Monthly Archives: March 2020

Actual conversations at my house stray to weird territory

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This comic is a depiction of actual events. My dear wife says the most hilarious things. I (regretfully) knew exactly what meme she was talking about. I also agree that the term she made up definitely sounds like a racial slur. We started talking about what it was a racial slur for, but discovered that was a terrible conversation and that we needed to stop.

Things are changing here. I will not be updating the blog as frequently or regularly. I was getting used to updating every week, which is fun. But I need to focus on work for a while. However, I would like to continue to upload some of these silly comics when I have a bit of spare time and inclination.

Anthony Fauci Shows Us the Right Way to Be an Expert – Scientific American Blog Network

He has done a great job. That is an impossible job.

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Iron Battery version 1.5 Build Video

The Iron Battery project has been ongoing for a long time. Here’s the build video for the latest version. It’s the same chemistry as Version 1.0 published in Hardware X, but with a better form-factor and added 4% Ketjen black conductive carbon. This gives an order of magnitude higher current density.



We tried everything we could think of to simplify the chemistry. It seems like every component is necessary. The result is functional for many cycles and has enough electrical performance to potentially be really useful.

Being concerned is not the same as taking action

I’ve ranted before about how the news is really not a very good use of one’s time. It’s the IMMINENT CRISIS SHOW all the time. And when they get their teeth into a legitimate crisis, it’s really hard to discern the right level of concern and the right modes of action.

The Poor and Marginalized Will Be the Hardest Hit by Coronavirus

Coronavirus is a great case in point. It’s about 10 times worse than the flu and spreads much more effectively. So we should be careful because the flu is already pretty bad for vulnerable people.  Is it EbolAIDS? No. Will it disrupt essential services? Almost certainly not. Will it overcrowd a medical system where excess capacity (i.e., inefficiency) has been cut at every opportunity? Possibly. What can everyone actually do? Wash hands, social distancing.

Proof of Concept of an Iron-Iron(III)Oxide Hydroxide Battery Working at Neutral PH.

Awesome! These folks did a battery very similar to the Allen lab’s, but our current performance is considerably better. Cool.

Could curly straws hold the existentialist meaning of life? Only if you are a glass of lemonade.

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Better virus questions and cat hamster wheels

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Coronavirus: Do face masks work? And how to stop it from spreading?

Facemasks might prevent inhaling infectious aerosols, but that’s not how most people catch the virus[edit: It looks like that is a common route of infection. New data, new policy. There are enough masks now. It’s time to mask up. Still, wash your hands]. If you get the virus on your hands and then touch your face, the facemask won’t do anything.

WHO-recommended handrub formulations – WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care – NCBI Bookshelf

Soap and water are the best tools to fight viruses. If a sink and soap are unavailable, then an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an OK substitute. So I gather they are entirely sold out now. Of course. So here’s the recipe: 1 tablespoon glycerol, 3 tablespoons drug store (3%) hydrogen peroxide, and  3 2/3 cups 96% ethanol (192 proof Everclear alcohol).

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It’s easy to obsess about the coronavirus, but at least I’m reading science?

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It’s hard not to think about the Coronavirus. The first links are relevant to that. At the end, there’s more funny stuff. I want more people to be scientists and doctors. It’s important. Economically, our society can afford more doctors and scientists (as well as musicians, artists, etc.). We can afford to maintain a reserve army of competent people in case of a crisis. I wish we were thinking of things in terms of cost-benefit to society.

Coronavirus: US government test kits are faulty and ‘cannot be relied upon’  The Independent

We are not doing well in this fight so far. Based on the fact that they are using primers, the test is still based on the virus’s genome (rather than on the coat proteins). They say that one of the three primer sets is not performing as well as they want. The NEJM article I read only lists two primer sets. With a long infectious incubation, a good diagnostic test is important.

Structure of novel coronavirus spike protein solved in just weeks

Solving the structure of a virus and its proteins is the first step to doing lots of drug development. A structure lets medicinal chemists try to design small-molecule drugs to interfere with its function. Right now the cutting edge is to design antibodies in software to interfere with the virus, but that needs a structure to work with, too. It’s great that scientists can get to a structure so quickly.

IUB EMCenter – Electron Tomography

One of the relatively new methods for solving this kind of structures is to use electron tomography. The idea is to take images from a bunch of different angles and then use software to put all of the images together into a 3D picture. This link has some great animations of the image stack and how it looks three-dimensional to our brains.

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