Friday Funnies in Advance of the Eclipse

I’m so excited about the upcoming solar eclipse. The glasses I ordered for work showed up yesterday and when I brought them in today, my coworkers and I spent a few minutes discussing our eclipse plan.

After reviewing the detailed safety instructions on the glasses, we’ve decided to play “Blinded by the Light” since there is a particular reference about the fun of looking directly at the sun. I suspect the song will last longer than the eclipse itself.

We played the song, rocked out with air guitars, and debated the merits of using one of the glasses as a filter over the cell phone camera to record the eclipse.

Of course this also gave us an opportunity to make bad chemistry jokes, since the sun is made primarily of helium. Helios was a sun god in Greek mythology. He was a Titan eventually supplanted by Apollo, the god of light and an Olympian.

Onto the jokes:

A chemist was reading a book about helium. He couldn’t put it down.

Helium walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “We don’t serve noble gases here.”
Helium doesn’t react.

And finally, what did the scientist say when he found two isotopes of helium? “He He.”

Why Engineers Shouldn’t Watch TV: Supergirl

It should come as no surprise that I love watching fantasy and superhero movies and shows. While most of these types of stories require some acceptance and some imagination, one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is a need to get your basic facts straight. As an engineer, I often find gaps in the science and therefore can’t in good conscience recommend any of these programs to anyone expecting to properly suspend their disbelief.

In this post in the series on “Why Engineers Shouldn’t Watch TV,” I look at some of the annoyances I have with Supergirl.

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen these programs and want to be surprised when you do, please stop reading now. I’m not responsible for ruining the entertainment value of a good surprise even if the science is flawed.

In the second episode, a couple of security guards are walking around in a chemical plant and pull out guns on the bad guy hanging out in the midst of some storage tanks. To say nothing of the chemical incompatibility of the products they claimed to have onsite (sodium hypochlorite, AKA bleach, and I think they said ammonia), I’ve never seen site security doing chemical plant rounds: it’s always the operators. Site security, armed or not, is responsible for making sure unauthorized characters don’t go wandering into the plant in the first place. They even FIRED the guns during the scene in the midst of the storage tanks, and miraculously nothing leaked, punctured, or ignited.

Never mind that bleach and ammonia are two products you REALLY don’t want to be manufacturing together, I can’t imagine what kind of plant would be storing both products in near vicinity in the quantities contained by a storage tank. There are studies on good practice for siting materials, and one major consideration is chemical compatibility, for which this episode of Supergirl gets a major fail.

Can you think of another show or episode where a chemical plant was completely misrepresented?

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where I dissect my thoughts about the character of Supergirl.

Looking for old posts? Check out the start of the series here.