Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What does this sculpture mean?




















It looks rather abstract – a 6” wide by 8” high bronze-colored metal plate rising from a 1-1/4 inch high wooden base. There also is a black object sticking up above it. A side view shows the 1/ 4” thick plate is curved and is held in a groove cut into the wooden base.  


The ‘sculpture’ was an accident. It was made in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Climax Molybdenum Company research laboratory in the early 1980s.  Our blacksmith was putting a 6” wide piece of red-hot steel plate into the rolling mill for one of my projects. He was holding the back end with a pair of tongs. The tongs touched the feed table. They got pulled out of his glove-covered hands and went through the rolls along with the plate. That curved black object is what remains from half of his tongs. I have that ‘sculpture’ sitting on the window sill in my office as a reminder that in research you will encounter new things – both desirable and undesirable.


Over a century ago at General Electric William F. Coolidge figured out how to manufacture lamp filaments from tungsten power, as described earlier this year in an article by Ainissa Ramirez at

American Scientist titled Tungsten’s brilliant hidden history. He and his coworkers eventually figured out how to make filaments that lasted for a long time.






The crystals in some filaments grew until they filled the entire diameter of a wire, which resembles a bamboo rod, as shown above.









Under their own weight those large crystals can slide past each other (creep) like a stack of playing cards (as shown above) to produce rapid failure by ‘offsetting.’







The crystals in other filaments did not grow nearly that large, and they maintained an interlocking structure which prevented offsetting. Careful chemical analysis revealed that ‘doping’ the tungsten with a combination of very small amounts of aluminum, potassium, and silicon could produce the desired structure. This is known as AKS doped non-sag tungsten. In the 1960s electron microscopy revealed that tiny bubbles of potassium were responsible for producing the non-sag behavior.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Two great public speakers were not just born that way




Both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. only got a C+ when they took a public speaking course in school. They had to learn in order to improve from being just mediocre (C+).


At Forbes on October 16, 2020 there is an article by Carmine Gallo titled JFK got a ‘C’ in public speaking. A new book traces his transformation into a captivating leader. At Failure The Book on November 4, 2013 there is a second article by Alyssa Shea titled Martin Luther King Jr. barely passed public speaking. A third article at Mental Floss by Jake Rossen on January 15, 2019 titled 12 historic facts about Martin Luther King Jr. says that another time he got a C in Public Speaking.  


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Most commonly searched fears in U.S. states and D.C. for 2020.



















Halloween is just two weeks away. It is time to talk about the most commonly searched fears for 2020 in U.S. states and the District of Columbia. At Your Local Security on October 12, 2020 there is an article mistitled Your state’s most-searched phobia 2020.










As is shown above in a bar chart, 11 states feared people, 7 feared flying, and 4 each feared failure and the dark. 3 each feared being alone, blood, and holes. Only Nebraska feared public speaking.   












Another bar chart shows the wildly different results from 2019, where 11 states feared holes, and 5 each feared needles, public speaking, and water.


Right now my wife and I definitely fear people. This year we going to skip our usual Halloween activity of handing out candy bars to about two dozen trick-or-treaters.  


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Does your zodiac sign predict how you will be as a public speaker?




































Can you learn anything about how you will do as a public speaker based on your birth date? Some look up at the stars instead of paying attention to what is right beneath their feet. Astrology divides the year up into twelve ‘tropical’ zodiac signs as follows:

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18)

PISCES (February 19 to March 20)

ARIES (March 21 to April 19)

TAURUS (April 20 to May 20)

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20)

CANCER (June 21 to July 22)

LEO (July 23 to August 22)

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22)

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22)

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 21)

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 to December 21)

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19)


















I found an article by Christine Schoenwald at YourTango on December 7, 2019 titled 6 zodiac signs who make great public speakers. She said they are Leo, Gemini, Libra, Scorpio, Aquarius, and Aries. As is shown above, when plotted on a circular diagram they alternate – except for Scorpio which should instead be replaced by Sagittarius.    

















If we were instead to assume that all the zodiac signs for Air and Fire would be good, then we could get an evenly spaced alternating pattern, as shown above.

















But we equally well could just alternate pairs of signs, as is shown above.

















Or we could alternate seasons, as is shown above, assuming Spring and Fall would be good since they are more temperate than Summer and Winter.

















At Magic Horoscope on July 26, 2020 there is a second article about The 4 best talkers of the zodiac. It picks Gemini (most versatile), Scorpio (most eccentric), Libra (most caring), and  Aquarius (most thoughtful). As shown above, when we go from Gemini to either Libra or Aquarius we skip the next three signs. Scorpio breaks that pattern.

















A third article at Culture Astrology titled Which zodiac signs are born to entertain on stage? lists eight of the twelve signs. As shown above, it omits Cancer, Taurus, Pisces, and Capricorn – which are clustered rather than evenly distributed.

















When we pick eight of twelve, then we might expect the other four to sit at the compass quadrants, as is shown above in an alternative diagram.

















A fourth article by Sanjay Ragavendra at AstroTalk on July 10, 2020 describes the Best to worst speakers according to zodiac signs. Their unevenly distributed rankings are shown above on a diagram. We can add the rankings for four seasons to get sums for Winter: 27, Spring: 16, Summer: 21, Fall: 14.


















How do signs listed in those three articles compare? As shown above in a table, when we add more signs the same others at least continue to appear. But there is no agreement on how many zodiac signs are good. Maybe we should change the spelling from astrology to asstrology.


At the McGill Office for Science and Society on October 9, 2020 there is an article by Jonathan Jarry titled How astrology escaped the pull of science. He discusses how it has failed many tests, and his take-away message is that:


“Astrology is a pseudoscience due to its lack of progress and refusal to deal with a large body of critical studies.

 Many modern fans of astrology do not see it as a science but as a tool for introspection, in large part because its predictions can give them an illusion of control in a time of stress.

 There are more grounded ways of dealing with uncertainty, like mindfulness practice and engaging in activities that put you ‘in the zone.’ “





Tuesday, October 13, 2020

How not to wear a mask
















The slogan that Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases came from the Spanish Flu pandemic back in 1918. Wearing a mask over both the nose and mouth can help protect you and others from the current coronavirus pandemic crisis. But there also are three wrong ways to wear a mask.



















Wearing a mask over your eyes (like Zorro or the Lone Ranger) does not help at all.



















Wearing a mask only over your nose makes you look like a silly clown. It does not stop your mouth breathing or coughing.   


















Wearing a mask only over your mouth doesn’t stop your nose breathing or sneezing. It just  makes you look like one of the silly monkeys in those sculptures of Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil. But when I was shopping at the Boise Costco yesterday I saw a half-dozen people with only their mouths covered.









Please wear a mask the right way to protect both yourself and others.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Do 77% of Americans fear public speaking? No! That percentage described stage fright in Swedes who also had social anxiety disorder.


In some recent articles I was perplexed to find a claim that 77% of American fear public speaking. When I looked on Google I found an article by Lisa Fritscher at VeryWellMind on April 12, 2020 that is titled Glossophobia or the Fear of Public Speaking and subtitled symptoms, complications, and treatments. She says:


“Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking is remarkably common. In fact, some experts estimate that as much as 77% of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking.”


Lisa didn’t say who or where ‘the population’ was, but one might assume incorrectly it was Americans. She referenced another article by Alexandre Heeren et al titled Assessing public speaking fear with the short form of the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker Scale: confirmatory factor analyses among a French-speaking community sample which appeared in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment for 2013, Vol. 9, pages 609 to 618. The first sentence in its introduction says:


“About 77% of the general population fears public speaking.”


It refers to still another article by T. Furmark et al titled Social phobia in the general population: prevalence and sociodemographic profile that appeared in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology for 1999; Vol. 34 No. 8, pages 416 to 424. (I found the full text in an EBSCOhost database at my friendly local public library). But I recognized that article because I had blogged about it back on March 25, 2011 in a post titled Almost 1 in 4 Swedes fears public speaking.












As shown above in a bar chart for the 14 social fears which they surveyed (and listed results in Table 4), they found that 24.0 percent of the Swedish general population feared speaking (or performing) in front of a group of people. Strictly speaking this is stage fright, and was the most common fear, followed by using public lavatories (11.1%), writing in front of others (8.0%), maintaining a conversation with someone unfamilar (7.2%), and being addressed in a group of people (6.1%). Note that this survey reported point prevalence (are you now) rather than the more commonly studied lifetime prevalence (have you ever).











Where was the  ~77 percent? It also is in Table 4, as is shown above in a second bar chart. But that instead describes Swedes with social phobia. 77.1% of them feared speaking (or performing) in front of a group of people. So, the 2013 article by Alexandre Heeren et al. had misquoted a 1999 article! And in 2020 Lisa Fritscher made it vaguer “as much as 77%.” What can we learn from this nonsense? Go back to the source before you quote a statistic. Don’t assume that others actually did their homework.


But then Lisa Fritscher’s article got quoted by other articles and spread around the Web. One at Entrepreneur on September 11, 2020 titled Overcome your fear of public speaking with this $40 course claimed:


“One study has found that as many as 77 percent of Americans have some level of glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.”


A second article by Roger A. Reid at Medium on September 30, 2020 titled 4 steps to tame your nerves when fear of speaking brings you to your knees similarly incorrectly said:


“In fact, some experts estimate that as much as 77% of the population has some level of anxiety in facing a crowd— no matter how many presentations they’ve done.”


Even worse, a third article by Andrea Chen at Medium on October 5, 2020 titled How you can become less anxious presenting over Zoom said that:


“According to an infographic by Orai, 77% of the US population struggles with public speaking.”


That infographic, titled 48 Fear of Public Speaking Statistics You Should Know in 2020, is a burgoo of baseless crap, which I will discuss in another post.   


By the way, it also is possible to misuse another result from the Furmark et al article to underestimate the fear of public speaking. Peter Khoury made that mistake in an article at Magnetic Speaking titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics. I blogged about it on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. He looked at Table 1 in T. Furmark et al. and saw that for Sweden a total of 15.6% have social phobia. Then he multiplied this by 0.894 to get that 13.5% of Swedes fear public speaking. (That multiplier came from an article on epidemiology of social phobia which had studied people around Florence, Italy). Of course that is ludicrous.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Fighting wildfires from the air is dangerous




















When a wildfire is burning on steep hills, the quickest way to fight it can be for a single engine air tanker (acronym SEAT) to drop retardant. On September 22, 2020 the 30-acre Schill fire was located two miles southeast of Emmett, Idaho. An Air Tractor 802 airplane piloted by Ricky Burton was dispatched from the Bureau of Land Management near Ontario, Oregon. It crashed, and Mr. Burton was fatally injured.


An article at IdahoNews2 on September 25, 2020 described how Pilot killed in Emmett remembered for decades of experience (and his love of kittens). A news release from the Bureau of Land Management on September 23, 2020 said:


“We offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the pilot lost in this tragic accident. This reminds us of the inherent risks involved in wildland firefighting and the gratitude we owe to the courageous and committed men and women who serve willingly to protect lives, property, and natural resources.”


An Air Tractor 802F has a wingspan of 59 feet, and a 1,350 hp turboprop engine. It has a cruising speed of 220 mph, but a typical working speed of just 120 mph. It  has an empty weight of 7,200 pounds, a maximum (take-off) weight of 16,000 pounds and a hopper with a capacity of 820 gallons. Plain water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon, so that would be about 6839 pounds. An article by Bill Gabbert at Fire Aviation on September 25, 2020 titled The SEAT that crashed Sept. 22 in Idaho was first registered two months ago explained that:


“The Air Tractor 802A can hold up to 820 gallons of fire retardant weighing approximately 7,380 pounds. If any air tanker pilot is depending on the release of retardant to make it possible to clear terrain while exiting the drop area, a malfunction preventing that release would affect the aircraft’s ability to climb, possibly resulting in impact with terrain.”


Another article from News9 on September 24, 2020 titled Oklahoma firefighter dies while battling fires in Idaho further explained: 


“The preliminary finding from the FAA is saying that the dump gate malfunctioned and didn’t open to dump the fire retardant, so he wasn’t able to pull up over the ridge,’ family said.”


On August 15, 2015 I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes.


The image of a retardant drop came from FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.