Monday, May 11, 2009

Tales from Food Science Land

Just studying for my food science exam tomorrow, and I came across some useful advice. Lots of it, actually, but here's a sampling:

Eat More Soy: Soy is damn good for you. First off, it gets you protein without any of the pesky extra cholesterol (which comes from animal products only). Second, soy contains phytoestrogen, which, like it sounds, is shaped a bit like estrogen, that hormone that both men and women have. The accumulated effects of estrogen in the ovaries or mammary glands (yes, for guys too--guys can and do get breast cancer) is related to increased rates of cancer in these areas.
So what can Soy do for you? Well those phytoestrogens, like I said, are shaped like estrogen, so they can get stuck in places where estrogen might normally stick, blocking the effects of estrogen. So they help reduce risks for ovarian and breast cancer.

By the way, I hate tofu, miso, and most soy-based sauces. And soy milk is nasty to me (what can I say? I like cow milk). So how does one get soy into one's diet when one does not like these things? Or how about healthy alternatives for picky kids?

For me the best way is edamame which is frankly delicious and super easy to make.

Delicious and Fun Soy for Kids (and Adults too!)
1 cup frozen soy beans in pod.
2+ cups of water.

Bring the water to a vigorous boil. Add the frozen soy beans (try to get the unsalted kind--like we need more sodium in our diet, right?) and bring it back to a boil. Boil for 7-10 minutes or until beans are no longer ... crunchy. Salt to taste (or don't--they're delicious without it!) and eat. Don't eat the shell. I mean, you can, they're not *deadly* or anything, they're just very fibrous and tough and not tasty at all.

Fun for kids 'cause you can pop them out of their little shells at each other like BB guns.

I absolutely love edamame--to the point where it's starting to take the place of snack foods like crackers and chips in my diet. Slowly but surely!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Today is the day to learn LaTeX!

Well not much to learn really--I found a site of LaTeX Commands and how to use them and I'm going to follow them and use them when appropriate. Going to type up my work for the Thermal Project and see how that works out.

If you are new to LaTeX you might consider using Jext as your word processor. It includes lots of options for markup and will color the appropriate commands--so you can use it to see if you are doing things right.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thermal Physics Project

I begin work on my project for thermal physics this week. It's due Friday--I know, I am running late. Sometimes that's the way things work.

Requirements: 3 pages of work/writing/calculations "on a problem." Not very specific!

What I intend to do: Rederive neutron stars in some fashion. Or just degenerate stars. Or maybe just play along with the equilibrium equation of a star and see what happens.

In any given star you've got something pushing out (radiation pressure) and something pulling in (gravitational force/unit area = gravitational pressure). For a star like our sun, these are about equal--the material's trying to fall into the center of the sun due to gravity, but it keeps running into other stuff and, eventually, combining with that other stuff to make new stuff + energy/light, which pushes everything back out.

Now for all stars, eventually you're going to run out of stuff that can combine and make energy. You've started with something light, probably hydrogen or at most helium, and run hydrogen into more hydrogen to make helium, and helium into hydrogen to make, oh, Lithium or something like that. And then you run that into something else and so on until you end up with iron.

Now the problem with iron is that when you run iron atoms together, or iron + a hydrogen, or iron + anything else, it doesn't release energy when they smack together and stick. Instead, it starts to cost energy to smack those things together and make them stick. The star doesn't want to do this, because it's lazy, like all things. It doesn't want to put in the work. Or perhaps more imagine it that it is not human so it can't have human emotions like "motivation" and "inspiration." there's nothing around to make it do that extra work to make those things stick.

What does that mean? Well eventually you're going to have lots of iron, but it's not going to be making new things + energy, so the radiation pressure, the energy that was pushing it out, falls off and disappears. But gravity is definitely still working, and it is still going to try to pull things together.

Now here is where things get fuzzy. I know you get the following: some sort of large boomish sort of event, followed by some sort of condensing of the core. The star repels its envelope, the hot outer gas and material. Whether it does this via going supernova (and blowing up the rest of the star, too), or just by pushing the envelope off and letting the rest of the core fall in on itself (to become a white dwarf or a neutron star or a black hole, depending on its mass), I am not sure. So I don't know precisely how this works. Why would it push that stuff off first? why not just let all of that stuff fall in? Observational evidence says it doesn't (otherwise how could something small like the earth get big nuclei like those for cobalt or iron? we're not hot enough to make them--we must have "rolled up" remnants of blown-off star bits)

UPDATE: well, investigating. We'll see what happens

The Best Astronomy Pictures

If you don't already know about it, you should take a look at Astronomy Picture of the Day, which you can find by google-searching APOD. As you can see, it's quite beautiful. I love to save some of the pictures and use them as my desktop background. One of my favorite type of images are those that use prolonged exposure, like the one from Friday:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Knitting and pictures

Newbie Ribbed Scarf:

So I started knitting, not this past winter holiday season, but the one before. I borrowed my older sister's Stitch 'n Bitch book while we were at her house for holiday. It was a fun read and I figured out how to cast on right away. Then I promptly put it away and forgot about it. Two weeks later--after unraveling many things and putting them back together--I started a nice ambitious newbie project--a ribbed scarf. It is quite skinny--only 30 stitches across--with k-3, p-3 as the pattern. And it ended up loooong! I wanted it to go around my neck once and come back to the front, which it does, but it's definitely half again as long as I am tall. At least. Okay, I'm short, it's true, but still, this is beastly long in size. Maybe 8 feet.

I like this as a newbie to knitting, and I think it is a good simple pattern for other newbies because it teaches you how to do several things: the knit stitch, the pearl stitch, and how to move between knit and pearl (because you have to move the thread to the back when you are done pearling and to the front when you are done knitting).

The fun thing about knitting is that once you get into a pattern you can do it in the dark. You can feel it with your fingers as you knit. You don't have to watch--though I usually did--you can do other things with your mouth and eyes. Like watch TV. And talk. Or, you know, sing. :)

Want the precise pattern? leave me a comment and I'll see if I can dredge something up, though like I said it seems to run, "cast on, knit 3, pearl 3, repeat until tired."


I think goals and dreams are both important things to have. And I want to learn to push my boundaries, to challenge myself. So heretofore, before I leave for Graduate School, I am going to try something new:

Knitting Goal for Summer 2009: I want to try double-pointed needles to knit in the round. Probably a hat in that lovely paprika color, or maybe some socks.

Cooking Goal for Summer 2009: I want to find and bake one recipe off of TasteSpotting, that most delicious of websites. Maybe with lemon curd. Lemon curd sounds delicious.

Writing Goal for Summer 2009: I want to submit my poetry with intent to publish. R. says it's ready--it would be nice to see it show up somewhere.

Astronomy Goal for Summer 2009: I want to buy and read The Physical Universe by Shu.

and, for fun, Nerdy Goal for Summer 2009: finish either Okami or Final Fantasy X.

There. I feel productive.

Quick and Easy Breakfast

Here's a quick and easy breakfast in the morning:

1 large egg (70cals)
2 slices of your favorite cheese--sharp cheddar for me! (~100 cals). If you are feeling adventurous, try cream cheese
1/2 whole wheat bagel (~130 cals)
1 tsp of water

Try to eat whole wheat when you can. It has a lot of vitamins in it. Enriched flour has had vitamins or minerals added to it that were not there originally. Fortified flour has had extra vitamins or minerals added to it, usually to replace nutrients lost during processing.

Put a skillet on medium-low heat and crack the egg into it. Open the yolk so it spreads out on the top. Split and toast the bagel--in another skillet if you must--and put the cheese on one half. When the egg white has turned... well, white... and is no longer very runny if you poke it, toss the 1 tsp of water onto the skillet and cover for 1-2 minutes. Remove the cover. If there is excess water remaining on the skillet, pour it out. Flip your egg over for 1 minute, then add on top of the cheese.

voila! sandwich!

What is your favorite fruit?

I love fruit. It's pretty healthy and it is darned tasty to boot. I am not very good at cooking with it yet, but I will eat it plain anyway.

So favorites?

Cherries. Absolutely at the top. I love their flavor and texture and juice.

Blackberries may be my favorite berry--though fresh raspberries make for stiff competition. Strawberries are very good, but the dark sweetness of blackberries is a little more appealing.

Otherwise, pears (I had one for breakfast this morning!), apples, pineapple if fresh, papaya, oranges. I don't much like oranges--too much work, and too much mess.

Cooking, Knitting, Writing, Astronomy

Why do you knit?

I love the power in being able to make things for myself--the ability to create something beautiful. and with yarn, no less! I'm a newbie at this, so I'll share tips that I uncover as I learn.

Why do you cook?

One of the best ways to lose weight is to cook your own food.

For one, you can better control the size of what you eat.
Next, you gain a better understanding of what goes into the foods you enjoy. Balance that with a reasonable amount of understanding and you can figure out healthy substitutes.
When you splurge, such as at a fast food restaurant, you are more likely to go overboard--to not only get a burger and fries, but dessert as well. This is less likely in your own home.
When you eat at home, you are more likely to be eating leisurely--taking your time to cook and prepare your food. You can notice more easily when you are full.
Finally, you can better track and regulate your intake in your own home.

It takes 3500 food calories to gain or lose a pound. This is true whether you avoid carbohydrates or bacon. Eat 3500 less calories than you burn, and you lose a pound. Eat 3500 more, and you gain. It's That Simple.

I'll share my favorite recipes, my new attempts, my food thoughts and joys, and all the fun cooking failures that crop up anyway.

Why do you write?

Oh, that's an easy one: because I have to. Tips for writers will follow. Once I find them. heh.

Why do astronomy?

I absolutely love knowing how the world works; but when it comes to understanding new things, nothing's really quite as fascinating as the sky. I mean, you've a good probability for anything you look at that it'll explode, right? How cool is that?!