Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How do I create a backup of my entire blog?

How do I create a backup of my entire blog?

Blogger does not have an export or download function. However, you can use the following instructions to create a single file with all your posts which you may publish and then copy to your own computer for use as desired. Note: If you intend to continue using your blog, please save a copy of your existing template in a file on your computer as you will need to have it at hand after this process is completed.

  1. Log into your Blogger account, then switch into template-editing mode.
  2. Make a copy of your current template; you will be replacing your Blogger template with the single page template in Step 3, but you probably don't want to lose your original template.
  3. Replace your Blogger template with the following (note: you must remove the indentation from the following lines when pasting into your Blogger template):

AUTHOR: <$BlogItemAuthor$>
DATE: <$BlogItemDateTime$>

Optional: If you are using our commenting system, you can choose to export comments along with the posts. If you want to do this, add the following code to your template, just above the </Blogger> tag:


  1. In Settings | Publishing change your Blog Filename to a different filename; this will prevent you from overwriting your main index file. Make a note of your current Blog Filename so you can restore the setting after finishing. [Note: This only applies to users publishing via FTP. Free BlogSpot users will need to overwrite their existing blog page, but it will be replaced as soon as the blog is republished with the original template.]
  2. In Settings | Formatting, set your blog to display all of your posts on the main index page. There is no explicit setting for this; instead, you should change the number of days displayed on your front page (Show N days' posts on main page) higher than the number of days that you have been blogging.
  3. In Settings | Formatting set Date/Time Format to the format MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS AM|PM. (Note: the format will not look like this in the menu; instead it will be the current time, formatted.) Make a note of your current setting so you can restore it after finishing.
  4. Also in Settings | Formatting set Convert Line Breaks to No.
  5. In Settings | Archiving, set Archive Frequency to No Archive. This will prevent your archives from being overwritten with the new template.
  6. Republish your blog; you will end up with a single file with all of your posts, formatted using the above template, at the location specified in your Settings. Open this file in your web browser and save the file to your local hard drive.
  7. Restore the previous settings (Blog filename, archive frequency, timestamp, etc.) in your blog and replace the temporary template with your saved copy. Publish the blog and view the page to check that everything is correct.

If Operating Systems Were Beers !!!

DOS Beer: Requires you to use your own can opener, and requires you to read the directions carefully before opening the can. Originally came in an 8-oz can but now comes in a 16-oz can. However, the can is divided in 8 compartments of 2-oz each, which have to be accessed separately. Soon to be discontinued, although a lot of people are going to keep drinking it after it's no longer available.

Mac Beer: At first, came only in a 16-oz can, but now comes in a 32-oz can. Considered by many to be a "light" beer. All the cans look identical. When you take one from the fridge, it opens itself. The ingredients list is not on the can. If you call to ask about the ingredients, you are told that "you don't need to know". A notice on the side reminds you to drag your empties to the trash can.

Windows 3.1 Beer: The world's most popular. Comes in a 16-oz can that looks a lot like Mac Beer's. Requires that you already own a DOS Beer. Claims that it allows you to drink several DOS beers simultaneously, but in reality you can only drink a few of them, very slowly, especially slowly if you are drinking Windows Beer at the same time. Sometimes, for apparently no reason, a can of Windows Beer will explode when you open it.

OS/2 Beer: Comes in a 32-oz can. Does allow you to drink several DOS Beers simultaneously. Allows you to drink Windows 3.1 Beer simultaneously too, but somewhat slower. Advertises that its cans won't explode when you open them, even if you shake them up. You never really see anyone drinking OS/2 Beer, but the manufacturer (International Beer Manufacturing) claims that 9 million six-packs have been sold.

Windows 95 Beer: The can looks a lot like Mac Beer's can, but tastes more like Windows 3.1 Beer. It comes in 32-oz cans, but when you look inside, the cans only have 16-oz of beer in them. Most people will probably keep drinking Windows 3.1 Beer until their friends try Windows 95 Beer and say they like it. The ingredients list, when you look at the small print, has some of the same ingredients that came in DOS Beer, even though the manufacturer claims that this is an entirely new brew.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Software Engineering

At a recent computer software engineering course, the participants were given an awkward question to answer:
"If you had just boarded an airliner and discovered that your team of programmers had been responsible for the flight control software, how many of you would disembark immediately?"
Among the ensuing forest of raised hands only one man sat motionless. When asked what he would do, he replied that he would be quite content to stay aboard. With his team's software, he said, the plane was unlikely to even taxi as far as the runway, let alone take off.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

You are an Engineer if you ...

 - If these remind you of yourself, it's a good bet you are an engineer.
- At Christmas, it goes without saying that you will be the one to find the 
burnt-out bulb in the string.
- In college you thought Spring Break was a metal fatigue failure.
- The salespeople at Circuit City can't answer any of your questions.
- You are at an air show and know how fast the skydivers are falling.
- You bought your wife a new CD ROM for her birthday.
- You can quote scenes from any Monty Python movie.
- You can't write unless the paper has both horizontal and vertical lines.
- You comment to your wife that her straight hair is nice and parallel.
- You forgot to get a haircut ... for 6 months.
- You have Dilbert comics displayed anywhere in your work area.
- You have ever saved the power cord from a broken appliance.
- You have more friends on the Internet than in real life.
- You have used coat hangers and duct tape for something other than hanging 
coats and taping ducts.
- You know what http:// actually stands for.
- You own one or more white short-sleeve dress shirts.
- You see a good design and still have to change it.
- You still own a slide rule and you know how to work it.
- You wear black socks with white tennis shoes (or vice versa).
- You're in the back seat of your car, she's looking wistfully at the moon, 
and you're trying to locate a geosynchronous satellite.
- You know what the geosynchronous satellite's function is.
- Your laptop computer costs more than your car.
- You've already calculated how much you make per second.
- You've ever tried to repair a $5 radio.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Geek Blog in French

Click here to read this geek blog in French or copy paste the following link into the address bar of your browser!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

MP3 and MP4 Players

Flash MP3
players have revolutionized the way we listen to music.

blog post is all about mp3 and mp4 players which are gaining popularity everyday
among every aged man. Be a music aficionado or an impulsive data carrier or web
from portables, what all you need is a MP3 or MP4 player. I do own one now for
more than 7 months. Usually they are cheap but yet very friendly and easy to get
on. What are you thinking of? Explore these beauties by miniaturization.

For early entries on mp3
players please visit this post. However, below the same extract for MP3, MP4,
MP5, 3a, MTV, DMV, MPV and AMV.

Wikipedia goes as this:  
flash based MP3 player, mostly manufactured in China, capable of viewing images,
videos, and text files. Although commonly called MP4 Players, they really can't
play MP4 format videos. They are limited to proprietary file formats like MTV,
DMV, MPV, AMV and similar formats.

MTV Video Format

MTV Video format
was created with the idea to have some video playback capabilities on
inexpensive mp3 player hardware with almost no additional implementation cost.
MTV is a format that will quickly flip through raw image frames while at the
same time playing MP3 audio.

The MTV format
consists of a file header of 512 bytes length, followed by alternating image and
audio frames. While the audio frames are encoded with MPEG1 Audio Layer 3 (aka
MP3), the image information is stored in uncompressed raw format, according to
the the players display hardware specification.

During decoding
of the video stream, the audio frames are passed to the mp3 hardware decoder,
while the memory pointer of the display hardware is simply adjusted to the next
raw image within the video stream. While this concept does not require
additional hardware for the decoding process, it leads to huge memory
requirements as no compression is applied to the image information.

Know these briefs!

  • The term "virtual reality" was coined by the composer, computer scientist and author Jaron Lanier.
  • The code name for the 12 engineers who designed the first IBM PC was "The Dirty Dozen".
  • It is possible to run a P III processor without a heat sink because Intel bundles along protection devices that clocks down the CPU to get back to a stable temperature.
  • Blue Gene is the nickname of the new supercomputer from IBM that would be 1000 times faster than Deep Blue.
  • 'Overburning' is the process of writing beyond the official capacity of a CD-R or CD-RW. This is possible by using the lead-out to store data- the lead-out is used to indicate the end of the disk and contains nothing but zeroes.
  • "To get amazonned" means that one has lost a significant portion of one's business to a dotcom enterprise.

Corporate humour : Five stages of drunkenness

Five stages of drunkenness
Stage 1: Smart
 This is when you suddenly become an expert on every subject in the known universe. You know everything and want to pass on your knowledge to anyone who will listen. At this stage you are always �right�. And, of course, the person you are talking to is very �wrong�. This makes for an interesting argument when both parties are �smart�.
Stage 2: Good looking
 This is when you realise you are the �best looking� person in the entire bar and that people want you. You can go up to a perfect stranger knowing they want you and really want to talk to you. Bear in mind that you are still �smart�, so you can talk to this person about any subject under the sun.
Stage 3: Rich
 This is when you suddenly become the richest person in the world. You can buy drinks for the entire bar because you have an armoured truck full of money parked behind the bar. You can also make bets at this stage, because of course, you are still �smart�, so naturally you will win all your bets. It doesn�t matter how much you bet because you are �rich�. You will also buy drinks for everyone that you fancy, because now you are the �best looking� person in the world.
Stage 4: Bullet proof
 You are now ready to pick fights with anyone and everyone especially those with whom you have been betting or arguing. This is because nothing can hurt you. At this point you can also go up to the partners of the people who you fancy and challenge to a battle of wits or money. You have no fear of losing this battle because you are �smart�, �rich� and hell, you�re �better looking� than they are anyway!
Stage 5: Invisible
 This is the final stage of drunkenness. At this point you can do anything because �no one can see you�. You dance on a table to impress the people you fancy because the rest of the people in the room cannot see you. You are also invisible to the person who wants to fight you. You can walk through the street singing at the top of your lungs because no one can see or hear you and because you�re still �smart� you know all the words.

 Source: http://bloggingjokes.blogspot.com/2006/08/corporate-humour.html

Hotmail history and crack attemps

What is below is a result of my being member in a support forum? The history of hotmail and many crack attempts and even many more I find interesting and at the same time boring, anyway who copy-pasted this to me did atleast something good.

I claim no authority and integrity- do I have to claim that? I don't think this is all against the Blogger.com TOC, if please let me know.

(thing) by DaVinciLe0 (5.9 mon) (print)    ?    Wed Mar 29 2000 at 13:01:23

Hotmail was originally named HoTMaiL, referring to the fact that it was
email on the web, in HTML. It was a good idea (though not the first) and
very successful. The company sold out to Microsoft a few years back, leaving
its employees in pretty favorable financial status. Nowadays it's best use
is as a patsy when filling in email fields on forms at sites you know will
spam you.

(thing) by giantfish (2.2 y) (print)    ?   1 C! Tue Feb 27 2001 at 2:05:38
Hotmail (Internet, software): A free Web-based e-mail service now owned by
Microsoft Corporation. A fine example of viral marketing. It grew its
subscriber base from zero to 12 million users in only 18 months - faster
than any other company in any industry in history, and with a budget of only
$50,000. It did so by including "P.S. I love you. Get your free email at
http://www.hotmail.com/" at the bottom of every email sent. Later it was
changed to be less endorsing by removing "P.S. I love you." Hotmail became
the largest e-mail provider countries like Sweden and India, without any
marketing there.

Today there are many Hotmail clones but it is still popular as a free e-mail

(thing) by jaggederest (4.8 y) (print)    ?   1 C! Mon Aug 20 2001 at

Has recently been broken/cracked. There's a very major backdoor exploit that
allows anyone with a hotmail account to read any message that has ever been
sent, even those which were deleted and emptied from the trash.
Here's the instructions, from a user on
http://www.slashdot.org, gol64738:

---= Three Steps To View Someones Emails In Hotmail (rev.2) =---
(Tested with Internet Explorer 5)

To view full email from some elses account do the following:

1. Login normally to Hotmail with your ID (any id)

2. Use this type of link to view specific message from specific user:

l=attrd&domain=hotmail.com or

From that link change values:
MSG943322803%2e16 (Message id number, its simply a counter. %2e is escaped
code for ".")
username (Hotmail account name to view)

MSG number examples: MSG943322803%2e1 , MSG943322803%2e22 ,

(remove "%26raw%3d0" if you want to view email as 'emailbox view', instead
of full raw view.)
(remove "&hm___fl=attrd&domain=hotmail.com" if you dont like the hotmail
frame on top.)

Note.You need to have both numbers correct and that username must have the
message to make this link work.

Note.All those "%2e" etc. are hexadecimal ascii codes. You need to use them
instead of true characters.

See here for full list:

3. Done. If you entered correct message number & that user has it you will
see it. :)
(Test it with your own other hotmail account messages first to get the idea

---= ideas and comments for improved viewing / scan =---

Now typing those message numbers manually is too much work, you could create
a small utility to automatically scan given range of messages from specific
user name.
(You need to build it to work with IE, as you must be logged in hotmail when
you want to view messages..)

It also helps to know that from the message numbers, in you own hotmail
inbox,you can see about what time is what message number been used. eg:

MSG998289581.0 arrived on 20.08.2001
MSG997936971.27 arrived on 16.08.2001.
MSG996698372.27 arrived on 01.08.2001.
MSG975960863.0 arrived on 04.12.2000.

So you dont need to scan as many message addresses when you know from which
range you are looking at.

Test messages: (Login to hotmail,then use links to view message from my test

raw format view: (can copy base64 encoded files too:)

email box view: (can see any attached images directly etc.:)

*Side note on deleting messages in Hotmail:
-You can also see the message even if its deleted! If you delete a message
in hotmail, and also empty trashcan, the message is still viewable using
this type of link.
Atleast for 6-12hrs or something.

---=.... Status / Feedback / Fixes / Questions .....---

Changes on the link:

Remove parameter:

It caused Hotmail error page in some cases:
"Due to an internal error your request cannot be processed.
We apologize for the inconvenience. Please try again later."
Remove that parameter from the link. its not required.

Changed parameters:
in to:
Thats is just the start & length to display, of the email. If you put too
small value for len it should display only up to that amount of

If the user doesnt have the message you will get error:
Subject: Unable to locate message
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
An error has prevented from locating the message."

Q1. How do i get to know which message number the user has?

A1. You cannot. You just have to guess them..one by one.
Yes, it could mean scanning thousands/millions of messages just to see
something. (slow it is)

Q2. I've sended a test message to my another account but cannot see it?
And i can still see your test messages, but not my own?

A2. Check again that your MSG number is correct, both X and Y.
The Y value can be between 0-nnn. (i havent seen bigger than 150)
Check that the link is correct.
Check that you are logged in to Hotmail.
Also try change the server, from "pv2fd.pav2.hotmail" to
"lw14fd.law14.hotmail" If you can see the test account messages then hotmail
hasnt been fixed yet.

Q3. The hobo scanner program doesnt work?
I get some "Path not found (76)" error?

A3. True in most cases.. :)
It has more bugs than microsoft products i guess.
Its confirmed that it works atleast on win95. (latest version is hobo rev.2)
On Winnt it works but it doesnt save the scans..(bug in activating the
Create the output directory yourself, that fixes the path error.
Q4. Where/How can i find this exploit link myself?

A4. 1. Go to your hotmail preferences page.
2. Go to Mail Display Settings.
3. Set option 'Message Headers' to 'Advanced'.
4. Press ok to save settings.
5. View some email, you will see full message header.
6. Click 'View E-mail Message Source'.
7. Done. It opens new window with this exploitable link,
you can remove the some useless parameters from the
link and send this link to a friend for testing
if can see your message.

No any reply or confirmation from Hotmail so far.
The exploit still works. already almost 3 days since reported it to
Hotmail..(today is 20.08.2001)

Automated reply from hotmail security problem submission page did gave this
type of message..:p

"...Hotmail is a secure site and uses an intrusion alert that allows only
one IP
address to gain access to a mailbox at a time. If anyone tries to access
e-mail when your account is open, he or she is returned to the sign-in page.
Hotmail uses state-of-the-art software and firewall protection to offer our
members the highest security...."

(thing) by fondue (38.1 min) (print)    ?    Wed Jan 30 2002 at 22:49:06

HotMail is a seriously wack web mail service owned by Microsoft, and used by
them as bait to assimilate unwitting souls into the .NET Passport programme.
It has recently (in the last year or two) been rebranded MSN Hotmail and
decked out in livery stolen from Sun's Forte for Java development
environment. Hotmail is notoriously insecure, and has been cracked in
spectacular fashion at least once (see above writeups). A Hotmail account is
also a magnet for spam, some of it from Microsoft themselves (which you
can't block).
Hotmail subjects you to between one and five centre-page advertisments
before you can view your inbox, and after you perform any operation.
Microsoft also use Hotmail as a crutch for their demonstrably inferior IM
software, MSN Messenger, which is otherwise incapable of retaining offline

I personally use Netscape's WebMail instead of Hotmail, mainly because it's
less graphics-heavy, and doesn't print your password in plain text in its
redirect URL. (You mean you didn't notice that...?) Hotmail's terms of use
are pretty fucking hairy as well. It is probably a bad idea to correspond
with the Patent Office via Hotmail.

(thing) by SharQ (1.9 d) (print)    ?   3 C!s Tue Aug 27 2002 at 16:01:33

Hotmail - the internet "killer app" that went went down in flames

Why Hotmail became so popular

Hotmail was started as a free web-based e-mail service in 1996. It was not
the first, not the best, not the fastest, not the easiest to use and not the
most innovative service, but it quickly grew to become the biggest and most
popular nonetheless.

1996 was well before the internet boom, and only very few people had
internet access at home. However, libraries and universities had long
offered its users access through Arpanet and other networks, and when the
Internet seemed to be the new standard, it made sense to offer Internet to
the users as well.

If you are familiar with internet email standards, you know that the POP
standard pretty much requires you to store all your email on one particular
computer, because the mailbox otherwise fills up really fast. The problem
was - as mentioned - that not many people had their own computers hooked up
to the internet.

The Internet grew big because of two killer apps; The world wide web (which
most people, sadly, know as "the internet") and email. Later irc and other
chat services, along with Napster and other file sharing services became the
main killer apps, but email was always the key.

So - everybody wants an email address they can check at their local library,
at their universities and schools, or at the other locations offering free
(or at least cheap) internet access. Because most of these locations offered
the web rather than email, web email seemed like a fabulous idea.

So, several services started to offer free email. Among these were WhoWhere,
iName, Four11 and Hotmail. The common denominator of these services were
that they were free, offered reasonable privacy, and they were available
from any computer hooked up to the internet.

The Hotmail service was supported by advertising sales, and - quickly
afterwards - by offering free newsletters to their users. To deliver these
newsletters to the mailboxes, the service provider would take some money
from the newsletter, which in turn was supported by advertising.

Quickly, hundreds of websites wanting a piece of the cake spawned. Strictly
speaking, the technical level behind the email services is low - all you
need is a huge web server (or a server cluster, rather) with a front-end
(the nice-looking, user-friendly web page) and a secure database backend
(accessing the pop, imap or proprietary protocol mailboxes), and you were
good to go earn lots of money.

The reason why these types of email services were popular among advertisers
were that the users had to register. This means that you could get a fairly
exact picture of the demography of the users, thereby allowing for
specifically targeted marketing.

In short: The users were happy because they got free email, the provider was
happy because the advertisers gave them lots of money, and the advertisers
were happy because they finally got a wet dream coming true: They knew
exactly who watched their ads.

Things start going wrong

In 1998, Microsoft (who earlier had shrugged off the Internet as a waste of
time) was eager to get into the market, and decided to go for the biggest
provider there was - Hotmail. Per 1 st November 1998, Microsoft was
officially the owner of Hotmail and the 9 million (!) mailboxes that existed
on the Hotmail servers. The geek population was in distress.

Either because they were working on their strategy plans, or because
Microsoft just did not know what to actually do with Hotmail, they left it
alone for a while. Nothing changed, except for a small Microsoft logo
showing up every here and there.

Well.. Almost.

Almost at the same time that Microsoft took over Hotmail, reports (and
experiences) started showing up in the media of a dramatic increase in spam
to Hotmail accounts. I am not saying that these emails came from Microsoft,
but the rumours of Microsoft releasing email list - against good money, of
course - seem to make sense. At the same time, the service starts to "lose"
emails into nothingness - mail that is sent does not arrive, and mail that
is sent to a Hotmail mailbox vanishes into thin air. To my knowledge,
neither Hotmail nor Microsoft has ever made an official statement on this

2002: Mo money, mo Hotmail.

In 2002, Hotmail has become MSN Hotmail, and has gotten a "nice" glossy
design which (surprise, surprise) matches Microsoft's Windows XP design. At
the same time, MSN announces that their POP service (the ability to get POP
mailbox messages to your Hotmail inbox for free) would be a pay-only
service. At the same time, Microsoft starts bombarding your message inbox
with - yes - spam. As it were, Hotmail has become a free web based email
with a limit of 2 MB per mailbox. If you want more storage space, you'll
have to pay, and Microsoft loves to remind you of this service.

Usually, if you only get text-only emails, this 2 MB limit is more than
enough. However, this is not the case when we talk about Hotmail, because of
the massive amounts of spam that come crashing into your mailbox. If a
mailbox is not cleaned out every 4-5 days or so, it will be "full", and you
will not get any emails - the mails are bounced back to the sender.

But - kind as they are - Microsoft also offers a solution to the problem:
Become a premium member! For only £19.99 per year, you can get the massive
storage space of 10 MB, along with the ability to check your POP email, to
prevent your account from expiring, virus scanning, and the possibility to
receive emails with attachments of 1.5 MB.

Considering that you for the same price could set up your own domain, with
about 10 mailboxes of 10 MB each, you do get the feeling that Microsoft is
ripping you off.

Add this to the hacking scandal (see an earlier node) and the fact that
Hotmail has become even more unreliable, the only conclusion must be that
Hotmail - despite having meant a lot to a lot of people - has lost its touch
rather severely.

Hotmail, Rest in Peace.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Atom Is Split

Atom Is Split

This article from the journal Scientific American was written in 1932, soon after the Cambridge physicists John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton succeeded in splitting the atom, a highly significant early step in harnessing nuclear energy and in understanding more about the origins of the universe. The “Mendeleeff table”, named after its deviser, the Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleef or Mendeleyev, is usually known as the periodic table of elements.

Atomic Energy—Is It Nearer?

When some wise historian of the remote future undertakes to interpret our time he will dwell less on our wars and our political upheavals than on our scientific achievements. And the early decades of the 20th Century will call for special comment, because it was then that physicists began an attack on the atom which resulted in discoveries that changed the whole character of chemistry and engineering. To that historian the experiment conducted by Drs. J. D. Cockcroft and E. T. S. Walton of Cambridge University, England, which resulted in the splitting asunder of lithium atoms and the reuniting of their shattered nuclei in new combinations, will be singled out as an example of the method which finally led to the voluntary transmutation of the elements, to the controlled release of the energy that holds matter together and thus to a revelation of the whole plan and method of creation.

This being a machine age, we pay less attention to the understanding of the cosmos that will come out of our attacks upon the atom than to the unlimited energy that will be ours when we have mastered matter. Our civilization is based on coal and oil. If the invention and introduction of the steam engine could make coal and oil of such importance that nations were willing to fight for them and that the whole character of our living and thinking was transformed, what will happen to society when the energy in the atom is placed at the command of engineers?

If we are ever to utilize this energy we need something better than the hit-and-miss methods that must now be applied. When alpha particles from radium are directed on aluminum a nucleus is hit about once in a million times. At that rate an ounce of radium, costing several hundred thousand dollars, would not release enough energy from aluminum in a year to warm an ounce of water a degree or so. Cockcroft and Walton state that their protons hit the target only once in 10,000,000 times at 250,000 volts.

It is clear from this that we are only a little better off than the first savage who ever boiled water and saw steam rise. What did he know of the energy locked in the steam? How was he to divine that thousands of years after him engineers would be born who would devise cunning cylinders and pistons which would pump, haul, lift and do all that muscles would do? We are better than that savage in this: We know what mechanical energy can do. We know how much energy can be extracted from wood, coal, oil or a falling mass of water. We even realize the potentialities of the atom. This is the beginning of real progress.

We have still far to go before we can pretend to understand the atom and the secret of matter. But we have gone far enough to think of an engine which will harness the energy released in atom building. Not in our wildest speculations can we imagine what form that engine will assume. Perhaps some powerhouse engineer of the remote future will simply pour a few thimblefuls of sand into a disintegrating chamber. Perhaps he will actually change cheap metal into gold in the process of furnishing a city with light. Who knows?

What we have now in the form of engines, dynamos, and motors will seem quaint and amusing a few centuries hence. "To think that they actually burned coal to heat water and then used the steam to drive that funny engine and made the engine turn what they called a dynamo and in that way excited a current which they conducted to a lamp or a motor—how troublesome living and working must have been!" some boy will muse as he stands before a steam-engine of our day in a museum of the year 2500. Perhaps Lord Rutherford had something like this in mind when he said, years before Cockcroft and Walton came to his lectures as students in Cambridge, "the human race may trace its development from the discovery of a method of utilizing atomic energy."

Professor Millikan has often expressed the view that we are not likely to obtain enough energy for our industrial purposes by breaking down atoms through any electrical process. If we could collect all the radium thus far mined, the energy which it gives forth as it spontaneously disintegrates would not long suffice to run the peanut and popcorn roasters of the world, he has stated on more than one occasion. Too much work must be done on all the elements, except hydrogen, to make them give up their energy. "Man's only possible source of energy other than the sun is the up-building of the common elements out of hydrogen and helium or else the entire annihilation of positive and negative electrons," is the dictum he uttered at the Cleveland meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Probably this expresses the general view of physicists today.

The world is so obsessed by the preciousness of gold that whenever the subject of transmutation is broached it thinks only of increasing the monetary value of some base metal. To a physicist the change from lead to gold would be no more exciting than the change from nitrogen or aluminum to hydrogen which Rutherford effected long ago. True, if lead or mercury could be transmuted to gold the financial structure of the world might be threatened. But not for long. Some other standard of value would be adopted by international agreement.

A given weight of lead changing to gold would produce about a hundred million times as much heat as the same weight of burning coal. Hence a fraction of a grain of lead would do the work of a ton of coal. But the grain of lead turned into gold would bring only a fraction of a cent. The energy in the atom is worth far more than the price that the grain would bring in terms of gold. It is the owner of a coal mine or an oil field who has reason to worry if some day base metals could be cheaply converted into what we now regard as precious metals.

When they directed a stream of highspeed electric bullets—protons—on a layer of lithium in an exhausted tube, Drs. Cockcroft and Walton were not especially concerned with the transmutation of elements or the utilization of atomic energy. They had but one object—to penetrate deep into the atom's core and thus satisfy that natural curiosity on which all scientific investigation is based. They had reason to believe that if their bullets were fast enough, transmutation of some kind would occur, and that some energy would be released. But neither they nor any one else expected that out of the lithium nucleus would come helium particles. Their work is of the utmost scientific importance because of the new methods that they adopted, and because of their results. To understand what they have done, we must consider what the atom is, and realize how difficult it is to tear it apart in order to learn how nature put it together.

At this late day every one knows that an atom consists of a nucleus surrounded by electrons that vary in number with the weight of the atom. Hydrogen has one planetary electron. At the other end of the list is uranium with 92 planetary electrons. Between hydrogen and uranium lie the atoms of the other 90 elements, each atom having a number of planetary electrons that agrees with its numerical place in the Mendeleeff table of elements. Electrical forces are the cement that holds the atom together. Electrons are always negative. They are attracted by the positive nucleus. To smash the atom this bond must be broken; the mere stripping away of the outer rings of electrons is not enough. Most of the mass of an atom lies in the nucleus. It is the nucleus that determines just what kind of matter we deal with—whether it shall be a gas like hydrogen or a crystal like the diamond.

Originally, which means early in the present century, it was supposed that a nucleus consisted of positive electrons—positively charged particles which exactly counterbalanced the charges of the outer negative electrons. Later studies, notably those of Rutherford, showed that the nucleus is not so simple. It constitutes, in fact, a veritable atom within the atom. It is composed not only of protons, but also of electrons, in the case of elements higher in the scale than hydrogen. Physicists saw quickly enough that if they were ever to penetrate the secret of matter they must disrupt that nucleus.

A structure held together by force must be torn apart by force. And the binding force in this case is terrific. An atom is in itself invisible; the most powerful microscope that man can ever devise cannot magnify it so that it can be seen. The physicist who tries to disrupt the atom must smash indiscriminately. He cannot select a single atom and use it as a target. He must use millions of hammers on millions of atoms in the hope that an occasional telling blow will be struck. Even then he cannot know how successful he has been except by photographing the little tracks left by fragments of atoms that have been smashed.

The first man who succeeded in at least partly smashing an atom was Rutherford. He knew that he needed energy—that the blow struck must be violent. He cast about for the right kind of hammer. None that man could make would do. In radium he discovered the hammer that he needed. As it spontaneously disintegrates, radium shoots off alpha particles, which are the nuclei of helium atoms. They travel with a speed of about 12,000 miles a second, which is about 24,000 times faster than that of a rifle bullet—fast enough to go around the world in about two seconds.

Rutherford devised an apparatus in which different kinds of atoms could be hammered by alpha particles. They were both small and heavy, these particles. They crashed through the outer electrons easily. But at the nucleus they encountered the forces that hold the atom together. What physicists call a high-potential wall—an intangible wall of force—deffected them. Rutherford found it especially hard to make any impression on the nuclei of the heavy elements. With the lighter he was more successful. Nitrogen, boron, fluorine, aluminum, phosphorus were among those that yielded.

What was the result of this hammering? Always there came out of the nucleus protons—hydrogen nuclei. This was real transmutation. To change a score of different elements even partly into hydrogen was as startling as if lead had been changed into gold. But what was scientifically more important was the fact that always hydrogen nuclei or protons came out of widely different atoms. It was evident that protons, hydrogen nuclei, constituted the bases of all atoms—that the stuff out of which the universe was made must have been these protons and electrons.

The alpha particle method of attacking the nucleus of an atom has its decided limitations. If all the radium thus far mined and purified could be collected in one place it would give off only a known, fixed number of particles in a second. Furthermore, the speeds and energies of the rays from radium are not subject to control.

What the physicist wants is an electric gun which he can load to suit himself—a gun which will make it possible to attain projectile speeds higher than those of the particles given off by radium. With such a gun either protons or electrons can be fired at atoms. The propellant is high voltage. Since voltage can be raised or lowered it follows that the blows struck are subject to some control.

Drs. Cockcroft and Walton are not the only ones who have devised an electrical method of hurling particles at atoms. Drs. M. A. Tuve, L. R. Hafstad, and O. Dahl of the Carnegie Institution of Washington have been experimenting for many months with protons to which energies as high as 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 volts have been imparted. Their methods are much like those of the Cambridge scientists. In either case the protons are artificially produced.

The whole problem of wrecking atoms reduces itself to high voltages. In order to generate voltages higher than any thus far attained, Dr. R. J. Van de Graaff is now constructing for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a giant apparatus with which protons can be shot against atoms at 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 volts. His apparatus consists of two large spheres within which the experimenters sit. Electricity accumulates like water on the outside of a sphere. When there is more of it than the surface of the sphere can hold, it spills over to the other sphere in a blinding flash of artificial lightning. Imprison the flash in a tube and protons are carried to the target—the atom.

This method, applied on a less magnificent scale by Cockcroft and Walton, has led to dramatically unexpected results. Protons fired at lithium actually reached the nucleus. One proton was occasionally captured. Thus a new combination of protons and electrons within the nucleus became possible. Out of the nucleus flew two alpha particles—in other words, helium nuclei. Such is the explanation of their results advanced by the Cambridge scientists. Rutherford fired alpha particles at atoms and drove out protons. Cockcroft and Walton fired protons and obtained alpha particles.

The arithmetic of the Cockcroft-Walton achievement is easy to understand. The lithium with which the experiment was conducted had a mass designated by 7. The proton had a mass equal to 1. Since a proton was caught and imprisoned lithium's mass was raised to 8. The capture of the proton was like pressing a hidden spring and disrupting the atom. Out of the atom flew two alpha particles, each of mass 4. An alpha particle consists of two protons and two electrons electrically cemented together. Never was a result more unexpectedly obtained. Moreover, this is the first time that an atom has been disrupted by purely electrical methods.

More startling than the formation of alpha particles (helium nuclei) is the amount of energy released from the atom. Ten million shots were fired at 250,000 volts and one hit scored. At 400,000 volts, the highest attainable with the apparatus, the marksmanship was better. But—and here we must hold tightly to our chairs—the energy of each of the two liberated alpha particles was 8,000,000 volts. A total of 16,000,000 volts obtained for an expenditure as little as 125,000 and as much as 400,000! In the history of laboratory experimentation with the atom nothing more startling has ever happened. Yet it is not thus that we shall obtain atomic energy for the practical purposes of the future.

The discovery of Cockcroft and Walton dovetails neatly with that of Bothe and Becker. Last year Professors Bothe and Becker, who are members of the faculty of the University of Giessen, Germany, bombarded beryllium with alpha particles, after the fashion of Rutherford, who had knocked out protons from beryllium. Their particles, however, came not from radium but from polonium. They obtained rays as penetrating as those which would be generated by a 14-million-volt X-ray tube if we could build one—rays which could pierce three inches of iron and still retain one third of their intensity.

The alpha particles entered the nucleus of the beryllium atom. A new type of carbon atom was created—a stepping-up of beryllium in the table of elements. And the building-up process was accompanied, quite as Einstein had predicted, by the release of energy which manifested itself in rays very much more penetrating or "harder" than the most powerful X-rays that can be produced in a laboratory or than the piercing gamma rays emitted by radium.

In the first erroneous accounts that came to us of the success achieved by Cockcroft and Walton, it was stated that hydrogen had been changed into helium with the liberation of energy. This is a building-up process of which physicists have long dreamed. Why energy should thus be obtained follows from Einstein. The atomic weight of hydrogen is 1.00778; that of helium, 4.00054, or a small fraction less than four times as much. When helium is created by the union of four hydrogen atoms something must become of matter equal to this small difference. This minute surplus becomes energy. The synthesis of a single gram of helium from one gram of hydrogen would produce as much heat as the combustion of 20 tons of coal.

Einstein has taught us that when an atom gives off energy it loses mass. The amount of mass which must be lost to yield energy is so small that it is scarcely perceptible.

Complete annihilation of a minute amount of matter—that is the engineering ideal of the Utopian who would dispense with coal, oil, and other fuels in the remote future. A single annihilated gram of matter, by which we mean the complete disappearance of its protons and electrons as atomic systems, would be more than enough, according to Haas, to lift a weight as heavy as all the buildings in New York combined to the height of the Empire State Building, or more than enough to raise the temperature of all the rooms in New York by several degrees.

Pessimists like Sir Oliver Lodge shudder when they speculate on the future. Man is not yet spiritually ripe for the possession of the secret of atomic energy, he reasons. Technically we are demi-gods, ethically still such barbarians that we would probably use the energy of the atom much as we used the less terrible forces that almost destroyed civilization during the last war.

Others are convinced that the new insight into nature which will be granted when the structure of the atom is at last known, and with it the method of controlling its energy, must be accompanied by a spiritual advance. Each new discovery about the atom makes man more consciously part of the world about him—links him with the stars, which are themselves composed of atoms, and with the dazzling light of the sun, which springs from atomic activity—and thus impresses him with the littleness of his greed and the puerility of his disputes.

Source: Reprinted with permission. Copyright © August 1932 by Scientific American, Inc. [ http://www.sciam.com/ ]. All rights reserved.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Two Hydrogen Atoms: A Blaster!

Two hydrogen atoms bumped into each other recently.
One said: "Why do you look so sad?"
The other responded: "I lost an electron."
Concerned, One asked "Are you sure?"
The other replied "I'm positive."

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