Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Mercedes crystal

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Most molecules can be crystallized. Mineral crystals are abundant, of course. Complex biological molecules (proteins, nucleic acids and others) can also be persuaded to crystallize, though it is often tricky. The results are frequently beautiful, with a geometry which, although often variable in dimensions, is based on a consistent set of angles - rather like piece of music in a certain key.

Cars do not usually crystallize, partly because they are not soluble. In their normal situation, a mass of cars will simply slump into a pile wrought by gravity. Numbers are also a problem - a decent crystal requires at least a few million identical subunits.

Here is the answer. First, we take about 10^6 or 10^7 identical cars. (OK, this is not strictly an answer, more of a requirement. Bear with me.) Next, we need to get them into solution. This could, possibly, be done by preparing some sort of mercury amalgam which would have the same density as the cars, and in which they would float. However, this would obscure your view. Moreover, each car would tend to float in an orientation dictated by gravity (eg, engine-end down), which is not what we want.

So, we need to put the cars into a zero- gravity environment. Space, for example.

In zero-G, the cars will interact primarily by gravitational attraction, mimicking the van der Waaals forces between molecules in solution. The forces will be extremely weak, of course.

In time, a few cars will gently collide and, very slowly, will snuggle together in the most energetically-favourable configuration. Gradually, other cars will accrete into these, each one again jiggling and snuggling into the optimal arrangement. Over a number of years, all the cars will gradually precipitate into a single, perfect crystal of cars.

Of course, normal crystals contain flaws such as dislocations, which often help the crystal to grow faster, by providing "cosy corners" into which new molecules can fit. Doubtless similar phenomena would arise in an automobile crystal.

Remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 14 2007

Pachinko http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachinko
A curious national obsession [8th of 7, Dec 16 2007]

Automotive crystal formation in Britain http://www.bl.uk/le...%20motorway%20l.jpg
[ldischler, Dec 21 2007]

(lol) We're Famous! http://list.web.net...October/000295.html
Try googling your own alias, you'd be surprised what you find! [quantum_flux, Dec 24 2007]

[link]






       Nutter. [+]
egbert, Dec 14 2007
  

       you had me at "cars in space", no need to get all technical, just launch them puppies into random orbits
FlyingToaster, Dec 14 2007
  

       Hummer-doped.
lurch, Dec 14 2007
  

       mercurial +
xenzag, Dec 15 2007
  

       The problem with mercury is that it forms an amalgam with many metals. You need a solvent which has a similar density as cars, retains a resonable viscosity in the low temperatures present in space, and has a low vapour pressure (mercury has quite a high vapour pressure).   

       Since you propose the experiment (activity ? art ?) be performed on a macroscopic scale, the "solvent" does not in fact have to be a liquid. It can be any material with a suitable "viscosity" and a particle size which is small compared to the cars; although whether this would mean that you would then have a suspension, emulsion or colloid is open to further debate.   

       The use of large quantitites of glass beads or marbles suggests itself. Any other suggestions ?   

       PS Please don't park your edifice too near our Cube, we have only pulled up to ask directions and are not good at reversing out of small spaces.
8th of 7, Dec 15 2007
  

       I wonder if such a crystal could be cut into a shape that accented the refractive index, and then mounted on Saturn's rings.
Ling, Dec 15 2007
  

       //The use of large quantitites of glass beads or marbles suggests itself. Any other suggestions ? // The problem will be one of friction and gravity - a large container of glass beads, populated with Mercedes, will remain in the same state for an exceedingly long time. Hence my suggestion to do this in space.   

       [Lurch] - Hummer doping may well introduce novel properties. Moreover, it may be possible to co-crystallize Mercedes with some smaller vehicle, such as SmartCars, in equimolar amount. Using suitably long- wavelength radiation, one ought to be able to solve the structure of the co- crystal by diffraction, and therefore discover the structure of the Mercedes/ SmartCar complex.   

       [Ling] nice idea. I'm not sure if the binding energy of the crystal would be enough to overcome tidal forces from Saturn's moons, however.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 15 2007
  

       Brilliant. You had me at //Cars do not usually crystallize//. +
dbmag9, Dec 15 2007
  

       //Any other suggestions ? // Road cones?
lurch, Dec 15 2007
  

       Road cones will hav peculiar packing characteristics, high "viscosity", and their size and suface area are significant compared to the "solute"........   

       // remain in the same state for an exceedingly long time //   

       I do not dispute this, just a first thought. A free-fall environment will help. Maybe a PTFE coating on the spheres, or molybdenum disulphide ?   

       <later> The idea of co-crystalising is intriguing; it would be appropriate to consider the position of Mercedes in the electroautomotive series, and from this compile a list of possible reactants thet will readily form stable covalent bonds.
8th of 7, Dec 15 2007
  

       I have seen a SmartCar covalently bond with a Mercedes, but this was in a controlled experiment using accelerated particles. We're not necessarily looking for covalent bonds, which would in any case distort the Merc. Non-covalent interactions are likely to be more common.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 15 2007
  

       //pleasing patterns, based upon magnetic field lines.// Yes, an interesting idea, but not what I had in mind. You see, if you magnetized the cars, you would effectively predefine their aggregation pattern, by defining the locations of the north and south pole of each car. It's true, of course, that electrostatic interactions guide the formation of a protein crystal (in a way not too dissimilar to magnetism), but I don't like the idea of imposing an arbitrarily-chosen pattern in this way. I'd sooner just rely on gravity, which is sort of a vague proxy for van der Waaals forces.   

       //Personally, I'd go with the V Dub "dak-daks" for their uniform shape.// I'm not sure what a "dak-dak" is, I'm afraid. If, by "uniform", you mean that each of them is identical to the others, then this is of course essential for good crystal packing, but I'd expect any well- built car to have a consistent shape. If by "uniform" you mean simple or symmetrical, then I'd oppose this. Protein molecules are anything but simple or symmetric, but the miracle of crystal growth means that they nevertheless find the optimal regular packing geometry.   

       If crystallogrophers are half as smart as they are supposed to be, they actually ought to be able to predict the packing arrangement from the shape of the car.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 15 2007
  

       // distort the Merc //   

       Only the electron shells, and even then only in a probabalistic sense ....
8th of 7, Dec 15 2007
  

       The Merc/SmartCar amalgam that I saw was a probabilistic write-off.   

       Let gravity suffice.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 15 2007
  

       ... since cars are of a uniform(ish) width/height, used cars would make cheap, effective ammunition for large-scale railguns ; don't junk that old road-warrior, give it to the Terran Space Force to defend against alien attack.
FlyingToaster, Dec 15 2007
  

       OK, consider this. Water molecules can form a crystal, and can be imagined as a large ball on top with two smaller balls below. NH3 would be a large ball on top of three smaller balls, while a large ball with four smaller balls underneath forms a Pivo.
lurch, Dec 16 2007
  

       // a large ball with four smaller balls underneath forms a Pivo //   

       Ahhh .... combined with their enthusiasm for Pachinko, this explains why almost all Japanese cars are a pile of balls .....
8th of 7, Dec 16 2007
  

       //Water molecules can form a crystal, and can be imagined as a large ball on top with two smaller balls below.....// Quite so. But the crystal form is very difficult to predict from the molecular structure alone, especially in the case of complex molecules such as proteins or saloons.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 16 2007
  

       I'm stunned, but not sure in which way.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 16 2007
  

       rearrange the colors into a nice cube-a buicks' cube.
dentworth, Dec 16 2007
  

       [Dentworth] - if you're not going to take this seriously, then neither am I.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 16 2007
  

       //I'm not sure if the binding energy of the crystal would be enough to overcome tidal forces from Saturn's moons, however.//   

       Merely a flaw, but that's how you know it's natural and not synthetic.
Ling, Dec 16 2007
  

       If the Mercedes yields the good crystal, then Mercury is the cheap zirconic knockoff.
elhigh, Dec 17 2007
  

       It may display Opel-escent qualities.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       It is well known that some benz-oates are liquid crystals, but you have to eliminate the liquidated chryslers.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       There is certainly no dodging the issue of scale, if we are to view this crystal, we are going to need to illuminate it with a huge beamer.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       The preferred embodiment of this idea would be large amounts of nicotinic acid, after all it, has niassins.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       Puns? There's not a Lada them around these here parts.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       So quick, just a Hyunbai?
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       I have got to agree, that *is* no mean fleet. I would love to Citroend the fireplace and talk crystal lattices in space. My worry is Saablimation in the vacuum, that is where the rubber meets the road.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       I try and Stay away from local brand names, as they are usually country specific. I use manufacturers names to make my marque. Having said that, to Triumph over the mundane should be considered a Valiant effort, worthy of Prius.
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       Sorry Officer, I didn't see the Mercedes - I was diffracted...
hippo, Dec 17 2007
  

       Dear gods and little fishes. I turn my back on this idea for 12 hours, and come back to find it littered with the debris of wordplay. This is a Punto many.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2007
  

       Do not exhaust yourself dear Max. The "some of the parts are generally more than the hole".
4whom, Dec 17 2007
  

       All these puns are polluting this Audi-a.
Jinbish, Dec 17 2007
  

       Datsun other point, but there's no need to Chrysler Rover it.
Ling, Dec 17 2007
  

       Are those croissants I see before me, or Rolls?   

       OK. No more puns. And you're all fired.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2007
  

       I did voiture idea positively.
Jinbish, Dec 17 2007
  

       You too, Jinbish.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2007
  

       <shuffles off, dragging feet and grumbles about being offendered>
Jinbish, Dec 17 2007
  

       [Jinbish] was Austin for it, it was only a matter of time before he was Escorted off the Primerases by the Shore Petrol ......
8th of 7, Dec 17 2007
  

       On yer bikes, the half bloody lot of you.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2007
  

       I was Reliant on the more reponsible amongst you to call a halt to this kind of thing. But no - you just Citroen on your Astons thinking up more bloody puns. There's no Opel.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2007
  

       The Buick stops here ....
8th of 7, Dec 17 2007
  

       Why?
krigre55, Dec 19 2007
  

       <points at "Buick Stop" sign>
8th of 7, Dec 19 2007
  

       "tssh! You call that vacuuming your car"?   

       "Explosive decompression car vacuum system" ?
8th of 7, Dec 24 2007
  

       Actually, the process of crystallization is quite effective at excluding impurities. All dirt, debris, dead ducks, dust, dental floss, detritus, and dung should be excluded and will appear on the surface of the crystal, whence it may be simply wiped away.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 24 2007
  

       a + from me for quoting toothpastefordinner
gomer, Aug 14 2008
  

       Studebaker. +
csea, Aug 14 2008
  

       //if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.// [marked-for-tagline]
zen_tom, Aug 14 2008
  
      
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