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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

The science of procrastination!

Posted by aonomus on February 7, 2010

Ok, perhaps not the science of procrastination, but more along the lines of procrastination with science.

So instead of actually studying for my separations and chromatography course, I went and did flash column chromatography with food colouring and varying solvents on a silica gel loaded pasteur pipette.

I suppose that I could claim its to get a more empirical feel for the Snyder solvent selectivity triangle, but at some point it was just fun to practice something I haven’t done in quite a while. If my professor is reading this – sorry, I’ll get back to studying.

And yes, I realize my column is grossly over-loaded, this was the first run and I hadn’t figured out that 0.1mL of food colouring was already *way* too much.

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DIY Syringe Pump Version 1

Posted by aonomus on February 1, 2010

So my last post (ranting on McMaster Carr’s international shipping policy) had a sneak peek of a little mini project that I’ve been up to over the last few days on paper, and finally last night (thanks to the folks over at for their help too) I got some acrylic plastic laser cut to build the device.

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Crystal growing goodness

Posted by aonomus on January 1, 2010

Last week I took a 50mL beaker and loaded it with a few mL of CuSO4 saturated solution and left it in a dessicator loaded with some sodium hydroxide prills. After a few days, crystal growth started.

I think it would be fun to try to grow crystals of pretty much every salt I have in my possession… perhaps I need to improvise a bigger dessicator.

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What do Whoppers (maltese balls) and spray snow have in common?

Posted by aonomus on December 30, 2009

It sounds like an awkward combination, malted milk chocolate coated balls and spray snow have 2 ingredients in common!

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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>.

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