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Halving Half Lives

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the quarterlife-the-new-standard dept.

406

An anonymous reader writes "PhysicsWeb is reporting that German scientists may have found a way to significantly reduce the radioactive decay time of nuclear waste. This could render the waste harmless in just tens of years and make disposal much less difficult as opposed to current standards. From the article: 'Their proposed technique - which involves slashing the half-life of an alpha emitter by embedding it in a metal and cooling the metal to a few degrees kelvin - could therefore avoid the need to bury nuclear waste in deep repositories, a hugely expensive and politically difficult process. But other researchers are skeptical and believe that the technique contradicts well-established theory as well as experiment.'"

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Is this what the G-Man used to (0, Offtopic)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828459)

hold Gordon Freeman between HL1 and HL2?

Re:Is this what the G-Man used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828466)

First, you gets your gravity gun. See? Now wave it around a bit and pick stuff up.

Actually, PORTAL looks so cool my teeth ache. MUST play... muuuuuust.

This requires not storing in insulators? (1)

wdd1040 (640641) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828463)

As from TFA,

It states that this occurs also when the device is stored in metal instead of an insulator.

Wouldn't this cause a larger issue with potential radioactive containment?

Re:This requires not storing in insulators? (4, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828542)

Insulators block electricity, not radiation. An insulator might help keep in beta-particles as they're just electrons, but not alpha. Remember, an alpha-particle is just a helium nucleus and (if memory serves) can be stopped by tissue paper. Gammas, of course, are the real nasty ones and need lead or something similar.

why bury it all? (2, Insightful)

nocomment (239368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828464)

What's wrong with just launching it into the sun?

Re:why bury it all? (4, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828472)

One word: Challenger [wikipedia.org] .

On the bright side, it would seriously reduce the lobbying strength of the AARP.

Re:why bury it all? (0, Redundant)

Darundal (891860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828482)

And if something were to happen to the ship when it was taking off, or in space? Radioactive waste would rain down everywhere.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828507)

It's happened before, no one seemed to mind.

Re:why bury it all? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828554)

If the waste was a solid block of metal, how would it 'rain down everywhere'? As catastrophic as a rocket explosion is, it won't blow apart an ingot. It's easy to store waste in an indestructible form. The problem is the weight of the waste, and the huge amount of energy needed to launch it into the sun.

Re:why bury it all? (5, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828535)

I had the pleasure of witnessing a container test.

they took this container, put it into a rocket that was on it' side, and then launched it into a specially designed bunker.i.e a real think ass wall.

the container survived without a leak.

It is much easier to create a device that will survive a traunmatic event then it is to create one for people.

They could just send it down to the Mariennes trench. Naturally people with no knowledge of radiation, or the trench would complain about it.

Re:why bury it all? (4, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828594)

"They could just send it down to the Mariennes trench. Naturally people with no knowledge of radiation, or the trench would complain about it."

The Marianas Trench [wikipedia.org] ? Are you insane, man? Don't you remember what happened [imdb.com] last time we dumped nukes in the Pacific?

Re:why bury it all? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828666)

Sorry about the spelling.

We culd always use Gojira to help us in our fight against terrorists.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

codename.matrix (889422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828647)

So couldn't such a container be used to launch the waste into space. If there were an accident it would surely survive it.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828685)

which is exactly my point.

the container was to be used to put radioactive material in space to be used for spacecraft fuel.

of course, peoples reaction to the sensialist reporting of radiation put that to an end. So now we have cool ion drives.

slow, slow ion drives.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

e1618978 (598967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828722)

Normal barrels are fine for nuclear waste disposal in the deep ocean, they rust and leak over time - but the ocean is so vast that it makes no difference. The oceans already have radioactive materials in them, all our nuclear waste would not make a measurable difference.

Not the trench, though (5, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828758)

Well, it's currently illegal to dump waste at sea due to the London Convention [londonconvention.org] , so don't expect this solution any time soon.

Also, subduction zones aren't particularly stable and predictable, so the waste would likely spew about rather than being neatly sucked away. There was an article on New Scientist [newscientist.com] about this.

Re:why bury it all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828475)

The problem is not launching it to the sun, but making sure it hits its target.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

UglyTool (768385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828760)

Gravity [wikipedia.org] is a harsh mistress. Just point it in the general direction, and it will get there.

There's way too much waste (4, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828539)

There are lots of different kinds of nuclear waste - the worst excesses are things like uranium mines and the US's Hanford Washington and Rocky Flats compounds, plus wherever the Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons development work was done, with huge volumes of fairly high-level waste and even huger volumes of low-level waste. Leave aside the risks of rocket failure, we simply don't have the payload capacity to haul significant quantities of it into Earth orbit, much less out of the gravity well to take it on a sundive.

Re:There's way too much waste (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828602)

Do we have the necessary infrastructure to freeze down nuclear waste in significant quantities as proposed in the article?

Re:why bury it all? (5, Interesting)

protohiro1 (590732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828543)

I know this is snark...but...aside from the challenger issue, it would be highly cost-prohibitive. The world produces about 12,000 pounds of nuclear waste a year. At current rates this would cost about $250 billion just to get into orbit. The US has It would be much more expensive to actually escape the earth and get it to the sun, even considering the sun's gravity could do a lot of the work.

Wikipedia disagrees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_waste#Space_d isposal [wikipedia.org] , although I am skeptical, at current rates to get the 600,000 metric tonnes of waste that the DoE has into orbit would cost about $10 trillion.

Re:why bury it all? (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828573)

If you designed a rocket just for this specific purpose, it would be cheaper.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828654)

Don't they already fire ICBM's into space nowadays?
Those are build specifically for the purpose, however wasting all the cargo space on radioactive waste and not using the rocket for anything else would be such a waste.

Its still very expensive per pound of mass to get into space.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828707)

well yeah, I din't say cheap I said cheaper.

ICBMS are a complelty different animal and can't escape the earths gravity. In fact they are designed to be shot at a point in orbit and gravity does the rest.

Re:why bury it all? (4, Interesting)

flooey (695860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828669)

The world produces about 12,000 pounds of nuclear waste a year. At current rates this would cost about $250 billion just to get into orbit.

Your numbers are a bit off. A single Delta IV Heavy rocket can carry about 28,000 pounds to GTO, or about 20,000 to escape orbit, at a cost of around $250 million.

Re:why bury it all? (2, Insightful)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828698)

You are off be a few orders of magnitude. The cost of one pund to orbit is around $10,000 - 20,000. So 12,000 pounds to orbit would cost about $120,000,000 - $240,000,000. That is assuming a simpler launcher, no special container provisons, and not throwing it out of orbit into the sun. Those things might double the cost, in the worst case. It is still under a billion dollars.

On the other hand, I think throwing the stuff away is foolish. We need to store it in case we come up with a way to reuse it.

Re:why bury it all? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828575)

It'd be astronomically prohibitive. Use the rocket equation, it's cheaper to slingshot the stuff out of the solar system than into the sun.

Re:why bury it all? (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828649)

Nothing really wrong with putting it into the sun, it's just very expensive. Oddly enough, it's cheaper to stick it into Alpha Centauri ( or just about any star but the sun ).


Who modded parent offtopic???

Re: why bury it all? (2, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828759)

> What's wrong with just launching it into the sun?

If we pollute the sun we'll really be in trouble!

Um (3, Insightful)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828465)

Is this wise? Decreasing the half-life means increasing the radioactivity. Given the option of living near a nuclear waste site and living near the lab where this is performed, I'd choose the former....

In order to get the radiation down to safe levels, you have to out-radiate everything up to that level. Same radiation, doesn't matter if it takes the normal amount of time or less.

Re:Um (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828487)

True, but it's easier to contain the radiation for a short time then to design a system to contian it for a long time.

Re:Um (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828504)

I'd have thought problems would come from needing to keep it cold, while the radiation is trying to heat it up.

Re:Um (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828563)

Yeah, it'd be fairly trivial to shield a special facility for the short period of time needed to process the waste this way.

Meanwhile, you are going to be releasing a fair amount of energy doing it this quickly.

I've also heard about methods that focus on bombarding the substance with more radiation, a sort of 'tipping the scales' type operation.

Re:Um (4, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828564)

Actually, if the GP is correct and they are increasing the radiation output in proportion to the reduction in the half life, what's to stop us from harnessing that output as power? The major reason we can't use many forms of nuclear waste as a power source is the difficulty in converting low levels of radiation into usable power; fast fissioning material on the other hand is perfectly usable as a fuel source.

Of course, the temperature of the storage device poses a major problem (if we have to supercool it, then harnessing the radiation as a heat source is right out). Assuming we can't do this at a higher temperature, and I don't understand the article well enough to make a guess here, then we'd have to find a way to convert the energy output of the waste into usable power without heating the storage vessel to the point where the accelerated half life drops back to normal.

I wonder if there is some way to allow the radiation to escape the waste storage vessel and transfer it's energy into something useful...

Re:Um (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828525)

Actually yes it is wise.
It is easy to shield high level waste. Water will work just fine. If you only have to store it for a few years then it really becomes a simple problem.
The sad thing is I doubt that this could work they way the say it will. It really needs to be tested.
I could understand if they used a good neutron emitter like beryllium. When an Alpha particle hits that you get neutrons. The neutrons could then cause an increase in decay type reactions, if it was captured by a nuclei of the the substance that you wanted to degrade. Even that is a big maybe since I am just thinking of ways it could work without doing any math.
Even then it seems like you wouldn't get anything like what this guy is claiming.

1-100 Years of Liquid Helium vs. 1600 years (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828621)

Alpha and Beta emissions are easy enough to shield. If this method actually works, you can store it for a mere hundred years instead of a couple of thousand years before it's sufficiently decayed that it's less dangerous, with much lower risks of eventual leakage, forgotten locations, etc. If they find they can get the radiation down in 1-2 years, that's almost certainly a big big win, but it's not clear whether storing it for 100 years in liquid helium is that much more reliable than storing it in a salt mine for 1600 years.

Gamma and Neutron emitters are a much different problem - Plutonium isotopes and their decay products, for instance, are a risk here, and even the alpha decay from most of the plutoniums is long enough that this technique is unlikely to help enough (e.g. 2000 years of liquid helium might be hard to maintain.)

Re:1-100 Years of Liquid Helium vs. 1600 years (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828746)

but it's not clear whether storing it for 100 years in liquid helium is that much more reliable than storing it in a salt mine for 1600 years.

True, but if you cut the storage time by something in the middle, say 20 to 60 years (within the scope of the claims) then you are not looking at storage facilities, but management facilities, whereby you are moving out older, safe material to bring in fresh waste. This means a permanant structure and constant monitoring, something that salt mines don't necessarily have the same level of precautions. And, the shorter the half life, the less facilities you will need to accomplish this.

An added plus is that some states would WANT this kind of facility "in their backyard" because of the the technical, research and support jobs that come with it.

Add that to the recent changes of heart in many environmentalist regarding nuclear power, and you have a nice 20% solution to the current energy problems.

Re:Um (4, Informative)

zerus (108592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828622)

It is pretty easy to shield using water, since that's how spent fuel is stored after discharge from commercial plants until it's cool enough to move to dry storage (temperature cool, not radiation). Dry storage works just fine once the thermal loadings are low enough. Casks such as this are present at nearly every nuclear facility that hasn't moved fuel offsite.

My question about doing this on a large scale, is how are you going to keep this much material cool enough to reduce the half life assuming that this works in the first place? Alpha emission of transuranics has around 6.5 MeV of energy per particle, which translates into a large amount of heat for not so large amounts of material. The coolant material to waste ratio would be enormous! Also, the refrigerant energy to do this would probably render the entire process even more inefficient than the current idea of reprocessing (remember that reprocessing has lots of particularly nasty chemicals associated in large quantities). Since alpha emitting isotopes are neutron rich, meaning they are either fissile or fissionable, they can be used as fuel. Why destroy fuel when you can burn it? At worst, continue MOX reprocessing as is currently done. At best, fuel some RTG's for space exploration. In my mind, this type of research is "neat" at best, but if the purpose is trying to force schrodinger's cat back into the bag, they can forget it now that global warming is becoming a hot issue with nuclear power the sole possibility for continuing the current growth rate of electricity demand (way too many puns there, I apologize).

Re:Um (1)

rjdegraaf (712353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828754)

It is pretty easy to shield using water, since that's how spent fuel is stored after discharge from commercial plants until it's cool enough to move to dry storage (temperature cool, not radiation). Dry storage works just fine once the thermal loadings are low enough. Casks such as this are present at nearly every nuclear facility that hasn't moved fuel offsite.

Dry storage "works" just fine?

The current problem is not exactly storing a container, but keeping it safe for now and future inhibitants of the area.

Re:Um (1)

trawg (308495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828751)

What actually happens to water that is soaking up radiation from waste?

Re:Um (1)

L7_ (645377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828769)

Did you read the article?

Instead of using neutrons as you proposed, they are using metals. The free electrons in the metal latice get increasing closer (in probability) to the nuclei of the waste product. In turn, the free electrons cause the 'increase in decay type reactions', without having to use a 'good neautron emitter'.

Re:Um (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828527)


Is this wise?

Yes, if it works.

Decreasing the half-life means increasing the radioactivity.

Yeah, so you shield it, just like you'd shield a reactor. Next question?

-jcr

Re:Um (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828589)

Yeah, so you shield it, just like you'd shield a reactor. Next question?

What an interesting idea. Use this process to create managable energy.

I am intreged.

Re:Um (1, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828617)

Yeah, so you shield it, just like you'd shield a reactor. Next question?

There is no panacea and I doubt this is one. Any material to shield radioactivity will also become radioactive. Heck, even fusion isn't completely clean, I think one of the project goals of ITER is to find ways to manage the radioactivity of the components for when it is dismantled.

Re:Um (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828724)

'Any material to shield radioactivity will also become radioactive.'

What a bullshit statement. It completely depends on many things, such as the products of radioactive decay for the element/isotope combo you are talking about, and to simplify it into that all encompasing statement is meaningless.

Re:Um (3, Insightful)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828553)

Is this wise? Decreasing the half-life means increasing the radioactivity. Given the option of living near a nuclear waste site and living near the lab where this is performed, I'd choose the former....

    You're right. But (as other posters have said) it is [probably] a good tradeoff. In my laboratory, we use ozone to purify water (read: kill bad things therein). It's nasty stuff, but it's so reactive (therefore lethal to buggies) that it disappears really fast. We used to use chlorine, which wasn't nearly so nasty, but which stuck around for much, much longer than the ozone. If you can deal with the reactivity during the worst of the reaction (at the very beginning), then you're pretty much home-free. Constant exposure to low-level chemicals (or radioactivity) which you might not know about is most likely much worse than very quick exposure to high levels of the same stuff which you DO know about.

Re:Um (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828584)

If the technique works, its feasibility will depend on the strength of the shielding.

If we can reliably shield the radiation released by the high-speed decay, then we can dispose of waste in a maintainable facility over a few decades -- we can monitor the facility, make repairs, transfer waste from a damaged container to a new one, etc. -- instead of trying to build something and hope it doesn't leak over the next 1600 years.

So while the danger posed by a containment failure is greater (since more radiation would be released in such an event), the chance of a containment failure would be much smaller, because there would be less opportunity for it.

Re:Um (4, Funny)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828597)

In order to get the radiation down to safe levels, you have to out-radiate everything up to that level. Same radiation, doesn't matter if it takes the normal amount of time or less.

Actually it matters quite a bit. There are plenty [wikipedia.org] of places [wikipedia.org] where all that radiation would be hardly noticed, and if the timescale is lessened to something managable by today's governments, we will be able to avoid the monumental task of warning future generations [doe.gov] .

I'd say that's quite a big win, if this pans out.

Re:Um (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828642)

you do realize that alpha particles are the same thing coming out of the front of your CRT and that they don't penetrate your skin, right?

Re:Um (4, Insightful)

RoffleTheWaffle (916980) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828768)

That's actually the idea - to make radioactive substances even more radioactive under controlled conditions so as to decay them into safer forms over a much shorter period of time, decreasing the amount of dangerously radioactive waste that has to be disposed of. Sure, it becomes more radioactive, but only under specific conditions and within a small timespan.

I just think it's a shame the Integral Fast Reactor project got canned back in Clinton's day. If it hadn't been shut down, maybe nuclear waste wouldn't be nearly as huge a problem now...

I've got another solution... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828484)

Let's kill 2 birds with 1 stone and send all our radioactive waste to Iran! What need will these muslim loonies have for nuclear energy when they're all glowing in the dark?

alpha emitter + metal = x-rays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828494)

I hope they know about that.

Nonono - the quote is quite wrong. (-1, Offtopic)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828497)

proposed technique - which involves slashing the half-life of an alpha emitter by embedding it


This should read: ...which involves slashdotting the embedded alpha emitter while playing half-life...

Um, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828499)

The electromagnetic force doesn't affect the nuclear weak or strong forces. Sorry.

Re:Um, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828517)

Thank you mister Anonymous Coward! Here I was, about to RTFA, and you saved me the trouble! Truely, your depth of understanding of physics astounds me, and the fact that you could point out the obvious flaws in the technique in a single line is amazing.

Re:Um, no (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828583)

The lower the temperature of the metal, the closer the free electrons get to the radioactive nuclei. These electrons accelerate positively charged particles towards the nuclei, thereby increasing the probability of fusion reactions.

    Guess what? The quote above is from the actual article and would have told you that your post was irrelevant. Closer free electrons = more strong/weak nuclear interaction.

Half the half-life? Super! (2, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828510)

I'm so glad I'll be able to life in Prypiat in only 3280 years...

Re:Half the half-life? Super! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828749)

But not in Afganistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon... for another 2.25 billion years. Unless this method has a
magical way of separating DU dust from sand too.

cue uninformed denials in 3.. 2... 1....

Kerning (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828511)

How do these Germans know so much about the atomic nucleus? Did Neils Bohr leave them a working model or something? The German contribution to nuclear physics seems really disproprtionate to their actual population. Is there something unusually German about the model they committed us all to when they kicked off the science in the 1800s?

Re:Kerning QWZX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828545)

Careful, you're dangerously close to the Not Politically Correct idea that different races may be different intellectual characteristics.

Of course, anyone with half a brain who applies the smallest amount of thought to the idea without political consideration or contamination realizes that, of course, races have different brain structures, just like any other physical structure, and some races are going to be ON THE AVERAGE better at some things than others. It's just stupid to assume otherwise, especially with the mountain of evidence in favor.

You may now burn this heretic at the stake.

Re:Kerning QWZX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828585)

Oh, shut up. There are differences between races. None of them involve brain structure.

Re:Kerning QWZX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828623)

Oh, shut up. There are differences between races. None of them involve brain structure.

So explain to me exactly why the brain would be different from every other part of the body. Or are you saying that every race is the same average height?

Or maybe you think that God makes everyone's brain the same, and isn't subject to evolutionary pressure like everything else.

Re:Kerning QWZX (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828657)

Anonymous racist Coward, you are the one who's so dangerously close to racism that you're jumping at an imaginary change to indulge it.

"German" is not a race, no matter how nazi your brain.

The whole notion of distinct "races" is contrived. Even skin colors aren't that neat, which is what we usually reduce "race" to. Our species family tree is very interwoven, and overall differences are superficial.

Besides, "brain capacity" doesn't equate to "nuclear engineering". It's an academic tradition, or some cultural archetype, or a coincidence, or a misperception on my part through the American media lens of history.

"Stupid" isn't a race, either, as racists like you across the world prove every day. Talk about "mountain of evidence" - that's what your racist talk generates for the "universal stupidity" theory.

Re:Kerning (0, Troll)

mtenhagen (450608) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828551)

They are stilling working on the 3rth reich. Their only problem is that they outsourced it to the United States.

Re:Kerning (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828581)

How do these Germans know so much about the atomic nucleus? Did Neils Bohr leave them a working model or something?

No, their government allows them working models.

We aren't allowed nuclear reactors here so we are falling massively behind. But at least it's safe... for the children.

Except for the bears that is.

Re:Kerning (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828668)

"Here"? Where, the US? You're not asserting that the US has no working nuclear reactors, are you?

Or are you posting from Iran?

Re:Kerning (1)

psycho8me (711330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828757)

You should drop by the University of Missouri - Rolla sometime. They have a operating research reactor. It might not be on par with the German's but they can sure make it glow pretty. :)

Re:Kerning (5, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828595)

How do these Germans know so much about the atomic nucleus? Did Neils Bohr leave them a working model or something?

Easy: General education level, good science classes in high school, social image/reputation of science and scientists, and an absence of religious bias against science.

Niels Bohr was Danish, FWIW.

Re:Kerning (1)

RajivSLK (398494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828603)

Well Einstien was German and it was found that his brain was different from a "normal" persons. His parietal operculum region was missing and, to compensate, his inferior parietal lobe was 15% wider than normal. Maybe germans have more of these people than other populations?

Re:Kerning (4, Funny)

Babbster (107076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828693)

I don't think it has anything to do with genetics. I think it's just that the guy who chose Germany as his civilization is changing entertainers to scientists...

Re:Kerning (3, Informative)

flooey (695860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828604)

How do these Germans know so much about the atomic nucleus? Did Neils Bohr leave them a working model or something? The German contribution to nuclear physics seems really disproprtionate to their actual population. Is there something unusually German about the model they committed us all to when they kicked off the science in the 1800s?

They spend a lot of money on nuclear physics. It's the same reason why the United States has such great computing research compared to its population.

Re:Kerning (2, Informative)

itschy (992394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828741)

No, its not that we (I happen to be german) have special brains that work better when it comes to nuclear stuff (or war or beer for that matter).
On the other side: Beer might help... :)
I'm not sure about the working models that feepness mentioned either. Nuclear radiation is only allowed to gain energy and for medical reasons, no warfare whatsoever, so I guess there are lots of countries with more possibilities to explore nuclear energy.
And a couple of years ago our government even decided to shut down all nuclear plants in about 10 years time.

I think the only reason was (and because of gobalisation no longer is), that in the days if Bohr and Planck and Einstein and so on it was common that scientists discussed matters in quite close circles. I'm sure all these people are connected, somebody beeing a student of someone else or working at the same university for some time and such.
Its the same with artists, they create "schools" and so most artists for, say, qubism come from a quite close circle.
Today with internet and planes and stuff its more common that someone from, say, Japan has a new theory, some US-scientists work further on it, some french guy has the first breakthrough and so on.

Re:Kerning (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828771)

Excellent! Now, please explain the German genius for "comedy" ;).

We cool it to a few degrees Kelvin... (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828518)

"How do you power your cooling process?"

"With that nulcear power plant in the next town over."

How long? (2, Interesting)

misleb (129952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828519)

Ok, so all you have to do is cool it to near absolute zero. How long do you have to do that for and how much energy does it take to maintain it?

-matthew

Re:How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828710)

Insulation is what makes heat transfer very very difficult. Once you have chilled it, it takes little energy to remove the small amounts of heat that get through the insulation.

That's why your moms gets so upset when you stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open. An open door is a very poor insulator and eats up lots of energy.

Doubling halve life (2, Informative)

Tribbin (565963) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828521)

When you double the halve life the radiation is halve.

And also, first we need to build a fusion reactor to have energy to cool that shit.

Title (0, Redundant)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828530)

But other researchers are skeptical and believe that the technique contradicts well-established theory as well as experiment.'"

To this, the researchers answered with an article titled "We're one of those fancy college-title nuclear scientists"

Re:Title (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828559)

Stupid me, I meant "We're not one of those fancy college-title nuclear scientists"

Re:Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828562)

More to the point, from TFA:
> physicists have already carried out experiments in which they cooled
> alpha emitters to 4 K and below, but found no significant changes in
> their half-lives.

Now, maybe somethign is different in this experiment, but I'd wait until somebody else replicates the experiment before being convinced that there's a useful physical effect here.

Ah, finally, episodic gaming! (1, Funny)

holiggan (522846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828534)

Ah yes... finally we can play several episodes of that beloved franchise called Half-Life 2... oh wait...

Energy-balance? (3, Insightful)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828537)

I haven't read the article, but doesn't cooling things to a few K consume a sizeable amount of energy?

I had a system (1, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828552)

that only got 30fps when playing half-life.
Does that count?

One problem (2, Interesting)

bjdevil66 (583941) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828557)

How much power is going to be needed to cool the material to 4K? I imagine you'd be creating quite a bit of waste (some of which would be nuclear) by doing this, thus negating some of its usefulness.

Even if this works, it will be tough. (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828572)

Even if this works, it will be tough to use. You'll have to cool something that emits heat down to near absolute zero. The energy required for that refrigeration job will be greater than the heat energy the radioactive material will emit over its remaining decay life.

Re:Even if this works, it will be tough. (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828694)

Not a problem anymore. Just store the spent fuel near the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and give Mel Gibson a few drinks and have a news reporter standing by. The chill from the ADL will zap that spent fuel down to absolute zero in no time.

It All Makes Sense... (2, Funny)

LuNa7ic (991615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828586)

It all makes sense now, this is why we are only getting episodes!

Joules in - Joules Out (2, Insightful)

Dolly_Llama (267016) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828592)

I wonder what this process would do to the thermodynamic equation for the entire lifecycle of nuclear energy. I am not teh Smrt, so bear with me

Nuclear energy is roughly as follows: Ore is mined -> ore is refined -> Energy is extracted from fuel -> Spent fuel is prepared and kept in a single degree kelvin fridge for several years. -> Safe spent fuel is disposed

How many Joules does it take to keep the spent fuel at that low temperature for so long as compared to the energy extracted? Is there an orders-of-magnitude difference?

dumber than an arkansas hound dog, these guys (0)

swschrad (312009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828599)

you slow down an atom to near absolute zero, you would be lengthening the half-life, say from 200,000 years to 400,000 or whatever, because the binding energy would stay the same, just the ability of the particles to break free would be reduced because of the slowed movements between the particles. you might even generate a spike in atomic activity when it warms up.

how does some of what passes for scientific papers get accepted, anyway? box tops? there's a lot of stuff that the mass media picks up on and publicizes that just can't stand the smell test.

Re:dumber than an arkansas hound dog, these guys (1, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828653)

RTFA.

Re:dumber than an arkansas hound dog, these guys (2, Informative)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828664)

you slow down an atom to near absolute zero, you would be lengthening the half-life, say from 200,000 years to 400,000 or whatever, because the binding energy would stay the same, just the ability of the particles to break free would be reduced because of the slowed movements between the particles. you might even generate a spike in atomic activity when it warms up.

Why is this modded informative? Has the poster or the moderator actually done this experiment? Have they even Read the Fine Article?

"Using the university's particle accelerator [Rolfs] fired protons and deuterons (nuclei containing a proton and a neutron) at various light nuclei. He noticed that the rate of fusion reactions was significantly greater when the nuclei were encased in metals than when they were inserted into insulators."

Counterintuitive, maybe. But then so is most of Quantum ElectroDynamics.

Re:dumber than an arkansas hound dog, these guys (1)

viking2000 (954894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828714)

Neither the author of this comment nor the moderators have any clue about nuclear physics.

Pleases read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_decay [wikipedia.org]

d00d! (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828728)

> you slow down an atom to near absolute zero, you would be lengthening the half-life, say from 200,000 years to 400,000 or whatever, because the binding energy would stay the same, just the ability of the particles to break free would be reduced because of the slowed movements between the particles. you might even generate a spike in atomic activity when it warms up.

FYI, radioactive decay isn't caused by thermal energy. Notice the lack of a term for temperature in the relevant equations [wikipedia.org] .

> how does some of what passes for scientific papers get accepted, anyway? box tops? there's a lot of stuff that the mass media picks up on and publicizes that just can't stand the smell test.

One might ask a similar question about Slashdot moderation.

Re:dumber than an arkansas hound dog, these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828733)

Uh, the parent makes no sense. The external temperature has no effect on the nucleus, which is still whirring away quantum-mechanically no matter how 'cold' it gets.

how does some of what passes for scientific info get modded up on /., anyway? box tops? there's a lot of stuff that the mods pick up on that just can't stand the smell test.

Advantages to gaming (1, Funny)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828627)

Wow this could have made Half-Life 2 come out YEARS sooner. At least there's still time to apply it to Duke Nukem Forever...

Alpha radiation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15828639)

Correct me if I'm wrong and it's been a while since I did high school physics but isn't alpha radiation pretty harmless?

I'd be more impressed if they found a way to dispose of gamma emiters safely

What a waste (5, Interesting)

macemoneta (154740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828670)

Throwing all that energy away.

We can achieve the same goal by allowing the reprocessing of nuclear "waste". PBS had a good interview [pbs.org] on the subject, which mentions that power generating reactors are only permitted [pbs.org] to extract less than 1 percent of the energy. This is what leaves the "waste" highly radioactive.

I keep putting the word waste in quotes, because it's more like a nuclear fuel reserve than an unusable energy source. Use all the energy, and the half-life of what's left is a few decades.

I thought this was about fast reactors (5, Informative)

Chris.Nelson (943214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828673)

I just read an article in from a few months ago in Scientific American about fast reactors that can use the "spent" fuel from thermal reactors. Their waste is 95% smaller than thermal reactors and dangerous for only 10s of years, not 10s of thousands of years. _That_ technology has proven in prototype reactors.

Pity about 'nuclear dampers' (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828683)

One of my favorite technologies from the Traveller/Striker universe... nuclear dampers.

It was supposed to increase or decrease decay of nuclear materials -- at a distance.

A fun use of such a device is to neutralise an enemies nuclear arsenal and then starting a war with them. They then fire their nukes which does... nothing much at all.

If only we could have these in the real world.

Or at least a bio-engineered organism that eats black powder...

wait for the real fallout (4, Interesting)

silvermorph (943906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15828689)

Prove this process and in less than a year the anti-evolutionists will be using it to discredit carbon dating.
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