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Processing bulk natural wood into a high-performance structural material:

Wood is among the oldest materials used by humans, and is still commonly used for building. Its low density has also made it useful for transport applications such as shipbuilding, but this property is associated with a relatively low strength and stiffness. Scientists have tried to devise processes that make wood denser, to obtain materials suitable for high-strength applications, but with limited success. In a paper in Nature, Song et al. describe a densification method that combines a chemical treatment with high-temperature compression, and which produces an unprecedented increase in stiffness and strength.

A quick update: school’s starting today (I had July/August off, thus the burst of art), so posts will probably be even less frequent going forward.

I’ve been doing a lot of family history lately. One of my third cousins messaged my mom on Ancestry a couple months ago, one thing led to another, and now I have dozens upon dozens of Italian cousins on my Napoleon line that I had no idea existed. It’s been great getting to know them.

I did the Ancestry DNA test recently and have been making contact with more of my relatives who match. (It can be harder to find the common ancestor than I expected, though.) I also apparently have a Scandinavian line on my dad’s side, which was news to me — I’m fairly familiar with my family tree but haven’t ever seen anything Scandinavian.

I realized that it’s fairly easy to keep Ancestry and FamilySearch trees in sync, and it’s nice to have a personal tree in case people make unwanted changes to FamilySearch, so I created an Ancestry tree and have started copying everything over. Ancestry’s nicer than I realized.

Contacting my cousins has led to my doing more research on my Napoleon line. This past weekend I pushed the main line back two generations, and I’ve also started fleshing out some of the collateral lines.

One of my side projects as part of all this is building a nice, relatively easy way to generate clean family charts from JSON data, so that I can easily generate PDFs and share them with my cousins who aren’t on Ancestry or FamilySearch. More to come.