Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Funnies

-Schlock Mercenary Will the roboticist invent a dishwashing robot?
-TwoLumps Sore paws and stupid ants.
-Girl Genius Where else would you keep giant mechanical squid?
-Digger And so the saga of Digger comes to a close. All hail Ganesh, protector of travelers, remover of obstacles.
-No Need For Bushido Yori does a lot of dodging.
-Delta Bravo Sierra Don't press that button!
-Amya No really, it's just an innocent package that this group of armed people find it difficult to deliver. Hmmm.

Not Updated, fie!
-Dresden Codak
-Gone with the Blastwave Waiting patiently for the December January February March comic.
-My Ninja Family
-Argghhh-onauts can make a lethal weapon out of a weathervane. Just ask!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Science Review for the Terrified (or merely curious)

UPDATE: for those who prefer pictures, xkcd has a very nice illustration (ht/ Instapundit)

What with all the sirens going off around the Japanese reactors (who merely got jostled a tad by a 9.0 earthquake AND a tsunami), the meeja has been reaching new depths of science ignorance and frantically passing it on to anyone who will listen.  I thought it might be time for them to review a few basic concepts.  Yes, this will be on the test.  The test called LIFE.

1) There is No Such Thing as Completely Safe.  I know, you want your binky and your teddy bear and a non-gender-specific parent to soothe you with promises that nothing bad can hurt you.  The Universe can hurt you when it puts its mind to it, real bad, and there's not much you can do about it.  The good news is these extreme events rarely happen.  When they do, certain thumbsuckers ignore facts such as a) nobody has been killed by the reactor accident (yet), even though b) it is a very serious accident and c) the earthquake plus tsunami FAR exceeded the design parameters.  Of a 40 year old reactor design.  Under the circumstances, I'd say they did pretty well.

A) What Kind of Radiation?
This is all radiation.

Radiation is electromagnetic energy in the form of waves. (We're staying non-relativistic here.)  I don't want to alarm the meeja (oh hell, yes I do!) but all humans who are alive emit radiation.  Infrared, or heat.  What the frothers probably mean when they wail about "radiation" is ionizing radiation (some UV, x-rays, and gamma rays) which is energetic enough to ionize (remove an electron), hence the name.  The other kind of "radiation" is radioactive material which emits particles.  Depending on what type, you can shield yourself with a piece of paper, lead foil, or massive amounts of concrete.  Sorry, there is no known method to shield against cosmic rays (actually particles and highly energetic ones at that) (see #1 above).  Radioactive material danger is complex to assess and depends on things like particle type, energy of said particle, dose, time over which a dose is spread, exposed organs, and even some natural variation of the organism.  In short, I don't believe any meeja talking head is capable of correctly assessing the danger of a leak from a nuclear power plant.  They have a hard time understanding what they are told by experts, or even transmitting it correctly.  I would not believe any risk assessments that did not come directly from an individual trained in radioactive material safety.  And I certainly would not credit radioactive risks hyped by someone who smokes.

III) Nuclear Thingamajigs:
This was my favorite sign at Berkeley.  "Nuclear-free zone".  It made me giggle.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that their organic free-range dolphin-safe grapes contained nuclei.  So did the bottled water, the hemp socks, the air, and, well, everything.  Every atom has a nucleus.  The vast majority of the time, it just sits there and doesn't bother anyone.  There are two ways for a nucleus to abandon its mild-mannered ways -- fusion, and fission.  Fusion is the process which gets us that glowing ball in the sky known as the Sun.  If you smoosh two atoms together to the point where their nuclei fuse, lots and lots of energy is released.  I believe most hippies consider sunlight natural and good even though it involves nuclei.  Go figure.  And yes, even a fusion plant, should we build one, will generate radioactive waste (just not as much, and with a much shorter half-life).  Yes, that means the Sun is radioactive.  Don't tell the Gaia-worshipers.

Fission is the process where a nuclei is split, and lots and lots of energy is released.  Most hippies are violently anti-fission, even though it involves nuclei.  All reactor plants so far are fission (we're working on fusion Really Hard Now, and have been since I was a baby physicist).  There are some very good explanations of how fission reactors (and the particular design used in the Japanese plants) work.  The big point the talking heads are missing is that fission can be completely stopped, and yet natural radioactive decay of the fuel can generate a metric shitload (official term) of heat.  Heat that can start fires, build up explosive levels of radioactive steam, etc.  Not good, and I would not recommend licking any of the fuel rods either, but nowhere near a mushroom cloud or the "glowing ball of molten plutonium heading for the center of the Earth" hysteria.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A very small chance of survival...

but sometimes, that's enough. Three days after being swept away in the tsunami, this little four-month old girl was found in the wreckage. Her parents survived as well.

Joy: The member of Japan's Self-Defence Force member holds the four-month-old baby girl in Ishinomaki, northern Japan after her rescue

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Funnies

Stupid Daylight Savings Time Edition!

-Schlock Mercenary The mercenaries are not being proper.
-TwoLumps Pushing the button.
-Girl Genius The Jaegers report in.
-Digger Digger may be able to persuade the trolls.
-No Need For Bushido New comic Monday!
-Delta Bravo Sierra The CSMs have a history.
-Amya Come have some lunch at the armed camp.

Not Updated, fie!
-Dresden Codak
-Gone with the Blastwave Waiting patiently for the December January February March comic.
-My Ninja Family
-Argghhh-onauts is digging holes and loving it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time to Snark Again

-Well.  After all of the shrieking and protesting and sign-waving, the Wisconsin Legislature has passed the bill limiting collective bargaining rights from public employees.  About time, I say.  Gov. Walker has much more tolerance for frothing moonbats than I do, which is why he is a successful politician and I am not.  He seems to have given the lunatic opposition just enough rope, but not enough to hinder *him*.  And he got what he always said he wanted.  I wonder if the protesters will notice when the earth continues to rotate, schools still function, and lattes can still be purchased?

-Whenever blogviews get low or the ornry feeling descends I suspect some people (*coughGlenncough*) put up a recurring post with a theme that Women(collectively) are wussifying Men(collectively).  E.g. this PJ article .  I have no doubt the anecdotes can be supported by further anecdotes, but I must be living on a different planet because I haven't seen much of this.  In my teaching career, I saw plenty of ditzy women and engaged and enthusiastic men, and vice versa.  Yeah, anecdotes: but if I have to accept theirs they have to accept mine.  Maybe it made a difference I was teaching science?  I still don't think things are that bad.  My opinion (I have lots, collect the set!) is that we are seeing a grand recalibration of humanity that has nothing to do with the inherent propensities of men and women.  I, Snarkatron, whilst the proud possessor of TWO X chromosomes, think women can be as equally lazy and pathetic as men.  It's just now our culture doesn't hound and persecute lazy men any more, so we see more of them.  They haven't changed!  The good news is honest hardworking men have always existed and continue to do so, and now honest hardworking women have the opportunity to work.  Used to be women had no choice but to be kept.  Used to be that men had to work to support themselves and no woman would pay attention to a man who couldn't provide for her, so even the lazy men (if they wanted female attention) worked.

It's sad, but some people don't mind being kept.  Apparently there are now women who think so little of themselves, or that they must have a man as an accessory like a handbag, so they are willing to keep company with lazy men.  Their problem, not mine.  I do wish the "All Women/Men Are Teh EEEEBIL!" people would find a fulfilling hobby.  Both sides bore me.

-I don't know why people write "We're all DOOOMED!" posts, and then have no suggestions about what to do about the, you know, being doomed part.  Well I do, it feels good to wail to the heavens.  But that lasts about 15 minutes and you have to get back to things like food for *now*.  Agreed the economy sucks and all the people in the current Administration struggle to color inside the lines and entitlement spending is expanding like a shock wave from a supernova -- what can we do to make our post-apocalyptic lives, brief as they might be, more comfortable?  What are the warning signs that I should go drain my bank account and buy barter goods?  Actually, a useful guide to how things went down in Argentina and what to watch for is Ferfal's Surviving in Argentina.  Lots of real, *tested* advice instead of survivalist pr0n.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sunday Funnies

-Schlock Mercenary Dr. Bunnigus has a fake memory of diagnosis.
-TwoLumps Snooch's plan has monkeys.
-Girl Genius Yes, Othar really is a hero.
-Digger Digger is astonished to see a certain wagon.
-No Need For Bushido Cho can handle it.
-Delta Bravo Sierra Snakes and farts.
-Amya Pretty poster!
-Lackadaisy Mitzi wants her pearl back.

Not Updated, fie!
-Dresden Codak License for Science denied.
-Gone with the Blastwave Waiting patiently for the December January February March comic.
-My Ninja Family
-Argghhh-onauts is plotting further destruction.

Your humble Snarkatron attended the Emerald City Comicon, in Seattle. Along, apparently, with half the city. And, EEEEE! I got to meet Alex and Joseph, the warped brains behind No Need For Bushido, buy their first book, and get a cool sketch in it. They are very funny and look completely normal. Also Savannah of Amaya. Ursula Vernon of Digger was *not* there, but her publisher was and I bought stuff. Verily, the comix economy was stimulated.