29 July 2004

why are they such meanies??

Why are emigres from places like Cuba or Vietnam so often the most strongly in favor of hardline sanctions? You know, the kind that make the people there miserable without doing anything to improve human rights. Either I'm totally confused about how sanctions work, or people who come to the U.S. from places with shitty governments tend to go off the deep end, like Ayn Rand did.

In any case, at least this might be starting to change for Cuban-Americans, since the ones who have family members in Cuba care a little more about conditions there.

27 July 2004

survival of the theorists

There are probably many different morals to this story, but I'll take it as endorsement for my non-experimental kind of physics.
May 21, 1946 – Canadian physicist Louis Slotin manually assembled a critical mass of plutonium while demonstrating his technique to visiting scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The device consisted of two half-spheres of beryllium-covered plutonium, which can be moved together slowly to measure the criticality. Normally the device would be operated by machinery, but Slotin distrusted the devices and manually operated it by holding the upper sphere with his thumb inserted in a hole in the top like a bowling ball. In most experiments, a number of washers would be arranged to prevent the two hemispheres from falling together completely, but he had removed them. In order to slowly bring the two pieces together, he rested one edge on the lower sphere and rotated a slot screwdriver between the other edge to control the separation. At one point, the screwdriver slipped and the assembly went critical while he was still holding onto it. None of the seven observers received a lethal dose, but Slotin died on the 30th from massive radiation poisoning, with an estimated dose of 1000 rad, or 10 gray (Gy). This was dramatized in the movie Fat Man and Little Boy, except that the movie placed the event before the Trinity test [1]—in reality, a device that Slotin had helped to assemble.[2]

fly-over states

I drove to Wyoming recently with my family.

Grand Teton was okay, I guess. Anyway, here are some random notes from along the way.

please folks!
Found posted on the door of an opera house in a small Minnesota town:

The Fairmont Opera House would like to remain gun-free, so please: NO GUNS ALLOWED.

freedom tickling
In several gas stations, one of the choices on the condom dispensers was:

French freedom tickler - Tickle her fancy with the real thing! It's the patriotic thing to do.

blood for oil
A blood drive in Minnesota offered gas cards to those who participated.