Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Most street lights you see are sodium vapor lamps. You can tell by their orange color, which comes from the vaporization of sodium. This produces a specific spectrum of light which is dominated by the particular wavelength of orange light. These lights tend to turn everything they shine on orange, which wasn't far off from natural for this tree.
Had enough science? Of course not! It's time for...
Before I burned out on it at some point in college, I used to want to be a doctor. One of my favorite recurring sections in the NY Times Magazine is Diagnosis, where they profile one doctor's path to teasing out a particularly tricky diagnosis. This kind of scientific sleuthing is something that I believe originally attracted me to the field. And I get to do a lot of similar reasoning as a software engineer, without all that messy blood and malpractice stuff.
This week's Diagnosis featured an intensely freaky medical phenomenon called a teratoma. This is a tumor which can contain tissues normally found elsewhere in the body, like hair. And teeth! In this particular case, and in other similarly documented ones, the teratoma is theorized to contain brain cells. These cells are attacked in their out of place location as foreign, in this case on a patient's ovary. Now antibodies that are created to attack misplaced brain cells can make their way to the brain itself and attack the cells there. The patient in this article had a mental breakdown, and went into a coma which was determined to have been caused by swelling of the brain - encephalitis. When this teratoma was investigated and finally removed, the encephalitis went away the next day and the patient recovered fully.