Independence Day Science

Americans are pretty traditional in their Independence Day celebrations, mostly sticking to a day of barbeques and fireworks. So to prepare and improve these activities, check out several science stories related to the holiday experience.

I don’t know about you, but on a hot day, after eating a salty cheeseburger, I go straight for the ice cream. It’s just so good that I eat it too quickly, and, d’oh!, ice cream headache. In a short video, Ferris Jabr of Scientific American explains the science behind this phenomenon, also known as brain freeze, and how to get rid of it or avoid it entirely.

A few tips:
(1) While experiencing brain freeze, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
(2) Consume cold food or beverages slowly.
(3) Consume cold food or beverages in a cold environment. (This might be difficult to achieve in July.)

Another story making the rounds in several news outlets this week is a reminder that fireworks are LOUD and can cause hearing damage, especially in children.

A Baltimore Sun article highlights some fireworks safety tips from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

Sit at least 500 feet from where the fireworks are launched. Fireworks noise for spectators 800 feet away ranges from 88 to 126 decibels. But from 10 feet away, it’s 155 decibels — louder than a military jet takeoff. 

If you notice ringing or buzzing in your ears, move farther away.  

Bring earplugs for every family member. You can find them at many drug stores or sporting goods stores for just for a few dollars or less. (For children under 7 or 8, these earplugs may be too big, so consider using child-size earmuffs. Ear protection must fit properly in order to provide protection.) 

And, although they’re not brain-related, NPR has been publishing a series of fun “Summer Science” articles. Recent entries include “How to Build a Campfire” and, better yet, “The Perfectly Toasted Marshmallow” (I’m usually an impatient, set-it-on-fire type).

Have a happy Fourth!

–Ann L. Whitman

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