Ideas that need further research – or deciphering

I often have these brilliant ideas just before I go to sleep at night. I try to write them down so I won’t forget them by morning. In the mornings I sometimes have long lists of ideas and experiments that are usually written in an unintelligible scrawl. They are great ideas, though! The few that I can decipher are so brilliant I can only mourn the loss of the others.

Anyway, I have been saving these ideas on 3- by 5-inch cards for years.

Note cards are old-fashioned, but computers hadn’t been invented when I first started. By the time I had access to computers, my list was so long it was just too daunting to transfer into some kind of searchable database. (Unfortunately, computers and databases weren’t either of my early ideas.)

My intent was to eventually enlist student-slave labor to tackle these issues. So I quietly kept them to myself while lesser scientists struggled to find answers to minor questions like the structure of DNA. (Of course, DNA had been doing just fine on its own for about a million years.)

It now seems obvious that the list is so long I will never get around to probing all of my ideas. Therefore, I have decided to share some of the more pressing issues with my readers in hopes that others might pick up the gauntlet.

Probably one of the more urgent questions is, “Does gender play a role in lie detection?” This is a complex issue since it involves not only which gender tells the most lies, but which gender is best at telling lies, detecting lies, and may, therefore, have an inherited affinity for detecting lies of the opposite gender. We attempted a pilot study a few years back, but the results were unreliable because we forgot to exclude lawyers and politicians from the study.

A second urgent study would involve the effects of dehydration on Karaoke singers in bars. Alcohol is a known desiccant, and singing undoubtedly increases loss of moisture through respiration. So I am told the question that remains to be answered is whether drunks sing longer than sober patrons, thereby monopolizing the microphone. This research has been difficult for me to deal with, since I don’t go to bars or sing karaoke. The second problem, I am told, is that there are no sober patrons in bars.

Triboluminescence would be a really cool name for a rock band. That was the original note to myself on my idea pad. However, later I thought it might also be the answer to our energy needs far into the future. See, sometimes, if you break chemical bonds just right, that action will release energy. You can demonstrate this by crushing Wint-O-Green mints in the dark. If done correctly, you can see sparks as you break the sugar-crystal bonds.

Numerous other hard candies need to be tested. Adequate dental insurance would be required, too, I suppose. Scientific research can get so complicated sometimes. Anyway, could this source of energy be harnessed in some way to supply our energy needs into the future?

I haven’t pursued this project yet because, among streetlights, glowing clock faces and LEDs on electronic equipment, I can’t find anyplace that’s really dark anymore. I suspect further research will require going to a remote wilderness area. Hmm. That just might add to the attractiveness of this project. Well, as long as there is a Holiday Inn close by.

Finally, I noted several years ago that when I stopped working in mosquito control, I gained weight. More recently, as I have taken up beekeeping, I seem to have lost some weight. This suggests a strange correlation between human obesity and insects that has not been adequately explored. I don’t think it is dietary since I seldom eat insects ... voluntarily. As usual, further research is needed.

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University.


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