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.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Slow Perception

Storybook (2015), Acrylic Dispersion with Gold Leaf on Recycled Polymer, 21 x 34 in.

Thank you to Gen X artist Randall Stoltzfus, for the invitation to his latest show, Penumbra, at the Laura Korman Gallery in Santa Monica, California, USA. The show runs until 14 May 2016. From the press release:
"A penumbra is defined as incomplete or partial shadow. In astronomy, it refers to the shadow cast on the earth by the moon in a partial eclipse. Brooklyn-based artist Randall Stoltzfus translates these natural phenomena in his current body of work. ... 'My paintings take light as subject, and by necessity shadow is what I need to describe that light,' says Stoltzfus. These painted fields of circular marks also echo the rings of light found in the shadow patterns beneath trees during a solar eclipse - a visual metaphor that Stoltzfus maintains as an artistic touchstone. ... Sight and perception are intrinsic to Stoltzfus’ thoughtful process. 'Our perception is ... always partial, and always collective in a way we sometimes find difficult to acknowledge,” says Stoltzfus. 'We see individual things, less often aware of the broader condition of light and shadow that make this possible. The sources that power our sight dwarf what we actually comprehend.'"
From the artist's statement:
"'I paint the circles by hand. That might seem like an odd thing to do in the information age, but I’m doing it this way on purpose,' says Stoltzfus. 'I’m hoping that you’ll notice how each circle is different. And noticing this, your seeing will begin to slow.' Building continuous circular patterns with layers of oil, adding carefully selected pigments, gold leaf, and other media, his textured works produce abstract horizons and subtle forms that are equally alluring and otherworldly. Stoltzfus' works often make reference to biblical allegories, an influence of his Mennonite upbringing."
The ways in which visual artists help us to understand time and perception are being explored in March and April 2016 on this blog.

Wold (2015), Dispersion on Polymer Canvas, 37 x 60 in.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Nuclear Leaks 35: Fukushima Five Years On

Fukushima Reactor #3 (10 February 2016). Image Source: Reuters.

11 March 2016 is the fifth anniversary of the Tōhoku 9.0 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent level 7 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi power plant. I have discussed these events here, here, and here. Over 220,0000 people have been displaced; officially, almost 16,000 people died, with over 2,500 missing. It is a catastrophe which tests political and moral attitudes, values and perceptions. It depends how you interpret the information, because Fukushima sits right where the line of confident science and powerful technology breaks down, because everyone agrees that cleaning up the mess is beyond our current knowledge and capabilities. Unfortunately in Japan, there is also a conflation between showing a correct patriotic attitude and acknowledging a technological and environmental breakdown that affects us all.

RT (23 September 2015): The Fukushima disaster was preventable, and came about due to poor planning and engineering failures. Video Source: Youtube.

Despite Fukushima, there is an increased global commitment to nuclear electric power, due to increasing demands for electricity to run the Internet and to drive global development. In researching one related post for this blog, I found that several contracts were concluded in 2012 to build new nuclear plants around the world. The money is made now in short term business deals. When things go wrong with this technology, we pay the price for thousands of years. One could argue that the plant personnel were blameless, because the accident was caused by the horrific earthquake and tsunami. But the Japanese government showed distinct lack of foresight 45 years ago, when its officials decided to build rows of nuclear reactors, on unstable ground, by the sea, right on a giant earthquake fault. After Fukushima, only Germany instituted an Energiewende and stepped back from nuclear power, and their Chancellor is a physicist.

On 18 April 2015, Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) sent a robot into Reactor #1 to investigate, but the machine broke down due to radiation. Image Source: TEPCO via Fukushima Diary.

20 March 2015: Reactor #1 muon photography of the Reactor Pressure Vessel, with corium missing. Image Source: TEPCO via Extreme Tech.

The Japanese government is actually considering burying exposed coriums in the seabed, about eight miles off the coast of Japan; this is a bad idea, aside from the fact that it is impossible to do, because it is in an active seismic zone. In 2015, several reports surfaced that China Syndromes occurred at Fukushima, with three coriums from the first three Daiichi units melting through containment into the soil. TEPCO published muon photography at Reactor #1 in 2015 which confirmed that the corium 'had disappeared.' The corium at Reactor #2 is also 'missing,' confirmed by muon photography in 2015. On 28 October 2015, TEPCO found radiation levels at 9.4 sieverts per hour outside Reactor #2's containment vessel; a person directly exposed to that level of radiation will die in 45 minutes. Several other reports since 2011 have speculated where the molten coriums of Reactors #1, #2, and #3 are. At a 2012 IAEA meeting, Harri Tuomisto of Finland's Fortum Power commented that pools of molten coriums beneath the reactors are up to 2 storeys (20-23 feet) high each, although that should have made them easier to locate.

14 March 2011: The famous explosion at Reactor #3. Image Source: Japan's NTV network via Fox News.

Reactor #3 is the most worrisome, because it used plutonium-based MOX fuel. Reactor #3 exploded on 14 March 2011, and a plume appeared above it, inspiring further questions. More steam clouds were emitted from the ruins of Reactor #3 in July and December 2013. On 6 August 2014, TEPCO changed its November 2011 estimations about Reactor #3, admitting that the molten fuel had escaped containment and reached the concrete floor of the reactor:
"According to the new estimate, all the melted fuel penetrated the pressure vessel, fell onto the bottom of the containment vessel and melted about 68 cm into the concrete."
On 20 October 2015, TEPCO sent a robot into Reactor #3 to find out what had happened to the Primary Containment Vessel. The robot - a 3D-printed one with a smartphone attached, no less - gave limited results, here; its photos are below. On 17 December 2015, TEPCO finally admitted that from 14 to 16 March 2011, radioactive steam from Reactor #3 and MOX fuel leaked into the environment after a melt-through of the Primary Containment Vessel. They also confirmed that they observed "black smoke" rising from Reactor #3 from 21 to 23 March 2011.

Helicopter footage from  March 2011, supposedly of exposed molten corium flowing from Reactor #2, circulated widely on anti-nuclear Websites. The explosion at Reactor #2 took place on 15 March 2011. Video Source: Youtube.

Full helicopter footage from which the above clip was taken, uploaded to Youtube on 17 March 2011. Video Source: Youtube.

Still from the above video. Image Source: Ah, Mephistophelis.

Move past the purposefully muddled and delayed information on the crippled power plants and beyond the human interest stories, and there is no clear estimation of how many people have died, or will die, due to radioactive fallout, contaminated agriculture and fisheries, pollution of soil and groundwater, and continuous radioactive leaks into the Pacific. It is impossible to determine the meaning of weird reports, such as the 8 February 2016 explosion near Iwaki city in the Onahama area, 60 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which shook buildings and windows. The impact on pregnant women and unborn children is unknown. Unlike Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, where (despite many problems) post-Chernobyl foetuses were carried to full term and deformed infants subsequently raised by heroic nurses and surrogate care-givers in special hospice facilities, there are rumours - unconfirmed, and often denied or dismissed - that post-Fukushima foetuses have been aborted. The government struggles to decontaminate large areas and make them habitable again, with workers and volunteers scrubbing houses and removing layers of topsoil in the exclusion zone.

16 October 2015: "Investigation Results inside Unit 3 Spent Fuel Pool using a Waterproof Camera in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station." Image Source: TEPCO.

20 October 2015: "Investigation Results of the Inside of Unit 3 Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station." Image Source: TEPCO.

22 October 2015: "Investigation Results of the Inside of Unit 3 Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station." Image Source: TEPCO.

Greenpeace via RT (10 February 2016): "Fukushima causes mutations & DNA damage with 'no end in sight.'" TEPCO workers outside Fukushima Reactors #3 and #4. Image Source: RT.

Mikhail Gorbachev, when discussing Chernobyl, described the possibility of a China Syndrome and contamination of the Black Sea as something that had to be prevented at all costs. At Chernobyl, it was prevented because the Soviet government brought in Siberian miners on a suicide mission to build a huge concrete barrier underneath the plant, to block the corium's path. At Fukushima, China Syndromes were not prevented. On 26 October 2015The Japan Times reported that 400 tonnes of radioactive water were being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day.

The reports of mysterious wildlife die-offs in the Pacific go on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Reputable sources deny that there is any connection between these mortality events and Fukushima; other reputable sources are not so sure. California air samples from 2014 detected plutonium 239 and 240, likely from Fukushima. The historic levels of marine animal deaths and marine organism population depletion on the Pacific west coast of North America may be related to Fukushima but are sometimes blamed on global warming. The warm water explanation may come from the anti-carbon lobby, and is more political than real when government tests show the presence of Fukushima-sourced radiocesium in marine life. Attempts to play down the severity of contamination in Japan may be motivated by more than pro-nuclear business interests or anti-global-warming environmental politics. The muted media treatment of Fukushima may reflect serious concerns to maintain global stability and prevent conflict in the entire surrounding region. On 6 March 2016, RT reported that Naoto Kan, Japan's former Prime Minister, admitted that Tokyo was almost evacuated in 2011, which would have displaced 50 million people and destabilized Asia.

Ōkuma in 2012. Image Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP via MIT Technology Review. 

4 March 2016: "Workers get changed into their protective clothing inside the anti-seismic building before working on the radiation decontamination process." Image Source: Gizmodo.

There are several films about the disaster, including Fukushima Never Again (2012); Fukushima: A Nuclear Story (2015); and Greetings from Fukushima (2016; Grüsse aus Fukushima). Meanwhile, there are currently serious ongoing incidents in America, with an "unusual event" fire at Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina; "uncontrollable radioactive flow" from Indian Point Energy Center in New York; and there was an "unusual event" fire at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Tennessee overnight on 8-9 March 2016. In September 2015, horrible reports came out of Kazakhstan near a nuclear testing site, where a mass die-off of local antelopes started in the spring and persisted all year; that incident was attributed to bacteria. In future posts, I will summarize the Japanese situation, its impact on Japan's neighbours, and its international implications. Today's post shows recent photos and images associated with the Fukushima disaster.

22 April 2013: "Dead Mice Found in the Outdoor Transformer Box for Unit 2 Spent Fuel Pool Alternative Cooling System at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station." Image Source: TEPCO.

Citizen-Scientist International Symposium on Radiation Protection November 2014 closing remarks. Posted on Youtube on 23 October 2015; at time stamp 36:15 hear comments from Keith Baverstock, former World Health Organization regional adviser for radiation and public health: "I am really appalled by how the international system has failed. ... Quite frankly, we don't get anything through the media. ... There is no general understanding of the situation ... here in Europe because the media are not putting this view forward. In fact, I think many people would be very surprised that it was still a matter for discussion. And they would be even more surprised to learn that it was still an ongoing accident and that it hasn't terminated yet. And they would be even more surprised that nobody has any good ideas on how to stop it." He argued that the IAEA faces a conflict of interest when investigating nuclear disasters and that Japan is breaking international laws by dumping radioactive material into the ocean. Video Source: Youtube.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Anniversaries: The Last Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery

Video Source: William Shatner via Youtube.

It seems like yesterday, but on 9 March 2011, five years ago today, the first of three American space shuttles retired. Above, hear William Shatner's wake-up call to the crew of Discovery on 7 March 2011, while they were still in orbit, but soon to come home for the final time.

In 1990, the Discovery crew installed and later maintained the Hubble Space Telescope, which hugely expanded our view of the stars. Image Source: flickr.

Built in 1979, the spacecraft was named after four great ships from the European age of exploration: she took her name from HMS Discovery, commanded by Captain James Cook during his final voyage from 1776 to 1779; Henry Hudson's Discovery, used in 1610–1611 to explore Hudson's Bay and search for the Northwest Passage; the HMS Discovery of the 1875–1876 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole; and RRS Discovery, which led the 1901–1904 "Discovery Expedition" to Antarctica.

Image Source: The Atlantic.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Look Skyward: Total Solar Eclipse

The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Queensland, Australia. Image Source: EPA via Daily Mail.

On March 8 and 9 there is a total solar eclipse. It begins on 8 March 2016 at 11:19 p.m. UTC. It reaches its maximum point on 9 March at 1:59 a.m. UTC. The full eclipse will end in its range of visibility on 9 March at 3:38 a.m. UTC. The totality will be visible in Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the partiality in locations across the Pacific.

Visible area of solar eclipse, 8-9 March 2016. Image Source: Time and Date.