science

If you think fracking is dangerous, just try canning

At a favorite science blog of mine, what if? This week's question:

...What's the worst thing that can happen if you misuse a pressure cooker in an ordinary kitchen?
 

...there are so many options it would be impossible to survey them all. But for my money, one of the most horrifying things you could do is this:
 
(Note: Never try this, for reasons which will become obvious in a moment.)
 
Fill the cooker with oxygen up to 5 PSI, then pump in fluorine until it starts escaping through the safety valve. Put the vessel over an open flame until it reaches 700°C (That’s °C, not °F. Yes, this will probably set off the smoke alarm.) Now, pump the hot gas over a liquid-oxygen-cooled stainless steel surface.
 
The procedure here is a little tricky, but if you do things right, the gas will condense into dioxygen difluoride (O2F2).
 
And that stuff is awful.
 
Ray Bradbury taught us that paper burns when exposed to oxygen at temperatures above 451°F. Dioxygen difluoride is so volatile that it makes almost any organic substance ignite and explode at any temperature hotter than 300°F below zero. It can literally make ice catch fire.
 
In an article about O2F2, Chemistry blogger Derek Lowe (of the excellent In The Pipeline) used phrases like “violently hideous”, “deeply alarming”, and “chemicals that I never hope to encounter”. Another article refers to fluorine as “the gas of Lucifer”, and lists chemists who were poisoned or blown up while attempting to work with it.
 
If your house is heated by natural gas, and it happens to contain hydrogen sulfide, you could pipe some of it into your container of O2F2. In addition to a massive explosion, this will also produce a cloud of hydrogen fluoride gas. Hydrogen fluoride can dissolve human tissue on contact, starting with your lungs and corneas.
 
As Lowe points out, the chemistry of this kind of reaction (O2F2 and sulfides) is largely unexplored...
 
Moral of the story: Never ever EVER use a pressure cooker.  Something really awful MIGHT happen:
 
 
I don't know how some people get out of bed in the morning.
 
UPDATE 4-17-13, via Moonbattery:
 

 

Bitterly clinging to guns and the Higgs boson

No, wait…somehow that doesn't have quite the same ring to it. 

We here at Redneck Mansion, when we're not calling ducks with our kissin' cousins, the Robertsons, tend to spend some time thinking about, you know, Auguste Comte and Søren Kierkegaard, and we're convinced that we are actually now in a post-scientific age.

 

How do we know this? Because of the relatively recent proliferation and celebrity-status of "scientists" like Michael Mann and media charlatans like Josh Fox, most famous for his not-documentary Gasland, rife with supposedly scientific evidence of the evils of hydrofracturing. The scientific method?  Bah, humbug.  What's important is the narrative; actual data are something that only simpletons who are not "viscerally educated" concern themselves with.

 

One problem with the Manns and Foxes of the world, in addition to the ethical implications of their Machiavellian take on the uses of science, is that once their misuses of data and science are exposed, all legitimate science is under a cloud.  Not a good thing. 

 

Which brings us to the Higgs boson. It's been recently and widely reported in the MSM that the subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, aka "the God particle," has apparently been dis-CERNed.  Does this prove that God does or does not exist? 

 

According to physicist Stephen Hawking in his 2010 book The Grand Design

Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God...

Another physicist, Lawrence Krauss from Arizona State, wrote recently

What makes this term ["the God particle"] particularly unfortunate is that nothing could be further from the truth. Assuming the particle in question is indeed the Higgs, it validates an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics and brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans all the way back to the beginning of the universe—and perhaps even before the beginning, if there was a before. The brash notion predicts an invisible field (the Higgs field) that permeates all of space and suggests that the properties of matter, and the forces that govern our existence, derive from their interaction with what otherwise seems like empty space. Had the magnitude or nature of the Higgs field been different, the properties of the universe would have been different, and we wouldn’t be here to wonder why. Moreover, a Higgs field validates the notion that seemingly empty space may contain the seeds of our existence. This idea is at the heart of one of the boldest predictions of cosmology, called inflation. This posits that a similar type of background field was established in the earliest moments of the big bang, causing a microscopic region to expand by more than 85 orders of magnitude in a fraction of a second, after which the energy contained in otherwise empty space was converted into all the matter and radiation we see today! Alan Guth, the originator of the theory, called it “the ultimate free lunch.”

But as all economists know, TANSTAAFL. But we digress.

If these bold, some would say arrogant, notions derive support from the remarkable results at the Large Hadron Collider, they may reinforce two potentially uncomfortable possibilities: first, that many features of our universe, including our existence, may be accidental consequences of conditions associated with the universe’s birth; and second, that creating “stuff” from “no stuff” seems to be no problem at all—everything we see could have emerged as a purposeless quantum burp in space or perhaps a quantum burp of space itself. Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge. The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.

The sound you just heard was a quantum burp—pardon us.  Some would say arrogant?  Of course, this appeared in Newsweek—'nuff said.

 

But is this discovery really the blow to Judeo-Christianity's belief in the creator God that many in the media are claiming it is?

 

The same Dr. Krauss had written a few months earlier:

...If the Higgs is discovered, it will represent perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of the human intellect in recent memory, vindicating the construction of one of science's greatest theories and the most complicated machine ever built. That's the good news.

But if the Higgs is all that is found at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a huge amount will remain to be discovered. Crucial experimental guidance that physicists need to understand fundamental questions about our existence – from whether all four forces in nature are unified in some grand theory to determining what may have caused the big bang – will still be absent. Answering these questions may be beyond our technical and financial capabilities in this generation.

Allrighty then. We're going to use our remarkable human brain and stick out our remarkable human neck and posit that he's saying that the Higgs boson does not provide an explanation for the cause of the Big Bang. But you're not hearing about that part now, are you?

So, since the science is apparently not quite as settled as some would have you believe, let's keep thinking about this, shall we?  In addition to Comte and Kierkegaard, we also like to cogitate on Thomas Aquinas every once in a while and his "first cause" argument…which indeed depends on some abstract reasoning but at its root relies on—gasp!—the human intuition that everything must start somewhere—or with Someone.

Maybe there's a reason why Isaiah 55:8 reads "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."

Question: When is a scientist not really a scientist?

Ummm...let's see....

George Will put it to a "Republican" presidential candidate:
...For Jon Huntsman: You, who preen about having cornered the market on good manners, recently tweeted, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
 
Call you sarcastic. In the 1970s, would you have trusted scientists predicting calamity from global cooling? Are scientists a cohort without a sociology – uniquely homogenous and unanimous, without factions or interests and impervious to peer pressures or the agendas of funding agencies?
 
Are the hundreds of scientists who are skeptical that human activities are increasing global temperatures not really scientists?
Here at Redneck Mansion, the answer to this post's title question is: For some people, probably at about the same point that an attorney is not really an attorney.  In an article in the Tompkins Weekly on gas drilling bans and DSEC:
DRAC leaders believe the bans will hold up in court, and have even questioned the motives of the some of the DSEC members. “Our bans will hold up in court. Mr. Kramer states he is an attorney, however, unless one is viscerally educated as to how industry's deliberate, calculated and frankly disturbing practices, one would be ill equipped to comment professionally, about the industry and its effects on our state.
"Viscerally educated"?
 
Good grief.
 
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