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Archive for the ‘How Not to Do It’ Category

Questioning the science behind Avatar

Posted by aonomus on December 25, 2009

So the thought occurs to me, while they tried to develop the science and technology within the Avatar universe accurately and within the laws of physics with some artistic license, they made one mistake that I have to pick on.

The Avatar wiki set up probably by fans  (which quote a book regarding the Avatar canon), the article on Pandora states:

Pandora’s atmosphere is a poisonous brew of ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, and even a small percentage of hydrogen cyanide

Now in the film, all you have to do to survive in the native environment is wear a mask that [I suppose] filters out the ammonia, methane, excess CO2, and other trace toxins. Practically though, you have other mucous membranes that are exposed (read: down there). If you have a mucous membrane exposed to an atmosphere with a partial pressure of NH3 and HCN, some of those substances will have to dissolve into the water on that mucous membrane. Last I checked, even a little bit of ammonia can irritate the heck out of you, and HCN can kill.

What happens if you sweat? Water droplets begin to absorb NH3 and all of a sudden you are covered in 1M ammonia with a mix of HCN? What about the other parts down there? While its plausible that you could survive for a short time using only an oxygen mask or pack to filter out only the toxins (since its been established that a partial pressure of oxygen is present, just the other toxins make it impossible to live), prolonged exposure as shown in the movie during various outings or combat scenes just don’t make sense. Metals corrode under exposure to things like ammonia, (copper and brass turn bright blue thanks to the copper-ammonia complex formed for instance), and living tissues that are even the slightest bit moist will be exposed to the ammonia.

While I enjoyed the movie, the CG and 3D were wonderful, and they made many people happy – as a chemist, the fact just sticks out at me, and while in the movie it was never really stated that the atmosphere contains NH3/HCN, it was stated that its only bad to breathe the stuff in, whereas its perfectly fine to have a oxygen source and go bathing in it.

Heck, rivers and streams would be partially NH3 and HCN containing, I would certainly not like to get caught in the rain there.

Anyway, </rant>.

Posted in Chemistry, How Not to Do It, Science | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Um. What?

Posted by aonomus on July 18, 2008

So I received my *big* digikey order today and I began the nerd ritual of unboxing. First thing that catches my eye is a label that reads “RES 1.2K OHM 1/4W 5% CARBON FILM” only to be stapled to a bag of plastic connectors (which I didn’t order either). Oh well, only part out of the order, but for a hand picked thing I’m surprised there wasn’t any check for mistakes before packaging…. too bad I didn’t receive a pile of IGBT bricks or something better.

So a quick 1-800 call and I manage to find out that it must have been in the same row, maybe the same bin and digikey hand-picks all their orders anyways, so for a low error rate, just my luck 😀 I might have to return these ones, which would suck due to S&H and customs. I didn’t even get the metal pins so these connectors are kinda useless too….

Update: I got charged $0.61 for the resistors, and zero for the S&H cause they made a mistake and likely will ship Monday. Good luck for my first Digikey order…. now if that catalog will arrive I can collapse my bookshelf.

Posted in Electronics, How Not to Do It | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

How Not to Do It – Fume Hoods

Posted by aonomus on June 1, 2008

Well, PHD Comics did it again:

It’s too true since more than once, a certain lab at my university which will remain unnamned, repeatedly spills various thiols from their stock bottles in the fume hood. These aren’t just run of the mill methyl or ethyl thiols, they’re branched ‘who knows what they would do to you’ kind of thiols that can be smelled several buildings away. The worst bit is that they decided to put the collective fume-hood exhausts *right next to the main building air intake*.

The last time a spill happened everyone on campus could smell it, however I was already in a different chem lab with 6 fume hoods sucking air out, so for some reason I never smelled anything while everyone was in a panic over natural gas (and evacuated the library 2 buildings over).

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ACTA – Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – Horribly Wrong.

Posted by aonomus on May 26, 2008

Well, if you haven’t heard of ACTA yet, its cause the participant governments don’t want you to hear about it. Its being drafted currently (and has been for several months) to ‘prevent piracy’, but it has much more significant implications overall. Under the pretext of fighting true counterfeit products and commercial piracy that causes actual significant loss to both right holders and consumers, it seems to target more specifically the everyday citizen.

As an iPod owner myself, I find this disturbing because it is difficult to determine whether or not a particular song is pirated or not. ACTA would allow border officials to randomly search any electronic device with several disturbing clauses:

  • ex officio authority to act on infringers: The ability to act on infringers without legal recourse from the IP rights holder
  • ‘Civil enforcement’ – ex parte searches: The ability to search items and possessions without a lawyer present
  • Provisions for judicial authorities to pay the right holder(s) fines: Arbitrary, trial-less punishment, ACTA would allow government officials to force you to pay fines based on already shoddy laws under the pretext of ‘terrorism’ or other bandwagons.
  • Provisions for confiscation and destruction of IP violating property. Wouldn’t this let them take, keep and suppress any evidence for you to fight their decision?

Doesn’t this make a small group judge, jury, and executioner without any oversight? I already mentioned the lack of transparency in the Canadian government by removing certain programs which allow for people to watch the government. has a much better explanation and commentary of the leaked document regarding ACTA found here:
Disclaimer: IANAL, this is only an informative statement towards the public.

I felt I needed to put that disclaimer in because sooner or later, any public outcry against government policy will be illegal.

Posted in How Not to Do It, Politics, Rant | Leave a Comment »


Posted by aonomus on May 15, 2008

If there is a definition of irony, Slashdot appreciates it. Also, link to the article.

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