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Nuclear Semiotics: Conveying Danger Across Eons (Possibly Via Cats)

26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico and 2,150 feet underground, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) brings new meaning to the phrase "built to last". The world's third deep geological nuclear waste repository, WIPP was designed to house radioactive material for 10,000 years. The primary challenge (keeping hazardous waste IN) was tackled by engineers. But for the secondary challenge - keeping living creatures OUT - the goverment recruited a team of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers. The job description included the words "the knowledge necessary to develop a marker system that will remain in operation during the performance period of the site - 10,000 years". Stymied by inevitable linguistic and orthographic drift, the group has discussed a wide array of ideas, some more fabulously demented than others (artificial moons, a nuclear containment-centric priesthood, a landscape of massive granite thorns). They intend to submit their final plan by 2028. [more inside]
posted by julthumbscrew on May 23, 2014 - 87 comments

Radioactivity is in the air for you and me

What zombie trees tell us about the world's worst nuclear disaster: in the abandoned forests around Chernobyl the trees that died in the accident are still standing because all the bacteria and fungi died off and hasn't come back, according to research done by Timothy A. Mousseau.
posted by MartinWisse on May 23, 2014 - 47 comments

Rocky Flats - From plutonium trigger factory to wildlife preserve

Kristen Iversen wants to better inform Colorado residents about the history of the Rocky Flats Plutonium processing facility and recommends this brief YouTube documentary as an introductory primer. [more inside]
posted by lordaych on Feb 17, 2014 - 26 comments

Dear America, I Saw You Naked

The TSA saw the near-miss as proof that aviation security could not be ensured without the installation of full-body scanners in every U.S. airport. But the agency’s many critics called its decision just another knee-jerk response to an attempted terrorist attack. I agreed, and wrote to the Times saying as much. My boss wasn’t happy about it.
“The problem we have here is that you identified yourself as a TSA employee,” she said.

Jason Harrington, author of the formerly anonymous Taking Sense Away blog, on his experiences as a dissenter inside of the Transportation Security Administration.
posted by gauche on Jan 31, 2014 - 71 comments

"...Japan does not have a vigorous tradition of satire."

France has made Japan angry again, this time with insensitive political cartoons about Fukushima. With radiation levels still spiking, and the government only reticently admitting to constant leaks, some are questioning the legitimacy of PM Abe's insistence that Tokyo is safe. With decisions not to prosecute anyone involved in the disaster, it seems that amakudari is, in Japan as in most other countries, still alive and well.
posted by GoingToShopping on Sep 13, 2013 - 43 comments

Showdown at the Airport Body Scanner

"As I watch fellow passengers walk into the machines, posing with their arms raised over their heads like prison inmates submitting to a strip search, I feel proud of my small act of protest. Then I spread my legs and await my public groping."
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Sep 3, 2013 - 136 comments

One more thing to worry about

Scientists first discovered invisible gamma-ray flashes in Earth's atmosphere in 1991. This year, the radiation burst, known as dark lightning, was discovered to be linked to regular lightning flashes. Will you get zapped by dark lightning when flying through a thunder cloud? A single burst can give an airline passenger a lifetime's safe dose of ionizing radiation. But it is rare enough that, for now, the risk is thought to be minimal. The US Naval Research Laboratory is rigging balloons and aircraft to further study the radiation burst threat.
posted by eye of newt on Aug 18, 2013 - 20 comments

Sense About Science

With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, Sense About Science works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. They make these scientists available for questions from civic organizations and the public looking for scientific advice from experts, campaign for the promotion of scientific principles in public policy, and publish neat guides to understanding science intended for laypeople. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Feb 28, 2013 - 9 comments

Also spelled Čerenkov

What happens when charged particles travel faster than the speed of light of the medium they're in? Cherenkov Radiation. Like this. Or this. Not this. More like this. Certainly not this. But definitely this or this or this. Not this.
posted by griphus on Aug 3, 2012 - 26 comments

'On contaminated dives, they get an extra $10 per day'

Swimming on the Hot Side: An elite team of nuclear divers are risking their lives to help save a troubled industry. The Life of a Nuclear Diver
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 29, 2012 - 71 comments

Don't try this at home

"I'm banned," he says. "By whom?" I ask. "My landlord," he says. "And the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority." Jon Ronson on DIY science.
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Feb 4, 2012 - 33 comments

6 ounces hidden inside more than 22 metric tons

On July 13, 2010, a cargo container arrived in Genoa, Italy from Saudi Arabia. It was emitting torrents of radiation. No one knew what was inside. And no one knew what to do next.... [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 29, 2011 - 79 comments

放射能が降っています。静かな夜です。

It's raining radiation. It's a quiet night. We are well into autumn. And despite the growing sense in the Tokyo metropolitan area that things are now all right -- with train services back to pre-disaster schedules and the regret we once felt over our wasteful consumption of electricity dissipating -- Fukushima remains a war zone. [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Oct 12, 2011 - 41 comments

blind, a film by Shoda Yukihiro

blind is a short film (5:17 - in Japanese w/ English subtitles) set in post-nuclear Tokyo. The film may be viewed at the blind website, at Vimeo or at YouTube. Parents please be advised: although the film features a young child, viewing by young children is not especially recommended, as they may be frightened.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 6, 2011 - 29 comments

Fifty Years of Space Nuclear Power

Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists presents Fifty Years of Space Nuclear Power "A plutonium fueled RTG that was deployed in 1965 by the CIA not in space but on a mountaintop in the Himalayas (to help monitor Chinese nuclear tests) continues to generate anxiety, not electricity, more than four decades after it was lost in place. See, most recently, "River Deep Mountain High" by Vinod K. Jose, The Caravan magazine, December 1, 2010." (MeFi previously)
posted by HLD on Jun 28, 2011 - 8 comments

"The Russian people felt that 'we can believe these guys'."

The True Battle of Chernobyl (SLYT)
posted by mexican on Apr 27, 2011 - 20 comments

Radiation Belt Modelling For Living With A Star

The Van Allen Belt is a pesky radioactive torus surrounding Earth. Spacecraft operating for extended periods within it must use heavy and expensive radiation hardening techniques just to survive. Tethers Unlimited has proposed a rather daring scheme for circumventing this nuisance: HiVOLT. [more inside]
posted by Casimir on Mar 20, 2011 - 24 comments

Radiation, yes indeed.

The xkcd Radiation Dose Chart. (More about it.) (via)
posted by Artw on Mar 20, 2011 - 95 comments

Microwave science!

Measure the speed of light using your microwave. (via The Puzzler, who is, incidentally, a mefite)
posted by ocherdraco on Oct 17, 2010 - 18 comments

We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat

Screwworms, once the scourge of livestock (as well as pets and occasionally humans [link to VERY GRAPHIC slideshow]) throughout the Western Hemisphere, have been eradicated from the United States since 1966. In addition to constant vigilance by veterinary services and livestock handlers, who treated wounds immediately and set traps [link to 1920s informational film], the method which ultimately led to control of this horrifying pest is sterile insect technique. Maps showing the progress of the technique can be seen here. The USDA's National Agriculture Library maintains a special collection on the Screwworm Eradication Program. Here is a good overview of the problem and the USDA's solution, complete with (somewhat gruesome) pictures and videos. [more inside]
posted by fiercecupcake on Jul 29, 2010 - 58 comments

How the World Nuked Itself from 1945-1998

"1945-1998" is a multimedia artwork by Isao Hashimoto that documents over 2000 nuclear explosions -- mostly tests -- on earth since the closing days of World War II. It starts slowly, but give it time, because it ends up looking like the 4th of July. [more inside]
posted by fourcheesemac on Jul 4, 2010 - 54 comments

Roll for mutations

old School Science Fiction RPGs: Traveller, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World.
posted by Artw on May 27, 2010 - 99 comments

The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off

The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off: Eben Byers was just one victim of a clear case of radioactive quackery. But the theory may not have been completely bunk. It's the radiation hormesis hypothesis. Previously.
posted by sunnichka on Mar 2, 2010 - 27 comments

Lower Your Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation

So, cell phones emit radiation. But how much does yours emit? Compare over 1,000 different cell phones and smartphones.
posted by amro on Sep 10, 2009 - 202 comments

Homo Superior!

How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race. The excellent Modern Mechanix brings us Mechanix Illustrated's uninformed 1953 article on the effects of nuclear fallout.
But why, then, don't we have our superintelligent bobblehead beagles?
posted by dunkadunc on Jun 6, 2009 - 32 comments

A Review of Criticality Accidents

A Review of Criticality Accidents (3.7 MB pdf) Do you like reading comp.risks, or CVR transcripts from famous plane crashes? Then you may enjoy this technical analysis of 60 accidents where improper handling of fissile materials led to unexpected critical mass. [more inside]
posted by ikkyu2 on Dec 10, 2008 - 36 comments

Paintings of Mutated Insects

Cornelia Hesse-Honegger paints watercolours of mutated insects from radioactively contaminated areas in Ukraine, Switzerland, the United States, and Europe. She has recently published a scientific article incorporating these paintings (5 MB PDF). site also available in German
posted by Rumple on Oct 1, 2008 - 26 comments

Fungi are weird

Silent spring : Deep in the radioactive bowels of the smashed Chernobyl reactor, a strange new lifeform is blooming.
posted by Burhanistan on Jul 25, 2008 - 46 comments

KABOOM!

Jonathan Golob at Dear Science.org has a series of posts up about nuclear power. Topics include: The physics behind nuclear power, the inner workings of a reactor, nuclear radiation, nuclear waste, the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and the future of nuclear power. Also in a truncated podcast form. [more inside]
posted by Weebot on Jun 19, 2008 - 2 comments

It's always a race condition.

When programmers kill. [pdf] In 1982, Atomic Energy Canada, Limited, introduced the now-infamous Therac-25, a solely software-driven successor to its earlier medical linear accelerators. Six patients received massive amounts of radiation, and three died, before AECL was compelled to supplement the (faulty) software-only error-checking with hardware interlocks to prevent overexposure. [more inside]
posted by enn on May 20, 2008 - 18 comments

Toxic Meteorite?

Meteorite landing confirmed in Peru. Some report illness. Could it be the arrival of the anti-Christ Mabus? Here's what one Doubting Thomas has to say about the whole thing. Some have found it funny.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen on Sep 19, 2007 - 58 comments

Saturday Flash fun

Don't you know that I'm toxic? Toxic has you controlling a clean-suit wearing bomberman across destructible platform mazes in search of glowing green canisters, powerups and enemies to bomb the living bejesus out of. The chiptune soundtrack is pretty nice, too.
posted by boo_radley on Sep 8, 2007 - 30 comments

Kerr Magee had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to call their waste an "experimental fertilizer" and just spread it over the top of the land.

Depleted uranium is now understood to have many medical consequences unique to its modern application as munitions, due to its incendiary, aerosolizing behavior when pulverized. (Rosalie Bertell explains, youtube) It has become a leading candidate for the cause of Gulf War syndrome, and was associated with massive increases in cancer and birth defects in Basra. The EU has called for a moratorium on its use four times, and WHO is deeply concerned with its consequences, but the USA (with Canadian complicity) and Russia continue to use it in Iraq and elsewhere. (prev: 1 2 3 4 5)
posted by mek on Aug 22, 2007 - 52 comments

Chernobyl, 20 Years Later

A striking essay with photos documenting a visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Mark Resnicoff, a database programmer and amateur photographer, visited Chernobyl and took a schwack of atmospheric photos. This reminded me of a set of slightly-controversial Chernobyl photos from 2004. Wikipedia provides a little context on KiddofSpeed, the photographer in question with an awesome Engrishesque nickname.
posted by dbarefoot on May 27, 2007 - 26 comments

Undark and the Radium Girls

Undark and the Radium Girls is the fascinating true story of several female employees of the US Radium Corporation at the turn of the 20th Centry. The women were employed to paint radioactive "Undark", a glow-in-the-dark paint for military application (dials that needed to be seen at night, etc) onto the machinery. The women were given lethal amounts of paint & fine brushes, which they all routinely kept sharp by wetting the tips in their mouths. Twenty years later, as their jawbones disintegrated & the tumors began to spread, they started down the path to figuring out who had murdered them, and how.
posted by jonson on Jan 2, 2007 - 68 comments

Leetso

Blighted Homeland. "From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were dug and blasted from Navajo soil, nearly all of it for America's atomic arsenal. Navajos inhaled radioactive dust, drank contaminated water and built homes using rock from the mines and mills. Many of the dangers persist to this day." A series of articles and photo galleries examines the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo (previously discussed here.) [Via Gristmill, BugMeNot.]
posted by homunculus on Nov 24, 2006 - 13 comments

All boom, no alpha

Air samples over North Korea show no radiation "It is possible there was no radiological data. That could be the case if: the North Koreans successfully sealed the site; it was such a small detonation and so deep underground there was no escape of nuclear debris; or the test was actually conventional explosives."
posted by Artw on Oct 13, 2006 - 57 comments

James Van Allen 1914 - 2006

James Van Allen the discoverer of the Van Allen Radiation Belts died today, aged 91.
posted by hardcode on Aug 9, 2006 - 20 comments

Half-Life? Try Sixteenth-Life

Chilling Out Mr. Radioactive
A group of scientists at Germany's Ruhr University may have a way of cutting down the time it takes for radioactive waste to decay to a safer state. Instead of 1600 years for Radium-226, Prof. Claus Rolfs theorizes that he can cut that down to a mere 100 years, by encasing the materials in metal and then freezing them to very, very low temps to accelerate the radioactive decay.
posted by fenriq on Aug 1, 2006 - 28 comments

Night Ice

"The Bible describes how to make ice on the desert. Please describe the procedure and explain how it fits your knowledge of heat transfer."

Your assignment: make ice in the desert. Without electricity. Without extra chemicals. Without extra gadgetry or imports. Oh, and the temperature is about 55 degrees (13C). It can be done, there is science behind it. And yet we seem to have forgotten something that everyone used to know.
posted by jessamyn on Aug 1, 2006 - 43 comments

Chernobyl: 20 Years Later

The Chernobyl Legacy
posted by rinkjustice on Apr 25, 2006 - 17 comments

Nuclear Nightmares

This is a stunning set of photographs by Robert Knoth, taken in the regions of Mayak, Semipalatinsk, Chernobyl, and Tomsk-7. [via]
posted by 327.ca on Apr 22, 2006 - 37 comments

Thinking outside the exclusion zone

The BBC reports that twenty years on "the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station is teeming with life." Lynx, eagle owl, wild boars, horses, wolves—even signs of bears which haven't been seen here in centuries. British scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock (recently discussed here) speculates whether "small volumes of nuclear waste from power production should be stored in tropical forests and other habitats in need of a reliable guardian against their destruction by greedy developers." Lovelock describes Chernobyl as "a nasty accident that took 45 lives." This article in the New Scientist claims that that the death toll may ultimately reach 60,000.
posted by 327.ca on Apr 21, 2006 - 49 comments

The Office of Human Radiation Experiments

The Office of Human Radiation Experiments, established in March 1994, leads the Department of Energy's efforts to tell the agency's Cold War story of radiation research using human subjects. We have undertaken an intensive effort to identify and catalog relevant historical documents from DOE's 3.2 million cubic feet of records scattered across the country. Internet access to these resources is a key part of making DOE more open and responsive to the American public.
posted by Dome-O-Rama on Feb 16, 2006 - 7 comments

That beautiful blue glow...

Three Mile Island - a study in bad human interface design. Chernobyl in text, pictures (posted previously), and eyewitness accounts. Those are two of the most famous incidents involving mishaps with radioactive material. There have been many more (see also) including suicides, homicides, assaults, and motives forever unknown. But US citizens need not worry - the NRC is on it. What do you know about radiation poisoning? Take the test.
posted by aberrant on Jan 31, 2006 - 55 comments

Things that don't go boom

Need a power source for your electric car? Be careful building a nuclear power plant in your back yard, or you could be the center of the next suburban superfund cleanup.
And it is perhaps best that he does not work on the ship's eight reactors, for EPA scientists worry that his previous exposure to radioactivity may have greatly cut short his life. All the radioactive materials he experimented with can enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact and then deposit in the bones and organs, where they can cause a host of ailments, including cancer.
posted by b1tr0t on Jun 28, 2005 - 19 comments

Gas masks, get your gas masks here...

That American forces use depleted uranium in our weapons isn't news, but these statistic are a little spooky. According to Bob Nichols at the Dissident Voice, we've unleased 4,000,000 pounds of DU in Iraq. That's the radioactive equivalent of 250,000 Nagasaki bombs (pdf) says Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, former chief of Naval Staff in India. And since it's dust...it travels with the wind, which means Europe will see some fallout. It also turns out that most of the soldiers didn't know they were using DU, didn't know what DU was, and are now suffering reactions to it.
posted by dejah420 on Apr 6, 2004 - 32 comments

Nuclear Blues

Nuclear plant operation correlates with increased infant mortality rate. Correlation may not prove causation, but these numbers are pretty dramatic.
posted by alms on Nov 3, 2003 - 19 comments

Operation Enduring Uranium

Bizarre results showing elevated levels of NON-depleted uranium in Afghan civilians who showed symptoms of uranium poisoning following Operation Enduring Freedom. "Uranium levels found in the Afghan civilians’ urine are 4-20 times higher than those of a control group and the isotopic signature is that of Non-Depleted Uranium. The only explanations of this finding are either anomalous geological and agricultural conditions (fertilizers) or the presence of uranium extracted from the front-end of the fuel or weapons production cycles. [...] There are no geological, commercial and agricultural phenomena or activities and uses in the environs of the contaminated populations that might explain the contamination." This is very odd. [via wrh; these preliminary results are unpublished but UMRC’s Gulf War Veterans’ studies are in peer-reviewed journals]
posted by Bletch on Jun 29, 2003 - 13 comments

Holy Heavy METAfilter poisoning Batman!

Not as easy to understand as those self-install satellite dishes The video the army remembered to forget? Just like he Treasury Department's amnesia regarding Hemp for Victory.
posted by KidnapCounty on Jun 4, 2003 - 15 comments

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