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gifts for geeks

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20582
    ∞



"Gallium is a silvery metal with atomic number 31. It's used in semiconductors and LEDs, but the cool thing about it is its melting point, which is only about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hold a solid gallium crystal in your hand, your body heat will cause it to slowly melt into a silvery metallic puddle. Pour it into a dish, and it freezes back into a solid."

More: http://dvice.com/archives/2010/12/11-cheap-gifts.php


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Greg Charles
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 01, 2001
Posts: 2851
    
  11

That's really cool. Do you think it's safe? Following that link it says, "gallium isn't toxic and won't make you crazy like mercury does.", but in my head, I fill that in with, "It will make you crazy in completely different ways from mercury."
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 14150
    
  18

Interesting stuff. Greg: I understand that you think "it looks like mercury, which is toxic, so this might also be toxic!" - but that's ofcourse not really a logical argument... (something doesn't necessarily have the same properties as something else, just because it looks like that something else).

Wikipedia says:
Wikipedia wrote:While not considered toxic, the data about gallium are inconclusive. Some sources suggest that it may cause dermatitis from prolonged exposure; other tests have not caused a positive reaction. Like most metals, finely divided gallium loses its luster and powdered gallium appears gray. Thus, when gallium is handled with bare hands, the extremely fine dispersion of liquid gallium droplets, which results from wetting skin with the metal, may appear as a gray skin stain.




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Greg Brannon
Bartender

Joined: Oct 24, 2010
Posts: 560
Jesper de Jong wrote:Greg: I understand that you think "it looks like mercury, which is toxic, so this might also be toxic!" - but that's of course not really a logical argument... (something doesn't necessarily have the same properties as something else, just because it looks like that something else).


Greg's response is reasonable considering how many of us have been trained practically from birth to group things into "safe" and "unsafe or unsure." Red berries, red leaves, and most things red shouldn't be eaten or rubbed on our skin if we don't know for sure that they're safe. There are plenty of exceptions, but if one is unsure whether to eat or touch something, if that something is red, it is generally considered to be not safe and caution should be exercised. Metals that are soft or become liquid at relatively low temperatures seem "unsafe." Greg's reaction is reasonable, or at least certainly understandable.


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Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 14150
    
  18

Hi other Greg! I didn't say it was unreasonable and I did say explicitly it is understandable. I'm not looking for an argument.
Greg Charles
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 01, 2001
Posts: 2851
    
  11

I look it like a Pascal's Wager corollary, or a basic risk/reward analysis. If gallium is safe and I don't play with it, I lose a bit of fun. If gallium isn't safe and I do play with it, I start drooling and listening to those voices in my head that I'm currently able to ignore (mostly). In any case, all Jesper's link shows is there's a lack of evidence that gallium is unsafe, which also used to be true of nicotine, thalidomide, trans fats, phen fen, ...

Still, it looks so cool. I'll probably get some.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4658
    
    5

Greg Charles wrote:Still, it looks so cool. I'll probably get some.

As a kid, we would occasionally play with mercury. Let it roll around in our hand, etc. Great fun. Of course, now we know its very bad for you. Probably why I left real engineering and turned to computer programming.
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Greg Charles wrote:...there's a lack of evidence that gallium is unsafe, which also used to be true of nicotine, thalidomide, trans fats, phen fen, ...

...and mercury. When Calder created his mercury fountain for the 1937 World's Fair, it was thought to be safe. (The fountain is still working and on display in Spain, although it is now behind glass to protect viewers from the fumes.)
 
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