Crumb Trail
     an impermanent travelogue
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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ever wonder how to sharpen a file? Tiny little gnomes with even tinier little stones to sharpen all those little ridges? Nope, acid.

THE use of acids in the restoration of worn-out files is ancient; but in view of the immense number of these used up in this country, the following precise formula, translated from the Chemiaches Centralblatt, is worthy of record. A public report says upon this subject:
Some idea may be formed of the file business of the United States, when it is shown that from four to five millions of dollars worth of files are annually imported, and from five to six millions are manufactured here, and large as the supply is, it is not sufficient to supply the demand. From fifty to one hundred thousand dollars worth are used in some large iron-work shops, as well as government and railroad machine shops, yearly.

The files are first washed with a hot lye of soda, and all grease removed with brushes. They are then suspended in a mixture of concentrated nitric acid with eight parts by measure of water for 25 minutes; then well cleaned in water with brushes, and reimmersed for 25 minutes more in the acid mixture with addition of another eighth of strong acid. Brush again and reimmerse, after adding to. the bath a sixteenth part of concentrated sulphuric acid. This heats the bath, and the etching proper now commences, and is kept up for three minutes, with a vibratory motion of the bath. Wash and brush and reimmerse in a bath similar to the last with similar agitation for five minutes. Wash repeatedly with water, then with milk of lime, finally rinse again with water, dry quickly at a gentle heat and varnish, while still warm, with oil.
American Gas-Light Jour,sal.

Do-it-yourself methods you hear of include battery acid and pickling vinegars as the acid. There are companies that will do it for you - Boggs Tool is a name you hear. You ship them your files and they ship them back sharper. Some say that you can only do this 3 or 4 times before they are too worn to respond. They also say that they aren't as good as new, but are in fact much improved over a dull file. If they are rusted there's no hope.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A clever hack.

The basic process, electrolysis, is nothing new: Combine water with an electrolyte, and run current through the solution, forcing the water molecules to split into hydrogen and oxygen gases. But electrolysis-formed hydrogen has long been hampered by the high capital cost of the metals used in the process, around “thousands of dollars per kilowatt,” says Richard Bourgeois, GE’s electrolysis project leader. GE’s breakthrough comes from a proprietary material called Noryl, a highly chemical- and temperature-resistant plastic developed by the GE labs, that lowers the cost of hydrogen production to hundreds of dollars per kilowatt, according to Bourgeois.

Although GE has only built a prototype in their lab, Bourgeois believes that demonstrations can come as soon as the end of next year, and commercialization will follow that. The goal of the project, according to Bourgeois, is to bring down equipment costs enough to take the cost of hydrogen from $8 per kilogram to $3 per kilogram—comparable in energy and price to a gallon of gasoline.

Currently, Hydrogen production is also limited to industrial refineries and agricultural areas, where the gas is produced on-site using methane, says Bourgeois. GE’s system—which, at approximately 10’ x 20’, can fit in a small trailer—could be marketed to smaller-scale industries. And one day, Bourgeois sees a future when drivers fill their hydrogen-fuel-cell powered cars from pumps with built-in electrolyzers. If electricity needed to produce the hydrogen is wind- or solar-generated, the entire process is, essentially, emissions-free.

Thus hydrogen could be seen as an energy storage system for intermittent generation systems such as wind, solar, wave etc.

Nitrogen fertilizer is most often made using methane feedstock for the same reason used to make hydrogen - it's the hydrogen that is of value and methane, CH4, is a very good source. But if the hydrogen could be had from water at an economical price there would be no need for methane.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Old Joe helps you be alert.

researchers from the University of Queensland found that with caffeine consumption we are more likely to attend to, and agree with, persuasive arguments.

The experiments involved asking people their attitudes about voluntary euthanasia before and after reading persuasive arguments against their initial beliefs. Prior to reading the arguments, the participants consumed orange juice with either caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee) or no caffeine (placebo).

The level of 'systematic processing of the message' was found to be increased by caffeine as shown by increased agreement with the arguments, greater message-related thinking and better argument recall.

Lead author Dr. Pearl Martin from the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland says,

"Given the numerous situations in which people are exposed to persuasive arguments, these results could have many applied implications.

Consider how caffeine containing products (such as, coffee, tea, cola or energy drinks) might affect how persuaded a person is when, for example, listening to advertisements or a political speech on the radio/TV, reading a film review or in a business meeting to discuss work-related issues."

Who knew! This is tragic. There are zillions of people paying attention to persuasive arguments, thinking about them, remembering details of the arguments and reaching conclusions. No good can come of this.


More Meta than thou

Postgenomic collates posts from life science blogs and then does useful and interesting things with that data. For example, you can see which papers are currently being discussed by neurologists, or which web pages are being linked to by bioinformaticians.

It's sort of like a hot papers meeting with the entire biomed blogging community.

Sort of.

I got some hits for one of my blogs from Postgenomic and checked it out. Useful.

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