ASFO 2023–05–27

Hamlet ― yes, the Shakespeare play ― a mathematical concept called the “zero ring”, violence at Target stores, and a long filibuster in the Nebraska legislature… what do these things possibly have in common? Maybe nothing! But they all serve to illustrate one of my major concerns : the intersection of lack of knowledge with lack of understanding. We live today in an enormously complex society, and there is such a wealth of information available that no human mind can deal with it all. As a result, people who specialize in one subject are often totally divorced, both in knowledge and in working methods, from those who specialize in another. Meanwhile, our societies give evidence of being caught in vast eddies and backwashes of ignorance.

Supplementary Show

  • 2023–05–30 “Every patient represents an improbable event.” Conclusion of Vignette №20, Populations, Samples, and Items, and commencement of №21, Probability is not Gambling.
  • 2023–06–02 “Small sample statistics of ambiguously defined events in ambiguously defined populations are almoset certain to be the most colossal lies perpetrated. But large sample estaimates made from precisely defined events happening to closely regulated items can be more accurate measurements of what actually happened than is achievable in any other science.” Completion of Vignette №21, Probability is not Gambling, and all of №23, What is a Good Small Sample? (Unfortunately I don’t seem to have №22.) Then I talk about various things for a few minutes, including the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986.

ASFO 2023–05–20

Zeppelin the Musical, and the pathetically inadequate transit arrangements in the vicinity of Füssen (seriously, tourist towns in the USA often do better) caused me to be late in starting, and so that’s what I mostly talk about. I don’t attempt to review the show, but I do talk about the technical aspects, which made excellent use of the extensive facilities of the Festspielhaus. This playhouse, apparently constructed to stage a show about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, faces his world–famous creation, the architectual oddity known as Schloss Neuschwanstein, across a modest–sized lake.

Supplementary Show

2023–05–26 Because my previous reading of Vignette №19, The Maximum Ridiculous Dose, did not archive, I start over from the beginning. Then I get partway into №20, Populations, Samples, and Items ― an introduction to statistics, from the clinical standpoint.

ASFO 2023–05–13

How would you even start to regulate tens of millions of household–sized battery packs, if they pose a significant fire and explosion hazard? I make a rough estimate that it would occupy, full–time, about 10% of the electricians in the United States. Also updates on the apparently open–ended emergency in Germany, and some more of my wondering why people should be less interested in addressing the real problems than in making up imaginary ones to get excited over. Not the most coherent of episodes.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–05–16 An abbreviated show, because I stayed at a museum until closing time. I finish up Vignette №17, What Can Happen to an Electron? (The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, Part III). Then I use the remaining time to read part of a press release from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, reporting a study on the land area occupied by various energy sources, which uncharacteristically takes the form of an impassioned plea for nuclear energy as a way to preserve biodiversity while addressing climate change.
  • 2023–05–19 More from the always informative and usually entertaining Brucer. All of Vignette №18, How Radiation Affects Tissue (The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, Part IV), in which Bertrand Russel appears as an aside, and we learn of the “most commonly repeated statement in the whole history of medicine” ; then a goodly chunk of Vignette №19, The Maximum Ridiculous Dose, exploring the tortured history of radiation measurement and its interaction with the Law. (Unfortunately cut off short, before the end of №18, by some kind of technical problem.)

ASFO 2023–05–06

Did I wait in a line for two hours to spend ten minutes in a sewer? Does the world know all too well, and still regret, what happens when Germany enters an open–ended state of emergency? Is there a role for monarchies in a world of democratic ideals? All this, and an actual historical example of something I have repeatedly derided, known as “V2H”. As a bonus, I tell you about a simple one–page Web site I irritated someone into creating.

A clipping from “Popular Electricity” magazine, 1911 January, describing how a man in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for several years drove an electric automobile downtown every workday to have it charged, and then home where it operated his lighting circuits, making him the hero of “V2H”.
From “Popular Electricity” magazine, 1911 January, page 851

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–05–09 Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD, continues to supply grist for the mill. From last time, the conclusion of Vignette №14, The Radium Bomb : How it Exploded Into (And Out Of) Nuclear Medicine, and the beginning of №15, What Can Happen to a Gamma Ray?, the first of four under the general head of The Interaction of Radiation with Matter.
  • 2023–05–12 Continuing onward through The Interaction of Radiation with Matter, №16, The Attenuation of Gamma Radiation, and a goodly chunk of №17, What Can Happen to a Beta Particle?

ASFO 2023–04–29

Space is hard. Everyone admits that. But, for goodness sake, if you will pay close attention to the mistakes people before you have made, you can avoid doing the same stupid thing! This post brought to you by watching someone lose a game of Lunar Lander at the Vintage Computer Festival Europe, when the recent private Japanese lander Hokuto–R appears to have been lost in the exact same way.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–05–02 More from Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD : completion of №11 from last time ; №12, The True History of Atomic Energy Revealed, which is quite the piece of storytelling ; and the beginning of №13, $ How Much $ ? — with a break between 12 and 13 to read Nuclear Power is Green Power, an editorial by John Gittus of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, printed in Physics World for January 1989. A mention of this piece in a clipping read in a recent ASFO show led me to inquire of the publishers, the Institute of Physics, who kindly supplied it.
  • 2023–05–05 Completion of Vignette №13, $ How Much $ ?, and all but the very tail end of №14, The Radium Bomb : How it Exploded Into (And Out Of) Nuclear Medicine. How do I manage that so consistently?

ASFO 2023–04–22

While some people are celebrating “Earth Day”, I prefer to wait until 20 July and celebrate “Get Me Off This Earth Day”. Also, observations on German rural life and Kleingartenanlagen (allotment gardens), and some new thoughts about the “Theatre of the Atom”.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–04–25 More from Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD. End of №7, Lowell Erf and the New Cure for Leukaemia (Phosphorus–32), carried over from last time ; №8, The *T3 Test (TBI and Other Procedures) ; and the first part of №9, The Sex Life of the Screw Worm Fly, The Taxonomy of Medical Radioisotope Scanning.
  • 2023–04–28 Conclusion of Vignette №9 ; №10, Sixty–Five Years of Medical Radioisotope Scanning (Which is Clinically Really Only About Five Years Old) ; and the first part of №11, The Rea$on for Radioi$otope$ in Medi¢ine.
A yellow pin-back badge with a black radiation trefoil, in which the center dot and upper foil have been replaced with a red dot and a curved-over red line, and the slogan "Nuclear power affects your sex life"
A typical antinuclear tactic : make a false claim that elicits a strong emotional response

ASFO 2023–04–15

The sleep of reason (it has been said) brings forth monsters. Whether that is the shutting down of nuclear power in Germany, or of public lending libraries in the United States of America, it is clear that those monsters are loose in our world. To oppose and overcome them requires being intellectually awake and alive.

A clipping from “Physics World”, 1989 January number, with the headline “50 Years of Fission : Exhibition destroyed”. Corresponded Richard Sietmann, in Berlin, describes how masked intruders broke into the Technical University on 2 December 1988, less than an hour before the official opening of an exhibit to commemorate the discovery of fission by Hahn and Strassman in 1938, and destroyed it, causing thens of thousands of marks in damage. The University cancelled the exhibition.
The item from “Physics World”, 1989 January, which I read during the show. The Institute of Physics (publishers of the magazine) were kind enough to furnish a copy of the opinion piece referred to, and it can be found under “Supplementary Shows” for 2023–04–29.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–04–18 Continuing Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD. №5, The Modes of Radioisotope Decay, An Explanation of a Language, which is quite difficult to read aloud owing to the extensive use of diagrams ; and a good bit of №6, The Modes of Radioisotope Decay, How Many Isotopes Are There?
  • 2023–04–21 Beginning with the “scientist’s prayer” from the novel Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, I finish Vignette №6, and almost all of №7, Lowell Erf and the New Cure for Leukaemia. As I so often do, I had to stop one paragraph short of the end.

ASFO 2023–04–08

Arising to new life ― what does it mean? Nuclear energy as social energy, or, I try to express a little more clearly a thought I have had about the implications of technology ; and an invitation to join me in Berlin next week.

A typical scene in Munich, political posters set up in a public place. The one facing the camera is advertising a celebration of the shutdown of the last nuclear power plants in Germany. The one adjacent to it is advertising a talk about the alleged climate protection policy of the governing coalition.
Poster for a “Nuclear Exit Celebration” to be held in Munich (to add insult to injury, the theme of the adjoining poster is “climate protection”)

Supplementary Show

2023–04–11 More of Marshall Brucer’s Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine : №3, A Herd of Radioisotope Cows (There are 118 Potentially Useful Cow Systems), and №4, The Isotopes : Who and When (Discovery of Isotopes) ― did not archive properly, alas!

ASFO 2023–04–01

Earth system limits? No, I’m not April Foolin’ here ― it’s difficult to keep ahead of the absurdities of the so–called real world (and anyway I’ve been sick, so my wits aren’t in the best shape). Also, quantitative thinking comes around for another pass or two. Just what are they teaching in the schools, anyway?

Pass for a radiomedicine patient in the New York City area

Supplementary Show

2023–04–04 Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer MD : №1, What is Nuclear Medicine? A Historical Approach to a Definition, and №2, From Surgery Without a Knife to the Atomic Cocktail (History of Nuclear Medicine)

ASFO 2023–03–25

In the country of the blind, the one–eyed man is thought mad. The over–arching theme of this episode is “quantitative thinking”, an excercise which is never popular, even though we have to live with its results in the end. Also I introduce the expressive term Goudadämmerung for the prospective demise of the Dutch dairy industry in the face of mounting restrictions on animal husbandry.

Countries with nuclear power and a population smaller than Metro Istanbul

  1. Slovenia : 2·1 million people, 1 power reactor / 688 MW, 37% nuclear electricity
  2. Armenia : 3·0 M, 1/448 MW, 25%
  3. Finland : 5·5 M, 4/2794 MW, 33%
  4. Slovakia : 5·5 M, 4/1868 MW, 52%
  5. Bulgaria : 7·0 M, 2/2006 MW, 35%
  6. Switzerland : 8·6 M, 4/2960 MW, 29%
  7. Belarus : 9·5M, 1/1110 MW, 14%
  8. Hungary : 9·8 M, 4/1916 MW, 47%
  9. United Arab Emirates : 9·8 M, 2/2762, 1·3%
  10. Sweden : 6/6882 MW, 31%
  11. Czech Republic : 10·7 M, 6/3964 MW, 37%
  12. Belgium : 11·5 M, 7/5942 MW, 51%

Population given is for 2019. Number of reactors and rated capacity are as of 2021–12–31. Nuclear share of electrical generation is for the full year 2021. Note that the Krsko plant in Slovenia and the Metsamor (Oktemberjan) plant in Armenia (originally two reactors, one of which has been permanently shut down) were built when those countries were part of a larger union, Yugoslavia and the USSR respectively. It is not considered good practice for any generating unit on a system to exceed 10% of the peak load, and with 25% of the average, Metsamor must be approaching that, and Armenia would definitely be a good customer for “small modular reactors”. Krsko is clearly much too large for Slovenia alone.

EU Member States which must be eliminated to meet the 11·7% energy austerity target

  1. Malta : 0·5 million people / 0·11% of EU population, 0·09% of EU total GDP, 0·05% of EU total energy consumption
  2. Luxembourg : 0·6 M / 0·13%, 0·44% of GDP, 0·28% of energy
  3. Cyprus : 0·9 M / 0·20%, 0·16% of GDP, 0·16% of energy
  4. Estonia : 1·3 M / 0·29%, 0·19% of GDP, 0·37% of energy
  5. Latvia : 1·9 M / 0·42%, 0·21% of GDP, 0·32% of energy
  6. Slovenia : 2·1 M / 0·47%, 0·34% of GDP, 0·49% of energy
  7. Lithuania : 2·8 M / 0·62%, 0·33% of GDP, 0·54% of energy
  8. Croatia : 4·1 M / 0·91%, 0·38%, 0·33% of GDP, 0·61% of energy
  9. Slovakia : 5·5 M / 1·2%, 0·67%, 0·33% of GDP, 1·22% of energy
  10. Bulgaria : 7·0 M / 1·6%, 0·39%, 0·33% of GDP, 1·31% of energy

Additional EU countries which may have to be eliminated

  1. Ireland : 4·9 million people / 1·1% of EU population, 2·5% of EU total GDP, 0·97% of EU total energy consumption
  2. Finland : 5·5 M / 1·2%, 1·7% of GDP, 2·4% of energy
  3. Denmark : 5·8 M / 1·3%, 2·3% of GDP, 1·1% of energy
  4. Austria : 8·9 M / 2·0%, 2·8% of GDP, 2·4% of energy
  5. Hungary : 9·8 M / 2·2%, 1·0% of GDP, 1·9% of energy
  6. Portugal : 10 M / 2·3%, 1·5% of GDP, 1·6% of energy
  7. Greece : 11 M / 2·4%, 1·4% of GDP, 1·6% of energy
  8. Czech Republic : 11 M / 2·4%, 1·5% of GDP, 3·1% of energy