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<   No. 2052   2008-09-08   >

Comic #2052

1 Prof. Jones: So what do you think Junior wants us to do with the Palladium?
1 Minnesota Jones: It's obvious, isn't it?
2 Minnesota Jones: He threw it to us so we could take it straight to a museum. He can look after himself.
3 Prof. Jones: Oh, right. Yes. Break off the chase and let's head to London. Paris obviously isn't safe from the Nazis.
4 {scene change: The back of the truck. The motorcycle is breaking pursuit and veering off.}
4 Monty: Where are they going??!

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Palladium, besides being a statue of the goddess Pallas Athena, is also the name of a metal. This gleaming silvery metal was discovered by William Wollaston, an English chemist and physicist, who also discovered the metal rhodium, and developed an important new method for refining platinum.

Wollaston also invented what has become known as the Wollaston prism, an optical device for separating the two different polarisations of a beam of light. Wollaston's interests ranged far and wide; he was a qualified medical doctor, and contributed important discoveries and inventions in the fields of chemistry, electricity, optics, spectroscopy, metallurgy, crystallography, botany, physiology, and astronomy. Almost the only science he didn't do any significant work in was geology.

Which is ironic because of two things: Firstly, the mineral wollastonite is named in his honour. Secondly, he endowed a prize in geology, which has since become the most prestigious prize in the field, regarded by geologists as essentially equivalent to a "Nobel Prize for Geology" (of which there is none, geology being a field that Alfred Nobel overlooked): The Wollaston Medal.

The Wollaston Medal itself is traditionally struck in palladium, the metal Wollaston discovered. Palladium is rare enough that in some years the Royal Geological Society has been unable to source enough of it to strike the medal. When this happens, they resort to using the second-rate alternative: gold. The Wollaston Medal is the only prize in the world to be struck in palladium.

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