Photo
6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)
Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.
But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.
Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”
At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”
Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.
Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.
So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.
But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)
So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?
Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.
However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).
Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.
But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:
Azoazide Azides

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.”

In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.
(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

Welp, I suppose that’ll do it.(It does also help justify why flame alchemy is incredibly rare.)When I first started watching this show, I kept mentioning things like “That doesn’t make sense” or “…that doesn’t work like that” and such and my boyfriend at the time eventually had to be like, “Shussshhhh just watch” and then I was sold. Sold enough to do a Lust cosplay. 

Just to point out, that nitrogen compound actually has two carbon atoms: in the ring where the azide bonds to the tetrazole, and out on the chain between the nitrogen bonding to the ring and the two azide groups. So you couldn’t make it entirely from the atmosphere.

Chalk it up to atmospheric CO2? 

You’d need a lot of atmosphere, but yeah, I’ll buy it… I love FMA I’ll let it slide haha

YAY CHEMISTS
Earth’a atm is what, .04% CO2? (And rising, but …) and 70% nitrogen. Back of the envelope calculation: 14 N/2 C = ~14% carbon, so after adjusting for N:C ratio in the atmosphere, we’re offset by 25-fold as much air is needed to supply the Carbon as Nitrogen. I feel like that’s totally workable - I highly doubt you need THAT much AAA to make fire, given how unstable the compound is. And if Roy does sequester some oxygen to boot, that’ll make it go boom quite a bit harder.
(And when he’s lighting people on fire, then he could just do it using oxygen sequestration. His glove probably has a bunch of different modules for different combusion reactions hahaha.)
(Alternatively I’m sure Roy could make, like, N3 or something else that is impossible IRL. I just didn’t want to make it TOO unrealistic, lest I draw the wrath of other chemists  …)

I think the offset is 250-fold, actually. 70/0.04 is 1750, dividing by 7 (the N:C ratio) would give us 250. But I nit-pick again, eh? Hell Roy could just burn nitrogen in oxygen, surely?

250 isn’t that bad imo (but I am biased towards my own ideas! :)) If nothing else at least that would be a great explanation for why his flames don’t just spread - he’d be pretty well shielded from having depleted a buffer zone of flame-making materials.
I do agree that Roy could almost certainly rip some triple bonds apart and just make some crazy nitrogen molecule but … but … that seems a little too much like cheating XD
I’m still trying to think of other nitro/nitrate based explosives but they’re all oxidizers like oxygen, not good reductants. /_\ Still searching!

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)

Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.

But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.

Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”

At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”

Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.

Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.

So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.

But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)

So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?

Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.

However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).

Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.

But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:

Azoazide Azides

image

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.

In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.

(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

Welp, I suppose that’ll do it.
(It does also help justify why flame alchemy is incredibly rare.)

When I first started watching this show, I kept mentioning things like “That doesn’t make sense” or “…that doesn’t work like that” and such and my boyfriend at the time eventually had to be like, “Shussshhhh just watch” and then I was sold. Sold enough to do a Lust cosplay. 

Just to point out, that nitrogen compound actually has two carbon atoms: in the ring where the azide bonds to the tetrazole, and out on the chain between the nitrogen bonding to the ring and the two azide groups. So you couldn’t make it entirely from the atmosphere.

Chalk it up to atmospheric CO2? 

You’d need a lot of atmosphere, but yeah, I’ll buy it… I love FMA I’ll let it slide haha

YAY CHEMISTS

Earth’a atm is what, .04% CO2? (And rising, but …) and 70% nitrogen. Back of the envelope calculation: 14 N/2 C = ~14% carbon, so after adjusting for N:C ratio in the atmosphere, we’re offset by 25-fold as much air is needed to supply the Carbon as Nitrogen. I feel like that’s totally workable - I highly doubt you need THAT much AAA to make fire, given how unstable the compound is. And if Roy does sequester some oxygen to boot, that’ll make it go boom quite a bit harder.

(And when he’s lighting people on fire, then he could just do it using oxygen sequestration. His glove probably has a bunch of different modules for different combusion reactions hahaha.)

(Alternatively I’m sure Roy could make, like, N3 or something else that is impossible IRL. I just didn’t want to make it TOO unrealistic, lest I draw the wrath of other chemists  …)

I think the offset is 250-fold, actually. 70/0.04 is 1750, dividing by 7 (the N:C ratio) would give us 250. But I nit-pick again, eh? Hell Roy could just burn nitrogen in oxygen, surely?

250 isn’t that bad imo (but I am biased towards my own ideas! :)) If nothing else at least that would be a great explanation for why his flames don’t just spread - he’d be pretty well shielded from having depleted a buffer zone of flame-making materials.

I do agree that Roy could almost certainly rip some triple bonds apart and just make some crazy nitrogen molecule but … but … that seems a little too much like cheating XD

I’m still trying to think of other nitro/nitrate based explosives but they’re all oxidizers like oxygen, not good reductants. /_\ Still searching!

Photo
6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)
Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.
But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.
Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”
At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”
Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.
Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.
So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.
But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)
So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?
Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.
However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).
Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.
But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:
Azoazide Azides

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.”

In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.
(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

Welp, I suppose that’ll do it.(It does also help justify why flame alchemy is incredibly rare.)When I first started watching this show, I kept mentioning things like “That doesn’t make sense” or “…that doesn’t work like that” and such and my boyfriend at the time eventually had to be like, “Shussshhhh just watch” and then I was sold. Sold enough to do a Lust cosplay. 

Just to point out, that nitrogen compound actually has two carbon atoms: in the ring where the azide bonds to the tetrazole, and out on the chain between the nitrogen bonding to the ring and the two azide groups. So you couldn’t make it entirely from the atmosphere.

Chalk it up to atmospheric CO2? 

You’d need a lot of atmosphere, but yeah, I’ll buy it… I love FMA I’ll let it slide haha

YAY CHEMISTS
Earth’a atm is what, .04% CO2? (And rising, but …) and 70% nitrogen. Back of the envelope calculation: 14 N/2 C = ~14% carbon, so after adjusting for N:C ratio in the atmosphere, we’re offset by 25-fold as much air is needed to supply the Carbon as Nitrogen. I feel like that’s totally workable - I highly doubt you need THAT much AAA to make fire, given how unstable the compound is. And if Roy does sequester some oxygen to boot, that’ll make it go boom quite a bit harder.
(And when he’s lighting people on fire, then he could just do it using oxygen sequestration. His glove probably has a bunch of different modules for different combusion reactions hahaha.)
(Alternatively I’m sure Roy could make, like, N3 or something else that is impossible IRL. I just didn’t want to make it TOO unrealistic, lest I draw the wrath of other chemists  …)

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

6-ethyl-6-nor-lsd:

smilesandvials:

aperturesciencejournalclub:

So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)

Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.

But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.

Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”

At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”

Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.

Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.

So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.

But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)

So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?

Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.

However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).

Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.

But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:

Azoazide Azides

image

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.

In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.

(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

Welp, I suppose that’ll do it.
(It does also help justify why flame alchemy is incredibly rare.)

When I first started watching this show, I kept mentioning things like “That doesn’t make sense” or “…that doesn’t work like that” and such and my boyfriend at the time eventually had to be like, “Shussshhhh just watch” and then I was sold. Sold enough to do a Lust cosplay. 

Just to point out, that nitrogen compound actually has two carbon atoms: in the ring where the azide bonds to the tetrazole, and out on the chain between the nitrogen bonding to the ring and the two azide groups. So you couldn’t make it entirely from the atmosphere.

Chalk it up to atmospheric CO2? 

You’d need a lot of atmosphere, but yeah, I’ll buy it… I love FMA I’ll let it slide haha

YAY CHEMISTS

Earth’a atm is what, .04% CO2? (And rising, but …) and 70% nitrogen. Back of the envelope calculation: 14 N/2 C = ~14% carbon, so after adjusting for N:C ratio in the atmosphere, we’re offset by 25-fold as much air is needed to supply the Carbon as Nitrogen. I feel like that’s totally workable - I highly doubt you need THAT much AAA to make fire, given how unstable the compound is. And if Roy does sequester some oxygen to boot, that’ll make it go boom quite a bit harder.

(And when he’s lighting people on fire, then he could just do it using oxygen sequestration. His glove probably has a bunch of different modules for different combusion reactions hahaha.)

(Alternatively I’m sure Roy could make, like, N3 or something else that is impossible IRL. I just didn’t want to make it TOO unrealistic, lest I draw the wrath of other chemists  …)

Photo
So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)
Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.
But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.
Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”
At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”
Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.
Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.
So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.
But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)
So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?
Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.
However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).
Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.
But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:
Azoazide Azides

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.”


In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.
(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

So I’m a huge fan of the manga/anime series 鋼の錬金術師, or in English, Fullmetal Alchemist. I was talking with a friend recently, who said that he couldn’t take it seriously because the alchemy in the show was in no way alchemy. And he was right! The alchemy is more like “magical chemistry”, where you can rearrange all atomic/molecular bonds with the ~power of your mind~ (or as it was retconned later, the earth’s geothermic properties. Personally I preferred power of the mind, but YMMV.)

Anyway, I have a much longer blog post on this to come, but if you look closely at the series, a lot of the alchemy works neither as alchemy or chemistry. This doesn’t put me off in any way, of course, because it’s a fantasy series, and it’s fairly consistent within the show, which is the most important part.

But none of that has ever stopped intrepid nerds such as myself, who are bound and determined to make it all make sense somehow. So! I wanted to talk about my favorite character, Colonel Roy Mustang, and his “flame alchemy”, and how utterly WTF it kind of is.

Roy Mustang has the ability to make things go boom. He wears gloves that, when rubbed, make sparks (like flint and tinder). It is stated canonically that what he does is light a spark after he “adjusts the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and boom!”

At this point, every chemist in the audience is saying “what the fuck? it doesn’t work like that!”

Because oxygen does not light on fire by itself.

Let’s back up. Combustion is a reaction of a reductant (fuel), and an oxidant. Oxygen is, as you would guess, often the oxidant. For instance, if I am burning a piece of wood, the hydrocarbons in the wood fuel are my reductant. Of course, fuel needs oxygen to burn. But very pure oxygen will in fact not burn, because it has no fuel to burn! It’s always something else in the area that burns—a match, a cigarette, clothing, furniture.

So let’s back up. Roy Mustang snaps his fingers and flames go whoooooosh in the air.

But what’s it burning? Nothing! There is no fuel for these flames! Chemistry does not work this way! (Okay, sometimes he is lighting homunculi people on fire, but just as often, we see flames literally in thin air.)

So, how can flame alchemy possibly be working?

Worry not, for I have a solution to the problem. You know what else air has lots of? Nitrogen! The earth’s atmosphere is 70% diatomic nitrogen (N2). This is great because N2 is extremely stable, and doesn’t burn or react with anything else.

However, this means that any reaction that gives out N2 as a product will be extremely exothermic (that’s chemist for “goes boom if you look at it the wrong way”). That’s why you hear so much about nitrogen-based explosives. Most of these are azo/azide/nitro based, but the problem with those is they all contain carbon as well. We can’t have that; there simply isn’t enough carbon in the atmosphere (which is a good thing, global warming and all that).

Query, then: what can you do with nothing but nitrogen? Answer: you can chain together a ton of azides. This gives you extremely unstable, explosive compounds. Roy Mustang, who can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with his mind (extremely hard to do in real life, and the focus of much research), could certainly rearrange nitrogen atoms into incredibly unstable configurations.

But don’t just take my word for it — intrepid chemists have made it in real life. Taken from “Things I Won’t Work With” on a popular chemist’s blog:

Azoazide Azides

image

As you can see, this is made entirely of nitrogen, so it can be made from nothing but the Earth’s atmosphere. And as to where it will light on fire? Here, from the post:

"The compound exploded in solution, it exploded on any attempts to touch or move the solid, and (most interestingly) it exploded when they were trying to get an infrared spectrum of it. The papers mention several detonations inside the Raman spectrometer as soon as the laser source was turned on, which must have helped the time pass more quickly.

In conclusion: what up, Edward Elric? Were you wanting to show up Colonel Mustang? I’ve just solved Flame Alchemy for you — in return, please just give me a running head start to get the hell outta Central before the showdown.

(P.S. I haven’t even gone into the extremely complicated fluid dynamics and atmospheric chemistry that Roy would have needed to master flame alchemy. The man would have to be a math genius. I’m cool with that.)

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My review is live on Strange Horizons! :)

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thetenthandahalfdoctor:

OMG NASA! YOU WIN! YOU WIN EDUCATION! FUCKING GLaDOS AT NASA

FOR SCIENCE. YOU MONSTER.

(via fuckyeahvalvesoftware)

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Lately I’ve been really enjoying watching Almost Human, a science-fiction police procedural. It’s set in a kinda-sorta cyberpunk world, where there are humans, androids, and also genetically enhanced humans, who have the in-universe nickname of “Chromes”.

Bite my shiny chrome genome!

Being a biologist, of course, this idea immediately fascinated me. Although the show doesn’t really go into any detail about how Chromes are engineered, there are enough details to make me extremely curious—and imaginative. (And no, don’t worry, this post contains no spoilers.)

We aren’t told that much about Chromes, but there are three main tidbits that the show offers up:

1) They are extremely well genetically engineered humans. As the show puts it, “all the boxes are checked” when they are created. They’re gorgeous people, incredibly healthy and fit, free of genetic diseases, with a long life expectancy, and of course they’re pretty much all geniuses.

2) They are, as one might expect, are extremely expensive to create (though we have no information on whether they’re made in artificial wombs, or gestated in the usual location).

3) And most intriguingly … the show, so far, has always stated that Chromes are ”purchased” by the parents, who are basically purchasing the engineering of their children.

Now, speaking as one who has had genetics training, this made me wonder: if two Chromes have a baby, does the next generation get a Chrome out of it? And then I thought, wait, can Chromes even conceive babies? Which leads right into my current pet speculation: what if these almost-super-human Chromes are sterile by design? That would be a masterstroke that kills two birds with one stone! Because:

1) If the Chrome genomes you’re selling are sterile, then you don’t have to worry about two sets of genes mixing into a less-than-perfect genotype/phenotype in the next generation, which is probably fantastic for your legal liability in terms of the product you are selling, i.e. a perfect life. I can totally see a lawyer arguing that if my company gives you genes that then give rise to a less-than-perfect baby, it’s false advertising or somesuch on my part, cue lawsuits.

And possibly more importantly, 2) if Chromes can’t reproduce, then whoever is producing the Chromes is basically getting a copyright on the genes because they can’t be propagated! If one was inclined to be severely cynical, one could probably envision Monsanto doing this, should they ever get into the business of creating human seeds. (Of course, that still leaves human cloning wide open, but I wouldn’t put it beyond a company to encode some proprietary kill switch in the telomeres …)

The computer scientist Donald Knuth once quipped regarding our efforts into sequencing and undestanding the human genome: “I have a hunch that the unknown sequences of DNA will decode into copyright notices and patent protections.” Do you know, in this show, they just might.

— Aperture Science Journal Club: Almost Human: Futuristic Biotech Speculations

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I have a friend, let us call him DJ JD, who regularly and generously provides me with 1) the latest hippest music reviews, and 2) amazing stories from his law practice.

Today I received a delightful missive combining both, which I have received permission to share below.

 
New Single: This morning’s conference call (feat. Daft Punk)

Artist: [Redacted]

Review: I suspect that the blatherskite du jour (and nominal presenter on the call), having determined (as I had) that this meeting would be a waste of time, decided to recoup the otherwise lost time by taking a taxi (or, likely as not, “a car”) across the city during the same time slot as the call.

As a result, I infer, he was talking on his (smart) phone, and (I further infer) failed to lock the screen, meaning that every time the car went over a bump or he nodded his head, he hit a button on the touch keypad.

So his presentation came out, as often as not, as “And when buying data transport BEEP between sovereign international zones BEEDLDY BOOP one must take care that net protocol conversions BEEP BEEDY BEEP BEEDY remain consistent under the BOODOOBEEPBOODOOBEEP relevant frameworks”

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. On the whole I thought the mixed media and “found sound” approach was a clever commentary on the banality of white collar work.  Nevertheless, I had to dock some points as I felt that it lacked the cohesiveness of recurring motifs or at least a unifying theme (to wit, a bass line) to truly be evaluated as music.


- DJ JD
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Overhead In Russia

  • A: Hey, we're taking a day trip to see Kolmogorov's country villa. Are you coming?
  • B: Only if Smirnoff is there also ...
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Why so little imagination? Why don’t Nigerian scammers claim to be from Turkey, or Portugal or Switzerland or New Jersey? Stupidity is an unsatisfactory answer: the scam requires skill in manipulation, considerable inventiveness and mastery of a language that is non-native for a majority of Nigerians. It would seem odd that after lying about his gender, stolen millions, corrupt officials, wicked in-laws, near-death escapes and secret safety deposit boxes that it would fail to occur to the scammer to lie also about his location.

Naturally, there is a fantastic—and incredibly sad—answer to this question.

Imagine you are a scammer.  You send out a well-crafted scam email.  You get millions of responses back, because your email was good enough that you got a bunch of smart people, too!  But guess what?  Smart people are vastly more likely to figure out, at some stage in your scam, that it’s a scam.  By the time you’ve attracted one victim, you’ve spent so much time on everyone else (who have run away, or called the FBI on you) that this just isn’t sustainable.

So what does a smart scammer do?  She targets the other end of the population: someone gullible enough to believe a Nigerian scam email is far more likely to follow through with the rest of the scam, thus lowering the possibility of wasted effort, and keeping the scam profitable:

Since gullibility is unobservable, the best strategy is to get those who possess this quality to self-identify. An email with tales of fabulous amounts of money and West African corruption will strike all but the most gullible as bizarre. It will be recognized and ignored by anyone who has been using the Internet long enough to have seen it several times. It will be figured out by anyone savvy enough to use a search engine and follow up on the auto-complete suggestions […] It won’t be pursued by anyone who consults sensible family or friends, or who reads any of the advice banks and money transfer agencies make available. Those who remain are the scammers’ ideal targets.

This paper does a really fantastic analysis of what they term the “victim density” problem, ie, that not everyone is a potential victim, and how a smart attacker would optimize their chances of profiting off victims when they have no idea where said victims are.  (Also: come for the interesting math, stay for the witty prose.)

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bitterchord:

this is the cutest monument i have ever seen

bitterchord:

this is the cutest monument i have ever seen

(Source: riotclitshave, via cosmictuesdays)