Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Subzero Fiber (part II)

Short one, today.

I knit up most of my natural fiber swatches and brought them in for some initial testing. I plunged swatch #1 into liquid nitrogen and... well...

Nothing turned to glass.
Nothing. I sat there with it completely submerged for minutes (ie until the metal tools were getting uncomfortable to hold) and nothing happened.

I haven't tried the synthetic fibers yet, but other than a little issue with absorption, both protein based and cellulose based fibers were unbreakable when I yanked on them with two hemostats like it was going out of style. I think the alpaca might be less fragile at -196 C than at room temperature... I couldn't make a single swatch even rip and all of them were downright flexible.

 I'll work up the synthetic fibers tonight, but they take some finesse and needles not made of bamboo.

The current fiber list is:
98% cotton, 2% elastic
70% superwash, 30% nylon
100% alpaca
100% tencel
100% sugarcane
55% wool, 45% silk
25% buffalo, 75% tencel (purchased after round 1, given the observations made about cellulose and natural fiber)
50% milk protein 50% soy protein
100% acrylic
100% silicon (Rescue tape modified into yarn using the plarn process. This is a nightmare.)
100% PTFE (teflon tape spun into a strand)

I need to modify my thermocouple procedure a touch to make sure the yarn is in contact with the junction (the part that actually reads the temperature), but other than that today was remarkably enlightening.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Subzero Fiber (Part 1)

My biology masters program has turned into explorations of applications of the fiber arts in cryobiology. I've sewn more in this quarter than in the previous decade. Every time we have an idea for a new technology, I end up sewing something for it. Now it's time to bust out the other fiber arts knowledge, though.

We need to connect teflon to teflon. The internet tells me that this is, in fact, impossible without a drill and a bolt. That would be all fine and dandy if 1) I weren't trying to fill the container with liquid nitrogen and 2) metal wasn't such a good conductor of heat into my intentionally cold system. Now the plan is to lash the two teflon containers together.

While the final tech needs to be on the hush-hush, I did crowd source an idea. What fiber would work best at cold temperatures? What would be least brittle? Would protein, cellulose, or carbon-based polymer be better? Insulating power is one thing, but I need something that can take the stress of constant tension without giving up (or being stupid, conductive metal. grrr.)

So, over the next few weeks (days?) I will be conducting an experiment and posting the methods, results, and discussion in pieces here. I doubt any journal will actually care about this, but if I get nifty results we may even push for publication (with acknowledgements for the community)

Here's the preliminary plan:
Knit swatches--15 sts x 20 rows, 3 per fiber composition, tight but still appropriate gauge for all yarns using size 0 needles. I'm knitting the swatches rather than crocheting/weaving/knotting because I want to see the real effects of tension in a system that will fall apart when something goes wrong. If you cut a strand in any of the other options, the world doesn't go to Hell in a hand basket. The final project will be knotted.

Fibers--Wool, Alpaca, Superwash/nylon, Merino/Silk, Tencel, Cotton, Sugar Cane, Acrylic, Fishing Line (and whatever else strikes my fancy at the hardware store). I'll stash-dive again tonight and see if I can come up with anything else. I think I have some nylon, I'd like to try more than just Acrylic for polymers. I will keep track of plies.

Cool--Plunge into liquid nitrogen with a weight (yet to be determined) attached mid swatch. Swatches will be chilled for at least 5 minutes or until they break. Time of break will be monitored with a stopwatch. Swatches which do not break will be subjected to increasing weights until I find their stress tolerance.

Measure--At least 1 swatch per group will have a T-type thermocouple welded into the top row of the knitting, taking readings (at least) once per second. This will be analyzed unweighted, several times per fiber type. I will analyze rate of temperature change at the top of the swatch over all fabric types to see if there is a fiber that better insulates itself (the animals fibers have an advantage here, but I'm interested to see the other fibers performance in comparison.)

The best fiber for the job will be the strongest, least conductive fiber.

Wish me luck.

Monday, May 6, 2013

I can't look away...

Today's post is brought to you by driving through your old neighborhood and not being too sorry you left. 

Whenever my husband and I wanted to get on the freeway from our old apartment, we'd invariably have to drive through the seedy part of town. To be fair, most of the town was actually the "seedy" part, but the pre-freeway segment was especially questionable, and right before the freeway entrance was Miss Kitty's XXX store. Without fail, whenever we drove by this store, I would slow down and stare. The building itself is a wholly unremarkable shack about a decade overdue for a repaint, but their sign...

Oh, their sign.

I have this thing about the sexualization of animals for marketing purposes, and by "thing" I mean I DO NOT get it. Not even a little. It just doesn't make any sense on a fundamental, anatomical level. There are levels of totally not getting it--at least if it's a mammal, as with the case of the aforementioned Miss Kitty, then the portrayed female has mammary tissue (generally much more than she's been given credit for and much less... localized...) Sometimes it's ducks (as with the watershed poster on my department's wall. Conservation is sexy. For ducks. Sexy ducks), sometimes it's lizards, and when it is my brain breaks. Those are egg layers. They... They can't have boobs. Why does the lizard have boobs? WHO DREW THE LIZARD WITH BREASTS?

Miss Kitty is one such oversexualized, anthropomorphized mascot. Being a mammal, I normally wouldn't hit full throttle "What abomination is this..?" except for one detail. Here is my quick and dirty sketch of Miss Kitty.
It is worth noting that this quick sketch reflects both the anatomical abnormalities and the overall quality of the Miss Kitty XXX store logo.
 Can you tell what's wrong with this picture? (beyond the feather boa clad cat with eye makeup... I... I just don't get it.)
Can you spot the issue?
I'll give you a hint. Here's an even quicker sketch of a cat skeleton.

And here's a person skeleton (sort of. I got lazy. All the important parts are labeled.)

Have you figured it out?

Miss Kitty's cleavage begins and ends before her clavicle starts, well above her armpit (legpit?)
Breasts don't go there... not even kind of. Try moving down a couple of ribs.

But do you know sort of round, bulbous lump does go there? One which you indeed might try to hide with a feather boa?

A goiter.

Swollen thyroid glands.

The cat has "sexy goiters."

Can I start a foundation for People Against the Oversexualization of Iodine Deficiencies? Because apparently we need one.