Using the Electron Mircoprobe (by )

Today I went into the lab once more and place the lunar sample into the machine - this time instead of blasting it with x-rays to get element maps I was picking out specific points to hit with an electron beam and see what they are made off.

First off we picked a selection of elements that I wanted to get proportions of and then I picked the points I wanted to know about specifically. From the element maps and the back scatter image I had taken previously I knew that I apparently had several minerals (I had trudged through four large tomes of mineralogy and lunar/planetary stuff to find out what sort of things I might have lurking in the sample. I had then taken the element maps and compared them - drawn faint scetches of them and then working out what elements I had in conjection where drew on mineral areas with coloured pens onto a printout of the backscatter image. (He told me this was actually an x-ray map just not element specific so I need to check whats what with him I think).

They seemed quiet impressed that I had done this but it seemed like the only way to make things clear to me personally. I was becoming frustrated that I couldn't work out the actual proportions and therefore the exact minerals from the elelment maps and that I could only narrow things down. Fortunatly this is what today was actually about so I worked out how many samples I wanted and were to take the measurements - unfortunatly becuase there is a bad polish on the sample I had to be careful and was highly restricted in where I could take measurements.

But I selected 101 points each point was going to take about 9 minutes to analyse but I specifically went in early to get it all going and as it turned out had plenty of time.

I had also narrowed down the minerals really far more accuratly that I thought I had and I had worked out stuff about my 'dirty' quartz that that does seem to be correct which is very cool and makes me feel like I might just have a chance of doing this.

The only thing is I found myself baulkin at the interface of data and computers - there are situations that I just see no reason not to have a computer automate and I think they should be relatively easy to implement and yet there is nothing! This keeps happening every where I turn in geology and earth sciences there is just huge gaps that computers could feel reducing monkey work and increasing the amount of research that can be analysis in depth!

Other issues that I have had is finding information barred to me - this is painful when I would happily pay say £10 for an e-book of the phase diagrams I needed or even just the chapters I needed - then and there I may even have gone up to £20 but it is only avalible as a book and at around $300 which sucks big time.

Can anyone tell me what the restrictions would be on me finding data in papers and ploting my own graphs/diagrams and then putting them on the internet for free so that people like me don't get stuck like this? I just needed a guid to see if I was on the right path. The question of science on the net has been interesting me alot in the past year and I wonder lots about hwo things are going - I like sharing info and I think it helps move projects and science as a whole on but there are those who tell me that I sholdn't talk about my projects and ideas incase they are published by other first.

Also there is the question of funding and where the money is coming from to do the research - I find myself pondering over the wole peer review system and how a nice fast version could apply to articles on line - making the turn around of science much faster without loosing the reliablity.

It is a thorny problem and I feel slightly swamped in it.

Oh well I'm sure I'll sort it all out eventually 🙂

The only scary thing about todays stuff was that if I want to go out of the lab I have to remember to press a button that puts an alunium or copper block infront of my electron beam so that it doesn't burn a whole in the sample - this made me quiet nervous!

Ada Lovelace Day – A Review (by )

Yesturday me and Alaric took part in the first ever Ada Lovelace Day which was a day of international blogging about women in tech who have inspired you or that you admire.

He produced two posts and I produced two:

For this blog Alaric blogged about his Aunt Barbara who pioneered the use of computers in translation.

For Web-Empire he blogged about Grace Hopper the origonator of the COBOL language.

For Salaric Craft I blogged about Mary Dixon Kies the first woman to be awarded a patent in her own right - she had invented a weaving techniques for straw hats.

And last but in my mind not least I blogged about Monica Grady on my Astronomy blog.

There were also lots of fun things happening yesturday like Ada appearing at the Science Museum 🙂

There has even been a webcomic produced for the event 🙂

However, there are some sinister things that I came across whilst trying to encourage my friends to take part in this event - namely that my male friends were far more enthusiastic and my female compatriots are all disillusioned with the world of science and technology.

This is a subject on which I have posted before and I have several drafts I am working on - about glass ceilings that I really hadn't thought were there until I hit them.

But there is another issue - one friend after doing her PhD with a bad supervisor felt that women in science were bitches and this I have to say is something I personally have come across. My biggest hinderance wasn't the letcherous old guy who thought women should be at home but rather other women who had it in their heads that in order for them to help you, you had to be twice as good as the men/boys around you.

Help offered freely to them was denied and an active discuoragement took place - I don't know if this was being done in a 'kind' way with the idea that women have to be tough to survive the field or what.

But like the early feminists found - the biggest barrier to women succeeding does appear to be other women.

This is a sad sad state of affairs and one I hoped was unique to my own experiences. It was so refreshing for me when I went to the Natural History Museums Mineralogy department to find that they just went out of their way to enable everyone reguardless of gender, dissability or anything else that could act as a barrier.

I have seen and am seeing several friends leaving the world of sciecne that they worked so hard to get into becuase they feel so deflated with all of this. In some ways this is probably a bigger issue than getting girls interested in the first place - how do we retain them within the science and tech sectors?

The other thing I didn't appreciate until I tried to do stuff in the 'coporate' world was just how much stupid prejudice still exists. I am in a heavily male subject but as the head of UCL's earth science's himself said to me - this is changing - they did a drive (around the time I was choosing what to do at university) to get women into earth scientists. And slowely the girls from that drive are filtering in to post docs and he hopes with eventually end up in the facalty staff.

My year was the first 50:50 split year ever and this trend is following the year as it progresses. So I am hopeful that things can change with time as long as we can stem this hemorrage of females leaving.

I could write reams and reams on this and I probably will but right now I need to go and read up on lunar mineralogy for tomorrow!

I just thought this was an issue I should raise.

Ada Lovelace Day: Barbara Snell (by )

For Ada Lovelace Day I'm going to write about my aunt Barbara.

She's never been one to be arbitrarily limited by society - in the 1950s, she went and toured the world on her own; which was quite something for a woman in her early 20s to do!

She's retired now, but her career was in linguistics. In particular, she was a technical translator, translating equipment manuals from other languages to English; I've never obtained a full list of the languages she knows, but (from memory) all the main European languages, Russian, and Japanese have been mentioned.

Anyway, she happened to be working for Xerox when the job of translating some documentation relating to the Xerox Star came across her desk.

At the time, translators worked with typewriters; they'd type up a first draft of the translation, with lots of corrections pencilled in as they went along, as it's quite common to find you want to revise something you've already translated when you come to write a later paragraph. They would then have to type up a better copy incorporating the corrections; but this might then come back with amendments proposed by the marketing department or other stakeholders. So the translators spent a lot of time doing menial work.

So imagine Barbara's excitement when she read the manuals for an electronic word processor... So, never one to let convention stand in her way, she petitioned the management to let the translation department have some. This request was eventually fulfilled, and as she predicted, translation became a lot more efficient...

But Barbara continued to be vocal about the opportunities for computers to help with translation, driving developments within the company and starting a series of conferences on the use of computers in translation, which is perhaps why Xerox is considered "is the private company that has contributed the most to the expansion of machine translation"ref.

This was all about when I was being born, of course. But when, around 2000, Barbara retired and closed down her own translation business, I had the chance to take my pick of computer equipment as she was clearing out the office; I took away a 486 that became the home router - but I always wished I'd managed to claim her Xerox Star...

From Unlawful Killing to Corporate Manslaughter (by )

Yesturday saw another fraught day for the family - my side. They had recieved a letter saying that the police where no longer going to be persuing the unlawful killing verdict thing on my uncles death. So of course everyone assumed that the case was just being dropped but when they got to the meeting about it, it turned out it is being handed over to health and saftey making it a far hueger thing.

I again will not write any details as I do not want to affect the case in a negative way - but this is good as from what I saw the night he died just about everything was wronge. And something has to be done before even more people die unnessasarily.

Dad couldn't make it to the meeting as he had to go to the eye hospital for a check up on his laser surgery - he hadn't been sure weather they were going to be doing more then and there or not. But they looked at it all - one eye which has been lasered twice is absolutly fine but the other one is a bit of a concern and he has to go back in six weeks time to have it looked at again - if more blood vessels are growing he'll have to have a laser round the whole thing which they don;t really want to do - I assume there is some sort of rosk thing involved there with the amount of lasering they need to do but I dont really know.

Barbara also managed to have another fall at the weekend and so she was back at the drs on Tuesday (we met in the waiting room) and today she went for physio session for it. It would appear shes done something to the muscel that goes into the arm pit :/

I think that all thats currently going on.

Circuits in Epoxy (by )

Continuing from my previous experiments in epoxy casting, this time I decided to cast a circuit in epoxy, as that's my eventual goal.

So I made a test circuit with four LEDs and their series resistors on a large piece of stripboard, with unnecessarily long leads on everything and a few different orientations of components, in order to check whether shrinkage is an issue at the kinds of scales I plan to work at:

the circuit side profile

Then I mixed up some resin:

mixing the resin

And poured it into a business card box and placed the circuit in. I chose the business card box since it looked like the same sort of plastic the proper moulds at resin-supplies were made of, and that's supposed to not stick to the epoxy:

resin in the box

Luckily, it seemed that the epoxy does indeed not stick to this stuff, as it came out easily, leaving a perfectly clear surface, with no damage to the electronics:

Underside of the castingTop side of the castingDetail of the top surface

It's really weird to have one of my sloppily-made circuits that's completely waterproof and ruggedised:

Look, it works underwater!

We had to prop it up with one end out of the water so you can actually see that all the LEDs are lit, though:

Propped up so you can see all the LEDs

I think I'll still need to experiment with silicone moulds, though - as I'm unlikely to find boxes of the right plastic in the precise sizes I want.

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