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Cocaine in the air May 31, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, news, science.
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Rome is a very nice city, which attracts millions of tourists every year. Its monuments, its history, the museums, the pope… All this is well known, but from now on Rome features a brand new tourist attraction: its air.

A very serious study performed by researchers of the italian CNR involved the analysis of samples of air in Rome, Taranto, and Algeri. The results ? In the air of Rome there is consistently a significant, although quite small, amount of cocaine – 0.1 nanograms per cubic meter.

The study has revealed the presence of other drugs in the air, and several carcinogenic substances as well. However, the CNR scientists say that overall the air in Rome has improved in the last few years. In all the three cities significant amounts of nicotine, cannabinol, and caffeine have also been detected, but only in Rome is cocaine significant.

Interesting to know, the highest concentrations of cocaine have been seen in the air around the Rome University “La Sapienza”… Enough to draw conclusions on the practice of sniffing cocaine by university professors ? I doubt it – their salary is too low for the prohibitive cost of the substance. Instead, I wonder if the CNR researchers took samples of air inside the various palaces of power, like the Ministeri, the Camera dei Deputati, the Senato. Results could be shocking.

Comments

1. carlbrannen - June 1, 2007

The book that got me on to reading Helprin begins with a description of an old man walking in Rome. At this link you can read the first few pages under “excerpt”. Might be a bit of an illegal drug in there.

2. Fred - June 1, 2007

It’s probably healthier to sneeze while walking through the poppie fields of the Dolomites. Two articles from JPL http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/ yesterday relating to air and telescope matters. You might qualify for a part-time job at their media division. Do you and your collegues ever borrow, adapt, or incorporate methods, procedures and tactics from other scientific fields and apply them to your specific frameworks and research? Do these other sciences give you a different perspective about yourselves and your work? Currently speaking, can significant discoveries be made by accident?

3. Andrea Giammanco - June 1, 2007

[tommaso]> their salary is too low for the prohibitive cost of the substance.

I’ve been recently told by an “expert” that cocaine is not anymore a drug for rich people.

[Fred]> Do you and your collegues ever borrow, adapt, or incorporate methods, procedures and tactics from other scientific fields and apply them to your specific frameworks and research?

Here an example:
http://indico.cern.ch/getFile.py/access?contribId=0&resId=1&materialId=slides&confId=16541

4. Markk - June 1, 2007

This tickles something… I have thought for a while with these “molecular spectrometers” (Don’t know what they are really called) that very soon law enforcement would just start looking for aerial concentraions of things like this. If in a few minutes you can get ppt concentrations of specified large molecules you could look for drugs, explosives, etc. and just map the concentrations to find local maxima and then get search warrants, etc. because of that. Quite scary to contemplate.

5. dorigo - June 1, 2007

Hi all,

Carl, thanks for the link to the book, will have a look…

Fred, we sometimes do adapt techniques first seen elsewhere – one big example is neural networks, which are now a prime tool in boosting our capability to select elusive signals amidst large backgrounds. Another that comes to mind is blind techniques, which I think have been used elsewhere than in particle physics before they got all the rage in HEP. As for casual discoveries, yes that happens, but more often it happens the contrary – things you did not look for get ignored. An example is the particle called X, a charmonium state discovered first in babar and belle (do not remember which), which was later seen in CDF data and a re-analysis of data taken years before showed we could have found it back then. By the way, the X is described in a post from last june at https://dorigo.wordpress.com/2006/06/09/spin-parity-analysis-of-the-x3872/ .

Andrea, hmmm, interesting… What exactly do you know about prices ? lol

Markk, yes, technology is scary at times… But it is not good or bad, rather the use we do of it is. Damn trivial sentence (do not even remember who said it first), but good to remember.

Cheers,
T.

6. chuanru - June 4, 2007

Hi,
Now I know why we foreigners tend to like Roma that much…we don’t just like it, we get addicted…
oh yes, about the price of cocaine, I have read form CorriereRomana, it says it’s about 50-100euro per gram…although it seems to be “cheaper” then ever, I wouldn’t want to try any.
ciao
here is the link: http://www.corriereromano.it/notizia.php?da=prima&idn=1370

7. dorigo - June 4, 2007

Hi Chuanru,

jokes aside, who knows… Maybe the smells of a city have their attractiveness, conscious or subconscious, for visitors.

Cheers,
T.

8. jeff - June 4, 2007

Hi tommaso.
Read blog of Le Scienze
http://cattaneo-lescienze.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2007/06/04/la-bufala-della-cocaina/#comments
I read it quickly taking a lunch break, but Cattaneo does a good job in taking that news apart, basically telling us what 0.1 nanogram per cubic meter amounts to.

9. jeff - June 4, 2007

Hi tommaso,
read the blog of Le Scienze
http://cattaneo-lescienze.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2007/06/04/la-bufala-della-cocaina/#comments

I read it quickly during today’s lunch break, but it seems Cattaneo does a good job in criticizing the news and the newpapers that reported it acritically. He does so by showing how much 0.1 nanograms per cubic meter really amounts to.

10. jeff - June 4, 2007

Ciao Tommaso
I tried two times to say something on this thread. I’ll try again. Lets see if it goes thru.

Try reading blog of Le Scienze “una bufala” by Cattaneo. I read it quickly during today’s lunch break. He shames all newpapers by simply showing what 0.1 nanograms per cubic meter really amounts to.

Check it out. I’f I don’t forget I’ll check the math and will give it as an excercise to next year students.

11. dorigo - June 4, 2007

Jeff, sorry about that. My spam filter has grown extremely aggressive, to the point that I am considering some alternatives.

I tried to reinstate the two posts and they got lost!

Cheers,
T.

In general, links trigger an aggressive response. I will try to tune the filter now.

12. dorigo - June 4, 2007

Oh, and yes, 0.1 ngrams per cubic meter is really a ridiculous amount. About a sphere 5 microns in diameter. My congratulations, in retrospect, to the precision of the detecting instruments…

T.

13. dorigo - June 4, 2007

And the exercise could be “How much cocaine do you need to disperse over Rome (say in a cylinder with a radius of 5 km and a height of 10 km) to get that average concentration ?

Answer:

Cylinder volume is 3.14x25x10=780km^3=7.8E11m^3
Amount of cocaine is thus 78 grams.

Wowww enough for a huge party, yeah!

Cheers,
T.

14. jeff - June 5, 2007

Ciao
looked around on web and found following numbers:
1) human lung capacity is 4 to 6 liters
2) typical breathering rate is 10 to 20 times a minute
3) typical cocaine dose is 0.05 to 0.2 grams

Assuming a dose of 0.05 grams is assumued in one sniff,
THEN the measured quantity of 0.1 nanogram per cubic meter is one part in 5 billionths of a single dose (1 in 5 X 10**9).

Assuming largest lung capacity (6 liters), and assuming one sniff is one lung full breath, then it would take about 500 years of breathing to accumulate a single small dose.

15. jeff - June 5, 2007

Correction.
The last sentence should have simply been
“Assuming largest lung capacity (6 liters), then it would take about 500 years of breathing to accumulate a single small dose.”

The reference to “…assuming one sniff is one lung full breath” is not necessary.

16. dorigo - June 5, 2007

500 years is a long time, I wonder if there is a quicker way to get high…

Cheers,
T.


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