At least, I think it will be. I just wanted to link to these charts on radiation doses.

It says something pretty sad about journalism when one of the clearest descriptions of this issue comes from a web cartoonist, even if XKCD is no ordinary cartoon.

More on Fukushima

March 18, 2011

A follow-up to my last post: Fukushima one week on: Situation ‘stable’, says IAEA.

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan, badly damaged during the extremely severe earthquake and tsunami there a week ago, continues to stabilise. It is becoming more probable by the day that public health consequences will be zero and radiation health effects among workers at the site will be so minor as to be hard to measure. Nuclear experts are beginning to condemn the international hysteria which has followed the incident in increasingly blunt terms.

And consider this, at the end of the article:

As one who earns his living in the media these days, I can only apologise on behalf of my profession for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a journalist.


March 15, 2011

Since there’s been a lot of hysteria about the problems with the reactors in Japan, I thought I’d link this: Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now!

The whole sequence of events is a ringing endorsement for nuclear power safety. If this – basically nothing – is what happens when decades-old systems are pushed five times and then some beyond their design limits, new plants much safer yet would be able to resist an asteroid strike without problems.

But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the mainstream media. Ignorant fools are suggesting on every hand that Japan’s problems actually mean fresh obstacles in the way of new nuclear plants here in the UK, Europe and the US.

That can only be true if an unbelievable level of public ignorance of the real facts, born of truly dreadful news reporting over the weekend, is allowed to persist.

One of my pet peeves is people’s ignorance of what radiation is and how prevalent it is in nature. Lots of everyday things are radioactive. That bright thing you see in the sky in the daytime, that’s a humongous thermonuclear reactor a mere eight light-minutes away. When I was a T.A. teaching physics labs, one of the hottest sources we had for the radiation lab was a set of dinner plates one of the professors had bought at a roadside stand in Mexico. Bananas and brazil nuts are radioactive. Heck, even we are radioactive: you’ve heard of Carbon-14 dating? That works by comparing how much less radioactive things are than what they would be if they were still alive.

Radiation and radioactive materials certainly should be treated carefully; they can be very dangerous. But so are lots of other things that we take for granted because we’ve always been aware of them. Nuclear energy can be safe, and what’s happened in Japan hasn’t refuted that.

This is fascinating if a bit disturbing: Deindividuation.

Police and firefighters are well aware of this tendency for crowds to gather and taunt, and this is why they tape off potential suicide scenes and get the crowd out of shouting distance. The risk of a spontaneous cheering section goading a person into killing themselves is high when people in a group feel anonymous and are annoyed or angry. It only takes one person to get the crowd going. Those are the three ingredients – anonymity, group size and arousal. If you lose your sense of self, feel the power of a crowd and then get slammed by a powerful cue from the environment – your individuality may evaporate.

I hate being part of a crowd; I also don’t dress up for Halloween. I’ve seen surveys that say most people fear public speaking more than death, but I would rather speak or sing or otherwise perform in front of a large group of people than be a member of a large group of people. I’m not sure if this just means I have a large ego that doesn’t care to be eclipsed or what.

OK, I’m not actually going to link to this, but I recently read an article whose author was claiming the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants advocate socialism, so Republican church members like Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck are going against their religion. Of course that completely ignores the fact that because it denies agency socialism always ends up hurting rather than helping the poor. As an example, I will link to this autobiographical account of a women condemned to internal exile in the Soviet Union during World War II. I am proud to be a descendant of people who tried implement the United Order and hope that someday I might be able to follow their example more closely, but that sort of thing is worlds away from the forcibly-mandated redistribution that socialism entails.

One more link before I go to bed: Soap Operas Are Not Documentaries (and ‘Feminism’ Is a Word With a Definition).