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.
James Delingpole is an invective-hurling anti-climate science columnist who has candidly admitted that he doesn’t bother to read scientific papers, calling himself a “an interpreter of interpretations.”
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In a curious study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles showed that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) — altering brain activity by zapping specific regions with magnetic pulses — can apparently increase people’s libido, at least briefly. Neuroscientist Nicole Prause and her colleagues targeted the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (at the left temple), a […]
The Pocket Tripod PRO had massive Kickstarter success in 2013, raising almost $85,000 in a single month. But this isn’t just another case of pre-release product hype. This ingenious little device folds out from a credit-card-shaped plastic slab into a sturdy stand with a surprisingly wide range of motion. In portrait orientation, your phone slides […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]