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  • feedwordpress 09:01:29 on 2019/01/28 Permalink
    Tags: atomic, , , nuclear power, , occupational health, , ,   

    “Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”*… 


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    Stalking Chernobyl

    In recent years, the Zone, a highly restricted area in northern Ukraine that surrounds the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, has become a tourist hotspot. Each morning, tour buses queue at the entry checkpoint where a souvenir shop plastered with nuclear warning symbols peddles neon keyrings and radiation suits. The guides’ t-shirts read: “Follow me and you will survive”. In fact, the dangers are minimal. Along their tightly demarcated routes, these visitors will be exposed to less radiation than during a routine x-ray.

    Existing in the shadows of this highly commodified industry is the secretive subculture of the “stalkers”: mostly young Ukrainian men who sneak into the Zone illegally to explore the vast wilderness on their own terms. The name originates from the 1972 Russian science fiction novel Roadside Picnic. Written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, it tells the story of contaminated “zones” created on Earth by aliens, in which rogue stalkers roam, hoping to recover valuable alien technology. The book inspired Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 cult-classic film Stalker.

    Beyond youthful rebellion, the motivations of the modern stalkers are complex, and speak to the national trauma that resulted from a tragedy whose effects will be felt for generations. And now there is another side to the practice. Enterprising stalkers have started offering their own “illegal tours” to travellers seeking a less restricted (and therefore more dangerous) experience of the Exclusion Zone. I joined one such tour in an effort to discover why visitors might chose a stalker over an official guide. Can a subculture that is so tied to deep wells of personal and national loss really offer something of value to an outsider?…

    Accompany Aram Balakjian on a beautifully-photographed expedition through the forbidden area: “Into the Zone: 4 days inside Chernobyl’s secretive ‘stalker’ culture.”

    * Uzbek proverb

    ###

    As we take the tour, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000, via an announcement by then Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, and after decades of denial, that a U.S. government study conceded that cancer and premature deaths of workers at 14 nuclear weapons plants since WW II were caused by radiation and chemicals.

    nuke source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:37 on 2018/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , Enrico Fermi, , nuclear power, , , quantum computing, , ,   

    “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”*… 


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    quantum computing

    Quantum computing is all the rage. It seems like hardly a day goes by without some news outlet describing the extraordinary things this technology promises. Most commentators forget, or just gloss over, the fact that people have been working on quantum computing for decades—and without any practical results to show for it.

    We’ve been told that quantum computers could “provide breakthroughs in many disciplines, including materials and drug discovery, the optimization of complex manmade systems, and artificial intelligence.” We’ve been assured that quantum computers will “forever alter our economic, industrial, academic, and societal landscape.” We’ve even been told that “the encryption that protects the world’s most sensitive data may soon be broken” by quantum computers. It has gotten to the point where many researchers in various fields of physics feel obliged to justify whatever work they are doing by claiming that it has some relevance to quantum computing.

    Meanwhile, government research agencies, academic departments (many of them funded by government agencies), and corporate laboratories are spending billions of dollars a year developing quantum computers. On Wall Street, Morgan Stanley and other financial giants expect quantum computing to mature soon and are keen to figure out how this technology can help them.

    It’s become something of a self-perpetuating arms race, with many organizations seemingly staying in the race if only to avoid being left behind. Some of the world’s top technical talent, at places like Google, IBM, and Microsoft, are working hard, and with lavish resources in state-of-the-art laboratories, to realize their vision of a quantum-computing future.

    In light of all this, it’s natural to wonder: When will useful quantum computers be constructed? The most optimistic experts estimate it will take 5 to 10 years. More cautious ones predict 20 to 30 years. (Similar predictions have been voiced, by the way, for the last 20 years.) I belong to a tiny minority that answers, “Not in the foreseeable future.” Having spent decades conducting research in quantum and condensed-matter physics, I’ve developed my very pessimistic view. It’s based on an understanding of the gargantuan technical challenges that would have to be overcome to ever make quantum computing work…

    Michel Dyakonov makes “The Case Against Quantum Computing.”

    * Albert Einstein

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    As we feel the need for speed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation.

    “…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
    – Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

    Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society)

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    Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:23 on 2017/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , images, nuclear power, , , the picturesque,   

    “If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is reality worth?”*… 


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    It is tempting to believe that we live in a time uniquely saturated with images. And indeed, the numbers are staggering: Instagrammers upload about 95 million photos and videos every day. A quarter of Americans use the app, and the vast majority of them are under 40. Because Instagram skews so much younger than Facebook or Twitter, it is where “tastemakers” and “influencers” now live online, and where their audiences spend hours each day making and absorbing visual content. But so much of what seems bleeding edge may well be old hat; the trends, behaviors, and modes of perception and living that so many op-ed columnists and TED-talk gurus attribute to smartphones and other technological advances are rooted in the much older aesthetic of the picturesque.

    Wealthy eighteenth-century English travelers… used technology to mediate and pictorialize their experiences of nature just as Instagrammers today hold up their phones and deliberate over filters…

    The pre-history of “influencers” and their images: “The Instagrammable Charm of the Bourgeoisie.”

    * Marty Rubin

    ###

    As we watch what’s old become new again, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation.

    “…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
    – Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

    Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society)

    source

    Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:20 on 2016/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , nuclear accident, nuclear power, , rats, , ,   

    “Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it”*… 


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    The limbic system is the center for pleasure and addiction in the rodent nervous system. In a controlled study on adolescent rats, scientists sought to determine whether or not the levels of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, could be maintained in this region over prolonged social media use. With a series of topical content posts, evergreen posts, and meme dissemination, scientists were able to gauge whether or not the “thrill” derived from getting likes, favorites, or retweets was sustainable over a finite period of time…

    Rats that only ever received 20-30 likes after sharing a “well-rounded” think piece would enjoy an extremely high level of dopamine if they broke 50 likes on an unexpected political rant declaring that “Trump had finally gone too far.” But, when the same rat racked up similar numbers by acknowledging that his news feed was a “political echo chamber,” activity in this region of the brain slowed down once again…

    In short, social media does not prove to be a sustainable source of cognitive reward…

    Read the all-too-painfully-relevant “results” in full at Adam Rotstein‘s “Regulation of Dopamine During Social Media Use in Adolescent Rats.”

    * Clay Shirky

    ###

    As we burst bubbles, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that the nuclear generating facility at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, was (finally) shut down.  14 years earlier, it had been the site of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history (in terms of cost and casualties), one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.  On April 26, 1986, Reactor #4 exploded, creating massive damage in site and releasing 9 days of radioactive plumes that spread over Europe and the USSR.  Two were killed in the explosion; 29 died in the immediate aftermath (of acute radiation poisoning).  The remains of Reactor #4 were enclosed in a massive “sarcophagus,” and the other three reactors were returned to service.  One by one, they failed.  The decommissioning held on this date in 2000 was ceremonial.  Reactor #3, the last one standing, had in fact been shut down the previous week because of technical problems. It was restarted– unattached to the national grid and at minimum power output– so that the world would be able to see it symbolically switched off.

    The hole where Reactor #4 stood before the accident

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:04 on 2016/05/04 Permalink
    Tags: A.W. Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory, D. Allan Bromley, expensive, , Hinkley Point, nuclear power, ,   

    “Fortune’s expensive smile is earned”*… 


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    “Hinkley [the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, UK] is set to be the most expensive object on Earth… best guesses say Hinkley could pass £24bn ($35bn),” said the environmental charity Greenpeace last month as it launched a petition against the project.

    This figure includes an estimate for paying interest on borrowed money, but the financing arrangements for Hinkley C are so opaque that it is impossible to calculate exactly what the final cost will be.

    Even if you stick with the expense of construction alone, though, the price is still high – the main contractor, EDF, puts it at £18bn ($26bn).

    For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas – the world’s tallest building, in Dubai, cost a piffling £1bn ($1.5bn). You could also knock up more than 70 miles of particle accelerator. The 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, cost a mere £4bn ($5.8bn).

    The most expensive bridge ever constructed is the eastern replacement span of the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years. That cost about £4.5bn ($6.5bn)…

    More jaw-dropping comparisons (and an explanation of the cost) at “What is the most expensive object on Earth?”  Even more background at “Should the UK pull plug on Hinkley Point nuclear power station?” (from whence, the photo above).

    * Emily Dickinson

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    As we duck and cover, we might send birthday greetings that glow in the dark to David Allan Bromley; he was born on this date in 1926.  A winner of the National Medal of Science, Bromley is considered the “father of modern heavy ion science.”  He had a distinguished career in academia (retiring as the first Sterling Professor of Science at Yale) and in government (first at Atomic Energy of Canada, then as Science Advisor to two U.S. presidents).  Among his many achievements, he is probably best remembered as the founder and first head of Yale’s A.W. Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory, which has produced more experimental nuclear physicists than any other facility.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:03 on 2015/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: , chain reaction, , energy, , first nuclear reactor, nuclear power, predictions, Shippingport, ,   

    “Sure, everything is ending… but not yet.”*… 


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    From 365 CE to 10100 years from now, apocalyptic predictions and who made them: the interactive “Timeline of When the World Ended.”

    * Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

    ###

    As we sharpen a Sense of the The Ending, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation.

    “…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
    – Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

    Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society)

    source

    Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

     source

     

     
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