Saturday, August 31, 2013

Say what you mean...

Hey, Florida department of digital highway signs, some things. First, when you mean "it is," there's an apostrophe (') between the t and the s. And if you can't do that with your digital sign, then spell out "it is" instead of writing "its" because that is wrong. Second, you wrote, "wipers on headlights on its the law" - well, I think I know what you mean, that it's the law to turn on your headlights when you turn on your wipers because of rain, but technically you wrote that it's the law to have both my headlights and wipers on, period. I.e., all the time. Which isn't the case. You should have written something like, "lights on when raining" or "headlights on when wipers on" (although that's technically not correct either, since according to that I'd have to turn my headlights on when washing the windshield). So, as I often tell my kids, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Also, it might be better to have advice like "slower traffic keep right" or "keep right except to pass" or "don't keep your bright lights on when another car is in front of you" (that minivan following us with its brights on for several miles could have used that advice this evening).

Congrats to Alabama and Spanish Fort on their football victories this weekend, and too bad, South Alabama; you probably should have won, too, but probably doesn't carry any points, unfortunately. As for me, I think I ate too much and slept too little. So, g'night, all!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Serving Question

So, as regards "serving in the church" - you know, doing things and stuff... "I'll pray about it" - that's a pretty common response when asked.

My question is this: when it comes to things that need done in the church, if I'm capable of doing it, and I see the need, shouldn't I just do it?  As a metaphor, if my kid is walking through my house, notices a full and almost overflowing trash can, should he come running over and ask me, "Dad, should I take out the trash?"

Yeah, there are other things at play here: "do I have what's needed to take out the trash?" (Well, if you have two arms and two legs, or even one arm and a motorized wheelchair, depending on the route to where the trash is taken, you can probably manage it.) "But I took the trash out last time." (Well, it got full again, and needs doing, again.) "Shouldn't I let someone else take out the trash and get the praise for it?" (What if everyone is waiting for someone else to do it, and get the praise? Pretty soon we'll have trash running all over the house.) "I really don't feel like taking out the trash." (OK, sometimes that's just how you feel. Then again, maybe no one else is feeling like taking out the trash, or maybe everyone else is somewhere else in the house, attending to other things.) "But Dad, you didn't tell me to take out the trash." (Honestly, I don't think not being told to do something that obviously needs doing is a reason for not doing it; when there's food on the table, do you sit and wait to be told to eat it?)

Just a thought. And, obviously, there are some serious roles that really should be considered with much prayer. But, if there's a role that needs filling, and you have the means to meet the need, should you "just do it"? What do you think? (Do respond, please!)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pink Radio

OK, I admit it: I like my "Pink" radio station (on Pandora), which plays Pink, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne, and others (Alanis Morissette, Suzanne Vega, Sixpense None the Richer, to name a few). With that in mind, enjoy this:

Yeah, that's right... um, "Bad Romance" in polka-melodica form, with Ronnie, um, dancing. (Feel free to give feedback as to whether the YouTube auto-enhanced lighting of the low-light camera-phone video is effective or awful, and I apologize if there's a terrible Miley Cyrus video on the "related videos" links - I haven't watched it and don't plan to, and I'm sorry that it shows up, if it does.)

Yeah, I think we both lost our minds that night (me for making the music, Ronnie for, well, you did watch the video, right?).  But for what else is the internet?

Oh, and if you hadn't heard, I think all my sons are abducted.  Yep, they have intestines in their lower torso area.

That (really bad) joke leads to a more serious bit of news, particularly for friends near the Gulf Coast: Tiffany Daniels, a 25-year old employee of Pensacola State College, has been missing for the last two weeks or so. I don't really know her, but we did meet her when looking at a car she was selling several months ago (which we didn't buy), so it was a little weird when I saw a random news article about her being missing, recognized the name & face, and confirmed with my wife that it was the same person. Her car (not the one she was selling) was found at Fort Pickens several days later, with her cell phone and personal belongings (including bicycle) inside (that last article has several pics of her in case you think you may have seen her somewhere).

Anyway, public service announcement thing out of the way, enjoy the rest of your day. Go listen to some Pink or Perry or Clarkson, maybe on your own Pink radio station. Hopefully it won't get into the "you can't skip any more songs for the next 48 hours" loop that mine seems to get into sometimes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trouble? Not really.

I was recently made aware of this article, explaining how "Radioactive Water From Fukushima Is Systematically Poisoning The Entire Pacific Ocean" (not really- we're going to look into that in this blog post). First, let me point out: that article is written not by a nuclear physicist, but by an attorney (someone who stands to gain from class action lawsuits) - well, a former attorney who now publishes "the truth" - a very conspiracy-theory oriented "online paper" (if you want the link, look in the article) including info about how our sun is actually starting to shut down - and a recent book, "The Beginning Of The End" (and, yes, he capitalizes the article "the" in his reference to the title, which I've copied here), which I'll admit I've not read, but a glance at the first sentence of his description was enough.

Anyway, if you've seen this article, don't worry! There's really nothing to worry about. Read on and I'll explain.

According to the article's author, Michael T. Snyder, we're all about to die from the massive amount of radiation that is escaping the damaged Fukushima reactors into the Pacific ocean. How massive? Well, apparently Tepco ("Tokyo Electric Power COmpany") has admitted that between 20 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium (that's Hydrogen 3, if you care) has "probably" been leaked, "likely" into the Pacific ocean. Sounds really bad, right? Well, 40 trillion becquerels is, assuming I can remember my math and/or my metric prefixes, roughly 1000 curies. But 1k curies of what? Primarily beta radiation. And, per this calculator, that's roughly an equivalent dose of 0 at 1 cm distance. And that's if it's a point source. Now, imagine this "40 trillion becquerels" dispersed into the Pacific ocean, which contains some 700,000 trillion litres of water. Granted, that's the whole Pacific; say it's dispersed across 1% of the Pacific: that's 7,000 trillion gallons of water, or .0057 becquerels per litre. If you convert that to picocuries, .0057 becquerels/litre equates to roughly 1.5 picocuries/litre. An NRC page shows that were you to drink tritium-water at 1000 times this level (1600 picocuries/litre) for a year, your radiation dose would be 0.3 millirem (mrem), which is roughly 1000 times lower than the approximate 300 mrem dose from natural background radiation. In other words, the 1.5 picocuries/litre water you'd be drinking would roughly be nothing. In fact, I'd say you're probably more likely to get some bacteria from the water, or even just have bad effects from drinking salt water in the first place. :)  Also, the radiation from tritium is beta radiation, which is a low-energy type of radiation. Can it hurt you? Sure, any radiation can, and the EPA even has information on what tritium will do once inside the body. However, it leaves the body relatively quickly and, because of the low energy level of the radiation, it's "one of the least dangerous radionuclides." And, by the way, cosmic rays create tritium in air molecules, and as a result, it's found in small or trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. So, you're probably already getting something like that 1.5 picocuries/litre in your drinking water.

But wait, what about the Strontium-90 and the Cesium-137? Apparently Tepco has found Sr90 ad levels "30 times the permissible rate" that are making their way into the groundwater which "usually flows to the sea." Again, Sr90 is already "widely dispersed in the environment and food chain" - per the EPA. Roughly 20-30% of ingested Sr90 is absorbed into the bone (it's similar to Calcium in its properties), which is bad - bone cancer is bad. But what is the "safe level"? Well, per this report, it was detected at six times the safety limit, at 170,000 becquerels/cubic meter in seawater (I'm going to start using the abbreviation, Bq, for becquerels, 'cause I'm tired of typing it so much). That's 170k Bq/ 1k litres, or 170 Bq/litre. That sounds pretty bad, especially compared to the miniscule amounts of tritium from the prior paragraph. But is it? That's measured "right at the source" (and, by the way, the amount of tritium detected was less there, 120Bq/L, than the amount in the article I'm discussing - in fact, that tritium level is well under the limits specified by the Reactor Regulation of 60,000 Bq/L); now imagine that 170 Bq/litre dispersed over the 7,000 trillion gallons of water in the Pacific before it reaches North America. Tougher to estimate here, as I don't know the sample size (and thus the total amount), but even if it's at 1/100 ratio by the time it hits a North American shore, that's 1.7 Bq/L, or 460 picocuries/L. Probably it would be much lower. Based on this randomly accessed radionuclide safety data sheet (probably from Hong Kong), "annual limit on intake" of Sr90 is 110,000 Bq, or 64,700 litres of (sea)water, or 177 litre/day. Don't know about you, but I'd be going to the bathroom a lot after drinking that much water, and I think the Sr90 wouldn't have enough time in my system to be absorbed into the bones at 20-30% level (it'd be flushed out too quickly). By the way, in case you didn't know, Sr90 isn't a naturally occurring isotope... and most of what's in our environment is left over from nuclear weapons testing in the past decades.

Cesium-137? 17Bq/L. Not even worth talking about. Granted, this article claims higher numbers (but doesn't have a report cited, only saying that Tepco said; other articles seem to be in at least slight agreement). But, really, if you're worried about the Cs137 and Sr90 increasing, dillution is your friend! It would be better to pump the contaminated water into the Pacific and allow it to disperse there, where it will be dissipated to nearly undetectable levels, vs. sitting around in the groundwater or evaporating and either going airborne during evaporation or leaving radioactive isotopes on the ground (where they could become airborne if struck by something or stirred by wind). And the seawater makes an excellent shield against radiation anyway (this page explains how swimming in a "spent nuclear fuel rod" containment pool would likely lead to a lower radiation dose than standing outside the pool!).

The comparison of Fukushima to Chernobyl? Not even close. Even though Chernobyl may have had less fuel, the damage to the containment was far greater, and the spread of radioactive material was much more significant. "Please share this article with as many people as you can," he says; of course - he wants to sell his books and get his advertising links revenue off his website. And maybe to get called to be part of a class action lawsuit. "The damage that is being done is absolutely incalculable" - well, he's not a nuclear physicist, so I wouldn't expect him to be able to calculate nuclear quantities, but it is, in fact, calculable, and "systematically poisoning the entire Pacific ocean" - well, if all 700,000 trillion litres of Pacific ocean were available to become a sink for the Fukushima radioactive material, that would be superb: the material would be so dispersed as to be virtually undetectable, and we'd never have to hear doomsday prophets like this guy talking about Fukushima again.

Don't worry about Fukushima; you're going to be OK, even if you live on the coast of California. Well, then again, if you're in California, there are other things to worry about, like earthquakes and politicians.