MySci Round-Up, October 8-11: Do the Permanent Wave


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On this day in 1906, hair stylist and inventor Karl Ludwig Nessler, AKA Charles Nestle, demonstrated a new process that would become known as the “permanent wave”  for an audience of fellow stylists in London. Nessler-Nestle was the son of a German shoemaker, but pounding nails into boot heels was not as intriguing to him as making boringly straight female hair luxuriously curly.

Nessler-Nestle wasn’t the first to use an alkaline solution; winding it around rods to make a woman’s hair curl. But a
ccording to Victoria Sherrow’s “
Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History,” he was the first to systematize the process by developing a special electric-powered machine with special pads to protect a client’s head from the heat used to curl her hair.

Nessler-Nestle’s invention caught on big time, and pretty soon, scores of salons on both sides of the Atlantic were giving their customers “permanents,” as they came to be called.
Endurance and fearlessness were important parts of having a stylish coiffure, since the process took an arduous 10 hours and entailed the risk of electrocution. After the stylist finished applying the alkaline solution to break down chemical bonds in the client’s hair strands, he or she twirled the strands around rollers to create the desired style. The timing of each step in the application was crucial, and stylists’ miscues usually caused strands of hair to become brittle and break. (Stylists got in the habit of quickly grabbing those broken strands and stuffing them in their pockets before the client noticed, a practice that led to the term “pocket perm.”

Women could only put up with this torment for so long, and in 1932, global beauty products maker Zotos International unveiled a chemicals-only permanent wave process that didn’t require a machine. That soon became the standard.

And with that, here are the science and technology stories of the day.

Genetically-modified corn helps protect non-engineered corn plants from European corn borer, study finds. 
If you get nervous about eating genetically-modified food, this is good news.


Hubble astronomers discover that early universe was super-heated by blasts of intense radiation. This one’s begging for a “So how hot is it?” joke, but we’re fresh out.

Lightweight exoskeleton gives paraplegics new legs. Users of the eLEGS device manipulate crutches equipped with sensors, which move the robotic frame.

Earliest known dinosaurs were the size of a house cat, and left footprints in Poland. They strolled the Earth 250 million years ago, earlier than scientists had expected.

Desperation drives parents to dubious autism treatments. This is an article that’s likely to irk some of the hopeful believers.

Powerful supercomputer peers into the origin of life. It’s looking at the evolution of RNA into early life forms.