Physicists explain fireballs erupting from grapes in microwave oven

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019).

A trio of researchers with McMaster, Concordia and Trent Universities has solved the mystery of why pairs of grapes ignite into fireballs when cooked together in a microwave oven. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hamza Khattak, Pablo Bianucci and Aaron Slepkov claim that the fireball is not the result of heat from the outside of the grapes making its way in, but instead comes about due to hotspots that form in both grapes.

Back in 2011, impressive videos of grapes igniting in microwaves went viral on YouTube. All a person had to do was cut a in half, leaving the two halves connected by a bit of skin at the bottom, and heat them in a —within seconds, a tiny fireball would appear between them. Making things even more exciting was that nobody could explain it. Since that time, many armchair scientists have presented possible explanations—one of the more popular was the suggestion that the grapes somehow form an antenna directing the microwaves across the skin bridge. In this new effort, the physicists in Canada ran multiple tests on the grapes and other similar objects to learn the true reason for the formation of the fireball.

The tests consisted mostly of using to capture the action as the grapes were heated and running simulations. They also tested other similarly sized fruit and plastic balls filled with water.

The researchers found that the formation of the fireball was the result of a simple process. As the microwaves enter the grapes, hot spots form in both pieces at the points where they are closest to one another due to a bond between them. As the hot spots grow hotter, surrounding electrolytes become supercharged, resulting in the formation of a burst of in the form of a small fireball.

The researchers note that the same effect could be produced using similarly sized fruit or water-filled balls. They also found that it is not necessary to maintain any sort of physical connection between the two pieces—all that is required is that they be no more than three millimeters apart.

Scientists Get the Green Light to Resurrect the Dead With Stem Cells

(MindsBioquark, a biotech company based in the United States, has been given the go-ahead to begin research on 20 brain-dead patients, in an attempt to stimulate and regrow neurons and, literally, bring the patients back from the dead.

The technique is new and untested so the study will likely be controversial.

By implanting stem cells in the patient’s brain, in addition to treating the spinal cord with infusions of chemicals and nerve stimulation techniques (both of which have been shown to bring people out of comas), they hope to reboot the brain and jump-start neural activity.

The result could be people coming back to life.

There isn’t much evidence that this will work, though there is one well-known neurological researcher and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, Dr. Calixto Machado who is involved with the study as a panel expert.

Bioquark’s CEO, Ira Pastor, said that

“to undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness. We hope to see results within the first two to three months.”

He added, “it is a long-term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility, although that is not the focus of this first study.

“It is a bridge to that eventuality.”

Opioid Addiction Is So Pervasive That U.S. Hospitals Need ‘Baby Cuddlers’ To Help Newborns In Withdrawal

As America’s opioid crisis affects millions, babies nationwide are born with harrowing inherited-withdrawals from their addicted mothers.

Intubated Newborn

Wikimedia CommonsAn intubated newborn in a neonatal unit, 2011.

The opioid epidemic has become a national crisis. While most victims of this modern phenomenon are addicted adults, there are newborn babies born of those addicts who suffer from withdrawal the moment they enter the world. These babies end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) — an ICU for infants — and experience pain and suffering before they can experience anything else in their world.

The nationwide consequences of America’s opioid epidemic have become so stark and prevalent that the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal every fifteen minutes.

In response, hospitals across the country have received volunteer aid by regular citizens who serve as “baby cuddlers” and rock the ailing infants to sleep, provide a necessary human connection, and allow them a small semblance of peace.

Hospitals across the country are opening up individual “cuddler” programs as part-time jobs to combat the crisis and can be found from Iowa and Virginia to Massachusetts and San Antonio.

Baby In Nicu

Wikimedia CommonsA newborn in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

University Hospital is in Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas has the largest number of babies born with NAS in the entire state of Texas. A third of babies born with NAS are born there — and the number of babies born with NAS has spiked by 60 percent over the last five years.

So when the University Hospital put out a call for its cuddling program in the NICU, Army veteran Doug Walters was quick to volunteer Texas Public Radio reported.

“Jonathan is supposed to be going to sleep, but we’re having some challenges right now,” said Walters in reference to an infant he volunteered to care for. “He’s three and a half months. So he’s been a resident for a little while.”

Walters has been a part-time baby cuddler for over three years now and said he has specialized on those who enter the NICU with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) — opioid withdrawal inherited from their mothers.

Crying Newborn

Wikimedia CommonsA crying newborn.

The symptoms of NAS include tight muscles and subsequent body stiffness, tremors, seizures, and overly increased reflexes. Newborns with NAS are prone to gastrointestinal problems, and thus, have trouble with being fed. These babies can also have trouble breathing.

All of the infants suffering from NAS let out a unique, high-pitched shriek which Walters said is immediately identifiable as a cry stemming from that particular syndrome.

“You can tell when kids cry because they’re mad, or they’re hungry, and (babies with NAS) just…it’s a very sad cry,” he said. “It’s just sad, because they don’t understand what’s happening, and they don’t understand why things hurt. They just don’t understand.”

Laurie Weaver has been a nurse in the University Hospital NICU for 27 years and has come to care for babies with NAS more than any other type of patient. For her, it’s the fairness factor — a tipping of the scales that dealt these infants a heavy hand — that draws her to them.

“I just feel like they were given a rough start, and I just like holding them and comforting them,” she said.

Newborn Girl In Nicu

PixabayA newborn girl in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Touch is so important to babies,” said Vicki Agnitsch, a former nurse now part of the 22-person Cuddler Volunteer program at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. “Without that, there would be failure to thrive.”

Agnitsch said that the more cuddling and physical touch these infants get has a direct correlation to fewer required and administered medications. The human connection provided through these programs literally supports the immune systems of babies born with NAS.

“When they know someone else is touching them, it gives them that warmth and safety and security that they crave,” she explained. “They had that inside the mom, and then they come out into this cold, bright world. They don’t have that, so all of that swaddling, touch, and talk helps their development.”

Agnitsch said that the simple act of spending a few hours per week with newborns with NAS can help physically course-correct the very direction of their early lives. She also said that thee Cuddler Volunteer program, which she’s been a part of since 2011, is “the best part of my week.”

She doesn’t seem to be the only one who finds catharsis in that, as the Blank Children’s Hospital Cuddler Volunteer program — one of many across the country — has a two-year waiting list of volunteers.

Volunteer Cuddler

Tennessee Department of Children’s ServicesA volunteer cuddler at the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Halfway across the country, Warrenton, Va.’s Fauquier Hospital has established a cuddler program of its own. Director of women services Cheryl Poelma told WTOP that infants born with NAS received morphine shortly after birth to help assuage their withdrawal symptoms.

Babies in withdrawal “tend to be irritable, they aren’t coordinated with their suck, they can’t eat well, they can sneeze a loot, have loose stools — it’s all part of withdrawing,” she said. Fauquier Hospital decided to implement a two-pronged cuddler program in conjunction with the administering of morphine.

“They sit, and they rock infants and hold them tight,” she said. “They tend to like to have their hands close to their chests, they like a tight blanket swaddled around them. They also like to suck on pacifiers, so it’s rocking, sucking, keeping them in a quiet environment, reducing stimuli.”

Poelma explained that volunteer cuddlers have shown results in a matter of weeks.

“You’ll see them engaging you more, their eye contact will be better, they’ll start feeding better, not being so fussy, and they’ll start to sleep better,” she said.

Newborn Wrapped In Blanket

PixabayA newborn being cuddled, wrapped in a blanket, 2015.

A study published in 2014 in the Biological Psychiatry journal suggested that infants born in the NICU formed healthier sleep habits and showed increased attention if they were regularly cuddled from birth.

The New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, UCI Health in Orange County, Calif., the Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa — these programs are springing up all over the United States, and those are just the ones currently at capacity.

It’s proactive empathy like this that makes all the difference in the world — especially for those least able to help themselves.

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