опасность радиации

 
 
want to take a trip to Chernobyl?  It’s hot, even in the Ukranian winter!
 
it’s sobering to see what damage mistakes can do.  60 years ago, nuclear energy appeared to be the future-no smoke, a lot of energy from a small amount of mass … we’ll deal with the waste later.  Over the years, accidents occured (windscale I, Chelybinsk 65 [some estimates state that accident released more radiation than Chernobyl], Three Mile Island) and the US and the USSR dumped radioactive waste and reactors into the oceans.  And the waste piled up, with no idea how to store it until it half-lifes into stable substances.  To say "you should have thought of this before you started" is an understatement.
 
In risk analysis, risk is quantified by taking into account probability of accident and severity.  Unfortunately, in the long run, the probability of serious accident becomes ~1.0, and the severity is undefined.  It is known that radiation poisoning from doses >100 rem can be fatal in the short term and elevate cancer risk.  It is unknown what damage can be wrought by low doses-can chromosomal damage from exposure impact future generations?
 
Now people are thinking about starting to build more reactors-"we need greenhouse-gas free energy" they claim.  Build solar, wind, and geothermal plants; and increase the efficiency of the demand side.  It’s a bad idea to rub the genie’s bottle when you’re sure to get burned, and there are safer alternatives.

Mining

A lot has been made of mining being the second most dangerous profession in the US.  Has anyone thought about the fact that much of that danger could be reduced, by reducing our dependence on coal and minerals?
 
Although recycling will reduce the need for minerals, our reliance on coal should be phased out as soon as possible.  Sulfur in coal causes acid rain, particulates cause respiratory distress, and heavy metals accumulate in the food web.  And the carbon increases the global temperature.  Some may say "closing mines will put the miners out of work"–put them to work making semiconductors and wind turbines.  No one in their right mind would rather go down a hole and poison himself or herself when a safer, better alternative is available.  Think out of the box people!

Vail!

So, I’m back from my trip across the country, and visiting ally (my sister) in Vail.  so here’s the recap:
Day One: Buffalo to Chicago
Hoffman the wonder-mechanic replaced the belts on the lexus (my sister’s car) in a jiffy, and I drove off into the freezing rain on my trip across the US to pick up Jon at O’Hare.  Fortunately the rain stopped after Cleveland, making it an easier drive through to Illinois.  Picked up Jon at about 10, and he took over, until picking a nice Holiday Inn Express to stay in in the middle of nowhere.
Day Two: from about 2h outside Chicago to somewhere slightly east of Denver.
we stopped at the SAC museum to see some cool aircraft on display, ranging from an XF-85 Goblin (a tiny parasite-fighter that would fit in the second bomb bay of a B-36, to the giant B-36 bomber that would carry it (if it had been produced).  Most of the planes are on the floor, you can walk under an Avro Vulcan (featured in Thunderball), touch a MiG-21, and sit in a cockpit trainer for a B-52.  They had a B-1A (one of four prototypes, faster but less stealthy than the B-1B), a U-2, and an SR-71.  All of these are impressive technical achievements, but the underlying raison d’etre is pretty insane: MAD (mutual assured destruction) or support for it (in the case of the U-2 and SR-71).
for those not quite up on their cold-war history, the SAC’s motto was “Peace is our profession” (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb).  Curtis LeMay founded the SAC after WWII with one objective in mind: delivering a nuclear ‘Sunday punch’ to the Soviet Union.  This became the foundation for MAD (mutual assured destruction)-the tenuous balance that kept NATO or the Warsaw Pact from doing anything that would upset the status qua (although the Cuban missile crisis came very close).
It was a bit chilling to ogle these amazing aircraft, whose raison d’etre was to effect armageddon, or at least support that end.  but amazing technical feats are still good to see, even if the resources could have been put to better use.
after the SAC musuem, we kept driving for a while, and finally decided to stop in some little town in colorado.  the days inn was across from a giant plant belching steam, and a terrible smell.  Now Jon and I are pretty smart guys, but we still can’t figure out what that plant was making (processing sugar beets?  producing ammonium nitrate?)–so we got back on the highway and made it to a less smelly place to spend the night
Day 3: ?- VAIL
we made it to Vail about 12, and hit the slopes as fast as we could change.  Goregeous sunny and warm (40F)weather made it a joy, and the still exorbitant half-day pass more bearable.  After ally disposed of the last of the 3-6 year olds, we got to go to her apartment and make camp, meet the roommates and get some dinner.
Ally has two apartment-mates.  her roommate is from Scotland, with a heavy accent and who iis really funny, and in the other bedroom is a girl from new mexico who wasn’t around much.
Day 4: VAIL
snow.  lots of it.
Jon and I skiied with Roger Day and his wife, which was a great opportunity to have a free private lesson (Roger has been an instructor at vail for 26 years, his real job is an architect).  the unfun part of that was evi (roger’s wife) wears a cowbell to ski-which is insanely annoying after 5-6 hrs.  But we improved our deep powder technique and learned what are the best slopes.
we also got to hear the story of the gondola that fell off the cable:  25 years ago, they weren’t as dilligent about maintenance as they should have been, and one of the gondolas got stuck at one of the towers.  the next car smacked into it, causing the first one to fall 160ft.  crunch.  fortunately they stopped the drive before another one fell off.
-not exactly the story to tell while riding a detachable quad lift!
Day 5: VAIL
40F and sunny.  jon and I skiied the mongolia bowls like nobody’s business.  4ft of untracked powder can’t be beat!
-except by going to the rec center in Avon.  The Avon Rec center is quite possibly the nicest public indoor pool in the country, with an amazing waterslide and a *hot tub, key for the apres ski.  Unfortunately, the hottest woman i have ever seen (at that pool 6 years ago) was not there, but that’s life.
Day 6: VAIL
snow again
we hit up the double-black diamond E-X (experts only) areas and had such a good time we could barely make it down the blues by the end of the day.  the battery in my canon kept freezing, so that explains the lack of pictures!
Day 7: Vail
whiteouts
more of the extreme off piste and tree skiing, to get away from the wind and the blinding snow.  we went to one run roger told us about: Lovers’ Leap–pitched like / and we couldn’t see over the cornice due to blowing snow, so we skipped it.
after skiing, ally made salmon for dinner (mmm) and we went over to a friend’s apartment for the rose bowl game.  Hook ’em Horns!  definitely one of the best football games i’ve seen
Day 8: home
all good things come to an end.  took the greyhound to Denver, and it was a trip with the unwashed masses.  the guy across the aisle from me was rather large and scruffy (like the drunk guy in Back to the Future), and hilariously enough had his bag full of cortislim *as seen on TV!*
Denver airport is nice, even if it is out in the middle of nowhere, and they had to scrap the computerized baggage handling system, and the roof will leak…