Category Archives: humor

And Now I’d Like to Endorse…

You only thought you were safe from politics here.  I’m going to make an endorsement.  Why not?  Everyone else is doing it.

So I’d like to endorse…Pulp!

Wait, what, you thought I was talking governmental politics?  When our choices are most likely going to boil down to a nut with two boobs or a boob with two nuts?  Not on your life.  I’ll be glad when all of that is over.  (But then it’s never really over, is it?  It just reboots.)

I’m talking about literary politics.  I don’t want to be told what to read.  I don’t want to read something because it’s good for me, will broaden my horizons, or expand my social consciousness.  I want entertainment when I read, not socially relevant message fiction.  I want plot, action, characterization, dialogue.  Most of all I want fun.

I’m going to vote for pulp with my dollars.  I urge you to do the same.

I’m Keith, and I approved this message.

All Over but the Crying

Well, finals have been graded and grades turned in.  The great email deluge has begun.  (“Why did I get an F? I made a 76 on the mditerm?” Because that’s the highest grade you made all semester and your final/lab/homework/quiz grades were failing.)

Answering them takes time.  (“I feel I did better than a D in this class, even though my grades don’t reflect it.  What time can I come by your office tomorrow and go over my exam?  I’m sure I can find a few fractions of a point to push me over a 70.”  I really got an email like this.  My rule for this sort of time wasting is if you get to find points to add, I get to find additional points to remove.)

I’m thinking of having a tray of cheese nearby to go with the whine I’m finding in my inbox.  (“I think that your giving me a F in the course for cheating in lab, even though I was warned verbally and in writing in both lab and lecture and I signed a copy of the lab policies which included the cheating policy, is extremely unfair, harsh, and mean.  I look forward to hearing a decision from you that will be more in line with the grade I want rather than the grade I earned.”  I really got this one, too, although I’ve paraphrased and condensed its multiple paragraphs considerably.  This was a major case of academic fraud.  I can’t talk about the details yet, for reasons I can’t talk about either.)

Of course, hope springs eternal.  (“Dr. West, I see I earned an F in your class.  Could you please bump me up to a D?”  Considering that your lab grade was in the low 60s, all your other grades were failing, and your average was below 50, probably not.)

All of the quotes, while based on real emails have been changed, not so much to protect the identity of the authors, but to cover my ass in the extreme event one of them actually reads this blog.  It’s been a rough semester.  And, yes, there was a major case of academic fraud which I can’t talk about, and I really can’t talk about the reasons why I can’t talk about it, either.  At least, not yet.  But soon…

Anyway, I’m going to be posting either here or on one of the other blogs almost everyday until Christmas, starting tomorrow.  There will be reviews, opinions, and who knows what else.

Stay tuned.

Nefarious Mad Scientist Scheme: Freezing the Atmosphere

As a demonstration in class this past week, I and one of my henchmen froze a small portion of the atmosphere. 

That’s it in the bell jar.  If it looks like ice floating in liquid, it is.  Before we froze the atmosphere, it needed to be liquified.

The process was amazingly simple.  Once the atmosphere was liquified, all we had to do was boil it.

I call the device the atmosphere-freezinator.

So, unless you want me to freeze the entire atmosphere of the Earth, you’ll deposit.$500 in US currency each month in one of the following offshore accounts-

Excuse me, there’s someone at the door.  I’ll finish delivering this ultimatum once I’ve dealt with them.

Who left this platypus on the doorstep? And why is he wearing a fedora?

Hey, where’d you get that- Urk!

To see more pictures and find out what’s really going on, click the link below (if you’re accessing this from the main page of the blog) to read more:

This demonstration really is pretty simple, but you have to have equipment that can handle extremely low temperatures. 

What we did was take liquid nitrogen, which makes up about 78% of our atmosphere.  We really did boil it, but we didn’t put a flame on it.  (That would have produced a gas under high pressure in a small volume, or what in layman’s terms is called a bomb.  I’m a mad scientist, not a suicidal one.)

Rather, the bell jar is sealed so that it’s airtight.  Once the liquid nitrogen had reached thermal equilibrium with the plexiglass container it was in, we pumped the air out of the bell jar.  You can see the hose to the pump in the bottom of the picture on the right. 

The lower pressure causes the liquid nitrogen to begin to boil.  Boiling is a cooling process.  Most people don’t think it is because they only boil water on a stove, which has a heat source.  The burner replaces the heat the boiling process removes from the water.  If you take a pan of boiling water off the stove, it will boil for a second or two then stop.  That’s because the boiling lowers the temperature.  This is the same principle behind many air conditioning and refrigeration systems.  It’s also the principle behind evaporative cooling, which is why a breeze on a warm day feels cool.

Let me try to explain it this way.  The phase change from liquid to gas requires energy to break the bonds in the liquid.  That energy has to come from somewhere.  In this case it comes from the liquid nitrogen itself.  That lowers the temperature of the liquid nitrogen.  (See, I told you it was a cooling process.) 

Nitrogen becomes a liquid at 77K (-321 degrees Fahrenheit) and a solid at 63K (-346 F).  These temperatures are quite close together, so it doesn’t take much of a drop in temperature for the liquid nitrogen to freeze. 

We were able to freeze the liquid nitrogen completely solid. That’s it below.  You can just see a small amount of liquid nitrogen along the bottom and sides.