Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Summer has finally come to Ontario. Humidity is 100%, people swim on the streets and spend as much time as possible shock-frozen next to the air-conditioning that's as abundant here as it seems to be everywhere in North America. Speaking of conditioning. I have that kind of hair that resists to be put in any form whatsoever and likes to stand off into all directions. I swear it doesn't properly couple to gravity. If a shampoo says 'more volume' I drop it like a hot potato. MORE volume is about the last thing I need.

Humidity reliably turns my hair into a collection of corkscrews. Following a fleeting interest in screwability, here's what the internet told me. Beware, I'm not a chemist:

Hair is made up of 90% keratin, a protein which also makes up skin and nails. Keratin consists of amino acids which link together to form chains called polypeptides. These chains are in turn cross-linked with each other by side bonds of three types: Hydrogen bonds (H), Salt bonds (S), and Disulfide bonds (D) that keep the hair in its shape.


[Figure from this site]


The D-bond and S-bonds are quite strong and keep the hair in the natural form that it likes to grow on your head. If these bonds are broken, the hair can be reshaped, after which the bonds will hold it in the new form. The breaking can be achieved with various chemicals, after which the hair can be brought into a shape that suits you better, and will keep it. That's what e.g. a perm does.

The hydrogen bonds are very easily to break with water. If you make hair wet, and the water dries, the bonds get set up and the hair will stay in the new form. Humid air also causes these bonds to weaken. One result of this is that the hair increases in length. This is why a hair can be used as a hygrometer. Another result of high humidity is that the hair will resist to stay in the form you've tried to bring it in. If you have hair that has the sulfur bonds set for curliness, which is apparently the case for the stuff growing on my head, then the hair will tend to get curlier when the hydrogen bonds relax.

I hope I got that straight ;-)

And here's how that looks like

20 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“If you have hair that has the sulfur bonds set for curliness, which is apparently the case for the stuff growing on my head, then the hair will tend to get curlier when the hydrogen bonds relax.”

It seems that many theoretical physicists have a similar tendency:-) One should not complain since many as you said go to great lengths and expense to have this done. All you need do it add water and presto instant curls.

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

I don't believe it. Your hair looks just like mine (except for the color)! I could make an exact replica of your Youtube clip, but I don't have your courage to do so.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

“I don't believe it. Your hair looks just like mine (except for the color)!”

You realize this further strengthens my hypothesis that there is a correlation between being a physicist and sulfur bonds. Perhaps I should write a paper entitled “Spontaneous sulfur bond breaking as it relates to Physical Science Aptitude”. Then again perhaps not, for if I bet if I did a lit search it has probably been already written :-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Well, great minds curl alike ;-) Regarding YouTube, I've come to believe it's not popular despite the crappy quality of videos but because of it (or because of the audios - you find a lot of music videos where you can basically forget about the video, but the audio is pretty good.) Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Ah. Well, I don't usually pay much attention to my hair either way. I was just looking in the mirror yesterday and found its state so stunning I ended up reading about properties of polypeptids. The only complaint I have is that it looks messy no matter what which spoils every attempt to appear serious. I've tried once to get rid of the curls, but this didn't remove the tendency to stand off into all directions. And standing off into all directions without curls turned out to be even worse. It then indeed results in this Einsteinian look. My grandmother used to say "Krause Haare, krauser Sinn" which means roughly "Frizzy hair, frizzy mind" and such I've come to believe the state of my hair reflects my character - and it probably does so pretty well :-) Best,

B.

Uncle Al said...

Your hair curls from its high eccentricity cross-section. Tame it in three steps: Adsorb humectant, gently blow dry to reconfigure; solvate and swell.

Shampoo to get hair damp and receptive. "Adsorb humectant" is almost any souble protein (e.g., beaten raw egg rinse) or stuff like aminosilicone polymers (e.g., Pert shampoo heavy conditioning). "Blow dry" with combing sets the smooth. "Solvate and swell" is propylene glycol. Check out Blacks' hair care products without "relaxer" (disulfide bond cleavage reagents - ruins hair).

Heavy duty Pert with comb and blow dry ought to do it. Propylene glycol hair styling products for a harder hit thereafter.

Anonymous said...

Hair curliness is not only determined by sulfur bonds in keratin. Many other hair components seem to be involved, such as the "keratin-associated proteins" (KAPs). KAPs appear to have stretches of cysteines in their primary structure - cysteine is the peptide essential for the formation of disulfide bonds involved in curliness. Another interesting fact is that there is a significant polymorphism in the length of the cysteines stretches in the KAPs in the Homo sapiens population (including physicists). In other words, the genes coding for these KAPs differ between people. It is possible that this polymorphism in cysteine content of KAPs could explain the differences observed in the structure of the hair fiber among individuals as well as in different human populations.
So, the question would now be: do physicists have highly cysteine-rich KAPs compared to the general population ?
Just a random biologist passing by ;-)
(source: Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings (2005) 10, 230–233; doi:10.1111/j.1087-0024.2005.10112.x)

stefan said...

Thanks for the clip - very beautiful :-)

But anonymous biologist, be reassured, not every physicists has curly hair - mine is quite straight, even on very humid Frankfurt summer days.

Cheers, Stefan

chimpanzee said...

You have a twin in Hilary Hahn (violinist):

http://www.hilaryhahn.com/ittybitty/ittybitty01.shtml

pondering hair, digital camera, mirror

H. Hahn (a "stringer") should get an invite to the Science & Society conference. As an artist, she understand the A+B model:

A) Information
musical theory

B) Entertainment
performances

She could teach the Physicists (who pursue a uni-verse solution A), instead of the multi-verse A+B solution.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=T_YgAHSiMfs

"They bring talent and the base for a succesfull career. The record company takes care of the image. The young American Hilary Hahn has got a very decent image. She is introduced as everbody's down-to-earth friend with her very personal website with on-line diary and drawings by her fans from all over the world.

[ Bee has looks like Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island "down to earth friend", with a personal website called Backreaction ]

"It takes a recordcompany about 2 or 3 years to build a profile for an artist. Still, every image is perishable.Not many careers are as succesfull as Vanessa Mae's.

Insofar it might be naive to think it's enough to be a good musician.
The person who declines the marketing is having more trouble, for example the German Julia Fischer. By authorities on classical music she was praised from a young age already, but she remained unknown by the rest of the world. Until this year, when she became Germany's youngest professor, at the age of 23 at the Frankfurter Musikhochschule.

The industry is very occurred with helping people climb up. You may play the violin very pretty and be the best violinist in the world but if nobody knows you, you don't excist."
-- sadelien

"As long as it's not in contradiction with the art or with the person,m I think it's allright. They to stand out already and distinguish themselves. With the time, they probably need heavier weapons to achieve that. "
-- sadelien

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Bee,

Physics wants to know: what is the chirality of your cork screws, and is your hair a pure state or mixed?

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“I've tried once to get rid of the curls, but this didn't remove the tendency to stand off into all directions. And standing off into all directions without curls turned out to be even worse. It then indeed results in this Einsteinian look.”

I don’t know I still believe you and Einstein share the same frustration as portrayed in the following photos, for here we have just curly, curly and stand offish, just stand offish and my favourite which I’d call down right cosmic:-) Now see what you have to look forward to in the future :-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

what is the chirality of your cork screws, and is your hair a pure state or mixed?

Interesting question. Closer inspection shows it is mixed, though strands like to cluster while curling up.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Stefan,

“But anonymous biologist, be reassured, not every physicists has curly hair - mine is quite straight, even on very humid Frankfurt summer days.”

Well Stefan I thought you had crushed my hypothesis yet upon closer examination I believe you may not be a straight haired person after all. What it appears to me is perhaps you what you have is wavy hair and if so my conjecture could still be saved. This is resultant of a genetic situation known as incomplete dominance and relates to things like eye color and hair curliness. I won’t go into the whole thing in depth as more if you’re interested can be found here . What's relevant is people can actually have one of three types of hair which is Curly (CC), straight (ss) or wavy (Cs). So in short you may still carry this (C) factor as a result of incomplete dominance:-) Therefore like QM it all comes down to waves and uncertainty:-)

So then Herr Scherer, do you consider this to be a possibility or just another hair brained theory? :-)

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

Here is the proof.

Bee said...

:-) Thanks for the nice photo! Your curls are somewhat bolder than mine it seems, just perfect I'd say. Best,

B.

Christine said...

Yes, they seem a bit larger, but today I was lucky and they behaved, usually they are not very tame. :)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

“Here is the proof.”

And yet you at first admitted to Bee you could never be so bold. So now I’m tempted to extend my hypothesis that not only does hair curliness relate to physical science aptitude yet also to boldness. I'm now suspecting that the next thing you’re going to reveal is that you refuse to wear socks since they only end up having holes in them :-)

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

No, I'm not bold, really. (I think you will have to withdraw your hypothesis, sorry....). If I were, I'd have changed and would change many things in my life.

Bee is bold.

In any case, I previously wrote that I wouldn't have the courage to make a Youtube clip, not a picture. :)

Best,
Christine

Chip Neville said...

Bee,

It seems that the link to your Youtube clip is broken.