This is not a metaphorical view inside a nuclear reactor. This is for real-real.
This month, the good folks at TEPCO sent a remote-controlled endoscope and thermometer into the containment vessel of Fukishima's crippled reactor #2, hoping to learn something about the level of cooling water, the state of the fuel rods, and the temperature in the reactor. The view is obscured by steam, the effects of radiation, and (are you sitting down) actual goddam gamma rays just whizzing by. According to the PBS Frontline blog, those are the little streaks and flashes that you see in this video.
The probe revealed corroded piping and dripping humidity, but did not reveal the water’s surface level, which TEPCO had expected to be as high as four meters. The containment vessel was flooded with seawater during the reactor meltdown when other attempts to cool it failed. Current water levels inside the reactor remain unknown.
The probe’s thermometer function proved more revealing; it recorded the interior temperature at 44.7 degrees centigrade (112 degrees Farenheit), demonstrating that the unit’s own thermometer, thought to be off by as many as 20 degrees, is still functioning accurately.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, say that H5N1 bird flu kills some 60% of the human beings it manages to infect. Basically, it hasn't infected many people—because it can't be spread from person to person—but most of the people it does infect die.
But this might not be the full story.
After I posted a summary of the current controversies surrounding H5N1 research, I got an interesting email from Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology at Columbia University Medical Center. Racaniello points out that the 60% death rate statistics are based on people who show up at hospitals with serious symptoms of infection. So far, there've only been about 600 cases. And, yes, about 60% of them have died.
However, they don't necessarily represent everybody who has contracted H5N1.
A death rate is only as good as statistics on the rate of infection. If you've got an inaccurate count of the number of people infected, your death rate is going to be wrong. And there's some evidence that might be the case with H5N1.
In a recent study of rural Thai villagers, sera from 800 individuals were collected and analyzed for antibodies against several avian influenza viruses, including H5N1, by hemagglutination-inhibition and neutralization assays. The results indicate that 73 participants (9.1%) had antibody titers against one of two different H5N1 strains. The authors conclude that ‘people in rural central Thailand may have experienced subclinical avian influenza virus infections’. A subclinical infection is one without apparent signs of illness.
If 9% of the rural Asian population has been subclinically infected with avian H5N1 influenza virus strains, it would dramatically change our view of the pathogenicity of the virus. Extensive serological studies must be done to determine the extent of human infection with avian H5N1 influenza viruses. Until we know how many individuals are infected with avian influenza H5N1, we must refrain from making dire conclusions about the pathogenicity of the virus.
Editor's note: I received so many wonderful essays about Robert Anton Wilson, that I've extended RAW Week for a few more days! -- Mark
Robert Anton Wilson departed from this world on January 11, 2007 at 4:50 am. He will be missed enormously by his many loving friends and devoted fans, and his powerful impact upon the world will continue to catalyze the evolution of the human species for many years to come. Bob was one of the most brilliant and conscious people to ever grace this wayward world, and he was always a man ahead of his time. I predict that his books will be far more popular in years to come than they are today. Future generations will cherish his books with the same reverence that scholars today hold for geniuses like James Joyce and Ezra Pound.
Bob had an uncanny ability to lead his readers, unsuspectingly, into a state of mind where they are playfully tricked into "aha" experiences that cause them to question their most basic assumptions. His books are the literary equivalent of a psychedelic experience and they can be every bit as mind-expanding as a couple a good swigs of Amazonian jungle juice. Many people attribute their initial psychological "awakening" to their reading of his psychoactive books -- myself included. It was Bob's book Cosmic Trigger that not only allowed me to understand the concept of "multiple realities," but also inspired me to become a writer when I was a teenager. It was also where I first discovered many of the fascinating individuals who would later become the subjects of my interview books.
I really owe a lot to Bob. After I completed writing my first book at the age of twenty-six, I approached Bob after a lecture that he gave and asked him if he would be willing to write me a promotional blurb for the back cover of the book. He said, "maybe." and didn't really leave me with the impression that he was too eager to do it. I got the feeling that young writers bugged him all the time for back cover blurbs.
But I had my publisher send him a copy of the book anyway. You can imagine my surprise -- and total radiant delight -- when I discovered that Bob had actually written an eleven page introduction for the book (Brainchild, which was published in 1988). Words simply can not describe what a thrilling experience this was for me! In 1989 I moved to Los Angeles, where Bob and Arlen were living at the time, and I became good friends with them. (I dedicated my book Virus to Bob's wife Arlen.)
Read the rest
[Video Link] I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I like this video, and I like the song with the uplifting lyrics about being left behind after the Rapture, too. I learned it is a popular song called "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," and it has been covered by a bunch of bands.
I think a longer version of this video will be played during an intermission at a club in Philadelphia called Johnny Brenda’s. Here are the event details.
Matt Richtel's recent NYT article on teenagers who share their Facebook passwords as a show of affection has raised alarms with parents and educators who worry about the potential for bullying and abuse.
But as danah boyd points out the practice of password-sharing didn't start with kids: it started with parents, who required their kids to share their passwords with them. Young kids have to share their passwords because they lose them, and older kids are made to share their passwords because their parents want to snoop on them. Basically, you can't tell kids that they must never, ever share their passwords and require them to share their passwords.
There are different ways that parents address the password issue, but they almost always build on the narrative of trust. (Tangent: My favorite strategy is when parents ask children to put passwords into a piggy bank that must be broken for the paper with the password to be retrieved. Such parents often explain that they don’t want to access their teens’ accounts, but they want to have the ability to do so “in case of emergency.” A piggy bank allows a social contract to take a physical form.)
When teens share their passwords with friends or significant others, they regularly employ the language of trust, as Richtel noted in his story. Teens are drawing on experiences they’ve had in the home and shifting them into their peer groups in order to understand how their relationships make sense in a broader context. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone because this is all-too-common for teen practices. Household norms shape peer norms.
There’s another thread here that’s important. Think back to the days in which you had a locker. If you were anything like me and my friends, you gave out your locker combination to your friends and significant others. There were varied reasons for doing so. You wanted your friends to pick up a book for you when you left early because you were sick. You were involved in a club or team where locker decorating was common. You were hoping that your significant other would leave something special for you.
A year ago, I posted about Take Me To The Water, a terrific book/CD set and exhibit of river baptism photos from the 1880s - 1930s. The photos were from the collection of Jim Linderman, who has a terrific eye for weird art, antiques, ephemera, and of course vernacular photography. Jim has just published a new book -- Vintage Photographs of Arcane American -- and judging from the samples online, it's a doozy. You can purchase the paperback or e-book via Jim's site, Dull Tool Dim Bulb. "Vernacular Photography Linderman Style Vintage Photographs of Arcane Americana Book and ebook Now Available"
Chicago's Floyd Davis demonstrates how to make a boombox out of any case, including a Craftsman toolbox.
Dante Antullo, 32, thought a nail gun accident last week had just left him with a surface abrasion. But the next day, he felt nauseous and his girlfriend convinced him to see a doctor. Physicians found a 3 1/4-inch nail in his brain. Surgeons removed it and Antullo is recovering well. From the AP:
“When they brought in the picture, I said to the doctor ‘Is this a joke? Did you get that out of the doctors joke file?’” the 32-year-old recalled. “The doctor said ‘No man, that’s in your head.’”
Autullo, who lives in Orland Park (Illinois), said he was building a shed Tuesday and using the nail gun above his head when he fired it. With nothing to indicate that a nail hadn’t simply whizzed by his head, his long-time companion, Gail Glaenzer, cleaned the wound with peroxide.
“It really felt like I got punched on the side of the head,” he said, adding that he continued working. “I thought it went past my ear.”
Mike Sullivan is making tiny robot actors to star in his stop-motion robot sex film. Documentary filmmaker Matt Lenski made a documentary about Sullivan's efforts. Titled "The Meaning of Robots," it premiered last weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. Above is the trailer. From Lenski's description of the project:
Matt Lenski's "The Meaning of Robots" (via Laughing Squid, thanks Puce!)
In the Spring of 2011, after years of hiring him to build miniature sets for my films I asked Mike Sullivan for his help on an art project – A doll-sized protest kit. During the process I got a peek into his world and discovered that it was anything but miniature.
What I found was a man dedicated, overwhelmed, slightly lost and happy to share it with honesty and a little humor.
I also found thousands of Robots with wieners.
Caddo Parish, LA commissioner Michael Williams is sick and tired of being able to discern guys' penises through their pajamas at WalMart (apparently, the men of Caddo like to go to WalMart in their jammies, which is pretty boss if you ask me -- I live in my jimjams). He's proposed a local ordinance to prohibit the wearing of pajamas in public.
"Pajamas are designed to be worn in the bedroom at night," said Williams, likely after extensive research on the history and design of pajamas. "If you can't [wear them to the] courthouse, why are you going to do it in a restaurant or in public?" (Um, because those aren't courthouses?) Williams also invoked the "slippery-slope" argument, of course. "Today it's pajamas," he said, "tomorrow it's underwear. Where does it stop?" Seems to me there's only one further step once you get to underwear. This guy is really not that imaginative.
"Everyone who likes my books is like me in some way. If you like my books [but] you've never met me, there's something about you that's just like me."
That must mean I'm a dead ringer for Emberley, because I am positively gaga for his instructional drawing books for kids.
Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ed Emberley is truly a national treasure, having drawn nearly 100 books. The warmth of his family and his 17th century home are an essential part of his work. In this installment of the lynda.com flagship documentary series, we go to Ed’s home in Ipswich, Massachusetts, to meet him and all of the members of his talented family, including his wife and author, Barbara; children, illustrators Rebecca and Michael; and granddaughter, recording artist Adrian Emberley. A generation of children have learned to draw using Ed’s drawing books and we watch as a new generation puts crayon to paper. At 80 years young, Ed is pushing ahead and we meet with his team as he works on his newest iPad app — with graphic artists that, as children, learned to draw with his books.
In this 2011 YouTube upload, violist Lukáš Kmiť shows what to do when your playing is interrupted by a ringing phone, as happened to him during a beautiful performance at an orthodox synagogue in Presov, Slovakia. Kmiť broke off playing for an instant, regrouped, and then improvised a lovely aria based on the Nokia ringtone.
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas offered few surprises, giving reporters time to write interesting offbeat coverage.Read the rest
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, a German national formerly known as Kim Schmitz, is seen at court in Auckland, New Zealand in this still image taken from video shot on January 23, 2012. The file-sharing website founder was ordered to be held in custody by a New Zealand court on Monday, as he denied charges of internet piracy and money laundering and said authorities were trying to portray the most negative picture of him. (REUTERS/TV3 via Reuters Tv)
Mary Robinette Kowal sez, "I have a challenge for you. When was the last time you got a letter in the mail? December sees a lot of mail and you remember that sense of delight when the first card arrives. You can have that more often. That's what sparked The Month of Letters Challenge The rules are simple. 1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch. 2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items. If you are in the US all you are committing to is to mail 24 items. Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again. Feeling intimidated? It’s fewer words than NaNoWriMo and I know how many of you do that. Can you mail a letter a day?"
The Month of Letters Challenge (Thanks, Mary!)
At approximately 11:00 am Eastern time (15 minutes from now as I type this), the Earth will come into contact with the largest Coronal Mass Ejection since 2005—a huge burst of charged particles and magnetic fields that exploded off the surface of the sun Sunday night.
Scientists have been tracking it as it headed our way. In fact, intrepid astronomy reporter Lee Billings contacted me this morning to tell me that ejection had just passed our Advanced Composition Explorer satellite, which is why we have such a precise estimate of when it would hit Earth. Despite the size of this CME, Billings says it probably won't cause any major damage. However, a larger CME that hit us with less warning very well could be a huge problem. That's because CME's can interfere, to varying degrees, with radio communications, GPS signals, and lots of other electronic stuff that we've come to rely on. What's more, Billings says, our warning system is aging fast. That ACE satellite, for instance, has enough fuel to survive to 2024, but it's equipment is old enough that it's likely to fail at any time.
Lee has written a great piece on Coronal Mass Ejections and the very real risks they pose to modern technology over at Popular Mechanics. It's a great breakdown of what CME's can do and what we do to prepare for them that manages to get the risks right, without becoming too hyperbolic and apocalyptic-y. It's 10:59 AM now. Happy CME!
A geomagnetic storm produces dangerous electrical currents in a manner analogous to a moving bar magnet raising currents in a coil of wire. When a CME hits the Earth’s magnetic field and sends it oscillating, those undulating magnetic fields raise currents in conductive material within and on the Earth itself. The currents that ripple through our planet can easily enter transformers that serve as nodes in regional, national, and global power grids. They can also seep into and corrode the steel in lengthy stretches of oil and gas pipeline.
On October 29, 2003, power grids around the world felt the strain from the geomagnetic currents. In North America, utility companies scaled back electricity generation to protect the grid. In Sweden, a fraction of a CME-induced electric current overloaded a high-voltage transformer, and blacked out the city of Malmo for almost an hour. The CME dumped an even larger mass of energetic particles into Earth’s upper atmosphere and orbital environment, where satellites began to fail because of cascading electronics glitches and anomalies. Most were recovered, but not all. Astronauts in low-Earth orbit inside the International Space Station retreated to the Station’s shielded core to wait out the space-weather storm. Even there, the astronauts received elevated doses of radiation, and occasionally saw brief flashes of brilliant white and blue—bursts of secondary radiation caused when a stray particle passed directly through the vitreous humor of the astronauts’ eyes at nearly light-speed.
Flares and CMEs from the Sun continued to bombard the Earth until early November of that year, when at last our star’s most active surface regions rotated out of alignment with our planet. No lives were lost, but many hundreds of millions of dollars in damages had been sustained.
The event, now known as the Halloween Storm of 2003, deeply worried John Kappenman, an engineer and expert in geomagnetic storm effects. The Sun had fired a clear warning shot. Its activity roughly follows an 11-year cycle, and severe space weather tends to cluster around each cycle’s peak. The Sun’s next activity peak is expected to occur this year or next, and the chance of more disruptive geomagnetic storms will consequently increase
The video above shows what the last big CME, in 2005, looked like. Video Link
Tim H sez, "A recent and amazing donation to the PlaGMaDA.org [ed: Play Generated Map and Document Archive] project: A beautiful, hand-made homebrew addition to the classic TSR Against the Giants series."
I wish I had the modules and monster sheets I painstakingly made in my youth. I used to cram them into envelopes and mail them, full of hope, to Dragon magazine. I suppose it's possible that they're in a filing cabinet at Hasbro or whomever ended up owning TSR's materials.
Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord
(Thanks, Tim H!)
Pittance sez, "This is my brand new 3D printed Fisher-Price record player record (for the old clockwork music box one, not the new electronic one) playing "Still Alive" from Portal. It's entirely made using Processing and printed at Shapeways and, now I know how to do it, I really hope I can make more with different tunes - suggestions?"
Joly sez, "Jim Henson made this film in 1963 for The Bell System. Specifically, it was made for an elite seminar given for business owners, on the then-brand-new topic — Data Communications. The seminar itself involved a lot of films and multimedia presentations, and took place in Chicago. A lengthy description of the planning of the Bell Data Communications Seminar — sans a mention of the Henson involvement — is on the blog of Inpro co-founder Jack Byrne. It later was renamed the Bell Business Communications Seminar. The organizers of the seminar, Inpro, actually set the tone for the film in a three-page memo from one of Inpro's principals, Ted Mills to Henson. Mills outlined the nascent, but growing relationship between man and machine: a relationship not without tension and resentment: "He [the robot] is sure that All Men Basically Want to Play Golf, and not run businesses — if he can do it better." (Mills also later designed the ride for the Bell System at the 1964 World's Fair.) Henson's execution is not only true to Mills' vision, but he also puts his own unique, irreverent spin on the material. The robot narrator used in this film had previously starred in a skit for a food fair in Germany (video is silent), in 1961. It also may be the same robot that appeared on the Mike Douglas Show in 1966. Henson created a different — but similar — robot for the SKF Industries pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair. This film was found in the AT&T Archives. Thanks go to Karen Falk of the Henson Archives for providing help and supporting documentation to prove that it was, indeed, a Henson production.." (Thanks, Joly!)
I've featured the work of net-savvy, happily mutated juggler and magician Mat Ricardo here before. Now he's planning quite an astounding show in east London. He sez,
Further to the tale of how I soul-searched, and crowd-sourced to revitalise my career - I'm launching a unique new monthly variety show in London.Full details of the opening night line-up
The best performers from the glory days of light entertainment and the dangerous years of alternative comedy, plus the current stars of cabaret will - for the first time - share the same bill and create a series of unique, one-night-only line-ups. In addition to this, every month we'll invite an old hand - a star of their world - a master of their craft - or just someone I particularly love - to perform and then sit down with me for a live on stage interview about their life, career and influences. And in association with SoundsWilde and the British Comedy Guide, we'll be recording the whole thing for release as a podcast.
It's a love letter to the people who inspired me, and who have kept variety alive in the workingmens clubs, comedy venues, festival stages and streets around the world, and I couldn't be more excited about some of the guests I'll be having the pleasure of introducing. In the coming months we'll have some of the most thrilling, astonishing and spectacular acts you've ever seen, not to mention some household names giving you a glimpse into the life of a performer, and a few of the up and coming talents who are helping to spearhead the resurgence of variety. You can expect everyone from Royal Variety show veterans, to street performers, to TV stars. Each night is truly going to be something special.