Iridium is not a phone company
August 31, 2004 5:27 AM   Subscribe

A Blog entry about a guy who melted a kilo of Iridium in New Jersey with Oliver Sacks. There are also pictures and movies of the 200,000 eV electron beam furnace in action.  Theo Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research was there too (the pictures are all his). For any laymen who may have wondered in, Iridium is not a phone company, it is a precious metal that shares an element group with the likes of Platinum and Rhodium.
posted by pxe2000 (22 comments total)
That is liquid awesome.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:32 AM on August 31, 2004

I thought element groups were vertical in the periodic table, not horizontal.
posted by angry modem at 5:49 AM on August 31, 2004

Did Sacks mistake the melted lump of Iridium for a hat?
posted by troutfishing at 5:50 AM on August 31, 2004

Thanks, pxe2000.
posted by nthdegx at 5:53 AM on August 31, 2004

Iridium is - by far - my favorite element.
posted by ajr at 5:54 AM on August 31, 2004

Can it be used for dental fillings?
posted by troutfishing at 5:59 AM on August 31, 2004

That was an interesting read. Good post pxe.
posted by a3matrix at 6:03 AM on August 31, 2004

I need more friends like that.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:21 AM on August 31, 2004

I like his "near death experience" with one of the buttons too.

His description of the machine is a little off. Those big green things numbered 3 have to be high-vacuum diffusion pumps. They're scary-big, but they cannot be anything else. Maybe the mad russians were having their fun with him.

angry modem you're entirely correct, the rows are usually called series. Rhodium is the element above Iridium, with Cobalt on top, group 9. Platinum is one proton more than Iridium, just to the right in group 10. However, the late-series, high-mass transition metals all have more or less the same chemistry, so calling them the same group, while not technically correct, is close enough for most inorganikers.

Ir is fairly inert so it probably would make decent fillings, though they'd be four or five times heavier than zinc-mercury amalgam. I have no idea how you'ld fit one though---as far as I know, the noble metals don't form cold amalgams like mercury.
posted by bonehead at 6:23 AM on August 31, 2004

*scraps planned FPP on Theo Gray's Periodic Table Table*

Really. Saw some links on BoingBoing a while back, then went exploring in hopes of putting together a good post on MeFi. Nice job!
posted by Vidiot at 6:37 AM on August 31, 2004

Great post ... Thank you!
posted by Sinner at 7:33 AM on August 31, 2004

Wow that's cool, thanks for pointing it out!
posted by riffola at 7:58 AM on August 31, 2004

whoa bonehead, thanks for the explanation. :-)
posted by angry modem at 8:00 AM on August 31, 2004

Vidiot, I saw it on BB too and really found it all quite fascinating. Nice work, pxe2000.
posted by shoepal at 8:09 AM on August 31, 2004

Holy batshit, that's fun bloggery. Don't miss the followup post.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:42 AM on August 31, 2004

wow. fascinating post.

and it should be said I'm typically bored to tears by scientific undertakings.
posted by fishfucker at 10:10 AM on August 31, 2004

Huge amounts of finely focused kinetic energy, a pound of metal the size of a postage stamp, Oliver Sacks running around like a giddy schoolchild with a jelly jar full shiny, heavy things, batshit Russians scientists peering into viewports, throwing switches and turning knobs amid a backdrop of random de-shirting, vodka, and giant bugs.

What's not to love? And what's with all the mad scientist posts to MeFi in the last day or two?
posted by loquacious at 10:22 AM on August 31, 2004

This was great. And digaman knows Sacks, too? I hate digaman. Digaman fills me with deep, troubling envy. (Be sure to scroll down the page to digaman's Sacks anecdote.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2004

Truly, a fantastic LJ entry, easily beating all of my entries about my cat. The entry about nearly being killed by iridium is even better.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:43 AM on August 31, 2004

bonehead's right, those green things are oil vapour diffusion pumps. they use supersonic jets of hot oil to drag air through them, and are capable of pumping the chamber down to about 10-10 mbar pressure (1013 times lower than atmospheric pressure). the rotary pumps (marked 2 on the diagram) just take the air that the diffusion pumps suck out and deal with it. they're not capable of producing much vacuum by themselves.

still, that minor quibble aside, a fantastic post and a fantastic article. oliver sachs is a wonderful guy.
posted by nylon at 12:57 PM on August 31, 2004

oliver sacks, on the other hand, is a cad of the highest order.

posted by nylon at 12:58 PM on August 31, 2004

what's this "blog" crap? that's livejournal.

ps cool link
posted by bizwank at 5:03 PM on August 31, 2004

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