Tuesday, 17 June 2014

08:18 – One day down, four to go until Barbara returns home. Colin behaved pretty well yesterday, but last night was horrible. On average, every 45 minutes or so he’d jump down off the bed and go roaring down the hall to the front door, barking his head off. I’d just about get back to sleep when he’d do it again.

It’s not yet summer, but things are warming up around here. Our highs for the next week are to be around 95F (35C), with lows in the low 70’s (~ 22C). Thunderstorms are in prospect just about every day.

This morning I need to make up three liters each of Barfoed’s, Benedict’s, and biuret reagents, and 12.5 liters of Fertilizer concentrate A. Once I get those bottles filled, we’ll have all the chemicals we need to make up another 30 biology kits, and most of what we need for 60 or 70 more beyond that. And then I can get to work on making up chemicals for another batch of forensic kits.


15:57 – I just got email from Netflix saying that they’ve (finally) added season five of Heartland. Now they’re only two seasons behind. Speaking of Heartland, I’m now just over halfway through season two. With three evenings left until Barbara returns, I should get through season two and well into season three. I was considering the wild-women-and-parties thing last night, but Colin preferred to watch Heartland re-runs. He really likes hearing Amy say, “Good boy!” He thinks she’s calling him a good boy.

I now have all the chemicals made up for more biology kits. Tomorrow I’ll start on the ones I need for forensic science kits, which we’re getting low on. That includes one of my least favorite chemicals, black fingerprint powder. Our fingerprint powders use a proprietary formulation, but the white powder is a mixture of titanium dioxide, calcium carbonate, and cornstarch, while the black powder is a mixture of lampblack and graphite. The problem with the black powder is that it gets on everything and produces black smudges that are difficult to remove. I’ll fill unlabeled containers with the black powder, seal them, and then wash them to remove any remaining powder before we label them. Even doing that, we may end up with some black smudges on labels.

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58 Responses to Tuesday, 17 June 2014

  1. Chad says:

    Is there a good field guide (something somewhat rugged that can handle being read outdoors in inclement weather with dirty hands) that would show someone basic survival skills like making fires; finding water when it’s scarce; basic first aid; how to snare, clean, and cook an animal; how to fashion a fishing pole; plant edibility test; etc?

  2. MrAtoz says:

    The SAS Survival Guide has always been highly recommended. YMMV on durability of all these books in the field.

    http://www.amazon.com/SAS-Survival-Guide-Collins-Gem/dp/0061992860

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    There are various army field manuals that do a pretty good job.

  4. Miles_Teg says:

    Tell Colin that you know a BC in Adelaide who sleeps in a kennel in the back yard all year round, and is allowed inside the house only as a treat.

    Tell him that if that can happen to a fairly well behaved BC in Oz that it could very easily happen to a badly behaved BC in the suburbs of Winston-Salem who every 45 minutes or so jumps down off the bed and goes roaring down the hall to the front door, barking his head off.

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I hesitate to yell at Colin because he is and always has been timid. He’s afraid of some very odd things. When Barbara and I were watching Friday Night Lights (a series about high school football) we noticed that Colin would leave and go back to bed. It took us a while to figure out that he was afraid of the coach’s whistle. Then, the other night, we were watching something that had some birds chirping loudly. Colin jumped down off the sofa and headed for the bedroom, where we found him in his crate.

  6. jim` says:

    If you can still find them, the Firefox manuals are a great bare-bones survival guides. Good luck Googling them, because the browser now has the name.

    ChuckW, this is for you. I remember you bitching about some eye ointment a few years ago:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSNXKHXj2dI

  7. OFD says:

    There also decks of plastic-coated survival cards; I’ve got one here somewhere. Should hold up pretty well in the field if you take them outta the cardboard package and use something like an Altoids tin.

    Sunny w/blue skies here today; off shortly to the VA and keeping an eye out for DHS goons loitering outside the doors with M-4’s and any mail arriving from the HQ in Mordor about listing my owned firearms, etc.

  8. Ray Thompson says:

    With the recent comments about SSD drives and possible failures I submit this.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/06/consumer-grade-ssds-actually-last-a-hell-of-a-long-time/

  9. Lynn McGuire says:

    Just call me … ratkiller.

    Got home from Carrollton last night and the wife found a disturbance in the pantry. Pulled out the fridge and yup, we had another rat. Put down glue boards (4″x8″) and about 1230am the wife said, “I hear a weird noise behind the fridge”. Pulled the fridge out again and there he/she was in all their glory. Beat it to death with a broom and disposed of.

  10. Lynn McGuire says:

    “Rocket Packs”
    http://xkcd.com/1382/

  11. Lynn McGuire says:

    With the recent comments about SSD drives and possible failures I submit this.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/06/consumer-grade-ssds-actually-last-a-hell-of-a-long-time/

    Thanks, liked that article!

  12. MrAtoz says:

    Sec. Lurch and Bill Nye having an “Ocean Talk” on Twitter. Numbnuts Nye tweets “any climate change issues in Iraq/Iran”. You can’t make this up. How did we end up with a dumbshit like Lurch as SoS? That’s what his concern is “climate change is an issue of national security.” Judas freaking priest! The dumb is strong in that one. Some one tweeted if Lurch could sail his yacht over to Iraq to pick up Americans. lol

  13. Miles_Teg says:

    Well, the SSD drives I bought were in 2010 when they were comparatively new. A knowledgeable friend swore by them so I took the plunge. Turns out that the motherboards weren’t quite ready and they didn’t last long. My attitude to technology that lets me down is born from my experience with Western Digital drives: they let me and friends down in the early 2000s so I swore never again, and bought Seagate almost exclusively. Now Seagate’s reputation has gone down the tubes and WD is supposed to be okay.

    I’ll spec out a new computer in the next month and give a smallish (max 150-200 GB) SSD a try, but I don’t want to spend too much on it, as even when my previous SSDs were working I didn’t notice the fabulous performance improvements claimed for them.

  14. Ray Thompson says:

    I’ll spec out a new computer in the next month and give a smallish (max 150-200 GB) SSD a try

    You will never go back to spinning discs for a boot drive. I have a Netbook computer from HP that I won as a door prize. It took almost 90 seconds to boot using the spinning drive. I replace the spinning drive with an SSD and the machine boots in 15 seconds. The computer is now quite usable and I have used it on many photo shoots to do some minimal Photoshop work. Prior to the SSD the machine was almost worthless for such tasks.

    Make the SSD your OS and boot drive. Install your software on that boot drive. Keep your data files on the spinning platter.

  15. Miles_Teg says:

    “Make the SSD your OS and boot drive. Install your software on that boot drive. Keep your data files on the spinning platter.”

    That’s what I intend, but I won’t be getting a gargantuan SSD; just enough for the OS, some data and a 20% margin.

    I know everybody says they’re vastly faster, but I simply haven’t noticed that, especially when I was playing the MMORPG City of Heroes: my SSD based computers and platter based ones seemed to have similar boot times and the game didn’t seem faster on the SSD systems.

  16. Ray Thompson says:

    but I won’t be getting a gargantuan SSD

    Consider the following. The prices are really good. Crucial is a good product.

    http://promotions.newegg.com/crucial/14-2832/index.html?cm_mmc=SNC-Facebook-_-SS-_-mx100-_-NA

  17. MrAtoz says:

    This article on America’s Standing Army says everything we’ve been talking about here:

    If the United States is a police state, then the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its national police force, with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies. In fact, although the DHS’ governmental bureaucracy may at times appear to be inept and bungling, it is ruthlessly efficient when it comes to building what the Founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

  18. ech says:

    On SSDs: also move the paging file to the hard drive. Does save some wear and tear on the SSD.

    We love our SSDs. We have the OS and selected games on them and the rest over on the hard drives.

  19. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I wonder if Pournelle has changed his mind. Right after DHS was created back in late 2002, I posted about it on my page, suggesting it be named the Heimatsicherheitshauptamt (HSHA). I further suggested that the uniform should be black with silver piping, that instead of laminated credentials HSHA should issue stamped metal identity disks, and that Tom Ridge should be promoted to Oberstgruppenführer. Jerry said I was blowing things way out of proportion, and that people would think I was being ridiculous. I wonder if he’s changed his thinking.

  20. JLP says:

    A couple months back the DHS had reserved half the pistol range where I shoot. It looked like they were doing qualifications; a certain number of shots timed from different positions. Two things I noticed 1) I was shooting better than the agents and 2) the target they were using was a drawing of a portly white guy. I was a tad offended since I slightly resembled the target.

  21. OFD says:

    “…I wonder if he’s changed his thinking.

    Why not ask him?”

    I saw that same article earlier today, either from Drudge or the Lew Rockwell site, I forget; hey, it’s only been a few hours! Twenty years from now I’ll remember it in detail. Like stuff twenty years ago.

    Or fifty years ago. Just not five seconds ago.

    I mentioned the DHS and their goons standing around outside some other VA hospital today during my appointment and told them if saw them up here I’d surely be inquiring as to their military combat service, if any, and telling them to shove the fuck off. They seemed OK with that.

    If they hadn’t been OK with that I’d have had to kill them all, of course.

  22. OFD says:

    Say, is it just me or is the innernet *wicked slow* for the past few days?? It’s almost as bad lately as the old dial-up days with AO-Hell.

  23. OFD says:

    So they’re gonna dump the Warthogs now, which, speaking only militarily, would be mighty useful in Iraq again, and buy up half a trillion worth of the F-35s, which I guess we’ll be using against hostile space aliens since there is no one on the planet right now that justifies this expense and these systems:

    “The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition effort, estimated to cost a total of about $400 billion for 2,457 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

    http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/06/11/house-appropriators-add-more-f-35s-for-2015/

  24. SteveF says:

    Only $160M each? A bargain at twice the price!

  25. Lynn McGuire says:

    We ought to give the A-10s to Israel rather than park them in the desert.

  26. OFD says:

    They’ll undoubtedly be parked in the desert alongside countless other former mil-spec aircraft, armor, etc. until they just rust away in the sun. Trillions of our tax dollars, for what???

    And Israel can go piss up a rope; I’m heartily sick unto death of my tax money going by the billions every year simultaneously to Israel and Egypt for decades, and continuing with the former in the arms shipment shell game that brings the money back here to certain pockets.

    It truly is amazing that such tiny minorities of people in this country can dictate our foreign/military and domestic policies, year after year, and we all just sit still for it, endlessly handing over our money at virtual gunpoint.

    I agree with the libertarians on taxes; it is outright theft. And the State is indeed a gang of thieves writ large.

  27. MrAtoz says:

    So they’re gonna dump the Warthogs now

    Can I have a couple?

  28. Lynn McGuire says:

    Having spent some 12 hours in a nursing home over the weekend, I could see where a fair amount of Medicare, Medicaid and VA spending is going. Old men and old ladies, about half with their mental faculties somewhat functional. There was at least one person constantly yelling “Help, help, I need to pee” not realizing that they are in a diaper.

    And with the 65 and older crowd being the fastest growing segment of the USA society, this does not bode well for controlling these expenses. And this was not a lockdown facility for Sundowners and Alzheimers. Those are nightmares and horribly expensive with full lockdown facilities. This place is around $3,000 per person per month. It is my understanding that the Alzhemier and Sundowner places start at $6,000 per month.

    The staffing expense has got to be a killer. Over the weekend there was at least 15 people working there plus several more behind the scenes. Monday, I saw at least 20 people working there and I suspect that there were several more hidden away. This was a facility with 125 beds that is getting ready to double in size.

  29. OFD says:

    We’ll probably start getting defined as “useless mouths,” and disposed of accordingly. As water, food and oil/gas prices skyrocket and shortages start kicking in.

    This gigantic rotten enchilada is simply not sustainable much longer.

  30. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Can I have a couple?

    Oooh, me too, me too! With one of those I could finally nail Santa. Even Rudolph would be no match for that 30mm Gatling gun.

  31. SteveF says:

    RBT, a question about mundane, repetitive chemistry lab experiments: Some time ago, probably over two years, you said something to the effect that you were thinking of using some of your copious free time to mix up a series of solutions in varying concentrations and test their characteristics. You mentioned that this was some of the basic stuff of chemistry research and that you expected a smooth progression of whatever you were measuring as the concentration went up, but that surprises were always possible.

    So, the question: why would you plan to use a valuable human’s time for this? I can understand having students do the study as part of their learning to be chemists, but beyond that, why not have computer-controlled equipment run the series of tests and report the findings? Let humans study any anomalies.

    Now, I’m not sure that such equipment exists. I did a quick web search for “automated chemistry lab equipment” and got lots of hits, but most of what I found seemed to be oriented toward checking the same things on a bunch of samples you put into the hopper. I don’t know enough of the industry terms to refine my searches any better, nor even to properly understand the product descriptions I read.)

    Does the equipment exist to programmatically mix up solutions from stuff put in the hoppers, shake or heat or whatever, and then measure? If not, why not? It seems that it shouldn’t be too hard to lash something up with an Arduino and a handful of sensors and actuators; presumably a real company could make one that wasn’t a lash-up.

    (NB: in theory I could ask Son#1, the ChemE major. He should at least know if they exist. He might even be working with some, in his summer internship with 3M. However, he tends to not return phone messages or reply to email unless he needs something. Yes, he’s building up quite the tally of kicks in the ass to be delivered, but that’s a whole ’nother matter.)

  32. OFD says:

    Damn kids.

    Same deal here with ours. Phone mss. and emails go by the boards. Unless they all of a sudden need something.

    I now have RHEL 7 on the previous 6.5 machine and it is registered with RH but RH sees no subscription for updates. Ran all the usual gobbledegook and got nowhere so I opened a case, ending with the question, do I gotta pay for a new sub now that I upgraded???

    Otherwise it’s looking pretty sweet; minimal server is the default but I set it up as a virtualization host; all running on an SSD, about 250 GB with 16 GB of RAM and it boots up in seconds.

    Meanwhile I apparently have to reboot this Windows 8.1 Pro machine anytime I wanna watch videos on it; not the case before with just 8.1 or 8.0. Innernet searches reveal that others have the same deal and we’ve all tried the usual schticks and end result seems to be a reboot. So far. That is just plain beyond negligence on someone’s part at M$. What is 8.1 Pro doing to screw up videos? Where a full reboot fixes it?

  33. Miles_Teg says:

    Lynn wrote:

    “There was at least one person constantly yelling “Help, help, I need to pee” not realizing that they are in a diaper.”

    Welcome to my nightmare when I was in hospital last month. An elderly man in my room who was past his prime mentally insisted he needed help to go pee. (He had a broken hip.) The nurses kept telling him he didn’t need to get up to go, as he had a catheter. This happened over and over until they moved him somewhere so the rest of us could get some sleep.

  34. Miles_Teg says:

    “With one of those I could finally nail Santa. Even Rudolph would be no match for that 30mm Gatling gun.”

    Pointless, we all know about your many attempts and that you can’t shoot straight.

  35. OFD says:

    Speaking of shooting, I have just been weighing the pros and cons of a regular carry handgun being either semi-auto or revolver and it was really tough, on several levels, but I have concluded that the revolver wins out for me. I do need, however, to step it up a caliber, and have also settled on a Smith & Wesson Classic in either .44 Mag or .45 LC. w/4″ barrel and Herrett’s Jordan Trooper stocks. Speed strips rather than speedloaders.

    Next rifle is gonna be an AR, probably the relatively new Colt Competition 5.56, two of them; probably gonna put a 6.5 Grendel upper on one. Both w/Leupold optics.

    And sticking with Remington 870s for the shotguns.

    While keeping an eye peeled for M60 and M79 parts…haha, just kidding, ATF and DHS guys reading this site…all just b.s…..tryin’ to rile ya, go back to sleep…

    As for Santa; Bob is a pretty clever guy and I bet he would wire up a drone or sumthin and send that up with a decent warhead…small-yield tactical nuke, get the instructions off the innernet….

    Mrs. OFD called a little while ago; one of the people she’s training saw her do her schtick on C-Span a coupla months ago and was inspired to become certified for the veterans program they’re doing; this person’s husband is another ‘Nam vet, from the tail end of the war, Army; they told him they’d promote him to MSgt if he’d transfer to the chemical warfare units; he said see ya later, buh-bye…

    Off to the Land of Nod again now, reading Chaucer in Middle English…believe it or not, I have very little acquaintance with him so far…my thing was Dante back in the day. Overdue.

  36. Miles_Teg says:

    What advantages does a revolver have over a pistol? My only thought on the subject is that pistols often look better.

  37. SteveF says:

    Two advantages: First, a revolver is approximately 100% reliable even after no care for several years. With a (semi)automatic, you can’t load it and put it in a drawer and expect to use it a year later and get more than a single shot off. You need to empty and refill the magazines once in a while, and preferably leave the mags unloaded or disassembled to give the springs a break.

    The second advantage is that revolvers don’t fling brass all over. Hypothetically, if you were to shoot someone with a (semi)automatic and didn’t want to stick around for the stupid pigs to confiscate your property and arrest you, you’d rather not leave brass on the street.

  38. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    RBT, a question about mundane, repetitive chemistry lab experiments: Some time ago, probably over two years, you said something to the effect that you were thinking of using some of your copious free time to mix up a series of solutions in varying concentrations and test their characteristics.

    I don’t remember what I was talking about, but it probably had to do with the fact that there are huge gaps in our data tables simply because no one has ever done the work. As to automation, sure there are various instruments that can do repetitive testing, but there’s little motivation to use them to build basic data tables.

  39. OFD says:

    Also, you generally need both hands to rack a slide on semi-automatics; revolvers can be used with one, say, if you lose the use of a hand or arm. Semi’s also need to be babied, preferably daily, not so with revolvers. And every round in a semi’s magazine needs to be perfect for it to work; only hazard with revolvers is the rare squib round, of which I’ve only seen one in forty years. Etc.

  40. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Well, I consider myself a novice with pistols and revolvers, but I’ll weigh in anyway…

    I think the Colt 1911 and variants are more reliable than any revolver. I haven’t shot much in the last 30 years, but before that I shot a fair amount. There were days that I put 1,000 rounds of .45 ACP though a Colt 1911, and over many tens of thousands of rounds I experienced almost no malfunctions other than a few caused by faulty ammunition.

    Also, a revolver (even with speed loaders) cannot come even close to matching the sustained rate of fire of the 1911. I used to carry one round chambered, one magazine in the pistol, and six more in a Milt Sparks Six-Pack. That’s 50 rounds, and I could maintain sustained rapid fire until those 50 rounds were exhausted. And by “sustained” I mean without a break, dropping an empty and inserting a full without interrupting the cadence.

    Also, the 1911 isn’t nearly as picky as revolvers. If I dropped one of my 1911’s in the mud, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up and keep shooting. If I dropped, say, my Ruger .357 or my S&W 29, I wouldn’t have dared fire it again until I’d thoroughly cleaned it.

    John Moses Browning got this one right the first time.

  41. Lynn McGuire says:

    Can you rack that 1911 with one hand?

    I cannot rack my XDM .40 with one hand. I am a wimp nowadays and getting worse. I’ve somehow managed to mess up my left shoulder lately and it screams any time I do anything with it.

  42. Lynn McGuire says:

    I think that the only thing better than one revolver is two revolvers. And the only better than two revolvers is four revolvers. S&W just came out with a new eight shot 9mm revolver. I am wondering when they will release the .40 version.
    http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_827553_-1_775655_757896_757896_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y

  43. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, I can rack it with one hand if I clamp the frame between my legs.

    We used to practice a fair amount one-handed, on both sides. Either way, loading is a bitca (to quote Xander), although not as much of a bitca as with a revolver. I’m fairly ambidextrous in real life, but I never did get as good shooting left-only versus right-only.

  44. OFD says:

    “… I experienced almost no malfunctions other than a few caused by faulty ammunition.”

    Right. But in a gunfight with lives at stake you can’t afford to have one bad round jam a chamber or magazine with a semi; it may be easily fixed instantly or it may not. In the very rare instance a squib round fails to ignite in a revolver, you pull the trigger again.

    Just outta curiosity, how come you still don’t carry 50 rounds with you?

    In any case, 50 rounds is comforting to have in a war zone; not many instances here in the land of the big PX. Yet. Most gunfights are within a few yards or feet and resolved one way or the other with just a few rounds. Although Mas Ayoob has voluminous case files of stories involving cops over the decades who luckily for them had semi’s with full mags handy instead of the old-school revolvers.

    I’m not a cop or soldier anymore and don’t anticipate a running Sandbox, cop or jungle gunfight with multiple assailants anytime soon. One or two big fat heavy reliable rounds ought to do the trick and I can be pretty handy with a revolver by now; qualified Expert many times during those soldier and cop years; need to get up to speed again, though. If the situation changes in the next few years, however, I may have ample cause to change my mind.

  45. Miles_Teg says:

    “In the very rare instance a squib round fails to ignite in a revolver, you pull the trigger again.”

    Shouldn’t y’all be carrying two pistols anyway?

  46. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    As I think I mentioned, I’ve had squib rounds jam a revolver by pushing the bullet just out of the case and into the forcing cone. Not only could I not just pull the trigger again, but getting the revolver unjammed was a shop job. And this was with brand-name factory ammo, not reloads. I’ve also witnessed something similar happen with .44 Mag revolvers, where the recoil caused the bullet to walk out of the case just far enough that the cylinder couldn’t rotate.

    About 99.9% of the time, a jam in a 1911 can be cured just by slapping the slide back with your off hand. We practiced that a lot as well.

  47. OFD says:

    I currently carry a Taurus .357 4″ stainless steel revolver with another Taurus .357 snubby, the former loaded with .38+P and the latter with .357 125-gr JHPs. I’ll be moving soon to a 4″ with the number “4” beginning the caliber designation. With speed strips it totals around a couple of dozen rounds. But these are only so’s I can get to the 870, which is only so’s I can get to the AR which is only so’s I kin git to the M60 which is only so’s I kin git to the Warthog parked out back. Eat yer hahts out MrBob and MrAtoz!

  48. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yep. Except that I’d not expect to have to escalate beyond the 12-gauge in most situations.

    I remember back in 1979 the industrial security company I ran operations for had just bought some MAC-10 SMGs in .45 ACP with the Sionics suppressors. With the Sionics, the things sounded like full-auto cap pistols, at 20 to 25 rounds per second. But the noise reduction was just an added bonus. The really nice thing about the Sionics suppressors was that they almost eliminated recoil. Without the suppressor, the muzzle of the MAC-10 climbed uncontrollably if you fired other than a very short burst. With the suppressor, you could hold the thing one-handed on a silhouette target 25 or 50 meters out and get most of the rounds on the paper.

    One of the guys I worked with was very impressed with the MAC-10, over-impressed as far as I was concerned. So I challenged him to a shoot-off, with him using a MAC-10 and me using my HS 10-B riot shotgun with the Garth Choate magazine extension and #4 buck. We each had a silhouette target set up and had another guy shout “GO!”. When the smoke cleared, his target had a whole bunch of .45 holes it. All that was left of my target was a few shreds of paper hanging from the frame, which was also chewed up pretty badly.

  49. OFD says:

    So in either case a human target would have been declared null and void, most likely.

    Suppressors are coming back in a real big way, for the reasons you indicate; noise and muzzle rise reductions, with many applications. And kinda pricey right now but those prices will drop. Older suppressors tended to degrade with time and use but these new ones look to hold up a lot bettuh.

  50. MrAtoz says:

    Eat yer hahts out MrBob and MrAtoz!

    I remember when I was an O3, the first rumors started of transferring the Warthogs to the Army. We were all walking around sporting wood. Then came the Osprey (pre crash) and the same. The Army said nah on the Osprey, so I applied for a Blackhawk transition and got that. There was a Reserve Air Force range at Fort Drum at the time. We used to go out and sit on the tower in lawn chairs and watch the ‘Hogs burrrrp down on some hulks. I later knew what the Iraqi’s felt during Desert 1. Remember that pipe line road. Shooting ducks in a barrel.

  51. OFD says:

    Well, we gotta dump the Warthogs and ramp up the F35s now, ’cause hostile space aliens.

    I guess.

  52. SteveF says:

    I don’t remember what I was talking about, but it probably had to do with the fact that there are huge gaps in our data tables simply because no one has ever done the work.

    Yes, that was it exactly. No particular need that you had, it was simply to fill in knowledge that hadn’t yet been gathered.

    As to automation, sure there are various instruments that can do repetitive testing, but there’s little motivation to use them to build basic data tables.

    But why? Because the machines are expensive and are constantly in use for other purposes? Because the expected knowledge gained by mixing various proportions of X and Y in water isn’t worth the chemicals and amortized cost of the equipment? Because most of the automated lab equipment is owned by for-profit labs, not by research universities, and they (as corporations) place no value at all on gathering knowledge?

  53. brad says:

    I have a friend who works for a small pharma company, one that produces small quantities of drugs, on special order, for testing and such. He’s a pure chemist, who does things like our host: a liter here, a liter there. Things go wrong occasionally, and they lose a batch.

    Chemical engineers have his total respect, because they have to come up with processes that produces hundreds or thousands of liters, with 100% reliability. All scaling problems eliminated, no failed batches, no surprises of any kind, because you cannot possibly afford to discard thousand-liter batches.

  54. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yep, any chemist will tell you that he or she has tremendous respect for the chemical engineers.

    In many industrial processes, it’s not just the prospect of losing money on a spoiled batch; it’s the prospect that that batch may become extremely energetic. Worst case, you obliterate your facility and kill a lot of people in a big radius. Of course, that’s almost never (I’m tempted to say “never”) the fault of the CEs. It’s almost always the production people and/or supervisors screwing up, as for example at Bhopal.

    SteveF, yes for all of the reasons you mention. It’s the old thing about writing one’s congressman not being worth the price of a stamp because the expected value is less than the price of the stamp. Reliable comprehensive data tables would prevent a ton of duplicated effort and cost, but the individual effort/cost is (usually) small, while the effort/cost to build those tables one time is very large. We do in fact have reliable data on many chemicals and processes, but those are generally the ones that are economically important and produced in huge quantities. For example, there’s not much we don’t know about sulfuric acid, petrochemicals, etc.

  55. Lynn McGuire says:

    It’s almost always the production people and/or supervisors screwing up, as for example at Bhopal.

    Or the maintenance people cutting the chain on the valve to the operating ethylene reactor and closing it. That energy had to go somewhere.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Disaster_of_1989

  56. Lynn McGuire says:

    We do in fact have reliable data on many chemicals and processes

    Probably at least 80% of the chemical reaction data taken by companies is considered proprietary and so secret that only crucial employees are allowed to know the details. Maybe 90%.

    One of my partners, a PhD ChemE who was head of ChemE at OU for two decades, has estimated that we now have detailed info on 1% of possible chemical reactions.

  57. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I think your friend is an optimist, by several orders of magnitude.

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