Archive for the ‘science’ Category

eldorado found or swedish newspapers dont check their stories

The story that eldorado might have been found is so flawed…

It’s the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that picked up a story that someone might have found El dorado an hidden paradise. They also claim that it is an ancient city that was discovered on google maps. But if they would have read the original article in The Online times they would have found the following quote:

Hemming says that while the paper in Antiquity is “significant work by serious people … none of this has anything remotely to do with El Dorado or that racist, incompetent nutter Percy Fawcett. It’s as though someone tried to link a discovery at Stonehenge with, say, Edward Lear’s travels in the Balkans”.

They would also have found that the original paper was published in 2003 by Martti Parssinen and Alceu Ranzi. If they would have tried a little bit they would have found their report in Antiquity. There you can see that they totally missed the whole thing. The sites was discovered by airplane. The news in the report is that they discovered some earthworks (Ditches and soil hedges!) in an area they did not expect to find them. And it is not a city, it is earthworks. The authors speculate that the earthworks might have been for defense, ceremonies or for storing live aquatic food. Far from a city…

So why did this pop up now? Could it be due to David Grann mentioned in the article? Well at first it seems like that. He has written a book called “Lost city of Z” that was published in 2009 and is now being prepared for a movie. But i found a more plausible reason on amazon, the store not the rainforest… His book is being released as a pocket on January the 25th..

Good work David Grann, you got yourself some nice pr for the release of your book.

Naturally  Swedish blogggers swallowed the bait, but some had operating bullshit detectors.

aliens behind the placement of woolworths stores

One of the funnier things i read todays is that the placement ow Woolworths stores might be planned by the same aliens that planned the location of Stonehenge and a lot of other ancient British monuments…

It’s the mathematican Matt Parker that have found that the Wollworths store are placed to form exact equilateral triangles much in the same way as Stonehenge and other monuments are arranged. Naturally he is just illustrating how stupid the whole argument of alien assisted construction of ancient monuments is. The later according to an article in the Daily Mail a couple of days ago.

Personally i am convinced that if you draw lines in beetwen selected pubs here in Prague you will see a picture of Vaclav Klaus drinking a pint of Staropramen…

swedens energy crisis

Today it’s an extremely cold day in Sweden. Down to about -40 in some areas and in Stockholm it has been -20. This has put a big strain on Swedens electrical grid. Also a couple of nuclear power plant’s is down for maintenance. And even thou today approx. 7-8% of Swedens electricity is imported from neighboring countries supply still have a hard time meeting the demand. So Swedish newspapers have been warning about the issue and are recomending people to conserve energy. Also a couple of emergency power plants have been ordered to power up to try to meet the demand of electricity. This means starting to burn oil to produce electricity.

The solution is quite easy. And even reduces emission of greenhouse gases. Build some more more nuclear power plants and at the time increase transmission capacity to our neighbors. This way we have some headroom for cold days. If that’s not enough we could import more electricity when needed. But it works both ways, when not using the extra capacity we could export cheap and clean nuclear power to Germany and other countries that use a lot of power plants using coal as a source. And if we use the thorium reactors i mentioned  the other day we could actually get rid of our nuclear waste at the same time.

Unfortunately it takes so long time to build new power plants that Sweden would face this issue many times before they are operational.

green nuclear power plants

I consider nuclear power a relatively green and safe power source. This due to the fact that power plants running on coal spew out enormous amounts of carbon dioxide during normal production, but nuclear plants only pollutes during an catastrophic event due to malfunction. Added to this is that globally 10.000 people die yearly in coal mines and there is an estimate that only in the united states some 23.000 people per year die due to air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

But reading an article in Wired the other day, really made my head spin. They painted up an picture that made a “new” (It’s not really new, first experiments was made in the 50’s. Experimental reactors where running in the 60’s!) reactor look like the holy grail in solving our energy needs.

It’s a nuclear reactor burning thorium instead of uranium or plutonium. Thorium is much more abundant than uranium and it does not need expensive enrichment. That means you can use all the thorium you mine. When using uranium in a nuclear power plant you only use one specific isotope and this is normally 3-5 % of the ore. So most of the uranium mined is useless for generating power.

You might say what about the storage of the waste from the reactor? The radioactive waste from a conventional reactor needs to be stored for 10.000+ years. And that is quite a challenge…

The neat thing is that since thorium is a lighter than uranium the waste is of a completely different nature. It “only” has to be stored for a couple of 100 years. And if that is not good enough, if we mix the waste from our current reactors in the fuel it burns up generating energy and transmutes into short lived isotopes!

Too good to bee true? Whats the catch?

First of all it is a more complicated process, the fuel get’s polluted and looses efficiency over time, so there need to be a process to remove these pollutants. But the rest of the “catches” are what normal people would call features. The fuel is harder to ignite which means it is safer, much less risk of a reactor meltdown. The waste is polluted with a uranium isotope that makes it unsuitable for nuclear weapons. And one of the biggest problems is that the nuclear industry is not interested. Why not? Well their business model is largely built on enriching uranium and selling fuel to the reactors. And thorium based reactors does not need any enriched fuel, just dig it up out of the ground, clean it and start running your reactor. Yes quite simplified, but truth is that the producers of nuclear fuel will have to find other ways of earning money.

So if these reactors was running in the 60’s how come we don’t run them today? Some cynics say it’s due to the fact that they do not produce plutonium that could be used in nuclear weapons. But this is not really true, since most commercial reactors produce an isotope of plutonium not really suitable for weapons. The real issue was time to market. In 1973 the Arab states cut off oil supply to the west. So the US decided to lower their dependency on oil, and that quick. That year, the US nuclear industry signed contracts to build a record 41 uranium based nuclear power plants. So all the money and research went into uranium based fission.

But India wen’t in another direction. Since they where developing a nuclear weapons arsenal they where outside the non-proliferation treaty and where largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant equipment and fuel. Also they lacked indigenous uranium, but have 12% of known thorium deposits in the world. So they started developing a nuclear fuel cycle using thorium. And are today running a hybrid using conventional reactors to ignite the thorium.

But these reactors still generate a large amount of regular long lived nuclear waste. The really cool reactors is called molten salt reactors (MSR). These work by pumping a molten flouride salt containing thorium and some uranium (or waste from regular reactors) through the reactor. This liquid is then continuously cleaned from radioactive pollutants. The pollutants have the nice property that when you store them for about 10 months they turn into fuel that is feed back into the reactor.

So while some people argue about the IPCC and who is right or wrong in climate gate (Sorry in Swedish) and others are discussing how to get the world united on carbon dioxide emissions (Also in Swedish), why don’t we start by solving the engineering issues with the thorium fuel  cycle and start replacing coal based electricity with green energy from thorium.

An extensive article about thorium reactors can be found in an 2006 issue of cosmos. More in depth information about thorium and thorium reactors can be found at the world nuclear association.

why forbidding thoughts is a bad idea

Being a liberal i have always had problems with forbidding thoughts.  And now when doing some research into “climate gate”  i stumbled upon a blatant example.

During 22 years from 1984 to 2006 Sweden had a “thought ban” on nuclear reactors.  It was forbidden to design nuclear power plants or calculate costs for running these plants. This was one of the consequences of a referendum in 1980 about the future of nuclear power in Sweden. (One could note that this was a strange referendum, 3 options existed but none of them was an yes. They where all about stopping nuclear power in Sweden.)

So where are we now 30 years after this referendum? Well we are trying to stop emission of greenhouse gases, mostly focused on reducing carbon dioxid. One of the easiest and quickest ways to do this is to build more nuclear power plants and phase out the ones fueled by coal.

Sure and what about all the nuclear waste we have to keep secure for 10.000 years? Thats a relevant question and leads me to why i wrote this article.

There are “new” (They where first described in the 50’s and some where running in the 60’s!)  types of reactors that instead of using uranium as a fuel uses thorium. In the process they can transmute our old reactor waste. That is they reduce the waste we already have produced! The result is nuclear waste with a half-life time of less than 100 years. So the waste only needs to be stored for 100’s of years instead of 10.000+ years for conventional nuclear waste.

The Chinese and the Indians are already doing serious research into thorium based reactors and an US-Russian consortium is adapting thorium based fuel so it can be used in the reactors we already have built. A lot of this research have been done in the 30 years Sweden in principle banned nuclear research. Yes 30 years. It was first in 2009 that the Swedish government again started to give grants to nuclear power research.

This thought is not new, already in 2004 the Swedish newspaper DN published a debate article (Sorry it’s in Swedish) written by Niklas Ekdal covering this subject.
One could just wonder where Sweden would have been today if they used at least some of the approximate 20 billion SEK  that went into designing a long term solution to the waste problem into nuclear power research instead of forbidding all thoughts about constructing new reactors…

And bye the way, thanks for the comments on the Swedish blog “Klimatbluffen” that gave me the idea to write something about the Swedish “thought ban” before finishing my article about green nuclear power plants.

Baffling Medical Conditions

Some diseases are really strange. And a lot of them unexplained.

What about these for an example:

  • A woman who suddenly can’t open her eyes. It usually keep on for three days, then she is normal again for a couple of months.
  • A man who can’t freeze. Or rather his body copes so good with cold that he has swum under the north pole and climbed mount everest in shorts!
  • Allergic against cold! A ice cube on the skin will give a huge blister, even snowflakes in the face will give responses. And yes antihistamines help…
  • A boy who almost never sleep. (Poor parents, young children’s sleep patterns are stressful enough…)
  • People who can’t remember and others who can’t forget!
  • A girl who can not feel pain.

And there is alot more details about theese and other strange deseases over here. Check them out!

There is also a story of a girl who doesn’t get older. She is 16 now and still look like a 6 month old baby….

the future for saab

Some rumors today is that Koeningsegg (You know that fancy top of the line Swedish car maker) will buy SAAB. And yet some other say that the formal descision and announcement will be made in just a couple of days.

This sounds like a great solution, beefing up SAAB and at the same time giving Koeningsegg a lot of production capacity. Also it’s a way for the Swedes to bring back SAAB to Swedish ownership again. But then it’s a strange deal. A small company with 50 employees that builds a handful of cars each year, buys a company with thousands of employees building approx. 100000 cars a year!

But then some people think it’s a joke...

Antarctic ice is growing not melting away

Antarctic is is growing! Not melting away as is stated today in an Expressen editorial.

I guess this is against what people think, but as normal when global climate things arn’t as simple as they seem. (I tend to be very sceptic to anyone who is totally shure about global warming.) Look over here at news.com.au for the story i read the following:

Ice levels are decreasing in western Antarctia, but growing in the east. And since east anterctica is about 4 times as large the net effect is that there is more ice on Antarctica today than for ten years ago. Actually last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m.

But please note the article isn’t published yet by the British Antarctic Survey but will be in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded.

time does not exist

A couple of days ago i stumbled over this article in New scientist. And i have been thinking about eriting something about it, but i have been to busy with other stuff to really put an effort into this post. So i just decided to throw it out to you so it gets some attention, and in the same time i get it out of my brain…

Quantum physics have a hard time integrating gravity into the theory. Basically they would like to have a quantum theory of gravity to reconcile Einstein’s general relativity, which describes gravity at the largest scales, with quantum mechanics. And time is one of the things getting in the way all the time. So some researchers are considering that time might just be a derivative effect of some thing else going on. Wait, stop you might say, time is very real! But there is a great analogy in the article:

Temperature is very real for us. But the definition of temperature is the energy in the motion of atoms and molecules swirling around in the sample. So temperature is just a macroscopic average of the momenta of all the microscopic molecules. If we would have been (a lot…) better at seeing end feeling atoms and molecules we would not have temperature, but a collection of momenta for all the molecules in the sample.

So one line of reasoning right now is that time is also a derative, it dosn’t exit on a microscopic level. It only exits in our approximation of “reality”.

Read the original article here at New Scientist – Is time an illusion?

trafficing and giant lizards

Reading the Swedish online tabloids is getting on my nerves (yes i know i should stop instead of complaining…) The other day it was a fabricated story about a mind reading machine. And now today in an article about a fossile of a pliosaur aka. predator X in Svalbard. They managed to place Svalbard in Scandinavia. Well it is quite a long way from the Scandinavian Peninsula to Svalbard

In another article someone is upset about prostitution on one of the boats inbetwen Sweden and Latvia. And they call it trafficking.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of people for the purposes of slavery, forced labor (including bonded labor or debt bondage), and servitude. (Definition frrecruitmentom wikipedia.)

Well i guess there could be cases where trafficking wictims are transported or recruited on the boats, but prostitution is the act of selling sexual services. And trafficking is the slave trade. So could we please keep the two things seperate so we know what we are talking about, that would help much more that whining in a tabloid.