the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: science

Scientific Study Says Stress is Bad

Every day we are faced with a multitude of decisions which requires an action or goal-orientated response.  Some are simple repeated actions, such as pressing the button for an elevator.  More often than not, our environment is in flux, and these actions demand heavy duty work from the brain.  Modern society is all about “multi-tasking,” which requires several neural responses occurring simultaneously.

A new scientific article written by top California scientists in the July edition of Redondo Beach Science News, reveals that chronic stress – too many times a feature of contemporary life – interferes with the human brain’s switching capacity, by freezing individuals into automatic/habit responses mode.  This discovery of these negative effects of stress have profound implications for all of us: the scientists believe that when an individual lives a calm, relaxed life, with no one dying in the family, proper eating and exercise, and leading a fulfilling sex life, this person is happier, more socially adept, better liked by his colleagues, and able to finish tasks quicker and more successfully.

The research was based on experiments conducted on two male residents of Redondo Beach.  The control subject relaxed by the Pacific Ocean each day in the sun, and got laid each night by a different local bikini model, who cooked him a healthy spinach omelet in the morning before they went surfing together.  The other subject was exposed to chronic stress for several months until he was left on the shower floor, sobbing.  Both the control and the stressed subjects were then assigned a very simple task to perform in their homes: to plug their laptops into the bedroom outlet and type a 140 character message onto the popular online “Twitter” social media application.

The results were quite surprising.  The control subject finished his task easily.  The stressed individual seemed confused and disoriented after receiving the instructions, constantly staring at his naked body in the mirror, asking the scientists, “Do you think I need to do situps?”  The stressed individual, clearly frozen in his automatic response mode, not only failed at his attempt to turn on the computer, but clumsily plugged in the IRON instead of the laptop, in a brazen misjudgment, and almost burned the house to the ground, eliciting nervous screams from his wife.

Clearly, stress is bad for the brain. Science doesn’t lie.

Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair

I’m always complaining that Twitter is filled with inane conversations about nothing.   So how did I end up chatting with Susan of WhyMommy?  Sure, she’s funny and friendly, but did I mention that she is also an astrophysicist?   Uh, yeah.   Not intimidating.   Susan has also been active in raising awareness of cancer online, having faced inflammatory breast cancer in 2007.   Recently, doctors found a recurrence of the cancer.  Yesterday, she had surgery.

Stimey, the blogger behind Stimeyland, had a great idea — a way to send support to Susan, our friendly blogger/astrophysicist — A Virtual Science Fair!

From Stimey’s blog:

That is what Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair is all about. We want her to know that she is loved and supported. But we also want her to know that our love and support is not all because of the cancer. We love and support her because of who she is, not just because of what she has. She is not just a cancer fighter, but an incredible person, one who is passionate about science and especially women who do science.

Bloggers from around the country and, dare I say, world, have spent some time over the past few days doing science. We’ve done science with our kids or with our friends or by ourselves. And we are writing about it today to show Susan how she inspires us. How she is truly making a difference in lives all over the world by encouraging all of us to believe that we can be scientists, whether it be on the smallest, let’s-take-a-walk-in-the-park scale or the largest, I’m-going-to-get-a-degree-in-planetary-science scale.

Many of my regular readers will be surprised that I had a geeky attraction to science in school.  Classes in the humanities, such as English and social studies were easy.   I was in awe of the science students.  That is where the “real” geniuses lived.   Science geeks couldn’t bullshit the way through  assignments.  Only in an English class could you receive an A+ comparing Wang Lung, the main character in Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” to Theo, the Cosby son on “The Cosby Show.”  In science, you had to show the money.

Because of the seriousness of science, I yearned to be a science geek.   Science is strong and manly.  English is for pussies who like Romantic poetry.  But as much as I tried to pose as a scientist, I didn’t have the right stuff, either the discipline or the pocket protector.  I was a pussy who liked poetry.

In my junior year in high school, still in denial over my true self, I convinced my parents to send me to a special summer science program at Michigan State University.  They didn’t quite understand why I wanted to go; I showed no interest in science.  They bought me a microscope and “science kit” for Hanukkah, and I never took it out of the box.  My favorite place in the Museum of Natural History was the gift shop.  I never watched Nova on PBS, only reruns of Monty Python.  But I was determined to prove myself in science.   To be someone with stature.

I wrote about my summer science program at MSU in a blog post in 2005.  When my experiment went awry (I was trying to solve the world’s hunger problems by growing some crazy type of super-wheat), I did what any disreputable scientist would do — I faked the data.  It was a low point in my educational career.  It was during that infamous summer of science, that the facade crumbled.  I would never be a true scientist, like Galileo, Jonas Salk, or Susan of WhyMommy.  Science is searching for the truth, and I lived in a world of lies and made-up nonsense.  So, I became a writer instead.  Fuck science.  Who needs the facts?  If I tell you that my penis jumped off my body and took a walk to Burger King on his own, are you going to ask, “Show me the scientific evidence?!” Of course not.

For many years, I laughed in the face of science.  My jealousy turned to anger.  Poor little spineless scientists, I used to say, needing to check the facts.  Needing “controls.”  Pasty-faced data heads living in sterile labs while I sat poolside in Malibu, Playboy bunnies lounging at my side, as I dictated my latest Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster about a comet heading for Earth.

“What did you say, Mr. Scientist?  That one lone fighter jet piloted by Mack Higgins, retired Air Force ace (Bruce Willis) cannot shoot down a comet 500x bigger than Jupiter?  Why not?  A scientific impossibility?  Ha Ha!  Science nerd.  Who cares?  You and your FACTS!  Next thing you’re going to tell me is that there weren’t dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark!  Hey, Playboy bunny, I need my dirty martini re-filled!!”

But as I have become older, the anger against science has faded.  I have seen the importance of science.   There would be no hybrid cars or iphones or vaccines or internet without science!  We need science.  If the world was only filled with English majors, life as we know it would cease to exist.  The entire universe would just be sitting around at home complaining about not writing their novels.  It would be horrible.  Life would be brutish, short, and very very bitter.

Now, for the first time ever, I will say it publicly:  Thank God for science!  I might have failed as a scientist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the work of other great men and women.  One day medical science will cure cancer, and then we will all be REALLY EMBARRASSED for thinking Facebook was the greatest advancement in modern times.

Wait a minute.  What is this post about anyway?

Oh yeah, this post is supposed to be my entry in Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair.  I completely forgot about that.

My Science Fair Project is geared for the children — your children.  I am sure many of them are coming home from school, just like we all once did, asking the same questions, “Why do we need to learn these things?  When will we ever use geometry?  If I never intend to become a doctor, why study biology?”

The usual answer is “Shut the hell up and do it!”  But is that really the best response to your children?  Does it motivate our youth to learn science?

No.

We need to show our children that learning math and science is important because it helps us THINK.  It allows us to SOLVE PROBLEMS, even every day things that we don’t usually associate with science.

For example —

USING THE SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY AND DIRECTIONAL MODEL PARADIGMS IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PRE-PACKAGED SANDWICH FROM THE 99 CENT ONLY STORE

Scientific question:  Can one of these sandwiches, sub-genus “Oscar Mayer Deli-Creations Complete Sandwiches” now selling at the 99 cent store, be made edible, by following a certain methodology, as outlined in the “directions” posted in the back of the box?

Hypothesis:  By following the methodology, I will have a very inexpensive lunch.

Experiment:


Step One  – Buy the Oscar Mayer Deli Creations “Focaccia Sandwich.”   Can the iterative process allow us to prove that this sandwich will be as Hot & Melty as postulated?


Step Two – Planning and Research.  Examination of variables involved.

Step Three  — After the “Italian Herb” Focaccia bread is split into two identical halves, the “bottom” element is arranged carefully in the rectangular “silver” microwave pan, which doubles as the part of the box containing the explicit directions and methodology of the process.

Step Four – Using a sharp tool known as a knife, the “steakhouse beef” is extracted from its plastic shell.

Step Five – The “Steakhouse Beef” is carefully arranged on the Focaccia bread, in such a manner, that at least 80% of the surface is covered with the meat.

Step Six – After carefully washing the “knife” to prevent contamination, the pepper ranch sauce is released —

— in liquid state, over the meat and bread.   It is essential at this point that, if you are using a lab assistant to help with the experiment, that you do not get de-focused by arguments over whether or not you are going to see a marriage counselor next week.

Step Seven — Repeat Step Six, using the Pepper Jack Cheese.

Remember, science is all about data and experimental technique.  Opinions and subjectivity, such as “This sandwich looks like a piece of ****” do not belong in the lab.

Step Eight — The other identical half of the Italian Herb Focaccia bread is reconnected, much like a strand of DNA, once again proving that even in science, there are still mysteries unexplained.

Step Eight — Well, let’s just say that the experiment got screwed up when an overzealous lab assistant placed the final variable into the OVEN rather than the microwave.

“The box said to put it in the microwave,” I said.

“It would be all soggy in the microwave.   It looks so much better now.,” replied the lab assistant.

“But I’m supposed to be doing a scientific experiment and following the directions.”

“So, lie.  Isn’t that what you always do when you do a science experiment!”

Sigh.  I’m never going to live that down.

SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT:  RESULTS

Yes, you can can make a sandwich from a package.    Would I consider this lunch?  That I’m not sure about.

Heal fast, Susan!

Lap Dancing and Science

A few days ago, some blogger made a joke about lap dances on Twitter, and it occurred to me that, despite my encyclopedic knowledge of trivia, I didn’t have a clear idea of what happens during a lap dance.   While I have never seen a lap dance in person, I have seen them in movies.  We’ve all seen the scenario — it is a bachelor party, and the groom’s buddies hire some sexy woman/graduate student to dance in some tight t-shirt, circling the soon-to-be-groom like a twirling dervish, an erotic symbol announcing the death of the man’s happy single life, one last hard-on before he settles into the wife-controlled world of domesticity.

But how does the lap dance work? Does the lap dancer just dance for one song?  Do the man get to pick the song from her CD collection?  After all, if I’m going to be the one turned on by the dancer, and she starts dancing to Milli Vanilli, it’s not going to work for me.   I want a song that I would find sexy.  And does she dance just for me?  What do my buddies do meanwhile — just sit around and laugh at me?  Does she ACTUALLY sit on my lap?   If I get into the music, can I dance WITH her?  Even better, can I sit HER on her in the chair while I dance for HER?   That could be fun, too.

Apparently, I need to go out more.

I would be a bad customer for a lap dance.  It took me three years to learn to hug bloggers.  I don’t want a strange woman sitting on my lap, unless I’m volunteering as Santa at the local hospital.

(note to self:  volunteer to be Santa at local hospital)

So, how does an uneducated man learn about lap dancing.  Well, leave it to Wikipedia to have an entire entry on lap dancing, telling me everything about the history of this age-old form of entertainment.

But there was one section of the article that really captured my imagination, because it contained some useful information —

In 2007, based on statistics from 18 dancers over 60 days, it was noted that female lap dancers earned the highest tips around the time of ovulation, during the most fertile period of their menstrual cycle, and the lowest tips during menstruation; the average difference in earning between these two times amounted to about $30 per hour.

Wow.  What a difference in tips!  That’s the equivalent of me going to Olive Garden two nights in a row, ordering the same soup and salad special, and tipping the first waitress $2 and the second waitress $35!  Clearly, there is something special going on during the woman’s “most fertile period of their menstrual cycle.”

I love science.  And I love applied science.  It got me thinking — what could I do with this important scientific news?  Immediately, it became obvious to me.  I’m frankly surprised that our greatest minds haven’t noticed it earlier —

Think about it.   Women are MOST LIKELY to be hornier and HAVE SEX with you during this fertile period.  No wonder these lap dancers are racking up the big bucks during this fertile period.  For most of the month, they are just faking it, dancing for some dopey guys.  But during this fertile period, the women are themselves as horny as the men, maybe even hotter.  On those special nights, if the groom looked anything like Brad Pitt, she might actually take him right there on the chair.  The men sense this, and are going crazy, throwing money to the wind.

So, imagine I work in an office.  I’m a single guy.  I like Susan in Marketing.  I want to ask her out on a date.  I also wouldn’t mind seeing her naked in my bed.  What is my best option to get her into my bed with the least possible effort on my part?

Science.

I find out the time of her period, I chart her cycle on a Excel sheet, focusing in on the day when she is the most fertile.  I make a date with her — on the exact day when she is the most fertile and horny as a wild cat.  I take her somewhere fancy, like Olive Garden, tell her some bullshit, like “your eyes are like emeralds,” and then open the car door for her on the way home.  Snap —  in like flint!  A half hour later, she’s riding me like Annie Oakley on her beloved chestnut Abyssinian!

It’s all because of science, math, and Excel.

One problem remains.  In order for the science to be accurate, I need to plot out her most fertile day, which means I need to know the exact days of her period.  This can be tricky, unless I rifle through her pocketbook or her waste-paper basket, looking for evidence.

Luckily, science comes to the rescue again, this time with the Mcclintock effect.

The McClintock effect, also known as menstrual synchrony or the dormitory effect, is a theory that proposes that the menstrual cycles of women who live together (such as in prisons, convents, bordellos, or dormitories) tend to become synchronized over time.  The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the “social regulation of ovulation,” was first formally studied by psychologist Martha McClintock, who reported her findings in Nature in 1971.

This gives me a whole lot more opportunities to create points on my Excel chart.  Clearly, those working in an office together spend hours in an enclosed space.  Menstrual synchrony will sure take place amongst female employees.  So, if I notice that many of my female co-workers are excusing themselves to the bathroom on the same day, say the 25th of each month, I should be able to extrapolate to a fairly accurate degree the exact day when Susan would be most likely to do the nasty with me on our first date.

Although I majored in English in college and have always enjoyed the Humanities, I have a great respect for Science and Math.

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