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.
Joe Karganis writes, "This is the 'Co-Assignment Galaxy' created by David McClure. It maps the top 160K titles in the new Open Syllabus 2.0 dataset, based on the frequency with which those texts are assigned (reflected in the size of the dot) and assigned together (reflected in the location and clustering of the dots). It's […]
The Bank of England has unveiled its new £50 notes, which had been earmarked to honour a distinguished British scientist, and which will feature Alan Turing, the WWII hero who discovered many of the foundational insights to both modern computing and cryptography, and whose work with the codebreakers of Bletchley Park are widely believed to […]
The great science purge, they’ll call it one day. Donald Trump is closing science offices throughout the federal government. ‘As of June, around 85 percent of all scientific posts in the federal government, including an official scientific advisor to the President, were left unfilled,’ write the editors of I F***ing Love Science blog in an […]
With enough practice and commitment, anyone can be a visual artist. But without the right instruction, that time spent honing your skills could seem like an eternity. If you really want to see where your talent can take you, you need sound fundamentals – and no matter what discipline or genre you lean toward, the […]
Theoretically, there’s never been an easier time for marketers. The ubiquity of social media means a good word – or a good brand – can spread like wildfire with very little effort. But as limitless as the internet is, there’s a lot of competition and noise to contend with. And the vast graveyard of failed […]
They might be the shiny new thing, but AirPods aren’t for everybody. Maybe you’re looking for a new sound or you understandably lost those tiny buds during a brisk run. If so, here’s 10 headphones and earbuds that break out of the Apple mode with a return to quality and wearability. Klipsch R5 Bluetooth Neckband […]