Archive for January, 2009
So reading through Slashdot, this story caught my eye:
Nuclear Fusion-Fission Hybrid Could Destroy Nuclear Waste And Contribute to Carbon-Free Energy Future
January 27, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas — Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants.
Reading further into the article, they claim to be able to ‘burn’ 99% of all the waste generated in your average light-water reactor. Folks, that’s an awful lot of radioactive crap with a half-life sometime a million years from now. A bunch (read as tens of thousands of TONS) of glowing sludge that we currently have nowhere to dispose of, aside from a geologically unstable mountain in Nevada.
In other words, in one fell swoop these pocket-protector-jockeys have managed to completely override the primary argument against the widespread adoption of nuclear energy to generate the power modern society needs in order to function.
Much more elegantly, I might add, than my own solution to the question of what to do with the piles of waste. I figured our best bet would be to load it onto rockets and shoot the stuff into a decaying solar orbit. Of course, I once had a tree-hugging hippie idiot try to tell me that doing so would destabilize the sun. I gave up trying to explain basic physics and the fact that the sun is itself a gigantic nuclear fusion reactor when I realized I would have better luck explaining orbital ephemeri to a fence post. But I digress.
Clean power, no emissions, and almost no waste. How awesome would that be? And because these are light water reactors, the fuel cannot be weaponised. I could easily foresee a time when power companies make a mint on developing, constructing, and delivering self-contained reactors all over the world. Who needs a power grid when every city has the potential for it’s own cheap and clean power generation?
Suffering brownouts? No problem, buy and install another reactor. And the beauty of it is it could be literally as simple as having the unit flown in and plugged in.
But I’m sure the Neo-Luddites will find some reason to bitch about this solution too.
Dude! Plumes of methane on Mars have now ‘officially’ been given the stamp of approval, as it were. NASA announced it on Thursday, and the amount being detected is quite large.
See, the interesting thing about methane is that it breaks down very quickly when exposed to sunlight. All it is is four hydrogen atoms bonded to a carbon atom, and UV light breaks those bonds quickly. What this means, is that all that methane has to be replenished by some source. Now, on earth, the usual source of methane in the atmosphere is biological (like all those bovine farts the dirty hippies were screaming about not that long ago). It is true that there are a few sources that are more geological in nature, like the ice clathrates found on the ocean floor, but even these may have had a biological origin to begin with in the form of decomposing aquatic beasties.
The point is, this means (to my mind at least) that Mars is conclusively not ‘dead’. It either possesses CURRENT biological processes, or geological ones. The fact that these methane plumes disappear in winter and return in spring and summer, really to me implies a biological origin (although it is not beyond the realm of reason that it is still geological, just from rocks heating up).
Of course, reputable scientists (and crackpots) have been saying for years that biomarkers have been detected in the Martian atmosphere and soil. When Europe’s Mars Express probe arrived at Mars, it too detected methane. Much more excitingly, according to project scientiest Vittorio Formisano, their probe detected formaldehyde. This is a complex organic chemical that has no geological origin and breaks down in direct sunlight in a matter of hours. This means that those whacky Europeans may have detected positive biomarkers several years ago.
Looking even further back, the Viking lander’s labelled release experiment was announced to have positively identified Martian life, an announcement that was then retracted as NASA backpedalled furiously (why? who knows). They then claimed that the signs of life detected by the experiment were actually inorganic oxidant events (geek speak for freaky rust?). Of course, the designer of the experiment, Dr. Gilbert Levin, has been shouting from the rooftops ever since that there was nothing wrong with his experiment and it DID detect Martian microbes. 2 decades of him proving, scientifically, over and over and over again, that there is no way an inorganic oxidant event (I just love saying that) could have produced the results detected by the sensors, have fallen on deaf ears.
Lest I wander off into crackpot conspiracy theorist land, I will stop now. But I will ask one further question: why is the sky in all the modern pictures from our surface probes red/pink? I remember some early Viking lander photos that distinctly showed a BLUE sky on Mars, and you can even still find some on the Intarweb if you look.
Blue sky is caused not by water in the atmosphere (or rather, not just by that). It is called ‘Rayleigh Scattering’, and it takes place on ANY planet. Yes, if you were able to suspend yourself somehow in the atmosphere of Jupiter and look up (assuming no clouds are in the way) you would see a blue sky.
The official party line for the red sky of Mars is that it is caused by particles suspended in the air from dust storms. Mars has a very red surface due to the abundance of iron oxide (rust to you and me). The problem I have with this explanation is that there are often great periods of time on Mars without any of it’s famous dust storms raging. The atmosphere of Mars is not thick enough to allow a much heavier piece of matter (like a grain of sand) to remain suspended indefinitely.
So, just to throw some fuel on this fire, I direct you towards this site:
Ignore the more ‘crackpot’ areas if you wish, but some of their images and processing are rather revealing. Food for thought.
Happy 2009, the International Year of Astronomy! 400 years ago this year, Galileo observed for the first time the four largest moons of Jupiter, saw the craters of the moon, and proved that little ole Earth is not in fact the center of the universe (much to the chagrin of the Church in Rome). Of course, there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding that whole trial thing. Galileo was a bit of a rabble rouser, and the Church chose not to turn him over to the Inquisition. Plus he was by no means the first, even among his contemporaries, to state that Earth was just another planet. The problem the pope had with him seemed more political than doctrinal.
Be that as it may, many exciting discoveries are coming our way this year, I feel. Already we are able to *directly* observe the atmospheres of the largest extra-solar planets, a feat unthinkable even 5 years ago. And with the final proof that Mars and Saturn’s moon Enceladus are brimming with water, the search for life elsewhere in our home system has gained steam. How cool is that??
Unfortunately, sad news has also just arrived. Khan Noonien Singh, scourge of the Eugenics Wars and Capt. James T. Kirk’s personal devil (not to mention the engimatic Mr. Rourke), has passed away at the age of 88. Ricardo Montalban, whose chest musculature in his 60′s (which he so proudly displayed on the big screen) was enough to put much younger men to shame, has passed away at age 88. Not even the fact of his genetically engineered intellect could allow him to survive…
I personally think he should be canonized by SOME church or other simply for having the patience of a saint in putting up with that midget freak Tattoo for several seasons of 70′s television.
Anyway, he built a deserved reputation as a classy individual and staunch activist of worthy causes.
Found on Recording Industry vs. The People:
RIAA withdraws subpoena and discontinues case in Austin, Texas, proceedings targeting Rhode Island students, in Arista Records v. Does 1-22
Once again the RIAA thugs have been dealt a blow in their illogical (and some say illegal) quest to sue the world.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe artists and musicians should be paid for their work just like anyone else. Everyone’s gotta eat, right? So why is it that the music makers themselves are against the RIAA’s legal onslaught (with the exception of Metallica who have become a joke in their own right)?
Could it perhaps be because the artists don’t see a single red cent from these proceedings? Could it also be because the RIAA is SUING THEIR OWN FANBASE??? What a way to make a living! Let’s SUE OUR OWN FANS!
And the RIAA wonders why record sales are in the tank.
Oh, wait, that’s not even true either. Online music sales continue to rise, more than making up for falling physical media sales.
Perhaps the problem is that 90% of all the music mass-produced by the RIAA member companies is SHITE?
Bite your tongue, Mr. the Sane!
What really gets me is the fact that the RIAA feels entitled to this filthy lucre. These people had NOTHING to do with the creation of this music. All they provided was a conduit to deliver this music to the masses. And this is a conduit which is rapidly becoming obsolete and irrelevant in the new world of instant digital content delivery. For these services of increasingly questionable value, the big record labels rape the artists of almost every dime their music garners them, and in most cases also divests the artist of any semblance of control over their own creativity and artistic work.
Why do you think so many musicians are now going independent? With the advent of digital delivery, they can completely cut out the labels. This of course threatens the very existence of these obnoxious thieving organizations. Their cash cows are mooing their last! Ye gods! What shall we DO???
Sue the customer. Yeah! Thereby *ensuring* their impending extinction.
I look forward to the day when I read in the financial papers that the big labels have officially gone belly up. Maybe they will go to congress, hat in hand, asking for a bailout as well?
At the start of 2009, having created this new blog site from the ashes of what used to be Big Bob’s House of Stupid (which, incidentally, will be seeing a rebirth once I install and tweak some photo gallery software), Our Hero decided to actually use the bloody thing.
Problem is, he had NO IDEA what the hell to say. So many options… I could use this as a place to vomit forth political commentary… or I could make a tech blog kinda thing, being that I’m an IT guy… I could try to make something vaguely humorous…
Or I could do all of the above and more, should the fancy strike me. Yeah, that’s right bitches. Uncle Bad Touch is in da houze! Ready to expound upon numerous topics both of great import and triviliality! Standing by to present to you, the gentle reader, the fermented product of my frothy imagination!
What’s that you say? I sure think highly of myself?
YOU’RE still here reading, aren’t you? And nothing I’ve said yet is possessed of anything of value. So, yeah, I DO think highly of myself. Because, let’s not mince words here, I am in fact far more brilliant than 90% of the pathetic wastes of protoplasm that occupy the globe with me. And soon, you too will agree with me!
And if you don’t, I could care less! HA HA!
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