Harder they are, the better they shatter

Dick jokes aside, popular culture loves things being hard. This is the hardest sword around, this shield is so hard that it can stand any damage and so on. This is largely bullshit, to be honest. Popular culture just has the habit of buying the idea of diamonds being the hardest generally known substance to man and going with it, because it seems it is too hard to teach that hardness alone doesn’t add to anything worthwhile. You need toughness to go along.

Hardness in Mohs is how well a material can resist penetration of other material, i.e. scratched. In all fairness, this is rather weak scale and is mostly useful with minerals Mohs scale is intended for. For geologists and craftsmen, the Mohs scale is still relevant. The higher the item is on Mohs scale, the better polish it can attain, with some exceptions.

The hardest naturally occurring material known to man is lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond. It was first identified in the late 1960’s from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, where specimens were found in microscopic size. If you checked the provided link there, you may notice that when actual stuff is talked, the Mohs scale was kicked to the curb. Mohs scale is essentially useless for industrial use.

In a more industrial meaning, hardness relates how much material resits compression and changing its shape. When we go up to superhard materials like diamond, their modulus of rigidity are very high as is their bulk modulus, the resistance to uniform compression. They do not deform plastically either.

Think it like this; when you strike wood with a hammer, it just dents. It deforms to form a spot where hammer was struck while leaving the rest of the wood intact. Strike glass and it’ll shatter without deformation,  sending shards flying about.

There are numerous tests in which material hardness is tested with. Vickers, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are the most often used, followed by Mohs. Oustide the Mohs one, all the aforementioned use different methods to attain the scale of hardness and the results can be converted between each other. If you’re interested in reading further into this topic, I recommend giving this site a go.

But as said, hardness alone is of no real use when it comes to how popular culture wants to showcase it. Toughness is needed. As a general rule of thumb; The harder something is, the more fragile it is. For example,. despite diamonds being the hardest general substance, you can pick up your hammer and smash them to bits. They’re also common as hell, and nobody should be willing to pay the insane prices jewellery shops are selling them. You can put that on DeBeers.

Toughness is the ability of any said material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. This is the opposite of hard materials that have low toughness, as they do not absorb energy or deform. They fracture, sometimes in an explosive ways. Toughness is after all a combination of both material strength and ductility.

Just like how hardness has its tests, the Charpy V-notch test and Izod impact strength tests are the most commonly used measured. While Charpy  is more about the fracturing the tested material, Izod tests impact power.

Ultimate tensile strength needs to be mentioned in this context, as it is effectively how much a material or structure can withstand elongation as opposed of compressive strength. Materials like diamond would have a very sharp breakage, called brittle failure. Other that are more ductile in nature would malform in plastic deformation before point of fracture. Something like glass has Mega Pascal of 33, depending on the glass variety and so on, while something like diamond having 2800 MPa, which still loses to multiple other materials, like graphene at 130 000 MPa.

How does all this come together with our topic? Let’s take the Destroyer-Class BETA as an example. It has a shield on top of it that is said to be Mohs 15 in hardness. That is to say, it is harder than diamond.  To follow the rule of thumb, this material then should be relatively easy to shatter, especially with the large surface area it has. However, as the BETA are biological mining machines, and the fact that their shield’s can withstand considerable stress before penetration, saying that it is Mohs 15 does not actually mean anything. It’s the same with any other fantasy sword or the like that gets called harder than anything else. It it to give an idea of a tough, unbreakable object, which is rather far from reality, all things considered. But Mohs scale is simple and easy and doesn’t require studying. Saying that something is harder than diamond is enough to give a certain mental image.

What the Destroyer-Class BETA has, and all those other fantasy things, is high toughness and resilience to deformation. A sword good sword should be able to bend itself and conform to stress without breaking, something that Japanese sword don’t actually do that well because they were made hard. They were probably the hardest sword made, and thus far more brittle than swords that conformed and bent. The hardness contributes to the sharpness without a doubt, but sharpness alone can’t win a fight. Skill aside, sword’s shape, material, balance and toughness are all factors. Katana being so hard, materials like bone could dull them fast. The idea of a sword being samurai’s soul is gross exaggeration, as the katana was the least used weapon during wars over spears and bows, and were discarded if a better sword was in vicinity. Later on you got guns that made close combat weapons largely obsolete. Japanese swords are most likely the most romanticized swords  there are, mostly thanks to movies and comics, but there are sources that put things right.

With shields or general tools, you do not want it to be hardest. You do not want a hammer shattering into your eyes or shield breaking down when an enemy hits it. With shields, you want it to malform and take the impact’s force instead of breaking it and allowing the opponent to advance. The worst idea you can have is shattering armouring or shield.

In giant robot series, it’s not uncommon to see armouring shattering like it was made of bricks or glass. It’s much easier to understand and is more dramatic, but a good armour doesn’t shatter. At best, it’s ripped apart into shreds under massive power. After all, most metals can be chipped like wood with proper tools, unlike something like diamond.

All in all, this was a very long and convoluted way to that hardness is almost a fetish in popular culture and is far too often depicted in a very uneducated manner, especially when Mohs scale is mentioned. But hey, all of that is fiction. Let’s just say this sword is Mohs 25 and has intrinsic tensile strength 500 Giga Pascals and tell it’s made of bullshittium and all would be well.

The thing is, in the end, that you can’t have a material that’s soft and hard at the same time, in general sense. A diamond like material can’t elongate itself and will experience fracturing instead. As such, in a case of Destroyer-Class BETA example, without any further information we can assume that the Mohs 15 hardness of indicative of other material strengths, making its shield very brittle. You don’t want your shuffle to be shatter the first time you hit a stone, you want it to be able to take the force from the impact. Of course, in-fiction it’s hard to penetrate with any weapon, where the whole deal with bullshittium steps in again.

Hard fiction often tends to step around these issues most of the time, as there are things like flexural strength and multiple others when it comes to material sciences, and simply relies on general terms and points of comparisons. General fiction on the other hand will simply play it safe and pull a diamond from its pocket and tell that this shit is hard, and that’s all you need to know.

Now let’s end this post with some great machining in slow motions.

“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”

Christmas is here and parents need some guidance

With the release of the latest Grand Theft Auto we also got slew of news on parents and professional psychologists panning the game universally as a negative influence to children who play it. At this point, most of you will have alarm bells going off in your head, thinking what the hell is wrong with these people. For me, it’s a yearly event.

Let me tell you a story that I might have already told previously, but it’s still just as valid.

Few years back I was browsing some games in our local electronics store. At the time, the shelves had more selection than what we have nowadays, as the profit the stores gain from video games has dropped like a hammer sinking in river. A proper-looking mother, with a pretty spot on three-size, asked yours truly a question about games, as she knew nothing of them. Well, being who I am, I gladly helped her in deciding what she should do. First of all I asked what kind of games her child enjoys and how old is he. Sure enough, the kid had games spanning from Sly Cooper series to Call of Duty. Pretty standard games really, but she was unsure, as games had changed somewhat since she bought anything the last time. Sure enough, PEGI System has gone through a few revisions, and this was around after the latest one. I explained the markings on the game and how the PEGI system works. After some discussion that PEGI is a recommendation system and that it isn’t all encompassing universal law, thou it is sort of illegal to sell R-18 games to under age in certain regions countries. PEGI in itself is a recommendation system.

This led into discussion about the maturity of individuals and how physical age is never a direct indication of psychological maturity. For example, a child aged at ten can be completely OK with watching horribly violent movies and sexual material, while another person of same age might get traumatised by the material. After all, it is up to the parents to supervise their children and assess if they are mature enough to be exposed to a chosen material. This is, of course, practically impossible and hover parenting is generally not a good idea. However, video games and other entertainment is a different thing. I do agree that parents should be aware of what kind of entertainment their children are consuming in front of the screen, be it on PC or a game console.

Anyway, we chatted there for about an hour about these things and what they were to her. Ultimately, she confessed that a lot of this stuff was new to her as she never really thought any of it properly. I was glad I could help her, and after the chat she chose a game based on what her child had been playing previously and what his tastes were. Of course, parental concerns were present, but I later bumped to her and she told me that her son was delighted to get that particular game as a present.

Needless to say, the staff of the store, gave me a weird look after this.

What I try to illustrate with this story is that parents don’t know jack shit about the video entertainment in general. Only just recently we’ve seen a generation reaching adulthood and getting kids that understand what video games and films are as an entertainment in their current form. These people have been born in the 70’s and 80’s, and have witnessed the golden age of video games as well as how television, movies and world wide connectivity has changed. However, this is also a generation of stagnation, the one that doesn’t dare to dream. Much like we are taught to read movies, news and ads the right way to get the best out of them and not be fooled, we should be taught to understand and read other video media as well. Newgrounds and Youtube are the prime examples of the Web 2.0, but as much as we see it talked about, we don’t see anyone wanting to educate us on it. Personally, Web 2.0 is kind of bullshit but that is beside the point. The point is that if we’re taught to read behind the traditional media, and I’m covering films and TV with this remark as well, why is it so hard for some people to read through video games? As they are now, video games use vastly similar ways to convey messages and use almost the exact same visual methods as any video based material, be it a TV-series, movie or ad. Which actually begs the question if this is a good thing overall, but the point stands.

Of course, we know the answer. Any new form of entertainment is seen as a threat. Before video games it was the computer nerds, before that it was the radio geeks, before that it was the kids reading books all alone in their rooms, and so on.

It would be awesome to have some sort of leaflet that shortly explains what video games are, where they come from and why there’s no reason to be afraid of them. The problem lies with the individual parents of course, and that’s why one person can’t do it without the help of some larger organization. For example, if a well known game company like Nintendo, or a well known electronics company like SONY, would start a campaign to open this video game thing to those who feel they’re left outside, it just might be the thing to allow the worrying parents to understand that video games are just fictional entertainment like movies, music, television and books.

There was a decade long study on television’s and electronic game’s effect on children’s psychological adjustment. In short, video games have no negative effect on the psychological growth. As usual, we can always say that they do have effect on people with prior abnormalities, just like with any form of entertainment. A normal person won’t go out and start killing people after playing a session of Modern Warfare, whatever the age might be.

It’s a difficult issue, and I hope it’ll be met, just like the issues with other screen entertainment has been.

Of Moon and Hopes

“You could glimpse, that we human have entered the realm of myths and legend”

We need to step back that realm once more. What this world needs is nothing less than hope. Lunar landing wasn’t fiction. However, what science fiction gives to us not just fiction, hope. To quote Harlan;

“Now in the world of science fiction, writers have to pay attention to what’s going on around them, because science fiction is the only 100% hopeful fiction. That is to say, inherent in the form is, “There will be a tomorrow”. If you read a science fiction story, it says, “This will happen tomorrow”. Now that’s very positive, that’s very pragmatic, “We’ll be here tomorrow. We may be unhappy, we may be all living like maggots, but we’ll be here.” So that means it’s 100% positive.”

And this is what Armstrong was; he was a living embodiment of hope that some day we would be tomorrow. So was Gagarin and every other person who has stepped into space.

I remember being laughed at when I was little because I liked science fiction. It was the dummies’ poetry or the like. There were people who read horror and vampire novels and laughed at me for reading 2001: Space Odyssey with gleaming eyes. There was hope in those stories, and whenever I saw the models of the real lunar equipment, the reproductions of the spacesuits and pictures of Earth from the Moon I could rekindle that hope in my heart.

Have we abandoned that which made hopes and dreams reality? I hope we haven’t, and I hope that if not during my lifetime, then during my nephew’s we’ll see man walking in the space once more. Perhaps not on Mars, but at least on Moon once more. Compared to what we have now, the Apollo group flew to the Moon with just bunch of rocks and sticks.

Our legends are of flesh and blood, mortal men who waltzed on a razor sharp edge between life and death. Some of them were cut, some of them were not.

We watch the stars, dreaming and wishing to be able to be there. Perhaps in ourselves there is a small restriction that binds ourselves to the mother earth, like gravity weighting our souls down. But then we need to remember that there will always come time for
children to spread their wings and leave their homes.

I have to ask is it right to to deny hope from people?
Well, let’s stop this sappy rant and let’s get back to work. But still, next time you gaze up…




Neil Armstrong, 1930 – 2012

I was watching the news just now, and then they just nonchalantly said “We’ve just got news that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, has died at age of 82.” Then they continued like it wasn’t of any weight.

2012 is a cruel year indeed.

I remember looking at old Apollo footage as a kid, and saw the footage they broadcasted when Armstrong took his first steps on the Moon. It was so exciting. Up there on the Moon and beyond was humanities hopes and dreams. It wasn’t science fiction, it was reality that mankind would exist in the far future.

But now it seems that the only thing we will live is not through our children, but through all the devices we’ve sent to space, and through that one flag that stands alone, looking over us.

Reuters finally reported it as well.