The Monolith Monsters are taking over the world!

Since every one of these undying threads turns into something about geology, including the last one, it is only fitting that we reveal the truth here: rocks are evil. They want to turn everything into stone.

Now watch: no one will talk geology at all in this open thread.


  1. mythusmage says

    Nerd of Redhead, #492


    Though as a later commenter pointed out, the presence of a high pressure system in the east is screwing with the picture.

    Just as a high pressure system in the west is screwing with the picture out here (our temperatures are supposed to be in the mid60s this time of year, not the low 70s).

    Still, the presence of a (relatively) warm ocean west of San Diego versus the presence of a (relatively) cold continent west of Savannah does make a difference. But, events such as high pressure systems and the presence of the California Current and the Gulf Stream do make a difference.

    (BTW, an off-shore flow is supposed to raise local temperatures to the low 80s; here’s hoping things warm up a bit back east as well.)

  2. mythusmage says

    Katrina, #496

    It also helps that you get cold air masses off of the Russian Far East via the Gulf of Alaska. On great occasion you pass such an air mass on to us, and so local temperatures can drop as much as 40 degrees in an hour’s time. (I remember a day when people were in shirt sleeves in the morning, and piling on sweaters and jackets in the afternoon.)

    On a really unrelated note, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) once observed that the coldest winter he’d ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco.

  3. Owlmirror says

    The one time my field is mildly relevant to this blog and I miss it. Excuse me, I’m off to commit seppuku to assuage the shame I have brought on my ancestors.

    If you can take a moment and remove that sword from your gut, maybe you can answer the followup question I have. Of course, maybe NoR will get there first…

    OK, so the Wiki on Kinetic isotope effect, Mathematical details in a diatomic molecule states “Thus, the zero-point energy (n = 0) will decrease as the reduced mass increases. With a lower zero-point energy, more energy is required to overcome the activation energy for bond cleavage.”

    Am I correct in understanding that that means that ¹³CO2 will require more energy to break down (and thus participate in a reaction) than ¹²CO2?

  4. Owlmirror says

    Oh, and the section of the Wiki article on heavy water/dideuterium monoxide about metabolism was fascinating — toxic at 50% of body water, but also a potential longevity treatment at 25% of body water (in fruit flies).

    Not that I’m volunteering for human trials or anything.

    Yet prokaryotes don’t seem to have any problem with it at all. Hmm.

  5. Owlmirror says

    Whoops, I mistyped.

    25% of body water causes sterility, eep!

    The percentage that putatively lengthens lifespan is not stated on the wiki article.

    And I see that it was reported on in… New Scientist. Confidence level falling… falling…

  6. Patricia, Queen of Sluts OM says

    OK that’s it. Nerd & Rorschach off to the spanking couch the both of you.

  7. Alan B says

    #477 Owlmirror

    Alan B: He’s also discussing the terranes that make up the British Isles, which you also might find of interest.

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll take a look. Where I live is close to where 3 microterranes meet with (minor) earthquakes on one of the fault systems.

  8. windy says

    It could be described as sexy dancing. But more importantly, they were wearing minimal clothing and performing in public, which can stir desires

    That’s not what I’d call ‘minimal’ clothing ‘Tis, or were you being ironic?

    A bit closer to minimal:

  9. John Morales says

    Windy, perhaps Himself was pointing out dancing can be um, “sexy”, even with voluminous amounts of clothing?

  10. Alan B says


    It is my understanding that the can-can dancers, did not, shall we say, always wear such voluminous underwear. Indeed, sometimes they wore none at all …

  11. Louis says

    Being a UKian, I had to sleep, sorry for my lateness!

    Nerd, your generosity shall not go unnoticed….just unrewarded. ;-) Should I start singing “This is my Moment”? I’m going with “no”.

    Owlmirror #504/505/506:

    Yes, that’s what it means. However, the 13C substituted molecule vs the identical 12C substituted molecule reaction rate differences are (typically) much smaller than D vs H. This is, rather obviously, largely due to the fact that a difference of ~ 1 mass unit in 13 is less significant than a difference of ~ 1 mass unit in 2. This is without considering the effect of orbital overlap and bonding modes btw (this becomes more significant for heavier nuclei with very different isotopes).

    As for the biological effects, I can’t really add much to the Wiki article without getting technical! Simply put those biological reactions/processes which rely particualrly heavily on hydrogen bonding (like mitosis), or where D has substituted for a crucial H, will feel the pinch of the stronger D-X bond the most. (BTW I’m using X here for any atom D is bound to, C, O, N, S, etc)

    Reading around a little, something that struck me was that it seems like relatively “fast” biochemical reactions were significantly effected (various reactions with cytochrome P450 for example) by heavy water/D-labeled molecules. That impression makes sense to me at least, especially if we’re condiering primary kinetic isotope effects. Hmmmmm…

    I’m off to the library!


  12. Katrina says

    Had an interesting conversation with my 7-y-o skepchick over dinner last night.

    She informed me that one of her classmates has been going around saying, “God made us. God made us. God made us.” She said she finally got tired of it and said to him, “No he didn’t. Charles Darwin proved more than a hundred years ago that we evolved from non-human ancestors.”

    Her second-favorite book (her favorite is whatever she happens to be reading) is Voyage of the Beetle, by Anne Weaver and George Lawrence.

  13. Islander says

    Katrina, if I ever have a child (or children), I dearly hope s/he is as smart as your daughter seems to be.

  14. Katrina says

    This child of mine begs me to play NOVA specials for her on my computer.

    Of course, I comply. ;-)

  15. Alan B says

    Let’s have a try at isotope fractionation by a purely physical processes to show how enrichment /depletion can occur.

    Graham’s Law of gaseous diffusion dates back to 1829 and states that the rate of diffusion is inversely proportional to the square root of its density. Thus, for 2 gases with densities d1 and d2, the rates of diffusion (D1 and D2) will be in the ratio:

    D1/D2 = Sqrt (d2/d1)

    For ideal gases, 1 mole of any gas occupies a fixed volume at constant temperature and pressure. (For example, the density of carbon dioxide with C-12 will be slightly less than the density of carbon dioxide with C-13.) So:

    D1/D2 = Sqrt (M2/M1) where M1 and M2 are the molecular weights.

    Let’s look at 3 examples. In each case M1 is the lower value:

    1) Carbon dioxide in plants

    M1 = 12 + 2*16 = 44
    M2 = 13 + 2*16 = 45

    Hence, D1/D2 = Sqrt (45/44) = 1.011.

    Thus, C-12 carbon dioxide diffuses about 1.1% faster than C-13 carbon dioxide.

    Since diffusion of carbon dioxide into a plant leaf is the first stage of incorporation into plant cells there will be a slight increase in the ratio of C-12 to C-13 available to take part in photosynthesis and the ratio of C-12 : C-13 in the plant material will be slightly enhanced. (Or C-13 slightly depleted). Chemical porcesses then occur each of which will be affected slightly by the difference in the rates for C-12 and C-13. In general, the activation energy for reactions involving C-12 will be slightly faster than those with C-13. This will add to the depletion of C-13 in the plant-produced carbohydrates. Finding this depletion in C-13 is an indication that there may have been life. In addition, the quantitative depletion in C-13 depends on the photosynthetic route (C-3 & C-4) but this is out of my depth without looking up the detail.

    2) Enrichment of Uranium in U-235

    Natural Uranium (a mixture of U-235 and U-238) in enriched in U-235 by gaseous diffusion of the hexafluoride – UF6. Here the density difference is less:

    M1 = 235 + 6*19 = 349
    M2 = 238 + 6*19 = 352

    D1/D2 = Sqrt (352/349) = 1.004

    Thus, the slightly lighter UF6 (235) will diffuse through a hole or porous medium 0.4% faster than the undesirable UF6 (238). Collect the light fraction and you will have a slight enrichment in U-235. Repeat ad nauseam and you get bomb grade Uranium.

    3) Finally, water containing O-16 and O-18.

    M1 = 18
    M2 = 20

    D1/D2 = Sqrt (20/18) = 1.054

    Thus, water molecules that have diffused out of the surface of the sea in evaporation will be slightly enriched in O-16 water, leaving behind water slightly enriched in O-18. This depletion/enrichment is observed.

    If you want to know more about these processes then I can give you a reference work from Cornell Uni.

  16. Josh says

    Alan, I’m going to enjoy reading #520 (I think you and Nerd should geek out to your chemistry strengths whenever you like). But first, dinner calls.

  17. Alan B says

    #477 & #451

    Looked further at the site. Interesting.

    The concept of multiple “slices” making up Great Britain is well known. In addition, the Midlands platform as shown in his figure is believed to be made up of 3 pieces. I have found 1 or 2 reliable references that assume this to be so. There is a paper that presents the evidence but I can’t put my hands on it (yet).

  18. Alan B says

    #522 Josh

    You surely don’t want a “KemistryKorner” as well as “Share and Enjoy”?

    Remember, except where I had to use it in my job, my chemistry is over 40 years out of date. On second thoughts, I am quoting Graham’s Law from 1829 – maybe some things don’t change.

  19. Alan B says

    #515 Louis

    Remember, the effect of the 2 carbon isotopes is likely to be not 1 part in 12 / 13 but 1 part in the molecular weight (whatever the molecule). Likewise for H-1 and H-2.

    For carbon dioxide 44 vs 45.
    For deuterium it would probably be 16 vs 17 (for water).

  20. Alan B says


    (Unless the hydrogen was involved in a reaction as the ion, “H+”, where the effect would be larger. Depends on the rate limitting process.)

  21. Josh says

    You surely don’t want a “KemistryKorner” as well as “Share and Enjoy”?

    Oh, I don’t think that would be a bad thing…

    Hey Nerd, I’ve very recently (and am sitting here on a second bottle of Best Brown Ale) discovered Bell’s Brewery, which hails from Comstock, MI. Are you familiar with the brand? It’s not UP, but…was curious. The “Best Brown Ale” is tasty.

  22. mythusmage says

    Through his comment series Alan B shows another reason why I like this blog and its commentors, the generosity.

  23. Lynna, OM says

    Well, Alan B, I should know something about geochemistry, but really I know fuck all. I truly enjoyed your comment 520.

    I won’t remember the math, but I will remember that the formula exists … so I can look it up if needed. Mostly, I’ll remember the concept behind the diffusion rates (especially liked the explanation of carbon in plants), and the relationship to porous mediums, hole sizes, etc.

    Do you feel like tackling the chemistry behind irradiated topaz (changing common brownish shades to blue)? ‘Tis Himself gave us an overview some time back, and I either need to be told again, or I need a more detailed explanation. Throwing the stuff into a nuclear reactor, and the dangers that result (hot gemstones!) made for an interesting discussion.

  24. Lynna, OM says

    Rex Rammell, the candidate for governor of Idaho that feels like he is ordained by God and prophesied by Joseph Smith to save the constitution is in the news here again (or still in the news).

    Idaho is on the cusp of another political season with the legislative session beginning Monday, Jan. 11, followed by a primary election in May and general election in November. And that means the time for prophesying is nigh.
         Just ask gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell, who feels ordained by a Latter-Day Saint prophesy to save the U.S. Constitution.
         “We are in America’s second Revolutionary War to save our freedom, which we paid for with blood. We need God’s help and I am not ashamed to ask for it!” Rammell declares.
         Though the Mormon Church has distanced itself from Rammell’s campaign, the large animal veterinarian is meeting with LDS elders to share his interpretation of a former church president’s interpretation of a statement attributed to Joseph Smith.

    I agree with Rex Rammell on one point, he knows no shame.

  25. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Hey Nerd, I’ve very recently (and am sitting here on a second bottle of Best Brown Ale) discovered Bell’s Brewery, which hails from Comstock, MI. Are you familiar with the brand? It’s not UP, but…was curious. The “Best Brown Ale” is tasty.

    Josh, yes it is a tasty ale. I grew up near Comstock in Battle Creek, and still have family there. That ale is served in one of the restaurants in BC, which we often visit while in town. I grew as a troll, but did spend 15 years near Superior. Don’t tell me you were training at Ft. Custer.

  26. Josh says

    Don’t tell me you were training at Ft. Custer.

    I will not comment on unit operational posture. Except now–no, there is a great little package store a block away from me that has it*. Very nice stuff. The owner recommended it to me a couple of days ago and I’m going to totally be into it for a while.

    *they also have a spectacular single malt collection, but I’ve largely been good.

  27. Sven DiMilo says

    I’ll chime in to the Isotopic Effect discussion, though I must admit at the outset that I am about a half-dozen pints into the evening already.

    OK. Metabolic rates of organisms are of interest for any number of reasons. By “metabolic rate” I mean “rate of energy expenditure,” which ought to be measured in units like moles of ATP per day, but are approximated instead by measurements of oxygen consumption and/or carbon dioxide production. Gas-exchange rates are measurable directly in the laboratory (not easily, believe me, but measurable). But sometimes what we want to know is “Field Metabolic Rate,” the rate of energy expenditure by animals behaving naturally in their natural habitats.
    Long story short, the best (most accurate) way to measure/estimate FMR is called the “doubly labelled water” (DLW) technique. Here’s the idea. You enrich the body water of a bunch of individuals with isotopes of both oxygen (O18) and hydrogen (H2 or H3). Wait for the injected water to equilibrate with the body water, take a blood sample, and let em go to behave naturally etc. Now the (usually) hard part: recapture the labelled individuals after an appropriate interval (24h for a small bird or mouse up to 30d for a tortoise). Nother blood sample.

    Now you distill out the water from the blood samples and analyze it for the H and O isotopes (via various radio- spectro- photo- alchemicalo- techniques). Proportions of both enriched isotopes will have decreased over time. Hydrogen isotopes are lost almost entirely as H2O, so the deuterium or tritium concentration decreases (and is interpretable as water flux rate). Now oxygen is also lost as water, BUT is lost in CO2 too. Paying attention? Subtract the rate of H isotope decrease (water) from the rate of O isotope decrease (water + CO2) and whaddaya get?

    A: Carbon dioxide production rate, a stoichiometric correlate of ATP production and (therefore!!!) chemical-energy-use rate; i.e. metabolic rate (=, btw, and via the FLoT, heat production rate). In the field. FMR.

    The technique has been applied to dozens of species of terrestrial animals. Pretty cool stuff. OK.

  28. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Bells Cherry Stout is also good and their Two Hearted Ale is one of my favorites.

  29. Sven DiMilo says

    Shit, I forgot the whole point: One of the things one has to take into account when interpreting rates of decrease in isotope levels is fractionation. For example, simple evaporative water loss favors lighter isotopes…

  30. Sven DiMilo says

    But enough about me.
    Here’s my vote RIGHT NOW for the–yo, I’ma let you finish, but this is the greatest recording by anybody ever of All Time! OF ALL TIME!!!

  31. John Morales says

    Sven, interesting. I’m familiar with energy expenditure being expressed in terms of power (i.e. units of energy per units of time), but I can see the point of expressing it in terms of units of (chemical energy source processed) per unit time¹ as a basis for determination.

    Clever biochemists!

    ¹ However, I thought the processing efficiency dependent on a number of factors, not least temperature. I guess homeostasis in organisms is taken as a given?

  32. Jadehawk, OM says

    new chick tract. the message: 1)Native Americans are evil
    2)their magic is weaker than our magic
    3)we don’t care if you’re a rapist and a murderer; as long as you “accept jesus”, you’re going to heaven

  33. Miki Z says

    As a teenager working a drive-thru window, I got really good at grabbing money stuff into the pages of a chick tract and letting the tract drop to the ground without coming through the window. I see they aren’t any less despicable than they were back then.

  34. John Morales says

    negentropyeater, interesting link, but it’s weird.

    In contrast to Spain, where the lead-up to the legalisation of gay marriage in 2005 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, the bill in Portugal has provoked only muted opposition even from the right.

    Though Portugal is contiguous with Spain (where I spent my childhood) and their borders are porous, in some ways they might as well be on opposite sides of Europe.

    Anyway. I might be straight as an arrow, but I’m also firmly egalitarian, and I think this is good news.

  35. Josh says

    You know it’s going to be a long day when you start it off by wandering past a dead body on your way in to work.

  36. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Ugh, it’s going to be a long day here too. We are getting our first significant snowfall of the season, and the Redhead is going into Chicago (by train) to see a matinee dress rehearsal of an opera. It should be interesting when she returns (about 4-7 inches expected by then). Nothing like people unused to driving on snow, and suddenly having to cope with doing so. Scary.

  37. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Ugh, it’s going to be a long day here too. We are getting our first significant snowfall of the season, and the Redhead is going into Chicago (by train) to see a matinee dress rehearsal of an opera. It should be interesting when she returns (about 4-7 inches expected by then). Nothing like people unused to driving on snow, and suddenly having to cope with doing so. Scary.

    You have no idea. I live in Charleston, SC (as you know) and they are threatening just a whisper of snow tomorrow.

    People are losin’ their god damn mind. I’m betting there is a serious run on milk and bread at the store.

    Something I never really understood.

  38. Josh says

    I hate trying to drive here when it snows. Everyone seems to collectively lose their mind.

  39. Miki Z says

    So, Josh, is there a story behind the dead body, or is this a typical ‘long day’ indicator?

  40. Josh says

    Someone jumped off* the bridge I walk across to get to work. His day ended early…and poorly.

    *I think. I was on the bridge, in low light, about 30 feet above him, and could see that he was crumpled on the rocks, on his back. As such, I think “pushed off” and “set in position after death” are also likely possibilities.

  41. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    You know it’s going to be a long day when you start it off by wandering past a dead body on your way in to work.

    Damn. Yeah that is a bad start to your day but a worse start to theirs.

    I found a dead person once in high school, that wasn’t a great experience either. Kinda fucks you up for a while.

  42. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Actually, damn come to think of it I found another dead person when I was climbing in the Tetons. Shit I had kind of forgotten about that one. ugh. That wasn’t pretty at all.

  43. Josh says

    I’ve seen a lot of dead people, and so sadly I’m kind of numb to it. Indeed, my immediate reaction was to start organizing the observations in my head and erecting hypotheses for how he got into that specific position–for a good 20 seconds–before the human side of my brain was like “hey asshole–this guy’s life just ended.”

    *shakes head*

  44. Lynna, OM says

    Sorry about the dead guy, Josh. Not a good way to start the day. We’re fairly used to seeing dead deer next to our roads, but it was only when we got close to Las Vegas on one of our longer expeditions that we saw a dead human. I saw human bones once in an abandoned mining site, bones probably more than a century old — still creepy.

    In another kind of creepy, here’s a story that illustrates the perversion of justice in a community that veers too close to theocracy. A girl who was slightly brain-damaged and also raised as a naive mormon girl was sexually abused. So the community prosecuted her instead of the abusers. Comments from True Believers below the story continue to prosecute the girl. The cop/father of the molesters did not investigate, the mormon Bishop to whom the girl confessed did not investigate nor report the crime.

  45. Dania says

    John Morales,

    negentropyeater, interesting link, but it’s weird.

    In contrast to Spain, where the lead-up to the legalisation of gay marriage in 2005 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, the bill in Portugal has provoked only muted opposition even from the right.

    Yeah, it’s weird. I was expecting a lot more opposition to the bill from the right, but the opposition is mainly coming from the left*!

    All I’ve heard from the right is the usual “oh, sure, just don’t call it marriage, ‘kay?” and the very persuasive “but…but… *pulls out random red herring* What about this More Important IssueTM!? We can’t waste time with minor issues!!” I guess they’re doing their best not to sound like homophobic bigots.

    *That’s because while this bill legalizes same sex marriage it also makes it explicit in the law that married gay couples cannot adopt. The only thing keeping gay couples from adopting children** at the moment is the fact that they can’t marry, otherwise they would fit all the legal requirements to adopt. This bill removes the requirement that two people need to be of different sex in order to marry BUT it adds that requirement to adoption by couples. Needless to say, not everyone in the left is happy with this (I’m not, but it’s better than nothing).

    **As a couple. As far as I know, there’s nothing preventing non-heterosexuals from becoming single parents by adoption.

  46. Alan B says

    #531 Lynna

    I’m onto the Topaz question. I may be able to write it up this evening (19:50 currently)

    best wishes

    (I have not forgotten the map! Currently we’ve had about 2-3 inches of global warming locally – you know, the white stuff. I know, I know, that’s hardly anything but it is common to have alternating snow/thaw/freeze [small fluctuations around 0 deg C] which means we end up with ice rather than the powdery stuff. Hoping to do non-essential stuff – sorry, including your map – shortly.)

  47. bastion of sass says

    Am posting this here, as well as in the I WANT A UNITY CONVENTION! thread in the hopes that more people will see it, since the Unity thread has kinda wound down.

    ATTN: Baltimore Blasphemous Bastards

    We will attempt to get together for the first time on Friday, Jan. 29, between 5:30 and 8:30 PM at Brewers Art which is in the upper Mt. Vernon area of downtown Baltimore. Feel free to bring one or more companions.

    Because of the reluctance of some Pharyngulates to join Facebook, and my reluctance to pay’s group organizer’s fees, I have set up a yahoo group for us, Baltimore Pharyngula Fans. Not as catchy as Baltimore Blaspheming Bastards, admittedly, but not as scary for the less militant who might potentially join us.

    Please join the yahoo group and let me know if you’ll be coming to this meetup or just to keep in touch with other Pharyngula fans in the Baltimore area.

    Because of the (surely) spam and (potential) troll issues, I have set moderator (that’s me, so far) approval of members and messages from new members, so there may be some delay in seeing your first message appear.

  48. Sven DiMilo says

    A girl who was slightly brain-damaged and also raised as a naive mormon girl

    love the “also”

  49. mythusmage says

    BDC, #552

    I recall a time when a fellow died in public, on a major street downtown, and the authorities didn’t figure out he was dead for about three days.

  50. David Marjanović says

    Snow! :-) Half a cm of snow lying in Paris.

    All of it fell today morning, except for a single layer of snowflakes that fell yesterday morning. That’s right, a single layer.

  51. Dania says


    And yet another misleading headline:

    That’s nothing compared to what I just saw on the news show minutes ago:

    Footprints discovered in Poland may revolutionize the theory of evolution: First vertebrates on Earth may have appeared 20 million years earlier than previously thought

    That’s right. First vertebrates. On Earth, capital E, the planet.

    I’m not sure that’s what they meant, but it was what they wrote.

  52. Dania says



    And I’ve lost count of how many times the theory of evolution has undergone a “revolution” lately…

  53. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    And I’ve lost count of how many times the theory of evolution has undergone a “revolution” lately…

    And how minutely incremental the changes are…

  54. David Marjanović says

    And how minutely incremental the changes are…


    Will we see a punctuation of this equilibrium? Inquiring minds want to know!!!1!

  55. Lynna, OM says

    The LDS Church just bought 13 more acres of downtown Salt Lake City. They already own Temple Square, part of Main Street, and several acres on which they are building a new mall, and some condos. Sounds to me like they are creating their own version of Vatican City.

    The Sinclair Companies, controlled by oil magnate Earl Holding, said Thursday it has sold about 13 acres of prime real estate in downtown Salt Lake City to the LDS Church.
         The LDS Church, which is active in real estate development, purchased a 10-acre block between 400 South and 500 South and West Temple and Main streets….
         LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed the purchase by the church’s Property Reserve Inc. “The land was purchased as a long-term investment with no immediate plans for development,” he said in a statement….

    Earl Holding is, of course, a mormon. In an interview, Stephen Trimble said about Holding:

    …Dick Cheney records the video tribute when Earl wins an award.
    Earl Holding is a recluse and an eccentric—and a forceful member of the inner circle of power in Mormon Country. He owns the Little America hotel chain, Sinclair Oil, Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts, and 500,000 acres of land in the West. He is now worth nearly $5 billion, which makes him the 77th richest American on the 2008 Forbes 400 list.

  56. SEF says

    Will we see a punctuation of this equilibrium?

    Perhaps if the vestigial appendix finally goes and takes more of the bowel with it you might get a semi-colon.

  57. Lynna, OM says

    At first the mormons were proud of the fact that poor church members in Brazil gave the gold out of their dental work as contributions to help build a new temple (1998-2000). Then, belatedly, the mormons realized that it was pretty bizarre to everyone but them, and that the photo of Apostle Faust holding a handful of gold fillings was not as glorifying to God as they thought.

    STORY ONE Excerpt:

    He emphasized the need to sacrifice for temple building and shared how members in Argentina found ways to donate during the construction of the São Paulo Brazil Temple. They gave the gold from their dental work to help pay for the temple. He said that he had purchased some of the gold fillings for more than the market price to share with congregations the nature of the sacrifice made by these members (Church News, 9 May 1998).

    STORY TWO Excerpt:

    One memorable donation was a gold dental bridge presented by an Argentine man to a pair of missionaries. They declined the gift at first, saying they couldn’t take the man’s teeth, but he responded, “You can’t deny me the blessings I will receive by giving this to the Lord for his temple.” Elder James E. Faust, who was serving as the South America area supervisor for the Church, heard the story and paid a generous sum of money for the gold. From that day on, he kept the dental bridge as a reminder of the Saints’ countless sacrifices.”

    The photo of the handful of fillings is nowhere to be found on, but it’s archived here

  58. Alan B says

    #531 Lynn asked me:

    Do you feel like tackling the chemistry behind irradiated topaz (changing common brownish shades to blue)?

    Here goes, the second KemistryKorner (I blame Josh #528)

    (The first, not IDed as KK, was #520 on isotope fractionation by diffusion.)

    I am taking most of my information from an excellent website initially developed by Jill Banfield while she was a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The internet materials were developed in summer 1995, and distance education students began to take in Fall 1995. The course was first offered as an internet option to UW students in 1997. The course (Gems and Gem Materials) was then offered at UC Berkeley (Ref 1). The student material is freely available and well worth a look if you want a simple introduction to “Gemology”. I read through much of it some 8 or so years ago.

    “This unique internet-based course is designed for students without a strong background in basic science. The primary goal of the course is to present some introductory earth science and to provide students with a solid understanding of gemology.”

    (Colour and emphasis removed)

    The course covers a range of Gems and Gem Materials. To keep this post a sensible length, I will cover ONLY topaz and ONLY the conversion of naturally-occurring pale topaz to sky blue topaz by radiation and the implications of the process. (See Ref. 2 for the study notes on topaz.)

    Wiki gives some helpful information about topaz (Ref. 3). Topaz is a silicate of aluminium (note the correct IUPAC spelling!) with fluorine and hydroxide ions in varying ratios. Pure topaz is colourless and transparent but is usually tinted by impurities; typical topaz is wine, yellow, pale grey or reddish-orange, blue brown. It can also be made white, pale green, blue, gold, pink (rare), reddish-yellow or opaque to transparent/translucent.
    Orange topaz, also known as precious topaz, is the traditional November birthstone, the symbol of friendship, and the state gemstone for the US State of Utah.
    Blue topaz is the Texas state gemstone. Naturally occurring Blue Topaz is quite rare. Typically colourless, grey or pale yellow and blue material is heat treated and irradiated to produce a more desired darker blue.

    I will leave an explanation about the way radiation affects the colour and deal with the other issue:

    Is residual radioactivity a problem?

    The answer is: it depends! It depends on how the radiation treatment is done. Consider 2 different methods:

    Neutron irradiation. Firing neutrons at a topaz target risks the formation of long lived radionuclides of Scandium and Tantalum (Ref. 4). Sc-46 has a half life of 84 days and is a beta emitter (Ref. 5). No one is going to chew up and eat a topaz. For a start, it has a Mho’s hardness of 8 compared with the highest value of 10 for diamond! Some beta particles may well go through the skin but not from a mounted gemstone.

    Ta-182 is a greater concern. Thus, according to Wiki (Ref. 6):

    Tantalum has been proposed as a “salting” material for nuclear weapons (cobalt is another, better-known salting material). A jacket of Ta-181, irradiated by the intense high-energy neutron flux from an exploding thermonuclear weapon, would transmute into the radioactive isotope Ta-182 with a half-life of 114.43 days and produce approximately 1.12 MeV of gamma radiation, significantly increasing the radioactivity of the weapon’s fallout for several months. Such a weapon is not known to have ever been built, tested, or used.

    Thus, if irradiation was carried out by neutrons there is a risk of trace impurities being activated to produce small amounts of unpleasant radionuclides with long half lives.

    Electron Irradiation
    According to the Gems and Gem Materials site (Ref. 7), the most common tool for irradiation is Linac (linear accelerators) using electron beams:

    In the creation of “Sky blue” topaz, irradiation involves an electron beam with an energy below the activation threshold for all impurities except sodium (half life is about 15 hours). Thus, the small quantities of radioactive isotopes that form during electron irradiation decay away before the stones are released from the accelerator.

    Ten days (240 hours) is 16 half lives. In 10 half lives the radioactivity will have decayed to one thousandth of the initial value. A further 6 half lives will reduce it by another factor of 60. (Both figures approximate – actual value 1/65,536. A further ten days will reduce it to vanishingly low values. (The gamma rays emitted by Na-24 are easily detected).

    So the answer is if the irradiation process is by an electron beam linear accelerator there is no residual problem with radioactivity from the process. (There could, of course, be trace amounts of naturally-occurring radionuclides, as there could be with many gemstones).

    Part 2 on the effect of radiation on the physics/chemistry of the effect of radiation on colour tomorrow (if it weren’t this site, I might put “DV”).


    Ref. 1

    Ref. 2

    Ref. 3 Wiki article “Topaz”.

    Ref. 4

    Ref. 5 Wiki article “Isotopes of Scandium”

    Ref. 6 Wiki article “Isotopes of Tantalum”

    Ref. 7

  59. Josh says

    Josh #544, that is a traumatic way to start the day. Ugh is right.

    If something fucked up happens, like as not I’ll end up in the vicinity. I have no idea why that is.

    (I blame Josh #528)

    I’m going to happily take the blame for this.

    And I’ve lost count of how many times the theory of evolution has undergone a “revolution” lately…

    That’s because there are GAPS in the theory, Dania, my love.
    Gaps I tell you! GAPS that you could drive a Mac truck through!


    Did I mention the Gaps, by any chance?

  60. Alan B says


    And every time you fill one GAP you get 2 more GAPS!

    The more scientists look at it, the worse it gets!!

    /sarc Do I have to …?

  61. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Sc-46 has a half life of 84 days and is a beta emitter…the radioactive isotope Ta-182 with a half-life of 114.43 days and produce approximately 1.12 MeV of gamma radiation

    I am now going to inflict on you the lesson of the radioactive cookies.

    Let’s suppose we have three radioactive cookies, one is an alpha emitter, one a beta emitter, and the last a gamma emitter. Which cookie can you eat, which cookie can you stick in your pocket, and which cookie do you leave on the table?

    You can eat the gamma emitter, put the alpha emitter into your pocket, and leave the beta emitter on the table.

    Alpha particles (ionized helium nuclei, two protons and two neutrons) will not penetrate the cloth of your pocket. A meter or so of air will stop beta particles (electrons) so you can leave it on the table. Gamma radiation (similar to x-rays only more energetic) can only be stopped by lead or other dense material, so you might as well eat it because it’ll give you the same dose whether you eat it, put it in your pocket or leave it on the table.

  62. Alan B says

    #578 ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Pretty good rule of thumb for alpha and beta although I’m trying to think of occasions when you would have pure alpha, beta or gamma other than manufactured sources.

    Not so sure about the gamma radiation. Inverse square law comes in so putting it in your pocket doesn’t seem an awefully good idea. Depending how quickly the radionuclide passes through the body, I’m not sure if I would want to eat it and have it lodge in some particular organ. Some gamma emitters also emit beta particles, of course (e.g. I-131).

    No. All told, I will keep away from the gamma and rely on the inverse square law to help me.

  63. Lynna, OM says

    Alan B @573: That was lovely. Thanks. Though I don’t know why Josh gets all the credit. Unless he is getting credit only for Kutesy spelling, I object.

    Thanks, so much ‘Tis, for the radioactive cookie lesson. I assume you haven’t tested this on yourself. I think I may not ever accept any cookies from you.

  64. Josh says

    Though I don’t know why Josh gets all the credit.

    No, no. I only get credit for goading him into making the post…

  65. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I’d prefer to have a couple of centimeters of lead and a meter or two of diesel fuel* between a gamma emitter and me.

    *Hydrocarbons are a pretty good radiation shield, particularly for gamma radiation.

    I’m trying to think of occasions when you would have pure alpha, beta or gamma other than manufactured sources.

    Don’t be so literal minded. The radioactive cookies are a thought problem, not a real life situation. BTW, tritium (³H) is a pure beta emitter with a half-life of approximately 12.33 years.

  66. Josh says

    Hydrocarbons are a pretty good radiation shield, particularly for gamma radiation.

    Huh…I didn’t know that. That’s pretty interesting.

  67. Lynna, OM says

    Oh, dearie me, more pseudo-proof of the “history” portrayed in the Book of Mormon:

    For over a year we have anxiously awaited the release of this paradigm shattering new documentary film. With nearly a dozen non-LDS, mainstream, archaeologists, anthropologists, museum directors, geneticists, historians, authors and Native Americans, “The Lost Civilization of North America” is an incredibly compelling new film that finally answers the question of why most Americans (and Latter-day Saints) have never heard about the tremendous, highly advanced civilization that once existed anciently in the ‘Heartland’ of the North American continent and why theories about its origins have been deliberately and systematically erased from American history.
         I hope that you will take a moment to watch the video trailer of this fundamentally important film to all those interested in learning about and finding evidences for the Book of Mormon as a literal historical record of real people, places and things.
         This one hour and ten minute film will forever change your view about the strength of the claims of the Book of Mormon relative to where it may have taken place. Nowhere has this level of evidence been provided by mainstream, non-LDS scholars from so many fields of expertise as you will find within this extraordinarily well done film. This is truly the ‘must see’ film of 2010 for every Book of Mormon believer and skeptic alike! It has been said that Joseph Smith believed that someday the ‘Gentiles’ would prove out the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon…could it be that today is that day? Watch this film and see what you think!
    Rod L. Meldrum
    President – The FIRM Foundation

    I read somewhere that mormon bigwigs were meeting with Meldrum. Sounds to me like they paid him to make a film. Looks like followed the “Expelled” protocol and invited some real scientists to appear in the film. One wonders how many of them knew what they were being roped into. Here’s a partial list:
    You will witness video footage of interviews with each of the following experts in this film (in order of appearance).

    Roger G. Kennedy, Director Emeritus
    Smithsonian National Museum of American History
    Author, Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization

    Alice Beck Kehoe, PhD
    Anthropology, Harvard University
    Author, The Land of Prehistory, A Critical History of American Archaeology

    Sonya Atalay, PhD
    Anthropology, University of California – Berkley
    Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University

    Wayne N. May
    Ancient American Magazine

    .wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity,…”
         So wrote the Prophet Joseph Smith in a letter to his wife, Emma while on Zion’s Camp march, which would take him nearly 1000 miles across Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
         Where are the evidences of Joseph’s words? Where are the physical manafestations of this “once beloved people”? Where are the archaeological corroboration that would confirm that an ancient Israelite people once roamed this land? And if these evidences do exist, why have we not heard about them?
         An authoritative new film, “The Lost Civilization of North America” answers these questions. Roger Kennedy, former Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, explains how very few experts “were conscious of the immensity of a place like Monk’s Mound in Cahokia, opposite the city of St. Louis, which is bigger in its footprint than the Great Pyramid of Giza.”
         He, together with Harvard PhD anthropologist Alice Kehoe, reveals the racist and religiously bigoted perspectives that developed within the early 1800’s scientific community. In the film, Kennedy and Kehoe explore the development of theories of cultural evolution and how these theories influenced Lewis Henry Morgan who would become president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS today) and John Wesley Powell, who became Director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution.

  68. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    He, together with Harvard PhD anthropologist Alice Kehoe, reveals the racist and religiously bigoted perspectives that developed within the early 1800’s scientific community.

    Sure there were some really bigoted scientists in the 19th Century. Louis Agassiz was the most famous (although he wasn’t early 1800s) but there were others. So what? That doesn’t say anything about there being no real evidence that two bunches of middle-easterners came to the Americas as the Book of Mormon claims.

  69. Lynna, OM says

    The movie “8: The Mormon Proposition” is going to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and it is already drawing fire from True Believers. Here’s an example:

    Derrick Clifford
         I understand that you dont have all of the information. somehow, previous to prop 8, you feel you have been wronged or unfarily targeted by the LDS church. I am a member of the LDS church and it is my life and you dont realize the damage you have done to our freedom of religion by twisting facts and taking statements out of context you are smearing my name and my belief system. We dont hate the gay community and that has never been said by any member of the church’s first presidency. As far as comparing this to the poligomy question, there is no comparison. That “alternative’ form of marriage as you called it was stopped and became illegal by our government. Your argument does not hold much water. how dare you take messages from our conferences that are so personal and sacred to me and use them to your selfish gain and benefit. i love my church and yes we believe that homosexuality is wrong but it really isnt a question of policy it is a question of morality. That I believe is why the LDS faith got involved in the first place. We as a religion fight a battle against immoral actions not people. We are doing the same thing that every church does on the planet. Please stop targeting us. It is becoming dangerous for us to exist and to live in a free society

    Freedom from spellcheck for everyone! Freedom from proper punctuation for everyone! Ample persecution for all mormons!
    Freedom from thought!

  70. Lynna, OM says

    ‘Tis Himself, the trailer for “The Lost Civilization of North America” shows the expert bemoaning the racism, which, as you say, is only too evident in historical records. But the trailer also reveals the unethical editing that creates an unwarranted leap from that racism to “proof” of a conspiracy to hide the “truth” of all those tribes mentioned in the Book of Mormon. It’s a fucking crime.

    And that’s just the trailer.

  71. Lynna, OM says

    I didn’t realize that hydrocarbons could be used as a shield against gamma radiation. ‘Tis, you are just full of useful info. So, as part of my emergency-preparedness kit I can keep a 50-gallon drum of diesel fuel handy.

  72. SEF says

    @ Lynna #584:

    One wonders how many of them knew what they were being roped into.

    If they’re contactable you could ask them. Some may even already have blogged/tweeted or whatever about it.

  73. Lynna, OM says

    Good idea, SEF. I’ll get on that.

    ‘Tis Himself, did you see this bit:

    “The Lost Civilization of North America” is not an LDS-oriented film, which makes it perfect for introducing non-members to the evidences of the Book of Mormon without being ‘preachy’ with your non-member family member, friends and associates. It is very professionally done and is being submitted to the Discovery Channel for inclusion in their TV programming.

  74. Lynna, OM says

    I sent an email to Roger G. Kennedy, Director Emeritus
    Smithsonian National Museum of American History. If someone wants to tweet Alice Beck Kehoe, she’s on twitter, but I didn’t find an email contact for her.

  75. Lynna, OM says

    Time for a hit of music: Ashley Macisaac live. I’m in love with the slightly weird guy in the kilt.

  76. Lynna, OM says

    Note on my link @592: Unfortunately, they pixelated the kilt-wearing dude’s treasure when he did his high kick at the end.

  77. 386sx for a hundred, Alex!! says

    This really rocks my world fro some reason…

    Now a Hank Fan

    Rock on, dude…

  78. Owlmirror says

    If someone wants to tweet Alice Beck Kehoe, she’s on twitter, but I didn’t find an email contact for her.

    Actually, I found the following article about her on SciAm, which ends with: “In her retirement Kehoe enjoys writing and traveling: She’s off to Angkor Wat in Cambodia in January to see the pyramids there that bear a similarity to the ones in Mexico. ”

    Granted, that was Dec. 08, but she still might be traveling around somewhere.

  79. Owlmirror says

    Oh, and I found her book.

    Atlantis, ancient astronauts, and pyramid power. Archaeologists are perennially bombarded with questions about the “mysteries” of the past. They are also constantly addressing more realistic controversies: origins of the First Americans, the ownership of antiquities, and national claims to historical territories. Alice Beck Kehoe offers to introductory students a method of evaluating and assessing these claims about the past in this reader-friendly, concise text. She shows how to use the methods of science to challenge the legitimacy of pseudoscientific proclamations and develop reasonable interpretations on controversial issues. Not one to shy away from controversy herself, Kehoe takes some stands—on transpacific migration, shamanism, the Kensington Runestone—which will challenge instructor and students alike, and foster class discussion.

    I wonder if she might include the Book of Mormon under pseudoscience, or under legitimate “controversy”?

    This other book has only one mention of Mormons in it, as a putative source for petroglyphs.



    Thanks, by the way, to Alan, ‘Tis, and Sven “poopyhead” DeMilo for the contributions the Kemistry Korner.

    I read about the climate effects of δ16O/18O in Prothero’s After the Dinosaurs, but seeing the diffusion difference laid out makes it a bit clearer.

    Just to make sure I understand: Water molecules with the lighter isotope of oxygen evaporate and diffuse more easily from the sea and become precipitated as snow/ice at the poles and on glaciers. So colder climates mean there is more 18O and less 16O everywhere else, and this ratio changes during warmer climates when the snow and ice melts and the 16O returns to the seawater. Right?

  80. Jadehawk, OM says

    …that once existed anciently…

    I’d love to know how to “exist anciently”.

    horrid grammar; adverbs do not work that way.

  81. Lynna, OM says

    Jadehawk, yeah, the “exist anciently” was not their only sin against the English language. I particularly liked ” Where are the physical manafestations…” with “manafestations” instead of “manifestations.”

    The trailer for the movie contains dog whistle moments for mormons, like the comparison of Native American rock art to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Remember Joe Smith and his “reformed Egyptian” translations? The “Lost Civilization of North America” is really just salivation movie for mormons.

    What I’d really like to know is how much the LDS Church paid him to make that travesty.

  82. Lynna, OM says

    Owlmirror @595 and @596: I read bit more about Alice Beck Kehoe, but, like you, I can’t tell if she would be a debunker of the Book of Mormon or not. The Kensington Rune Stone seems to show up in Rod Meldrum’s previous work and in articles about or by Kehoe. I don’t know enough about that to judge Kehoe’s assessment of the stone. Nor do I know if her assessment (runes of northeastern European origin?) means anything at all to the fantasists that adhere to the BoM.

  83. Lynna, OM says

    I’ll have to look again at the list of scientists, both real and faux, involved in Meldrum’s movie to see if they have a real DNA expert instead of just those “experts” blinded by mormon confirmation bias. The movie description includes this gem:

    This film may open many tens of thousands of doors for missionary work as people around the world learn of the amazing DNA connections between this ancient civilization in North America and the ancient Semitic peoples of the Mediterranean, just as would be expected from the Book of Mormon account.

    I keep calling it a “movie” because I can’t bear to put it in the category of “documentary”.

  84. boygenius says


    That Rex Rammell video is a gem! Thanks.

    Gotta love the claim that he invited only Mormon elders to his campaign rally because (paraphrasing) “I didn’t realize that anyone else would be interested in discussing the prophecy.”

  85. Lynna, OM says

    boygenius, All we have to do is stand back and watch Rex Rammell shoot himself in the foot over and over again. It’s like he issued a hunting license for his foot rather than that hunting tag he wanted to issue for Obama.

    I noticed that he backed off from his earlier offer that non-mormons could come to his “Elders of Israel” meetings if they just emailed him first. Now he backtracks and says that the room will be filled with Elders, so there’s no room for the gentiles … and no room for mormon women either.

    Unfortunately, I’m sure Rammell is correct about attendance. He’ll have wall-to-wall elders nodding in agreement. We’d like to think that Rammell is the only one that unhinged, but he has plenty of company.

    Only the guy with the exploding underpants on the flight to Detroit is crazier.

  86. 386sx for a hundred, Alex!! says

    Wow, Hank Williams had a lot of monster hit songs. Why was I not aware of this person’s existence before?

  87. boygenius says

    Rex Rammell’s Ten Principles to Govern America:

    “Principle” #4 kind of stands out, in light of their involvement in Prop. 8.


    Only the guy with the exploding underpants on the flight to Detroit is crazier.

    Angrier? Yes, absolutely. Crazier? That’s a toss up.

  88. boygenius says


    Perhaps you have been living under a rock since 1938? :-) You may be interested to learn that he also had a son that achieved some level of success:

    His grandson is doing quite well for himself, too:

  89. John Morales says

    PS For you northern-hemispherians, here is my local weather forecast (Centigrade):

    —begin quote —

    Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
    South Australia

    Adelaide Forecast
    Issued at 4:00 pm CDT on Friday 8 January 2010

    Warning Summary
    The SES has issued an Extreme Heat Warning for South Australia.
    Fire Weather Warning has been issued.

    Forecast for Friday evening
    A dry, warm to hot and clear evening. Light to moderate afternoon sea breeze.
    Winds tending moderate southeasterly during the evening.

    Precis Dry. Clear.

    Forecast for Saturday
    Dry, very hot and sunny. Moderate southeasterly winds becoming light during the
    morning before a moderate early afternoon sea breeze. Winds tending moderate
    southeasterly during the evening.

    Precis Dry. Sunny.
    City: Min 26 Max 41
    Elizabeth: Min 22 Max 41
    Mount Barker: Min 17 Max 39
    Noarlunga: Min 23 Max 39

    UV Alert: 9:10 am to 5:30 pm, UV Index predicted to reach 12 [Extreme]
    Fire Danger: Severe [50-74] (Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Ban District)

    Sunday Dry. Sunny. Min 27 Max 43
    Monday Dry. Mostly sunny. Min 30 Max 43
    Tuesday Possible shower. Min 24 Max 26

    —- end quote —-

    I live and work in the Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Ban District.

  90. Jadehawk, OM says

    soooo yeaaah…. I’ll take the -27C I have here over the Australian 41C

    not that I needed another reason not to move to Australia, ever :-p

  91. 386sx for a hundred, Alex!! says

    Perhaps you have been living under a rock since 1938? :-)

    Well, I was familiar with II, was completely unaware of III, and had known the name of I from the son, II. But I never really paid much attention to I before. Turns out he’s a genius and has got some cool moves to boot! It’s like a total fresh discovery for me.

    I think I like them in this order:

    1) I
    2) II
    3) III

  92. Rorschach says

    -27C !!!

    From memory, does funny things to your ears and eyebrows when you attempt to be brave and walk to the petrol station for some booze in those conditions…

    And yeah, just to contrast that, air-con running here with 34C outside…20/20 Cricket match is about to start, cold beers in the fridge, must be summer !!

  93. Jadehawk, OM says

    like i said: i’ll take the cold over the heat. one can dress against the cold, but there’s only so much you can take off in the heat (and then you’ll get skin-cancer from doing that)

  94. boygenius says


    Yes, Hank Sr. is pure genius. Listen to as much of his work as you can, and consider the influence he had on music in general. Country/western, rock-n-roll, blues, bluegrass, americana, even jazz.

    It is indeed tragic that he drank himself to death at 29, but he’s in good company. (Pigpen, Janis, Bird, Jimmy, Jim, Frank, Jerry, Brent, just to name a few that died too soon.)

  95. 386sx for a hundred, Alex!! says

    Yes, Hank Sr. is pure genius. Listen to as much of his work as you can, and consider the influence he had on music in general.

    Yeah I’ve been listening to some of them, and they are songs that I’ve heard before from other people! But they were doing covers of the man. I never knew.

  96. boygenius says


    I’ll second that emotion. If it’s cold, you can put on more layers and be warm. If it’s hot, you can get naked and still be hot. (temperature-wise)

  97. boygenius says


    Welcome to the flock. But don’t just listen to the covers. Rather, understand that Hank changed the landscape for many musicians in many different genres. If you listen to enough (American) music, you will find his influence over & over.

    For example, from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music:

    Performed by Ray Charles but written by Don Gibson, who was greatly influenced by Hank Williams.

  98. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Positively balmy -5C here. We didn’t get the predicted 12″ of snow, but I still have to run the snow-blower before I go to work.

  99. AJ Milne says

    I’d be thirding Jadehawk and boygenius on the whole too much hot versus cold thing ‘cept you know I would anyway… Reference previous comments on the relative practicalities of putting on more clothes versus peeling off your skin when all layers above that are already gone and it’s still not helping.

    Well, there’s that and the fact that I seem to have some kinda blast furnace-like metabolism probably suitable for heating up to something like a 1500 square foot space all on its own, but which also poaches me like an egg at anything more than five degrees above room temperature. I do often use those iron oxidation-based foot warmer thingies when boarding below -15 C since I also happen to have size 13 clodhoppers and my toes are so far from my heart it’s probably a long distance call, but otherwise, cold, I mostly see it as a relief. Gives me somewhere to vent the heat.

    (/Related, for the last few days, however, I’ve more been packing frozen gelpacks against skin than foot warmers. There’s a rumour going around I may have cracked a rib–or possibly two–boarding. But the X-rays aren’t back yet. And I’m crossing my fingers that it’s just bruising, since I actually boarded like that for about a week before figuring I might want to have someone look things over… The good news, anyway, is the person who did look it over sez either way I can probably still do Whistler as planned in a few weeks. Which is good. Very, very good.)

  100. David Marjanović says

    A lot of snow is supposed to fall this weekend! :-) :-) :-) Well, whatever “a lot” means in Paris. We’ll see.

    Mho’s hardness

    Mohs hardness. The name is German, probably the same as the word Moos which means “moss”.

    Where are the evidences of Joseph’s words? Where are the physical manafestations of this “once beloved people”?

    Manafestations? Seriously? :-D

    Cahokia is utterly awesome. It just hasn’t got anything to do with Mor(m)on history, it’s a coincidence.

    runes of northeastern European origin?

    Northwestern, I hope?

    Anyway, the Kensington runestone is fairly convincing (pdf), except of course that I don’t see how the Mormons would want to profit from it. It’s completely orthogonal to their story.

  101. David Marjanović says

    …where rainforest conditions do not count as “hot”. 37 °C and damp, that gets on my nerves.

  102. Sven DiMilo says

    I think I like them in this order:
    1) I
    2) II
    3) III

    Bout right. What the hell is that thing Hank 3 is wearing on top of his head?

  103. Sven DiMilo says

    I’ll also note in a socio-historical mode that, whereas Woody Guthrie’s guitar read “This machine kills fascists,” Hank Williams III’s guitar reads “FUCK.”

    Probably a dissertation in there for some north-campusy type.

  104. Katrina says

    Damp is never pleasant, hot or cold.

    It’s a rainy 5C here in the Puget Sound area this morning.


    I saw Hank, Jr. live in concert when I was in college. He was so drunk he could hardly stay on his stool and he kept forgetting the verses. A very disappointing concert, to say the least.

  105. Lynna, OM says

    David M., Thanks for the corrections. I think we have proof that I should have stopped posting earlier in the evening — should have gone to bed when I started nodding at the keyboard.

    Yeah, the Rune Stone is from Scandinavia, I think. I see so much blather about it when I do a search that it looks too much like yet another mormon-tainted black hole. Bleh.

    Rorschach can be cruel about the weather, offering cold bear and all. Fuckin’ frozen northlands here, with the kind of cold that starts to creep inside and leave frost in unexpected places. I haven’t seen it this cold since … last January. When I lived in Alaska it was common to see frost forming on the nail heads (that’s frost on interior walls!). Lessons in cold conductivity.

  106. Alan B says

    #582 (& #579, 583, 588)

    Hi ‘Tis. I want to find something to agree with first. Yes. Tritium is a low energy pure beta emitter. I would still suggest that finding a source of pure alpha, beta or gamma would not be common.

    The rest. No. The key sentence is:

    Hydrocarbons are a pretty good radiation shield, particularly for gamma radiation.

    That is nonsense. I want a source that tells me that – I can’t find one. For neutrons I would agree with you. See footnote. For gamma I do not agree with you. Some examples:

    Gamma rays are attenuated by processes which are functions of atomic number and mass  (that is  they  all  involve  interactions  near  the  nucleus  or  interactions  with  the  electrons  around  the nucleus).    Gamma  shielding  is  therefore  more  effectively  performed  by  materials  with  high atomic mass number and high density.   One such material is lead.   Lead is dense and has about 82  electrons  for  each  nucleus.    Thus,  a  gamma  would  interact  more  times  in  passing  through eight inches of lead then passing through the same thickness of a lighter material, such as water…

    Water  is  a  poor  material  for  shielding  gamma  rays;  however,  large  amounts  will  serve  to attenuate gamma radiation. Concrete,  as  discussed  previously,  is  also  a  good  attenuator  of  gamma  rays  and  is  superior  to water.   This is mainly a result of the presence of moderately high mass number elements, such as  calcium  and  silicon.    As  a  general  shield  material,  there  is  much  to  recommend    about concrete;   it   is   strong,   inexpensive,   and   adaptable   to   both   block   and   monolithic   types   of construction.

    (Section on shielding starts on page 18 of the pdf i.e. 78.htm, as above. The quotes on gamma rays are on page 20 i.e. 80.htm)

    The document appears to be from the United States DOE (Department of Energy).


    The most effective gamma shields are materials which have a high density and high atomic number, such as lead, tungsten, and uranium among others. Generally speaking these materials are expensive, so, in situations where space is not a constraint and where structural strength is required, concrete is used even though it is a less effective shielding material. Lead shields are frequently used where space is limited or where only a small area of absorber is required.


    TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics located on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is now owned and operated by a consortium of eleven Canadian universities.


    Gamma radiation needs heavy material to shield it effectively.


    Cambridge University Engineering Department. Based on the advice from National Radiological Protection Board, UK.

    All three are from highly reputable sources and all say the same thing – you want dense, high atomic number material such as iron (or even better lead). Water contains an element [O-16] which has a higher atomic number, and the liquid has a higher density, than hydrocarbons [C-12]. I have no figures for the effectiveness of hydrocarbons but based on the information above it does not seem likely to be any more effective than water.
    I accept that anything will shield from gamma radiation. Even in a vacuum, the inverse square law comes in and one might even argue that as a result, a vacuum is effective (but for a totally different reason). Similarly, a thick layer of water or hydrocarbon fuel will absorb gamma radiation and will keep the operator further from the source. However, to say that:

    Hydrocarbons are a pretty good radiation shield, particularly for gamma radiation.

    is straining the meaning of words when you need between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude greater thickness than common materials such as lead or iron.
    If you are in a nuclear submarine with a reactor that has to be shielded, I would agree that hydrocarbon fuel might be useful to reduce neutron exposure and, if the tanks are large enough to shield from gamma radiation. No one would choose water or hydrocarbon fuel, either of which could drain away, unless there were special conditions.


    Neutron shielding is complicated by the fact that the dose is very dependent on the energy and that there are no efficient absorbers for high energy neutrons.
    Shielding is best achieved by materials containing appreciable quantities of hydrogen e.g.
    water, polythene etc.
    A shield for fast neutrons should comprise a hydrogenous layer to reduce energy, a thermal
    neutron absorber (say cadmium) followed by a heavy gamma absorber since thermal
    neutrons always produce gamma radiation when absorbed by matter.

    Source: Same document from Cambridge Uni Engrg Dept.

  107. Alan B says

    #621 David Marjanović

    Fair cop, guv. Mho’s Hardness Scale it is.

    [Ed. He started off with “Ohm’s”. Only another 4 possible wrong answers and he picked one!]

  108. Lynna, OM says

    Mormon missionaries made the news in Melbourne (there’s a lovely photo of the duo):

    MORMON missionaries are “creepily” spruiking for new members in an underpass near Deakin University, an academic says.
         Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints are regularly found at an underpass that leads from Deakin University to the number 75 tram on Burwood Highway.
         Deakin staff member Colleen Murrell said the pair had harassed students.
         “It is just creepy to have two young men hanging around in an underpass all the time,” Ms Murrell said.
         “They are standing in the middle of a narrow underpass and you have no choice but to walk straight past them.”
         The church’s east Melbourne mission president Corey Lindley denied that his missionaries were harassing people.

    One of the missionaries is Elder Woo. Nope, not kidding.
    We may have to ask Rorschach to explain “spruiking” to us.

  109. AJ Milne says

    Re #629: the book of Abraham thing is one of those Mormon bits that actually seriously makes me cackle. It’s a nice, vivid reminder that not only was Smith incredibly obviously a con, he wasn’t even a particularly smart con…

    There is of course, a darker message in this: that apparently, you don’t even have to be. It almost seems as if any fucking moron who’s willing to spin up enough bullshit can start a religion if he really wants to. You get to thinking: you could probably actually start one of these things by accident… Make a three-sentence joke on Pharyngula about having received a vision to the effect that Joseph Smith was actually a space alien sent here to test human gullibility, find out six months later you’ve just become the prophet for a 1,000-member strong cult that holds this as their principal article of faith…

    But somewhat more cheeringly, I’ve actually read comments from former Mormons for whom the ‘Book of Abraham’ bit was a key part of their throwing the whole mess of silliness overboard, and getting the hell out. And yep, I can sure as hell see how that might happen.

  110. Lynna, OM says

    Here’s some interesting new work on the “runes” supposedly translated by Joseph Smith. Turns out to be Latin shorthand, with origins in the writings of Irish monks (?). There’s a nice illustration of the “rune” characters.

  111. Lynna, OM says

    Video from the mormons, with intent to brainwash, frighten, and blame young women.

    The video begins with a comparison of men to mosquitoes, bears, and sharks. Nice.

    If something goes wrong, it’s the young woman’s fault. No doubt about it.

    The teaching of Deadly Virtues.

  112. Lynna, OM says

    Yeah, that Book of Abraham fiasco was the breaking point that turned a lot of mormons into ex-mormons. On the other hand, it turned some mormons into whirling dervishes in the Giant Spin Factory that is mormonism. To whit: Joseph Smith was “inspired” by [fill in the blank here] and was not literally translating anything. God (or Moroni or Nephi or whomever or whatever) just sent an inspirational piece of claptrap to inspire Joe. From there, Joe was on his own, spouting truth without end.

    You could probably do a better job of starting a religion than Joe Smith did. I advise a collaboration with Owlmirror. Let me know if you want to buy some seer stones.

  113. Alan B says

    #630, #631

    Even when acknowledging a correction I still can’t get it right! O.K. Moh’s Hardness Scale was what I wanted.

    Actually, if you Google Mhos scale you get some links with MHOS scale with values up to 15. What’s that about, Josh? For example:

    Abrasive Media Options:
    •Silicon Carbide is characterized by a sharp jagged structure, and is the most
    popular grain choice because of its cost effective, efficient properties. (Color: gray/
    black. Hardness = 13 [MHOS Scale], Density = 3.25)

    •Aluminum Oxide is characterized by a rounded structure and produces a finer
    finish and prevents discoloration on certain alloys such as titanium, aluminum and
    stainless steel. (Color: tan/brown. Hardness = 12 [MHOS Scale], Density = 3.99)

    •Poly Crystalline Diamond (PCD) is characterized by a jagged structure. PCD
    is used to edge hone and radius super hard materials such as CBN and ceramics.
    (Hardness = 15 [MHOS scale])

    Is it a peculiarity of the abrasives industry and wanting a wider scale at the upper end? After all, the differences in Vickers Hardness between Diamond and Corrundum, is far larger than between, say, Quartz and Topaz. Just a thought …

  114. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    OK, radiation is my day job and gemstones are a hobby, so here’s my take on the subjects of topaz enhancement and radiation shielding.

    First, what is happening with irradiation of topaz when you zap it? It turns out that when you get imperfections in the crystaline lattice of topaz, these imperfections (defects) can trap charge and the trapped charge responds by absorbing some frequencies of light. This changes the color. If you irradiate with gammas or electrons, you don’t create many new defects. You only create charges that can be trapped at existing defects, so there’s a limit to how dark a blue you can get. When you irradiate with neutrons, you are creating new defects/charge traps, so you can get a deeper blue. The nice thing about topaz is that the charge traps tend to be pretty stable. In other minerals, the color can bleach if exposed to heat or ultraviolet light.

    The thing about neutron irradiation is that the neutrons can alter the nuclei in the topaz and form unstable/radioactive isotopes. So you have to wait a couple of half-lives before distributing the gems. There have been a couple of incidents where the dealer didn’t wait and you got some rather hot rocks.

    Now as to radiation shielding, there are two things to consider–ionizing dose and non-ionizing dose. Ionizing dose is just the interaction of a charged particle (alpha or beta) with the charges inside the medium it’s passing through (e.g. you). Since the nucleus is about 100000 times smaller than the atom, this means mostly the electrons in the medium.

    So to a first approximation, the shielding of a material scales with the number of electrons in it, which scales roughly with the density. So a dense material will provide more shielding per unit volume/thickness. However the same mass per square centimeter will give the same shielding to first order. (Note: second order effects (e.g. charge screening, etc.) tip the balance just slightly in favor of less dense materials–like Tis’s hydrocarbons, but the effect is slight.

    Note: When a gamma ray passes through matter, it interacts by compton scattering to produce an energetic electron–it’s this electron that actually does the damage to tissue, so gamma dose damage looks a lot like beta dose. A gamma ray has a long range because it doesn’t lose energy until it interacts and produces a compton electron. Beta particles have a shorter range because they lose energy continually in matter. Alphas have the shortest range because they are heavy and have a charge of 2 units–they do a lot of damage over a very short range (~ the thickness of a sheet of paper).

    Neutrons are especially pernicious. They cause damage by scattering off of nuclei (so-called nonionizing energy loss or NIEL) in crystalline lattices, DNA molecules, etc., resulting in dense regions of damaged lattice/tissue. Neutrons are uncharged, so they don’t interact with electrons, only the nuclei. They also scatter more effectively and lose energy more rapidly off of light nuclei–e.g. hydrogen. The more hydrogen in a material, the better it is at shielding neutrons. Unfortunately, that also makes the material very light, so you need a lot of it for an effective shield.

    Hope this helps.

  115. Sven DiMilo says

    Lynna (@#635): Nice vid. It is clear that modesty and virtue will attract white men and small children instead of bloodsuckers and carnivores.

  116. 386sx for a hundred, Alex!! says

    Bout right. What the hell is that thing Hank 3 is wearing on top of his head?

    I’m not sure. I’m calling it a hellbilly hat though! Works for me!

  117. Lynna, OM says

    As far as Hank III’s head covering, I’m postulating a new species of Cowboy Metrosexual. The hat is not as practical as a real cowboy’s hat, but it pretends to cowboyness, and it pretends to be well broken in by being worn while riding hell bent for leather. However, the distressed look and rolled brim can be bought in Manhattan, I’ve seen it.

    Still, if a guy can carry it off and still look/sound bad ass, I’m all for it.

    Sven, yes I too liked the formula for mormon women to attract white guys and perfect babies. Good tips in that video.

    I have my doubts, though, about the modest dress working as promised. I read an article some time ago (in The New Yorker, I think) that told the story of a guy visiting Saudi Arabia. At a mall, he sat with young men watching women coming down the escalator. The young men would hoot and holler when they saw a young woman. So how did they know a woman covered head to toe, with only her eyes showing, was hot? They’re good at reading subtle clues like shoes, carriage, nimbleness, amount of eye makeup, cell phone in hand, and so forth.

    Women in Iran report that virtue police berate them for running, even to catch a bus, as the movement of their buttocks while running is inflammatory and lewd.

    Then there are all the Victorian novels that have men swooning over the sight of an ankle, the back of a neck, or a wrist

    In other words, there is no way that dressing modestly will turn off the spigot of lust (true for both men and women). And the idea that women are, in the main, responsible for either exciting or controlling men’s desires is bad for society. That idea essentially gives men free reign to express lust in any way, and anywhere, without fear of offense or retribution. After all, it’s the woman’s fault. It would be much better for societal norms to be taught that require both men and women to be responsible for their own actions, and to show as much respect as is necessary to establish equality in relationships. After that, they can express as much lust as is mutually agreeable.

  118. Lynna, OM says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @638: Thanks! That was great. I have a much better mental picture now of what changes the color in topaz, and why, and how a blue topaz might damage me if handled while hot.

    However, I’m still not sure if I should keep the 50-gallon drum of diesel fuel as part of my preparation for nuclear war (jump in with a breathing tube?), or if I need an entire swimming pool filled with diesel fuel, or if I should encase my house in 50 gallon drums of diesel fuel, or if any diesel fuel at all will play havoc with my insurance costs. Maybe I’ll just go back to concrete blocks — or maybe I’ll stand outside naked and take the full blast and be done with it. Yeah, that last option sounds good.

    Anyway, practicing for the assault by standing outside naked will be good for my neighbors. They need all the excitement they can get to counteract the boredom of endless church functions.

  119. Alan B says


    I have just about finished a write-up about topaz as promised. Having put the time in I will post it anyway, although it is close to what a_ray_in_dilbert_space has said.

  120. Lynna, OM says

    I received an email reply from Roger G. Kennedy (see comment #584, 587 and 589, plus a few other comments from ‘Tis Himself and Jadehawk that are in the mix):

    Dear Ms. Howard.
         Thank you for writing.
         The Book of Mormon never came into my discussions with the film makers on camera or off camera. There is nothing I can do about how they edit, of course, any more than I could on a news program.
         I had my say on this subject in print in Hidden Cities. You are certainly free to quote anything you’d like from that.
    Roger G. Kennedy
    Former Director, National Park Service;
    Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History
    [home address removed by Lynna]
    When Art Worked:
    The New Deal, the Arts, and Democracy

  121. Alan B says

    KemistryKorner 3

    Radiation-Induced Colour Change in Topaz – continuation from #573

    Note on language: “colour / color” and “centre / center” will be used interchangeably throughout.

    There are a number of different causes of colour in gemstones. I shall be relying heavily of the Internet-based course referred to previously and I will be dealing only with Topaz. For more general information go to Lecture 7, “Color in Minerals”:

    Topaz can derive its colour from a number of causes e.g. trace metals (e.g. Chromium). A common cause is colour centres

    From Lecture 7, “Color Centres”

    Color centers are imperfections in crystals that cause color … by absorption of light. They are most often due to radiation damage: e.g., damage due to exposure to gamma rays. This irradiation may be from both natural (U, Th, K in minerals) or artificial sources. In rare cases, UV light can produce color centers.

    If damaged by radioactive decay, electrons can be removed from their normal sites, bounce around, loose energy, and eventually come to rest in a vacant site in the structure (a trap). One crystal may have many different types of electron traps.

    Electrons in specific traps absorb only a certain range of wavelengths, [the] color that is seen is the color not absorbed by these trapped electrons.

    The last sentence is important. Coloured gemstones do not generate colour. In general (and especially with colour centres) they are the colour of the light that can get through the gem, all else being absorbed. For example a green diamond results from missing carbon atoms. This leads to absorption of red light while other colours can pass through and hence the diamond is seen as being green.

    Because they are a form of damage, color centers can be removed by addition of energy. This may involve heating the stone to a few 100 C … Because irradiated minerals may have several color centres (several traps with different energies required to allow electrons to escape, color can be manipulated by selective removal of unwanted color centers (controlled heating).

    Topaz is the most common irradiated gem on the market. Particles, or electromagnetic rays (ionizing radiation), have enough energy to produce color centers.
    Irradiation of topaz with beta particles (electrons) produces a greenish brown color (= blue + yellow + reddish tinge). Each of the components of the color is due to a different kind of color center. Least stable are the yellow and reddish: controlled heating removes these, leaving blue color centers.

  122. SEF says

    @ Lynna #644:

    I received an email reply from Roger G. Kennedy

    Excellent. Sometimes being direct does work.

  123. blf says

    Lynna: you are a bad girl!

    So spank her! Yes, yes, spank her!
    And then… the oral sex.
    Yes, yes, the oral sex!

  124. Josh says

    As I was waiting for that last comment to load, my browser was aimed at the I feel sorry for this kid and my eye fixated on this:

    It was also Adam who named all the animals…

    This part of Genesis has long bothered me*. Just think about the mentality that’s necessary if there is actually anyone out there who believes that this statement, as written, is true.

    New species of animals have been discovered and named during my lifetime. I mean extant ones. What, so Adam had some other name for each of them? Where are those names recorded?

    *What Josh, just that part?

  125. aratina cage says

    I would just like to add that you are all in great peril! –Lynna, OM

    *cowers in fear*

    From the LA Times review mentioned by Lynna:

    Washington himself might engage in a gesture of accommodation when addressing a message to the Cherokee–he crossed out the word God and replaced it with the Great Spirit Above out of concern for their religious sensibilities


  126. blf says

    WHo said Adam gave each animal a unique name? He could’ve just had a few names, like Big Fecker Run for Hills, Little Fecker Start the Fire, and That Thing Over There. After a while people realized that it’d be useful to more precisely distinguish the different-looking Big Fecker Run for Hills, and so started calling them things like Tigers, Hippos, and Women. Similar for Little Fecker Start the Fire, so now you’ve got Cow, Dog, and Bacon. That Thing Over There turned into Whale, Eagle, and Your Finger You Fool.

  127. Sven DiMilo says

    Just posted this on another thread, but it probably belongs here too/instead.
    And now, the greatest of all trucker songs. I loved the Tom Waits version for decades before I stumbled upon the original (w/ Frankie Lee/Judas Priest background pickin):

  128. Owlmirror says

    New species of animals have been discovered and named during my lifetime. I mean extant ones. What, so Adam had some other name for each of them? Where are those names recorded?

    Oh, Josh. Your theology is so poor.

    Adam didn’t name each and every species. He named all of the baraminim.


    [You have to wonder a bit about the animals not being “help meet for him”…. Did he, you know, try with each one? “No… no… I don’t think it’s going to work with this…. this… sheep either. Sorry, no offense meant.”]

  129. Dania says

    Just think about the mentality that’s necessary if there is actually anyone out there who believes that this statement, as written, is true.

    It’s the same mentality that allows some people to maintain the belief that one single ark built 4000 years ago was enough to save all life from extinction in the face of a global, catastrophic flood. It’s the don’t-think-too-much-about-it-or-you’ll-make-baby-Jesus-cry* kind of mentality.

    * And… “That would be bad.”

  130. Owlmirror says

    “No… no… I don’t think it’s going to work with this…. this… sheep either. Sorry, no offense meant.”

    “And what’s this? Hm, kinda low to the ground. Lots of sharp teeth, too. Why’s that, God? What do you mean, I’ll find out? […later…] No, I don’t think it’s going to work with this…. crocodile.”

    […much, much, later…]

    “OK, God, what the — *ouch!* — hell is this? Ouch! Fuck! This… porcupine has painful sharp points everywhere. You’re just fucking with me, now, aren’t you?”


    PS: Chicxulub.