It's also useful for understanding how & why artefacts decay -- how they meet their end. I'm excited now to be tossing my hat in the ring.
I had asked a question about aluminum cans rotting at the beach.
I wanted to learn just what makes a soda can break down like the ones I had collected, and how long it really takes. It turns out, there are actually some really interesting experiments with how to corrode aluminum cans. But nothing that I found showed the natural effects of beach and ocean and salt.
So I decided to do an experiment of my own. From what I had learned, it seemed a can doesn't rot just because of seawater -- it also needs iron nearby to help it corrode. This seemed a good place to start my test. I would run a controlled experiment -- I'd put two cans in two buckets of seawater. One bucket would have iron nails in it, the other wouldn't.
This morning I grabbed an empty 5-gallon bucket from our condo's basement, went to Ocean Park, and filled it up in the ocean. I stopped at Hannaford's and picked up a 12-pack of ginger ale, then headed home. Cut the tops off of two milk jugs, emptied two of the cans (but left them unwashed to better simulate a can tossed out at the beach), and grabbed a handful of nails from the toolbox.
At 9:15AM, 5/25/2010, I filled each milk jug up with 2 1/2 quarts of the seawater, dumped the nails into one of the jugs, and put one can in each jug.
Lastly, I put a little clingwrap lightly over each jug to slow evaporation but still allow oxygen from the air to get in, and set the jugs off in a corner.
The next step is simple -- just wait and see what happens. Maybe nothing, maybe an answer. Stay tuned!