OPEN THREAD 20200126

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 81 – THALLIUM.

20 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20200126

  1. OK, I’m pondering about how to proceed with Thallium. Rat poison, semiconductor doping, and exotic glassware…..hmmmm…..

    In the meantime, I pulled up a reminder of how long I’ve been paranoid — I had this in the UK edition before it was published in the US.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thallium is named after the sea-green colored line in its spectrum. In other words it’s one of those elements discovered by that spectroscopy thing that Cthulhu thinks is gay or something. 😛 (Yeah, I know you were joking, C. So am I.)

    It’s known as inheritance powder because it’s quite toxic, and for a while at least coroners didn’t know to check for it when investigating an untimely death.

    On the geeky side, it was a constituent in the “Tree Of Life” roots that protectors ate in Larry Niven’s Known Space series…and protectors were actually fully mature human beings, maturity being triggered by eating that plant. The plant doesn’t grow here on Earth, so we don’t know this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a clarification, it’s ok to identify it by spectroscopy and then go get it…’s where it’s identified through spectroscopy and nobody isolates it for 70 years [*cough* lanthanides *cough*] that is a lame example of halfway science.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Happened with helium, too (not seventy years, but still). Promiennt in the solar spectrum but we had no effing idea what it was like or where to look for it.

        The lanthanides’ problem was not so much isolating the metals from the rest of a molecule so much as separating the metals from each other. Misch metal has been produced for quite some time, and it’s basically lanthanide soup–whatever came out of the mine that day.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thallium is actually a poster child for the problem. Two guys both discovered the metal through spectroscopy in 1861, Crookes and Lamy. Both had isolates in 1862 — Crookes through precipitation, and Lamy through electrolysis. Crookes wrote a paper in 1861 to get priority and exhibited his powdered precipitate at the International Exhibition in London; Lamy had a small ingot of Thallium at the same show, and “was awarded a medal at the International Exhibition in London 1862: For the discovery of a new and abundant source of thallium and after heavy protest Crookes also received a medal: thallium, for the discovery of the new element”.

          Compare this to all the adulation of someone “discovering” and naming an element *cough* …..that will first be seen by his great-grandchildren.

          BTW, I really liked the altimeter thing in mercury. That was interesting.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Of course many of the elements post Californium have only been “seen” in a single or double digit number of atoms…so is that better or worse?

            I don”t know. On a gut level I can’t even think of them as “real” elements since creating them is a laboratory stunt that lasts about five minutes.

            There is literally NO oganesson in the entire universe…unless someone is running the experiment Right Now.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. If I may attempt to paraphrase your gripe, you don’t consider an element to have been discovered until someone has isolated it.

            At what purity? Surely, if I’ve got a ten percent pure sample, I haven’t isolated it, but if it’s absolutely 100% pure, I have. What’s the cutoff?

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I certainly agree that isolation of oganesson would be a fruitless exercise because it won’t be around by the time you could get a photographer set-up — both isotopes have a half-life under two-tenths of a second….and, yeah, it might make the cut as an “element”, but it’s more ephemeral than a “real element”.

              My specific beef is with (a) stable elements, (b) identified by spectroscopy of something like “anode mud”, where “discovery” and naming rights are claimed by someone who is long dead by the time someone actually isolates a sample — and I’d even go so far as to say, isolates a sample that is more THAT ELEMENT than gunk. “Pretty lines on a spectrograph, but I can’t be bothered to wade through hundreds of tons of that gunk” should be ridiculed, not lauded and immortalized. It’s half-assed science.

              Both Crookes and Lamy are worthy “discoverers” of Thallium. By contrast, let’s use Marignac with Ytterbium. He throws a name out in 1878, various more advanced chemists than he isolated other elements from what he was looking at, the pure metal isn’t isolated until 1953 — by people with no name — and he is credited with discovering an element he never saw. The guys who actually went through tons of that crap and did all the work to get a sample might as well have been Oompa-Loompas.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. I’ll agree that the isolators should get a lot more credit than anonymity.

                But…and this is key…they already KNEW there was something TO isolate before they even got their ore or mud or whatever. They didn’t start from scratch, as a real discoverer would have. For that matter, the spectroscopists DID start from scratch.

                So one started the job–undeniably started it–and the other finished. So why give the credit solely to either party?

                I know what the chemists would say–it’s because the first guy proved that the element existed, even if he never laid eyes on a pure sample. And in their minds, the proof that something exists is tantamount to discovering it. In fact, just reading that sentence is enough to persuade me. (With regard to the super heavies, it’s more like “proof that it can exist and has existed at one point in the past” but that’s a different matter.)

                Liked by 1 person

              2. …and a chemist will happily tell you we knew atoms existed long before we ever laid eyes on an image of one. (We still haven’t laid eyes on one with visible light, and never will since they are typically smaller than a wavelength of visible light.)

                Liked by 1 person

  3. An artist has a special exhibit at a gallery where roughly a quarter of the floor is his works. A couple of days go by, and he stops in to ask the gallery manager if there had been any interest.

    “Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news,” said the manager. “The good news is that a gentleman liked your work and asked if its value would appreciate after your death. When I said yes, he bought all 20 of your paintings.”

    “But that’s fantastic,” whooped the artist. “What could possibly be the bad news?”

    “The gentleman was your doctor.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Three kids are causing a ruckus near the wolf enclosure of a zoo. A couple of Zoo Security roll up on Segways, dismount, and question the kids.

    The first kid says his name is Ronnie and that he was simply trying to feed pickles to the wolves.

    The second kid introduces herself as Libby and says she was also just trying to feed pickles to the wolves.

    The third child introduces herself as Pickles.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Some notes about bears. In North America, you generally encounter black bears that are large, fearsome omnivores that eat meat, but also vegetable matter. And, then……you have brown bears…..whose subpopulations tend to have names like “Grizzly”, or “Kodiak” — and are large, fearsome, apex predators. If you go north far enough, you will encounter the snuggly Polar Bear — which is, in reality, the world’s largest land carnivore.

    That said —


    A rookie hunter walks into a gun shop and asks the owner about the optimal modification for his pistol to better deal with brown bears.

    With little hesitation the owner says to file down the front sights.

    Intrigued the rookie asks how such a simple modification will help. The owner replies, “Well… It will hurt less when the bear shoves it up your ass.”


    Up in Alaska, there are trekking shops to equip people who want to hike along trails in the absolutely gorgeous wilderness.

    One popular item is “bear bells” — little metal bells, similar to sleighbells, on a clip. They jingle lightly during your hike and are meant to give bears sufficient warning that they are not surprised, and can calmly move away.

    Should that not work, another popular item is “bear spray”. This is a version of the law enforcement/military “pepper spray” that is synthesized chili irritants dissolved in tear gas. It generally has a longer spray range and longer duration than the cans carried by law enforcement.

    But situational awareness is still key, and that means being aware of the territory you are passing through. A top-notch guidebook might help you identify local threats by noting that black bear scat is usually a large pile of pellets, possibly including residue of leaves and stems — where brown bear scat is an even larger pile, is more long stretches than pellets, doesn’t have nearly as many leaves and stems, but often includes metal bells and smells vaguely like chili.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As usual, apropos of nothing, Sigmund Freud actually published a BOOK, “Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten” [“Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious”]. He first divides “contentious” [meaningful] humor from “non-contentious” [silliness]. He then attempts to divide meaningful humor among the “joke, comic, or mimetic” — by which I suppose that things are funny because of circumstance, outlook, or the way the world is.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s