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I daniel blake

Dear Reader,

I recently viewed the film “I daniel blake”, I have to admit that this is a rather shocking film. It is in some ways a bit like “Threads” which was a science fiction about nuclear warfare. While on a few occasions a scenario like threads came rather close to occurring, thankfully threads remained science fiction rather than science fact.

Sadly while Daniel Blake is likely to not be a real man, the events shown in the film are based on fact. While it is perfectly reasonable that these events have occurred, it is not reasonable that these events should have been allowed to occur in real life.

I have to warn you that like Threads the film is a gloomy film which I think is equally sad. While watching threads I was hoping to be able to dismiss it as exaggeration but in that case as a radiation worker I could not find a major fault in it with which to dismiss it. On the other hand “On the Beach” is riddled with nonsense, but we can save that for another day.

In the film “I Daniel Blake” we see a hardworking man who is forced to down tools because of a serious health issue. Despite the fact that several doctors declare him unfit for work he is told by DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) that he is fit for work.

We also see a woman being forced into prostitution by poverty, this is also clearly not the sort of thing which should be happening in society.

Now while some people might want to ignore or mock this film, I think it is a rather unpleasant but important wake up call for society. I have heard that the UK government are exceptionally displeased about the film, sadly sometimes the news that people need to hear is not the news that they want to hear !

I hold the view that a safety net should exist for those who have fallen on hard times, despite what some people might say, think, or think that they know this safety net is not a comfortable hammock. I also find it interesting that in society a large series of hue and crys have existed against the benefits cheat while adverts suggesting that people should try to turn in tax cheats are much more rare. It is noteworthy that a typical tax cheat costs society more than one of the rare benefits cheats.



Dear Reader,

Today I got the VNA which I purchased recently out of the box, and set up the software. This VNA is intended for use in my chemistry lab where it will be used to help unlock the very secrets of the ionic liquids and the deep eutectic solvents. When there are some results I will share with you the results.

Mikhail is now a doctor

Dear Reader,

I am glad to tell you that Mikhail S. Tyumentsev passed his final PhD defense at the end of November. He wrote a PhD on the subject of the solvent extraction of lanthanides by amides.

What he did was to react a malonamide with ortho-dibromomethylbenzene to form a tetraamide. The malonamide in question was not a particularly good lanthanide extraction agent. But the new molecule (The octopus) was a far better extraction agent. Rather than trying to make a series of molecules without understanding them, Mikhail after making his octopus he did a large number of experiments to get a good understanding of the molecule.

These experiments should also help us understand the malonamides better as well. One of the methods which was used was X-ray crystallography, here is a pluto plot of a neodynium complex in which two octopus molecules bond to the metal.

octopus binding to a neodynium

While here is a picture of Mikhail in the final hour of his PhD work presenting his work.

Mikhail presenting

Mikhail has published a series of papers on different topics, before he came to Chalmers he worked on uranium and neptunium chemistry. This work resulted in a paper entitled.

Synergistic effect in heterogeneously catalyzed reduction of U(VI) and Np(V) and decomposition of hydrazine and oxalic acid with bimetallic Pt-Ru catalysts

Which was in Doklady Physical Chemistry, 2013, volume 450, pages 142-145.

While he has been at Chalmers he has published a series of papers on a range of topics.

The solvent extraction of rare earth elements from nitrate media with novel polyamides containing malonamide groups, Hydrometallurgy, 2016, 164, pages 24-30.

Disassembly of old radium sources and conversion of radium sulfate into radium carbonate for subsequent dissolution in acid, Journal of Radioanayltical and Nuclear Chemistry, 2016, 310, 589-595.

Crystal structure and identification of resonance forms of diethyl 2-(3-oxoiso-1,3-dihydrobenzo-furan-1-ylidene)malonate, Acta Crystallographica Section E-Crystallographic Communications, 2017, 73, 1576.

Coordination of Trivalent Lanthanides with Bismalonamide Ligands: Implications for Liquid-Liquid Extraction, European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, 2017, 37, 4285-4298.

A comparison of two methods of recovering cobalt from a deep eutectic solvent: Implications for battery recycling, Journal of Cleaner Production, 2017, 167, 806-814.

Activity coefficients in deep eutectic solvents: implications for the solvent extraction of metals, New Journal of Chemistry, 2018, 42, 2006-2012.

Temperature effect on the distribution of lanthanides(III) in the perchlorate-malonamide-methyl isobutyl ketone systems, Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics, 2019, 131, 133-148.

Resistor polyhedra

Dear Reader,

Those of you who want to work out your brains might be interested in the resistor polyhedra contest article which I wrote for RadCom. This has been designed to be a challenge which will both tax the minds of very bright people with years of experience in physics / electronics and also offer the new commer some easier problems to allow them to get their feet wet.

I have made a lot of funny networks out of 1000 ohm metal film resistors, my trusty 25 W Antex iron has been very handy for this task. I tend to like to use a iron jacketed 25 W Antex iron for most soldering work. I bought the Antex back in 1992 and it is still going strong. I used to use a 25 W Weller (from the late 1980s) with a copper tip but I found that that the tips were dissolving in the solder too much for my liking. I have to confess that I worked a lot with the Weller, the Weller had coated tips but they did slowly age and dissolve. So what I used to do with that iron was to use 1970s solid copper tips from another older iron I used to own as a lad. I used to have to file the copper tips once in a while to get the shape right.

I have found that a 50 W temperture controlled Weller with a modern tip to be a nice iron. I think that it is a better iron for large items than the 25 W Antex. But I think if you want the best value for money the 25 W Antex is hard to beat. I used that in my youth to build quite a few things.

RadCom is the magazine of the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain). Sadly due to an error in the production process it did not publish a closing date. The closing date is 08:30 GMT on the 7th of Jan 2019. To have a chance an entry must have reached the RadCom office by that time / date.

The contest is in RadCom in the december issue at around page 40

The rules by which I will be judging the contest are

Rule 1.

If one person has calculated or measured correctly more networks than any other person, then this person shall be the winner. Any person who gets within 2 % of the correct value will be judged to have got it correct. The networks made by Mark Foreman are to be used to referee what the correct values of the networks are. If the RadCom office or other RSGB workers were to create their own versions of the networks then the average of the values measured from the networks will be used.

Rule 2.

If under rule 1 no single winner can be identified, then Mark Foreman will judge the method used to determine the values of the networks. Mark Foreman normally favers methods which use the bare minimum of advanced mathematics. Thus if the solution requires exotic things like Laplace transformations, matrix operations and the like he will disfavour. Mark Foreman reserves the right to consult other people when judging methods which use advanced maths.

Rule 3.

If under rules 1 and 2 no single winner can be identified, then the first most correct and elegant answer to arrive at the radcom office will be the winner.

Rule 4.

If under rules 1, 2 and 3 no single winner can be identified, then the winner will be randomly selected. The possible winners will be assigned numbers such as 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then Mark will use a measurement of the background radiation in his office or lab as a random number generator. The least significant digit in the total count numbers (number of events detected) will be used to decide the winner.

Bridge in Genoa (Italy)

Dear Reader,

I strongly suspect that some of you will be aware that a bridge in Italy has fallen down resulting in a considerable loss of human life. Now some of you might be wondering what caused it to happen.

At this time I do not know for sure exactly what caused the bridge to fall down, there are reports that a lightning bolt hit the bridge shortly before the bridge came crashing down. The bridge was a suspension bridge (cable stayed bridge) which had reinforced concrete elements which go from the tops of the towers to the part of the bridge which the people / cars travel over.

Now years ago in the senior common room at Reading it was explained to me that there are two types of suspension bridge. There is the true suspension bridge where a long cable which has a shape similar to a washing line exists between two towers. From this cable a series of vertical elements are connected. At the bottom end of the vertical elements are connected to the road way on which the people, cars etc travel over. The other design is a cable stayed bridge in which straight elements which are under tension go from the tower to the road.

For the suspension bridge it is impossible to change the main cable (the one with the washing line shape) but for the cable stayed bridge it is possible to replace a cable.

One big problem is tension, now it is important to understand that concrete is very weak in tension but strong in compression. This is why reinforced concrete is so good a material. The strength of a concrete object can be sometimes increased further by stressing the structure by putting the concrete under additional compression. This can be done by having a hole going through the concrete, the concrete is poured and allowed to set. Afterwards a steel rope in the hole is then put under tension, this then subjects the concrete to compression. One way of doing this would be to have a long bolt passing through the hole with large washers on both ends. By putting a nut on this bolt and tightening it up then the bolt will be under tension and the concrete under compression.

post stressed concrete

Another method would be to use prestressing where the rebar is put under tension before the concrete is poured. It is important to note that when carbon steel is placed in concrete made from ordinary portland cement (OPC) that the pore water in the cement is slightly alkaline. This is good for the steel, under these conditions the steel does not corrode quickly. The steel is in a chemical environment in which the corrosion is very slow.

Corrosion or rusting of rebar is a very big problem, the volume occupied by the rust is greater than that of the steel rebar. As a result if rusting occurs then not only does the rebar lose its strength but also it tends to cause concrete to spall off from the structure. This expansion from within tends to make more holes in it.

However there are two main problems, if the concrete becomes contaminated with chloride salts from sea spray or deicing salts used on the road then the rebar can start to corrode more quickly. Also if as a result of cracking carbon dioxide from the air can enter the concrete then the pore water will become less alkaline. The steel will then be exposed to a new chemical environment in which it will corrode more quickly. All concretes will slowly be carbonated by the air, but in the ideal world only the very outer layer will be carbonated.

If the concrete becomes cracked due to vandalism, a changing mechanical load or even due to corrosion then the rate of carbonation tends to increase. This is due to the fact that the air has greater access to the inner part of the concrete object.

The last main thing which we should be aware of is that some corrosion modes such as stress corrosion cracking are worse when the object is placed under tension such as in the cable of the suspension or cable stayed bridge.

What I think that one of the things the investigators should be doing is to check the chemistry of the concrete used in the reinforced concrete cables used to connect the towers to the deck of the bridge. There are two simple chemical tests which can be used.

The first one is to drill a hole into the concrete and apply a solution of phenolphthalein to the surface. This is an acid/base indicator. When it is acidic it is colourless but when it is alkaline it is intense pink. What you then do is to measure how far the colourless reagion extends into the concrete object. This will give an indication of how bad the carbonation effect was at the point where the hole was drilled. As the bridge has fallen down this test can be used without having to worry so much about plugging up the holes made in the test if you were to examine the fallen lumps of concrete.

Another simple test is to grind up a sample of concrete, then to make this into a paste with a known amount of water. If this paste is then examined by either ion chromatography or a chloride test strip (based on the reaction of silver nitrate with sodium chloride to form insoluble silver chloride) then it is possible to determine how much chloride contamination was present in the concrete.

It would be interesting to know if the people responsible for the bridge were using these tests and some other corrosion tests before the bridge fell down. Now I think that the wreckage from the bridge should be subject to these tests and some other tests to try to work out what has happened. I will try to write more about the bridge and steel corrosion when I get the chance.

About the chemistry of the nerve gas attack in Japan

About 20 years ago when I was a PhD student, Stuart the medical student (He is now an anaesthetist) emailed me to tell me of a scary case in Japan. I then looked at the news and discovered what had happened.

To remind you what happened was that a series of cult members split open plastic bags containing sarin inside subway trains in Tokyo. The fumes of this substance then seriously injured a large number of people and killed more than ten people.

Now as well as having a chemists point of view on this matter, I have a little knowledge of the type of religion which the cult can be classified within. Now some religions maintain that some religious figure is going to appear or return, then right a series of wrongs and punish the ungodly. Some others maintain that some dramatic event will occur which will change the world as we know it, a common theme is that the members of the faith will survive and thrive while those outside the cult are absymally corrupt and evil people who are destined for suffering and destruction.

One example would be Elizabeth Clare Prophet and the Church Universal and Triumphant they were getting ready for nuclear war and expecting an end to society as we know it. Their leader and prophet predicted the date of a nuclear war, this day came and went without incident.

Now do not get me wrong, some faiths which are morally perfectly OK have this feature, for example the “Open Brethren”, the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church hold the view that one day there will be the day of judgement when Christ will appear on earth. They hold the view that he will come to “judge the living and the dead”, those who are believers will assend into heaven (where everything will be fine and rosey for ever and ever) while those ungodly people will be seporated from God for the rest of eternity.

There are some faiths which seem to lack this feature (millenarianism). One thing which I think is important about millenarianism is the degree to which is infulances the thoughts and actions of the faithful. Others have written about this topic.

In conventional christainity while it is a matter of belief that “Christ will come again”. I have taken the text of the Nicene creed and I have marked in bold the parts which relate to millenarianism.

I believe in one God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man,
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come.

While the typcial or average christain might believe in the second coming, they do not spend all their time and energy expecting the second coming to come in the next hour or day. As a boy it was explained to me by a presbitarian preacher that the christain lives their life in battlefield between God (and that which is right and proper) and the devil (and that which is morally wrong). The clergyman explained that the christain should believe in God and with the help of God live a good life (as free from sin as possible). The preacher was not concentrating on telling me to make sure that I am ready at a moment’s notice to greet Jesus as he returns to earth in the second comming.

Some parts of the church do appear to have a higher tendency towards millenarianism, what is more scary in some ways by far are some of the “Cargo Cults” and similar groups who hold the view that they by their actions can change the timescale of when the great event will occur. In the case of the Aum cult they appear to have believed that they could by their actions on earth accelerate the coming of the end time.

The cargo cults in the pacific thought that if they imitiated the actions of the american military (doing things like building their own air strip) that all manner of wounderful things would appear from the air. I think that the Aum cult of the 1990s should be classified as a religious movement with a very tendancy towards millenarianism. The Aum cult believed that there would be a war between the cult and the outside world, they held the view that with the aid of a serious of super weapons that they would win this war and usher in a wounderous “new age”. While we are here it is interesting to note that the neo-pagans and mystics who were known in the 1990s as the “New Agers” are also  millenarian. They thought that a wounderful new thing would come to pass and that humans would evolve into something new and glorious as a result of their mystic activities.

In terms of social harm I think we can ignore the effects of people praying to God for him to hurry up with the second comming, but in some cases some people may attempt to speed up the arrival of the end time. It is noteworthy that some non religious people have a tendancy towards millenarianism such as Charles Manson who wanted to incite some form of war. In the case of Manson he wanted to trigger a race war between blacks and whites. While Manson was not a “relgious” figure, he was attempting to create a “goldern age” in which he thought that in the post-race war world he would be able to dominate the black people and be some form of lord and master of many.

I suspect that the Aum cult thought that they could trigger a change on earth which would usher in their new transformed world in which they would be doing much better than others.

Nerve gas cult leader hanged

Dear Reader,

It has come to my attention that the leader (Shoko Asahara) of the horrible nerve gas cult in Japan (Aum Shinrikyo) has been hung in Japan. I first heard of this cult before the nerve gas attack which made it famous for all the wrong reasons (infamous). Some of the tales which were leaking out from this cult were perfectly horrifying, one author in a book on religious cults described some of the deeds of the cult as being like something from a Edgar Alan Poe story. But he did comment that it would be unlikely that Poe would have been able to imagine some of the atrocities which involve modern technology.

The Japanese have a death penalty for murder, I checked and a Law academic (Prof Norio Takahashi) wrote some time ago

In the “serial shooting murder case (Nagayama Incident) (Showa 58-7-8 Police Procedure 37-6 609 pages), the supreme court ruled that the death penalty may be imposed inevitably in consideration of the degree of criminal liability and balance of justice based on a nine-point set of criteria which includes;

  1. degree of viciousness of the crime,
  2. motive of the crime,
  3. how the crime was committed-especially the manner in which the victim was killed,
  4. outcome of the crime especially the number of murdered victims,
  5. sentiments of the victim’s bereaved family members,
  6. impact of the crime on society,
  7. defendant’s age,
  8. defendant’s previous criminal record,
  9. degree of remorse shown by the defendant.

Now if we look at Shoko Asahara we can point out that

  1. The murder weapon causes the victims to suffer greatly before death, this also touches point three.
  2. The motivation for the crime was an attempt to overthrow the state and inhibit the actions of the police.
  3. The crime does involve wanton cruelty.
  4. The attack caused multiple deaths (13) and causes injuries to many other people (1000s)
  5. I have no idea what the different families think about the death sentence, but Minoru Kariya whose father died in another of the cults crimes (the smaller scale nerve gas attack) supported the death sentence.
  6. The crime was intended to have a serious impact on society and the first nerve gas attack was an attempt to inhibit the legal system (it targeted judges involved in a case regarding the cult)
  7. The defendant was an adult at the time of the crime.
  8. The defendant has a criminal record at the time the crime was committed
  9. I am unable to be sure, but from what I have heard the defendant has shown little or no remorse.

So according to the nine points, using the criteria used by the legal system in Japan it appears that Shoko Asahara is a candidate for the death penalty. I have to ask however what is the point of the death penalty ? In a perverse way the “ultimate punishment” renders the criminal incapable of any further punishment. So if we wanted to impose a truely ultimate punishment then the hanging will defeat our attempts to punish the criminal. I will comment shortly on the chemistry of this case.

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