Keeping track of what’s going on in the world suddenly seems more interesting than studying. Here are some links to some news articles that seem interesting this week.
This Russian Soundsystem Turns Radiation Into Ambient Music – It doesn’t exactly sound good but boy is it interesting. I love the idea of turning signals from the environment into sound.
Thunderstorms can generate powerful radiation – Turns out that thunderstorms emit pulses of gamma radiation and no one exactly knows why. Not that anyone knows much about thunderstorms in the first place. Very interesting.
Tracking the Fukushima radioactivity plume across the Pacific – In case you stopped panicking about Fukushima lately, 2.1 years later, there are detectable levels of Cesium-134 off the Pacific coast. I just want to point out that detectable levels are far, far, far below dangerous ones. If you’d like another reassuring take, Stay Calm, But Radiation From Fukushima Has Crossed The Ocean To North America. Here’s one more reassurring take: Don’t panic! Fukushima radiation just hit the West Coast. I am very pleased by non-nuclear people telling the public not to worry. Of course the truth is that the danger posed to the West Coast by any radiation present is precisely zero by any reasonable measure of risk. And the risk of global warming is huge. So.
And there is an upside to the radiation plume from Fukushima, as well. Turns out scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography are using the tiny bits of Cesium to track the ocean currents and test the validity of their models. This is important work and a good way to make use of the radioactivity that is currently terrifying everyone for no good reason.
Hultgren plan would study low-dose radiation effects – Because the effects of radiation are random and probabilistic in nature, it’s very difficult to figure out what happens at low doses. Okay, so you got a dose of 500 mrem (1/10 the occupational limit per year) above background one time and you get cancer. What were the chances you were going to get cancer anyway? Well, pretty high. How likely is it that your cancer was caused by your dose? The fact is, it’s almost impossible to tell. For years, the radiation community has estimated risk in an exceptionally conservative way. Since there is no way to tell, we assume the worst. That has some downsides. First of all, it terrifies people, and second, it tends to make things much more expensive than they maybe should be. So I’m glad there is some funding to actually study what happens at low doses.
Nuclear Navy father honored – The Navy is naming a sub after Admiral Rickover. It is really hard to overstate his contribution to the nuclear power industry. Thanks to him, there has never been a reactor accident on a navy vessel. And his methods have been just as influential in the civilian sector.
Nuclear Power Turns To Salt – Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with a Canadian company (Terrestrial Energy Inc) to build a new Integral Molten Salt Reactor. IMSR is a small breeder, designed to have lower operating costs than traditional nuclear and to be deployed to far-flung locations and basically left alone until the fuel needs to be changed out 7 years later. This is super great, and I wish them the best of luck and science.
State plan would help nuclear plants by punishing carbon-based providers – Illinois is thinking about ways to help their nuclear plants stay open. I think discouraging carbon producers is in general a good idea, and letting nuclear plants close is mostly a bad idea. I hope some good comes of this.
Regulators, Palisades at odds over how much radiation workers were exposed to last year – Dose calculations are pretty complicated. In this case, the NRC is disagreeing with the way dose calculations were made during a special project. The workers were not wearing enough dosimeters in the right places, and the regulators believe the calculations were done incorrectly. Nobody is saying that the workers were overexposed, however it is important that calculations in general be accurate. In fact, such accuracy is central to the safety culture we work so hard to maintain in the radiation industry.
Nuke plant reports 2-month oil leak into Lake Michigan – This is very frustrating. First of all, the leak was small and there is no chance the oil is radioactive. But it is frustrating because nuclear plants already have such a bad reputation, the last thing they need is more bad press.
Presented without comment because it’s just too depressing.
Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear EnergyWorldCat•Read Online•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
Gwyneth Cravens was a writer who knew next to nothing about nuclear power, and like most people who don’t know very much about it, was against it. Then, she decided to learn as much as she could by touring various facilities and talking to lots of scientists, before finally concluding that nuclear is the only option that allows us to keep using electricity without global warming the planet to death.
Like many books about nuclear power, this one is overlong with too much detail. The problem is that the pro-nuclear camp is making an argument that nobody wants to hear, so they make it very comprehensively. It was also written before Fukushima, which renders it alarmingly out of date. If she thought people didn’t understand the risks and benefits of nuclear power before, that perception has only worsened.
That said, much of it is still true, and I would argue Fukushima doesn’t change the basic arguments all that much. The fossil fuel industry creates orders of magnitude more hazardous waste and is less careful about dealing with it. There are permanent disposal places that are more or less perfectly safe. Especially if we reprocess fuel and only store the truly not useful stuff, we will never run out of space because the volume of the waste is so incredibly small.
Another interesting point that I’d have liked to see discussed in light of Fukushima is all of the natural disasters that nuclear plants have survived. Three operating power reactors were hit by Katrina with no problems, according to this book. I’d like to see someone talk about others. And natural disasters will only get worse as the climate gets more unstable, which is precisely the thing relying more on nuclear power, at least as a transitional technology, is intended to prevent.
But in the end, although she was ideally suited to discuss the public misperceptions and what can be done about them, she was still applying the same technique scientists have been for years. Show the public lots of data and they will understand. I was hoping she would have written something a little less technical and a little more emotional.
By definition, a function must be single valued. That is, for any given x, there can be only one y. The same y can appear for multiple x‘s, like in every periodic function ever, but not the other way around. So, that’s pretty limiting. What if you want to graph a circle? Or a cardioid? Or a spiral?
The trick is to generate two separate function of a different variable. So $latex x=x(t)$ and $latex y=y(t)$. These are known as parametric equations.
One way to make Excel spit at you while trying to graph parametric equations is to graph them as a line plot rather than a scatter plot. This is confusing for me personally because I swear those used to do the same thing. But that’s the trouble with getting old. Things change, and you are cursed with the memory of how they used to work.
By way of example, let’s graph a spiral.
First, generate a column of t‘s. In our case, these are going to be angles in radians. You can use any step you like, but beware using a tiny step because it took me 200 data points to get around the spiral once.
You’ll also need to generate a gradually increasing r. This can be a constant times your angle step, or if you’re really fancy, it can be something more complex like $latex r=ct^2$. If your t‘s are in column A, starting in row 2, your formula for r would look like this:
=4*A2 . For the rest of the discussion, assume I have put this formula in column B
Next, you generate your parametric equations: $latex x=r\cos(t)$ and $latex y=r\sin(t)$. In Excel, these will look like this:
Finally, you graph your x column and y column as a scatter plot, and you receive spirals as payment.
If your r increases by equal increments, you get a spiral that looks like this:
And if you graph a spiral with increasing r increments, you get something like this:
Fun right? Feel free to download the sheet I used to make these guys. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.