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Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

Rock Doc

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist
at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural,
Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.
Peters can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Hitting below the belt
By Dr. E Kirsten Peters

IF YOU'VE made a New Year’s resolution to eat right and trim down, be forewarned that medical science shows your brain has it in for you and will actively promote your failure on two different fronts. That’s not good news, of course, but you should know about it so you can strengthen your resolve as best you can.
Here’s the scoop. It’s relatively easy — particularly if you are significantly overweight – to lose a few pounds by reducing the number of calories you consume each day.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012 3:45 PM | Updated ( Tuesday, January 10, 2012 3:52 PM )
More electric power
By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

LIVE LONG enough, you see everything. Such were my thoughts as I studied the news reports that GM plans to build an electric Cadillac patterned on the same twist of hybrid technology used in the Chevy Volt.
The Chevy Volt went on sale last December, and it’s poised to be available in increasing numbers soon. It’s an interesting blend of an electric car and a gasoline one. You plug in the Volt to charge its battery, and at first the car then runs as a purely electric vehicle. You can get through a lot of your daily driving entirely on that electric charge — from 25 to 50 miles — based on the lithium-ion battery.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012 4:05 PM | Updated ( Tuesday, January 03, 2012 6:41 PM )
Science lesson in cookie cutter
By Dr. E Kirsten Peters

ONE OF THE best parts of baking for me as a kid was the process of “helping” my mama roll out and cut cookie shapes for the oven. At this age I know that I actually hindered her work and she was just being kind in letting me participate, but at the time I thought I was an aide in the process of transforming a lump of material into a thin sheet of ginger-rich dough that we could cut up into the barnyard animals of which I was so fond, and for which we had many different cutter shapes.
One of the goals in the overall process was to make as many ginger cookies as humanly possible from the first roll out of dough. The second roll out, because it necessarily had more flour worked into it, was considerably tougher and thicker, hence not as highly prized by anyone in the family. Indeed, when we were all done, we stored the first and second roll cookies in separate containers and ate them at different times, so great was our preference for the thinner and more delicate cookie.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 1:39 PM | Updated ( Tuesday, December 27, 2011 7:09 PM )
Rats are decent little souls
By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

THE MORE WE learn about animals, the more complex and interesting is the behavior they exhibit. My faithful mutt from the pound, a dog named Buster Brown, impresses me from time to time with complex behaviors aimed at getting what he wants out of me. Most people who live with animals can tell you a tale or two of diabolical ­– or thoughtful – animal behavior they’ve witnessed.
But even knowing all that, a recent study on lab rats took me by surprise. The research makes it clear that rats empathize with one another and will actively work to help one another.
Here’s the scoop that was recently published in the prestigious journal Science. The work was done by Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago with the help of colleagues

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 4:39 PM | Updated ( Tuesday, December 20, 2011 7:31 PM )
Hot diggity dam
By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

AS THE LONG season of darkness sweeps over the country, it's a natural time to think about lighting  and how dependent we are on electricity during this dim time of year. You can heat your home with several different energy sources, including natural gas, heating oil or wood. But unless you're living off-the-grid, the lights throughout your abode burn brightly because of electricity from the grid.
Yes, I have a couple of candles, a flashlight and two kerosene lamps in my household. But I don't use them. Instead, like more than 99% of us, I just flip up a switch to turn on electric lights throughout my house.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 7:02 PM | Updated ( Tuesday, December 20, 2011 7:43 PM )

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