Sunday, January 3, 2010

Avoirdupois, and the hunter's response

I like the way this article is written. Also, from it, I learned a new word.

Avoirdupois. The word avoirdupois is from Old French aveir de peis (later avoir de pois), literally "goods of weight" (Old French aveir, "property, goods", also "to have", comes from the Latin habere, "to have, to hold, to possess property"; de = "from", cf. Latin; peis = "weight", from Latin pensum).

The article above, on freezing to death.

"But for all scientists and statisticians now know of freezing and its physiology, no one can yet predict exactly how quickly and in whom hypothermia will strike--and whether it will kill when it does. The cold remains a mystery, more prone to fell men than women, more lethal to the thin and well muscled than to those with avoirdupois, and least forgiving to the arrogant and the unaware.

The process begins even before you leave the car, when you remove your gloves to squeeze a loose bail back into one of your ski bindings. The freezing metal bites your flesh. Your skin temperature drops.

Within a few seconds, the palms of your hands are a chilly, painful 60 degrees. Instinctively, the web of surface capillaries on your hands constrict, sending blood coursing away from your skin and deeper into your torso. Your body is allowing your fingers to chill in order to keep its vital organs warm."

Oh, and hunter's response.

Were you a Norwegian fisherman or Inuit hunter, both of whom frequently work gloveless in the cold, your chilled hands would open their surface capillaries periodically to allow surges of warm blood to pass into them and maintain their flexibility. This phenomenon, known as the hunter's response, can elevate a 35-degree skin temperature to 50 degrees within seven or eight minutes.

Other human adaptations to the cold are more mysterious. Tibetan Buddhist monks can raise the skin temperature of their hands and feet by 15 degrees through meditation. Australian aborigines, who once slept on the ground, unclothed, on near-freezing nights, would slip into a light hypothermic state, suppressing shivering until the rising sun rewarmed them...

... The exertion that warmed you on the way uphill now works against you: Your exercise-dilated capillaries carry the excess heat of your core to your skin, and your wet clothing dispels it rapidly into the night....

...With every one-degree drop in body temperature below 95, your cerebral metabolic rate falls off by 3 to 5 percent. When your core temperature reaches 93, amnesia nibbles at your consciousness.

Your head drops back. The snow crunches softly in your ear. In the minus-35-degree air, your core temperature falls about one degree every 30 to 40 minutes, your body heat leaching out into the soft, enveloping snow. Apathy at 91 degrees. Stupor at 90.

You've now crossed the boundary into profound hypothermia. By the time your core temperature has fallen to 88 degrees, your body has abandoned the urge to warm itself by shivering. Your blood is thickening like crankcase oil in a cold engine. Your oxygen consumption, a measure of your metabolic rate, has fallen by more than a quarter. Your kidneys, however, work overtime to process the fluid overload that occurred when the blood vessels in your extremities constricted and squeezed fluids toward your center. You feel a powerful urge to urinate, the only thing you feel at all...

... At 85 degrees, those freezing to death, in a strange, anguished paroxysm, often rip off their clothes. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical undressing, is common enough that urban hypothermia victims are sometimes initially diagnosed as victims of sexual assault. Though researchers are uncertain of the cause, the most logical explanation is that shortly before loss of consciousness, the constricted blood vessels near the body's surface suddenly dilate and produce a sensation of extreme heat against the skin"...

There is hope.

..."The doctor shakes his head. He can't remember seeing numbers so low. He's not quite sure how to revive this man without killing him.

In fact, many hypothermia victims die each year in the process of being rescued. In "rewarming shock," the constricted capillaries reopen almost all at once, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. The slightest movement can send a victim's heart muscle into wild spasms of ventricular fibrillation. In 1980, 16 shipwrecked Danish fishermen were hauled to safety after an hour and a half in the frigid North Sea. They then walked across the deck of the rescue ship, stepped below for a hot drink, and dropped dead, all 16 of them."..

Ideally, the doctor would have access to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, with which he could pump out the victim's blood, rewarm and oxygenate it, and pump it back in again, safely raising the core temperature as much as one degree every three minutes. But such machines are rarely available outside major urban hospitals. Here, without such equipment, the doctor must rely on other options.

"Let's scrub for surgery," he calls out...

For the next half hour, an EMT quietly calls the readouts of the thermometer, a mantra that marks the progress of this cold-blooded proto-organism toward a state of warmer, higher consciousness.


So. awesomely. fucked. up.

This is great.

And on that note, I'm off to enjoy Sunday outside.

Song of the day: Blood Meridian - Kick up the dust

Happy new year's resolution.


One of the most gorgeous physics theories out there. For some reason, listening to "I'm Goin' Down" by Bruce on youtube I thought of this equation.

I can't tell you how much I love the idea of entanglement, of entangled particles. The very basics of it are this; suppose there are two particles. If particle A is spinning right, particle B is also spinning right. Now, suppose you force particle A to start spinning left (with a magnetic field change - awesome). What happens now is this: instantaneously, no matter what conditions are placed on particle B (distance, environment, etc.), it will also start to spin left. This communication is instantaneous. The information sent from particle A is not confined by the speed of light. This 'information' sent is delivered, processed and executed as if they were one particle, all happening at the same time. This obviously has many theoretically great applications. For example, say you want to turn on a light 30 light years away. Simply change the spin of one particle, and 30 light years away the sister particle will change spin as well. There is no need to wait 30 years for communication through the speed of light. Communication with these two particles is instantaneous.

This lead to the EPR paradox, and contributed to Einstein's disbelief in quantum mechanics.

It is the only known situation that breaks the law of the speed of light. Things are connected, the same, on a different level; a different layer of existence. So. fucking. cool. This is reality.

Beyond the applications, this is a very romantic notion, in my mind. (Yes, it does occasionally happen in science ;) On the occasion of a friends' wedding I (and my girlfriend at the time) framed the top equation with the following from Justin Mullins' website written underneath:

"The connections between ordinary objects are fleeting and superficial. Two atoms may collide and separate, never to meet again. Others can stick together by virtue of the chemical bonds they form, until the day that bond is broken.

But there is another type of connection that is far more powerful and romantic. Certain objects can become linked by a mysterious process called entanglement. Particles that become entangled are deeply connected regardless of the distance between them. If they become separated by the width of the Universe, the bond between them remains intact. These particles are so deeply linked that it’s as if they somehow share the same existence.

Physicists do not yet fully understand the nature of entanglement but there is growing evidence that it is a fundamental property of the universe. Unfettered by the restrictions of space, entanglement may be the ghostly bedrock upon which reality is built."

Also, as Justin Mullins suggests, An End to Uncertainty (New Scientist), is certainly worth the read. I'm now off to drape my walls in the beauty and universality of mathematical equations.

Incidentally, entanglement can be created between any two particles. Also, light can be frozen in space and time, even if just for a second or two. There is soo much...

Alaska was leased, not sold?

So, talking to a few Russians in New York (where else?), they said that back in school they were taught that Alaska was leased to America for 100 years, and not actually sold. Sounds like bullshit, but definitely worth checking out. Sounds like a case of 'his-story'.

Looking for information on this, I found very little... some forum hits and just a few articles.

It was today (October 18th) in 1867 that Russia formally let Alaska go, peddling its Russian America territory to the underdeveloped United States for $7.2 million to ensure that its rival European power, Great Britain, didn't get it.

The Alaska State Museum in Juneau has William Seward’s desk that was used during the purchase and the actual check (smaller) from the Russians.

Here's the original sale agreement. Or, at least the American version.

Don't believe everything you hear at a party. On another note, living in Juneau for two weeks is on some sort of list I haven't written yet.