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April 15, 2003

Light entertainment
Posted by Teresa at 09:36 PM *

And now, this evening’s short subject: How to turn off a 345,000-volt circuit. (via Erik Olson)

Also, this time from Laura Mixon: Cool zero-gee thin film experiments involving a wire loop, a dab of water, an Alka-Selzer tablet, and a cannula.

Comments on Light entertainment:
#1 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 01:04 AM:

How can you not love someone who says, "I couldn't help but think of coreolis forces on the rotation of our planet." After, I should add, he's just put a tablet of alkaseltzer into a film of water at zero gee.

#2 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 09:33 AM:

Anybody else remember Fritz Leiber's "The Beat Cluster"?

(Beatniks in space, living in a cluster of... bubbles!)

Makes me wonder how big that seltzer-inflated bubble would get if exposed to vacuuum.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 11:11 AM:

It wouldn't get big at all. The water would boil off instead of forming a thin film, and the unfulfilled Alka-Selzer would fall through the loop.

If you already had a bubble and you started dropping the atmospheric pressure, it would get bigger for a while. Failure mode would depend on whether you overtaxed its surface tension before the water started sublimating. Either way, it goes poof.

You could do some astounding things with spun sugar and with sugar syrup, but you'd want to be working in an area where every surface is washable.

(See also: The zero-gee tempura scene in Mike Ford's Princes of the Air.)

#4 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 01:51 PM:

You could do some astounding things with spun sugar and with sugar syrup, but you'd want to be working in an area where every surface is washable.


Um... yes, you would. I recommend rubber sheeting. Or possibly a tarp.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 04:35 PM:

Surface tension. Rotation. Tensile strength. Forming techniques. This is so cool.

Glassblowing could get very weird.

Could you throw pottery by spinning it between two blowpipes, as though you were blowing glass? The thrown shape would gradually enlarge, sucking air in through the blowpipes to maintain interior pressure. It'd probably help if you added something to the clay body to increase its viscosity. Thing is, you wouldn't have to spin it very fast. Clay dries slowly, esp. if you keep the air around it humid; and it stays somewhat plastic up through degrees of dryness most conventional potters won't work with.

After that, you'd just have to build a zero-gee solar kiln. Hill-climbing woodburning kilns are not on the menu, and salt-glazing and raku would be positively antisocial in a closed atmosphere.

And you'd probably wind up doing more glass than clay, because glass is just its ingredients, but clay takes weathering.

#6 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:46 PM:

This rates up with learning how to start your barbecue with the help of liquid oxygen --

#7 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2003, 11:27 AM:

Finally I get to a connection that can show these -- they're fascinating.

Does anyone remember a TV show of 40+ years ago called You Asked For It? The only sections I remember are making candy canes and the first four-minute mile, but these are exactly the sort of items they'd have come up with if they'd had the money (and if we'd had a space station as soon as some SF writers thought we would).

Teresa -- were you thinking of something like the spaceship stove Bester described (take the shutter off the porthole that has a Fresnel lens instead of flat glass) for your solar kiln, or something more elaborate? I would think that glassblowing would actually be easier, at least for people who start without reflexes locked in; so much of what I've seen involves fighting or balancing gravity (i.e., spinning the blowpipe so the work swells evenly) that I'd think having work that stayed where you put it would be a win. Losing bits of glass would be dangerous, of course -- glass is painfully hot long after it stops glowing -- but glass at working temperatures seems viscous enough that it wouldn't break up the way a carelessly-managed drink will. I wonder if anyone has thought about the commercial potential.... (Althought getting the work back to gravity would be a challenge like your guitar packing multiplied.)

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