In its “Better Living Through Science” feature this month, Wired magazine confronts everyday annoyances with solutions informed by testable data (why club soda removes red wine stains; how hair spray helps get rid of ink). Sometimes, the research merely backs up common sense. For instance: Kinetic energy involved in slurping long strands of spaghetti causes the bullwhip effect that splashes sauce onto your shirt. Cutting the noodles into shorter pieces or rolling them onto a fork helps. Your mother probably told you that. Other tips, though, are handier and less obvious. The magnetic strip on your credit card eventually stops working because the iron oxide particles on the strip get smeared, creating background noise that makes their information harder to pick up. But that noise has low magnetism, so you can block it out by increasing the distance between the strip and the card reader. The magazine’s fix? A simple strip of Scotch tape.
Think you know your global warming? Have infectious diseases down cold? Then test yourself at trivia night Thursday at the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academies of Science. Around the country, pub trivia nights are major draws — free bar tab for the winning group — but this one is likely to be somewhat different. The questions will focus “on health and learning, climate science and current scientific issues,” as a museum official put it. No free bar tabs, but there will be prizes: a stuffed microbe in a museum coffee mug for the first-place winner (or group); a mug without the microbe for second place and a museum pen for third place. Early arrivals should check out the museum’s new “Earth Lab: Degrees of Change.” A simulation game lets you choose among various strategies for lowering carbon dioxide emissions and then see how your choices affect global warming. The Koshland Museum is at 525 E St. NW. Science Trivia Night runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.