Monthly Archives: October 2011

Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 39: Nuclear Explosion at Reactor 3?

The radiation at the Fukushima plants has gone up, rather than down, since June. This may be because contaminated water has become more concentrated due to evaporation. The release of radiation from the plant into the air continues, although a covering over Reactor 1 is almost completed. The release of radiation from the plant into the sea continues, and plankton are shown to be contaminated to a level that raises some concern. Mid month, the plant was measured to be releasing about 100 million becquerels per hour. The reactors are still not uniformly shut down to less than boiling. Additional pumps are being brought in to inject more water. And what goes in must come out, as steam into the atmosphere and effluence into the sea. So this is going to keep going for a while, at least a few more months.

Most of the facilities are too radioactive to enter or to spend very much time in.

TEPCO claims that if there was another earthquake knocking out their current “cooling” facilities at Fukushima, they could return to a state of the plant continuing to emit radiation out of control and boiling off radioactive steam and dumping radioactive water into the sea within just a few hours, so no need to worry about that eventuality.

Even though one of the “hot spots” found in Tokyo turned out to be, rather disturbingly, a small nuclear waste dump someone had in their home, many other hot spots at many localities ofairutside of the evacuation area have been found. It would seem that some sort of winnowing effect is concentrating radioactive material here and there. In at least one case, a rainwater pipe seemed to be the source of high radiation. In another case, in Kashiwa, a drainage ditch has very highly concentrated radiation.

Meanwhile, radioactive material is spreading throughout the region in another way: Radioactive sludge and dirt is being systematically shipped to numerous municipalities for them to put in to their own local dumps, and political pressure is being applied to make sure mayors or other community leaders keep quite about his and allow it to happen. One wonders if the population was warned of this during the initial hearings about whether or not to build this plant. Were the region’s municipalities told then that if there was a massive meltdown at the Fukushima plant, individual municipalities would be expected to become radioactive waste repositories?

Children in the Fukushima area are returning to schools as radiation levels at the schools are dropping. The children are being asked to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants when they go outside for their Physical Education classes.

The explosion at Reactor 3 may have been a prompt moderated nuclear critically within the reactor 3 fuel pool. Also, the containment at Reactor 3 was probably badly damaged and cracked independently. (see video below from Fairewinds)

Ana’s Fukushima Feed

Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 39: Nuclear Explosion at Reactor 3?

Guy-Philippe Goldstein: How cyberattacks threaten real-world peace

More and more, nations are waging attacks with cyber weapons — silent strikes on another country’s computer systems that leave behind no trace. (Think of the Stuxnet worm.) At TEDxParis, Guy-Philippe Goldstein shows how cyberattacks can leap between the digital and physical worlds to prompt armed conflict — and how we might avert this global security hazard.
Continue reading Guy-Philippe Goldstein: How cyberattacks threaten real-world peace

The Baseline: How much sexual assault is there?

Expanding on our earlier discussion

In the paper Anthropology’s “Fierce” Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon, Sharon Tiffany and Kathleen Adams provide the following opening passage:

Imagine a society in which one woman in every three is raped, usually by a man she knows, consider the consequences of living in a society where one third of all women are beaten during pregnancy and 35 percent of women using emergency medical facilities are battered . Since we are anthropologists, readers may mistakenly think that these appalling data were collected in an exotic society, an distant world where it is presumed that unpredictable and threatening behavior is commonplaces. Indeed, our friends and colleagues inevitably ask if it is safe for us to travel alone to remote and problematic places which presumably do not enjoy the law and order of civilization.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe statistics above come, of course, from American medical data.

The reason I bring this up at all, and leave you somewhat hanging (you should read the entire article) is because I am concerned that any discussion of rape, which focuses on Congo and Liberia and other exotic locations, will be to sit from a position of cultural and economic privilege and fail to see that this is a human problem, not a third world “Bungabungaland” problem. Startling revelations about the behavior of american soldiers in Viet Nam as described in Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape raised hackles, and even since her controversial book other information has come to light. It is simply true … men of all cultures and ethnicities, even the men you know well and like and are good buddies with, even your father, brothers, and sons, when in a state of war are more than a little likely to do all sorts of things that one just does not do otherwise, including killing, including pillaging, including rape. The quirky thing is that we Westerners live in a culture in which we believe that this is not true. But it is true, despite our beliefs. It is true enough at home (judging by the above passage) that we cannot expect much different in the battlefields, the occupied villages, and the lonely wilderness of Hobbesian warre. In other words, the baseline level of sexual violence carried out by Western men is nothing close to zero. A statistics like “60%” committing a certain act does not require an order of magnitude of change. Perhaps just a doubling or trippling, depending on that the statistic is for.

I quickly note that this need not be the case. One can kill and pillage and not rape, as has been documented for certain armies in the past. I would not assume that the pattern seen in the jungles of Vietnam, the trenches of France in WW I, at Anzio or in Iraq are at all the same, and there is probably as much variation among western armies and occupation forces as there is among African, Asian or any other region, and there is certainly a great deal of variation across historical time as well.

We could train our armies to rape less. Or, we could be really smart and seek non military solutions to our problems and avoid the whole issue to begin with. But we (Westerners) can’t do that alone. We need to change the way most of the world words economically, socially, and politically. And that requires first acknowledging the baseline is not one of innocence.

Tiffany, Sharon W., & Adams, Kathleen J. (1994). Anthropology’s ‘Fierce’ Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon NWSA Journal, 6 (2)

Gun control keeps suicides down

Michael Bryant says:

Most firearm deaths in Canada are suicides (over 75 per cent). Only 24 per cent are homicides. Suicides in Canada will go up if the Prime Minister isn’t careful about what he repeals.

… Suicides dropped dramatically in Canada thanks to the federal gun registry. Not only do statistics prove as much, it stands to reason that with improved gun safety comes decreased gun fatalities; with fewer tools-of-choice for suicides available, fewer suicides occur. It just makes sense.

… A home where there are firearms is five times more likely to be the scene of a suicide than a home without a gun: Canada Safety Council. The Institut national de sante publique du Québec has assessed that the coming into force of the Firearms Act is associated, on average, with a reduction of 250 suicides (and 50 homicides) each year in Canada. That’s nearly one life saved per day. …

Don Prothero did NOT find creationist field trips in the Twin Cities

… But he could have. Our local Young Earth Creationist group does run a dinosaur excavation in South Dakota and they do local field trips. But, Don does talk about this experience in a different city:

the 2010 meeting last year in Denver took the cake: there was a whole field trip run by YECs who did not identify their agenda, and pretended that they were doing conventional geology–until you read between the lines.

Read about it here.

A Rape in Progress

Early in 2009, my friend and colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum asked several bloggers to consider writing about rape during the month of June, as a coordinated effort to increase awareness and understanding of rape generally, and depending on the blogger, specific aspects of sexual assault and violence. (Sheril’s initial post back in 2009 is here) I welcomed that opportunity and took the approach of discussing two things I actually know something about: Rape in war torn Congo, where I worked for several years (prior to the war) and the behavioral biology of male violence and rape, which is a rather touchy SFAQL subject. There are other aspects of this issue that interest me as well, including the role of anthropological relativism. The definition of rape and how definitional arguments are exploited is also of interest to me, but that has been written about extensively by my friend and colleage Stephanie Zvan (see this list of posts for a start). Another topic of interest that I had not thought about much before bloging about rape is the abuse and rape of men by women (or men, for that matter). It turns out it occurs much more often than many people assume. However, since men are by and large big babies who cry a lot when wounded only slightly, the fact that some men are abused combined with the fact that nobody seems to care enough has resulted in the rise of a Mens Rights Activism movement which is a great example of the Large Lobster Effect but in a bad way. My friend and colleague Jason Thibeault has written some great stuff on this, which you can find by perusing this list of posts.

I want to revive and revise that discussion of rape that started over two years ago, and pursuant to that I’m re-posting (and rewriting) my posts from June 2009. And we’ll start by revisiting this simple question: What would you do if you were the person writing the following passage.
Continue reading A Rape in Progress

The Large Lobster Effect

Have you ever had a large lobster? I mean, a really large one, like five pounds or more? They are hard to get these days. Most of the good Maine Lobsters (and all lobsters are Maine Lobsters unless otherwise specified) come from Maine in the US, and Maine has a rule that you can’t harvest large lobsters. But back in the old days, when I was buying lobsters off the boat or occasionally eating them on the boat, you could still get them. And you can still get large lobsters from New Hampshire and Massachusetts but a) they are not as good and b) they are too expensive to even consider for those of us in the 99%.
Continue reading The Large Lobster Effect

Maggie Koerth-Baker on Dr. Kiki

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a Twin Cities based journalist and science editor at Boing Boing. She has bee a guest along with me on Atheist Talk Radio,and I hope to interview her early next year in relation to her forthcoming book, which I am very excited about. Meanwhile, you can see Maggie on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour. That show will be at 6 central TODAY.

You can see Dr Kiki a number of ways. I watch her on Twit network on my Roku.