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« anatomy of a white board | Main | free range physics »


Here in the UK we have a forensics/cop show that is rather gentler than many of its US counterparts - New Tricks. (Do you get it in the US?) One episode of this featured a burnt corpse, of which only a pair of slippered feet remained intact, found in a locked room etc. etc.. Various sub-plots focusing on paternity, DNA and the enduring and redemptive nature of true love played themselves out. When it came to the corpus delicti, however, they went for the wick theory, backed up by a hog-roast style experiment. The locked room? Well that would be giving away too much, if you haven't seen it.

Re: accumulated static discharge.
I service biomedical equipment in Florida. I carry my equipment on a Sears tool chest on silicon wheels. The rolling of the equipment, especially over carpet, would generate and store a sizable static charge. It was a mobile capacitor. On one occasion, i had rolled a long way down a carpeted hospital corridor and had left my tool chest unattended while I had the valet get my van. It was too late for me to do anything by the time I noticed an elderly woman walking down the same hallway occasionally touching the wall for support. Of course, the moment she touched the tool chest it let off a spark that was not only visible, but audible from 20 feet away! The poor woman recoiled am landed on her rear.
I was lucky not to be sued.
I since have attached a braided grounding strap.

I was standing on an insulating platform once, holding onto a rather large Van de Graaff generator - I think I was at about 100 kV. It was for television, and the fool reporter thrust a microphone at me before I could warn him. The microphone died in a bolt of lightning, along with one channel of the camera's sound electronics. I am happy to note that the reporter did not catch on fire, though he may have been roasted after returning to the station.

If a female gets old enough, she will FEEL like she is undergoing spontaneous combustion, many times a's called hot flashes. They are unexplainable by science, so far.


The "wick" effect remains a probable theory but is not "the" answer.
There are cases of living people who experienced a partial combustion while awake and not near combustion sources. I love your blog, by the way!

Love your blog!

Just a stupid FYI, because it was bugging me about CSI. Warrick was Sarah's partner, not Nick. He was doing the pottery store with Catherine. I'm a recovering CSI junkie.... :^)

I know it is not CSI, or even Bones, but SouthPark had a good episode about SHC...they determined it was linked to global warming. not sure I can figure out the organic chemistry behind that one.

first time impression. Cool. Especially the photo on the top-left side.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.