Shapes in the clouds

October 23, 2012 1:06:08 AM CDT

Okay, I know I'm a geek.. I read technical manuals and datasheets for fun. I laughed at the XKCD comic about calling the Ackermann function with Graham's number.

I still manage to surprise myself sometimes, though.

This afternoon I was mixing up a small bowl of copper plating electrolyte:

my bubbles!  
myyy bubbles!

That stuff floating on top is gelatine, which acts as a 'brightener'.. when plating current is present, it collects around the object being plated.

Without a brightener, ions in the electrolyte can form lacy 'dendritic' structures, kind of like the gelatine in the picture above. Whenever one happens to bump into a molecule with some kind of electrical connection to the surface, it connects, then becomes a site that can catch the next ion.

With a brightener present, the ions have to punch through the film of jello (or whatever) before they can reach the surface. They keep going until they hit something substantial, then form tight, densely packed crystals when they finally stop.

As I stood there with my brain in idle, my subconscious did the 'seeing shapes in the clouds' thing and convinced me I was looking at that badass f*cking fractal, the Mandelbrot set:

you're a 
Rorschach test on fire, you're a day-glo pterodactyl ...

My reaction to that was twofold:

  1. Even I have to admit that's a seriously geeky thing for a subconscious to cough up.
  2. That song has been stuck in my head ever since..

Random brain cookies:

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it. -- Mae West