THAT time of year

I love this time of year. January is done and dusted, we are steadily moving in the right direction, i.e. Spring.

OK, this may seem just a wee bit pre-emptive to the folks stuck out on the eastern US seaboard in the midst of a fierce old spell, but still, the fact remains…

But more to the point, this is also the time of year when at treemagineers we are busy sorting through themes, topics and stuff that is going to be presented in the course of the current year.

One of the things that I really enjoy about presenting is that it lets me dive deeper into topics I would normally not think twice about. So this time of year sees me going through notes I make during the year, going through articles I have collected and reading up on topics.

Some themes are pretty hands-on and obvious, whilst others can be rather more… eclectic.

At the moment one of the themes I have been doing some research on are Super Balls or SuperBalls.

Doing research. Seriously!

Super Balls were invented by Norman Stingley, a chemist in 1962. He discovered a highly elastic polymer made up out of polybutadiene as well as hydrated silica, zinc oxide, stearic acid, and other ingredients. This mixture is then vulcanized under high pressure. Stingley initially offered his discovery to the Bettis Rubber Company, whom he was working for at that point in time, when they declined he took it to Wham-O, of the Frisbee fame, who produced and marketed it, creating one of the longest standing fads ever.

At the peak of their popularity, Wham-O was producing 170’000 Super Balls per day! That is… a lot of balls.

In the late 1960s Wham-O made a “giant” Super Ball, roughly the size of a bowling ball, as a promotional stunt. It fell from the 23rd story window of an Australian hotel and destroyed a parked convertible car on the second bounce. Whoopsie… sorreeeeee!

The chemical formula, CH₂=CHCH=CH₂, gives a clue as to why this material has such a high degree of elasticity: Butadiene is made up of a chain of carbon molecules with high atomic cohesion, making it behave like a spring when compressed and accordingly decompression with high energy, causing the rebound.

Wham-O maintains that Super Balls are made from a material called Zectron™, which is of course baloney, but they felt it sounded better than the real thing… fair point, I suppose, certainly has more of a ring to it that polybutadiene. Come to think of it, I reckon Zectron sounds like a toothpaste that a Transformer would use to brush his or her teeth with (not sure if Transformer do gender?):

Transformers! Optimus Prime recommends Zectron for that shining white smile!

So there you go, the humble Super Ball gives you plenty to mull over.

Other things I have recently been reading up on, without boring you with details, is for one, how tall buildings behave in earthquakes and for the other about the characteristics of Aluminium alloys and the effects that annealing has.

What the…? How does this all fit together?

Ah, now that, of course, would be telling. If you really want to know, you may have to come along to hear for yourself – for instance to the Climbers’ Forum at the German Tree Care Days…