ASFO 2024–05–11

Did you see the Aurora Borealis last night? It was visible quite far south. (There was Aurora Australis too.) Economists (not for the first time) get the sharp edge of my tongue as I reflect on one of the world’s most baffling megaprojects, “Neom ‘The Line’”. Also, Mail Call!

ASFO 2024–02–24

Congratulations to Intuitive Machines for the soft landing of their Nova–C vehicle “Odysseus”. Also, economics, real and virtual – the subordination of the former, which supplies the goods and services people actually consume, to the latter, seems to be a major cause of trouble in our modern world, and inspires the question, what exactly is a market? Also, BANANAs on the march ; “Stranger Danger” a dogma in America ; and Mail Call!

ASFO 2024–02–10

Rickshaws (Japanese 人力車 jinrikisha, “human–powered vehicle”) considered ; the Myth of the Golden Age and its dangers ; and the real answer to the Nuclear Waste Problem. Also I get to make one of my utterly megalomaniacal statements. Plus, Mail Call!

ASFO 2024–01–13

Mail call! In this episode, I try (following on from a perhaps–surprising observation last week) to consider the reasons why people might employ, in public discourse, racialized ideas which are clearly defective. Also a gas explosion.

Coin card presentation folder, laid over the envelope it came in, in such a way as to obscure the address but show the postage stamps
Photo of a “Man and Atom” coin card, as received by a Patreon supporter

ASFO 2023–10–21

Pythagorean central–fire astronomy? Truly, this show brings you things you won’t get anywhere else! Also, Mail Call ― the storytelling mode of eldritch horror and how it influences perceptions of atomic power ― a consideration of practical morality, that the onus of action falls most heavily on him who has the most power to act ― falling short of the glory of God ― and Pure Science, in the story of the world’s only depleted–uranium mine.

“Nuclear Power Status 2020” poster from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Blue background with five gear-wheel-like graphs of different sizes.
The presentation of information here is intriguing, but we wonder just how effective it is.
“Nuclear Power Status 2021” poster from IAEA Power Reactor Information System. Light blue background with various tables and graphs. In the center, an artist’s impression of a generic nuclear power station.
It’s hard to know what Tufte would think of these posters.

ASFO 2023–09–30

Mail Call! Much of the rest of the show, alas is political incompentence and stupidity ― thin soup, you may say. There seems little reason, though, that they should be so ubiquitous if, somewhere along the line, we the common people had not decided to accept them. As I have said time and again, policies which cannot be implemented will not be. Also, the resources required by the environmentally–benign renewable–energy–and–battery future, and their relation to cocaine and alcohol.

A letter, three Bhutanese postage stamps with a lenticular effect showing art of the Apollo landings, a Soviet 4-kopeck postage stamp celebrating cosmonautics with an attached caption, an axolotl sticker shaped like a human brain, and a Soviet electronic pocket calculator in a sheat.
Contents of a parcel from SDFer lcd

Supplementary Show

2023–10–03 From ATOM 142 (1968 August), How DFR Was Repaired, a very interesting description of work on the primary circuit of a sodium–cooled fast–neutron breeder reactor, which had not initially been thought feasible. And then some material from the 1975–76 Annual Report of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Truncated early by a telephone call from a medical office.

ASFO 2023–09–16

Mail call! Also a contemplation of nuclear safety, in the context of the horrific dam collapse catastrophe in Libya ; Indian country broadband, the question of “sticking to the old ways,” and the possibility that novelty–seeking is a fear response, with a diversion into alternative foodstuffs (the peanut is your friend!) ; and “teaching the controversy”.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–09–19 Again from Science News Yearbook 1970, sections on Apollo 12, Soyuz 4―8, and Mariner 6 and 7.
  • 2023–09–22 The rest of the space material from Science News Yearbook 1970, including Venera 5 and 6, the death of Bonnie the macaque, and a round–up of major space missions launched in 1969 up to 17 November. Also I start reading the section on atmospheric science, led there by a note in the space round–up. (Again this is a substitute archive.)

ASFO 2023–03–04

Theatre of the Atom! What is it? Even I am not sure yet. Also, Mail Call! And your periodic reminder that something is horribly wrong with the humanity of this planet, and I want off. (This is a short show, because I ran out of time to edit it ― I have a whole segment about the Oklo Phenomenon recorded for future use. And I didn’t even make a “March Forth” pun!)

ASFO 2023–02–18

Charles Proteus Steinmetz is a name you should know. For generations Edison was lionized, now Tesla is cast as the romantic hero, but Steinmetz is always ignored. Yet, where would we be without him? Also, what does it mean that India has ordered 470 new large jetliners? The very necessary distinction between “renewable” and sustainable energy, and a reminder of the importance of quantitative thinking. And Mail Call!

Supplementary Show

2023–02–24 “Why Nuclear Power Should be Defended”, address given 1980–03–15 in Los Angeles by Professor Petr Beckmann, author of The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear ― transferred from audiocassette

ASFO 2023–02–04

Power outage? Power outrage! And just like that, I’m back to talking about the Regulated Utility Model for applying private enterprise to furnishing public goods, and trying to examine its potential uses in fields as disparate as pharmaceuticals and housing. With a bonus mention of Jimmy McMillan, the guy who says The Rent Is Too Damn’ High! Also Mail Call.

Supplementary Show

  • 2023–02–07 More from Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience (Finney and Jones, eds) : Introduction to Section II, Demography and Economics : Growth of the Human Tribe ; Comments on Hodges’ “The Division of Labor”, by the editors (with a very different view of “artificial intelligence” from that exhibited by, say, ChatGPT) ; Introduction to Section III, Migrating Societies ; Introduction to Section IV, Speciation ; and a part of the Introduction to Section V, Is Anybody Home? (stopping at the beginning of the section on the “Fermi paradox”).
  • 2023–02–10 Probably the last I’ll read out of Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience (but perhaps you’ll be interested enough to seek out the book for yourself). Fermi’s Question, the Epilogue, and the short biographies of authors.