Thursday, 2 May 2013

08:17 – The morning paper says we have measles in a neighboring county. The apparent source is a Hare Krisha commune. The paper says the Hare Krishnas “discourage” vaccination. Geez. The article also says that, according to the CDC, of every 1,000 children who are infected, one or two will die. That’s actually understating the problem. In recent outbreaks, mortality rates have varied from about 0.1% to more than 1%.

A lot of people who read these figures may find them worrying but not terrifying. After all, a 0.1% to 0.2% mortality rate is bad, but it’s not the black plague. The problem is that measles, like all viruses, tends to mutate. And while the current strain, which probably originated in the first half of the 20th century, has a mortality rate under 1%, historically some measles strains have had mortality rates of 70% or thereabouts. That’s 700 dead people of every 1,000 infected. And no one knows if or when another deadly strain will develop. Avoiding inoculation is playing with fire.


UPS showed up at dinner time yesterday with a bunch of boxes. Our living room is now populated with hundreds of splash goggles, hundreds of lab thermometers, hundreds of disposable scalpels, hundreds of teasing needles, etc. etc. And I just cut another purchase order for hundreds of beakers, graduated cylinders, and other kit components. That’ll be it for a while. I’m starting to run out of storage space for component inventory.

My bottle-top dispenser died the other day. It’s a pretty cool device. It works kind of like those pumps they use in ice cream shops to dispense toppings. There’s a slider that can be set to dispense any volume from 2.5 mL to 30 mL, accurate to 0.1 mL. The pump sits on top of a reservoir bottle. To fill a container, I simply lift the pump body, put a bottle under the dispensing tip, and press down on the pump. Using it, I can fill 350 to 400 bottles an hour, or twice that many if Barbara is capping the bottles as I fill them. It’s definitely not something I want to do without.

As it turned out, the thick glass cylinder inside the pump body had cracked longitudinally. I checked the manual, and found that nowhere did it list the name or contact information for the manufacturer. So I called the wholesaler I’d bought it from. They said they’d send me a replacement cylinder but that they didn’t have any in stock, so it might be a week or so before it shipped. I decided this was something I needed to have a spare for, so while I had them on the phone I gave them a verbal purchase order for another dispenser, this one a 5 to 60 mL unit with a 2,000 mL heavy glass reservoir. That ships today, so I should have it early next week.

The units cost about $200 each, but as I told Barbara last night even if it had turned out that the original unit wasn’t under warranty and couldn’t be repaired, it would still have been worth it. I’d used it to fill a few thousand bottles, at cost of a few cents a bottle. Simply in terms of time saving, that unit had already paid for itself.


11:22 – I just made up two liters of 1.5% methylcellulose, a viscous solution that’s used to slow live protozoa when viewing them under a microscope. Methylcellulose has an interesting property: it’s freely soluble in cold water, but insoluble in hot water.

The first time I ever made up methylcellulose solution, I had that fact firmly in mind, which just goes to show that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I sprinkled the methylcellulose into ice-cold water and ended up with a globby mess. The problem is, the stuff clumps, resulting in little globs with slimy surfaces and dry powder inside the blob. The best way to make up the solution is to sprinkle the methycellulose power gradually and with stirring into very hot water, in which it’s insoluble. You end up with a suspension of the powder, which you then cool in an ice bath. The tiny solid particles in the suspension dissolve as the water cools, and you end up with a nice, even, non-globby solution.


12:00 – This is simply beyond belief. And public schools wonder why they’re losing so many of their best students to homeschooling.

Subject: Fwd: [IP] 16-Year-Old Girl Arrested and Charged With a Felony For Science Project Mistake | Alternet
From: “Dale Dougherty”
Date: Thu, May 2, 2013 11:24 am
To: Online Editors at Make
Robert Bruce Thompson
Brian Jepson

Insane.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: *DAVID J. FARBER*
Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Subject: [IP] 16-Year-Old Girl Arrested and Charged With a Felony For
Science Project Mistake | Alternet
To: ip <ip@listbox.com>

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/16-year-old-girl-arrested-and-charged-felony-science-project-mistake?akid=10386.21554.88KhZl&rd=1&src=newsletter833535&t=3

16-Year-Old Girl Arrested and Charged With a Felony For Science Project Mistake

A Florida teen with an exemplary record is facing federal charges after conducting what a classmate calls “a science project gone bad.”

16-year-old Kiera Wilmot is accused of mixing housing chemicals in a small water bottle at Bartow High School, causing the cap to fly off and produce a bit of smoke. The experiment was conducted outdoors, no property was damaged, and no one was injured.

Not long after Wilmot’s experiment, authorities arrested her and charged her with “possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device,” according to WTSP-TV. The school district proceeded to expel Wilmot for handling the “dangerous weapon,” also known as a water bottle. She will have to complete her high school education through an expulsion program.

Friends and staffers, including the school principal, came to Wilmot’s defense, telling media that authorities arrested an upstanding student who meant no harm.

“She is a good kid,” principal Ron Richard told WTSP-TV. “She has never been in trouble before. Ever.”

“She just wanted to see what happened to those chemicals in the bottle,” a classmate added. “Now, look what happened.”

Polk County Schools stands by its decision to expel Wilmot, asserting in a statement, “there are consequences to actions,” and calling Wilmot’s experiment a “serious breach of conduct.”

h/t Reason


12:44 – I may have been mistaken in my first reaction to the story of the girl charged with a felony. I just got off the phone with Carmen Drahl at Chemical and Engineering News. She told me a bit more, although she’s having a hard time getting solid information because, as she said, “everyone has lawyered-up”. But it’s possible that this girl actually committed a terrorist act. Or it may be that she simply had an experiment go wrong without realizing the dangers of what she was doing. Without knowing her motivation, it’s impossible to say whether she had bad intentions.

Carmen informed me that her experiment involved reacting aluminum with drain cleaner, but we don’t know the details. I suspect the “drain cleaner” was sodium hydroxide (lye). If so, the reaction with aluminum produces hydrogen gas. If the reactants are confined in a soda bottle or other container, the pressure of the hydrogen increases until the container bursts, splatting concentrated lye solution over anyone in the vicinity. Getting concentrated lye solution in the eyes will permanently blind someone in literally five seconds flat, and will also cause severe chemical burns to exposed skin.

Our local paper has reported several incidents in the last few years of someone leaving one of these nasty little devices where someone can find it. They look just like a soda bottle partially filled with water, but if you pick one up that causes the lye solution to contact the aluminum foil. Very quickly, the bottle bursts and sprays lye solution over the unfortunate person who picked up the bottle. Most people think these devices are placed by teenagers as a prank. Some prank. These devices have only one purpose: to kill or seriously injure a person or pet who disturbs them. There is no question in my mind that making and placing one of these devices is a terrorist act.

But again, the key question is the girl’s motivation. She may have just done something stupid, with no intent to harm anyone. Teenagers do stupid things. So do adults. But if this girl intended to harm someone with her experiment, expelling her and prosecuting her for committing a terrorist act is appropriate. My guess, not knowing much about the case, is that she had no intent to harm anyone. But we need a lot more information before we can know for sure.


16:56 – After reading more about the situation from several sources, I’m now convinced that this young woman had no intention of hurting anyone. She’s a straight-A honors student, liked by everyone. She’s never been in any trouble before. Both the students and the teachers and administrators say she’s a good person. She appears to be a victim of the mindless “zero-tolerance” policies that are so popular nowadays. Release the girl, I say.

It sounds to me as though she did this on school grounds because she lives in an apartment and didn’t have anywhere safe to work, pursuing her love of science. That’s a failing on the part of the adults around her, but I’m afraid she’ll end up paying the price for their failures. And, apropos of nothing, Barbara just sent me this:

papierlose-welt

29 thoughts on “Thursday, 2 May 2013”

  1. I remember getting measles as a kid, but it wasn’t as bad as chicken pox or the mumps, which really sucked. Wow, I’d forgotten that the Hare Krishna idiots were still around; haven’t seen any in New England for decades. We have our serious Zen communities here and there, though. And you’ll see Tibetan prayer flags hanging outside the rich libruls’ houses; they have no clue what they’re about. Morons. Still marching in lockstep with Barry Soetero and the Mooch, while the MSM fans hysteria about how HILLARY! has a lock on the 2016 Dem nomination. I say, why not? Why not let that conniving, murderous harpy be in charge WTSHTF?

  2. If I ever donate actual U.S. fiat currency to that bitch’s campaign I’ll forge checks printed up with your name on them, homes.

    Clearly the powers-that-be are merely floating her name now, run it up the pole and see if anyone salutes. Plenty will, esp. the hordes of immigrants heading our way soon, a regular Camp of the Saints.

  3. If I ever donate actual U.S. fiat currency to that *****’s campaign

    I’m fairly sure that she will take Chinese Yuan.

  4. Much the same here in our illegal alien, crimmigrant community, except it might have been diphtheria. Now, if the parents had never received immunizations down in Merry Mexico, why would then have their children immunized up here.

    Amnesty, YES! Immunization, NO!

    Tengan cuidado, amigos!

  5. Ya lo creo, amigo. No es que tengamos muchas personas latinas hasta aquí, que no sean los trabajadores agrícolas migrantes quienes somos casi nunca vemos. Voy a tener que revisar la misa en español en la carretera aquí algún día.

  6. “Vous misez, mon pote. Non pas que nous avons beaucoup de gens Latino ici, autres que les travailleurs agricoles migrants qui nous avons rarement voir jamais. Je vais devoir vérifier la masse espagnol sur la route ici un jour.”

    Just wanted to see what that looked like en Francais; they dump French teachers in the publik skools up here and replace them with Spanish teachers. Front door signs at the Lowe’s store are in English and Spanish. WTF?

  7. The last time I was in the States was August, 2000. As a Canadian, I expect everything here to be labelled in English and French. Occasionally items that have been imported from Europe are multilingual. In Quebec, French has to be facing out, in Ontario it is by chance. On the other hand, I always expected to see only English in American stores. It was during our annual visit to my aunt in Dearborn that my wife and I went a Target store. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a box that was clearly labelled in French. Closer examination revealed that it was in fact trilingual, English, French and Spanish. NAFTA at work I presume.

    I learned more French from reading packaging than I ever learned in school (and I had six years of French.) If I live long enough I might actually now learn some Spanish.

    Anyone who thinks that having two official languages is a good idea is a moron and totally unaware of the real world. There are only two officially bilingual countries and it doesn’t work well in either of them although it works slightly better here. It’s just a dumb idea.

  8. My take on the Wilmot affair.

    When I wrote that this morning, the claim was that she’d used the acidic kind of toilet bowl cleaner. I’ve since seen claims that it was the alkaline kind. I think the alkaline cleaner is more dangerous to humans (ref RBT’s remark about getting it in your eyes, above) but the fact remains that this “incident” smell like over-reacting official bullshit.

  9. ‘Polk County Schools stands by its decision to expel Wilmot, asserting in a statement, “there are consequences to actions,” and calling Wilmot’s experiment a “serious breach of conduct.”’

    Steve, you’ve got a job to do. Get going… 🙂

  10. Anyone who thinks that having two official languages is a good idea is a moron and totally unaware of the real world. There are only two officially bilingual countries and it doesn’t work well in either of them although it works slightly better here. It’s just a dumb idea.

    I have long been an advocate of an “English only” constitutional amendment in the USA. If a business wants to be multilingual then more power to them, it is their dollar.

    Closer examination revealed that it was in fact trilingual, English, French and Spanish. NAFTA at work I presume.

    I saw a package the other day in Wal*Mart that had six languages on it. I could not find the English as they were all in six point type (maybe five point).

  11. RBT, the link to the uploaded WMV doesn’t work. WordPress gives me a “page not found” error.

    Miles_Teg, my first thought was to tell you that I have plenty of deserving targets closer to home, starting with all of the administrators and about half of the teachers in the local public school system. But then it occurred to me that going after a deserving target outside of my neighborhood might be a wiser choice. But then it occurred to me that it would cost several hundred dollars to drive to Florida and back, and I’m broke. (In part because I need to scrounge up money because we’re taking Kid#3 out of the public school system while paying a mortgage and helping Kid#1 and Kid#2 with college. In a down economy.)

  12. “I’m interested in how they published the name and home address of a 16-year-old. Maybe that can be added to the lawsuit.”

    No chit, that should be a cool thing to do. What a bunch of hosebags. These stories are becoming Legion. Good commentary, SteveF; kickass.

    Bilingualism; I guess Noveau Brunswick is the only Canadian province that is officially bilingual, i.e. French and English. It oughta be trilingual, for the Gaelic speakers on the northeast coast, or quadrilingual to include the Mi’q’mac nations.

    There’s an idea; I could one-up or two-up Princess by learning them languages; she ain’t got to ’em yet.

  13. There are only two officially bilingual countries and it doesn’t work well in either of them although it works slightly better here.

    Okay, I’ll bite. What the other officially bilingual country? I may be wrong, but I think Finland is bilingual in Finnish and Swedish but that Swedish is de facto rather than de jure. The only other multilingual country I can think of is Switzerland and IIRC it’s officially trilingual.

  14. When I wrote that this morning, the claim was that she’d used the acidic kind of toilet bowl cleaner. I’ve since seen claims that it was the alkaline kind. I think the alkaline cleaner is more dangerous to humans (ref RBT’s remark about getting it in your eyes, above) but the fact remains that this “incident” smell like over-reacting official bullshit.

    Incidentally, stuff like Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner is typically 9% hydrochloric acid with some blue dye and other inert ingredients. A 9% (~ 3 molar) HCl solution is considerably more concentrated than stomach acid. You really don’t want it in your eyes, but it’s not even remotely as dangerous as even 1 molar NaOH.

  15. RBT, the link to the uploaded WMV doesn’t work. WordPress gives me a “page not found” error.

    Sorry. Barbara sent it to me as a WMV file attachment. I had WordPress insert it into the post and then realized that it had done so as a plain link. I didn’t realize the link was borked. I’d converted the WMV to MP4, but when I tried to upload it WP refused to accept it because it was over the 8 MB upload limit. Because I have a day job, I just bagged it.

  16. “There are only two officially bilingual countries and it doesn’t work well in either of them although it works slightly better here.”

    I’ll bite as well. (Or was it byte?).
    I nominate South Africa: English and Afrikaans which is a derivative of Dutch.

    Hmm. In checking that I discovered that they actually have ELEVEN official languages. Now that is a lifetime of studying just to talk to somebody else in your own country!

  17. I hit SteveF’s link above already knowing what it would be, of course, and because of the security stuff I’ve enabled here, I often bounce off German servers and got the German translation instantly but no video because:

    “This video is not available in your country. Learn more.”

    That’s OK; I seen it before. I do not believe, like Lynn or others, in making English the Official Language of the U.S. For one reason, it’s moot; English will assimilate whatever, whenever, wherever, all things to it and is in no need of any sort of rescue. It is like unto the Borg. Furriners who come here soon realize they’d better fucking learn it ASAP if they wanna make any headway at all; and if they don’t, won’t, or can’t, their children will. For another reason, how would it be enforced? And finally, the U.S. may well break up into however many separate entities at some point, anyway.

  18. That’s OK; I seen it before. I do not believe, like Lynn or others, in making English the Official Language of the U.S. For one reason, it’s moot; English will assimilate whatever, whenever, wherever, all things to it and is in no need of any sort of rescue.

    Oh, English is just fine. My concern is the fact that the USA government forces us here in Fort Bend County, the most diverse county in the USA:
    http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Fort-Bend-County-is-nation-s-most-ethnically-4403675.php
    to have about nine languages on all of our election ballots. Just because we lost the War of Northern Aggression.

    Now the choice of names on the ballot cannot be messed with. However, we usually vote on two to ten state constitution amendments every other year. And I think that you should be only allowed to vote on the English version of the constitutional amendment instead of Tagalog. I have considered filling out the Tagalog version just for grins but have not been brave enough yet.

    And I do not like paying for, in my taxes, interpreters of all sorts at every state, county and city function. You have never lived until you have a wreck with someone who runs a red light and speaks just fine to you in English until the police show up. And then he says, no speak English, and the police send for a interpreter who shows up four hours later. All so the interpreter could say, “not his fault”, and then the police say goodnight without giving him a ticket. And your insurance gets to rebuild your car and your rates go up.

    And you know my favorite English quote, “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. ”
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/James_Nicoll

    It was 90 F here yesterday. I know this because I worked in the 100F garage all day and sweated off 2 lbs of water. The wind is now blowing 40 mph outside and and temperature is now 56 F heading to 45 F tonight. And 40 F tomorrow night. And the pool was up to 80 F and will be crashing down to 70 F or so again.

  19. OFD, I don’t think anyone (except whack-jobs) has ever suggested forbidding people within the US to speak languages other than English. The intent of Official English is to cut down on the multilingual ballots and multilingual government forms and taxpayer-paid interpreters and all the rest. I can’t think of a downside to making people use English whenever they have to interact with the government, or to pay for their own interpreters.

    Lynn, make sure to carry a camera or modern cell phone everywhere you go. You can record Mr No Habla chatting in English and show it to the cop when Mr No Habla forgets how to speak in English. May not accomplish anything, but maybe it will. I’ve recorded a handful of conversations, always to the outrage of the other party when evidence was shown that they changed their story or later lied about the conversation or whatever. In the case of a car accident, you wouldn’t even have to sneak it out; of course you were just taking pictures for the record, and didn’t get around to putting your camera back in your pocket.

  20. The other country is Belgium, Dutch and French. Apparently German is also official which makes it trilingual. Didn’t know about the German. The Dutch and French really really don’t like each other very much. The linguistic tribulations of the Belgians sometimes makes the news here. Probably to make us feel better.

    Draino, a mixture of sodium hydroxide and aluminum metal is available everywhere. I fondly remember going to the drugstore and buying flowers of sulphur, powdered charcoal and saltpetre. The druggist just told us to be careful. This was in the mid 50s. I wonder how many year’s incarceration I would get now?

  21. It was 90 F here yesterday. I know this because I worked in the 100F garage all day and sweated off 2 lbs of water. The wind is now blowing 40 mph outside and and temperature is now 56 F heading to 45 F tonight

    Living in North Texas for 14 years, it seemed to me that the wind was always blowing, unless it was over 95 F. Then? Not a breath of wind.

    And the time I spent visiting Houston (Katy) and McAllen never showed me how a billion people could call southern Texas home.

  22. Just back from a lovely (but too short) week in Spain. Really pleasant place and people – but I really need to relearn my Spanish before we go back. If you can’t talk to people in their native language (beyond “hello”, “goodbye” and “what does this cost”), you really cannot get inside of the culture.

    On the subject of languages, I understand what Rolf is saying. I never took Spanish seriously in school, and as a result I never really learned the language. Really, you’ve got to use a language – book learning supports that, but actually being immersed is the only way to go.

    However, contrary to what Rolf says, there aren’t just two multilingual countries, there are dozens. In the US, I think Spanish is resented primarily because it is coming into the country on a wave of illegal immigration. If there were smaller numbers of immigrants, all of whom were in the country legally, there would be no problem.

    Here in Switzerland, the languages co-exist pretty peacefully. German speakers rarely speak French or Italian, French speakers rarely speak Italian, but everybody gets along with only minor friction. Even in Spain, there are four official languages, even if Spanish is massively dominant. While they do have certain political problems with the Basques, recognizing the Basque language is almost certainly more of a help than a hindrance.

  23. India has 219,031 official languages, IIRC including English. In one state Sanskrit (may peace and blessings be upon it) is official or co-official.

  24. There is (or was, yesterday; I can’t find it today but that’s probably just because I’m using different search terms) a Wikipedia page listing all officially bilingual nations. There were only two: Canada and Finland. It’s a good guess that Rolf was going by that.

    However, that is seemingly contradicted by information in the page Brad linked. The very first nation in the list, Cameroon, has English and French as official languages. Possibly there’s some technical difference between a nation having two official languages and a nation being officially bilingual, but it seems more likely that incorrect information has found its way into Wikipedia.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cry. One of the foundations of my worldview has been shattered.

  25. I was thinking of bilingual countries specifically. I know about the multilingual countries. Belgium is cited when English/French relations here get especially factious. This is why I thought Belgium was bilingual. As it happens, I am wrong, it is trilingual.

    Officially bilingual means that ALL federal government services are available in both languages. All federal laws must be published in both English and French. The accused has a right to a trial in their choice of English or French. The courts have extended this the provincial level. The situation at the provincial level is mixed. The only official bilingual province is New Brunswick. Ontario is officially unilingual but all government services are available in English and French. Quebec is unilingual and goes further by making the use of English, in any official capacity, illegal except in federal departments/offices. They get away with this by invoking the “not withstanding” provisions of the constitution. Bill 101, Quebec’s language law, is the only invocation, to date, of this provision. In all the other provinces, government publications are published in both languages but services are only provided in French where numbers warrant it. Manitoba has a significant French speaking population.

    Bilingualism sucks!

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