Fukushima Again

But this time with a science fiction connecton swiped directly from The Next Big Future, which is an excellent site. Here is part of Jerry Pournelle’s take on the Fukushima thing:

The radiation plume of 400 milliseiverts is from a small area of certainly no more than 100 square meters. If we assume that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors collectively manage a plume the size of a square kilometer, then to get comparable numbers we need to multiply the 400/hour by (24 x 365) to get a year’s worth. Assume uniform distribution and divide by 500 million (global distribution). That comes out to .007 milliseiverts / year. I know of no scenario in which the Japanese reactors could sustain an emission rate of 400 milliseiverts per hour for a week, much less for a year, nor how there could they generate radioactive fallout uniformly over a square kilometer.

I am told that I am off in my calculations above, but off in the correct direction, which is to say the levels are too large. That’s unfortunate in that I don’t like to be wrong, but it also emphasizes my point, which is that the absolute worst case has no more global effect than did an event that many weren’t even aware of, and which didn’t have any great global effect.

The important lesson from Japan is that we took obsolete reactors with old designs and safety features, and subjected them to a 9.0 quake and a very large tsunami, and the damage to the planet is an unfortunate but hardly decisive event.

Go read the whole thing.

Then we have this:

Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh)
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro – world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

And more here at The Register.

I really think there should a ‘cry wolf’ award for TV reporters.

Fukushima Hysteria

I am getting heartily sick of some of the reporting on the nuclear reactor thing going on in Japan. Trying to wean facts from hyperbole and hysteria is getting very difficult. A recent news report I watched started off with groups of Japanese crying then segued into a shot of another group of them standing about in masks, in the rain, holding up umbrellas. Apparently the first group of people were very upset about what was happening with the reactors, whilst the people in the second group were protecting themselves from potential fall-out by donning masks and putting up umbrellas.

Of course the reporter concerned did not state this outright but rather used mealy-mouthed language to imply it. Now, there’s been an earthquake, a tsunami, thousands of people have lost their homes, thousands have lost their lives, thousands have lost relatives … could this be the reason some are crying? Also, did you notice the early reports about all this from Tokyo? Even during the earthquake people were wandering about with paper masks on their faces. Now this strikes me as odd and perhaps the Japanese have been far to enamoured with Michael Jackson, but they were wearing masks before anyone even mentioned those scary words ‘radiation’ and ‘melt-down’. And, just a thought here, could they have had umbrellas up because it was raining?

Upwards of ten thousand people have been killed and I suspect that when the final figures comes in it is going to be multiples of that. Tens of thousands are homeless, without water and power, struggling to get enough to eat, might at any moment be hit by another tsunami, yet the TV news focus is moving away from that. Now we have chest-beating reporters telling us about reactor buildings exploding and coming apart just like they are designed to, about ‘melt-down’ in reactors built to contain it, about a hysteria-driven safe evacuation of people probably way beyond what is necessary.

But yes, everything that is happening with these reactors is news, but really there should be more sense of proportion. The Fukushima nuclear power station ‘disaster’ is serious, but campared to everything else all around it, it’s like a few shell bursts amidst the Somme.

If you want a real perspective on this go here, and read the updates. And let me finish with a quote from the same source:

The lesson so far: Japan suffered an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented proportion that has caused unbelievable damage to every part of their infrastructure, and death of very large numbers of people. The media have chosen to report the damage to a nuclear plant which was, and still is, unlikely to harm anyone. We won’t know for sure, of course, until the last measure to assure cooling is put in place, but that’s the likely outcome. You’d never know it from the parade of interested anti-nuclear activists identified as “nuclear experts” on TV.

No SF at the BBC

Well I know that – I tried to watch Outcasts.

Stephen Hunt is getting hacked off with the BBC attitude to genre fiction as we can see in his blog post here. There’s also this article at the Guardian. I’m not sure I entirely agree. The Guardian seems more serious about genre fiction than just about any other newspaper, has published the article I’ve just pointed out, and it’s also joined at the hip to the BBC. What do you think? Maybe it’s only mentioned in the elitist spirit of ‘inclusiveness’ of the sneering intellectual pseud?

The good news is that the BBC has recently woken up to the decline of the printed word as an art form, and has belatedly decided to do something about it. The bad news is, shortly after they belatedly spotted all the high street bookshops going bust, they sent in the Sloanes with Purdey shotguns to lecture us on animal welfare.

Recently we’ve had Faulks on Fiction, where one of the bishops of the contemporary fiction high church, Martin Amis, laughed, ‘People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book. I say, “If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book.”’

Then we were offered World Book Night and a whole evening of BBC book coverage where the contemporary fiction team was trotted out onto the grass to kick the ball about – solely between themselves, of course.

The highlight of this was presenter Susan Perkins in the ironically entitled The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special making it sneeringly clear that she never normally reads any of our lowbrow genre tripe (although she might, you know, give it a whirl now, just for the sake of World Book Night). Fiction has to be painful, a little like school, she explained, before gushing all over some bemused beauty salon clients that her favourite must-read was Dostoevsky, who is all, like, really dark and stuff.

Fantasy was not mentioned once during the Perkins farce, fantasy, the very mother root of literature, JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling and Joe Abercrombie and China Miéville and Michael Moorcock all stuffed inside CS Lewis’s wardrobe, the better not to be seen.

Not a single work of science fiction was brought up, so farewell then the brave new worlds of HG Wells, John Wyndham, George Orwell, Iain M Banks, Brian Aldiss, Sir Arthur C Clarke, Aldous Huxley, JD Ballard, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton and Stephen Baxter.

No Smoking Day!

It being ‘no smoking day’ today my first reaction was to roll myself a nice Old Holborn rollie and puff away contentedly. Luckily for them I’m not going anywhere today so won’t encounter any of the righteous pricks who are pushing this. Any requests to stub it out would have been immediately acceded to, right in the eye of the one asking.

Dick Puddlecote puts it better than me:

What we really need, of course, is a ‘Keep Your Big Fat Interfering Nose Out Of Other People’s Business Day’, but there’s no cash for fake charities in that idea.

Free-electron Laser.

Thanks Brent for directing me towards this article. Now, I’ve blogged about the US Navy’s Mach 8 railgun and that is inked to in this article. That would be this weapon:

 DAHLGREN, Virginia — There wasn’t much left of the 23-pound bullet, just a scalded piece of squat metal. That’s what happens when an enormous electromagnetic gun sends its ammo rocketing 5,500 feet in a single second.

The gun that fired the bullet is the Navy’s experimental railgun. The gun has no moving parts or propellants — just a king-sized burst of energy that sends a projectile flying. And today its parents at the Office of Naval Research sent 33 megajoules through it, setting a new world record and making it the most powerful railgun ever developed.

I’ve also blogged before about this free-electron laser, but there’s much more about it in this article. What I didn’t realize is that it can operate at multiple wavelengths (the white lasers in Line War anyone?).

And I also didn’t realize this, which almost reads like fantasy:

Currently, the free-electron laser project produces the most-powerful beam in the world, able to cut through 20 feet of steel per second. If it gets up to its ultimate goal, of generating a megawatt’s worth of laser power, it’ll be able to burn through 2,000 feet of steel per second. Just add electrons.

You have to wonder if, maybe in ten or so years time, naval power will rise to displace air power until such a time as such power and accuracy becomes  lighter. Beyond that there is only one suitable rational response to this. Fucking hell!

BBC Bias.

Good post here over at Autonomous Mind. So when can we get rid of the licence fee? Or rather, as it should be correctly titled: the propaganda tax for the Labour Party.

When you look at these figures it is easy to see why the BBC should account for the disproportionate number of television and radio appearances by journalists from the Guardian. When given a choice of a national newspaper we can see that out of an average 10,197,331 copies sold each day during January 2011 (including bulk buys) less than 280,000 copies in the UK were the Guardian. That represents just under 2.74% of national circulation.

By far the most popular and widely read newspapers at the BBC are The Guardian and The Independent. ­Producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on ­running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover. In the later stages of my career, I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.
Peter Sissons.

And more here over at Biased BBC:

“The idea of a tax on the ownership of a television belongs in the 1950s. Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?” — Jeremy Paxman

“People who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that [global warming] is the consequence of our own behaviour. I assume that this is why the BBC’s coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago” — Jeremy Paxman

“I do remember… the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles. I’ll always remember that” — Jane Garvey, BBC Five Live, May 10th, 2007, recalling May 2nd, 1997.

Note: The date at the end here is when New Labour won the election.

Those Wicked Tory Cuts.

I’d quite forgotten how much I enjoy reading Richard Littlejohn. Here’s a sample or two from his recent article:

“For the past 20-odd years, this column has made a decent living documenting the insanity and waste in Britain’s Town Halls.

If all else failed, there was always the Guardian jobs pages on a Wednesday to dig me out of a hole.
The recruitment of five-a-day enforcers, lesbian bereavement counsellors and assorted real nappy outreach co-ordinators was guaranteed to raise a giggle.”

“So they cynically close libraries, day centres and swimming pools and give P45s to school dinner ladies and lollipop men. When it comes to the pain, it’s women and children first.

Meanwhile their lavishly-remunerated public relations departments synchronise the campaign against the ‘Tory cuts’ — aided and abetted by the Labour Party and the BBC, which pumps out a relentless bombardment of anti-Government doomsday propaganda.
This was, of course, exactly what Gordon Brown intended when he beggared the British economy to create a giant client state.
He set a bear trap for any incoming Conservative government, just as he did with the 50p top tax rate. Brown knew he could rely on the BBC to blame the ‘cuts’ on his successors. And he gambled that most people are so stupid they would fall for it. The indications are that he was right, up to a point.”

Had Enough

Here is an excellent letter to an MP from someone who is rather disgruntled with the present state of affairs in this country. I thoroughly agree. It is, of course, the case that he is lucky to even be able to opt out. Most people are firmly nailed to the treadmill of debt, high taxes and a political class that delights in butt-fucking them at every opportunity:

We have both chucked our jobs. I made three people redundant and myself and my wife will no longer be paying taxes at anywhere near the rate we did before. We will both be seeking part time jobs and don’t really care about the salary levels.

Why would two professional people like us both dump our professions, the very things that as young adults we strove to achieve?

Simple. It just isn’t worth the effort anymore in a world where a significant minority leech off of the rest of us and where the government spends over 50% of what we earn and takes that money on pain of imprisonment…

Patrick Moore Interview on The Register.

Thanks, Shiraz, for directing me to this excellent interview with Patrick Moore — one of the founders of Greenpeace.

Particular highlights:

We’re in an interglacial, but we’re in a longer-term Ice Age. If we look at local temperatures, we’re still in an Ice Age. It’s 14.5°C , peak 12°C, but in the greenhouse period ice ages are short and sharp; Greenhouse Ages are long and steady and last 10 million or 100 million years. The Earth’s averaged 22°C in these periods. So when people say global temperature is going to go up 2°C, and we’re going to die, I just laugh. We’re a tropical species. We haven’t adapted to cold and ice, except we have fires.

For example, the latest scare is ocean acidification – it’s totally made-up and ridiculous. Tomato growers inject CO2 to make the tomatoes grow; salt water aquarists inject CO2 to increase photosynthesis; and yet with coral we’re told the opposite is true.

Apocalyptic scenarios are just that – our fear of death. When you add self-loathing, and you have the apocalypse being externalised, this is what you get. We have to stop this self-defeating approach: that – “we’re going to die and we’re to blame”. That is enough to make you sick to your stomach. Much of this is collective neurosis. We should celebrate life.

New Fuel

I noted this on the Internet a little while ago and now the snail-media newspapers have caught up with it. You can find articles here at Popsci and gizmag:

UK-based Cella Energy has developed a synthetic fuel that could lead to US$1.50 per gallon gasoline. Apart from promising a future transportation fuel with a stable price regardless of oil prices, the fuel is hydrogen based and produces no carbon emissions when burned. The technology is based on complex hydrides, and has been developed over a four year top secret program at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford. Early indications are that the fuel can be used in existing internal combustion engined vehicles without engine modification.

Cella Energy have developed a method using a low-cost process called coaxial electrospinning or electrospraying that can trap a complex chemical hydride inside a nano-porous polymer that speeds up the kinetics of hydrogen desorption, reduces the temperature at which the desorption occurs and filters out many if not all of the damaging chemicals. It also protects the hydrides from oxygen and water, making it possible to handle it in air.

In the papers I’ve seen the price as 90 pence a gallon and 19 pence a litre. This all sound incredible, wonderful and just the sort of thing we need. And I have huge reservations. We’re told in the articles that present day car engines will not need to be modified, but go to the Cella website and we get, ‘it is possible to convert a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) to run on hydrogen with minimal engine modifications’ which is not quite the same really. Fuel tanks and exhaust systems are not mentioned. I’m presuming that the micro-beads themselves are not burnt, that the hydrogen evaporates from them, so fuel tanks will have to be emptied as well as filled. Think of the infrastructure involved.
But for fuel of that price, surely we could set this in motion? Yeah, right, it’s going to be that price. Ho ho. Lest we forget, if we bought petrol at the pump without government taxes it would cost 47 pence a litre. If you go here you’ll see that not only do we pay 59 pence duty, the government then taxes us on the tax we pay on fuel, that is, VAT is charged on the actual fuel price + delivery charge + duty. Does anyone reading this think for one moment that our government would give up on such a lucrative way of screwing the population? Do you think for one moment it would give up on 20 billion in tax? If some cheap new fuel came in the government would just look upon it as a way of increasing its tax take. This basically defines the attitude of all governments to tax.