Sunni's Salon, Busting Pseudo-Scientific Myths

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Thu, 17 Mar 2005 13:00:00 GMT
From The Federalist:
"Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." -- Blaise Pascal
"Bill Clinton is going back into the hospital to repair some scar tissue from his heart operation. He's expected to be in the hospital from three to ten days, depending on what his nurses look like." -- Jay Leno

From scopeny:

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." -- Thomas Jefferson

# Sunni Maravillosa - Sunni's Salon - the March 2005 premiere issue is up. A book review, an interview with Vin Suprynowicz and Scott Bieser, musical maunderings, and webby wanderings. Check it out. [sunni]

# Donald W. Miller, Jr at - Advantages of Nuclear Power - America's energy problems could be solved overnight, safely, if we could get rid of the pseudo-scientific nay-sayers and the empire-crazed tyrants. Great article. [smith2004]

Artemus Ward, Mark Twain's predecessor, once said: "It ain't the things we don't know that gets us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so." Regulators know that exposure to ionizing radiation, even in very low doses, is harmful. They say that no amount of radiation can be proclaimed safe. There is no threshold below which the deleterious effects of radiation cease to appear. This "knowledge" has, indeed, caused us a lot of trouble, and it turns out not to be true. The actual truth is this: Not only are low to moderate doses of ionizing radiation not harmful, low doses of radiation are good for you. It stimulates the immune system and checks oxidation of DNA through a process known as "radiation hormesis" -- and thereby prevents cancer. And irradiated mothers bear children that have a reduced incidence of congenital deformities. (See my article Afraid of Radiation? Low Doses are Good for You.)


With 442 nuclear power plants operating in 32 countries for a cumulative 10,000 reactor-years of commercial operation, Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, is the only accident in the history of nuclear power where any radiation-related fatalities have occurred. In that accident (in 1986) radioactivity from part of the reactor's overheated core escaped into the atmosphere. Acute radiation sickness affected 134 employees and 28 died. An estimated 70 extra cases of thyroid cancer occurred in children as a result of the accident, which could have been prevented by timely ingestion of potassium iodide. Otherwise, no increase in the incidence of other cancers occurred (despite dire predictions, based on the linear no-threshold hypothesis, that 110,000 new cancers would occur due to radioactive fallout from the accident). Chernobyl's real victims were 200,000 pregnant women in Europe who, caught up in a wave of radiophobic hysteria, feared that their fetuses would be damaged by radiation from the fallout and had their pregnancies terminated. Low dose radiation does not cause genetic defects, and fetuses exposed to radiation from Chernobyl that were not aborted developed normally and did not have any increased incidence of congenital abnormalities or genetic defects.

Chernobyl is unique. That kind of accident will not happen in any other nuclear power plants because all the reactors currently in operation around the world are placed inside a containment building (Chernobyl was not). The reactor core meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, which happened when its core cooling system failed, also produced a lot of radiation; but the containment building the reactor was housed in kept it from being released into the atmosphere, and there were no injuries or deaths.

All the nuclear power plants in the U.S. are second-generation reactors, based on designs derived from those made for naval use. Third generation reactors, with an output of 600 MW, are simpler, smaller, more rugged, and reduce substantially the possibility of a core meltdown accident, from a likelihood of 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 800,000 per reactor year. (Third generation reactors have, for example, 80 percent fewer control cables and 60 percent less piping.) They are standardized to expedite licensing and reduce construction time. Fourth generation fusion reactors, one hopes, will be coming into operation in the foreseeable future.


There is another way to get oil for our automobiles and airplanes, which would eliminate the need for the United States to import any Middle Eastern or Central Asian oil. American entrepreneurs are marketing a new technology called a "thermal conversion process" that can make oil out of various agricultural, industrial, and municipal wastes; and nuclear power is the best source of electricity to run it. The process employs a technique known as thermal depolymerization, which in essence mimics the geothermal process that created our fossil fuels, notably oil. Wastes subjected to temperatures of 500 degrees F and pressures of 600 pounds per square inch, under controlled conditions, will produce light oil that is half diesel and half gasoline.


Nuclear energy (that uranium 235 and uranium 238-derived plutonium produce) emits no harmful gases or toxic metals into the environment. And, unlike hydroelectric dams, it does not alter a region's ecosystem. Furthermore, despite what activists and the media say, the wastes nuclear power create are far less of a problem than those produced by coal, or the silt that builds up behind dams. One pound of uranium produces 20,000 times more energy than one pound of coal. A nuclear power plant generates (high-level) radioactive wastes the size of one aspirin tablet per person per year (a plant's yearly wastes fit comfortably under a dining room table). Coal-fired plants generate 320 lbs. of ash and other poisons per person per year, of which 10 percent is spewed into the atmosphere. Disposal personnel encapsulate nuclear waste in (fireproof, water-proof, and earthquake-proof) boron-silicate glass or ceramic and then bury these now effectively non-radioactive artificial rocks. In the U.S., these "rocks" will (in 2010) be buried deep in extremely arid ground in a remote part of Nevada, in a repository at Yucca Mountain (where nuclear weapons tests were once conducted). The chance that this encapsulated waste will ever harm anyone is virtually zero (especially given that the linear no-threshold hypothesis now disproved). Waste disposal is not a disadvantage of nuclear power; it is one of its advantages.


Our country needs to bring the troops home and start building third (and fourth) generation nuclear power plants, like China and other Asian nations are doing. The War on Terror will not be won, with our adversary employing fourth-generation-warfare suicide attacks on civilians in one's homeland, until our country pulls its stick out of the hornet's nest. The only way Muslim terrorists are going to leave us, and our soon-to-be former allies like Spain alone is if we pull all of our troops out of the Middle East, and leave them alone.

# Donald W. Miller, Jr. at - Toro! Toro! Michael Crichton - Mr. Chrichton's December 2004 novel, State of Fear, has garnered many attacks from pseudo-scientific global warming proponents. They can't stand that their religion has no basis in fact, so they're attacking Mr. Chrichton like bulls attack a matador. Bravo, Mr. Crichton! Toro! Toro! May you stick them over and over again and serve their cohones for dinner (old joke). [smith2004]

The novel's Indiana Jones-like hero, Dr. John Kenner, a professor of Geoenvironmental Engineering on leave from MIT, teaches the other characters in the book (and the reader) climate science while they go about their adventures. On pages 562--563, he gives a clear and concise 400-word summary of our 5-billion-year-old planet's history that puts climate change into perspective. The Earth, Dr. Kenner tells us, is now on its third atmosphere. The first one contained only helium and hydrogen; but, as the new planet cooled, it was replaced with a second one consisting of steam and CO2. Then, 3 billion years ago, newly evolved bacteria began to consume the CO2 in the atmosphere and replaced it with oxygen and nitrogen -- two gases their cells excreted. The first ice on the planet occurred 2 billion years ago when its floating land masses (on tectonic plates) joined and blocked the circulation of ocean currents. And finally, as he puts it, "For the last seven hundred thousand years, our planet has been in a geological ice age, characterized by advancing and retreating glacial ice. No one is entirely sure why, but ice now covers the planet every hundred thousand years, with smaller advances every twenty thousand or so. The last advance was twenty thousand years ago, so we're due for the next one."

Michael Crichton has studied climatology with the eye and rigor of a well-trained doctor/scientist. Before State of Fear was published I had read a lecture he gave at Caltech, in January 2003, titled "Aliens Cause Global Warming." I was impressed with his grasp of this subject and also with his cogent observations on science in general. In this lecture he warns, as he does in the book, "once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us... you [can] subvert science to political ends."

Woven into the fabric of a page-turning thriller, State of Fear gives an unbiased assessment of the scientific evidence for global warming. The book also contains a 20-page annotated list of books and journal articles on the subject, an author's message on climate science, and an appendix titled "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous." His conclusion: There is no human-caused global warming.

# Vincent L. Guarisco at Strike the Root - Don't Fall Victim to America's Cash Crop: War - Mr. Guarisco is unhappy to realize that the neocons are continuing the World War II tradition of branding America as a country of murderous barbarians. Who else but barbarians would drop bombs on innocent women and children? [root]

"Nothing is the same, even as nothing changes. The ghosts of war are chained to America 's ankles, as it marches onward. I have a poster from the days of Vietnam . I have kept it all these years as a reminder of the politics behind war. It is a photograph of Arlington Cemetery , neat orderly rows of white headstones, on green grass, below a sunny sky. The caption reads: We are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, to do the unnecessary, for the ungrateful." -- John Corry, A Vietnam Veteran who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device.

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