1490: "Atoms"

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Dr What
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1490: "Atoms"

Postby Dr What » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:03 am UTC

Image
title="When I was little I had trouble telling my dad apart from the dog. I always recognized my mom because she had a bunch of extra plutoniums in her middle. I never did ask her why ..."

edit: form->from
Last edited by Dr What on Wed Feb 25, 2015 8:50 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Andries
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Andries » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:14 am UTC

There are significant quantities of indium in that cartoon. Tin, also.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Envelope Generator » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:14 am UTC

Was beret mom one of these people then?
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby chaoric » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:22 am UTC

The "form" bothers me... I'll just not look at it again and pretend it was fixed (until it actually is fixed).

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:52 am UTC

Voltron in reverse: "And I'll form the dog!"
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby keithl » Mon Feb 23, 2015 7:38 am UTC

Andries wrote:There are significant quantities of indium in that cartoon. Tin, also.
Your avatar tickles my europium.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby bachaddict » Mon Feb 23, 2015 7:39 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Voltron in reverse: "And I'll form the dog!"

Wow, you have orange metal all around the edges!
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Andries
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Andries » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:38 am UTC

OK, so if the #nowplaying tune was Friends, what is Megan looking at? Computer parts?
Last edited by Andries on Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:57 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby snowyowl » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:48 am UTC

I'm never quite sure to what extent Beret Guy is screwing with us and to what extent he actually has weirdly niche superpowers.
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby ilduri » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:04 am UTC

Andries wrote:OK, so if the #nowplaying tune was Friends, what is Megan looking at? Computer parts?

Could it be quartz ore? Quartz is SiO2.
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:04 am UTC

Andries wrote:OK, so if the #nowplaying tune was Friends, what is Megan looking at? Computer parts?

I would expect it to be a sample from a crime scene or some other type of evidence. That would explain why she is looking in the first place.

Beret guy says: "tons of oxygens and silicons". Most sand is SiO2 so it could be described as such. Sand is a common thing to test in a crime investigation. For example the sand on a suspect's boots.

By the way, how can beret guy see anything with all those nitrogens and oxygens floating around? If he sees all atoms those should get in the way.
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Andries » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:09 am UTC

But she's testing it for beryllium. So she suspects it is there, but now sure. And we know it contains iron.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:16 am UTC

Andries wrote:But she's testing it for beryllium. So she suspects it is there, but now sure. And we know it contains iron.

If I naively assume CSI series are truthful in this, sand with traces of beryllium on the shoe of a suspect in a case where the crime happened on a place where the beryllium concentration in the topsoil is quite high would be useful evidence. Ergo, if you have taken a suspect in custody in such a case it would be prudent to check the sand stuck to their shoes for beryllium, while also checking for other evidence (blood and DNA, in violent crimes).
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby orthogon » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:09 am UTC

Andries wrote:But she's testing it for beryllium. So she suspects it is there, but now sure. And we know it contains iron.

Not iron-rich microspheres, I hope? Best check for elemental aluminium or sulphur.

(I have to stop reading this stuff. I'm starting to have dreams about thermite and spandrels...)
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da Doctah
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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby da Doctah » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:27 am UTC

If this guy looked at me, I wonder if he'd still be able to see the technetiums they put in me. Prob'ly not; it's been five years now.

("What the hell are all those phlogistons doing in there, anyway?")

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby elasto » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:39 am UTC

Neil_Boekend wrote:Beret guy says: "tons of oxygens and silicons". Most sand is SiO2 so it could be described as such. Sand is a common thing to test in a crime investigation. For example the sand on a suspect's boots.

Given how literal-minded Beret guy is, he might just be referring to the oxygens and silicons in the glass slide/container itself.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Ehsanit » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:39 am UTC

Combined with http://xkcd.com/452/, this raises very serious questions about the composition of scones.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby solune » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:39 pm UTC

xkcd wrote:title="When I was little I had trouble telling my dad apart form the dog. I always recognized my mom because she had a bunch of extra plutoniums in her middle. I never did ask her why ..."


That makes me think about how it feels to be autistic: you have access to a lot more information about the world than normal people, but you lack some basic processing of that information.

For instance I tend to read facial expressions manually, it's more accurate than using my instincts.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Andries » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:48 pm UTC

So we had fundamental forces on Friday, and atoms today.

What are we getting next? The alphabet?

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Alexius » Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:19 pm UTC

Envelope Generator wrote:Was beret mom one of these people then?

I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Jackpot777 » Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:58 pm UTC

Andries wrote:So we had fundamental forces on Friday, and atoms today.

What are we getting next? The alphabet?


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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby treadman » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:15 pm UTC

chaoric wrote:The "form" bothers me... I'll just not look at it again and pretend it was fixed (until it actually is fixed).

This was a running joke in my family at Christmas. "To: Mom, Form: Dad"

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Zylon » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:23 pm UTC

I hate White Beret Guy. Every time I see him, I wish physical harm upon him.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby SuicideJunkie » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:37 pm UTC

snowyowl wrote:I'm never quite sure to what extent Beret Guy is screwing with us and to what extent he actually has weirdly niche superpowers.

Laser spectrometer vision is a fairly common superpower. The famous cases have much higher beam intensities, but not everybody can be the strongest.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Wingman4l7 » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:02 pm UTC

Alexius wrote:I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.
Clever! I was thinking a bit less outside the box and just figured his mother was a robot powered by an RTG. If he couldn't tell his dad apart from the dog, I doubt he could tell if his mother was human or not.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:11 pm UTC

Depends on what she was made of, I'd think. We don't use a lot of calcium in structural applications outside of architecture.
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Coyoty » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:42 pm UTC

snowyowl wrote:I'm never quite sure to what extent Beret Guy is screwing with us and to what extent he actually has weirdly niche superpowers.


He actually has weirdly Nietzche superpowers.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby hamjudo » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:56 pm UTC

Alexius wrote:I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.


The rated life for the electronics in a pacemaker in the early 1970s was only 5 years. Research on radioactive batteries for medical use stopped years before I got my first job at a pace maker battery factory in 1977. They still had 2 extra heavy duty filing cabinets with radioactive warning stickers and real locks when I started.

They were working on 15 year batteries for children with congenital heart defects when I left in 1980. I don't recall when those got approved for general use.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:08 pm UTC

hamjudo wrote:
Alexius wrote:I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.


The rated life for the electronics in a pacemaker in the early 1970s was only 5 years. Research on radioactive batteries for medical use stopped years before I got my first job at a pace maker battery factory in 1977. They still had 2 extra heavy duty filing cabinets with radioactive warning stickers and real locks when I started.


The question then becomes Does Randall know this?

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:42 pm UTC

Do we know he didn't just grow up in the 70's? He's talking about the past, that much is clear.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Alexius » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:15 am UTC

hamjudo wrote:
Alexius wrote:I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.


The rated life for the electronics in a pacemaker in the early 1970s was only 5 years. Research on radioactive batteries for medical use stopped years before I got my first job at a pace maker battery factory in 1977. They still had 2 extra heavy duty filing cabinets with radioactive warning stickers and real locks when I started.

They were working on 15 year batteries for children with congenital heart defects when I left in 1980. I don't recall when those got approved for general use.

Having looked it up, most people with pacemakers now have ones with Li-ion batteries which require replacement every 5-10 years involving (very minor) surgery. This includes some who originally had RTG-powered pacemakers which have been replaced. And it's completely understandable that research stopped, if only because of the potential consequences for the surroundings if the user is cremated or shot!

On the other hand, there is at least one case of someone still using an RTG pacemaker in the 21st century. Plus, as PinkShinyRose says, it looks like White Beret Guy's mother is now dead, so she may well have been alive early enough to be one of the people who had an RTG pacemaker.

And I thought RTG-powered pacemakers were much more common than they are. I think this is due to reading The Terminal Man, by Michael Crichton, in which someone is fitted with an RTG-powered "brain pacemaker"- it was written in 1972.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby JetstreamGW » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:47 am UTC

Alexius wrote:
Envelope Generator wrote:Was beret mom one of these people then?

I was thinking a pacemaker. There are still a few people living who have pacemakers implanted in the 1970s which are powered by an RTG using plutonium-238.


Naw. I think Envelope Generator has the right of it. The insinuation in that case would be that beret guy has a mutation that gave him superpowers.

Is that scientific? Of course not. But neither is being able to tell the elemental composition of an object by looking at it :P

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby neoliminal » Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:40 am UTC

chaoric wrote:The "form" bothers me... I'll just not look at it again and pretend it was fixed (until it actually is fixed).


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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Baccar Wozat » Tue Feb 24, 2015 3:23 am UTC

Owen Reece didn't wear a beret; he wore lightning bolt scars on his face (and had many more than Harry Potter, and he had a wand first!)

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby VoronX » Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:48 pm UTC

Is she looking at Phenakite/Phenacite??
A humble Pilgrim0 awash in the Sea1 of TimeS, unstuck, observing the wonderful Stars therin . . . waiting for IT.
0 - Billy
1 - BIG
S - Like a River2?

2 - small, and a host of other adjectives

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Andries » Tue Feb 24, 2015 3:18 pm UTC

No irons in there. She's looking at something with irons. Maybe phenakite with a rusty nail?

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Quercus » Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:33 pm UTC

I think she's performing cosmogenic radionuclide dating to determine the surface exposure time of a piece of quartz which has some sort of iron oxide inclusion (these are very common in quartz).

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby hamjudo » Tue Feb 24, 2015 6:00 pm UTC

Alexius wrote:On the other hand, there is at least one case of someone still using an RTG pacemaker in the 21st century. Plus, as PinkShinyRose says, it looks like White Beret Guy's mother is now dead, so she may well have been alive early enough to be one of the people who had an RTG pacemaker.


Thanks, I learned something new today. [I mean yesterday, I didn't finish writing this until today.]

They had an electron microscope at the pacemaker battery factory in the late 1970s. The operator could select a pixel in the image, and the microscope would aim the beam there and measure the backscatter electrons, and report which relatively heavy elements were present, but not light ones like beryllium.

It wasn't at all like in the comic, but using the electron microscope, we could "see" elements, at least the ones with lots of protons. Also, as Neil_Boekend pointed out above, if you can "see" elements, nitrogen and oxygen get in the way. The solution is to use a really good vacuum. Or to use X-ray vision.

Another new thing I learned yesterday, is that it is now (just barely) possible to use backscatter electrons in an electron microscope to identify beryllium.

Just so everyone understands my key contributions to pacemaker battery engineering as a 17 year old.
Spoiler:
They were doing a statistical analysis of hundreds of weld samples from the laser welder. They wanted to look at the weld samples under the electron microscope. This was for metallurgy, they just wanted to identify the atoms. They hardly ever zoomed in, except when they were showing off the microscope. They didn't need to see the whole battery, just the top where the welds were. The vacuum pumps weren't very fast way back then on the budget, $150k, electron microscope of 1977. Small samples meant they could use a small vacuum chamber, so they could pump the vacuum down faster. I spent nearly a full week in the destructive analysis lab cutting the tops off of empty batteries with a Dremel. My hourly wage was much lower than the electron microscope operators. Since I finished early, I got to watch them in the electron microscope lab for a few hours.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby mfb » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:15 pm UTC

It is easy to know that the sample contains beryllium. Every macroscopic sample contains all the more common elements.

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Re: 1490: "Atoms"

Postby Quercus » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:35 pm UTC

mfb wrote:It is easy to know that the sample contains beryllium. Every macroscopic sample contains all the more common elements.


Really? That surprises me (although perhaps it shouldn't, given the unimaginable number of atoms in anything macroscopic). I'll accept pretty readily that this is probably true for any unprocessed environmental sample, but would you expect a wafer of monocrystalline silicon to necessarily contain any atoms of beryllium? Or a drop of ultrapure water?


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