Sarah Palin's image already appears on the newer nickels.

calendar   Friday - July 16, 2010

The Sky IS Falling!

Horry Clap, the atmosphere just collapsed! Well, last year anyway. Did you notice? No, neither did I. My ears didn’t even pop. But NASA noticed! And like every other kind of New that impacts Science, experts are baffled!!

A Puzzling Collapse of Earth’s Upper Atmosphere


uh oh

NASA-funded researchers are monitoring a big event in our planet’s atmosphere. High above Earth’s surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called “the thermosphere” recently collapsed and now is rebounding again.

“This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years,” says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). “It’s a Space Age record.”

The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers. The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.

“Something is going on that we do not understand,” says Emmert.

The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens.

Lately, solar activity has been very low. In 2008 and 2009, the sun plunged into a century-class solar minimum. Sunspots were scarce, solar flares almost non-existent, and solar EUV radiation was at a low ebb. Researchers immediately turned their attention to the thermosphere to see what would happen.

Emmert uses a clever technique: Because satellites feel aerodynamic drag when they move through the thermosphere, it is possible to monitor conditions there by watching satellites decay. He analyzed the decay rates of more than 5000 satellites ranging in altitude between 200 and 600 km and ranging in time between 1967 and 2010. This provided a unique space-time sampling of thermospheric density, temperature, and pressure covering almost the entire Space Age. In this way he discovered that the thermospheric collapse of 2008-2009 was not only bigger than any previous collapse, but also bigger than the sun alone could explain.

28% more! But how does this happen??

One possible explanation is carbon dioxide (CO2).

When carbon dioxide gets into the thermosphere, it acts as a coolant, shedding heat via infrared radiation. It is widely-known that CO2 levels have been increasing in Earth’s atmosphere. Extra CO2 in the thermosphere could have magnified the cooling action of solar minimum.

“But the numbers don’t quite add up,” says Emmert. “Even when we take CO2 into account using our best understanding of how it operates as a coolant, we cannot fully explain the thermosphere’s collapse.”

According to Emmert and colleagues, low solar EUV accounts for about 30% of the collapse. Extra CO2 accounts for at least another 10%. That leaves as much as 60% unaccounted for.

So now what? Are we going to have AGC? Now it’s carbon dioxide causes atmospheric COOLING?? The boy who cried wolf, much?

Here’s a link to a NASA video that smells like bullshit to me. CO2 catches IR rays from the earth. That causes it to get hot, and that means the molecules vibrate faster, causing them to collide with more other molecules and thus shedding the heat. But as it rises into the higher parts of the atmosphere, where there are exponentially less other molecules around, the CO2 gets heated up by colliding with those other molecules, and then sheds the heat via plain old radiation. But dear old PV=NRT is still the law even in the thermosphere, so this cooling effect causes the thermoshere to contract. And pretty much by definition, that means it’s density has to increase. Which means more molecules in closer proximity, which means a minimization of the upper atmospheric behavior of the gas. It seems to me NASA is saying the density decreases as the layer cools. Personally, I think they are even more unwilling to stop blaming carbon for all their problems then Obama is unwilling to stop blaming Bush for all of his.

Hey, maybe they should bring sunspots into their equation. Why not? The sun continues to be at or very near the minimum point in the opening years of Solar Cycle 24, currently still below even the revised sunspot predictionsmade last year. Right now we have a grand total of ONE visible sunspot. Does that help or hurt? Who knows? I’m baffled, which implies that I am an expert!

See More Below The Fold


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/16/2010 at 01:43 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesClimate-Weather •  
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calendar   Sunday - June 20, 2010

Group Nap

Ya kin larn somethin new every day!

Here’s today’s bit of arcanery, a not-guaranteed sure-fire conversation starter from the I never even thought about asking file. But since this is Father’s Day, I’m sure you dads (and moms) out there have been asked this kind of question many times before, so here’s the answer:

Sperm Whales Sleep Vertically

Often In Bunches


nap time for Moby and his buds

Scientists believe that Physeter macrocephalus [the sperm whale], which can measure up to 60ft in length and which has the biggest brain of any known animal, sleeps in a highly distinctive manner. According to researchers at St Andrews University, who tagged animals with recorders to follow their behaviour underwater, the sperm whale sleeps by taking short naps during slow, rhythmic dives. The animals are unconscious for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time over a few hours, however, and sleep, in total, for fewer than two hours a day. Thus sperm whales sleep less than any other wild mammal.

Unlike dolphins, which have been observed in captivity sleeping with only one side of the brain at a time, sperm whales switch off completely during these dives, the researchers added. “Many mammals show species-typical sleeping behaviour, such as dogs circling before lying down, lending support to the idea that sperm whales sleep during these drift dives,” says Dr Patrick Miller, of the university’s sea mammal research unit.

When napping, they tend to float just below the surface, and just bob along, sometimes sinking a little bit. They come up to breath once in a while, without really waking up. When they do come up, just the end of their nose sticks up, because the sperm whale has his blowhole on the front, off to the left, unlike most other whales who have blowholes more towards the middle.


A whale of a nostril. Um, blowhole. Eeeeww, giant whale boogers!!

The wind was picking up a little bit and Joao put me in the water very far away from them, up wind. I slowly drifted towards the group. They had stopped moving at all and I drifted into a group of slumbering giants. Most of them standing head up, some head down. The biggest one, maybe 15 meters long, was now just two meters away looking at me. Minutes passed and her head-up position made her a bit more approachable. Then she closed her eye as if going to sleep. While eyes shut she surfaced in head up position and blew her lungs clean right beside me. The sound was just awesome and made all my limbs feel like jellyfish. Water sprinkled over me like rain.
I spent 50 minutes together with the whales. They were acting like they were resting in each other’s company. They were completely silent, most of them hovering, but some swam momentarily under me, up to me, away from me. And I swam around amongst them. They just let me be there. I ended up at some point far down current and quickly lost contact with the group. It was over.

It is thought the research shows that sperm whales sleep much less than any other mammal on land or sea. The whales were recorded consistently performing the dives in each location which the study suggested indicated it was stereotypical for the entire species. Video footage showed six sperm whales eerily floating vertically in a motionless manner, with their heads either at or just below the surface of the sea.

Researchers said three of them were “unusually non-responsive” to the approaching boat, until it accidentally touched one of them.

Whole brain sleep, possibly REM. But only for a few hours a day. Do whales dream? Maybe so. Of what? Beats me.

Want more?

I suppose a h/t to Theo is in order, as I found something like the first picture there. But I looked up the rest of it.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/20/2010 at 02:55 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesAnimals •  
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calendar   Thursday - April 29, 2010

Gosh, it was right here just 9 minutes ago

Air Force Loses Rocket Glider During Test Flight

Have You Seen Me?


Please call 1-800-HTV-LOST if you have

Lockheed Martin and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are investigating why contact with the first HTV-2 test vehicle was lost soon after launch on a mission to demonstrate technology for high-performance, long-endurance hypersonic flight.

The third stage of the Orbital Sciences Minotaur IV Lite booster successfully completed energy-management maneuvers, released its clamshell payload fairing and deployed the HTV-2 at the edge of the atmosphere, but telemetry signals from the hypersonic glider were lost about 9 minutes into the mission, DARPA says.

Launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on April 22, the unmanned HTV-2 was planned to cross the Pacific and impact the ocean north of Kwajalein Atoll in the first of two flights to demonstrate technology for a prompt global strike weapon capable of flying 9,000nm in less than 2 hours.

The HTV-2 is a slender, highly-swept, sharp-edged delta with “unprecedented” aerodynamic efficiency for a hypersonic vehicle, said Erbland. The vehicle is designed to fly at a low angle of attack relative to other hypersonic vehicles.

Autonomous guidance, navigation and control was designed to enable the HTV-2 to manage its energy and fly a precise flight path to a “very accurate” terminal location, said Erbland. After release, the vehicle was planned to navigate via a series of waypoints, managing its trajectory “to arrive with sufficient energy to get to the next one, plus a little extra in case the drag is higher than predicted.”

The test flight called for a 30-minute mission in which the vehicle would glide at high speed before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, north of a US military test site at the Kwajalein Atoll.

The glider separated from the booster but soon after the signal vanished, a spokeswoman said.

“Preliminary review of data indicates the HTV-2 achieved controlled flight within the atmosphere at over Mach 20. Then contact with HTV-2 was lost,” Johanna Spangenberg Jones, a spokeswoman for DARPA, told AFP.

The Kwajalein Atoll is in the Marshall Islands, roughly 1500 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea and 2300 miles west southwest of Hawaii. Call it next door to Bikini Atoll. Between 4100 and 4800 miles from Vandenburg AFB depending on their impact target. Not bad for a 30 minute trip; 8200 miles per hour or better. Waaay faster than 9000nm in <2 hrs as the DARPA press release states. Twice as fast.

No reward has yet been offered for the carbon fiber little wonderplane, although I hear the government has a rush order on printing milk cartons for the South Pacific.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/29/2010 at 02:51 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesMilitaryplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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calendar   Monday - March 29, 2010


So, whatcha think BMEWS?
Silly thing to post maybe but, when I saw the photo and story I couldn’t help but wish I’d had that on my car way back when.  Guess I’m lucky I didn’t but the idea sure does have its appeal.  It would certainly work on tailgaters.  Not sure if he ought to be arrested on a firearms charge though. Right, I see the fire part. So I guess it’s a flamethrower after all.

Flame-thrower scooter owner arrested

Colin Furze, a plumber who adapted his scooter to shoot 15ft flames from the rear, has been arrested for an alleged firearms offence.


Mr Furze, 30, displayed his modified his scooter, with an anti-tailgating flame thrower operated by the flick of switch, in the press earlier this week.
But Lincolnshire Police spotted the pictures of Mr Furze allegedly riding his scooter on a public highway – and arrested him on Thursday.

He was held on suspicion of possessing an object converted into a firearm, and was released on unconditional police bail without charge until May 6 pending further police investigation.

Possession of a firearm carries a maximum prison sentence of five to seven years at Crown Court.
Mr Furze, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, declined to comment.

Speaking before his arrest, he said: ‘’Everybody wants a flame thrower on a motor bike.
‘’I don’t need a flame thrower on the back of my bike, I’m not going to set fire to people’s car’s, it’s just something interesting to do.’’

The scooter, which was built before Christmas, was Mr Furze’s third attempt at the project after the first did not ignite and the second burst into flames.
A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: ‘’A man was arrested on suspicion of possessing an object converted to a firearm on Thursday. He was released on unconditional bail.’’



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/29/2010 at 05:29 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesFun-StuffUK •  
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calendar   Saturday - March 13, 2010

An age when it was taken for granted that, England could accomplish anything. And did so.

This is really some awesome stuff.  Gives one some idea of what put the great in Britain in those bygone days. This was one heck of an achievement. And all done without computers and the kind of things that might have made the construction safer and faster. Good gosh, think of it.
NO HEALTH AND SAFETY.  First the need and the imagination and then the engineering skill and genius of the Brunels. 

Of course .. all this was done in an age when the mere suggestion that England be given away to foreigners might have brought on a challenge to a duel. And quite right too.

Open to the public for the first time in 145 years, Brunel and son’s ‘eighth wonder of the world’ under the Thames

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:50 PM on 13th March 2010

The public is to get its first chance in 145 years to see the Brunel tunnel under the Thames that was hailed as an eighth wonder of the world and a triumph of Victorian engineering.

An underground work walks along the tunnel, which was originally designed to take horse-drawn carriages

The tunnel is open today and a Fancy Fair originally held in 1852 below the river is being recreated at the nearby Brunel Museum.

It was built between 1825 and 1843 by Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard, and was the first known to have been built beneath a navigable river.

The tunnel, which runs from Wapping to Rotherhithe at a depth of 75ft below the river’s surface, quickly became a thriving shopping arcade and entertainment centre.

It was illuminated by lights along its 1,300ft length and by the end of the first week of its opening, half the population of the capital were said to have paid to walk ‘the shining avenue of light to Wapping’. Queen Victoria was among the millions who walked its length.

The tunnel, ‘a shining avenue of light to Wapping’, became a thriving shopping arcade and entertainment centre

In 1869, it was closed to the public and converted into a railway tunnel for the East London underground line up until 2007.

Extension work will result in the tunnel becoming part of the new London Overground and it will once again be used by mainline trains.

The two-day opening is taking place at the conclusion of the Mayor of London’s East festival celebrating east London.

Brunel Museum director Robert Hulse says the tunnel was ‘not just the birthplace of the Tube system, it is the site of a Victorian rave’.

The Brunel Museum tours will take in the grand entrance hall and the 1867 arch at the Rotherhithe entrance. It is now an International Landmark Site, one of six in Britain, but is usually closed to the public.

The tunnel was originally designed for, but never used by, horse-drawn carriages and was required because of the demand for a land connection between the north and south banks of the Thames to cater for the capital’s expanding docks.


There had been a number of failed attempts before Marc Isambard Brunel took on the project in 1825 with his newly invented tunnelling ‘shield’ technology.

The tunnelling shield was revolutionary because of its support for the unlined ground in front and around, which reduced the risk of collapses.

However, many workers, including Brunel, became ill because of the filthy water seeping through from the river above.

The sewage from the river gave off methane gas which was ignited by the miner’s oil lamps, causing fires underground.

When the resident engineer William Armstrong fell ill in April 1826 from working underground Marc’s son Isambard Kingdom Brunel took over at the age of 20.

Work progressed at only 8–12 feet a week and the company directors decided to allowed sightseers to view the shield in operation to earn some extra cash for the project.

Charging one shilling, up to 800 visitors came every day to see the Victoria marvel.

But the project was hindered by a number of setbacks.

The tunnel flooded suddenly on 18 May 1827 after only 549 feet had been dug. Isambard Kingdom Brunel had to lower a diving bell from a boat to repair the hole at the bottom of the river, throwing bags filled with clay into the breach in the tunnel’s roof.

Following the repairs and the drainage of the tunnel, he held a banquet inside it. The tunnel flooded again the following year, on 12 January 1828, when six men died and Isambard himself narrowly escaped drowning.

Isambard was sent to Clifton in Bristol to recover and it was while there he heard about the competition to build what became the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Financial problems followed, leading to the tunnel being walled off in August 1828. The project was abandoned for seven years, until Marc Brunel succeeded in raising sufficient money, including a loan of £247,000 from the Treasury, to continue construction.

There were further floods, methane leaks and fires before the tunnelling was finally completed in 1841 and opened to the public, once lighting roadways and spiral staircases had been installed, on March 25 1843.


image imageimage

The Brunels, father and son.

The son went on to even greater fame. His is a fascinating story.


Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/13/2010 at 04:04 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesArcheology / AnthropologyArchitectureOUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTTalented Ppl.UK •  
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calendar   Thursday - March 11, 2010

Secret to a happy marriage revealed!

The secret to a happy marriage has now been placed on a scientific basis… much like the theory of global warming:

Swiss researchers report the discovery of a magic formula for successful marriages. If true, this could mean that marriages of the future will be contracted based on scientific principles, instead of such common, but notoriously unreliable factors as failed prophylactics and tequila.

I’ve always found tequila to be a wonderful factor…

The study begins by echoing what many of us have known all along: that a successful marriage has little to do with passion, sexual prowess, your partner’s good looks, or the make and model of his car. It has to do with smarts.

According to these well meaning, but obviously over-funded scientists, the key to a happy marriage—if you are a man—is to find a woman who is 27 percent smarter than you are. If you are a woman, you need to find a man 27 percent dumber.

It’s that simple.

No, it’s not that simple, as the author notes;

Well, it is, and it isn’t. For instance, it is not hard for me to find a woman who is 27 percent smarter than me. The hard part is getting her to go out on a second date.

Go read the article. And don’t be surprised if the Democrats liberals want to regulate marriages according to IQ tests.


Posted by Christopher   United States  on 03/11/2010 at 10:05 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesColleges-ProfessorsDemocrats-Liberals-Moonbat LeftistsLove-Marriage •  
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calendar   Wednesday - March 03, 2010

Yeah, but will it hook better now?

Chile Earthquake Shortens Day

Richard Gross, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues calculated that Saturday’s quake shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds.

Earth’s days may have gotten a little bit shorter since the massive earthquake in Chile, but don’t feel bad if you haven’t noticed.

The difference would be only about one-millionth of a second.

Richard Gross, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues calculated that Saturday’s quake shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.

The length of a day is the time it takes for the planet to complete one rotation — 86,400 seconds or 24 hours.

An earthquake can make Earth rotate faster by nudging some of its mass closer to the planet’s axis


From this the obvious conclusion was that the land involved in the Chile earthquake moved downwards. Since that region is a subduction zone ( duh, the Andes mountains are volcanic, made primarily from andesite, the thick gooey lava that creates really explosive stratovolcanoes that go off in Plinian eruptions, ie BOOM!! ), the earthquake was caused by the Nasca plate under the ocean moving further under the South American Plate.

Bowlers implicitly understand this. The planet now has a lower RG (radius of gyration). That means that more of the mass has been moved closer to the center of the ball. So given this new, lower RG, the earth is spinning a little bit faster. Which could mean it will hook a bit more when it gets traction, and should carry a little better when it finds the pocket. I don’t want to be around when we figure out what the pins are for this analogy.

On the other hand, this bit of subduction was very local in scope, so the DIFF ( the Differential RG ) changed more than the overall RG. Which means the planet’s ability to flare ( move laterally inwards while rolling forward, instead of hooking which is an actual turning-around-the-corner motion ) is likely increased. Think of this earthquake as a new balance hole. So yeah, the planet is now a shorter ball, more suitable for playing on heavily oiled heads.

So, given a faster rotation and thus a shorter day, along with a bit more hook and flare, will the rate of climate change be increased or decreased? Will we get more or less 10-pin leaves?


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/03/2010 at 11:39 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesBowling Blogging •  
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rotorhead II

Since Vilmar put up a post today on a new helicopter rotor design, I figured I’d add to the mix with a link and a small bit of science.

If you rub an amber rod with a cat you get static electricity. If you touch that cat to a grounded water pipe in a dark room you get sparks. Then you get your face clawed off as the cat discharges the room at near light speed. Don’t try this experiment at home kiddies, unless you have bandages at the ready and it’s someone else’s cat.

The old amber rod thing is an example of the triboelectric effect. In very dry and dusty environments you can get a similar thing with helicopter rotors. The blade builds up a static charge as it moves through the air, and when the hard metal of the blades impact the dry sand or dust in the air, they discharge a small spark as the sand etches away a tiny little bit of their surface. Perhaps a bit similar to Saint Elmo’s Fire on ships, the effect is very unpredictable, quite beautiful, and can be very dangerous. And it just goes to show that helicopters are high maintenance machines in a desert environment.

You’re thinking, “Oh, Ok, a little spark. No big deal.” But it isn’t just one or two. It’s millions of them at a time. Enough so that the rotors can create a shimmering halo that can be visible for miles. Not what you want when you’re flying in a combat zone at night. The phenomena is nothing new; it’s been known about for years.

A secondary concern with the erosion of metal abrasion strips pertains to the visible signature that occurs when microscopic metallic pieces are eroded away. In the erosion process, they often oxidize, giving off a visible spark and causing a corona effect in sandy environments

Although both Ni and Ti are hard metals, their hardness values are significantly lower than that of sand, which is primarily made up of quartz. This hardness differential results in the excessive erosion/degradation of rotor blades in desert environments. An equally important problem with Ti protection is that a visible corona or halo is generated around the rotor blades at night from the sand impacting the Ti leading edge and causing Ti to spark and oxidize.

To everyone’s surprise, Science, which lives to pin names on things, has not given this variation of the triboelectric effect it’s own name. And it is a variation, since erosion is involved.

Half a year or so ago Michael Yon took some fantastic photos of this effect in action, and after much research decided that it should be called the Kopp-Etchells Effect. I think it’s a good name, and his reasons for it are just as good or better than some beaker shaker’s attempt at immortality. I’ll respect his copyright even though hundreds of other sites haven’t, and instead send you over to take a look. Sure, it’s “only” “a plasma phenomena of ionized particles”, but all cool and rare things deserve a decent name.

This little update link implies that The Powers That Be may be agreeing that he coined a new phrase. Very cool.

Yeah, I’m six months late to this party. So what? It’s the neatest bit of helicopter news I could find on just one cup of coffee.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/03/2010 at 09:51 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesMilitary •  
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calendar   Monday - February 01, 2010

Green Nukes

Getting a lift from LiFTeR

Liquid Floride Thorium Reactors


graphic from

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have neighborhood nuclear reactors, each one hardly bigger than a tractor trailer? Wouldn’t it be amazing if these reactors took in a radioactive substance at the front end, produced electricity for low cost, and what was left over couldn’t be made into bombs? That’s how the LFTR system works:

Benefits of The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

# Burns up existing highly radioactive waste from light water reactors.
# Burns Uranium 235 or 233 fuel in the thermal spectrum allowing 98% burn-up.
# Liquid salt allows Xenon poison to be removed continuously.
# Breeds fertile Thorium into fissile Uranium 233 for insertion in the core in a closed cycle, onsite chemical separation process removes need for expensive isotope separation.
# Liquid salt high melting point allows for much smaller containment structure, no steam to contain.
# High temperature allows for use of combined cycle reheat Brayton turbine machinery improving efficiency to 50%, air cooling sufficient.
# High temperature also permits elemental breakdown of water to produce hydrogen for production of ammonia nitrate fertilizer, dimethyl ether diesel fuel, and methanol gasoline fuel.
# High negative temperature coefficient of reactivity, salt expands and contracts making reactor self regulating, no control rods needed.
# Fuel already tested and certified from HRE-2 in late 1950’s, 10 year certification process waived.
# Potential 30-50% specific cost reduction compared to existing LWR facilities.
# Proliferation resistant due to Uranium 232 contamination in Uranium 233 core, hard gamma emitter makes bomb use impossible.
# Freeze plug feature, passively safe reactor design.
# Scalable from 100MW semi trailer size to typical 1GW large plant size.
# Abundance of Thorium is 400 times greater than fissile Uranium 235, 3 times greater than Uranium 238.
# Specific high level actinide waste is 1/30 of conventional LWR and has 300 year decay time vs. 10,000 year.
# Platinum, Americium, and Strontium 90 decay chain products are highly valuable and useful to medical industry.


It turns out that this isn’t really new technology. The same guys who figured out how to make nukes figured this out back in the late 40’s and 50’s. But the idea got shelved, because you couldn’t make bombs out of the leftovers. They made a thorium reactor just for fun, and used to run it 5 days a week. They shut it down every weekend because nobody wanted to work the OT to watch the thing. But it worked just fine, and started up easily again each Monday morning. And then the idea was put away and forgotten about.

Thorium is very common stuff. The US has hundreds of thousands of tons of it. India has so damn much of the stuff, they have beaches made of it. Thorium is not a highly radioactive element, nor is it fissile. That means it doesn’t go boom - it can’t attain a critical mass. But put enough of it in one place, get it primed and running with some highly radioactive materials like U233, and it generates lots of heat. Enough heat to melt salt. And all that heat can generate lots of steam, and power turbines with it. And if the reaction gets too hot, it shuts itself down.

I’m not a nuclear scientist, and I don’t understand too much of the advanced chemistry. I first heard about Thorium reactors in last month’s Wired magazine, but it turns out that the rest of the world has been working on this for decades.

Here’s a little video that I found at How Stuff Works, and there are several other helpful videos at that link.

You can get an actual nuclear physics lecture on thorium reactors here. It runs a full hour.

Loads and loads of links all over the internet on this topic, but here is an important one: thorium may be the only way left open to us, due to the latest dictate from Lord Obama:

Recently it was reported in Defense Daily that the White House Office of Management and Budget has moved to remove all research in fast-spectrum fission reactors from the DOE budget. This in turn prompted an outcry from the Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu, who stated:

“Prohibiting research and development on fast reactors under the fuel cycle research and development budget line effectively selects the once-through fuel cycle as the only fuel cycle to be pursued in the United States”

With all due respect to the Secretary, there is another option. This is precisely the fork in the road that visionaries like Wigner and Fermi saw back in the late 1940s. If you pursue closed-fuel cycles based on uranium (and predominantly uranium-238) then Chu is right--the fast spectrum reactor is the only option for a closed-fuel cycle, since only in the fast spectrum can U-238 be productively consumed.

But...if you consider thorium as the basic fuel, as Wigner advocated, then you can have a closed fuel cycle WITHOUT a fast spectrum reactor, since thorium can be productively converted to energy in a “slow” neutron reactor (called a thermal-spectrum reactor) and thorium is the only option for this approach.

Be aware that the Obama administration has not said WORD ONE about this technology. They think they’ve just put the screws to the whole nuclear paradigm. But after years and years of research by other countries, this technology may be about to become mature. And it costs a whole lot less too, far less even than coal. So when this idea starts to spread, the White House can’t claim credit.

And we right wingers may have to eat a dish or three of crow on this one, because the same folks we’ve been beating on with hockey sticks are also behind LFTR:

Excitement has recently been rising about the possibility of using thorium as a low-carbon way of generating vast amounts of electricity. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel was extensively studied by Oak Ridge National Laboratory between 1950 and 1976, but was dropped, because unlike uranium-fueled Light Water Reactors (LWRs), it could not generate weapons’ grade plutonium. Research on the possible use of thorium as a nuclear fuel has continued around the world since then. Famed Climate Scientist James Hanson, recently spoke of thorium’s great promise in material that he submitted to President Elect Obama

It may be worse than I think. It may be that the greenies have all been working on this for ages, and we just haven’t been paying attention. Many of the articles I’ve found on this subject are also soaked with Gaia-love Climate Change Carbon Offset shit that you’d think the Sierra Club wrote them.

A thorium reactor is different. And, on paper at least, this radical new technology could be the key to unlocking a new generation of clean and safe nuclear power. It could prove the circuit-breaker to the two most intractable problems of the 21st century: our insatiable thirst for energy, and the warming of the world’s climate.

BY THE END OF this century, the average surface temperature across the globe will have risen by at least 1.4˚C, and perhaps as much as 5.8˚C, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The principal culprit is carbon dioxide, a gas that even in quite small quantities can have a dramatic impact on climate, and has historically been present in the Earth’s atmosphere at relatively low concentrations.

Hey, at least crow is a renewable resource. And with enough Tabasco sauce they probably taste Ok.

All sorts of links ...

I do believe this is the very first time BMEWS has linked to HuffPo. And I think I’ll get a pass on the slice of humble pie with a side of extra crispy black bird. I’ve always been in favor of nuclear energy, but I’ve never specified what those reactors run on. And it still pisses me off that the greenies put Three Mile Island and Chernobyl in the same sentence together as if they were equivalent events. Not true. Not true even by 4 orders of magnitude. But I’ll try to put that aside. Thorium may be the way to go; it looks like some reactors can even be retrofit. Why pollute or put people at risk when you don’t need to?

Heck, we hardly even need to mine the stuff. A gigawatt coal fired power plant produces lots of coal ash, and that one plant’s annual heap of ash contains about 13 tons of Thorium.

For the year 1982, assuming coal contains uranium and thorium concentrations of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively, each typical plant released 5.2 tons of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons of thorium that year.

This is really starting to sound like the Golden Apple. 


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/01/2010 at 03:02 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesOil, Alternative Energy, and Gas Prices •  
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calendar   Wednesday - January 20, 2010

This one’s for Drew, it’s right up there you betcha ..  Dinosaur tracks to be given protection

Dinosaur tracks in Oxfordshire have become the feature in Britain to be given special protection of its geological features alone.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

Ardley Trackways, near Bicester in Oxfordshire, have been notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England.

The trackways, formed 165 million years ago by a herd of Jurassic dinosaurs moving along part of an ancient shoreline, is the first SSSI to be designated purely because of its geological interest.

The site, which includes footprints from large, vegetarian dinosaurs related to Brontosaurus and also from carnivorous dinosaurs similar to Tyrannosaurus, is just alongside the M40 motorway and requires protection from development.

The trackways, that are otherwise unknown in England and are very rare internationally, also need protection from the elements by building shelters and ensuring visitors do not disturb the site.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said scientists will be working with the owners of the site to ensure the geological remains are preserved.

“Geological sites of this quality and importance are few and far between and we are delighted to give this important window on our past the protection that it so clearly deserves,” she said.

“As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, these unique dinosaur footprints now join the ranks of England’s most important wildlife and geological conservation sites. It is important that we continue to look after internationally valuable resources of this type and protect such fascinating insights into our ancient past”.



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/20/2010 at 03:42 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesUK •  
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ARCHEOLOGY - A WOW FIND. TWO IN FACT.  This is neat stuff and exciting

Every once in awhile things like this pop up and I get all kinds of excited over them.  The very idea that so much is still hidden away and then suddenly bingo, a dig in a remote place or someone with a metal detector or a scientific group find antiquity.  Amazing.

I know I’m not the only one here who likes this stuff because some have commented positively on past items of this sort.

So enjoy. And three cheers for the people who find these things.  Wish I could be one of em.  I have read about finds under the city of Alexandria in the distant past.

Cat goddess discovered in ruins of temple

January 20, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what is believed to be a Ptolemaic-era temple dating back more than 2,000 years that may have been dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities said that the ruins were discovered in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the seat of the dynasty founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The dynasty ended with the suicide of Cleopatra 300 years later.

The temple was thought to belong to Berenice, the wife of Ptolemy III, who ruled Egypt in the 3rd century BC. Muhammad Abdel-Maqsood, the lead archaeologist, said that the large number of statues depicting Bastet, right, indicated that it may be the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the cat goddess. Statues of other Ancient Egyptian deities were also found.

Modern Alexandria was built squarely on top of the ruins of the classical-era city and many of the great temples, palaces and libraries of that time remain undiscovered. (AP)




Oldest remains of English royalty unearthed

The oldest surviving remains of the English Royal family have been unearthed for the first time in more than 500 years, scientists claim.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 6:50AM GMT 20 Jan 2010

Archeologists believe they have discovered the coffin and skeleton of Queen Eadgyth, the sister of King Athelstan and granddaughter of Alfred the Great, who died in 946.

It was thought that her actual remains were lost when they were last moved in 1510 and that a monument built in Magdeburg Cathedral in southern Germany, was a cenotaph in her honour.

But when the tomb was investigated as part of a wider research project, a lead coffin was found inside bearing her name and inside that the nearly complete skeleton of a woman aged between 30 and 40.

Queen Eadgyth, the old spelling of Edith, died aged 36.

Now the University of Bristol are going to carry out tests on the bones to see if they can prove beyond doubt they are those of England’s oldest regal ancestor.

In particular they will try to match radioactive isotopes embedded in the bones to those found in her birthplace in England.

Professor Mark Horton, of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, who is co-ordinating the research, said: “We know that Saxon royalty moved around quite a lot, and we hope to match the isotope results with known locations around Wessex and Mercia, where she could have spent her childhood.

“If we can prove this truly is Eadgyth, this will be one of the most exciting historical discoveries in recent years. It is quite a surprise to find them so much in tact. It really is an important discovery.”

Queen was the sister of King Athelstan, generally considered to have been the first King of England after he unified the various Saxon and Celtic kingdoms following the battle of Brunanburgh in 937.

His tomb survives in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, but is most likely empty. Eadgyth’s sister, Adiva, was married to an unknown European ruler, but her tomb is not located. Historical chronicles tell that Adiva was also offered to Otto, but that he chose Eadgyth instead.

Eadgyth was given in marriage to Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor in 929.

She lived in Saxony and bore Otto at least two children, before her death in 946 at the age of 36. She was originally buried in Monastery of Mauritius in Magdeburg, and her tomb was marked in the Cathedral by an elaborate sixteenth century monument.

However, when the lid was removed in the latter, a lead coffin was discovered, bearing Queen Eadgyth’s name and accurately recording the transfer of her remains in 1510.

Professor Harald Meller, of the Landesmuseum fur Vorgeschichte in Saxony Anhalt, who led the project said: “We still are not completely certain that this is Eadgyth although all the scientific evidence points to this interpretation. In the Middle Ages bones were often moved around, and this makes definitive identification difficult.”

As part of the research project some small samples are being brought to the University of Bristol for further analysis.

Different geographical areas have different radioactive signatures, particularly when it comes to concentrations of the metal strontium.

If they can prove that the concentrations of strontium in the skeleton’s teeth, formed up to the age of 15, match those found in England then it proves she was brought up there and so is most likely Queen Eadgyth.

The discovery of Eadgyth’s remains illustrates the close links between European states in the early medieval period and how in the formation of both England and Germany intermarriage between the emerging royal houses of Europe was commonplace and has left a lasting legacy in the present royal families of Europe.



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/20/2010 at 09:37 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesArcheology / AnthropologyInternationalUK •  
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calendar   Wednesday - January 13, 2010

WOO - WHO GUYS IN AMERICA. Have you already seen this?  WOW!

Right I know. I go a bit crazy over finds like this.  And I always ask the same questions.  What else is out there?  What are they gonna find next?
It amazing that some of the things found have even survived this long.
I wonder if there will be anything from our current century that will have someone 500 years from now saying, wow. What a find.

Maybe, Wow. How primitive?


Pictured: The 400-year-old map that shows China as the centre of the world

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:49 AM on 13th January 2010

A rare 17th Century map that shows China as the as the centre of the world went on display yesterday in Washington.

The map, created in 1602 by Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, was the first in Chinese to show the Americas, and identifies Florida as ‘the Land of Flowers’.

The 12ft by 5ft document, printed on six rolls of rice paper, is on show at the Library of Congress. It is one of only two copies in existence in good condition, and was coined ‘the impossible black tulip of cartography’ by experts strugging to track it down.

Rare: The 17th Century Ricci Map. 1: China - 2: India - 3: Russia - 4: Europe - 5: Japan - 6: Canada - 7: US - 8: South America - 9: Africa - 10: Middle East

The map includes drawings and annotations detailing different regions of the world. Africa was noted to have the world’s highest mountain and longest river, while a brief description of North America describes ‘humped oxen’, wild horses and a region named ‘Ka-na-ta’.

Several Central and South American places are also named, including ‘Wa-ti-ma-la’ (Guatemala), ‘Yu-ho-t’ang’ (Yucatan) and ‘Chih-Li’ (Chile).

Ricci also included a brief description of the discovery of the Americas: ‘In olden days, nobody had ever known that there were such places as North and South America or Magellanica,’ he wrote, citing a name that early mapmakers used for Australia and Antarctica.

‘But a hundred years ago, Europeans came sailing in their ships to parts of the sea coast, and so discovered them.’

Ti Bin Zhang of the Chinese Embassy in Washington called the map a ‘catalyst for commerce’, and that it represented the momentous first meeting of East and West.

Ricci was among the first Westerners to live in what is now Beijing. Known for introducing Western science to China, Ricci created the map at the request of Emperor Wanli.

No examples of the map are known to exist in China, where Ricci was revered and buried. Only a few original copies are known to exist, held by the Vatican’s libraries and collectors in France and Japan.
Enlarge Catalyst for commerce: The map is thought to represent the momentous first meeting of East and West
Enlarge Intricate: The map, created in 1602, identifies Florida as ‘the Land of Flowers’

Catalyst for commerce: The map is thought to represent the momentous first meeting of East and West

The copy on display at the Library of Congress became the second most expensive rare map ever sold after it was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust in October for $1million.

The trust also owns the Waldseemuller world map, which was the first to use the name ‘America’ and was purchased for a staggering $10 million in 2003.

Prior to its sale, the Ricci map had been held by a private collector in Japan. When the Washington exhibition ends in April, it will be housed at the Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

The library also will create a digital image of the map to be posted online.



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/13/2010 at 07:01 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesArcheology / AnthropologyCHINA in the newsOUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTUSA •  
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calendar   Wednesday - December 23, 2009

The Real Man’s Christmas Lights


Bulbs? Bah Humbug! This Christmas display is made from pure electricity. HALF A MILLION VOLTS and a nice Tesla coil.

A physics fanatic down under is having a very Tesla Christmas this year, creating a 30-foot electrifying display of yuletide cheer by attaching a rotating rod to the top of a Tesla coil, making for quite the colorful Christmas tree. Using such specialized science tools as a fishing rod and sinker, household power, and a Nikon D300, physician and Tesla buff Peter Terren manipulated 500,000 volts at a time to produce the images seen here.

Using what he calls “electrickery,” Dr. Terren—known for a few other Tesla coil adventures including an electro-colorful remake of Rodin’s “Thinker”—used a really long exposure on his camera, several different lens filters and his knowledge of physics to create the high-voltage scene, manipulating the rod to create different visual effects.



Use caution when putting any presents underneath. And pleas avoid using those foil wrapping papers. LOL


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/23/2009 at 10:55 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesFun-Stuff •  
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calendar   Thursday - December 10, 2009

France in the news. State secret uncovered. French obsession with the bottom revealed

ooh lala. Oh those French ....

(and 50 minutes still counting. Obvious time in this country means something different. Like maybe the clock is metric or something? or 30 minutes really means, when the little hand is on ...)

Where was I ?  Oh right. Still in La Belle France ...

France’s obsession with the bottom is laid bare this week in a major new documentary and book charting how “les fesses” have shaped history.

By Henry Samuel in Paris

The highbrow study claims to demonstrate the huge contribution the “derrière” has made to civilisation, mixing the views of top psychoanalysts, philosophers, scientists and artists.


The role of “les fesses” in human evolution has been overlooked, claim the experts, while they have been prominent at every turning point in society and art history – from the ancient Greeks to Grace Jones. 

“They are every present in daily life and yet they have never been considered a serious subject of study in their own right,” claim the authors of La Face Cachée des Fesses (The Hidden Side of the Bottom). “They speak of the foundations of our society – in the literal and metaphorical sense – of its taboos and desires. When we talk about ‘les fesses’, we’re talking about ourselves.”

The film claims that the bottom line is that without our Gluteus Maximus, humans would never have come down from the trees.
Claudine Cohen, science historian at Paris’ Higher School of Social Sciences said: “The gluteal muscles are unique to humans, enabling bipedal locomotion – on two feet. (Their) size and strength developed to fulfil an essential human need, erect posture and walking.”

The importance of this change even escaped Darwin’s notice in his theory on human evolution. He made no mention of the fact that once humans gave up moving on all fours, males no longer knew when a female was fertile. This led to the rise of breasts and buttocks and the art of seduction.
While we all have them, “fesses” is a uniquely French word, claims the documentary – broadcast tomorrow (Thursday) night on the Franco-German channel Arte. An accompanying book will be on sale in all French museum shops starting this week.

Edward Lucie-Smith, an art historian, pointed out there was no exact translation for the word covering the thighs, the bottom and the loins.
“There’s no word in English which means quite the same thing. English words reduce it to the backside,” he said.

As for French artists, the documentary claims they have marked history above all others with their talents for depicting the derrière – through painters such as Courbet, Boucher, Toulouse-Lautrec, Ingres, Matisse and Degas.

“We have a special relationship with this party of the body,” said Allan Rothschild, co-director of the documentary. This was best summed up by Brigitte Bardot in the film Le Mépris (Contempt), when she asks, naked: “Et mes fesses? Tu les aimes, mes fesses?” (And my bottom, do you love my bottom?).” Buttocks have also played a key political role, in particular baring them as a protest gesture – favoured by punks and environmental activists. .

They also were instrumental in giving birth to feminism, which grew out of the misogynist and sexist late 19th century. “Les fesses” were exaggerated by making women wear “faux-culs” – literally “false butts” – huge bustles with a tiny waist and corset that actually enlarged their posteriors.

Philippe Comar, morphology professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts said: “The faux-cul reduced the woman to a sexual object. It is not surprising feminist movements took flight at this time.” While buttocks marked important phases in art, this was also true for photography, film and advertising.
In 1972, Michel Polnareff, a popular French singer, stuck thousands of posters of himself dressed as a woman and baring his behind with the slogan: “I’m a man”. The posters were banned and France was shocked.

The number of expressions and synonyms for the posterior in French is a tribute to its importance in society, and it can be found in many French songs, from Serge Gainsbourgh to Georges Brassens.

Mr Rothschild, who co-directed the film with Caroline Pichon, said that the French were more obsessed than ever with the behind. “They are on billboards, in pharmacy windows everywhere.” But he regretted recent changes in French tastes. “Only a few years ago, large ones were in fashion. Now they must be small, almost androgynous – there’s almost no difference between male and female. It’s rather a shame.”

The prospect of the in-depth fesses study will come as welcome light relief to the French, who are in sombre mood.
As one internet commentator noted, “Between swine flu, minarets, Sarkozy and the debate on national identity, here at last is a subject that gives pleasure.”



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/10/2009 at 04:26 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesFRANCEFun-StuffHumor •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
  1. Keep a firm grasp of Right and Wrong
  2. Stay involved with government on every level and don't let those bastards get away with a thing
  3. Use every legal means to defend yourself in the event of real internal trouble, and, most importantly:
  4. Keep talking to each other, whether here or elsewhere
It's been a long strange trip without you Skipper, but thanks for pointing us in the right direction and giving us a swift kick in the behind to get us going. Keep lookin' down on us, will ya? Thanks.


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GNU Terry Pratchett

Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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