Headline June 23rd, 2012 / And America's Cold Warriors

"....'And America's Cold Warriors'..." 

Vincent Schaefer

Bernard Vonnegut

Irving Langmuir

In the early 19th century, the emperor Chia-ch'ing grew so angry over a prolonged drought around Beijing that he officially condemned a negligent dragon to perpetual exile out past Urumqi along the Ili river, that flows through the lovely Tian Shan mountains, which then as now were in need of a dragon's attentions.

But the sympathetic members of the imperial court implored the emperor to give him a second chance. The dragon returned and so did the rains. But by the 20th century it was time for a revolution, and one duly came. 

The Communists seized control in 1949, after 22 years of fighting, and within months they established a weather bureau, initially as a military department. The rain dragons were slaughtered and done with. So, freedom from nature meant freedom from drought. 

By 1949, Scientists worldwide were seriously pursuing the idea. The apparent breakthrough had come three years earlier, at a General Electric facility in Schenectady, New York, where three researchers had established the first rational basis for rainmaking, after discovering that, in a lab cloud chamber, pellets of solid carbondioxide, -dry ice- or smoke made of pure silver iodide provided nuclei that initiated a chain reactions, causing supercooled droplets to turn to ice. 

Supercooled cloud droplets consist of water in liquid form suspended in the air at temps below freezing, typically between minus 5 and minus 25 degrees Celsius. Their transformation into ice crystals is central -usually- to the natural birth of rain or snow. The physical and chemical processes involved are so varied and complex that even today, they remain obscure. 

Nonetheless, it seemed likely, after the initial lab experiments, that the men at GE had discovered a technology that could extract useful moisture from reluctant clouds. The idea was not to conjure new clouds from clear skies, but rather to augment existing formations by boosting natural crystalliztion. They called it 'cloud seeding'. The three researchers were extraordinary men. 

One was an autodidact and former garner named Vincent Schaefer. It was he who had dropped ice into a lab box and then noticed that the air instantly filled with crystals. Another was a famous materials Scientist and Nobel Laureat, Irving Langmuir, who, besides his many more esoteric contributions, had discovered the advantage of introducing inert gas into the vacuums of incandescent light bulbs, thereby prolonging their lives. 

The third was a former M.I.T chemist named Bernard Vonnegut, who was responsible for winnowing the possible cloud seeding agents to silver iodide. And soon people around them discovered that they were great thinkers and nerds and geeks. Langmuir often wondered loudly on everything. 

He was so absentminded that one morning after his wife served him breakfast at home, he slipped a tip under the plate when he stood up to go. Haha! 

The Post continues. And we hope to steal some weather!! Haha. Thank you all for your readership. 
Join up for the thrill!

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice Of The Voiceless


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