Aluminum

 

My latest audiobook dropped this afternoon. This is #83. Don’t stop me, I’m on a roll.

This time I got to do science. Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability has plenty in it to make anyone who remembers high school science classes happy. There is also a lot of good information on the history and operation of mineral extraction, and it is presented without a lot of enviro hand-wringing; we need this stuff, so what are good ways of getting it and using it that make sense for both the immediate need and the long term? I found it accessible and non-political.

From the blurb: Soil to Foil tells the extraordinary story of aluminum. Saleem H. Ali reveals its pivotal role in the histories of scientific inquiry and technological innovation as well as its importance to sustainability. He offers compelling portraits of the scientists and innovators who discovered new uses for this remarkable element, ranging from chemistry and geoscience to engineering and industrial design. Ali argues that aluminum exemplifies broader lessons about stewardship of nonrenewable resources. Soil to Foil shows that the story of aluminum’s use and misuse helps us rethink how to sustainably manage the resources of our planet.

As always, if you would like a free review copy, PM me. You don’t have to have an Audible subscription to get the freebie, but you do have to use the free Audible app to listen to it.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    That’s the kind of stuff that interests Me. How everyday products come to market; from conception to selling.

    For instance, Tabasco. How did They know to age it in charred barrels for three years? 

    Day 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Week 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Month 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ………..

    Year 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    …………

    Year 1 Month 2: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    [every. single. day]

    Year 3: (taste) She’s ready.

     

    • #1
  2. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That’s the kind of stuff that interests Me. How everyday products come to market; from conception to selling.

    For instance, Tabasco. How did They know to age it in charred barrels for three years?

    Day 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Week 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Month 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ………..

    Year 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    …………

    Year 1 Month 2: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    [every. single. day]

    Year 3: (taste) She’s ready.

     

    I’ve wondered that about wine. The inside-baseball stuff always fascinates me.

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    When did the terminology divergence (aluminum / aluminium ) happen? Which term did Oersted use when he isolated the element for the first time?

    • #3
  4. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    When did the terminology divergence (aluminum / aluminium ) happen? Which term did Oersted use when he isolated the element for the first time?

    As I recall, it was British scientists who isolated the element and named it aluminium, just as there are many elements that end with “ium.”  Someone sent a letter to the States about the discovery but misspelled it without the “i” so Americans pronounced it “aluminum.”  One would think that once they discovered that it is actually “aluminium” the Americans would have corrected the spelling and started pronouncing it correctly, but nope.

    • #4
  5. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    The British chemist Sir Humphrey Davy had been fascinated by alumina and its unique properties, which had been found useful and exploited since antiquity. Davy was familiar with the work of the German chemist Andreas Marggraff, who had shown definitively in 1754 that the oxides of calcium and aluminum were distinct in their metallic constituents. This discovery spurred him to seek further ways of isolating the two metals that formed these oxides. Despite his humble origins as the son of a woodcarver in Cornwall, Davy outshone many of his elite contemporaries with his brilliant and innovative use of electrochemistry. In 1807, he successfully electrolyzed alumina with alkaline batteries, but the residue had so much potassium and sodium in the mixture that the metallic aluminum was not distinguishable. The metal he sought was too gregarious to be separated from its companion elements. He kept trying to isolate what he now fervently believed to be an undiscovered element, but each time some new alloyed metal occluded its emergence. He was able to isolate many other metals, such as calcium, barium, magnesium, and strontium, but aluminum eluded him—though he did give it its name. Davy suggested the hidden metal be named alumium in 1808 and aluminium in his monumental book Elements of Chemical Philosophy. The different spelling of the metal on either side of the Atlantic can trace its origins perhaps to Davy’s original ambivalence on its naming.

    Ali, Saleem. Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability (pp. 62-63). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.

    • #5
  6. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    One would think that once they discovered that it is actually “aluminium” the Americans would have corrected the spelling and started pronouncing it correctly, but nope.

    You’re clearly forgetting about naval impressment and the burning of Washington around those years. Can we annoy the Brits by using the wrong name? Yes? Let’s do it then.

    • #6
  7. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Doug, I appreciate your providing promo codes for your audiobooks. I have finished Abraham Lincoln: A Life and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Both were educational and inspirational, providing interesting insights into important periods of American history. I’m looking forward to Soil to Foil.

    • #7
  8. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Douglas Pratt: Ali argues that aluminum exemplifies broader lessons about stewardship of nonrenewable resources.

    This sounds woke to me. Aluminum exists in enormous quantities – there is no serious argument that we will run out. And we don’t consume it – we just use it. So why is it non-renewable?

    • #8
  9. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    iWe (View Comment):

    Douglas Pratt: Ali argues that aluminum exemplifies broader lessons about stewardship of nonrenewable resources.

    This sounds woke to me. Aluminum exists in enormous quantities – there is no serious argument that we will run out. And we don’t consume it – we just use it. So why is it non-renewable?

     He doesn’t say that aluminum is impractical.  Ittakes a lot more energy to extract and refine than it does to recycle. He uses it as an example of how to analyze and balance costs. Not everything should be recycled, but disposal costs have to be factored in. 

    • #9
  10. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That’s the kind of stuff that interests Me. How everyday products come to market; from conception to selling.

    For instance, Tabasco. How did They know to age it in charred barrels for three years?

    Day 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Week 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Month 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ………..

    Year 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    …………

    Year 1 Month 2: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    [every. single. day]

    Year 3: (taste) She’s ready.

     

    You can visit the production plant on Avery Island. There’s a nice self guided tour.   The McIlheneys were conservationists too, so there’s a botanical garden tour you can take. 

    • #10
  11. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That’s the kind of stuff that interests Me. How everyday products come to market; from conception to selling.

    For instance, Tabasco. How did They know to age it in charred barrels for three years?

    Day 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Week 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ……….

    Month 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    ………..

    Year 1: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    …………

    Year 1 Month 2: (taste) Nope. Not ready

    [every. single. day]

    Year 3: (taste) She’s ready.

     

    You can visit the production plant on Avery Island. There’s a nice self guided tour. The McIlheneys were conservationists too, so there’s a botanical garden tour you can take.

    Yeah, the story of Tabasco is pretty cool. I’ve read several versions of it but the McIlhenys come off as good people in all of them.

    • #11
  12. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Aluminum. On a roll. Never get old, Douglas.

    My Mom worked for Reynolds in Richmond, Va. I’ll PM you.

    • #12
  13. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Aluminum. On a roll. Never get old, Douglas.

    My Mom worked for Reynolds in Richmond, Va. I’ll PM you.

    Too late. But producing audiobooks is not physically challenging, fortunately. 

    • #13
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