MANILA, DECEMBER 3, 2010 (STAR) DE RERUM NATURA By Maria Isabel Garcia - For any of you who are tired of giving the same old things as holiday gifts to friends and family, below are some of my suggestions for this year’s gwifts. And of course, these items have something to do with science (for the 438th week, I say again, yes, this is a science column.)

DISCLAIMER: There is no guarantee that giving any of the items below will make your friends think you care about them but it will most likely make your family and friends think of you in a way they have never considered.

1. Plants that can text. For $99, you can have your plants text you. From a company called Botanicalls, it involves a device that you can embed in the soil of your houseplants and if it detects that your plant needs more water, or that it is just fine, it will send a wireless message to your home computer that in turn will send you a text message. This is for people who really care about their plants or for those who think nobody loves them if they do not get a text message from anyone or anything.

2. Math shocks. This comes with a BIG “Do not try this at home” warning, so far. Recently, scientists from the University of Oxford administered very low levels of electric shocks to students and saw that it improved their math abilities for a limited time. Parents and math teachers, you have to wait till this is safe and legal before you can avail yourself of these instructions.

3. 15 cigarettes. This is a reminder for friends and family members who are smokers. This year, scientists found that it takes 15 cigarettes to make a permanent mark in their bodies that will most likely get them on their way to having cancer. Remind them, too, that science recently summed up the real cost of a cigarette in terms of health effects and the price? $150 a pack.

4. A five-minute nature walk. Give this to yourself or if you are a boss, give this to your employees so that they are reminded that you are human. This five-minute walk by the water or by greeneries, documented in the Environmental Science and Tech journal of the American Chemical Society this year, turned out to be the antidote to stress and to recharge. It was surprising that it only specified “five minutes” so maybe, if you are an employee, you can stock up on these “five-minute vouchers” to have more time outside to de-stress.

5. The “O” Squirt for insensitive men. This is a squirt to have men do what men in movies do — pay attention to what matters to women. Scientists devised a formulation mostly consisting of the touchy-feely chemical that naturally occurs in humans when they feel attachment — “oxytocin.” It appeared in the journal Neuroscience this year, making an enduring mark in science but the effects of the squirt only lasted for two hours. No one knows yet how much oxytocin is needed to make the effect permanent on men but I’m taking bets and it starts at a scale like, oh, La Mesa Dam.

6. The “T” Squirt for the gullible. This is for those whom you want to shake from their fantasy that everyone who breathes means well. This squirt made mostly of testosterone was done by scientists who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I recommend this as a gift for those you know who routinely fall for those Internet and text scams. Testosterone squirts made the “socially naive” less trusting.

7. Bra that turns into face masks. This is for those who support the idea that the bra’s responsibility should not stop at where it supports but that it should also save lives in the event of a gas leak. This is a bra \that won the IgNobel prize last year. It turns into two gas masks — one presumably for the bra owner and the other, also presumably for the lucky human who happens to be next to the bra owner at the right place at the right time.

8. “Infectious Awareables.” This is for those who think that fashion is a natural tool to promote awareness even of germs. Just Google the site and there, you will find the most democratic representation of viruses and bacteria in ready-to-wear accessories. You can choose among ties, boxer shorts and scarves that feature designs of celebrity pathogens such as viruses like those that cause malaria, polio, and colds. That is what you call a fashion contagion. I suggest you give this to those friends and family members who are hazardous to your health but ask for gifts from you.

9. The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Flu and Colds. This is also found in the website of infectious awareables with their commercial battle cry being “unique science-based products to promote health awareness.” You could give this to your OC friends together with a gift voucher to their next visit to their therapist in case the book stresses them even more.

10. Random Promotion. If you’re a boss and you care about efficiency, this may be the best gift you can give to your company. This won the IgNobel Prize for management this year. It proved that just promoting people at random made for overall company efficiency. And when your employees who think they deserve it on merit start to protest, tell them to complain to the IgNobel committee who are so serious about science that they celebrate their winners with a confetti shower of paper airplanes.

Interesting shopping to you all.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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