Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Laki - The Haze from Hell

On the 8th of June 1783 Iceland opened up and started spewing out its guts all over Europe creating some horrifying months where they sky was red and the air was toxic to breath.

Ahhh, beautiful! Wait, what? *cough cough* Somebody invent gas-masks fast...

What became known as the Laki Haze in northern Europe was actually a combination of hydrofluoric acid & sulfur-dioxide that moved eerily through the streets of the highly religious parts of England and France, turning day into a perpetual reddish twilight, killing people and generally made life miserable for the hard working English, and wine drinking French. Remember that his was before industrial robots and tractors so there was a lot of hard manual labour, usually an exercise where you appreciate the fresh Enlightenment air.

Not invented, thankfully not industries either

 The reason for this excitement was that rising magma collided with groundwater, creating phreatomagmatic explosions and simultaneously opened 130 craters that spent the next 8 months spreading death and terror over the neighbourhood. That sort of thing was frowned upon even back then, fortunately nobody had invented satellites either so they had no idea death came from Iceland, most people probably didn't know that there was an Iceland at all.

Not invented. Which was bad because no GPS:es meant people got lost all the time. But good because nobody had to spend a Saturday watching reruns of The Hills with their girlfriend.

In the beginning the Icelanders stood in awe watching 1400m high lava fountains, while the Brits brushed ash of their Frocks. Then started The Mist Hardships where 25% of the Icelandish population died in the famine that followed after their animals began dying of dental and skeletal fluorosis (tell your dentist that next time he tries to force fluorine-tables down your throat). Things got so bad they where forced to invent new dishes, like the scrumptious Book-soup where they actually boiled the pages that was made of animal skins. It's strangely absent from modern cooking books. Nigella, I have a top tip! Gimme a call.

A freakishly hot summer combined with a high pressure zone over Iceland meant that the poisonous, sulphuric air moved like a freight-train down over Norway, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France and ending up in Great Britain in only 6 days (which is much faster than a train actually, all trains being delayed by insurmountable obstacles like leaves and a small breeze).
And while English captains stood on shore cursing at the blood red sun, unable to take to the sea due to the thick mist, some 23 000 Brits died around them. That's around 100.000 in todays currency.

Besides being unhealthy to breathe the haze also caused weather worthy of a Roland Emmerich film. 

Epic thunderstorms with lightnings that killed horses and men, hails that killed livestock and torrential rains.
What followed was a bitterly cold and cruel winter killing at least 8000 more than usual winters.
Not invented, which meant that  the Greeks had to pay their own bills

The British had excellent records over their dead which makes it quite easy to calculate how many more died during these months than normally. The French (being very French) didn't  bother writing down such information though, they kept busy shouting at the haze, getting priest to exorcise it and probably tried to get it into a guillotine (killing things in guillotines being their national sport at the day)
Invented, which made some people shorter, and a lot of crazy French revolutionaries ecstatic

The extreme weather actually screwed up the French crops so much that the ensuing famine and poverty (as this was before the EU was invented the Germans wouldn't bail out the frogs) may have kick-started the French Revolution. Although, knowing the French, it would probably have happened anyway sooner or later.

This is not just meant to educate and amuse, but also to put the current ash-cloud into perspective. What small problems we are experiencing so far and what may come at any time. Today's society is much better equipped to deal with such disasters and that is thanks to the magic of economic growth leading to product development.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

OLED Chandelier

German designer Ingo Maurer have created a very futuristic and minimalistic Chandelier that wouldn't be out of place in a Sci.-Fi movie. It's also one of the new ultra-energy effective light-sources scientists are working on in the wake of the Climate-Change hoax.

Engineers at GE are working on panels of OLED which takes us one closer step to my childhood dreams; luminous wallpaper!

Soon we will indeed live inside a television. Bliss!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Gigi Radiators

i-Radium have made some cool radiators for all you interior-design freaks out there.
Designed by Enzo Berti, famous furniture designer. Apparently.

Using infra-red heating these hot dudes are made from wood and makes you a lot happier than your old cast iron off-white Victorian ones did. And also kinder to your heating bill but will probably piss-off your cat as these are not easy to claim as a relax-area

They have also these Ikea-lamp analogues designed to blend into your other circular shapes (I'm guessing)

I like it! People who think out of the box, or rather those who say "what box?" makes this world evolve into what will become the space trekking, food replicating, alien interracial breeding future that the Sci-Fi channel has shown be will inevitably be.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Aerogel - Frozen Smoke

Aerogel is the lightest solid material in the world, it's actually so light it's pratically air (0.003 g/cm3, only three times that of air) and it's basically a gel but the liquid is replaced with gas through something called supercritical drying.

So what can we use it for, beside holding a block of it on a couple of pretty creepy fingernails?
Aerogel has some particular characteristics among which is a very good heat insulator so we use it in windows and spacesuits. As it weighs so little it doesn't bulk you down like a couple of tartan blankies would. They are also notoriously bad in windows due to their lack of transparency.

Can you believe this little piece of heaven (more literal than usually) was invented after a bet?

That's right, back in 1931 Steven Kistler made a bet with his fellow nerd scientist Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid in jelly with gas without causing shrinkage. I know it sounds dirty but it's really not.

Aerogel did however play quite an anonymous role due to the difficulty and expense of manufacturing it. But in the seventies the French (believe it or not) needed a way to store rocketfuel in porous materials and a univerity in Lyon discovered the application of sol-gel chemistry to silica aerogel preparation. This process replaced the sodium silicate used by Kistler with an alkoxysilane, (tetramethyorthosilicate, TMOS)

After that it has, among other things, been used to detect Cherenkov Radiaton in Cern (with Aerogel prepared in Sweden, yay!) and NASA used it to absorb space dust (which is cooler than normal dust cause it has the word "space" in it)
Future uses may include absorbing kinetic energy, as in computers, cars or even bulletproof vests.

Is there anything jam can't do? Save a peanut butter sandwich, pimp a porridge, feature in erotic fantasies, inspire scientists to create frozen smoke. Jam is awesome!
And also Aerogel....

A 2,5kg brick supported by 2 grams of Aerogel
Aerogel FAQ

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Last night I dreamt that water was pointless to drink, 
because it's transparent. That it was like air!
And that the darker the drink, the healthier it is, 
so I ended up just drinking Guinness.

About Me

My photo

Member of the band Colony 5, also producing music under the names Moonboy & 200OK.
Rides a Kawasaki ZX6R
Loves movies, books, whisky, pipes and an open fire. 
Father of two girls; Enya & Leia 
Fiancé of Malin