H1N1 – What to expect

If you’re going to catch this pandemic influenza strain you might be interested to know what you’re getting yourself into before-hand. I wouldn’t recommend catching it, but if you do decide that you’re going to get sick and are wondering what it’s going to be like and how long it’s going to take before you’re healthy then take a read.

Day 1:I wake up with an irritated throat. I think that it’s probably due to the fact that our house smells like liquor after my room-mates had a big birthday party here last night and there are in excess of one hundred empty bottles on the dining room table evaporating a disgusting concoction of booze-smells into the air. I have no other indication that I’m not feeling well until about 11am when I start to feel achy in my lower back and am feeling kind-of chilly. I presume being cold is due to having every window in the house open to let the booze-smell out and the aching muscles due to a hard-fought race the day before. I head off to the race today and decide to line up and give it a shot even though I’m not feeling 100%. I feel strong off the start and ride very well for the first lap, I’m sticking with the lead group, but about 10 minutes in I feel like I’m breathing pretty hard considering my actual effort level. My pace doesn’t fall off until the third lap when I feel like I can’t breathe in deep enough to keep racing. I back it off to a JRA pace but I am not catching my breath. I decide I need to stop or I’m going to be in serious trouble, riding off the trail into the woods is the image playing itself out in my head. I know I’m going to get lapped out of the race anyways, not finishing vs not getting a time seems irrelevant at the moment. Once I stop completely it hardly takes any time and I can breathe again, I change and spectate the rest of the race with a down jacket on and feeling rather comfortable. I think I might be catching a cold so pick up some COLD-FX and DayQuil on the way home, I dose up on DayQuil and feel just fine for the rest of the day.

Day 2: I wake up feeling rather miserable and chug back some more DayQuil, pop some Ibuprofen, some Cold-FX, a couple Vitamin-C tablets, a multi-vitamin and some B-12 (this is not for the cold – I’ll write about this eventually). I’m pretty shivery and my face is hot, that gets a lazy student diagnosis as a fever even though I have no thermometer. I don’t feel like eating much – so I don’t. My achy lower back now includes knees, piriformis, triceps, pectorals and a mild headache. Those are all of the muscles or joints I’ve stressed during the last week of workouts… I’m not terribly surprised that the parts of my body with tissue rebuilding are going to be hot-spots for influenza aches. I feel a lot better within about half an hour of my vitamin binge but still deem myself diagnosed when that irritated throat from yesterday morning starts to become a cough. Diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • Aute onset of new cough or change in existing cough, plus one or more of the following:
  • fever (> 38C on arrival or by history)
  • sore throat
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches
  • severe exhaustion

By 4 pm I’m ready for bed, that finishes my tally for racking up all of the criteria for having H1N1 (while not necessarily severe exhaustion it is certainly exhaustion) and being satisfied with a fantastic diagnosis I go to sleep. Total caloric intake for the day is below a thousand calories. I don’t think I’ve done that in a decade! I wake up at 10pm and stay awake for an hour before getting some NyQuil in me and heading back off to sleep.

Day 3:I strategically wake up at 7am to down my morning dose of DayQuil, Ibuprofen, Cold-FX and Vitamin-C before heading back to sleep for an hour. I wake up after the effects of the drugs are in full swing and I feel pretty good. My voice has deteriorated to the point that I occasionally sound like a braking train (Example soundtrack). The aches are a tad less but my nose has started to run a bit more and I can tell I’m totally dehydrated. I have been sweating like crazy and the hoodie I slept in is kind-of damp. I last until 6pm and then take a snooze for a couple hours. I set an alarm to wake up again to re-dose on NyQuil for some drug induced ZZZzzzz’s which should guarantee me to sleep through the night. Total calories is less than 600 – new record – and half of that is from a slice of chocolate cake – totally nutritious.

Day 4:I do the early wakeup to get drugs in my system before having to get out of bed, unfortunately I’m probably starting to get over this flu as I’m not so totally tired that I can immediately fall back asleep for the next hour. So be it, and I resign to laying and shivering in my somewhat damp clothes. I do what every serious triathlete does when lying around in bed in the morning, I take my pulse, and then I do what every engineer-triathlete does, do it five times to try and get a measure of the accuracy. The results are not to my pleasing: 75-80 bpm, resting with legs slightly elevated. That’s about 40 bpm higher than it should be – definitely still sick. The aches have left my legs but my back is quite sore today. Total calories for the day are around 1000 as I noticed that my pants are really loose and that I’m rapidly loosing weight, I need to get some food in regardless of my desire to do so.

Day 5:Waking up early to drug myself into an acceptable state to get out of bed has become routine. I repeat the method again, it seems to work. Today the fever is gone but I still occasionally find myself with the chills. I feel like I’ve developed more of a head-cold than a full body flu as I’m rather blocked up in my sinuses. Basically no appetite but eat regardless. I weigh in at 11 pounds less than I did last Friday today, that’s weight loss that rivals what those chumps are doing on “The Biggest Loser”. Not good news – bad enough news that I’m not even going to bother trying to race at Provincials in a week, I’m too wrecked from this to recover back to race-shape within a week and I know it. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I could go for an easy swim on the weekend.

Day 6:I wake-up and deem myself no longer sick. I’m a far cry from healthy, but I wouldn’t even call this a bad cold any-more, just a cough and runny nose, I’m like a walking talking model of health with a few ribs showing. Oh, and the fact that it was 1pm before I realized I should eat something. I’ve still not been hungry yet since this started although last night after my weigh-scale nightmare I cooked up a serious meal and ate lots of it. No sensation of hunger when I started eating or sensation of satiation when I finished. Hopefully that aspect of normality returns or I fear I’ll keep rapidly cutting weight.

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Asymmetric Capacitance…

Here’s the abstract for the latest paper…

Electric Field Properties of Asymmetric Capacitances

Properties of the electric field produced between two parallel charged conducting wires are described and analyzed. A DC high voltage supply is used to charge a capacitive configuration of narrow gauge wire which produces a strong electric field. An electrostatic model of the apparatus is developed and used to describe the observed phenomenon of ionization of atmospheric gasses in this electric field. Measurement of the forces caused by the acceleration of these ions provided a means of ascertaining an approximate threshold for the electric field to cause ionization of atmospheric gasses of 2.8 ± 0.4 MV·m−1 in excellent agreement with the accepted value of 3 MV·m−1. Forces on the order of tens of milliNewtons are observed, sufficient to support the entire weight of the apparatus generating the field.

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For my final Physics 397 lab I’m working with Andrew Burke and Steve Jim, we’re studying propulsion. The idea is that we ionize air in the presence of a strong electric field, accelerate the electrons in one direction and the cations in the other direction. As a result in the mass difference (more than 10000:1 for atmospheric gasses) There is thrust generated according to Newton’s third law.

The magnitude of the propulsion force depends on how much air is being ionized and the electric field that it is going to be accelerated across (remember that the mean free path in air (SATP) is on the order of microns, not meters). Generating an electric field strong enough to strip electrons from air molecules isn’t all that simple when you imagine how strong it needs to be, but there is a relatively simply way of doing it. A very simple application of Gauss’s Law to an infinite line charge shows that the field goes like (lambda)/(2*pi*eo*r) where lambda is the linear charge density eo is the permittivity of free space, and r is the distance from the axis of the line charge. That means that the electric field gets arbitrarily large as you approach a theoretical line charge.

To charge a very thin wire (good approx of line charge) we just need to include it in a capacitor and put a large voltage across it. We’re just suspending the thin wire (42 gauge magnet wire) above a large radius of curvature conductor (piece of Al foil).

To measure the force generated (as the obvious manifestation of the phenomenon) we’re suspending the apparatus on a pendulum and measuring the angle of deflection from vertical.

Prelimiary tests have shown that we’re not completely out to lunch, we’re deflecting our “flyer” by close to 100 with a mass of many tens of grams if not hundred (haven’t yet measured).

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When a Gaussian is not a Gaussian

I’ve been sitting in an ETLC computer lab for quite a few hours here trying to write a computer simulation of the phys 397 lab that Rob Joseph and I have been working on for the last month. What should have ended up being a “straight line” passing through a nice series of 60 data points is actually a straight line passing through a jungle of randonimity. What I believe turned out to be our problem was that when we approximated our “filter function” (the transmission spectrum of the IR filters being used) we just used e as the base of the exponent. Assuming that a bell curve is accurately described by a gaussian distribution is something that loads of people probably do every day. I mean we did it every day for a month in Statistical Mechanics when we use the Stirlings approximation of large factorials. There are situations, and unfortunately our lab turns out to be one of them where a Gaussian just doesn’t describe a bell curve very well at all.

Indeed it’s the difference between something being gaussian and something being a bit wider up top or more triangular that throws our data for a loop. When performing the numerical integration right near the peak of the blackbody curve the filter is much narrower than the peak of the spectrum. This means that the variation from one filter to another across this regions is not
extremly pronounced. When the filter funtion is poorly approximated it makes a big difference!

What really needs to be done is to replicate the bell curve of the filter using a numerically exact model. Since I don’t have any means to do this I’m going to have to switch my beautiful 60 data point set into 10 data sets (ten filters) with only 6 data points each.

I was also going to pursue a reverse derivation of the plank curve using a 3D curve fit of my data array, that would have made my lab something close to a manifestation of sheer beauty on paper. But with these results I think it’s not going to be
worth the effort, I know that the answer will be poor.

I’m not all that worried about poor data, If I can write a blog at 12:50 am on a Friday night about the intricacies of a Gaussian Distribution, I’m not going to have any trouble filling 5 pages in Latex on the topic.

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