Sunday, June 13, 2010

Collection of Things Held Onto

Was cleaning out my inbox and found a couple of interesting links emailed home from work that I'd clearly meant to share here but never did... Better late than never I say!

This zombiepocalypse story, though those seem a dime a dozen these days, is anything but. It is funny, real and tenderly sad.

My biology professor from last summer once tried to explain to us exactly what it's like to be a researching scientist. How one must be insanely precise when describing hypotheses, findings, or anything, and how in the end, that precision still ends up mostly being futile. This cartoon captures that perfectly.

I completely agree with this editorial by Thomas Friedman. Well, completely with one or two caveats of course. ;)

Ok, ta for now.


David said...

Yay for Thomas Friedman calling us all wimps. I've been saying we should go nuclear for years—it's the most environmental of all modern means of power generation. And yet the number of environmentalists opposed to nuclear power is really quite shocking. I'm reminded of gullible environmentalists signing petitions to ban "dihydrogen monoxide"—people really need to educate themselves and think rather than advocating policies based on their knee-jerk reactions.

For an interesting example of the government wimping out on nuclear power, check out the story of the Integral Fast Reactor. A fast reactor is distinguished from a slow reactor by its use of fast neutrons, rather than thermal neutrons. (Nearly all currently operating nuclear power plants use thermal reactors.) Fast neutrons carry a lot more energy, and can therefore cause more elements to undergo fission. This means that they can essentially use for power generation the "waste" produced by thermal reactors. This means that they produce much less waste, and also extract much more energy—a fast reactor can generate about 100 times as much energy as a thermal reactor from the same amount of uranium ore.

This sounds great, right? So, where does government wimping out come in? Argonne National Laboratory was conducting research on IFRs, and as part of this research they were converting a nuclear reactor in Idaho into an IFR. But the research was canceled by Congress in 1994. (In fact, canceling the project cost taxpayers as much as finishing the research would have.) And we can't even blame the Republicans, as those most responsible for getting the project canceled were Bill Clinton and John Kerry.

SongInHerSky said...

Sounds like (once again) congress pursued only a superficial understanding of something important and made a snap judgment based on that. Thanks for the article link. Though written more like the interview that PhD wishes someone would give him, it's still quite interesting and informative. :)