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Comment Re:What Next? (Score 1) 102

Now that the seventh shell is complete the next man-made element will have to be in a new shell. Does this make it much harder, or impossible, to create element 119?

Not on account of completing an electron shell, but yes, new ideas are needed to extend this list further - they seem to be at an end of the current methods.

Comment Re:all bout nothin (Score 1) 182

Another addendum: what the book does report is the radioactivity of a few specific items found at the shed. The most radioactive was a vegetable can with a count rate of 50,000 CPM. Definitely radioactive, but to put this in context uranium glazed Fiestaware, which was sold to the public to eat off of as late as 1972, emits up to 30,000 CPM and yes, you can buy one of these for $39 today if you like.

The next most radioactive item was 6,000 CPM, one at 3,000, one at 1,500, and nothing else more than the low hundreds, not very radioactive at all.

Comment Re:all bout nothin (Score 1) 182

You have two representations of fact that I have not seen elsewhere. One is that his mother threw his items in the trash. The other that he used stolen detectors. As I have seen the story presented, he may have committed fraud in order to acquire the detectors mainly to mask his age, but he did not steal them.

He both practiced fraud and theft at different times. The account is in Silverstein's book.

The other is you assertion that his mother threw out "most" of his items. The story as presented is that he was pulled over by a policeman and some items were found that led to the complete excavation of the family's yard. Now perhaps his mother threw out items prior to the discovery by authorities.

That is more or less correct. What Hahn had in the trunk of his car appears to be the materials from smoke detectors and gas mantles - americium and thorium. It was months before the shed was investigated.

Comment Re: all bout nothin (Score 2) 182

No, they are not, meaning you can't find a banana that emits statistically different amount from the background, unless maybe you manage to grow one near that reactor in Chernobyl.

We test some every year (students invariably bring them to our nuclear physics lab), and we've never seen anything but the background.

True (I just checked this my Ludlum 2221). A banana has only about 0.4 g of potassium in it which would produce 11 decays per second. It would be difficult to pick this out of background. But if you test a jar of NuSalt, or other potassium chloride salt substitute, which contains 100 g of potassium or so, the radiation is very easy to detect.

Comment Re:all bout nothin (Score 1) 182

Addendum: another thing that stands out is how ignorant Hahn was, and remained, about the basics of the relevant physics.

Silverstein is easily impressed by this "precocious" kid (IIRC, actually 17 when he got himself busted). But if you were ever a precocious kid yourself, interested in science (as many people who read this site undoubtedly are) then the account is not at all impressive. Hahn remains woefully misinformed to the very end, apparently never really reading a single good text on the subject (like the ubiquitous and excellent Sourcebook on Atomic Energy by Glasstone found in libraries everywhere).

Comment Re:all bout nothin (Score 1) 182

No you have never seen an exact level and this whole story is greatly overblown (because it is so darn colorful, with a catchy title).

The entire account known to the public is based solely on the book "The Radioactive Boy Scout" by Ken Silverstein. The only reason why anyone has ever heard of this case is because of Silverstein. No statements about actual radiation levels are found anywhere in the book, what you are reporting is pure rumor. And if you actually read the book several things become clear.

First, there is little physical evidence for Hahn's claims. His whole "reactor" assembly, such as it was, was reportedly thrown in the garbage and disposed of without any outside party ever examining it, so his claims about it are without any substantiation.

Second, Hahn was a rather unstable character, and was prone to lying and stealing (by self-confession) so his accounts must be viewed with some skepticism. The whole affair came to law enforcement attention because of Hahn acting strangely late at night in public, drawing the attention of police, whereupon he started to tell them his bizarre tale. They took him at his word, called in the Feds, and once the investigative snowball starts rolling it tends to keeps rolling.

Third, yes, the EPA did come and dismantle his shed in hazmat suits, but the use of such suits is standard procedure so it in itself proves nothing about any actual hazard, and indeed the fact they did it all also does not prove any substantial hazard - CYA is a real thing. The incident itself does not show up as a significant action in their records (in fact the incident cannot be located at all in on-line government regulatory actions for that time and area).

Fourth Silverstein had a book to sell, and he flogs the story mercilessly. Most of the claims made about his case are actually made by Silverstein himself, which he puts into the mouths of people he interviews by asserting things without evidence (other than Hahn's questionable word), and getting them to discuss it based on the premise that what Silverstein tells them is true. Thus the story gets a veneer of having verification which it actually lacks. There is basically no corroboration available for Silverstein's (or Hahn's) claims.

Comment Re:So... (Score 3, Interesting) 156

Did they double-check the mirror this time?

The thing with the Hubble telescope mirror is that engineers at Perkin-Elmer did double-check the mirror with accurate instruments and knew that it was flawed after the figuring was complete. But refiguring it would have cost a lot of money, and delayed delivery (already late), and the improperly assembled null corrector test instrument that was used to figure the mirror was also the contractual acceptance test. So managers and execs and Perkin-Elmer decided to deliver the mirror to NASA anyway, in conformance with contract, without conveying the internal information that the mirror didn't work.

This echos the situation with the Challenger disaster when management at Thiokol decided (after hours of complaint from a very unhappy NASA) to authorize the cold weather launch despite knowing that disaster was almost certain.

Comment Re:"we don't even know if it's accurate informatio (Score 4, Informative) 689

If we accept the Wikileaks transcript is taken as being accurate, then Clinton's "weird anecdote" is nothing less than a completely accurate statement of what she actually said. Does no one here bother to check facts?

CLINTON: You just have to sort of figure out how to -- getting back to that word, "balance" -- how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that's not just a comment about today. That, I think, has probably been true for all of our history, and if you saw the Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and how he was maneuvering and working to get the 13th Amendment passed, and he called one of my favorite predecessors, Secretary Seward, who had been the governor and senator from New York, ran against Lincoln for president, and he told Seward, I need your help to get this done. And Seward called some of his lobbyist friends who knew how to make a deal, and they just kept going at it. I mean, politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody's watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position. And finally, I think -- I believe in evidence-based decision making. I want to know what the facts are. I mean, it's like when you guys go into some kind of a deal, you know, are you going to do that development or not, are you going to do that renovation or not, you know, you look at the numbers. You try to figure out what's going to work and what's not going to work. [Clinton Speech For National Multi-Housing Council, 4/24/13]

Comment Re:What Chutzpah (Score 1) 689

It's nice to have someone to blame, but it doesn't change the content of what was leaked.

But you are totally ignorant about "the content of what was leaked" since you did not bother to look it up (and the media has been happy to repeat a misleading paraphrase, not a quote of what she actually said). See my post below where I present the actual content.

Comment Didn't ANYBODY Check Wikileaks?! (Score 5, Informative) 689

Amazingly, nearly 400 posts on this thus far, and nobody has posted or linked to the actual Wikileaks dump on Clinton's comment. I know this is /. but checking facts before bloviating does have its merits.

Here is is:

CLINTON: You just have to sort of figure out how to -- getting back to that word, "balance" -- how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that's not just a comment about today. That, I think, has probably been true for all of our history, and if you saw the Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and how he was maneuvering and working to get the 13th Amendment passed, and he called one of my favorite predecessors, Secretary Seward, who had been the governor and senator from New York, ran against Lincoln for president, and he told Seward, I need your help to get this done. And Seward called some of his lobbyist friends who knew how to make a deal, and they just kept going at it. I mean, politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody's watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position. And finally, I think -- I believe in evidence-based decision making. I want to know what the facts are. I mean, it's like when you guys go into some kind of a deal, you know, are you going to do that development or not, are you going to do that renovation or not, you know, you look at the numbers. You try to figure out what's going to work and what's not going to work. [Clinton Speech For National Multi-Housing Council, 4/24/13]

So Clinton's characterization of her remarks in the debate last night are completely accurate, and the out-of-text paraphrase (not an actual quote) that is usually repeated is an intentional misrepresentation about what she really said.

Comment Re:Because 99% of it Sucks at Being Literature (Score 1) 252

And yet the western has Lonesome Dove and Blood Meridian. Horror has Lovecraft, who was admired by the 20th Century's greatest writer Jorge Luis Borges (yes, my opinion, but I am hardly alone on this). Fantasy has many great works, LOTR, Earthsea, etc. (also Borges himself, but he gets the "Spanish language" exemption I mention in my other post on this thread below). Science Fiction has The Book of the New Sun. Mystery writing has actually become broadly accepted by critics in recent years (Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, etc.). Great literature is definitely to be found in these genres.

Comment Fantasy is also Shut Out (Score 5, Interesting) 252

Peter S. Beagle and Ursula K. LeGuin have each written a number of superb essays on the clear discrimination of English speaking critics (at least) against science fiction and fantasy -- which strongly overlap (although hard SF and sword-and-sorcery fans often disagree with this).

A good resource on this is Beagle's The Secret History of Fantasy which contains an nice forward by Beagle about this, as well as an excellent essay by LeGuin and David Hartwell on the subject. I can't lay my hands on his best essay on this at the moment though.

It wasn't always this way. Fantasy and science fiction literature from the 19th century and before are well regarded ("The Faerie Queene", "Frankenstein", for two random examples). Fantasy literature, if written in Spanish ("magic realism"), is adored by English speaking critics.

Part of this can be traced to one extremely influential critic - Edmund Wilson - who hated fantasy literature in all forms with an undying poison pen passion. He had a very restrictive notion of what constituted "literature" and most of English speaking criticism has absorbed his personal preferences as core principles of literature. Wilson dominated U.S. criticism for about 50 years, until 1972, which has yet to recover from his opinions.

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