Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Review

The most popular posts of this year are
  1. The Best Advice for Graduate Students (thanks for the link, Chemjobber)
  2. Q&A with Crazy Aaron (thanks for the Facebook link, Aaron)
  3. Rheologist Job at Wrigley
  4. Rheologist Job at Kraft
  5. Bulletproof Shirt--It turns out if you run a Google Image search on kevlar molecular structure, the post is attractive because of the yellow-colored picture.
Favorite Post Title: Elvis was a Chemical Engineer

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quotations of the Moment: Bad Examples Edition

"If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning."
--Catherine Aird

"A man who swings a cat by a tail will learn something he can learn in no other way."
--Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pointless Trivia (SF Prep #3 Update)

I found out recently that the question "red or green?" when ordering food in a New Mexican restaurant is actually the official state question of New Mexico.

A Pointless Observation

During the holiday break, I used a Mac for the first time in a while.  I noticed that the pie charts from some previous posts [1,2] looked like the Mac beach ball of death.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Best Advice for Graduate Students

Back up all your data and your thesis and put the backup in a secure place.

An article in the December 20, 2010 edition of the Albuquerque Journal [1] told the sad story of a Ph.D. student who lost all her work when thieves stole her computer and her back-up drive [5] during a break-in.  She's hoping for the return of her computer, but the article indicated that her laptop was the only place where her data, collected over the last 6 years, were stored.
I received this blunt advice from R.L. Peters's book Getting What You Came For when I was in grad school.  I kept three copies of my writing: one on me, one in my lab, and one at my apartment.  I got paranoid when I found that the library book detectors were slowly erasing my floppy disks.

[1]  The article is available online, but only to Journal subscribers.
[2]  To end this post on a happy note, in time for the Western holidays, check out this story from New Zealand where the computer was returned.

Update (12/30/2010)
[3]  Thanks to CJ for the link.  For those who are stoping by, this is a blog focused on the field of rheology.  The logo at the top of the page refers to the phenomenon called yield stress.
[4]  Here are some quotations about being a bad example.

Update (1/3/2011)
[5]  The original post indicated that the student had not backed up her work.  She used a portable hard drive, which was stolen along with her computer.  The post has been revised to reflect this fact.  This information comes from an anonymous commenter at Chemjobber.  I apologize for the error.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where are the Rheology Schools?

Following up on a previous post, I thought a search of academic members of SOR could provide information on where people would go to school to obtain a rheological education.  I performed erformed another search on SOR members, focusing on academics.  Any one who listed an academic title (university universtiy, college, department) was counted as an academic.  The top ten states for academic SOR members are TX, WI, CA, MA, OH, IL, PA, MI, NY, and MN [1,2,3].  (I went to graduate school in Illinois.)  I pooled together the states where there were fewer than 5 academics per state.  States with zero academic SOR members were AK, HI, NE, NH, NM, and VT.

[1]  Postal code abbreviations here.
[2]  Raw data here.
[3]  John has put together a list of polymer-related programs here.
[4]  Update 2/8/2011: Fixed 2 typos.

Where are the Rheology Jobs?

Back in May, the states with multiple industrial rheological job positions were NJ, MA, PA, NY, OH, CA, IN, CT, and DE [1].  I was wondering where the rheological jobs in the United States were and realized some information could be obtained from the Society of Rheology directory [2].  I looked through all 50 states and counted up government and industrial positions.  Some members do not identify their place of employment.  If I recognized that person as a professor, I did not count them; otherwise, I assumed that person had an industrial or government job.  From the data [3], I generated the following chart.

The top ten states for SOR members are OH, TX, NJ, CA, MN, IL, PA, DE, MD, and NY.  VA, MA, MI, WI, NM, and CT all have more than 9 industrial and government members.  The remaining 97 members were divided among 30 states.  (I'm one of two SOR members from Nebraska.)  States with zero industrial or governmental members are IA, ID, LA, ME, MT, ND, NV, and, RI.  (Next post--academic members).

[1]  Postal code abbreviations here.
[2]  SOR members can access the directory.
[3]  Raw numbers used to generate the chart can be found here.
[4]  Update 2/8/2011: Fixed broken link

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 Job Report Review

Here's a chart of job postings using the keyword search "rheolog*" from Monster and Careerbuilder for this calendar year.  The average number of postings from Monster was 31.  (I've only been tracking Careerbuilder for 3 months.)  February-July was the time when the most positions were advertised.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Burn the Place to the Ground'

San Diego-area radio stations will be playing songs from the following list today--
  • Burning Down the House (Talking Heads)
  • Rooms on Fire (Stevie Nicks)
  • Fire Burning (Sean Kingston)
  • Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)
  • Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
  • Eyes on Fire (Blue Foundation)
  • Hold Your Fire (Rush)
  • Disco Inferno (The Trammps)
  • The Roof Is on Fire (Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three)
  • Burning Love (Elvis Presley)
  • We Didn't Start the Fire (Billy Joel)
  • Burn All the Letters (Indigo Girls)
  • Fire Woman (The Cult)
  • Paper in Fire (John Mellencamp)
  • St. Elmo's Fire (John Parr)
  • I'm on Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
  • Fire and Rain (James Taylor)
  • Smokin' (Boston)
  • T.N.T. (AC/DC)
  • Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple)--which is quoted in the post title
Stations will also be playing the Pyromania album from Def Leppard, as well as the collected works of Earth, Wind & Fire and Arcade Fire.  Once you're tired of music, you can read The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson or Firestarter by Stephen King.  Don't forget the showing of the movie Backdraft later.

(Surely this is an incomplete list.  Make your additions in the comments below.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quotation of the Moment: Corporate Culture

This anecdote, by Robert Townsend (1920-1998), shows how one person can have an effect on corporate culture.  It comes from his book Up the Organization.
When I became head of Avis [in 1962--EFB] I was assured that no one at headquarters was any good, and that my first job was to start recruiting a whole new team. Three years later, Hal Geneen, the President of ITT (which had just acquired Avis), after meeting everybody and listening to them in action for a day, said, “I’ve never seen such depth of management; why I’ve already spotted three chief executive officers!” You guessed it. Same people. I’d brought in only two new people, a lawyer and an accountant.

Idea for Improving Culture

At a recent brainstorming session, I came up with an idea for improving corporate culture.  This idea has yet to be rejected, and I haven't heard any criticism of it yet.  I don't know if it will make it through the winnowing process.  Let me know what you think.

"Free Lunch Program"
Give everyone an amount on their corporate travel accounts ($50-$100/year) that they can use to go out and have lunch with colleagues.  It could be a single lunch at a reasonable restaurant, or an order of subs from the local sandwich place.  This helps build camaraderie and adds to brainstorming time.  It also reduces the relentless cost-cutting that seems to be part of corporate life these days.

Corporate Culture Commentary

There's been some discussion on corporate culture [1,2,3], and I'd like to add a few thoughts, as I've been included in discussions on finding ways to improve the culture at my employer.
  • Different people have different experiences, and what works well for one person may not work well for others.  Some people may think that everything is just peachy, while others who report up to the same VP may be seething with anger.
  • Project quality matters.  Give people kick-ass projects, and they'll do great.  Make them do crap work, and you'll get crap back.
    • Experienced and secure employees will let you know when you've given them crap.
  • Avoid frivolous organization chart rearrangements and cubicle relocations.  When people say "I've worked for x bosses in y years," minimize x and y.

[1]  In the Pipeline
[2]  Chemjobber
[3]  Rheo Thing

Monday, December 6, 2010

My first spam comment

My post on iTunes, which seems to be a favorite of search engines, attracted a spam comment today.  This was the first spam comment for this blog.  I'd always planned to keep the first one for sentimental reasons, but this one involved NSFW activities.  So, I terminated it with extreme prejudice.

Kraft/Wrigley updates

I posted about jobs at Kraft Foods and Wrigley a few months ago.  Both those jobs are still listed on the respective company web sites.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jobs Report (December '10)

A keyword search using the term "rheolog*" found 17 jobs on using Monster's "new search" and 23 jobs using the standard search.  (All previous searches were done using standard search.)  The same keyword found 28 jobs on Careerbuilder.  The search was performed on December 3rd.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Report from Santa Fe?

I've just realized that it's been an month since the SOR meeting in Santa Fe?  Did any readers go?  Anything to report?  Did you get anything out of the posts I put together for the meeting?  (If you want to email me something, go ahead.)

Thanks, Readers

The month of November was the best one yet for this blog.  I had more than 200 readers for the first time, and more than 300 page views for the first time.  Particular thanks to Crazy Aaron's Putty World (and their Facebook link) and to Bob Schiffman for participating in email interviews.

Leslie Nielsen, RIP

Best known as a comic actor in Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies, Mr. Nielsen passed away Sunday at the age of 84.  Many of the tributes I've seen have referenced the Surely/Shirley joke from Airplane!, which was the inspiration for the Surely You're Joking headings I've put out this year.  (I posted the trailer for Airplane! back in February to explain the headings.)  Thanks for the laughs, Leslie.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

A mere elementary knowledge of any natural science is a proposition from which reason starts; it is a foundation on which thought builds, and a height from which imagination takes its flight. It is an education in all other knowledge, because it demands attention, observation and accuracy with well-defined expression.

Helen Harlin Walworth Science 1880, 1, pp 198–199.

Hat tip: Sharon Neufeldt at

Thanks, Bob

I'd like to thank Bob Schiffmann for his Q&A on blogging.  You can visit Bob's company here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Q&A with Robert Schiffmann (R.F. Schiffmann Associates, Inc.)

As mentioned in a previous post, I attended the IMPI Microwave Short Course held November 9-10.  During the course, Bob Schiffmann gave a talk entitled "Myths Vs. Reality: Blogs Vs. Science."  The talk centered on information and misinformation in the blogosphere, especially regarding microwave cooking of food.  I asked Bob if he would answer questions by email, and he agreed.  The exchange was checked via email for accuracy.

RW: What's your background and your current job?
BS: I have a Bachelors degree in Pharmacy from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in Analytical and Physical chemistry from Purdue University. I entered the food industry in 1959 as a research scientist, where I did all kinds of product and process development. It was in 1961 that I accidentally discovered a microwave oven, and about 10 or 15 minutes later I did and experiment that resulted in my first patent and many large industrial installations of microwave heating systems. I left industry along with a partner in 1971 to become an independent consultant, and in 1978 formed my second consulting company (R.F.Schiffmann Associates, Inc.). The company is focused on product and process development and, since 1982, all of our work has been microwave heating related. We also do a great deal of product testing for various companies. I also teach a lot of microwave technology courses.

RW: Your talk discussed myths related to microwave preparation of food. First, haven't these myths been around since the advent of ovens in the home, and second, how are things worse with blogs?
BS: You are correct that these myths have been around for many years, for example the concept that you can't use metal in a microwave oven, which is totally erroneous. What makes it worse today is the advent of the blogosphere. Before this, news traveled rather slowly and the influence was limited. But today, everyone thinks that he or she has brilliant things to say and therefore has a blog. Now, if it only a few people read the blog, but many blogs have the same misinformation, the cumulative effect is very large. Also, people tend to read things that agree with their own thoughts. So, people tend to read the same sorts of misinformation and myths over and over. Also, very few bloggers are really original: most simply copy and paste from others so that this misinformation travels like a virus.

RW: What do you do when you encounter postings that you know are wrong or inaccurate?
BS: I sometimes respond in the “comments” section on the blog page. I don't do that as much now as I did when I started receiving Google Alerts, because I found that there was so much misinformation, and repeated so often, that I could literally spend hours each day writing responses to the various bloggers. Further, in something like two or three years I've only got one response from a blogger who apologized for the misinformation and promised never to do it again. When I do comment, I very often include the science, or scientific facts that refute the kinds of comments that are made in the blog.

RW: Have you thought about starting your own blog?
BS: Yes I have, but right now my time is so limited because of my work with IMPI, as well as my consulting business, that I simply can't find free time to write a blog. However, I probably will, hopefully not too far in the future.

RW: Having run a science blog for a year, I've found that I have a small audience (on the order of dozens of readers). Don't these blogs operate on a similar scale, and therefore, their impact is limited?
BS: As I indicated above, these blogs may be small, however, there are so many of them, I virtually see 5 or more a day that say exactly the same thing because of the cut and pasting, so, in the aggregate, the readers must amount to several thousand or more. Just looking at the number of comments some of these blogs get I am astounded by the number of people who spout the same misinformation, and are so poorly informed. After all, we now live in an era in which ignorance is exalted.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quotations of the Moment: Better Off Ted

I just finished working my way through Better Off Ted, a short-lived sitcom that ran for two years on ABC.  Both seasons are available on Netflix.  The show centers around Ted, a the head of Research and Development at Veridian Dynamics, a do-everything company that is an amalgam of GE and Kraft Foods.  The show is a great business satire that avoids the Dilbert trap of smart engineers working for stupid bosses.  Everyone on the show is smart and good as his or her job.  My favorite episodes out of the first 13 are the ones on affirmative action "Racial Sensitivity" and the project everyone wants to work on "Jabberwocky".  The scientists on the show work on everything.  Here are the materials-related lines I was able to pull from the first season.  (Veronica is a VP, and Phil and Lem are the main scientists.)

Veronica: We want to make a metal that is hard as steel but bounces like rubber...and is edible.

Phil: The plastic [in a solar-powered oven] we're using leaches toxins into food.
Lem: However, the toxins are only released when the ovens are exposed to sunlight.
Phil: Which is the only time solar ovens work.

Phil: You were right.  That polymer could burst into flames on high impact.
Lem: You owe me a smoothie.

After the jump, one of the fake Veridian Dynamics commercials.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Link of the Moment: Slime Time

Last Saturday, the University of Nebraska at Omaha hosted an event teaching local Girl Scouts about the chemistry and physics of polymers.
Hat tip: The Omaha World-Herald

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"Last week, in between leading a graduate seminar on Proust and delivering a long-scheduled lecture on mass spectrometry, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ventured a few ticks beyond her acknowledged area of expertise and reflected on monetary policy at a convention in Phoenix."  Noam Schieber, The New Republic
 I look at those phrases and wish I could write like that.  Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Product of the Moment: Recycled Shirt

While at a short course last week, I won a prize for correctly answering a trivia question about per capita use of paper in the United States.  My prize was a polo shirt made of recycled PET made by  The company uses 8 soft drink bottles for each shirt (hence the company name).  Even the buttons are made of recycled PET.  The shirt is not dyed, and takes its color from the bottles.  The shirt itself can be recycled once its service is over.  New shirts cost $40.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Electronic Lab Notebooks

Our division is starting to look at electronic lab notebooks.  Anyone out there with experience to share?  Pros?  Cons?

Update: Thanks for the comment, David.  Here's the link to "Life as a Physicist" logbook entries.  Gordon uses a Lenovo tablet PC with OneNote software.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SunChips Observations

John has already covered the polylactic acid SunChips bags in several posts [1], so there’s little need for additional comments on the package, its properties, its benefits, or its shortcomings. As someone in the food industry [2], I have two observations. The first is that this is a very public launch and failure. Most packaging changes are barely noticed by the consumer and are set up to be seamless. For example, ConAgra launched a new 46 ounce ketchup bottle two years ago. The bottle won an industry award, but I don’t believe the launch was ever noted on the product.
The second observation is that SunChips will likely be a laboratory for green packaging for some time. Two years ago, SunChips packaging advertised a partnership with TerraCycle, a company that was (and is) looking for ways to recycle plastic and develop green technologies. I don’t recall seeing similar information on any of Frito-Lay’s other products, so a recycling outlook will likely be part of the brand’s identity.

[1] Posts 1, 2, 3, 4

[2] Disclosure: I work for ConAgra Foods, which competes against Frito-Lay in the ready-to-eat snack category.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Video of the Moment: Engineers & Cats

There isn’t much engineering in this video, which is titled An Engineers Guide to Cats.  They do calculate feline aspect ratios and show off calculators, but that’s as far as the nerd-like behavior goes.  (Thanks to SWS for the tip.)
After the jump, one of my favorite videos by the same crew: an advanced guide to cat yodeling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Personal Milestone

This week marks my fifth anniversary at ConAgra Foods Inc. For most big American corporations, this offers some significant financial advantages. I am fully vested in my retirement account. To celebrate the occasion, I wore a vest.

I looked up the original job posting for my position. The focus of the job has changed in the last 5 years, but readers can compare this position to the jobs offered by Wrigley and Kraft this year. Current job hunters should take note: this is not a posting for a position that’s currently available; this was the job advertised 5 years ago.

Collaborate with R and D support groups and project team in relevant areas: rheology, texture, and material science of food. Guide engineers to understanding how the process affects viscosity and how food texture correlates with sensory aspects. Assist with transferring of new technologies and implementation of cost saving programs.

Position Responsibilities
Under minimum direction from management, lead technical projects in the general area of material science of food. Ensure that the milestones of business objectives are met in a timely manner. Communicate program-related issues and status to management to keep them up-to-date. Aid plants with developing and transfer of new technologies. Support pilot and plant trials. Operate and ensure proper functioning of physical implementation in Rheology laboratories (40%).

Prepare project proposals, including experimental design and timelines. Participate in project planning, including the selection of technical guidelines for achieving objectives. Identify manpower and resources to meet primary objectives (20%).

Provide routine and non-routine support to client groups with solving urgent processing and production problems (20%).

Keep abreast of technical developments and utilize this knowledge initiating new projects on cutting edge of technology (5%).

Manage and direct technician resources (5%).

Position Qualifications
M.S. or preferably Ph.D. in chemistry/engineering or related discipline. 3-5 (post-M.S.) or 1-2 (post-Ph.D.) experience in the general area of rheology.

Requires ability to apply Rheology, Thermal analysis, Spectroscopy, Particle Sizing, and Optical Microsopy in the development of new technology and use these skills in solving complex problems of non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, in-line viscosity measurement, process modeling, and equipment scaling.

This position requires knowledge of advanced statistics and experimental design, and proficiency in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Good communication skills, ability to work with multi-functional teams and understanding technical information including chemistry, physics, statistics, and food is required.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanks to Crazy Aaron

I'd like to thank Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions.  I'd also like to thank her for the Facebook link; more people stopped by here then ever have before!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Q&A With Putty World

I contacted Crazy Aaron's Putty World because I was curious about the business. Elizabeth Perry was kind enough to take the time to respond. The interview was checked via email for accuracy.

RW: How did Aaron get the idea for the business? Does he have a scientific or engineering background?
CAPW: Aaron has a computer science background. When he was working as a software engineer, he was looking for some cool and unusual toys for his desk. He had always been a fan of putty and he figured out how to order 100lbs of the stuff direct from the manufacturer. After the first 100lbs arrived, he divided it up among his co-workers and the entire 100lbs was gone in days. So, he ordered more and people in the office went nuts for the stuff. Eventually, the firm Aaron worked for was purchased and Aaron's former co workers dispersed to new jobs, taking their putty with them. In Dec 2002, Aaron decided to strike out on his own into the putty business and he's been working on developing packaging, pigments and putty science ever since.

RW: Does he use a silicon-based polymer in the putty?
CAPW: Yes, Thinking Putty is silicone based.

RW: Does the crazy putty pull ink off newspapers like the name brand competitor?
CAPW: Many newspapers no longer use inks which can transfer onto the putty. Newspapers now use a soy based ink which does not transfer onto any kind of putty [*], Thinking Putty or otherwise. If you can find a paper printed with transferable inks, Thinking Putty will copy the image.

RW: When I talk to people about these putties, most of them remember the newspaper transfer property. Your website refers to the tactile sensation that people enjoy when handling the putty. Do you have an opinion as to why it's so enjoyable?
CAPW: I think many people have fond memories of playing with putty as a child. Thinking Putty allows adults to relive those fun times, only in larger adult sized handfuls and in many colors they've never seen before. Our Glow in the Dark and Strange Attractor Thinking Putties are among our most popular varieties.

[*] American newspapers moved to soy-based inks in the late '80's.

Product of the Moment: Magnetic Putty

While looking up last week's post on MacGyver and putty, I came across this silicone-based putty impregnated with metal particles.  It's not exactly a magnetorheological material, but the combination of magnetic and viscoelastic properties is pretty cool.  The product is made by Crazy Aaron's Putty World, and this video comes from their YouTube channel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Link of the Moment: Sid discovers elasticity

Those of you with small kids have probably heard of Sid the Science Kid.  It's a computer-animated show aimed at pre-schoolers that introduces scientific concepts and methods.  This fall's new shows are centered around physics topics like friction and inertia.  Here's a link to the parents review site on elasticity.  In the show, Sid discovers the concept of elasticity when his clay ball doesn't bounce the way he expects.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monthly Jobs Report (November 2010)

A keyword search "rheolog*" found 21 jobs listed on and 18 jobs listed at  The same search term did not find any positions at the AIChE career web site.

Fields of study for these jobs are listed below.  Some jobs specified multiple disciplines.

  • Materials Science -- 6 positions
  • Chemical Engineering -- 6 positions
  • Chemistry -- 5 positions
  • Polymer Science -- 4 positions
  • Food Science -- 2 positions
  • Mechanical Engineering -- 2 positions
  • Technical Field -- 2 positions
  • Electronics / Instrumentation -- 1 position
  • Marketing -- 1 position
  • Business Administration -- 1 position
  • Materials Science -- 9 positions
  • Polymer Science -- 8 positions
  • Chemical Engineering -- 7 positions
  • Chemistry -- 5 positions
  • Technical Field -- 3 positions
  • Food Science -- 1 position
  • Mechanical Engineering -- 1 position
  • Physics -- 1 position
  • Pharmaceutical -- 1 position
  • Marketing -- 1 position
  • Business Administration -- 1 position
  • High School diploma -- 1 position

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Song Lyric of the Moment (#2)

Another selection from the Halloween playlist and one of the great opening lyrics of all time...
I was working in the lab late one night...
Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers

Song Lyric of the Moment

For Halloween, here's part of the They Might Be Giants song Particle Man, which is on my Halloween song rotation.

Particle man, particle man 
Doing the things a particle can
What's he's like is not important
Is he a dot?
Is he a speck?
When he's underwater, does he get wet?
Or does the water get him instead?
Nobody knows
Particle man 

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Silly Putty with a Bang"

I searched for the "silly putty and nuclear reactor" epsiode that John mentioned, but a quick Google search for "MacGyver silly putty" provided the following clip:

Update: I never watched MacGyver much when the show was originally on, but I'm aware of the show's main premise.  Mac is a good guy who puts together spectacular escapes and fixes using the items at hand.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic Strip of the Moment

Back in my sales days, I often used the example of Silly Putty to explain the phenomenon of viscoelasticity.  Most people I met had played with the toy at least once, but they didn't remember the mechanical properties.  Everyone remembered the ability of the putty to transfer ink off a newspaper.  As this selection from the comic strip One Big Happy shows, something will be lost when people don't read comics in newspapers anymore.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Capital/Capitol Trivia

A few ramblings about capitals and capitol buildings that are rattling around my head.
  • I've lived in two state capital cities: Austin, TX and Richmond, VA.
  • I have a cousin whose hobby is being photographed in front of state capitol capital buildings.
  • I've visited the state capitols capitals in Denver, Santa Fe, Austin, St. Paul, and Richmond.
  • The Texas state capitol building is one foot taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • My favorite capitol building is in Richmond; it was designed by Thomas Jefferson and has one of his domes hidden inside the building.

Update: the distinction between capital (the city) and capitol (the building) is a fine point.  I'm surprised I didn't have teachers that harped on those words when I was younger.

Capital Ideas

The SOR meeting in Santa Fe begins today.  One feature of SOR meetings is their presence in state and provincial capitals over the past few years.  (I would imagine there's some connection between the location of a state's main research university in the state capital; imagine all those jobs.  There's probably a history thesis in there somewhere.)  Attendees at the past few SOR meetings and International Rheology Conferences have gone to the following capitals--
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Madison, WI
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Columbus, OH
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • Quebec, QC
Which capital city would you like to visit for an SOR meeting?  My first choice would be Austin; I have fond memories of the food, bars, lakes, and city from my year there.  I would also like to visit Honolulu, but I think my boss would not approve that travel.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interview of the Moment

Joe Klein of Time magazine and writes about Ted Kaufman, the Temporary Senator.  Mr. Kaufman is the only member of the U.S. Senate who has worked as an engineer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Link of the Moment

According to an email from SOR, the web site for the XVIth (that's 16th, for those who don't know Latin) Congress of Rheology is now live.  The Congress will take place August 5-10, 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot, RIP

Beniot Mandelbrot, the father of fractal mathematics, passed away on October 14th.  Applications of fractals in fluid mechancs can be found in the phenomena of viscous fingering and turbulence.
I learned about Mandelbrot when I picked up a book on the basics of fractals [1].  There's a great story about Mandelbrot at IBM.  Hired into their research division, he discovered that the noise in the data transmission was both regular and erratic.  He found that the standard approach to the noise, increasing the transmission signal, would not fix the problem [1,2].  When I first heard this story, I thought it was a fabulous example of a theoretician finding a solution to a real-world problem.  Such solutions are rare, which is why pure theoretical work is hard to find at for-profit companies these days.

[1] Introducing Fractals: a Graphic Guide by Lesmoir-Gordon, Rood, and Edney (2009).

[2] Introducing Chaos: a Graphic Guide by Sarder & Abrams (2004).
[3] has put together a slideshow on images spawned by fractal mathematics.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Product of the Moment: Teabag Coaster

This product is designed by Yuree Stacy Lim, Jieun Yan, and Sangmin Bae of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.  It is a specially designed teabag made of compressed paper.  Once the wet bag is put on the coaster, the tea spreads via capillary action through the paper, dying the paper.

Hat tip: The design site Solid State UX

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rheological Word of the Moment

The winning word from this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee was stromuhr, which is "a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an atery."  Stromuhr combines the German words for "stream" and "clock" and was invented by Carl Ludwig in 1867.  Ludwig (1816-1895) was a German medical researcher who related chemical and physical laws to biological phenomena.

A picture of his stromuhr is shown to the left.

Anamika Veeramani was the winner of the 2010 National Spelling Bee, which was completed this past June.

Sources: Wikipedia, Herman von Heltzmann - Zentrum fűr Kulturtechnik

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Accidental Discovery Files (#3)

While working on photosensitive glass, Dr. S. Donald Stokely accidentally overheated a sample.  The resulting product resisted breakage when dropped and could be used directly on the cooktop.  The material was called Pyroceram and was marketed as CorningWare.

Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Viscosity & Fractals

While doing a little light reading [1], I came across this 1920 poem by Lewis Richardson--

Big whorls have little whorls,
That feed on their velocity;
And little whorls have lesser whorls,
And so on to viscosity.

Several people [1,2] have remarked on this poem's debt to Jonathan Swift's famous flea poem

So, Nat'ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller Fleas to bite 'em
And so proceed ad infinitum.

[1]  Introducing Fractals: a Graphic Guide by Lesmoir-Gordon, Rood, and Edney (2009).
[2]  Wondering Minstrels, a poem-a-day blog that ran from 1999-2007.

Regular Readers (2)

Following up to a post by John, I have 14 people who subscribe through Google Reader.  About 100 people stop by a month, and 5-10 comments over the same period of time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Link of the Moment: Chemjobber Blog

Today's link is the Chemjobber blog, which I learned about when John was interviewed about polymer chemistry.  The blog is a continual analysis of the chemistry job market, and is similar to my monthly job reports.  I added the Careerbuilder searches in this month's jobs report after a quick check of the links at Chemjobber.  I recall using Careerbuilder in previous job searches, but I hadn't checked the site recently.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jobs Report (October 2010)

Using my standard search term "rheolog*", which was conducted on October 1st, there are 26 job positions listed on, and there are 12 positions listed on  The Kraft rheologist job (discussed on August 18th) is not found on either site.  The Wrigley rheologist job (discussed on September 24th) is found on Careerbuilder.  The jobs are found in the following industries--


  1. Engineering Services (6)
  2. Chemical / Petrochemical (4)
  3. Manufacturing (4)
  4. Other / Not specified (3)
  5. Biotech (2)
  6. Restaurant / Food Services (1)
  7. Food / Beverage (1)
  8. Healthcare Services (1)
  9. Computer Software (1)
  10. Automotive and Parts (1)
  11. Electronics Components and Semiconductor (1)
  12. Education (1)
  1. Science (8)
  2. Engineering (4)
  3. Research (4)
  4. Manufacturing (3)
  5. Other (1)
  6. Inventory / Procurement (1)
  7. Business Development (1)
  8. Design (1)
  9. Entry Level (1)
  10. Health Care (1)
  11. Professional Services (1)
  12. QA / Quality Control (1)
  13. Management (1)
One job, at a post-doc position at Lubrizol, appears on both lists.

Friday, October 1, 2010

SF Prep Index

Update: Answer to the trivia question posed in #1, after the jump

Update #2: If you enjoyed the series, and know someone going to SOR, feel free to send them this post.

Update #3: Fixed the broken links.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Link of the Moment: Telling the Public about Science

Martin Robbins of the Guardian tells writers how to present science concepts so the general public can understand the concepts.  The ensuing comments and supporting links are worthy of your time, too.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"Hey, got any gum?"

Norm McDonald's impression of David Letterman (seen on Saturday Night Live in the '90's).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rheologist Job at Wrigley

While logged on at LinkedIn, I was presented with the following job opportunity at Wrigley, in the Chicago area.

Job Description

Rheology is the study of the physical, 'flow', behavior of materials under stress / strain and core to fundamentally understanding our products at every stage of processing, storage, consumption and disposal. Today we lack the core competence in this critical area of science and this position will lead building a rheology centre of excellence that is key to delivering strategic initiatives.
* Conducts fundamental research to determine & understand the material chemical & structural drivers that influence key performance attributes [i.e. sensory (texture), processing, removability, etc.].
* Builds, transfers & validates new rheological methods for internal applications by collaborating with internal & external partners.
* Advises & trains other scientists & technicians on the application of new methods across innovation. Supports the design, collection, analysis & interpretation of the rheological studies performed by internal partners.
* Communicates results through technical reports & presentations to technical & non-technical associates.

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company is a recognized leader in confections with a wide range of product offerings including gum, mints, hard and chewy candies, lollipops, and chocolate. The company has operations in more than 40 countries and distributes its world-famous brands in more than 180 countries. Three of these brands - Juicy Fruit®, Wrigley's Spearmint®, and Altoids® - have heritages stretching back more than a century. Other well-loved brands include Orbit®, Extra®, Starburst®, Doublemint®, Skittles®, Freedent®, Airwaves®, Life Savers®, Eclipse®, and Winterfresh®. Wrigley is headquartered in Chicago, Ill., and operates as a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated, a private, family-owned company founded in 1911. Mars, Incorporated is one of the world's largest food companies, generating global revenues of 30 billion dollars annually and producing some of the world's leading brands in six segments that include Chocolate, Drinks, Food, Petcare, Symbioscience and Wrigley.

* MS with 3-5 years' experience, or PhD with 1-2 years experience in the application of dynamic rheology to complex fluids.Experience in dynamic & transient rheometry & method development.
* Knowledge of polymer / materials science preferably in food applications.
* Knowledge of chemistry preferably in food applications.
* Knowledge of other analytical tools / methods relation to materials characterization (i.e. DSC, TGA, SEM, etc.).
* In depth experience with analytical rheometers - including data collection, analysis and interpretation
* Ability to develop & lead own research programs.
* Understanding of DOE, statistics & data interpretation.
* Computer skills, including MS Word, Excel & PowerPoint.
* Rheometer software skills, including TA Orchestrator or TRIOS.
* Managing research projects
* Communication skills - able to convey complex science to all levels

Currently, this job is not found using my standard "rheolog*" at

You can find this job at Wrigley's career site.

Disclosures: I once interviewed for a similar position at Wrigley; they turned me down.  I currently work for ConAgra Foods, which is a consumer food company similar to Wrigley.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SF Prep (#5): Book Recommendation

Most people know Tony Hillerman as a mystery writer.  Before he became a best-selling author, he worked for Santa Fe's main newspaper The New Mexican.  He put together a collection of his newspaper articles that celebrated facets of northern New Mexico into the book The Great Taos Bank Robbery.  The book should be available at the Albuquerque airport and Santa Fe hotel stores.

SF Prep (#4): Getting to Santa Fe

Unless you get one of the three daily flights to Santa Fe (one from LA, two from Dallas), you will likely fly into Albuquerque airport (ABQ).  Albuquerque is about 60 miles from Santa Fe.  The fastest way there by car is to take Insterstate 25 north from the airport.  There is another option just recently open: the Rail Runner train.  You can take the train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.  If you buy your ticket online, you can use the ticket as a bus transfer from the airport.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SF Prep (#3): It's Spelled "Chile"

One of my biggest regrets about not going to the SOR meeting is that I won't be dining in Santa Fe.  However, it's been so long that I've actually been there, that I really can't recommend any restaurants.  The regional cuisine is what most people think of as typically Mexican: tacos, burritos, etcetera.  One ingredient that makes the food "New Mexican" is the Hatch green chile.  The chiles are rarely found outside the state; in fact, we see the chiles in Omaha once a year at one of the local supermarkets.
Local restaurants serve the chiles in "green" and "red" sauces.  Most often, one sauce is hotter than the other.  If you're not used to spicy food, ask your server how hot the food is.

NM Hatch chiles roasting on a grill

Link: NPR's Scott Simon ruminates on the possibility of green chile as a diplomatic tool (from 2003).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SF Prep (#2): Sites to See

  • San Miguel Mission: the oldest church in the United States

  • The Loretto Chapel, home of the miraculous staircase [admission required]
    An engineering marvel, the spiral staircase makes two complete turns without external support or metal nails.  The carpenter who built the staircase vanished without accepting payment.

  • Palace of the Governors, a history museum of New Mexico [admission required]
    The museum is on the plaza.  Before going inside, you'll see Native American artists selling their own work.  They specialize in turquoise, silver, and pottery.  Don't forget your credit card; some of the artwork and jewelry is expensive.
  • The Georgia O'Keefe museum  [admission required]

  • The state capitol building.  (The oldest capital city in the US has the newest building.  Designed in the shape of the Zia symbol, which can be found on the state flag.  Its nickname is the "Merry Roundhouse.")
Update: Map of these attractions, along with the Convention Center, after the jump.

SF Prep (#1): Welcome to Santa Fe

Santa Fe, the capital of the state of New Mexico, is the oldest capital city in the United States.  Its nickname is "The City Different."
The first thing to remember about Santa Fe is that it is located in a high altitude desert (7000 ft or 2100 m above sea level).  Drink plenty of water, and wear a hat and sunscreen if you'll be out in the sun. 

(Trivia question: which saint is Santa Fe named after?  "Fe" is the Spanish word for "faith."  If you use Google, you're cheating.)

SF Prep (Forward)

Before I fill everyone's head with my own opinions and suggestions for SOR's Santa Fe meeting, here are the official links provided by the Society.
  1. SOR General Meeting Information
  2. Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau: Getting to Santa Fe

Friday, September 17, 2010

Surely You're Joking (#8): Burma Shave

Is tough
To make
So why not
Just depilate
Burma Shave

Update: Original article at Macromolecules [login required]

Update 2: Thanks to user drj1990 for putting this post on reddit.  Only one vote so far; I'll have to try harder next time.

Update 3:
This version rhymes better

Is tough
To create
So why not
Just depilate
Burma Shave

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"Tanquem ex ungue leonem"
"As the lion is known by its claw"
Jean Bernoulli I, after Newton anonymously solved a difficult math problem in one afternoon.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I would like to thank Carmine Gorga for his essay on nonlinear economics.  If you enjoyed his work, you can check out his website at 

Non-Newtonian Economics

A few weeks ago, I came across a book titled The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture by Carmine Gorga.  I had not heard of Newton's use outside the field of mechanics, so I contacted the author and asked him if he could share a definition of non-Newtonian behavior in economics.  Here is his essay.
Concordian Economics: A non-Newtonian Construct by Carmine Gorga, Ph.D.

Concordian economics is a non-Newtonian construct because it does not respect the law of incompenetrability of bodies. As known since the theory was formulated by classical economists, economics is composed of three major elements: production (A), distribution (B), and consumption (C) of wealth. The meaning of these terms has varied over time.
In Concordian economics, production means production of real, physical wealth as well as services; distribution means distribution of value of ownership of rights over real and monetary wealth; consumption means expenditure of monetary wealth. Consumption as destruction of wealth in real terms is absorbed into the notion of net production.
As it can be seen, in addition to intangible services there are two terms in Concordian economics, money and ownership rights, which are not physical. They intermingle with the physical conception of real wealth. Hence, Concordian economics is a non-Newtonian construct.
Generally, mainstream economics is not faced with this Newtonian issue of incompenetrability of bodies because the nature of such real wealth as tables and chairs is made homogeneous by transforming it into the corresponding monetary value of tables and chairs. Quite apart from necessarily using monetary values, Concordian economics resolves the issue of non-homogeneity of real wealth with the assistance of such intellectual tools as labor-units, energy-units, or value-units. The issue is important because, if the meter were as flexible a unit of measurement as the dollar, we would never have been able to reach the moon and return so safely and effectively as we did.
(Continues after the jump)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
Brian O'Driscoll, Irish rugby player

(Thanks to Eric Zorn's blog Change of Subject for the tip)

Saturday, September 4, 2010


More than 100 visitors stopped by last month.  This is the second time I've had that many people read the blog.  Thanks for your attention.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Link of the Moment: Someone's Job

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish is running a series of essays on different jobs: lawyers, teachers, etcetera.  Here is a reflection from the perspective of a research scientist.  I have no idea if his/her job is academic or industrial, but it is worth a few minutes of your time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jobs Report (September 2010)

A keyword search "rheolog*" on performed on September 1 found 26 positions advertised.  Here is the trend for the number of positions found since September 2009.

This search did not find the Kraft position discussed here.  I found the position (1005766) still advertised at the Kraft career site.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Poll of the Month (September)

It's time to try a new poll.  Are you going to Santa Fe for the SOR meeting?  The meeting will be held during the last week of October.

Out of SORts

Sadly, I will not be able to attend this year's SOR meeting in Santa Fe.  I would really have liked to go, but my travel schedule has different priorities this year.
I lived near Santa Fe for 10 years, and I'll put up a few posts with tips on things to see and do.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"Lisa, in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"

Homer Simpson, after Lisa builds a perpetual motion machine
(Episode: The PTA Disbands)

You Cannot Change the Laws of Physics, Captain

Brooks Sports is advertising its new cushioning system by highlighting its viscoelastic properties.  The new system (called DNA [1]) uses a "highly-viscous non-Newtonian fluid."  The shock absorber uses a semi-liquid filling instead of a semi-solid filling.  The company blog interviews a material engineer who talks a little about basic non-Newtonian behavior.  He uses ketchup as an example.  So far, so good.

The web page that discusses the technology (link here) does have a mistake.  In the video at the bottom of the page, the material engineer states that a "non-Newtonian fluid does not obey the laws of physics." [2,3]

It is precisely because a non-Newtonian fluid obeys the laws of physics that we observe unusual physical behavior like shear-thinning or shear-thickening.  A fluid that did not obey the laws of physics would defy gravity, or it would spontaneously separate into its individual elemental components.  

[1]  I could not find an explanation for this abbreviation.
[2]  Brooks is traveling the country with a vat of cornstarch and water advertising the new technology.  For other videos of shear-thickening behavior, go here.
[3]  I left a comment on the Brooks blog, but either it was not approved, or was removed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shear Thinning in Xenon

While poking around the web, I found this post, which described the CVX-2 viscometer, which was designed to test the shear-thinning properties of xenon near the critical point.  It's much easier to maintain the fluid at the critical point in the absence of gravity.  A paper describing the results was published in Phys. Rev. E [subscription required].
The experiments found evidence of shear-thinning behavior, which confirms the predictions of dynamic mode-coupling theory.  The viscometer flew on the Columbia's final mission.  Fortunately, the data were beamed to earth before the accident, and a hard drive with the data was recovered from the wreckage.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to Regular Programming

Work has returned to a slower pace, so I should be able to resume my regular blogging routine.  I seem to average about a post every second or third day, and I wind up with about 15 posts per month.
Thanks again for stopping by.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rheologist Job at Kraft

The SOR advertised a position at Kraft Foods through its email list last week.  I looked up the job description at Kraft Foods, and here it is.

The Scientist-Rheology position provides an excellent opportunity to build and apply scientific and rheological expertise to a wide range of leading food products and related food systems in a fast-paced rewarding environment.

Key responsibilities include the following:
•Leverage a strong Rheology and scientific understanding to support various R and D projects for a broad range of food systems
•Apply current and develop new and innovative rheological approaches and understanding to solve practical problems
•Develop and apply a broad physical characterization expertise
•Develop and apply ingredient, formulation and process understanding governing rheology and texture of food systems
•Collaborate across R and D as a cross-functional team member and develop technical leadership
•Communicate effectively technical findings to project team and management - maintain lab notebook, write technical reports and present project summaries
•Build, maintain and leverage strong internal and external network of technical experts

Qualified candidates should possess the following:
•Highly motivated PhD in Engineering or Sciences with a strong proven expertise in Rheology
•1-2 years of postdoctoral or industrial experience will be a plus
•Demonstrated in-depth understanding in two or more of the following areas: Polymer Science, Colloid/Emulsion Sciences, Physical Chemistry, and Process Engineering
•Strong experimental skills, with a talent to apply scientific findings to solve practical problems
•Passion to apply multi-disciplined background to Food Industry
•Excellent interpersonal and project management skills
•Excellent written and verbal communication skills
•Ability to build strong customer/client relationships

Primary Location : NA-US-IL-Glenview

Interestingly, this position cannot be found using my standard keyword search rheolog* on

The job, as advertised, is similar to my job at ConAgra.  (I'm not planning to apply for the job; I'm doing fine at my current position.)

Disclosure: ConAgra competes against Kraft  in a variety of markets.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another Accidental Discovery

Another accident that led to an important product was the discovery of polytetrafluoroethylene.  While attempting to develop a new refrigerant, perfluoroethelyne polymerized inside a pressurized container.

Brilliant Screw Ups

The Mental Floss blog details 8 screw-ups that led to important scientific discoveries.  It turns out that researchers at DuPont were playing around when the boss was out when they discovered the nylon rope trick.

And, for those who just can't clean up after themselves and need justification for their managers, the discoveries of penicillin and photography were accomplished by messy scientists.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Link of the Moment: Aspen Research

A few months ago, someone asked what rheology was like from the industrial perspective.  John Spevacek from the Rheo Thing blog writes up a description of his job and company here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quotation of the Moment: Romy & Michele

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Post-It note, I present this quotation.
"No. Um, well, ordinarily when you make glue first you need to thermoset your resin and then after it cools you have to mix in an epoxide, which is really just a fancy-schmancy name for any simple oxygenated adhesive, right? And then I thought maybe, just maybe, you could raise the viscosity by adding a complex glucose derivative during the emulsification process and it turns out I was right."
From Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

According to IMDb, this is one of five movies that uses the word viscosity in the screenplay.  The book ReAction!: Chemistry in the Movies by Griep and Mikasen says this movie covers the chemistry of sticky notes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Pointless Anecdote

One of my old bosses had a particular tic: whenever someone would make an announcment that would require a follow up, he would state "oh," to show that he was paying attention.
One day, I noticed that a particular letter had dropped off the sign in front of our building.  I picked up the letter, brought it to his office and said,
"I have something to show you."
"Oh?" he replied.
"Exactly!" I responded, placing the letter o on his desk.
He never mentioned the incident, and I wonder how he felt about one of his tics being used to play a joke on him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jobs Report (August)

A search using the keyword "rheolog*" found 29 job postings on August 1st.  The posting date ranges are as follows--
  • 7 within the last 3 days
  • 10 within the last 7 days (so, 3 were posted 4-7 days ago)
  • 10 within the last 14 days (none posted 8-14 days ago)
  • 18 within the last 30 days (8 posted 15-30 days ago)
  • 29 within the last 60 days (9 posted 31-60 days ago)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slim Pickings for a While...

Due to work commitments, I'm going to have to cut back on posting for the next two weeks.  I'll be able to put up the August jobs report, but unless I remember a good one-liner or find a nice link, I won't be putting much here.
Thanks again to you all, and I hope to catch up in a few weeks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"The great tragedy of science--the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."
Thomas Henry Huxley

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hey Google! There's Rheology Here!

When I was first wondering whether I should start the blog, I would put the phrase "rheology blog" into Google, and I wouldn't see too many other active blogs.  In fact, I still don't find the Rheo Thing unless I use the phrase "rheology blogs".  I finally realized that, even though this is a rheology blog, I don't use the word "rheology" in every post.  John has the same issue over at his blog.  Even though it's a blog about polymer rheology, he doesn't use the word "rheology" in every post.
This is not an issue that's confined to niche blogs like ours.  This Washington Post column by Gene Weingarten laments the loss of headline writers for online writing.  Online headlines are tailored for search engines and written to attract readers.  Online articles have bland headlines that just use people's names.  Gene's best example compares the online headline "Conan O'Brien won't give up 'Tonight Show' time slot to make room for Jay Leno" to the newspaper headline "Better Never Than Late."

Friday, July 23, 2010

A supposedly fun post I'll never blog again

According to the site I Write Like, my writing style is like David Foster Wallace.  (I entered a long post on industrial rheology that I wrote back in February.)

Hat Tip: Joe Posnanski's Curiously Long Posts

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bonus Chemistry Joke

The periodic table gets its name from the fact that you have to keep looking at it periodically during a test.

Originally seen in Funky Winkerbean.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bonus Museum Recommendation

If you're ever in the Montreal area, I heartily recommend Exporail, which is the Canadian train museum.  Located in Saint-Constant, the museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits.  If you visit during the summer, you can ride the last Montreal streetcar around the lot.

Museum Exhibition of the Moment

On a recent vacation, we went to the Montreal Science Centre for the afternoon.  The exhibit on silicon-based glass in all its forms was interesting.  The only time that rheology reared its head in the exhibit was when glass was described as a solid liquid.
The videos attached to the website (in French with English subtitles) are excellent and cover mechanical resistance, electrical resistance, and thermal resistance.  I particularly enjoyed the mechanical resistance video, which compared an impact-resistant windshield to a peanut butter sandwich.
I did some work on inorganic glasses when I was a post-doc at the University of Texas at Austin.  One of the first things I learned was how unusual silicon-based glasses are, compared to other inorganic glasses.  In particular, they have a high melting point and do not dissolve in water.

Note: the Centre is also hosting an exhibit on human sexuality, which may trip Internet filters and is NSFW.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

There's Antimony, Arsenic, Aluminum, Selenium...

The link of the moment comes from Slate. During the work week, Sam Kean is excerpting his book on the history of the elements.  I enjoyed the entry on nitrogen and phosphorus and how it pertains to future toilet design.  Kean mused that men may have to sit down to use the future toilets in order to collect phosphorus.  I think he missed an obvious solution: use public uranials as a collecion point.  Anyone who stands at a urinal will contribute to the solution.

(The title of the post is the opening line of Tom Lehrer's The Elements.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Physics Today (July 2010)

In Physics Today this month, there is an article discussing heterogeneous flow in yield stress fluids.  Registration is required to view the article, but all SOR members can register for free.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

"There's only two things I hate in this world: people who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch."
Michael Caine as Nigel Powers in Austin Powers in Goldmember

Update 2/16/10: the word culture was misspelled in the original post.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Guy of the Moment

Living in Nebraska, the football program at the University of Nebraska is omnipresent.  I continue to be impressed by the former defenseman Ndamukong Suh.  Recently drafted by the Detroit Lions, Suh donated part of his signing bonus back to the University.  What I recently learned is that he majored in construction management.  Part of his donation to the university was to endow an engineering scholarship.  It's nice to see someone like that having an engineering major and then giving back to his school.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


According to the ego-boosting counter, there were over 100 visitors to the blog last month.  This is the first time that this blog has cracked the century mark.  Thanks to all who stopped by.
I'd also like to thank the folks at the Novachem blog who added this site to their blogroll.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dear Doc Rheo

Dear Doc Rheo:
How do you type the symbol of shear rate "gamma-dot" ?
Andrew Sun

Dear Andrew:
I use the equation plug in for Microsoft Word.  I've been using this package for the last 15 years.  With this software, you can add accent dots over characters like so...

Respectively submitted,
Doc Rheo

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jobs Report (July)

A keyword "rheolog*" search on conducted on July 1 found 38 job positions listed.  There were 41 positions advertised in June and 44 in May, respectively.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quotation of the Moment

A colleague at work said
The toes you step on today may belong to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.
Her point was that the food industry is small, and you may run into former colleagues down the road.  The same thing applies to the rheology industry.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Product of the Moment: Old Viscosity Beer

Featured today is Old Viscosity Ale, brewed by the Port Brewing Company in San Diego, CA.  Their web site states "Code named by our brewers-'The Big Black Nasty,' this is monstrous dark ale is brewed to no particular style. Thick and sludgy like oil from the crankcase of a wheat threshing combine, Old Viscosity blurs the boundaries of Porter, Stout, Old Ale and Barleywines."  

Sadly, this beer is not available in Nebraska, so I won't be able to verify the viscosity myself.  (My interests are purely scientific, of course.)  The beer is available in CA, AZ, WA, and CO, and in the metro areas of Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Physics Today Articles (May '10)

I'm getting to this a bit late, but the May 2010 issue of Physics Today had a few rheology-related articles--

Registration is required to read the latter two articles, but SOR members can read the articles for free.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unbreakable (for 10 years)

The plastic pieces shown here come from our kitchen light fixture.The plastic fractured when I was replacing some light bulbs.  I was wondering how the parts were originally installed, considering how fragile the plastic was.

The answer came when I picked up parts at a local hardware store.  The new plastic is much more flexible than the old plastic.  I was able to bend the plastic to fit it into the shopping cart.  According to the big print on the label, this material is "virtually unbreakable."  The fine print says that the warranty is good for 10 years.  The original plastic was probably installed when the house was first built, 16 years ago.  As the plastic aged, it became more fragile.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rheology Course Updates

The Hydan rheology course and the University of Minnesota rheology course were held this month, so I've removed the links.  If you're looking for basic rheology courses, the rotational rheometer companies hold classes.  I haven't been involved in any courses for the last five years, so I don't know how good they are.  Here are some links to the training pages--

Monday, June 21, 2010

Elvis was a Chemical Engineer

In the movie Clambake, Elvis Presley played a wealthy chemical engineer who is the son of a wealthy oil baron.  As part of the plot, Elvis develops a new varnish that helps him win a boat race and impress the girl.  According to the book ReAction!: Chemistry in the Movies by Griep and Mikasen, the varnish, called GOOP in the movie, is based on a real varnish that dissolves in water.

Sadly, movie this appears to be one of Elvis's poorer efforts.  Its main sin is that the songs are forgettable; after all, one doesn't watch an Elvis movie for the plot.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Link of the Moment: Rheology School

Today's link is a consulting business from the UK called the Rheology School.  The business, run by Neil Cunningham, offers sample testing, consulting, classes, rheology glossary, and an independent rheometer buying guide.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What a Drag it is Getting Old

Most of my recent work has involved concentric cylinders and vanes, so loading a sample is a snap.  Recently, I've had to run some parallel plate samples, and I realize that I'm over the proverbial hill, and accelerating downward.  It's harder than I remember to focus on the sample to make sure the gap is completely filled.  It's just another sign that bifocals are in my future.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Question of the Moment

It has nothing to do with rheology, but this question needs to be asked.

The Big 12 has ten members, and the Big 10 has 12 members...what's up with that?

Changing the Hot Dog

Back in February, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for the hot dog to be redesigned, as the current shape is a choking hazard for young children.  The current shape is the same size as a young person's throat and can get stuck and cause asphixiation. 
Now, Eugene Gagliardi has invented a "The Guard Dog," a device that scores hot dogs along the axis, so the meat breaks up during chewing.

Disclosure: I work for ConAgra Foods, which sells Hebrew National Hot Dogs.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rheological Selling Point?

I took my 10 year old car (130,000 miles) in for an oil change recently.  The manager tried to sell me the high mileage oil, telling me "it expands to fill the cracks in older engines."  I turned him down, as I am an aficianado of NPR's Car Talk, and the two guys on that show have said that those products are a waste of money.  (The high mileage oil would have added $20 to my bill.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Business Lessons

This last post reminds me of two business lessons from my time in the rheometer industry.

  1. If you're not making money (i.e., no profits), someone's patience will eventually run out.
  2. If you're not making enough money (i.e., profits don't grow at a reasonable rate), someone's patience will eventually run out.
Anyone else with words of wisdom?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reologica AB News

This item is several months old, but I only heard about it this weekend.  Reologica AB, the last independent rheometer maker, is "in administration" as of March 23rd.  The announcement is on the website at  Malvern has purchased some of the remaining assets, and will continue to service Reologica instruments.  As mentioned at the top, all current rotational rheometer companies are now divisions of larger conglomerates.  This is a process that has been going on since the mid '90's and is finally finished.  The rheometer brands have been distributed as follows...

My condolences to all who lost their jobs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Plastics Anecdote

At my previous employer, I once had to pick up some PMMA for some internal testing.  So, I went to a local big box hardware store, walked up to the service desk and said "where do you keep the polymethyl methacrylate?" Recognizing the blank looks, I amended, "I mean plexiglass."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quotation of the Moment: Brain Donors

This quotation comes courtesy of a search on for the word "viscosity."

"No?" Flakfizer doesn't know the MEANING of the word "No!" We're also a little fuzzy on "panaglutin" and "viscosity."

The word "panaglutin" does not appear on, and Google suggests the word "panagluttinin" instead.