Let’s shut these radiation alarms off! They keep disturbing our research.

❝ …Government scientists didn’t know they were breathing in radioactive uranium at the time it was happening. In fact, most didn’t learn about their exposure for months, long after they returned home from the nuclear weapons research center where they had inhaled it.

The entire event was characterized by sloppiness, according to a quiet federal investigation, with multiple warnings issued and ignored in advance, and new episodes of contamination allowed to occur afterward. All of this transpired without public notice by the center.

Here’s how it happened: In April and May 2014, an elite group of 97 nuclear researchers from as far away as the U.K. gathered in a remote corner of Nye County, Nev., at the historic site where the U.S. had exploded hundreds of its nuclear weapons. With nuclear bomb testing ended, the scientists were using a device they called Godiva at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center to test nuclear pulses on a smaller and supposedly safe scale.

But as the technicians prepared for their experiments that spring — under significant pressure to clear a major backlog of work and to operate the machine at what a report called Godiva’s “upper energy range” — they committed several grievous errors, according to government reports.

❝ The machine had been moved to Nevada nine years earlier from Los Alamos, N.M. But a shroud, descriptively called Top Hat, which should have covered the machine and prevented the escape of any loose radioactive particles, was not reinstalled when it was reassembled in 2012.

Also, because Godiva’s bursts tended to set off multiple radiation alarms in the center, the experimenters decided to switch the alarm system off. But because the alarms were connected to the ventilation and air filter system for the room, those were shut off as well. The only ventilation remaining was a small exhaust fan that vented into an adjacent anteroom where researchers gathered before and after experiments.

What could go wrong?

RTFA for the whole event. Read the whole article and realize this single example of careless handling, monitoring or dangerous materials isn’t rare. Sloppiness, an absence of concern for the safety of nuclear workers – from techs to supremos – is as bad as you might expect from agencies run by beancounters instead of folks concerned first and foremost with safety.

California leads the fight to prevent women bleeding to death in childbirth


Kristen Terlizzi

❝ In the US, childbirth has been growing more dangerous recently. Maternal mortality — defined as the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she’s carrying or within 42 days after birth — in the US soared by 27 percent, from 19 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000, between 2000 and 2014.

That’s more than three times the rate of the United Kingdom, and about eight times the rates of Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, according to the OECD.

❝ It’s a stunning example of how poorly the American health care system stacks up against its developed peers. More women in labor or brand new mothers die here than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of these deaths are preventable…

❝ But as the mortality rate has been edging up nationally, California has made remarkable progress in the opposite direction: Fewer and fewer women are dying in childbirth in the state.

So how did California manage to buck the trend? I was curious, particularly as American women’s health is under assault, with the GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act…

RTFA. Long and detailed, Julia Belluz went to California to meet Dr. David Lagrew, an OB-GYN at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County. A founding member of the CMQCC, the California Maternal Care Quality Collective. Dr. Lagrew leads the fight for sensible hemorrhage protocols that save lives – and the fight to end unnecessary C-sections which set the stage for so many deaths-by-hemorrhage in the United States.

NASA filled the night sky with glowing blue and green clouds

❝ Since June 1, NASA has been trying to launch a small rocket to study the Earth’s upper atmosphere. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the rocket finally carried its payload into space, giving a spectacular light show along the east coast, from New York to North Carolina.

❝ A few minutes after liftoff, the rocket ejected 10 soda can-sized containers of barium, strontium, and cupric oxide…The canisters burst into colorful clouds that, as they drift, help scientists study how ions move in the ionosphere—the part of our atmosphere that interacts with the charged particles streaming from the sun. These types of studies can help scientists understand auroras and predict the effects of space weather.

Suddenly catching sight of something like this – several hundred miles away and not expecting something like this to appear in the night sky can really freak you out. Happened to me once. Up in the middle of the night when I lived on Fairhaven Harbor in New Haven, CT – I had a great view to the South when one of these tests went off. And this was decades ago before easy access to online info to figure out what I’d seen. Phew! 🙂

Pew Analysis Finds No Relationship Between Drug Imprisonment and Drug Problems

❝ On June 19, 2017, The Pew Charitable Trusts submitted a letter to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, outlining an analysis of whether state drug imprisonment rates are linked to the nature and extent of state drug problems — a key question as the nation faces an escalating opioid epidemic. Pew compared publicly available data from law enforcement, corrections, and health agencies from all 50 states.

Pew’s analysis found no statistically significant relationship between states’ drug offender imprisonment rates and three measures of drug problems: rates of illicit use, overdose deaths, and arrests. The findings reinforce previous research that cast doubt on the theory that stiffer prison terms deter drug use and related crime…

❝ As Pew’s letter explained, higher rates of drug imprisonment do not translate into lower rates of drug use, fewer drug arrests, or fewer overdose deaths. And the findings hold even when controlling for standard demographic variables, such as education level, employment, race, and median household income.

Not that the professional liars in Congress and the White House give a damn about up-to-date analysis and no ideological bias.

A full breakdown of methodology can be found on page 7 of the letter. Here’s a link to the letter.

How Small Changes in Average Temperature = Big Change in Extremes

❝ Climate change is driving up summer temperatures across the country. We often talk about warming in terms average temperatures, which can be perceived as small to the public, but any rise in the average temperature leads to a rise in the the number of days that are extremely hot.

To understand what’s happening, we need to get a little geeky and take you back to Stats class. The classic bell curve represents the distribution of all temperatures at a location. The bulk of temperatures — those close to average — sit near the middle of the curve. Record temperatures, which are rare, sit on the fringes, with hot on right and cold on the left. As the world warms from the increase in greenhouse gases, the whole curve shifts to the warmer side, the right. This shift results in a large jump in the number of extremely hot days and a drop in the number of extremely cool days. It also means heat records are more likely to be set than cold records. And it is these extremes that impact our lives.

That’s what we are seeing across much of the country. Average summer temperature have risen a few degrees across the West and Southern Plains, leading to more days above 100°F in Austin, Dallas and El Paso all the way up to Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, and Boise. It’s worth noting that this trend has been recorded across the entire Northern Hemisphere…

Science is a force for truth. Even for people who refuse to learn from examples as basic as this graphic. Or the research data behind it.

Tropical Storm Cindy nears Louisiana

❝ Tropical Storm Cindy formed in the Gulf Tuesday afternoon and was heading toward the Louisiana coast, bringing with it the potential threat of life-threatening flash floods.

As a result, the Gulf coast from the Louisiana-Mississippi border, which includes New Orleans, to the Houston-Galveston area of Texas was under a tropical storm warning — which means tropical storm conditions are expected.

❝ Stacy Stewart, Senior Hurricane Specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said that what’s notable about Cindy was that some of the storm’s most intense weather was far from its core.

Tropical storm-force winds were extending about 205 miles from the storm’s center, mainly to the north and east, forecasters said.

“It’s a large sprawling system, it’s not a classic tropical cyclone,” Stewart said.

❝ Whether it’s a sign of things to come this season remains to be seen, but NOAA’s prediction of a busier-than-normal hurricane season is ringing true so far.

As much as we often whine about the absence of rain – average annual rainfall here in northern New Mexico is 14+ inches. If we’re lucky. Still, I do not miss the weather on the Gulf of Mexico. Even if I miss the crawfish.

China’s Micius Satellite tests quantum entanglement record > Preps for Hack-Proof Internet


Alfred Pasieka/Getty Images

❝ In a landmark study, a team of Chinese scientists using an experimental satellite has tested quantum entanglement over unprecedented distances, beaming entangled pairs of photons to three ground stations across China — each separated by more than 1,200 kilometers. The test verifies a mysterious and long-held tenet of quantum theory, and firmly establishes China as the front-runner in a burgeoning “quantum space race” to create a secure, quantum-based global communications network — that is, a potentially unhackable “quantum internet” that would be of immense geopolitical importance…

❝ The concept of quantum communications is considered the gold standard for security, in part because any compromising surveillance leaves its imprint on the transmission. Conventional encrypted messages require secret keys to decrypt, but those keys are vulnerable to eavesdropping as they are sent out into the ether. In quantum communications, however, these keys can be encoded in various quantum states of entangled photons — such as their polarization — and these states will be unavoidably altered if a message is intercepted by eavesdroppers.

❝ Ground-based quantum communications typically send entangled photon pairs via fiber-optic cables or open air. But collisions with ordinary atoms along the way disrupt the photons’ delicate quantum states, limiting transmission distances to a few hundred kilometers. Sophisticated devices called “quantum repeaters” — equipped with “quantum memory” modules — could in principle be daisy-chained together to receive, store and retransmit the quantum keys across longer distances, but this task is so complex and difficult that such systems remain largely theoretical.

Poisonally, I don’t doubt the NSA and other federal alphabet spooks are trying both methods and more. They have an endless supply of taxpayer dollar$.

Canadian Arctic climate change study cancelled — because of climate change


Click to enlargeUniversity of Manitoba

❝ The Science Team of the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen has cancelled the first leg of the 2017 Expedition due to complications associated with the southward motion of hazardous Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change.

This regrettably postpones the much-anticipated Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys) involving 40 scientists from five universities across Canada. Timing was key for this $17 million, four-year, University of Manitoba-led project.

The need to deal with extreme ice conditions in the south meant the ship would arrive too late on site to meet research objectives…

❝ Dr. David Barber, Expedition Chief Scientist, noted that, “Climate-related changes in Arctic sea ice not only reduce its extent and thickness but also increase its mobility meaning that ice conditions are likely to become more variable and severe conditions such as these will occur more often.”

The Sea Ice Research Team collected a comprehensive dataset on the physics of the ice, ocean and atmosphere in the area and these data will contribute to the understanding of these events and assist Canada in preparing for climate change driven increases in marine ice hazards…

❝ The research of our scientists clearly indicate that climate change is not something that is going to happen in the future – it is already here. Research results from scientists onboard the Amundsen and innovative Networks like ArcticNet show the impacts of climate change in Canada’s Arctic and Arctic Ocean affect not only northern ecosystems and communities, but also the environments and people living in the south of Canada – as so dramatically seen off the coast of Newfoundland.

This will not be a one-off – nor will the events be limited to an Arctic context. More likely, yes. But, natural systems, global in scope, interact and affect each other. As they will affect us.

Dogs and wolves share a key sense of fair play

❝ The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it’s a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well.

In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely.

❝ It had been felt that this aversion to unfairness was something that dogs had learned from humans.

But the tests with wolves suggest that this predates domestication of dogs.

❝ Scientists have long recognised that what they term a “sensitivity to inequity”, or a sense of fairness, played an important role in the evolution of co-operation between humans. Basically, if others treated you badly, you quickly learned to stop working with them.

Researchers believe that the behaviour is also found widely in non-human primates.

❝ Experiments in 2008 demonstrated that dogs also had this sensitivity. This new study shows that it’s also deeply ingrained in wolves.

The fact that the behaviour was found in both wolves and dogs helps to overturn the idea that dogs learned this concept because they were domesticated.

I’m not being political for the sake of ideology; but, I have to wonder what this says about our own species. Certainly here in the United States and in other nations where the phenomenon of populism is once again on the rise.

A pair of distinctive dialectical features of populism are fear and hatred of those who are somehow different from what “natives” consider normal. My only personal experience with this cultural hangup was working in the Deep South in the late 1960’s. I survived in the workplace by turning it into a joke. Literally placing a sign at the entrance to my department that said – DANGER…North American Wild Yankee…Do Not Feed. Pretty much everyone got the joke and usually tried to understand our social and political differences.

Still, the Confederacy hasn’t changed much. Political struggle has taken much power away from racists. Democracy has made inroads. But, the populist myths of fear and hatred persist and have taken significant control in today’s Republican Party. Shoving most traditional conservatives to the side in a quest for brute power.