Being a smart person does not preclude making foolish mistakes. Case in point: Australian astrophysicist Daniel Reardon. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Reardon decided to tinker with a magnetic system that would warn people not to touch their faces. A noble idea, yes, but what followed was a comedy of errors that ended with Reardon in the hospital with four magnets stuck in his nose.
As doctors are frequently reminding us lately, touching your face can cause infection via virus particles on your hands. It’s good advice to follow, but we all absentmindedly do it from time to time. Dr. Reardon’s idea was to use a magnetic field detector and neodymium magnets to set off an alarm if the wearer’s hand got too close to their face. Reardon studies pulsars and gravitational waves, but he admits to having no particular experience with electronic circuitry. Therein lies the problem.
Reardon started by putting two small magnets inside his nostrils and two on the outside to hold them in place. This allowed him to test the magnetic field detector, moving it toward and away from his face. The fatal flaw in his plan was using powerful rare-earth magnets. He attempted to remove the magnets with another magnet, but the shape of the nostril prevents the sandwiched magnets from sliding out. As he attempted to pluck the magnets from his nose, he lost his grip and all the magnets became stuck to each other. This left Reardon with three powerful magnets in his left nostril and one in the right, all stuck together with his septum in between. “At this point, I ran out of magnets,” Reardon said.
If this happened to you (and don’t go thinking you’re too smart to get yourself in this situation—Reardon is an astrophysicist, after all), you’d probably go for pliers or tweezers to try and get the magnets out. That’s what Dr. Reardon attempted, but the magnets just magnetized the pliers, making it impossible to grab them.
Luckily, Reardon’s partner works at a Melbourne hospital and took him to the emergency room so all her coworkers could get a laugh. Dr. Reardon was a good sport about it, and the staff was able to remove the magnets. The emergency room discharge paperwork shows that Reardon denied there are any more magnets in his nose. Thank goodness. We at ExtremeTech applaud Dr. Reardon’s outside-the-box thinking.
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