Monday, 5 September 2011

Fun distractions

Sometimes my wife must think I am mad. Well, maybe more than sometimes. It's that look that I get occasionally when an idea takes me and she shakes her head and refuses to speak her thoughts...

I mentioned to a friend on Sunday that I've had a desire since childhood to own a copper ingot. One kilo in weight.

It's not something I imagine many people would like to have sitting on their desk. It is not even one of my 100 goals.

I read a lot of Science Fiction as a child. A lot! One story had as its premise the discovery that it was possible to release raw energy from copper. Not uranium or plutonium, just bog standard, pull it out of the walls, copper.

The hero's of this story built a spaceship powered by a device that harnessed this raw energy and was able to travel between stars in a matter of days. The only problem when they reached a new planet - they had to find copper to refuel. Fortunately copper seems to be in plentiful supply in our immediate universe...

I found the idea inspiring and ever since have wanted my own bar of copper.

There have been times when I have resisted throwing out a copper hot water tank, knowing this could provide the raw material to melt down and mould.

I'm no chemist; nor a metal smith, and while I have at times hoarded copper piping, I've never wanted to pursue this childhood dream quite enough to go the whole way. Yet, every now and then I'll share one of my eccentricities and in return receive a suggestion that takes me a little closer to achieving a dream.

My friend told me about flower pot kilns - apparently easy enough to build and able to heat metal to temperatures where they can melt and be poured. For my purposes I would need something a little bigger and a furnace/crucible may be suitable. He also suggested, and for the life of me I don't know why I never thought of this before, calling a scrap dealers and asking how much they would charge to melt down and produce a kilo bar of copper...! But that would be too easy and a lot less fun ;)

Having carried out the barest Google enabled research I've decided to hold off on attempting this just yet but I did want to find out which story inspired this eccentricity of mine. That took me a lot longer. At least an hour of trying different combinations of science fiction, copper, space-ship etc. in Google.

I wondered if the book was too old to be talked about on the Internet but no! It is not only mentioned, you can actually read it online thanks to Gutenberg! I'm not going to review The Skylark of Space by E. E. Smith as it was around thirty years ago I read it, but a quick look made my wife take notice of the proposal to use safe atomic power some two decades before we managed to split the atom. If nothing else, it may persuade her to hold off calling the men in white coats for a little while longer.

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