funranium: (Science Diet)
To explain what the hell I was talking about the other day with the my creation of the word "nuclearche", let's fill you in on the whole story.

[ profile] robyngoodfelloe found this article regarding the oddity of the Dry Valleys near McMurdo in Antarctica.  I would like to bring your attention about two thirds of the way down to the picture of the Most Important Seal Carcass EVAR.  "Why is this most important seal carcass", I hear you ask, "Do you have the brain worms again?"  No, I don't but let me explain myself.  It is so for two reasons:

1) It is a good example of the danger of doing science and not questioning your assumptions. 
2) It is used as a basis of support for Young Earth Creationism (YEC) that is less shaky than the idiocy of carbon dating dinosaur bones and I want you to be able to call bullshit on it.

DISCLAIMER: To people I have given this rant to in person, I have squared away my numbers.  I got several of them wrong in off the cuff conversation due to the rounding and order of magnitude errors of the brain.  As a physicist, getting it within plus or minus an order of magnitude is normally good enough.  Not this time.

First, a quick review of the basis of carbon dating for those that don't know it... 

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Carbon Dating )
funranium: (Default)

Protip: When you decide to spout off in a bar about how stupid you think a person/group/department is, you should chose a venue closer to your home turf than theirs.

And now the story.

A co-worker and I decided to conduct the final phase of our workday at Beckett's, a pub style bar close to the office.  I find that a collegial atmosphere in the presence of decent music and a pint of 1554 inspires much more productive thought in the field of radiation safety.  We're have a decent chat about the lay of the land and cunning plans for how to fix some of the errors of old, when a horde of people wandered in talking loudly in order to be heard over each other.  Classic researcher pay-attention-to-me-my-research-penis-is-bigger-than-yours increasing volume shouting.

We were about to move to another place in the bar, when I sushsed my co-worker in order to listen to a story being told which was sufficiently interesting to the horde for the yelling to die down.  It was being told in the "aren't these people idiots?" tone of voice and cadence (I know it well since I seem to use it often).  The keywords of "tritium" and "dose" were what got my attention.

He was talking about a tritium contaminated piece of land at Lawrence Berkeley Nat'l Laboratory and the interactions he'd had with various people regarding the contamination.  He'd had members of the public who wanted to talk about the ethical quality of tritium, with the implication that tritium contamination in the soil that came from medicine was good tritium but contamination as a result of research was bad tritium.  I sympathize with coping with that kind ignorance and emotion applied to things.

But then he went a step too far.

Spouting Off Idiot: "Of course, they let goats graze there.  You know what happens next?  The guys from EH&S actually collect the goat urine and test it."
Other Person: "Why do they do that?"
SOI: "Why does EH&S do anything?  They've got nothing better to do."

I put down my pint a bit loudly on the bar.  Reached in my wallet and took out a business card.  I then walked over, extended my hand, introduced myself, and offered my card.

Me: "Hi, I'm Phil.  I do radiation safety for EH&S on campus."
*crowd gets rather quiet and backs away from the two of us*
SOI: "Uh..hi."
Me: "Do have any idea what the Superfund cleanup requirements and sampling protocols are for LBL?"
SOI: "No."
Me: "Did it occur to you that the goats have been put there on purpose to collect bioaccumulation data on tritium?"
*SOI says nothing*
Me: "Perhaps you'd like to learn a bit more about it so you can speak on the topic more intelligently to your colleagues here.  You got a business card?  I'd be happy to send the folks from EH&S up at LBL your way to fill you in."
SOI: "Sorry, man."
Me: "No need to apologize to me."
*Phil returns to his drink at the bar*

Conversation was somewhat subdued after that and the party moved upstairs.  I'd killed the everyone is stupid but us buzz.
funranium: (Butt)
Not the most convincing statistical sample, but depressing regardless.  Reading closely with the study decription at the bottom, it appears that only one person Synovate got it right.  I hold people in contempt enough to believe that this one person looked it up on the net while on the phone.

Study: Few Americans Know 1st Amendment

By ANNA JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 6 minutes ago

CHICAGO - Americans apparently know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the museum, said he was surprised by the results.

"Part of the survey really shows there are misconceptions, and part of our mission is to clear up these misconceptions," said Madeira, whose museum will be dedicated to helping visitors understand the First Amendment when it opens in April. "It means we have our job cut out for us."

The survey found more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights. They were also more likely to remember popular advertising slogans.

It also showed that people misidentified First Amendment rights. About one in five people thought the right to own a pet was protected, and 38 percent said they believed the right against self-incrimination contained in the Fifth Amendment was a First Amendment right, the survey found.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Jan. 20-22 by the research firm Synovate and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

December 2012

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