March 20, 2014

My Rice classmate shows how to start brushfire with 3-iron

When I was at Rice U. in Houston, the least popular major was Materials Science: there were only about four materials science majors. So, the notion of studying materials science attracted disparaging comments from guys majoring in more popular fields. Yet, I can recall the materials science majors flat-out winning arguments with their detractors. Their argument was, roughly: without advances in materials, everything would still be made out of clay, lead, or leather. Wikipedia phrases their position more formally:
Materials science, also commonly known as materials engineering, is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This relatively new scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates elements of applied physics and chemistry. With significant media attention focused on Nano science and nanotechnology in recent years, materials science is becoming more widely known as a specific field of science and engineering. ... Many of the most pressing scientific problems that are currently faced today are due to the limitations of the materials that are currently available and, as a result, breakthroughs in this field are likely to have a significant impact on the future of technology.

For example, when I was young, the only thing made out of titanium was the SR-71. One type of object that has improved since my Rice days are golf clubs. 

But, there are downsides. One of my Class of '80 classmates was a Material Sciences major with the sci-fi name James Earthman. Now a materials science and chemical engineering professor at UC Irvine, Dr. Earthman is in the news today for a video demonstrating that the golfer who claimed that the 25-acre brush fire he started in 2010 at the Shady Canyon golf course in Orange County might not have been lying to cover up, say, tossing a cigar butt in the rough:
When struck against a rock – typically, by a frustrated golfer trying to hit a ball out of the shrubs and weeds on the golf-course margin – the titanium coating can produce a shower of such sparks. 
“The temperature of these particles can get up to around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” Earthman said. “Titanium reacts violently with both oxygen and nitrogen in the air.”

So, when I tossed my ball out from the brush to the fairway on the 14th hole at Rustic Canyon golf course yesterday, I wasn't cheating, I was preventing forest fires.
     

24 comments:

Auntie Analogue said...


You can't spell "forest fire" unless you begin with "fore"!

scottlocklin said...

I'm calling BS on that. While it is a fire hazard to machine the stuff, it isn't THAT much of a fire hazard. It's routinely machined without more than a bucket of sand to prevent fires. I've even done it in my kitchen on a micro-lathe.

Anonymous said...

sedona methode

Seht mal hier partnerrückführung

eah said...

So, when I tossed my ball out from the brush to the fairway on the 14th hole at Rustic Canyon golf course yesterday,...

As long as you counted it as a stroke, what's the problem?

dearieme said...

"So, when I tossed my ball out from the brush to the fairway on the 14th hole: Clintonist!

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Grey Enlightenment said...

Just more evidence smart people will rule the world. They are sending people into space, discovering the origins of the universe, making cool apps, and getting insanely rich in the process. Graphine holds promise for application, like solar cells, desalination, electronics, building materials, and medical diagnostics.

Uncle Elmer said...

Thanks for reminding me to get off the internet and approach a local company that just received a $10M govt contract for materials science research. We have developed a novel apparatus to watch paint dry.

Anonymous said...

When I was at Cornell (late 80s) materials science was the new hot field.

ben tillman said...

Thanks, Steve - that was interesting. Good work by your classmate. It sounds like he has quite the dry sense of humor.

I wonder, though -- now that this research has been published, will it have a disparate impact in the context of firefighter hiring exams? Should the research be suppressed for that reason? We have to keep our priorities straight, after all.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate man bites dawg story.

They finally found one.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-father-died-protecting-teenage-daughter-her-mother-says-20140320,0,1087629.story

Anonymous said...

http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.com/2014/03/nate-silver-on-fact-and-opinion.html

DPG said...

If anyone has not read The Diamond Age, I strongly recommend it. Simultaneously an exploration of the impact that nanotechnology could have on the future and an endorsement of the irreplaceable influence of parents.

Anonymous said...

I used to play with a guy with a titanium driver and sparks came off it regularly when he teed off.

mike said...

I'm glad to see that there's a dress code at Rustic Canyon. Golfers in t-shirts really fry me. By the way, Steve, yesterday I noticed a threesome in their 30's or 40's using a cart at San Francisco Golf Club. As you probably know, at SFGC carts are only for the elderly or infirm. So I suppose they don't have enough caddies. Work Mexicans just won't do?

jody said...

pretty similar to the geology majors.

materials science seems to be one of the physics fields not qualified for nobel physics prize consideration, yet in general it's more important than most of the physics fields they do award. what those guys do usually has a much bigger effect on everybody's life.

it's gonna require some new materials to achieve some of the next 'big science' projects. so one day it might be accepted for consideration for the physics prize, the way astronomy was. but i wouldn't count on it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/the-scientific-quest-to-prove-bisexuality-exists.html?hp&_r=0

World War B

Steve Sailer said...

"As long as you counted it as a stroke, what's the problem?"

The problem is I hit the ball on a line requiring a 220 yard carry over a dry wash and carried it 210 yards, so I should have gone back about 190 yards to the nearest grassed area, the white tee.

Tony said...

I use titanium drill bits. Those things heat up like a sonofabitch like all drill bits do. Are they gonna stop making them now? I lay newspaper out under where I'm working and never had any problems.

smead jolley said...

Yeah Steve, at my club there are way too many short-knockers playing from the blues. The male ego is a very fragile thing.

Anonymous said...

Only if it's marked as a hazard. Otherwise, you'd have to play from the tee.

Anonymous said...

My alma mater was known as a good engineering school, and it was one of the few schools in the country to offer a degree in Mining Engineering. It was an extremely unpopular major at the time (the early 90's), as coal was considered a dying industry and fracking was all but unheard of. I imagine those few grads are laughing all the way to the bank.

Eric Jacobus said...

One more of these, and Golfer Rage will become a hot-button political issue.

Maxwell Power said...

Look at Mohamed Morsi, the "precision surfaces expert"/associate prof at CSU Northridge--guy sure went places after that