Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Element of the Month: Rubidium!

March's Element of the Month:

Rubidium!
Rb
37

Atomic Mass: 85.468 amu
Melting Point: 39.30 °C
Boiling Point: 688 °C

Rubidium is about the 23rd most common element in the Earth's crust, not really common enough to be vital and interesting but not quite rare enough to be exotic and interesting either. It sits way over on the leftmost column of the table of the elements and shares characteristics with its upstairs neighbors Sodium and Potassium.  Both those guys are big players in the web of life, while Rubidium is completely irrelevant to any living being. It's so innocuous that even when it occasionally gets taken up into your biochemistry where Potassium should have been, it doesn't even cause problems. It just, I don't know, finds its way back out of your system in the next chemical reaction.

In its pure state, which is to say in the lab, Rubidium is a soft silvery metal with a melting point of 39.3 °C, ​which is to say 102.7 °F, which is to say it melts in your hand if you're running a fever, or climb a long staircase, or live in Phoenix. This makes it one of the metallic elements less suited for high performance engine parts and applications in the aerospace industry.

It doesn't occur in nature in its pure state; like Sodium and Possassium, it oxidizes quickly in air and bursts into violent flame when exposed to water. Well, what actually happens is that your "alkali metal" of choice reacts very vigorously with the oxygen in the water, an exothermic reaction that creates a lot of heat right next to where a whole lot of hydrogen atoms are being orphaned. So, it's the hydrogen that does a lot of the burning. In any event, don't try it, or if you do try it, start small, and in a outdoor location relatively free of children, animals, and law enforcement officers.

The Centerfold!

If you're thinking that it would be more fun to pour the
Rubidium out of the tube directly into your hand, you
lose three points for Slytherin.  Go back and read the
text again until you understand why that's not a good idea.

"Rubidium" means "deep red," which Rubidium is not. The name comes from flame spectroscopy. You may know about spectroscopy. That's the thing where, when you superheat atoms, they emit a pattern of light waves. Conveniently enough, each element has its own distinctive spectral fingerprint, and when Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff discovered Rubidium through flame spectroscopy in 1861, they named it after the deep red lines that are its signature. Or so the story goes. Only problem is, when you look at the spectral signatures of all the elements, Rubidium's is not particularly heavy in the reds. But, whatever.

How did Bunsen and Kirchhoff superheat their Rubidium to perform flame spectroscopy? With a Bunsen burner, of course! Bunsen invented it, with the help of a research assistant, and he used it with Kirchhoff to discover not only Rubidium but also Caesium which, I hate to harp on this, seems to have a hell of a lot more red in its spectroscopic signature than Rubidium does. Did Caesium and Rubidium get switched in the nursery, or something?  Am I really the first person to notice this?

Anyway, Robert Bunsen got the immortality of the Bunsen burner, but how sad, Gustav Kirchhoff was doomed to obscurity? Not so fast, you. You're forgetting Kirchhoff's circuit laws of electrical engineering, Kirchhoff's three laws of spectroscopy, Kirchhoff's law of thermochemistry, Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation, and the Kirchhoff equations in fluid dynamics. He was, like, super smart, OK? In fact, it's probably time you accepted that you're just not going to make as much of a splash in the history of science as Gustav Kirchhoff did. And that's all right. You're still a good person. Not everyone can be Gustav Kirchhoff.

Cover for the album Rubidium, by Finnish jazzcats Black Motor.  They're pretty good.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ladder of Art -- Week #16

Cast your votes for up to four of these seven artists by Friday March 22.  For clarifications, consult the Ladder of Art FAQ.





Last Week's Results



This Week's Contest



Jacques Lipchitz
1891 - 1973
Lithuanian; worked in the U.S.A.

Tournament Record: Tied for 467th. Lost to Jean-Étienne Liotard and John Constable. 6 votes for, 18 votes against (.250).






Sir Peter Lely
1618 - 1680
Dutch; worked in Britain

Tournament Record: Tied for 467th. Lost to the well-known Leonardo da Vinci and to Erich Heckel. 6 votes for, 18 votes against (.250).






Benjamin West
1738 - 1820
American; worked in Britain

Tournament Record: Tied for 469th. Lost to Rogier Van der Weyden and Sir David Wilkie. 5 votes for, 15 votes against (.250).








George Segal
1924 - 2000
American

Tournament Record: Tied for 469th. Lost to Richard Serra and Gino Severini. 5 votes for, 15 votes against (.250).





Veronese
1528 - 1588
Venetian

Tournament Record: Tied for 474th. Lost to Jan Vermeer and Andrea del Verrocchio. 5 votes for, 16 votes against (.238).
  • Tied for Third in Week #14. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #15.





Baron Antoine-Jean Gros
1771 - 1835
French

Tournament Record: Placed 492th (tie). Lost to Juan Gris and Greuze. 4 votes for, 20 votes against (.167).
  • Placed Third in Ladder Week #5.
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for Fourth in Ladder Week #7.
  • Third Place, Week #8. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #9. 
  • In a four-way tie for Second in Week #10.
  • In a three-way tie for Second in Week #11. 
  • Tied for Second in Week #12. 
  • In a three-way tie for First in Week #13. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #15. 






Charles-François Daubigny
1817 - 1878
French

Tournament Record: Placed 505th.  Lost to Salvador Dali and Aelbert Cuyp. 4 votes for, 26 votes against (.133).
  • Finished First in Ladder Week #2.
  • Finished First again in Week #4.
  • ...and again in Week #6.
  • ...and in Week #8.
  • ...and in Week #10. 
  • ...and in Week #12. 
  • ...and in Week #14.







Cast up to four votes in the comments by Friday morning!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Left Bracket Sixth Round Elimination: Klee v. Picasso!



The last living living artist, if you will, left at the hands of the late Pablo Picasso in the Left Bracket Sixth Round.  Here's a salute to the United States's own Tim Ely, whose 5-2, 55-48, .534 record kept him in until the last few rounds.  Meanwhile, Paul Klee beat Patenier in the Left Sixth, just after beating Andy Goldsworthy -- whose 6-2-1, 74-45, .622 record is now definitively the best of any living Tournament artist.


Paul Klee
1879 - 1940
German
Klee is known for his simple stick figures, suspended fish, moon faces, eyes, arrows, and quilts of color, which he orchestrated into fantastic and childlike yet deeply meditative works.... By 1915, he had turned his back to nature and never again painted after the model. With abstracted forms and merry symbols, he expressed the most diverse subjects drawn from his imagination, poetry, music, literature, and his reaction to the world around him . His subjects reveal his impish humor and his bent toward the fantastic and the meditative. 
- The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History










Pablo Picasso
1881 - 1973
Spanish
Pablo Picasso [was] one of the greatest and most-influential artists of the 20th century and the creator (with Georges Braque) of Cubism. The enormous body of Picasso’s work remains, and the legend lives on—a tribute to the vitality of the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombre…piercing” eyes who superstitiously believed that work would keep him alive. For nearly 80 of his 91 years, Picasso devoted himself to an artistic production that contributed significantly to and paralleled the whole development of modern art in the 20th century.
- Encyclopedia Britannica







Monday, March 11, 2019

Saint of the Month: St. Rosina of Wenglingen!


St. Rosina of Wenglingen

Feast Day: March 11.
Really Existed? Really hard to say.

Timeframe: Different sources say she died in the 400s, or in or around 1000.
Place: Venerated in southern Bavaria; it is unclear whether this implies she lived in the region.

Credentials: Accepted from the folk tradition.
Martyrdom: Vaguely indicated to have suffered some kind of martyrdom.

Patron Saint of: Wenglingen.
Symbolism: The image shown here is probably definitive.

March 11 is not the feast day for any particularly well-known saints, as far as I can gather, so my choice of St. Rosina of Wenglingen was more or less at random. She is a fine example of one of Catholicism's many, many local saints, those recognized by the Church as a whole but really only the focus of devotion only in a limited area.  In the case of St. Rosina of Wenglingen, that area is – as you might expect – Wenglingen, which is in the southern part of Bavaria, in Germany.

There is very little about St. Rosina on the English language internet. CathlicSaints.Info says that she was a “Young woman who consecrated herself to God. May have lived as a forest hermit.” It says that she was a martyr, although it doesn’t give details. Her death is listed as falling in the fourth century. My other go-to online saints calendars and lives don’t mention her at all, and she doesn’t appear in my little print library either.

Yet, last year Rosina of Wenglingen was featured as Saint of the Month in no less a forum than the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano.  The article there is a rather twee tale about a girl who passes out while playing the part of St. Rosina in a procession, and everyone is angry when they realize she must be pregnant, but then her boyfriend shows up to announce that their prayers to Rosina have been answered and he has been offered a job in Wenglingen. There is, however, nothing about St. Rosina herself in the story except when the local priest says “There will be a commemoration of St Rosina in our town. She is the patron saint of Wenglingen and there she is celebrated on 11 March.”

Four years ago today, Rosina of Wenglingen was featured on the Portuguese-language Heroines of Christianity site, which noted (via machine translation) that “Although few are the facts about this martyr, Rosina is one of the most popular saints in some parts of Germany.” “Sometimes she is considered a martyr hermit in the woods,” the site adds, and notes that “in historical research Rosina is sometimes confused with a Santa Eufrosina, or with Santa Rufina.” Finally, Heroines notes that St. Rosina has been patron saint of the city of Wenglingen since the 13th century, and that “in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries their worship became ever greater, which resulted in the fact that many girls received their name.”

The German-language Wikipedia site for the Rosinakapelle, Wenglingen's Chapel to St. Rosina, notes that this is “is the only place in the entire Diocese of Augsburg, where the holy Rosina is worshiped.” Like Heroines of Christianity, this article places Rosina’s life and death in the 1000s, instead of the 400s.

So, this all seems quite in order, and in the same way that I was impressed at the continuing local veneration of the Durham Martyrs in that English cathedral city, I thought it was rather touching to find such a robust local tradition of devotion in southern Bavaria. I must confess, however, that I was then a bit surprised to discover the scale of  "the city of Wenglingen," once I finally found it.


Well, I’m a small-town boy myself, and I know that size of population isn't everything. Still, it must take a pretty good turnout of the townsfolk even to fill the little Rosinakapelle, which is at the eastern edge of town. It is very picturesque. Here’s the outside:


The image at the top of this post, which I'd have to think is the definitive image of St. Rosina, is above the alter of this chapel.

Have a wonderful St. Rosina of Wenglingen’s day!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Ladder of Art -- Week #15

Cast your votes for up to four of these seven artists by Friday March 15.  For clarifications, consult the Ladder of Art FAQ.


Since there was a three-way tie for first the week before last, there's only one debut appearance on the ladder this week.  But, there's been a certain about of shaking, shifting, and settling -- and there are several first-time-on-this-blog images -- so let's see what all y'all make of this week's set!


Last Week's Results



This Week's Contest



Sassetta
1392ish - 1450
Siennese

Tournament Record: Tied for 469th. Lost to Roelandt Savery and Juan Sánchez Cotán. 5 votes for, 15 votes against (.250).

Lost to Roelandt Savery in Round 1.






Veronese
1528 - 1588
Venetian

Tournament Record: Tied for 474th. Lost to Jan Vermeer and Andrea del Verrocchio. 5 votes for, 16 votes against (.238).
  • Tied for Third in Week #14. 




David Alfaro Siqueiros
1896 - 1974
Mexican

Tournament Record: Tied for 474th. Lost to Alfred Sisley and Claus Sluter. 5 votes for, 16 votes against (.238).
  • Place Second in Week #14. 




Rosso Fiorentino
1494-1540
Florentine

Tournament Record: Tied for 474th. Lost to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Mark Rothko. 5 votes for, 16 votes against (.238).
  • Tied for Third in Week #14.





Andrea del Sarto
1486-1530
Italian

Tournament Record: Tied for 479th. Lost to Fra Angelico and Antonello da Messina. 6 votes for, 20 votes against (.231).
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #12.
  • In a three-way tie for First in Week #13. 





Edward Wadsworth
1889 - 1949
British

Tournament Record: Placed 490th. Lost to Édouard Vuillard and Alfred Wallis. 4 votes for, 16 votes against (.200).
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for First in Ladder Week #7. 
  • Tied for First in Week #9. 
  • First Place, Week #11. 
  • In a three-way tie for First in Week #13. 





Baron Antoine-Jean Gros
1771 - 1835
French

Tournament Record: Placed 492th (tie). Lost to Juan Gris and Greuze. 4 votes for, 20 votes against (.167).
  • Placed Third in Ladder Week #5.
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for Fourth in Ladder Week #7.
  • Third Place, Week #8. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #9. 
  • In a four-way tie for Second in Week #10.
  • In a three-way tie for Second in Week #11. 
  • Tied for Second in Week #12. 
  • In a three-way tie for First in Week #13. 







Cast up to four votes in the comments by Friday morning!