What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

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What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby suso » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:49 pm UTC

Link to what-if #0089

Tungsten Countertop seems like a great name for a heavy metal band.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby cellocgw » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:56 pm UTC

No Alt-Text? waaaah.

PS the Sun isn't "heavy" -- it's "massive."

Ok, that's enough pointless whining for this century.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Rachie » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:56 pm UTC

The title text is missing for the images.

The story about the soldier drinking wine doesn't make much sense. Rifle barrels are typically exposed to copper and lead, not tungsten. Yes, there are tungsten rounds, but they're fully jacketed, less they scrape away at the softer steel of the barrel with every shot. Maybe the full paper explains this, but of course journals can't let just anyone learn without paying huge fees. Could someone repost a copy?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Stardust0 » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:57 pm UTC

Drinking wine from rifle barrels is actually some kind of cultural practice among stupid hunters in france. I know it because I live in france and I heard a few stories of (more or less violent) accidents that occurred because of this.
Don't know if there has been other cases of tungsten intoxication though.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Dissident Love » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:59 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:No Alt-Text? waaaah.

I tried four browsers, thinking it was my fault.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby suso » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:05 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:No Alt-Text? waaaah.


On the bright side, your complaint made me realize I've been missing out on that part of what-if. I knew about the alt text in the regular comics, but didn't realize it was there in what-if. Thanks.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Prosthetic_Lips » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:18 pm UTC

My favorite "a ha" moment here was the "thousands of kilometers" note/citation. I think we need to start using SI prefixes for our larger numbers.

How far is it from the earth to the sun? Wiki says 1.496 x 108. Instead, it should be 149.6 megameters, or 0.1496 gigameters.

How far from the sun to the galactic core? Wiki says 2.7 x 1017. That's hard to say; how about 270 petameters? A quarter of an exameter?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby suso » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:32 pm UTC

Prosthetic_Lips wrote:My favorite "a ha" moment here was the "thousands of kilometers" note/citation. I think we need to start using SI prefixes for our larger numbers.

How far is it from the earth to the sun? Wiki says 1.496 x 108. Instead, it should be 149.6 megameters, or 0.1496 gigameters.

How far from the sun to the galactic core? Wiki says 2.7 x 1017. That's hard to say; how about 270 petameters? A quarter of an exameter?



Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers. How often would someone need to deal with a megaliter, a gigasecond or a megagram? I bet if you did a survey among people who know that their computer has 1 terabyte of "memory" that they wouldn't be able to express what a terabyte really means. I've seen megaparsec and gigaparsec used in astronomical terms so perhaps they do use those prefixes a bit in astronomy. Personally, I get a better sense of the quantity of something through the exponent.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby sotanaht » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:35 pm UTC

So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Whizbang » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:43 pm UTC

suso wrote:Personally, I get a better sense of the quantity of something through the exponent.


See, I see an exponent and my brain immediately says, "Too big to get fussed about. This clearly falls into the 'many' category in the '1, 2, Many' system." Only, my system switches to Many at around 1,000.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Jonathan589 » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:49 pm UTC

I'm happy with the extended prefixes idea. I once included a "Gigatree" in a comment about billions of trees in a forest, and it seemed to work fine.
The human population of the world exceeds seven Gigapersons. Oh, but we already use a tonne as shorthand for a Megagram, and have developed too much nuclear-warfare history with kilotons to metricate them into Kilotonnes or rephrase them into Gigagrams. Oh that is confusing.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:08 pm UTC

sotanaht wrote:So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.

Kitchens with seizure-inducing countertops TOTALLY sell houses now.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby rpresser » Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:37 pm UTC

rhomboidal wrote:
sotanaht wrote:So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.

Kitchens with seizure-inducing countertops TOTALLY sell houses now.


Tungsten EV seems to be a color pattern name used to sell at least one ordinary (laminate) countertop.

On the other hand, maybe it's referring to a countertop taken from a kitchen in Tungsten, NSW, Australia.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby thecarp » Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:42 pm UTC

Stardust0 wrote:Drinking wine from rifle barrels is actually some kind of cultural practice among stupid hunters in france. I know it because I live in france and I heard a few stories of (more or less violent) accidents that occurred because of this.
Don't know if there has been other cases of tungsten intoxication though.


I did some quick searching. There is an article (Which if I link, I can't post as this message gets flagged as spam) called "Toxicity of tungsten" doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)62194-0 Specific points if its TLDR:

1. There are no animal or human toxicological data to support the hypothesis of a nephrotoxic activity of tungsten. No ill-effects were observed in patients given 25—80 g powdered tungsten metal by mouth as a substitute for barium in radiological examinations
2. Moreover, the fact that the patient rapidly recovered both from seizures and renal failure whilst high levels of tungsten persisted for several weeks in the patient's serum and urine suggests that there was no causal relation between tungsten and toxicity.
3. the patient's symptoms are suggestive of poisoning by 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (also known as hexogen, cyclonite, or RDX), an explosive compound frequently used for military purposes.

Sounds like a tungstun countertop may be ok....if an odd choice of material.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby thecarp » Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:56 pm UTC

Rachie wrote:The title text is missing for the images.

The story about the soldier drinking wine doesn't make much sense. Rifle barrels are typically exposed to copper and lead, not tungsten. Yes, there are tungsten rounds, but they're fully jacketed, fewer they scrape away at the softer steel of the barrel with every shot. Maybe the full paper explains this, but of course journals can't let just anyone learn without paying huge fees. Could someone repost a copy?


My first thought was maybe the barrel was partially made of tungsten so maybe there was some dust from repeated firings. I did some google searching and found a Lancet article abstract on this very case which lists several points that cast doubt on this claim. I posted a bit more detail in another reply but, an alternate theory was that his symptoms sound a lot like RDX poisoning, which soldiers could easily be exposed to as it is a common explosive.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby yellow103 » Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:04 pm UTC

XKCD What-if, where you are warned not to eat the sun, stick your hand under a mountain, be shot at while in a hot air balloon, or eat off a tungsten counter top. Dumping oil into a well on the other hand is recommended.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby cellocgw » Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:05 pm UTC

rpresser wrote:On the other hand, maybe it's referring to a countertop taken from a kitchen in Tungsten, NSW, Australia.


Somehow I think a tungsten countertop would be more like NSFW :oops:
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby moody7277 » Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:16 pm UTC

xkcd what-if wrote:For a scientific discussion of this, see Impacts of comets onto the sun and coronal mass ejections. For a science fiction discussion of this, see Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke's 2005 novel Sunstorm.


Considering who wrote that novel, those two are mostly the same.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby PointSpecial » Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:45 pm UTC

suso wrote:
Prosthetic_Lips wrote:My favorite "a ha" moment here was the "thousands of kilometers" note/citation. I think we need to start using SI prefixes for our larger numbers.

How far is it from the earth to the sun? Wiki says 1.496 x 108. Instead, it should be 149.6 megameters, or 0.1496 gigameters.

How far from the sun to the galactic core? Wiki says 2.7 x 1017. That's hard to say; how about 270 petameters? A quarter of an exameter?



Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers. How often would someone need to deal with a megaliter, a gigasecond or a megagram? I bet if you did a survey among people who know that their computer has 1 terabyte of "memory" that they wouldn't be able to express what a terabyte really means. I've seen megaparsec and gigaparsec used in astronomical terms so perhaps they do use those prefixes a bit in astronomy. Personally, I get a better sense of the quantity of something through the exponent.


All this really shows is how geocentric we are. If we lived on, say Jupiter or Saturn (I understand how absurd the notion is of living *on* a gas giant) and it might make sense to travel a certain magameter from point A to point B.

sotanaht wrote:So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.


I'm wondering if "countertop" isn't a kitchen installation... but rather some apparatus which is akin to a top (the spinny kids toy, like a dreidel, but less Jewish), but not-a-top. An anti-top. A counter-top.

Thoughts?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby hamjudo » Tue Mar 25, 2014 9:10 pm UTC

Rachie wrote:

The story about the soldier drinking wine doesn't make much sense. Rifle barrels are typically exposed to copper and lead, not tungsten. Yes, there are tungsten rounds, but they're fully jacketed, fewer they scrape away at the softer steel of the barrel with every shot. Maybe the full paper explains this, but of course journals can't let just anyone learn without paying huge fees. Could someone repost a copy?


During a party to celebrate his initiation into an artillery regiment, in September, 1994, a healthy 19-year-old white man drank 250 mL of wine which had flowed through the barrel of a 155 mm gun after several shots had been fired, as was the regimental custom. 15 min later he began to have seizures ...

Remaining details of his 35 day hospitalization removed to remain within fair use guidelines. However there was this little note towards the end:

We found that the composition of gun barrels had recently changed, with the inclusion of tungsten to harden the steel. The other recruits who had attended the party vomited immediately after having drunk the contaminated wine. Since this accident, such dangerous celebrations have been forbidden in the French Army.

155 mm guns are usually rifled, but I would not call them rifles. (Unless the artillery regiment wanted me to call them rifles.)

Edit - The word "rifle" does not appear in the text of the article.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby jgh » Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:01 pm UTC

rhomboidal wrote:
sotanaht wrote:So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.

Kitchens with seizure-inducing countertops TOTALLY sell houses now.


"just make your countertops out of granite and don't drop them in the Sun."

Who the hell uses GRANITE for counter tops? Do you know how heavy granite is? Do you know what the cupboard carcases that will be attempting to stop that worktop plummeting through the kitchen floor and into the ground are made of? Chipboard. That's sawdust held together with glue. Where the hell has this obsession for using masonry for work surfaces come from?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Flumble » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:15 am UTC

jgh wrote:
rhomboidal wrote:
sotanaht wrote:So what IS with the Tungsten Countertop itself? I'm guessing the person saw/heard of a countertop with a tungsten color finish and thought the countertop was made of tungsten.

Kitchens with seizure-inducing countertops TOTALLY sell houses now.


"just make your countertops out of granite and don't drop them in the Sun."

Who the hell uses GRANITE for counter tops? Do you know how heavy granite is? Do you know what the cupboard carcases that will be attempting to stop that worktop plummeting through the kitchen floor and into the ground are made of? Chipboard. That's sawdust held together with glue. Where the hell has this obsession for using masonry for work surfaces come from?

Granite is awesome, period.

The dormitories on this block are equipped with a massive (both extremely heavy and large) granite dinner table and I haven't heard of one of such tables ever failing. :)
Then again, no one has attempted to cast it into the Sun.



cellocgw wrote:PS the Sun isn't "heavy" -- it's "massive."

Ok, that's enough pointless whining for this century.

Your mom is massive.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:54 am UTC

suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).

Edit:
cellocgw wrote:PS the Sun isn't "heavy" -- it's "massive."
From Earth, the Sun weighs approximately 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. I'd say that's pretty damn heavy.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby keithl » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:02 am UTC

moody7277 wrote:
xkcd what-if wrote:For a scientific discussion of this, see Impacts of comets onto the sun and coronal mass ejections. For a science fiction discussion of this, see Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke's 2005 novel Sunstorm.
Considering who wrote that novel, those two are mostly the same.
In Clarke's later years, he drifted rather far from physics in the pursuit of a good story. I have the proud honor of being disparaged by name (Lofstrom) in his novel "The Last Theorem", completed by Fred Pohl. Good for Sir Arthur; if he had explained why space elevators might not be possible, or why launch loops might be, it would mess up a fine novel. Thanks to Fred (a friend) the novel came out pretty much as Sir Arthur (the name Fred used) wanted. And if you can't trash your friends, who can you trash?

As far as dropping things into the sun - where would you "drop" it from? Unless questioner Michael Leuchtenberg is standing on a magic antigravity platform, he is either plummeting towards the sun himself, or in orbit around it, the
same for the countertop he "drops". Making stuff hit the sun requires a heck of a lot of delta V - the earth orbits the sun at 30km/s, and a circular orbit skimming the sun's outer atmosphere orbit moves at 400 km/s . A highly elliptical orbit with apohelion near the Earth requires about 40 km/s total delta V, first escaping the Earth and then shedding almost all of the Earth's orbital velocity. Just about the only thing that can hit the sun is something "dropped" from the outer solar system, perhaps after losing orbital velocity with a slingshot maneuver around Jupiter.
Last edited by keithl on Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:05 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby DenisL704 » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:03 am UTC

Where's BHG with "What if we tried more tungsten?" A planet sized tungsten countertop maybe?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Mikeski » Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:01 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).

Mega and giga get common use when attached to "Hertz" as well. The "96.1 FM" you listen to on the drive to work is "96.1 MHz".

Also "ohms" for the large prefixes, and "farads" and "henries" for the small ones, in electronic components.

Plenty of milli's and micro's in medicine; check the ingredients list on a bottle of multivitamins.

And microchip designers (which might be "the computer world", or might not) count in picoseconds. And use nanometers in the literal sense, rather than in the "anything too small for the naked eye is nanotechnology" sense that marketing likes.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Klear » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:42 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).


He wrote "not often".

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby stib » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:58 am UTC

Whenever there is debate about water use in this country (as in all the time) it's always discussed in terms of megalitres and gigalitres. My daughter (to whom I'm reading Harry Potter) thought that Giggle Eaters were some sort of off shoot of the followers of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Klear wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).


He wrote "not often".

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:47 pm UTC

Klear wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).


He wrote "not often".
Are you suggesting that centimeters, millimeters, milliliters, and milligrams are not often used?
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Klear » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:53 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Klear wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
suso wrote:Unit prefixes other than kilo are not often used outside of the computer world and most large quantity prefixes seem only useful to astronomers.
Megatons, megawatts, and gigawatts are definitely used outside of computers and astronomy. Also, strictly speaking, your claim is also refuted by the existence of hectares, deci(liter/meter), centi(liter/meter), milli(liter/meter/gram/second), micro(gram/second), and nano(meter/second).


He wrote "not often".
Are you suggesting that centimeters, millimeters, milliliters, and milligrams are not often used?


I'm suggesting that suso forgot about those, but his argument is still very much valid for prefixes from deca- above.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:06 pm UTC

stib wrote:Whenever there is debate about water use in this country (as in all the time) it's always discussed in terms of megalitres and gigalitres. My daughter (to whom I'm reading Harry Potter) thought that Giggle Eaters were some sort of off shoot of the followers of He Who Must Not Be Named.



Seems legit.

I'm imagining them as the Death Eaters who moved to America after the first time Voldemort lost, went to Gotham, and hung out with the Joker and his crew, making them the Giggle Eaters.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby mathmannix » Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:33 pm UTC

We use, in general, the metric prefixes (at least those of powers of 10 divisible by 3) in decreasing order away from 100. The basic reason for this is that the units were, for the most part, chosen well when they were first named to correspond to the order of magnitude which is most useful. A meter or a liter is of a scale which is useful for our everyday lives. (Kilograms are more useful to most of us than grams, which is why they were chosen for base unit for the updated system. And yet, for nutritional purposes, milligrams are still quite useful to non-scientists.)

So, we readily use kilo (grams, meters, watts, pascals, tons) and milli (grams, liters, meters, bars, seconds), followed by mega (watts, tons, bytes) and micro (grams, meters, seconds). After that, it's really just in computing (gigabytes, teraflops), and power (gigawatts) that we use the bigger units, and in time and distance for the smaller units (nanometers or nanoseconds, but even these are rare outside of SCIENCE.) Computing is the field that has grown the most exponentially since the definition of its base unit. So we're more likely to say "millions of kilometers" for astronomical distances than "gigameters". (And of course, there are also AUs, light-years, and parsecs.)

There really isn't much need for the metric prefixes corresponding to powers of 10 not divisible by 3. I would venture that the only commonly used units of measurements which use these are centimeter (which happens to be on the same order as the traditional/familiar measure, inch), hectare (which happens to be on the same order as the traditional/familiar measure, acre) and decibel. (For some reason they named a perfectly good unit, bel, then decided to make decibel the standard, even though humans can't easily detect sounds below 2 bels, 1 bel at the very minimum.) I myself have never seen deka outside of textbooks/classes/reference books designed to teach the metric system. I was always curious if there were ever prefixes for 10^4, 10^5, or their inverses, which have been completely obscured.
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Poindexter » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:32 pm UTC

hamjudo wrote:
Rachie wrote:

The story about the soldier drinking wine doesn't make much sense. Rifle barrels are typically exposed to copper and lead, not tungsten. Yes, there are tungsten rounds, but they're fully jacketed, fewer they scrape away at the softer steel of the barrel with every shot. Maybe the full paper explains this, but of course journals can't let just anyone learn without paying huge fees. Could someone repost a copy?


During a party to celebrate his initiation into an artillery regiment, in September, 1994, a healthy 19-year-old white man drank 250 mL of wine which had flowed through the barrel of a 155 mm gun after several shots had been fired, as was the regimental custom. 15 min later he began to have seizures ...

Remaining details of his 35 day hospitalization removed to remain within fair use guidelines. However there was this little note towards the end:

We found that the composition of gun barrels had recently changed, with the inclusion of tungsten to harden the steel. The other recruits who had attended the party vomited immediately after having drunk the contaminated wine. Since this accident, such dangerous celebrations have been forbidden in the French Army.

155 mm guns are usually rifled, but I would not call them rifles. (Unless the artillery regiment wanted me to call them rifles.)

Edit - The word "rifle" does not appear in the text of the article.



As a fellow artilleryman who worked on 155mm howitzers, I can confirm RDX is used as a propellant, and that "gun" in a military context refers to an artillery piece* rather than small arms such as a rifle or pistol.

*edit: Or other crew-served weapon.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:05 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:For some reason they named a perfectly good unit, bel, then decided to make decibel the standard, even though humans can't easily detect sounds below 2 bels, 1 bel at the very minimum.)
The decibel is a ratio, so if you object based on the fact that people can't hear sounds below 10dB, your problem is with the 20 micropascal reference point for sound pressure, not with the use of decibels instead of bels. If a *difference* of 1dB is audible, then dB is a good ratio to use, whatever reference point you may choose as 0.
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Postby Bo Lindbergh » Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:25 pm UTC

From Wikipedia:
Among the lay public, the growing popularity of tungsten carbide rings has led to some consumers calling the material just tungsten, despite the inaccuracy of the usage.

A tungsten carbide countertop may make slightly more sense. Or not.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Rombobjörn » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:58 pm UTC

Tungsten may technically have the highest melting point (3695 K), but only because carbon doesn't have a melting point at atmospheric pressure. It remains solid up to 3915 kelvin, at which point it sublimates (turns directly from solid into gas), so it's not a melting point but a sublimation point. Liquid carbon can only exist at very high pressures.

Diamond countertop, anyone?

Speaking of sublimation, I seriously doubt that the pressure a few solar radii from the sun is high enough for liquid tungsten to exist. The tungsten countertop won't liquify, it will gasify.


Bo Lindbergh wrote:A tungsten carbide countertop may make slightly more sense. Or not.

Now I want a toilet made of tungsten carbide – a WC WC.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Mar 27, 2014 4:37 am UTC

jgh wrote:
Who the hell uses GRANITE for counter tops? Do you know how heavy granite is? Do you know what the cupboard carcases that will be attempting to stop that worktop plummeting through the kitchen floor and into the ground are made of? Chipboard. That's sawdust held together with glue. Where the hell has this obsession for using masonry for work surfaces come from?



Granite is actually very common for countertops.

In all honesty, it can be pretty awesome. Durable. Heat resistant (for hot pans)... yeah. Granite countertops are pretty great.


Like slate roofing, I hear.

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby SuperSteve » Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:22 am UTC

Before it melts, vaporizes, etc., it will glow. We know this is what it does when it gets hot, because it has been used for filaments in incandescent light bulbs.

This raises a bizarre point. To conserve electricity, the U.S. government has prohibited incandescent lighting over a certain wattage.

Does throwing tungsten into the sun, causing to it to glow with a wattage in excess of the legal limit, violate this law?

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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby january1may » Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:16 am UTC

mathmannix wrote:We use, in general, the metric prefixes (at least those of powers of 10 divisible by 3) in decreasing order away from 100. The basic reason for this is that the units were, for the most part, chosen well when they were first named to correspond to the order of magnitude which is most useful. A meter or a liter is of a scale which is useful for our everyday lives. (Kilograms are more useful to most of us than grams, which is why they were chosen for base unit for the updated system. And yet, for nutritional purposes, milligrams are still quite useful to non-scientists.)

So, we readily use kilo (grams, meters, watts, pascals, tons) and milli (grams, liters, meters, bars, seconds), followed by mega (watts, tons, bytes) and micro (grams, meters, seconds). After that, it's really just in computing (gigabytes, teraflops), and power (gigawatts) that we use the bigger units, and in time and distance for the smaller units (nanometers or nanoseconds, but even these are rare outside of SCIENCE.) Computing is the field that has grown the most exponentially since the definition of its base unit. So we're more likely to say "millions of kilometers" for astronomical distances than "gigameters". (And of course, there are also AUs, light-years, and parsecs.)

There really isn't much need for the metric prefixes corresponding to powers of 10 not divisible by 3. I would venture that the only commonly used units of measurements which use these are centimeter (which happens to be on the same order as the traditional/familiar measure, inch), hectare (which happens to be on the same order as the traditional/familiar measure, acre) and decibel. (For some reason they named a perfectly good unit, bel, then decided to make decibel the standard, even though humans can't easily detect sounds below 2 bels, 1 bel at the very minimum.) I myself have never seen deka outside of textbooks/classes/reference books designed to teach the metric system. I was always curious if there were ever prefixes for 10^4, 10^5, or their inverses, which have been completely obscured.


^^ Basically what I wanted to say.
For other examples, bottle volumes are relatively commonly measured in centiliters for some reason (possibly because it's on the same order as the traditional/familiar measure, ounce); and the Soviets apparently used dekaliters for animal food (or at least it comes up often in problems from textbooks of that period).
10^4 is myria, by the way. Don't remember what 10^-4 is (and no idea whether there's a 10^5).
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Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"

Postby Poindexter » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:14 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:Now I want a toilet made of tungsten carbide – a WC WC.

Yeah, well I want a toilet made of boron nitride so I can have BN BMs.


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