I've lived in Reno for two and a half years and there are Reno places I haven't been and Reno things I haven't done. I made a list. This year I want to do it all.
One place on my list is the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada Reno. We had a friend from the Bay area visiting the last few days. We were going to go snowshoeing but the weather has been kind of crumby (Rain!) so we decided to check out the Planetarium.
The planetarium is relatively small it has a 30 foot diameter dome over a 60 seat theater. The small museum and the gift shop are free and the shows in the planetarium are pretty cheap. As a senior I got in for $4 and my friend got in for $6. We saw The Living Sea show which was OK. The photography was pretty amazing but I thought the commentary was pretty boring. I wish we had done one of the digital starshows.
The free museum and gift shop were really cool. The gift shop had neat stuff like a book on soda pop experiments, ant farms and crystal growing kits. Purchases at the gift shop are tax exempt.
The museum had large rotating earth and moon globes, meteorites, a fascinating display about optical illusions and and a fun black hole demonstrator. For 25 cents we got several ball bearings to drop into the vortex and watch them orbit and accelerate into the hole.
I picked up a brochure about becoming a member of the Friends of the Planetarium and also a membership application for the Astronomical Society of Nevada. The whole visit was fun. I would recommend it.
When I went to the dentist a month or so ago for a regular check up he said that because of infection I was losing bone around one of my teeth and I really needed to see a periodontist. He recommended Dr Lang. a periodontist and dental implant specialist nearby. I had a horrible experience with gum surgery many years ago and I was dreading going to see him.
After meeting with and talking to Dr Lang about my options I felt much better. He very clearly explained my options and answered all my questions. His passion and excitement about what he does and in particular about how the implant procedure has improved in the last few years was contagious. Coincidentally Dr Lang's father was a pharmacist in Wisconsin near where my Uncle was a pharmacist and Dr Lang received a pharmacy degree before going to dental school a the University of Washington where my sister went to Dental school.
The bottom line on my options was that I could have gum surgery around the tooth but it might or might not work depending on what was causing the infection. That didn't appeal to me so I decided to have to the tooth pulled and have a dental implant installed instead.
Last Tuesday Dr. Lang pulled my tooth and installed the implant. The procedure was not too bad at all and I am so impressed with the whole technology. Bear with me. I am a technology geek. I think this is really cool.
First Dr Lang drew some blood and used a centrifuge in the corner of the room to make some platelet rich plasma (PRP) which is supposed to speed up the healing process. Then he pulled the tooth. There was a lot of infection around the tooth so pulling it was probably the right decision. Dr Lang then drilled a hole in the bone of my jaw and installed the implant which is basically a screw. Here is a picture of it.
Dr Lang used the platelet rich plasma to reconstitute some powdered human bone and then packed the area around the implant with the reconstituted bone PRP mixture, which I think of as glue. He then used a Teflon membrane to cover up the extracted tooth area. He covered the whole thing with more PRP and sewed it all up. In a few months when the bone has grown in around the implant and everything has healed I will go to my dentist and have a crown attached to the implanted screw. Here is an x-ray of my jaw with the implant in place.
I slept most of the afternoon after having the procedure. I've taken a couple of Motrin but the pain hasn't been bad at all.
The tooth I had pulled has a large gold top. Now I want to figure out how to recover the gold. Apparently some people use the gold from teeth they have had extracted to to make jewelery but I think I will just sell it.
I received Soul Made Flesh by Carl Zimmer for Christmas. After reading and enjoying A Perfect Union I thought I would take a break from reading history. Not because I am bored with history… the more history I read the more I want to read – but I am interested in lots of things including science and Soul Made Flesh is about the brain. But it turns out Soul Made Flesh is about history – the history of science and medicine. This shouldn't have been a surprise to me since the subtitle of the book is The Discovery of the Brain — and How it Changed the World. I devoured this book and I learned a whole bunch of stuff I knew nothing about.
I learned about Aristotle, Plato and Galen and their theories of the soul and the body, I especially enjoyed learning about the English Civil war and the late 1600's when people were leaving England to settle in North America. The scientific discoveries during this period were extensive. It is fascinating to see how the civil war opened up the possibility of doing experiments to prove theories.
The central story of Soul Made Flesh is the story of Thomas Willis and his contemporaries in the Oxford Circle, Boyle, Wren and Petty. As England got rid of King Charles and as Oliver Cromwell took power Willis and friends developed the technology to study the brain – preservatives, microscopes and injections. I always think of Sir Christopher Wren as the architect of St Paul's cathedral but he performed the first successful injection. I knew about Boyle's law (P1*V1*T1=P2*V2*T2) from physics class but I had no idea that his experiments led to an understanding of the function of the lungs.
In 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne Willis who was a royalist was able to complete his study of the brain and publish his book "The Anatomy of the Brain and the Nerves". It went through 23 editions and "well into the nineteenth century it would be required reading for anyone who would call himself an expert on the brain." Amazingly the illustrations were all done by Christopher Wren.
Surprisingly (to me) Soul Made Flesh also gave insight into the seeds that were being planted for the American revolution. Cromwell's New Model Army was " a new experiment in democracy". Thomas Locke was a student of Willis. He is also the reason so few people today know about Willis. Although Willis completely revolutionized and corrected man's understanding of the brain he still used completely ineffectual treatments on his patients. He based his description of the brain on observations but it was Locke and his friend Sydenham who based their practice of medicine on what they could prove through experiment worked. "Anatomy, Locke and Sydenham declared, "will be no more able to direct a physician how to cure a disease than how to make a man". It is really only recently that we have come back to a belief that understanding the anatomy of the brain can help us understand how to cure it's diseases. "Thanks to Locke philosophers stopped looking to the physical world to understand morality"
Thomas Locke went on to publish and become famous for his book "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" which made the argument that people were entitled to overthrow a leader who violated their natural rights. His writings and especially this principal greatly influenced Thomas Jefferson and our other founding fathers.
I really enjoyed this book. Carl Zimmer is a great author. He makes complicated and diverse subjects fascinating.
Life has been hectic around here lately. Right after we got back from Iowa I made a trip to San Francisco for a girls weekend with a couple of friends. Among other things we saw the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the DeYoung Museum.
I enjoyed the Chihuly show and also really enjoyed going up in the new observation tour at the DeYoung. Here is a picture of the view from the tour. The building in the front is the new California Academy of Sciences which opens in a little over a month. Their website is cool. I can't wait to visit the new academy when it opens.
The day after I got back from San Francisco McCain was in Sparks (right next to Reno) for a Town Hall meeting. Duke and I went to see him. I continue to be impressed by his honesty and competence but he sure doesn't create enthusiasm. One guy McCain called on said "When I vote for you I won't be voting for you I will be voting against Obama because I don't believe you are a conservative. Tell me why you think you are a conservative." I thought McCain gave a pretty good answer but I don't think he convinced the guy who asked the question. After the meeting was over Duke went down front and got to shake McCain's hand. He got stopped on the way down and was told by a secret service agent to take his hands out of his pockets.
The day after the McCain visit my sister came to spend a few days with us and visit Dad. My Daughter and her family came for one night and my niece also stayed with us for a few days. It was all a lot of fun and and My Birthday was in there too.
Yesterday we went to the Tech Challenge at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. My daughter Allison and her friend Travis coached a team from San Antonio Elementary school in San Jose. I believe they were the only team from Alum Rock School District. This is the third year that Allison has coached a team. These kids did a great job and learned a lot about filling sand bags, team work and the creative process. They didn’t have the parental support that a lot of the other teams had which makes their accomplishment all that much better. Congratulations to the DeFlooders!