Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama the Hypnotist...

I don't recall an election campaign in which negative campaigning has played such vital part. It's always there but this time more than ever. And it comes from both sides but the Republicans have really surpassed themselves this time. Perhaps they felt that somehow there was more at stake this time or that it would be easy to tar the relative outsider Barack Obama. And so we've had Barack Hussein the Mooooslim/Aa-rab, Barack Obabykiller, Barack the not-naturally-born-US-citizen, Barack the Terrorist and Barack the Socialist. And rumours about Obama's secret hypnosis techniques have been running rife the last few weeks. But now, in a decidedly last ditch swing, someone has been working hard to flesh out the "theory" of Barack the Hypnotist.

In this astonishingly long and detailed *.pdf, published by anonymous, the unknown author(s?) make the highly risible case for Obama's "Ecksonian" powers of hypnosis.

Despite the veneer of pseudo-science the document is essentially identical to any long-winded Internet sales letter for one of these many pseudo-products that no one wants.

But let's look on the bright side: if it's all true then Obama's awesome powers will come in handy when he sits down without preconditions with the Iranians (and with hypnotic powers who needs preconditions?) I can just see him now, telling Ahmadinejad to look into his eyes and promise to hand over every single enrichment centrifuge, PDQ... or else he'll mass-convert the Iranian clergy to Christianity...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

The degradation of intelligence and learning in American politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies

George Monbiot - Guardian America

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?

Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world's best universities and attracts the world's finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.

There have been exceptions over the past century - Franklin Roosevelt, JF Kennedy and Bill Clinton tempered their intellectualism with the common touch and survived - but Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and John Kerry were successfully tarred by their opponents as members of a cerebral elite (as if this were not a qualification for the presidency). Perhaps the defining moment in the collapse of intelligent politics was Ronald Reagan's response to Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debate. Carter - stumbling a little, using long words - carefully enumerated the benefits of national health insurance. Reagan smiled and said: "There you go again." His own health programme would have appalled most Americans, had he explained it as carefully as Carter had done, but he had found a formula for avoiding tough political issues and making his opponents look like wonks.

It wasn't always like this. The founding fathers of the republic - Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and others - were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it. How did the project they launched degenerate into George W Bush and Sarah Palin?

On one level, this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves round the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15-year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD. But this merely extends the mystery: how did so many US citizens become so stupid, and so suspicious of intelligence? Susan Jacoby's book The Age of American Unreason provides the fullest explanation I have read so far. She shows that the degradation of US politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies.

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion - in particular fundamentalist religion - makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.
Jacoby shows that there was once a certain logic to its anti-rationalism. During the first few decades after the publication of The Origin of Species, for instance, Americans had good reason to reject the theory of natural selection and to treat public intellectuals with suspicion. From the beginning, Darwin's theory was mixed up in the US with the brutal philosophy - now known as social Darwinism - of the British writer Herbert Spencer. Spencer's doctrine, promoted in the popular press with the help of funding from Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller and Thomas Edison, suggested that millionaires stood at the top of a scala natura established by evolution. By preventing unfit people being weeded out, government intervention weakened the nation. Gross economic inequalities were both justifiable and necessary.

Darwinism, in other words, became indistinguishable from the most bestial form of laissez-faire economics. Many Christians responded with revulsion. It is profoundly ironic that the doctrine rejected a century ago by such prominent fundamentalists as William Jennings Bryan is now central to the economic thinking of the Christian right. Modern fundamentalists reject the science of Darwinian evolution and accept the pseudoscience of social Darwinism.

But there were other, more powerful, reasons for the intellectual isolation of the fundamentalists. The US is peculiar in devolving the control of education to local authorities. Teaching in the southern states was dominated by the views of an ignorant aristocracy of planters, and a great educational gulf opened up. "In the south", Jacoby writes, "what can only be described as an intellectual blockade was imposed in order to keep out any ideas that might threaten the social order."

The Southern Baptist Convention, now the biggest denomination in the US, was to slavery and segregation what the Dutch Reformed Church was to apartheid in South Africa. It has done more than any other force to keep the south stupid. In the 1960s it tried to stave off desegregation by establishing a system of private Christian schools and universities. A student can now progress from kindergarten to a higher degree without any exposure to secular teaching. Southern Baptist beliefs pass intact through the public school system as well. A survey by researchers at the University of Texas in 1998 found that one in four of the state's state school biology teachers believed humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time.

This tragedy has been assisted by the American fetishisation of self-education. Though he greatly regretted his lack of formal teaching, Abraham Lincoln's career is repeatedly cited as evidence that good education, provided by the state, is unnecessary: all that is required to succeed is determination and rugged individualism. This might have served people well when genuine self-education movements, like the one built around the Little Blue Books in the first half of the 20th century, were in vogue. In the age of infotainment, it is a recipe for confusion.

Besides fundamentalist religion, perhaps the most potent reason intellectuals struggle in elections is that intellectualism has been equated with subversion. The brief flirtation of some thinkers with communism a long time ago has been used to create an impression in the public mind that all intellectuals are communists. Almost every day men such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly rage against the "liberal elites" destroying America.

The spectre of pointy-headed alien subversives was crucial to the election of Reagan and Bush. A genuine intellectual elite - like the neocons (some of them former communists) surrounding Bush - has managed to pitch the political conflict as a battle between ordinary Americans and an over-educated pinko establishment. Any attempt to challenge the ideas of the rightwing elite has been successfully branded as elitism.

Obama has a lot to offer the US, but none of this will stop if he wins. Until the great failures of the US education system are reversed or religious fundamentalism withers, there will be political opportunities for people, like Bush and Palin, who flaunt their ignorance.

Jonathan Chait's Muppet Show...

As Oliver Burkestein notes here, this campaign has gone on for too long and several pundits have lost their marbles. He gives plenty of examples, among others Jonathan Chait's (New Republic senior editor) glove puppeteering on the Palin-McCain infighting:

On Mel Flips, who wrote a piece about Obama in The Spectator that could make even the most hardened FrontPageMag wingnut blush:
The combination of long campaign plus likely Obama victory also seems to be taking its toll on the other side of the Atlantic, where it has had the astonishing, but vastly entertaining, effect of making Melanie Phillips even more incoherently rage-consumed than usual, as in this "explanation" of why anyone who supports Obama is guilty of "wickedness, ideology, stupidity or derangement" and support for "the agenda of the Islamists" [my emph.]. (Some of whom endorsed McCain the other day, one notes in passing -- but frankly that's barely the start of the logical problems with her piece, which is more awe-inspiring when approached as a work of art rather than an argument).

Not long now folks...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homemade CD spectroscope - Part 2

In a previous post on home spectroscopy/spectrometry I outlined the use of CDs and DVDs as components of such instruments and showed it was possible to accurately measure the wavelength of a monochromatic light source (a cheap laser pointer) using those principles.

Here I'll elaborate on building such an instrument capable of splitting visible light into its constituent wavelengths with reasonable resolution and from no more than an empty box of cookies and a couple of pieces of CD or DVD.

It was already established in that post that there is a direct relationship between the wavelength (λ) of the light, the fineness (D) of the grating, the incident angle (β) of the incoming light, the angle (α) of the reflected light and the order of the positive interference (n) as follows:

λ = D ( sin β - sin α ) / n

It can be seen from the development in the previous post that for a given diffraction grating (constant D) at constant β (and thus constant sin β), λ is directly proportional to the distance O'C (for a given order n of spectrum). The reflecting diffraction grating will thus split up visible light in a linearly scaled spectrum.

This principle is used primarily in spectroscopes and spectrometers (the main difference between the two being that a spectroscope allows viewing of a given spectrum, whereas a spectrometer allows also measurements on that same spectrum).

It's rather self-intuitive that for the above reasoning to hold the light beam must consist of strongly parallel rays of light as otherwise it's impossible the impose the condition of constant β. Such light is referred to as collimated light and in the previous experiment the collimation problem was solved by choosing a pre-collimated source of light: laser light. But for any other form of light source collimation will have to be imposed in some way or other.

homemade_spectroscopeTo the right is one of my homemade spectroscopes, constructed from an empty box of cookies, a piece of diffraction grating cut from a CD (or DVD-R) and an adjustable slit made from two safety razor blades. The slit provides a narrow beam of light, more or less collimated, which impinges on the piece of CD glued into place at the end of the box. The angle of incidence β is set at 60 degrees (the piece of CD angles 30 degrees with respect to the length of the box).

spectroscopeHere, in close up, the end of the box with the CD in place and the peep hole. By holding the slit-end of the box more or less close to any light source and looking through the peep hole, the linearly scaled spectrum of the light source can be observed. In fact usually at least two spectra can be seen: first order (n = 1) and second order (n = 2).

spectrumHere's the 1st order spectrum of a saver light bulb (NOT a traditional incandescent filament bulb), using a DVD-R as reflecting diffraction grating (D = 0.74 μm), photographed using the above design.

Most of the lines that can be seen are the emission spectral lines of the chemical element mercury (Hg) which is contained in saver light bulbs (as well as in the more conventional fluorescent strip lights) and in this sense the experiment is corroboration of quantum mechanics, which predicts that only specific electron transitions within a given atom are permissible. As a result the emission spectra of the chemical elements at modest temperatures are made up of discrete lines, specific to the element in question, much like a fingerprint.

From right to left in the above spectrum: the red line at 615 nm, a yellow/amber cluster that contains a 579/577 nm doublet, the green line at 546 nm and the far left blue line at 436 nm. The complete spectrum of mercury can also be seen at the bottom of this page using a high resolution spectrometer.

spectrumTo the right the same spectrum photographed in near-identical conditions but using a piece of CD as diffraction grating (D = 1.6 μm). As predicted by theory, the spectrum is less wide (or less 'resolved') and clearly using the DVD-R as a grating is much to be preferred due to higher resolution.

But from here to high-resolution spectrometry is still a long way off. I'm currently building such a spectrometer which will feature better light management, better collimation, better light detection and thus hopefully significantly improved resolution. The instrument should resolve the major lines of most chemical elements, as well as detect the famous Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum, which provide proof of the chemical elements that make up our Sun.

For now I leave you with a few interesting resources to ponder:

A site that provided much of the inspiration for my posts on home spectroscopy. Very well worth the visit.

This resource provides a pdf with a hard card paper cut-out blueprint for a pocket size spectroscope, built in less than 1 hour and which you can take with you to observe the spectra of light sources around you: street lights, neon signs, light bulbs, sodium lights, etc. Ingenious.

This pdf provides the blueprint for a medium-resolution spectrometer made from hard card paper. Suitable also for a more permanent instrument in wood or plastic.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homemade CD spectroscope - Part 1

wavelength_measurementThe photo to the right is the experimental set-up for the measurement of the wavelength of red laser light from a pound shop laser pointer, using a reflecting diffraction grating, some measurements and a bit of basic geometry and trigonometry.

What's a reflecting diffraction grating? A reflecting surface with many equidistant parallel lines, so close together that the distance between them is in the same order of magnitude as the wavelength of visible light. Due to a phenomenon known as positive interference, such a grating will reflect light with a specific wavelength at angles depending specifically on the angle of incidence of the incoming beam of light, the wavelength of the light and the distance between two adjacent lines on the diffraction grating.

And why use laser light and not ordinary light? Laser light has some remarkable properties, among them that it's highly collimated (it's a narrow beam of highly parallel light waves) and that it's strictly monochromatic; it's composed of one single wavelength only. These are two very important properties when carrying out this type of experiment.

While diffraction gratings used to be slightly outside of the envelope of most home experimenters, the advent of CD ROMs (and CD-Rs) has changed that: the data tracks of these storage devices are so closely together that they rival specialist diffraction gratings and are suitable for use in homemade spectroscopes and spectrometers.

In the set-up above, in the left hand bottom corner (point B) is the source of laser light, top middle (point O) a piece of CD ROM (at right angles to the line OO'), on the right hand side the reflected light for a 0-order spectrum (n = 0, arriving at point A) and the 1st order positive interference (n = 1) arriving at point C.

It can be shown easily that a simple relationship exists between the wavelength of the incoming laser light (λ - lambda), the angle of incidence (β - beta), the angle of reflection (α - alpha) when positive interference occurs and the distance between two adjacent lines on the diffraction grating (D) according to:

n λ = D ( sin β - sin α )

where n is the order of the positive interference (n = 0, 1, 2, 3, ...)

(Note that α is only positive when C falls between O' and A, it is negative when C falls between O' and B.)

By varying the angle of incidence β and measuring the corresponding angle α for non-0 order positive interferences, the wavelength λ can be calculated, provided the constant D and the order n are known.

For ordinary CD ROMs, D = 1.6 μm (micrometer, 10-6 m) and for DVD-R (single layer, 4.7 GByte storage capacity) it is 0.74 μm and so, armed with two pieces of diffraction gratings, one cut out from a CD-ROM and one from a DVD-R, I set about conducting two sets of 9 measurements (total number of measurements 18).

Although the angles β and α can be measured directly, I prefer the easier and more precise measurement via three distance measurements per data point, good old Pythagoras and some elementary trigonometry.

It can be shown easily that sin β = O'B / OB (where O'B is the distance between O' and B and OB the distance between O and B) and that OB = √(O'B2 + OO'2).

Similarly, sin α = O'C / OC and OC = √(O'C2 + OO'2).

Thus by recording O'B, O'C and OO' for the 18 data points, λ = D ( sin β - sin α ) / n can be calculated for each data point, from the three measured distances. An average value of 659 nm (nanometer, 10-9 m) with a sample standard deviation of σn-1 = 9 nm was obtained. This is entirely plausible as there is a deep red light laser diode used for the cheapest laser pointers that's in the 670/650 nm range.

But the fact that at constant angle of incidence β the angle of reflection α depends only on the wavelength λ of the light (for a given order of positive interference and given D) points to the possibility of separating light according to its wavelength, commonly known as spectroscopy or spectrometry. And that's the object of one of my next posts...

Part 2 of this essay on home spectroscopy can be found here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Palin: the fruit flies strike back!

Mizz Palin's ridiculous attack on fruit fly research has annoyed many in the science community and outside of it. PZ Myers is appalled. I'm more than that. But he tells it better than I do...

Pharyngula - PZ Myers

I am appalled.

This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

This is where the Republican party has ended up: supporting an ignorant buffoon who believes in the End Times and speaking in tongues while deriding some of the best and most successful strategies for scientific research. In this next election, we've got to choose between the 21st century rationalism and Dark Age inanity. It ought to be an easy choice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama Pals Around with Hippies...

Two for the price of one: Jon Stewart on Palin's Real America, Nancy P-fotenhauer on Real Virginia, some other woman on anti-American congressmen... what the p-fuck???

Yep, this election has sure brought us some world-class comedy...

A Hockey Mom's Makeover?

The beauty or scandal of the Republican vice presidential nominee's new look appears to be in the eye of the beholder's party.

By Robin Abcarian and Kate Linthicum, LA Times
October 23, 2008

She portrays herself in campaign appearances as an average working woman with small-town values, a hockey mom who shops at Wal-Mart, the wife of a union member who works with his hands.

So the news that the Republican National Committee has bought Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family nearly $150,000 worth of clothing since September has fueled charges of hypocrisy by her detractors and sparked questions about the legality of the expenditures.

Canary Papers sums it up:

  • Shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue: $49,425.74.

  • Shopping spree at Neiman Marcus: $75,062.63

  • Shopping spree at Macy’s: $9,447.71

  • Shopping spree at Barneys New York: $789.72

  • Shopping spree at Bloomingdales: $5,102.71

  • Hair and make-up for one month: $4,716.49

  • Voice lessons: figures not yet released

  • Services of make-up artist, Amy Strozzi: $13,200.00

  • Cost to the McCain-Palin campaign’s self-righteous 6-pack Joe the Plumber message: priceless

Hockey mom? My *rse... Maverick? Com'on people!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama!

Watch it. Learn from it. J-u-b-i-l-a-t-e.

On Titanium, Thermite, the Bronze Age and... Drywall!

The process for extracting metals from their ores dates back to the Bronze Age. Despite many modifications, the Bronze Age method to extract copper and tin from their oxides, is basically still in use today for the mass-production of a wide variety of metals and alloys. In the step-by-step guide below I describe a method that allows to extract metallic titanium from white pigment, in your own backyard and using over-the-counter materials! Where does the drywall come into it? Read on! And it works too, I've made nuggets of titanium in this way many times before.

Homemade Titanium Metal from OTC materials in a Thermite Reaction:

One of the most used methods of extracting metals from their ores (usually oxides) is the chemical reduction of these oxides by means of a reducing agent, often carbon or another metal. This principle has been put to industrial use basically since the Bronze Age. Among these pyrometallurgical reductions, as they are known in chemical metallurgy, reductions with aluminium, referred to as aluminothermy, occupy a prominent class. Best known among these is what is colloquially referred to as Thermite reactions. The term Thermite (etymologically probably a contraction between thermal and dynamite, on account of the almost violent generation of lots and lots of heat during the process) actually originally specifically refers to the reaction of iron oxide with aluminium powder during which liquid iron and liquid alumina (aluminium oxide) are formed in a most spectacular fashion (see the many interesting YouTube videos). The worded reaction taking place is simply (right hand photo: a 400 g titanium thermite shortly after ignition):
Iron oxide + Aluminium ---> liquid Iron + liquid Aluminium Oxide (Alumina)
The convenient fact that both reaction products are generated in the molten state (thus allowing to obtain lump metal or even castings) is due to the fact that the reaction is accompanied by massive heat generation, sufficient to heat the reaction products to well above their respective melting points (3,730 F for alumina and 2,800 F for iron).
Today, iron is industrially hardly ever produced by aluminothermy but a whole array of more exotic metals and alloys is. And due to linguistic erosion, all aluminothermic processes (even those where iron plays no part) are now commonly referred to as thermite reactions or thermite reductions.

Metals (understood here as chemical elements) as diverse as vanadium, niobium, manganese, cobalt and chromium are industrially produced using aluminothermy. Alloys (binary or complex) of these but involving also iron, molybdenum, tungsten, tantalum, osmium and others can be produced similarly. Many other elements, including copper, silicon, boron, lead, tin, scandium, nickel, zinc and a whole raft of others are not usually prepared industrially in this way but can be (and have successfully been) produced by backyard scientists (like me).
Where does that leave the so far auspiciously absent titanium? Well, aluminothermic production of titanium metal is a slightly harder nut to crack (industrially the metal is prepared not from its oxide but from the tetrachloride, by means of reduction with magnesium - and not aluminium, in a process known as the Kroll process) because the reaction:
Titanium dioxide + Aluminium ---> Titanium + Alumina
does not generate enough heat for the reaction products to heat to above their respective melting points (the MP of titanium is 3,034 F), leaving the experimenter with a sintered mass of solid alumina, with solid, powdered titanium metal locked into the alumina matrix. Only melting the whole thing to well above 3,730 F, the MP of alumina, would make the recovery of lump titanium metal possible.

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There is of course a remedy to this problem and it's known in pyrometallurgical circles as heat boosting. Heat boosting is the technique whereby extra reaction heat is pumped into the reacting mix by running a second much hotter reaction simultaneously with the main reduction reaction, in the same reactor. In the case of aluminothermy, most usually a heat booster reaction is chosen that involves the oxidation of extra amounts of added aluminium powder with a powerful oxidiser. The worded reaction of the heat booster reaction is simply:
Oxidiser + Aluminium ---> Alumina + by-product
Oxidisers capable of oxidising aluminium with great generation of heat are a plenty (in fact, all the metal oxides suitable for thermite reductions are great oxidisers, it just so happens that titanium dioxide isn't very good on its own).
Commercially used heat booster oxidisers include chlorates, perchlorates, nitrates and sulphates (there are others, less frequently used).

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The oxidiser chosen for this particular method of backyard metal production is calcium sulphate, more commonly known as plaster of Paris, gypsum or... drywall or wall filler! The worded booster reaction is:
Calcium Sulphate + Aluminium ---> Calcium Sulphide + Alumina + much, much heat!
The mixture of calcium sulphide and alumina is usually referred to as the slag.
By combining the main reduction reaction (titanium dioxide + aluminium) with the booster reaction in the correct ratios, the required reaction temperature can be increased to almost any level, including that where all three reaction products (titanium metal, calcium sulphide and alumina) are produced above their melting points. From the post-reaction, hot, molten metal/slag mixture, the metal then coalesces out; much like oil separates out from an oil/vinegar salad dressing. After cooling, the metal (the most dense component of the mix) is then found at the bottom of the crucible, nicely protected by the slag from oxidation by air during the cooling step.
How to calculate these ratios is outside the scope of this guide but is usually referred to as a thermochemical calculation, which takes into account all the reaction enthalpies and the heat capacities of the reaction products and their abundance in the slag/metal mix and allows a precise calculation of the end-temperature of the post-reaction mixture.
So, in a nutshell, by combining the right amounts of titanium dioxide, calcium sulphate and aluminium and by igniting this mixture in a fire proof crucible solid titanium can be obtained (after cooling of the assembly, of course). So far, so good...
The precise composition of the mixture, here presented for a 100 g reaction batch, is (quantities in gram):
Titanium dioxide ........................... 30.0
Drywall ........................................ 25.5
Aluminium powder ........................ 27.0
Ground fluorite ............................. 17.5
For different batch sizes, first calculate the batch factor (BF). For a batch of, say, 300 g, BF = 300 / 100 = 3. Now multiply the individual weights with the BF: 30.0 x 3 = 90.0 g, 25.5 x 3 = 76.5 g and so on. Finally check the result by adding the weights up: 90.0 + 76.5 + 81.0 + 52.5 = 300 g.
Fluorite here is the ingredient so far not discussed. Its role is that of a slag fluidiser. Where above I made the analogy of the metal coalescence from the molten slag/metal mix and the separation of oil and vinegar in a salad dressing, please note that this analogy is in fact very fair and quite accurate. To promote the separating of the metal from the molten sulphide/alumina mixture, it's beneficial to greatly improve its fluidity (reduce its viscosity in other words), as the coalescing metal droplets will find it much easier to sink through the molten cauldron and meet up.
Fluorite (chemically calcium fluoride) has a much lower melting point (2,555 F) than both alumina and calcium sulphide and is at those temperatures highly mobile, thereby lowering the viscosity of the melt considerably and keeping it fluid also somewhat longer. It's also completely chemically inert in these conditions, as aluminium is incapable of reducing this particular fluoride.
Weighing and dry-mixing of the formulation
Weigh the ingredients to at least three significant digits: for example 2.56 g, 10.3 g or 315 g.
Dry-mix the powders in a roomy container, typically a hermetically closed food container or similar, by shaking it. I like to include a couple of marbles in the container during mixing, as their sloshing about greatly improves mixing efficiency. Mix until a thoroughly homogeneous dry-mix is obtained, a few minutes should do the job, depending on batch size.
Wearing a dust protection mask during weighing and dry-mixing is probably advisable (although truth be told I never do).
Fit-for-purpose ingredients
Titanium dioxide:
A good quality grade of titanium dioxide, in the form of fine flour, of good, clean white colour is advisable. Exact granulometry isn't critical. If lumpy, sieve it with a tea strainer or such like. The lumps can later be recovered by gently grinding in a mortar and pestle.
Calcium sulphate:
Use a no-frills wall filler, the cheaper the better. High-end of the market products may contain additives to regulate setting speed or wetting behaviour that may (or may not) be somewhat detrimental to the thermite process.
The wall filler needs to be thoroughly dried to drive off inevitable crystal water (this would otherwise be driven off during the reaction and that could lead to spattering or a porous slag metal mix) and to ensure it's made up mostly of anhydrous calcium sulphate. Dry at high heat for about two hours by spreading the product in an oven proof dish or stainless steel pan. Drying can be carried out (completely safely, wall filler isn't toxic) either in a kitchen oven (use max setting) or on the hob in a steel or copper pan on medium-high heat. The wall filler will probably darken slightly in colour: this is normal. After drying and cooling, store it in a dry, hermetically closed container (e.g. a rubber sealed pickling jar), where it will keep dry indefinitely. It is not particularly hygroscopic but will, if exposed, slowly pick up moisture from the air.
Aluminium powder:
The grade isn't critical. I would advise against too finely ground grades, about 200 - 400 mesh is what I use. Higher mesh (finer powder) may lead to too fast reactions and too high temperatures and hence a formulation adjustment may be required (see trouble shooting). And really coarse aluminium (shavings or turnings) would probably still work fine, provided really large (1 kg or more of mix) batches are used and you can get the bugger to ignite.

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Some pyrotechnical grades of aluminium powder, like German Black, contain significant amounts of carbon and may be less suitable.
Ground Fluorite:
Fineness isn't critical either. Something of the consistency of fine sand is great. There is no such thing as "too fine" Fluorite, as this species doesn't actually take part in the reactions but merely melts and increases the slag fluidity.
Reaction assembly
thermite_assemblyWhile the entire procedure has been designed with the safety of the experimenter in mind, it has to be noted that during reaction temperatures well in excess of 3,800 F are being generated, so keeping one's distance and some rudimentary insulation against these excessive heats are advisable (right hand photo: a 400 g titanium thermite assembly - magnesium ribbon not installed yet).
For this an embedded design is used, which consists of an of-the-shelf terracotta plant pot (of suitable size) filled with the thermite mixture, embedded in a larger container (another plant pot for instance) filled with (this is important) dry sand. Prior to filling the crucible plant pot with thermite mixture, close over the hole in the bottom with duct tape or similar. Pictures speak louder than words and here's such an assembly at work for a silicon thermite (a cache-pot and small steel bucket are used here).
The dry sand insulates the crucible (the sand will get pretty hot, depending on batch size) and holds it together during the reaction: the intense heat inevitably causes the plant pot to crack (but not melt) due to the extreme thermal shock the material is subjected to.
For smaller reactions, porcelain drinking cups or even egg cups as smaller crucibles are equally suitable.
Of course it's also possible to simply dig a hole in a dry sand pit and embed the thermite crucible in it.

Ignition method

Several ignition methods are available, from very safe to slightly riskier, but all involve locally heating the thermite mixture to very high heat to ensure the mixture ignites and the reactions start (if you've ever heard the term activation energy, this is it).
My preferred one I've dubbed ignition mix + magnesium ribbon. It consists of separately preparing a small amount of a mixture of dried wall filler and aluminium powder (here the grade of aluminium needs to be sufficiently fine - 200 mesh or finer) in a weight ratio of wall filler/aluminium of 136 / 72. Prepare about 20 g or so and keep it in a safe place, hermetically sealed. This ignition mixture when ignited burns with sufficient heat to set alight even the most stubborn of thermite mixtures (some can be hard to light but the titanium/sulphate boosted thermite has never caused me such problems).
The ignition mix itself requires quite a bit of heat input to get going (which is why it's safe to store indefinitely) and the best way of doing this in my opinion is by means of magnesium ribbon. The ignition procedure thus becomes: after filling the pant pot with thermite mixture, make a small dent in it at the top and centre and fill this cavity with about 1 small teaspoon of ignition mix (adjust the amount for much smaller batches). Stick a 1" long piece of magnesium ribbon in the ignition mix. The magnesium ribbon can be lit with a small propane blow torch (like a pen blow torch - the ribbon will also light more easily if you cut a couple of small 1 mm cuts parallel to the length of the ribbon at the end to be lit). Caution, once the ribbon is lit, there is no going back: stand well back as the magnesium fuse will burn down and ignite the ignition mix and the burning ignition mix will ignite the thermite mixture...
Other experimenters use the potassium permanganate / glycerin ignition method, others simply take a blow torch straight to the thermite mix or stick a fireworks sparkler in it. Personally I prefer my own method, because it allows the experimenter to retreat to a safe distance without a great hurry and is relatively idiot-proof.
Energy produced
It's intuitive that something that delivers high melting products like titanium metal and alumina in the molten state must generate lots of heat. Well, a 500 g reaction mix delivers about 1,500 kJ (kilojoules), enough to heat about 9 liters of water from room temperature to boiling point. A domestic 600 W microwave oven would take nearly 45 minutes of operation on full power to achieve that. Industrial scale thermite reactions probably generate enough energy to keep a small town supplied with energy for a few minutes...

Recovery of the metal

Leave the assembly to cool down sufficiently for safe post-reaction handling. Lift the plant pot out of the sand insulator: the pot is usually seriously cracked but still held together by a layer of slag sticking to the inner wall.
Now break open the slag with a hammer: an annealed mixture of alumina, fluorite and calcium sulphide is pretty hard stuff, so considerable force may be needed depending on the size of the block of slag.
Inside you should find nuggets of titanium metal. With my sulphate-boosted reactions, the nuggets (or reguli, if you want to be posh) resemble small new potatoes because of their golden hue (the colour is due to a very thin layer of surface oxide) with some minor surface irregularities. A 20 g test batch will usually deliver a few nuggets a couple of mm across; a 100 g reaction already yields blobs the size of smallish marbles. Much larger reactions are likely to produce roundish slabs of metal.
Feel like a real metallurgist and calculate the obtained yield as follows. A 100 g of the mix contains 18.0 g of the metal (but as oxide, of course). Recover as much of the produced metal as possible, including smaller reguli and weigh it. The yield is calculated by dividing the weight of the recovered metal by the weight of the total metal contained in the batch and multiplying the result by 100 %.
Titanium_buttonMost of the 'missing' metal (100 % minus the yield) is in fact present in the slag as fine, even invisibly small droplets, stuck in some of the early formed slag that froze when it hit the cold crucible walls, this metal had no opportunity to settle out from the slag. (Photo left: a fresh 20 g thermite titanium button, after light buffing with sand paper.)

Yield usually improves greatly with the size of the reaction: for reactions of, say about 1 kg, I'd expect the yield to be well over 90 %.
Positive identification of the metal as actual titanium

  1. Buff it up with sanding paper: removing the surface coating of oxide reveals the highly shiny, metallic nature of the material. Left alone the shiny surface will slowly tarnish again, forming a new layer of oxide. This process is known as passivation and protects the metal against further attack from air oxygen. It shares that property with aluminium (and other metals/elements).

  2. Check electrical conductivity (press the electrodes against freshly sanded surface): the material conducts electricity, confirming its metallic nature.

  3. Flame test: press a piece of the metal against a fast spinning sanding wheel or similar. Small fragments of the metal will be torn off and burn up spontaneously in the air. Nice to watch and fairly unique to titanium. Watch a video by my friend Jeffrey on the page below, using metal from a chlorate boosted reaction (my formulation). Scroll down to almost the bottom of the page.

  4. Chemical identification: for this you'll need strong hydrochloric acid (HCl 20 w% or more - 30 w% is better) and some pharmacy or hair dye grade hydrogen peroxide (H2O2, a few w%). Crush up some of the metal with a hammer (due to contamination with oxygen and nitrogen it's rather brittle) and put it in a test tube or otherwise suitable glass container and immerse it in the acid for 24 h or so. As small amounts of hydrogen sulphide (rotten eggs gas - see below) will be formed, store the assembly in a well ventilated place, away from your living quarters.
  5. Although titanium is well known and desired for its excellent corrosion resistance, strong hydrochloric acid does attack it noticeably but slowly even at ambient temperatures, with the ubiquitous evolution of hydrogen gas. Titanium (III) chloride (TiCl3) is formed, which, depending on concentration has a beautiful, amethyst-like purple hue. After the overnight soak in HCl, carefully add a few drops of the hydrogen peroxide to the solution: a beautiful deep red, caused by a very characteristic red colour from a titanium (IV) peroxo complex being formed. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

Below, from left to right three test tubes: titanium starting to react with strong HCl with bubbles of hydrogen starting to form (left), after some time of reaction the typical Amethyst purple of TiCl3 appears (middle), after adding H2O2 to some liquid from the middle tube the deep red colour of the titanium (IV) peroxo complex confirms the presence of titanium (right).

Why does it smell slightly of rotten eggs?

The explanation is simple: the slag contains calcium sulphide and inevitably the metal (which in industrial circumstances would be de-slagged by re-melting under argon or in vacuum) contains small amounts of slag inclusions. Calcium sulphide, like most other sulphides, is prone to hydrolysis (it's attacked by water or moisture from the air) and this causes hydrogen sulphide (H2S) to be formed according to:
Calcium Sulphide + Water (or acid) ---> Calcium Hydroxide (or Calcium salt) + Hydrogen Sulphide
To keep specimens of the metal without resorting to de-slagging, storage in hermetically sealed glass containers or ampoules is recommended, to allow admiring the metal without experiencing the faint but unmistakable smell of rotten eggs.
It's also advisable to dispose of the slag and broken crucible by either putting it in some disposable sealed container or wrapping it amply in bin bags, before disposing of it in a domestic bin, to avoid the lingering smell of rotten eggs around the house.
Trouble shooting
meltI'll assume that in the case of problems, weighing, mixing and ignition were all carried out correctly, the correct ingredients were used and the thermite burned right through but that no metal or very poor quality metal was formed (right hand photo: the post-reaction melt of a 400 g titanium thermite reaction).
The most likely cause of poor metal production is not that the metal didn't form but that it didn't coalesce out of the slag/metal mix. The most likely reasons are either: reaction ran too cold or reaction ran too hot. The main cause of aberrant temperature behaviour is fineness of ingredients but this should be rectifiable by adjusting the overall formulation slightly.
Too cold: symptoms include:

  • slag didn't collect well at bottom of crucible, contains considerable voids

  • no metal can be found or metal is too intertwined with solid slag mass and cannot be broken away from slag. Excessive sticking of the metal to the solidified slag (good metal breaks away clean and easily).

This is indicative of too low reaction temperature, leading to too high slag viscosity. This problem should be remediable by increasing the amount of booster reaction. For the 100 g batch described above, increase the amount of dried wall filler to 30.6 g and the aluminium powder to 29.6 g (the total batch weight then becoming 107.7 g) and try again.

Too hot: symptoms include:

  • highly porous slag, numerous bubble-like voids, an indication that something had started to volatilise

  • no metal can be found or metal is too intertwined with solid slag mass and cannot be broken away from slag

The main reason of too high reaction temperatures can occur is the use of very fine ingredients: ingredient fineness in heterogeneous reactions to some extent regulates reaction speed and very fast reactions tend to lose, proportionately speaking, less heat to the environment and this can lead to overheating. At very high temperatures, even the most high boiling substances gain some degree of volatility. This evaporation can interfere with the metal coalescence, a bit like it would be hard for the oil in an oil/vinegar salad dressing to separate out, if the dressing was actually boiling.

Try and remedy this by reducing the amount of booster reaction. For the 100 g batch, use 20.4 g of dried wall filler (instead of 25.5 g) and 24.4 g of aluminium powder (instead of 27.0 g), making the total batch weight 92.3 g and try again.

Related posts written by me:

Chlorate-boosted Titanium thermite

Manganese thermite

A sulfur-free silicon thermite

Copper thermite

Good luck!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Response to 9/11 was 'huge overreaction' - ex-MI5 chief

Stella Rimington has condemned the politicisation of national security since she left the secret service.

A former head of MI5 today describes the response to the September 11 2001 attacks on the US as a "huge overreaction" and says the invasion of Iraq influenced young men in Britain who turned to terrorism.

Stella_RimingtonIn an interview with the Guardian, Stella Rimington calls al-Qaida's attack on the US "another terrorist incident" but not qualitatively different from any others.

"That's not how it struck me. I suppose I'd lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life and this was as far as I was concerned another one," she says.

In common with Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, who retired as MI5's director general last year, Rimington, who left 12 years ago, has already made it clear she abhorred "war on terror" rhetoric and the government's abandoned plans to hold terrorism suspects for 42 days without charge.

Today, she goes further by criticising politicians including Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, for trying to outbid each other in their opposition to terrorism and making national security a partisan issue.

It all began, she suggests, with September 11. "National security has become much more of a political issue than it ever was in my day," she says. "Parties are tending to use it as a way of trying to get at the other side. You know, 'We're more tough on terrorism than you are.' I think that's a bad move, quite frankly."

Rimington mentions Guantánamo Bay, the practice of extraordinary rendition, and the invasion of Iraq - three issues which the majority in Britain's security and intelligence establishment opposed privately at the time.

She challenges claims, notably made by Tony Blair, that the war in Iraq was not related to the radicalisation of Muslim youth in Britain.

Asked what impact the war had on the terrorist threat, she replies: "Well, I think all one can do is look at what those people who've been arrested or have left suicide videos say about their motivation. And most of them, as far as I'm aware, say that the war in Iraq played a significant part in persuading them that this is the right course of action to take."

She adds: "So I think you can't write the war in Iraq out of history. If what we're looking at is groups of disaffected young men born in this country who turn to terrorism, then I think to ignore the effect of the war in Iraq is misleading."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Pat Condell is an obnoxious idiot

Pat who? Pat Condell. Pat is a self-professed British stand-up comedian that no one that I actually know in Britain has ever heard of. That's how popular Pat's one-trick-pony routines are. But there's no denying that in this hysterical post-9/11 world Pat's found his niche: Tinkerwebs hate-speech on religion in general (but with typical special status awarded to Islam, naturellement), delivered by viral means (UTooobe, the medium that allows any imbecile to make a "stand"). Pat, dontchaknow, is an atheist. So am I (well, strictly speaking agnostic but even for the allegedly better-than-average educated atheist that distinction usually goes in one ear and straight back out the other) and yet Condell doesn't convince me in the slightest. This hero of mainly American atheists is in fact a real coward who sooner or later will kaaa-shshiiingng!, simply because he does the boringest thing one could possibly do: bash Islam and Moooslims as hard as he can.

What so many atheists see in this guy is totally beyond me. A mediocre mind, full of clichés, who believes calling other people mentally ill is somehow funny is the kind of nincompoop that gives atheism a bad name. And typecasting of atheism by religionists as yet another church starts ringing unnervingly true. When a fellow blogger once remarked that Condell is more popular on YouTube than Jesus, he may have been closer to the truth than I thought: Condell as a figure to be worshipped, his every word to be consumed and hung on to, it's definitely Jesus-like. Condell offers nothing: no reasoned critique, no solutions, no humour, nothing whatsoever that you couldn't find in another boring sermon delivered from a soapbox in Hyde Park. And it's divisive: no mutual understanding between religionists and secularists can flow from an endless stream of mindless insults. My hopes for Humanity were never that high but this latest messiah doesn't lift me up even one tiny bit.

Pat's routine is borderline hate-speech that unrelentingly tars all religionists with a very broad and very dirty brush, all the while reserving special venom for, who else, Mooooslims. Not surprisingly, this extremist (because that's exactly what he is), has found endorsement also from certain unsavoury quarters like the British National Party, see here:
Love him or hate him, witty and humourous Pat Condell is compelling viewing! Pat s latest offering may be viewed: here [...]

and here:
I know this clip is everywhere - and so it should be. The speaker in the film sums up Islam in just a few minutes. A mad, bad cult for sexually repressed crazies who are frightened of dieing.

This guy could fill cinemas all over the country and give that speech. We would soon have the killer cult on the run. That is the kind of speaker, the British National Party needs on its next election broadcasts. [my emph.]

Goofball and conspiracy nut supremo David Icke likes him too..

From Pat's own website (look it up, I'm not linking):
And I don’t have much of a formal education – which is good, because it means I can actually read and write. But it also means I don’t have a great deal of what you might call actual knowledge.

Yep, not having much of a formal education insulates you against actual knowledge, you rather prove that in your mostly baseless rants about "Saudi Britain" and "Sharia in Britain", by not presenting even the slightest shred of evidence for much of what you proclaim.

In truth, you're not a comedian because you're not funny. The Tinkerweb nerds that love you so much don't love you because you're funny (you're not) but because they believe you and agree with you. And in a post-9/11 world that's quite a lot of people.

If I had to save a penny for every Westerner who can't tell the difference between a suicide bomber and law-abiding citizen (Muslim or otherwise) I'd be financially secure by now. When Britain was under sustained attack from IRA bombers (in a campaign that lasted much longer and claimed far more lives than 7/7), we didn't collectively turn anti-Irish, if I recall well. But when it come to Muslims, it's rather a different story.

A few more gems from his website:

Q: You don’t understand Christianity/Islam.
A: I don’t understand smallpox or typhoid either, and I’m equally disinclined to get acquainted with them.

Q: Why shouldn’t I be allowed to raise my kids religious if I want to?
A: The same reason you shouldn’t be allowed to beat them with a knotted rope.

Q: By antagonising religious people, aren’t you making it less likely they’ll agree with you?
A: I don’t want them to agree with me. I want them to shut up and maybe see a doctor [my emph.].

The biggest problem I have with Condell is that while he claims to expose bigotry and extremism, he comes across as an extremist bigot. If atheism is supposed to be a worthy cause (whether it is or not is increasingly a matter of context to me) then Pat provides it with the greatest disservice possible, because reasoned and reasonable people including those skeptical of religion (like myself) should collectively cringe at Condell's soapbox ravings. Condell is your pub's syndicated drunk, the type that feels you're always in dire need to be informed about his truncated world view, but without the drink.

Com'on, one more for the road, these are from an Internet interview a while ago:
8) Is there anything interesting about Pat Condell that the public should know?

I'm a vegetarian, and I fully support animal rights. I don't think we can call ourselves civilised until we treat animals as the sentient beings they are.

Pat's a fluffy bunny vegetarian: he saw an animal being slaughtered once and decided never to eat meat again (it's true, look it up on his flopsite). One can't but help wonder whether Pat Condell's particularly ignorant form of atheism has its roots in a similar experience. Poked by a Catholic priest perhaps? Dunno...

And here's the kicker:
4) What political situations in the world today would you like to see solved?

The middle east, but I don't know what the answer is, short of bulldozing Jerusalem, pushing all the rubble into the sea and sowing salt in the ground so that nothing will grow there for a thousand years. Actually, that might work. It's worth a try.
[my emphasis]

This "bulldozing Jerusalem and pushing all the rubble into the sea and sowing salt in the ground so that nothing will grow there for a thousand years" thingy was not a joke, BTW, and it wasn't a momentary lapse of judgement either. In the following video he elaborates on this theme a bit, hopelessly contradicting himself and proving what I already knew: that this fanatic sees e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g through the lens of his atheism. At one point Condell's mind takes on a decidedly Ahmadinejadesque quality
: "if there was there was any justice in this world, Israel would currently occupy half of Germany... [...]". And it just rambles on and on and on, repeats the bulldozing idea for good measure, at nauseam and seemingly at infinitum, until he reaches Jerusalem. Neither helped nor hindered by any real knowledge Pat goes on to state that there was never any Jewish presence in J'sem and that: "It doesn't belong to them [...] Jerusalem is NOT a Jewish town, it's an Arab town"... This guy nonetheless has some Jewish supporters... Ding dong!

What about the Jews?

Sigh... Pat, it's true, you really are an obnoxious idiot...

What's more, you also cause me some problems. Firstly and most embarrassingly, I have to admit to agreeing with general windbag Dinesh D'Souza when he said that "If the televangelists are guilty of producing some simple-minded, self-righteous Christians, then the atheist authors are guilty of producing self-congratulatory buffoons like Condell." Condell, full of Righteous atheist bullcrap won't be able to see it but to the sober-of-mind, Condell's rhetoric is the fire and brimstone of Militant Atheism.

Secondly, I'm left with no choice but to agree with that other not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-box, Debbie Schlussel. In this poorly written and awkwardly formatted piece, she slightly distorts Condell's position, yet hits the nail on the head in several parts: "Americans fall in love with anyone with an English accent, no matter how backward his information is, and Pat Condell is Exhibit A of that. His sophistries about Jews, Israel, and Jerusalem are telling in their ignorance."

Thirdly, why one of my favourite scientists, Richard Dawkins, endorses this flyweight is a mystery as well as another embarrassment. To be fair, I've always admired the scientist Dawkins much, much more than the atheist Dawkins. Perhaps Dawkins' unbefitting endorsement of Condell would be less of an enigma to me, if I understood why this rather soft-spoken, eloquent and erudite scholar wanted to wade into the morass that Americans refer to as the "Culture Wars" in the first place. For Europeans that area of "debate" is a bit like Baldrick's pants: "nothing of interest lies therein". These Culture Wars are much more about one way of life versus another, republican versus democrat, traditionalists versus liberal progressives, etc than they are about religion itself, evolutionary biology or Genesis and I'm not sure Dawkins understands that...

Small consolation: yesterday was my bufftday and fellow scientist and niece-in-law Helen bought me Dawkins' Unweaving the Rainbow, so I'll get to appreciate the man at his best anyway...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Troopergate: the full timeline

Canarypapers painstakingly reconstructs Troopergate's timeline all the way up from April 11, 2005. Lengthy but meticulously researched. Bottomline:
Sarah Palin abused her power when she fired her Public Safety Commissioner this July, a state investigation has concluded.

“I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch ethics act,” Branchflower said in the 263-page report to the Legislative Council released Friday afternoon.

“Alaska statute 39.52.110(a) provides ‘the legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust,’” Branchflower continued.

His findings were presented to the Legislative Council Friday morning. The Council then met in a closed-door executive session for more than six hours as it reviewed the report. Friday afternoon the council voted unanimously to release the report to the public.Branchflower concluded that Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, Palin’s former brother in-law, was “likely a contributing factor to his termination” but “not the sole reason.”

Still, Palin’s dismissal of Monegan “was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads,” Branchflower said in the report. Branchflower also said Palin’s attorney general failed to provide him with emails of Palin’s that he had requested as part of the probe.
The report also found that Wooten’s workers’ compensation claim was handled properly, and that Wooten “received all the workers’ compensation benefits to which he was entitled.”

The above words, that Monegan’s refusal to fire Wooten was “not the sole reason” will surely be parroted for all eternity, or the next few weeks (whichever ends first) by the McCain campaign.

From Huffi: the full 263 page report.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Palin's McMob: the Ohio vids...

YouTube videos shot by an Ohio Obama supporter of some Palin rally attendees confirm once again what we already know: that negative, viral, email campaigning works, at least with some people. I subscribe to a few such 'newsletters' that explain/allude to/imply the "Obama terrorist bloodline" in no uncertain terms (some are more subtle than others but most strike me as pretty effective in convincing those desperately wanting in fact-checking ability/willingness).

How representative are these people of the Conservative movement and in particular the Palin crowd? Probably not very and they don't have to be either. Despite Obama's now undeniable lead in just about every poll, the prospect of a photo-finish, decided by a few thousand (or less) voters is still very real. And then a small army of "Obama is a terrorist" people would come in very handy, see also McCain's latest efforts at reviving the Ayers thingy (Once a Terrorist, Always a Terrorist)...

Watch them: funny and shocking at once...

Part 1:

Part 2: You need gloves to touch him (dixit: a child...)

And on the heels of that story, news that McCain has to tell a rally crowd that Obama in not an Arab. Things gettin' just a tad too ugly right now?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cleese on Horn Shammity

Ode to Sean Hannity

by John Cleese

Aping urbanity
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Faking humanity
Journalistic calamity
Intellectual inanity
Fox Noise insanity
You’re a profanity