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October, 2010:

Anger Makes You Lose

When the emails started coming in a couple of days ago, I thought it was an urban legend. I really did. (I get a lot of those here.) I went to Snopes automatically, as I always do when someone sends me an email telling me to “forward this to everyone in your address book!” Appallingly, as a single Google search showed, this time the topic was true: Well-known British director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually; Four Weddings and a Funeral) and a global warming group of some significance have created a short film showing True AGW Believers murdering those who disagree with them…including a couple of grade-school children.

The organization is 10:10. The film is “No Pressure.” I won’t post a link to the film itself here because it has been withdrawn from its original location and reposted in lots of other places. I also hesitate because if you have anything like respect for human life you will find it hideously disturbing. Seek it out at risk of nightmares, and don’t say you weren’t warned.

Quick representative summary of a scene from the film: Smug teacher is indoctrinating a group of grade schoolers about the dangers of global warming. A couple of them refuse to buy in. Teacher then pushes a button, and the dissenting kids explode into a realistic cloud of blood and guts, splattering on the walls and on their classmates.

You think I’m kidding? Then grab your barf bag and go find the movie. You won’t have to look far. (It’s on YouTube as I write this.)

No pressure. Right. Disagree with us and we’ll kill you.

This entry is not about global warming, which I’m still researching and will discuss when I’m ready. This entry is about a theme I’ve touched on here again and again over the years: Anger makes you stupid. The level of anger-driven stupidity in this case boggles the mind. To science’s sorrow, anger is now the driving force in the global warming debate. The stupidity comes in when your anger compels you to hand a cudgel to your opponents, which they will then gleefully use to bash your head in again and again and again…forever.

This is galactic-class stupidity. The film will never go away. It will become a legend, and “no pressure” will become a meme for “wanting to kill people who disagree with you.” The Right will broaden the film’s scope and cite it repeatedly as evidence that the environmentalist left is a sort of Stalinist religion that hates humanity and advocates violence against its opponents. The whole thing will inflate far past absurdity. It will tip elections and put more Republicans in power. It will reverse years of gains on environmental issues, and will make it even more difficult to entertain rational debate on any environmental topic at all.

Small price to pay for a piece of delicious tribal poo-flinging, eh?

Bottom line: Anger makes you stupid. And when you get stupid enough, you do things that make you lose.

Geiger Counter Articles from the Uranium Rush

I ran across a couple of Geiger counter circuits while preparing the Carl & Jerry books a few years back, but it wasn’t until I went looking in Google Books for other articles that I got a sense for the time period 1950-1960, when there was a certain Uranium madness in the air. At first it was about prospecting, but later on as the 50s drew to a close, it was mostly about fallout.

There were articles not only on building Geiger counters, but also reviews of commercial units and practical tips on how to search for the minerals. Sometimes it was a cover story (as with Popular Electronics for July 1955; scroll down) but mostly it was just a part of the electronics hobbyist zeitgeist in that era. There was a certain grim exuberance about it all: The evil Soviet Union was breathing gamma rays in the faces of our collective cultural consciousness, and we were ready to respond with our archetypal American can-do spirit. Some of us understood that the unspoken clause after “duck and cover” was “and die.” Most, I think, did not. (Especially naturally optimistic 11-year-olds like me who just wanted to build a cool gadget with a Geiger tube he already had.)

So below is a list of the construction articles I’ve discovered for Geiger counters in the 1950-1960 era. Many are on Google Books, and I’ve posted the circuits from a couple of the others. If you have any more not listed here, please pass along links or scans so I can add them. I’m considering a standalone Web article for my Junkbox site on building “legacy” Geiger counters based on my current experience, so whatever you have that might be relevant, please share.

  • Popular Mechanics, February 1949: “How to Build a Geiger-Muller Uranium Survey Meter“. Brute force power supply consisting of three 300V batteries in series! Uses K-EX GM tube in series with headphones. No audio amp.
  • Popular Mechanics, July 1950: “Uranium Survey Meter With Audio Amplifier.” Much like February 1949 PM item, plus an audio amplifier. Uses CK-1021 GM tube (others are suggested as usable) and a 3V4 battery miniature tube for audio, which requires a 1.5V filament supply and a 45V plate supply.
  • Popular Science, April 1955: “Prospecting with a Geiger Counter.” Uses a CK-1026 GM tube, with HV generated by a pushbutton interrupter. 3S4 tube audio amplifier. Basically the same circuit as in Alfred Morgan’s Boys’ Second Book of Radio and Electronics.
  • Popular Science, May 1955: “Super Geiger Counter You Can Build.” Ambitious circuit with six (!) GM tubes in parallel plus a 2-tube audio amplifier, and a vibrator high-voltage supply. The GM tubes are all Anton 310 units. Has an averaging count meter.
  • Popular Electronics, July 1955: “Home-Built 700V Geiger Counter”. Two circuits, both using batteries (300V + 67.5V) in a simple voltage doubler. (No sparks!) One circuit has no audio amplifier, and the “deluxe” circuit has a 3S4 tube audio amp and an averaging count meter. Both use the Victoreen 75NB3 GM tube.
  • Popular Electronics, June 1956: “Simple Transistorized Geiger Counters”. Calls out either a CK1026 or a Victoreen 1B85 GM tube. Three circuits: two using 300V batteries, and a third with a pushbutton interrupter for HV. Tube audio amps are replaced by transistor amps, using general-purpose devices (2N35, CK722) that are not critical.
  • Popular Mechanics, March 1957: “Prospector’s Partner.” A combination 4-tube battery superhet AM radio (with canonical 1R5/1U4/1U5/3V4 lineup) using a 1B85 GM tube patched into the grid of the first audio stage. Uses a pushbutton interrupter HV supply for the GM tube; 67 1/2 V battery for the radio.
  • Popular Electronics, July 1957: “Geiger Gun”. Compact gun-shaped hand-held counter counter using a CK1026 GM tube, pushbutton interruptor, and 2N107 transistor audio amp. Article is not online, but there are images of the counter as built in a junction box by someone here. (Scroll down.) Circuit is here.
  • Popular Mechanics, August 1961: “Treasure Finder’s Pal.” A combination metal detector and geiger counter. Uses a CK-1026 GM tube and a CK-722 transistor oscillator into a universal output transformer to generate HV. GM tube output is patched into a transistor radio for audio amplification.

Odd Lots

  • The base for the Geiger-Muller tubes used in all of the early Cold War era Victoreen counters (including both tubes now on my bench) is called a standard Peewee 3-pin, JEDEC A3-1. Many thanks to Jonathan O’Neal for sending along this link to a detailed spec sheet (PDF) for one of the tubes. Now I can wire up the counter I’m building for initial tests.
  • A couple of people have suggested using a Leyden jar instead of ordinary capacitors to collect charge for my (supposedly) steampunk Geiger counter. I imagine that a Leyden jar would be more period, and it’s certainly a good excuse to build something that I saw in every single one of the kid books on electricity I read back in the early 60s. Not real portable, though.
  • There is indeed an organization that helps to keep Latin functional, 2000-odd years from its original coalescence as a major world language. No psychic powers points for guessing that the organization is…the Roman Catholic Church. (Thanks to Michael Covington for the link, which, I must say ahead of things, is in…Latin.)
  • And Finland just racked up a huge mess of cool points with me for being the only country in the world that broadcasts the news in Latin. (Thanks to Aki Peltonen for the link.)
  • Jim Furstenberg put me on to photos of a round dozen Victorian submarines. The site looks to be a marvelously engaging time-waster, er, experience broadener. (Have done much of both in recent hours.)
  • Google just announced its own URL shortener, which will do some reasonable screening against malware. I have avoided using URL shorteners for that reason until now.
  • Furthermore, the new Google URL shortener will generate a QR code for you if you tack a .qr onto the end of the shortened URL.
  • Amazon is creating an Android app store. Peculiar? Not if the next (or next after that) Kindle generation is more than just an ebook reader.
  • I’m proud to say that my good sister Gretchen long ago declared that she is raising free-range kids. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant (Carol and I have none of our own) until I read this. Bravo! Now, can we make zero-tolerance policies in schools a felony? (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • The other day I mentioned to Carol that, with “Drumlin Circus” taking on a certain steampunk flavor (it’s certainly nothing like “Drumlin Boiler”) I would probably have to buy a top hat. Her reply: “Um…you already have a top hat.” I looked on the high shelf in the closet, and shore ’nuff! I bought it for the 1999 Coriolis Millennium Christmas Party at the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale. I wore it exactly once, and then forgot about it. So what’s next? Spats? Or my seriously ahead-of-the-curve Chester A. Arthur facial hair?