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Small Talk: The science behind the summer’s best offerings

I have had a very productive summer so far. Some might say I have just been eating, drinking, reading and sleeping, but that is not the whole story.

I have been doing copious research, study and note taking. I am very close to nailing down the precise, best mix of root beer to ice cream for the perfect ice-cream float. It is a delicate balance that can fall swiftly one way or the other, ruining an otherwise lovely hot-weather treat. Mankind needs an answer.

I also continue my ongoing work toward finding the perfect watermelon. It has called for trying and discarding any number of theories others claim are foolproof. The latest, telling you to look for a butter-yellow patch on it, failed me miserably.

The faulty premise is determining just what butter yellow looks like. Some have green stripes in them. Others might be too beige. I’ve gone back to thumping and feeling like a silly person.

The lower the thump, the riper the melon is a good rule of thumb. The challenge is that your lowest thump, in any bunch, may still not really be ripe. It’s just the lowest thump of the very unripe group. There is still much thumping to be done.

I have also been engaged in determining the precise puffiness of a pillow, combined with the exact angle, to give my head the best support while I read.

You have to factor in the thickness and angle of the book, divided by the size of the print. Or maybe multiplied by it. This is where I tend to toss science and math aside and fly by the seat of my pants. There are hours of research and exploration left to be done, but I am just the lab rat to do it.

My daughter has been key in mastering the art of the strawberry smoothie. It took dozens of trials to determine the proper balance of vanilla protein powder to milk to strawberries.

It sprouted surprise results on how to get the strawberries mushed up just the right amount. This required shifting from sliced berries to quartered ones. This was a very exciting breakthrough in the kitchen lab and will be published, well, here. In other nearby labs, work continues on how much lemon in iced tea and the number of tomato slices you can put on a sandwich without having them squirt out the sides. The final bit of scientific determination will go to deciding if I like or don’t like the look I get using the tinted moisturizer I accidently bought. Does it make me look sun-kissed or like a bad spray tan accident? Data is being gathered.

Enjoy your summer leisure, my friends. My crew and I will continue slaving away to find the truly important answers.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is not afraid to make sacrifices in the name of summer science. Contact her at