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Comment Re:"jaw dropping" downplaying - more fuked news (Score 1) 307

Yes, some radioactive bits are leaking into the ocean.

To put it in perspective, the amount of radiative material that's getting out is LESS than you'd find being emitted from the chiminies of a 1000MW coal burning power plant.

Burning coal puts radioactive shit into our atmosphere to the tune of _at least_ six chernobyl-class meltdowns _EACH YEAR_. Yet this is happily ignored by the antinuke protesters because it's inconvenient to acknowledge it.

And yet, that's _nothing_ compared to the amount of radioactive crap carried around in the lungs of each and every smoker on the planet. Shall we treat smokers as toxic radiological waste?

Yes, you can (just) detect radioactive products in the water from Fukushima on the US western Seaboard. In general it's a change from 8 radioactive particles per 10 cubic metres of water to 9 radioactive particles per cubic metres of water. Go and compare them with the levels detectable after the Bikini Atoll tests, or for more recent examples, the 1970s atmospheric tests at Mureroa Atoll. (Hint, they're significantly less and people weren't overly worried about those)

It's about relative risk. Radiation exposure doesn't result in three-eyed fish or cancers. That's chemical toxins - like coal slurry ponds (responsible for the _2_ largest environmental disasters in the USA since 2001). Radiation usually kills cells, and the effects of exposure are either you die if you get a massive dose, or you don't die.

Even the extremely radioactive lungs of a smoker don't cause them to develop cancers. The culprit for that seems to be when the polonium in those lungs breaks down to berylium (which is _extremely_ carginogenic and not at all radioactive)

Radioactives can be detected from a distance and dealt with. Chemical toxins are quiet and things like arsenic are a gift that just keeps on giving. (Depleted Uranium is classified as a radiological hazard. The actual poisoning path is as a toxic heavy metal in the same family as lead. If exposed to weapons-grade plutonium you'll probably die of chemical poisoning long before the radioactivity has any chance to affect you.)

We fear radiation accidents in the same way we fear aircraft crashes despite being hundreds of times more likely to be killed driving to the airport. It's not a rational thing and it pays no attention to hard statistics.

But that irrational fear of the unlikely death frequently causes us to be killed by the more mundane, common hazards - people deciding to drive long distances instead of flying being a classicexample.

1500 people died of stress-related causes in the Fukushima evacuations. The only injuries due to radiation were a couple of minor burns on the ankles of a half dozen staff working in the reactor buildings - and they healed within days.

Comment Simple solution: (Score 1) 307

WAIT. Just fucking wait a while.

We're fucking impatient monkeys in charge of cleanup projects. Almost as bad as when wer're impatient monkeys driving cars.

Yes, seriously: If it's too hot to send robots in then just wait.
Sending shit in which breaks down and obstructs later efforts does no one any favours.

That which is wildly radioactive doesn't spend very long before it becomes a lot less radioactive. The only priority at the moment with Fukushima is to plug any leaks in the vessel. Come back in 20-30 years, as has been done with Three Mile Island and it'll be much easier to deal with.

Around 1500 people _died_ in the evacuations from Fukushima province. Not a single one of those deaths was remotely caused by radiation, but a large number of them were caused by sheer terror of radiation thanks to decades of propaganda depicting melting skin and cancers. That simply doesn't happen unless you're stupid enough to climb into the reactor vessel.

The reality is that for all the hype about what was sprayed around the province, letting everybody stay put would have caused a spike in cancer levels somewhere between 0 and 1% over the normal rates. Instead, the japanese government slashed allowable levels by 90% and as a direct consequence caused panic by declaring areas which were perfectly safe to suddenly become "dangerously radioactive" - thanks to normal background levels that had nothing to do with the reactor breach.

It's about time some of the antinuclear activist groups were hauled into court for causing unnecessary death and suffering by distributing wildly inaccurate propaganda that generated fear and panic. It's also about time we had some sensible public discussion about what is and isn't safe.

Yes, the reactors were badly run. Yes, the executives deserve to be in court - as do the regulators. yes, the company should be on the hook for cleanup costs.

The mishandling of the evacuations can and should be on the heads of the people who went above and beyond what was necessary, after buying into alarmist propaganda.

The raw fact is that as "unsafe" as it is, current nuclear technology is statistically 300,000 times safer than burning coal. Molten salt systems would be a at least a couple of orders better, with significantly lower waste generation and high proliferation resistance (Yes, you can get U233 or Pu238 out, but they're so heavily contaminated with red hot gamma emitters that they're useless for bombmaking without massive centrifuge or gas separatrion setups and unlike natural uranium separation, the radiation is hot enough to kill anyone standing close for more than a couple of minutes)

Ocean acidity has shifted 30% since the dawn of the industrial era. Oceanic oxygen solubility is decreasing slightly. methane hydrates are bubbling out int he arctic ocean - mostly around the Leptav sea, with an increasing risk of a clathrate blowout catastrophe at least as big as the Storegga Slide. It really won't take much of a push to trigger an anoxic oceanic event before the end of this century - and if that happens, rising sea levels will be the least of the problems for the remaining 10-15% of humanity who survive to see it.

Standard human physiological response to decreased oxygen levels is to thicken the blood. That works fine for short periods but leads to congestive heart failure if the stress is maintained - otherwise known as altitude sickness. The only people who'll survive if global oxygen levels decrease markedly (they could go down to 10% or lower if geologic records of past events are any indication) will be the descendants of those who've evolved to live at high altitudes (mostly tibetan/nepalese peoples)

Just wait for the reactor to cool off, then robots can go in safely, just like they're doing at Three Mile Island and just like they're doing at Chernoybl. Meantime consider that if US nuclear plant radiation emission levels were applied at conventional power stations, every single coal plant on the planet would be shut down tomorrow. If japanese standards were applied, so would all the gas and oil burning plants.

Comment Re: Good luck... (Score 1) 299

Whilst the non-modified mice will likely win out in the end, the short term effect would be a major population reduction, which in turn can make other culling efforts easier.

Bucket traps (actually, 44 gallon drums) worked extremely well against mice and rats when I was a kid in New Zealand, but you didn't want to be downwind of the more sucessful ones and no matter how many years went by, the number of animals killed never diminished.

Similiarly, no matter how many times you went out shooting possums, the numbers and tree damage never declined. Killing 300 in a night wasn't unusual in some areas.

Comment Re:Good luck... (Score 1) 299

"Those mice got onto the islands accidentally in the past,"

As with rats, they came on board sailing ships in times when people didn't care about what was coming along for the ride.

No, they didn't need to come ashore on longboats, both species can swim a few miles relatively well and the smell of fresh food is more than enough to tempt them.

These days we tend to pay a lot more attention to preventing ship-borne pests from getting onto isolated islands, etc, but the bigger problem are the species that were deliberately introduced for "fur" or "hunting" or "to remind us of home" or "to get rid of the bloody rabbits some idiot brought over for fur" (and wasps(*), but they weren't deliberate)

Because of the past mistakes in both New Zealand and Australia, biological control systems are intensely studied before being released, to try and ensure they don't end up being a bigger problem than the one they're intended to control.

One of the more interesting thing about genetically targetted species management on islands is that because the source populations of most of these introductions were tiny, there's a possibility of stumbling on an extermination method which doesn't even affect individuals of the same species outside the affected island.

(*) Wasps have rendered large parts of the southern beech forests of New Zealand virtually impassable. They arrived during WW2 and have been spreading rapidly ever since. The entire population is thought to be derived from _one_ queen. Cabbage white butterflies in New Zealand are all descended from 3 individuals which escaped from a laboratory in the 1930s and exhibit a startling uniformity of coloration/pattern compared to their brethren in Europe.

Comment Re:Not the best idea. (Score 1) 299

"wiping out all predators is not a good idea!"

It is when the predators are alien species which the local wildlife has no defences against.

Because of 60 million years of divergent evolution (no mammals apart from a couple of bats and no snakes), most NZ wildlife tends to assume that whatever's approaching it is relatively friendly. By the time they find out it's not, it's a bit too late.

On the other hand this is the same environment which created the Haast Eagle, but that was so big it mostly concentrated on Moa as the smaller prey wasn't worth bothering with.

Comment Re:Nature finds a way. (Score 1) 299

That population bias is already causing _severe_ problems in those countries as the gender balance has shifted away from 50:50

Historically the solution has been plural marriages (multiple wives and more frequently multiple husbands) but thanks to a few hundred years of religious indoctrination most of the affected countries, polyandry is generally regarded as completely and utterly unacceptable, with polygamy only slightly less unacceptable.

Comment Re: Nature finds a way. (Score 1) 299

The genetic variation in humans is so minor that it's more like "one breed" - kind of like labradours come in 3 main colours.

Having said that, perhaps someone might like to make Frank Herbert's "The White Plague" a reality (a bioscientist friend who read it said the actual science in it was abysmal, but the idea was creepy)

Comment Re: Nature finds a way. (Score 1) 299

> mice are the dominant creatures occupying this ecological niche (having killed off the flightless birds which used to occupy it).

Actually for the most part it was insects that occupied that niche (look up "weta")

If they just stayed in that section of the local ecology it wouldn't be so bad but mice eat eggs and chicks. This was thought to be something restricted to rats/possums/musclids, but it's not.

New Zealand has the dubious distinction of having lost 97% of its indigenous forest in the last 200 years (almost all the remaining forest is protected in national parks) along with at least 95% of its remaining native bird species - which had already taken a 50% hit in the 400 or so years between the time humans first arrived and europeans showed up.

Interestingly one of the worst pests isn't a predator at all, but goats. They eat everything in the forest from ground level up to as high as they can stretch and their sharp hooves pretty much destroy any plant life left in the undergrowth(*). The damage inflicted by deer (another imported pest), and pigs although still bad, is mild by comparison to the scorched earth that goats tend to leave behind.

Goats are also incredibly hard to eradicate. They're difficult to poison without taking out most of the species you want to preserve and unless you have a semiautomatic weapon (illegal in NZ without a special license), by the time you've reloaded after your first shot, the rest of the herd will be scattered and several ridgelines away. The only effective method I've seen of dealing with them involves semiautomatic weapons with large magazines and hunters hanging off the sides of helicoptors. This requires a number of special permits that are expensive to maintain, on top of the expense and risk of operating helicoptors in steeply mountainous terrain at low height over dense forest - pilot errors or mechanical failures tend to be fatal and the attrition rate of such hunting is high.

(*) There are a number of schools of thought that goats are one of the primary contributors to desertification of the middle east for the same reason.

Comment Re:I just don't believe this (Score 1) 146

$orkplace (a university department) has 250 staff and 4 years ago we were rejecting 200-500 delivery attempts PER MINUTE due to DNSBL hits (it was 10 times higher than that before I allowed the sennders to get to RCPT TO stage. so I believe this number is valid). Compare and contrast with total legitimate email volume of around 10,000 messages per day (in and out).

Email is now centralised and farmed out. I understand the central servers are seeing upwards of 3 million DNSBL rejects per day, with the Baysian filters catching another million or so.

Email addresses I've had for 20+ years are completely useless due to spamload. The moment I make the MX valid, crud starts pouring in - and that's despite the fact that most haven't been used since the turn of the century.

Comment Re:Not yet by a long shot. (Score 1) 146

I do hope he does bolt to Thailand.

Thai police don't bother with extradition proceedings for wanted criminals, production of a flight warrant is more than enough to find him on a plane back to the USA within hours - and thanks to anally raping bandwith charges SE Asians generally _hate_ spammers even more than North Americans do.

Comment Re:As much as I loathe spammers... (Score 1) 146

Considering the overall scale of the economic crime of spamming, hard time is justified anyway.

  In order to even _make_ the radar of enforcement authorities a spammer needs to be churning out billions of messages per day - which equates to distributed damage totals of tens of millions of dollars per year, with occasional spikes in damages when the scale of the attack overwhelms individual systems.

Wire fraud charges for anything related to what the spammer is peddling are simply a bonus. - As an accomplice to (and beneficiary of) the criminal enterprise, there are joint culpability statutes already on the books that cover this even if the spammer is "only sending the email".

Comment Re:Maybe I'm getting old... (Score 1) 146

Unfortunately the remaining US spammers are hardcore recidivists who have repeatedly demonstrated that once released they will continue their activities as soon as they think they can get away with it.

Many already have a number of other convictions for assorted white collar and violent crimes by the time they're apprehended for spamming and virtually all think they have a god-given right to spam and that the authorities are impeding their rights to free speech (the idea of tresspass to chattels and "free speech ends at the mailserver operator's private system" slide off like water off a duck's back)

Look at Sanford Wallace. He never actually stopped spamming despite the claims, just got better at covering his tracks.

i mentioned trespass to chattels and the "free speech" aspects because the first was what was eventually used to secure his first conviction for spamming and the second (along with tortuious interference with contracts) was what he attempted to use in lawsuits to force operators to stop blocking his email - these arguments fell flat on their face in court (thankfully), however a a result he pioneered spamming vis other people's mailservers (relaying attacks) and directly cost many people and companies worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars in excess bandwidth fees precipitating the inevitable locking down and balkanisation of the Internet that's been happening ever since. (Disclosure: Sanford cost me $5000 in one month alone with the total losses in excess of $50k over a 2 year period before email systems with the ability to prevent unauthorised relaying were deployable. I'd quite happily repeatedly bang his gonads between a couple of housebricks for a few days)

Yes, the "lock-em-up" mentality is a problem (it's primarily a systematic way of disenfranchising substantial portions of the population from voting rights - something that the UNCHR has repeatedly ruled is a rights breach, but the US continues to ignore) , however in the case of recidivist sociopaths (and they are invariably sociopaths), there are strong arguments in favour of doing so in order to prevent their economic crimewave from ever resuming. The sheer scale of economic damage that these criminals can inflict, distributed across the Internet is sufficient justification for doing so. (back in 2001, AT&T were forced to spend $60million for an emergency server buildout to cope with ONE spam attack. This isn't "a few cents here and a few cents there" - and in any case that kind of distributed economic crime has previously been punished quite severely by US courts in the past.)

Comment Re:Another breakthrough! News at 11! (Score 2) 217

Quoted tape lifespans are somewhat misleading.

LTO will keep for 20+ years - if used once and then put in storage.

Or the tapes will die after about 50 full write cycles (not the 162 that's claimed byt the LTO consortium)

Use them for archival OR backup purposes. Never use the same sets for both.

Comment Re:Another breakthrough! News at 11! (Score 2) 217

"The procedure to recover from a very old and brittle tape on the other hand is a lot more than just putting it in the right drive."

The "correct" way to preserve data is to migrate to new media as the old is replaced, not to put the old media in a corner and hope it's still readable in 20 years time.

I'm having this argument right now with a researcher who has several thousand Exabyte tapes full of astrophysics data taking up valuable storage space. My argument is that we need the space and they'd fit on a couple of LTO7s. His is that he'll never need to read them and if the drives die there's always Ebay.

There are a number of specialist recovery firms who have managed to keep old drives operational, but they don't come cheap. I've been quoted £250 a pop to recover old (1980s) NASA 9-track reels that one researcher has been storing in his garage for the last GodKnowsHowLong. He's put his ambition of restoring them all on hold after being quoted a quarter of a million pounds for the task.

Why so expensive? Simple - apart from the effort in actually restoring the tapes, wear and tear on drives with increasingly irreplacable parts is a major issue. It's easier to decode an old vinyl/shellac record with a high resolution optical scanner(*) than to try and recover old magnetic tape formats if you don't have the right heads.

(*) This has been sucessfully done to a limited extent with standard 1200dpi kit and can recover snapped or distorted records. It's actually easier to achieve than the legendary laser turntables that never hit the market.

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