science fiction


I am so used to thinking about radiation as dangerous and creepy, that this article comletely caught me off guard. How about you?

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-radioactive-animals-become-tools-pests-and-political-statements

How Radioactive Animals Become Tools, Pests and Political Statements

Far from Chernobyl, turtles, rabbits and cows make nuclear cleanups an educational mess.

In the late 1970s, a worker at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site nuclear reservation peered into a seepage basin and spotted a small, out-of-place turtle. Scooping it out of the nuclear waste, the worker toted his new charge to a nearby ecology lab, where he figured they’d know what to do with it.

As he walked in the lab door, a radioactivity counter began beeping. The lab technician tested the mud on the worker’s shoes, figuring he’d tracked in some of the site’s contaminated muck. When the shoes came up clear, the confused technician tested further. After a few more swipes, the culprit emerged: It was the turtle.

Though this was the first radioactive turtle found at the Savannah River Site, it was far from an anomaly—there or elsewhere. Across the world, such creatures scurry, swim and fly among us. Unlike popular representations might lead us believe, most of them lack grotesque deformities, special abilities, or weird proclivities for pizza. Instead, like that turtle, many of them are totally healthy and happy—living relatively normal lives and, unless we try to eat them, posing little direct threat to humans.

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Go there and read. It is fascinating. More next week.

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I usually post here on Wednesday. Imagine the probability of Earth Day occurring on the same day! So today I offer a more optimistic view of the world then mine. Think: Global Warming.

http://aeon.co/magazine/science/why-extinction-is-not-the-problem/

 

Rethinking extinction

by

The idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis

The way the public hears about conservation issues is nearly always in the mode of ‘[Beloved Animal] Threatened With Extinction’. That makes for electrifying headlines, but it misdirects concern. The loss of whole species is not the leading problem in conservation. The leading problem is the decline in wild animal populations, sometimes to a radical degree, often diminishing the health of whole ecosystems.

Viewing every conservation issue through the lens of extinction threat is simplistic and usually irrelevant. Worse, it introduces an emotional charge that makes the problem seem cosmic and overwhelming rather than local and solvable. It’s as if the entire field of human medicine were treated solely as a matter of death prevention. Every session with a doctor would begin: ‘Well, you’re dying. Let’s see if we can do anything to slow that down a little.’

Medicine is about health. So is conservation. And as with medicine, the trends for conservation in this century are looking bright. We are re-enriching some ecosystems we once depleted and slowing the depletion of others. Before I explain how we are doing that, let me spell out how exaggerated the focus on extinction has become and how it distorts the public perception of conservation.

Many now assume that we are in the midst of a human-caused ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. But we’re not. The five historic mass extinctions eliminated 70 per cent or more of all species in a relatively short time. That is not going on now. ‘If all currently threatened species were to go extinct in a few centuries and that rate continued,’ began a recent Nature magazine introduction to a survey of wildlife losses, ‘the sixth mass extinction could come in a couple of centuries or a few millennia.’

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Quick not: He favors Nuclear Power

Go there and read. More next week.

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I got my doubts that fusion will ever work. It is kinda like the God particle. If you do not build a machine big enough, you are never going to find it. The machine does not guarantee that you WILL find the god particle it just gives you a chance. The fusion machine is the same sort of thing. Will it work and will it supply excess power. Stay tuned.

http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2013/01/17/fusion-electricity-to-become-part-of-european-grid-by-2050/#.UPmy2WejInd

Fusion Electricity to Become Part of European Grid by 2050

By: on January 17, 2013

A road map that indicates how the energy of the stars , or fusion energy, can be added to the European grid by year 2050, was released by the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA).

Detaileded review of the current status of fusion research, identification of open issues and development of new programmes and research will be the most important factors leading to accomplishment of the goal.

Fusion energy has been long studied due to the fact that it is unlimited, safe and does not produce greenhouse gas emissions or radioactive waste. Current initiatives to produce fusion energy, however, have not been successful mainly because the amount of input energy has always been higher than the output.

In this respect, a new international experiment, ITER, is about to start operating in year 2020. It is funded by Europe and six other nations and it is expected to be the first project that will produce net surplus of fusion power.

Considering that China is already launching a programme that will supply fusion electricity by 2050, Europe will have to catch up by pursuing a pragmatic approach. According to Dr Francesco Romanelli, EFDA Leader, the road map indicates how this will happen at a reasonable cost

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Go there and read more. More later.

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I am 57 years old and it may all be down hill from here. Seriously. In humankind’s 100,000 year history we just threw a spear out of here. In terms of what we were promised – you know warp drive, aliens and foreign civilizations it is kind of drab; but in terms of goal posts, it is a huge leap. Some might even say a quantum leap. All I can say is WOW.

http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2012/10/more-evidence-that-voyager-has-exited-the-solar-system/

More evidence that Voyager has exited the solar system

Friday, October 5, 2012

A science blog with Eric Berger

Something very, very interesting is happening with Voyager 1, the human probe that’s the very farthest from Earth.

New data from the spacecraft, which I will discuss below, indicate Voyager 1 may have exited the solar system for good. If true, this would mark a truly historic moment for the human race — sending a spacecraft beyond the edge of our home solar system.

At last check, NASA scientists said they were not yet ready to officially declare that Voyager 1 had officially exited the solar system by crossing the heliopause.

To cross this boundary scientists say they would need to observe three things:

1. An increase in high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system

2. A drop in charged particles emanating from the sun.

3. A change in the direction of the magnetic field.

As I reported in June,  in regard to the first point, scientists have observed a sustained increase in galactic cosmic rays during recent months.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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Sometimes there are things that are just as important as energy distribution/consumption and the environment in general. Sometimes an event is so large that you have to at least acknowledge that it happened. Such was the case of the death of Princess Dianah or Hurricane Katrina. So it is with the landing of the Curiosity MARs Probe. It is nuclear powered and this blog does not care for that. It extends capitalism’s mythology that humans have unlimited capacity to expand, thus unlimited markets to exploit. Still there is so much to learn and so little time as our planet heats up. So while this is just a little text. It is so much more than that.

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/nasa-s-newest-mars-rover-slideshow/

  1. This image released on Tuesday Aug. 7,2012 by NASA shows the first color view of the north wall and rim of Gale Crater where NASA’s rover Curiosity landed Sunday night. The picture was taken by the rover’s camera at the end of its stowed robotic arm and appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera’s cover. (AP Photo/NASA)

  2. NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity snapped this picture of Mount Sharp with its front Hazard Avoidance camera, or Hazcam. The photo was released by NASA on Aug. 6, 2012.

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Go there and see all the pretty pictures. I know I did. More tomorrow.

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When I posted on the transit of Venus, I said that environmentalists are concerned about the environment and that does not end at the Earth’s atmosphere or the heliosphere of even our galaxy. Human’s track record ain’t great so far. We tend to just throw stuff out there because we can. We have fired rockets willy nilly at planets some of which landed successfully but will be on those planets forever. The ones that didn’t go so well are smashed all over the place. We trashed the moon and anyone flying by the Earth would just go EWWWWWW. Look at that mess. So now what is proposed – Mining and Manufacturing. Environmentally things we do just the bestest. This is not good. Double billing here. This guy:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/06/14/will-we-ever-live-on-the-moon/

wrote the op/ed piece here:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120613-will-we-ever-live-on-the-moon

This is not an attack on the writer by the way.

Will we ever… live on the Moon?

14 June 2012

by PHIL PLAIT

Will mankind once again walk on the lunar surface? I wouldn’t even hesitate to say “yes”, because the future is long, and who in the early 1950s would have dared to predict that we would even land a craft on the Moon within 20 years? But in this case, the answer probably isn’t as interesting as the question itself – more specifically, when, and why, and how will we do it?

I can think of many possible scenarios that could lead to us colonising the Moon: an extended economic boom that allows us to fund ambitious space exploration; a breakthrough in launch costs which makes them drastically cheaper; or the discovery of some vital natural resource on the Moon. But I don’t like betting on breakthroughs.

A better question is then: “What is a likely way we’ll end up with a human presence on the Moon?” Given what we know today and extrapolating from there, I have a thought on how this could happen.

Looking into the abyss

Before we talk about settling down on our rocky neighbour, we have to ask why we should head there in the first place.

Looking back on nearly 60 years of space exploration, the answer is obvious. Satellite communication. Weather prediction. Understanding of climate change. Instantaneous broadcasting of radio and television. Global positioning technology. Detailed mapping of the Earth. Environmental monitoring. Government intelligence gathering (which has prevented far more conflict than people credit it for). Disaster warning.

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Go there and read. More next week.

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The first time we got hit by one of these bad boys that we know of in the 1870s, the telegraph operators here in the US had to disconnect their batteries to prevent the batteries from catching fire. Yet the telegraph system still worked without their power. But for the major utility companies (eg. telecoms, electrical, water, natural gas etc.) this is a big deal and that is what we have been talking about here.

http://news.yahoo.com/earth-braces-biggest-space-storm-five-years-180341589.html

A pair of scorching explosions on the Sun’s surface is sparking the biggest radiation and geomagnetic storm the Earth has experienced in five years, space weather experts said Wednesday.

The full brunt of the storm is expected to hit Earth early Thursday US time and last through Friday, potentially disrupting power grids, GPS systems, satellites, and forcing airplanes to change their routes around the polar regions.

“Space weather has gotten very interesting over the past 24 hours,” said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The fuss began late Sunday at an active region on the Sun known as 1429, with a big solar flare that was associated with a burst of solar wind and plasma known as a coronal mass ejection that hurtled in Earth’s direction at some four million miles per hour (6.4 million kilometers per hour).

Another solar flare and CME followed at 0024 GMT on March 7, setting off a strong geomagnetic and solar radiation storm, both at level three on a five-step scale.

NASA said the second flare — classified in the potent X class — was one of the largest of this cycle known as the solar minimum which began in early 2007, and fell in just behind slightly stronger one which erupted in August.

“The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun’s normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013,” the US space agency said.

The solar flares alone caused brief high frequency radio blackouts that have now passed, according to NOAA.

But the ensuing space storm will likely give nighttime viewers in Central Asia a prime look at the aurora borealis, or northern lights, on Thursday night, in addition to possibly garbling some of Earthlings’ most prized gadgets, Kunches said.

The storm is likely “the strongest one since December 2006,” Kunches said, noting, however, that the Earth experienced a stronger radio blackout last August.

“But en masse, if you put it all together with the geomagnetic effects and the solar radiation effects, I would put it on par with one at the end of the last solar cycle which was over five years ago.”

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Go there and read. Google for additional solar flare information. More tomorrow.

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I subscribe to New Energy Times and I have talked to people about fusion before. I even met a gentleman on a train whose dad is working on the joint Spanish-French very hot plasma fusion project and we talked quite a bit about it. I have always had huge doubts about either cold or hot fusion because the cold versions have been obvious frauds and the hot versions are extremely expensive and dangerous. Still this is interesting and time will tell.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markgibbs/2011/10/30/believing-in-cold-fusion-and-the-e-cat/

Mark Gibbs

Mark Gibbs, Contributor

Tech|
10/30/2011 @ 3:18PM |55,722 views

Believing in Cold Fusion and the E-Cat

As I discussed in that posting, an inventor by the name of Andrea Rossi has developed what he claims to be a simple system for generating what would be, essentially, endless and incredibly cheap energy.

On October 28th the biggest test of Rossi’s system, which is called the E-Cat, was conducted in Italy and some results were made public which I’ll discuss in a moment.

Before that I do, let me give you a quick refresh: The E-Cat, which is short for “Energy Catalyzer”, is claimed to produce a “Low Energy Nuclear Reaction” or LENR. LENR is another name for “cold fusion” or CF (LENR is considered a more acceptable term than CF which was discredited after two world-class researchers, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, announced that they had a working cold fusion system but which, alas, no one could duplicate).

Allow me to digress for a moment to ask all of you who sent me messages in tones ranging from polite through to downright rude asserting that cold fusion has actually been successfully duplicated: If an experiment that demonstrates cold fusion has really been replicated in the real world by real scientists then why would the scientific community ignore something so profound? Everyone agrees that cold fusion would be a game changer and in itself would be a hugely important scientific discovery so why would anyone in the scientific community ignore an important,  successful, and replicable experiment?

Rossi’s E-Cat is claimed to use a secret catalyst to react hydrogen with nickel and, in the process, transmute the nickel into copper producing considerable heat. Whether this reaction works or not and if it does, exactly how it works, has been enormously contentious and the subject of numerous learned and amateur debates

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I skipped his humorous lead and you can go to the site to read the rest. Point is no one knows right now but remember Ponzi was from Italy too. More tomorrow.

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http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2009/02/energy_generation_small_is_bea.html

Energy generation: small is beautiful

t’s difficult to get your head around the sheer massive size of nuclear reactors. The things are absolutely huge. Just to give you a flavour, in Flamanville, France, where EDF are building a ‘state of the art’ EPR reactor, the roads aren’t wide enough to transport the large reactor components to the construction site.

People sometimes forget that nuclear reactors are just kettles. Great big kettles. The hot nuclear fuel inside the reactor boils water which turns into steam which turns the turbines which generate electricity. Those turbines, as you can imagine, are also huge.

Being so large and heavy, they can’t be transported in any conventional way. Often they’re shipped on giant barges. They’re shipped very slowly and very carefully. Sometimes not slowly and carefully enough. You know where two $10-million 107-tonne turbines destined for the Canada’s Point Lepreau nuclear power station found themselves last October? Spending five days on the bottom of Saint John Harbour.

And that’s another of the major problems with nuclear power and why a so-called nuclear ‘renaissance’ will be impossible to achieve: the nuclear industry has no economies of scale. You cannot increase production of nuclear power stations anywhere near quickly enough to fulfil the promises made by the industry and save us from the worst of global climate change.

Wind turbines and solar energy couldn’t be more different. You can build a working wind turbine in two weeks. The renewable energy industry is a hugely scaleable one. Smaller and more readily available components make it far, far easier to expand production. Want a hundred kilometres of solar cells produced in a day? Mass-produced printable solar cells are already being trialled. The renewable energy technologies are ever improving.

The components of nuclear reactors are too large and complex to mass produce or produce quickly in the same way. Japan Steel Works, the only company in the world currently making specialised steel containers for reactor cores, already has a three year backlog. All those countries boasting of building new reactors in the near future are going to have to join a very slow-moving queue.

 

Posted by Justin on February 20, 2009 3:03 PM | Permalink

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More tomorrow

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I typed in “best way to avert a nuclear disaster” thinking that I might get a joke or something other then Japan’s smoking nukes. I was wrong but this guy is pretty insightful.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article26916.html

Nuclear Power Industry Praying Japan Will Avert a Nuclear Disaster

Stock-Markets / Nuclear Power Mar 14, 2011 – 10:59 AM

By: Martin_D_Weiss

Explosions and meltdowns at nuclear reactors in Japan this past weekend will forever change the world of energy.

Authorities have already scheduled widespread power outages starting today — and they could continue the planned outages for weeks or even months.

Nuclear power plant explosion in Fukushima, Japan, on Saturday, following that nation's strongest earthquake in history.
Nuclear power plant explosion in Fukushima, Japan, on Saturday, following that nation’s strongest earthquake in history.

But that’s just a metaphor for the sustained global energy shortages that are likely, as the safety and long-term viability of nuclear power comes under more intense scrutiny than at any time in history.

How do we know that’s the likely outcome?

Because prior nuclear disasters, such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, had a major long-term impact on nuclear plant construction.

Moreover, those two disasters were ultimately written off to antiquated facilities or poor safety precautions. In contrast, the Japanese nuclear industry prides itself on safety, and the plants struck by the earthquake had far better staff training and equipment, including multiple back-up systems, all of which failed.

Some nuclear experts will counter that newer and safer technologies now exist or can be developed. But given the history of similar promises in the past, those are bound to fall on deaf ears.

The public will now ask …

Is there a fundamental incompatibility between the potential dangers of nuclear energy and the unpredictable wrath of Mother Nature?

That question defies any quick answer and could take years to resolve. Until then, further growth in nuclear power production could be drastically reduced, with potentially far-reaching consequences:

  • Chronic global energy shortages, especially in countries that were counting on new nuclear energy for a large portion of their electric power.
  • Massive, long-term upward pressure on crude oil prices as producers, consumers, and investors upwardly revise their forecasts of fossil fuel demand.
  • Vast sums of investor money diverted from nuclear power plant construction to other alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, and bio-fuels.

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Still battling viruses. So hopefully more tomorrow.

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