Sunday, February 21, 2016

She has been wet now!

The day started off with putting the boat on a little cart and rolling it out of my building.  

But it doesn't take long while pushing a 22 foot long boat down the sidewalk to start drawing a crowd.  I am pushing it to the far side of that red building in the distance on the right side of the road. There is a hole in the fence and a sort of ramp down to the beach.  Seem a lot closer when you aren't making such a spectacle. The cart was working fine at this point so it was pretty easy.

 It is hard to tell from this photograph, but there is about a 15 foot hill that the boat is rolling down.  Getting it down was no problem... and getting it back up is future Nick's problem... So really no problem at all! By this point the crowd had grown to seven.

Good thing too, because it was kind of a pain dragging it over the sand.  First lesson learned, put big sand bubble tires on the cart.  Also, deceptively from this distance the waves look tiny.  

I don't have a picture of the first time it touches the water, but this is pretty close.  Second lesson was learned almost immediately.  The smooth shinny varnished bottom of the boat that I tried so hard to make shiny and smooth... when wet is actually the mythical frictionless surface from high school physics classes!  I pulled the boat into the water, jumped in, and BAMN!  Immediately slipped and fell on my ass in the crumple in the bottom.

Turns out the waves were bigger than I had initially thought. Also, third lesson of the day, I need foot braces to press against to get any power into a stroke.  Nothing like sitting on a frictionless bench, over a frictionless floor, trying to pull through the surf.

We rowed out past the breakers, then admired the view for a moment.  Checked the stability. then rowed right back to shore.  As far as stable, I am pretty sure you cold stand on the side and fly fish in a hurricane and it would be fine.  Very stable.  Also water tight, which is nice too.

Back in, pulling it over closer to where the ramp is.

So a lot of the crowd stayed with us for the walk home. 

Ah shit...

"I'll tell you what you got there... you got there a problem."
Yea, so the cart is going to need some work.  This problem was solved with feats of strength and team work from strangers. 

 Who all came over to talk about partner style card games.  

Monday, February 01, 2016

Human Magnetoreception experiment: Call me bird brain!

So, follow my logic...

Fact 1. There are animals that have the ability to sense magnetic fields.  Many of which have a protein in their retina called cryptochrome.

Fact 2. One such animal that we don't mind doing experiments on because they aren't that cute is fruit flies.  Turns out, humans and fruit flies have very similar magnetic field sensing protein in our retinas.

Fact 3. If you take a fruit fly that for some non-sinister reason genetically doesn't make it's own protein it doesn't seem to sense magnetic fields.  Now, if you take that same fly without it's own magnetic sensing protein, and substitute the human protein... it can sense magnetic fields again and navigate normally using the human version of this protein instead of it's own.

(I know... the fact that that statement can be made means there are scientists out there that are literally making human-insect hybrids, though probably very mild ones... It seems we are only percentage points away from that Spanish poem where the insect goes for a hike on his human girlfriend and lover. Pablo Neruda's "Insecto")

Fact 4. The human magnetic sensing protein placed in other animals that know how to use it gives the ability to sense magnetic fields and use them for navigation.

Thinking about all this, it should naturally follow that:

Hypothesis 1. Humans have the biological mechanisms in place to use magnetic fields for navigation.

The above picture about animal magnetoreception was stolen from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champlain's website.  What it is showing is how magnetic fields might be seen or sensed using cryptochrome by a bird as it looked around the landscape.  I am not sure that I agree with a lot of their discussion... especially when it gets to electron pairs and spin direction.  I feel like we don't need to get quantum physics involved in a phenomenon that can basically be replicated by a magnatized sewing needle stuck a bobbing cork... but they are the scientists and they have really convincing graphics.

Now... given all those facts and experiments done by other diligent biologists as stated above, it seems there is a pretty strong argument to at least start some experiments or attempt to tap into this possible latent ability for humans to navigate through direct sensing of the earth's magnetic fields. But Wait There's MORE!

Here is where it gets even more awesome!

Supposedly the Guugu Yimithirr Language and Sambal Language don't have words for "in front of" or "behind"... or even "right" or "left of"...  etc.  They only use the cardinal direction words like north, south, etc.  So for example if you were going to tell someone where they lost their screw driver, you would say, "Your screw driver is north of your east hand."  Supposedly that is how they describe all directions whether it is small directions around the room or larger ones around the whole area.

I know what you are thinking!  Nick, isn't the Sambal Language a language of island people?  Where if they grew up on an island and knew the landscape very well of each island, that it might just be easy to give directions that way because nobody ever goes anywhere new? Well maybe.  But also the second language Guugu Yimithirr is from northern Australia where one could imagine that the speakers could walk around a lot farther than the folks on the islands and still they use the cardinal direction words instead of some sort of local orientation like right or left or behind...

So all this has me sort of simmering in the back of my mind...  I am thinking a pacific island people and some northern Australian people whose description of themselves is "of the salt water" use cardinal directions in their language.  That area of the world was the kind of place that ancient Polynesian mariners used to cross the huge pacific with no compass or other known modern navigation tools. Maybe these languages are actually artifacts of the ancient mariner's ability to sense the magnetic fields of the earth... and that those people still have that ability.  Pile that on top of the biology that strongly indicates that we should be able to sense magnetic fields! ...then crown it with this:

I read an article or maybe heard a news story about an anthropologist the that went to study one of the languages mentioned above. At first she said that it was difficult to only use the cardinal directions for everything because she had no mental orientation to describe things.  Like she was some sort of terribly handicapped person in that culture.... then most interestingly after a few weeks of speaking the language all the time, she described how a sort of mental map manifested itself in her head.  It seems it just sort of appeared there.  Then after that, she was able to tell the cardinal directions all the time with no problem at all.  Unfortunately she left a few weeks after that and I haven't heard of any other experiments done along these lines... but the implications are tantalizing!

Unfortunately it isn't in the budget this year to go to the south pacific and ask the tribesmen to wear DeGaussing hats to see if they can still talk.  So I am going to have to do the next best thing, I am going to have to some how reignite or sharpen this sense of magnetic detection in myself.  Assuming it is a magnetic sense, I have started wearing a little magnetic compass around all the time.

You can see the little compass pinned to my shirt in the northern edge of this picture. My stove is at the south edge of my kitchen and I am making pasta in the northwest burner of the stove. I have only been doing this for a few days now, and have no solid conclusions yet but I will say that I have become already much more conscience of when my orientation is changing.  As in, roads that I always just thought of as straight I now am acutely aware of when they make subtle curves.  Mostly I just now have a good excuse to wear a little compass on my shirt all the time.

My plan is that after I feel like I am reliably able to orient myself N. S. E. W., I'll do some control tests on myself to see if that really is the case.  Remind me to update about this if I don't mention it on here later.

One last note... a few people that I have discussed this experiment with have brought up the fact that when we are flying, we have to be totally conscience of our orientation with respect to cardinal direction, so shouldn't have these hours and hours of being tuned into the cardinal direction in the air have developed magnetoreception already?  Well, to be honest, no.  The first thing I do when I get in an aircraft is stick my head in between two huge magnets in the speakers in my helmet... then shortly after, I turn on a million radios and computers... then top it off with a giant radar right in front of my nuts.  I don't feel like the cockpit is a magnetically quiet enough to develop this sense. Kind of like trying to learn perfect pitch while working on an auto assembly line.

If any of you folks can think of a better way to attempt to develop this magnetoreceptive conscienceness, please make comments below.  Or better yet, do your own experiments and let us know what happens.