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May 27, 2005

Gasoline and fluorescent tubes
Posted by Teresa at 10:50 AM *

It would almost be funny if they hadn’t been seriously injured, but they were, so it’s just painful:

Two hurt in mock light sabre duel

A man, aged 20, and a girl of 17 are believed to have been filming a mock duel when they poured fuel into two glass tubes and lit it.

The pair were rushed to hospital after one of the devices exploded in woodland at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. A videotape was found nearby by police called to the scene on Sunday.

A police spokeswoman said the pair were taken to West Herts Hospital before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, in Essex. They are both said to be in a critical condition.
I’m struck by how unavoidable this was. We’re a technologically empowered society that doesn’t require its members to understand physics, chemistry, ballistics, or the virtue of testing something (preferably from a distance) before you use it.

Mistakes will be made. The only thing that keeps them from happening oftener than they do is that non-techies don’t usually act on their ideas.

You want proof that magic doesn’t actually work? If it did, there’s no way that ignorant practitioners wouldn’t be committing equivalent screwups, and sooner or later there’d be an incident that was too obvious to explain away.

Addendum: Posted to the comment thread by John M. Ford:
The following information is provided as a service to our customers.

Welcome, Padawan! Your acquisition of an Incom-Flickertek “Divisa-S” Lightsaber is the beginning of an exciting future of Galactic wisdom and influence. Regardless of your choice of Force paths, the Divisa series offers a lifetime of subtle and precise striking down.

However, as with all ancient weapons, the lightsaber requires care in use and handling. We hope you will find the following tips useful:

—Remember the sequence: Flourish-Force-Flash. First, draw the saber, using your favored technique, or one you learned in some obscure font of Jedi stuntwork. Then, use the Force! Objects that might be in the beam path will cause disturbances that, with a little practice, you will recognize very quickly. (Of course, you will recognize them quickly no matter what.) Once clear, ignite the blade. After all, it’s tough to face down the foe with one knee, even if it was already cybernetic.

—The lens assembly goes through a self-cleaning cycle on each ignition. However, if the saber has not been ignited for some time, or the lens has acquired a heavy coat of debris (smoke, droid lube, bodily fluids, etc.) peripheral effects may occur on ignition. Some Jedi find entering through a cloud of smoke dramatic and even useful. If, however, the saber fails to ignite, or shows a highly specular beam, accompanied by unusual sounds and a smell like frying womp-rat, turn the saber off and use a non-abrasive cleaner on the lens at the first opportunity. Allow solvents to evaporate fully before re-installing the assembly. Note: use of chewing tobacco, while still popular in some corners of the galaxy, is NOT recommended for lightsaber operators.

—Throwing the lightsaber at a distant enemy, and then recovering it with adroit Force use, is a dramatic way to enter any room, but it requires practice. The SwashLITE™ Practice Saber, available to match the weight and balance of all our lightsaber models, is highly recommended for those intending to “fling the Force.” It has a holographic simulated blade that generates an audible tone when it passes through a target. As a saber owner, you’re entitled to a considerable discount on the SwashLITE; contact your Incom sales rep.

—Other Padawans may tell you that turning the Proni collimator 90 degrees within the casing will cause “cool things” to happen on ignition. THEY ARE WRONG.

—Most Jedi personalize their sabers with a custom-fitted grip, a distinctive color crystal, decorative though nonfunctional pieces of shiny metal, and so on. Be advised that the external casing, while as durable as our technology can make it, is not indestructible, and cutting or engraving the case, particularly with another lightsaber, is not recommended and will void your warranty.

—Sooner or later you’re going to sever a hand—either your own, or someone else’s. We all know it happens. But do you know the best method for dealing with this emergency? Here’s our handy reference:
1. Finish the fight as quickly as possible. If the lopped limb was yours, you may need to improvise something beyond the scope of this guide.

2. Extinguish the saber and clean the lens assembly as described above.

3. While the case is open, check the power cell connector for sticky bits. It’s a good idea to wipe down the casing with a soft cloth, as circulatory fluids vary widely in chemical composition.

4. Locate the missing limb and use appropriate measures (cold storage, liquid bath, jumping up and down on it until it gives up).

5. If the former owner of the limb is not of a self-regenerating species, some medical assistance may be necessary, though the remarkable cauterizing powers of a lightsaber blade should make this a minor matter. (If the wounded individual was a Nitronyx, of course, now is the time to gather the bits for the Echo Ceremony).
The above guide is available as a wipe-clean laminated card free from your Incom tech rep. —We shouldn’t say it, but we’re going to: an upright lightsaber makes a great accent light for romantic situations, and in our considerable experience as lonely tech geeks is a swell chick magnet. That’s why we make the LavaLase™ upright table bracket, that keeps the saber upright no matter how energetically you “turn to the Dark Side.”
Comments on Gasoline and fluorescent tubes:
#1 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 12:04 PM:

I was thirteen when I decided it would be really neat to make superheated water in the microwave. I think thirteen is an especially vulnerable age for this kind of thing, since you're old enough to know some physics, but not old enough to believe you can get hurt. The plan was to heat it in a closed container, take it outdoors and throw the container on the ground, where it would flash into steam. (This was the most graphic possible way to learn how unstable superheated fluids are. Someone with less superficial knowledge would have known better.) I used a large plastic bottle. Had it been glass I'd be eligible for a Darwin, because when I took it out of the microwave, it exploded in my hands. Did I mention that my younger sister was watching me? She asked me if the bottle was going to explode, and I told her that I hoped it would, so she watched from a safe distance. The plastic cap blew first, and most of the steam went away from my face, but enough scalding water splashed on me to give me first and second degree burns on most of my abdomen.

My parent's response was to care for me and make me promise to take safety precautions in future or (and this was a deadly weapon) they'd tell my science teacher what happened. I was painfully aware of how stupid I'd been, and I've never had the urge to do anything similarly dangerous since. I went into my Edgerton phase after that, trying to video water balloons as they popped— just as interesting, but much safer.

#2 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 12:05 PM:

Hate to say it, but the "light sabre duel" just screams "DARWIN AWARDS."

#3 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 01:51 PM:

Hate to sound cruel, but you only get a Darwin award if you take yourself out of the gene pool -- I guess that's still up in the air for these two, if they are in critical condition.

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Of course, there's more than one way to take yourself out of the gene pool. Dying or burning off your Man Orbs are two ways.

Never, ever getting a date because your are forever dogged by that story about the florescent tubes, that's another.

#5 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 02:33 PM:

No, sorry, I know that people were very seriously injured, and I still find it funny. I do not have the wiring that allows me to not find this sort of thing funny. A little sad, but my sadness is due to the realisation that the education system is so inadequate that people can apparently reach adulthood without realising that petrol is flammable and glass is breakable.

Even resorting to that old staple, 'but imagine if it were your children', only gets me as far as BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN.

#6 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 02:39 PM:

Sad, but, I couldn't help noting:

A videotape was found nearby by police called to the scene on Sunday.

Any bets on how long it will be before one can download this tape from the internet?

#7 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 03:00 PM:

I'm with Alison on this.

Yes, it's horrible. But the simple fact is, these folks weren't unsupervised toddlers. They made it to adulthood without acquiring a smidgeon of self-preserving instincts, and what they did was unbelievably stupid, for values of locomotive-surfing-on-electric-trains-with-overhead-wires stupid.

I wouldn't laugh at their faces, and I'm not going to protest at my tax pounds going to pay for their convalescence, but I think there's a case for mocking them publicly -- if only to demonstrate to other idiots that if you do stupid, self-destructive things you will be Laughed At, not Laughed With.

#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 03:33 PM:

I'd read a bit of the story before. I couldn't figure out how flourescent tubes could do so much damage. The article I read didn't mention filling the tubes with gasoline. Or if it did, it wasn't in the first couple of paragraphs, where I stopped. All I gotta say is:

holy crap.

#9 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 03:35 PM:

I don't think anyone should be publicly mocked for stupidities that weren't public to begin with. For example, I think the stupidity of politicians would be fair game because they're already in the public sphere, but this Star Wars thing would be off-bounds (by etiquette) because it's specific to the participants and doesn't really affect anyone else. Education (by parents, school or by hard knocks and derision by friends) would be the preferred solution. If you've done something equally stupid, it's much easier to be sympathetic.

#10 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Andy -- let's hear, let's hear! (g)

#11 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 03:46 PM:

Jeremy, first comment, first comment!

#12 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 04:32 PM:

I've known some dumb folk before (I live in Georgia) but suffering cats! That's dumb on a scale that just makes me need to sit down for a minute.

#13 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 04:42 PM:

A moment's thought leads to the next step of the puzzle:

Assuming that the tubes had NOT blown up: did they take a moment to consider that perhaps fluorescent light bulbs - flaming or not flaming, take your pick - are perhaps not the ideal props to use for swordplay??

"Playing with fire" might just be taking "dueling with intensely fragile glass swords" to the next level.

#14 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 04:46 PM:

On the teaching of science:

There are lots of people interested in using technology. People do all sorts of hilarious things with technology (warning: that link opens a Window Media File). But they just don't seem to care how it works. Only that it does.

And no, this post was not solely an excuse to post that link. Mostly, but not solely. Watch it quickly, before the lawyers have it yanked.

#15 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 04:54 PM:

ohmygawd! that is hilarious!

#16 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 07:30 PM:

my favourite part: "the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, in Essex."

these two are at least spiritual descendents of the wise men of chelm.

#17 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 08:16 PM:

Damn, Harry. The only question is which set of lawyers gets to it first? Such foolishness deserves the Internet Order of Merit, at least.

#18 ::: JL ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 08:40 PM:

You want proof that magic doesn’t actually work?

Um, no. Is it needed?

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 09:36 PM:

Not for me; but I appreciate the opportunity to prove a negative.

#20 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 10:15 PM:

The stuff that fluoresces on the inside of florescent light tubes is nasty stuff, and the cuts from the coated thin bits of glass you can get if you should break one don't heal.

Combining that with third degree burns seems marked harsh, even for being stupid.

#21 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 10:34 PM:

The thing that gets me about this was that I've seen two separate links on BoingBoing this week offering free lightsabre effects software. If they had bought cheap toy lightsabres and used that software, it probably would have turned out better than flaming glass tubes.

I'd be laughing at them -- if they had only wasted money, rather than getting severe injuries.

#22 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 06:31 AM:

Anyone else wondering who was doing the videotaping and why he/she wasn't still at the scene helping? (Or did the photographer run off to phone the ambulance?)

Jane

#23 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 09:57 AM:

Die, or do not die. There is no 'try' to win a Darwin Award.

#24 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 10:53 AM:

Wasn't there an Honourable Mention category for people who'd made a truly excellent attempt, but not quite got to full Award level? To encourage the others ...

#25 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Alison and Charlie: I can't laugh - I just remembered David Langford's 'A Game of Consequences'. Now I'm shivering.

#26 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 03:16 PM:

Josh -

Die without descent you must, but 'without' and 'die' can happen not together.

Forcible emasculation would award win, if it to yourself you do, and no children have.

#27 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 07:31 PM:

"Younglings" is the word. "...and no younglings have."

Gah. Yoda gotten away with it could have, but not Kenobi.

#28 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I took "youngling" to be the Jedi training stage before "padwan", rather than a generic term for 'child'.

All the kids in the room with Yoda in Attack of the Clones are younglings -- no assigned specific master yet, so not padwans, but in training.

It's not perhaps the most felicitous term, but it at least makes sense considered that way.

#29 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 10:10 PM:
I don't think anyone should be publicly mocked for stupidities that weren't public to begin with.

Teresa says above that we don't teach the virtue of testing stuff. I'd say that we do, through telling each other stories like this. I think it's obvious enough -- it is, isn't it? -- from this story that you don't do daft things with dangerous chemicals and fragile glass tubes, unless you want to get seriously injured. And if we put bizarre constraints on our telling of these stories -- for fear of breaking a privacy taboo, for instance -- then there are going to be even more serious accidents than there already.

Mockery is fairly effective booster to persuading younglings that doing such things is a Bad Idea: not only is it dangerous, but you will be mocked for doing something so dumb.

#30 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 10:15 PM:

Graydon, that sounds like a rationalisation to me. Nah, Lucas has a sometimes tin ear for dialog; even in the first film Harrison Ford took him to task for it.

#31 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 10:27 PM:

NelC --

Sometimes? (I would say it's more like a lead ear than a tin ear; you can get at least the occaisonal spritely clank out of tin.)

But Yoda does say 'child' when he's generalizing at several other points, and right then was a point at which Lucas might have wanted to emphasis that however junior, these were other Jedi.

#32 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 11:32 PM:

Teresa says above that we don't teach the virtue of testing stuff. I'd say that we do, through telling each other stories like this. I think it's obvious enough -- it is, isn't it? -- from this story that you don't do daft things with dangerous chemicals and fragile glass tubes, unless you want to get seriously injured. And if we put bizarre constraints on our telling of these stories -- for fear of breaking a privacy taboo, for instance -- then there are going to be even more serious accidents than there already.

I'd say we don't teach the virtue of testing as opposed to do teach the virtue of analysis or discard testing in favor of modeling in general. Perhaps we do teach the virtues of avoiding the once hot stove without further testing.

FREX the DeHaviland Comet weakness was the result of a production shortcut that was never tested; the Space Shuttle program (see especially Tuffte on the later issues) wasn't properly regarded as a test in progress especially to include cold weather testing; nuclear power in general needs testing not blanket condemnation; PETA and cosmetics with modeling suggested for animal testing is a strong pro-modeling bias without regard to validation.

#33 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 12:25 AM:

Clark E Myers:

"Space Shuttle program (see especially Tuffte on the later issues) wasn't properly regarded as a test in progress especially to include cold weather testing."

Too kind. Actually, Rockwell International was engaged in criminal fraud, so far as I'm concerned. In half a dozen projects in which I spent years, regarding safety for the Space Shuttle, the company took your taxpayer dollars, and pretended to do tests that they did not do. They falsified results, commingled funds, and engaged knowingly in short-cuts that endangered, and ultimately killed, a bunch of astronauts.

I was ordered to audit certain programs. I did. I was ordered to falsify my reports. The NASA Inspector General's office now says that I should have reported this earlier, as the 10 year Federal Statute of Limitations has run out, and the criminals cannot be prosecuted.

Report these things earlier? I was fired to prevent that. My attorney refused to return the thousands of pages of documents that belong to me, which I wanted to turn over to The NASA Inspector General's office. Their General Counsel made the decision not to get those documents, and refuses to tell me why. I can't afford a Freedom of Information suit, which is harder to do in the Bush Administration anyway.

People should have gone to jail for negligent homicide, or manslaughter, or some such, after the Challenger disaster. Lack of that precedent is part of why nobody went to jail over the Columbia disaster. Why did two successive Nobel Laureates on the Commissions to study said disasters have to hold their own personal press conferences, to say how NASA and contractors lied to themselves, as well as Congress, and are unable to change their "corporate culture?"

We'll see if the new Administrator can get the criminals out of the Space Program. But that's like getting the penguins out of Antarctica.

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 06:49 AM:

In the realm of the stupid.

Guy I used to work with decided to make a CO2 bomb with a soda bottle (safe enough, if you get the thing far enough away... we used to use the side of an empty hill).

They will contain a lot of pressure. A way to speed the process (from an indeterminate period of 30-60 minutes, to one of 10-20) is to add a bit of water to the bottle.

He decided to use a few ounces of Pepsi. Of course the temperature differential caused the CO2 in the soda to leave solution, greatly speeding the process. He still had the 2 liter bottle in his hands when it went off.

Mind you, this is the same guy who broke his neck body surfing, and decided to do an Elephant Man and sleep without his neck brace. Woke up enough to get his wife to put it back on, and got to spend another day (there were two, right after the injury) as a quadrapalegic.

TK

#35 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 07:27 AM:

There was a guy of my acquaintance who, at boy scout camp, decided that it would be a great idea to gather all the lighters from the other boy scouts, a rather large bundle, and throw them onto the camp fire.

That actually is funny, because no one got hurt. But if this had been California in August...

#36 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 08:26 AM:

About the Challenger accident.

Edward Tufte covers it in part of Chapter 2 his book "Visual Explanations".

Based on his account, the reasons that the decision was ultimately made to launch Challenger were:

1) The engineers had what turned out to be correct misgivings about launching in cold weather but did not present the available data in a way that clearly supported their misgivings.

2) Because solid evidence was not presented of the danger of launching in cold weather, NASA officials decided to okay the launch.

While one can certainly argue that NASA should have listened to the engineers' concerns even without clear supporting evidence, and one can certainly wish that the engineers had done a better job of presenting their data, neither problem would seem to even approach anything criminal.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 09:52 AM:

I like NelC's theory quite a lot: that we retell Darwin Award stories to teach as well as to entertain.

I'm not sure I buy the idea that there's a real distinction between public and private stupidity. I'd argue that sufficiently egregious stupidity is public by its very nature.

I've done some more thinking about the light sabre story, and readjusted my sympathy downward just a bit. The gasoline, that was dumb. But thinking they could grab one end of a fluorescent tube and swing it around, or smack it against another fluorescent tube, and not have it break -- that was just ignorant.

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 11:09 AM:

The cautionary tale is alive and well in the context of urban legends and Darwin Award fables.

(And for my part, I think the presence of a camcorder and a third party at the scene of the incident is sufficient evidence that they intended the performance to be for public consumption to emoliate any concern about privacy. Never bring a camcorder to a private viewing ...)

#39 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Josh/Graydon: I have heard about a Brit who was nominated for the Darwin after he tried to shoplift a lobster by hiding it in his pants; apparently the British supermarkets don't band lobsters' claws. The story says that after the expectable result the police didn't even bother arresting him, saying he'd suffered enough.

#40 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 12:30 PM:

NelC, Teresa, and Charlie:
The only constraint I'd put on the telling of these stories is to withhold or change the names of the participants in published versions. The BBC did that, so, on reconsideration, I guess I don't have a problem in this case. Thing is, I really enjoy the Darwin Awards, but I feel guilty when I read them. I wish they'd change the names of the participants once the stories have been verified. All the lessons of the story remain intact with different names. The participants in the story will, if they're still alive (you only have to lose your ability to reproduce to achieve a Darwin Honorable Mention), be mocked by their friends and their friends' friends.

I don't understand how sufficiently egregious stupidity by itself is enough to make a blunder public. The experienced pilot who flies into White House airspace, freezes up, and has his plane landed by a student has done something both egregiously stupid and newsworthy. There's a legitimate public interest in knowing how the government responds to the incursion and in knowing who the pilot is. I don't see the same public interest in knowing the names of the participants in (say) D.A. situations.

#41 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 12:34 PM:

in knowing the names of the participants in (say) D.A. situations.

Make that: "in knowing the names of the participants in most D.A. situations." There might be D.A. situations where knowing the names of the participants is publicly important— what if the pilot had been shot down?

#42 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 12:40 PM:

The Challenger decision to fly happened under intense public pressure from Congress and the White House. NASA was being harshly ridiculed for delays in previous flights. The Shuttle was supposed to be a space truck. So why isn't it cheap and reliable like a truck? Then it blew up. Everyone forgot how they'd been criticizing NASA for being too slow and cautious, and switched to criticizing NASA for not being careful enough.

We get the space program that you pay for, and NASA is funded by the ultimate cheap bastards, the American tax-payers. NASA thought they could get out of the funding trap by building a shuttle that could handle all payloads and be reusable with quick turnaround times. It was supposed to be versatile, reliable, and cheap. That was too many parameters to optimize for one system. If they had picked two, they might have been able to do it. But they would not have been able to get it approved.

In other words, we have met the enemy, and they is us.

#43 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 01:05 PM:

TomB:

You're basically right in saying that the Space Shuttle "was supposed to be versatile, reliable, and cheap. That was too many parameters to optimize for one system."

Versatile? Each flight requires complete rewiring, as the power needs differ for each payload. Much of the rewiring money was stolen, to finance jet fighter competition. Each flight requires a unique build of flight software (that being the department I was in, although I was farmed out part time to Lunar/Planetary and other programs). Total Shuttle software is roughly 40,000,000 lines of code (flight plus ground). The documentation is incomplete and falsified to pretend it has been fully Verified & Validated. I know, I was there.

Reliable? Not when Shuttle Safety is fraudulent. Everyone knows that anyone who properly reports a safety problem to the Ombudsman or Inspector General or whomever has made a career-ending move. They tell you this after you see the video about why not to falsify time cards, give you your training certificate, and then tell you to falsify time cards anyway.

My point is that NASA and Rockwell KNEW that they had an overconstrained impossible design-by-committee spacecraft, in lying to Congress to get funded. After a while they came to believe their own lies.

Cheap? How much do you think each Shuttle flight actually costs, given the PR that says "we saved a $300 million satellite, so we saved money for the taxpayer?"

#44 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 01:23 PM:

Whew, this has drifted off-topic!

JVP: After a while they came to believe their own lies.

I think this is a natural defense mechanism. I worked for a dot-bomb consultancy (nameless because they survived by becoming an offshore development company) during the boom and I managed to convince myself that my work was meaningful, that my below-industry pay would be offset by my options, and that I didn't mind paying $1,700/month for a crummy 500 square foot 1 BR apt in San Francisco. To my credit, I stopped believing the first two within 14 months, and it took another year for the third.

However, I never convinced myself that swinging around flourescent lightbulbs filled with flaming accelerant would be a good idea.

And I can't attribute thinking that any light bulb isn't inherently fragile to ignorance. That's gross stupidity, too. I'd be more inclined to think that not anticipating the explosion part was ignorance - not everybody understands how gasoline motors work, and seeing gas burning on the ground could give you a false sense of security.

#45 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 01:38 PM:

The testing for the shuttle program relied too much on the contractors and assumed success. This was a stark contrast with Apollo where NASA retested everything and the program built-in time and money for the inevitable failures and rework.

Every large project is going to have people who don't understand their job, or don't care, and try to get away with shit. On very large projects this can happen with whole organizations. This is wrong, but saying so doesn't stop it. Actually catching the shit and stopping it before it gets out of hand requires planning, funding, and leadership, starting from the very top.

Rockwell, in its previous incarnation as North American, screwed up big time on the Apollo capsule, hence the Apollo 1 disaster. Ultimately that was a NASA program failure for pushing so hard and not anticipating the problems. Even so it's hard to excuse North American for letting the wiring become such a rats nest. The difference at that time is that when NASA and its contractors received such a horrible wake-up call, they were allowed to really fix the problems.

If Congress, the White House, and ultimately the American taxpayers really wanted a successful space program, they would pay for it.

#46 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Whew, this has drifted off-topic!

I think that swinging around glass tubes filled with gasoline does scale up to sitting on top of giant aluminum tubes filled with liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

Whaddya mean Star Wars isn't rocket science?

#47 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 01:52 PM:

TomB:

"I think that swinging around glass tubes filled with gasoline does scale up to sitting on top of giant aluminum tubes filled with liquid hydrogen and oxygen."

Stipulated that I do tend to wander off-topic, and in annoying ways. What you say here IS what I had in mind as to on-topicality.

BTW, as an author whose large business deductions get automatically red-flagged by the IRS computers, I am often audited. "Whaddaya mean you lost $25,000 that year because of having fly to this Worldcon thingie, and buying a lot of books and stuff? Whaddaya mean, you tried to make a profit, but the decisions on whether or not to publish your book were out of your hands, because editors sit on your manuscripts for years?"

Once an IRS auditor punched some numbers on his calculator and said that I still owed the IRS about $3,000. I spoke some other numbers, without using a calculator, to suggest that the IRS still owed ME about $3,000.

Agent: "What are you, some kind of rocket scientist?"

JVP: "Well, as a matter of fact, yes."

[a minute by the clock crawls by]

Agent: "Well, an IRS audit ain't rocket science."

#48 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 07:41 PM:

The subjects seem connected to me. It's all about the perception, understanding, and proper management of risk.

#49 ::: Wim ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 07:45 PM:

(Graydon: I'm pretty sure they don't use beryllium in the phosphor for fluroescent tubes any more, for exactly that reason.)

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 07:55 PM:

Wim --

I hope they don't, though the last time I had direct contact with persons experienced on the subject, they blamed the problem on the phosphorus, rather than any other element of the coating.

Which is not to say that they were correct, just that they'd had the experience of being cut with the stuff. (And necessarily more than 20 years ago, thinking about it. Eeep.)

#51 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 08:21 PM:

.......
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.......
Phosphor
Except for small changes, it is essentially the same phosphor that has been in use in our lamps for over fifty years. The Industrial Hygiene Foundation of the Mellon Institute found no significant adverse effects, either by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact, or eye implant, in a five-year animal study of the original phosphor. Also, there have been no significant adverse effects on humans by any of these routes during the many years of its manufacture or use. The phosphor is somewhat similar to theinert mineral apatites (calcium phosphate-fluorides) that occur in nature.

Antimony, manganese, yttrium and tin compounds are characterized by OSHA as hazardous chemicals, as are most inorganic compounds. However, due to their insolubility, relatively low toxicity and small amount present in the phosphor and the lamp, these materials do not present a significant hazard in the event of breakage of the lamp.

Barium and cadmium had also been used as additives to the phosphor in lamps made prior to mid-1988 but are no longer used in the phosphor in current production. These materials are also considered hazardous chemicals. In addition, although the evidence is limited and conflicting, cadmium and certain cadmium compounds have been listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possible human carcinogens.

Mercury
Neither the mercury nor the phosphor concentration in air produced as a result of breaking one or a small number of fluorescent lamps should result in significant exposures to the individual. However,when breaking a large number of lamps for disposal, appropriate industrial hygiene monitoring and controls should be implemented to minimize airborne levels or surface contamination......

#52 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2005, 10:54 PM:

The only equivalent story I know is partly excused because the person in question was smoking pot and sleep deprived when he had the bright idea.

The version of the story that seems closest to the truth* is as follows:

It was the habit of a certain young man and his roommates that, while they had parties, they would leave a single candle burning in the middle of the glass ashtray so they could more quickly light smokes both legal and mildly illegal. One such party was winding down when the candle burned out.

The certain young man had a wonderful idea, and poured kerosene into the glass ashtray, and lit it. Apparantly, at first, this seemed to work tamely.

The roommate and the second last remaining friend left the apartment to get more beer.

Which means that, after two minutes of seemingly harmless burning, only this young man and one girl were present for the explosion.

I wondered, about half a month later, why they both weren't at our University graduation ceremony. (I hadn't been surprised not to see him at exams, as the last one in a shared class had been one day before this incident.)

The cetain young man was wearing a clear brace around his neck to hold the healing skin together and protect it from the sun when next I saw him. And he had a similarly splinted leg and a medical cane. I was informed there was some damage between as well.

The girl, whom I was told was the only one present who questioned the sensibility of the idea, was hurt worse, something in the order of 1/2 to 2/3 burned in some degree or another, and that IS the pity of the story.


*This is the one from the horse's mouth, meaning it's only obscured by his own biases and hidden motives.

#53 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2005, 01:30 AM:

One of the best books on the Challenger disaster is Diane Vaughan's "The Challenger Launch Decision." It's a huge book, but she goes into a lot of amazing detail and analysis. One of the more important insights is her concept of "normalization of deviance." Each time the previous shuttle launches had pushed the boundary before - a little colder, a little more leakage pas the o-rings - everything had been ok. So all of these deviances from what was tested and ok were continually accepted and incorporated as "normal". It's kind of a slippery slope, because you don't know when you're going to hit the final non-ok deviance.

The sad thing is, if you read that book and then look at the later Columbia disaster - exactly the same thing had been happening. Little bits of insulating foam kept falling off - but hey, no problem, so it won't be a problem this time either, right? Wrong.

The Challenger disaster wasn't enough to get the NASA culture to change, and nothing's changing after Columbia, either. Which means that the same thing will happen again - maybe with the control system, maybe with spacesuits, maybe with a pressure leak - can't predict what, but we'll undoubtedly lose another one, because the culture inevitably leads to component failure because of the pressures to make everything seem ok.

#54 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 02:24 AM:

I'm not sure whether this is a parallel situation or not. I can make arguments that go either way.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers were playing with a light-saber routine. They were using Lexan tubes for the lightsabers. Lexan is an amazingly durable plastic -- it's what banks use to protect their tellers, and the post office uses to protect clerks. It's strong, flexible, and almost unbreakable.

To make it glow, they used the patented material Cyalume, the material found in various glow-sticks.

It worked okay in rehearsals. Then in a performance, they discovered something that nobody had noted (as far as they knew). The materials in Cyalume make Lexan brittle. The light sabers shattered. One of the Brothers got injured from the sharp fragments.

Both of these examples strike me as a model failing. In the basic version of this thread, it's obvious to all of us. In the Karamazov version, it's not obvious. But how do I know which version I'm playing?

#55 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 03:24 AM:

The following information is provided as a service to our customers.

Welcome, Padawan! Your acquisition of an Incom-Flickertek "Divisa-S" Lightsaber is the beginning of an exciting future of Galactic wisdom and influence. Regardless of your choice of Force paths, the Divisa series offers a lifetime of subtle and precise striking down.

However, as with all ancient weapons, the lightsaber requires care in use and handling. We hope you will find the following tips useful:

-- Remember the sequence: Flourish-Force-Flash. First, draw the saber, using your favored technique, or one you learned in some obscure font of Jedi stuntwork. Then, use the Force! Objects that might be in the beam path will cause disturbances that, with a little practice, you will recognize very quickly. (Of course, you will recognize them quickly no matter what.) Once clear, ignite the blade. After all, it's tough to face down the foe with one knee, even if it was already cybernetic.

-- The lens assembly goes through a self-cleaning cycle on each ignition. However, if the saber has not been ignited for some time, or the lens has acquired a heavy coat of debris (smoke, droid lube, bodily fluids, etc.) peripheral effects may occur on ignition. Some Jedi find entering through a cloud of smoke dramatic and even useful. If, however, the saber fails to ignite, or shows a highly specular beam, accompanied by unusual sounds and a smell like frying womp-rat, turn the saber off and use a non-abrasive cleaner on the lens at the first opportunity. Allow solvents to evaporate fully before re-installing the assembly. Note: use of chewing tobacco, while still popular in some corners of the galaxy, is NOT recommended for lightsaber operators.

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-- Other Padawans may tell you that turning the Proni collimator 90 degrees within the casing will cause "cool things" to happen on ignition. THEY ARE WRONG.

-- Most Jedi personalize their sabers with a custom-fitted grip, a distinctive color crystal, decorative though nonfunctional pieces of shiny metal, and so on. Be advised that the external casing, while as durable as our technology can make it, is not indestructible, and cutting or engraving the case, particularly with another lightsaber, is not recommended and will void your warranty.

-- Sooner or later you're going to sever a hand. Either your own, or someone else's. We all know it happens. But do you know the best method for dealing with this emergency? Here's our handy reference:
1. Finish the fight as quickly as possible. If the lopped limb was yours, you may need to improvise something beyond the scope of this guide.
2. Extinguish the saber and clean the lens assembly as described above.
3. While the case is open, check the power cell connector for sticky bits. It's a good idea to wipe down the casing with a soft cloth, as circulatory fluids vary widely in chemical composition.
4. Locate the missing limb and use appropriate measures (cold storage, liquid bath, jumping up and down on it until it gives up).
5. If the former owner of the limb is not of a self-regenerating species, some medical assistance may be necessary, though the remarkable cauterizing powers of a lightsaber blade should make this a minor matter. (If the wounded individual was a Nitronyx, of course, now is the time to gather the bits for the Echo Ceremony).

The above guide is available as a wipe-clean laminated card free from your Incom tech rep.

-- We shouldn't say it, but we're going to: an upright lightsaber makes a great accent light for romantic situations, and in our considerable experience as lonely tech geeks is a swell chick magnet. That's why we make the LavaLase(tm) upright table bracket, that keeps the saber upright no matter how energetically you "turn to the Dark Side."

#56 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 05:50 AM:

The sad thing is, if you read that book and then look at the later Columbia disaster - exactly the same thing had been happening. Little bits of insulating foam kept falling off - but hey, no problem, so it won't be a problem this time either, right? Wrong.

My understanding is that the Columbia disaster can essentially be ascribed to a lack of communication between testers and mission control crew. The testers had, based on their experiments with throwing insulating foam at the heat-resistant tiles, produced software that estimated the amount of damage. The mission control crew used this software and trusted the results. It turned out the results were useless because the parameters were so far outside the boundaries of what had been tested that they were basically guesses, but the testers hadn't told mission control what the limits of the software's reliability was.

Your acquisition of an Incom-Flickertek "Divisa-S" Lightsaber is the beginning of an exciting future of Galactic wisdom and influence.

But, but, but... surely to be a _real_ Jedi you must make your own lightsaber?

#57 ::: Fernmonkey ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 07:04 AM:

Josh/Graydon: I have heard about a Brit who was nominated for the Darwin after he tried to shoplift a lobster by hiding it in his pants; apparently the British supermarkets don't band lobsters' claws. The story says that after the expectable result the police didn't even bother arresting him, saying he'd suffered enough.

Not sure about lobsters, but every time I've seen live crabs for sale in Britain, they had banded claws. I'd have thought that the banding of live crustaceans' claws would be mandated for health and safety at work reasons, actually. Otherwise a pincered employee could sue the supermarket for negligence: it's an injury that's both easily forseen and easily prevented.

#58 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 09:02 AM:

Your acquisition of an Incom-Flickertek "Divisa-S" Lightsaber is the beginning of an exciting future of Galactic wisdom and influence.

But, but, but... surely to be a _real_ Jedi you must make your own lightsaber?

Indeed, canonically, you have to be an at least mildly precognitive Force adept to put one together so that it won't explode when powered up, and they still recommend initial power up tests should be conducted in a remote place using an inexpensive droid.

Which puts Mike's delightful effort in a rather different light...

#59 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 10:21 AM:

Jules:

I would advise that you go visit the website of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and download as much of the report as you can stand to read. Personally, I wanted to vomit several times, particularly in Chapter 6, where the hundreds of instances of damage from foam strikes on previous missions were described. Also described is how seriously said foam strikes were taken--that is, not at all.

While there was certainly miscommunication between engineering groups and poor modeling software in use, these were the absolute least of the issues facing NASA. While Columbia was on-orbit, a group of engineers decided to forward a request for high-resolution images to the Air Force after viewing the leading edge foam strike during takeoff. This request was squelched by their managers. Emails discussing this are reproduced in the report.

The CAIB report is fascinating reading if you're interested in either (a) disasters, or (b) how large organizations make mistakes. Unlike private industry, all of the documents are available, and the high profile of the incident means that a thorough job was done instead of sweeping the whole thing under the rug. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to deal with either issue either in fiction or the real world.

#60 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 10:23 AM:

The mission control crew used this software and trusted the results.

It was their responsibility— it's always the responsibility of any engineer— to ask about the limits of the software/equations/models/correlations being used. The testers should have told them, but that doesn't remove their obligation to ask.

#61 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Otherwise a pincered employee could sue the supermarket for negligence: it's an injury that's both easily forseen and easily prevented.

But if the employee's pincers are banded, how can it do its job?

#62 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 11:14 AM:

I suppose I was precocious, because I did my investigation of fuel-air explosions when I was eleven or twelve. It was a natural outgrowth of my previous studies in "how deep a hole can I dig with this post-hole digger?" together with a new-found interest in "is there anything more interesting I can do with gasoline than mowing the lawn?" The part I hadn't figured out is that the first shot warms up the hole, so the second shot has much more vapor to work with.

This oversight would have gone unpunished if I hadn't insisted on looking into the hole to see the blast. Myopia may have saved me from blindness (my glasses deflected the hot gasses from my eyes) but maybe not--the blast was not really extreme. The skin burn was barely first degree, lost in the sunburn I already had. I might have gotten away clean if Mom hadn't asked where my eyebrows went.

#63 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 01:19 PM:

I meant to post this yesterday.
--
Some people will cheerfully describe their impending idiocy in public. Those people forfeit sympathy in advance. Take, for example, the case of this young woman on the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume and oils message board:

I wanted a comforting scent today, though, since I had to do marking, which always makes me dispair for humanity, so I daubed some on. It is so heavenly.... but again, I really want to eat it!
So... I'm gonna. I'm gonna do it. Tonight, I am going to bake some chocolate shortbread. And I'm going to put some Velvet in it. I'll keep you updated as to how it tastes, if it makes me ill, etc... ;)

#64 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 01:28 PM:

You want proof that magic doesn’t actually work? If it did, there’s no way that ignorant practitioners wouldn’t be committing equivalent screwups, and sooner or later there’d be an incident that was too obvious to explain away.

That doesn't prove what you think it proves, I'm afraid. It proves that magic won't Summon Hordes of Demons to Do The Practitioner's Bidding, or Bend Multitudes to His Will, stuff like that. Even with the things magic IS useful for, people DO screw up, and I have personally had to clean up the damage afterwards on an occasion or two.

The nice thing about mana-burns is they leave behind a lesson, but not a scar.

Also, in the realm of magic one person's screwup is another's desired result; the way I feel right after some of our rituals might scare some timid souls off magic entirely. Me it keeps coming back to drink at that dark fountain again and again!

#65 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 02:22 PM:

. . .found no significant adverse effects, either by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact, or eye implant, in a five-year animal study of the original phosphor.. .

So there were lab animals running around with genuine glowing eyes?

[impractical] I want a pair. [/impractical]

#66 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 03:30 PM:

GERBILITE(tm)
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#67 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2005, 05:34 PM:

I've waited long enough that I no longer need to feel guilty about the tangential nature of this comment:

Every time I see the title of this thread I cannot help but sing it to myself, to the tune of Rufus Wainwright's sublime "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk."

#68 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Dan:

is there anything more interesting I can do with gasoline than mowing the lawn?

It's probably an enlightening insight into my character to notice that my first thought on reading this is "how can the ignition of highly flammable spirits assist in mowing a lawn?" This thought rapidly combined with memories of a friend who once attempted to get a rather out-of-control lawn back under control by the application of a home-made napalm substitute.

I, too, have lost eyebrows and suffered something rather similar to a sunburn from a petrol explosion. Said friend, who had poured the petrol into the hole but left it to me to ignite it (which I did in a fashion that I won't explain except to suggest I wouldn't have done it that way if I had realised how _much_ petrol he had used), told me later that I was picked up into the air and knocked a clear metre backwards by the blast.

I don't have the defence of having been quite so young at the time, though.

#69 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 11:58 AM:

I've re-posted Mike Ford's instructional pamphlet as an addendum to the original post.

#70 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 09:28 PM:

This sounds pretty friggen amazing.
star wars trilogy in 58 minutes

someone get me a DVD...

#71 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 10:23 PM:

the guys homepage is here.

#72 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 01:10 AM:

Greg: I saw it live two years ago - it's amazing. He ends it SOAKED in sweat. He was also the sure-fire sell-out that year.

He also does a One Man Lord of the Rings, which is mostly movie based, but has nods to the divergences from the book. It's not as imspired, though it's still quite a sight. (The best line of the latter is from the Council: "You have my sword... and my beard... and my hair."

It was right before one of the performances of One Man LotR here in Winnipeg that he got the confirmation call from Lucasfilm for the ComicCon performance.

#73 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 01:12 AM:

Oh, and Greg. Not a DVD. It wouldn't translate. See it live, or not at all.

#74 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Andy Perrin: I don't see the same public interest in knowing the names of the participants in (say) D.A. situations.

I sure as hell want to know if one of them is moving in next to me, especially since some learn the narrowly defined lesson but fail to apply it in a wider way, e.g. "Well, now I know not to do that in my own garage". (I was once at a con where several of the participants commented on how nervous X's neighbors were about the explosive capabilities of the contents of X's workshop and the increasingly dangerous state of the workshop, which would almost inevitably lead to the detonation of said contents sooner or later. This was being mentioned by people who regularly blew up things for fun, and none of them wanted to be anywhere around the guy's place when this happened.)

And if my tax money was used to rescue them from the consequences of their own stupidity, I want to know that, too.

#75 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 02:56 AM:

There was a component made by TRW used on both cars and spacecraft. On cars, the part would last years. On spacecraft, it didn't. The investigation found out that the acceptance testing done of the parts, to screen out "infant mortality" and such (a car the part can be replaced, on a spacecraft about shuttle orbit, ha, ha, ha, NFW since the end of Apollo) stressed the part enought to create stress/strain to generate cracking or some such, which over time would propagate, and kill off the component after a while.

There are terms like "creeping incrementalism" regarding pushing boundaries, and pushing closer and closer the to the hairy edge of disaster. NASA pulled that before with Challenger and temperature limits and waivers on launching in what ambient conditions.

#76 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 07:52 AM:

Aconite: was this a midwestern con? I know someone like that (and have participated in a conversation much like the one you report). It's much better now that "our" X has moved out to a 5 acre lot -- at least the neighbors are less concerned. There are multiple outbuildings, as well, so things are a little more separated.

#77 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 10:02 AM:

Aconite, the approach you're describing seems a lot like using the D.A.s as analogous to a sex-offender registry. That's too extreme for my sensibilities. You could achieve the same goals by charging those who endanger others. If they have to pay for the cost of rescue and face prison, it might deter them from doing it again.

#78 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 05:25 PM:

My own childhood experiments were (characteristically for me) determinately careful and generally small in scale. I did most of my early-adolescent fun-with-fire experiments with a homemade flame-loop. You can get some really pretty colors from stuff under the sink...

My camping buddies, OTOH, were not so deliberate. For example, there was the time a friend attempted to quickly ignite our smoldering campfire by pouring nitro-methane fuel straight from the bottle onto the fire. Firstly, that stuff burns way too fast to ignite wood. Secondly, that stuff burns way faster than it pours. The image of that bottle, spinning through the air and spewing blue flame all over our campsite (in memory it's in slow-mo) after my buddy threw it 20 yards away in his panic when it ignited will live in my mind forever; as will the fun bits immediately following when my other friends tried to stamp out the little puddles of blue flames scattered around only to quickly realize that that was an excellent way to wind up with blue flaming shoes. Thankfully, I was laughing too hard at that point to stand, much less stamp.

#79 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2005, 06:37 PM:

When I first read this, all that came to mind were the two stories that, years ago, taught me that the internet was a strange and wonderful place:

#80 ::: Mari ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 09:39 AM:

Please forgive the interruption...
Ok, so I've been reading the main page for quite a while, with occasional dives into the excess of a hundred comments section.
One thing I haven't found is a FAQ, or particular Netiquette section. This leaves me a bit confused on how to do certain things, i.e. share a link.
I know the old adage, "There's nothing new on the net", and so I think it would be rude to just email one measly link that may have been seen before to Teresa. On the other hand just throwing into a comments listing would be terribly OT (like this help request)...
What is the proper way? Can anyone point me to a rules/guidelines section?

Thank you!

#81 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 10:33 AM:

Also taking advantage of the Open thread to interrupt with a somewhat quizzical language query. Someone has pointed out what to him & me seems to be a distinctly unfortunately-named young lady in an online yearbook photo page.
> 5th row, 5th column.
Is this another example of "peoples separated by a common language"? I'd appreciate feedback from different English-speaking areas to see what parts of the world find something unusual. Perhaps I should head over to some of the language blogs to check too :)

#82 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Division of Duh, Department of Connect-the-dots:

Is A Picture Really Worth A Thousand Words? It May Depend On The Camera Angle

"Automated pink bunnies playing the drums. A man made of tires. A burger-selling clown. Almost every advertisement is accompanied by a visual image. And consumers use these images to infer about the product being offered. But are those inferences the right ones? According to an article in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research consumers do not always connect the dots. Furthermore, researchers conclude that it may often have to do with how the visual images are presented...."

"This research shows that subtle properties of ad pictures can have a big impact on people's impressions of products," conclude Peracchio and Meyers-Levy. "The current paper shows that making these types of associations to camera angle actually requires a fair amount of effort and thinking on the part of the viewer. Extensive thinking is required if the viewer is to understand and appreciate the subtle qualities of pictures."

Hey, dude, look this ad for Light Sabres. It gives me a really, really hot idea...

#83 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 01:15 AM:

Mez, I assume you're talking about the woman with the last name of Minge. I'm an American who reads a lot of British mystery novels, and I caught it on a second go-round, but on the first pass I missed it entirely (and while I noted that it was a British slang term, and probably for Something Naughty, I didn't know what it meant until I googled it.) I just asked my husband, a Monty-Pythonite and fan of Little Britain, if he knew what it meant and he had no idea. I think it's purely a Britishism.

#84 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 10:21 AM:

Mari, there's nothing wrong with emailing either of us a suggested link. We might not answer, but we certainly won't bite.

#85 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2005, 11:00 AM:

Oop! Grovelling apology for putting my odd-name question into the wrong thread. It's meant to be over in Open thread 41. Well, it is there, too. And a link to a Wikipedia entry. I'll just go away quietly, now.

#86 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 07:40 AM:

Other Padawans may tell you that turning the Proni collimator 90 degrees within the casing will cause “cool things” to happen on ignition. THEY ARE WRONG.

But Obi-Jon, I said I was sorry about your landspeeder! Are you going to hold this over my head my entire life! IT'S! NOT! FAIR!

#87 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Andy Perrin: Aconite, the approach you're describing seems a lot like using the D.A.s as analogous to a sex-offender registry. That's too extreme for my sensibilities. You could achieve the same goals by charging those who endanger others. If they have to pay for the cost of rescue and face prison, it might deter them from doing it again.

You mean, the threat of having to pay for the cleanup might deter them when the threat to their own life and/or safety didn't?

I think you're assuming the people who do these things are more like you than not: they slipped up, made dumb mistakes, and learned better. Having met a (thankfully very) few similar people, I do not asume this.

JennR: It's much better now that "our" X has moved out to a 5 acre lot -- at least the neighbors are less concerned. There are multiple outbuildings, as well, so things are a little more separated.

I don't know if we were at the same con or not, but in any event, I'm relieved for the neighbors.

#88 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Aconite, I suspect such people might value their wallet more than their life, although they'd deny it if you asked. I don't think they would understand why they screwed up, but a big fine might stop them from doing it again.

#90 ::: yr__bnch_f_dts ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:54 PM:

thnk yr ll bnch f jcksss fr lghn t thm fr hrtng thmslvs wth th gs.

cld nl hp tht YR typ f gn n th gn pl wll b srtd t, thn w wnt hv sdstc frksh nmls tht lk t lgh nd wtnss th crng f thrs. r y ppl ls ncrphlcs? wld ssm s.

Hrs t y ccdntl stppng ff crb t sn whn bg bs s cmng ..

[Posted from 24.180.80.117]

#91 ::: Aconite finds a drive-by troll ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 05:04 PM:

Anonymous post, fake e-mail account, didn't read the thread -- well, he sure told us, didn't he?

#92 ::: Dn ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 09:36 PM:

Y fckng nrds gt lf wh crs wht thy dd. y r str wrs lsrs

[Posted from 24.43.29.95]

#93 ::: Tim ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2006, 11:03 PM:

that was stupid i would not try that i'm 14 and i will stick to my hasbro light sabers if ya want to make a light saber buy a make your own light saber kit 40$ and toys r us

dumb a$$ kids

#94 ::: Toasty ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:46 PM:

Sorry for the necropost, but I just stumbled on this thread. I have a confession to make. When I was a child (which, as a man, I view as anything from the age of 3 to 33), my friend an I tried to make nitroglycerin. We didn't have concentrated nitric acid, only a very dilute solution, so (thankfully) we mixed that with the glycerin. The problem was how to test it. We figured we would take just a few drops and put it in a vial and leave it in the street for a car to hit. It should only make a pop, rather than an explosion.

In retrospect, I'm thankful that our attempts were totally futile, because there would have been aweful carnage had we been even moderatly successful.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 03:50 PM:

I've always wanted a porcelain veneer, but I was afraid the firing process would hurt.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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