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Archive for April 10th, 2008

Paul Hogan Invented HDPE

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Can you believe it?! Mick Dundee…

Actually, it was a different Paul Hogan who invented High Density Polyethylene. And he had the help of Robert Banks. Both worked for Phillips Petroleum, and this was back in 1951. So they come up with this stuff, and it gets used to make hula hoops, and everybody goes nuts for those things. So HDPE immediately cements itself a place in history.

Fast forward a few decades, and HDPE is still around, being used to make all types of things, including children’s toys. Truly a superior toy material. It’s definitely better than lead! Although that lead train set is still a holiday favorite.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen HDPE in use more than you think, as milk bottles and water pipes. I’ve seen it around. It’s represented by a number 2 in the “recycle this” triangle. HDPE rules! And manufacturers of items consisting of HDPE can buy their polyethylene in a whole variety of convenient formats: film, granules, regrind, pellets, or just basic scrap.

Did you know that if you had an excess of HDPE on your hands, you could pay people to take it away? That’s right! Because they can break it down, refine it, and then sell it to companies that go through HDPE like mad. I mean if it’s everywhere, it’s got to come from somewhere. Raw Polymers Ltd is a company that will pay you for your post industrial and post consumer HDPE.

Nuclear Insight From "WarGames"

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I just got finished watching "WarGames" (1983), starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as a couple of high school students who get caught up in a potential WWIII. How did it all happen?

Broderick hacked into NORAD thinking it was a gaming company. He wanted to find the soon-to-be-released games and play them at home, ahead of time, for free. What he ended up finding in NORAD (which he didn't know about until it was too late) was a learning computer that also happened to play games. So he selected Global Thermonuclear War, and the computer began the simulation.

"Joshua" is the name of that computer, and it had recently been given control of the final launch sequence at NORAD (and perhaps elsewhere) for the nuclear missiles.

Joshua combined the simulation with reality, and it looked like it would eventually launch real missiles at Russia as part of the ongoing game. That would provoke a Russian counterstrike, and wipe out all our major cities.

Ok, you probably knew some or all of that already. But I realized a couple things watching the film that I hadn't thought of before. These don't relate to the movie, but to life in general in our Nuclear Age.

First, if we could conceivably scare ourselves into launching on the Russians because of a computer error…

…and the Russians themselves seem to have had a history of faulty, malfunctioning equipment…

…then it isn't inconceivable that they could launch on us because of a computer error.

The second thought I had was with regard to the President. I realized that…

…if all the high-up military officials are acutely aware…

…of the fact that the U.S., Russia, and other countries…

…each have nuclear missiles pointed at high-yield targets all over the planet…

…and those missiles are a little more than a button's press away from launching and wiping out millions of people…

…then the President must live by a different set of rules than most citizens. On top of the whole "He's the President, he can do whatever he wants," deal.

I hadn't really been worried about a nuclear war. I didn't really dwell on it, whether I'm outside, inside, whatever. Nothing to worry about.

But I thought for the President, there must be one of two possibilities. Either he knows the risk of an unprovoked nuclear strike at any given time, and is constantly aware of the possibility that in the next few minutes he'll have to seek shelter in a bunker somewhere…

Or he lets his assistants worry about that.

But I figure when you deal with issues this big on a daily basis, you might equate a nuclear strike with rain, and your hardened bunker with a house. Stay inside the house when its raining. Take an "umbrella" with you when it looks like rain. Always keep an eye out for other places to seek shelter from the storm.

But I guess with missile defense systems, and the apparent "calm" between the U.S. and the long-range Nuclear Powers, there's not much to worry about.

…Or is there?