Name Your Cow
It turns out that cows with names produce 258 liters of milk per year more than nameless corporate cows with ear-tag barcode numbers. Could it be that Daisy gives more milk because she’s happier? Do the people taking care of Buttercup treat her more like a pet and less like product inventory? British animal behaviorist Catherine Douglas, who is behind this research, still isn’t exactly sure why Bossie gives more milk than Cow #TX44873, but she is sure of one thing: “It definitely can’t hurt to name your cows.”
I don’t own a cow, but based on this research, I think it couldn’t hurt to name a lot of other things in my life. Let’s start with Tommy the Tomato Plant, and Fred Fuji, my apple tree. And while I’m at it it couldn’t hurt to start petting Amy Avatar, my Apple computer, while she’s cuddled up on my lap and whisper a few sweet nothings to Sammy my Samsung cell phone.
Last year scientists at NASA figured out how to levitate mice in a California lab using magnets. They were researching the effects of weightlessness on health. But this year why not figure out how to levitate other things, just for fun? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to levitate your boss when he dumps another weekend work assignment on you on a Friday afternoon? Or how about levitating the neighbor’s dog when he wakes you up barking at three in the morning?
A particularly lucrative application of this invention would be the ability to levitate a can of beer from the refrigerator into your hand in front of the TV set. I’d also pay a lot of money to be able to levitate my kids out of bed in the mornings, or into the bathtub at night.
The Best = Cheap and Easy
For the past six years a music professor at Stanford has played his students lo-fidelity and hi-fidelity versions of the same rock songs, and asked them which they liked best. Each year more students preferred the lo-fi versions. Having grown up listening to music on computers and iPods, they now think that’s the way it sounds best.
Millions of people now also prefer to watch TV shows in tiny YouTube or iPod formats, rather than on a giant-screen HDTV. And more and more treasured pictures and videos of everything from weddings to friends falling off their barstools on Saturday night are taken with low-res cell phones, instead of high-priced cameras.
Increasingly, what we like the best is whatever is cheap and easiest. We don’t care how bad it looks or sounds, as long as we can pull it out of our pockets at a moment’s notice and show it to our friends.
This year the Cheap and Easy phenomenon will move into new areas:
A Cat’s Life. Producers strap a miniature camera to several famous cat-owners’ felines, and we get to see how the rich and publicity-needy live, from their cat’s point of view.
Next Hit Fashion: Paper Shoes. Lightweight, colorful, and extremely cheap, these recycleable shoes are perfect for people who love to go shoe shopping, but usually wind up wearing each new pair only once, anyway.
Next Hit Food Chain: PB & J. Just like Mom used to make! Featuring ten kinds of peanut butter and 100 different jellies all served on plain white bread. Hey, it’s the best!
Lithiium in the Water Supply
My experience with lithium in the water supply comes from visiting Ashland, OR, famous for its lithium springs, which Native American tribes discovered and used to treat their sick and elderly. I’ve never been anywhere else that the residents were more relaxed and even-keeled.
Lithium was also used in many patent medicines, but most famously in 7-Up soft drink. The product, originally called “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda,” was launched two weeks after the 1929 Wall Street crash. Sales took off as the economy tanked. Don’t worry, be happy. Lithium, the original “up” in 7-Up was removed from the formula in 1950.
Now researchers in Japan have found that areas that have naturally occurring lithium in their water supplies have a much lower suicide rate. Lithium is commonly used in prescription drugs to treat bipolar disorder, but the researchers believe that even in the small amounts found in some water supplies, the drug helps prevent severe mood swings. They suggest that adding lithium could “offer an easy, cheap and substantial strategy for worldwide suicide prevention.” Ooh, cheap and easy. Sounds promising.
Find My Phone
Cell phones with built-in GPS know exactly where they are. Yet, if they’ve fallen out of your pocket and into the compost bin, you may never find them, until you go to fertilize Tommy the Tomato next summer. Now there’s a better idea, first introduced by Apple as its Find My iPhone feature.
You go online to a website where you can see exactly where your phone is on a zoomable map. If it’s hiding in the house somewhere, you can make it beep loudly for two minutes while you hunt it down. If it’s been stolen, you can make it display an appropriate message. (Drop my phone and run or I’ll blow you up in 30 seconds! 29 … 28 … 27.)
But cell phones aren’t the only things that get lost, and pretty soon you’ll be able to chip and track almost anything you can’t live without. (“Honey, where did I put down my can of levitated beer?”)