Donald Trump as spoiler?

Donald Trump running for president might be indirectly useful after all.   He apparently is drawing support away from Sarah Palin.

He’s also appealing to the loon crowd in a way that isn’t likely to help him get elected.

Maybe someone is recruiting him specifically as spoiler.   Palin is turning into a universal hazard.  If her views are as represented she’d be a disaster as president, and more likely a disaster as the Republican candidate.

Obama has settled into being a sequel to George Bush, accomplishing some Democrat things like the health bill but perpetuating fundamental errors of the Bush administration.  He is also way to cosy with firms like Goldman Sachs that created the economic crisis and hasn’t done enough to reign them in.   The architects of the financial crisis have been saved and are making as much money as ever while everybody else suffers the consequences.

If Obama feels worried about 2012 he’s more likely to step up.

I’d really like to see Ron Paul as half the Republican ticket for that purpose, although I think I’d like to see him split off with the more common sense Republicans and make a new party that is neither crooked nor loony.

Of course Trump would be a disaster as president too, but if all he does is cancel out a run by Palin that might be a good thing.



We need the right kind of nuclear debate.

Over 20 years ago there was a conflict when some atomic energy guy in the US warned that Mark 1 reactors had a 90% chance of breach in the event of certain problems such as what happened in Japan.  That was all white-washed and nothing came of it.   The official line was that the chance of breach was less than 10%.

Well that is looking like more than 10% now.

The Mark 1 reactor represents skimping on reactor complexes to save money.  It is really short term thinking.  It turns nuclear power into a reverse lottery where most of us get cheap and relatively environmentally safe power in return for a few places will get randomly hit with a crisis where wide areas become uninhabitable for a couple of generations.

The alternative to nuclear power is for the most part burning more coal.   Other clean energy is very capital intensive and will take a while to have much of a dent in the energy market.

Realistically we don’t have much of a choice.

But that doesn’t mean that we should gloss over nuclear risks and have critical decisions made on the basis of ad hoc numbers that people come up with to defend the industry or that there should be propaganda like that plutonium is less dangerous than caffeine.   Among other things such an official line makes it difficult to allocate the resources to address what is theoretically not a problem.   It also becomes permission to build unsafe reactors.

It is a case where binary thinking of nuclear power as just a yes or no issue has really not assisted us.

We need to have that debate in part so that real safety issues are dealt with.  There may be some great solutions out there that we can’t find while the emphasis is glossing over the problem.

Bradley Manning is no Daniel Ellsberg

For inexplicable reasons, Daniel Ellsberg is defending Bradley Manning:    But Manning is no Ellsberg.  Ellsberg is a national hero.   Manning is a vandal and a parasite.

Ellsberg outed that the government was committing acts of pure evil and suppressing the information for release.   Manning outed everything that he could get his hands on and precious little of what has been released by Wikileaks has any public interest component.

Putting confidential information that destroys your own government’s bargaining positions, compromises intelligence gathering and generally sets back diplomacy ten years everywhere in the world is an act of pure evil and sabotage.    Outing confidential information doesn’t automatically make you a hero except to anarchists.

I’m generally against capital punishment, but especially in a military context and a deliberate attempt by a soldier to sabotage American interests you have to really think about it.

Getting close to time to draw lots or seek volunteers at plutonium reactor

We might wind up with a hollywood style finish to the reactor business in Japan.

One of the reactors that is in distress has plutonium.   In popular discourse plutonium and uranium are treated almost the same but they are much different.

Uranium is in small amounts everywhere, and we’ll each have a little of it in us.  Uranium is a native element.  It is not a product of science, although we engineer it to purify the 235 variety that is used for most nuclear purposes.

Plutonium is one of the most deadly poisons known to man and will kill in small quantities.  There are both toxicity issues and radiation issues.  It has a biological halflife of 200 years and will continue radiating from within the body.   A few micrograms per kilogram of body weight is deemed to be a “lethal” dose, by which I take it is meant death due to acute toxicity alone.

The Chernobyl reactor was of a type designed to be able to use unseparated Uranium, rather than just 235.   Presumably little if any plutonium was released into the environment and the Uranium mixture would not have been as nasty as if it were pure U235.

They need more than categories 1-7 for nuclear accidents.  If 7 is Chernobyl, a plutonium based reactor spewing plutonium dust into the atmosphere is more like a 9 or a 10.

If large amounts of plutonium dust get into the atmosphere everyone and everything downwind for some ways is dead.

From the perspective of wildlife, Chernobyl wasn’t that bad.  With the absence of humans in the area it is fairly vibrant now even with the remaining radioactivity.

Don’t expect that with plutonium exposure.

If there is even a 1% possibility of that, they have to do whatever it takes.   Hit the plant with everything they have to cool it down enough for some volunteers to get inside and do whatever it takes to make the plutonium safe.

I can appreciate the need to keep people calm but if you wait until the plutonium is in the air to do evacuations, getting 35 million people out of greater Tokyo at the drop of a hat is not logistically possible, even with a massive Dunkirk style effort where everybody including private citizens does whatever it takes to minimize losses.

Seriously, has anybody posed the question of what they are going to do if large amounts of plutonium get put in the air by an explosion?

Mark 1 reactors are bad enough with uranium, but if that plutonium reactor is also a Mark 1 reactor…words like negligence and recklessness just don’t begin to describe it.

One major problem with plutonium: getting objective information about it.

Some claim that plutonium is no more toxic than caffeine.

Well, we have caffinated beverages, when are the plutonium ones coming out for when you need that extra jump?  I express skepticism.

Others who are vested in the opposite direction claim that plutonium is extremely deadly.

The sample sizes are mostly animal studies and there are those issues of whether these are wholly objective.

I think that the panic about the reactor shows that the powers that be are in fact concerned about more than the population being exposed to an energy drink.

There seems to be at least some concensus that plutonium is far more dangerous inhaled than ingested.   Face masks may help a great deal.

There seems to be little easily available information about degrees of exposure between that which will be almost immediately lethal and minor exposure.

The amount of plutonium exposure that is considered “safe” is the lowest of any of the radioactive substances.

Defining terms such as “lethal” is important in this kind of context.  What time frame does it have to kill you within to be considered lethal?   If you had a life expectancy of a decade or more and that reduced to a couple of years an ordinary person would probably consider that pretty lethal, although I suspect that it wouldn’t fall within the definition used in studies.

Loss of power threat to power plants?

Check this out:

That is pretty much my analysis.

And again the paradox of shutting down a plant actually increasing the risk.

It would make more sense to have at least minimal internal energy creation rather than a full shut down, including after a quake, so that the plant can power itself enough to prevent catastrophy.

Is the irony of a plant blowing up for lack of power lost on everybody but me?

The irony of a plant, in fact several of them, blowing up because procedures were followed exactly and the automated shut down was successful and everything went as it was supposed to, is I think now widely appreciated.


Further to the previous post, the article on ice quakes:

Supermoon issue not just astrology

Viewed from the perspective of physics rather than astrology, the “supermoon” issue is still interesting.

Force exerted is inversely proportionate to the square of the distance.  What that means in practical terms is that the moon is going to be exerting 15.3% more force than normal.

Normally the moon does exert enough force to drive the tides and so this is not in the same category as Pluto being in Virgo or the like.  We can’t feel Pluto, period.

There is also the factor that the moon will be going faster as it is going closer.

That means that the tides will be changing faster, as well as probably going higher, and the force of all that water moving around is going to be increased, and there will be faster, larger changes in pressure on different points of the world due to tidal movement.

For context, the tidal changes in pressure on one sheet of a glacier on Antarctica cause groaning in the ice that is equivalent to a 7.0 earthquake in energy release, although slow, every day.

That is the effect of a regular tide on one relatively small portion of the planet.

There is a known correlation between phases of the moon and earthquakes, although  minor.

Given the correlation is known, it seems unscientific and inflexible to take the position that, if the moon in the regular course can affect earthquakes, which is a finding of science rather than astrology, that the moon cannot increase that probability when it is exerting 15.3% more force on its’ own and the shifting of the water due to more rapid and emphatic tides is an additional factor, although not one that appears to have been calculated.

Of course the occasion of these “supermoons” is so rare that there is insufficient data, particularly given that the correlation with regular moon cycles is minor, to say from the data that there is a larger correlation with earthquakes or more severe earthquakes.

However, given that there is more force involved, an explanation would be required if the supermoon did NOT have a greater effect.  It would be like discovering that there was no difference in outcomes between car crashes at 50 and 55 mph.  While possible, it would be counterintuitive that additional force would be completely irrelevent.

Then there is also the issue of whether the pump is primed so to speak.

That is, is there an area which is close enough to the brink of an earthquake that these changes in pressure might be the difference?

Both the scientists and the astrologers in this debate are guilty of binary thinking.   If something increases the probability of an earthquake that does not mean that there will be a major quake every supermoon.  The lack of a quake is not a refutation of the hypothesis.

Then there is the timing issue.  The Japan quake for instance was supposedly at a time when the forces of the moon and the sun would tend to minimize each other with respect to tides.

That does not dispose of the issue however.  It is not as if the earth either has to act like a quake vending machine and produce a quake immediately at peak stimulus for there to be any effect at all.

It may be that for a particular quake, the process necessary to trigger it is for there to be pressure in one direction, which might produce cracks, followed by a pooling of water with little tidal force. It might also be that a rip gets started and picks up momentum.  I can see no scientific reason why a force must either produce an immediate quake or have no effect at all.

Add up the energy used in the tides worldwide and it is probably the energy of a 9.0 quake every day.

It is a little simple to think that this can’t effect anything.