by cloudier

Nuclear Engineer:

Nuclear energy is one of, if not, the safest sources of energy available.

As such, I hate the yellow media that essentially makes up stories to get more ratings, and misinforms the general populace.

Every time I meet someone, I have to spend at least 30 mins explaining that the knowledge I gained in five years of university study, far out weighs the intern who misquoted an official and filled the rest of the article with factless speculation

You know what would happen if we just took our waste from nuclear reactors and dumped it, unprotected, into the ocean in deep water? The answer is absolutely nothing because salt water is very good at disapating radiation. The ocean water and sea floor surrounding the Bikini Atoll 1 year following the underwater and above ground nuclear tests were completely clear of radiation. Now the Atoll itself was horribly contaminated and what did they do about that, they bulldozed the contaminated top soil into the ocean, again the radiation disapated very quickly and caused no damage.

The biggest risk in nuclear material storage comes from keeping. It on land. If we were smart we would put it in solid containers and drop it into the marianas and forget about it forever, absolutely no worry about damage, especially considering the very small amount of waste produced by breeder and TRISO reactors, which both reuse waste material and produce a tiny amount of unusable waste.

A person’s food preferences, like his or her personality, are formed during the first few years of life, through a process of socialization. Babies innately prefer sweet tastes and reject bitter ones; toddlers can learn to enjoy hot and spicy food, bland health food, or fast food, depending on what the people around them eat.
When I suggested that IFF’s policy of secrecy and discretion was out of step with our mass-marketing, brand-conscious, self-promoting age, and that the company should put its own logo on the countless products that bear its flavors, instead of allowing other companies to enjoy the consumer loyalty and affection inspired by those flavors, Grainger politely disagreed, assuring me that such a thing would never be done. In the absence of public credit or acclaim, the small and secretive fraternity of flavor chemists praise one another’s work. By analyzing the flavor formula of a product, Grainger can often tell which of his counterparts at a rival firm devised it. Whenever he walks down a supermarket aisle, he takes a quiet pleasure in seeing the well-known foods that contain his flavors.

From the perspective of a computer scientist:

Even the tiniest things you do on a computer, the tiniest nudge of a mouse or a single key-press have so much computation involved (whether directly or indirectly) that it will make your head explode if you try to narrow it all down. As such, whenever I see coworkers at the office fanatically shake their mice and mash their keyboard when their outlook isn’t opening “fast enough” it makes me palmface. To give you an idea of what may be involved:

  • You move the mouse a tiny bit
  • The mouse senses movement via the laser/ball and sends the information to the USB port on your computer
  • The USB controller processes the signal and sends a signal to the CPU to stop what it’s doing and process the USB data that just came in
  • The computer saves all the things (ie. register data) it was currently doing in the CPU to return to after it has processed the data from the mouse
  • The OS has to go through various levels of abstraction from generic USB drivers to specific drivers for your crazy 20-button world of warcraft gaming mouse to actually even know that the cursor on the screen is supposed to move at all
  • The OS moves the cursor and then processes what should happen upon reaching its new position (i.e. have you hovered over a new window? should an action be taken?)
  • etc. etc. etc. etc.

Note that this list is incredibly simplified and each of those steps involves quite an assload of computation in itself. Computers certainly don’t run on magic, but it is amazing how much processing they do and a lot of people take it for granted.

More like, just because you got your PhD doesn’t mean you’re particularly clever or knowledgeable in any area that’s slightly outside your area of expertise. It’s an endurance thing, not a talent thing. I had an advisor whose dissertation was essentially based on drunk people having lowered inhibitions. Very “duh” stuff. Also, the BPA thing is very much like the asbestos scare or DDT scare—it becomes politically powerful and the real science falls by the wayside. DDT killed birds, but it saved and continues to save human lives by reducing mosquito populations. Asbestos is safe in certain applications, and when using certain types of asbestos it’s no more dangerous than fiberglass (which is more dangerous than people think, but still legal). If the World Trade Center towers had been finished before the asbestos scare, they’d still be upright and 100s of thousands of people might still be alive. Aluminum doesn’t cause alzheimers, but people still say it does. Lactic acid doesn’t cause a muscle to be sore, but people still say it does. Etc. Scientists are still people.
One thing physics has taught me is that unless you have a heat pump or something all electric heating is the same efficiency: virtually all the electrical energy is converted directly to heat. This is true whether you’re talking a space heater or a computer or a guitar amplifier. It’s funny, someone was asking online about “efficient” space heaters – they don’t exist.

One of the fun projects microbiology students do is to swab and culture a common surface (desk, counter, doorknob, etc) and find all the fun growies that are around us all the time, and that we rub our hands on.

So your hands are teeming with random diseases from god knows where. Then you go to the bathroom and put these hands near your urethra (open mucus membrane) and anus.

Washing your hands after you go really is to protect other people from your germs. Washing your hands before you go protects you from other people’s germs.

American culture is organized primarily around three edicts. The first is, roughly, “Let me do it myself.” This sets Americans apart from the many European countries I’ve experienced in which people are generally quite happy to let the government take care of things. The French, for example, see the government as the rough embodiment of the collective French brain – of course it would know best, as its the Frenchest thing around.

Americans, in stark contrast, are far more likely to see the government as the enemy, infringing upon their autonomy. This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding, particularly from people who are used to seeing solutions flowing from a centralized authority. Americans, rather, would prefer to leave matters such as charitable giving in the hands of the individual. [1] In 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans.. This alone, of course, does not mean that any one side of culture is more “compassionate” than the other – rather, that such compassion is filtered through different culture attitudes.

Another good example of that contrast occurred when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet received a remarkably chilly reception when they exhorted German ultra-wealthy to give more of their money away. The reaction, with some justification, was primarily one of “why should I give more money to do things that the state, funded by high tax rates, is expected to take care of?” You can come down on this one of two ways – one is that it’s more efficient to leave such things to an organized central body, another is that such a system distances and de-humanizes people in needy situations, and that more efficient solutions are arrived at through direct, hands-on involvement by a multitude of private citizens. Again, my intent is not so much to pick one side as to explain the rather more poorly understood American approach.