Which is better, iron or gold?

To Croesus, King of Lydia, on being shown his golden treasures, Solon said: “If another comes who hath better iron than you, he will take away your gold.”


Croesus on the pyre*

*image shown depicts King Croesus, unlikely to show Solon.

King Croesus introduces gold coinage (adopted by the Persians after they defeated him) although his coins used a gold-silver alloy (electrum) based on the composition of the alluvial deposits. When he asked the Delphic oracle of Amphiarus if he should wage a campaign against Cyrus the Great of Persia or seek an alliance, the Delphic advice was that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a great empire.


Herodotus, The History of Herodotus, Translated by George Rawlinson




Making a welded Damascus Knife

John Neeman Tools have posted a beautiful video of manufacturing a welded Damascus patterned knife.

5 layers of 3 different steels were forge-welded, folded, and forged. With each step being repeated 8 times. This produces a patterned with 320 layers. Finally twisting and forging the steel produces a more complex pattern.

Just checking the number of layers, I get their total to be different. My calculation of the number of layers is 5 × 28 = 1280, that is 4 times more than claimed (320 layers should be the result of folding 6 times (6 folds 5 × 26).

With 1280 folds, if we assume the thickness of the knife is 2 mm, that means each layer is 1.6 μm, 320 folds would be 6 μm layers. These are both lower than what can be resolved using the naked eye. It’s very close to the wavelength of visble light — if the metal were folded one more time, or the final thickness of the knife is less than 1 mm you would be there.

Most expensive Iron?

I went to the pharmacy today, the price of Iron there is pretty expensive.

Picture of Iron Supplements

Expensive Iron, 5.2 p per 14 mg.

5.2 pence per 14 mg tablet. That means the price per kg is £371,000 (371 thousand pounds), or 3.7 million pounds per tonne (3.7 M£/tonne).

This is amazing, the usual price of steel is more like 600 pounds per tonne, and around 1.5 trillion tonnes (1,510,222,000 tonnes) (1.5 Gigatonnes) of steel are produced annually. It seems like the steel industry should be selling this steel for 1000 times more. That would be a total of £5.6 &times 1015 or 5.6 P£ or 5.6 petapounds (I don’t know the financial term £5.6 million billion or 5.6 thousand trillion or 105 times world GDP).

Compared to the human body, the average amount of iron is about 3.5 g per person. That means we need 250 of these tablets to replace the iron in our body, at a cost of 13 pounds.

Future of steel production?


Details of a new process have been revealed, for alloying electrochemical production of iron, either for making iron (and oxygen!) on the moon or making electrolytic iron (and oxygen) on earth. The original process was developed for release of oxygen from moon rocks, using iridium metal electrodes. The new process uses chromium-iron electrodes.

The process has the potential to further reduce the carbon dioxide produced during steelmaking, when combined with electricity production from ‘carbon-dioxide neutral’ source.


Structure of superbainite. Inset is a same-scale image of a carbon nanotube. [1]

Structure of superbainite. Inset is a same-scale image of a carbon nanotube. [1]

According to archaeologists, the Iron Age began in 1300 BC and lasted for around two millennia. Today, steels (alloys of iron and carbon) comprise 95% of global metal consumption and this trend shows no sign of declining.

Glancing at the media, however, one would be forgiven for assuming that steel is now a has-been. We are bombarded with stories of novel materials: carbon nanotubes, metallic glasses, graphene, carbon fibre, nickel superalloys. . . all of which are “stronger than steel”.

“Now we can construct space elevators!” claim the articles. “Let’s build a climbing frame to the moon! We’ll use this stuff to make everything!”

The observant among us, however, will note that most cars, trains and buildings still don’t feature superalloys, metallic glass or magic nanotubes. Neither are they invisible; nor do they fly; nor do they do any of the other things that journalists tend to ‘predict’.

Instead, steels somehow remain the best — and cheapest — materials for the job. Also, they are stronger than steel. This is because ‘steel’ is a vague construct used by sensationalists, with an unspecified strength guaranteed to be less than that of a novel material. Metallurgists rarely refer to ‘steel’, just as the Inuit have fifty words for snow, not one of which is ‘snow’.

Continue reading

Corus Teeside

2005 – Consortium starts with plan for 10 years of production.

Corus Press Release May 2009, Consortium’s termination of contract triggers consultations on future of Teesside.

2009 – a song.

2009 – 3000 march at Redcar to protest against closure of the Teeside plant.

BBC news 4 Dec 20091,700 jobs to go as production scaled down

Kerby Adams (CEO Tata Steel Europe) press statement

B Muthuraman, says future of Teeside in Employees hands, and they have to cut costs (Oct 2009)Video, Full Story.

BBC news 15 Dec 2009 – how much will loss of 1,700 jobs cost local community?.

Iron Man Movie Review

This is an action packed movie from start to finish. From the opening scene we are gripped and taken thought a non-stop thrill packed journey. The acting is convincing enough and the characters don’t need to be since it’s understood it’s based on a comic book.

There are 4 armour suits in the movie. The first is hand made by Robert Downy Jr/Tony Stark and another engineer supplied by his captors, allowing him to escape and return to America. When he returns Stark shuts down his weapons manufacturing operations since he realises his products are used by the ‘bad guys’, not just by his country men. He starts to make a new suit which would enable him to fly. The suit wasn’t originally meant to be a weapon, it just turned out to work well as one. During development of the suit he finds that his weapons are still being used by the ‘bad guys’ so he decides to take matters into directly into his own hands. Finally there is a show down were he fights a bad guy who has his own supped up suit.

The first suit is made by hand from steel, and kitted out will a Gatling gun and missiles to enable escape from warlords.
Iron Man first suit

The third suit is produced after the first test flight of the development suit, both of these are made with a fully automated CAD/CAM system available in Tony Stark’s mansion.
Iron Man final suit

Iron Man’s suit it powered by the ‘Arc reactor’ which appears similar in design to a Tokamak fusion reactor. The first miniature version which he builds is capable of generating 3 GW of power (3 gigajoules per second).

My only complaint is that it’s claimed that Iron Man’s final suit is meant to be made from gold-aluminium alloy. Tony Stark does still prefer the name ‘Iron Man’, after first hearing the name he says it’s `catchy’, probably he would be embarrassed to be referred to as gold–aluminium alloy man. In the movie it is shown that suit can withstand many rounds of ammunition, which would be much more consistent with the suit being made from a very-ultra-high-strength steel armour which has recently been shown to be superior to other armour. The switch to gold–aluminium alloy was to solve a problem of icing at high altitude, were ice would form on the suit and power would be lost. Unlike an aeroplane the icing should not effect the power production of the suit, since it doesn’t rely on a turbine, but a portable reactor. Also the suit doesn’t have any aerodynamic control, like wing flaps, to be affected by icing, instead relying on thrust control, so the problem could better be solved just by making sure that the joints remain ice free by heating them.

O.K. there are only 2 problems with this movie, the other being the conspicuous product placement for burger king… which would have been more believable if he had eaten a whopper rather than a cheeseburger.