OPEN THREAD 20191208

Basically, all legal free speech is allowed. We will assist the authorities in dealing with illegal speech. You are each other’s moderators. Have fun. And don’t forget to MAGA at nuclear levels.

Citizen U

Day 32 – GERMANIUM.

31 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20191208

  1. First and foremost, germanium is an element. Geraniums are ornamental flowering plants that release an unpleasant odor when their foliage is disturbed.

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  2. Although in the same column of the periodic table as carbon and silicon, germanium is in that weird stairstep zone of “metalloids” — at least when you have a conventionally rendered periodic table ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table#Overview ). As an oversimplification — sometimes these elements are best considered metals, and sometimes it’s easier to think of them as not metals.

    For instance, most metals conduct electricity. This is why most electrical wire is made of metal — aluminum and copper are favorites, but within computer chips gold is frequently used. Germanium, however, is a semiconductor — it’ll conduct electricity like a wire when tickled in one way, and when it’s feeling balky, it won’t.

    The first transistor was demonstrated on December 23, 1947 at Bell Labs. As with so many things at the time, it was handbuilt, large, tempermental, fragile, and wildly, wildly, way-over-the-top expensive. Transistors, of course, also completely changed the world — and now, they’re cheaper than dirt.

    That transistor was constructed as follows — a piece of plastic had a strip of gold foil attached to it, which was then sliced with a razor blade so that one end of the foil was not conductive to the other end. That gold was then pressed onto the surface of a germanium crystal so that the germanium would bridge the gap, then a wire was attached to the other side of the germanium crystal. If you tried sending current across the gold foil with just the crystal, the germanium would say, “nuh-uh”, and you wouldn’t get any, but if you energized the wire on the other side of the crystal, the germanium would get all friendly and pass current. It’s known as a “PNP point contact germanium transistor”.

    For the first decade of transistor development, geranium was it — and they got to be mass produced, smaller, more predictable (although as a fun note — a lot of the transistors that misbehaved when you breathed on ’em funny or looked at ’em the wrong way…..developed into pressure and humidity sensors or optical detectors in the process of attempting to stomp out that “defect”), robust, and cheaper. Even when I was a kid, transistors were generally discrete components and somewhat pricey, however.

    When transistors were printed on silicon chips, they got MUCH MUCH MUCH cheaper than that. How much cheaper? The $35 Raspberry Pi 4 is built around a Broadcom BCM2711 “System on a Chip”. Considering that there’s the board, connectors, power circuitry, RAM, a network controller, a USB controller, and such on there, the Broadcom chip can’t be more than $10 of that. It likely has over a billion transistors.

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    1. If you’re very fond of them, you might research pelargoniums, which are very closely related (and, in fact some of what is marketed as one may actually be the other). Because of the smell, I prefer to appreciate them from a distance.

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      1. I have a friend who grows “pellies”…they remind me a little of an orchid flower…a bit daintier than the typical geranium..

        and I love the scents ! many different floral scents with pellies…

        …and did you know : the flowers are also edible .

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        1. When showing people around my garden, it’s always nice to stop by nasturtiums…..everyone recognizes them, but few know that the leaves have a pleasant, mild, peppery taste and the flowers are entirely edible.

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  3. Another example of germanium being metallic in some contexts and nonmetallic in others — it looks like a standard shiny metal in visible light. In certain infrared wavelengths, however, it is transparent and can be ground to be used as a lens.

    And this will go off onto yet another diversion…..

    You can get a 40W CO2 laser engraver/cutter on Amazon for about $400. https://www.amazon.com/k40-laser/s?k=k40+laser . Here’s some things to know before you buy.

    1. These are not up to US safety standards. They come straight from China. There is no big red emergency stop button, for instance. Nor is there a door interlock to keep it from running with the door open.
    2. The safety functions that appear to be there may just be cosmetic — that yellow window on top may just be cellophane.
    3. 40W may not seem like much, but it comes out the end of the tube in an invisible straight round beam about 1cm across. If you shine it on water, it’ll boil the top 1/16″ of the water that you shine it on, for as long as you shine it. You can probably fiddle with it and maybe get a couple of burns on your arm with no problem…..but just think about boiling the front 1/16″ inch of your eyeball and use appropriate cautions.
    4. This is an infrared cutting laser. You can focus it with a lens of germanium, but you can use it to etch designs on pint glasses because it interacts with regular glass. It’ll go through a hefty bag like it’d go through smoke and won’t even heat up the bag. You have to RESEARCH everything it will touch because you’ll want to know what will happen before it does.
    5. The supplied software blows big ugly chunks — here’s replacement software: https://www.scorchworks.com/K40whisperer/k40whisperer.html . Alternatively, it’s just two steppers for the X & Y — drive ’em with whatever you want.
    6. There are several well-known American laser engraver/cutter manufacturers in the US that got their start by buying K40’s for $400, making them reasonably safe and friendly, and selling ’em for $2000.

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    1. I didn’t emphasize enough — things that you believe may block the laser may not…..things that you believe might absorb the laser may not……things that you believe may reflect the laser may not. You do not want to be running a setup where you think that the laser will be absorbed in a material and have it reflected into your face. You do not want to run a setup where you think you are protected by a material that is actually transparent to the laser. These puppies are dangerous — no more innately dangerous than a tablesaw — but they do not necessarily behave as expected. You need to exercise extreme caution around a spinning 12″ blade protruding through a table because its obvious what it’ll do to you and how. You need to exercise extreme caution around a 40W 1cm-diameter CO2 laser beam, and think through what it means for it to be invisible and react to things in unexpected ways.

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    1. Reminds me of the carpet installer who was doing a good-sized house by himself. It’s getting to be around 4:00, and he’s on the last room, and he can just taste the cig he’s going to light up when he packs his tools……and, then, in the middle of the floor in the middle of the last room, there’s this lump — and he realizes that his cigs aren’t in his shirt pocket.

      And he’s thinking, “I’ve already stretched the carpet all around the edges of this room, put in the trim, and I need to get out of here. I’ll just buy another pack on may way to drop off the truck. So he takes off his shoe and pounds the lump flat.

      He gets up, unbuckles his knee pads, puts his shoe back on, starts collecting all the trim. and putting his tools where they can be collected. Dumps all the trim in the garbage bin and starts picking up tools, and the young lady who owns the place comes home. He’s going in-and-out the front door and she’s shuttling shopping bags in from the garage for a bit.

      Then she comes in and says, “I found this half-pack of cigarettes in the kitchen, and I don’t smoke. By the way, have you seen my pet hamster, Edwin? He likes burrowing under things.”

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      1. Yeah, I remembered a teacher yukking it up over that one but couldn’t remember exactly what the molecule was, so I decided not to bring it up.

        Congressmen are HORRIBLE at being germane, so I doubt your last suggestion.

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