Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Is it white or is it fluorescent?

Think about ultra-bright copy paper, and brand new white clothes. How did they get so white? Lots of bleach? Think again. Bleach only gets the color so far. And a lot of companies use what are called "fluorescent whitening agents" to get that "whiter than white" look. These are chemicals that glow slightly blue under a ultraviolet light to compensate for the dingy look of partially bleached materials. The subtle blue plus dingy yellow gives you a nice bright white. They also glow under a black light.

But don't worry. These chemicals are non-toxic (though I wouldn't eat them). Just another example of how chemistry makes life better. And brighter. Want to know more? Here's a good link.

ps - You might think these would also be used in teeth whiteners. Especially after that Friends episode. But teeth whiteners are actually bleaches like hydrogen peroxide. These bleaches don't just clean the enamel (which starts to wear away over time), but bleach the off-white dentin behind the enamel.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mike Rowe's Letter to a Potential Eagle Scout


"Your dad asked me to drop you a line and say something inspirational that might persuade you to dig down deep and find the determination to make the rank of eagle scout. It's a reasonable request, from a father who obviously wants to see his son succeed. But here's the thing. The Eagle Award is not really meant for people who need to be dragged across the finish line. It's meant for a select few, and I have no idea if you have the guts to see it through.

"Statistically, I suspect you do not. Only one out of a hundred Scouts make Eagle, so if you fail, there will be lots of other people with whom you can share excuses. Quitting now might disappoint your dad, but I doubt that he or anyone else will be overly surprised. Anytime 99 out of 100 people do the same thing, it's not exactly a shock.

"I'm not trying to be cute with a bunch of reverse psychology. When I was 15, there was nothing that anyone could have said to me that would have inspired me to do something I didn't want to do, especially a stranger with a TV show. Show I'm not going to assume you're any different or pretend that I have some influence or insight that you haven't already hard from a dozen other people who actually know you and care about you. I'll just tell you straight up that doing something extraordinary can be very lonely, and most people simply aren't cut out for it. Being an Eagle Scout requires you to be different than most everyone around you, and being different is really, really hard. That's why the award is called "an accomplishment."

"Personally, and for what it's worth, the best decisions I've made in my own life are those decisions that put me on the outside of being cool.

"Singing in the opera, working in home shopping, starring in the school play when the entire football team laughed at me, and especially earning my Eagle were all choices that required sacrifice, hard work, and delayed gratification. I have no idea if you possess those qualitites or even envy them. But I can tell you for certain that not getting your Eagle will be one of the easiest things you've ever done.

"Whatever you decide to do, Kelby, it's important to remember that the decision is yours. Not your Dad's, not your friend's, and not your Scoutmaster's. And you'll own that decision for the rest of your life.

"Good luck, Mike

(From Eagletter, Fall 2009, p5)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Shot of Inspiration!

I'm a big fan of Hugh MacLeod at gapingvoid.com. If anyone's found the balance between romanticism and realism, it's this guy. He's got a lot of great thoughts about dreaming big and making those dreams come true.

His most recent post is pure genius: Don't just sit there and dream big dreams and make big plans and work out every detail, do something about it! There is something you were put on this earth to give to the world. Figure out what that is and make it happen!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


If you're not impressed after watching this...

Thanks to BJS for the link.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Einstein doesn't Know Beans

Some lucky auction winner is about to own a letter penned by Albert Einstein in 1954 that sheds light on his ambivalent views about religion:

This is a good time to share one of my favorite Einstein storied, as told by Henry Eyring, who one every major prize in chemistry except the Nobel prize (because they aren't awarded posthumously) .

"...a man from the Navy and I spent the morning with Einstein talking about high explosives [that's a conversation I would have LOVED to hear, but that's not the story...]. I think he was more interested in relativity than high explosives, but he was not a bad chemist. He didn't talk sense all the time because he had been studying astronomy and physics...

"At noon we walked out into what had been a rose garden, but in wartime had been replanted as a victory garden. Now, I'm a farmer from Pima, so I guessed what the crop was, but I didn't know whether Einstein knew or not. So I picked up a plant and asked him what it was. He didn't know. I asked [the gardener] what it was. He said, "They're soybeans."

"Well, I though what you would have thought: "Einstein doesn't know beans." (Reflections of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 1983, Deseret Book Company: Salt Lake City).

To be fair, Eyring concludes, "But he knew everything else. He was just weak on beans," and, I might add, Faith too.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Inside Delta Force

Finally found time to finish "Inside Delta Force" by one of the original Delta Force operators, Eric Haney. After getting a vivid idea of what the U.S. was up against in the 70s and 80s, I can only imagine what our brave men and women in the armed forces are facing today.

It's not just the Delta Force either. A lot of young men and women are facing danger every day so we can worry about gas prices and the weather instead of shrapnel and stray bullets.

One Oregon couple got a first-hand taste of what it's like from the frontlines of Afghanistan when their son, an MP, inadvertantly called them on his cellphone in the middle of a firefight.

They weren't home, but their voicemail captured this two-minute message:

Before you get too excited, he's okay. But those weren't "sound effects" either. Remember our troops. And their families.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The New Status Symbol...

Apparently, having kids is the new way to show off. In spite of the financial odds against her, Pamela Paul at the Washington Post has defiantly declared that she and her husband are going to upgrade their family from REGULAR to DELUXE by having a 3rd child.

Does that make a family of six "super-sized"? How about my family growing up: "Jumbo?"

At any rate, click HERE for an interesting take on the 21st century upper-middle-class family in America. Really interesting perspective from outside my social bubble. Love her thoughts on the "you're not a good parent unless you buy lots of stuff and put your kids in every activity on the planet" culture that makes having a family look like a bad investment.