Aristotle once said,

"The search for truth is in one way hard and in another easy. For it is evident that no one can master it fully nor miss it wholly. But each adds a little to our knowledge of nature and from all the facts assembled these arises a certain grandeur."

Welcome: An Introduction

Setting: Starbucks
Katrina enters Starbucks, aproaches the front cash, orders a grande white chocolate mochachino, and waits for it to be served. Meanwhile she scans the cafe and spots Mr. Barry in a crisp new gecko blouse (custom fit) from Malaysia. As he sips on his wild sweet orange tazo tea, Katrina notices that he is reading the preface of The Science of Everyday Life. Since he is having a hard time with the technical writing style Jay Ingram posseses, Katrina decides to give him an introduction of her own...

In the novel, The Science of Everyday Life, Jay Ingram attempts to answer all of those questions that everyone ponders but no one looks into. The experiments described in this novel are very interesting and are hard evidence of the many theories explained. Since there were 26 chapters that weren't all that interesting, I chose the 10 best ideas to share with all of my viewers. Enjoy!

Just Walkin' in the Rain

It has always been my belief that if I go outside and it’s raining, chances are I will get wet. I have never associated a “science” with how drenched I will get! I find it fascinating that there are factors that can actually influence how much rain will pour down on me. Studies have shown that if you minimize the surface area you present to the oncoming rain, you will not get as wet. This would be a bit of a challenge because it is said that the ideal situation would be to lie down on a skateboard through the rain. That is really not possible. I also always assumed that if I dash or run through the rain, I would get less wet. Yet scientific studies have shown that you will only get 10 percent wetter if you walk briskly as opposed to running at sprinter-like speed. The trick is to slant your body parallel to the rains path. Most people only consider the rain that’s falling on top of them, but you also have to consider the rain drops that you are running into. This why lying on a skateboard would be the best way to minimize the amount of water falling on you—you don’t have to consider the drops you’re running into because its only about a 30cm wall your gliding into. Then again, who carries a skateboard everywhere they go in preparation for rain.

When the Lavatory Becomes a Laboratory

When studying any human behaviour habits, apparently the best place to do so is the bathroom. Some interesting facts in this chapter that I would like to share are that men are really awkward in bathrooms, people don’t wash their hands when they are alone in a public bathroom, and the toilet seat is the cleanest part of a public bathroom. It has always been a mystery to me what a man does when someone he knows is peeing beside him. Do you talk to them? Say “what’s up?” Hold a conversation? Act like they’re not there? It has been proven that this stress of peeing beside someone creates a delay in your pee. A normal urination lasts 4.9 seconds. When someone is one urinal away, the urination lasts 6.2 seconds, and when a man is shoulder to shoulder, 8.4 seconds! That accounts for almost doubles the amount of time it should take to urinate. Secondly, washing your hands has been recorded to be just a performance! When an observer was sitting in the lounge of a public washroom in view of each person, they recorded that 18 out of 20 people washed their hands. Now when the observer hides in a stall with their feet up and an out of order sign on the door, only 3 of 19 people washed their hands. Who knew social status was more important than hygiene. Thirdly, are you that person who lays out toilet paper before sitting on the seat? Well, the only possible disease you can get is a rash, which is highly unlikely. After many tests, the walls and surfaces have the most bacteria. In fact, the toilet seat was the cleanest between the devices in the kitchen and bathroom. Some may say this information is useless, but we experience these situations everyday and they are pretty vital situations.

The Swarm

Before reading this chapter, I thought that swarms of mosquitoes stuck together to hunt for their next human victim. I thought that the mosquito exited the swarm, then bit me, and then by human reaction, I simply murdered it. It is nothing like this because the insect is not looking for me, but only its mate. Since I don’t make the cut, the female mosquito has to fly in to the nearest male and begin the mating process. It’s not the whole mating that may be fascinating to some, but the construction of the swarm. How can mosquitoes keep a perfect swarm without flying around something? Well, have you ever noticed that they always fly over something? For example, if a swarm was over a white sheet, you can cut around all of the edges and since the aim is for the centre, the swarm will stay in the same place before you started cutting. If you moved the sheet, the swarm would shift with it. You could call this organized chaos. Something I find interesting but typically doesn’t have an explanation, is that mosquitoes sometimes fly in two swarms, one on top of the other and can be seen when there is a swarm over someone’s head. The construction behind this is a pancake style swarm near the scalp and a column swarm above the pancake swarm. No one knows why, but it makes you wonder why they do that. In all, there isn’t much more to this chapter because how much research can possibly go into swarms of insects...

Sex and the Single Armrest

I was recently fortunate enough to travel by air to St.Petersberg, Florida this March break. In this day and age, it is a well known fact that you have to pay for any additional perks when you travel. Perhaps the airline should consider adding a surcharge for the use of the armrest because the sense of entitlement to personal space has increased and can or cannot be considered important to some people. Recent studies have shown that males have a preference over females when it comes to using the armrest. In fact the study clearly showed statistics indicating that men were three times as likely to have possession of the armrest over women. There doesn’t seem to be any scientific reason for men to behave this way and this study seemed to only be conducted around airline travel. One’s personal space is definitely compromised when you think about travelling on a busy subway in a busy city. As mentioned in this chapter, it is funny how we tend to need certain types of personal space, and how we deal with it differently in different situations. For example, when on a subway train, people can be in contact with us all around, but our mind shifts to viewing these people as objects rather than people who are invading our personal space. We deal with this type of invasion better than we would on an airplane where it is a constant fight for the armrest. I personally believe that it has more to do with comfort and how it is a natural reaction of the human body to use the armrest. I sort of disagree with Ingram when he says that it has to do with male dominance. I believe it has to do with who gets it first or who is more polite. Maybe women are more considerate when it comes to the armrest. Also, maybe you should think twice about getting up out of your seat because if you had the armrest when you left, you’re definitely out of luck when you get back.

When the Moon Hits Your eye...

When asked to compare the moon when it is at the horizon and when it is in the sky, how would you explain the size difference? Would you say that the horizon moon is closer to the earth? This is the most common explanation of the moon’s “size difference.” I found a lot of the old theories interesting to read. For instance, a 1899 theory states that when your line of sight is parallel to the ground (like looking at the horizon moon); gravity has effect on your eye. This gravitational effect is supposed to “increase the distance between the lens and the retina,” causing the object to look bigger. Another interesting theory was the “angle of regard theory.” This one states that raising your eyes deceives your judgement. But this would mean that if you looked up in the sky to the overhead moon and saw it as one size, then lay on your back and looked at it, they would be different sizes. Keep in mind that these are definitely just theories but I find it interesting to see what scientists came up with. When I started reading this chapter, I thought that the horizon moon must look bigger due to an oval shaped orbit, making the moon closer. It may be hard to understand but this is an illusion of the mind. It is known as one of the most unexplainable, but fascinating illusions that our brains can create. Ingram, or whoever writes for Ingram, could not give a straight forward explanation of this illusion, but did give a few tricks to test it yourself. First, you can take a picture of the moon in each position and you’ll see that they are the same size, and second, hold an aspirin up to the moon on the horizon and then up to the moon over top and you'll see that the aspirin covers the exact amount of space that it did for the horizon moon. I find it fascinating that our brains can make such a distinct illusion. By distinct I mean, how does the horizon moon look almost twice the size as the “normal” moon? Not only does it just look a little bit bigger but it almost doubles in size. It gets me thinking, what else do we see differently than it actually is? What if half the things in nature are illusions that haven’t been discovered yet? The weird thing is that our brains vision is the hardest aspect to explain because every person sees something different yet we all think we share the same visions. For example, the contrast of red that I see can be a totally different shade of red that you see but we still call the colour a general “red.” This chapter really opened up my mind to the way each individual perceives different things, or in some or many cases...illusions.

The Moon Illusion is created by a conflict between the intuitive and rational parts of the brain. It can be depicted with an inverted Ponzo illusion as shown above. All four moons are the same size, yet on the left, the lower moon nearer to the horizon appears larger than the higher moon.

I Think, Therefore I Blink

Like every chapter in this book, a question opens up the topic and gets you thinking right off the bat. When asked if you notice how often you blink, I thought to myself, no, I don’t notice. But throughout that whole chapter I couldn’t stop thinking of blinking and I probably blinked 200 times. “Ingram” made a good point when he stated that we do not experience the same sort of black out when we blink as when we stand in a room and the lights flick off for less amount of time it takes you to blink. I find it amazing to think that your visual awareness shuts down every blink making it feel like you haven’t missed a thing. This is because the sensitivity of your eye minimizes right before you blink and stays low until the blink is over. Your brain sends a signal to hold operations for the small amount of time it takes to blink. You ask what happens in between? Well, your brain holds onto to the scene you just saw and allows it to “linger” until you open again. Blinking has a lot to do with focus as well. When driving on the by-pass, the average person should blink about 15 times per minute without even knowing. But in busy street traffic on Regent Street, the average person would have a strong focus with hardly any blinking. “Blinking isn’t a cause of the thinking process, it’s a result.” One interesting fact that scientists haven’t figured out why it happens, is that speaking increases the amount of blinking a person does. So as your reading my ultimate blog count to twenty-five in your head and you probably won’t blink at all. Then if no one is around (or if there is, tell them what you are doing), count to twenty-five out loud and record how many times you blink. It’s really weird, but fascinating how our brain works and how our brain controls EVERYTHING we do or think about doing.

(Look at this optical illusion and try really hard to count the dots. If you have a strong focus, you will not blink at all, even though your eyes are moving with the dots. If you are really good, try talking while you count the dots and see if you blink.)

Closet Science

Before this wonderful novel, I had no idea that you can create sparks of electricity by chewing on Wintergreen Lifesavers in the dark. Though the average person would probably not chew lifesavers in the comfort of their own closet without being told they can create a spark, I know I am definitely on my way to testing this experiment. The trick is to be in complete darkness with a mirror, let your night vision kick in, and chew with your mouth open. Blue-green sparks will fly due to the breaking down of the sugar crystals. When the atoms of the sugar are broken apart, cracks start to form, and “negative and positive electrical charges are left isolated on separating fragments of the crystal.” These charges obviously want to attract, so when they leap to do so, they are leaping through nitrogen gas. This nitrogen gas absorbs the energy and then lets it go right before your eyes in a blue-green flash. In fact, Ingram describes it as a minuscule version of lightening. You ask why wintergreen? Well, to my newfound knowledge on lifesavers, the wintergreen has oil in it that is very good at soaking in ultraviolet light. I wonder if Lifesavers is the best wintergreen candy to use or if a softer wintergreen candy would even work. This chapter is an excellent example of how everyday science can explain the chemistry of sugar. Without the experiment that I can easily visual or even do myself, reading about crystallized structures and transferring energy to create an ultraviolet light would be similar to reading something in a different language.

The Dynamics of a Cocktail Party

We have all been caught “daydreaming” at one time or another. Yet if we were challenged to repeat what had just been said by a speaker, chances are, we could. It is amazing that the brain can recycle what was said somewhere from the inside of our consciousness. On the same token, consider how effective people are at listening even when in the midst of a noisy room or “cocktail party” as long studied by scientists and physicists. It is said that the sound you hear comes from two sources. One is the direct sound coming from the person you are speaking with or who is speaking to you and the other is the indirect sound that arrives at your ears after it has bounced “around the room” off walls, furniture, etc. For example, if you are standing at a party alone, not speaking to anyone you would hear all the noises around you at different pitches depending on how close or far the noise or conversations are from you. If then a person came in front of you and began speaking, it is almost like your brain is fully controlling your hearing and you are completely focused on the speaker as opposed to the background noises. The background noises become a non-issue as long as they stay at the same level. I find it intriguing how the brain chooses what it wants our ears to hear and how a person’s focus is the direct source of what we actually hear even though our sense of hearing has not changed.

Welcome to the Tongue-Show

If you picture a small child playing a connect the dots game, you notice they have a lot of concentration and that they stick the tip of their tongue out between their lips. Shockingly, behavioural scientists call this phenomenon “tongue-showing.” People do it when threading a needle, reading complicated instructions, playing billiards, etc. The reason for this phenomenon is to unconsciously send the message, “do not bother me.” When I first read this chapter, I didn’t really believe it but then I noticed that did this little trick pretty often so I reread it, and decided to share some interesting facts with you guys. “Tongue-showing” is both sent and received unconsciously. An experiment was done to prove this and I find it pretty cool. So, fifty college students were to complete a comprehension test and were told that the test must be filled out in order. Each student went in the room alone with the teacher sitting at the front “listening to an audio tape” so that they wouldn’t distract the student. Intentionally, the third page was removed from the test to see what the student would do. An observer behind a two-way mirror recorded the results. The students tried to call the teachers name but of course he couldn’t hear them, so they were left to walk up and interrupt him. When the teacher showed his tongue in concentration, the student waited 19.93 seconds before getting up where as they only waited 7.72 with no tongue showing. After the experiment, the students were filled in on the purpose of the test and when they were asked to reproduce the expression of the teacher, no one depicted a tongue. They simply said they thought the teacher didn’t want to be disturbed. Without the tongue showing, students didn’t hesitate to ask about the missing third page. So why the tongue, and not the eyes or ears? Its proven that the greater the concentration needed, the more often the tongue appears because they are doing something that needs full concentration and attention. This is another thing that when its pointed out to you, you'll notice yourself and others doing it all of the time.

The Big Bang on Cable

The big bang can get really complicated, like many things in the universe. The reason why the universe’s history isn’t always set in stone is because it is so hard to physically explore. You can only go so far when exploring the universe in a space shuttle, and you can only get a signal from so far away. It must be so hard to be an astronomer knowing that there is so much in the universe but you can’t physically prove it. One cool fact about the big bang is that we can get a glimpse of it by simply turning on our T.V or radio. Did you know that the static and electric noises are particles of electromagnetic radiation? In fact, “three or four percent of these particles have been flying around outer space for 13 billion years.” You are viewing or hearing through that hiss sound, photons that are travelling in concert in waves of a specific length (not sure what that length is). They, as in all those brilliant scientists, describe the beginning of the big bang as the universe in a tight ball. Eventually the heat got so high that it exploded, and then everything in the universe started to drift apart. But if we keep drifting apart, aren’t we going to become too far from the sun that we experience eternal darkness. If this is true and the world doesn’t die out from some environmental problem, then we are going to be kickin’ it old school with candles because the sun will be too far away to light up the world. People don’t consider this because, again, there is no hard evidence. Anyways, photons from the big bang are still all around us. To be specific, several hundred trillion of these will pass by us every second in the form of light. The radiation they give off is only one ten-millionth of a hundred-watt light bulb, so it has no effect on us. More importantly, T.V and radio static does have a new found meaning to it; it lets you experience a mini version of what the big bang sounds like due to the fact that it contains some of its original particles.