The Whippet #122: The polywater fiasco
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Hello! And now, disillusionment:
I think that some of your strongest memories are points of disillusionment, because they’re turning points in how you view the world. Like, first time you realised a teacher was definitely wrong and you definitely knew more than them.
I think the first time I felt true disillusionment was when I found out that caterpillars don’t go into cocoons and grow wings; they go into cocoons, release digestive enzymes, dissolve into soup, and then grow into butterflies from stem cells. It really puts a different spin on all those butterfly/transformation/coming-of-age metaphors.
Please tell me your moments of disillusionment if you would like (no political disillusionment stories though, too bleak).
Hardest thing to adjust to after 21 years in prison
Comrade_Sinque on TikTok answers people’s questions about life in prison, and adjusting to life out of prison after 21 years.
A lot of people asked about technology — so much has changed, was it weird to get used to? He’s sort of like a time-traveller.
He said that smartphones weren’t a challenge, because he’d heard about them a lot, and because he could spend as long as he liked messing around with one at home to figure it out. The really intimidating piece of tech was self-checkouts at supermarkets — because he wasn’t expecting them, and had to figure it out in public with a queue of impatient people behind him.
But this one really surprised me:
The one thing that I wasn’t ready for, that was the hardest adjustment, was food preferences. See I had been locked up 21 years, so I’d only been eating prison food for that long. Prison food is bottom of the barrel, and that’s kind of all I know.
So when I came home, and people would take me to all these different restaurants — it could be something as simple as McDonalds — and they would ask me “what do I want?” and it’s like, “I really don’t know what I want, because I don’t know how anything tastes anymore.”
It makes sense, but I never would have guessed it in advance. There’s heaps more Q&As on his TikTok.
[if you’re troubled, the prison sentence wasn’t for a violent crime]
Watch a crab build its own house in under 30 seconds
The sand bubbler crab’s house creates a bubble of air that it can chill in while the waves break over it. It waits out the high tide, and then when the ocean has retreated, it… eats its house. Sort of. It sieves the wet sand through its mouthparts, eating the plankton and detritus and leaving the clean sand behind in neat little balls.
You can tell how long it’s been since high tide by the patterns on the beach. When there’s heaps of sand bubbler crabs, the concentric circles intersect and form excellent geometries.
Polywater: Like regular water but better
For a while in the 60s actual scientists thought there was a new kind of water called polywater (as in polymerised).
In 1961, the Soviet physicist Nikolai Fedyakin, working at the Technological Institute of Kostroma, Russia, performed measurements on the properties of water which had been condensed in, or repeatedly forced through, narrow quartz capillary tubes. Some of these experiments resulted in what was seemingly a new form of water with a higher boiling point, lower freezing point, and much higher viscosity than ordinary water – about that of a syrup.
US scientists were able to replicate the experiments and create polywater themselves so it took about 5 years to disprove it (polywater was real, but it was caused by impurities in the water — when they used completely pure water and clean glassware, it could no longer be made).
Later, scientists have suggested that they should have been able to dismiss it earlier, without experimentation —
The laws of thermodynamics predicted that, since polywater had a higher boiling point than ordinary water, it meant it was more stable, and thus all of Earth’s water should have turned spontaneously into polywater, instead of just part of it. Richard Feynman remarked that if such a material existed, then an animal would exist that would ingest water and excrete polywater, using the energy released on the process to survive.
But for a few shining years, the scientific community believed in polywater.
Tiger with a gold tooth
You don’t really need to know the story do you? But okay: her name is Cara and she lives in Tierart tiger station in western Germany. She was rescued from a private owner in Italy. When she was rescued, her tooth had two deep cracks in it, so they made casts of her teeth (photo) and then built a gold crown to fit the cracked one. (Close-up mid-operation.)
She is amazing and should play the next Bond villain.
Unsolicited Advice: Tip for making difficult life decisions
This comes from a woman whose job is helping people who are on the fence about whether to have kids. That was an easy decision for me, but there’s lots of other life choices that haven’t been as clear-cut, and this description of mental gridlock really rang true for me:
The main reason they feel stuck, no matter their circumstance, is because they’re trying to figure out what they want (their heart’s desire about parenthood) and what they’re going to do about it (make a decision) at the same time. The result is gridlock in your mind, and you cannot think your way out.
How can you possibly figure out what you truly want when so much weight and consequence rests on either side? The traffic jam of: “if x, then y — so I can’t do x, but if I do a that leads to b, which leads to c, so I might as well do x anyway, but I can’t do x because y…”
The most efficient way to make a decision is to actually put that decision-making pressure aside temporarily and focus only on your desire. Can you imagine an oasis where fear, judgment, and shame don’t exist? Where it’s not even considered? What if there is a place where there is no right or wrong, good or bad answer? Sound nice? I believe one needs to have their own private, uncensored process in that kind of environment to find out what they want.
Basically, her advice is to completely separate the two processes. First, figure out what you want. Second, figure out what you’re going to do with that information. So you begin by deciding not to make a decision for, say, three months. (Maybe you have a decision you need to make sooner than that, so you can only give yourself a day. But do give yourself that day.)
She then has a list of practical steps to take to ease the decision from there — about two-thirds of the way down this page.
Thank you so much for reading, and thank you to Patreon supporters — I am so grateful that I get to keep making this.
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