Apr 25, 2009

Something to Laugh About

In a 2007 study, allergy researcher Hajime Kimata of Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital in Japan measured levels of the hormone melatonin in the breast milk of nursing mothers before and after the subjects watched either a comic Charlie Chaplin video or an ordinary weather report.

Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is often disturbed in the allergic skin condition atopic eczema, which all of the 48 babies in the study had.

Kimata found that laughing at the funny film, but not hearing the weather report, increased the amount of melatonin in the mothers’ milk. In addition, the laughter-fortified breast milk reduced the allergic responses to latex and house dust mites in the infants. Thus, making a nursing mom laugh might sometimes serve as an allergy remedy for her baby. Laughter is even more important this month, because April is Humor month.

National Museum of Funeral History

Here is a place to go for a few chuckles. It’s motto “Any Day Above Ground is a Good One.” The Museum is in Houston and opened in 1992. You can view exhibits that include a Civil War embalming display and a replica of a turn-of-the-century casket factory.

It also has a collection of fantasy coffins designed by artist Kane Quaye. The collection includes a casket shaped like a chicken, a Mercedes-Benz, a shallot, and an outboard motor, all based on the dreams and last wishes of his clients. Sounds like a fun place.

Chocolate Sniff

A new way of eating chocolate - by breathing it.

Chocolate without the calories is yours if you inhale chocolate when Le Whif goes on sale later this month in four luscious flavors: mint chocolate, raspberry chocolate, mango chocolate, and plain chocolate. I'll have my coffee with a sniff.

Wallpaper TV

Coming to a wall near you.

Many of us are accustomed to watching TV on high-quality flat screens, but now Toshiba has come up with a new solution. It is a flexible paper that doubles as a TV screen.

The paper uses light that has been redirected using a fine grating created by self-assembling nano-particles. In addition to projecting moving and still pictures, the paper could also be used to emit light, eliminating the need for traditional lighting.

I won't go into details of the cool OLED technology used, but the basic materials have been around since the 90s. Television wallpaper is currently in the early stages of research and won't be on your wall for quite sometime. Wow, I don't even have an HDTV yet and they are already on their way out. The speed of technology change is so exciting, I can hardly stand it.

Nanotube Radio

The nanotube radio, invented in 2007, performs a set of amazing feats: a single carbon nanotube tunes in a broadcast signal, amplifies it, converts it to an audio signal and then sends it to an external speaker in a form that the human ear can readily recognize. You can visit www.sciam.com/nanoradio and listen to a song.

Can you imagine hearing aids and cell phones small enough to fit completely within the ear canal. The nanoradio is actually small enough to fit inside a living cell. Wish they could invent a device of any size that did not have commercials.

Light a Picture

This is so ridiculous that I first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but it is not. A group at MIT proposed the idea of a matchstick embedded with a tiny camera and microphone (green half) and micro projector (red half).

A user swipes the red side of the match, physically lighting it on fire. This sets off the camera and microphone to start recording, moving down the length of the match in response to heat. The match stores the image and sound in the middle. When a user lights the other end, a mini projector plays back the video once before burning away (literally). The group has so far designed a prototype, based on two coupled matches synced to a computer webcam and playback program. A one-time recorder and playback might be a fun party trick and a fleeting reminder to appreciate moments, but it's still a stupid idea.


Can you say ten point five trillion and keep a straight face? Check this site for a detail breakdown of the money the government is spending. It scares the bejeebers out of me.


Slinky was invented by Naval engineer Richard James, who knocked a spring off of a shelf when he was working to develop springs that could keep ship instruments stable in choppy waters.

The spring stepped down to a stack of books, then to the table, and then to the floor, where it righted itself into a cylinder. He tested it with neighborhood kids and the rest is history.

Speaking of Kid's Things

Did you know Terrell Owens, the football player, wrote a children's book titled "Little T Learns to Share", in which a young boy struggles with being fair and sharing his new football. In the end, he decides football is no fun when played all alone. Hmmm!