Monday, 11 November 2013

09:25 – I periodically get emails like this one:

can u give me a step by step giude to produce MDMA and what for equipment i do need? i got acces to the chemicals, but now idea how to handle it^^ thx

I confess that I’m always tempted to reply something like: “To begin, bring four liters of diethyl ether to a boil over a gas burner …” I would, too, except I’m afraid these morons would be stupid enough to do it in an apartment building full of innocent people. Given a reasonable set of precursors, MDMA is not a particularly difficult synthesis, if you know what you’re doing. But, even ignoring the legal and ethical issues, I suspect most of the chemists I know would hesitate to attempt it, at least on the scale that these morons are thinking about. Synthesizing 500 milligrams or 5 grams of something is one thing; scaling that up to 500 grams or 5 kilograms or 500 kilograms is a whole other ball of wax. There are professionals who have doctorates in these scaling-up processes. They’re called chemical engineers. And, as any competent chemist knows, a reaction that’s well-behaved every time in a 100 mL flask may go disastrously wrong if it’s scaled up by two or three orders of magnitude.

Barbara and I finished watching series 3 of Downton Abbey last night on Amazon Prime streaming. Nine episodes in HD without a glitch, which was a pleasant change from Netflix streaming. On Netflix, I don’t think we’ve been able to watch a full episode of anything in HD for at least a year. When we load an episode, the Roku box shows one to four balls as it buffers, with two balls being about VHS quality and four being about DVD quality. If HD is available and the bandwidth is available to support it, the “HD” icon displays next to the fourth ball. Most of the stuff we watch is supposed to be available in HD, and we sometimes start out with an HD feed. But almost invariably the feed stops while the Roku re-buffers and shifts down to three or two balls. Over the course of a typical evening, that might happen anything from once or twice to several times. It hasn’t yet happened with Amazon.

10:28 – 3D-printed fossils & rocks could transform geology

This is just one example of an application of a new technology that will eventually make a huge difference. Right now, Professor Hasiuk has to use a $170,000 3D printer in another department to get the resolution he needs, but before long that $170,000 printer will be a $17,000 printer, and not much longer after that it’ll be a $1,700 printer. I foresee a day when mass manufacturing will be done in factories full of huge, fast 3D printers. Factories will no longer be dedicated to one product or type of product. They’ll be able to run 24 hours a day, shifting each printer as necessary from one product to a completely different product, simply by loading a new template for each change and loading a bin of the necessary raw material. On a related note, I see that a company in Texas has produced a perfectly good steel Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol. I suspect with the raw materials and amortized equipment costs, that pistol probably cost them $10,000 or $100,000 to produce, but just wait a few years and people will be turning them out on home 3D printers.