There are a few stories of Thomas Edison’s adventures. Science was extremely dodgy in the past. For example:
“I had read in a scientific paper the method of making nitroglycerine, and was so fired by the wonderful properties it was said to possess, that I determined to make some of the compound. We tested what we considered a very small quantity, but this produced such terrible and unexpected results that we became alarmed, the fact dawning upon us that we had a very large white elephant in our possession. At 6 A.M. I put the explosive into a sarsaparilla bottle, tied a string to it, wrapped it in a paper, and gently let it down into the sewer, corner of State and Washington Streets.”
‘The Large Hadron Collider fired its first beam around the machine’s full track at 10:28 AM local time (1:36 AM Pacific time).
No actual atoms were smashed today — that won’t start for weeks — and no results are expected for months, at the earliest. Still, like first light in a telescope, the first beam in the particle accelerator is a landmark moment for a program that has spanned more than 20 years and involved tens of thousands of scientists.
“What has been shown today is that technically it all works,” said Jos Engelen, chief science officer for CERN, the European scientific research agency directing the efforts, in a live webcast from Geneva.’
‘Here’s an interesting conundrum involving nuclear decay rates.
We think that the decay rates of elements are constant regardless of the ambient conditions (except in a few special cases where beta decay can be influenced by powerful electric fields).
So that makes it hard to explain the curious periodic variations in the decay rates of silicon-32 and radium-226 observed by groups at the Brookhaven National Labs in the US and at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesandstalt in Germany in the 1980s.
Today, the story gets even more puzzling. Jere Jenkins and pals at Purdue University in Indiana have re-analysed the raw data from these experiments and say that the modulations are synchronised with each other and with Earth’s distance from the sun. (Both groups, in acts of selfless dedication, measured the decay rates of siliocn-32 and radium-226 over a period of many years.)
In other words, there appears to be an annual variation in the decay rates of these elements.’
‘When asked by the Pope to demonstrate his artistic skill, 14th century Italian painter Giotto di Bondone supposedly drew a perfect circle freehand and said: “That’s more than enough.” Now, an international group of engineers and craftsmen has gone him one better and built a pair of nearly perfect spheres that are thought to be the roundest objects in the world.
The unusual balls, discussed last week at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference in France, were created as an answer to the “kilogram problem”.
The kilogram is the only remaining standard of measurement tied to a single physical object: a 120-year-old lump of platinum and iridium that sits in a vault outside of Paris, France. But the mass of this chunk of metal is slowly changing relative to the 40-odd copies kept by other countries, and no one knows why or by how much.’
‘The Dyatlov Pass Accident refers to an incident that resulted in the death of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains. The incident happened on the night of February 2, 1959 on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (Холат Сяхл) (a Mansi name, meaning Mountain of the Dead). The mountain pass (N61°45’17″, E59°27’46″) where the accident occurred has been named Dyatlov Pass (Перевал Дятлова) after the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov (Игорь Дятлов).
The mysterious circumstances of the hikers’ deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigations of the deaths suggest that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow; while the corpses show no signs of struggle, one victim had a fractured skull, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. The victims’ clothing contained high levels of radiation. Soviet investigators determined only that “a compelling unknown force” had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter. The causes of the accident remain unclear.’
‘According to the standard model of physics, matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities shortly after the Big Bang. The two types of particles should have thus cancelled each other out and the universe should be permeated by energy.
But as our existence attests, that did not happen. Experiments suggests the universe today is composed of about 75 per cent dark energy, 20 per cent dark matter, and five per cent matter/antimatter, with the overwhelming bulk of the latter consisting of normal matter.
A major mystery of modern physics is why normal matter particles are the building blocks of the observable universe. Why are we not made of antimatter? Or pure energy? Scientists speculate that a tiny imbalance in the early universe allowed a small fraction of normal matter – one particle for every one billion – to avoid annihilation and survive to form stars, planets, and humans.’
‘Sometime after midnight on September 6, 2007, at least four low-flying Israeli Air Force fighters crossed into Syrian airspace and carried out a secret bombing mission on the banks of the Euphrates River, about ninety miles north of the Iraq border. The seemingly unprovoked bombing, which came after months of heightened tension between Israel and Syria over military exercises and troop buildups by both sides along the Golan Heights, was, by almost any definition, an act of war. But in the immediate aftermath nothing was heard from the government of Israel. In contrast, in 1981, when the Israeli Air Force destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, near Baghdad, the Israeli government was triumphant, releasing reconnaissance photographs of the strike and permitting the pilots to be widely interviewed.’
‘In a hypothetical future scenario, the U.S. and China are poised to clash — likely over Taiwan.
The democratic Republic of China, commonly called Taiwan — which America backs and the communist People’s Republic of China considers part of its territory — frequently irritates Chinese leaders with calls for greater independence from the mainland. But while the American military mulls its options, Chinese missiles hit runways, fuel lines, barracks and supply depots at U.S. Air Force bases in Japan and South Korea. Long-range warheads destroy American satellites, crippling Air Force surveillance and communication networks. A nuclear fireball erupts high above the Pacific Ocean, ionizing the atmosphere and scrambling radars and radio feeds.
This is China’s anti-U.S. sucker punch strategy.’
‘A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials said Saturday.
The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. [..]
Such an uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of U.S. secrets, said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert. Spy satellites typically are disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft, he said.
Pike also said it’s not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.
Pike, director of the defense research group GlobalSecurity.org, estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 20,000 pounds and is the size of a small bus. [..]‘
These sorts of satellites often have plutonium based radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Fun.
‘I was recently talking with a colleague who was a fellow theoretical physics graduate student at Princeton University back in the early 1980s. He had been thinking about an obscure academic physics journal he would occasionally skim in the library during those years. This journal was filled with bizarre extra-dimensional models of particles and forces, esoteric ideas about cosmology, and a slew of highly speculative theorising, with little in common other than a lack of any solid evidence for a connection with reality.
“You know,” he said, “at the time I thought these things were a joke, but now when I look at mainstream physics papers, they remind me a lot of what was in that journal.”
Why is it that central parts of mainstream physics have started to take on aspects that used to characterise the outer fringes of the subject? At the very centre of the physics establishment, things have been getting more and more peculiar.’
‘Radioactive sample of uranium ore. Useful for testing Geiger Counters. License exempt. Uranium ore sample sizes vary. Shipped in labeled metal container as shown.’
Apparently, people who bought uranium ore also bought the Bender’s Big Score movie DVD.
‘A brazen attack by four gunmen on the Pelindaba nuclear facility has left a senior emergency officer seriously injured.
Anton Gerber, Necsa emergency services operational officer spoke to the Pretoria News from his hospital bed hours after the attack.
He was shot in the chest when the gunmen stormed the facility’s emergency response control room in the early hours of Thursday morning. [..]
Necsa spokesperson Chantal Janneker confirmed the attack.
She declined to say how the gunmen had gained access to the facility or whether they had stolen anything.
Janneker said Necsa was conducting an internal investigation into the attack.
Once the police investigation was complete Necsa would divulge what happened, she said.’
‘On 22 September 1979, sometime around 3:00am local time, a US Atomic Energy Detection System satellite recorded a pattern of intense flashes in a remote portion of the Indian Ocean. Moments later an unusual, fast-moving ionospheric disturbance was detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and at about the same time a distant, muffled thud was overheard by the US Navy’s undersea Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Evidently something violent and explosive had transpired in the ocean off the southern tip of Africa.
Examination of the data gathered by satellite Vela 6911 strongly suggested that the cause of these disturbances was a nuclear device. The pattern of flashes exactly matched that of prior nuclear detections, and no other phenomenon was known to produce the same millisecond-scale signature. Unfortunately, US intelligence agencies were uncertain who was responsible for the detonation, and the US government was conspicuously reluctant to acknowledge it at all.’
‘American diplomats have been ordered to compile a dossier detailing Iran’s violations of international law that some fear could be used to justify military strikes against the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.
Members of the US secretariat in the United Nations were asked earlier this month to begin “searching for things that Iran has done wrong”, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
Some US diplomats believe the exercise — reminiscent of attempts by vice-president Dick Cheney and the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to build the case against Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war — will boost calls for military action by neo-conservatives inside and outside the administration.’
‘When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph.
But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age.
And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket, according to Boris Chertok, one of the founders of the Soviet space program.’
‘The most expensive public works project in the US was today in disarray after it emerged that a planned giant nuclear dump would be located on a faultline.
Rock samples from deep within Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, showed that the fault runs directly beneath the site where the US federal government planned to store 70,000 tonnes of highly radioactive waste.
More than $8bn (£4bn) has already been spent on the $58bn project, which had been due to open in 2017, but the proposals – approved by George Bush in 2002 – may now have to be redrawn.
Samples taken from 76 metres below the surface of the mountains, which are around 90 miles north-west of Las Vegas, revealed that the Bow Ridge fault passes hundreds of metres to the east of where scientists believed it lay.’
‘Hundreds of people in Peru have needed treatment after an object from space – said to be a meteorite – plummeted to Earth in a remote area, officials say.
They say the object left a deep crater after crashing down over the weekend near the town of Carancas in the Andes.
People who visited the scene have been complaining of headaches, vomiting and nausea after inhaling gases.
But some experts have questioned whether it was a meteorite or some other object that landed in Carancas.’
‘At first there was a wall of secrecy about a supposed Israeli attack on Syria 10 days ago. Now, the leaks have started and there are suggestions the air assault by Israel was in response to Syria’s nuclear ambitions.
In Israel itself there is an official blackout on any information related to the attack, with the Israeli military censor banning any reporting from Israeli sources.
However the British and American press, quoting unnamed US sources, have been putting together an alarming picture.
What happened in Syria 10 days ago has been at the centre of one the biggest guessing games in Israel. Whatever it was, it was very serious.’
‘The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.
Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.
Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.
President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust”. He warned that the US and its allies would confront Iran “before it is too late”.’
‘A man looking for a new home on an online mapping service has stumbled across an aerial image of a US nuclear-powered submarine in dry dock showing a part of the vessel that wasn’t meant to be seen.
The image – which appears on Microsoft’s Virtual Earth mapping service – is of the seven-bladed propeller used on an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine.
The vessel was being worked on at a dry dock at the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington State, in the north-west of the United States. The base is part of Bangor’s Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific which houses the largest nuclear weapons arsenal.
Propeller designs have been closely guarded secrets since the days of the Cold War. It is still common for them to be draped with tarps or removed and covered when a submarine is out of the water.
The propeller design is an integral part of a submarine’s ability to remain undetected during operations, ensuring that it can patrol the seas in stealth without giving its position away to surface ships.’
‘A Long Beach, California, man was arrested last night in a spectacular commando raid. A police SWAT team stormed the home of Erwin Schrodinger at about 9:30 PM after receiving tips from his neighbors about sinister activities on the property. A local judge issued a warrant when police presented geiger counter measurements taken from the sidewalk showing the presence of radioactive materials somewhere on the premises.
Police have released very little information, but so far it appears the elderly Mr. Schrodinger faces felony charges of cruelty to animals, possession of fissionable materials, and possession of lethal toxins. [..]
Mr. Schrodinger is being held without bail pending charges. A distraught Mrs. Schrodinger, who says Mr. Schrodinger is harmless, states she has petitioned several times to see or at least talk with her husband, to no avail. “As it stands,” she said, “I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive!”’
Followup to Warning – Erwin Schrödinger.
‘Iran’s uranium enrichment program is operating well below capacity and is far from producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts, according to a confidential U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by Reuters.
A senior Iranian nuclear official said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report showed U.S. suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear intentions were baseless.
Officials familiar with the report said the IAEA could open future inquiries into Iran’s atomic activity if new suspicions arose, even after Tehran answers questions about the program under a transparency deal reached this month.’
‘Without us on the earth, what traces of us would linger? What would disappear?’
‘There are few who would call postal delivery exciting. The reasons for this attitude are difficult to pin down, but it seems there is something inherent about the meticulous sorting and distribution of various pieces of paper that fails to capture the imagination. Nevertheless, over the last century there have been those who have wanted to change that: visionaries who looked beyond the truck and mailbag and imagined a means of delivering credit card bills and erotic magazines that would defy the heavens and shake the very Earth itself. Rarely has history seen a concept so grand, and so impractical, as Rocket Mail. [..]
This success was met with great excitement. While naysayers quibbled over such details as the wisdom of launching intercontinental cruise missiles to deliver postcards during the height of the Cold War, others were already mapping out a bright future for rocket mail. [..]‘
‘In a break from historic Israeli opposition to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday his country understands Washington’s plan to supply state-of-the-art weapons to Riyadh as a counterweight to Iranian influence.
The United States, knowing that Israel is sensitive about such arms sales, is also offering a sharp increase in defense aid to Israel and has assured the Jewish state it will retain a fighting edge over other countries in the region, he added.
“We understand the need of the United States to support the Arab moderate states and there is a need for a united front between the U.S. and us regarding Iran,” Olmert told a weekly Cabinet meeting.
The rare agreement reflects shared U.S. and Israeli concern over the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.’
‘President George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2005 after being chosen by the majority of citizens in America to be president.
Yet in 2007 he is generally despised, with many citizens of Western civilization expressing contempt for his person and his policies, sentiments which now abound on the Internet. This rage at President Bush is an inevitable result of the system of government demanded by the people, which is Democracy. [..]
The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.’
‘According to an alarming new Department of Defense report combining civilian, military, and calendric evidence, Iran may be as few as nine years away from the year 2016.
“Every day they get one day closer,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a White House press conference Tuesday. “At the rate they’re going, they will reach 2016 at the same time as the United States—and given their geographic position relative to the international date line, possibly even sooner.”
The report recommended that the U.S. engage in bellicose international posturing, careless brinksmanship, and an eventual overwhelming series of nuclear strikes in order to prevent Iran from reaching this milestone.’
‘The idea that the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has created a wildlife haven is not scientifically justified, a study says.
Recent studies said rare species had thrived despite raised radiation levels as a result of no human activity.
But scientists who assessed the 1986 disaster’s impact on birds said the ecological effects were “considerably greater than previously assumed”. [..]
The study, which recorded 1,570 birds from 57 species, found that the number of birds in the most contaminated areas declined by 66% compared with sites that had normal background radiation levels.’
‘Two dairy farms have dumped milk after the discovery of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope in 25 nearby drinking water wells.
Officials from Sorensen’s Dairy and Oasis Dairy said they will stop selling milk until it is tested for the isotope, polonium-210, by the Food and Drug Administration. Officials said there’s no known health risk at this time.
A study released Friday by the U.S. Geological Survey found the radioactive isotope in 24 private wells and one public well around Fallon, about 60 miles east of Reno. Polonium-210 is known to cause cancer in humans.’
‘A man who became the subject of a book called “The Radioactive Boy Scout” after trying to build a nuclear reactor in a shed as a teenager has been charged with stealing 16 smoke detectors. Police say it was a possible effort to experiment with radioactive materials.
David Hahn, 31, was being held Friday on a $5,000 bond in the Macomb County Jail after he was arraigned Thursday on felony larceny charges. Clinton Township police Capt. Richard Maierle said Hahn denied the charges. [..]
Investigators say Hahn was arrested Wednesday after a maintenance worker saw him stealing a detector from a ceiling in an apartment complex where he lived. They later found the other detectors in his apartment in the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township.
Police say that Hahn’s face was covered with open sores, possibly from constant exposure to radioactive materials.’
Followup to The Radioactive Boy Scout.