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View Diary: College Students, Then and Now: A Sad Tale from Today’s History Class (72 comments)

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  •  A co-worker of mine had a stack of 10 of them (5+ / 0-)

    which he used as heat sources with which to calibrate a calorimeter used for measuring plutonium. It turns out that if you know the isotopic composition of a sample of pu (something easily measured using its gamma-ray emission spectrum), you can measure the mass of each isotope by measuring the heat output of the sample. The batteries gave off a very well-known amount of heat (easily correctible for decay over time) and were good standards because of that.

    In our lab out in Idaho (he was in the Chicago area) we had to make do with much more common items: heat sources that had been pulled from the power supplies of nuclear weapon control and detonation systems when the weapons were dismantled. The DOE complex was lousy with the things for several years there in the 90s.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 03:08:57 PM PST

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    •  did any of them make it onto Ebay? (4+ / 0-)

      "Cold War Collector's Item!  Buy It Now!"

      "Slightly used DOE nuclear weapons component.  I'm no expert so I haven't had a chance to test this.  Sold as-is.  Requires special shipping, wait for invoice."  

      We got the future back.

      by G2geek on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:52:56 PM PST

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      •  Maybe, they would have made (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, Larsstephens

        dandy 20 ga shotgun slugs. Just about exactly that size and shape. Only made out of stainless steel, tungsten, and tantalum layers around the Pu oxide. The way they were shipped or used they could get up to a pretty high temperature.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 06:04:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  heh, who needs DU when you can have PU?;-) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          billmosby, Larsstephens

          "Why settle for old-fashioned depleted uranium rounds?  Pluto Plus contains military-grade Plutonium, plus Tantalum for that extra bang! on impact!"

          (I recall from the days of building circuits with discrete components, that one should be careful about using tantalum capacitors, as they were susceptible to exploding if used in conjunction with coils in some combination I can't recall at the moment.  I mostly used mylar caps.)

          We got the future back.

          by G2geek on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:20:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting about the tantalum, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens, G2geek

            I've always known about those caps but never about that characteristic.

            After a brief Wikipedia education, I can see why they used it, I think for the inner capsule. Corrosion resistant, ductile, and strong. Used for vacuum melting furnace parts, in superalloys, as hip replacement parts, etc. As for the capacitors, those used tantalum metal powder which forms a protective oxide layer, and from one characteristic or another could get away with a thinner than usual dielectric for the voltage and so had higher capacitance than other types for the same volume of component.

            It's also been used for shaped charge liners because of its high density and melting point.

            Amazing, I didn't know it had so many uses.

            Oh, and in the Conner Chronicles, they were always looking for coltan (columbite-tantalite ore mixture, which is how it is found in nature mostly). The cyborg skeletons were made from a columbium-tantalum alloy, I guess. Strong but too heavy to allow swimming.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:52:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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