6/8/08

Scientific American Pie = Brane Damage.

If you're anything like me, (and you know you are) you have a pile of magazines in the bathroom reading bucket. Recently, my father has been giving me his copies of Scientific American and Popular Science when he's done with them. After about 6 months of this, I have received enough copies of each to come to the following conclusion:

I am too stupid to read Scientific American.

Here's an example -- Thursday night, I was getting ready for bed and had a Scientific American open on the bathroom counter. (Yes, I read magazines and books while I'm washing my face and brushing my teeth. I know. It's a sickness.) Suddenly, I realized I had been standing in front of the bathroom sink for about 30 minutes with the water running, reading (and trying to understand) an article on pseudotyped viral-vector gene therapy used in conjunction with synthetic oligonucleotides or some shit. Believe it or not, I managed to get the gist of it even though I had inconveniently left my PHD in microbiology in the other room. Unfortunately, that tiny glimmer of understanding still meant that I went to bed too late and overslept the next morning. Stupid oligonucleotides.

Yesterday, in another restroom-related visit, I realized that both my legs had gone numb because I was sitting there for 20 minutes reading an article on String Theory and Multi-verses for the 4th time, trying desperately to get my head around it. Apparently these multiple layered universes are like membranes, or Branes for short, and can exist at the tip of a spike in a Calabi-Yau Manifold. Let me just say that there was no rest in that room yesterday. My head hurt. I felt like I was back in my college physics class, except with my pants down.

I've decided that the Scientific American magazines must go.

They are not conducive to quick and efficient bathroom visits, unless of course you have a brain like Stephen Hawking, in which case reading Scientific American is probably like me reading the back of a Lucky Charms box.

Unfortunately, my brain is not Stephen Hawking-esque in the slightest, and therefore these magazines have simply taken one unpleasant task and added another unpleasant task to it. I see no benefit to that, and since one of these tasks is optional and one is not, logic dictates that the optional one must go. Therefore, Scientific American will no longer co-habitate with Performance Muscle Cars and the Victoria's Secret catalog in our bathroom reading bucket.

The Popular Science magazines can stay though. From what I've seen, they are more my speed.

For those of you who have never read either magazine, I took the liberty of scanning the illustration that accompanied an article in each in order to show you why I believe this to be true:

Scientific American



Popular Science



In other news, I'm hoping to finish wiring up my new bathroom tree-fan tomorrow.

Also, just in case it ever comes up in casual conversation, you heard it here first. Soldering with your pants down: Not for beginners.

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Hit this humor-blog link for me. I'll build you a tree fan if you do. Or a Calabi-Yau manifold. Whichever you prefer.

49 comments:

  1. It is 3:51 a.m. and I am going to be totally wasted tomorrow because once I started reading your blog I couldn't stop. I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. The neighbors are probably wondering what exactly my husband and I are up to - little do they know I now have ANOTHER MAN.

    Wow, that sounded kind of creepy and stalkerish, didn't it?

    No worries, I'm harmless. Plus the chest freezer in the garage is full. I couldn't fit another body in there if I tried.

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  2. If science interests you, might I recommend the Bad Science blog? It's relatively easier to assimilate (or so am led to believe)... now all you need is a laptop to be installed in the loo :D

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  3. Am I the only one that thinks that the fan-contraption looks nothing like a tree?

    I had to remove all the literature from my bathroom. I was finding that reading "one more story" in the latest edition of Readers Digest was keeping me from my other household obligations.

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  4. Yeah it's time for me to weed out the ol' bathroom bookshelf. Yes. I have a bookshelf in the bathroom - albeit a small and close-to-the-wall type.
    I think I still have one of my favorite bloggers' books in there (which I can now quote from) and something unrecognizable with many, many dog ears on its top right corner.

    Very nice post here ... indeed.

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  5. Too true. I've become so desperate for restroom reading that I've graced my crapper with one of those big books full of exploded views and pseudo-scientific commentary on Star Wars ships, which is a real stretch into geekdom for me.

    I keep Narrow Passages, a book on branes and string theory beside my bed due to the fact that trying to comprehend it usually puts me into a coma.

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  6. I saw a website once that had crocheted hyperbolic planes. I learned myself to crochet so I could make one (or three) for myself. No telling what I'd have to learn myself if I had SA in the bathroom.

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  7. Oh my gosh, JV. That fan thing looks like something my husband would make.
    He is constantly engineering something dumb and pointless in our house.
    Have you ever seen the light sharpener? This guy made a laser thingy out of a big satelitte dish and mirror tiles? My husband was both fascinated and inspired by this guy. He know thinks that he can make a heater for our pool out of an old satelitte. (rolling my eyes)

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  8. I click over and click over and click over to humor-blogs, and yet no Calabi-Yau manifold. Tease. That fan may be useful, but it is definitely not stylish.

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  9. Oh, I guess I should comment on the point of your post...bathroom reading material.
    What do you get when you combine a computer geek husband with an electronic gadget obsession, and wireless internet? Never need a magazine in the bathroom again!!!
    That's all I'm saying.

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  10. Is it just me or does the Calabi-Yau manifold look kind of dirty?

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  11. LOL. I have a free subscription to Scientific American (I'd never pay for it) and like you, I can't understand more than 10 words in any issue. It makes me feel smarter to read it, though, so I try. I don't think Popular Science would be good for me; If i'm going to build anything with my pants down, it won't be a fan!

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  12. If you want a more understandable science read, a Readers Digest for science geeks if you will, might I recommend New Scientist. It allows you to keep up without your brain exploding.

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  13. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I have to read SciAm for my job. What normally takes me about 45 minutes for other publications takes me about 3 hours for SciAm. Not because I fall asleep about 3 paragraphs into each article, but because I *keep* falling asleep every 3 paragraphs and when I finally get to the end, I have to start over at the beginning because I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT I HAVE JUST READ. Usually by the end of the 3rd pass, I have the general gist.

    Good god, that publication is good for my smart-esteem, though.

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  14. String Theory is one of the (very) few things that makes me wish I was smart, because the bits I can glimpse of it are amazing.

    My husband (who teaches Psychology) gets Scientific American Mind - it seems both interesting and readable, and could explain your odd obsession with all things bathroom related...

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  15. Soldering with your pants down = embarassing ER visit.

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  16. KC, I submit that of the tens of thousands of words I've written here in the last few years, only a small percentage of them are bathroom related. I think the fact that those are the ones that people seem to remember best says more about them than it does about me.

    Nathan, I think it actually IS dirty.

    Alli, you sound as if you know this from experience. I'd love to hear that story some time.

    BD, the fact that you even own that book impresses me.

    Tina, I find that writing my blog after 3am makes it funnier to me, so it stands to reason that reading it then is funnier too.

    Nicole, try not to vaporize your children by mistake.

    And thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

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  17. that can't be good for your arse or head, mail them to the Clinton's, apparently they have an endless backlog of shit to get rid of.

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  18. "Tina, I find that writing my blog after 3am makes it funnier to me, so it stands to reason that reading it then is funnier too."

    hehe I tried that a few times but I either take the post WAY too far or I can't understand anything I wrote.

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  19. Reiven11:05 PM

    Johnny, check out this vid: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/251
    this guy explains string theory with out all the annoying equations. I enjoy your blog... do you have any more stories of you and friends as children? They are the best!

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  20. Reiven11:11 PM

    And here is a really cute (for a scientist) guy explaining the hadron collider making it comprehensible, and even funny! http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/253

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  21. Sorry about the soldering injury. And the sore brain. Happens to me all the time. Coincidence?

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  22. Mitesh3:11 AM

    Hi JV,

    This is Mitesh from India and I am totally hooked to your blog. Great work !!!

    On scientific magazines, just as we do not understand it, neither does any one else. So if we can just mug up a few of the lingo like Branes, it is enough to impress in a casual conversation :)

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  23. I remember seeing a Reader's Digest in someone's house on the coffee table when I was a kid and wondering to myself "Why did someone bring that out of the bathroom?" I thought one was OBLIGATED to read it in there.

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  24. My dad reads those magazines too. I tried reading it when I was 12 and I said screw it. Im 17 now and still, screw it.

    The National Geographic magazine is my favorite tho :D

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  25. Okay buster. I’m a big fan of Cary at LOTD. I went to Humor-Blog to see if I could sneak in a second vote for him but saw your score and realized my felony inclinations were futile. Holy God Almighty in Heaven – I even voted for you by mistake. Then I saw the word *feed*. Anything that remotely hints of food gets my attention. So I clicked on that too.

    Good stuff. Funny. Original.

    Hmmm.You’ve got me to thinking about the possibilities of reading online in the restroom… installing a table at just the right height. Hmmm.

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  26. Maybe the editors at American Scientific have no idea what any of it means either, but are too embarrassed to admit it.

    Maybe you should submit a made-up article about 'Predeterministic Polysisemic Inhibitors and their Imapact on Jupiter's Moons' and see if the suckers print it...

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  27. kristina3:54 PM

    So where is the blog entry and pic of your new fan tree? Are all of your fans (us) in it, or just the ones (of us) that suck up the most? How did you get our pictures? And why would you need to solder them together, especially with your pants down?

    Got any pics?

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  28. kristina4:18 PM

    P.S. This is what happens to people who do understand string theory when they try to explain it to the rest of us dolts.

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  29. I just keep a copy of my college's Alumni Newsletter in the bathroom. I can take a dump and quietly sob that everyone I went to school with is president of a conglomerate, whilst I make Powerpoint presentations out of my basement. It's therapeutic as much as pathetic.

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  30. My Dad used to subscribe to this magazine. It's a real head scratcher.

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  31. Start eating that four pound bag of moong beans in your kitchen and you won't require reading material your bathroom!

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  32. My lord you're hilarious. I found you while being bored at work and spent a good 5 hours reading your posts...well now I sound pathetic.

    oh well, your childhood posts are so. fucking. funny.

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  33. Classic Johnny. The thing is, Johnny, you try to make yourself seem so dumb and normal, when in fact you're this psychotic genius who doesn't know what to do with his brain except read scientific magazines while brushing his teeth. (Yes, that is a sickness.) Btw, did you mean to spell Brane that way in the title? Just checkin'....;)
    Steph-a-ninnie

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  34. This is your brane on nuclear physics?!

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  35. You are just the best. Very addicting!

    If you are really crunched for time one day and want some interesting blog fodder, come on over and improg with us blog + improv = IMPROG.

    http://improgging.blogspot.com

    Carry on and keep those blogs coming.

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  36. It does look like a tree -- just not like the green kind that grow in your yard or local forest. It looks like the type of graph that's known as a tree.

    And Johnny, the problem with Scientific American isn't that you're not smart enough for it. String Theory makes no sense to you because it's B.S. Honestly, not real science at all. And the whole multiverse concept is pretty weak, too, if you ask me. And trust me, I'm more than smart enough to read S.I. In fact, much like you, I'm smart enough to cut through the B.S. that claims to be science.

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  37. thank you so much for the laugh... my dad reads this too and when i'm visiting my parents and pick one of them up I feel dumber than dirt.

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  38. You know what's spectacular reading on the pot? A magazine called "The Week." It gives a pretty comprehensive overview of what's happening across a spectrum of news, politics, science, art, etc, and it's dense enough to have substance, but light enough for good comprehension.

    Also... have you read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road?"

    For some reason, when I was done with it, you popped into my head... It's absolutely spectacular and I think you'd love it. I can't think of any other book with post-apocalyptic, flesh-eating Mad Max-esque humans that has won the Pulitzer Prize.

    Just a suggestion for your reading pleasure.

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  39. I use the skip 'n scan method for reading SciAm. I skip most physics articles unless they try to theorize how teleporting might work, then I scan the photo captions. Really there are some good articles. For example, there was one recently that explained how blogging can be theraputic. People actually study shit like that. I think it's cool.

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  40. As usual, lmfao. I forwarded this one to a friend who's husband has a PhD in something biology related... talking to him makes me feel like a complete moron too. I don't even attmept the science stuff anymore. It hurts my brain too much.

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  41. * Even physicists themselves only PRETEND to understand physics.

    * Pretending the physics articles are science fiction is sometimes helpful.

    ... I always feel dirty when I buy SciAm instead of New Scientist. Ironically, that happened on the very day you posted this and it took me all of yesterday afternoon to read something on time asymmetry. It did impress me that they had two mini bulletpoints at the start summarizing the point of the 4 or so pages. And that by the end, more or less all I knew is what those had told me in simplified terms at the very beginning.

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  42. Well, now I feel like my dad and I are both idiots. So many people volunteering that their fathers read that magazine, too.

    My dad reads Guns and Ammo.

    :)

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  43. The bathroom is like my second living room. It's the only place I can sit down and read a book in peace and quiet....

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  44. "I felt like I was back in my college physics class, except with my pants down."

    "Except?" It's almost as if you're psychic. I had this dream regularly for years when I was actively in college, no "except" about it! Even now still have the occasional flash-back.

    Nice post. I think I can do the fan-tree thingy.

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  45. Nicole P: I am proud to say that Rob Cockerham, of "Cockeyed.com" and Jim Rome (sports radio) are both alumnus of my alma-mater, and they both make me laugh. JV, if you haven't read Rob's "How Much Is In" series, or his daffy science experiments, I recommend starting with "How Much Gold Is In Goldschlager," or "How Much Beer is In a Keg." Enjoy, and laugh -- you certainly provide cheer for plenty of others!

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  46. SciAm is hit or miss. I've subscribed for over twenty years. I might have had the same experience you did if it weren't for the occasional article that changes me.

    One example was "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman about just exactly how the manmade world would fare if everyone disappeared. The subways would flood and bronze statues would last for pretty much forever.

    Here are two haunting pics.

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  47. excellent. I wanna tree fan.

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  48. Anonymous1:56 PM

    Really love your blog!!! Have you read Bill Bryson's, "A Short History of Nearly Everything"? It's like Cliff notes for ALL major science theories...yet written by a humorist. Very digestable...I'd even say a very fun read!
    What about those Uncle John Bathroom Reader books? I think there are like 125 of them now. Classic...no bathroom should be without them!

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