Many of you have asked where in the world I've been.

All I know is that after 7 plus years of blogging and a different lappy, which I don’t like, I seem to have lost my blogging fervor.

Someday, when you least expect it, I will post again.

For those of you still waiting I say thank you.

Meanwhile, I am rather prolific on twitter. Find me: @KeethaB
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The Eclectic Company - Waitin' on a New Adventure!!
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Science All Around Us - - - Episode I

AKA "Science Moments With Miss Keetha"

My children groan, moan, and walk away when I begin to wax on and on about science. So - - - if this "leaves you cold" - - - just click away to something else.

Recently a bloggy friend over at "Raise Them Up" posted about a lightning strike in her back yard. We chatted a bit about some lightning facts which gave me the idea of periodically doing some fun, trivia type science posts.

So - - - if you're "game" hop on board for the first ride!!!

(photo from

Lightning bolts are in the 4th state of matter -
Plasma is composed of tiny, highly charged bits of particles.
While there isn't a lot of plasma on Earth - - -
(Lightning & northern lights to give a couple of examples)
Scientists theorize that plasma is the main state of matter in the universe.

A lightning bolt has a temperature of 30,000 degrees Celsius.
Uh - - - that's just a TAD HOT,
(Room temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius.)
As this REALLY HOT bolt of plasma rushes through the air,
It instantly heats the air molecules it touches.
However, they cool just as quickly when the bolt is gone.
Warmed molecules "jump" apart from each other,
Cooled molecules "jump" back together - - -
This bumping of molecules is passed through the air
In a wave - - - a wave of vibration we call SOUND.
That is what we hear as thunder.
Hearing is in the receiver - - -
But perhaps that is a topic for another
Moment with Miss Keetha.

"Class, who can tell us why we see the lightning FIRST
And THEN hear the thunder?"

The average lightning bolt packs about 1 billion volts of electricity.

Lightning can travel from the sky toward the ground,
From the ground toward the sky,
And even 50 miles sideways.

No WONDER my friend's yard suffered
This damage.

I enjoy watching crime solving dramas on TV. I am WELL aware of the fact that they make technologies which as yet AREN'T readily available look common place. I'm also aware that they make science mistakes from time to time. I enjoy them anyway, for they are, just as Star Trek was, on the cutting edge of technology.

Recently while watching some taped episodes, I found TWO GLARING science errors in two different shows. I'm SURE when I point them out to you, you will ALSO realize immediately the folly that was presented as fact. Here they are:

1) One of my FAVORITE shows repeatedly, in the same episode, referred to anthrax as being a virus. The investigators took cipro to try to safeguard themselves from anthrax exposure.

2) In the second show, the lab tech while viewing human tissue slides said: "This body was frozen, the cell walls are ruptured."

Did you get it??? Did you CATCH the glaring errors???? (I know YOU DID, Dr. LaBar - - - I'm talking to our nonscienc-career friends here)

Well - - - when you are finished puzzling over it, scroll on down where I will explain:

(photo from

This is a photo of anthrax BACTERIA. They are not viruses at all, but rather they are bacteria. (Bacteria is plural for bacterium) A bacterium is a living unicellular organism. A VIRUS is a tiny particle of DNA or RNA wrapped in a protein coat. There is debate as to the "life" status of a virus- - - it does not perform ANY life functions EXCEPT reproduction, which it cannot do on it's own but must depend upon a living host cell (maybe in you or me) to do the reproductive work for it.

The show made a DOUBLE boo-boo on this one. While taking cipro as a prophylaxis for a BACTERIAL invasion would be beneficial, THERE IS NO ANTIBIOTIC IN THE WORLD THAT WILL "kill" a virus, so taking an antibiotic for a virus is useless. The mistake in the show wasn't that they TOOK cipro, it was that they said they were taking it for a virus.

Little lesson: We overuse antibiotics in this country and are creating antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria by so doing. If your doctor says, "No, you don't need an antibiotic because what you have is a virus - - - BELIEVE HIM. Please don't pressure him into prescribing an antibiotic you don't need. I'm just sayin ' - - -

(both diagrams from

Now for the cell wall faux pas.

As you can clearly see from the above diagrams of generic cells, animal cells (and humans are mammals of the Kingdom Animalia) do NOT HAVE CELL WALLS. Plant cells, bacteria cells, fungi cells, and some protist cells do have cell walls around their cell membranes, but animal cells have only a flexible bilayer plasma (not the same plasma as lightning) phospholipid membrane. We do not NEED a cell wall because we have a skeleton for structure and support.

So, what my dear laboratory friend in the crime show SHOULD have said was: "This body was frozen because the CELL MEMBRANES are ruptured."

Tune in again soon for another episode of "Science Moments with Miss Keetha" and until then I return you to your regularly scheduled blog viewing!



Kristin - The Goat said...

Going right back to my movie quotes library:

"...the only power source capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning." BTTF

I noticed in your friends blog you mentioned lightning traveling sideways for 50 miles - that's truly amazing as well. I've known of of a golfer who was struck by lightning when there wasn't a storm overhead and it was because of this sideways event.

My answer is light travels faster than sound.

Anonymous said...

Im so lost!
A certain type of people like yourself m ust have something special in your brains to get all this! I sat here and read it a few times and dont get a lot if it. I want to raise my hand but im scared everyone reading will look!
is this the reason for the sound (you put the answer in the post I think)

Warmed molecules "jump" apart from each other,
Cooled molecules "jump" back together - - -
This bumping of molecules is passed through the air
In a wave - - - a wave of vibration we call SOUND.
That is what we hear as thunder.
I am so scared of Lightning!
so bad if Im in it I could cry
also Heres somethin for ya, here in Colorado we are 2nd in the nation with the most lightning, i think Florida is first.

I can't find my blog said...

Thanks, Professor K! I love this idea and will have my boys read it when they get home from school. Boy #1 loves those science dramas and he will certainly be interested.

Cry- I used to live in Colorado. It is scary in some of those storms but remember that 99.9% of the injuries from those lightning storms come from people being stupid. I remember a time when I was in HS and there was a string of days with lots of them. The newscasters had repeatedly reminded people to stay inside when there was even the slightest threat of lightning. Enter the Darwin Award Recipient who stood on his deck to watch the storm and was promptly hit by lightning when the storm was 20+ miles away. I'll never forget that. And, needless to say, never watch a storm from any deck, balcony, etc.

Just last week here in California we had a full day of lightning sotrms, (rare for this area and time of year,) and a woman was killed in the next city over from me because she was out walking and stopped under a tree to get out of the rain. Hellooooo? Although they don't give such warnings on the news here like they did in Denver.

(Sorry for hijacking your comments!)

Keetha Broyles said...

Cry - - - you GOT it!!! It is the sudden heating/cooling of the air molecules which makes them bang into each other creating vibrations in the air - - - and our EARS pick up those vibrations (sound waves) and we HEAR thunder!!!

I think you GOT it!!!!

Anonymous said...

your a good teacher
i love to learn
im glad i raised my hand in your class!
keep teaching i want to learn more!

Keetha Broyles said...

Never be afraid to raise your hand in MY class!!!! :-)

Roslyn said...

This is why my DH gets SO aggravated at anything relating to aviation, once a pilot always a pilot,lol.

Tomarie said...

What an interesting post!! And I love the conservation going in your comment section too!! :-)
You asked about our cabin...we live here year round in the great state of Arkansas.
I'm so glad you stopped by and so glad to "meet" ya!! Laura

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Yikes Keetha,
You lost me after the lightening strike. However, I do love history. Do you teach history too? I'm up for a lesson! LOL, Hugs, Cindy

Raise Them Up said...

I love this! You must be a wonderful teacher! I'm going to be lookig forward to your science posts. :)

Trish said...

My 9 year old Grandson Ian would love this! He wants to be a Meteorologist and is driving my daughter crazy, watching the weather channel and storm chasers!!!!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

You are so smart, I have a hard enough time reading it let alone comprehending it! My brain is jealous.

korie said...

because sound travels slower then light!

KBeau said...

Without reading any of the other comments, I'd like to answer. I know I didn't get my hand up first, but I'd like to answer anyway. Light waves travel faster than sound waves, so you see the lightening before you hear the thunder.

I used to be an English and journalism teacher. Wonder if anyone would be interest in a blog on common grammar mistakes. Probably not.

Keetha Broyles said...

Ding, ding, ding KBeau - - - you get the prize!!!

I would LOVE posts from time to time about common grammar errors.

Dixie said...

Keetha... you're so good at explaining the complicated things of the universe...
and with that thought in mind... and knowing that the EPA is about to levy a flatulence tax on cattle to the tune of $175 per dairy cow per year and $150 per head of beef cattle... thus raising the price of meat and dairy to every American... could you please explain how flatulence works?

anxiously awaiting your next teaching post...

ps... have a beautiful week full of the things that make life wonderful!

hugs.. Dixie

Holly said...

And here I thought plasma was just in TV screens. And blood.

I knew the virus/bacteria question but you got me on the cell walls!

Thanks for a little education tonight.

Martin LaBar said...

Well done, and thanks for the mention!

I like crime shows, too, Bones and NCIS. One thing that amazes me is that, supposedly, one person is supposed to have mastered all sorts of different technologies -- computer, insect, DNA, whatever, forensics. Sorry, Abby, I don't think so.

Tonja said...

Lightning! This is one of my biggest fears. I do not like all. I do not feel safe when I see matter where I am. But, it is a fascinating subject. In fact I did a post on it last year. I know all the things about being safe, and what to do...and I KNOW God is in control, BUT...I still don't like it. I guess that is why they call it a makes no sense...and we know better...but it still IS! This is my motto: If IF YOU CAN HEAR IT...YOU SHOULD FEAR IT! Cause if you can hear the thunder, you can be struck by the lightning! Great post!

LV said...

What an interesting ,educational post. Of course, most of the time I was lost as you are way above my head. Glad we have such a smart blogging friend. Thanks for visiting me.

Pammerys said...

You and I are kindred spirits! I love anything science-related, crime shows and books, grammar and word usage... and I'll raise you 1 history. I really enjoy your blog.

dana said...

OK, when you read my blog about me and my little Stone Rabbit, I know you must've thought "OMG---what a dufus!" Well, I really feel like one after reading this post and the one on the correct use of "voila" vs "wallah"!!

HOWEVER--after PLOWING through your science facts on lightning I will tell you that I had to scream "AH-HA" (is there a French word for that I should be using instead?). You see, I told my DH some time ago that I had read lightning CAN travel from the ground up and he thought I was NUTS (well, he's correct about that some times!). I had read that info somewhere--he thought I'd just mixed up my facts again. OHHHHHHH! This post of yours will be sent to him office with a teeney little "I told you so" attached!! Thanks!!!


PS He's a "sciencey" guy---and is ALWAYS picking apart TV shows and their incorrect use of facts. It drives me crazy to be caught up in the dialog of a show and he's babbling away about something that isn't scientifically accurate. I remind him it's just a TV show--pretty much a fantasy anyway--I don't really care if it's bacteria or virus at that particular moment! You two would get along very well!! ;) All kidding aside--I love your blog!!! Dana

Diane said...

Well, gosh, now I don't know if I want to comment on the science lesson or the economics lesson offered by Dixie! Good Lord! A flatulence tax?! As my MIL often says "Jesus, deliver me from that"!!!! Sounds EXACTLY like something this stupid administration would do, though!

Now, for the science lesson, sorry Keetha my dear late hubs beat ya to this one. You see, he worked with R &D for a pyrotechnics manufacturer and lighting was a great enemy. So, I already knew, but I love science so it was still a good read!

Many hugs...........


challenger said...

OK I'll try, We see lightning b4 hearing thunder B/c Light (lightning) travels faster (186,000 f/p/s. or 300,000k/p/s while sound pokes along at about .19 f/p/s or(700 mph). And BTW lightning's ability to travel sideways explains the term "a bolt from the Blue" and is documented by a little league ball player in loveland Co. being killed by lightning on a perfectly sunny afternoon. I learned all this on "Watch Mr.Wizzard"

Julie said...

Oh my-look at all these posts I missed by abandoning blog land for a week (and a half). I need to catch up!! I missed your posts, Keetha.

Whew, so glad I got the virus/bacteria question. I guess my nursing skills aren't all gone!