science | design | engineering | common sense

Week 6/27/2010 – 7/09/2010

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Single-mowed this week because Monday was off (after the Holiday) and temperatures were pushing 90 F all week.

Finishing off the week, I spent 2 great hours cutting up a few downed trees on Friday, which happened to be surrounded and covered by poison ivy. Precautions were taken, and at the moment I only have a minor rash on one arm and an almost imperceptible rash everywhere else. Incidentally, I discovered that poison ivy as a very distinct smell – I cut through several vines and a lot of leaves with the chainsaw while I was working – which I presume is the scent of the oil (Urushiol oil) which causes the irritation. Not a scent I expect to see marketed anytime soon, I’d conjecture that the scent probably helps warn animals away, adding another layer to the ivy’s defense system. Inhaling and being exposed to the oil created some background noise, like a lurking whiff of that scent hanging in the background, assaulting my newly re-found sense of smell (as of the last few weeks). When root causes are examined, perhaps the real reason for the lingering sensation is the mental impression such a novel scent created, not something to be swept away immediately; could the real reason for the abiding smell be that it is a translation of the fight my body is waging, connecting the smell with the call-to-arms of the body’s immune system which the oil initiated, leading to the current after-smell from the opposite and reverse process, because the brain figures that  the continued immune response to the oil means the oil’s smell must still be present. Lurking scent from my pores and skin is of course far more likely, I inhaled enough of the stuff that there’s probably some irritation in my nasal cavities, where the scent-bearing air must pass before exposure to the boots-on-the-ground members of the smell squadron, tainting their inputs. Time will tell who is right, though I’m not hoping for much, being simply a bitplayer in this multi- millenia long battle between the weak plant and its all-powerful rival, pitting the tool-using, sentient humans against the tiny plant bearing a simple chemical mixture which can turn its all-powerful rivals own defenses against itself. Imagine a single electron turning the very laws of nature against the galaxy in which it lies, sending it crashing to its death so that it can go on its way unmolested by the company of the galaxies unnumbered other particles – such is the dream of Toxicodendron radican.

Poison Ivy Facts

  • Wash that oil off – fast. Oil bonds to the skin in as little as 15 minutes, after which washing will help, but won’t eliminate the oil entirely
  • Any grease-dispersing soap will do – dish soap or hand soap (Dial was shown in a study to be almost as effective as Tecnu, a much more expensive specialty soap)
  • Urushiol oil (the bad stuff) hangs around for a long time, on practically any surface (even on dead poison ivy leaves). Wash everything off as soon as possible

P.S. Don’t use abrasives – I unthinkingly started to use a washcloth on one arm; the rash is worse there then anywhere else. To be fair, that part of my left arm was the one place I’d had poison ivy before which opens up the door to other explanations for the difference, but that’s a question to be settled another time.


Written by logand

July 12, 2010 at 1:51 am

Posted in Updates

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