Wikipedia:Reference desk archive/Science/2006 August 10

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Spectrum of the elements[edit]


I'm looking for the spectrum of the elements. There used to be a website that had a java program that would present each element's spectrographic signature. You would click on the periodic table and the spectrum of that element would appear. What I would really like is that the spectrographic signature of each element also include all the infrared and ultraviolet lines. Does Wikipedia have this anywhere? I've searched and found nothing. Would Wikipedia like to include such a thing?

Thank you very much, Michael King <email removed to prevent truckloads of spam>

Spectroscopy as a starting point ?--Light current 00:32, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

I can't tell from the question if you're looking for the website that you mentioned. If so, I think I've found it. It's here. And it is really cool! Y'all should check it out. It would be neat if wikipedia included spectra in each element's article. Sounds like a job! Or me if I decide to put the time in. Just make sure you understand the copyright issues, if you do decide to make it a project. --Bmk 00:34, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Yeah. Have you noticed on that applet that the absorption lines are the same as the emission lines. Or am I misinterpreting it?--Light current 17:46, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

They shouldn't be the same at all. Only the first series of lines (for example, the Lyman Series in hydrogen) should be the same.--G N Frykman 19:59, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Why shouldn't the be the same (by the same, I really mean they should be negatives of each other). The energy differences are the same whether the electron is absorbing the photon or emitting one. --Bmk 20:24, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Exactly. But are they really the same?--Light current 23:49, 10 August 2006 (UTC)


please could some one tell me where i can go to find a picture of the internal anatomy of an ant i have gone to dozens of sites and can not find one Thank you

Is this [1] no good?--Light current 01:25, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
The picture on this page shows more internal detail. If you click on it, you'll see a larger version. --LambiamTalk 02:00, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Good luck with the operation!--Shantavira 07:29, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
What I want to know is: how the heck can you dissect an ant?--Light current 10:21, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Very carefully. - Nunh-huh 10:50, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
... and with a minuscule machete. JackofOz 10:59, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
No. The answer is: You lay her on the table and proceed as with any other relative 8-)--Light current 16:45, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Mmm, here in the Southeastern United States, that could be taken another way. Hyenaste (tell) 20:00, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Wrong again: its called incestual necrophilia--Light current 22:00, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Taken out of context of course, she isn't necessarily dead. Hyenaste (tell) 22:06, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
She soon would be after the first major incision!--Light current 22:13, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I guess it depends on what kind of dissection-style you are using, or if it is vivisection or not. — [Mac Davis] (talk)

Ahh youve woken up I see Mac!--Light current 05:21, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

o_o --Proficient 13:28, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

ANSI Standard[edit]

Posed again at the Computing/IT Reference desk -- 14:33, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Marshmallow experiment[edit]

In the marshmallow experiment described under Deferred gratification, what was done to control for exogenous factors? It seems to me these might include:

  • Advanced/delayed development. As I understand it, not all four-year-olds have a clear concept of time, or even enough language, to understand the deal that was being offered. Conceivably, those slower learners who could not understand it might be less likely to wait, even if they had the same deferred gratification, and also less successful in later life.
I can't picture many 4 year olds who couldn't understand this simple proposition. They also were told that they would be notified when the 20 minutes was up, so they didn't need to have any sense of time. StuRat 06:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Gender, race, etc. Suppose that for as-yet-unknown genetic reasons (I think that in four-year-olds, we can eliminate social conditioning), the group that were able to wait included a greater proportion of white children, more boys, or some other group that statistically earns more money than average. It would follow, then, that they would be more successful in later life, even if deferred gratification did not cause this greater success.
It could also be argued that, if more successful gender and racial groups demonstrated a superior ability to wait for gratification at age 4, then that may be why those groups are more successful. StuRat 06:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Sugar addiction. From what I've read, widely varying degrees of sugar addiction have been detected in four-year-olds. I have also read that sugar addiction impairs learning and can lead to health problems (e.g. hypoglycemia) later in life. Both these things would negatively impact "success" down the road. I suspect that how long a child could wait would have had at least something to do with the strength of their sugar cravings.
Could be. There was also a child who refused to eat any marshmallows because their mother didn't allow it. StuRat 06:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I also doubt if the sample size was large enough, say 1100 kids, for a 3% margin of error over a 90% confidence interval. StuRat 06:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

If these factors were not controlled for, how sure can we be that the results are valid? Perhaps the presence or absence deferred gratification at the age of four has nothing to do with whether it is present in adulthood. NeonMerlin 04:31, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

I don't have access to a research library, but perhaps someone can look this up. The original paper is: Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. "Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions". Dev. Psychol. 26(6), 978–86, Nov. 1990.  --LambiamTalk 04:54, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Looks good, I added that ref to the article. StuRat 06:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
You can read all the abstracts here. I get the impression that the wikipedia article might overstate the authors conclusions.--Peta 05:02, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Should not all the above be removed to the relevant talk page?--Light current 17:48, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I read the article listed, and not much was done to control for those factors. However, that was only the second article done on the subject. It was done 18 years ago, so I am sure more recent articles have done some work towards controlling for confounding variables. However, it isn't safe to rule out social influences in 4 year olds. Children of that age have had plenty of time to learn a wide range of behaviors. And the study referenced another study that was based around toys and present, and showed the same effect. So it is unlikely to be due to sugar addiction. If you search for some more recent articles on the subject and get me the journals, titles, authors, and volumes, I will try and read them and see if anything has been done to answer your questions. Preferably a review on the subject published within the last few years. It's worth noting that those would be very easy variable to control for. -- 14:31, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Also, that particular journal article only used some parent-submitted measures 10 years later while the children were adolescents. They didn't directly measure success. So the wikipedia article is probably talking about a different experiment. -- 14:58, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis[edit]

Could someone with als also have peripheral neuropathy? Also, if this person fell because of the neuropathy, could the als worsen faster? thank you jimblab

Peripheral neuropathy could always occur coincidentally in someone with ALS. However, this is not typical and not part of the syndrome. ALS might seem to worsen in times of illness, such as after a fall or with pneumonia. I'm not sure that the disease is actually progressing - more that the neurologic deficits are exaggerated and more pronounced. InvictaHOG 06:59, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Waterlilies and scum[edit]

I get an oily scum on my garden fishponds at certain times of year (for instance now - I live in the UK). I've been told that this is caused by the waterlilies, but I haven't been able to find a good explanation as to why this should be. Any suggestions? --rossb 07:55, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Pollen? Just a guess. --Bmk 13:20, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I think it's far more likely to be caused by algae. Googling waterlilies and scum brings up lots of helpful links, such as this one.--Shantavira 14:07, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I can believe the waterlillies are coated with oil to keep things from eating them and help them to float. Some of this oil might come loose and float on the water. StuRat 20:51, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

8th grade school project on Energy[edit]

I need info on the following for my 8th grade school project, energy used/energy wasted/conservation of energy

You should start by reading related articles, such as energy conservation. If you have specific questions about things you don't understand in the articles, feel free to come back and ask them. digfarenough (talk) 14:12, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Oh, and when I say "start by", I mean, of course, to read the article to get an idea of the subject, then go to a library and look up real books based on references in the articles or important phrases from the articles. Wikipedia should not really be your primary source for, well, anything important. :) digfarenough (talk) 14:14, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Do NOT reference wikipedia on a school project. Your teacher will not be impressed.
Even though they're basically wrong. — [Mac Davis] (talk)
It's worked for me a few times on college papers when I only had a few hours to write them and no sources. I'm sure you could get away with it in 8th grade. If in doubt, reference the pages or books the wikipedia article references. Of course, if you are serious about the project, it's best to look for good sources. -- 13:43, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Indeed. Use books. --Proficient 13:29, 12 August 2006 (UTC)
Out of curiousity. Why is referencing wikipedia on a school project (and/or possibly a report) considered not impressive to a teacher? -- 16:31, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
Because 1) anybody can edit it, and there's a perception that that leads to massive vandalism, and 2) it does the research for you, as it's a tertiary source. A teacher would probably frown just as much if an eighth grader copied a report from an encyclopedia, but an encyclopedia entry is usually brief. The skill of researching from other sources is important. Do your own research. ColourBurst 16:44, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
Because 1) Wikipedia is perceived as antiestablishmentarianism (which it sort of is); 2) academic people prefer "reputable" (read: commercial) sources of information; 3) they believe internets can't be trusted; 4) they have an irrationally strong belief in the reliability and reputability of print sources. Regardless of whether WP is accurate or not, it does get a bad rap in many circles. Nonetheless, having many sources is a good idea ANYWAY. Wikipedia can be great since many articles are careful to cite sources - you can go see those books or websites. Nimur 15:19, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Or just cite them without acutally reading them and hope the teacher doesn't notice ;) Plugwash 16:34, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Canon S2 camera behavior[edit]

I am starting to get curious about the way my digital camera works, in a way beyond what the readily available articles will illustrate. The process of taking a picture with this particular camera involves sighting it up using the main CCD image sensor, then snapping the whole thing to get an image to save. What I can't figure out is why the shutter in the camera seems to close when the picture is taken, and then snaps open again once it's done. Does it need to close off all light when its reading the image from the CCD? It's most noticeable when the shutter speed is very long, which doesn't support this theory. So can anyone explain why the camera needs this much alone time? --Jmeden2000 14:26, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

What you are describing sounds like the normal behaviour of any SLR camera. When you take the shot, the light from the subject is momentarily diverted away from the viewfinder (usually by a moving prism I believe) and onto the CCD (or film), and the shutter then opens and closes. This means that while the shot is being taken you will not see anything in the viewfinder.--Shantavira 15:36, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
When you're aiming the camera to decide what to take a picture of
  • The shutter always open
  • The aperture is open all the way
  • Every 1/30 of a second or so, the camera reads and resets some of the pixels to display the image on the viewfinder
This leads to a bit of blurring of the viewfinder image, but usually not enough to notice.
When you press the shutter release button
  1. The shutter is closed.
  2. The entire sensor is reset.
  3. The camera sets up the aperture and shutter for the specified exposure.
  4. The shutter opens for the specified exposure length.
  5. The shutter closes to protect the image while it's being read.
  6. The camera reads and resets the sensor.
  7. If the exposure was longer than a certain period, 4/3 of a second for Canon cameras, the camera takes a second picture with the shutter closed. This is used to reduce the noise from sensor pixels spontaneously turning themselves on.
  8. The shutter opens again and the camera goes into viewfinder mode.
--Serie 21:38, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Incredible! Thank you for sharing, i wouldn't have thought it needed such a complicated sequence of events to capture what I can already see in the viewfinder. Shantavira: It's not a DSLR camera, there is no separate viewfinder to divert to since both the eyepiece and the flip out screen are driven with the signal from the main CCD.
If all you wanted was what you already see in the viewfinder, that'd work — and indeed most compact digital cameras have a video mode that essentially works that way, producing a low-resolution moving image. But when you take a still picture, you usually want more resolution and less noise than in the tiny picture shown in the viewfinder. For that, the process described by Serie is useful. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 11:43, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

What is this old "fat removal / body toning" device called?[edit]

What is the name for the device being used by the pin-up girl in this illustration? It has a vibrating strap that I think was supposed to jiggle or "melt" the fat away from various areas of the body. --Lph 14:48, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Wow, google searches with the word vibrating tend to find something completely different... How about belt massager or massage belt; type those into google's image search, seem like pretty popular names for it. Weregerbil 15:13, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Anyone have the associated caption for the 'postcard'?--Light current 15:37, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Check out Gil Elvgren and external links therein. Weregerbil 15:44, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Did they not used to be called just 'slimming machines' ? 8-?--Light current 16:06, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
  • There's one exhibited at our gym along with other obsolete exercise machines (the gym is owned, incidentally, by the Smith who invented the Smith machine.) The label on it just says "vibrator". There were a number of brands of them; I think "Gyro-belt" was one of them. Oh my gosh, the things are still being made. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 23:17, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Thanks everyone! I'm going to put Belt massager into WP:RA. --Lph 04:34, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Last time I checked, it was already there, but under a different name. I may have removed it when I was working in there because the requester requested something like "those shaking belts that were supposed to lose weight in the 70s," and I couldn't get a name. — [Mac Davis] (talk)
Here's where I put it. --Lph 12:41, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
And if you'd believe it, those things are still popular in Japan. I've yet to find a gym here that didn't have at least one of them installed (usually faithfully used by at least one wrinkly old man).  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  19:41, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Care of guitar loudspeaker cabs[edit]

I have a Trace Elliot cab with 1x15" drive unit. I keep it in the car cos its too heavy to lift on my own. Will the changing environment (ie cold, heat, damp, dry etc) in the car finally cause damage to the cone or the voice coil? I had one large speaker coil fail after it had been standing unused in the house for some years -- never did find out why but I think it was an aluminium voice coil. --Light current 17:42, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

One thing I can think of is that cold equipment brought into a warmer room will get condensation on it, especially the metal parts. If you turn it on then, that might cause some short circuits. If it has been in the car overnight it might be colder and the risk might be greater and it may take longer for it to acclimatise. DirkvdM 07:39, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

I was thinking more of corrosion and/or rot damage.--Light current 13:53, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Everyone has big ass speakers in their cars these days, and not all of them are closed, but I haven't heard anyone complaining that theirs stopped working because it "corroded". As long as your car doesn't let in any rain or get too hot (I'll assume it's in the trunk/boot) I don't think there's any risk of damage. I doubt that rock star transport trucks are insulated in the back.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  18:12, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Strange lump[edit]

Sometimes I spit out a small beige elastic lump, which stinks nearly. I wonder what it is? NoN

Ahem, its Phlegm--Light current 17:25, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Really? It's a more solid piece, apparently something else. NoN
Yeh sometimes I get one, it strongly resembles the seeds from inside a Bell pepper, so I just assumed it was that. We maybe talking about different things. Hehe Philc TECI 19:55, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I get them, too. They are pieces of food that get stuck in the throat. Later, you cough them up. They are pretty nasty. StuRat 20:45, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

"Tonsillolith". --Femto 21:08, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

My faith in Wikipedia having an article about everything is restored. —Daniel (‽) 10:06, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Are you sure? Check everything. Oh yes you are right!--Light current 13:55, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Heh, I for one almost lost my faith. There are redirects for tonsil stone, tonsil stones, tonsillith, tonsilloliths, even throat booger. But I of course (why I remembered it more easily than "tonsil stone" remains a mystery to me), searched first for tonsilith whose redirect didn't exist yet. Slackers. Femto 15:26, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Gross. --Proficient 13:30, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Ants !![edit]

I found a some in my car; assuming I vacuum all of the food crumbs and eliminate food sources, how long can I expect them to survive (assuming I don't use bait)?

Did they make a nest in the car? If so, they will try to stay there and venture out for food. A fellow employee got ants in his Jeep and they refused to leave. I continually suggested he bug-bomb the thing. --Kainaw (talk) 19:34, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Put it in a garage so you can bug bomb the inside and outside at once. StuRat 20:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)x
Just use some Nippon or equivalent ant killer--Light current 21:58, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Dunno why, I read that as "Napalm" and thought "that might be a bit excessive", but then I realized we don't know just how big/many/strong the ants are. DMacks 06:49, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Yeah napalm would also be good if you dont mind incinerating the car. 8-)--Light current 06:53, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Maybe instead of vacuuming the crumbs you should try vacuuming the ants. Or maybe you should create a vacuum around the ants. Anchoress 07:13, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Move the car a few blocks away from your home. Wait until the ants have gotten out in search for food. Drive the car back to the house. Repeat this until enough ants have been lost to the nest that it can no longer survive. DirkvdM 07:47, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
How resilient are ants to heat? Since its summer (at least in the N hemisphere) things probably get pretty warm during the day. To push it over the tipping point, start the car and set the interior heat to full, and let it sit for half an hour. By that time, the ants should be sufficiently uncomfortable and may consider relocating.
Or you could leave the car in a closed garage when you do that, and kill them with carbon monoxide. Of course, you'd need to let it run out of gas then leave it there until all the CO had dissipated, or you would die, too, but that's just being picky. StuRat 18:00, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Havent we got a page on insecticides?--Light current 18:11, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Vacuum the ants. --Proficient 13:31, 12 August 2006 (UTC)
If there is a whole hoard of ants, just use a bug bomb for chrissakes. Some of these answers are ridiculous! That or just leave a cookie in the car with pesticide in it; when they forage for food, they'll eat it/transport it to the 'hive' you appearantly have growing in your car, killing them all. -- 19:06, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

organic chemist[edit]

I've been thinking about going to school and doing something with my life and one thing that im interested in is organic chemistry how long would it take before I could have a career and what kind of jobs do they have? also what kind of money and schooling does it entail?

Aren't all chemists organic ? :-) StuRat 20:39, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
I'm no expert, but here's my best shot. Quoting from chemist:
"The three major employers of chemists are academic institutions, industry, especially the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry, and government laboratories."
In the US (I don't think it's terribly different elsewhere) you need a BA/BS majoring in chemistry or biochemistry, which usually takes 4 years, followed by at least a masters and most likely a PhD, which would take one to five more years. For academia, figure on a few more years as a postdoc.
The other option is to go into chemical engineering. This takes a BSE. You can get decent jobs with that, and is usually all you need to get licensed, but for better-paying, more prestigious work you would eventually want a MS and probably an engineer's degree.
You might also want to look at pharmacy.--Pyroclastic 20:10, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
there is much more opportunity in chemical engineering than in straight chemistry...go to school for organic chemistry but keep your options open. Many of the classes for chemical engineering overlap with chemistry at the undergrad level.

Nitrocellulose underwear[edit]

If you were to make underwear out of nitrocellulose, would you be able to ignite it on demand, or would you be at constant risk of spontaneously blowing your own ass off? --Serie 21:41, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

I just wouldnt walk too fast or make any sudden movements. --Light current 22:04, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Nitrocellulose doesn't combust on contact at room temperature. It is very flammable, but you'd be ok as long as you don't have a really hot ass. Ahem, speaking scientifically. Now, if you had underwear made out of nitroglycerin... then you'd be in trouble. --Bmk 03:15, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Yes well, i was thinking of the friction between your legs when you walk fast heating up the nitrocellulose and causing combustion.

A little poem springs to mind:

  • The boy stood on the burning deck,
  • His pocket full of crackers.
  • A spark jumped up his trouser leg
  • And....

well you can guess the last line!


--Light current 03:24, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

I couldn't guess it, I'm not British enough. Its "And paralyzed his knackers" in case anyone is wondering. pschemp | talk 04:00, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Well you did guess correctly!--Light current 04:05, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, I couldn't get it. — [Mac Davis] (talk)
Me either. -- 06:18, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps it only known in UK--Light current 06:35, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Never mind your donkey. I'd be more worried about the front. DirkvdM 07:51, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I think you mean the arse. — [Mac Davis] (talk)
Thats where your knackers are if youve got any!--Light current 13:49, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I can't guess it either, unless the answer is on top of me. --Proficient 13:32, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Cancer pain[edit]

My cousin died from liver cancer recently. At his funeral his minister mentioned how he was in terrible pain in his final days, which got me to thinking, what kind of pain does a cancer patient feel? Are the effects of, say, lung cancer similar to those of breast cancer or skin cancer? What about chemotherapy or radiation treatment, how do they make you feel?

Chemo mainly causes nausea, while radiation therapy can be completely painless. StuRat 23:22, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
My father had/has a form of skin cancer. He reported no pain--Light current 00:00, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Cancer can be painful depending on its location (or the location of metastases). This page gives a good quick outline. Pain occurs when a tumour grows to the point where it compresses/stretches another body structure that contains nerves. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 01:55, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Strange lump Mk2[edit]

I have a strange lump om my right thumb. Doctor initially said it was a ganglion cyst. But another doctor said it was too near the surface for that. Its about 10mm x 5mm and is sometimes painful but not usually. Any ideas?--Light current 23:55, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

A bone spur ? StuRat 00:05, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

No its too soft!--Light current 00:10, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

How about a simple wart? --Bmk 01:52, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Uuuuh man i just looked at the link i made - that is one horrible case of warts in the picture! --Bmk 01:53, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

No its not a wart (I have warts too! so I know wart theyre like 8-))- its sort of just under the skin!--Light current 02:54, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Uh no offense but we are not doctors. I wouldn't trust any medical advice you recieve here, nor ask for any. pschemp | talk 04:01, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Im not asking for medical advice. Ive seen two doctors for that. im asking people what they think it could possibly be!--Light current 04:04, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Actually, looking at the page on ganglion cyst I now think thats what it is. (the second doctor was an inexperienced junior). Ill see what the hand surgeon says. --Light current 04:25, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

The other day I was walking around with one of my friends when he noticed something on this rightmost knuckle—it almost suddenly appeared—it looked like the picture of a ganglion cyst. "It's scaring me not because it was there, but because I can feel it moving." It subsided. He associated it with him hitting his hand against a pole about three times in that place. Maybe something in his knuckle broke and a gas bubble formed? — [Mac Davis] (talk)

Sinovial fluid perhaps. You can sort of feel ganglion cysts moving. I had one before. BUT....why did your friend continue to hit his hand agaist the pole after the first time? TITQ --Light current 05:18, 11 August 2006 (UTC)