Rochester Technology

Did you charge your car last night? The future at the Rochester International Auto Show.

Whether you’re in the market for a new vehicle, like to ogle classic cars from years past, or be near the newest and most luxurious automobiles you know you’ll never be able to afford, it is fairly safe to say car shows have something enjoyable for everyone.  This past weekend marked 104 years since Rochester’s first International Auto Show in 1908. Run by the Rochester Auto Dealers Association (RADA), the Rochester International Auto Show has been a yearly success, missing only a few years in its 104 year span due to the Great Depression and World War II.

Since it’s very early beginnings, the mission of the Rochester International Auto Show has remained the same: to showcase the newest up and coming vehicles to the Rochester market.  Whether it was intentional or not, the unspoken theme for this year’s show was undoubtedly the eco-friendly vehicle.  We’ve all heard of the Volt by now and various hybrid vehicles have made appearances over the years, but if you think this is a fleeting trend with only a few varieties, it’s time you thought again!

The most common eco-friendly cars on the road today are the hybrids. The term hybrid refers to any vehicle that uses both gas and electric propulsion. Currently, hybrids are the most affordable eco-friendly vehicles on the market because they still use gasoline approximately half of the time they are in use. However, Buick took the opportunity to show off their 2012 Regal eAssist at this year’s show, which is more of a light hybrid if you will.  When the car is in motion, it is running off gas; if it is idling, it immediately switches to electric until the gas pedal is pressed again. The torque from the electric motor of the eAssist gives the Regal noticeable pep as well as well as a 36mpg rating, which is nothing to sneeze at. Although hybrid vehicles are much more environmentally friendly than straight gasoline run automobiles, they do still produce the hazardous emissions we’re trying to steer away from.

The other notable category of eco-friendly vehicles is the all-electric vehicle, like the Volt. These vehicles are powered solely by batteries which are typically powered by hydrogen. All electric automobiles are hands down the most environmentally friendly vehicles available as they produce virtually zero pollutants; however, they are much less affordable than regular vehicles with an average MSRP of more than $40,000. In the long run, the money saved on gasoline may even out, but the original pay out for an electric vehicle is painful and enough to keep the majority of consumers on the path of regular gasoline run cars.

Never fear, though. Remember when things like iPhones, external hard drives, and jump drives were first introduced? How much did you pay for a few megabytes? A gig? Are you rolling in dough? It seems laughable now, but although prices of the latest technologies always seem unattainable, it never takes long for them to fall to the consumer level, and eco-friendly cars will be no exception. Chevrolet proudly gave a sneak preview of their classic Malibu model’s 2013 Eco hybrid edition which will arrive in dealership showrooms this summer, as well as delivered information on the upcoming Spark, which will be available as a more affordable all-electric vehicle targeted at city drivers within the next year.

As car manufacturers continue to move closer to affordable electric motors and farther away from gasoline power, it doesn’t seem terribly unlikely that by the next generation, turning an ignition key will be on its way to ancient history (which, for the record, is an absolute mindspin – from someone who’s driven a Volt, pressing a button and hearing nothing when you turn the car on is crazy. I thought I broke the thing). Even if global warming and ozone levels somehow turn out to be false, the worst case scenario we’ll be faced with is cleaner air and better car mileage for lesser money.  Personally, I can live with that.

Rochester Technology

How 16-year-old DNA evidence may solve a cold case murder in Greece

Thanks to scientific advances, a 16-year-old unsolved Rochester murder case may soon be closed. Back in the summer of 1995, Timothy Milgate was found stabbed and shot to death in his home in Greece. Although trace amounts of DNA from Milgate’s killer were found at the scene of the crime, they were too small to be tested. Until now.

Nearly 17 years later, 6 pieces of evidence found at the scene of Milgate’s murder have been sent to New York City to be analyzed using a new procedure called high sensitivity DNA testing.  High sensitivity (HS) DNA testing, also referred to as low template (LT) DNA, low copy number (LCN) “touch DNA” and trace DNA testing, is a reliable, state-of-the-art technology used to detect and recover small amounts of DNA.  Although it is fairly young, high sensitivity DNA testing is an extremely well-regarded, powerful tool which can help law enforcement’s ability to identify or exclude individuals suspected of crimes.

High sensitivity DNA testing can be broken down into two stages: a further purification process which allows the trace DNA to be seen more clearly, and an amplification process which increases the all-around sensitivity of the DNA, thereby increasing the amount of DNA information that can be obtained, even from very small traces as in the Milgate case. According to New York City Chief Medical Examiner,

“These methods have been extensively validated, reviewed by regulatory committees, and published in peer-reviewed journals. Analysts are specially trained in these methods and have frequently testified to High Sensitivity DNA results in New York City, as well as outside jurisdictions. “

What was considered impossible in 1995 is now a valid method of research in 2012. For Milgate’s surviving friends and family, these new technological advancements bring hope that justice will be served, even if it is almost 20 years later.


Rochester Science

Rochester’s crows: maybe we live to regret pissing them off?

One of the best aspects of being human is that we are the superior species.  We may not be the fastest or the strongest, but we are without a doubt the smartest, right? Not taking into consideration the many idiots we’ve all undoubtedly met, this is said to be true. So who would be a close second? Apes? Domesticated pets? Think again. Crows are just as smart, and in some ways, even smarter than many humans. Terrifying? You have no idea.

Mankind has a long, and at times, checkered past with crows. In ancient folklore, they have been regarded as symbols of death, and sometimes, even credited as creators of the world. Aesop wrote a story entitled “The Crow and the Pitcher” in which a crow, who wants to drink some water from a pitcher he can’t reach, drops pebbles into the pitcher until the water raises enough for him to drink it. Now Aesop, as talented as he was, was a fable writer and not a scientist; however, he was not that far off in his measurements of crow intelligence.

Aesop’s crow fable was later tested, and the results were amazing. The tested crows did get the water in the end, but not by some rudimentary method of trial and error. Instead, the crows exhibited knowledge of which stones (larger versus smaller) would achieve the desired effect. Most crows figured the trick out on their first try; the few who didn’t, got it on their second attempt.  Cool, right? Yeah, but not exactly what creature of death stories are made of. For that, chew on this:

Crows can remember your face. When was the last time you checked out a group of crows (which, for the record, a “group” of crows is called a murder of crows. That in itself is unsettling.) and could tell them apart? Chances are, they all just looked like a bunch of big, black birds with no real defining or memorable differences. You would think humans would also appear that way to crows, but not so. Recent research published just over 6 months ago explains the study of a masked man “terrorizing” a selected group of crows. Any time the man passed by without his mask, he was left alone, however, each time he wore the mask, he was attacked. The study concluded:

“Crows remember the faces of ‘dangerous humans’ with the memories likely lasting the bird’s lifetime. Crows may scold people who threaten them, bringing in relatives and even strangers to ‘mob’ the person. The crows within mobs then indirectly learn about the person, so they, too, associate the individual’s face with danger and react accordingly.”

Birds holding grudges – Alfred Hitchcock, much? In addition to their impeccable logic and memory, crows are excellent planners, extremely loyal, and most certainly do not take slack from anyone or anything.  Let’s just hope the authorities performing the harassment tactics to rid the Rochester crows don’t keep their faces visible while the procedures are in progress.

Rochester Science

Nevermore? Rochester’s crows aren’t anything new, and they aren’t going away.

The extremely high population of crows may be big news in Rochester now, but it was one of the first things I noticed about the area when I moved here from Pennsylvania in 2005.

“Why are there so many crows here?” I remember asking at a gathering with my new friends at the end of my first week here. I was met with blank, what-are-you-talking-about/are-you-on-something  stares from the native Rochesterians and an uproar of “Right?! What’s up with that?!” from my fellow Rochester foreigners.  7  years have passed,  and now we’re all asking the same question: why are there so many crows here?

Aside from the fact that a large number of crows hails from Southern Canada, which is pretty much our next door neighbor, there really is no straight-forward answer for why they’ve chosen Rochester as their preferred hangout.  One fact is known for certain, though – they haven’t received the warmest of welcomes.

Last week, city officials proactively began the process of discouraging approximately 20,000 – 35,000 crows  from settling in the city (just to put that in perspective – in 2011, there were 17,652 students total enrolled at RIT. That’s a lot of crows!) Working with the help of the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Division, crows will be scared away with methods including pyrotechnics, lasers, and amplified recordings of crow distress calls.

These harassment methods of evicting the crows have been met with very mixed feedback. While no one particularly enjoys the noises or messes the large numbers of crows produce, many regard the large crow roosts and flights as a beautiful natural phenomenon and worry about the fate of the crows.

According to Mark Carrara, USDA Wildlife Biologist,

“The one thing that you have to keep in mind is that [these methods are] not a cure. There’s no way to keep these birds out of the city. It’s too big of an area. There are too many birds. So what we have to try to do is find a balance that everybody can live with. The crows and the people.”

So what do you do when you have noisy, messy, obnoxious neighbor you can’t stand and moving isn’t an option for either of you? You can dwell, and make life miserable – or, you can make an effort to get to know them, and hey, maybe deep down, they aren’t so bad. Or, maybe they are.

This week, DragonFlyEye will be taking that extra step to learn all about Rochester’s crows, these pesky neighbors of ours so you can get to know them, too.  Love them, hate them, or don’t care at all about them, these creatures are truly fascinating, and this is not a series you’ll want to miss! Check out the Rochester Crows series as it happens!


Sharks – 420 million years of evolution, 37 years of Hollywood gold

Whether you’re terrified of them, think they’re beautiful, think they’re ugly, or really don’t ever give them a second thought, there’s no denying the fact: sharks are cool. Ever since Jaws appeared as the first regarded summer blockbuster in 1975, the great white shark has spent the past 37 years being type cast – on the silver screen, and off.

Despite their ferocious, bloodthirsty reputation, many will argue that deep down, sharks really aren’t these evil and terrifying creatures we’ve portrayed them to be.  According to Leonard Compagno, the shark expert who helped design the mechanical shark for Jaws:

“It may be hard to fathom, but many great white encounters with humans are investigative, not predatory. I knew the movie was meant to be a ‘monster gig’ but I did not anticipate how seriously people would take it. The movie scared the hell out of people and made the shark much feared. In reality, great whites rarely bother people and even more rarely attack them.”

Okay, well that’s warm, fuzzy, and boring, but come on! Sharks! We have a whole week dedicated to these bad ass, flesh-hungry water dwellers, thanks to Discovery Channel. And, what do we see the most of on Shark Week? Shark attacks. Has Shark Week ever featured an episode on how kind and friendly sharks can really be? Maybe, but if they did, it wasn’t memorable. We want blood, guts, and that feeling of absolute terror when we look at an ocean. Bring it on, Shark Week!

To top it off, I present you with this lovely little image, released just this week by National Geographic: a Wobblegong shark devouring a bamboo shark – whole. Now the picture and the description of what is happening definitely has both the shock and horror factors to it, but the more you think about it, the less bad ass it is (aside from the cannibalistic part, which is just gross).  Both of these sharks are slow and don’t even leave the ocean floor so chances are, the Wobblegong was hungry (as sharks tend to be) and the bamboo shark was there. Convenience!

7-11s are rare on the ocean floor and besides: even these guys won't eat whatever those hot dog things are.

Also, fish eat other fish all the time. It’s one of the main reasons I got rid of my aquarium as a kid. Try explaining postpartum psychosis to an 8-year-old who wants to know why Mommy Fish ate all the baby fish, then killed Daddy Fish and was starting dinner on him. My mother was a smart lady and opted we lose the fish tank.

So why do these two big fish make National Geographic and my emotionally disturbed gold fish did not?  Because sharks are bad ass and cool, and we love them.  Don’t believe me? Shark Week opened with 3.3 million viewers within its first hour in 2011, setting a ratings record for itself, National Geographic is already placing bets on its Wobblegong/Bamboo shark photo becoming a classic, and our very own Ontario Beach Park opens each summer Movies At The Beach season with a showing of Jaws.

Is shark terror an American guilty pleasure? Maybe. I just know I’ll continue making an unnecessarily large celebration out of Shark Week until I physically can’t anymore.


Don’t let your computer feel as miserable as you do this Valentine’s Day

I never understood the overwhelming hatred of Valentine’s Day. Sure, I’m in a happy, healthy, loving relationship, which makes me a prime target for scorn today, as well as completely discredits anything I could possibly have to say about the holiday in general. Still, even during my single years, I never cared. Maybe I just grew up looking at the day differently than most.  You don’t need a “lover” per say, you just need love, and I love a lot of things. Besides, it gave me an excuse to round-up a bunch of my friends to get drunk and watch bad horror flicks – two of my favorite hobbies! Not to mention, um, it’s just a day.

Still, I’d like to think I’m compassionate and recognize I am very much in the minority with those feelings. Starting as early as a week ago, social media sites were beginning to overflow with dread of the impending day. Guys planning to drink whiskey in silence, girls planning to stay in bed with 4 pints of ice cream, and the incessant overuse of the words “cliché”, “Hallmark”, and “singles awareness”.

Okay, I get it. February 14th sucks big time. But does anything bad actually happen on Valentine’s Day that merits the preparation of the Apocalypse? Kind of. I don’t know about going that far, but historically, the day does have some messed up roots, most notably the 1939 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago and most recently, malware attack warnings in our humble little abode of Rochester.

That’s right. As if this day weren’t already annoying enough for the majority of the population, now we have to be cautious of what we do and don’t click on in our social networks! (Which, by the way, you should be doing anyway, but I know it’s a rough day, so I’ll save the lecture.) Yesterday, Aware Bear Computer Repair in Pittsford warned consumers to be apprehensive of Valentine’s Day themed links, messages, and videos already circulating Facebook and Twitter. Andre Alves, Rochester native, as well as owner and founder of Aware Bear, stated:

“An apparently harmless message spreads in email messages with subjects like ‘I Love You So Much,’ ’Inside My Heart’ or ‘You in My Dreams.’ The text of the email includes a link to a website that downloads the malicious code. The page is very simple and looks like a romantic greeting card with a large pink heart. Once it infects a computer, the worm sends out a large amount of emails, creating a heavy load on networks and slowing down computers.”

That’s just one of the social media viruses Aware Bear has faced this Valentine’s season, and apparently, there are many. Chances are, if you’re a V-Day hater, you won’t be likely to click on anything holiday-centric today, anyway. However, for those of you who either have a honey bunny or just simply don’t care, take the normal precautions you’d approach your online interactive decision-making with and double it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, All. Don’t worry, we’re already halfway through it until next year.


Lake Ontario’s Nessie – Could a ‘Sea Monster’ Appear at Charlotte Beach?

Generalization or not, it’s fairly safe to say every town has its own urban legend. From the Loch Ness Monster, to the New Jersey Devil, to Rochester’s Lady in White, anywhere you go will have some eerie story of the unknown going bump in the night that will vary slightly depending on who you talk to.

Nearly 2 years ago, an unidentified creature washed up on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Discovered by two local nurses taking an afternoon walk, this creature, known as “The Ugly One”, seen only once in the past 60 years before this particular sighting in May of 2010, is said to be a premonition of troubled times to come – however, it remains undetermined what exactly this creature is or where it originated.

Although it washed to surface on the Canadian side, Lake Ontario still hits pretty close to home. Many of us Rochesterians (myself included), enjoy spending a sunny summer day “beachside” on Lake Ontario, either on Charlotte or Durand Beach. As we’ve all become accustomed to, it’s very hit or miss whether we’ll actually be able to cool off in the lake or if we’ll be grounded to sand-side due to the day’s contamination index. Although this little tidbit would turn many off to ever taking a dip in Lake Ontario, we Rochester folk remain unfazed – we all know it’s not exactly the cleanest place to cool off, but when has that ever stopped us? Good enough to go, good enough for me!

The Ugly One received a lot of media attention in Canada, described by many as “a cross between a pig, a rabbit and a messed up dog.” We can blame it on the fact that I was born in the mid 80s, but I find this thing strikingly reminiscent of Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which brings me to my question – could Lake Ontario produce a mutant underwater creature?

According to the University of Utah, there are two ways DNA can become mutated:

“Mutations can be inherited by a parent having mutation in his or her DNA, or they can be acquired when environmental agents damage DNA, or when mistakes occur when a cell copies its DNA prior to cell division.”

I can’t answer whether Lake Ontario is capable of producing a mutant species, but I do know the contamination dilemma, due to high amounts of bacteria and industrial waste, has been an ongoing issue for the Great Lakes since the 1970s – allowing enough time for possible DNA changes to be acquired or inherited, which are both starting points for DNA mutation.

Of course, both known sightings of The Ugly One did occur only after the creature had been washed up from the water, which does allow for the possibility that just maybe, it’s simply a partially decomposed possum and nothing more. However, the legend goes that our own Nessie, The Ugly One, will appear right before a time of misfortune – Kodak, global warming, Occupy Wall Street, anyone? It’s anyone’s best guess. For now, The Ugly One of Lake Ontario remains a Rochester, as well as a nation-wide, natural mystery.


The refreshing taste of carbonated water, sugar, and flame retardant.

Any time I turn on the TV, radio, or even sign online, I feel as though I’m bombarded by a million and one different people or companies telling me not to eat something. High fructose corn syrup, splenda, preservatives, etc, etc. Essentially, I’ve accepted the fact that just walking outside and breathing will inevitably give me cancer or something else terrible and deadly, which is why I’ll proudly continue to sip my Diet Coke whenever I feel like it and happily enjoy the outdoors on a warm, sunny day. Needless to say, when I first heard the dangers of drinking Mountain Dew, my initial response was to disregard it – until I read this:

The thought of a mouse dissolving in a bottle of Mountain Dew certainly has the Ick! factor. But, does it really matter? The fact is that it’s fairly meaningless—but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to drink Mountain Dew.

I don’t think anyone was ever under the impression that Mountain Dew was necessarily healthy, but dissolving a mouse? That’s the kind of stuff horror movies are made of – and we’re ingesting it? Voluntarily? I can only speak for myself here, but I like my internal organs right where they are, solid and intact, thank you very much. And why is that not the only reason not to drink Mountain Dew?

Brominated Vegetable Oil, affectionately known as BVO.

BVO is a vegetable oil derived from corn or soy and bonded with the element bromine. BVO was originally patented by chemical companies for use as a flame retardant, but today is used in citrus flavored sodas like Mountain Dew , Squirt, and Fresca to prevent the flavoring from separating from the soda and floating to the top. Oh. Okay. Flame retardant to beverage ingredient. Got it.

Bromine is a scientifically proven endocrine disruptor which messes with hormones in the human body, competing for the exact same receptors used to capture iodine. What this means for us is consuming food or beverages that contain BVO will prevent our bodies from holding on to the iodine it needs – and iodine affects every single tissue in our body. Thyroid issues, skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders are all documented symptoms of ingesting quantities of the chemical – so while grabbing a Mountain Dew for a quick afternoon pick-me-up won’t melt our intestines like it melted the mouse, its impacts are still dangerously unpleasant.

BVO is already banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, and according to Scientific American “deserves a fresh look” from what was considered a safe limit in 1977.  However, that was 35 years ago – before Three Mile Island, the Challenger tragedy, and many other things that were considered harmless, so this fresh look should prove interesting. In the meantime, I’ll remain a Diet Coke fan.



What’s School Got to Do With It? RCSD’s Vote to Include Condom Availability Program in High Schools

After a long, and sometimes heated debate, the Rochester City School District has voted to make condoms available in city high schools. The vote was hardly unanimous – 4:3 –with many differing opinions on the matter.

Beliefs aside, the truth of the issue remains – abstinence education just wasn’t working.  Statistically, the average age people lose their virginity in the United States today is between 15 and 17 and most teenagers are likely to have sex before the age of 18 (PDF). Sure, we know all the fear factors – unplanned pregnancy, STIs, – but when was the last time you told a teenager not to do something and you received an appreciative response of “you know, you’re right. I think I won’t”?

High school is a scary place, one you could not pay me to revisit.  I’ll spare you the gory details of my first time, but we did have a condom – one of those LifeStyle condoms in what resembles a restaurant butter container we had received from a friend probably a year in advance. Why? Because buying condoms is embarrassing when you’re a junior in high school. What if I see one of my parents’ friends? What if I see a teacher? Maybe we’ll just forget the condom all together and pull out. What if I can pick some up at school and don’t have to worry about all this?

I was 24 the day my dad passed away and we made it that entire time having never spoken about sex even once. My step-mother did, once, on his behalf. The entirety of it was “Your dad assumes you either have or you will. As long as you’re being smart about it, he doesn’t ever want to hear about it. Do you have any questions?” My mom did give me the sex talk once – after I had finished both college and grad school and my boyfriend and I had already decided on getting an apartment together. My parents were both very attentive, very up-to-date with the times, and very protective of me, so it makes no sense why they would delay (or in my dad’s case, flat-out avoid) this talk, right? Not really. Parents dread giving “the talk” just about as much as kids dread hearing it – there’s no amount of anything in this world that can turn that into a cozy little chat.

Say what you will about the Rochester City School District, but they’ve just taken the one most uncomfortable, yet most important parent/child talk in existence and made it easy – easy because they’re offering to do all of it. Before a high school student can receive condoms, he or she must go through several educational classes and counseling regarding sexual health, emotions, and possible consequences. Of course parents can opt their student out of these classes if they’re uncomfortable with it or really disagree with Rochester City School District’s stance – but the option for it is there.

For something that has been taboo in so many classrooms (and sometimes, so many homes) across the nation, RCSD’s decision has definitely raised a lot of questions. However, according to many studies, high school condom availability programs have not led to increased sexual activity among high school students, but have led to improved condom use among high school males. If they’re going to do it anyway, what more can you ask for? Can’t argue with statistics. Time will tell where Rochester will fall in future studies. In the mean time, best of luck to Rochester City School District in their new endeavor.

Sci-Friday Technology

Sci-Friday: In 2012, Big Brother is following. And you love it.

Anyone who has ever spoken to me knows I’m a product of my generation. A day without my smart phone is comparable to the day I was cut from my mother’s umbilical cord. I must have Spotify on any computer I use because silence is the devil. I own paper books – but they’re becoming dusty because I have a Kindle now. If you still use an AOL email address, I assume you’re elderly; if you still use a yahoo email address, I assume you live under a rock.  I multi-task like a champ, at all times keeping two browsers open with six tabs running on each to toggle between my work tasks and my personal branding and you better believe I will click off a website in under a second if I don’t like the fonts it uses.

I’ve always loved reading, and though I enjoyed George Orwell’s 1984 when it was assigned in high school, it was almost laughable to think of this supposed futuristic world taking place a year before I was even born. I hadn’t really given the book, or the premise behind it, much thought until this week when my friend told me she had quit Foursquare.

“I have to check in before my roommate gets home so he doesn’t steal my mayorship.”
“Yeah, I recently just lost all of mine.”
“I quit Foursquare. Twitter, too.”
“I reread 1984. It really creeped me out.”

Light bulb. While I didn’t react with the same Big Brother fear that she did, I definitely got that feeling of everything coming eerily full circle. Facebook asks what’s on your mind. Twitter asks what’s happening. Foursquare asks where we are –and we tell them. 1984’s constant tabs on everyone was government mandated, but we voluntarily share everything and anything with anyone who cares enough to read it.

That’s okay, though – we have privacy settings we can select! Sure. But just how private are they? After I had accepted my position with my current employer and submitted my two week notice to my previous one, I updated my Facebook status with my exciting news. Two days later, I received an email from another company I had interviewed with, informing me they had wanted to extend a second interview to me, but found during their “standard social media search” I had accepted a position elsewhere and wanted to know if this was true. I double checked. All my privacy settings were set to friends only. Unless I have a friend working in this company’s HR that I was unaware of, there’s more than one way to find someone’s information if you really want to.

Privacy settings aside – what about the individual who chooses not to partake in social media at all? Well, that comes with the price of an attached stigma. In college, one of my internships told me they had checked to see if I had Facebook before interviewing me because if I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t have been offered the internship. Why? Because everyone has a Facebook account. If you don’t, you’re weird and behind the times.

The future of 1984 that George Orwell so vividly painted for us may now be 28 years in the past – but is it? Giving up all our info is voluntary, of course, but I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’ve become very relaxed and almost lazy about it. We all have things we’d never tweet, update, or check in with, but when I think about how open I am about the tiniest things, anyone, anywhere, could easily figure out who I am, what I’m about, and where I’ll be at any given moment- and I even use those fancy, new-fangled privacy settings available.

So knowing this, and being called out on it, am I likely to get be more mindful of what I do or don’t post on my social networks? Nope. Big Brother, feel free to keep watching. It’s Follow Friday, and I have a Twitter feed to catch up on.


Rochester Science

Kodak, uncertainty and the next step: sometimes, you have nowhere to go but up

They say we fear what we don’t understand, the unknown. Well, I don’t really know who ‘they’ are but I do know that I’ve heard it enough to consider it a ‘they say…’ notion.  ‘They’ also say flying is the safest method of transportation. Given these two accredited ‘they’ facts, I would have to agree with ‘them’.

I wouldn’t say I had a fear of flying, but more that I had a fear of not knowing if I was afraid of flying or not. I grew up in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, a tiny Americana town in the middle of the state with a minimum 3 hour driving distance from any city. Montoursville’s only real notoriety happened during the summer of 1996 when I was 11. On July 17, my small hometown gained worldwide attention when TWA Flight 800 exploded off East Moriches, New York, killing all 230 people on board – including my future high school’s entire French Club, French teacher, and chaperones in attendance. I’m not sure if it’s changed since then, but as of my high school graduation in 2003, all field trips were still strictly prohibited – flying, driving, or otherwise.  It’s not an event I dwell on or anything that’s caused me to dodge flying, but when my boss approached me about a conference in Houston that he wanted me to attend, it was definitely one of the multitude of thoughts that began spinning through my brain.

That was January 16, last Monday, when I took my first flight. It was uneventful, borderline boring, and as everyone assured me it would be, completely safe and sound. Sure, statistics and experience both had the upper hand here, but I didn’t have that experience to grant myself peace of mind. However, by the day I flew home on January 18, I did, and it was much less stressful. The next day, Kodak went public with its announcement of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and I can’t help but notice a correlation between my possible flight fears and Rochester’s reaction to possibly losing Kodak.

Just because a plane crashed many years ago did not mean my plane to Houston would crash. Likewise, just because Kodak has filed for Chapter 11 does not mean it will indefinitely  go under- it’s just seeking some extra protection and security. Still, knowing the likelihood of success doesn’t always put our minds at ease. It’s that state of anxiety and despair that we already have all the needed information to predict a future of dread that leads us to that fear of the unknown. If knowing is half the batlle, how can we prepare to go up against anything without that necessary foundation?

I’m still trying to find an answer to that, and I’m not sure if anyone truly has one. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have sought a plane ride out on my own. I needed that push to see that I was bigger than that impending fear and ultimately enhance my experiences and open more doors for myself. Going back to ‘they’ (‘they’ sure are smart, aren’t ‘they’?), ‘they’ also say sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can go upwards. Maybe hitting the Chapter 11 rock was Kodak’s push.

I don’t think anyone in Rochester was shocked by Kodak’s announcement, but it was definitely a turning point for Rochester as a whole. What happens next when a significant part of your city’s roots faces extinction? Yes, Chapter 11 could mean the end – but it doesn’t have to. Chapter 11 is a second chance, a time to evaluate the next steps, and hopefully build up into better days. Undoubtedly, Rochester would not have made a mark in history the same way without Kodak. It’s time to look past that anticipatory angst of what may or may not happen and trust in the right precuation to ensure a smooth flight into clearer skies.


Hey, Jealousy- Can We Control a Physiological Effect?

It’s a typical, boring day. Nothing particularly special about it, but nothing exceptionally terrible, either. You’ve just filled up your first cup of coffee for the day and have just sat down to check your email – then, you hear him. You know. Him. That guy you work with that no matter what he does, finds some way to crawl beneath your skin and ruffle up your day to an alarming degree.  He’s young, friendly, hardworking and everyone seems to really like and respect him. There’s not really anything bad you can say about him but, ugh. Him. Why can’t he come down with the flu or something?

It’s Friday night and you’ve had a long week. You’re out unwinding at a local wine bar with your man of interest, laughing, and having a great time forgetting the troubles of the work week. All of a sudden, you hear a high-pitched laugh, followed by an “Oh, I can’t believe I’m running into you here!”– you turn around and it’s her. Look at the way she bats her eyelashes, and did she really need to douse herself in that musky perfume? All of a sudden, a perfectly enjoyable evening is ruined – all because of her. Who does she think she is exchanging pleasantries like that anyway?

It sounds silly and over the top, but we’ve all been there at some point.  Out of the vast assortment of emotions humans experience, jealousy is one of the most common and unsettling. It brings out the absolute worst in us, even if we know we are acting irrationally or should otherwise “know better”.  It’s a phenomenon that has been chronicled back to biblical times and has even been observed in other species including elephants and chimpanzees.

So what exactly causes these negative feelings of jealousy, and since they are so distasteful, why can’t we just turn them off? Well, have you ever tried to speed up your circulatory system when it’s cold so that you become warmer quicker? Chances are, you probably haven’t, and if you have, I’m willing to bet you weren’t very successful. Much like other involuntary bodily functions, jealousy comes down to a physiological, chemical reaction inside us – so while we can control the fashion in which we handle it, we can’t necessarily control it from creeping its ugly, unwanted little head into our lives from time to time.

Because people express jealousy through many diverse behaviors, it has been extremely difficult for scientists to devise a clear-cut definition for jealousy that can be universally agreed upon, but rather, have settled on a basic theme of a perceived threat of loss to a supposed third-party or rival- not to be confused with envy, which results from the desire to have something another has.  However, while the chemicals causing jealousy in all humans is essentially the same, the actions that trigger them in males and females differ in almost every case studied. While males tend to feel jealousy most intensely during a situation in which something that can physically be experienced by our senses occurs, females statistically respond more strongly to feelings of jealousy towards occurrences that are perceived – women’s intuition? Possibly. However, the effects of jealousy negatively impact both genders equally, resulting in restless sleep, weight loss or gain, skin breaking out into rashes, or stomach ulcers – if jealousy isn’t enough of a stress factor on its own, there you go!

So we know what jealousy is, what causes it, and its many impacts. Well, that’s all fine and good, but how exactly do we go about coping with jealousy when it’s bringing us down? If you find a good answer, I’m sure Doctor Phil would love to interview you.  In the meantime, try channeling your jealousy into motivation. What is it you’re worried about losing – and why? Finding that one important piece of information can help you gain control over your feelings of jealousy and make it work to your advantage.