Thursday, September 18, 2008

Science by Mail, Packages 5-10

This is a roll of carbon fiber fabric. Very cool stuff, perhaps close to 90% pure carbon, made by a high-tech process from some kind of synthetic fiber.

Carbon fiber fabric is coated with epoxy and hardened to make carbon fiber panels; this is a sample.

Five pounds of pure bismuth metal, for melting and casting or making crystals. Bismuth is a dense, non-toxic metal, and it arrived as a bag of crystalline chunks, probably smashed off of a larger cast block with a sledgehammer.

My favorite is a set of three metal cylinders of the same size and shape. They are made of magnesium, copper, and tunsten. The difference in mass between the magnesium and the tungsten is about one to ten, which makes it a strange experience to pick them both up. The copper is pretty close to somewhere in the middle, about five times the mass of the magnesium cylinder. The tungsten sample is amazing -- a museum-quality sample, the most expensive of the items I purchased. It weighs almost exactly what it would weigh if it were made of solid gold, about twice as much as it it were made of lead. Maybe I'll get a lead cylinder to go with it for comparison purposes.

An ultraviolet flashlight, with UV-generating LEDs. Shows up cool things like security features on driver licenses and banknotes. I was hoping some of my existing minerals would fluoresce nicely, but none of them do. Chicken gristle does, strangely, and crayons, and many items washed with detergent, and any "bright white" paper.

Last for today, a sample of pure silver you can hold in your hand. It's a troy ounce ingot with a buffalo motif.

I'm expecting a few more tomorrow!

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