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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Real Patent?

Check out this patent application:

United States Patent Application 20060071122

Full body teleportation system


[0002] The basis for this invention is an event, referring to FIG. 1, occurring on May 2, 2004, in which the inventor ("he") personally experienced a full-body teleportation while walking to the bus stop (A) along a road (B) that runs perpendicular to the nearby commercial airport runways where planes are landing. There is a wide iron grating (D) for water drainage that crosses the road at the center of the bus stop. The grating width is such that one has to make a concerted effort to jump across it in order to get from one side to the other. Approximately 50 meters from the iron grating, he (E) felt a vertical wave (F), similar to a flag waving in the breeze, traveling down the street toward the bus stop. The wave velocity was about 1 meter per second, which was slightly faster than his walking speed. In the next instance, he (G) found himself down the street near the corner of the next block. Realizing that he had passed the bus stop, he turned around to see the iron grating approximately 50 meters up the street in back of him. Because there was no recollection of having jumped across the iron grating nor of having passed the bus stop's yellow marker line, he realized that he had been teleported a distance of 100 meters while moving along with the traveling wave. It was obvious that the wave was pulsed because the front edge overtook the inventor, moved with him momentarily, and then the back edge of wave left him as it moved on down the street. While contemplating this sequence of events, he then looked up and saw in a span of a few seconds a twin-turboprop airplane (C) in the distance crossing above the road while making a shallow descent in order to land at the airport.

I don't know what is more bizarre - the fact that somebody actually spent time and money to file this application, or that the USPTO actually published it.

The truth is always funnier :P

Anyway "full body teleportation" events happen quite routinely in the lab.

Sometimes I would walk somewhere in the lab and forget why I walked there.

Then I would walk back to my bench and suddenly remember that I was going to get stuff from the freezer, which I overshot by 3 metres.

Every day you will meet some person wear that same puzzled look on his/her face, stop suddenly and head back towards some freezer or tissue culture room.

We were lost... in hyperspace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Colour Of My Morale

Wow, it's been more than a month since my last update! I'm feeling rather embarrassed - Fresh Brainz isn't quite dead yet, but ever since I moved my computer into the lab, it has become a dedicated DNA sequencing machine, so I haven't kept up with the blogging.

In fact, I have become a dedicated DNA sequencing machine myself. This is the part of my PhD project where I keep designing primers and chasing sequence information in a continuous cycle.

Needless to say, it's hard to maintain any sense of humour when your daily concerns are highly mechanical. But boy do I try - I must! My sanity demands it!

So today I have yet another quirky observation for you.

Do you know that Time has colour?

Let me explain.

A long time ago, when I wasn't a grad student (yes, you may think in black and white) I used to work in a research lab at a hospital. I had to take a bus every morning and then transfer to a MRT train to get to work.

For many weeks I waited at the same bus stop, with the same pole-faced people, waiting for the same few buses. Blank expressionless faces all around that gazed impatiently at their watches every now and then.

Then one day I was late. What a difference 15 minutes makes!

The bus stop was still the same, of course. But the people were completely different. The earlier "batch" have already gotten on their buses, so I see a whole new crowd, albeit with the same expressionless faces.

Hah - what's so special about this, you may ask. People start work at different times - that isn't rocket science.

Seems trivial doesn't it? Now suppose one day you were in a hurry and forgot your watch.

It's raining so you can't see the sun.

You run into the bus stop and suddenly you realize what time it is. You immediately see the people who were waiting for the 7.15am bus, but don't see anyone who should be waiting for the 7.00am bus. Just by looking at faces you can tell the time within 15 minutes of accuracy. You can also estimate how long it will take for your bus to appear.

Neat huh? Which brings me back to the title of this blog post.

Time has colour because the way people dress is influenced by their morale.

There is a very obvious example of this in our research institute - we have one female postdoc who wears different coloured clothes every day of the week. Let me give you the data just for the past week.

Monday - Black
Tuesday - Dark purple
Wednesday - Brown
Thursday - Pastels
Friday - Red

Of course, not everyone dresses so predictably, but if someone does, you can tell what day it is simply by the colour of their clothes.

Example - "Dammit what day is it... oh it's Wednesday, 'cos she is wearing brown today!"

In addition, if the colour doesn't match the "proper" colour for that day, then you have a useful indicator of personal morale right there.

Example - "She's been wearing black every day for the past three days... Oh-oh!"

Ok I know none of this sounds very scientific, but what I'm trying to say is that there are many interesting ways to tell the time, using purely social methods.