Posts Tagged With: science

Science and Art (with a couple of Beasties too) Part the First…

… or SOMETIMES WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A NOVEL, IT’S GOOD TO GET OUT FOR A BIT, ER, PART THE FIRST

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Beasties ensuring I don’t get up to too much mischief

As one or two of you* may be aware, I have been working away from home during the week for the last 18 months, back in my old home-from-home Reading. I have friends down here so, whilst it is hard being away from the Snail and the pups, my homesickness is softened by good company (and maybe a shandy or two** from time-to-time).

My contract in the real world concluded at the end of 2019 leaving me with 6 months rental on a flat. I decided to take this opportunity to use it as a base to finish novel number 3 and start on novel number 4 and possibly even number 5. Possibly.

The thing is, I can walk to Reading railway station and be no more than about 10 minutes or so from a train to London, so it seems rude not to avail oneself of that every now and again (back in Wales, I live 20 miles from the nearest station that only has trains that go north).

To London, then, with a nifty backpack filled with a reusable mug, JonBeastie and JanBeastie (see here for more beastie details). Our first port of call was the Science Museum, home at the moment to an exhibition of objects relating to Britain’s code-breaking expertise over the last century.

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Not my old typewriter, honest, but an SG41, a very rare German cipher machine that was, unlike the more famous Enigma device, unbreakable by the geniuses at Bletchley Park.  

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A 5 UCO: a British cipher machine so secret, they were all destroyed after WW2. Somewhere, an old civil servant is being shown this picture and told “You had one job to do…”

There are, of course, millions of items in the museum but I did notice these two on my way out. This is a theorbo, somewhat reminiscent of a guitar I have:

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and this item, that made me feel so old, I felt I should have been in the case with it holding a sign saying “Example of typical owner”:

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Ancient technology, apparently

I saved up and bought my one in 1980 and it still works today, using the same Casio battery that came with it. It has a liquid crystal display with sufficient digits to show how old I am and, when I get home to Wales, I am going to check that it is still on my desk.

I needed something new and artistic to stop me going and taking up residence in the case with the prototype of the Clock of the Long Now, so I and beasties headed to…

TO BE CONTINUED…

oOo

* I reckon two.

** I reckon more than two.

 

Categories: Artwork, computers, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Plastic not-really-Fantastic

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Quite possibly the dullest photograph of anything. Ever.

OK, I’ll try not to get all ranty. Above is a picture of a container used for vitamin tablets (for the dog, but that’s another story). I noticed the other day, as I put the last tablet into Max’s food, that the label helpfully informed me that whilst the body of the receptacle was “Plastic – widely recycled”, the lid was “Plastic – check local recycling facilities”. But, I thought, not caring that my English teacher taught me that starting sentences with conjunctions was a bad idea, but why are the two bits of this thing made from different plastics? In fact, they feel as if they are the SAME plastic. I checked using the zoom function my eyes are equipped with (I held both bits very close to my eyes).

Sure enough, the lid is made of type 5 plastic (polypropylene) and the body is made of type 2 (high density polyethylene). I looked up the difference on the website https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/common_plastics_no_1_to_no_7#.WpgYpR3FL-s and this is what it said:

 High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Description:  Polyethylenes are the most widely used family of plastics in the world. The versatile polyethylene polymer has the simplest basic chemical structure of any plastic polymer (repeating units of CH2: one carbon and two hydrogen molecules) making it very easy to process and thus extremely popular for numerous low value applications – especially packaging. HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which align and pack easily making it dense and very crystalline (structurally ordered) and thus a stronger, thicker form of polyethylene.

Properties:  stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas, ease of processing.

 Polypropylene (PP)

Description:  Polypropylene is used for similar applications as polyethylenes, but is generally stiffer and more heat resistant – so is often used for containers filled with hot food. It too has a simple chemical structure (many methyl groups of CH3 – one carbon and three hydrogen molecules) making it very versatile. It’s crystallinity (structural order affecting hardness & density) is quite high, somewhere between LDPE and HDPE.

Properties:  strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease & oil, barrier to moisture.

So one is a tougher form of the other. Does this matter? No, the body doesn’t need to be any tougher that the lid (the most force either will have to endure in their lifetimes is that of the weight of other boxes of tablets stacked on top, far outweighing the grip strength of an adult attempting to defeat the childproof lid). The problem with type 5 plastic is that it can be mixed with resins that make recycling difficult, so recyclers stay clear of it. I can’t tell if this lid contains any extra resins but the end result is a material that appears to be identical to the type 2 plastic used for the rest of the container.

I am pretty sure that non-plastic, planet-friendly alternatives for vitamin tablet containers exist (made from natural materials such as bamboo for example). Now this container is empty, I will probably use it for holding the many screws I seem to have left over after DIY, or build some exciting electronics project in it. But you know what? I would rather be able to put the whole thing in the compost to turn into food.

So, plastic-bottle-for-tablets-manufacturer – use some common sense here. Make all your packages from one type of plastic and make that the one that is easy to recycle!

oOo

Below are the full descriptions from the website in case you are interested. I’ll pretend you are.

 Polypropylene (PP)

Description:  Polypropylene is used for similar applications as polyethylenes, but is generally stiffer and more heat resistant – so is often used for containers filled with hot food. It too has a simple chemical structure (many methyl groups of CH3 – one carbon and three hydrogen molecules) making it very versatile. It’s crystallinity (structural order affecting hardness & density) is quite high, somewhere between LDPE and HDPE. Properties:  strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease & oil, barrier to moisture.

Typical Use:  Food containers (ketchup, yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine, syrup, take-out), medicine containers, straws, bottle caps, Britta filters, Rubbermaid and other opaque plastic containers, including baby bottles. Other uses include disposable diaper and sanitary pad liners, thermal vests, appliance parts and numerous car parts (bumpers, carpets, fixtures).

Toxicity:  Being relatively stable, it is generally considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, although it has been shown to leach plastic additives (such as the stabilizing agent oleamide) when PP labware was used in scientific experiments (PP1) and one older study has suggested heated PP may be linked to occupational asthma based on the exposure of a worker in a PP factory (PP2).

Recycling Rate:  Low, because often pigmented or mixed with other resins, therefore difficult to sort (PP3).  Recycled material made into brooms, brushes, bins pallets, auto battery cases, flower pots.

Alternatives:  Buy in glass and reuse those bottles/jars – mason jars are incredibly versatile. Use a glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle. Purchase margarine/butter in cubes.

Our Suggestion:  RELATIVELY SAFE. But has been shown to release additive chemicals when used as labware in scientific experiments.

 

 High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Description:  Polyethylenes are the most widely used family of plastics in the world. The versatile polyethylene polymer has the simplest basic chemical structure of any plastic polymer (repeating units of CH2: one carbon and two hydrogen molecules) making it very easy to process and thus extremely popular for numerous low value applications – especially packaging. HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which align and pack easily making it dense and very crystalline (structurally ordered) and thus a stronger, thicker form of of polyethylene. Properties:  stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas, ease of processing.

Typical Use:  Plastic bags (grocery), opaque milk, water, and juice containers, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, dishes, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, some medecine bottles. Also used in Tyvek insulation, PEX piping, plastic/wood composites.

Toxicity:  Being relatively stable, it is generally considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, although some studies have shown that it can leach the endocrine disruptor nonylphenol (added to HDPE as a stabilizer), especially when exposed to ultraviolet light – i.e., sunlight – and possibly other additive chemicals with estrogen-mimicking activity (HDPE1HDPE2HDPE3).

Recycling:  About 29% (HDPE4). Recycled material made into bottles for non-food items like shampoo, laundry detergent, motor oil; plastic lumber and furniture, piping, recycling bins, fencing, floor tiles, buckets, crates, flower pots, garden edging, film and sheeting.

Alternatives:  Use glass or stainless steel reusable bottles and food storage containers. Buy in glass and reuse those bottles/jars – mason jars are incredibly versatile. Use reusable bags made of natural fibres (cotton, hemp).

Our Suggestion:  RELATIVELY SAFE. But has been shown to release endocrine disrupting chemicals.

https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/common_plastics_no_1_to_no_7#.WpgYpR3FL-s

Categories: Plastic, recycling, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Ascent of Machine

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Kodomoroid will read the newspaper to you but probably not do a sudoku or understand the cartoons

Their faces, if that’s what you can call them, stare out from the display cases, imploring you to imagine that they are still alive, telling you the stories of their lives from all that time ago. You know that these are relics of the past, from a time before evolution had shaped the common features that everyone recognises, the delicate noses, the deep eye sockets, the curved forehead.

You know this and are comforted by it. These faces belong to a bygone age when things were less civilised.

Then one of them moves.

Its eyes open wide and a perfectly pitched voice says “Well, hello there! Aren’t you a shiny, happy person?”

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Winner of the “Creepiest Robot Ever” Award

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“To be or not to be”, that depends on your programming

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The Grand-Daddy of them all – well, some of them

When I go to the Natural History Museum in London, and gaze at my ancestors’ skulls, I find it a little disconcerting. These were real people once, from the dawn of human time, from before we as a species started to mess things up properly.

The row of old robots I found in the Science Museum in London were a mixture of the scarily realistic and the just plain creepy. And one was a movie star, so not a ‘real’ robot at all.

One day, you might imagine these machines (and their descendants) being in the Natural History Museum, with some cyborgic entity laughing at how primitive their ancestors looked and how they seemed so ape-like, before heading off to recharge “the ol’ batteries” (possibly literally) at one of the museum’s cafés.

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All me own teeth!

“Robots – The 500-year Quest to make machine Human” is on at the Science Museum London until 3rd September 2017 or until a robot army liberates the exhibits.

oOo

Categories: computers, Films | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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