# vacuum pockets and safety nazis

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Avatar, Oct 10, 2004.

1. ### Avatarsmoking revolverValued Senior Member

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From: schillin@spock.usc.edu (John Schilling)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
Subject: Re: Infra-yellow: Great Moments in Wacked Out SF Science
Date: 27 Sep 2004 21:42:11 -0700
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Oh, boy.

Now I have to explain the absolute Greatest Moment in Wacked Out Real Science.

Couple years ago, some people I worked with finally completed a long-delayed
project to build a very large vacuum chamber for testing plasma thrusters and
but maybe top ten nationwide. Big enough to walk around inside, at any rate,
which is the important point.

Important, because in order to go operational it needed the approval of the
local Safety Nazis. You know the type. They have a checklist, nay, a whole
handbook of checklists, one of which involves Confined Spaces. Big enough
to walk around in? Check. Airtight? Check. Can be filled with asphyxiant
gas? Well, the MSDS for "Vacuum" apparently lists it as an "asphyxiant", so
check. It's a Confined Space, and so the Confined Space checklist must be
implemented.

Issue the first: How do they make certain nobody can accidentally walk in while
the chamber is full of that deadly asphyxiant, "vacuum"? No, the fifty *tons*
of force holding the door closed, is not an acceptable answer.

Issue the second: When the chamber is vented back to full atmospheric pressure,
where does the vacuum go? If the chamber were accidentally vented by opening
the door (see above, and note exact Safety Nazi quote, "OK, say if you were
Superman and you opened the door"), where would the vacuum go?

Issue the third: What assurance is there, that when the chamber is vented back
to full atmosphere, there is an adequate percentage of oxygen in the chamber?
Hint: It is a big, big, big mistake here to acknowledge here that the laws of
statistical gas dynamics allow for one chance in 10^10^17 (no typo) that the
chamber will spontaneously refill with a sufficiently oxygen-poor atmosphere
to preclude respiration.

Issue the forth, and so help me God I am not making this up, again an exact
Safety Nazi quote, "How can you be sure there won't be vacuum pockets left
in the chamber, that someone could accidentally stick their head into?"

And, coupled with issue #2, there could be deadly vacuum pockets floating
around the lab! Aieeee!!!! Run for your lives!

It only took three weeks to find someone with the common sense and the real
authority to overrule the Safety Nazis on this one, and the SNs still take
offense if anyone brings it up in their presence.

Vacuum pockets.

--
*John Schilling * "Anything worth doing, *
*Member:AIAA,NRA,ACLU,SAS,LP * is worth doing for money" *
*Chief Scientist & General Partner * -13th Rule of Acquisition *
*White Elephant Research, LLC * "There is no substitute *
*schillin@spock.usc.edu * for success" *
*661-951-9107 or 661-275-6795 * -58th Rule of Acquisition *

Last edited: Oct 10, 2004

3. ### guthrieparadox generatorRegistered Senior Member

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4,089
If thats true, its very funny, and also an indictment of those who let safety nazis come from the non scientific community. They should come from the scientific community and therefore have a vague idea of hwo things work.
By the way, what were the eventual safety precautions? I can imagine they would want a button inside that would prevent the vacuum pumping down if pressed, so if you were trapped inside you could'nt be accidentally killed.

5. ### Avatarsmoking revolverValued Senior Member

Messages:
19,083
I don't know, but you can email John Schilling and ask him

vacuum pockets...

7. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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6,223
I am skeptical that the above story is true. Maybe I just have too much faith in humanity.

8. ### catoless hate, more scienceRegistered Senior Member

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2,959
lol, that is so funny I.................... huh? sorry, I must have passed out. damn vacuum pocket =]

9. ### vslayerRegistered Senior Member

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4,969
i think theres a vacuum pocket hovering justh over that guys shoulders

10. ### ivel501Registered Member

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1
I have been living dangerously!

Now that I know about the deadly vacuum pockets, I cannot believe I have been tempting fate by using my portable vacuum pocket generator (made by Hoover) and just willy nilly move it about the house!

Heck! I even let my kids generate a vacuum pocket with little or no protection!

Thank you safety nazis, from this day forward I will no longer put my family at risk.

/the fact is I am just lazy and am looking for any excuse to not do housework

11. ### phlogisticianBannedBanned

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10,342
Oh, believe it. It's easy to forget how little people know about science, if you are in the field yourself.

I used to work with a bunch of Astronomers, and they made a discovery, so the local press came out. The first thing the interviewer said 'OK, let's get this right, it's Astronomy, not Astrology, right?'. OK, at least she was trying, but there shouldn't have been a question in the first place, especially as she'd walked under the sign written in foot high letters to enter the building, spelling it out.

None of our vacuum chambers were big enough to enter though, so I guess we never had the safety Nazi round for that type of inspection!

12. ### MetaKronRegistered Senior Member

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5,502
So their safety inspectors don't consider basic scientific knowledge to be an asset?

13. ### i321Registered Member

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6
Very likely they do not. Basic scientific knowledge may cause to question the instruction manual and hence not follow the procedure. A government bureaucrat is always safe as long as he follows the procedure, no matter how stupid. Deviating from procedure opens him up to charges of negligence or worse. Following procedure is simple CYA.

Setting up a bureacracy is a lot like writing a computer program. You try to think of all possible imput parameters, and set up a flow chart to deal with them. So next time you wonder why a DMV attendant or an OSHA inspector is acting like a robot, you know the answer.

According to the manual, vacuum is an asphyxiant. Procedure for asphyxiants calls for making sure where the asphyxiant goes, and whether pockets form. Of course, vacuum does not behave the same way as chlorine, carbon dioxide, or other asphyxiants, but the manual did not take that into account. The result is no different from giving a computer program an un-accounted for input. Program spews garbage. As did the Safety Nazis.

14. ### quantum_waveContemplating the unansweredValued Senior Member

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6,178
Why are there so many people viewing this thread?

15. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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19,389
From the sound of it, the trouble started when "vacuum" was declared an asphyxiant.

And the whole sorry scene created by someone's attempt to mandate competence, to cover by procedure instead of relying on judgment - - to force the safety inspector to do their job right.

So the solution would be to rely on judgment - to give the safety inspector (and by extension the government) more power, more leeway, more arbitrary authority.

Which people subjected to this kind of featherbrained imposition will be reluctant to do.

Meanwhile, good yucks. If it happens to someone else.