Miscellany


Some things with which to busy yourself today if you’re looking for a diversion:

  • RoHS Directives: This topic came up last night in conversation (yes, you know you’re in a strange crowd when electronics environmental regulatory regulations come up in conversation). As an IT professional, I’ve had some experience with the “RoHS” labeling, but had no idea about the details of the specification. Check it out, there are some interesting things there. Particularly the bits about lead-free solder and potential long-term impacts on equipment durability and quality. Is this just the price we have to pay for the future of our environment? I don’t know, but it’s food for thought. Irregardless, I don’t think anyone will argue against restrictions of hexavalent chromium or polybrominated biphenyls in our electronic equipment, and thus in our landfills and in our drinking water.
  • Paul Levy’s Blog: Not only is Paul Levy the president and CEO of my wife’s employer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he was also a professor of mine at MIT. The actual name of the class escapes me at the moment, but it was an Urban Studies class (course 11, which I eventually got a minor in) involving infrastructure management and planning. We took all sorts of neat field trips to the Deer Island treatment plant and the under-construction new water aqueduct into boston, and we got to check out a jet-cleaning and robotic examination of a 100-year-old hand-built sewer main underneath Cambridge. As the executive director of the MWRA, which was in charge of the so-far-successful Boston Harbor cleanup project, he had a whole lot of interesting stories. From there he went on to be a dean at Harvard Medical School, and then was hired on at Beth Israel. I guess everybody’s got a blog these days, eh? His is kind of interesting (although maybe I’m just saying that because I work in a hospital?), and he’s got a good sense of humor. His entry on a recent paper-towel-dispenser-change debacle is a real gem. We actually have the same dispensers in our hospital’s main corridor, and they pretty much suck. Kristy concurs.
  • xkcd: A webcomic of romance,
    sarcasm, math, and language. Go on, read through the comics, all of them. I promise you’ll like it.

  1. #1 by Scott on March 7, 2007 - 2:46 pm

    Actually, the RoHS directive really ruffles my feathers. It was rapidly pushed through Europe by politicians with very little input from science and industry.
    The hexavalent chromium ban sounds like a nice idea on paper. But then you discover that it pretty much rules out the use of yellow chromated steel in corrosion-sensitive applications where stainless and aluminum are inappropriate. Steel treatments using trivalent chromium (like modern clear chromate finishes) do not last as long in tough environments. Did the politicians think about this before they put RoHS into effect? No.
    Then there’s the Cadmium ban. Cadmium sulfide photocells are everywhere — in photographic light meters and automatic turn-on switches for street lights, for example. They mimic the response of the human eye much more closely than silicon-based substitutes, and they do so at a much lower price. Did they think about this? No.
    By far the biggest catastrophe in my industry has been the ban on lead. Lead-free solder, simply, sucks. As of right now, lead-free solder still requires higher temperatures, produces weaker connections, and is prone to a still poorly-understood phenomenon called whisker growth that threatens the long-term reliability of modern high-density electronic assemblies. For these reasons, the military and certain other industries have exemptions from RoHS compliance. But did the politicans think of this? No!
    Irritating.
    I like the flowchart cartoon though.

  2. #2 by anne on March 8, 2007 - 12:43 am

    i’ll just go ahead and assume that by “strange crowd” you meant “annetastic.” there just aren’t enough people who enjoy talking about toxics use reduction (TLA=TUR) policy while out at bars. and adhesive trends. and floor strippers. it might have been the jameson, but i’m pretty sure someone (scott?) dropped a “butoxyethanol” reference. whoa.
    while i don’t, shall we say, “know what I’m talking about” when it comes to the specific properties of these chemicals, the other thing you have to consider is the shoeless little street children who take apart the electronic stuff after we throw it away and it gets “recycled” off to ivory coast on a mystery barge. it’s hard to concentrate on competitiveness in the high-density electronics field when you’re constantly distracted by pesky fume inhalation and lead poisoning. like i said, i’m no chemist so i could be way off. i’m sure there were a lot of things the RoHS policymakers got wrong, but isn’t it the thought that counts? kind of?