[Image above] Christmas cookie! Credit: By Achituv; Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0

The Christmas and New Year holidays are bookends to a season that begins with anticipation and ends with reflection and resolution. Today is a fulcrum on that spectrum, although I will probably procrastinate resolutions with another Christmas cookie.

But, I’m willing to reflect while enjoying that cookie.

One thing I enjoy about Ceramic Tech Today is learning about interesting stuff outside of our ceramic and glass footprint. Here are my favorite five things I did not know about before. I hope you enjoy these, too, maybe even with a cookie.

Solow economics

Last year I read an article in Science about economist Robert Solow’s theories that only a fraction of economic growth can be explained by production-related factors, such as more capital investment and increased human capital. The unattributed growth—the “Solow residual”—comes from technological progress, or innovation. I was waiting for an opportunity to weave it into a post when Corning’s John Mauro tee’d up a perfect lead-in with a journal article on the dearth of silicate glass research in the United States. Thanks, John!

Chalk on up for chocolate

I knew it! Chocolate really is good for you. Shortly after joining our editorial team, associate editor, April Gocha, found scientific proof. April, whose undergraduate degree is in microbiology, explained that while the benefits of dark chocolate were well known, the mechanisms by which those benefits are imparted were not. It turns out the microbiome—the bacteria city that lives within—can break down cocoa’s polyphenols, which are the antioxidants that suppress inflammation. The smaller molecules jump easily into your bloodstream and get busy anti-inflaming. Don’t blame me if the dark chocolate is gone!

Like me! Follow me!

Yes, I’m talking about social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter. This made my cut because I had a lot to learn about the power and strategy of social media done well. Jessica McMathis, also new to our staff this year, brought a wealth of knowledge about how to do social media well. As a small society, she showed us how to use social media as a strategy for pointing people our way. It takes a fair amount of time and energy to manage effectively, but as fewer engineers describe themselves as ceramic engineers, it’s more important than ever that they can find ACerS and its resources. Social media is an important tool for us to do that, and it can do the same for your company or research program.

Glass island

Kudos to Jessica for unearthing a gem of a story based on a paper with this unrevealing title: “Temporal and spatial evolution of a waxing and then waning catastrophic density current revealed by chemical mapping.” What it’s really about is the stunning Mediterranean resort island, Pantelleria, off the coast of Italy. The island is known for its spectacular “frosting” of green glass that was deposited 45,000 years ago in a volcanic eruption. Volcanologists are smart people. They have figured out a way to get funding agencies to pay for their trips to the island, while the world’s glitterati have to use their AmEx cards.

Tattoo for you, but not for me

It never occurred to me to wonder how something works I would never do. In other words, I’m as curious about how tattooing works as I am interested in getting one, which is not much. However, I found myself drawn into April’s explanation of inking in her story about harvesting sweat to charge a battery mounted on temporary tattoo paper. Injecting ink globules under the skin raises the alarm for the body’s white blood cells to come to the rescue to calm down the inflammation (Quick! Pass the chocolate!). The ink globules are too big for the whites to gobble and eliminate, so they linger together in the dermis permanently. Interesting, but still not interested.

With best wishes to our readers this holiday season,