www.whyville.net Jul 29, 1999 Weekly Issue

Special Focus: Who is Dr. Leila? Part 2

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Special Focus: "Who is Dr. Leila?"

This is part 2 of an ongoing series. Questions were submitted by Finny, jacquilenne, BRITTANY, jen, and others.

In this week's article, I asked Dr. Leila questions that you sent in, and added a few of my own for good measure.

by cyranojoe
Times Staff

Q: Many people have asked, so I'll go ahead and put it to you: are you a real person?
A: Oh, really? (laughing) Well, I guess it can be tough to figure out sometimes... but yes, I'm real. Of course, like everybody, the person I am online is a little bit different than the real me, but I think fundamentally I'm the same me wherever I go.

Q: We sort of answered this last week, but BRITTANY wants to know if you're a real doctor.
A: You bet -- but I'm a science doctor, not a medical doctor. I went to college first at Caltech, where I was one of 17 women in my class, and then I went to Harvard, where I studied genetics. Then I came back to Caltech and worked with a Nobel Laureate (that's somebody who's won the Nobel Prize), and a couple of other people.

Q: Our earlier article mentioned that you like lava lamps, and jen wrote in, wondering what makes lava lamps work?
A: Cool question! My understanding of how lava lamps work is that there are two liquids of different densities. The one with higher density (thicker) is at the bottom but when it gets heated the density decreases and it starts to float through the other liquid until it cools then it sinks back down to be heated again. I plan to test this idea with oil and pancake syrup and also oil and water. I will let you know my results.

Dr. Leila Gonzalez Whyville's resident
thinker and wondering wanderer

Q: On another tangent, BRITTANY asks, "Do you like pizza?"
A: Well, pizza is fine, but my favorite dish is spaghetti. Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant for the first time, I judge it by the spaghetti marinara. My favorite Italian restaurant is in San Francisco and it's called "Little Italy". (If you know San Fran, it's in the Castro district.) In Pasadena, my favorite restaurant is "Xiomora" in Old Town. It's got a mixture of French, Latin American, and Asian cooking.

Q: Now, how about Whyville... what's your favorite place to go here in Whyville?
A: Hmm... I'd have to say it's the Sun Spot. I like visiting different places on Earth and seeing what is going on with the Sun at different times in the year. I also like my house a lot.

Q: Speaking of your house, what's the question at your house you think is the coolest?
A: Oh, that's easy. It's the one with the giraffe -- "Do giraffes get hit by lightning?" I thought it was not only funny but really thoughtful. Really unusual, too, but obviously the person had been thinking about how different parts of nature might affect each other. It's a challenge to think about the world in weird ways like that, and then figure out if it all makes sense.

Q: Is that why you enjoy doing science?
A: Yes. I think I like science because I have always liked puzzles and I like putting pieces of information together and trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out how (or if) it all makes sense together, and I like challenging myself to see things in a new way, which science often does.


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