Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plants. Show all posts

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Photo of the Day: Fukushima's Nuclear Families

Families plant rice the old-fashioned way just outside the 20-kilometre exclusion zone in Futaba District, Fukushima Prefecture (13 May 2012). Image Source: Mainichi Shinbun.

After today's earlier post, I'd had enough of Fukushima for awhile, but it's the gift that keeps on giving (German readers may appreciate the pun). The blogger at EX-SKF picked up a news story from today's issue of the Mainichi Shinbun (translation here), about families who have volunteered to disprove fears of radioactive fallout. They are planting experimental crops of rice the old-fashioned way, just outside the Fukushima Daiichi power plant's 20-kilometre (approx. 12.5 mile) exclusion zone. The rice farm is in Kawauchi-mura; the continuation of farming there is part of an "experiment ... to develop new sales routes for the rice grown in Kawauchi-mura. The project is called 'Revival of Rice Project (復活の米プロジェクト).'"

The location of the farm is marked in the map below (which the EX-SKF blogger took from the Kobe Shinbun); the map includes fallout data, based on Japanese government measurements. The fallout in the area last year (October 2011) averaged 100K to 300K Bq/m2 of radioactive cesium.

You can see a more recent map (November 2011) with a discussion of what level of radiocesium fallout is considered 'safe' in the soil, with that level defined, at the BBC here:
A quantity of radioactive material has an activity of 1Bq if one nucleus decays per second - and 1kBq if 1,000 nuclei decay per second. ... An international research team investigated this area late last year and concluded: "The team found that the area of eastern Fukushima had levels of the radioactive element that exceeded official government limits for arable land. Under Japanese Food Sanitation Law, 5,000 becquerel per kg (Bq/kg) of caesium is considered the safe limit in soil (caesium-137 makes up about half of total radioactive caesium, and therefore its safe limit is 2,500 Bq/kg). The researchers estimate that caesium-137 levels close to the nuclear plant were eight times the safety limit, while neighbouring regions were just under this cut off; the rest of Japan was well below (averaging about 25 Bq/kg) the safety limit. ... A second study, published in the same edition of PNAS, collected over a hundred soil samples from within 70km [approx. 43.5 miles] of the Fukishima plant, and found similarly high caesium-137 levels across the Fukishima prefecture, and its neighbouring regions.
On converting Bq/kg to Bq/m2 (not K Bq/m2 as cited above), see here, and this explanation: "There are methods that can give us estimated conversion between Bq/kg and Bq/m2. Mr. Tetsuji Imanaka at Kyoto University uses a method of multiplying 20 to amount of Bq/kg to have estimated Bq/m2 amount whiles the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission indicated a method of multiplying 65 to amount of Bq/kg." EX-SKF: "It doesn't seem like the 'safe' enough level for a mother to let her small daughter go bare feet and hands to play in the mud."  An environmental disaster, atomic science, and engineering errors now intersect with normally-admirable national stoicism (for a debate on that attitude, see comments beneath this article) and folly.

Image Source: MEXT (link directly above) via Kobe Shinbun via EX-SKF.

Read all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 13: Let Them Eat Yellowcake

Image Source: D. McCandless via Gawker Assets.

In Japan, cherry trees blossom in the spring only briefly - usually for about a week or two. The blooms (or Sakura (桜 or 櫻; さくら)) are so beautiful and ephemeral that the nation tracks the expected dates when the trees will flower - and stops in a ritual of flower-viewing called Hanami (花見) to appreciate them when they arrive. Depending on the area of Japan, Hanami takes place between January and May; it usually reaches Tokyo in early April (in 2012, the best viewing in Tokyo wil be April 6-15, for other cities, see here). Hanami parties vary in style: on April 7, Vloggers in Japan are organizing a Hanami online Youtube party (see the invitation: Hanami 2012 - It's on bitches and here).

In these spring days,
when tranquil light encompasses
the four directions,
why do the blossoms scatter
with such uneasy hearts?

Ki no Tomonori (c. 850 – c. 904)

Cherry blossoms in Fukushima (2009). Ironically, Fukushima's rural setting was idyllic before 2011 crises. Image Source: Wiki.

Hanami arrives in Tokyo just as nuclear news headlines are starting to get even more dire. The paradox of natural beauty and natural toxicity is ironic and tragic, a symbol of 20th century science gone wrong. Governments have been quietly increasing the official amounts of safe radiation exposure (see here, here, here, here). The graphic at the top of this post is a standard radiation dosage chart (click on the image to enlarge). The death toll from the disaster currently stands at around 20,000.

While there are a lot of little MSM reports circulating (see my list of hyperlinked headlines below) about what is happening with nuclear fallout, the press are not giving these stories the daily full-blown coverage which would bring them front and centre to public attention. It is almost as though the world is holding its breath.  If this crisis tips over into an undeniable, cataclysmic catastrophe then the press will return to big coverage. Otherwise, the Internet gives those still following this mess the drip-drip-drip trickle of little horrors. Considering that nuclear power and the means to control it intimately depend on water, it is ironic that in Asian tradition, this is the year of the Water Dragon (see also here).

The press - as with this example in New Zealand - are being encouraged to publish 'feel good' human interest stories about how people in Japan are getting along despite worries and hardship, that is, "to grasp the total picture of recovery." (Expect to see some feel good Hanami stories - maybe?)  But on 3 March 2012, German TV (ZDF) warned in a program entitled, "The Fukushima Lies," that if the spent fuel which is precariously cooled in rickety Reactor 4 were to melt down because of a building collapse, work on the other reactors would cease. Japan would be ruined and the world would change (via Conspiracy.co). Here is a translated excerpt:
Narrator: Yukitero Naka and his people know what is really happening in the nuclear ruins. [...] Even if they were able to create enough qualified engineers and staff for the next 40 years, one problem remains that could change Japan and the world.

Question: Is the nuclear power plant safe now?

Yukitero Naka, Nuclear Engineer: Well, that’s what TEPCO and the government says, but the people in there don’t believe it. There is still a great danger. My personal concern is the fourth reactor block. The building has been strongly damaged by the earthquake.

There are approximately 1300 spent fuel rods in the cooling pond on level four. In the level above newer rods are stored as well as a lot of heavy machinery. This is all very, very heavy. If another earthquake occurs then the building could collapse and another chain reaction could very likely occur.

Narrator: So, a meltdown under the free sky which would be the end of Japan as we know it today. The radiation would be direct deadly. The work on the ground would be totally impossible. The most likely consequence is that reactors 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 get out of control. Armageddon!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Ghosts of Fukushima

Fukushima exclusion zone (April 2011) © Donald Weber/Newsweek.

Today is the one year anniversary of the 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (see my related posts, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). On cue, Fukushima was hit today by a 4.5 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 4.4 magnitude quake. The 3/11 picture is a picture of ghosts. One snapshot of this catastrophe comes from Ghost Hunting Theories, regarding local fears of haunted ruins:
The town of Ishinomaki has mixed feelings about the rebuilding. One shop owner believed that spirits were causing people rebuilding his store to become sick. One taxi driver admitted not wanting to pick up riders in one deadly part of the city because he worried they might be spirits. ... Shinto priests have been called in to clear certain areas of spirits and help them move on. At Buddhist ceremonies, many leave offerings in memory of the dead to hopefully find peace.
Some have called Fukushima, "a nuclear war without a war." There are other ghosts that haunt Japan and the world: radiation in a poisoned Pacific and fallout in Japan and abroad; 20 million tonnes of debris now floating toward the shores of North America; and the whole problem with energy policies worldwide. Developed and developing countries alike are hitting a wall. Science- and tech-hungry societies need vast amounts of energy. That need is driving conflict around oil production. Rising oil prices spurred nuclear power projects. But Fukushima exploded the myth that nuclear power is safe. More than the fallout, more than problems in the Middle East, more than fracking and Canada-to-US pipelines - energy haunts the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Russian Scientists Clone Ice Age Flower

Russian scientists regenerated this Sylene stenophylla plant from tissue of fossil fruit. Image Source: Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences; National News and Pictures via Daily Mail.

Several news outlets are carrying a story about a successful Russian cloning of a 30,000 year old plant, which bore fruit and seeds: "An Ice Age flower has come back to life. How exactly did that happen? Well, a team of Russian scientists discovered a burrow that contained fruit and seeds left in the Siberian permafrost by a squirrel that buried them about 30,000 years ago. Remnants of the Silene stenophylla blossom were found perfectly preserved, and in an experiment to extract the seeds, the scientists pioneered a new way ['micropropagation'] to resurrect the plant. For thousands of years, the flower was fully encased in ice, and no water was able to get to it. The storage chambers that the squirrels created were filled with hay and animal fur to protect their treasure. Stanislav Gubin, one scientist working with the discovery, called it a 'natural cryobank.' The blossom with its white flowers looks similar to its modern-day version, which also grows in the same region as its predecessor." (Thanks to -J.)

This outcome makes the cloned plant, "The most ancient, viable, multi-cellular, living organism on Earth," and it has researchers chattering about Beringia (the lost land bridge between Asia and North America) as being a great storehouse of ancient extinct organisms.

The successful experiment also has implications for space exploration: scientists are hoping that if extinct plants and animals trapped in our planet's permafrost can be brought back to life through cloning, then similar resurrections could be done on Mars.  They speculate that they could revive dead Martian lifeforms, which may be preserved in permanent ice on the Red Planet.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Oldest Living Things in the World

3,000 years old: Llaretta in the Atacama Desert, Chile.  A relative of parsley that resembles a large green rock. © Rachel Sussman.

On July 26, CNN reported on the oldest living things in the world here.  The article profiles Rachel Sussman, photographer and time traveller. You can check out her blog here.  Since 2004 she has been searching the continents for the oldest organisms on earth: "So far, she has shot more than 25 different species of plant or organism, each being older than 2,000 years - 'I wanted to start with the idea of year zero' - with the oldest being actinobacteria from the permafrost of Siberia estimated to be around 500,000 years old."  She commented further: "you get to encounter these things that are incomprehensible to our sense of time. What does 100,000 years feel like? It's something we can consider for a moment, but hard for us to hold on to it and for it to be meaningful."

9,500 years old: Clonal Spruce, Sweden. © Rachel Sussman.