Einstein Couldn’t Figure How the Drinking Bird Worked

By Anupum Pant

Background

DrinkingBirdThe Drinking Bird is a toy which almost every one of us has heard of. If you haven’t, may be this picture of it rings a bell. Otherwise, it is a funny looking bird-head made of felt, mounted atop a glass or plastic straw, with a little bulb at its lowest point. The whole contraption is suspended at two points, which allows it to swing smoothly like a pendulum – drinking water at regular intervals, from a glass, for ever.

The amusing thing about this little toy is that, once it starts, it keeps swinging and “drinking” for ever. Upon giving it a cursory look, it seems to be a perfect perpetual machine – a contraption that can run indefinitely without an external source of energy. In reality, it isn’t a perpetual motion machine. There is a complex physical and chemical activity going on inside the toy, which keeps the simple heat engine running forever without a battery – Something so complex to deduct, that even one of the greatest Physicist ever, Albert Einstein himself couldn’t figure out the correct mechanism that keeps it running.

Don’t worry, it isn’t as difficult to understand the mechanism.

How does it work?

Assuming you have properly understood the parts of the toy, you will notice that the little bulb at the bottom of it has a colored liquid in it. This colored liquid is a chemical called Methylene chloride – A chemical that dissolves caffeine and can be used to decaffeinate coffee, teas and colas. The special property of this chemical which makes the toy work is its extremely low boiling point. It has a high vapor pressure at room temperature.

At room temperature the vapor pressure in the tube and head is high. The fluid remains in the bulb and the bird is upright due to the weight of the fluid.

The first thing you do is, you make its head dip in water. That way, the head made of felt absorbs water. The water cools due to evaporation (like our sweat cools our body), drops the temperature of the head and the bird comes up.

While swinging in the upright position, as the head cools further, the vapor pressure at the head decreases, while the pressure at the bulb becomes relatively higher. This causes the chemical to rise up the tube and it changes the center of gravity (CG). Due to the change in CG the bird tips its head back into the water.

Absorbs water and the process starts once again. It keeps on going till the bird can no longer reach the low water level. You, then have to fill up the reservoir.

Source of energy?

There is a lot going on in the toy so it isn’t really easy to point a single source of energy. However, it is pretty clear that the bird isn’t a perpetual motion machine. Anyway, watch the insightful video now. The simple toy is indeed a beautiful thing to marvel about. [Video]

Bee Gees – Stayin Alive – Saving Lives Since 1977

By Anupum Pant

Not all of us are taught CPR at schools, but there is a simple way you can ensure that you do it right. The BeeGees disco hit track Stayin Alive which almost none of us has been able to un-hear for the last 30 years, has actually helped people to stay alive.

Why?
According to a research study at University of Illinois, British Heart foundation and American Heart Association, 100 – 110 is the optimum number of compression required to jump start a heart in the case of a cardiac arrest. Since the track contains about 103 to 104 beats per minute throughout, it is an “utterly perfect track” for performing or training to perform a CPR. In fact, thousands of medical students all over the world have been trained to perform CPR using the same track.

Procedure: In case a person around you collapses suddenly due to a cardiac arrest, the first thing you must do, is call the emergency services. Next, start pushing hard on the chest of the collapsed person using locked fingers (with knuckles up) to the beat of Bee Gees Stayin Alive.

[British Video 1] [American Video 2]

In addition to Stayin Alive, even if their names don’t sound like they’d save lives, other popular songs with a similar beat rate are –

  • AC/DC – Highway to Hell
  • Queen – Another One Bites the Dust
  • Madonna – La Isla Bonita
  • Lily Allen – LDN
  • Abba – Dancing Queen

Definitely a good thing to remember.

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Can Your Eyes Breathe?

By Anupum Pant

Wait! Who says eyes breathe

The transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil is called Cornea. Cornea contributes a lot to the focusing power of the eye. That means, light has to pass through it without obstruction. To do that it has to remain completely clear. Consequently, to remain transparent, it can’t have any impurities nor can it have any blood vessels – that would have made it less transparent.

Every organ needs oxygen to run the cell processes with the energy that comes by oxidizing nutrients contained in the cells. To receive oxygen, they need to have access to blood. Since Cornea does not have any blood vessels, it cannot receive oxygen from blood. So what does it do to stay alive?

It absorbs oxygen directly from the air through diffusion. Oxygen gets dissolved in the tears and then diffuses across the cornea. However, the amount of diffused oxygen is so less that it is just enough for only the cornea cells. This can’t be supplied to other parts of the body. And this is exactly the reason you would get yourself killed if you plug your nose and your mouth, expecting your eye would keep you alive by breathing in oxygen.

In a sense, you could call it breathing. But it isn’t exactly ‘breathing’. Breathing, according to the medical definition means:

The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.

Clearly, as the oxygen received by cornea doesn’t come from the mouth or nose and never goes through the lungs, it cannot be called breathing.

Other ways?

Let us consider the second possibility. At the inner corner of the eye there is a very thin tube that connects to the nose. Through this tube (A.K.A the Punctum), your eye is able to drain off excess tears. Punctum is the reason, you have to blow your nose when you cry. Punctum is also the tube that enables this guy to squirt milk out of his eyes (By sucking it through his nose first) [Video – Pretty disgusting to watch]

Also, you can blow an extremely tiny volume air out of these corner eye holes. But, you can’t breathe in through them.

Conclusion

Although the cornea of your eye has the ability to absorb oxygen directly from the air, you cannot technically call it breathing.

 

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