OPEN THREAD 20200123

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 78 – PLATINUM.

29 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20200123

  1. Insty linked this today. I found it mesmerizing and lovely.

    I’ve been listening to the song for forty years, and I always thought she said, “a hookah-smoking character” — but, with everything else stripped away, it’s “caterpillar”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a Programming Note, I am having what I strongly suspect is a massive hay fever attack, caused by my own stupidity. On top of one of my dressers, I had a stack of “special shirts” that I was keeping for sentimental value despite not fitting into them lately. Since I don’t regularly wear them, they’ve been up there for a while and have gathered a bit of dust. Maybe…………….five years’ worth.

    Well, I accidentally knocked that stack over onto a bunch of my regular clothes and now I can’t wear anything without sneezing continuously. I’m running EVERYTHING through the laundry, but that takes time.

    When I was a lad, I had perpetual problems with allergies and came up with a “quick test” to see if I was sick or allergic (I can run debilitating fevers from allergies) — I hop in the shower for quite a while until all the crud is washed away, coughed-up, or showered out of the air. If symptoms “miraculously” abate after about 15 minutes, it’s allergies. I’m pretty sure this is allergies.

    Also……because, stupid. And clumsy.

    So my input to tonight’s shenanigans will be slow, abbreviated, and incomplete.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ahhhh, yes platinum.

    A lot of history here.

    It first came to the attention of Western science when people panning for gold in the Rio del Pinto area of South America started having difficulty with a black powder that was as dense as gold The panning process depends entirely on the weight of gold to separate it from all the sand, gravel, etc, in rivers, so if there is something else as heavy as gold…drastic measures need to be taken. In this case gold and the blackish powder had to be hand separated, grain by grain.

    Eventually it became clear that this crap mixed in with the gold was a new element.

    It was a nuisance for other reasons too. As people continued to work the region for gold, the black powder accumulated, and it was basically useless. It couldn”t be melted (larger nuggets turned up and they were a metallic gray in appearance). However…you could dissolve it by pouring it into a crucible of molten gold, thus forming a “pinto silver”/gold alloy (the very name “platinum” is based on the Spanish word “plata”, silver).

    Since platinum is denser than gold and even less reactive, the debased gold melt would pass the standard tests for gold (weight and acid). So workers at the Spanish mints in the Americas could buy platinum from someone who was more than happy to make a peseta or two off the useless crap, then swap it for some gold when doing a melt for making coinage.

    The spanish government had to ban platinum, and make it illegal to own. Miners were required to sell their platinum to the government. This was to prevent the coinage from being debased.

    Later on when the Spanish government fell on hard times, they debased their own currency with the platinum they had bought, to prevent others from doing so.

    Fast forward a few decades to 1820s Russia, where, in the Ural mountains, platinum nuggets could be found. Peasants were literally using these nuggets for shot, since there was nothing else to be done with it. (Imagine putting half an ounce of platinum nuggets in your shot gun and blowing it out the muzzle….)

    Russia was going through an interesting time. They had silver coinage–technically they were on a silver standard–and paper money; the paper money had long since been over-issued, and a paper ruble was worth a silver quarter ruble (polpoltinnik). They wanted to replace the paper money and bring it back to par, but in the meantime, what to do about larger denominations? Their finance minister decided, what the hell, to produce platinum coins that would be tied to silver! So a 3 ruble platinum piece the same size as the silver quarter ruble (but weighing twice as much) was made; then in later years 6 and 12 ruble pieces, sized the same as half and full rubles, weighing twice as much.

    At the market price of platinum then, even these pieces, having a face value of six times their weight in silver, were still overvalued, and were a target for counterfeiters.

    The process of making them was quite complex too, having no way to smelt platinum, they had to put it through a series of chemical reactions, try to remove as much impurites as possible (iridium was a special problem, but it could be seen because it changed the color of some of the chemical solutions), and eventually precipitate platinum out of solution. This powder was then heated up and compressed as much as possible (work hardening it; plus any remaining iridium made it harder, too). So you had a sort of “sponge” platinum that was typically about 5 percent below its true density (the rest of the volume of the lump of sponge platinum, presumably, was air). This sponge could be sent off to St. Petersburg to be minted.

    The 3 ruble piece actually circulated, just a bit–and is the only platinum coin in history to do so. But the series never really took off, mintages declined, and the series was brought to a close in 1845. The coins that had been made served as a backlog of scrap platinum for decades.

    At the time platinum had one industrial use: making sulfuric acid boilers. You could try to distill sulfuric acid in glass containers, but if they ever shattered…it was a major disaster. Only glass, gold and platinum metal could hold sulfuric acid; whuich would destroy anything else. Gold was too expensive to make big boilers out of, so they’d sinter platinum in big sheets, then roll them up and use gold solder on the seams; presto, a much cheaper (but not actually cheap; it was more expensive than silver even back then) and non-shattering sulfuric acid boiler.

    Eventually platinum’s catalytic properties became known and demand pushed its price higher than gold. Also eventually, the lime block furnace was invented and platinum could finally be melted.

    The mint (and fake makers) in Russia restruck platinum coins in the 1860s, from solid (not sponge) platinum; you can tell those from originals (made from sponge) because they look nice shiny and lustrous, whereas the sponge looks like crap. Incidentally the 3 ruble piece is a four figure item nowadays (it conains a third of an ounce of platinum, but has siginficant collector value), the 6 and 12 command five figures, easily.

    For most of my life platinum has been more expensive than gold, but lately it has been considerably less. It’s on fucking SALE right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does look significantly undervalued from a historical perspective — but if they ever come up with a way to avoid using catalytic converters in vehicles, there is a tremendous overhang in recyclable cat converters rolling around out there.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. True enough.

        I don’t know what it is that has sent palladium through the roof. I remember when prices looked like this: Silver about 5 bucks, palladium about 120 bucks, gold 300 bucks, platinum 400 or 450 bucks.

        Now the palladium is more expensive than the gold which is more expensive than the platinum.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. If a metal is exclusively used as currency, it’s price will reflect its value as a hedge against fiat. If it’s used in jewelry, it will fluctuate as fashions do. But if it’s an industrial metal, it’ll go nuts every time someone does something clever with it — and drop, just as fast, when someone else figures out how to do the same thing with plastic.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Platinum didn’t really get used for jewelry until its industrial uses had pushed it over the price of gold. At that point, it had a reputation for being valuable, so people wanted to make jewelry out of it. which of course increased demand….

            Incidentally, a couple of outfits now make iridium wedding bands. Bring a bucket of money! It’s not just the price, it’s that the stuff is a bitch to work.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Oh and another factor that makes things spike–is the metals that tend to be refined only as byproducts of something else (i.e., four of the six PGMs, and rhenium) seem to really have issues being stable in price.

            There is, now, actually a dedicated palladium mine in Montana. Until that happened, palladium was always a byproduct of something else’s production.

            Liked by 2 people

    2. The La Tolita culture in present-day Ecuador was making platinum/white gold artifacts a few hundred years BC. There aren’t that many, the provenance is difficult because of extensive looting, and they’re not easy to date. Textbooks say that they used a “surprisingly sophisticated system of powder metallurgy” but, considering they were panning all this stuff, I’m thinking it was a whole lot simpler…..”mix two parts gold pan dust with one part black pan dust, stir, and into the fire….”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, and as long as the gold melts, the platinum will dissolve in it, like sugar cubes in water.

        But no way those indians could melt pure platinum with a common fire. Its melting point is not waythehellupthere like osmium and iridium (and rhenium and tungsten) but it was beyond the reach of anyone until the 1850s.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yeah, that’s why I’m snickering at the “sophisticated system of powder metallurgy”. I’m thinking, “melt the gold pan dust with the black pan dust, then skim off the black” will get you a long way.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. It’s inly sophisticated because they alone had the chance to work with platinum at that time; we’d have figured it out in roman times if any platinum were available then.

            What I expect probably happened a few times was someone would find a platinum nugget, a silver smith would fail to melt it, and he’d chuck it out, muttering “bad silver…”

            Liked by 2 people

  4. Of the 218 tonnes of platinum used in 2014, 98 tonnes were used in vehicle emissions control devices, 74.7 tonnes were used for jewelry, 20 tonnes for chemical production, and a smidge under 6 tonnes for electronics.

    Also note that, while platinum is a rare element, osmium and iridium make it look common.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m getting differing information on the “platinum ever mined” thing, and feel to debilitated to separate the truth from fable…..but there was one that I thought was fun and would be much easier to substantiate.

      The average man weighs the same as a six-inch cube of platinum.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Just in case it’s not clear, platinum is a personal favorite of mine.

    Oh, and here’s a gripe:

    When looking at colors–meaning the names of colors, “silver” generally denotes a light metallic gray, and “platinum” denotes an even lighter metallic gray. But that’s actually the reverse of truth. Silver is the whitest metal known, it should be a very light metallic gray in peoples’ color pallets. Platinum is definitely a darker gray than silver is…in reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Way back in ninth grade, I was in a class where we were going to use a power supply and electrodes to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. You use a touch of acid to make things easier. The electrodes were platinum-plated, and I was fascinated….

      And, then, in my class of 30 people, two groups had damaged electrodes that disintegrated into the acid, and one guy managed to collect both the hydrogen and oxygen into the same test tube — then sparked the electrodes together trying to get things to work right…..

      Liked by 2 people

  6. OK, I’m feeling decrepit. This is what you get:

    A woman walks into a psychoanalyst’s office and says, “doctor, my husband thinks he is a dog! Please help me, I’m at my wit’s end and don’t know what to do!”

    So the shrink says, “fine, fine — have him come in to my consultation room and get on the couch.”

    The woman starts off being reassured, but snaps back with, “wait — no! — he’s not allowed on the couch.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A dog walks into a job center and says that he’s looking for work. “Wow, a talking dog,” says the clerk. “With your talent I’m sure we can find you a gig in the circus.” “The circus?” says the dog. “What does a circus want with a plumber?”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A guy driving across the backroads stops at a small country store. The glass door has a large sign that says “DANGER! BEWARE OF DOG!” He pauses a moment before going inside and noting a big ol’ hound dog asleep on the floor beside the cash register.

    He makes his selections, then goes to the register, asking “Is THAT the dog folks are supposed to beware of?”

    As the cashier rings up his purchase, he says, “Yep, that’s him.”

    Handing over the money, the guy amusedly says, “that certainly doesn’t look like a dangerous dog to me. Why in the world would you post that sign?”

    Handing back his change, the cashier replied, “‘Cause afore we put that sign up, people kept trippin’ over him.”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A man and his dog went into a pub.

    The barman said, “Sorry, mate, no dogs allowed in here!” The dog replied “Oh, please don’t be like that; I’m trained and I won’t cause any trouble!” The bar man was astonished at the talking dog and sat and chatted with the dog and its owner.

    After a while the owner went to the toilet and the barman saw his chance for a prank. He said to the dog, “would you do me a favor as a wind-up, will you go down to my friend’s baker shop and order a loaf of bread??” “Sure!” replied the dog — so the barman gave the dog a fiver and the dog left.

    When the owner came out of the toilet, he started to go into a panic when he saw his dog had gone. The barman tried to reassure the man, saying, “It’s ok — he’s just gone down to the bakery for me.” The owner was livid: “It IS NOT OK!!! — he’s never been out on his own, anything could happen to him. He could get run over, picked up by the pound, dognapped!” — and ran out the door.

    The owner spent the next two hours searching for his dog, walking the streets frantically. Finally, a few blocks from the bar, he heard strange noises coming from an alleyway…..which he followed to find his pooch in flagrante delicto, having its wicked way with a lady poodle.

    “ROVER!” shouted the owner, “you’ve had me worried sick — what’s the matter with you? You’ve never disappeared like this before!” To which, the dog replied, “ain’t never had a fiver before….”

    Liked by 2 people

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