Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend reading wrap-up

This is what happens when it rains all weekend.

The following things I read over the weekend gave me a serious case of the grins:

Diamonds on Demand: I've read several articles about this over the years, and I'm convinced lab-grown diamonds are just about the coolest thing ever.

Using very secretive methods (there are a few competing methods from a handful of manufacturers), these guys can make diamonds out of (half-) literally thin air. The basic processes have been around for 50-odd years, but now they can make flawless gems (not just industrial-grade!) of almost any cut, clarity, color, and carat in a matter of weeks instead of, ya know, billions of years.

And they can be BETTER than diamonds from the ground. They can make-to-order diamonds of any color, shape, thickness, electrical properties, composition... The Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Lab has already grown probably the world's hardest known substance in a type of lab-grown diamond that's harder than any known geothermal diamond. It broke the scale. The scale was made of diamonds.

That is just awesome.

How awesome?

With a cheap, ready supply of diamonds, engineers hope to make everything from higher-powered lasers to more durable power grids. They foresee razor-thin computers, wristwatch-size cellphones and digital recording devices that would let you hold thousands of movies in the palm of your hand. "People associate the word diamond with something singular, a stone or a gem," says Jim Davidson, an electrical engineering professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. "But the real utility is going to be the fact that you can deposit diamond as a layer, making possible mass production and having implications for every technology in electronics."

How about an iPod that can hold all the collective knowledge of the world? That awesome.

Unless you're De Beers. This is very bad news for De Beers, who have profited handsomly from (a) convincing the world that diamonds are rarer than they truly are; (b) lowering the supply of diamonds artificially by convincing everyone to keep their diamonds off the market -- they're "forever," haven't you heard?; (c) that whole blood diamond thing. They're fighting this lab diamond thing tooth and nail.

Money quote:

The problem for the producers is that even though diamonds are not all that rare, people believe they are, so their price is substantially inflated.

Once people realize that manufactured diamonds are indistinguishable from the real thing, he said, that could change.

So they dismissively call these lab-grown diamonds 'synthetic diamonds' in an effort to lower their status to that of, say, cubic zirconia or ice cubes. But there's nothing synthetic about these diamonds: they're compressed carbon with all the sparkle sparkle and hardness and all that. They're diamonds, no 'synthetic' about it.

My brother's girlfriend, bless her heart, has always said she'd be happy with a cubic zirconia. Why? They sparkle more than diamonds, they're clearer than all but the best diamonds, and you can get a Brobdingnagian rock for pennies on the diamond (sorry!). What's not to like?

We call her a "keeper."

Next up, I continue to love long-exposure light effects.

Sleeping Beauty - City lights / Music video from Benjamin Taft on Vimeo.

Next: How's The Weather? Here's a little waste of time: it pulls your location from your IP address (assuming you're not behind a firewall), automatically gives you the weather, and pulls a full-screen picture from Flickr based on some keywords in the forecast. There are worse ways to waste time online.

Next: THIS is Natalie Portman's boyfriend? She just shot up to the very top of my 'laminated 5' list for it-could-happen reasons alone.

Next: these guys performed in front of surveillance cameras, then used the British equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act to request the footage and make a video. That's just inspired:

Next: The Love Guru takes in a pathetic $14M. Waaah.

“The Love Guru” placed fourth at the weekend box office in a serious embarrassment for Mr. Myers, who had spent years perfecting his new screen character, a love counselor named Pitka, only to be rejected by the critics and audience alike.

He spend YEARS perfecting the character? I doubt that. "Horny guru mugs for camera" takes years? I just did it in 5 words.

Next: Ex-Girlfriend Don't Want To Talk To You No More, New European Boyfriend Reports: The Onion is brilliant, as always. Their writing proves, as always, that humor is in the details:

Although no answers have been provided to your flabbergasted stutterings following the announcement, 17 hours of careful overanalysis did uncover several new, emasculating details from within the one-and-a-half-minute conversation. It is now believed that the olive-skinned baron and multiple- vineyard owner who relayed the message is currently living with and possibly married to the woman you once tried to impress by wearing a belt.

You have also been able to deduce, without the aid of visual confirmation, that Norsten's new European boyfriend was dressed in flowing white linen pants and rustic kidskin loafers, and is, at this very moment, slowly consuming a perfectly ripened orange.

Lil' Wayne is number 1! Hell and yes. The new album is great, but my favorite Lil Wayne song is this one from Tha Carter II, as performed on Leno

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Next: The Call of Booty: How about some sonnets and haikus in text message format? You're welcome.

Next: The olympics are going to be difficult to watch now. I picked up Mario Kart for a little bit this weekend and was quickly reminded why I quit playing single player in the first place: that damn Blue Shell. What's the point of winning if the AI is going to smack me with a blue shell every 30 seconds? Screw that.

Also, Four Brothers was on USA, so I got my weekly regiment of Mark Wahlberg revenge movies, this time with a side of Dre from Outkast. Sweet. Like every Mark Wahlberg movie, well, it's better than it deserves to be.


cher cher said...

I like the whole diamonds thing for all the reasons you listed, but the brainwashed girly girl in me just wants a big, pretty, real diamond.

Not Only, But Also Lee said...

When you say you want a "real" diamond, do you mean "real" as in mined from the ground, or "real" as in a lattice of carbon atoms. "Synthetic" or "lab-grown" or "cultured" diamonds are definitely "real" in the latter sense. They are in fact diamonds. They're also usually higher quality and cheaper than mined/geothermal diamonds. Also, they avoid that whole 'blood diamond' tribal warfare issue.

Versus, say, cubic zirconia... that's not a diamond. It just looks like it. But it's clearer, more sparkly, and vastly, vastly cheaper.