Tag Archives: Matter

Leaky Laptop

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My friend has brown gunk leaking out of the bottom of her laptop. I’m not able to see it in person, but the above is what it looks like. She says that nothing has spilled on her laptop, but that’s the only explanation I can think of. Could it be something else?

Grynx has a couple of interesting posts on this kind of thing: One post describes rain getting in to a router:

It didn’t look that bad from the outside, but gee it really looked bad on the inside. The brown gook is what was left after the water dried. It seems like the water wasn’t that clean and that it contained a lot of minerals which has rusted.

He points out that the problem is not the water:

The water in itself is not your enemy but what is contained inside the water is. Especially the minerals which will be left after the water evaporates and in this case it went really bad as the minerals decided to corrugate.

I can only assume this is what has happened to my friend’s laptop. Over time the water has gone but left behind the minerals which have corroded the circuitry inside. What can be done about it? Well, the best thing would be to take it in for servicing, but if you wanted to try to resolve the problem itself, there are some interesting solutions among the responses to the post, and in this post on cleaning a laptop that has suffered from a wine or soft drink spill.

Among the tips:

  • Clean the laptop as soon as you’ve spilled something. Don’t just dry it out and think the problem’s gone.
  • As soon as you have done the spill, turn the laptop off and disconnect the power. Remove the battery.
  • The key is washing off the residues. Suggestions: compressed air, rubbing alcohol (which contains Isopropyl alcohol), contact cleaner, WD-40, distilled/deionized water.
  • When you dry it out, leave it for several days. Use a hairdryer and/or compressed air as well.

There’s another video here on cleaning up a spillage from eHow.com.

All these stories, however, have the computer/device not functioning. My friend’s does. But with that kind of gunk coming through, I can’t help feeling its days are numbered.

Update: Apparently, it’s not a liquid spill but a partial melt of the rubber seal around the hard drive, a problem not uncommon in the model (a Toshiba Portege R100.) It explains why the machine is still functioning, for now. Sounds like a design fault they need to fix.

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How to Poison Someone on the Cheap

Intrigued and disturbed by reports that the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko may have been killed by radiation poisoning, I couldn’t help wondering how something like that was done? How easy would it be to get your hands on Polonium-210, the chemical element? Quite easy, it turns out.

If you’re in the U.S., or have someone with a U.S. PayPal account you could shell out $70 and buy it online at United Nuclear (“Supplying the science hobbyist, industry, government, schools & universities since 1998”), a New Mexico company with a fun attitude (“If you’re looking for a clean, accurate, certified radiation sources, here they are…”).

If you don’t want to wait that long, head down to your local photography store and buy a  StaticMaster Anti-Static Brush – 3″, whose ionizer is powered by alpha-energy from Polonium-210 ion sources. Cost: about $40. In fact you don’t need to buy the whole brush; you could just buy a replacement Polonium cartridge. According to this article, hold a StaticMaster against any glow-in-the-dark toy and you can see the polonium inside the cartridge glow.  

I don’t know enough about this kind of thing to say how you would then use this stuff to poison people, and perhaps the quantities aren’t enough. But while the StaticMaster is supposedly safe and that Polonium 210 has been used safely for decades, this may be because it’s sealed: The later website, AngelFire warns: Whatever you do, DO NOT abuse the physical integrity of the sealed sources. Po-210 is a dangerous inhalation and ingestion hazard!

It sounds as if getting your hands on Po-210 isn’t quite as tricky as it sounds. How you would then administer it, I don’t know.