Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time For Cocktails: La Dura Vita, That's Amaro!

Trooper York puked all over my last cocktail comment thread, complaining that the Aviation sounded too sweet. Such a bitter blogfather. I should go clean up the mess, but perhaps I'll just walk away this time.

So here's a little something I found more up his alley. It's recipe based around a Sicilian liqueur called Averna Amaro. The recipe I'm using can be found here. I'm going to try it out.

La Dura Vita:

1-1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Averna amaro

Build and garnish with lemon twist. This one can be enjoyed at room temperature or slightly chilled. The Italians slug a shot of the stuff right out of the bottle after a heavy meal to aid in digestion.

Blogfather obviously has a bias against drinks which would suggest La Dolce Vita. I hope he can hold his liquor this time because this one's an after-dinner drink.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Time For Cocktails: The Aviation

100 Years of Naval Aviation-San Diego (2/9/11)*

OK, this one is a real favorite of ours.


1-1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz Crème de Violette or Crème Yvette liqueur

Double the amounts if you're making for two, or if you're thirsty.
Mix ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and strain, pouring into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a bright red maraschino cherry.


Crème Yvette and Crème de Violette are both intensely flavored violet liqueurs. They are easy to overdo in this drink so go lightly with them. They're both pretty pricey too but a bottle lasts a long long time.

Althouse commenter Palladian gave a nice discourse about both Crème Yvette and Crème de Violette the other night over here. The liqueur gives this cocktail that gorgeous cerulean color, like somewhere in the middle of the sky in my photo above.
*That photo of a flying V of V's of 25 jet aircraft was taken from the flight deck of the USS Midway during the Centennial celebration of 100 years of Naval Aviation in San Diego.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cut the vitriol, are those D's for real or not?

Here's the problem in a nutshell:

Elements 1 through 20 are theoretically supposed to build molecular structure using just those spherical and dumbell shaped thingies: the s- and p-orbitals. Theoretically speaking, no more than eight valence electrons should ever surround those atoms. This is the octet rule, and also explains why no more than four atoms ever surround those elements. The octet rule is supposed to apply to phosphorus, sulfur, and chlorine. And yet...

Fact: PF5 and SF6 exist, in apparent violation the octet rule. PF5 has ten valence electrons (2 in each bond) and SF6 has twelve. Also, some pretty common species like phosphate, sulfate, and perchlorate, appear to violate the octet rule. Those are pretty serious charges. Good men may have even killed themselves over the very issue. Link

Look, intelligent people disagree on many topics. As an aside, the ancient name for sulfuric acid was vitriol, which nowadays mostly means nasty rhetoric. But consider the word's origins. According to the OED, vitriol, H2SO4, was so-named because of the glassy-like appearance of concentrated sulfuric acid. I love how so many words are, in the end, just metaphors. Vitriol is an ancient substance, and came to us by way of alchemy. By the way, we spell it "sulfuric" and the Brits spell it "sulphuric."

Bored yet?

You should have seen what I was going to post on this topic. Something about D-orbitals.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time For Cocktails: The Maggie

I hung the crown molding!

I'm starting a new series here which will present my favorite cocktail recipes. I would appreciate any suggestions for improvements or derivatives thereof.

The "Maggie" is a drink my wife invented but which I named. Essentially, it's a margarita but is made with gin instead of tequila. The cocktail should be a perfect accompaniment for this weekend's nuptial festivities.

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau*
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (that's about a half a lime)

Double the amounts if you're making for two, or if you're thirsty.

Combine and shake with ice. Pour into a chilled martini glass.


*Margaritas are sometimes made with triple sec which you can also use.  Both are essentially an orange flavored liqueur. Limes should be freshly squeezed using an old fashioned juicer to get every drop. We strain it through a wire mesh to catch the pulp, but you can skip that step.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sir Davy and the Royal Navy

Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown...
 ~Sir Humphry Davy, November 30, 1825

Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829)
Sir Humphry DavyByronic scientist extraordinaire and mentor to Michael Faraday, scientist plus extraordinaireonce proposed a clever solution to a problem vexing the Royal Navy. But his idea led to unintended consequences. Davy was publicly embarrassed by the Admiralty, and his career never recovered and set the stage for Faraday's rise to the epitome of British science. Sadly, Davy's health also faltered (a possible consequence of chlorine and fluorine gas inhalation). Here's the fascinating story:
 ... at the beginning of 1823...the Navy Board (which provided the Royal Navy's civilian administration) approached Davy about the possibility of protecting the copper sheeting of warships from the corrosive effects of seawater. The naval budget had been reduced by 71.4% since the end of the war of 1815, and hence the Navy Board was seeking to lower expenditures. If the frequency with which ships needed to be dry docked to replace their corroded copper could be reduced, then significant savings would be made.
During 1823, the Navy Board provided Davy with information about copper corrosion and following his return from holiday at the end of October, he began investigating the problem. By mid-January 1824, he concluded that there existed an electrical reaction between the copper and the oxygenated seawater (no corrosion occurred when oxygen was not present) which allowed the formation of various copper salts. Thus he reasoned, that if the electrical polarity between the copper and the seawater was reversed, the corrosion would cease. In his Elements of Chemical Philosophy (1812), he had ranked the electro-chemical reactivities of various metals. Zinc was much more electro-positive than copper-which suggested that a relatively small amount attached to the copper would prevent the corrosion.*
...the Admiralty ordered that practical tests should be carried out on three warships moored in Portsmouth Dockyard. Starting in mid-February 1824. Davy's "protectors" as they were called were attached to their copper, the state of which was monitored in the ensuing months. Faraday, who undertook most of the follow-up experiments, visited Portsmouth once. At the end of April, satisfied that the tests were successful, the Navy Board drafted an order that the entire fleet be fitted with the protectors...and the fitting programme was undertaken during the remainder of the year and into 1825. However...problems began to appear, and by the summer it was clear that the Navy faced a major disaster. Ships returning from the West and East Indies were found to have their bottoms, though preserved, fouled with seaweeds, barnacles, and suchlike. Because of the protectors, no longer were the poisonous salts produced by the corroding copper being released into the water to kill the source of the fouling. Davy...had tried by varying the ratios of protectors to copper to prevent it, but such was the rush and inadequacy of the Portsmouth trials, that...the Admiralty ordered the removal of the protectors.
Then there followed the political task of allocating the blame for the disaster. The Navy Board had protected itself by doing only what the Admiralty ordered. Hence in the eyes of the Admiralty...Davy was to blame. This failure doubtless contributed to Davy's ill health and premature resignation as President of the Royal Society on 6 November 1827.
~Frank A.J.L. James Michael Faraday: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press (2010)

Two years later, Davy was dead at the age of 51.

Chu on this too

Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have caused the climate to change, and a dramatic reduction of these emissions is essential to reduce the risk of future devastating effects. ~ Steven Chu
Much remains to be learned about the cycling of carbon in the deep ocean. For example, a recent discovery is that larvacean mucus houses (commonly known as "sinkers") are created in such large numbers that they can deliver as much carbon to the deep ocean as has been previously detected by sediment traps.[6] Because of their size and composition, these houses are rarely collected in such traps, so most biogeochemical analyses have erroneously ignored them. (Link)

Nobel Intentions

Dr. Chu:  Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.

Mr. Obama: Well I won't raise the federal gasoline tax, that would be a mistake because it would put additional burdens on American families right now.

Dr. Krugman: Look guys, it's easy--ever since we went off the gold standard, we've been on the black gold standard. If we just print more dollars without producing more oil, the price of oil has to rise -as surely as the tides.  Remember, inflation rewards debtors!

Mr. Obama: So I can pay for my programs and cut oil consumption? The average American family won't feel it so long as they keep borrowing.  Win-Win!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saltpeter Is Not Rock Salt

Rock Salt (Halite)

If word histories made any sense, saltpeter should be rock salt. But instead rock salt is halite.

LL made a nice comment back here:
I thought that you would take this thread in the direction of Potassium Nitrate (saltpetre), accused falsely of causing impotence in men and at the same time allowing gunpowder to go boom.


The Lewis structure of potassium nitrate invokes all that separated charge, which in a way depicts internal potential energy. Nitrates give explosions not just an oxidant (oxygen) but also nitrogen atoms badly wanting to make nitrogen gas. Whence the added oomph first discovered by the Chinese. The same principle is behind nitroglycerin (dynamite), trinitrotoluene (TNT), and nitromethane racing fuel: enhanced combustion.

I find nitrogen oxides intrinsically interesting and I even wrote a bit about them back here already; I mentioned impotence, but it's at the very end of the post. It's an odd coincidence that NO gets one hard while NO3- stands accused of the opposite.

The State of Chymistry in 1728

Let us take the Road. 
Hark! I hear the Sound of Coaches!
The Hour of Attack approaches,
To your Arms, brave Boys, and load.
See the Ball I hold!
Let the Chymists toil like Asses,
Our Fire, their Fire surpasses,
And turns all our Lead to Gold! 
John Gay, The Beggar's Opera Act II, Scene I

Silver and gold are back in the news again today. I mentioned them back here. The Beggar's Opera (1728) underscores man's perpetual lust for gold and also shows how as late as 1728 "chymistry" was still regarded as a mere quest for transmutation of base metals into gold. 

The Beggar's Opera later inspired Bertold Brecht and others. According to the Wiki:
Instead of the grand music and themes of opera, the work uses familiar tunes and characters that were ordinary people. Some of the songs were by opera composers like Handel, but only the most popular of these were used. The audience could hum along with the music and identify with the characters. The story satirised politics, poverty and injustice, focusing on the theme of corruption at all levels of society. 
 We need a popular comeback of The Beggar's Opera.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Confessional

Probably the most ruthless thing I ever did to another fellow American happened on Easter.

The time and place: a small village in Alsace-Lorraine, the exact name of which escapes me at present. The year must have been 1991 or 1992.

We, the self-styled "Toxic Trio", comprising an attractive woman and two male admirers were sitting at a small cafe, nursing a previous evening's hangover. We conversed in a mixture of German and English as we were wont to do, though this particular cafe had a definite French vibe going and the proprietress spoke only French.

An older American gentleman entered the cafe and rather loudly ordered coffee and a couple of breakfast rolls. He took a seat in an opposite corner. We continued our own muted conversation, not wishing to give away our identities.

The man finished his coffee and on his way out he paused and, looking at the woman behind the counter, wished her (in English) "Happy Easter!" She gave back a blank stare. The man tried again but, lacking the word for Easter in French, again got nowhere. Now that's where one of the Toxic Trio could have intervened and offered some help. But we sat back, amused.

The man resorted to hand gestures: raising both hands and arms up against his head, he feigned "rabbit ears" and said to the woman: You know, "Easter, Easter Bunny!?" Again she drew a blank. The exasperated man did a little hop, which added nothing to his impression.

Frustrated, the man dropped his secular interpretation and instead extended both arms as if he were a man on a cross.

"Easter, you know, Christ, Jesus Christ!?"

Something about the similarity or universality of those words got through to her, and she finally flashed acknowledgment. The man left, apparently having made his point.

At the exact moment the American left the cafe, a German tourist poked his head in the door and demanded: "Guten Morgen! Haben Sie Espresso?"

The French proprietress just rolled her eyes in acquiescence.

Happy Easter All!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's No Lye That Soap Is Made From Pot Ash

The word potassium came from the Dutch word "potash" literally referring to the substance left behind in the kettle or pot when wood ashes are leached with water and then left to evaporate--whence my title [insert snickering reference to the Dutch and their penchant for "pot"].

Scooping the ash out of the fireplace reminded me of how people used to make their own soap from lard. The first step in making soap is to have a good quantity of lye on hand. Lye is just concentrated potassium hydroxide, KOH, easily made from wood ash. recipe  Someone I knew back in Wisconsin used to make his own soap from used motor oil. The stuff worked quite well and really cut grease, but it smelled a bit like...used motor oil.

Potassium (but not sodium) is essential to plants and the growth of wild plants is often limited by their supply of K+.  This is also why fertilizer is classed according to its nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) content. Plants don't have feelings and the proof is that they don't require the sodium crucial for propagating nerve impulses. I found a cool animation of how potassium and sodium are channeled and gated here. Back in my day we had no such animation tools and we had to imagine concepts like this. Here is a complete animated overview of how our brains communicate with our toes: link. Sodium and potassium are crucial for these processes.

In a way, this also describes how words become flesh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Argon Idly Watches The Clouds Go By

Argon: From the Greek word αργον, neut. of αργος [argos] "idle," from α- "without" + εργον "work." = lazy, inactive. Link
Argon is not completely inert. Voracious hydrogen fluoride coaxes some electronic juice out of it, but the two stay coupled only when frozen. Moving further down to krypton and especially to xenon, there is an increasing willingness to redistribute electrons among the noble gas atoms, a consequence of their electronic wealth being more remote from their core and thus more easily removed. 
Argon makes up nearly 1 percent of the atmosphere, making it almost 25 times more abundant than carbon dioxide, that vile and evil greenhouse gas. So why is lazy and shiftless argon not implicated in global warming?  For that matter, why isn't air itself (N2 and O2) blamed? And why is good ol' water vapor given a pass by the warmists? Those questions have both easy and inconvenient answers.

Greenhouse gases are invisible but retain heat. Argon, being just an atom, never quivers internally, which is how gas molecules absorb and trap heat. So argon has no real greenhouse gas capacity. Nitrogen and oxygen also absorb little heat, even though there are trillions and trillions tons more of them up there. Carbon dioxide absorbs infra red radiation (heat), the sine qua non signature of a greenhouse gas. But water vapor is not only a "better" greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is--there are also many tons more of it in the sky! (methane is even better than water at greenhouse gassing, but there is so little methane in the air that the point is moot).

So water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas. But water vapor also makes clouds which reflect sunlight. That makes clouds the white elephant in the room that the warmists don't really like to talk about. Back in the old days, when environmentalism wasn't so fixated on carbon dioxide, things were more fair and balanced:
If large amounts of carbon dioxide enter the air, then it is quite obvious that a rise in worldwide temperature could result, bringing about the the melting of the polar ice caps. However, an increase in temperatures would also lead to an increased rate of evaporation; with more water vapor in the air, cloudiness would increase. This in turn would mean an increase in reflectivity of insolation, so that less of the sun's energy would reach the earth. The lower temperatures that would result could eventually produce another ice age. Thus we are left with the perplexing thought that increased pollution could cause either a glacial invasion or a worldwide rise in sea levels that could inundate millions of miles of dry land presently in use.
Burrus, T.L; Spiegel, H.J. Earth In Crisis: An Introduction To The Earth Sciences: C. V. Mosby Company: St Louis, 1976 
Talk about putting a damper on global warming.

[UPDATE: link]

Ein kleiner Bierwitz

Hey, willst Du mal ein Bierwitz hören?

Ja klar! Mir geveltins!

Ach! Ich hab' ein Bindinghautentzündung!

Was? Bist Du Licher?

Das darf wohl nicht Warstein'!

Ja, aber heut zu tage hat man Jever.

Partial translation:

Willst Du mal ein Bierwitz hören?

Ja klar! Mir gefällt eins!

Ach! Ich hab' ein Bindunghautentzündung!

Was? Bist Du sicher?

Das darf wohl nicht wahr sein!

Ja, aber heut zu tage hat man jeder.

Monday, April 11, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1995

1995 was tough year. My father died in February of that year. It also seemed to be the decade's low point for new released music--I mean, Hootie and the Bloatfish?

One highlight was seeing the nascent Foo Fighters play a surprise opening for a Mike Watt show in Denver. They weren't completely "together" yet. Of course Dave Grohl (ex-Nirvana) was there but Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), and Pat Smear were there representing too. The Foo Fighters released a debut album that year, but it's not really a favorite. Here's kinda how they looked and sounded that night back then covering a Blue Oyster Cult song: link

Mike Watt's solo effort, Ball-Hog or Tugboat? came out in 1995 (not 1994). This highly under-rated piece of vinyl brought together a bunch of Watt's friends for example, on the song Against The 70s.

Mike Watt asked Kathleen Hanna to contribute to his album but she declined--instead ranting in a voice message left on his phone which he put it on his record as her contribution! link. A transcript is here.

Things picked-up for the better the following year.

"If the ships couldn’t be raised to the surface then the surface could be lowered to the ships!"

Emperor Caligula's Pleasure Craft?
[note how small the men are in the photo]
I'd been to Lago di Nemi in Italy and I even knew the tragic story of how the salvaged ancient Roman ships found on the lake bottom were lost to fire during the invasion of Italy in the Second World War. What I didn't know was that Mussolini drained the lake to get at the ships. The whole incredible story is here.

Another fascinating website with lots of information and links to photos and maps is here. Given what we know of Emperor Caligula's depravities, it's hard to fathom what actually happened on board this ship:


Texas Carbon

In a chemical compound, a carbon atom that has 5 bonds and does not exist in practice - Carbon bonds usually only have 4 bonds. Created from a bathroom stall wall in the University of Michigan Chem Building. Urban Dictionary

The definition is true however the origin of the expression is debatable IMHO.

Sir Humphry Davy Also Bleached The French

Muriatic Acid: a synonym for hydrochloric acid. Muriatic † pert. to brine; ‘marine’ (acid), hydrochloric. XVII. — L. muriāticus, f. muria brine (the acid being obtained by heating salt with sulfuric acid).
Chemistry is fraught with confusing synonyms and antiquated terms. "Muriatic acid" is such an example. The acid itself was known to medieval alchemists who concocted it from vitriol and sal ammoniac (the salt of Ammon). They discovered that it (in combination with lesser parts of nitric acid) would dissolve gold--whence the fanciful name aqua regia.

We owe the modern name hydrochloric acid to Sir Humphry Davy, who also dealt a great blow to French scientific pride. Davy (1778-1829) dealt with the nature and definition of acids which was the cutting edge of chemical knowledge in his day:
French chemists, following Lavoisier, argued that all acids must contain oxygen (which means 'acid producer') and that therefore muriatic acid contained oxygen. Davy showed that muriatic acid gas was a chemical element which he named chlorine and that muriatic acid was a compound of hydrogen and chlorine (hydrochloric acid, HCl) containing no oxygen.
--Frank A.J.L. James Michael Faraday: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press (2010)
Davy gave the name chlorine to the element because of its color:
As the new compound in its purest form is possessed of a bright yellow green colour, it may be expedient to designate it by a name expressive of this circumstance, and its relation to oxymuriatic gas. As I have named that elastic fluid Chlorine, so I venture to propose for this substance the name Euchlorine, or Euchloric gas from ευ and χλωρος. The point of Nomenclature I am not, however, inclined to dwell upon. I shall be content to adopt any name that may be considered as most appropriate by the able chemical philosophers attached to this Society. link 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!

--Otto Dix Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor (1924)

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

The Germans first deployed 168 tons of chlorine gas against French troops on April 22, 1915, in what became known as the Battle of Ypres. Two days later they gassed British and Canadian troops. Retaliation occurred in kind.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reality catches up to fantasy

Laser-powered destruction of boats and ships was all predicted by Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest back in 1964.  Check out the entire series to see what's coming next.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Those Horny Italians!

My parents had a vinyl LP as old as me (1960) called Louis Prima Digs Keely Smith.  One of the songs, Zooma Zooma Baccala, amused me and my brother to no end growing up, but we had no clue what the song was really about. It's really the same song in the wedding scene from The Godfather:

The original lyrics aren't even in Italian; they're in a Sicilian (or Neopolitan) dialect. The wonders of the Internets led me to track down the meaning of the words to the Louis Prima song one night. I was very amused by what I found. I converted my inherited vinyl to digital and translated the lyrics in the first link.

The mezzogiorno polka song tells about a young woman choosing a man to be her husband. She is confused and asks her mother to decide. Her mother describes each man and his "job," giving her the same comical answer for each one, indicating for instance, that if you marry a butcher, he will "sausage" you; if you marry a carpenter, he will "hammer" you; if you marry a farmer, he will "plough" you. Obviously, the song is one big double entendre. Here's the best translation that I found: link

In many ways, the 1960's and earlier times were not more innocent times--people just had better imaginations.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ladri di Vote?

An interesting old trick taught in undergraduate chemistry was called the titration thief. Now a titration is something one does to measure the titer of an unknown solution. It's usually an acid-base or some other strength-of-this vs. strength-of-that determination.

The gist of a titration is that one slowly drips a solution of a known strength into a solution of an unknown strength (but of opposite polarity) until some indicator indicates neutrality. The exact point of neutrality is called the endpoint. It used to take me quite a bit of practice to reach but not exceed that delicate endpoint without overshooting.

A titration thief was a trick whereby one removed a tiny bit of the unknown solution beforehand in case the endpoint was overshot. In the event of an overshoot, the small amount of unknown was added back in and the endpoint was then re-titrated with greater care.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Electrons Have Consequences

The valence electrons of lithium and beryllium metal are spherically shaped and easily lost. Once lost, the remaining two electrons revert back to being helium-like electrons except that the kernel, being laden with more charge than helium, sucks in the remaining two even closer. This explains the extremely small sizes of both Li+ and Be2+ and ultimately why lithium is such an effective battery material and why even tinier beryllium is found in many brilliant gemstones.

Things change dramatically when we move on to boron, a favorite element of mine. The electrons actually reach out further and take shapes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who broke the mirror so long ago?

Yes, but who broke the mirror so long ago?

Ethnic Germans Reject Kloppenburg?

I noticed the curious swath across the state map of voting results in yesterday's judicial election in Wisconsin:

original here

That orange swath reminded me a little of the orange swath of ethnic Germans who settled the state:




Stinkstoff is my own made-up name for sulfur, with Stoff being the German equivalent of the suffix "gen"  (Stinkstoff = stink begetting). The actual modern German word for sulfur is Schwefel, but there is an older germanic term related to our cognate word brimstone. Van der Krogt does better justice to the word origins here.

I thought a bit about why so many sulfur-bearing compounds smell so badly. Why have we have evolved (or were given) such astonishing olfactory sensitivity to sulfur? Is it a protective defense mechanism? Is this is why our mothers teach us to wash our hands after a number two?

Anaerobic infections are life-threatening. link  A common characteristic of anaerobic microorganisms is their use and production of sulfur-bearing compounds. Chemically, anaerobic organisms rely on sulfur instead of oxygen and use elemental sulfur or even sulfates as electron acceptors. So while aerobic metabolism reduces oxygen to water, anerobic organisms reduce sulfur, "S2", to hydrogen sulfide, H2S (the essence of rotten eggs). The smell is the danger signal.

Anerobic organisms are found wherever life without much oxygen is found. Sunlight and fresh air are toxic to many of them. They thrive at the bottom of the sea near hydrothermal vents, in enclosed spaces, and in our guts as E. coli. There is a theory that primitive life was sulfur-based before aerobic plants and bacteria filled the atmosphere with enough oxygen to support life. I wrote a bit about atmospheric oxygen back here.

There is an entire "shadow metabolism" which kicks in for some organisms in the absence of oxygen. Even highly complex coenzymes like vitamin B12 have anaerobic counterparts: cf. S-adensylmethionine, which goes by the alias "Poor Man's B12". Some bacteria even have DNA that encodes both aerobic and anaerobic enzymes and which express them according to living conditions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Word Verifications: Isotope and Allotrope

wv = "isotope": noun. The prefix iso is obvious and means the same in Greek.  Topos as in topography has the meaning of place. The word isotope was coined by a Greek-schooled physician named Margaret Todd to convey the notion of at the same place in the Periodic Table. Thus only chemical species with different numbers of protons get separate seats at the Table. Elements having different numbers of neutrons must share the same seat. This is also true for radioisotopes.

wv =  "allotrope": noun:  The prefix allo is related to the Greek allos meaning other. Trope is a confusing root and in my opinion is a vague word having several different meanings. The combination allotrope means a structurally different form of the same element ("Graphite and diamond are allotropes of carbon"). 

Phosphorus and especially sulfur are allotrope-rich. The concept of allotrope is akin to an elemental alias. Sulfur has several different aliases or allotropes. Yes, I like that.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Letters Home: "I'll kick her butt when I get home and I mean it."

US military scrip from the era

April 3, 1953

Dear Mom, Dad and all,

It's raining over here today and I am on guard. I have to check all the trip tickets of all the jeeps and trucks that leave the motorpool. I'm in a shack so I'm not getting wet.
Last Sat. I had to take a Lt. to Frankfurt for the payroll. I had to help count it before we left the place. $8500 in script and $1500 in marks.[1] I guess I told you before we get paid in script and then can change that into German marks if we go off post. I haven't seen any American money for months. 
Bye the way how is my bankroll coming? I should have quite a bit by now.
You tell P. she had better settle down like a high school girl should and quit smoking or I'll kick her butt when I get home and I mean it.[2] I was going to write her a letter. She must have got in with some of that Muscoda bunch.[3]
The way things look now it will be about the 1st of Sept before I can leave here. Every month someone is going home and new guys are coming in. They all have been serving for 2 years.
How long does it take a letter like this to get to the states? It comes by German air mail and is suppose to take 3 days.

As ever, V.
[1] GI's were paid in military scrip which came in all denominations, even fractional dollars.

[2] P. is his younger sister, then about 16 years old. She is my aunt and the one who saw to it that I received these letters. link

[3] Muscoda (pronounced MUSS-co-day, i.e., stress on the first syllable) was a rival high school located about 20 miles south and across the Wisconsin River from Richland Center.