Sunday February 16, 2014
When Hannibal's army arrived in Gaul in 217 BCE it wasn't just the 90,000 troops and 3 dozen war elephants that invoked terror in his opponents: the Romans already had knowledge of Carthaginian swords.
Cast from Toledo steel, the Carthaginian short swords - or falcatas - were stronger and more durable than any weapons the Romans possessed.
In the spring of the same year, Hannibal ambushed the Roman army on the shore of Lake Trasimenus, destroying the Roman army. A year later, the Romans raised another army - numbering as many as 100,000 - to strike Hannibal at Cannae. But, again, it was the Romans that suffered. An estimated two-thirds were killed or captured.
While strategy was critical, the advantage provided by Toledo steel swords was undeniable. Two layers of metal - a softer ferritic steel enveloped by a lower carbon pre-modern steel - produced stronger but comparably elastic blades.
In the following decades and centuries, Roman legions throughout Europe would adopt weaponry made from Toledo steel. Read More...
Sunday February 9, 2014
Ten athletes at the winter Olympic Games in Sochi will have an opportunity to take home more than just a gold, silver or bronze medal.
The government of Chelyabinsk, which was hit with a meoteorite last February 15th, will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the meteor strike by awarding medals studded with a piece of the space rock to the athletes who win gold medals on that day.
The medals have been made with gold and silver, and inset with a piece of the meteorite, which was mainly composed of iron, magnesium-containing silicate and sulfites. They were carved by specialists in the town of Zlatoust.
In total, 50 medals have been made. Ten will be awarded to athletes, while some 40 others will be sold to private collectors. Read More...
Friday January 31, 2014
One of the most important creations of the 20th century, stainless steel, is often attributed to one man, Harry Brearley. But Brearley was just one of many metallurgists and scientists to realize the importance of chromium in protecting against the corrosion of steel.
In 1912, Brearley stumbled upon this realization in Sheffield, England while working on a new alloy to reduce pitting and erosion of rifle barrels.
In Germany, Krupp engineers Benno Strauss and Eduard Maurer were experimenting with chromium-nickel steel for pyrometer tubes, developing the first austenitic stainless steel the same year.
Meanwhile in America, Elwood Haynes, who had earlier patented Stellite alloys, was also working with chromium steel, and submitted his patent for a corrosion resistant steel in 1912.
Haynes and Brearley would, ultimately, end up working together marketing and selling stainless steel (which, initially was primarily used in cutlery) in the US.
For more, read A History of Stainless Steel. Read More...
Sunday January 26, 2014
As well as being the world's largest consumer of copper, aluminum and zinc, China is now the world's biggest consumer of gold.
Chinese purchases increased 32 percent to 1,189.8 tonnes in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters GFMS gold survey.
With gold prices falling by nearly one third last year, investors in the Middle Kingdom snapped up the metal as a hedge against inflation. Artificially low interest rates and greater wealth contributed to Chinese demand. Read More...