Paper or Digital

The choice between digital communications and paper-and-ink publications
is, in our opinion, much more important to our culture at large than the more familiar choice “paper or plastic?” “Digital” in this context means the world wide web, the internet, and various forms of keyboard, audio, and video and touch-panel communications. Of course there are all sorts of digital contraptions in the consumer market–digital watches, clocks, and whatnot, but they are alternatives to analog devices, and not what we address here.

Continue reading


Of Pellets and Magnets

Powerful magnets have powerful roles, so to speak, in processing plastics pellets.
Standard ferrous magnets, “rare-earth” magnets, and eddy-current metal separators all use magnetic technology to keep contaminants out of the polymer-melt stream.
Furthermore, magnetic technology is debuting in a new role, that of monitoring the moisture levels in material being dried before it gets to the process machine and is molded into defective parts.
Continue reading

Listening for Success

A great deal of printed and digital advice is available for anyone seeking advice on how to attain success, financial or otherwise. I remember having acquired, somewhere along the line, a book titled Dress for Success, by Robert T. Molloy. From looking around me it appeared that more people (including me) bought the book than bought the advice. For me, it is far more important to listen to what people are saying, than to focus on what they are wearing.

Continue reading

Data Codes Driving Business

There are big changes going on in the world of data handling, and it behooves all of us, as businesses and individuals, to become informed about what it going on. In short, the ubiquitous “one-dimensional” bar code is giving way to “two-dimensional bar codes,” also known as “QR codes” (for Quick Response) and even to “RFIDs,” namely, Radio Frequency Identifiers. We are not speculating that things might change. Businesses and other entities such as libraries are already well along in the transition.

Continue reading

Styrofoam attacked by killer mushrooms!

An article about mushrooms and plastics in the New Yorker magazine of May 20,2013, pp. 50-62 is entitled “Form and Fungus.” It shows signs of having been written as a fairly straight-ahead piece of feature reportage by “local correspondent” Ian Frazier. However, the article also gives the appearance of having been pumped up by an editor to make some attention-getting, albeit absurd claims, as echoed in my headline spoof. I ask myself, “Is it April 1? Have I been had by an April Fool’s stunt?” Just a thought, but April 1 was seven weeks ago as of this writing.

The New Yorker article’s title is a clever play on the term “Form and Function.”

A subtitle queries, “Can mushrooms help us get rid of Styrofoam?”  To the writer’s credit, the trade-name issues re “Styrofoam” are addressed rather than just ignored.
Continue reading

Plastics security “threats”: polypropylene bottle, cue ball

I try not to pack anything in an airplane carry-on bag that airport security checkpoints would be interested in, but I never seem to know what it will be the next time. Apparently I personally don’t look like much of a threat, but the occasional odd item, sometimes of plastics, in my carry-on bag, raises red flags for the x-ray crew.

            I was held to account at an airport security checkpoint recently for having in my bag a polypropylene prescription bottle, label removed, with “something” in it. These bottles are child-and adult-resistant and the security supervisor gave up trying to open it and handed it to me. I popped the PP bottle open (notwithstanding that it was transparent) and shook out the three computer-memory flash drives (aka thumb drives) that I had in there for their own protection. One look at those and the supervisor waved me through before he was embarrassed further by somebody else coming over to have a look.  Aside from a little lost time, it was a harmless encounter.

            In another encounter, I was stopped at the security checkpoint because the x-ray scan had turned up a billiards cue ball, in my luggage.  I had found three of these antique (or collectible) objects during a foray in my travels, and the security people considered one of them suspect (for inscrutable reasons, possibly the material density, two of them were ignored). The density of one of the balls made it, I guess, a threat. Of what, I don’t know. I guess it could have been thrown. Finally, a security checker asked plaintively, “What is it?” I showed her the chalk marks on it from the cue stick, and she decided that I and my cue ball were not worth any further trouble, and let me go. I told her there were two more in the bag, which I suppose was not too bright of me, but anyway she said, “If x-ray didn’t see it, we don’t want to know about it.”

            What is it with cue balls? Well, they were originally made of ivory, and the cost and scarcity of the ivory was one impetus for the discovery or invention of plastics. I don’t own any ivory versions, but several cue balls in my modest collection have pattern cracking and discoloration that may be clues to their age. The search for a replacement for ivory traces back to John Wesley Hyatt in the 1850s, and is familiar lore in the plastics processing industry. –Merle R. Snyder