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Comment Re:Sensational! (Score 1) 537

137Cs emits a gamma at ~661keV. The gamma definitely poses an external hazard, and its long half-life (30y) means that once it deposits on the ground, it sits around delivering dose to people for a while. There were an awful lot of different external hazards released at Chernobyl, and some of them we're definitely seeing at Fukushima (137Cs, 134Cs, and 131I). In the case of Chernobyl, as long as you got out of the exclusion areas where there was extremely high deposition (the area around the reactor at Pripyat on the border of the Ukraine and Belarus, and another big hot spot northeast on the border of Belarus and Russia), the external dose seems to have been pretty minimal.

Internal dose is much different. It's been noted elsewhere in these threads that the 131I internal hazard comes from water and milk. I'd like to point out that at Chernobyl and in the region afterwards, additional internal hazard was posed by any animal products (cheese, butter, meat) as well as leafy greens. Mushrooms and berries also pose a serious hazard; both can uptake radionuclides and concentrate them. In the case of fungi especially, the long lifespan of the organism can lead to pretty substantial concentration of radionuclides. In my opinion, until we fully characterize the releases from Fukushima, we won't be able to make definitive statements about future hazards.

Disclaimer: IAAHP.

Comment Re:Sensational! (Score 1) 537

Actually, we're not sure how many people have or will die from thyroid cancers directly linked to Chernobyl. It looks like it'll be around 30-40, but we won't really know that until after enough of the exposed population dies that we can firmly make a statement about that. I've seen two different numbers for total cancer incidence -- one suggests around 4,000 cases, but with most treatable so that only ~40 die, the other (more recent) suggests 300 incidences with ~30 deaths.

A big part of the problem with predicting thyroid cancer incidence from Chernobyl at all is due to the way that thyroid uptake of 131I was measured after the fact: They basically held a handheld survey meter up to people's throats and took a measurement of the activity measured there. Later studies actually showed that this was a pretty valid way to measure 131I uptake, but it introduces huge error based on individual throat tissue thickness and anatomy. (As in, ~2500% error in some cases.) When propagated through the entire model for predicting thyroid cancer incidence, this doesn't actually change a whole lot in terms of the predictions.

If you're really interested, I can provide references. Most of the work was done by teams led by Ilya Likhtarev, if you want to find it on PubMed.

Disclaimer: IAAHP. [health physicist]

Comment Is Plagiarism In Literature Just Sampling? (Score 1) 449

One of the aspects of why plagiarism is seen as wrong is because you're taking credit for someone else's work.

Sampling would be taking a short section of text and putting using in quotes, or otherwise acknowledging in your work that you are using something that someone else wrote.

I also think that a work that is very obviously built of "samples" needn't expressly say what is what. If you sample music to make your own song, you'd better credit properly and pay or else the original songwriter will end up owning your song. I still find it to be incredible BS...the real lesson is "music industry people will screw you

In the United States, since 1991, the date of Grand Upright Music, Ltd v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., music samples need to be cleared by the copyright holder. That's what seems to be the real distinction here- you cannot consider literary plagarism to be analogous to music sampling because in fact legal music sampling is nothing like plagarism- works are cited, permission is requested and granted and often a considerable sum of money or share of future earnings takes place.

Helene Hegemann took someone else's work and presented it as her own, which I find disingenuous. Had she come out when she released the book and said she "collaged" works for the book that would have been one thing. That concept would have made for an interesting critique on a different media for "mash-ups". In writing, one commonly samples other people's work using a moderately well-known process called "quoting". I'm mildly surprised she hasn't heard of it. There is a long-standing history of one artist performing works by another, adding their own touch to the music.

Who cares? Artists who sample should always give the original artist credit... When done wrong it is theft.

Perhaps she might have a legitimate point. The fact that she didn't acknowledge the sources makes the whole thing all the more egregious and shows that she really probably knew what she was doing was wrong. If not, she was so ignorant that it didn't occur to her that this might be a problem. Either way, it is deeply unimpressive. Have we entered a new era where plagiarism is not just tolerated, but seen as normal?

Foolishness! She is the Vanilla Ice of literature sampling then.

Artistic questions aside, can you argue that plagiarism damages the author of the plagiarized work if it increases sales?

The simple fact is that plagiarism does not exist. Only in the academic world does the concept exist. In the real world, plagiarism itself is perfectly legal, and at worst is a moral/ethical failing. Now this book in questions sounds like it has plagiarism if the source of borrowed ideas was not mentioned on an acknowledgments page or similar location. It might also be copyright infringement, regardless of any crediting, since specific expressions of ideas were re-used without permission. Only the latter is actually a problem. Crediting the idea sources would be nice, but the law does not require it.

I personally think this policy is ridiculous! Is someone going to make the freely downloadable opensource remix of her book? The law protects the rights of owners to maintain the freedom to make determinations on the use of their property. When an owner decides to sell some of those property rights, he has the right to determine at what price and under what conditions to do so, constrained only by other laws limiting his choice.

Comment Re:Seems reasonable (Score 1) 505

Thanks, AC, this is the conversation I actually wanted to have.

My particular angst is that I do come from a software background; architecture, specifically. I can write code, but it's not great code, and what's worse is that I know it. I'm also poignantly aware of the difference between how I'm doing things for this project and how I should be doing them. The gap there is due to money; they're paying me in a month what I can make in the business world in a day. And I'm the only person on my team. Behold the life of a graduate student, I suppose, but it's especially frustrating to do this after working in the "real" world for so long where if your client doesn't have the budget to do it right, they just don't do it. (Okay, and I wish that statement was actually true, too. If I had a dime for every time a client said, in the initial requirements gathering meeting, "Look, we don't have a lot of money, so don't comment it or anything, okay?" Right. Because that's the part that's costing you.)

Anyhow, I don't have a great solution for my problem. I just can't imagine that this is the only project out there where there's a guy doing the calculations in a SQL database instead of in Excel spreadsheets or by hand, and importing data to that database using scripts that would break if you tried to pass them a bitmap image instead of a CSV file. What I do know is that we do our sciencey version of QA on it by analyzing test data to confirm that it returns what it should. The right answer? I have no idea. There is no right answer with this budget.

Comment Re:Seems reasonable (Score 2, Insightful) 505

This is a conundrum for me. My research is in the world of radiation physics, where results can definitely be life-changing. I absolutely respect the amount of impact small discrepancies can have on outcomes, but I also struggle to find a balance. The project I'm on right now is a retrospective analysis, so the results we report won't directly affect anyone. If policy changes are made from what we determine, the results will.

My role is to conduct some fairly complex calculations against a data set, for which I've built some custom software and a database. The software isn't great software...it's good enough to get the job done. I validate the input...a little bit. Just enough to make sure we're using the right file. I confirm that the data I need exists in our input, but I don't do any boundary checking on it. Why should I? There's only one data file that gets analyzed, and as we collect more data, we run it again. I'll probably use this code in "production" four times in the course of the study. Are there stupid bugs that crop up if strings show up in the data instead of floats? Sure. But there won't ever be strings in the data, and the code won't ever be used after we run the data through. We don't have the budget for me to spend the time to write it "right", the way I would if it was for enterprise use. And we sure can't afford to QA it, too.

I respect the idea that all code should go through a complete development cycle before use in production, and I think it's certainly important for that to happen in science, but I think there have to be limits. Sometimes the object is to get something done, and the difference between doing it "best" and "good enough" doesn't mean the difference between "right" and "wrong."

Comment Re:fusion has radioactive waste (Score 2, Informative) 354

This isn't strictly true. While the fusion reaction itself doesn't leave long-lived radionuclides that have to be disposed of, the fusion process generates neutrons with such high energy -- much higher than in a fission reaction -- that the shielding itself becomes activated. Additionally, since the interior of the reactor is exposed to such high flux, it degrades and has to be replaced. These both result in radioactive waste that have to be dealt with. Most of what I've read suggests that, indeed, the half-lives of most of the materials created this way are very much shorter than the waste that comes out of the non-reprocessed fission reactors in the U.S.A., but it's not negligible.

IAAHP (I Am A Health Physicist)


Grateful Dead Percussionist Makes Music From Supernovas 57

At the "Cosmology At the Beach" conference earlier this month, Grammy-award winning percussionist Mickey Hart performed a composition inspired by the eruptions of supernovae. "Keith Jackson, a Berkeley Lab computer scientist who is also a musician, lent his talents to the project, starting with gathering data from astrophysicists like those at the Berkeley Lab’s Nearby Supernova Factory, which collects data from telescopes in space and on earth to quickly detect and analyze short-lived supernovas. 'If you think about it, it's all electromagnetic data — but with a very high frequency,' Jackson said of the raw data. "What we did is turn it into sound by slowing down the frequency and "stretching" it into an audio form. Both light and sound are all wave forms — just at different frequencies. Our goal was to turn the electromagnetic data into audio data while still preserving the science.'"

Submission + - FCC Moves On Net Neutrality (nextgov.com)

suitablegirl writes: Today's Federal Register includes an official notice from the FCC that it is proposing a rule that would "preserve the open Internet." Net Neutrality has been a hot topic in recent days; two weeks ago a White House official spoke out in favor of the concept and took a shot at the broadband industry.

Speaking at a telecom policy conference last week, Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin compared censorship in China — where President Obama's recent comments on open Internet values were blocked from Chinese Web sites — to the need for net neutrality rules so as to prevent corporations from acting as gatekeepers of information and speech.

In Nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences. -- R.G. Ingersoll