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Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)
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Old 06 Feb 2009, 05:12   #1 (permalink)
Shas'Saal
 
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Default Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

I live in about an hour away from Los Alamos, New Mexico. I picked these spheres up from a Los Alamos National Labs surplus store a few years ago and have no idea what they are.





The silver spots and dents are a result of me filing and chiseling it. It is attracted by magnets, and I believe it gets more attracted when heated. I can't say for sure that heating it has any effect though, I just heated it then waved a magnet next to it and it seemed to be attracted a little more. It is 1 inch in diameter and weighs roughly 75 grams (2.5oz). Other than maybe becoming slightly more magnetic, heating it has no effect. It is not effected by microwaving either. It is very hard, the indentations are the result of me placing the sphere in a vice and hammering a fairly sharp chisel into it. I also had to apply pressure to get the file to catch (not a lot of pressure, but just sliding the file over the surface did nothing). I attribute this to the sphere shape, but it could be useful. When placed in direct sunlight (only sunlight, bright light bulbs do not work) the surface seems to glitter purple and green. The silvery bits do this too, which leads me to believe that it is a property of the metal and not a coating. It seems to be solid, although I have no real evidence of this. And does not crack or split easily, it has been dropped from roughly a meter onto solid concrete multiple times and nothing has happened to it. As far as I could tell though, the concrete was not damaged either. It is probably not radioactive as about 40 of these have been in my room for roughly two years and I have experienced no ill effects that I can directly attribute to them. They were buried under a large pile of papers for a while though so it is possible that the paper blocked any radiation they emit.

That is pretty much everything I think could help, I can do other tests if I need to as long as the tests can be done without advanced equipment.
Anyone have any ideas and what these are for and what they are made of? I am at a loss for ideas.
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Old 06 Feb 2009, 05:14   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

I'll get Machine Head to take a look next time he's around. He lives for this kind of thing.
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Old 07 Feb 2009, 04:52   #3 (permalink)
Shas'Saal
 
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Its actually quite hard to tell with just pictures.... (for me anyways) But I can tell you that if you look at a periodic table (Yes that lame thing from science class) You find out a lot about your "mystery metal". Look for terms like lustrous (a.k.a. shiny) or brittle (a.k.a. bumpy).

- try looking at this site: http://www.webelements.com/

It looks as though you have already done this but showing us pictures won't help to much. Try taking it to a college and consult science professors or students. Thats where I would start.

PS: Certain types of radiation can be blocked by just one sheet of printing paper. I think that they are Alpha rays but it could be Beta rays. Neither are very harmful to humans.
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Old 07 Feb 2009, 10:18   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Can't be sure, but guessing by the size and shape, i would say they look like musket rounds. (perhaps from the US civil war or somthing like that)

Please forgive my ignorance, but that is just a guess.
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Old 07 Feb 2009, 16:36   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris the Thunder God
Can't be sure, but guessing by the size and shape, i would say they look like musket rounds. (perhaps from the US civil war or somthing like that)

Please forgive my ignorance, but that is just a guess.
It came for a lab is to large and magnetic. Kinda rules out a musket round.

Listening to the description has me scratching my head. I wonder if it's not a pure element but an alloy. It would seem there is some ferrous metal in there to be attracted by a magnet.

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Old 07 Feb 2009, 16:42   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Los Alamos you say?...it could be bits of uranium *que sarcastic 'Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight'* I agree with Spiritbw, its probably an alloy. Check to see how well it conducts electrical current, that might be usefull to know.
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Old 07 Feb 2009, 17:01   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Easy!!!!

Ok you need a jug of water.

Fill your jug with 1 litre of water (preferably 20 degrees centigrade).

Place the orb in the jug of water, measure the amount of water in litres that it displaces.

The density of the metal can be found out by dividing it's mass by it's volume. The volume of 1 litre of water is 1kg and 1 litre has the volume of 100mm cube. Knowing these properties you should be able to find both the mass of the orb, and it's volume. Find it's density, then look up it's density on the Internet on a table of metals and alloys.

Thus you should be able to find out what it is....

[hr]

See physics is more than just theory!

EDIT: Having said that, just check the mass of the orb by weighting it on a set of scales to find it's MASS in kg.

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Old 07 Feb 2009, 17:03   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

Also you could add a specific number of energy to it and find how much the temperature changes too for a double-check!
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Old 07 Feb 2009, 23:36   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

I visited the surplus store again today and an employee there said that the spheres are steel. The sphere weighs 0.07kg (70g), and displaced 0.01L (10ml) of water.
So my equation should look like this right?

0.07kg
--------
0.01L

Which gives me an answer of 7.
Is there any type of steel that has a density of 7?
A few other metals have a density of roughly 7. White metal, zinc, tin,and cast iron all have densities of 7ish. Zinc is not magnetic so that leaves us with tin, cast iron, and maybe white metal. I don't know if white metal is magnetic because it can be made from a lot of different metals.
Any more suggestions? How would I measure how well it conducts electricity?
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Old 08 Feb 2009, 01:03   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help me identify this metal (warning very picture heavy)

To get a rough estimate of conductiveness, you could get a multi meter and measure the resistance through the metal. Most metals will be so low that it'll be hard to measure though.
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