We're all told from a tender age not to shove things up our noses – Lego, chickpeas, pencils, fingers – but it seems even grown-up astrophysicists can have difficulty grasping these most basic recommendations when it's in the name of science.
Unfortunately for 27-year-old Dr Daniel Reardon, the items that became wedged up his schnozz were neodymium magnets.
The Guardian's Australia office reports that the Melbourne-based research fellow was admitted to hospital when he couldn't remove them. Here in the UK, if you haven't been struck by severe novel coronavirus symptoms, it's tough luck, you are to give our treasured National Health Service a wide berth.
Reardon, however, was taking a break from his regular jam of pulsars and gravitational waves "trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation" by attempting to build a necklace that sounds an alarm when the wearer touches their face – handy while everyone should be trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – so maybe we can give him a free pass for this extreme silliness.
He told the paper: "I have some electronic equipment but really no experience or expertise in building circuits or things.
I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem.
"I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that."
Great! Except that the component he had "would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present."
Thus he had "accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face".
At this point, Reardon should have probably dug into a box set or video game to alleviate the tedium of self-isolation and put this idea to rest. Instead, he put two magnets inside his nostrils and two outside. When he removed the ones on the exterior, the two inside... well, to quote the Insane Clown Posse: "Fuckin' magnets, how do they work?"
Of course they snapped together with his septum in the middle.
"I was trying to pull them out but there is a ridge at the bottom of my nose you can't get past," said Reardon.
"After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem." The solution? More magnets.
"As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets."
The academic then tried to shift them with pliers – which became magnetised in the effort. "Every time I brought the pliers close to my nose, my entire nose would shift towards the pliers and then the pliers would stick to the magnet."
His partner took him to the hospital – her workplace – where amused doctors were able to remove the magnets manually with the help of an anaesthetic spray.
We're assuming that the astrophysicist will cease to dabble in fields away from his area of expertise. Meanwhile, perhaps Reg-reading shed boffins can discuss how they could improve Reardon's design in the comments below. ®
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