Yesterday, BP started an ambitious effort to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a "top kill"—pumping drilling "mud" into the well at a fast enough rate that it backs up the flow of oil behind the broken blowout preventer and starts to form a plug. Today, the Coast Guard announced that this effort appears to be working. It's too soon to call it an unqualified success, but things are looking good and we may get the leak officially stopped up in the next day or so. That doesn't solve the clean-up issue, but it's a relief to know that something is working.
I've seen a lot of really bad explanations of the top kill process in the news. Frankly, I wasn't entirely clear on how it worked until I read this description on the Oil Drum Blog. It likened the leak to a stopped up sewer line. If you have tree roots growing through your sewer, you can still turn the sink on, and liquid can get through. But if you up the volume—flush the toilet or run the washing machine—everything gets backed up and flows back into your basement. Essentially, the broken blowout preventer is the tree roots, and the drilling mud was used to increase the volume of liquid enough that it couldn't get through the break.
Also, for the record, drilling mud isn't mud like you'll find in your backyard. There's been a lot of confusion on that point, and a lot of the news reports I've seen haven't cleared it up much. Drilling mud is an engineered lubricant. Clay is often one ingredient, but there are many types of drilling fluid that get called "mud" and they're usually a mixture of clays, water and various chemicals. Amusingly—at least for anyone who saw "There Will Be Blood"—drilling mud is supposed to look a lot like a chocolate malt.
Artists Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown explore cymatics, the study of wave phenomena and how they are represented visually. Using black-colored water, a laptop computer, and a modified guitar amp, they captured “portraits” of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale. From my sister-in-law Heather Sparks’s profile of their project in Nautilus: In each (“portrait”), […]
Yesterday’s science-by-press-release announcement that a research team had made a “breakthrough” in treating ALS thanks to funds raised in last year’s viral ice-bucket challenge turns out to be vaporware: the gene identified was already known to be implicated in ALS, but only affects 3% of cases, and the new refinement in the research suggests some […]
New research on trends in adult human height over the last century confirm that, no surprise, humans are getting taller overall due to better nutrition and disease control. However according to the health science group Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), the gain in adult height varies dramatically by country. From their paper, published in […]
Looks like all of your potential employers are hiring candidates with programming skills (which you don’t have). With all of the languages out there today, it’s tough to know where to start.With the Complete Front-End to Back-End Coding Bundle, you can beef your resume up in all the right places, no confusion necessary. This package of […]
Those of us who love music wish we could listen to it 24/7. But it’s impossible when we’re trying to converse with our friends, or when are swimming in the local pool.That is, until now. The KOAR Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset, now 48% off, has changed the audio game.Made with lightweight titanium memory metal, this headset boasts patented bone conduction technology to transport sound […]
It’s one thing to enjoy dinner at home and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your best friend, Netflix, but it’s another thing entirely to make that meal from scratch and get that wine delivered right to your doorstep.But what if we told you there’s a way to make this possible? To keep your social life, […]