Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wrinkly Silicone

The most recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 104, No. 4, pp 1130-1133) has a free access article which is visually striking, although I was really disappointed in the analysis.  PDMS was exposed to a beam of Ga+ ions, which then forms a stiff upper layer (SiOx - a depletion of carbon is noted) atop the softer underlayer, with the upper layer forming a buckled surface at high enough Ga+ fluences.

Why?  The authors are silent on the subject.

Having a stiff layer of anything over a softer layer doesn't mandate buckling unless there is a difference in stress/strain that is allowed to relax.  I suspect that that is the ultimate cause here - residual stress from the manufacturing of the original PDMS.  This would be easy to verify qualitatively.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Fall of GE

And now GE Plastics is for sale…

As recently as the year 2000, GE, and in particular, its CEO Jack Welch could do no wrong.  Jack would say that managers should pat their tummies three times a day and BOOM! that week he would be on the cover of 5 business weekly magazines, with everybody cooing and ahhing at the brilliant insight.  GE mangers were also considered nearly as brilliant…until they left and tried to pass off the GE model on other companies.  Jim McNerney  and Robert Nardelli immediately come to mind.  3M and Home Depot could not believe their luck at getting these guys and were willing to pay the price of a moonshot for them  - $210 million in Nardelli's case.  Both have now left after several years of accomplishing nothing as the stock prices show.

So now the crib of Jack Welch and his prodigy Jeff Immelt is up for sale.  Considering the performance of GE stock under Immelt's reign (from ~ $52 down to the current ~$37), maybe something else is the issue.  Heck, anybody can look good if they sell off the slow performing divisions.  Does that make someone a great CEO?  Maybe so, since Jack's first nickname was Neutron Jack (he got rid of the people and left the buildings standing).


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Time is money

In my current employment situation, all my hours are potentially billable, much like the world of lawyers. (Our rates aren't as high, we have expensive toys in the lab, and we aren't … well,… we're more likeable.)  This has given me a different perspective on my job than I had at the past when I worked for corporations that simply had an internal overall lab R & D budget that my time was billed against.  In the past, I would rarely use support staff to help me out with mundane tasks.  Here is it essential to keep a project on budget, since the support staff will bill their hours at a significantly lower rate than I do.  Another example:  A colleague recently needed a walking treadmill for a project.  He went to the local store and found a model that he liked.  It was not stocked at that store but at another store across town.  Doing the math in his head, it was cheaper to the budget to get a more expensive treadmill now than to spend the extra time going around town to save a few hundred bucks.

You get the point.  The math is simple but that is not my issue here.  The real question I have is this: should people in more traditional labs (i.e., those with only an internal R & D budget, and that really don't have hours directly charged against them) adopt this attitude as well?  Why or why not? 

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Polypropylene Orange Crate

I bought a box of Clementine oranges over the holidays.  The packaging was not the usual "wood/cardboard crate-with-netting", but instead was a made from polypropylene sheetstock.  These particular oranges were distributed by Ocean Spray (Don't think that they grow too many oranges in the bogs of New England and Wisconsin, but I've never been sold on this Global Warming thing anyway. Maybe I should pay more attention.)  I'm surprised, as I would have thought that it would be more expensive than the older style packaging.