My wife and I have the weirdest conversations, and I absolutely love that. I am a lucky man. I found someone who can turn her magical perspective into a set of tiny numbers in a computer that we perceive as colors that are then assembled into a picture that makes me laugh. This person is called an “artist.” The result is this week’s comic. There’s a video version of this post available, too.
Life is full of unpleasant things. Everything from having-to-put-in-eye-drops to the-inevitable-fact-of-our-demise. But it helps me to find a little humor where we can. And… while the script is loosely based on true events, in the interest of the joke, the comic did take liberties with the outfits.
I was still thinking about the pernicious effects of smartphones on attention when I wrote the comic. I have been trying to listen to more audio books instead of doomscrolling. I listened to “Deep Work” by Cal Newport and “Effortless” by Greg Mckeown over the last few weeks. There is an interesting tension between them. I agree with both. It takes deep work to make progress. It takes real, effortless recreation to recover from that deep work. Maybe I’ll write something about that at some point.
I posted a video this week about the Drexler-Smalley debate. The big question was “Can we make a nano-3D printer that can fabricate literally anything?” My PhD is in chemistry, and I have experience with using photolithography for microfabrication as well as building simple bio-inspired nano-machines. So I have some of the relevant background and context to explain this. I put the edited text-version at the end of this post.
I’ve collected a bunch of cool articles and links, too.
Neal Stephenson published the Diamond Age in 1996. I read it while I was in high school (about 1997). I was hooked on the ideas of nanotechnology and post-scarcity presented in the novel. I earned my PhD in bioanalytical chemistry in 2008. I went into my field in some ways because of this science fiction novel. I wanted to learn how to analyze and then build the kinds of nano-machines that life is made of.
I posted a video about chromatography, but first I want to talk about focus and cell phones. The comic is almost a verbatim conversation I had with my wife. It’s hard to escape my phone even for the time it takes to use the restroom. That can’t be good for my psyche.
I was thinking about doing a deeper dive on that, but it just doesn’t fit the theme of the blog/vlog any more. It fits better over at my other site, Student Pro Tips, but I have not updated that for a long time. Then I thought, maybe I SHOULD update that site and maybe add a video, too! Because I need more projects. I have not done that yet… we will see. [EDIT: I posted the video and blog post about this whole thing]
Research summary on the subject:
There have been several meta-analyses and reviews on smartphone addiction and smartphone effects on cognition and learning.
There’s a thing called Nomophobia now: “The term NOMOPHOBIA or NO MObile PHone PhoBIA is used to describe a psychological condition when people have a fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity.”
I made a video about the bio-engineered pig heart transplant. When my wife and I were talking about it a month ago, the patient was still alive and we were really rooting for him, and that inspired the comic (thanks to Cygnus Design for the artwork). It’s too bad the poor guy died in the mean time, but he made a real gift to science by participating in the experiment.
In case you didn’t know, people used to use pigs to hunt truffles in the wild (the fungi, not the chocolates). But the pigs badly want to eat the truffles, so you have to fight the pig every time you find some. People have moved on to using dogs.
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