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Over Easy: Monday Science

8:09 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle

Hi! I’m Chaos and I’ll be Boxturtles typo generator today!

Happy Memorial Day to all!

Fukushima Update:

50% Jump in thyroid cancers in Fukushima children. Yet it is still “difficult to determine that a causal link existed between the children’s cancers and the triple meltdown at the nuclear plant.

They have began dumping groundwater into the Ocean, rather than storing it. It is hot water, but they intercept it before it hits the plant site. The radioactivity comes from whatever was spewed about, not the cores. So in theory, it’s what is reaching the ocean from other places anyway.

Even so, their “ice wall” plan to contain the really hot groundwater is hitting objections.  If you build a wall to hold water, the dirt inside the wall will keep getting muddier and eventually your foundations may shift. Or it will simply become saturated and the water will flow over the surface about the wall.

Scary reports from early on in the disaster. There were fears that the #3 RPV would simply break prior to the different explosion. And 90% of the workers ran away when it was felt that the #2 RPV was breached.  Makes the actions of the unnamed Fukushima 50  that much more heroic.

WIPP Update:

It is revealed that WEAPONS GRADE plutonium is stored there!  Further, the cat litter was a nasty trick to break another rule. WIPP is not allowed to accept liquid waste, so the kitty litter was used to turn it into solid waste.

Remember last week when I guessed that probably 50 or so drums were time bombs? Well, the actual number is over 500! And not all are “safely” at WIPP. We spend billions trying to stop terrorists from making dirty bombs, yet we are unable to deal with the ones we made ourselves.

WIPP may have to be closed permanently. It’s an open question if the bombs can even be disarmed, never mind safely.

Calls for more oversight. Yeah, right. If you’ve been following, you are aware of some of the tricks used to avoid the existing regulations. H/T to Bgrothus.

We spotted a supernova! These give us all kinds of information, and this one was a big one.

Boxturtle (Running really late today due to holiday, so this will have to do)


Over Easy: Monday Science

7:50 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle



Lightning! And other science bits.

Fishing is still restricted off Fukushima. Notice that the radiation levels are NOT going down? Also, radioactive black crud found 100km SOUTH of Fukushima. They think it’s a fungus that likes radiation and concentrates radio-actives. Tokyo is 240km south of Fukushima, for reference.

There is a thriving bacteria community at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. As a thought exercise, explain why there cannot be life in Jupiter’s atmosphere, given that we’ve found bacteria that can individually tolerate all the conditions? We’d just need to find one that could tolerate ALL of them.

Here’s one that lives by geological heat.

Well, they’re finally officially calling it the Higgs. Well, A Higgs, at least.

An obvious consequence to mindless budget cuts: Brain Drain.

Good News: Though the vote was 9-8, Oklahoma kills a bill described as “anti-science.”

100Mw solar plant now online…in UAE!!! I’d guess their plan is to generate their needs via solar and export oil.

As a resident of the Land of the Crazy Winds, this does not make me feel good.

The Swift telescope discovers the youngest known supernova remnant in our galaxy, at something under 3000 years. 3000 years is NOTHING on the cosmic timescale.

I promised some interesting things on lightening. It shoots antimatter into space. And it may well be the cause of your headaches. It may tell us thundercloud height from space. This would enable more accurate weather forecasts. We’re making progress shielding solar arrays from it’s effects. And it just plain looks cool.

It’s no longer a fantasy that we could bring back extinct species. My bet is the Mammoth will be the first. We have the best DNA, a suitable surrogate in the elephant, and mammoths are cool looking and basically harmless to humans. National Geographic asks if that’s a good idea.

Evidence of water on Mars in massive amounts. As for life, the evidence gets stronger than it could be.

Lake Vostok life discovery questioned. I warned about contamination when I posted the first report.

This is bad. It’s spreading person to person, though slowly. 50% mortality rate so far.

Major solar blast cause of tree ring Anomaly? If so, it was about 70 times as powerful as the blast that took out Quebec in 1989. And only about 1300 years ago.

World’s cutest squid?

Boxturtle (I enjoyed this slideshow and music)

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Over Easy: Monday Science

7:50 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle


You were expecting little green men?


Two weeks ago, I warned you about giant flying carnivorous squid. This week I warn you of the stinkbug invasion.  It seems the best plan for dealing with this a wasp that parasitizes stinkbug eggs.

Is it possible that wild bees are better pollinators than domesticated bees? Beekeepers, please comment!

Black holes are cool. This one is spinning about 84% of the speed of light.  

Aw, crap. Still, operations are proceeding one the backup and it seems likely to me they’ll be able to recover the failed computer. I was going to put a line here about how harsh the radiation environment on Mars was, but I encountered this that I missed first time. Mars ain’t as bad as I thought. And I learned something today.

It appears as though economic reality is finally catching up with fission power. This would have happened earlier, if our government hadn’t assumed significant risks for the nuke plants. Insurance costs alone would have killed the idea. How do you insure the cost of evacuating Cleveland?

Remember those six leaking tanks at Hanford? That may be up to 76 tanks, but the rest are thought secure.  And of course we believe them.

One top of that, we have this. Illness caused by wind farms. The condition is not without controversy. Wind power is still one of the best options we have. And it’s possible that large ones could reduce hurricane impact. But if they can have that kind of impact, what natural processes driven by the wind will we foul up?

Another step forward for superconductors.  Unlike the stuff I mentioned last week, this stuff is actually usable. As with most science, there are ways metamaterials can be abused. However, such a sensor could be a peeping tom or it could detect plastic land mines without digging.

This could be creepy or exciting. We connected the brains of rats so that teaching one caused the other to learn the same information.

This could be big. The first functional cure for HIV in an infant.

This IS big. The UK is investing about 88 Mlb in a telescope as big as all the rest of ‘em put together.

Boxturtle (Darn wordpress ate my first attempt! *GROWL*)

Over Easy: Monday Science

7:50 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle

Hi! The name is Flip

You learned language from me! Except Brooklyn, I cannot explain Brooklyn


Multijunction solar cells take a step forward. Basic idea is to build a sandwich where each layer absorbs one band, while letting the others pass through. This is a step forward toward  predicting available sunlight. One of Solar’s rarely mentioned flaws is the inability to say how much they’re be generating in the near future. Generation MUST match desired load. And another step towards bringing the cost down

I’m not generally a fan of coal for energy. Clean coal seems largely a myth at this point, and even if we could do it we’d still have to deal with the CO2. Ohio state has come with with a generator that uses coal, doesn’t actually burn it, and traps the CO2. No word yet on what we’d do with the trapped Co2. The idea about using salt caverns (WARNING: 2M pdf) seems to have flaws.

It’s important to continue looking for non-nuclear alternatives. Hanford is where we’ve been tossing stuff, and now 6 old tanks are leaking. There are many more tanks of about the same age, but I’m sure they’re fine. Fukushima  was worse than thought, earlier on than thought. Radiation of that magnitude before venting means fuel rods were breached that early.

Yet some folks continue to promote nuclear fission, conveniently glossing over the issue of waste.

I remain neutral on the concept of fusion energy. It’s costly, generates radioactive waste though not nearly in the quantities or degree of nastiness that fission does. That said, I agree we should continue to investigate the pellet approch.

Mercury is certainly turning interesting. When I was a kid, it was described in the same terms you’d use to describe a cinder. Now we have water, ICE even. And a magnetic field . Oh, and the young earth folks consider Mercury’s magnetic field support for their theory. Exercise for the reader: take this apart in the comments.

Man to Mars at this stage is not a good idea, but I doubt this will get off the ground.

The colossal squid is the largest known squid. Now we’re going looking for it in the wild. This squid hunts the entire water column, and likes toothfish. Toothfish are roughly the size and shape of a swimming human, so it’s good these are only found around Antarcticia.

Having learned that there are wordsmiths and linguists here, consider that our language may have evolved from birdsong. Or maybe it was beer.

When I was a kid, superconductivity was only possible near absolute zero. Top temprature is now 35c! Your computer will likely have heatstroke before then. Now, this material is not suitable for anything other than lab work being strongly hygroscopic. Which means it becomes worthless quickly just from the water in dry air.

Is there a 5th force?

Boxturtle (If a quark can be split, many bets will have to be paid)


Over Easy: Monday Science

7:50 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle


What is hiding under the ice?


In the search for life elsewhere in the solar system, scientists are settling on Europa as the most likely location . The next mission to arrive in that area is Juno in 2016, but it’s not really there to study Europa so anything we get is going to be incidental.The European space agency is planning a launch in 2022 for a mission to Europa that would study sites for a landing.  NASA scientists also have a probe planned, The Clipper Mission, but funding is uncertain and not in the current budget.

This makes the research into the sub-glacial antarctic lakes even more interesting. Still waiting for a confirmation that the Lake Vostok sample is good, since there is concern that the Russian technique could have contaminated the sample. Until we can figure a way to successfully sample here, we should probably hold off landing on Europa.

In Florida, hundreds of hunters netted just 68 pythons.  That’s about one hatching from one snake. Florida swamp hunters are clever people, they’ll figure out the best way to hunt these things. But it may well be that we acted too late and the snake is not even controllable. Which means that they’ll spread until they eat everything, the population will crash, and a new equilibrium is established.

I missed this first time around. It seems that the Zebra Mussel invasion in the Great Lakes has enabled another type of mussel to invade deeper waters and do basically the same thing.  I think we’re gonna have to accept a mixed ecosystem in this day of globe trotting and come up with ways to support local habitats in spite of that. And accept the fact we’re gonna lose a few species. This is the safest method we have of controlling Zebra mussels so far.

On the subject of invasive species, how about predatory flying jumbo squid invading California waters?   The Humboldt squid is one of the few squids confirmed to have attacked (and eaten!) humans.

Iron based catalyst for fuel cells. Right now, we use expensive platinum. Could drop the price of fuel cells to the point where they’d be usable in some forms of transportation, though I think they’ll still be too large for cars.

We’ve wondered for awhile what produced high energy cosmic rays. The Fermi observatory has produced evidence strongly supporting the idea tha supernova remnants are the source of at least some.

Fukushima hasn’t really changed, but here’s an update on Chernobyl. Almost 30 years later, we’re seeing a recovery. But still some problems.

What could possibly go wrong?

Boxturtle (Happy Valentines day!)


Over Easy: Monday Science – Special End of the World Edition!

7:47 am in Uncategorized by BoxTurtle

FOOLS! I will destroy you all!


I trust all of us are prepared for the upcoming End Of The World? Yay! I don’t have to Xmas shop this year!

It’s  not the first time people have predicted the end of the world!   Impressive list, which Wiki says is not exhaustive!

Washington was worried that the first nuclear test would ignite the atmosphere. That was actually dis-proven BEFORE Washington even knew about it.

A doomsday bomb is actually possible. And once a country has successfully tested a two stage device, it has the knowledge to make a bomb with as many stages as it wishes. Three stages gets you to 100mt, but the Soviet’s 50mt test used lead rather than U238 in the tamper, cutting the yield in half and enabling the drop plane to get clear of the blast.

The Large Hadron Collider was also predicted to destroy the world.  Someone actually filed a lawsuit against it. If it had really been a world ending threat, the judge said

And even if he had established a credible threat of harm, the judge noted that the U.S. has no control over the operation of the LHC, which is owned, managed and controller entirely by CERN. “The U.S. government enjoys only observer status on the CERN council, and has no control over CERN or its operations,” the judge wrote. “Accordingly, the alleged injury, destruction of the Earth, is in no way attributable to the U.S. government’s failure to draft an environmental impact statement.”

I feel safer.

Halley’s comet was predicted to wipe us out in 1910. Not by impact, but by the cyanide detected in the tail. We actually passed through the tail. Nobody died.

We could get a magnitude 10 quake. With a Tsunami to match.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have any actual potential end of the world scenarios. None of them are killing us yet, but alarms are already ringing.

Here’s a map of radiation levels around Fuku. You may need to use google translate. Notice the large area with no data south and west of the reactors? Not sayin’ nuthin, just sayin. Remember, they’ve paved over ocean bottom to prevent radiation spread? That was a year ago and they’re still leaking radioactive water. And they’re running out of places to put the radioactive water they’ve managed to store. Still, the good news is that TEPCO has moved up the start date for emptying SPF#4 to November, 2013 and they think they’ll finish in Dec 2014. I think they’re assuming those fuel rods are in better shape than I think they are. They are also very optimistic about earthquakes.

GMO corn cannot be regarded as safe, says one disputed study. Industry is hitting back at it, but remember the results haven’t yet been reproduced. Still, interesting.

Britan’s official position: Might as well put GMO in the stores since it’s really already there.

The arctic is melting faster than thought. Really good article, with some maps. Greenland ice sheet melting broke records this year. This is really bad, as that Ice sheet will raise sea levels where the arctic ice cap won’t. And get this: Antarctic melting hasn’t contributed as much as we thought to sea level rise. So we still have that to look forward to.

And don’t forget, in the name of science we’ve genetically engineered bird flu to make it air contagious amongst humans. It even scared the scientists working on it. Genetic engineering is complicated, but enough has been published that anybody already doing genetic engineering could do this.

Survival Stew:

Large can Tunafish

Can of Hershey’s syrup.

Can of sauerkraut.

Can of Fruit cocktail.

Can of green beans.

Mix, eat survive. Supposedly a recipe from the US Navy Survival school Coronado, Calif. Can anybody confirm or refute?

Twinkies are dead, but pot is legal. It’s  the apocalypse, I tell you!

Boxturtle (The best we can hope for is to be eaten first)