Nitrogen Tire Scam part 3

Okay, I thought of adding this response as a comment, but since it ended up being so lengthy, I decided to make a separate post. The original comment is here and was caught by the Akismet as spam. I’ve since approved it to be visible.

A response to John Lucidi

First, I’d like to mention that your post was caught in my spam filter (Akismet) due to the number of links you included, so it wasn’t a matter of my not wanting your comment to appear. I just don’t look at posts caught by Akismet very often since it’s almost always pure, unadulterated spam. I have, I believe, read your comment posted on other sites, so one could make an argument that copy/paste behavior by someone who admits an interest in an industry’s success is actually spam. Indeed, I hold that it is.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to approve the comment if only to address the points you’ve made for public record.

The first thing I noticed in your comment was that the Bridgestone link [PDF] was actually to a marketing pamphlet hosted on your own site rather than an actual independent study or measurement as you claim. I contend that Bridgestone has a financial interest in the “nitrogen-filled tire” industry, and note that this pamphlet is not available on their domain. In fact, the only mention of nitrogen in tires I could locate was this quote:

Because race tires are subject to much higher operating temperatures, the air to inflate them is filtered to remove moisture. Moisture inside a race tire could become steam, creating potential problems. Most teams actually replace this filtered air with nitrogen.

My contention that Bridgestone has a financial interest is largely based on the web address included on the marketing pamphlet which is to and they doubtless have either an affiliation with or provide their own nitrogen filling service for over the road truckers. Big rig trucks have tires that include far more sidewall rubber surface and larger volumes of gas within, and the tires are subjected to wear and use that far exceeds that of the average commuter, so it may actually be that there have been studies done on OTR truck tires that reveal a benefit to having nitrogen-filled tires.

But this doesn’t relate or equate to any benefit to having nitrogen -filled tires on a passenger car. If we concede for a moment (and I’m not actually doing so without seeing an independent study that isn’t a marketing brochure for a company attempting to make a buck) that there is a benefit, which outweighs the exorbitant cost, for OTR truckers to have nitrogen-filled tires, it still must be considered that the tire of a truck has a far greater surface area of sidewall rubber and a larger volume of gas within which may actually create faster rates of diffusion for both gas molecules. There are more molecules and more available avenues of egress.

So, your “proof” isn’t actually proof of anything other than the fact that Bridgestone Firestone has an affiliation or at least some sort of interest in nitrogen-filled tires for OTR trucks. I saw no mention in this marketing pamphlet (your “proof”) that referenced an independent study.

There is, however, an independent study conducted by consumer reports that was conducted on passenger car tires. Their results showed that in one year nitrogen-filled tires lost 2.2 psi while tires filled with normal air mix lost 3.5 psi. This is a difference of 1.3 psi over a full year and certainly nothing close to 4 to 6 times “faster than nitrogen.” I also found it interesting that you’re quick to mention that rate as are many other advocates of this expensive and unnecessary method of filling tires, but never is the rate itself defined. What are the units measured over what period of time? Moreover, the Consumer Reports study also demonstrates that both molecules are diffused over time, with nitrogen diffusing at a slightly slower rate, which is something that I readily conceded to in my initial post.

With regard to tire wear from chemical aging, I’ve again conceded that pure, nitrogen would halt this. From the inside! Surely you realize that oxygen and moisture in the air outside the tire can and will permeate the side wall of a tire. Normal atmospheric pressure, after all, is still a pressure and the molecules of O2 and H2O are variable excited depending upon pressure and temperature and will collide with the same rubber sidewalls from the opposite side. Fortunately, this isn’t a concern since chemical wear, for the average commuter, occurs at a rate that is far slower than physical wear. I have yet to replace a set of tires due to chemical aging -inside or out. I realize I can’t speak for you, but I’m willing to bet $5.00 via Paypal that I can find an independent source that shows the most common reason for tire replacement is worn tread.

You say that “[i]t is a well proven fact within the tire industry that nitrogen inflated tires maintain their pressure better than air filled tires.” I don’t deny this. But there isn’t enough concern with tire pressure loss (both molecules will effuse) that I’m willing to pay for nitrogen. There’s no need for the average consumer to fill their tires with nitrogen since they need only check (or have checked) their tire pressure regularly. I don’t think I’ve ever had an oil change that didn’t include this as a matter of course and I regularly check my own.

There is, of course, the argument you’ve posited that the average consumer doesn’t check their tire pressure and that at least one tire is under-inflated, etc.

But this argument is utter bollocks when examined closely. The under-inflated tire is rarely due to diffusion of air molecules through the side-wall and is nearly always because of some other issue such as a puncture, fissure, poor seal, or faulty valve stem or valve. This is logically the case since if conditions are equal for each tire, an anomaly must have an alternative explanation other than diffusion or gas molecules permeating the sidewalls. This is an important point since each of these issues create points of egress that are large enough for both molecules. At this point, Graham’s Law takes over and the nitrogen will diffuse at a faster rate. This is not a matter of debate, it’s physics. QED.

Additionally, if we were to concede that pressure loss were problematic due to the owner not participating actively in preventive maintenance, then we also have to remember that nitrogen also diffuses and looses pressure. Therefore, what’s needed isn’t to charge $60.00 per tire to replace air with nitrogen but to educate the public on the importance of preventive maintenance checks and services. If the owner just gets their oil changed at a reputable service station, their tires will be checked and pressurized if necessary.

The “average consumer is ignorant” argument is like saying the average person doesn’t floss or brush twice daily so they should visit their dentist once a month for a professional cleaning.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by.

Nitrogen Tires part 2

Looking through my spam filter I find the following:


Hello. You may recall that I posted the below entry on your blog, Hot Cup of Joe, countering some of your arguments against nitrogen tire inflation. I was just curious to know why you decided not to publish it? I was always under the impression that the beauty of blogs was that you could often see differing points of view and readers could make their own determination.

That’s only the first paragraph. What follows is a list of links, which is why Akismet caught it as spam. I’m not convinced that it isn’t. It looks like someone going around all the blogs reposting the same copy/paste propaganda. I’ll probably approve the comment later today, but I want to review it first.

A Classic Paper: Archaeology as Anthropology

This is an entry submitted for The Giant’s Shoulders blog carnival, the “Classic Papers” category.

Binford, Lewis R. (1962) Archaeology as Anthropology American Antiquity, 28 (2), pp. 217-225

Lewis Binford is considered by many to be one of the most influential archaeologists of the 20th century. During his teaching stint at the University of Chicago (1961 to 1965), this paper was published in the journal American Antiquity and helped Binford establish a paradigm that is still used today which is that there is a necessary relationship between anthropology and archaeology. Today, archaeologists refer to this as “processual archaeology” and there are many professors that still teach the “Binfordian” school of thought when approaching archaeological questions. One of Binford’s concerns was always to approach archaeological questions with a scientific perspective.

This paper begins Binford’s passion for arguing a processual method of archaeological research which includes logical positivism and the hypothetico-deductive model, scientific methods that rely on falsification, observation and hypothesis testing. While others before Binford, notably Gordon Willey and Phillip Phillips in 1958, argued that American archaeology is anthropology, Binford takes the idea to task in “Archaeology as Anthropology.”

Binford held that it was one thing to explicate the material record but another thing altogether to explain the material record in detail. For instance, it might be obvious when looking at an archaeological site to observe that at a given period in time a given culture migrated. But to explain the whys and hows of that migration, it requires a more holistic approach to analyzing the artifacts within the site. Indeed, it may require comparing and contrasting with artifacts from other periods or other sites of similar environmental and socio-demographic pressures. From these, Binford asserted, archaeologists can formulate and test hypotheses and make predictions.

For Binford, “undifferentiated” and “unstructured” views of artifacts within the material record were “inadequate” and he called for a “systematic and understandable picture of the total extinct cultural system.” One that incorporates strict scientific methodologies to provide useful data to the explanations of cultural evolution. And he was dead set against merely equating material culture with technology.

Binford proposed three major classes of artifacts and a “category of formal stylistic attributes.” Adapted directly from “Archaeology as Anthropology,” they are:

  1. Technomic artifacts – their primary functional contexts are in coping directly with the environment. Examples are hand axes, adzes, projectile points, fishhooks, etc.
  2. Socio-technic artifacts – material elements having their primary functional context in the social sub-systems of the total cultural system. Examples include a king’s crown, a warrior’s coup stick, etc.
  3. Ideo-technic artifacts – items which signify or symbolize the ideological rationalizations for the social system. Examples would be figures of deities, clan symbols, symbols of natural agencies, etc.
  • Stylistic, formal attributes – qualities that cross-cut the three major classes of artifacts, which serve to provide a sense of “style” and to promote group solidarity and a basis for group awareness and identity. An example of this would be Greek red or black figure motifs, which occur on ceramic vessels with varied functional contexts.

One of the things that makes this such a seminal paper is that Binford not only establishes his assertions and what he believes the future of archaeology should become, but he details why. More than this, he provides a working example of his proposed methods at work by using the Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes as an example.

The Old Copper Complex can be dated as far back as 6000 BCE and, while they initially created copper tools, later assemblages (toward 3000 BCE) reflected a return to stone and bone, with copper being used primarily for symbolic and ornamental functions. This has been cited as a case of “cultural devolution” since it seems counter-intuitive to abandon the superior material of copper as a technology for tools only to return to stone and bone.

However, Binford quite gracefully demonstrates an explanation that goes beyond merely explicating the obvious. He drew upon what was already established as understood by anthropologists about egalitarian societies and their transformations as populations increase, creating more competition for status. He works out for the reader how it is neither efficient nor an economic expenditure of energy to create copper tools without recycling the material. He shows how the culture doesn’t recycle or rework copper tools since so many are found in disrepair in the archaeological record and none appear to be reworked. Moreover, copper goods are almost always found as part of burial goods.

If, Binford asserts, durability were a factor, then some mechanism should have found its way into the society to retain the copper tools rather than dispose of them with the dead. Since this isn’t the case, the conclusion is that they were not considered more durable when compared with stone and bone.

Binford spends several pages on the explanation, which I won’t do. To summarize, he posits that egalitarian societies cherish the achievement of the individual, which allows the individual to gain status among the group. Technomic items of exotic material, painstaking created, and elaborately decorated were considered symbolic of achievement. These status symbols would be personalities and thus subject to disposal at the death of their owners, hence the artifacts found in burial sites.

As populations continued to increase, according to Binford, so did the selective pressures that give individuals a need to communicate status. Differential roles within society emerged, giving rise to the appearance of a new class of socio-technic items, formerly the technomic items. Stone and bone again find their utility and copper is relegated to non-utilitarian functions, such as jewelry.

Lewis Binford’s philosophy of archaeology lives on in the students of his methods. “Binfordian” is a term that most American students of archaeology in colleges and top online schools have probably encountered. Many are very likely to consider themselves to be of the “Binfordian” mold. In other, later, publications, Binford went on to refine and perfect his perspective of processual archaeology, but it’s my opinion that “Archaeology as Anthropology” was the seminal paper that first showed the glimpse of things to come. Reading it today, Binford’s wisdom and the clarity of his words ring clear. There is an objective and knowable past that can be explained if the right methodology is employed. I’ll close this post with the last half of Lewis Binford’s concluding paragraph:

As archaeologists, with the entire span of culture history as our “laboratory,” we cannot afford to keep our theoretical heads buried in the sand. We must shoulder our full share of responsibility within anthropology. Such a change could go far in advancing the filed of archeology specifically, and would certainly advance the general field of anthropology.

Nitrogen Filled Tires: a Scam?

While this is primarily an anthropology and archaeology blog, I also like to write about skeptical topics as well. I’ve written several bits about pseduoarchaeology in the past, but this topic is a straight bit of skepticism.

My wife and I recently traded in one of our 2000 model Saturns for a new 4-cylinder Ford. Having sold new cars for a living about 8 years ago (that’s how we ended up with two Saturns!), my wife knows the car business and wasn’t about to let anyone sell her any add-ons, after market B.S., extended warranties, and all the other sorts of insurance the dealers really make a fair bit of money on. Indeed they were completely frustrated that she and I wouldn’t even bat an eye at what they had to offer.

But, when the finance manager went into his pitch on Nitrofill. This is essentially a service they provide to periodically fill the tires with nitrogen instead of normally compressed air. The difference, he stated, is that “nitrogen filled tires don’t loose pressure as fast as air and nitrogen doesn’t oxidize the inside of the tire as fast.”

I looked at my wife and saw a bit of hesitation. She was buying it. Literally, if I dindn’t stop her. “Ahem,” I got her attention and she snapped out of it. “Isn’t air already 78% nitrogen?” I asked the finance manager. “Uhh… well I’m not a scientist,” he replied with a sheepish grin. My wife, fully back to her senses smiled broadly, pointed at me and said, “but he is!” I’m not, but having stayed at my share of Holiday Inn Expresses, and having paid some attention in my Chemistry classes, I knew $5.00/tire every time they got low wasn’t an expense I wanted. And, if we filled a tire with air somewhere else, it would be $60 to service the tire and fill it back up with nitrogen. The tire that already had 78% nitrogen.

Needless to say, I we didn’t buy the nitrogen scam. And that’s just what it is. On the surface it sounds good. In fact, if it were free, I’d take pure nitrogen over normal air any day. But I’m not about to let a car dealer or service station sell me the air in my tires.

The claims are this:

  1. Nitrogen-filled tires maintain proper pressure longer
  2. The rubber of nitrogen-filled tires last longer
  3. Nitrogen is less volatile than oxygen and thus safer in a fiery crash
  4. Cars with Nitrogen-filled tires get better gas mileage
  5. Cars with Nitrogen-filled tires are better for the environment

The last two claims are dependent upon the expectation that the tires filled with nitrogen are actually at properly inflated pressure more consistently. So let’s set them aside and focus on the first three points.

1. Do nitrogen-filled tires maintain proper pressure longer? The premise for this claim is that nitrogen is a larger molecule than oxygen. It is. Only slightly. But let’s not omit the fact that we’re talking about molecules here and not just the element. Oxygen and nitrogen are both diatomic molecules. Nitrogen actually has less mass than oxygen, so Graham’s Law dictates that it diffuses a bit faster than oxygen. However, since the actual size of the oxygen molecule (O2) is a bit larger than that of a nitrogen molecule (N2), this only applies if the opening from which the molecules are effusing from is large enough to permit the largest of the two. In such cases, N2 will diffuse faster.

The question, then, becomes, are the pores in rubber (assuming there are such pores) smaller than the N2 molecule but larger than the O2 molecule? I don’t know the answer to this. Nor could I find any literature in the few minutes I searched, but if anyone has a citation to an independent (i.e. non Nitrogen Tire industry) study or bit of research, I’m interested. Without digging out my old chemistry textbook, I’m willing to tentatively accept Wiki Answers on the sizes of N2 and O2 molecules: N2 is roughly 300 picometers while O2 is slightly smaller at 292 picometers. I’m open to revising these figures if someone cites a more reliable source, but I can’t imagine that there’d be any reason for the link to be more than slightly wrong.

2. Does rubber oxidize faster when exposed to oxygen rather than pure nitrogen? I’d expect so. The real questions are: a) how to you keep oxygen on the outside of your tires from causing oxidation?, and b) does it really matter to me since every single tire I’ve ever replaced was because of worn tread and not oxidation?

3. Why do I give a shit whether or not the oxygen in my tires will fuel the fire of my fiery crash? If the explosion is powerful enough to consume the oxygen in the surrounding air leaving only my tires as reserve fuel, I suspect I’m going to be a crispy critter anyway.

As for 4. and 5., I’m not that arsed for time that I can’t continue my routine of checking my tire pressure every 3,000 miles when I change my oil. In fact, nearly every time I’ve ever checked my tires at 3k, they’ve either been dead on for the proper psi or just a pound or two off. Whenever I’ve had to fill more than that, it’s been either because of a faulty valve or a nail in the tire itself. I suspect that the resulting points of egress in a faulty valve or pucture would create holes large enough for either O2 or N2 to escape through effusion. So, in that case, Graham’s Law would be in effect and N2 would escape faster than O2.

The bottom line: if nitrogen becomes a free option, easily obtainable (i.e. cheaper and easier than the $5.00 Walmart compressor that I plug into my cigarette lighter), I’ll use it since there’s a very slight chance I won’t need to top off my tire pressure as often. But, as long as I have to pay for it or even just drive to the dealer for it, I call bullshit!

Nitrofill is a scam. Nitrogen-filled tires for general consumers is a scam.

Stolen and Looted: an interesting article

This is part of my on-going “Stolen and Looted” series in which I examine cultural resource management practices, looting of archaeological sites, and out-right theft of artifacts.

In an online newspaper called The Spectrum, which is the online version of a Southern Utah printed paper, there was an article by Byron Loosle titled Archaeological Artifacts: Grandfather Clause or Illegal Action? In this article, Loosle summarizes very well the problem with looting artifacts from public lands and archaeological sites in general. While it’s legal in the United States to remove artifacts from private lands (assuming one has the landowner’s permission), it is actually a crime to pick up even projectile points (a.k.a. arrowheads) from the surface when on public lands like National Parks.

Loosle makes a couple of quick points an analogies that I think are effective:

the impact of any type of collecting can be crippling to science and research efforts. In order to piece together the big picture and gain a firm understanding of the history of prehistoric cultures, scientists rely not only on studying the artifacts themselves, but the locations in which they lie.

A high percentage of sites in the Great Basin, for example, are the result of transient hunting and gathering activities that occurred over about 10,000 years. Many of these transient hunting sites are small and represent only temporary use. Even the larger sites usually show only surface or very shallow deposits. These variables make extracting information from sites very difficult.

Like clothes and hairstyles, arrowhead styles changed through time. Scientists rely on these markers to date a site. The type of stone used for the point can help us understand where people had traveled, and artifact placement shows where activities occurred in the past. Just one visit from an enthusiastic collector can virtually destroy the information potential of a small site, just as repeated visits to more substantial sites leaves devastating results.

Actually, that’s a relatively large portion of the article, which is very short, but these types of internet articles seem to disappear after a few months or even weeks and Loosle’s words are worth repeating. I hope he doesn’t mind my liberal interpretation of “fair use” with this quote.

In spite of the lucidity and clarity of Loosle’s remarks, there was a single comment at the time I wrote this by someone upset that “BLM people” would expect him to just leave an arrowhead on the ground where he sees it. The commenter makes several ignorant remarks about proving he didn’t make it himself or that he found it on public lands, etc., missing completely Loosle’s main points.

Interestingly enough, I empathize -as I’m sure most archaeologists and cultural resource managers do- with the commenter’s motivation to pick up and keep an “arrowhead.” But Loosle wasn’t speaking to the casual hiker that spots a projectile point on the surface along a trail. Indeed, he notes that “approximately 90 percent of the Anasazi structural sites in Washington County have been damaged by illicit digging, with percentages just as high for sites compromised by surface collection activities in Beaver and Iron counties.”

These damages aren’t done by people walking along and spotting arrowheads. These are people who are actively digging and looking for artifacts with an intent to remove cultural resources from lands shared by us all. These people are thieves and they’re stealing from me, you and even the commentor to Loosle’s article. They’re making a profit at the expense of us ever gaining contextual knowledge which could help create a more complete understanding of our cutural heritages.

An Abnormal Interest in Gilgamesh

I’ve written about Gilgamesh and ancient Mesopotamia several times in the past, but my articles and posts are nothing near the original work that Duane is doing at Abnormal Interests in translating ancient texts.

I’m a frequent reader of his blog (but one of the worst, I’m afraid, since I rarely post comments) and I highly recommend reading his work if you have even a passing interest in the translations of ancient texts.

His latest post is a translation of The Letter of Gilgamesh. In the letter, Gilgamesh, the King of of Ur, citizen of Kullab, creation of Anu, Enlil and Ea, favorite of Shamash, and the beloved of Marduk, makes a “gentle” request ruler of another land: “send me a large portion of your wealth and come visit me. If I have to come to you, it won’t be pretty and I’ll not only take everything I want but pulverize your cities.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing. Here’s a quote:

I[f ]on the fiftieth day of Teshrit, I do not meet you in the gate of my city Ur, (then) I swear by the great gods, whose oath can not to be revoked, (and) I swear by my gods, Lugalbanda, Sin, Shamash, Palil, Lugalgirra and Meslamtaea, (that) I will send (35) to you Zamana, and the divine lord of my person (‘head,’ my personal god?), the aggressor(?), whose name you honor. He will pulverize your cities. Your [palac]es he will pillage (and) your orchards he will [plunder(?)].

You gotta love Gilgamesh! He was two-thirds god and one-third human, so his threats weren’t to be taken lightly!

One of the things that I found so compelling about the Gilgamesh story is the love and friendship he had with Enkidu. Thousands of years have passed since the story was written, and yet the emotion of loss still comes through loud and clear in a tale written in a language long since dead, forgotten then deciphered and translated thousands of years later.

Gilgamesh was clearly pressuring this ruler, and probably other rulers in the region, to align with him. The demonstration of their alignments and their commitments was a substantial sacrifice of their national wealth, but what they received in return was the protective umbrella of his Empire.

The Serpent Mound

We really don’t know for sure what most ancient, pre-literate cultures used many of their monumental constructions for. We’re reasonably sure about things like the pyramids of Egypt and the temples of Greece, but these examples of architecture were constructed during periods in which there was writing, so their builders discussed the significance of monumental architecture in their life times.

But what of Stonehenge? Nabta Playa? The Nazca Lines in Peru? We can make some guesses -some very educated guesses- but we still cannot be as certain of the use and purpose of these sites as we can of those mentioned in the previous paragraph.

The same holds true for the Serpent Mound in Locus Grove, Ohio, which was constructed by local Native Americans at around 1000 CE. Nor do we truly know the purposes of other earthworks in the Ohio Valley -were they fortifications; were they mortuary; were they cult centers; or some combination of these? While not as old as many of the mounds built by the Hopewell and Adena cultures (1000 BCE to about 700 CE), the Serpent mound is, perhaps, one of the most famous and popular of the earthworks in the Ohio Valley -maybe even the United States.

Interpretations of the Serpent Mound

Modern inhabitants of the region first surveyed the Serpent Mound in 1846 and was initially recognized as a serpent that appeared to be swallowing or ejecting an egg from its mouth.

Several decades later, Francis Parry offered a new interpretation which was analogous to symbols found in Southwest Native American cultures. He suggested that the oval was a “Sun” sign and the coil at the tail the “wind” sign. The wavy body in the middle was interpreted by Parry to be the “aboriginal cloud form.”

And, just so we can all rest assured that the cloud of ignorance perpetrated by modern fundamentalist Christians is nothing new, let me mention another interpretation of the Serpent Mound. Reverend Landon West of Pleasant Hill, OH suggested that the mound represented man’s fall from grace in which “Satan beguiled and tempted Eve” to taste of the forbidden fruit. Clearly, Landon thought, this was created by the hand of God directly or, at least, through one of his nutters.

More recently, rational analysis has yielded to a more rational interpretation. By comparing the mound with the anatomy and striking habits of real snakes, researchers now see the oval portion at the head of the snake as its mouth and the triangular-shaped portion behind the head as the neck, which is
“puffed out” by inflation in certain species when agitated. Native American cultures were careful observers of nature, to the point that I would characterize them as “scientists” of a sort -they observed the habits and behaviors of animals and the universe, making predictions and assumptions that held true when hunting, or just determining the seasons. It’s very likely that the snake was a totem figure and venerated by the culture that built the mound in the same way it was venerated and respected by cultures around the world. If one is to create a mound to honor a snake, then the logical course of action is to show it in the position of action: striking!

Incidentally, the Serpent Mound is situated on a ridge that is on the edge of a massive crater, probably created about 300 million years ago when a small asteroid impacted the region. Its very doubtful that the Native Americans that constructed the mound had any clue of this, but it is interesting that the head and the tail both are situated near cliff-faces of the ridge (there’s an overlook at each end). Though completely unaware of the asteroid impact, the mound’s builders may have, indeed, been aware of other details of astronomical significance, namely the summer and winter solstices. This is consistent with the level of knowledge and technology of other mound-building societies of the world, suggesting a need to have an accurate method of tracking and celebrating the seasons for agricultural purposes.

Because of this, I rather liked the interpretations that include an egg being consumed or ejected by the snake, since most societies rightly view the egg as a symbol of fertility and fertility is necessary for agricultural societies.

I was at the Serpent Mound just a two weeks ago and I have to say that the nearest town, Locust Grove, is aptly named. There were thousands of cicadas, close cousin to the locust, in the trees buzzing in unison and, occasionally, dropping down on the heads of unassuming passersby. Here’s one such cicada. Colorful little buggers.