Author Archives: Bob Welbaum

Science On A Budget

Like many college professors, my brother gets involved in scientific research.  When I’ve visited him and toured one of his university’s laboratories, I’m always confronted by delicate and expensive scientific equipment.  If such a lab is necessary for science, how does a third-world country keep current and compete? How about with “frugal science”?  Manu Prakash

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The First Radical Abolitionist?

If I mention Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman, you probably think abolitionist.  But have you ever heard about Benjamin Lay? Benjamin Lay was a most unusual radical.  He stood just over four feet tall and had an extreme curvature of the spine (kyphosis).  Born in 1682 in Colchester, England, he was a third-generation Quaker.  As

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Can You Really Learn In Your Sleep?

Just like electricity, we humans always look to take the path of least resistance.  For example, there must be an easier way to learn besides studying.  Like listening to tapes while we sleep. There’s actually a term for it — hypnopedia, or sleep learning.  Unfortunately, the thought that we could learn something substantive while we

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Why Do We Lie?

You may remember the 2009 movie The Invention of Lying starring Ricky Gervais.   It was an ironic commentary on human behavior.  But it does beg the question of why people lie in the first place.  The June 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine addresses that subject in its cover story, “Why We Lie” by Yudhijit

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When The Press Hijacks Your Life

You may remember seeing the original headline  — “First Female Gondolier”.  After over 900 years, the canal-laced city of Venice, Italy could claim its first woman gondolier.  Or could it? “What happens when doing what you want to do means giving up who you really are? … On the winding canals in the hidden parts of

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What Causes Brain Freeze?

Life is full of everyday mysteries.  Like why do you get a headache when you quickly eat something cold? Popularly called “brain freeze”, this condition is found in the International Classifications of Headache Disorders as an official type of headache.  The key is introduction of any cold substance (think ice cream) behind the nose and

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What Are The Greatest Modern Innovations?

A quick way to start an argument is to ask what were the most important innovations in human history.  Lots of opinions have been published.  I recently found an interesting take on this in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.  In a short article entitled “Big Advances”, U.S. librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

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What Is It Like Being a Slave?

I got one.  Driving last weekend to see the solar eclipse (you may have heard about that), I happened to catch one of my favorite radio podcasts in real time, “This American Life” on NPR.  If you’ve never listened, each hour-long program has a theme, divided into acts.  This was Program 623: “We Are The

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My Eclipse Day

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Studying the map for the August 21 total solar eclipse, I realize I was only about 300 miles from the path of totality (where the moon’s shadow completely covers the sun), or about a half day’s drive.  I’d never seen a total eclipse before, so I

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A Solution For Senior Housing?

As a senior citizen, I’m always concerned about my long-term future.  How much longer will I be able to live by myself in a large house?  (It had better be a very long time because you won’t believe the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.)  This is why I was intrigued by a TV news

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