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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Environment/Energy
Mon Nov 21st 2011, 11:23 AM
entirely independently of the method used to create H2. (Thanks for the more detailed link, BTW.)

However, some things still require clarification -- note this peculiar claim:
For almost a century, scientists have tried and failed to “split water” cost effectively to produce hydrogen and oxygen. Our process does not produce oxygen (O2), which has no significant value and is an expensive and slow reaction. Unlike conventional electrolysis, where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are completely disassociated using a large voltage, we designed our reactions to use a very small voltage and only produce hydrogen (H2). By elegantly engineering the reaction kinetics toward H2 generation in conjunction with wastewater, our nanoparticles function as one-way machines that detoxify wastewater, and produce clean water and pure hydrogen in the presence of sunlight. No other energy source is required, making this an extremely economical and commercially viable approach to hydrogen production.

I'm seeing too much advertising copy, not enough science. If you're going to reduce H+ to H2 (by gaining e-), something, somewhere, has to be oxidized (lose e-). Normally, this is the O in H2O, which gets oxidized to O2. They're saying no O2 is produced, but they can produce Cl2 and Br2. It sounds as if they are describing (in obscure fashion) the photoinduced electrolysis of aqueous HCl and HBr:

2HCl ---> H2 + Cl2
2HBr ---> H2 + Br2

Which is easily done by standard electrolysis. Note also:
Waste steams containing acids, such as hydrogen bromide and hydrogen chloride from industrial facilities, can be processed to produce pure bromine and chlorine, which are valuable and marketable byproducts.

Both plausible and interesting, but there's a catch: If they need HCl and HBr to carry out this reaction, it's not going to make much of a dent in the energy market. So far, it looks like a (potentially profitable) way to convert *some* industrial waste streams to fuel and clean water, but the amount of H2 produced will be limited by the amount of HCl or HBr used (also by concentration, since the voltage is concentration-dependent). A good idea, but not a revolution in clean energy.

It really sounds like they have two good ideas here, but they don't fit together as advertised. If they are looking for a closed-loop energy transport system, it might be practical to do something like this:
1. Use their photoelectrolytic process to convert HCl to H2 + Cl2 (energy of sunlight is adsorbed)
2. Recombine (not necessarily in the same location) the H2 and Cl2 in a fuel cell to produce electricity, or mix them in a reactor to produce heat, with HCl being regenerated by either process (energy from sunlight now converted to heat or electricity).
Since I've just posted that idea on the Web, I would have a patent claim on it, but they wouldn't.

The STP Sabatier catalyst opens up the possibility of a similar closed loop using CH4 and O2, but that would require regeneration of O2 -- something which they've avoided doing.

ETA: There is one other thing about this which bothers me:
This allows our reactor to be very low cost and very simple, such as a glass vessel or even clear plastic bag. To achieve world scale operation, we envision acres of very inexpensive reactors installed on vacant, non-productive land, producing massive amounts of carbon neutral methane that can be piped into the existing natural gas infrastructure for everyday use in homes, power plants, factories, and vehicles.

Problem: the nanoparticle produces H2 (or CH4? Make up your minds!) at one end, Cl2 or Br2 at the other. H2 (or CH4) + Cl2 reacts explosively, triggered by, uh, light. H2 + Br2 should be safer to handle, but the volume of bromine in commercial use is very small, relative to such things as natural gas. H2 and Br2 will combined in the presence of a catalyst, and I suspect any catalyst that can convert CO2 to CH4 is going to react with Br2. So products will be consumed in situ as fast as they are produced, unless some provision is made to separate the two ends of the nanoreactor so that the two products escape into different vessels. Embedding them in a membrane might do that, as long as the majority of the ends are oriented the same way. If this system works, it's going to end up being more complicated than their optimistic description.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Science
Wed Nov 02nd 2011, 01:13 AM
Silicon forms long chain molecules which are more reactive under Earthly conditions (air and water) because of the very strong bonds which form between Si and O, and the relative weakness of the Si-H (and even Si-Si) bonds. The ability of Si and heavier elements to form "hypervalent" intermediates -- which have no second-row analogues -- also leads to *faster* bond-cleavage reactions relative to carbon. It's not that hard to make polysilanes in the lab IF you work under an argon line. If they have too many Si-H bonds they tend to be pyrophoric (ignite spontaneously on exposure to air), but in the absence of air and water (and at lower temperatures) they're fine. That's why most of the Si on Earth is in the form of SiO2 or silicates. Even elemental Si is not found naturally on Earth. {ETA: SiC is found as a very rare mineral, Moissanite, in meteorites and some minerals of volcanic origin. That's the closest thing to a reduced form of Si found naturallyon Earth.} (There are, by the way, polygermanes, -stannanes, and even -plumbanes, although the stability of the M-M bond decreases drastically in that order.)

Silicon does not form strong double (or triple bonds), so it cannot form anywhere near the variety of compounds that carbon does. Many molecular architectures adopted by carbon compounds (often with the help of other second-row elements, N & O) have no third-row, Si, analogs, except for a few, highly reactive, lab-created examples. (Most notably lacking are the many "aromatic" molecules formed by C,N, and O rings. All of the nucleic acid (DNA & RNA) bases fall in this category.) Ditto P versus N. So even in a strongly reducing, oxygen-free envirionment, silicon would be a poorer basis for complex structures than carbon.

If you had to design the chemistry of life from scratch, you would start with a second-row element (relatively strong single bonds, also double and triple bonds, no d orbitals so no hypervalency), and one that forms more than one bond at a time (eliminating Li and F). You would want to avoid empty p orbitals (this eliminates Be and B) because these provide a mechanism for attack by other compounds and cleavage of bonds, just as empty d orbitals do; you want your molecules to last. You would want to avoid too many lone pairs because of the 'beta lone pair effect' which leads to weaker bonds, and the 'acetal effect' which also leads to facile fragmentation -- so no long chains or networks containing too many N or O atoms. C only makes up a few hundred ppm of the Earth's crust, but it's the only element that fills the bill. No surprise that we haven't seen any signs of non-carbon based life yet, even under "unearthly" conditions.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Education
Sat Aug 13th 2011, 10:02 PM
You pay taxes to support the PUBLIC school system, whether you DIRECTLY benefit from it or not.

If you don't believe it, consider that people without children still have to pay property tax. People whose children are no longer in school pay property tax. People whose children went to school in another state pay property tax. In most districts, businesses (which have no children) pay property taxes which go to schools -- all to support the local *public* schools, because it is in society's best interest to see that ALL of its citizens have at least a minimum education, regardless of means. This is especially justified for businesses who want their potential employees to have some functional skills, and businesses should be leading the opposition to voucher plans, because they will be most hurt by them.

Now, say you live in a district with 100,000 students. If you send your 2 kids to a private school, you have reduced the cost of running the public schools by a small amount -- somewhere around 1/50,000 of the total cost -- and that fact will be reflected in a smaller budget for schools, and lower taxes for you AND EVERYONE ELSE, by about the same proportionate amount. This is the only "voucher" you are entitled to, and it is automatically created in the current process of adjusting school budgets each year to reflect enrollment trends.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Wed Aug 10th 2011, 12:57 AM
The simple building blocks of nucleic acids were found on meteorites.

Sorry, this does not contradict any previous theory. Just shows that prebiotic chemistry may have happened elsewhere, which is widely believed anyway.

Best not to get your science news from a business publication.

see the first few pages of this article for a review of prebiotic synthesis of nucleobases:
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Mon Apr 25th 2011, 08:33 AM
Get a grip! Sodium fluoride is unbelievably cheap, and available from many different sources. Monopoly is all but impossible. The quantities employed in drinking water ("isolated fashion"? WTF is that supposed to mean?) are miniscule, compared to other commercial uses. There is no secret cabal raking in piles of cash from fluoridation. Oh, and BTW, some water suppliers *remove* fluoride from their water, because the level is naturally too high. How does the secret cabal (or the Knights Templars, whoever) profit from that?

Here are your "industry beholden scientists":

With fluoride, the dose makes the poison. ~1 ppm is beneficial to teeth, ~2 ppm leads to mottled teeth, ~5 ppm leads to acute toxic effects. The most effective way to ingest adequate fluoride while preventing overdosage is by providing fluoride in highly dilute form. Water is ingested in larger quantity than any food, so diluting the fluoride in water makes eminent sense. To get a toxic dose from drinking water, you'd have to drink a huge amount of water. Drinking too much water will kill you anyway, so fluoride won't matter then: / Europeans take their fluoride as toothpastes (less effective) or in fluoridated salt (much harder to control the dose). Public water fluoridation is especially effective in the USA because it brings the dental health benefits of therapeutic-level fluoride even to the impovershed and undereducated -- especially children, who are the ones harmed most by fluoride deficiency.

Lead is not added to drinking water because lead has absolutely no beneficial effects, only toxic ones. DUH. Think about these questions before posting them.

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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Mon Apr 25th 2011, 07:54 AM
The total fluoride consumed is miniscule compared to the amount used in industry. Nor is fluoride a waste product of aluminum refining -- it is a necessary, useful material which must be paid for, and is recycled as much as possible, with the only losses being due to leakage or spillage. So your story makes no sense. Not surprisingly, you didn't provide any source for what is apparently an urban legend.

Human teeth contain the mineral apatatite, a basic calcium phosphate. In the presence of a small amount of fluoride, this is transformed into fluoroapatite. This leads to harder, more heavily mineralized tooth enamel.

The original clue to the importance of fluoride was epidemiology, which found variations in dental health in different parts of the country, being affected almost exclusively by the local water supply. Excessively high fluoride conc'n -- relatively rare in natural fresh water -- was found to lead to brown, mottled teeth. This was the first clue that fluoride had any role in dental health. Later studies showed that a small amount of fluoride was actually beneficial ("the dose makes the poison"). In those few parts of the country where fluoride concentration is naturally high, municipal water systems actually remove fluoride. That certainly doesn't fit with any scheme to profit off of waste products.

An interesting history is found here:

Arguing against minimal, therapeutic fluoridation is like arguing against iodized salt. It's so wrongheaded it's just plain dumb. Eliminating fluoridation would lead to dental health problems for those people whose water sources were naturally fluoride-deficient, while benefiting absolutely no one. Fluoridation is especially crucial at the age when adult teeth are emerging, and children usually aren't in much of a position to know if they are receiving adequate care. Without fluoridation, children in poor and less-educated families would be the ones who would pay the price.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Latest Breaking News
Fri Apr 15th 2011, 04:00 PM
When one fails to perform, trash and replace. The bottom line will reward you.

Meanwhile ... European office manufacturers are introducing reclining work chairs, to make office naps more comfortable.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Fri Feb 25th 2011, 02:58 PM
One day, a poor farmer is visited by a genie. The genie agrees to grant him any one wish. The poor farmer wishes for a cow, so that his family will never do without fresh milk. The genie grants his wish.

His neighbor, hearing this story, berates the poor farmer: "You could have wished for anything! Gold, jewels, beautiful women, a tsar's ransom! Instead, you stupid clod, you wished for a cow!" "But my family is happy", responded the farmer. And the truth was, his family was happy. His children were healthy and well fed, and his wife sold a little milk to provide a small income to purchase household necessities. Because of the genie's gift, the poor farmer was now living better than his neighbors, if only slightly. "It's so unfair!" complained his neighbor. "He did nothing to deserve better than us!" and his resentment of the poor farmer's good fortune burned and grew in his heart.

Then one day, the genie returned, this time visiting the poor farmer's neighbor. Now the opportunity was his, and this time the scales would be balanced! "I will grant you any one wish", said the genie, "whatever it is". "I know exactly what I want!" growled the neighbor. "I want my neighbor's cow to die!"

(When foreigners ask why things don't ever seem to get better in Russia, they may be treated to some version of this story in answer.)
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Tue Jan 18th 2011, 02:36 PM
Just read this article this morning while waiting in the doctor's office. Short version: "Pyrex" made in the USA is no longer borosilicate glass, which has a low coefficient of thermal expansion and is therefore much less prone to break on rapid heating or cooling (lab glassware is mostly borosilicate). Pyrex made in Europe is borosilicate. CR lab tests showed the American products were more likely to shatter due to thermal shock under conditions likely to be encountered in a normal kitchen, and recommended the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) investigate the issue.

Corning sold its U.S. Pyrex production to World Kitchen in 1998, but may have stopped using borosilicate before that date -- it is not clear, and the companies involved make contradictory statements. Apparently borosilicate (which melts at higher temps) would have required more pollution controls, so mfgrs turned to lower-melting soda-lime glass, the cheapest kind, instead, and use heat-tempering to produce a stronger product, but not one with the same heat resistance as borosilicate.

I foolishly thought that Pyrex® was an identifier specifically for borosilicate glass; apparently it is just a brand name, and can be applied to whatever its owner wishes.

"The baking dish just exploded as my daughter was about to touch it, sending pieces of glass and hot juices from the ham flying everywhere," says Szczcenia, 63. "We had splash burns on our arms and the tops of our legs, and my 3-year-old granddaughter stepped on a piece of glass before I could get her out of the kitchen. I can't begin to tell you how scary it was."

She filed a report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and contacted the manufacturer. The company said it is possible that she had not followed the bakeware's instructions and that it could not confirm that the product was Pyrex because she had not sent the shards for the company to examine. Szczcenia says she has no doubt the dish that shattered was Pyrex because she'd just purchased it for her daughter a few weeks earlier, and as a loyal Pyrex customer for 30 years, she always looked for that label.

"I loved my old Pyrex, and I certainly know how to use it properly," she says, "but it seems like the only correct instructions for this new Pyrex would be not to use the dish near heat at all."
In recent years, news reports and Internet postings about glass bakeware unexpectedly shattering have some consumers worried about safety and confused about instructions. Packaging may prominently say freezer-safe and oven-safe. But consumers might not be aware of warnings which can appear on the back of a label in type this small with cautions about preheating the oven, cooling, use of liquids in the pan, and more.

I first became aware of this issue through this posting on DU (I think there might have been a couple of others at about the same time). Note that this is about Corning Ware®, not Pyrex®, but the issue of an inferior product being sold under an established, trusted brand name is the same:

My sister bought a lot of Corning Ware through Craigslist at about the same time, and after comparison with my Mom's cookware, we found that some of the older dishes are marked "for range and microwave" while the very oldest (pre-microwave) are unmarked. Some of the newer pieces in our kitchens are labeled for stovetop use, but not microwave. Others have only the Corning Ware® mark, and one includes the word "Pyroceram". Probably best not to assume it is microwave- or broiler-safe if it is not clearly marked as such, at least if it is newer.

Here are some posts by DUers who experienced these problems first hand:

ETA: a Googlon for other sources/citations ...

ETAA: wikis (needing cleanup/citations):
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion
Tue Jan 11th 2011, 01:12 AM
Conventional wisdom suggests that the reduction of funding for social welfare policies during the 1980s is the result of a conservative backlash against the welfare state. With such a backlash, it should be expected that changes in the policies toward involuntary commitment of the mentally ill reflect a generally conservative approach to social policy more generally. In this case, however, the complex of social forces that lead to less restrictive guidelines for involuntary commitment are not the result of conservative politics per se, but rather a coalition of fiscal conservatives, law and order Republicans, relatives of mentally ill patients, and the practitioners working with those patients. Combined with a sharp rise in homelessness during the 1980s, Ronald Reagan pursued a policy toward the treatment of mental illness that satisfied special interest groups and the demands of the business community, but failed to address the issue: the treatment of mental illness -- Alexandar Thomas

ETA: due to a posting error, this post is not showing up on the "latest" page (or My DU) ... didn't click to report the error, dang it!
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Sep 30th 2010, 04:07 PM
When it comes to great jazz music you can hardly beat the live recordings from the height of the 1930s swing era.

There has always been chatter about a mysterious treasure trove of unreleased material known as the Savory collection. Recorded by the audio engineer Bill Savory - these live performances filled nearly 1,000 discs.

Now the entire collection has been acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The museum's curator, Loren Schoenberg, takes us on a spin through this unique part of jazz history.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sat Sep 11th 2010, 01:25 PM
Copy of Quran only book saved from Union’s 1865 burning of UA

By Taylor Holland Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Published: Friday, September 10, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 11:58 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | A copy of the Quran dating from 1853, its spine missing, its pages browning and its front cover almost detached, sits today in a library at the University of Alabama.

While Islam’s holy book now appears safe from a Florida pastor’s plan for a bonfire, the Quran at UA had its own dramatic rescue from the flames. It was the only book saved from burning of the university library at the hands of Union troops in 1865.
The order to burn the University of Alabama had been given long before federal troops arrived in Tuscaloosa on April 3, 1865. They believed that the university, along with a
local textile factory and hat factory, provided materials to the Confederate army.
Deloffre begged Johnston to spare the library, one of the finest of its time. Johnston responded by sending a courier to headquarters, asking if the library could remain unscathed, but he was instructed by his general to burn the Rotunda as planned.

According to Center, what happened next has become part of University of Alabama lore. Legend has it that before Union troops set the building on fire, either Johnston, one of his aides, Deloffre or someone else went into the Rotunda to save one book — a copy of “The Koran: Commonly Called The Alcoran Of Mohammed.”

An interesting counterpoint to recent events ... and perhaps a reminder that some are capable of behaving as civilized men even in the face of most uncivilized acts.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Environment/Energy
Sun Aug 08th 2010, 07:43 AM

has more, including Kiwi fruit, lingonberries and black raspberries -- all news to me. Most of the omega-3 in fish oil are obtained from algae and plankton; apparently fish do not synthesize them themselves. Both fish and krill may be contaminated with heavy metal pollutants, so it might be safer to keep those out of the food chain:

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Posted by eppur_se_muova in Environment/Energy
Thu May 27th 2010, 04:43 PM
Radium-bearing barite (radiobarite) is a common constituent of scale and sludge deposits that form in oil-field production equipment. The barite forms as a precipitate from radium-bearing, saline formation water that is pumped to the surface along with oil. Radioactivity levels in some oil-field equipment and in soils contaminated by scale and sludge can be sufficiently high to pose a potential health threat.
Barium sulfate (barite) is one of the more common minerals that occur as coatings or sediments in oil-field production equipment (Wilson, 1994). Precipitates of barite form when saline formation water (produced water) is pumped to the surface with oil and is then separated from the oil and disposed of, most commonly via an injection well. Produced water can become oversaturated with barite in response to decreases in solution temperature, pressure, or salinity ( Blount, 1977).

As early as the 1930s it was recognized that some of these barite precipitates are unusually radioactive (Kolb and Wojcik, 1985). The ionizing radiation originating from barite is derived from radioactive decay of naturally occurring radium isotopes (226Ra and 228Ra) and their decay products (Kolb and Wojcik, 1985). Radium and barium are chemically similar alkaline-earth elements and dissolved radium is efficiently sequestered by barium sulfate precipitates ( Doerner and Hoskins, 1925). Oil-field brines, particularly chloride-rich varieties, can contain tens to thousands of picocuries per liter (pCi/l) of dissolved 226Ra (Fisher, 1998). For comparison, the US drinking water standard for total dissolved radium (226Ra+228Ra) is 5 pCi/l (Federal Register, 1976. National Interim Primary Drinking Water Regulations. 41 CFR, Part 132, 28404, July 9, 1976.Federal Register, 1976). Barite scale and barite-bearing sludge can likewise contain tens to thousands of picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of radium ( Wascom, 1994), compared to typical soil values of 0.5–5.0 pCi/g ( American Petroleum Institute, 1992).

Concerns about the possible health risks of radioactivity in the US oil industry were raised to a higher level in the 1980s, as industry and regulators realized that the problems were more widespread than originally thought and that some radioactivity levels could be quite high. Radioactive oil-field equipment, and radium-bearing scale and sludge from oil-field operations are varieties of a special type of waste designated as ‘naturally occurring radioactive material’ (NORM). At present (1999) there are no federal regulations in the United States that specifically address the handling or disposal of NORM from oil-field production. Several States with significant amounts of oil production have implemented their own regulations for oil-field NORM (NORM Report, 1996). The magnitude of the oil-field NORM problem in the United States has been estimated ( Otto, 1989), but it remains to be completely assessed.

Assessment of radioactive contamination at oil-field production sites typically requires detailed radiation surveys of equipment and contaminated soil, and measurements of radium isotopic abundance in selected soil samples. Clean-up costs are largely determined by the volume of material that exceeds State regulatory thresholds for radioactivity of equipment or for total radium concentration of soil. Individual States have enacted or are considering regulations that allow as little as 5 pCi/g or as much as 30 pCi/g of radium in the upper 15 cm of soil (NORM Report, 1996). Surface radioactivity of oil-field equipment is typically limited to some low multiple of local background values.
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Posted by eppur_se_muova in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Mar 08th 2010, 12:23 PM
I'm picturing dead-eyed peasants shuffling in the streets, while iron-wheeled carriages clatter echoingly over the cobblestones ... in the distance, the dark prominence of an ancient castle blots out the moonlit sky, its empty windows eerily reminiscent of an eyeless skull ... in one window, a lone candle gutters in the erratic night breezes, as a hunched figure scratches away with a quill pen.

In the distance, a wolf howls.

Well, WY does have wolves now.
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