Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

REALITY VS SPIN

leave a comment »

The main reason I find the Covid-19 outbreak so compelling is that it transcends spin. What do I mean by that? A bit of background. The mainstream media in the US is infotainment, a product designed for a targeted demographic. Fox News blazed the trail, but all the rest have followed suit. So now when people watch the mainstream news, congruence with reality is a coincidence. Yes, it’s more nuanced than that, and there’s a whole spectrum of incongruity with reality, but for the most part what people see on Fox or MSNBC can be safely believed without any risk of their daily reality contradicting it. Covid-19 is rapidly going past that, people will notice empty store shelves and dead friends and relatives. Reality bats last. Could get interesting in other words. And not the good kind of interesting.

Hell, it already is. I’m ready. I ordered an electron microscope on Amazon. That way if a virus with my name on it shows up, I have a chance of spotting it. Does that qualify as a dad joke? Does it even qualify as a joke? I’m going to depend on morbid humour to get through this. That, and a pile of soap and alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, for sterilizing surfaces. Just in case that needed clarification. In any event, some random weird reactions followed by a summary of sorts. The Covid-19 files:

In expected news, from high to low special interests are trying to cash in on this.  A banking industry group has called for the markets to be deregulated in order to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. How exactly is giving the banks what they want to turn Wall Street into an even more wild west fixed gambling casino for the rich isn’t really explained. Jeremy Krass of the University of Michigan School of Business condemned  the recommendations as incoherent and “transparently opportunistic.”  Ain’t unfettered capitalism grand? Unfettered by even a shred of human decency and ethics in this case.

It gets worse. Rick Santelli suggested maybe we should just get it over with and give everyone in the country Covid-19 to spare the economy. He’s the guy who started the Tea Party movement, a movement in search of a mission. He later apologized and said his remarks were insensitive and inappropriate. They were also shockingly stupid Mr Santelli. First of all, worst case scenario only 40-70% of the population will get the virus, I guess he thinks people will feel left out if they don’t get Covid-19? Secondly, millions would die and one out of five would require hospitalisation. How, exactly, is that going to spare the economy? Did he just invest in coffin manufacturing company stock? Sadly, pretty sure this won’t be the last blast of stupid about Covid-19. Hell, here’s a guy denying Covid-19 exists. (Sorry it’s on a tendiciously liberal site, but the facts seem real.)

On the plus side, Coronavirus porn is now a thing. Yes, it’s real. Humans are just shaved monkeys, and anyone who has visited a monkey house knows what goes on there. When they are not throwing excrement at visitors. So no surprise. Granted I don’t see the appeal, but the link apparently has links to NSFW coronavirus porn for those so inclined. I’ll stick to my mermaid smurf porn, I’m not some sort of weirdo thank you.

Still hearing people downplay Covid-19 by comparing it to the annual flu. It’s a deceptive comparison. Yes, the annual flu kills enormous numbers of people compared to Covid-19, and we aren’t freaking out about the flu? So Covid-19 is no big deal, right? Well, wrong. Yes, as it now stands, the flu is worse. However, if Covid-19 infects as many people as the flu does, or even a significant fraction of that, it will be vastly worse than the flu. It will kill and seriously sicken vastly more people than the flu does. That’s what the big deal is, public health officials desperately want to prevent Covid-19 from becoming as ubiquitous as the flu. And any rational person should be able to understand that.

So, where are we today? Up to about 100,000 confirmed cases in over 80 countries. It’s doubled in about three weeks. Italy has quarantined 16 million people. It’s in numerous states in the US, likely all of them by now. I’m guessing the next three weeks is the key. If it doubles again, or less, might still be under control. If it’s more than doubled, we’re in deep le doo doo deep. We would be talking millions of cases by summer, with enormous economic costs as parts of the globe shut down to try and prevent it spreading further and faster.

Here in the US, still spreading, Trump still getting mixed reviews on his performance. He’s said a number of, well, factually challenged things. Suggesting people sickened by Covid-19 should just go to work. Basically still downplaying it, still making it all very partisan. He’s basically BSing his way through it, and because he and his core followers believe in his BS, they still think he’s great. The man actually believes he’s this brilliant individual, and so do his followers. That won’t help in the response to Covid-19, so Trump might well turn into the Herbert Hoover of his day. He was the Republican president who had the misfortune of having the stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression during his time in office.

Basically the Covid-19 epidemic is real, and no amount of dancing and prancing and finger pointing on Trump’s part will change that. As one expert said: “The spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the US could push the healthcare system to its limits. In a February webinar presentation hosted by the American Hospital Association, an expert laid out “best guess” estimates about how many Americans could be impacted. He projected that there could be as many as 96 million cases in the US, 4.8 million hospitalizations, and 480,000 deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.”

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. I will happily attribute or remove it should the copyright holder come to light.)

Written by unitedcats

March 8, 2020 at 4:51 pm

DARK DAYS

with one comment

Number three abortive Covid-19 post. I notice it’s not making a huge amount of news, I think some attempt is being made to avoid panic. A good thing, panic rarely helps. As the CDC says, keep calm and wash your hands. At this point, still thinking Covid-19 is the cold from hell. The 1918 flu of our time. 40-70% of the world’s population will catch it, millions will die. The US will be particularly hard hit because of the dismal state of our public health care system, among other factors I previously blogged about.

Economic disruption is almost a certainty at this point. Just the closing of factories in China is going to result in empty store shelves here. Those of us who remember the 1973 gas crisis know what it will be like. Except there will be shortages of all sorts of things, not just gas. A little preparation now goes a long ways, I’m stocking up on items I know I will use eventually no matter what.

Going after Trump a waste of time, he’s made things worse and his response to this crisis is questionable, but the USA’s horrific public health system long preceded Trump. Turns out a health care system that prioritizes corporate profit over public health is poorly equipped to cope with a pandemic. Who would have guessed? I actually kinda feel sorry for Trump, he actually believes he’s this smart and competent leader. And now that he’s facing a real crisis, not an imaginary crisis or a crisis of his own making, he’s out of his depth. He’s like this guy, it’s painful to watch.

Watch for scammers. Facebook and Amazon have already pulled millions of ads for products claiming they will cure or prevent Covid-19, or price gouging on things like masks. (Masks are of little value anywise, they can certainly help prevent sick people from spreading disease, but they are of little use in protecting from it.) It goes without saying that getting Covid-19 advice from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow or Jim Bakker is a bad idea. Hoping and praying are of zero medical benefit. Here’s the CDC guide for preparing for it, real advice from real experts. Yeah, I’m old fashioned that way.

Some of the rumours flying are ridiculous. Read a post by a guy claiming Covid-19 reached the US by way of Chinese balloon bombs, modelled after the Japanese balloon bombs of WW2. Yes, that’s what comes from mixing poor logic, a limited understanding of history, and racism. There’s so many things wrong with the idea I don’t even know where to start. And as expected, since Covid-19 originated in China, racists are crawling out from under their rocks. Hopefully most people have more sense, but people often react badly to scary times.

Sorry about the brevity of this post. I have reached the age where various parts of my body are saying: “You thought that was bad? Watch this!” This being Bursitis. Sigh. Have a great week everyone. Wash your hands! Comments and shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: CDC flyer, inspired by this. Credit: CDC, used legally under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

March 2, 2020 at 12:58 pm

TRUMP, COVID-19, AND PERFORMANCE ART

leave a comment »

This may be the beginnings of the 1918 Flu epidemic of our time, so what else is there to write about? I’ve lived through two “big events” in my life, for want of a better word. I lived in Berkeley when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, and 9/11, the “Pearl Harbor” of my life. The first was a local disaster, the second a national disaster. There was stuff during the 60s, the JFK and MLK assassinations, but I was a kid and insulated from it. This could be number three, a global disaster this time. I hope not, but here we are.

At this point, the end of February 2020, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread to two dozen plus countries, some of which don’t have the medical infrastructure to cope with an epidemic. Covid-19 appears to be less lethal than the 1918 global flu pandemic, but an order of magnitude more lethal than the annual flu season. If it becomes a pandemic, millions may well die. For the record, an epidemic is a contagious disease that affects a local region. A pandemic is an infectious disease that spreads worldwide. There have been four pandemics the past century:

(Credit: CDC. Used legally.)

The dividing line between epidemic and pandemic is a bit fuzzy, but at this juncture no one is calling Covid-19 a pandemic, but it sure seems headed that way. The ugly truth is that diseases jump from animals to humans fairly regularly, and diseases can mutate, so sooner or later another pandemic was inevitable. This is why sensible countries prepare for them. China  learned a lot from the SARS epidemic nearly 20 years ago, and their response to this one has been pretty massive. That China still couldn’t contain Covid-19 bodes ill for the world.

In America, Wednesday night Trump held a press conference to talk about Covid-19. It was not reassuring. I mean, he tried, at least he didn’t encourage panic. He basically said Covid-19 may not get here, and that the USA was super prepared for it. He suggested hand washing, never a bad idea. He randomly bragged about questionable achievments, saying his Muslim ban was part of preparations for this. He claimed the Stock Market collapsing was because of the Democratic debate. I’d say he can’t be serious, but I think he is. He pooh poohed the fact that he had cut funds and fired all sorts of public health officials, saying we can just hire good ones back. Which is the equivalent of saying “We don’t need an army, if we need one we’ll just hire a bunch of people.” It doesn’t work that way, dealing with natural disasters is 90% preparation, so bragging about winging it was pretty weird. And then he appointed Vice President Pence as the Coronavirus coordinator, a science denying ideological extremist with a record of making an epidemic worse. Did I mention I was not reassured? So far looks like Trump is going to try and spin and BS his way through this. We’ll see, I wish Trump resounding success in dealing with this crisis.

My current theory is that Trump really does think he’s this great leader and he’s on top of things. The fact that tens of millions of people wildly agree … doesn’t actually make it so. What he is doing is more akin to performance art than leadership. He’s like a pro-wrestler who thinks it’s all real. All well and good if all he has to do is pro wrestling. Wrestling is over, barring a miracle, Covid-19 is going to kill a lot of Americans during the next year. Hundreds of thousands is not out of the question. More Americans died of the flu in October of 1918 than died in all of America’s wars until then. It was a big deal, it might be happening again.

And beyond the virus, global economic disruption is a near certainty. Today (Thursday 27 February 2020) was the biggest one day stock market drop by one measure. Yikes. So, today’s reasonable speculation. Just like 2008, the economy takes a huge dump, especially the economy of the rich. I mean that’s what a dropping stock market means, the rich are losing money. Trump and the GOP will lose the election to some hopey-changey Democrat. And when said Democrat gets in office, just like Obama, they  make it their mission to make sure the rich get all their money back from the taxpayers. They will call his (or her) program ‘qualitative pleasing’ or some such. And when all is said and done the rich in America will be richer than ever, and the rest of us will be scraping by in a gig economy at best. <ducks>

Weird days. Odd writing about an unfolding event that might just kill me. I’ll be able to devote a blog to that. I hope. Have a great weekend everyone, stock up before the hoarders get there.

(Image: The Tower of Babel, painting. Inspired to post after watching Trump’s press conference. Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder  (1526/1530–1569))

Written by unitedcats

February 28, 2020 at 9:06 am

AMERICA, TRUMP, AND CORONAVIRUS … THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL

with one comment

Looks like Coronavirus is on its way to America, according to the CDC. Pondering this eventuality, I realize America in many ways is completely unprepared for a pandemic. Here are ten ways America is punching itself in the face when it comes to effectively responding to Coronavirus:

  1. Lack of access to health care. In the rest of the developed world, people that think they might have or might have been exposed to the Coronavirus have every incentive to seek health care immediately. Tens of millions of Americans have no access to health care except through emergency rooms, and even then it’s iffy. So simply not having access, and then fear of the costs incurred, will keep people from seeking treatment until it’s too late, or never. Works for all infectious diseases actually, why Americans want to share their public places with untreated sick people is a mystery to me.
  2. Demonizing law-abiding undocumented people. Guess what, the anti-immigrant hysteria Trump has engendered makes it far less likely that undocumented people will seek medical treatment. Treating law abiding undocumented people as criminal undesirables makes the illegal immigration problem much worse. Basically Trumo has turned undocumented people into a huge pool of potential Coronavirus spreaders.
  3. Sick leave policies. American companies have sick leave policies that are draconian compared to the rest of the civilized world, workers are often forced to work when sick, either by their management or they can’t afford unpaid sick leave. Not exactly conducive to fighting an epidemic.
  4. Codicil, businesses won’t want to close. Similar to number three, American corporations are going to be loathe to close factories and such, and they have the political pull to strongly resist such calls.
  5. Snake oil salesmen, legitimised! Not only is the so called ‘alternative medicine’ industry thriving in America, it’s made great strides in legitimizing itself. Sorry, snake oil is snake oil, drinking water (homeopathy) and sticking oneself with needles (acupuncture) won’t cure or treat Coronavirus. People will try though.
  6. Faith based medical deniers. Adults not seeking medical treatment is bad enough, but there are states where parents can legally deny their children medical treatment. And plenty of snake oil salesmen here too, Jim Bakker is already selling fake cures. Millions of Americans are likely to depend on God and prayers to fight Coronavirus. Didn’t work to fight the Black Death, won’t work now,
  7. Anti-vaxxers. Yes, the people who believe hand washing eliminated smallpox aren’t going to be cooperative in this epidemic. Even if a vaccine is developed in time, this is another huge pool of people who will avoid it. Hell, if anything they will have Coronavirus parties to deliberately expose their kids.
  8. Media as infotainment. The mainstream media in the USA is totally beholden to corporate  and political interests. These interests are going to protect themselves at all costs, public welfare be damned.
  9. No accountability. Washington is a bizarre city where no matter how badly people screw up, no one is accountable. The invasion of Iraq is the perfect example. An invasion that was supposed to prevent a WMD attack on the US, trigger a democratic revolution in the Middle East, and cost next to nothing in lives and treasure. Instead it proved to be a disaster of epic proportions … and the WMD threat turned out to be non-existent. Yet the architects of this catastrophe are still respected pundits and politicians. When a nation’s leaders aren’t accountable for failure, they have no incentive to not fail. Nor can they learn from their mistakes.
  10. Americans just don’t give a damn about the common good. Literally, a huge percentage of Americans see everything as a partisan battleground, and the losers are such because they subscribe to the wrong ideology. Horace Greely on steroids. Not a good mindset for dealing with a pandemic. Coronavirus is as likely to tear us apart as it is to unite us.

My first draft of this list was much simpler. 1. Trump is president. 2. Trump is president. Etc. Mr Trump and much of his base believe in simplistic solutions to complex problems. History has shown quite clearly the folly of this sort of thinking, if simple black and white solutions worked, Earth would be a paradise. There’s every reason to believe the Trump administration’s response to Coronavirus will be chaotic to incompetant. Hell, the man fired the national pandemic response team, hasn’t replaced them. And of writing this, hasn’t even appointed someone to coordinate America’s response to Coronavirus.

This is the first real domestic crisis Trump has faced, second if we count the hurricane that smashed Puerto Rico. Yeah, his response to that was less than stellar. I suspect he will spend his time trying to prop the stock market up and controlling the narrative. Alas, sharpies and lies aren’t going to cut it here Mr. Trump. I hope the virus is contained and we don’t have to deal with it in the US. That’s pretty unlikely at this point. If Coronavirus does hit us big time, I hope I’m wrong about Trump and this crisis brings him out as a national leader leading the country and all Americans through difficult times.

A man can dream. Please share.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Triumph of Death.  Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder  (1526/1530–1569) As the artist has been dead for centuries. The image is Public Domain under US and other copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 25, 2020 at 7:14 pm

WUT R WERDS

leave a comment »

In other words, the post I was working on isn’t finished yet, so I’m going to wing it this morning. There’s always something to write about, old or new. I’m watching an old movie for example, ‘Dances with Wolves.’ I tried to watch it when it came out, and couldn’t plod through it all. Not enough explosions for my younger self maybe? Halfway through now, and plodding definitely covers it. Plus somehow Kevin Kostner makes my skin crawl now, that’s a new experience. I will finish and report on by Monday. Two other famous (in their time at least) movies I couldn’t get through were ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Amadeus.’ I don’t believe I will be reattempting them, unless I lose a bet I suppose.

In India four men were accused of raping and murdering a woman. Made the news big time. Then the police took them to the scene of the crime for some reason, where they attempted to escape and were all shot and killed by the police. Rejoicing and celebration in the streets. That’s at least the gist of it from what I can tell. Well, they won’t be raping anyone else. Not sure really what to think of it all. Sort of sounds like an extrajudicial execution, I mean really, all four? I hope they were guilty, sort of, what an odd thing to hope for. Violence against women does appear to be a major problem in India, although it’s pretty much a problem everywhere. My only cogent thought on this is that I simply don’t know enough about India to have cogent thoughts about this. Other than rape is one of the ultimate evils, and it’s often treated far too lightly in the west. The story just got me, and a lot of people I suppose.

In other unfinished business I really tried to get through the Longmire books. I really liked the show. I liked the characters in the books too, but every book introduced a new cast of secondary characters. Worse, each book, at least the last two, used a narrative style where the damn book was half flashback. Two stories intermingled into one, sometimes each with its own cast of secondary characters. I finally gave up, I couldn’t keep  track of who was who when and where and what now. And wasn’t that a tortured turn of phrase, but it expresses how I feel. The dent in the wall where I threw the last book also expresses it.

An anti-vaxxer has been arrested for mass murder in Samoa. I wish. No, but he was arrested for ‘incitement against a government order.’ Samoa is in the midst of a measles epidemic that has killed 63 so far. Samoa has a population of about 200,000, about the size of Salt Lake City, so 63 deaths is a big deal. And anti-vaxxers spreading lies about vaccines are playing a huge negative role. This guy was telling people that vaccines are dangerous, and measles can be cured with vitamin C and papaya leaf extract. Right.

Worse, the anti-vaccine movement is getting more militant and effective in their global campaign to bring back deadly diseases humanity vanquished long ago.  Here’s the whole Samoa story in great detail, it’s freaking infuriating. I’m starting to wonder if the anti-vax movement is secretly run by extraterrestrials seeking to quietly depopulate the Earth. Probably a science fiction B film in there somewhere. More likely though it’s what most human failings can be attributed to. We’re not really an intelligent species.

And since its Friday, I’ll end on a positive note. A cute animated story about a little girl who writes a letter to Santa. Aw. But misspelled it ‘Satan.’ Uhoh. It goes downhill from there. Enjoy it here.

As always, remarks, queries, and, well, thesaurus.com couldn’t come up with a good synonym for shares. All still enjoyed and acknowledged. Enough lame thesaurus jokes.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A tweet. Credit: Tweeter or Tumblr thescalexwrites? Maybe this fellow? Used without permission, but since it’s floating around Facebook I hope I can be forgiven.)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2019 at 9:42 am

APHANTASIA, LIFE WITH NO MIND’S EYE

leave a comment »

30cfc90fcdb274f4c7327c3095a32e37b628886f

All my life people around me have talked about visualizing things and the mind’s eye. I remember in a college class we were all told to visualize a lovely lake surrounded by forest. It was a meditation exercise (Hey, it was the 70s.) Then and every other time I just assumed “visualize this” was simply a figure of speech for “think about.” Because when I close my eyes I see … my eyelids. IE nothing. Or reddish nothing if the lights are bright. Recently I came to understand that that’s not normal, apparently most people can close their eyes and see pretty much anything they want. I can’t imagine what that’s like, because I have no mind’s eye. I have what psychologists call aphantasia.

When I mentioned this to some friends, they were quite surprised. As if they had suddenly discovered one of my limbs was missing. I guess being able to visualize stuff is taken for granted by people who can visualize stuff. They were curious about  what it’s like, so here I am blogging about aphantasia to the world. Or my select collection of readers, most of the world has never heard of me. Probably a good thing.

The first question that always gets asked, do I dream? Yes, yes I do. Quite vividly and lucidly at times. Though I can’t really control the dream environment even when lucid. And in a hypnagogic state (nearly asleep) I can watch beautiful things, often lovely fountains and pools decorated with gems. In fact in this state I sometimes try to control what I am seeing, or figure out how I’m doing it so I can learn how to visualize things. No dice so far.

And while writing this, keep in mind I’m writing about an ability I simply don’t have, so I could easily be describing it wrong. Like a psychopath trying to describe feelings. Well, something like that, I don’t know. Moving right along, I’m also asked if I can recognize faces. Yes, though I’m not great at it when I first meet someone. If I spend enough time with someone their face gets very familiar and I can easily spot them in a crowd. I couldn’t describe their face beyond vague generalities, and I certainly couldn’t draw it. I’ve always wondered how people could draw such accurate lifelike faces, maybe visualization is involved? Beats me.

I’m not disabled me in any way I know of. Aside from having to fake it in meditation class I suppose. I work in the trades and can build or assemble complicated things. Though I often make or look at drawings. Hell, I used to paint watercolor landscapes. I loved to draw and paint as a kid. I can’t think of a single way this has ever been an issue for me. No doubt why I never realized I was missing something.

I joined an Aphantasia support group on Facebook. It really didn’t do much for me. What’s to say other than, hey, I too have aphantasia. And some of the people in the group did feel they were disadvantaged somehow. I guess. I never missed my mind’s eye until I found out it was missing. That huge numbers of people have had aphantasia throughout history without anyone ever really noticing argues to me that it’s not a handicap in any real way.

Aphantasia was first described and named in 1880, but was essentially forgotten until a study in 2015 brought it back into scientific currency. A few more studies have been done, scientists suspect what part of the brain isn’t working right. At least one book has been written, and the Wikipedia article links to various articles and studies. In the original study the article describes I would have scored 16. IE for any of 16 objects I was asked to visualize, my answer would be “no image at all, you only know that you are thinking of the object.” At least I’m consistent.

On the plus side, and I suspect it’s related to aphantasia, I don’t get earworms. A clear evolutionary advantage in the modern age. Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A lake surrounded by forest. Credit: Snappygoat image, public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 26, 2019 at 4:40 am

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima … what do they have in common?

with 11 comments

All three were nuclear accidents? True enough. Not what I’m looking for though. The Japanese government report on the Fukushima nuclear accident was released a few days ago. It clearly laid out the cause of the still smouldering Fukushima nuclear disaster: Human error. This is what I was looking for, in both prior nuclear accidents, human error was a huge part of the problem. This isn’t terribly surprising, in numerous industrial accidents human error was a major contributor. The Texas City Disaster. The Piper Alpha Fire. The Exxon Valdez spill. Bhopal. I could go on but I think I made my point, human error is often a major contributory factor in industrial accidents. And that’s being generous I am sure, I’ve yet to find a major industrial accident that didn’t have some component of human error. It’s not surprising. There are so any things that can go wrong with any complex system, some of them unforeseeable, that sooner or later someone is going to make a mistake or mistakes that lead to catastrophe.

I don’t think this is really debatable. Even airliners, where we have spent enormous (and largely successful) efforts to make safe, still sometimes crash. It’s just now been determined that the Air France jet that flew into the Atlantic a few years ago could have recovered had the crew acted correctly. People sometimes make bad calls in a crisis, that’s not ever going to change. The point here is that no matter how well designed something is; no matter how many safeguards, alarms, and back-ups it has; sooner or later someone or someones are going to bypass them all and cause a problem. And this of course applies to nuclear power plants, which are certainly as complicated as airliners. And we now have three “crashed” nuclear power plants, and it is 100% certain it will happen again. No matter how much they learn from Fukushima, it will happen again.

This is a problem. A big problem. A problem the nuclear industry and most of the world’s governments don’t want anyone to know about. It’s a problem because when an airliner crashes, a factory blows up, a ship sinks, etc., the damages are generally local and containable. Chernobyl badly contaminated 1,000 square miles, seriously contaminated thousands more, caused problems thousands of miles away, eventually spreading fallout all over the Northern Hemisphere. There’s every reason to believe that the damage from Fukushima will be at least that extensive. This is serious damage on a global scale from a single industrial accident. When a  plane crashes or a factory blows up a few hundred people are killed, but ultimately the damages are limited in geography and over time. The worst fallout (Cesium 137, Strontium 90)  from a nuclear accident has a half life of 30 years, which means it might be decades or centuries before the worst contaminated areas are safe again.

Which leads into the second major problem with nuclear accidents. We don’t really know how much damage they cause. Some people say Chernobyl only killed 28 people, most experts put the total at around 10,000. Some experts peg it at over 100,000. And in both of the last estimates, non-fatal cancers are estimated at about ten times the number of fatal cases. Basically one can find “expert opinion” for pretty much any level of death and cancer one wants. How do us worms know? Well, the cigarette industry had no trouble finding “expert opinion” saying cigarettes were more or less harmless for decades after the issue was settled as far as scientists were concerned. The nuclear industry is just as well funded as the cigarette industry, it’s far more difficult to do research on the topic, and it’s very easy to manipulate the data to get any result one wants. And unlike the cigarette industry, the nuclear industry has friends in big government and big military everywhere. In other words, when some government or industry spokesman claims that nuclear energy is “safe,” it should be taken with a large dose of salt.

My only real point here is that the safety of the nuclear industry has been wildly exaggerated, usually by comparing apples to oranges. There isn’t any really comparable industry. What other kind of industrial installation in the worst case scenario can render everything within 15-20 miles uninhabitable for decades, and cause thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of cases of cancer over an entire continent, if not an entire hemisphere? And how close is the gentle reader to the nearest nuclear power plant anyhow?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I’m not sure who to credit it too,  but  got it from this fine site. It’s an image from the abandoned town of Prypiat near Chernobyl. I chose it because it is a beautiful and haunting image.)

Written by unitedcats

July 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm