What the hell is Jeff Barson doing?

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This is the blog of Jeff Barson. I'm currently running HireVue Labs, former Director at Sendside, founder of Surface Medical, Nimble, Medspa MD, Freelance MD, Frontdesk, Uncommon, and Wild Blue... angel investor and startup advisor. Oh, and I'm a artist. More >>


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    Why the Sky is Blue?

    51gYCx54NUL._AA240_.jpgIf you’ve got kids, and I do, you can impress their little minds by having savvy answers ready for  the questions they answer while they’re examining their navels.

    Why is the sky blue? Why doesn’t the sky just stay black with the sun acting as another point of light? Why do the stars disappear during the day?

    Got your long-term memory ready? Here’s the answer. The first thing to understand is that the sun is slightly brighter than the moon and stars. You can verify this by staring at the sun and burning your retinas out in a minute or so. (Staring at the moon is doesn’t do this and is actually romantic.) Also of note is that the atmosphere (nitrogen and oxygen molecules) has an effect on the happy little sun beams passing betwixt them.

    There is a physical phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering that causes light to scatter when passing through molecules that have a diameter one-tenth that of the wavelength (color) of the light.

    Sunlight is made up of all different colors of light, but because of the physical properties of all those oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, blue wavelengths of light are scattered much more efficiently than the other colors. So while most wavelengths hitting the upper atmosphere just pass through and on into space, blue lights path get changed, resulting in a defuse blue light coming from all directions of the atmosphere.

    So when you look at the sky on a clear day, you can see the sun as a bright disk surrounded by blue as the atoms in the atmosphere scatter the blue light waves toward you. Got that?

    Of course the sky on Mars is not blue. (See the color pictures from Mars Pathfinder) This is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin and dusty, and atmospheric light scattering is dominated not by Martian atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide) but by suspended dust particles. These are larger than the wavelengths of visible light, and they are reddened by iron oxide from the Martian soil. It’s not just Rayleigh scattering, so the spectrum is different.

    Now when you kids ask you why the sky is blue, you can dazzle them with the explanation above, or you can say that it’s blue because that’s your favorite color. It works just as well and will probably impress your kids even more.

    More on the blue sky and scattering 

    Micro-organisims & You

    microorganisimWhile you might be close to your friends and family, but you have friends who are closer still. 600 different species of bacteria inhabit your mouth every morning. They’re the little guys that make up that tasty film on your teeth. Yum.

    And it doesn’t stop there. About 500 species of bacteria, as well as many species of yeast and other organisms, inhabit your human gastrointestinal tract and make up your “gut flora”.

    Yep. You’re a veritable Petri dish of little goo-critters. If you’re an ‘average’ human, the bacteria weigh in at about 1kg and the number of individual micro-organisms easily outnumbers the total number of cells in your bug-loving human body. (So far, none of these organisms have been identified as the midicloreans that Yoda uses to channel The Force but perhaps if you don’t brush your teeth you’ll have a nagging desire to build a light saber.)

    Luckily for us a large number of these organisms don’t cause disease — instead, they help protect us from disease. The gut flora perform many functions that contribute to the health of the human host; “friendly bacteria” mostly have names beginning with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria.

    The friendly bacteria aren’t the only type of microorganism present in your gastrointestinal tract however. There are also a number of organisms that don’t provide you with any benefits; these include coliform bacteria, yeasts and bacteroides.


    Motion Sickness

    vomit.jpgMotion Sickness: My idea of the seventh level of hell is being stuck in winter ski-gear, in between two fat guys on a bus, in sunny weather, driving in circles searching for a parking space, backwards.

    If you’re not currently puking your guts out and feeling woozy, it’s because your eyes, inner ears, skin, and muscles are sending signals to your brain about your bodies current position in space and tracking the direction of movement of all of your various parts. And all the signals are saying the same thing. That’s good.

    If that’s not what’s happening and your ears, eyes and such are sending conflicting information and arguing about what’s going on with your body, that’s bad, and stand back because I don’t want you splashing anything nosesome on my shoes.

    Motion sickness is that most noxious of feelings that happens to you when your balancing system gets overwhelmed by contradictory messages sent from the eyes and inner ears. Stuff like sweating, light-headedness, hyperventilation, nausea, vomiting and a remarkable ability to let loose incredible profanity without moving your head. If your eyes are telling you one thing, and the fluid of your inner ears are sloshing around telling you another, your brain seems to make a command decision and put everyone in time out.

    For some people, motion sickness can be brought on merely by walking down the aisles in a supermarket or watching telephone poles whipping by a car window. Some people can even get motion sickness sitting in a theater and watching an action-packed film on one of those super-sized movie screens. Lets just hope that they’re not sitting right behind you.

    Motion sickness in space is very common. Evidently your brain just won’t believe your ears that gravity’s been suspended for a while, and the Space Shuttle comes equipped with numerous barf ports. This is a good thing since who want’s to see that floating around in zero g.

    What can you do to prevent motion sickness?

    There are a number of options, home remedies, and hope. (There’s always hope.) By far the best option is to have your doctor prescribe a drug like Scopace (Scopolamine) which is an anticholinergic central-nervous system depressant. That’s good since it’s your anticholinergic central nervous system that’s trying to kill you. You want it depressed.



    Locust.jpgLocusts are part of a large group of insects commonly called grasshoppers which have big hind legs for jumping. (Kangaroos also have big hind legs for jumping but are not part of this group.)

    Locusts belong to the family called Acrididae but differ from grasshoppers in that they have the ability to change their behaviour and habits. So, while locusts could stop smoking if they want, grasshoppers are paying big tobacco ‘till they go legs up.

    A Desert Locust lives a total of about three to five months although this is extremely variable and depends mostly on weather and ecological conditions. Their little life cycle has three stages: egg, hopper and adult. Eggs hatch in about two weeks, hoppers develop in five to six stages over a period of about 30-40 days, and adults usually mature in about two to four months (Sometimes as long as nine months for late bloomers or locusts that are still living with their parents).

    Locust swarms can vary from less than one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres. There can be as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometre of swarm which means they can’t remember everyone’s name and are constantly saying ‘excuse me’ as they bump into each other.


    One Desert Locust adult can consume roughly its own weight (about two grams) in food per day. You on the other hand take a year to eat your own body weight if you’re average. I take about six months.

    Each ton of locusts eats the same amount of food in one day as about 10 elephants or 25 camels or 2,500 people. A large swarm can in a cultivated area can eat enough food to feed 400,000 people for one year. You can see why people complain.


    In order to get back at locusts, sometimes people eat them. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a swarm, take advantage.

    Here are some recipes to help.

    Boiled Locust: remove the wings and hind legs of the locusts, and boil in a little water until soft. Add salt, if desired, and a little fat and fry until brown. Serve with cooked corn.


    Roasted Locust: prepare embers and roast the whole locust on the embers. Remove head, wings, and legs. Only the breast part is eaten.

    Traveling Locust: If traveling do what the South Sotho people do. The heads and last joint of the hind legs are broken off and the rest laid on the coals to roast. The roasted locusts are ground on a grinding stone to a fine powder. This powder can be kept for long periods of time and is taken along on a journey. Dried legs are especially relished for their pleasant taste.

    Cambodian Peanut Stuffed Locust: take several dozen locust adults, preferably females, slit the abdomen lengthwise and stuff a peanut inside. Then lightly grill the locusts in a wok or hot frying pan, adding a little oil and salt to taste. Be careful not to overcook or burn them.

    Grilled Locust: prepare the embers or charcoal. Place about one dozen locusts on a skewer, stabbing each through the centre of the abdomen. If you only want to eat the abdomen, then you may want to take off the legs or wings either before or after cooking. Several skewers of locusts may be required for each person. Place the skewers above the hot embers and grill while turning continuously to avoid burning the locusts until they become golden brown.



    If Bigfoot is out there he has problems. He’s anti-social, bi-polar, and has borderline personality disorder and body odor. Either that, or he’s just one really strange dude in a hair suit. Either way, he’s really fun.

    Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) and his Asian cousins in the Yeti genus had a falling out a millennia or so ago when Bigfoot (who grew up in the Himalayas) decided to give up snow and move his brood somewhere warmer. After all, he was the dark sheep of the family and stood out like a sore thumb against the snow which made sneaking off to go to the loo particularly difficult and violated his sense of privacy.

    Since Florida was full of alligators and old people who might have a coronary if they saw him, the North West seemed good since the berries are better and it has more of a ‘long hair hippy feel’. (The Yeti family still sends an occasional birthday card but they don’t really talk anymore.)

    Since taking up residence out in the woods there have been numerous sightings of Bigfoot and his ilk and not all of them were under the influence of LSD. Bigfoot sightings generally peg him at between 7 and 15ft high and walking on two legs (bi-pedal) and looking as if he’s lost something. Some also report an extremely strong, unpleasant odor but wild berries are gassy so we won’t hold that against the big guy.

    In some accounts, the animal makes strange grunting, gurgling or howling noises. These noises can not possibly be a bear because in approximately 20% of cases, Bigfoot is seen with a ukulele singing Don Ho’s song ‘Tiny Bubbles’ which a bear can not possibly do. (Bigfoot loves the island life.)

    Eyewitnesses often describe Bigfoot as being wary of humans but highly curious about our activities, especially driving. Bigfoot put in the very first order for a Hummer (Even before Arnold Schwartzenegger) but his check bounced and he’s been foot-bound since.

    In the folklore of many Native American tribes, as well as the indigenous people of the Himalayas, the animal is said to be a peaceful, supernatural creature with intelligence and spiritual powers which isn’t surprising since Bigfoot can squish pretty much anything he’d like to which brings peoples spirituality right to the fore front whenever he’s around.

    There are only two know instances where Bigfoot has been caught on film. The first was the 1967 film shot by Roger Patterson in Bluff Creek, California, where Bigfoot is seen walking from left to right and looking back at the camera. What hasn’t been know about that footage until now was that it was actually a screen test from which Bigfoot landed his only Hollywood appearance as himself in Harry and the Hendersons. (I thought he did really well for a first time actor.)

    Of course it’s not all fun and games being Bigfoot. Since Bigfoot is not technically human, he got screwed out of his royalties for the movie and since he’s technically a ‘myth’, the Sierra Club won’t return his phone calls. He’s been hoping for Spotted Owl status but so far no luck. His last hope for a real job so he can finally get that Hummer is as an airport security screener for the Department of Homeland Security.

    He does have an application in.

    Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization
    Bigfoot Fact or Fantasy?
    Texas Bigfoot Research Center