Class blog for "The Unstable Nucleus" at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Japan Restarting Nuclear Reactors

A man shouts in protest September 10, 2014 as Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) unanimously approves the restart of two nuclear reactors in the Sendai plant in southern Japan. Although this is a huge step towards boosting Japan's nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster of 2011, nuclear power advocate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces an uphill battle as the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, still needs the approval of local authorities and the surrounding communities.

Check out this article for details on how the two reactors are the first to restart under the tighter safety regulations. For in depth details on community concerns check out this article.

-Connie C.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

NATO summit starts today

This is a good time to remind ourselves about what NATO is, because there's a summit underway in Wales starting today.  One of the big topics under discussion is the crisis in Ukraine.  There's a lot of history and complexity to these issues, but the conflict with Russia that's taking place right now definitely relates to the history and current dynamic between nuclear powers.  I'm still absorbing it, but I found this analysis and opinion piece from Salon interesting. 

Nuking the moon?

In class last week, someone asked a question about whether there are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the moon.  For comparison of size, here is a NASA image (distances not to scale obviously):

In class we talked about how there are not enough nuclear weapons to destroy the earth, and similarly there are not enough to "destroy" the moon (certainly not enough to blow it up, and probably also not enough to make a mess of the whole surface either).  Are there enough to knock the moon out of orbit?  No, not that either (here's an article on that idea).  

In the 1950s there was apparently a project within the U.S. military to consider the idea of detonating one nuclear weapon on the moon.  This would have been an experiment to test out the idea of space-based warfare, as well as a demonstration project to show our military capabilities to the Soviet enemy.  But thankfully the project was dropped.  Here's a CNN blog posting on the top-secret plan.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Readings for homework 1!

The first homework assignment is posted to the Canvas page for our class and involves answering some factual and opinion-based questions on a set of articles.  The articles all deal with radiation around us, and they are typical of how the media discusses radiation - which is to say, it can be hard to understand the science from what is written.  The homework questions are intended to help sort through some of the information as well as highlight a few important issues related to how news articles convince us (or fail to convince us) about risks. 


1) New York Times article on granite counter tops

2) Huffington Post article on contaminated fish.

3) Two articles on cell phone radiation:
Chicago Tribune article on recent calls for review of cell phone radiation rules.
PCWorld article on the state of our understanding of cell phone radiation risks.

4) Two articles on airport x-ray body scanners:
Wired article on lingering questions about the safety of the scanners.
Scientific American article on Europe banning x-ray body scanners

5) ABC News article on radioactive polonium in cigarettes.

If you have any trouble accessing these articles, please email me.  Technical difficulties are not an excuse for skipping any of them!

Welcome Fall 2014 Unstable Nucleus Class!

This is our class blog, and I hope you use it as a place to post interesting, weird, disturbing, controversial, and confusing things related to nuclear energy, nuclear waste, nuclear weapons, and radiation.
We'll devote time at the start of every class to talking about what has been posted to the blog and what's been going on in the "nuclear news."  To get us started, here are a few of the news stories I'm personally interested in following this semester:

1.  "It's best not to mess with us" - so says Russian President Vladimir Putin, pointing out that "Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers" during a recent conversation with a student group.  Russia is involved in a messy and tense conflict with Ukraine right now.  What does it mean for a major nuclear power to be involved in a conflict of this kind these days?

2.  Iran... are we making progress?  Talks and agreements are ongoing between Iran and the major powers of the world about its nuclear activities.  Last year, for the first time, it looked like this might be getting somewhere, and that Iran would make some compromises in exchange for relief from some of the sanctions that have been applied in response to its nuclear activities.  Will this continue?  Meanwhile, last week Iran reportedly shot down an Israeli drone that neared an Iranian nuclear site.  Will Israel take independent action against Iran's nuclear activities?

3.  Fukushima - it's not over!  The 2011 nuclear catastrophe is far from old news.  The Fukushima reactors are still in a dangerous state and it's quite difficult to resolve the situation.  Meanwhile, we're starting to learn more about the environmental effects of the radiation releases, and there's ongoing debate about the role that nuclear energy should play in Japan's future.

4.  Nuclear waste issues in the U.S.  A few months ago, there were some alarming incidents at a nuclear waste facility in New Mexico, so we'll follow up on what happened with that.  Overall, this is a time when the U.S. is starting over in rethinking how to handle nuclear waste.  What do you think we should do with it?

That's just a few things to get us started - keep your eyes and ears out for interesting news and post it here!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Plastic-eating fungus in Amazon...

mysterious ability and wisdom of Nature..

can this be an option for radioactive waste problem?

I really enjoyed this class..

This class help me getting some clear idea of science and beyond..


The Early Days of Nuclear Science

For the last class I wanted to post something that underlined the sort of thing that seemed like a good idea at the time in the nuclear history of the world. First, a story about radium's popularity due to it's faint blue glow. Before the dangers of radiation were understood, radium was used in a variety of consumer products, at a huge danger to everyone involved.

The link to a New York Times article on that.

Another good example is the x-ray shoe fitting device popular up to the 1960's. Few people experienced serious effects from this, but the idea seems completely surreal to me knowing what I do about radiation.

Here's the link to a summation of the history of these devices.

I guess that's it. Have a nice vacation everyone!