Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marcia's Nose, or "The Subject Was Bruises"

Gather around everyone; it’s time for a family meeting. We had a bit of an incident earlier today, but let’s see if we can’t turn this accident into a learning opportunity.

Marcia, please come to the front of the room; don’t be shy. Marcia took a direct hit from a football today, smack in the nose. This type of injury, where there is nothing penetrating the skin, is called blunt trauma, and bruises are a very common physical response. If you look around the area of impact on Marcia’s nose, you can see where the skin appears discolored and swollen, and may be sensitive. Oh, sorry dear, I suppose it is sensitive, then.

The incident. "Oh, my nose!"

Can anyone tell me why Marcia’s face looks so funny? Oh, don’t be offended, dear, this is merely for the sake of science.

The force of the football hitting Marcia’s face broke blood vessels, causing blood to collect beneath her skin. Blood vessels run underneath every inch of your skin to provide blood to different areas, keeping your body healthy and alive. The tiniest of these blood vessels are called capillaries, and they are the closest to the skin.

The offensive instrument.

Blood vessels are generally pretty good at staying intact, but when that football hit Marcia in the face, it caused some of her capillaries to break. Blood spilled into the surrounding tissues, where it clotted and formed a bruise. The darker color of the blood is visible beneath her skin, and that’s why Marcia’s nose is a different color than the rest of her face at the moment.

All bruises have a shared cause: internal bleeding, during which blood escapes the vessels and collects inside the body. Don’t worry Cindy, your sister’s going to be fine. Marcia’s contusion, which is just a fancy name for a bruise, will clear up on its own in a matter of weeks.

The injury. She can't possibly go to the dance with Doug this way! She just can't!

Since the football whacked Marcia’s face recently, the escaped blood is still visible just below the skin and the bruise looks dark and reddish, but over the next couple days Marcia’s body will break down the bruise and reabsorb the blood. As this happens, the bruise will turn from the darker reddish color that it is now to a blue-ish or purple-y color. After about a week, the bruise will look green, a few days later it will be yellowed, and then it will disappear entirely. Marcia may even be healed in time for the dance! Don’t get too excited Marcia; I only said “may.”

At this point, the damage is done and Marcia’s body has already begun the process of recuperating. There is no way to “undo” a bruise, but if you act quickly you can minimize the damage. An ice-pack or cold compress can help keep down swelling and might slow down blood flow to the area so that the bruise won’t end up being as large. 

Any cold treatment should be applied immediately after the accident for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, and only through a paper towel or cloth, as direct contact can cause frostbite. If possible, it’s a good idea to keep the injured area elevated above your heart so that gravity isn’t making the bruise bigger by helping blood pool there.

Now only time will heal these wounds, and Marcia’s nose will be a lovely mural of color for the next few weeks. Let’s all be sure to watch out for errant footballs in the future.

The lovely family, plus witty house-slave.

More information from MedicineNet
More information from Lady Sultry (don't stray from the bruises page...)
More on Marcia and her tragic incident 

editor's note: this article got me in A in class, and it didn't even include the awesome pictures. booyah.

All drawings are (obviously) original creations and are the property of Zu's News. Images may not be reproduced without express permission from Zu's News, although you could just draw something better yourself.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Force is Strong With This One

We say that astronauts in space are experiencing “zero-gravity,” but there is really no such thing, not in our universe anyway. The weightlessness that astronauts experience is actually a state of constant free fall, which is caused by the presence of gravity, not the lack of it.

Astronauts at the space station float around freely, seemingly unaffected by any sort of gravity, but it's an illuuuusion...

Yet we have images and videos of astronauts floating about in and around space stations; they aren’t being pulled toward the Earth and neither is the space station. One might be compelled to say, "How can anyone claim there is no such thing as zero-gravity when NASA has 'zero-gravity' simulations and testing for astronauts?" Many scientists regret the use of the term 'zero-gravity' for this very reason; it's misleading.

The astronauts and the space station are actually falling together, always at the same rate (equally accelerated by gravity), so they only appear weightless. It’s the same with satellites and celestial bodies; they are always influenced by gravity. In fact, there is no place in our universe where gravity does not exist, because gravity is a property of mass, not some disembodied force. Everything that has mass also has gravity, including you.

The space station is traveling horizontally, while also being pulled toward the center of the earth by the force of gravity. The result is the curved trajectory that we call "orbit." Objects are not drawn to scale. For a scale, see the next illustration.

Constant free fall works because objects in orbit (like the moon, the space station, and satellites) are traveling horizontally as well as vertically (relative to the surface of the earth). Imagine that you are up incredibly high (more than 200 miles up, so you don’t have to worry much about air resistance) and are moving forward with incredible speed (more than 17,000 miles per hour).

The force of gravity is constantly pulling down on you, but the earth is not flat, it curves away from you. As you’re falling, the Earth is literally retreating beneath your feet, so you never hit land. You're falling at an angle that matches the curve of the earth. This is constant free fall.

Imagine this (only imagine, do not attempt): You are going to jump off the edge of a cliff, riding on a bathroom scale (repeat – only imagine). You leap off the ground with the scale at your feet, and you try to read the little dial telling you your weight. Since you and the scale are both falling at the same rate (remember Galileo dropping things off of the leaning tower of Pisa to show that size makes no difference to how fast you fall?), the scale would register a whopping nothing! You have achieved the appearance of weightlessness.

A thought experiment where a person on a scale (there it is) falls off the edge of a cliff, demonstrating how the appearance of weightlessness is created while gravity is still acting on the body. This is not to be attempted outside of your imagination.

Although the term “zero-gravity” is thrown around with abandon, it is a really the opposite of what is happening to the space station and the astronauts inside. Without the force of gravity pulling objects toward one another, the space station, satellites, and even the moon would just fly off into space, never to be seen again.

More from the Physics Classroom
More from Dot Physics

All drawings are (obviously) original creations and are the property of Zu's News. Images may not be reproduced without express permission from Zu's News, although you could just draw something better yourself.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Can We Play Something Else Now?

You can stop holding your breath (unless you're still searching underwater), Waldo is safe and sound. The researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory received a signal from the misplaced robot early yesterday morning when Waldo casually resurfaced and made a call home.

Mote had spared no effort in looking for "the 115-pound, canary-yellow robot," spending "more than 10 days using side-scan sonar, VHF, hydrophones, airplane surveys, snorkelers and divers." Ultimately, Waldo was found about 50 feet from its last known whereabouts. Yes, five-zero feet.

This is very good news for Florida's Mote's marine biologists, as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had probably told them they would not be getting any new toys until they could take better care of the ones they have.
Pictured: A marine biologist (you can tell from the glasses) happily reunited with a favorite toy.

Read the full news release from Mote Marine Laboratory.

All drawings are (obviously) original creations and are the property of Zu's News. Images may not be reproduced without express permission from Zu's News, although you could just draw something better yourself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robot Goes Missing, Everyone Makes Same Joke

An underwater robot nicknamed "Waldo" has gone missing off of the Gulf Coast of Florida, much to the dismay of Mote Marine Laboratory scientists. As can be expected, statements made about the hilarity of the subsequent search for Waldo have been abundant and predictable.
Thanks, Every News Station in Existence, we saw that coming.

After nearly a week of fruitless searching which enlisted the help of other robots (it's like Finding Nemo, but in the future), the scientists are turning to the public. Mote Laboratory is offering a $500 reward in hopes that Labor Day boaters will keep an eye out for Waldo.

Waldo costs about $100,000 and is carrying a red tide detector worth another $30,000, so finding it is important enough to bring scientists out in the public eye to abashedly ask for help.

Prior to disappearing, Waldo had spent five days reporting on conditions in the coastal waters of Florida. Every two hours Waldo sent communication back to the laboratory as it sought out traces of red tide, an ocean phenomenon that has yet to be fully understood. On Monday, August 31st Waldo suddenly went silent, and has been missing ever since.

May currently be aimlessly floating, stuck at the bottom of the sea, or in the back of a pick-up.

Mote scientist Gary Kirkpatrick, inventor of the red tide detector, explains that the robot may have sprung a leak, causing it to sink to the ocean floor. If Waldo only had a failure in the communication systems, it may still be floating around at the surface.

The press release also mentioned that Waldo may have been picked up by "an unsuspecting boater who didn't realize the device was a scientific instrument." The lab added that the reward is offered "No-Questions-Asked."

If the robot remains elusive, scientists will likely try to find a cane, a cup, or three protruding tongues before moving on to something more fun.

If you have knowledge of robot-Waldo's whereabouts, please contact Mote Marine Laboratory at (941) 388 4441 x271.

Read the full press release from Mote Marine Laboratory.

Update to story, Waldo found!!

All drawings are (obviously) original creations and are the property of Zu's News. Images may not be reproduced without express permission from Zu's News, although you could just draw something better yourself.