Tag Archives: Nuclear

Winning Science July 11, 2014

Almost 30 years ago, the #4 reactor at Chernobyl suffered a meltdown and managed to spread radioactive contamination all over the surrounding area. While this was a serious environmental disaster, it has allowed scientists to perform scientific tests and observe phenomena that they would not have otherwise been able to look at. An international team of scientists has recently been testing the effects of radiation on the decay of forest debris, like leaves and dead tree branches. While this may not seem very exciting, it is interesting because what they are really looking at is the effects of radiation on microbial lifeforms, those that break down dead materials and return their nutrients to the earth. Unsurprisingly, the higher the level of radiation, the lower the level of decomposition, which means the fewer microbes present. This ultimately means that less dead material is being broken down into nutrients which can support new and healthy growth.

Chernobyl's #4 reactor after the steam explosion and meltdown.

Chernobyl’s #4 reactor after the steam explosion and meltdown.

What effect this will have on the ecosystem as a whole is not yet known, but I’m sure it can’t be good.

We all know that cell phones have become a major part of our daily lives, but would you be willing to give up your life for that phone? Well unfortunately, that is growing phenomenon across the globe. The number of people who have died as a result of attempting to rescue their phone, as well as those who have been murdered because they were unwilling to part with their phone has been on the rise the last few years. One theory, which I can understand, if only to a limited extent, is that because the phone is such a part of our lives we become anxious or feel isolated without it and we make impulsive decisions in order to get it back, sometimes endangering our well-being.

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I like it, but I’m not dying for it.

I like my phone, but I am not diving into traffic for it. In fact, I’d probably ask someone to take pictures of the wreckage for me.

This week the all powerful wizard known as the TSA has decreed that passengers may not be allowed to board flights if they can’t power up their electronics. On the surface this seems like the most idiotic example of the TSA flexing it’s regulatory muscle just because it can. Honestly, who cares if I can turn my cell phone on. All I want to do is get home. While this may be a pain, several security experts, including one who ran Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, say that based on recent intelligence this is actually a very prudent thing to do. For one, this rule does not apply to all flights, just those coming from select international airports. The TSA has not released the names of the airports in question in an effort to prevent terrorists from bypassing those airports, though one can guess at a number of countries that have airports on that list.

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Of course there is a risk that if the battery of a device was swapped out for an explosive, turning on the device could be the method of detonation.

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Winning Science August 28, 2013

This is my favorite kind of science. I love it when stuff is smashed, broken, blown up or otherwise destroyed. This NASA drop test was performed locally at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.  Dropped from a height of 30 ft. the chopper crash was intended to determine the impact on an airframe during a 30 mph crash.

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They even used an Xbox Kinect to help record the crash. Way cool.

I hate to vacuum and dust. I’ve thought about getting a Roomba, but I’ve never thought they were very practical. This however, might be something interesting. This Roomba like device sends out little drones covered in a gel that makes dust stick to it. The drones then return to the base station and get the dirt removed.

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If dirt sticks to the gel, I wonder what else does. Am I going to find one of these things rolling away with my cat attached to it?

The events that lead up to the March 11 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are pretty well known at this point.  Unlike several previous nuclear accidents, there was no hiding this one. While the events unfolded on international TV, we are only just now beginning to evaluate the long term effects of this unparalleled event. Popular Mechanics has an article out this week that talks about some of the potential effects of radioactive water and some of the possible technologies that can be used to combat the threat.

An aerial shot of the post-accident Fukushima Daiichi plant.

An aerial shot of the post-accident Fukushima Daiichi plant.

I also enjoyed the fact that the article was written by someone who was at one point associated with the US Navy nuclear program. It gives me confidence that he knows the subject matter (plus I understood what he was talking about).

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