25 A Week In Sydney
26 Interview with the Widow - 1
27 Interview with the Widow - 2
28 Three Kings of Orient
29 1969 - Year of the Rooster
30 Summer in Europe
31 Bellybuttons & Maggots
32 Yes/No vs. Maybe
33 Blood, Beer and Warm Feet
34 Mine Universe
35 Hands off, Boots on
36 The Accidental Cure
37 It's the Only Thing
38 The Professor's Stable
39 Little House on the Highway
40 "9/11 is OK"
41 Suspected Child Abuse
42 Midlife Crisis
43 Where Am I Today - 1
44 Where Am I Today - 2
45 The Rosebud Period
46 Angular and Giddy
47 Sandin, N. A., Computer
48 Hot Trailers
THE PROFESSOR’S STABLE
Pono is now a full professor with a whole stable full of energetic, young grad students just burning to get on with research and publication. The question is what should the students pursue? Well, Pono convened a conference with Norm and himself and together the four of them drew up a list of candidate issues.
Fortunately, unlike real professors, Pono has no limitations regarding disciplines, fields, topics, or even constraints of reality. He can ask any question that he has wondered about, he can posit any theory that was spawned in his dream world, and he does not need to count hours, dollars, or effort, since grad students are FREE!
I’d guess that some of the following are based on faulty premises, some have already been addressed and perhaps even answered, but some may even be worth pursuing. Let’s face it though, the first job of a grad student is to search the documentation to determine the status of the question being pursued. If the reader has answers or other suggestions, let me know.
SMELL DISPERSAL IN WATER
Much is made of the sense of smell in sharks. In one experiment, a fish carcass was cut open and left in still water to see how quickly it attracted the attention of sharks known to be nearby. The carcass was of course unmoving and the water was relatively unmoving, but still the sharks detected the carcass and approached it from significant distance.
Q. How do molecules from such a carcass distribute to allow for detection by sharks?
BIRD-HUMAN COMFORT DISTANCES
On my morning walks, I see birds of many varieties - doves, mynah, francolin, sparrows, and cattle egrets are the most common. They are all on the ground, busy rounding up food items left from the night before. The doves and mynah birds are very tolerant of my encroachment – many of them just hop away a meter or so and go on gathering. The cattle egrets stay at least six meters away and often take off, circle and return after I’m gone. The francolin either hide in hedges or take off to other places. The reaction of sparrows varies wildly.
Q. Does the “comfort distance from man” of birds vary by species, relative size, dexterity, location, or what?
The bonobo (Pan paniscus) is a primate species widely known to participate in casual sexual activity as well as significant homosexual contact. Homosexuality has been observed in nearly 1500 different species and is well-documented in 500.
Q. Does the propensity for homosexual behavior in a species relate in any way to the degree of sexual dimorphism in that species?
POPULARITY OF BRAZIL NUTS
Personally, I don’t care much for Brazil nuts. I don’t think I have ever seen a bag or box of Brazil nuts for sale. I was going to propose the question “If they didn’t use Brazil nuts to clutter up mixed nuts, would anyone even buy them?” Of course, being Pono, I had to do a little research before presenting this, and who would have guessed at how interesting the topic is?
First, Brazil nuts are ranked fifth out of the top six most nutritious nuts, just before the scrumptious macadamia nut! The nut’s contribution of selenium to the diet may actually help prevent breast and prostate cancer! And 1/10 of an ounce gives the adult minimum daily requirement of selenium! That’s like ONE nut (I weighed several)!
Second, Brazil nuts are the only nut harvested entirely from naturally growing trees, fitting all the requirements of green food production and protecting forests! In producing countries it is illegal to cut this type of tree! (OK, I’ve run out of exclamation points, so just assume them on the further points.)
Third, Brazil nut trees probably live for more than 500 years and may live up to 1000 years.
Fourth, although we all think of this item as a nut and the tree is likewise so named, botanists consider it a seed.
Fifth, the European Union has import restrictions on Brazil nuts in the shell. The shell contains aflatoxins, which can lead to liver cancer.
Sixth, in a mixture of various sized items with similar densities, the larger items tend to rise to the top. This effect is called the Brazil nut effect. (I saved one exclamation point for the last amazing thing in this list – here it is!)
These points and several others change my opinion about the Brazil nut, but nevertheless:
Q. If they didn’t use Brazil nuts to clutter up mixed nuts, would anyone even buy them?
HUMAN WALKER GREETING DISTANCE
For many months now I have been walking 4k in the morning and I take the same route at about the same time almost every day. This consistency allows me to make observations about the people I encounter who are likewise consistent (and those who are not).
I find that about 84% of those I meet face to face on the sidewalk greet me or respond to my greeting. I presume the other 16% are from New York – you got a problem with that? I have a greeting distance (GD) of about 4 meters – that is, I start saying “Good morning” when the distance between us is 4m. Some folks start their greetings farther away than that and I have tested others by not starting my greeting at my typical GD and find that some greet at less than 4m. I believe the GD range for Maui is 4 ± 0.44 meters. I must admit though that as a relationship builds with other individuals, the GD tends to increase – that is, greetings start considerably earlier than 4m with people I see regularly!
Q. Does the greeting distance for walking encounters vary with location, ethnicity, nationality, familiarity of encounterees, number of persons in each group of encounterees, and/or what?
EFFECT OF MIGRATORY BIRD DROPPINGS
Based on the maps I’ve seen, the routes of migrating birds are pretty well known. Birds have been using these routes for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. I’m guessing that during these flights each bird found it necessary to relieve itself a few times. Over time the accumulated impact of these eliminations must have been felt.
Generic Bird Migration Routes
Q. Does the land or the sea under known bird migration routes show the effects of bird droppings in terms of fertility, animal or insect populations (supported by the droppings), plant species (due to seeds carried in the droppings), or other observable differences from similar areas not under such routes?
CAUSE OF DINOSAUR EXTINCTION
The cause of the dinosaur extinction event still seems to be controversial, although there is considerable support for the asteroid impact theory. Disease, climate change, and volcanic eruption are other widely discussed theories. I have my own idea (remember you read it here first).
Q. Is there any evidence to support the theory that a potent solar flare or cosmic ray sterilized all the creatures that went extinct 65 million years ago?
ALTERNATIVE USAGE OF GILLS
Nature seems to hate waste and finds ways to optimize the use of its creations regularly. If this is true, I wonder about the usage of gills in our watery relatives. Gills are exposed to the water environment constantly. It is difficult to imagine that the only use of gills is to transfer oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the organism.
Q. Do gills function to transfer nutrients, smells, tastes, or anything other than oxygen?
WHALE DEATH AND DISPOSAL
Whales that die in mid-ocean simply sink to the bottom. Whenever a carcass has been found it has the same specific set of organisms dedicated to disposing of the body. Since the oceans are so vast, one wonders how these organisms get the word that their services are needed. I propose that whales carry the “seeds” for these organisms with them, perhaps from birth, or perhaps as they approach death.
Q. Is there any evidence that whale “undertaker” organisms accompany aging individuals?
Mad-cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy – BSE) is said to result from an animal consuming contaminated feed. We are told to stay away from the consumption of animal brains or nervous systems to prevent a human form of such disease. Now predators of all kinds eat pretty much all of their kills and therefore the consumption of brain and nervous system parts must be common.
Q. Is there any evidence of a BSE-like disease in a predator known to consume all of its prey?
ET IS CALLING
Those involved in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have been monitoring for incoming messages from ET in various parts of the spectrum for some 50 years. Of course the electro-magnetic spectrum is so large that SETI has covered only part of it. Meanwhile a stream of possible messages washes over us constantly. This stream involves particles which seem to change randomly between three different flavors. Computers do their magic using 0 and 1, off and on, no charge and charge – only two varieties. Surely particles with three possible states are capable of carrying messages!
The stream of particles I refer to is neutrinos and there is one great problem. Decoding the message is probably well within today’s state of the art. However, since neutrinos react only rarely with other particles, capturing, detaining and monitoring the state of one is so far impossible. Here's how the communication works.
Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”. You know how one twin reacts when the other twin is hurt (it is said)? When two particles are entangled they are like that. No matter how far apart they are, if one changes state, the other changes state in the same way at precisely the same time (a known phenomenon).
Neutrinos come in three flavors and they change flavor as they whiz along (a known phenomenon).
So here it is in a Brazil nut shell. Each neutrino that zips through us is effectively a speaker. It is entangled with its twin which is effectively a microphone. ET is “talking” into the mike (changing the flavor of his twin to code a message). We just need to capture the speaker twin and monitor how it changes flavor to receive the message.
Of course this technique is not limited to communication with ET. With a device capable of containing and predictably modulating a particle, another device capable of containing and monitoring the state of a particle, and a suitable pair of entangled particles, instantaneous communication is possible over any distance! The possibilities are endless.
When one of our great great granddaughters finally works out how to do this, I hope she will call the first message a Ponogram! Now, just send me my Nobel Prize and let’s get on with life!
Q. Is there a way to capture, contain and monitor a neutrino? Is there a way to generate and modulate a neutrino? Does a Pono poop in the ocean?
I hope everyone got this far because I need to make an announcement. My son Stuart and his lady Jen are both Assistant Professors now. (Pono on the other hand still is not.) Their fields involve marine biology, so only a few of these ideas apply to them or their stables of grads, but I’m hoping they will tell me some of the answers.