Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food Processing Issue 1: The problem

Some time ago, I received an email asking about the day-to-day life of an industrial rheologist.  I started to write some boilerplate description of my job (the sort of thing one would tell a relative or new professional colleague), but it was so boring that I stopped writing it halfway through. 
As a substitute, I've found a real-life food processing problem.  I'll give the readers a chance to listen to the problem and then post a discussion of the solution on Monday, Feb 1st.
To listen to the problem, go to this broadcast of the public radio show This American Life.  Click on the icon marked "Full Episode" and forward the program to 34:16 (Act 14), and you'll hear about The Vienna Beef Company and their new hot dog plant.  (I think the whole episode is worth hearing, but you'll only need five minutes to hear the problem and solution.)

Quotation of the Moment

I enjoyed this comment from Conan O'Brien that he made during his final show last Friday.
All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The bottle battle: McDonald's versus Burger King

In a previous post, I showed a picture of the Burger King milk bottle.

For comparison, here is the McDonald's milk bottle

(Photo courtesy of Paxton Holley's flickr page)

I think the McDonald's jug is a better design.  The center of gravity is lower, it has a base with a larger diameter, and it's harder to tip the bottle over.

Friday, January 15, 2010

MR Fluid Links

Preventing that crying over spilled milk

While on a holiday trip, we stopped at a Burger King.  We purchased milk for the kids, and a bottle is shown below.

One of the kids tipped over the bottle and the milk started to pour onto the floor.  I immediately reached for the bottle to stop the spill.  This was a mistake for two reasons: first, the act of righting the milk spilled more on the floor, and second, most restaurants replace spilled beverages for free.

I would imagine, that in 50-100 years, some beverages will be "spill-proof" and prevent such accidents.  Once a bottle is tipped over, some trigger will lock up a fluid.  The only current technologies that would "freeze" a liquid and prevent it from leaving the bottle are magetorheological (MR) fluids or electrorheological (ER) fluids.  It's not possible to use MR or ER technology right now, since those materials are not fit for consumption.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jobs Report (January)

On January 2, a keyword "rheolog*" search on found 24 jobs listed.  The majority of jobs appear to be with a medical devices company, which is looking for several people.  In fact, some of the jobs may be listed more than once.
In terms of experience, the requirements are as follows...
  • None specified - 2
  • Less than 1 year experience - 1
  • Two years experience - 5
  • Three years experience - 2
  • Five years experience - 10
  • Seven years experience - 2
  • Ten years experience - 2
One of the jobs listed is at ConAgra Foods, which is my employer.  This job is in a different department where I work, and the rheological experience requested is in the grain area.