors of copper and gold.

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On uncontrollable urges, Oliver Sacks’s last article

September 05, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology, Science No Comments →

Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Detail of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1510–1511

Walter B., an affable, outgoing man of forty-nine, came to see me in 2006. As a teenager, following a head injury, he had developed epileptic seizures—these first took the form of attacks of déjà vu that might occur dozens of times a day. Sometimes he would hear music that no one else could hear. He had no idea what was happening to him and, fearing ridicule or worse, kept his strange experiences to himself.

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Oliver Sacks now investigating the afterlife if there is one.

August 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science No Comments →

Oliver Sacks. Photograph: Adam Scourfield/BBC/AP Photo/AP

Goodbye, Dr. Sacks. You were one of the best friends that nerds obsessed with thinking and consciousness ever had. Fortunately for us we can continue our conversation with you every time we read your books. (As many books as he wrote, there were other manuscripts that he never got around to publishing, as mentioned in his autobiography On The Move.)

Blast, too many obituaries this month.

Vote for Filipino scientist Giselle Yeo for the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize

August 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

Filipino scientist Giselle Yeo has a video submission to the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize and would very much appreciate your support. The Prize recognizes work by an early-career scientist who uses innovative methods for a medically relevant application.

As far as we can tell, Giselle’s research combines molecular biology and physics to study tropoelastin mutants which may be used for bone repair and regeneration. (Sounds X-Men/Wolverine-y.)

Click on this link to the video.

If you like the video, vote for Giselle! You need to log in to with either Facebook or Google+, or sign up with an email address. Click the “vote” button underneath my video and that’s it!

Please feel free to share it with people who might be interested in supporting early-career scientific research.

The mathematics of history

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Language, Science No Comments →

via 3QD

Oliver Sacks’s latest dispatch from the edge of death

July 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science 1 Comment →

Oliver Sacks illustration by Aidan Koch

In February the neurologist, writer and all-around super-nerd Oliver Sacks wrote that he had metastatic cancer and did not have long to live. He sounded more serene and cheerful as he awaited the end than many people with decades and decades ahead of them. Last week he published an update on his condition. It is dire. And yet he sounds almost excited to be at the final frontier. We know that when the time comes, in the event that there is an afterlife and there is any way he can report to us from there, he will.

We haven’t gotten around to reviewing his autobiography On The Move because we get too emotional.

* * * * *

I have tended since early boyhood to deal with loss — losing people dear to me — by turning to the nonhuman. When I was sent away to a boarding school as a child of 6, at the outset of the Second World War, numbers became my friends; when I returned to London at 10, the elements and the periodic table became my companions. Times of stress throughout my life have led me to turn, or return, to the physical sciences, a world where there is no life, but also no death.

And now, at this juncture, when death is no longer an abstract concept, but a presence — an all-too-close, not-to-be-denied presence — I am again surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity. At one end of my writing table, I have element 81 in a charming box, sent to me by element-friends in England: It says, “Happy Thallium Birthday,”a souvenir of my 81st birthday last July; then, a realm devoted to lead, element 82, for my just celebrated 82nd birthday earlier this month. Here, too, is a little lead casket, containing element 90, thorium, crystalline thorium, as beautiful as diamonds, and, of course, radioactive — hence the lead casket.

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