public misconceptions

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:56 am UTC

That clip is impressive. Couldn't find a clip where they froze meat of any kind though :(

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:59 am UTC

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:52 am UTC

I surrender, you win :D

So wait, does that mean the original misconception is just...a conception?

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Antimony-120 » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:48 pm UTC

Well not exactly. It's true that if you get things cold enough they will become brittle. But the misconception is that this will occur (to a great degree) for most materials at 0 degrees celcius, which isn't true.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby You, sir, name? » Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:13 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:I'm surprised not all of you have seen this effect demonstrated at science fairs and the like.

I mean, fair enough if something is shown to shatter from being in a walk-in freezer, but the effect of fragility is real.


Depending on the freezer temperature, you may well see a noticeable increase in fragility at walk in freezer temperatures. Stuff is not going to shatter like it does when submerged in liquid nitrogen, but given it's a sufficiently real cold freezer, as in well under -40 degrees, you may be able to break stuff that you normally wouldn't be able to.

That's incidentally about the temperature when you need to be careful with heavy machinery, as their stress tolerance is significantly reduced.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Antimony-120 » Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:27 pm UTC

You, sir, name? wrote:
Pez Dispens3r wrote:I'm surprised not all of you have seen this effect demonstrated at science fairs and the like.

I mean, fair enough if something is shown to shatter from being in a walk-in freezer, but the effect of fragility is real.


Depending on the freezer temperature, you may well see a noticeable increase in fragility at walk in freezer temperatures. Stuff is not going to shatter like it does when submerged in liquid nitrogen, but given it's a sufficiently real cold freezer, as in well under -40 degrees, you may be able to break stuff that you normally wouldn't be able to.

That's incidentally about the temperature when you need to be careful with heavy machinery, as their stress tolerance is significantly reduced.[/quote

What the hell kind of walk in freezers are you using?

I joke of course, I know that there are a lot of things that do use those kinds of temperatures, but most people think of grocery store freezers, which are usually about -10.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby iChef » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:18 am UTC

The freezer I use at work for sashimi tuna is kept at -44 F. Also the one that the plasma center I donate at is kept at a similar temp. I have noticed if I keep some of my tuna in a plastic bin before I pull it out to thaw the bin is very brittle, dropped one on the floor once, it didn't shatter into 1000 pieces but it did crack in half where a room temp one would just bounce off the floor.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby The Scyphozoa » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:30 am UTC

Being just below 0C will make tupperware a little bit more fragile.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:31 am UTC

The Scyphozoa wrote:Being just below 0C will make tupperware a little bit more fragile.


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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Adacore » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:32 am UTC

idobox wrote:I'm not sure if it has already been mentionned. In movies, people or things that are frozen are often very fragile.
Ice is not fragile, frozen meat neither, and even though I never tried, I don't see why cold metal should.

At a certain (low) temperature, metals go through a ductile-brittle transition where the material rapidly becomes far more brittle. For modern steels this is normally somewhere between -60 and -20 C - if you can get steel below that temperature it's a lot easier to fracture it by applying a force (like hitting it with a hammer).

You, sir, name? wrote:That's incidentally about the temperature when you need to be careful with heavy machinery, as their stress tolerance is significantly reduced.

With the 'wrong' sorts of steel, the ductile-brittle transition temperature can be higher, even around or above room temperature. The steel used for the Liberty Ships, for example, had big problems with brittle fractures (including some of them failing catastrophically and sinking) because the ductile-brittle transition temperature of the steel was higher than the water temperature in the north atlantic ocean.

EDIT: Hmm, somehow I totally missed that gmalivuk had answered this already. Ah well, I'll leave it in case anyone is interested - it has a bit more info. :oops:
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:54 am UTC

The equivalent for amorphous, non-crystalline, materials (eg: plastics) is the "Glass transition". Most easily observed in the properties of cooled rubber.

sidebar - common misconception: glass is a liquid or supercooled liquid etc. - a "glass" is in the solid phase and the "glass transition" is not a phase change.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Adacore » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:07 pm UTC

Yeah - that's mostly an artefact of the glass production process used in the pre-industrialization era when older buildings were constructed. Glass panes manufactured more than a couple of hundred years ago were normally thicker at one end than the other. Naturally when installing these panes vertically in windows it makes sense to put the thicker bit at the bottom (for stability).

Because of that, it looks to the modern observer like the glass has slowly 'flowed' down under gravity in old glass panes, while newer glass panes with improved production methods have more uniform thickness, so look like they haven't had as much time to 'flow'. In reality the older glass was always like that, and if you look at enough old windows you can find some examples where panes have been installed with the thick section at the side or top.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:22 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:the ductile-brittle transition temperature can be higher


I think I remember seeing a documentary where they were investigating the production of medieval plate armour and they were making a breastplate. During the tempering process, before the steel is annealed it is extremely brittle (but very hard) and would shatter if dropped.

It seems like it might have been an exagerration but one can imagine a curved thin sheet being more susceptible to shattering.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby The Scyphozoa » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:22 am UTC

Adacore wrote:Yeah - that's mostly an artefact of the glass production process used in the pre-industrialization era when older buildings were constructed. Glass panes manufactured more than a couple of hundred years ago were normally thicker at one end than the other. Naturally when installing these panes vertically in windows it makes sense to put the thicker bit at the bottom (for stability).

Because of that, it looks to the modern observer like the glass has slowly 'flowed' down under gravity in old glass panes, while newer glass pains with improved production methods have more uniform thickness, so look like they haven't had as much time to 'flow'. In reality the older glass was always like that, and if you look at enough old windows you can find some examples where panes have been installed with the thick section at the side or top.

It just baffles me that the flowing glass hypothesis (points for not gratifying it with "theory"?) became so widespread. How did speculative science (I imagine MS Paint diagrams presented as evidence) trump trivial history?
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:00 am UTC

The Scyphozoa wrote:
Adacore wrote:Yeah - that's mostly an artefact of the glass production process used in the pre-industrialization era when older buildings were constructed. Glass panes manufactured more than a couple of hundred years ago were normally thicker at one end than the other. Naturally when installing these panes vertically in windows it makes sense to put the thicker bit at the bottom (for stability).

Because of that, it looks to the modern observer like the glass has slowly 'flowed' down under gravity in old glass panes, while newer glass pains with improved production methods have more uniform thickness, so look like they haven't had as much time to 'flow'. In reality the older glass was always like that, and if you look at enough old windows you can find some examples where panes have been installed with the thick section at the side or top.

It just baffles me that the flowing glass hypothesis (points for not gratifying it with "theory"?) became so widespread. How did speculative science (I imagine MS Paint diagrams presented as evidence) trump trivial history?

It comes from reading passages like this:
Wikipedia wrote:The glass transition of a liquid to a solid like state may occur with either cooling or compression.[5] The transition comprises a smooth increase in the viscosity of a material by as much as 17 orders of magnitude without any pronounced change in material structure. The consequence of this dramatic increase is a glass exhibiting solid-like mechanical properties on the timescale of practical observation.


Since the glass transition is smooth and not a phase change, it is reasonable to think of the glass as having never really become solid. That of course ignores the actual properties exhibited by the glass, but keep in mind most people are not scientists.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:56 am UTC

As a few kids/cheap encyclopaedias had it noted as a liquid. :(
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Shivahn » Sat Feb 26, 2011 7:58 pm UTC

After reading all this about the ductile-brittle transition I went out to my car to do something and found a bag of skittles. I had one and it shattered when I bit down, because the car was so cold. It was sort of funny to see that in action just after reading about it.

That is, assuming that was why it shattered.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby TaintedDeity » Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:21 pm UTC

That skittle didn't shatter, it exploded. Bang. Bloody rainbow everywhere.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby BlackSails » Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:39 pm UTC

I thought that glass transitions are a kind of phase change?

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:35 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:I thought that glass transitions are a kind of phase change?

Well, maybe.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:07 am UTC

The "glass transition temperature" or Tg is lower than the melting/freezing point so the "glass transition" occurs in a solid without a phase change.

You can make a glass by cooling (or compressing) a liquid in a particular way (for example, rapidly cooling it so that it passes Tg before it solidifies) and results in a phase change, but it is a smooth change in the characteristics so is a bit sort of wish-washy in that respect.

There are probably some materials which exhibit exeptional properties that don't follow these generalisations though.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Charlie! » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:18 am UTC

p1t1o wrote:The "glass transition temperature" or Tg is lower than the melting/freezing point so the "glass transition" occurs in a solid without a phase change.

You can make a glass by cooling (or compressing) a liquid in a particular way (for example, rapidly cooling it so that it passes Tg before it solidifies) and results in a phase change, but it is a smooth change in the characteristics so is a bit sort of wish-washy in that respect.

There are probably some materials which exhibit exeptional properties that don't follow these generalisations though.

The sense in which it could be a phase transition is a bit more complicated - even if it stays a solid, if there's a sudden change in the energy stored in the configuration it's probably a phase transition.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby BlackSails » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:25 am UTC

You can also make a liquid go indistinguishably to a gas (move around the critical point in the phase diagram) but that doesnt mean liquid->gas isnt a phase change.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:40 am UTC

The question then if there is any analogous indistinguishable transition from solid to gas. There certainly isn't one I am aware of.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Whelan » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:10 pm UTC

Shit, I just did an exam which asked what Tg is, and I said it was the tensile strength. Bugger and blast as if it hadn't gone badly enough already.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Idhan » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:20 pm UTC

One sci-fi-ish misconception: that it is imaginable that extraterrestrial colonization is a solution to overpopulation on Earth.

First, I should note that while I'm pessimistic about the prospect of extraterrestrial colonization ever happening, I think there could be good reasons for it happening, given sufficiently great unexpected advances in space travel. For instance, if some other planet were discovered that had huge reserves of platinum, it could be worth it economically or something.

However, I'm not talking about colonization in general. I'm talking about colonization as a means to address overpopulation, which just doesn't make sense.

Basically, the human population is growing at 75 million a year.

Imagine a spaceship designed to carry 10,000 colonists. Such a spaceship has never been built, and would require massive advances to be possible. Anyway, though, suppose we could build one. To take 75 million people off the planet per year, we would have to launch 20 of these ships every day.

Now, sure, you could stipulate much slower population growth -- say, 10,000 a year -- but with that you've turned overpopulation into much less of a pressing problem in the first place. Also, at 10,000 a year, you'd probably have statisticians arguing about whether the population is growing at all. You'd have some estimates for 10,000 a year, you'd have some for 30,000 a year, and you'd have some estimates for 10,000 a year population decline. Basically, the number of people who can conceivable go into space is probably less than the margin of error of statistical estimates of global human populations.

More fundamentally, though: overpopulation is an issue of high ratio of people to resources. Sending people into space is really resource intensive. If you're sending 10,000 people on long space voyages, you probably could have used the massive resources involved to support 50,000 people for their entire lifespans in much better conditions than the cramped astronauts will have. Basically, colonization actually makes overpopulation worse, because it consumes the resources side of the people:resources ratio much more quickly than it takes out the people end.

I suppose that you could postulate that governments might try colonization as a way to address overpopulation because, hey, governments can be irrational and screw up, which is a fine rationale for a sci-fi story of colonization, but that's not the same as a good reason to advocate the colonization-as-overpopulation-cure approach.

(Note: I suppose that if you took a "Stargate" approach, where people could go from one planet to another fairly simply by taking a magical door, without lengthy space voyages or massive spaceships, and the magical door's operation itself isn't too costly, then that might make it more sensible.)

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:23 am UTC

It's often used not as a "The government is sending off their people to reduce population pressure at home", which is what you're implying. Instead it follows the very real trend that has occurred multiple times in human history of "Population pressure has made a group of people decide that it is worth the time and effort to leave the village/region/country/continent/plant (substitute as appropriate to tech level) to found a new colony".

In short, the idea isn't to solve overpopulation at home, but overpopulation at home causes people to leave for colonies.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:30 am UTC

Even so, it's not really viable. It would make far more sense to say "it's crowded here, let's go live on the bottom of the ocean" than it would to try and set up on the moon or Mars, let alone a planet on another solar system.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 2:40 am UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:Even so, it's not really viable. It would make far more sense to say "it's crowded here, let's go live on the bottom of the ocean" than it would to try and set up on the moon or Mars, let alone a planet on another solar system.


That really depends. Actually we got to the moon before we got to the deeper parts of the ocean, so it's a matter of how exactly the technology works out. Even if that is true, fine, colonize the oceans first, then use that as an excuse. Saying "earth is full, let's go somewhere else" can very easily include the oceans being inhabited to capacity.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Idhan » Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:47 am UTC

Okay. To clarify, I realized that I called the colonization-as-a-solution-to-overpopulation thing a "sci-fi-ish" misconception I'm not really attacking sci-fi authors who posit colonization here. I'm referring to actual threads I've seen on political blogs, in which the putative real life problem of overpopulation on Earth now is being discussed, and people, apparently earnestly, suggest colonization of space as a solution.

These aren't the majority. Some people think overpopulation isn't a big deal at all. Some think it's a problem that can be dealt with without too much trouble -- a few new electricity generation/storage technologies, natural stabilization of population in the 9 billion range, a bit more urbanization with a bit less sprawl, a bit less meat, and a bit less jet travel, and things are going to be just fine. Others are gloom and doomers who think that the humanity is going to overpopulate, wipe itself out, and render the planet uninhabitable to life other than tardigrades for a few million years in the process.

However, while not a majority or plurality, I've seen a fair number of people who seem to think space colonization is a long-term solution to overpopulation on Earth. I admit I'm not thinking of a particular thread, but if you search for threads addressing population issues on technorati or whatever, I think you'll find these views.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:21 am UTC

Personally Im against the idea of even sending one man to, say, Mars until we no longer have a better use for the multi-trillions of dollars here at home.

Not that I'm saying that's right, just IMO.

Space travel is still cool.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby SWGlassPit » Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

Define "better."
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Yakk » Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:50 pm UTC

Overpopulation on earth can be (temporarily) solved via colonization + imperialism.

You send out colonists who gather resources and send them back home.

The historical record indicates that this is not going to be sustainable. Eventually the colonies will revolt/rebel/be let free, and the biased flow of resources will have to end up as some kind of trade (and any debt for initial colonization will not be honored -- it is sort of like the biblical 7 year debt forgiveness thing: nigh infinite debt is not enforceable).

But in that period -- after the initial investment, and before the inevitable rebellion/schism -- a significant amount of resources could be shipped home. (Note that during the initial investment, rebellion is unlikely because they are dependent on the home empire for resources -- it is only after they become (mostly) self sufficient and have significant surpluses that the idea of imperial "taxes" starts to chafe, and it can also take some time for the people to stop identifying with the imperial organization).

Currently, the world isn't in the worst of its population overshoot -- so investing resources now in exchange for a possible resource spike from off-world in 20-200 years in the future could be a good idea.

The calories required to ship someone to orbit is bounded below by about 729 667.734 Calories (Kcal). At 2000 Calories a day, this is a years worth of food. In practice, efficiency is going to be closer to 1% to 10%, making it require fuel-energy enough to feed someone for a decade to a lifetime to bring a single person to orbit (getting to Mars from orbit is surprisingly easy compared to getting to orbit). Shipping the hungry poor to orbit doesn't really solve the short-term resource problem.

If, in theory, such hungry poor could produce more resources for Earth than it costs to send them to orbit, then it could help solve our overpopulation problem. But for the hungry poor to be the preferred colonist, you'd need to have life in space to be miserable (as otherwise, the cost to send a non-hungry rich and educated would probably be tempting, due to hopefully higher productivity), and the surplus generated from even unskilled labor would be huge, which raises the separatist problem.

And on top of that, the work done in space has to be better done by G-dependent, wet, radiation vulnerable, pressure requiring organisms instead of telepresence or robotics. (admittedly, telepresence to mars is hard). On the other hand, the technology required to send a woman to mars isn't all that different than required to send a fully functioning Von Neumann industrial economy. So it is good practice.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby p1t1o » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:15 pm UTC

SWGlassPit wrote:Define "better."


Starving children? Societal instability?

Sorry to be a bummer, its a pretty depressing argument against space travel. Not that I don't think that it has its uses.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby ian » Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:55 pm UTC

i'm with ya p1t1o. I love NASA, and space flight in general, and high energy particle physics, but I do think there are better areas (of scientific research) the money could be spent on. If we could get rid of the ridiculous amounts of military spending and divert a huge chunk to research, then it'd be a lot easier to justify the spending.
i do wonder where we'd be now if all the apollo money had been dumped in to fusion, or better fission reactors, or wiping out third world diseases and so on.
it doesn't of course have to be either/or, but sadly right now it is.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:13 pm UTC

The problem with those areguments is that it's like saying "Let's not spend money on researching Viagra, let's spend it all on cancer research"

It SOUNDS like a good idea, but it doesn't work. For one thing, it's not like how much research gets done is a factor only of how much money is put into a field, there's only so many people educated in that field, and more money is going to have rapidly diminishing returns. Secondly is that we don't often know what research will end up being useful, and sometimes a tool developped for one field becomes useful in another. The famous example being that radar (a military application) led to the development of microwaves (a civilian one) by sheer accident. Others might for example be that the space race gave us satallites, that thinking about a frisbee gave us QFT (Feynmann talks about this).

In short, it doesn't work that way. And if you want to cut science funding in favour of more humane applications, consider the defense budge first. Science funding is a tiny part of the budget.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:00 am UTC

Antimony-120 wrote:The problem with those areguments is that it's like saying "Let's not spend money on researching Viagra, let's spend it all on cancer research"

It SOUNDS like a good idea, but it doesn't work. For one thing, it's not like how much research gets done is a factor only of how much money is put into a field, there's only so many people educated in that field, and more money is going to have rapidly diminishing returns. Secondly is that we don't often know what research will end up being useful, and sometimes a tool developped for one field becomes useful in another. The famous example being that radar (a military application) led to the development of microwaves (a civilian one) by sheer accident. Others might for example be that the space race gave us satallites, that thinking about a frisbee gave us QFT (Feynmann talks about this).

In short, it doesn't work that way. And if you want to cut science funding in favour of more humane applications, consider the defense budge first. Science funding is a tiny part of the budget.

That said, NASA seems to consume more than its share of resources, which is why its budget keeps getting cut.

Unfortunately, space travel is really, really expensive.

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Re: public misconceptions

Postby kernelpanic » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:11 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Unfortunately, space travel is really, really expensive.

No it's not. NASA's budget is about 0.5% of the US federal budget. People spend more per year on things like lip balm, and way more on food that ultimately gets wasted.
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby TheChewanater » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:43 am UTC

So 0.5% of the US federal budget isn't really expensive?
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Re: public misconceptions

Postby Xanthir » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:25 am UTC

Relatively? No, not at all.
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