Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 14th, 2011

Breaking: News from China

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The video in the post at the link is electrifying—and it has a reality that transcends any mere movie-making. And it is from just hours ago. This is, in effect, happening now.

Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2011 at 3:27 pm

Recommended kitchen-cleaning tools and substances

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A useful list.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2011 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Daily life

US set to replay Japanese complacency on nuclear risks

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It amazes me the degree to which people find it difficult to learn from the experience of others. The Japanese public are rapidly finding out the degree to which their government and their nuclear power industry were in collusion to underplay risks and hide negative findings, keeping secret the dangers until after thousands had been exposed. It’s as if the US thinks it is somehow immune to such things, when in fact our own nuclear industry is a safety shambles: we store more spent fuel rods in less water than the Japanese ever considered doing, and the companies doing that are now circling the wagons (with the government’s help) and denying that there are any risks at all. So I guess we’ll need our own disaster before we’ll wake up and take action.

Our government is now a tax-law debating society and is currently ignoring its responsibility to govern, and the public on the whole seems satisfied with that. Weird. Ralph Vartabedian reports for the LA Times:

The Energy Department has asserted that Bechtel Corp. underplayed safety risks from equipment it is installing at the nation’s largest nuclear waste cleanup project, according to government records.

A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel’s safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant at the Hanford site in Washington state was incomplete and that “the risks are more serious” than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction, the documents say.

Senior scientists at the site said in emails obtained by The Times that Bechtel’s designs for tanks and mixing equipment are flawed, representing such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project.

But Energy Department officials in Washington said they believed the problems were fixable and that they had authorized Bechtel to keep going for the time being. Bechtel officials said Friday that the matter was not a safety issue and that sticking to the current construction schedule would save money.

The Hanford project is the most important environmental cleanup program in the nation. It seeks to prevent 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in underground tanks, some of which are leaking, from contaminating the nearby Columbia River.

Bechtel is under contract to build a $12.3-billion treatment plant at the former nuclear weapons center to convert the radioactive sludge to solid glass that could be more safely buried at a future high-level waste dump.

But the plant has been repeatedly stung by problems and delays, including a 2006 work stoppage when engineers determined it could not withstand a severe earthquake and that major retrofitting was required.

The latest problem hit this year, when engineers and scientists began to raise serious doubts about the safety of key tanks and mixing systems that would process the radioactive waste.

A government engineering team and a separate safety team evaluated the Bechtel design and determined that it did not meet safety requirements set by the Energy Department, and that Bechtel had failed to justify a request to continue construction.

In an Aug. 2 letter, Dale Knutson, the Energy Department’s senior on-site manager, told Bechtel officials that their requests to continue construction had “insufficient information for demonstrating that the … vessels will meet their credited safety functions.”

But Knutson authorized Bechtel to continue construction anyway, including welding shut tanks that use a controversial new mixing technology. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2011 at 6:55 am

Evangelicals beginning to acknowledge the fact of evolution

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Apparently once the evidence is sufficiently overwhelming, at least some will respond. It would be interesting to study the differences between those evangelicals that recognize the facts presented by evidence and those who continue to shut their eyes to those facts. This report is by Barbara Hagerty at NPR:

Let’s go back to the beginning — all the way to Adam and Eve, and to the question: Did they exist, and did all of humanity descend from that single pair?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam’s rib.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It’s a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.

But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, “You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.”

Venema is a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, a Christian group that tries to reconcile faith and science. The group was founded by Francis Collins, an evangelical and the current head of the National Institutes of Health, who, because of his position, declined an interview.

And Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century. Another one is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan until recently. He says it’s time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence.

“Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost,” Schneider says. “So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings.”

To many evangelicals, this is heresy. . .

Continue reading for how some cling to the Genesis myth in the face of massive physical evidence to the contrary. What’s weird is that these same people have no trouble at all in seeing that factual evidence contradicts (say) the pantheon of Gods of the Mayan, Aztec, classical Greek, Norse religions. But somehow (they think) their own religion is totally different in this regard, and for their own religion facts are irrelevant. Or something. (I do not fully understand the mindset, I’ll grant.)

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2011 at 6:43 am

Why you hate peas?

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Interesting report by Gretchen Cuda-Kroen of NPR on one origin of food preferences:

Want your child to love veggies? Start early. Very early. Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy not only nourishes her baby in the womb, but may shape food preferences later in life.

At 21 weeks after conception, a developing baby weighs about as much as a can of Coke — and he or she can taste it, too. Still in the womb, the growing baby gulps down several ounces of amniotic fluid daily. That fluid surrounding the baby is actually flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten in the last few hours.

“Things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint — these are some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother’s milk,” says Julie Mennella, who studies taste in infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. In fact, Mennella says there isn’t a single flavor they have found that doesn’t show up in utero. Her work has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

To determine whether flavors are passed from the mother to the the baby via the amniotic fluid, researchers gave women garlic capsules or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid — and then asked a panel of people to smell the samples.

“And it was easy,” says Mennella. “They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic.” The sense of taste is actually 90-percent smell, she added, so they knew just from the odor that the babies could taste it. . .

Continue reading to learn about carrot-juice experiments performed on unborn children!!!

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2011 at 6:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

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