mellowtigger: (MrFusion)
When stars die and explode into a supernova, they create elements that are "heavy". All of the elements in the universe that are heavier than lead were created this way, in the death throes of a depleted star. Uranium 238 is one of those elements. Fast forward beyond the deaths of many old stars to the birth of our own solar system. Random nearby material (including U-238 from previous supernovas) gets swept together by gravity to form our sun and planets. As the ball of dust called Earth comes together, the U-238 gets locked into the planet with everything else. Over geologic timescales, the U-238 slowly decays. Decay produces heat, which is why we use the process in nuclear fission reactors.  The heat plays its own small part in keeping our planet warm over the geologic ages. The decay also produces the element radon.

Radon forms as a gas. It leaks upward through cracks in the crust, but sometimes it gets trapped underneath hard layers of stone. If the radon reaches the surface, it can make its way through the concrete slab of your basement into the open air. Radon is a noble gas so it's rather harmless by itself. Breathing it is still very dangerous, however, because radon has a half-life of only 3.8 days. If it's in your body when it finally decays, it makes bad things happen. It releases radiation during the decay which will damage your cells, and it decays into other elements that are also radioactive and/or poisonous. This danger is why we have radon detectors for use in basements with poor ventilation.

Scientists may have found another interaction of radon gas. It seems that about 3 days before an earthquake, new cracks form in the earth's crust that allow previously trapped radon gas to escape. When large amounts of gas reach the atmosphere, they produce extra heat and ionization during their decay process (again, remember the half-life of only 3.8 days). This heat and ionization is detectable. Some researchers claim they can match these anomalous increases to the 2008 earthquake in China, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 earthquake in Japan.  Not every radon-induced atmospheric change results in an earthquake, and not every earthquake becomes a massive disaster.  Still, though, it may be possible soon to have "earthquake watch" alerts similiar to "tornado watch" alerts, letting people know that environmental conditions favor the possibility of a traumatic event.

Cool stuff!
mellowtigger: (absurdity)
China buys West Texas oil field formationGuess who just today cut off America's supply of rare earth metals?  China. Guess who's buying rights to oil fields in Texas?  China. Guess who's the number 1 consumer of world energy?  China. Guess who owns more dollars than any other nation? China.

I introduce to you the new world superpower: China.

America has lived by an odd philosophy for many years, wondering why God put our resources under other people's soil.  Now we'll get to see what it feels like, as a more powerful nation begins eying us for the sole purpose of figuring out how they can exploit us to sate their own desires.

I wrote my final paper in geology class a few years ago (college: the second attempt) in part on China's plans to mine the surface of the moon for tritium to feed its nuclear fusion plants.  They're far behind schedule, but at least they have a perfectly logical utility to their space ventures.  America doesn't.

I've warned about it repeatedly, but hopefully our nation will finally get serious about the state of our material resources (which are depleting rapidly).  Maybe now we can have a real space program, please?

Liberals are prepared to understand the inevitable future in a way that conservatives will entirely fail to grasp.  Our future be constrained (finally) by resource limitations which are good for the environment, as Green folk have been warning for decades.  Our future will be multicultural (finally) with a pseudo-communist nation leading the planet.  Our future will be dominated (finally) by a nation that doesn't spend an absurd percentage of its gdp on its planet-wide military complex.  Why bother, when the natives willingly sacrifice their future to the god of exponential money supply growth via legally enforceable bank contracts?

I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords.  Ni hao.  (Free Tibet!)
mellowtigger: (Daria)
I'm still a believer in zero-growth as the new worldwide paradigm.  Sadly, to reach that point, there will first have to be negative-growth to reach equilibrium.  Negative growth is painful.  Sustainable economy is a reasonable and possible endeavor.  Here's the situation as I see it:

1) Price for oil should be a lot higher than it is now.  Large-scale concerns (worries about the health of the economies that consume oil) have kept the price artificially low.  I find proof of this interpretation in the recent price hike that resulted only from good economic indicators.  Price increases usually result from changes in supply or demand, but this price increase at the gas pump resulted only from optimism rather than actual demand.  That's how eager the industry is to raise prices to their proper equilibrium.

Oil prices rose more than 2 percent on Monday to their highest since October 2008, after U.S. manufacturing, home sales and jobs data boosted optimism about a recovery in the world's top economy. The U.S. service sector grew in March at its fastest pace in nearly four years while pending home sales also rose, according to the ISM industry survey and a National Association of Realtors report on Monday. That added to optimism following Labor Department data released on Friday showing U.S. payrolls rose by 162,000 last month, the fastest rate in three years. U.S. crude oil for May delivery settled up $1.75 to $86.62 a barrel. Prices have risen by 8.3 percent since March 26, in their steepest 5-day winning streak since December.

2) Full-time jobs aren't coming back.  The official unemployment rate seems to have leveled off finally, but that's nowhere near the same thing as a recovery.  Also, the "feel" of the economy is worse than the unemployment rate would suggest.  This table shows why.  U3 is the "official unemployment" rate, but U6 is better at showing how the typical American is faring under the hardship.  U6 is much higher than U3.  People are staying unemployed, temp employed, and part-time employed for very long durations.  This stall is not the same as "recovery".

3) Our industry (as currently structured) cannot recover unless cheap energy is available. Peak oil has passed, and it's not coming back.  Recent news about Obama authorizing drilling off our coastlines is only good press meant to mollify conservatives.  It won't actually help our underlying problem.  This table (skip to page 8) shows why.

That link provides a March 2009 presentation from U.S. Department of Energy conference.  They point out that after the year 2011, world energy needs will be met by this mysterious white space called "Unidentified Projects".  That's a polite way of saying, "There isn't any more oil."  Drilling off the coastline won't erase the gap.  Drilling in Alaska won't erase the gap.  The problem is that there was a limited amount of oil on the planet, and more than half of it is now gone.  The Iraq war was about fighting to keep our hands on some of the last productive fields on Earth.

4)  Obama has also announced plans to help build new nuclear reactors. I've already explained why building new nuclear reactors is the same bad decision as drilling for more oil.  Limited resource, dwindling supplies, no long term energy solution.

5) The dollar is toast.  World banks are colluding to keep it propped up beyond its natural lifespan.  We chose an exponential function for the creation of our currency, and such a decision embeds late-life hyperinflation into the structure of the thing.  We've reached that point finally.  It's not Bush's asshattery, it's not Obama's lousy financial regulation, and it's not the corrupt Federal Reserve Bank.  It's the mathematical model that we chose decades ago for our money.  It's absolutely the wrong model.

"The fact of the matter is, the US government is now conducting weekly Treasury auctions that are as large as quarterly auctions were just a few years ago.  Exponential increase, anyone?  $165 billion in a single week is an enormous pile to unload."

In summary, I think this is what zero growth feels like.  This is what life will be like after the crash.  (Yes, I said after the crash.)  Learn to live with less stuff (energy, tech, travel), and life will actually be rather nice.

I went out to garden this morning after 8am, but the temperature was barely above freezing.  I got my hands in the dirt and they went numb, so I came back inside. It's nearly time to plant, and I'm eager!
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
I should just turn off my computer and find some nice ignorant thing to do for the rest of my life. Does anyone need a gardener? Seriously, if you (and not your bank) fully own your land , I'll happily go start experimenting with raising food plants there, things appropriate to your climate.  I just shouldn't be allowed internet access.

I've traced a few news stories to original sources that I'll present here. I'm beginning to wonder if Mexico might offer us a preview of the "fun" yet to arrive in America. Several weeks ago, November 25, the U.S. Joint Forces Command released to the public their annual report titled, "Joint Operating Environment (2008)". In it, they describe the world that our nation needs to face realistically. Their warnings about possible failed states in our near future include our neighbor to the south:
"In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico."
-, page 40
What concerns them is that "the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels." (also page 40) What concerns me, though, is that Mexico gets 40% of government revenue from the sale of oil. And they just peaked in 2007.  According to Bloomberg website:
Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state oil company, will probably report its fastest drop in production since 1942, eroding revenue as plunging crude prices limit the amount of cash available to drill for new reserves. ... Pemex last year likely extracted 2.8 million barrels a day, down about 9 percent from the 3.08 million a day pumped in 2007, representing a total of $20 billion in lost sales, according to data compiled by the government and Bloomberg.
Pemex is among the ten largest oil companies in the world. They are also, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the 3rd largest importer of oil into the U.S., after Canada and Saudi Arabia. Mexico's largest oil reserve, the Cantarell field, peaked in its production 6 years ago. Newer oil fields are not nearly as large as Cantarell was in 1976 when it was discovered. Mexico is working on plans to explore undersea drilling, where they think they can find enough oil to feed the U.S. entirely for 4 years. That's it. That's their big plan to save their economy. Sell oil to America, from smaller oil fields.

So we can fuel our construction equipment to build a bigger border fence as their economy tanks before ours, thank you. Meanwhile, Canada continues its efforts to squeeze oil out of SAND, for crying out loud. Yes, we really are that desperate for petroleum. The big deposits are nearly gone. We're sucking drops out of dry ground and from underneath oceans.

If the USA survives its current financial crisis (which I have my doubts about), we have energy loss to face next. Don't bet on nuclear fission to rescue us either, because world uranium production may have peaked decades ago. You ever wonder why the Europeans are going Green so fast and so shrilly? That's why. If the whole world shifted to uranium, and we reprocessed and reused everything as efficiently as we know how, our total uranium supply "would last just 12 years", accord to the Times Online.

The Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands rides a bicycle to save fossil fuels.  He already sees the end of oil, gas, coal, and uranium.  It's too late for the USA to slap a few solar panels on the White House roof as Jimmy Carter did.

Big changes are coming, and I look forward to them.  I wish, though, that I lived someplace where I could garden year-round.

mellowtigger: (Default)
Back in April, I wrote about the news for a potential volcano near Oregon. I never heard anything more about it, so I decided to go searching on my own. It was difficult to find any references except to the original report.

This map shows only the most recent (last 7 days) activity, and the area is still experiencing quakes (as of 2008 June 23 Monday). They also have a map of Oregon for 16 years and Pacific coast map that makes it easy to see where the continental plates are moving.

But no recent articles about potential volcanoes.  *ignorant shrug*
mellowtigger: (Default)
Old news: As I learned in geology class a few years ago, magma roiling under pressure as it squirts into available fissures will cause series of frequent, small-but-measureable earthquakes. Such behavior is often a prelude to volcanic eruption, as that magma eventually makes its way to the surface and ejects.

New news: This is happening, right now, near Oregon in a place where there is no volcano.... yet. The rumblings are showing up in Navy hydrophones in the area. Oregon State University hopes to send ships to investigate.

From the link:
Scientists hope to send out an OSU research ship to take water samples, looking for evidence that sediment has been stirred up and chemicals that would indicate magma is moving up through the Juan de Fuca Plate, Dziak said. The quakes have not followed the typical pattern of a major shock followed by a series of diminishing aftershocks, and few have been strong enough to be felt on shore.
Very interesting. It would be cool to add a new volcano to the American map, like a new Hawaiian island springing up from the ocean, but at the mainland.


mellowtigger: (Default)

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