Truck driver builds the "most detailed replica of an A-bomb ever made"

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From Motherboard TV:

John Coster-Mullen is "a truck-driver with minimal college education, Coster-Mullen taught himself how to build the most detailed replica of an A-bomb ever made. "The secret of the atomic bomb is how easy they are to make."

Last year, Motherboard visited Coster-Mullen to talk with him about his life project: reverse engineering the atomic bombs America dropped on Japan. His findings are available in a book he continuously updates and publishes himself called Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man, which has received rave reviews from the National Resource Defense Council: "nothing else in the Manhattan Project literature comes close to his exacting breakdown of the bomb's parts."


The Atomic Trucker: How a Truck Driver "Rebuilt" the Atomic Bomb

Monumentally bad writing: recovery from thermonuclear war, loan forgiveness, and taxes (1966)

John Ptak, proprietor of the JF Ptak Science Bookstore, reviewed a research project report filled with "putrified moral-punk thinking on envisioning American society post nuke holocaust." He says it's one of many "very badly written, deeply obfuscated, sinful research projects" that he's come across, but says this one stands out because "it is the first I can recall that restarts taxes right off the burned-up bat. Quite something, really. "
thermowar.jpg[T]he authors clearly assume that there will be something approximately preattack life in the post-attack world. Amidst the horror and chaos, we read that

"Businessmen, in particular, but others as well, would experience disturbing and subtle changes in familiar institutions and in such bases of mutual trust as methods of establishing or verifying credit...or estimating delivery dates"--pg 11.

"Disturbing and subtle" changes to delivery, indeed.

We further read of "widespread readjustments of status, status symbols, and values" (page 11) which no doubt would come if all of your possessions were burned up, or lost or destroyed in some way, along with the owner. It is definitely difficult to maintain status relationships in the evidence of no status and no relationships. Of course this whole deal is complicated by the issue that status symbols are also relationships and associations, much of which could also be gone in the same fire cloud.

Monumentally bad writing: recovery from thermonuclear war, loan forgiveness, and taxes (1966)

Nanny of the Month: Drug Warrior-in-Chief Barack Obama


[Video Link] Ted Balakar of Reason says: "This time top dishonors go to the Drug Warrior-in-Chief Barack Obama (with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart grabbing a dishonorable mention), whose DEA banned fake pot, thwarted a scientist's decade-long campaign to study marijuana, and raided dispensaries in Montana and California--all in one month!

"Seems like only yesterday when Obama promised he wouldn't waste Justice Department resources raiding medical marijuana dispensaries."

The Scout: surreal, Twilight-Zone-esque indie comic

Malachi Ward's slim science fiction comic chapbook "The Scout" is a perfect, Twilight-Zoneish science fiction short story in graphic novel form. It's the surreal story of an alien scout who awakes and discovers that he's already awakened -- and died -- before. 16 brief pages long, The Scout is a shining example of graphic storytelling, and Ward's surreal Golden Age science fiction line-art is just great. You can order a copy for $5 from Ad House books, and Angelenos can get a copy at Secret Headquarters in Sunset Junction, where I got mine.

The Scout

Desperate WI Republican congressman struggling to get by on $174K turns to copyright trolling

The Republican Party of Polk County, WI is pulling out all stops to suppress a video of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) bemoaning the difficulty of scraping by on his measly $174,000 (plus benefits!) government salary, and how hard it is driving around in his old car and paying off his student loans with only $174,000 (plus benefits) paid to him every year.

The Republican Party office -- which posted the video initially -- has used copyright claims to demand that video hosting services take it down. Talking Points Memo has excerpted the relevant scene and reposted it, and say that they will not remove it.

I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high on the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I'm not living high on the hog.
As TPM points out, Duffy is poorer than the average Republican politico, but that's because the baseline for comparison is somewhere between "rich as hell" and "richer than God." And $174K a year is certainly a hell of a lot more than those "greedy union thugs" in Wisconsin have been asking for.

GOPers Demand Sean Duffy Salary Tape Be Pulled From The Internet (VIDEO)

Dolphins die during Navy training exercise off CA coast

Three dolphins died earlier this month during a Navy training exercise using underwater explosives off the coast of San Diego, California. Marine mammal fatalities that can be directly attributed to military tests in that area are relatively rare. They were so-called "common dolphins," an unglamorous name for one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever had the great fortune to be close to, out in the water on an observation boat.

Japan (Photo): Inside an evacuation center near Fukushima

A girl from a displaced family holds her stuffed animals at an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, March 31, 2011. This shelter is located about 70 km (44 miles) from the earthquake and tsunami-crippled nuclear reactor. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Woodkid: "Iron," dir. Yoann Lemoine, feat. Agyness Deyn (music video)

"Iron" from WOODKID, via Clayton Cubitt. The director of this wonderful music video is also the performer, and you can follow him on Twitter.

Japan: Gentleman crashes truck into gates of Fukushima nuclear plant

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In Japan today, a gentleman driving a loudspeaker truck crashed his vehicle right into the gates of one of the nuclear plants in northern Japan operated by TEPCO (Fukushima Daini, not the leaky one, but very close to the leaky one). Those mobile boombox trucks are popular with political groups there, used to broadcast propaganda while driving around the 'hood. After crashing this one into Fukushima #2, the gentleman was promptly arrested by the po-po. Related: Has anyone seen Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly over the past 24 hours? I didn't think so. (AFP)

Update: Another gentleman was just drawn to the same plant for the purpose of mischief:

An unemployed man from Tokyo was arrested Friday after allegedly intruding by car into the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant premises, near the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi plant in Fukushima Prefecture, police said. Hikaru Watanabe, 25, from Shinjuku Ward, allegedly broke through the western gate of the Daini plant around 1:10 p.m. Thursday, before driving inside its premises for about 10 minutes, the plants' operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said, adding that no one was injured in the incident.

Old timey religious tracts

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Over at Collectors Weekly, Jim Linderman gives us an inspirational taste of his amazing collection of old timey religious tracts. You may recall my previous post about Jim's terrific book and CD package "Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950." His new book, Old-Time-Religion, presents his collection of religious ephemera. It's also the name of Jim's blog where he showcases the tracts like the two seen above. While some of the fearmongering and artwork is a delight, "most of these now dated screeds are racist, homophobic, and offensive to any religion not one’s own," Jim says.

"Hellfire and Damnation in Your Back Pocket" (Collectors Weekly)

"Old Time Religion by Jim Linderman" (blog)

Hakko 936 Soldering Iron

Hakko.jpeg For someone looking for a high quality soldering station at a reasonable price the Hakko 936 is hard to beat. I've had mine for a few years and use it mostly for electronics and instrument cable work. I think I paid around $80 new for it, and the price included a separate cast metal pencil rest with an integral sponge tip wiping pad. The power supply is a transformer type, controlled by a rheostat mounted on the front panel graduated in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. The only other control is the on-off switch mounted on the right side. There is a red LED pilot lamp on the front which illuminates only when regulated power is actually being applied to the pencil. The pencil's cable plugs in to a 5-conductor receptacle and locks in via a threaded collar. The extra wires going to the tip are for a thermocouple near the tip for precise and stable temperature regulation.

Read the rest

Human remix: Amazing transgender performer on "Thailand's Got Talent" (video)

Video Link. A version with English subtitles is here.

Above, Bell Nuntita, or in Thai, Nuntrita Khampriranon, on the "Thailand's Got Talent" TV show.

I will refrain from including any spoilers in this blog post, but just stay with it. The performance is clever and beautiful. Thailand is a country with many problems, but it's pretty awesome that a moment like this can happen in popular culture there, with applause and acceptance.

Make sure you see her message to her father, the last 45 seconds or so of the video clip. And you just *try* not to cry while you're watching that.

(Via Andrea James)

What does Chernobyl sound like?

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Inspired by Maggie's post on the Miles O'Brien PBS NewsHour report from Chernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear disaster there, a follower on Twitter just pointed me to this amazing series of works by sound artist Peter CusackAmbient sounds at Chernobyl, Ukraine, recorded in 2006.

Listen to the frogs and nightingales of Chernobyl here. Beautiful.

From the project notes:

Since the nuclear catastrophe of April 26 1986, and in complete contrast to human life, nature at Chernobyl is thriving. The evacuation of people has created an undisturbed haven and wildlife has taken full advantage. Animals and birds absent for many decades - wolves, moose, black storks - have moved back and the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now one of Europe's prime wildlife sites. Radiation seems to have had a negligible effect. The increase in wildlife numbers and variety means that the natural sounds of springtime are particularly impressive. For me the passionate species rich dawn chorus became Chernobyl's definitive sound. Chernobyl is also famous for its frogs and nightingales. Nighttime concerts were equally spectacular.

Of course, judging from the NewsHour report, today Chernobyl sounds like phones ringing. News crews from around the world are all trying to book time at the site to produce reports on the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history.

Related: Cusack's "Sounds From Dangerous Places" project collected sounds from places including Chernobyl, the Azerbaijan oil fields, and areas near controversial dams on the Tigris and Euphrates river systems in Turkey, all of which are sites of major environmental damage.

(Image: Peter Cusack, via gruenrekorder.de. Thanks, Sara Huws!)

All you need to know about the Great Bronx Zoo Cobra Honey Badger Twitter Invasion

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Recently, the Bronx Zoo announced on Twitter that their Egyptian Cobra had escaped. Also recently, a video of a creature known as the Honey Badger, who happens to enjoy feasting on cobras, went viral.

Tweets were twatted, fake accounts sprang up like so many perky daffodils in springtime, and a series of memes crashed into each other, causing LOL fission of unprecedented magnitude. Boom!

Sean Bonner breaks it all down for you.

UPDATE: The Bronx Zoo cobra has been captured, according to a local news station.

How general earthquake science applies to specific Japanese earthquake

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I've posted several different explanations here describing how earthquakes and tsunamis work. This week, though, the Miller-McCune Curiouser and Curiouser podcast takes that generalized information and does a nice job of applying it specifically to Japan. First, they talk about the general stuff—plate tectonics and why earthquakes happen. Then they talk about the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami—and how the general facts play out into real-world disasters.

On Wednesday, March 9, two days before the main event, there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on the plate boundary just East of Japan under the Pacific Ocean. Not the main thing but still a very big earthquake, the kind this part of Japan gets every few decades. This time, though, very bad. Part of the Pacific Plate came unstuck and suddenly shifted underneath Japan. The part that moved put even more strain on the much larger part of the Pacific Plate that was still really, really stuck—and two days later, the strain was too much. On March 11, a huge stretch of the Pacific Plate, maybe 300 miles long, broke free and surged westward under Japan—as much as 120 ft of movement, all at once. At the same time, the plate Japan sits on moved east by 9 feet.

If you want to skip ahead to the Tohoku tsunami description, it begins at about -2:50 in the podcast

The image above is a detail from a really informative poster that the USGS has put together.

Via Kerri Wachter