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Odd Lots


  1. MGalloway says:

    The groundwater cleanup problem is an interesting one.

    This summer, for example, we planted some sunflowers in our yard. The other day I decided to do some research on them and found out they can extract heavy metals out of the soil, too (see the Wikipedia entry on them). Apparently, they were also used at Cherynobl and Fukushima. I don’t know if anybody has actually studied much about how the process works, though, and hopefully the metals aren’t deposited in the seeds themselves.

  2. Lee Hart says:

    Great news about Heathkit’s return… or maybe not. We’ve seen *so* many great old brand names come back, only to find they were nothing but a famous name plastered onto utter rubbish.

    1. Mike Bentley says:

      Electronic kits do exist today but they’re meh. (The maker bots are interesting, I expect a Heathkit version to show up soon.)

      Most every day electronics assemblies today are made using impossibly tiny surface mount components.

      One of the things I have yet to see is a kit that provides the tools and chops to work with such components in qty 1 amounts. Is there a book out there?

      The Heathkit Smartphone?

      1. I’ve done some very limited experiments with SMT, and didn’t enjoy it. (Made a tiny audio amp about ten years ago; don’t remember which chip it was, but the whole thing was as small as a stamp.) The kits you can get these days all use DIP ICs and ordinary pigtail passive components, and I’ve done a number of those with great success. Heath could also do a decent business if they chose in point-to-point tube audio amps. The size of that business still surprises me. If some of the functional blocks needed to be pre-assembled (an FM tuner, for example) that’s not rocket science. As I said, I wish them the best and hope for the best, but still expect disappointment.

  3. Roy Harvey says:

    Tales from the White Hart was a blast, always good to see a reference.

    There will never be another Harry Purvis.

    1. I remember thinking back in high school (~1968) “How hard could that be, really?” I thought about it again when I was researching nanotech for The Cunning Blood in 1997, and wondered then if single-celled animals like rotifers or amoebae could reduce metals from dissolved salts. Lotsa metal in the ocean, and the limiting factor is getting enough water past enough microbeasties to get useful quantities. If you’re patient, I think it’ll work.

  4. Jack says:

    And don’t forget the Rick Brant science adventure series volume 3 (1947) “Sea Gold” where Rick and his friend Scotty get jobs at a new plant to extract minerals from sea water, and investigate possible sabotage. This predated Clarke’s story by 10 years, so sea mining must have been floating around (no pun intended) for some time.

    The Rick Brant books hooked me on electronics and radio. Still have the ones I read as a child stored in the basement.

    1. Interestingly, I didn’t hear of Rick Brant until long after I’d graduated to “adult” SF. The dime store where I got Tom Swift books didn’t carry the Brant books, and our library still considered them “penny dreadfuls” which were not to corrupt the minds of the young. Also, I didn’t know they had appeared in the Forties; the first Tom Swift Jr book didn’t happen until 1954. Must do some additional research here. A friend of mine in sixth grade (1963/64) had a book about a giant flying stingray which I think was a Rick Brant book, but I never read it.

  5. Jack says:

    Bromine has been commercially extracted from sea water for a long time – 1924 is the earliest reference to it that I can quickly find.

    Bromine was used in making gasoline octane improvers and with the rise of the automobile society and the need for higher compression engines and anti-knock gasoline, the demand for bromine rapidly increased in the 1920’s.

  6. Tony says:

    That “thing” for a HTPC looks to be about the footprint of a Mac Mini. It costs more than a Mini does, or at least more than I paid for my Mini to be a HTPC.

    1. I’m sure it’s imitating the Mac Mini, which is one reason I’m hoping it’s quiet. I like the software I use right now, and since it’s Windows software a Mini (or any flavor of Mac) would not be of interest. Again, I’m not looking for an HTPC, but a small, and (most of all) near-silent desktop for ordinary Office work. I have an SX270 at our condo outside Chicago, and while it’s not a bad machine it’s not especially fast, and can only accept 2 GB of RAM. Space is tight there, so small would be good.

      1. Terry Roe says:

        You could always install Windows on a Mac. (I had Ubuntu installed on my older Mini for a while.)

        I now have an iMac and it’s the quietest modern computer I’ve ever had. (I don’t recall my original Apple ][+ making any noise.) The display is awesome.

        1. Erbo says:

          That’s true. We used iMacs as development workstations at Dash; few of them actually had OSX on them. Some used Windows 7; some used Ubuntu. I had one of the latter. It made a perfectly good development workstation, especially with a second monitor connected by means of the external-monitor plug in the back. (Of course, it did need an adapter cable from Apple’s mini-digital monitor port to DVI, but it worked.)

          IQN takes a different tack; we have Dell laptops with docking stations as our workstations (and dual monitors hooked to those docking stations). Makes it easy to work from home, or to bring things to meetings.

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