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.

25 thoughts on “Monday, 11 November 2013”

  1. 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.

    You can also try the 4chan solution to problem users…

    Grow Crystals – Really Cool!
    Combine equale parts bleach and ammonia in a glass container. Drop in a copper penny and watch the crystals grow before your eyes!

    Warning: In case you missed the tone. Don’t actually do this!

  2. As Paul Jones points out, there’s a great deal of natural selection among meth cookers. They come in two varieties: the competent and the dead. Other than the obvious issues, Paul said he’d hire one of the competent ones in a heartbeat to be his lab assistant. By definition, someone who is experienced in producing large batches of meth has really top-notch lab skills. Otherwise he’d have poisoned himself or blown himself up.

  3. Regarding the MDMA respondent (who should really be in MMA):

    It’s a classic example of one not knowing what one does not knowing. Or, the more stupid they are, the more they underestimate their domain of non-knowledge.

  4. Amazon to Begin Sunday Deliveries, With Post Office’s Help

    http://goo.gl/VmBjwF

    From the article… “Amazon doesn’t disclose its Prime membership rolls, though it said this month that those customers buy twice as many goods as customers opting for free shipping. Analysts estimate the company has more than 10 million Prime users.”

  5. Yeah, I’ve already made three or four orders since I signed up for Prime last week. I’m going to try to combine future orders so as not to abuse Amazon.

  6. Does he actually imagine that you might answer? I mean, aside from the legality, why would you? He didn’t even offer to send you a share.

  7. Who knows what these morons are thinking? I get about equal numbers of messages from those who want to make drugs, usually methamphetamine, and those who want to make explosives.

    I’ve often thought about giving them instrutions that would lead to their deaths, but as I said I don’t want to be responsible for killing innocent bystanders. So I just ignore them. Let them find it on the Internet. Of course, although there are valid syntheses available on-line, a pretty high percentage of them are likely to kill the person using them.

    Of course that’s been true for a long time. I remember reading a book back in the early 70’s. I think it was the Anarchist Cookbook. One of the projects involved making a rifle-grenade Molotov cocktail. You were supposed to make a standard Molotov cocktail and affix it to a broomstick. You then loaded a shotgun with a shell from which you’d removed the pellets, slid the broomstick down the barrel, braced the butt on the ground, lit the Molotov cocktail, and pulled the trigger. When I read that, I started giggling (which is not a pretty sight). The girl I was with asked me what was so funny. I showed her the chapter, and she didn’t see what was funny until I explained it: anyone who followed these directions would, after pulling the trigger, find himself shredded by flying metal shrapnel from the shotgun immediately before he was immersed in burning gasoline.

  8. The idea of universal 3D printers was one of the themes of Neal Stephenson’s 1995 book “The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer”. Like may of Stephenson’s books, it has some interesting technological extrapolations with a muddled ending. One of the central characters was known for inventing chopsticks that displayed changing ads while being used. Everybody in the society in the book has unlimited access to 3D printers which can synthesize anything. Very basic items are free. The cost of fancy items is for the intellectual property, not the synthesis.

    Rick in Portland

  9. I will be a fan of 3D printers when I can make food on one, just like in the Star Trek tv show.

    The latest “Greys Anatomy” is using a 3D printer to grow body parts.

  10. BTW, you may like the “The Fosters” which is a story about two moms raising a family of five kids (1 natural, 4 foster) in San Diego (emphasis on may, I liked it but the wife does not due to the lesbianism):
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EDXP3IO/

    I can’t figure how to tell if something is part of the Amazon Prime yet. I do see that Amazon charges $1 more for HD episodes of series.

  11. “Who knows what these morons are thinking? I get about equal numbers of messages from those who want to make drugs, usually methamphetamine, and those who want to make explosives.”

    Only morons make meth at home nowadays. The majority of meth is made my Mexican drug cartels in refurbished former tequila distilleries. The raw materials come from China in refurbished former crude oil tankers.

    Unfortunately, our bureaucrats are behind on this I will forever have to show my driver’s license when purchasing Sudafed at the pharmacy.

  12. One of the projects involved making a rifle-grenade Molotov cocktail.

    The Russians and British built versions of this in WWII. Here is the British version:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northover_Projector

    I can’t find pictures of the Russian one, but it’s probably smaller and lighter.

    The Anarchist’s Cookbook is famous for having untried, suboptimal, and dangerous designs in it.

  13. One of the earliest examinations of the consequences of “replicators” is the George O. Smith’s “Venus Equilateral”. All but one were written during WW 2, so they feature vacuum tubes. Big ones. Some very funny stories, and some serious one. Sort of E.E. Smith (super-science) meets Dilbert.

    Alas, they don’t seem to be in print right now.

  14. BTW, you may like the “The Fosters” which is a story about two moms raising a family of five kids (1 natural, 4 foster) in San Diego (emphasis on may, I liked it but the wife does not due to the lesbianism):
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EDXP3IO/

    Yeah, I’ve had that one in my Netflix queue for a while. It can’t be any more Lesbian than The L-Word. We watched the first season or two of that on on Netflix streaming. It was pretty decent for part of the first season, and then rapidly went downhill. At first, the plots, character development, etc. were really good and the Lesbian aspect was simply background. These were stories about people who just happened to be Lesbians. Unfortunately, it quickly turned into all-Lesbian-all-the-time, and the plotting, writing, etc. just tanked.

    I can’t figure how to tell if something is part of the Amazon Prime yet. I do see that Amazon charges $1 more for HD episodes of series.

    Compare the page you linked to with this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006Z49FR4/ref=wtls_list_pr_2?ie=UTF8&redirect=true

    Over in the right box, you’ll see not just Amazon Instant Video at the top of the box but Prime Instant Video with a green button.

  15. “…our bureaucrats are behind on this I will forever have to show my driver’s license when purchasing Sudafed at the pharmacy.”

    Government regulations, as well as taxes, always increase. Has anyone ever run across a provable, documented case of a government actually abolishing a meaningful number of regulations? Or of any sort of reduction in taxes and fees that wasn’t immediately offset by a larger increase elsewhere?

    I’ve gotten to the point that I almost automatically vote against anything that will increase either regulation or taxation, even if I agree with the underlying principle.

    Just as an example: Instead of having toll roads, we pay an annual fee to the federal government, in return we get a sticker that allows us to drive on all highways, use all tunnels and bridges, etc. The fee is CHF 40/year. The federal government recently proposed raising the fee to CHF 100/year, in return for which they would take over responsibility for lots of local roads that have become – de facto – part of the national network.

    In principle, this is the right thing to do. However, this will save the cantons piles of money, since they will no longer be maintaining all of those roads. Reducing local taxes and expenditures? Funny, there was no mention of that. So I voted against the proposal.

  16. “These were stories about people who just happened to be Lesbians. Unfortunately, it quickly turned into all-Lesbian-all-the-time.”

    Gee, what a surprise. More ammo for my give-em-an-inch-they-take-a-mile theory. Another bit of ammo; when the Cosby Show first went on the air, it was a pretty funny sitcom of a middle-class black American family (with the near-miraculous parents both highly-paid professionals), but then started in with the relentless politicizing and ideology every chance they got, and one of the consulting producers was a well-known racial theorist and academic.

    Any modern-era tee-vee show with a possible hint of a hot-button social issue that can be fished out of it somehow and soon enough it rears its serpentine head. The bastards have been preaching at us for almost as long as tee-vee has been on the air, always with the lefty and progressive slants.

  17. “The Fosters” was fairly innocuous about the lesbianism until last two episodes where one of the ladies had a confrontation with her father about his inability to accept her for what she was. And then the final episode had them getting married. And her ex-husband keeps hanging around, ostensibly for their 17 year old son.

  18. always with the lefty and progressive slants.

    There’s been the self-reinforcing attitudes and behaviour in Hollywood and NYC for decades; since before I was watching any media, at any rate. It doesn’t have to be that way these days. For one thing, Amazon is making TV series of its own, with unprecedented gathering of audience feedback. Anyone with Amazon Prime can watch them for free and give strong positive feedback to the ones which avoid “progressive” cant.

    For another thing, it’s cheaper than ever before to create and distribute a video. If you had the first clue what you were doing, you could get a few tens of thousands of dollars of funding and make a pilot episode with professional-grade writing and editing and acceptable acting, then distribute over the internet with ad-based revenue. Even though I know jack about movie making, I know that some people have done just that, running profitably enough to keep doing it. (Chuck can probably not only give up-to-date suggestions about editing software but give the names of some of the success stories; I just remember reading about it a while ago.)

  19. Back in the misspent days of my youth, a grad student working with diethyl ether grabbed the 110v AC transformer, rather than the 12v DC transformer. The TA for my chemistry class said the building shook, but there were no injuries more serious than flash burns. The big city FD that responded finally found the correct building (they were looking for the ‘Jones Building’ rather than the ‘Chemistry Building’) and started their conventional, attach the hoses to the hydrants maneuvers when the prof in charge of the labs came running out and yelled at them to keep their water out of his building, lest they cause more harm.

    I can also remember the news reports, probably 15 – 20 years ago (I’m too lazy to look it up) when two PhD students at Georgia Tech got arrested for making phencyclidine. The prosecutor sent a report back the DEA’s lab, saying ‘You can’t make PCP that pure.’, to which the DEA responded ‘You can now.’ I doubt that the students got their degrees, but they certainly did the original work. The really funny part was that they were making the drug using Tech’s labs and chemicals. I’m sure every professor there went back over every purchase order they’d signed in the last few years.

  20. Oh, there is no question making TV is cheap these days. And possible. The first color cameras, made by Philips (using the name Norelco in America, due to trademark problems with Philips) took 2 people to lift it on and off the pedestal—PC70 cameras not being lightweight enough to put on simple tripods as were black & white cameras.

    http://www.cbsretirees.com/Page_12/Johns-PC70.jpg

    I have a pocket HD video camera, the Kodak Zi8 (competitor to the Flip—both out of production) that is exactly the same size as my 5th gen iPod, which not only makes better pictures in HD than the Norelco PC-70 did, but also records not only the video, but AAC+ audio, which likely exceeds the quality we could record back in the PC-70 days (the mic in the picture is the author’s add-on).

    http://figitalrevolution.com/2009/08/15/kodak-zi8-review-introduction/

    The problem is the same as that outlined by Grant Tinker, who married Mary Tyler Moore and headed her MTM Productions in the days when it produced the very top-rated shows on television. After splitting with Moore, he then was appointed head of NBC in 1981 and asked by a reporter if audiences could expect all the programs on NBC to be as good as those coming from MTM. His reply: There are not enough talented people in the world to produce that many excellent programs.

    And therein lies the reason a reduction in cost and size alone will not result in waves of new, excellent, consumer-created video product. Yeah, a star or two may emerge, but not so many they will knock our sox off.

    It is a Catch 22 to make your own stuff. Even though my little Zi8 is good, it is still not good enough to create TV shows. Unless you have a $20 grand laying around for each camera, best to rent them for shooting. In addition to the camera, you need lighting, sound equipment, and sets. You can get into the editing business for around $10k per workstation, using Mac with Final Cut Pro for video and Pro Tools for audio. That makes good investment sense, because then you can work on your own timetable during the editing process.

    As far as shooting reality stuff instead of building sets goes—that was once where the networks headed, precisely because they did not have to have writers, build sets, hire actors, and all that expensive stuff. They just invaded Ozzie Ozbourne’s house for a few days every month, shot 24/7, and took it back to editing to create a show. (I am a big fan of Sharon Osbourne, who—like Lucille Ball,—has at least as much on the ball as her husband.)

    Problem is, ratings are not doing well for reality shows anymore; people are getting tired of them. So nowadays, it is back to writers, scripts, sets, actors, renting studios, and all that stuff that makes fictional shows more expensive, interesting,—and successful—than reality in the long run.

    Yeah, Trent Reznor cranked out Nine Inch Nails hits from a studio he built at home, after working at one in Cleveland, but is his stuff good?

    You won’t see me spending money on it.

  21. And then, even the pro’s have flops. I have been discussing Coppola’s “The Conversation”, made shortly after “The Godfather” with a movie afficianado. It is a pretty abysmal movie. The lead character who exhibits mental problems, is not likeable, in the way DeNiro is in “Taxi Driver” for instance. Lots of the movie is boring and confusing, with the lead, Gene Hackman, riding around in busses or walking to and from places that are not identified, nor are they relevant to the viewer. There is a bathroom scare scene that is way too much like “Psycho”—even with similar music.

    Actually, I am told that the script is far different than the movie, but the movie is nearly 2 hours already, and stuff that was cut would have made it even longer.

    And I’m sorry, Hackman was made up to look even more homely than he already is, and that made the love scene—where a hired temptress steals some stuff from him—seem even more improbable, while every viewer is thinking: this is a set-up! And it was.

    If you are a frustrated writer, “The Conversation” is a good movie to analyze what you would do to make it more palatable. My discussion companion and I made a list, and here are some of my changes.

    Hackman plays a private eye who is expert at wiretapping and sound surveillance. Robert Duvall plays The Company Director, who hires Hackman to spy on his wife. Duvall’s character has near zero screen time. I say change the roles of Hackman and Duvall and make the role of The Company Director a major part of the story. The PI records a conversation which all of us would take to mean that the young wife is cheating on The Director, and he is angry enough to kill her. It appears that the reason The Director wants the conversation recorded, is to find out where the next rendezvous is, so that he can kill them both. That interpretation of the conversation is wrong.

    The first 15 minutes of the film are boring beyond belief, as Hackman and his working colleagues try to record the conversation of the wife and her young consort from a van parked beside a busy downtown park. I would have added tension to that scene by having a cop trying to make them move the truck, while the guys inside go crazy with that pressure in the attempt to record the couple’s conversation.

    Hackman has a girlfriend (a young Teri Garr). He is clearly twice her age. After their meeting, she tells him she is leaving the relationship. Now throughout the movie, we hear from everyone that the Hackman character is the best PI in the USA and even ratted out a case of political embezzlement. But after Garr’s character moves house, this best PI in America cannot locate her. With Duvall playing Hackman’s role, I would have had a series of situations where Duvall has girlfriends chasing him, but he just cannot hold onto them.

    Just some ideas. Watch the movie and see what you can come up with.

  22. Chuck, I understand all of your points and agree with most, but have a different goal in mind: I’m not thinking about excellent programs, all produced to the highest standards. I’m thinking about good enough programs, good enough to catch an audience big enough to pay back the initial cost and make it profitable enough to keep doing and/or to attract investors. I, myself, don’t watch TV and hardly any movies mostly because I don’t have the time* but even aside from working so much I’m turned off by the anathemical preaching. Anecdotally, I’m pretty sure there’s a decent-sized audience for entertainment that doesn’t hew to the received wisdom of the lefty producers. I suspect they’d be willing to put up with off-timing acting and youtube-quality resolution, just to see something that didn’t go out of its way to offend them. At least at first, and that would be enough to start the money.

    * Yes, I’m using some of my limited free time in writing comments on RBT’s blog rather than on the book I really should be working on. I never claimed not to be a dumbass.

  23. Yeah, but just making the videos does not mean the audiences—or money—will come. Trent Reznor spends considerable time marketing the Nine Inch Nail songs (he IS all of NIN in the recording studio, putting a band together just for the times he goes on the road). There is much more to recovering one’s money than just producing the video (or recording the song).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njuo1puB1lg

    BTW, I am much too cynical to believe the guy in that video knows for sure what the future of the music industry is going to be, any more than someone in video could claim they know what the future of TV is. More power to him, if he can make people believe that, but I don’t, because I know his spoutings on that score are not true. What he is chronicling is what a guy named Trent Reznor has done, that seems to be working for Trent. Saying that is the only way of the future is a pretty good stretch, when others are not jumping on that bandwagon—and even Trent has gone back to producing for the record companies.

    But my main point is that it takes more than a somebody making a video to get it seen by lots of people. Just as an example—at the place where we had the most people making programs, there were also whole departments of people who raised money to fund the making of those programs, checked out the legalities of everything the program makers wanted to do, determined when the program would be on our own station, sold the program to other stations and the network, figured out how to promote the program (/video) in all the venues it was sold in, collected the revenues and dished out royalties to those it was necessary to pay. And there was an accounting department that tracked our every expense.

    As a child, my mom used to go see Shirley Temple and the Our Gang films. One of the characters in those films would get the idea, “Hey, let’s put on a play.” And magically, all the kids in the neighborhood made it happen. My mom and her childhood friends thought they could do the same thing. But they just ended up reciting some lines in somebody’s backyard, with cardboard boxes for sets, and it was deadly compared to what those kids in the films did.

    Your competition is the best that people are exposed to. I think that generally, people here watch FAR more video than the general populace. But what they—and anybody with a TV—watch are products of BBC, CBC, and Hollywood. ‘Good enough’ is not going to be enough to raise an audience of significant size or get a revenue stream started, IMO. The video and TV business is expensive and tough. It is not going to be cracked by people working in a garage.

    Getting political agendas out of shows is impossible, IMO. Even Orson Welles had a motive in creating Citizen Kane. So did Charlie Chaplin and Charles Dickens. The makers and those funding them, have always, and will always, see to it that their views get incorporated into stories, books, and films.

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