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My friend Rosemary Mosco is fabulously multi-talented. She’s a wonderful science communicator, a great writer, and also an artist who draws birds and other critters as well as making her own science cartoons, Bird and Moon and the sadly now-ended Wild City.
She has a book coming out soon (available for preorder!) for kids called “Solar System: Our Place in Space” and it’s great. I know this because I’ve read it already, and was the science consultant on it. It’s a comic adventure exploring the weirder places in the solar system, and it’s fun, engaging, silly, funny, and oh really just go buy it already.
Rosemary is one of those people who I like knowing, heck who I like knowing just exists, because of her unabashed love of nature and science, and her desire to show it to people. Every time I read her writing it feels like she’s grabbing my hand virtually, pulling me along excitedly, and then pointing at something and saying, “See? See how cool this is?!”
That’s exactly how I feel about astronomy, and one of the many reasons my life is better for knowing her. Now you can too.
Not what you might expect from an astronomer, but in my defense I am alive
I’m right-handed. Also, while I can cook enough to keep myself alive, my wife is a fabulous cook, so she does the food prep in the house. My job, then, is to do the dishes after.
Living in Colorado — where air is about 85% as thick as sea level, and a day with 30% humidity is considered muggy — means living with dry, chapped skin. It’s common to get splits in your fingertips unless you moisturize a lot, and those freaking hurt.
So I use dishwashing gloves, and I’ve been doing it long enough to not feel like I’ve walked out of a 1960s commercial. The problem here is two-fold: Due to the inherent sexism in our country, finding gloves big enough to fit my hands isn’t always easy. Also, because I’m a bit of a lumbering klutz, I tend to nick holes or slits into these gloves after a week or two of using them.
And because I’m right-handed (aha! This is where that seeming non-sequitur becomes a, um, sequitur) that means I run through right gloves faster than left. After a while, all that remains is a pile of left-handed gloves, looking sinister and gauche. I have to go to the store and buy more pairs, wasting those lefties.
Ah, but I also have always been fascinated by math, by geometry, by topology. So one day, while lamenting all those left-handed gloves, I realized something: A left glove is just a mirror-imaged right glove… which is also an inside-out right glove*. This property is called chirality, and it’s important in chemistry and other scientific disciplines.
And, it turns out, in housekeeping. So I grabbed a non-lacerated leftie, stuck my hand in, tightened my fingers a bit, and slid it out so the glove turned inside-out.
[Credit: Phil Plait. Duh.]
Boom. Right-handed glove, ready to go.
So there’s your life hack for the day.
But it also reminded me of this brief repartee I had with my colleague and friend Neil Tyson:
FYI: A selfie view is mirror reversed — your right hand is actually your selfie left hand. But the stored image is correct.June 12, 2014
@BadAstronomer That’s just a way to make a picture go chiral. // Nice one, Phil. Geeky too.June 12, 2014
Science is funny. Well, it can be.
* You could also rotate it through the fourth dimension, but that has added difficulties.
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