Go Ask Your Father: Diamonds, Baseballs, Girls, and Skin Colors

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1. How are diamonds formed?

Not by Superman super squeezing coal in his superman super fist. In fact, no coal is harmed in the making of diamonds. Coal is the compressed remains of dinosaur era plants. Diamonds are much, much older. They date back to when my parents met in college. Both are made of coal, just like that graphite in your pencil. It’s the way they formed that sets them apart. Diamonds form deep in the earth’s mantle about 90 miles down. Down there temperatures hover around a balmy 2,000F and the pressure is about 725,000 psi. The only other place to find these conditions are in my bed when I cocoon myself in the blankets. The reason diamonds are clear while graphite (both made of carbon) is black is the way their molecules bond. Diamond molecules bond tightly (called a sigma bond) in a three dimensional point (pyramid) – think toddler strapped in a 5 point harness car seat. This tight bonding doesn’t allow for the absorption of light, hence its clarity.  Meanwhile, graphite carbon molecules bond more loosely (called a pi bond) on flat planes – think toddler on a leash. This loose bonding allows light to be absorbed, hence, it’s black.

2. What are baseballs made of?

Summertime sunshine, peanuts, and the sounds of a crowd going wild when the Yankees and/or Red Sox lose. I, too, wondered as a kid what was inside those wonderful spheres. I found an old one and cut it open. What I found was a whole lotta string. It felt like I could have wrapped the whole stadium with the amount of string I unwound. In the middle of all that string was small rubber ball. What I didn’t discover at that time is that inside the rubber ball is cork. I knew players had tried to cork their bats. They’d hollow them out and fill it with cork then cap it to make it look solid again. This made the bat lighter and was highly illegal so I never thought there’d be cork in the ball. “How It’s Made” did a great episode on nearly exactly how they’re made. I may have watched it a dozen times, it’s that neat. A cork is surrounded by a rubber ball. Around the rubber ball is wound three different kinds of string (helps the ball keep its shape after being smashed by a bat). On the string are two figure eight shaped pieces of leather that get hand stitched with 108 red stitches. The factory had 350 workers making 8-10,000 balls a day! That’s a good thing because a single game uses an average of 65 baseballs. That’s 177,450 balls per season! And that’s just the MLB!

3. Can girls be on the Orioles?

I’ll just start with a quote from Jack Moore of Vice Sports

The question, then, isn’t when women will earn a spot on the diamond next to men. They have been earning those spots for over 100 years. The question is when the men barring the gates will finally stand aside and let them in.

Women have played in the majors before. If you’re familiar with A League of Their Own you’ll know they WERE the majors during WWII. Prior to that, women often made appearances on the diamond with men. Lefty, Jackie Mitchell, playing for the Chattanooga Lookouts took the mound against the Yankees in an exhibition game. She struck out the first two batters. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Toni Stone played in the Negro League against the likes of Willie Mays and Ernie Banks. In 1953 she was the 4th best hitter. Back in those days a woman’s place was still in the home. Women who attempted to do what men did were shamed by both homemakers and men. After WWII and the merging of of the Majors and the Negro League the men claimed full possession of the majors. In 1952 women were officially banned from Major League Baseball. In 1992 it was repealed. For almost 20 years there has been no rule against women playing in the MLB. However, just like in many other places, there are just men standing in the way.

4. Why do some people have dark skin?

It just depends on which crayon you choose to color them. We all know (or are about to find out) that our skin color is due to a pigment in our skin called melanin. There are two types of melanin, pheomelanin which appears as reds and yellows and eumelanin which is browns to blacks. While darker skinned people produce more eumelanin and lighter skinned people produce more pheomelanin this isn’t the main factor for your color. People’s melanin particles differ in size and number. More and larger melanin particles equals darker skin. There is an evolutionary advantage to skin color, though. Melanin protects our skin from harmful radiation. Those with darker skin reflect more UV/UVA light to better prevent sunburn and skin cancer. However, lighter skin tones absorb more UV/UVA, which aids in making vitamin D. None of us are exactly the same color, no matter what race we are and all the colors are so beautiful. However, we are so much more than the color of our skin.

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