Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Science of Gore

No - I'm not talking about Al Gore, politician, the inventor of the internet, and preeminent self-described "climate scientist."*

I'm talking about Wilbert Gore and his son, Bob (seen in photo, from the Science History Institute).  In 1969, the duo accidentally discovered what is now called Gore-Tex.  It is a micro-porous plastic membrane that can be attached to textiles; it repels water (precipitation) but allows water vapor to pass on thru.  These properties make it a godsend for people who spend time in the wet.  It's probably safe to say that Portland and Seattle would not be recognized as bike-friendly cities, if it weren't for Gore-Tex.  (It blessed me this morning... I don't often need to bicycle in wet weather, but I sure did on this particular morning!  Fortunately I had my trusty Gore-Tex handy.)

The Gore-Tex material has an even more amazing use... I didn't know before today.  According to the Wikipedia, "Gore-Tex is also used internally in medical applications, because it is nearly inert inside the body. In addition, the porosity of Gore-Tex permits the body’s own tissue to grow through the material, integrating grafted material into the circulation system. Gore-Tex is used in a wide variety of medical applications, including sutures, vascular grafts, heart patches, and synthetic knee ligaments, which have saved thousands of lives. In the form of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (E-PTFE), Gore-Tex has recently been used as membrane implants for glaucoma surgery."  Amazing!

In the 21st century, we can literally be protected from precipitation from head to toe.  I keep Gore-Tex jacket and pants in my box o' motorcycle gear, thus I knew just where to look for it this morning.  I've also got a sweet pair of boots with a Gore-Tex layer.  (A multi-day motorcycle trip is less predictable, weather-wise, than a 1-hour bicycle ride.)

The original patents for Gore-Tex have expired, which means there are alternative comparable products available now.  Some probably work just as well.  I've tried some that look like Gore-Tex, but are very noticeably inferior... they let precipitation thru and/or trap perspiration.

* Al Gore is one of the celebrities who has made a name for himself in the "science of global warming."  Is the globe warming?  Probably. (Based on my non-scientific observations, we sure seem to be getting "weather extremes" like never before.  But that's just personal observation.)  Previous commentary HERE.  I'd be much more likely to take Algore seriously, if his scolding were accompanied by practicing what he preaches!  If human production of carbon dioxide is indeed causing global warming, and it can be reversed, perhaps we should start by forcing Algore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Redford to give up their private jet transportation and huge utility bills, and adopt cave-dweller lifestyles.

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