This is not human-piloted …
The vehicles/ball are tracked by an overhead motion capture system and controlled by a pair of computers.
Archive for March, 2011
A critique of the xkcd radiation dose chart I linked to, with some more details and caveats, some of which I recognize as true from by background (but wasn’t going to post on my own because it’s too far away from my areas of competence). Randall’s shortcoming is the mixing of chronic and acute exposure doses (long-term and short-term), which are not equivalent, i.e. a dose spread out over a period of time (e.g. months) does not have the same biological effect of the same dose that happens in a period of minutes or hours or days. Giving the body a chance to repair itself matters.
To make matters worse, you’re again being played for a chump. The same puppets who did nothing while your standard of living decreased are now using the oldest gimmick in the book — jealousy — to continue their assault on American workers. Rather than protect Americans’ jobs, they deflect your attention through jealousy.
“Cut the pay of government workers,” they cry. “Increase their health premiums. Decrease their pensions. Break their unions. After all, you’ve suffered so they should suffer too.” And in your misery, you buy their argument while more jobs head oversees. Pretty stupid, eh?
My analysis of beta counts in California was from some simple EPA data. Here is a more detailed analysis of samples from Seattle: Fission Products in Seattle Reveal Clues about Japan Nuclear Disaster
By measuring the energy of the gamma rays from the filters, these guys have identified exactly which fission products have made their way across the Pacific. And this in turn allows them to make a number of interesting inferences about what has gone wrong at Fukushima.
[T]here are a huge number of possible breakdown products from nuclear fission in a reactor and yet the Seattle team found evidence of only three fission product elements–iodine, cesium and tellurium. “This points to a specifific process of release into the atmosphere,” they say.
Cesium Iodide is highly soluble in water. So these guys speculate that what they’re seeing is the result of contaminated steam being released into the atmosphere. “Chernobyl debris, conversely, showed a much broader spectrum of elements, reflecting the direct dispersal of active fuel elements,” they say.
However, this comes from an analysis of just the first five days after the fission products were detected (data collected on Mar 17-18), so it does not reflect more recent events.
Having a hard time reconciling the title, Countering Radiation Fears With Just the Facts, with this quote:
He believes that even low doses increase the risk of cancer, and that there is no “safe” level or threshold below which the risk does not rise — even if that risk cannot be measured statistically.
If you can’t measure it and objectively establish it as true, how can it be a fact?
Astronomy Picture of the Day for Mar 28 is a time-lapse video entitled The Aurora, taken in Norway. The not-yet-dark sequence at 1:30, with the aurora lighting up the clouds, is way cool.
Bonus timelapse — Stunning winter sky timelapse video: Sub Zero
Both have an effect of the camera slowly translating and their linked pages mention some sort of special dolly used for the effects.
Understating the risks is just as irresponsible as overstating it.
There is no explicit by-line on this article, but the video contains an interview with BBC reporter Chris Hogg in Tokyo that repeats that a half life of 8 days means “that after 8 days the risk will have dissipated”.
The reporter is WRONG. Twice, because that is also not what the officials said. His ignorance of basic physics, in this case a topic I always teach in a college general education class, led him to misinterpret what was actually said by a government spokesman and hence mislead the public.
No, it’s a robot bird. Not funded by DARPA, as far as I can tell.
The Crackpot Flowchart(TM) will let you know in an instant whether the invention being touted is not only earth-shattering but whether it will rock the very foundations of modern science itself. No more worrying that you missed out on a Pulitzer, kick the frauds and the deluded into a cracked pot and save the real breakthrough for a sneaky call to the newsdesk at Science and Nature.
Stock tip: invest in adult diaper companies, what with the soiling of undergarments going on about radiation levels in the US.
I’ve run across a number of stories about the worries and the run on iodine tablets, and then saw the California radiation monitoring map which led me to the EPA site. They give radiation levels for select cities, but don’t tell you what the expected background levels are, so all you have is the assurance that the detected levels are small. However, the EPA has set up a section dedicated to the Japan accident, which includes a map with the most recent data for all of their monitoring sites. I eventually found how to get historical data — you click on “Query View” over in the left column — and looked to see what I could find.
I chose Eureka, CA because it’s on the West Coast and I was excited to have found the database, and the beta count rate because that would be indicative of having fallout reach the US; many fission products are beta-emitters. (The gamma data is divided into energy bins, and would have taken longer to analyze.)
Here’s what the radiation levels look like, starting with March 10, up through a half-day’s worth of data on the 25th.
The earthquake happened in Japan on the 11th at 0542 UTC. You might think the first spike, on the 11th, might be caused by the quake/tsunami, but the cooling problems didn’t happen until about 8 hours had elapsed and it would take several days for any fallout to reach California. If you really think that either peak is significant, all you have to do is go into the database and look at a larger data set.
This graph goes back to early February. The two peaks shown on the first graph are near points 750 and 1000. We can see that the radiation levels are showing no unusual behavior.
Because the EPA has labeled levels coming from specific isotopes I have to assume that’s by looking at the spectrum, and they give numbers that are much less than a picoCurie per cubic meter. One Curie is 3.7 x 10^10 decays per second (based on the activity of a gram of Radium-226), which means that a picoCurie is about 2 decays per minute. The EPA isn’t clear that the numbers it gives for gross beta counts are for a cubic meter or a larger volume, but I think it has to be, because 0.0017 pCi (the Anaheim Cs-137 activity) is only about a quarter of a decay per hour, so I imagine they sample a much larger volume.
Vocabulary lesson: many MSM stories are confusing radiation and fallout/contamination. radiation (in this context) is the energetic particle emitted when something decays, e.g. a gamma or a beta. Fallout or contamination refers to the radioactive particles, such as particulate matter that was expelled from the reactor and contains radioactive particles. We aren’t worried about radiation reaching us from Japan, because that is diminished by distance. It would be like complaining that the lights of Tokyo are too bright and though I’m sure Sarah Palin can see them from her home, it’s simply not an issue for us. What matters is the amount of radioactive particles that might reach us, and decay when they are here. But we can’t see any effect on the radiation levels, because any increase is small compared to the background and fluctuations in the background.
To quote Hedley LaMarr, “Gentlemen, Please, Rest Your Sphincters!”