Friday, February 28, 2014

Nukes and Space, Space and Nukes

So had an interesting article on research being done towards meteor detection systems, and how to mitigate that threat for Earth. As one can expect, nuclear bombs are a proposed (and perhaps plausible) solution. The notion is that, depending on the size of the asteroid, a nuclear explosion could either fragment the asteroid into harmless (or far less harmful) bits, or it could knock it off course. It would be delivered via a Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV), which could theoretically punch a hold in the asteroid, then deliver the nuke, which could have greater destructive force due to the insertion (I guess Operation Plowshare was good for something, right?)

Plowshare Sedan Crater, via Wikipedia
 Asteroid detection is another concern, however, especially in the light of last year's meteoric explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, which nobody saw coming. Similarly, the Tunguska Event in 1908 (also in Russia) is also (I think) thought to have been a meteorite.

in 2015, the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System) is expected to be online, with warnings ranging from a day to three weeks. In a strange mirror, the sizes of asteroid impacts, like nuclear ones, are also measured in megatons (the above linked site calls a "city killer" 5 megatons, and a "county killer" 100 megatons (like the Tsar Bomba).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Takes a licking...

I occasionally read opinions like this one, which feel we no longer "need" a Doomsday Clock.

And then I read articles like this one, about Soviet-era nuclear waste (including subs!) that will potentially be released into new sea currents due to climate change (I blogged briefly about that here).

And then I read about how trucks of waste are, apparently, regularly stolen in Mexico. This is medical waste, so Cobalt 60. If you open the containment box, the resulting dose would kill you in 3 days, according to many of the interviews I read. When they found the most recent one (that I knew of), the box was open.

Or how the Carlsbad, New Mexico Energy Waste Isolation Plant has all kinds of false positives on their radiation alarms, and may have a real one this time. 

Or in Fukushima, where they've just had the worst spill in 6 months, wherein 100 tons of irradiated water has leaked from containment. That's right; in addition to the original nuclear accident, rated at a 7 (the same as Chernobyl, for those following at home) , they also had a spill in August which received its own separate rating of a 3. I really wish people would stop believing Tepco when they say they'll handle it and step in with some actual effective oversight. Because California isn't going to fall off; it's going to glow. That and the rest of the Pacific.

Or Iran, who thank God just agreed to terms for their nuclear talks. Terms to talk about, that is. The nuclear talks themselves have not yet happened.

Or North Korea, who's been excavating at their underground test site. And who does whatever the fuck they want, apparently. But we're talking about Doomsday Clock potential here, not basic human rights.

I'm fairly certain people don't think much about nuclear accidents; I tend to be the only one I know who's alarmed. I think, despite knowledge of nukes as a Thing That Exist, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki that exist as a Thing That Happened, people don't much think about the implications of nuclear war. Theoretically, the US and Russia are not going to fire at each other any time soon. But can other, newer nuclear powers can be relied upon? Depending on who's got their finger on the button, the whole world is in deep shit, and has been all along, ever since Trinity.  Ever since Russia's Tsar Bomba.

The world itself needs a conscience, in addition to individual countries. If the Doomsday Clock can accomplish that, then it needs to. And we need it.

Oh, and a late addition: Whistle-blower fired from Hanford Nuclear Site. Hanford is where some of the Plutonium for Fat Man was produced, if I remember aright. And Hanford continues to have problems with its safety, apparently. Because you don't have whistleblowers if somebody wasn't doing something wrong, typically. Hanford's waste is threatening to leak into the Columbia River, which I don't think I have to tell you is a big goddamn problem. This whistle blower? She's the second one to be fired in the last six months. Over safety concerns. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Accuracy and Science in Space Sci Fi

So there's this Tumblr, Things that Cost More Than Space Exploration written (curated?) by somebody who takes Tumblr as a medium seriously, which is pretty cool in and of itself. The examples given are also pretty cool.

I found the Tumblr at the same time I located and perused this non fiction book, Scientific American: Inventions from Outer Space: Everyday Uses for NASA Technology, by David Aaron Baker. It includes things like actual UV protection glasses lenses (I guess there's a gel layer or something? I've only skimmed it so far) and water purifiers (both particularly useful things in space, one would assume).

Coronal Loops in the active region of the sun, from NASA website

And speaking of NASA, I watched the movie Europa Report the other day. Apparently NASA (or maybe just one NASA scientist? I'm a little unclear) had input in the movie's development, trying to make the space travel as realistic as possible. I dug it, for the most part, with only a few nitpicky problems (WHY WOULD YOU TRIM SOMEBODY'S HAIR ON A SPACE SHIP?!). My demand for accuracy notwithstanding, I'm able to suspend my disbelief fairly well in the watching of movies, only revisiting them later and realizing my dissatisfaction with certain points. I'd seems I'd heard NASA has an interest in being involved with peoples' scifi, to help with accuracy and such (And perhaps get more attention in the public eye, so maybe they can get some more funding again....), and there is a crapload of information on the NASA website, from fact sheets on research centers to pictures taken by our various picture taking devices (Hubble, etc.) There's even a NASA Kids Club!

 I happened upon Europa Report as a "You might like this if you watched Event Horizon", and so of course, I've fond subsequent titles for if I liked Europa Report (Apollo 18, Moon).  But anyway, flaws aside, Europa Report does use some real science, and I felt it was well acted (though they did this thing where two of the male main characters were of a certain build and coloring, so I was constantly going "Wait, is it a crew of six? Is it five? Is the thriller part of this movie that there's a GHOST CREW MEMBER? Oh no, there's the sixth guy. Okay."

So now I kind of want a movie or book with a ghost crew member. Which might also have to do with having watched the anime Another, in which a specific third-year high school class would frequently develop a ghost classmate.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mining on the Moon

I thought this was a great article, and Very Pertinent to the Moon/Space fiction that I'm in the early planning stages of writing (hear that? I'm planning!) Mining the Moon: Plans Taking Off but Rules Lacking. The pertinent rule or "rules" here is from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, wherein the signers agreed that the moon belonged to no nation (I'm sure this is a drastic oversimplification, but there you go). This is also the treaty that bars nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from orbit, or installation on bodies such as the moon or a space station.

Picture of the moon from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory web site

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Spacing Out

I discussed my latest science fiction inspiration last week. Untitled as yet, though I do have a main character in mind. I haven't started writing yet, not really. I've got a file of collected sentence fragments; world building, I suppose. Of course, this is research for two space/scifi/moon novels at once. There's a lot of moons, did you know that? Ours, obviously. But

Much like how I intend all of my urban fantasy books to take place "in the same world", whether they're cognizant of if or not, I also intend for my space scifi to take place in its own world. I'm not entirely sure I want these two worlds to be the same. Werewolves in space may not be my thing, savvy? Or, it might be just what we need. Hrm. But I digress. I have to build the culture, and the history, of how my humanity has become spacefaring. I need to decide what's run of the mill for them, and what's out of the ordinary. So I need to build a timeline, and to build a timeline, I need to know what the "real" one is, from V2 rockets on up.

(the Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Michael Flatley's Rhino Horn Stolen

This sounds like a joke. It is not. Apparently Michael Flatly (yup, Lord of the Dance himself) had a trophy rhino head in his house (in County Cork), and thieves broke in and sawed the horn off. It was on the wall in his "safari room", which makes me wonder what other trophies adorn the space. But apparently the horn was valued at $400,000 (which is more than a rhino's life, depending on the rhino)..