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White boards also have one other advantage over blackboards that I heard lots about doing my undergraduate senior thesis: For people doing low blank carbonate chemistry for paleoclimate work, chalk dust is a major contamination problem. Ditto for strontium isotope work, whether climatological or hard rock.

Writing on and with geological materials is great, but if they mix with samples then life gets difficult.

The sociology of the whiteboard vs. blackboard debate was something we tackled last year in symmetry. There seems to be a preference among theorists for blackboards!

Got one in the dining room.

(The aerogel synthesizer and the carbon nanotube machine are on the other side of the house. No, seriously.)

I could have used one of those in North Carolina last weekend!

I would like to get a nice big white board for when my friends come over to do physics or math but they're really quite expensive!

If you want a big free white board, wait for some department to throw one in the dumpster in favor of a new one! Mine's a nice 4'x8'.

Jennifer says: "What will happen when I need equal time?"

Spousal unit buys a second whiteboard?

And some delicate souls aren't just allergic to chalk dust, but also to the strong order of the dry markers.

Good thing that whiteboard markers aren't closed systems and their strong order will decay with time.

I havce two whiteboards at home, one is too large to comfortably mount anywhere, so is standing behind the laundry basket and is (almost) never used. The smaller whiteboard is mounted on the wall next to the computer and is used as document storage (it's just far enough from the wall that you can stick an envelope in behind it) and assorted scribbling, for various purposes (mostly code design and equations, boringly enough).

I really should look into getting a whiteboard for work, too...

The real use of a white board, as any parent of a small boy knows, is to permit an endless reconfiguration of the forces in Star Wars.

Spousal competition? My white board lasted perhaps 14 minutes before my then-five year old expropriated it.

You can see Feynman's Caltech blackboard at the time of his death here:

I'm surprised at the 90s date. At 3M we had boards that were white all over the place twenty years earlier. Perhaps your "white board" and 3M's white boards were something different but the description and the picture look the same.

The switch to whiteboards in classrooms seems very silly for the "protect the computers!" reasons: they are more expensive (expecially with the markers v. chalk taken into account), and the computers would be obsolete and replaced before the chalk dust would kill them anyhow.

Re: SMARTBoards ... I know at least that many public schools in South Carolina use these, and they seem to be fairly useful if the teacher is committed to making them a learning tool rather than a shiny toy, which isn't something to be taken for granted.

Personally, I miss chalkboards. If they are good enough for MIT classes, then they should be good enough for anyone.

Enameled steel whiteboards! Now THAT is some sweet livin'!

Hey, like your bloggin' ways. This is spot-on topic offtopic. I have begun using a freeware program called pencil for its endless supply of white paper, plus, since it is an animation program with onion skin capabilities, I have limited 3 dimensional layering abilities, plus, speed reading my animated note stack, which gives me more ideas than the static notation-surfaces. Amazing how harmless squandering is a gift of the gods... with a mac, notes can be exported as movie files... add a projector and a wacom, and yer doin' overhead projection with mad twists. Mostly, when I see white boards, I've ran the other way because it's like seeing crayons when you paint with oils... so, as to what the most interesting thing I've seen is drawing a complete blank is perhaps noteworthy, judge on ye note-takers, but aside from the way in which whiteboards attract people who would be banned from using media for artistic purposes, (quite healing for them, as we should all express ourselves,) the reassuringness of erasure vs. posterity allows people to think and express at a substandard level. Granted, this is generalization, but, imagine a felt pen with an irising brush and variable flow pressure...

I helped a friend set up two 4x8' whiteboards when she was writing her senior thesis -- we simply bought two 4x8' sheets of formica-covered particle board and hung them. Worked great. I'm not sure they'd last any longer than a framed whiteboard bought at Staples, but they were darn cheap and seemed to work just fine.

I found the transition to whiteboards a little difficult; I taught in the late 80's and got used to chalkboards, but holding chalk and holding the larger whiteboard marker are different and affect the writing. The amount of friction is different as well. One thing I've noticed is that the chalkboard training leaves me much less susceptible to the temptation of erasing with my hand, so I don't usually end up with black/rainbow smudges on my hands (which can then migrate).

"(I have no idea what the recurring spiral drawings are supposed to represent -- I was probably replenishing my cocktail glass during that part of the "performance" -- but they add a unifying element to an otherwise haphazard set of themes.)"

For fun, I'll throw out-> or


We painted our guest bedroom door, front & back, with blackboard paint. Cost: $10. Most of it is covered by my dissertation, but random things do appear when guests stay overnight.

Nice article... already earned a google ranking of 6th for keywords "paint marker anatomy" -- which is really wanted to know as part of a design project for a chemical dispensing system. The pictures were interesting, the site title was intriguing, and the gal is pretty so I jumped in. What a pleasant read.

I wanted to offer up another as yet unmentioned member of the visual expression medium, the humble bar napkin. Available almost infinitely, at cost approaching zero, it is the Dirac-delta function of "here, lemme show you" mediums. Not to mention bar napkin's inherent proximity to a *bar*, where mind-enhancing and expression lubricating beverages are served. Responsibly, of course. There's a frailty that has the advantages of easy destruction for purposes of confidentiality or propriety, and a "fragile: handle with care" aura that makes all pen strokes careful, deliberate, and non-violent. Otherwise, a royal pain to write on without tears -- the BN's one big downfall. Also very portable and quite fade-proof. I'm a design engineer, quite scientific albeit not a scientist, and it's amazing how many brilliant ideas had their conception on a bar napkin. Or maybe it's just amazing that I have any ideas at all after spending so much time in a bar...

For those of you with the cheaper variety of whiteboard (and I are one) with ghosting or staining problems, you will find that a paper towel soaked with a liberal amount of Vodka will get the most stubborn ancient ghosts out of the pores. And it's cheaper, works better, smells better, and [I would think] tastes better than the special-purpose whiteboard cleaners.

I have whiteboards at home and in the office, but no supply of bar napkins. I think a cross-polination is in order; I will buy some bar napkins for the house and suggest my local tavern get a whiteboard.


Magiboards did indeed launch the enamel steel whiteboard (see, but this was actually in the 60's, not the 90's. They've been around for a long time so you were probably right about seeing them at 3M in the 80's. It started with enamel, but then moved to other smooth surfaces from which dry marker ink could be erased. Enamel remains the best though, because it is dense as glass (it is in fact almost the same) and ink doesn't get into the surface. In most countries chalk boards in education are now being discouraged or even banned, because of asthma issues with chalk dust. Whiteboards expensive? If you look at the new Magiboards website you'll see that their cheapest 4'x3' boards now cost less than £30.00, or about $55.00 I think. That's not bad at all I should think!

For a cheap white board I use a large (second hand/thrift store) photo frame just framing some nice white paper. The glass is near impossible to stain if it dose get dirty you can remove it and clean it with some strong stuff/solvent without having to worry about your setting/damaging the frame.

I got the idea from the fume hoods at university, their glass sash is ideal for writing on with the "permanent" marker thats never too far away. Then it can be easily remove with the acetone wich is again never too far away ( top tip: add a little ethyl acetate to the acetone on the rag, it helps reduce smearing).

I guess my elementary school was close to 3M because from 1979 on, I had white boards in the classrooms. They usually covered the entirety of the exterior walls. MIT freaked me out a little when stepping backward in time to chalk and chalk dust in most classrooms after a dozen years of white boards, which also handle projected images well.

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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.