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Good news! Scientists at Cambridge University have succeeded in making artificial nacre. That’s mother o’ pearl to you and me.

It’s fairly easy to make something structurally similar — it’s just layers of calcium carbonate — but this is the first time they’ve gotten a result that iridesces like pearl. They did it by closely mimicking the processes a real mollusc uses to lay down shell.

This is good. MoP is strong and useful and, naturally, beautiful. And they say their process is cheap.

If you don’t see the value in that, I’ve got four words for you: mother of pearl cellphones.

Or, you know, five words if you think “cell phone” should be two words.


Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 7, 2012, 10:39 pm

I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak up, I can’t hear you over these damn ocean waves!

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 7, 2012, 10:58 pm

Cell phones use analog[ue] signals to transmit & receive, modern mobile phones are digital[ue?]. I vaguely remember reading that most of the old cellular network is defunct or dismantled. Ah, language.

Comment from Man Mountain Molehill
Time: August 7, 2012, 11:04 pm

Nothing to fret about…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 7, 2012, 11:04 pm

Cell phone be damned! I’m going to have my Cadillac plated with this stuff!

Comment from Bruno Braun
Time: August 7, 2012, 11:39 pm

I’m already nacred

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 7, 2012, 11:57 pm

What I want to know is how long mobile phones will all be called “cell phones”. As Stark D noted, the term is technically obsolete. A lot of people (mostly outside the US, AFAICT) refer to “a mobile” instead.

OTOH, when a motion picture of an event is recorded, people say it has been “filmed”, and one still sees references to “footage”. Those terms may stay around a long time, as there are no obvious replacements. (“Videotaped” was occasionally used in place of “filmed”, but it’s nearly as obsolete.)

Hmm. Google Ngrams shows “footage” declining a lot after 2004; “filmed” falls off a cliff in 2008 (the last year of data). What are the new terms?

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: August 8, 2012, 12:14 am

Of course, you realize that one of the first applications will be Mother of Pearl Dildos. Which is going to result in a calamity when they run into someone who still uses vinegar douches……

Yes, I am sick, twisted and Evyl. Just like you want me…

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 8, 2012, 12:15 am


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 8, 2012, 12:25 am

Dude, we still dial phones. How many kids have no idea why?

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 8, 2012, 12:54 am

I have a friend whose old phone number ended in 8090. Fucker took forever to dial on those old rotary phones.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:04 am

& if you think modern technology is crazy: http://youtu.be/MCgCSMq5Xpo

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:14 am

Actually, I think that would be great if someone put out a working line of gag rotary cell phones…..

In Mother of Pearl!

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:25 am

Ya, just like the ‘Save’ icon looks like a floppy disk…how many kids even know what that is?

Comment from Mitchell
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:48 am

Our digital cameras still make shutter snapping sounds. Here in Las Vegas most of the slot machines no longer pay in coins but they play a coin tingling sound when you cash out a ticket. We live in strange times.

Now as for cell phones, I thought the “cell” part referred to the area covered and serviced by each tower. Even if they don’t use analog anymore you’re still being serviced by a network of cells no?

BTW, they really need to work on making that artificial MoP stuff prettier. Something more like this

Comment from Armybrat
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:58 am

@stark Dickflussig…when hubby and I were first married, we lived in rural KS and had a party line. We’ve been married 28 years, this was early 80’s and I shit you not about the party line. Our ring was 2 long, 2 short. We would pick up the phone, cough once or twice to wake up the operator and say “can you dial me……..”.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 8, 2012, 2:12 am

And of course inlays for the instrument of choice. Or grips for your handgun, if you live in a free country.

Comment from Ben
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:17 am

Actually, I think that would be great if someone put out a working line of gag rotary cell phones…..


Sorry, no Mother-of-Pearl option.

Comment from Clifford Skridlow
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:22 am

When I was a pup, and we were still next to Pinecastle AFB, the party line for our house was 2 long, one short. We had hours of entertainment just picking up the receiver and listening in on what was going on.

Comment from Allen
Time: August 8, 2012, 6:22 am

Oh, I thought you said mother of pearl calliopes. Which I could go for.

Comment from Oceania
Time: August 8, 2012, 11:45 am

Evil Kiwis Set Up Facebook Race Relations Disaster in Australia



Comment from margarida Martial
Time: August 8, 2012, 1:07 pm

I hope this experiment will continue giving results.
Jogos de matematica

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 8, 2012, 2:10 pm

All mobile telephony, with the exception of satphones, is based on cell technology. The first versions used AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone System) which was an analogue system using frequency division multiplexing. It morphed into a semi-digital standard using TDMA called D-AMPS. This was superseded in the 90’s by GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile), which was fully digital. Currently 3G technology is based around code division multiple access, which is a spread-spectrum technology allowing a lot more frequency re-use, noise immunity and higher bandwidth. The emerging global standard is UMTS, for universal mobile telecommunications system. 4G will also be some form of CDMA with a multilevel modulation scheme and some exotic antenna diversity scheme like MIMO. But all systems use the idea of a radio cell being the link between the handset and system as a whole. It would probably be most accurate to say that mobile phones are what users employ to access the cellular network.

Comment from Mitchell TAFKAEY
Time: August 8, 2012, 3:31 pm

^AKA “Cellphones”

Comment from mojo
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:27 pm

What about Father of Pearl? A sad tale of a broken family, no doubt…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:30 pm

I’ve become interested lately in phrases that have outlasted their original context. Some of the ones that I’ve noticed recently are:

Not worth candling
Whipped himself into a frenzy
Cut loose
Hobson’s Choice

Oh, and the receptionist actually said “Sweet Mother of Pearl” just now when the printer jammed. Wonder if she knows who Pearl is standing in for?

I’ll sign off now.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:33 pm

Mojo –

I suspect no one is sure who Pearl’s father really is…. but her Mother’s name is Minnie.


Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 8, 2012, 4:36 pm

That was my mom’s favorite cuss word.

Some Vegetable, I could help with those if you like.

Comment from mojo
Time: August 8, 2012, 5:47 pm

I love “Hobson’s Choice”, meaning “no choice at all”.

Hobson rented horses, and didn’t want customers wandering around and taking forever to choose. So he made them take whichever nag was up front at the time.

Beats walking.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 8, 2012, 7:23 pm

Not worth candling? Haven’t encountered that one. I wonder if it is a corruption of “The game isn’t worth the candle”? And, yes, I do know what “to candle” is.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 8, 2012, 8:23 pm

Nuttier than a fruitcake. (actually, fruitcakes are make with rocks & horse bladders)
Drunk as a skunk. (skunks are muslims & thus shun all forms of alcohol)
Inchoate. (the 14th amendment made it illegal to use horses as draught animals, unless you pay them & horses can’t get ID or vote)

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 8, 2012, 8:38 pm


After decades of mocking fruitcakes, I actually tried one…the monks at The Jampot make the most sinfully delicious fruitcakes and rum cakes. I am a convert to…the pastry. Bring on the horse bladders!

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 8, 2012, 8:42 pm

Honestly, the best fruitcake I ever had was still far too sweet for my palate. A horse bladder filled with oats & barley & slow roasted might be pretty good, though.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 8, 2012, 9:27 pm

“not worth candeling” come from the method by with people determine weather an egg is fertilized and how far along a chick might be. cracked or small eggs with never hatch and aren’t worth candeling.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 8, 2012, 9:36 pm

A phrase I’ve always loved and pondered the etymology oft an eve at closing time is:

“Drunker than Cooter Brown”

Anybody ever actually met good ol’ Cooter? Seems like my kinda guy as I get compared to him so often.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 8, 2012, 10:04 pm

Bob Mulroy, yes, I got that, but, see, it doesn’t seem to be very common in print. If you Google the phrase “not worth candling” and the phrase “not worth the candle,” well, see for yourself: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=not+worth+candling%2C+not+worth+the+candle&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3
If you Google “not worth candling” by itself, it is a total flatline.

I’m not suggesting it isn’t a real idiom; but I can’t help but think that it was a back-formation from “game not worth the candle,” influenced by the other idiom.

Comment from AliceH
Time: August 8, 2012, 10:52 pm

I hear “Well, I’ll swan…” a lot around these parts. Only from grey haired women over 70, though.

Comment from Allen
Time: August 8, 2012, 11:05 pm

It might be Flatt and Scruggs’ Pearl. An all time favorite lyric:

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, come be my loving girl
Don’t you marry Lester Flatt, He slicks his hair with possum fat
Change your name to Mrs. Earl Scruggs


Comment from Oh Hell
Time: August 9, 2012, 1:14 am

Our ring was a long and a short. We still have the rotary phone. My nieces’ friends couldn’t figure out how to use it…..

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 9, 2012, 3:41 pm

What a very interesting tool.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 9, 2012, 4:14 pm

The ngram viewer? Agreed–thank you Stoaty for introducing me to it some time back; I end up using it almost daily.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 10, 2012, 4:20 am

Feynmangroupie: …the monks at The Jampot make the most sinfully delicious fruitcakes and rum cakes.

Heh… I passed by the Jampot a few weeks ago – did not get a fruitcake. Maybe next year.

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