Love is a “shocking” sensation

In honor of the SigFig’s birthday, today’s post is about the moment I knew we really had something special.

It is, unsurprisingly, science-related.

Several years ago, we were walking along the waterfront and paused to rest on a high-backed plastic bench. I kissed him and felt a mild shock.

“You’re crackly. Discharge.”

Without missing a beat, he got up and touched his fingertip to a metal railing. He knew exactly what I meant and exactly what he had to do to rectify the situation.

And, just like that, I was hooked.

So what was going on here? It’s all about the electrons.

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I knew from a young age that we had chemistry together…

…or at least that we took chemistry together. It’s the SigFig’s 30th birthday, and, while we’ve only been dating for a few years, we’ve actually known each other since high school. We took a handful of classes together, one of which was chemistry, and his milestone birthday has me feeling nostalgic.

One of the first labs we did in our chem class was the classic separation lab. You start with a mixture of substances such as salt, iron filings, and sand, then plan and execute a procedure to separate the substances. It was really a lab preparedness warmup: the activity helped students learn about lab safety and how to develop and follow procedures. In retrospect, I’d classify it as more of an engineering activity than a scientific investigation.

The primary difference between science and engineering is that the goal of science is to answer questions (What does the structure of an atom look like?), while the goal of engineering is to solve problems (How can airplanes become more fuel efficient?). There’s definitely a lot of overlap, and progress in one field is frequently dependent upon progress in the other. Scientists use tools that engineers build, and engineers use scientific discoveries to build new things.

The SigFig became an engineer, so I guess something from that class stuck with him. (Besides me, of course.)

SiS Quickie: Aged to Perfection

A “perfect” number is one whose factors (other than itself) add up itself. (Remember that the factors of a number are the numbers that it is divisible by.) Six is perfect: its factors are one, two, and three, which add up to six.

The next perfect number after six is 28.

Numbers can be perfect. People can’t be, but some definitely come closer than others.

So I’d like to wish a happy 28th birthday to the SigFig.

Twenty-Seven Revolutions

The first thing I’m accomplishing on my  birthday is publishing this post. Since I’ve been born, the Earth has revolved around the Sun twenty-seven times and rotated on its axis 9,862 times (including leap years).

The terms revolving and rotating are frequently used interchangeably, but technically there’s a difference: rotating is motion around an internal axis, while revolving is motion around an external point. Spinning in place is rotation. Walking in a circle is revolution. While I haven’t really considered this point before just now, it means that “revolving” doors would more accurately be called “rotating” doors.

Demonstrating rotation and revolution for my physics students was fun. I’d spin in place to show rotation, then walk around a stool to show revolution. Then I’d spin while walking around the stool to illustrate the motion of the Earth around the Sun. There’s nothing like watching your teacher make herself dizzy to help you remember a concept.

One of the things I love about teaching and learning science is the a-ha moment you get when something clicks, and those moments happen so much more often when you’re seeing or doing something as opposed to just reading or hearing about it. I could’ve just recited definitions for my kids, but it was so much more effective to make myself look silly for a minute. Thousands of books and websites will tell you how electric charges move and interact. Reading all of them won’t replicate the experience of rubbing a balloon on your hair, then sticking the balloon to a wall. I’m going to conduct (see what I did there?) that activity at the next kid’s birthday party I attend.

Or maybe I’ll get some balloons for my own party. You’re only as old as you feel.