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8.9 Magnitude Earthquake in Japan (7.4 aftershock/tsunami - April 7th)


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Accurate, proper use of terms and units, reasonable stance on a subject that most people don't understand...

Pyrion, I want to give you an internet of cookies.

It just irritates the hell out of me how panicky people get when the terms "nuclear" or "radiation" are used in a news article that it almost instantly elicits a comparison to Hiroshima or Chernobyl. Often with the obligatory mushroom cloud photo. The news media is almost certainly unreliable here because inciting panic is a great way to boost ratings, little things like facts be damned.

Yes, I know, people are stupid (the pearl harbor/global warming pics proved that easily enough), but there's no excuse for it anymore.

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My mother keeps sending me emails that make me panic. And since she knows a lot about science, it makes me worry all the more. Her latest email to me says:

Jahan,

I’m really concerned over the nuclear radiation. It can spread via wind for hundreds of miles. Any of those plants might suffer a massive catastrophic event under these extreme conditions. The use of sodium iodide tablets to forestall thyroid cancer is of limited to ZERO use because what’s melting down at plant #4 are spent rods. So the early decay products which sodium iodide might have offered some protection against is already long gone and what is undergoing nuclear decay now are the longer lived products which emit a different type of radiation (gamma rays vs. alpha and beta).

Let’s put this in perspective. It hasn’t reached you yet. By the time radiation has spread for a hundred miles, you will almost certainly have to pass through areas which are even more highly contaminated, just to get to the air port. You need to leave now. Kaori’s family needs to leave now. I really want you to share my concerns with them regarding this. You are gambling with your lives and your futures on a guess. Maybe it won’t reach us. I’m telling you the odds are that it WILL reach that far, with three plants in a state of meltdown, and three more leaking radiation. No one can control where the wind will carry the radiation. Food, soil, everything will be affected. Uncontaminated food and water are going to be an issue for a long time after this disaster. Come and tell me to my face, I was wrong. I will pay you back, if I’m wrong. I WANT to be wrong. Unfortunately, I know I’m right. I have studied science my entire life. Put a little faith in my knowledge of these types of issues. You are not going to get any warning. The radiation is not going to slowly ooze in your direction, until you decide, it’s too close we should leave. It won’t happen that way. They can’t even track where the air born plumes are going. You need to get out right now, before you get exposed, because it can happen tomorrow or in a week, or in two weeks, but I have serious doubts that you have even that much time.

However, when I turned on the news this morning, it was confirming what Pyrion said about there only being 300 msv as opposed to 300 sv. They said that today they are going to try the helicopter method among other things and that right now there is no real danger outside of the evacuation radius.

What should I do? Is the entire upper half of Japan really that screwed?

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Hmm... well, from what I see you're probably not in any immediate danger. However, at the very least for the sake of making things easier for your family it wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea to get out for a short time. I don't know any details past what you provided in that post (and whatever is on the news, of course) - there might be something with your wife's family that would make it better for you to stay in Japan, or you still have work that needs to be done out there, or something that would require you to stay, but I can't say.

I'm just saying that all other things being equal it isn't a bad idea to leave Japan for a week to act more as a spectator than a participant of the events out there. I'm going to guess with all the things happening there right now that plane tickets will be expensive, though...

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I read all those reports in the link about how this is different from Chernobyl. I feel pretty safe. Perhaps my mom is just panicking for my safety.

That's what mothers do, sir. Honestly, at this point, the more people that leave the country that could potentially help in the current rescue/rebuild environment, the longer it is going to take to get things back on their feet. Obviously, if there's the threat of another sure-fire disaster then people should evacuate, but as long as that nuclear reactor remains relatively safe, the focus should be on the reconstruction efforts.

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I'm starting to feel embarrassed to be in the school of Journalism at my university. These super-charged headlines are out of line, plain and simple, and I don't want to be the one writing this crap down the road. "Frantic, dire, bleak, catastrophic, worse than imagined" and so on.

I'm not sure how each day the situation is headlined as "even worse than originally thought". It's not. It's under control and it's time to publish some hero stories, I'm sure there's hundreds of 'em.

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Unless you work for a niche media outlet. Then you can write without commercial influence to as small an audience you want to reach. Unfortunately, people who do that also starve to death :nicework:

What about NPR? Wasn't that the point of public radio? Also, I'm posting that link Gecko posted to Facebook.

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There have been talks of shutting down public broadcast but yeah, I think we talked about public radio still going strong. People have to actively seek out those sources, though, because we all know what ends up on the front pages and directly in our faces (CNN, CBS, FOX, etc.) Unfortunately, these more overt sources are the ones that shape the majority of our culture and attitude.

If NPR/PBS could advertise their programs like the other corporations do, what a world it would be :)

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so, seems michio kaku (look him up) is pretty much saying the nuclear reactor is pretty inevitable in becoming something worse than chernobyl.

this be bad. :C

I searched Google News, and this is the only thing I could find relevant to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySPe0rQaPx4

In it he doesn't say it's inevitable, but he says it's a "Chernobyl in the making."

From what I understand, Chernobyl used graphite as a neutron moderator. This was double bad because as the core heated up, so did the moderator, and graphite is also flammable, so everything gets too hot, boom, 25% of the core itself shoots up through the roof into the atmosphere, and well...massive radiation.

In Japan, they use water as a neutron moderator. As the core heats up, the neutron moderator becomes inactive, which makes the reactions stop, which should in turn stop the core from heating up at a rapid pace. Also water won't EXPLODE from getting too hot.

Darkesword could probably clarify, but that's just the situations as I understand them.

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What! There's no freaking way! How the hell did they do that?

As far as I've heard, the picture on the right was taken something like 500m up the road from the damage that is in the left pic. So the equipment you can see is sitting in front of the damaged section of road.

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Take a look at both pictures. Not the same area. IF you look at the picture on the right.. look into the distance where those trees/power pole is. Thats the same fucked up piece of road.. still fucked up.

That's a shame, it would be so awesome if the situation were exactly as the before/after implied.

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