Official Report: Duct Tape Now Less Awesome

by wjw on January 14, 2011

More news from the World o’ Science.

NASA has announced that observations from the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope show that  thunderstorms generate antimatter.

Scientists long have suspected TGFs [Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash] arise from the strong electric fields near the tops of thunderstorms. Under the right conditions, they say, the field becomes strong enough that it drives an upward avalanche of electrons. Reaching speeds nearly as fast as light, the high-energy electrons give off gamma rays when they’re deflected by air molecules. Normally, these gamma rays are detected as a TGF.

But the cascading electrons produce so many gamma rays that they blast electrons and positrons clear out of the atmosphere. This happens when the gamma-ray energy transforms into a pair of particles: an electron and a positron. It’s these particles that reach Fermi’s orbit.

The detection of positrons shows many high-energy particles are being ejected from the atmosphere. In fact, scientists now think that all TGFs emit electron/positron beams. A paper on the findings has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

That’s pretty cool.  But if any natural phenomenon were going to generate antimatter, you’d figure it would be thunderstorms, with all those GeV’s shooting around the atmosphere and wreaking mischief with everything around them.

But another study revealed this week shows that what really takes the cake for awesome is nothing less than Scotch Magic Tape, which not only generates X-rays when it unspools, but may lead scientists to the Holy Grail of cold fusion.

All of the experiments were conducted with Scotch tape, manufactured by 3M. The details of what is occurring on the molecular scale are not known, the scientists said, in part because the Scotch adhesive remains a trade secret.

Other brands of clear adhesive tapes also gave off X-rays, but with a different spectrum of energies. Duct tape did not produce any X-rays, Dr. Putterman said. Masking tape has not been tested.

The research opens up the possibility of looking for X-ray emissions from composite materials . . . Such materials, increasingly used in airplanes and automobiles, do not show the visible weaknesses that metals do before breaking.

The tape phenomenon could also lead to simple medical devices using bursts of electrons to destroy tumors. The scientists are looking to patent their ideas.

Finally, there is the possibility of nuclear fusion. If energy from the breaking adhesive could be directed away from the electrons to heavy hydrogen ions implanted in modified tape, the ions would accelerate so that when they collided, they could fuse and give off energy — the process that lights the sun.

Yes!  Scotch Magic Tape can explode a sun! How is that for awesome!

Up till this week, I’d been willing to bet that Duct Tape— also manufactured by 3M— was one of the ten all-time great discoveries of science.  After all, it’s holding our civilization together.  (Or maybe just my car.  And house.  And lots of stuff I have lying around here and there.)

But now that Scotch Magic Tape has revealed its astounding ability to blow up a sun, I may just have to revise my opinion.

Rowan January 14, 2011 at 6:05 am

That IS super cool. There’s a more recent article too, with some recent findings. Check it out!

Undine January 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

So, can I assume that if someone corners the market on both tapes, they can control the universe?

Dave Bishop January 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I wonder if 3M will have a re-think about their secret adhesive formula when they realise that they could be in on the ‘ground floor’ of cold fusion?

Actually, mention of 3M reminds me of an incident that occurred early in my career. I was then working for the UK operation of a big multi-national. At that time the company was moving into a product area involving adhesive tape (no, not household repairs, Walter).
I was invited to attend a meeting involving the Managing Director of the UK operation and a representative of the buying department. The meeting went something like this:

MD: “So what tape suppliers do we have locally?”

Buyer: Well we have 3M and Hague & Fotheringhay (not the real company name – I made that up in case reps of the real company ever read this).

MD (scribbling on his notepad): 3M and who?

Buyer: Hague & Fotheringhay.

MD: How do you spell that?

Buyer: H … A … G … U …E

MD: OK! We will go with 3M!

I wonder if that is how they got to be so successful?

Shash January 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm

We’ll have to get even with whoever let the x-ray cat out of the bag. There’s all kinds of weird science that goes on in the labs over here at 3M. The adhesive labs (and the chemical engineers who haunt them) are favorites of mine.

Mark Wise January 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Alas, the tape has to be in a vacuum in order for Fun Things to happen.

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