Wasting Time – TheraPutty

Yes, so many other things I could be doing, but this is more important – using a webcam, some Mathematica, and therapy putty.

Somehow, as I age, I keep accidentally hurting myself. I know, weird right? So, while doing some he-man building things (putting a keyboard tray on my standing desk qualifies, right?) I accidentally wrenched my elbow while using a drill-driver, resulting in so-called “golf elbow” (similar to its tennis cousin, just the other tendon). 

Beth had some TheraPutty and I noticed that doing certain exercises with it seemed to help. That and Ibuprofen I suppose. I took two tubs, blue – stiff, and yellow – soft, to the lab to fondle while working. 

After about a week, I noticed that the blue, which was supposed to be super resistant, had softened to be almost as soft as the yellow. It was pretty strange: was I really ‘working it’ that much that I was able to break down seriously viscous rubber and other miscellaneous plasticizers with my bare brutish hands?

I fired off an email to the company that manufactures it, Fabrication Enterprises, Inc, down in White Plains. I wasn’t really expecting a response, I was just curious. 

I had my Ziggi camera sitting on my desk since I had just finished teaching. So, I decided to roll up the yellow and blue and do a time lapse of them ‘settling’ since that would be a relatively good estimate of their relative viscosity. A little Mathematica image processing to find the individual balls in the image, segment and measure them, and I ended up the following:

Procrastination, quantified.

Sure enough, they spread out at almost exactly the same rate (the little glitch out around 5 minutes is where I had to re-start the image acquisition because, well, I really wasn’t being a good scientist, was I?). And pretty much ended up at exactly the same size after about 5-6 minutes. I wanted to go home and eat dinner, so I stopped the experiment — science has to eat.

Lo and behold, today I got a very nice email from Jason Drucker, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at FEI. He apologized for taking time to get back to me, but, as it turned out he had sent my question to the senior manufacturing chemist for comment! That’s wonderfully nuts- and indeed, she/he replied:

I have never heard of the blue putty getting soft after using it for a long period of time. In fact, so soft that the yellow is firmer in viscosity. The only way this can happen is the putty was exposed to one of the following, alcohol, cleaning fluids, hand creams or any solvents. These ingredients help breakdown the silicone polymer. Once broken down the putty will become softer.

Chief Chemist- FEI

Guess what — I was in the lab with the blue and cleaned up some of the 3D printer resin, using the only thing that works, isopropyl alcohol, 99%. I almost certainly had some on my hands at some point and totally destroyed my blue putty. 

So, my bad, and let this be a lesson to you. If you’d like the images and the Mathematica, you can grab it here. Let me know if you play around with it. May your procrastination be fruitful.