Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘nuclear power’ Category


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Skeptoid just ran an article about how MSG became a ‘tainted’ seasoning, for lack of a better word. Tainted as in people ‘think’ they react badly to MSG in food. I’ve known a few such people myself, most of us have I suspect. ‘Think’ as in 40 years of research has not uncovered a single individual who reacts to MSG in their food in double blind studies. If someone thinks they react badly to it, and thinks there is MSG in their food, they will have a reaction. Even if there was no  MSG in the food. The converse is true as well. It’s what’s called a nocebo effect, a bad reaction to something that didn’t happen. An interesting topic in and of itself, but how did we get here?

Short version, MSG was one of the first casualties of the natural foods craze that took off in the 1960s. I mean, monosodium glutamate, that just sounds all chemically and shit. MSG is a type of glutamic acid, which is an amino acid. And the astute reader is thinking, wait, aren’t amino acids an important part of the human body? Exactly, our bodies and food are steeped in MSG. The typical person eats about 13 grams a day. IE more than 3 teaspoons. It’s a natural part of our diet, like salt. So WTF happened?

Basically a Chinese doctor wrote a letter to some medical journal claiming MSG gave him some sort of symptoms. People reading the letter (people are so freaking suggestable it’s scary) chimed on their own, a perfectly natural chemical was tarred as being hurtful in some way and a myth was born. Interestly enough, this is similar to the origin of the  whole ‘vaccines cause autism’ myth. In that case a single small and terribly flawed study was mistakenly published by a major medical journal, and off the idea went. In both cases there was never any actual evidence in support of the myth, and tons of follow-up research confirmed that in spades, but it didn’t matter. I guess when a myth hits some sort of critical mass, evidence no longer matters. Another one for the sociologists to explain, I got nothing.

So I liked the Skeptoid article. Then I read an article by the good Dr Novella that I didn’t like. It was about the possibility of nuclear fusion as the energy source of the future. Energy source as in big power plants. He posits they will be an improvement over nuclear plants. Free power, easily fuelled, no long term radioactive waste. Decades away at least. I agree with that last part. I usually agree with Dr Novella. This time, I think he is glossing over the problems with fusion power. It’s not the clean green solution to our power plant issue.

Why? We’re talking power plants bigger and more complicated than current nuclear power, with huge waste and ultimately plant disposal problems. IE a fusion plant as a byproduct produces a vast amount of neutrons, which irradiate everything around them. And can also be used to turn depleted Uranium back into nuclear bomb making Uranium. This link by bulletin of the atomic scientists goes into it in detail: Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be. We don’t need fusion, modern fission reactors work just fine.

I thought about leaving a comment with that atomic scientists link on his blog, but previous comments have been unfruitful. In the sense that Dr Novella doubles down on his position. And since he’s more learned and smarter than me, it goes badly. That’s the biggest problem with being smart, it’s easy to use those brains to reinforce one’s own world view. No matter how factually and logically flawed such a world view is. Granted in the good doctor’s case I think he’s usually right on the money, I just think he glosses over a number of the issues nuclear fusion has.

It’s gotten harder to blog since I started nearly two decades ago. I’ve always tried to write so that there was little ideological bent and people of all philosophies could comment. And that used to happen commonly. Now opposing philosophies have become so far apart on matters of simple fact that almost everyone is sure to be triggered by something they don’t believe. Sigh. Gotta keep trying, even if just for my own edification. And my loyal readers, there are a few and they are appreciated.

So today’s summary.  MSG is a safe seasoning to use and consume. Fusion power is a dangerous pipe dream at the moment. Always rethink your own position when challenged by logical argument. Change my mind.

PS. The House just voted to impeach Trump, sending him to a trial in the Senate. There he will be acquitted, since the Senate is controlled by the GOP. And then both parties head into this election hoping this shitshow supercharges their base. In other words, no matter what happens, the American people lose.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Edwardian cat with friend. It was the picture I used for my Christmas dinner invite and I liked it, so I’m sharing.  Credit: Unknown, as it’s a 19th century photograph it’s public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 18, 2019 at 8:03 pm


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Some dates in history, nothing happened. Most though there are a number of things to choose from. In the first week of September in 1666 the Great Fire of London was raging. It’s a story with some interesting tidbits. I think I will write a dedicated post to it on Friday. Or not, one can never tell with these things. Maybe there will be some new shocking current event to write about. Or I could just make one up. “Nun Machine Guns Choir in Dispute Over How to Spell Arpeggio.” We’ll find out Friday I suppose.

More recently, on September 4 1886, Geronimo and his band of warriors finally surrendered to the US army. Him and his men had been more or less continuously fighting Mexico and the US for decades. All pretty ugly, especially the war between the Mexicans and the Apache. A lot of massacres on both sides. Against the Americans, he was mostly wanted for cattle rustling and “escaping” from the reservation. At one point near the end about a third of the US Army was hunting for him, 20,000 guys looking for a few dozen Indians. Whose big crime at that point was cattle rustling and leaving their reservation? Overreactions to minor threats on the frontier is a hallmark of imperialism. Just saying.

Once Geronimo and his men  surrendered, they were treated as prisoners of war. They were never allowed to return to Arizona. They were however taken out and about, IE the US government paraded Geronimo around at various events to show off the US. A tradition going back to at least the Romans. In his case, he got to make some nice pocket money. He’d sell pictures of himself, bows and arrows. Even his hat. Geronimo wrote an autobiography, which I am now putting at the top of my reading list. An interesting life indeed, the changes he saw. On his deathbed it’s reported that he regretted surrendering, who knows.

So he’s in the picture above. One of my favourite photographs of all time. Taken in the spring of 1886, it’s Geronimo and his men. I’ve probably posted and talked about it before. Cest la vie. It’s the only known photograph of a Native American military force operating in the field against the United States. These guys were at war with the US. Fun times.

Back to the here and now, I found out that Bernie Sanders wants to phase out nuclear power plants. I must admit I find that dismaying. There’s a huge problem with phasing out nuclear power plants, since they provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity, what do they get replaced by? Solar and wind can’t really take up the slack, since they can’t vary their power output on demand. Instead, exactly as is happening in Germany and Japan, they will get replaced with coal burning plants. The exact opposite of what we need to do. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is much safer and greener than burning oil and coal. And it has negligible carbon emissions, which is kind of an emergency species goal right now.

So I wonder if Mr Sander’s opposition is sincere, or his he only pandering to his base. The good Doctor Novella goes into the politics of nuclear power in his last post. Not surprisingly, Republicans are far more pro-nuclear than Democrats. I’m not sure what to think about it all. I guess I need to do more research. I’ve changed my mind before, it’s painful but the alternative is worse.

Lastly, FLICC. A new concept to me, or at least stuff I already knew in pieces, put together in a coherent package. Fairly new algorithm, 21st century. It’s a list of the big things to use to flag science denial. F is fake experts. L is logical fallacies. I is impossible expectations. IE, science can never be 100% sure of anything, and nothing is 100% safe, so one can point to the exceptions and claim they invalidate the science. C is cherry picking. And the last C is conspiracy theories. The more of these that show up in an article, the more likely it is science denying garbage. Not surprising, when both science and logic refute your position, stuff like this is all that’s left. Alas tens of millions of people listen to CNN and Rush Limbaugh, and fall for it every time. The FLICC article here.

Hope everyone had a good Labor Day holiday. There ended up being a party here. An introvert’s nightmare, a house full of friendly strangers. After enough beer I finally ventured forth and joined in the festivities . Parties here always involve the cat escaping and leading a merry chase through the neighborhood. They got the cat back, then locked me outside by mistake. All’s well that ends well though, they let me back inside, and I had a good time.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photo by C. S. Fly of Geronimo and his warriors, taken before the surrender to Gen. Crook, March 27, 1886, in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. Fly’s photographs are the only known images of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 4, 2019 at 3:40 am