Tag Archive: Translator Pique the Geek

Nov 29 2010

Pique the Geek 20101128: Kitchen Chemistry and the Interstellar Terrorist Threat

In the kitchen, oftentimes we desire to thicken a sauce or a broth without significantly changing its flavor.  There are several ways to do this, and the physicochemical principles behind them are quite different in many cases.  One way of thickening things is just to reduce them (i.e., boil them down), but that often involves chemical changes that alter flavor.

Other ways of thickening things including adding small amounts of rather bland ingredients that cause the sauce or other material to become thicker without extreme heating, or to create a complex emulsion that thickens materials due to physical rather than chemical changes.  We shall examine some of both this evening.

Nov 22 2010

Pique the Geek: An Analytical Treatment of “Small Business” Tax Increases 20101121

The concept of “small business” being damaged by increasing the progressive tax rates on what is purported to be them has not been presented correctly.  Keith Olbermann did a pretty good job a couple of weeks ago, but since his show is necessarily fast paced, the point did not make its mark as well as it might have done so.

That is no criticism towards him, because he is one of the “good guys”, but on a TeeVee show there is just not time enough to examine all of the documents that need some detailed explanation.  It he were to go into the detail that we are about to find, his show would be canceled for being extremely boring.

That is the one advantage that I have.  I can show exactly where the fallacies lie, without the restriction of a three minute treatment.  I will admit that he does indeed have a face for TeeVee, and I have one for blogs or radio.

Nov 15 2010

Pique the Geek 20101114: Backyard Solar Cells as a Panecea

First, please do not get me wrong.  I am a strong supporter of solar power, either to charge your car battery or to run cities.  Before we start, get the idea that I am opposed to solar power out our your mind.  But solar power has it limitations.

Lately, the SOBber on the Fox “News” network (soon to have to be distinguished from The SOBber of the House of Representatives) has been adding solar generators to gold and food stashes as a way to survive the coming apocalypse in his repertoire of advertisers.  I shall not use the name nor the website for the particular backyard solar firm to which his adverts refer, but will start by stating that the claims are, to say the least, overblown.

Before we start, very happy birthday wishes to the former Mrs. Translator!

Nov 01 2010

Pique the Geek 20101031: Nickel, an Important Element

Most of us think of nickel as the well-known United States five cent piece.  Actually, this coin is really 75% copper and only 25% nickel.  This alloy is ideal for coinage, since it is essentially noncorrosive and hard enough to resist wear in handling.  But that is only a minor use for this remarkable metal.  By the way, the U.S. five cent piece is not the first U.S. coin to be called that.  More on that later.

You handle nickel every day much more than you know.  It is present in many things that we use all of time, but it is rarely recognized.  Please come with me on an examination of a truly wonderful and useful material.

Oct 25 2010

Pique the Geek 20101024: Essential Elements: Mercury

Most people think of mercury as nothing but a toxic nuisance.  Actually, that is far from the truth.  While mercury is toxic in many situations, modern life as we know it would be essentially impossible without that element.  It is also a material known from antiquity, and has drawn the interest of learned folks since then.

Mercury is unique in that it is the only metal to be a liquid at room temperature.  Actually, it is liquid from around minus 39 degrees Celsius to around 360, so it has a almost a 400 hundred degree liquid phase.  That is also sort of odd, since many metals have much longer liquid ranges.

Let us investigate this unique material, and see how it impacts our lives.  You might be surprised.

Oct 18 2010

Pique the Geek 20101017: Concrete, the Wonder Material

Most people never give concrete a second thought.  This is a mistake.  Concrete is one of the most versatile and widely used building materials known, and it has been known for a long time.  Concrete like materials have been unearthed in ancient Egypt, and the Romans made extensive use of it.  Concrete structures over 2000 years old are still in use today.

Roman concrete is very different than modern concrete, and it did not weather well.  Thus, Roman structures were often faced with stone or brick to increase durability.  This defect has been overcome with modern materials and production techniques.

Oct 11 2010

Pique the Geek 20101010: Sustainability: Evil Plastic Bottles

Welcome to the third to last xx/xx/xx year in our lifetimes  Only next year and 2012 until we wait another 88 years for one.

Now that I have gotten your attention, actually MOST plastic bottles are not evil from a health and safety perspective, but the way that we use them certainly is evil.  I did say MOST, since by far the greatest number of plastic containers are made of polyethylene (PE, recycle code 2), polypropylene (PP, recycle code 5), or polyethylene terephthalate, (PET or PETE, recycle code 1).  These materials are not very apt to leach harmful materials into the contents.

Some plastics, notably polycarbonate (PC, recycle code 7 [7 is a catch all for “other”]) are apt to leach out harmful materials, particularly bisphenol A, strongly suspected as being an endocrine system disruptor because of its potential to mimic estrogen.  Polycarbonate containers are clear and usually thick, while PE and PP are translucent.  PETE is also clear, but usually quite a bit thinner than PC.  Just look at the recycle codes on the bottom.

Oct 04 2010

Pique the Geek 20101003: Sustainability: Water Purification

We have been talking about sustainability recently, and one of the resources in most jeopardy is fresh water.  In the United States the freshwater problem is becoming more and more significant, and in many parts of the world it is already desperate.  We shall look at some of the methods used to purify nonpotable water tonight.

First of all, we need to understand what kind of water we are purifying.  It ranges in quality from surface or ground freshwater, requiring only minor treatment to eliminate microbes that might cause disease (the vast majority of drinking and industrial water in the United States comes from these sources), all the way to seawater, with lots of intermediate kinds.

Sep 27 2010

Pique the Geek 20100926: Sustainability (and Connexions) Part the First

I have been thinking about sustainability for a long, long time.  Unfortunately, in my scientific analysis, it not possible if we continue on the route that we have chosen.  This is an extremely complex topic, and might even deserve its own, new, date.  I am thinking that Wednesdays might be a good time for it.  This is more speculation than science, so it does not properly belong on Pique the Geek for the long term.

This will be the most controversial topic that I have ever tackled.  I may be dead wrong in some of my speculations, but a lot of thought has gone into them.  I offer no easy remedies but do ask the hard, horrible questions and illustrate them with facts.  I will ask that you, my readers, tell me whether this deserves a new series, uncoupled from Pique the Geek. Please read further.

Sep 13 2010

Pique the Geek 20100912: Cold and Flu Season

Well, summer will be officially over on or around 20100921, the autumnal equinox.  This is the day when the nights begin to grow longer than the days, just like the vernal equinox, when the nights grow shorter than the days.  It all has to do with the unique orbit of our wonderful spaceship earth as it orbits the sun.  Perhaps near that date I cam elaborate.

This time, however, we shall discuss the beginning of the cold and flu season, and how to deal with it.  I have only two rules, and they are important.  Observe them and you will have fewer of them, I suspect.

Older posts «

Fetch more items