Posts tagged with: physics

170189260This past summer, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) reportedly stole uranium compounds from Mosul University in Iraq. Writing to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 8, Iraqi UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said that 88 pounds of uranium used for scientific research at Mosul University had been looted. Now, some militants associated with the group are claiming they have built a “dirty bomb” and are targeting London. Is this cause for serious concern?

Not really. Here’s why.

Since the advent of the Atomic Age in the 1940s, catastrophic nuclear events— Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl—have caused the general public to develop a deep-rooted fear of radiation. The new threats brought about by the specter of terrorism, particularly the concept of the radiological dispersion bomb (aka “dirty bomb”), have only increased this “radiophobia.”

Such terror threats are indeed real and we must constantly take precautions to prevent such attacks as we would any bombing. But we also have a moral and civic duty to prepare ourselves, both physically and—even more importantly—psychologically, should such an attack take place on our homeland.

When it comes to dirty bombs, the true power of such a device lies not in its ability to spread radiation but in its ability to spread panic and fear. As we’ve seen in the ear can lead to citizens and their governments to restrict freedoms in a ways that far exceed the threats imposed by actual terrorist attacks.

In order to defuse this anxiety we therefore need to develop an awareness of the myths and realities about radiation exposure:

amnesiaWhy, when I realize that journalists misrepresent topics that I know something about — such as religious liberty — do I trust them to accurately cover issues that I don’t know much about?

I’ve thought about that question for years but didn’t realize that the late novelist Michael Crichton coined a related term for this: the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

Georges LemaîtreIn Acton’s newly published monograph, Catholicism, Ecology, and the Environment, Bishop Dominique Rey explores the relationship between man and the created world. In the book’s foreword, written by Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg, Gregg summarizes the Catholic view of man’s relationship to created matter:

Man is understood as intrinsically superior to the natural world. He is charged with dominion over it in order that it may be used to promote integral human development.  However, man’s dominion is not absolute. We cannot literally do whatever we wish with animals and nature. Absolute dominion belongs to God alone. Moreover, he desires that we use the natural world responsibly and therefore in ways that facilitate human flourishing.


Blog author: jballor
Friday, November 9, 2012

Article: “The Ethics of Digital Preservation”
Peter Johan Lor and J.J. Britz. “An ethical perspective on political-economic issues in the long-term preservation of digital heritage.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 61, no. 11 (November 2012): 2153-2164.

The article provides an overview of the main ethical and associated political-economic aspects of the preservation of born-digital content and the digitization of analogue content for purposes of preservation. The term “heritage” is used broadly to include scientific and scholarly publications and data. Although the preservation of heritage is generally seen as inherently “good,” this activity implies the exercise of difficult moral choices. The ethical complexity of the preservation of digital heritage is illustrated by means of two hypothetical cases. The first deals with the harvesting and preservation in a wealthy country of political websites originating in a less affluent country. The second deals with a project initiated by a wealthy country to digitize the cultural heritage of a less affluent country. The ethical reflection that follows is structured within the framework of social justice and a set of information rights that are identified as corollaries of generally recognized human rights. The main moral agents, that is, the parties that have an interest, and may be entitled to exercise rights, in relation to digital preservation, are identified. The responsibilities that those who preserve digital content have toward these parties, and the political-economic considerations that arise, are then analyzed.


Blog author: jspalink
Monday, August 21, 2006

In the midst of rising oil prices, massive energy bills, speculation about our supplies of oil – not to mention global warming – a small beacon lights up in Ireland. A technology company named Steorn has made an announcement that it has discovered free energy. I’ll admit, like most others probably will at this point, that I’m a little skeptical, but Steorn says that it has created “test-rigs” that use only magnetic fields (with no electromagnetic components) to create energy out of nothing. This, of course, breaks the first law of thermodynamics, and if this does turn out to be true, many hours that I spent studying physics will have turned out to be a waste of time, as one of the main premises of those hours was that the first law holds. (On the other hand, I can justify now why some of it didn’t make much sense to me.)

The company is proposing a panel of 12 skeptic phsyicists to test their rigs, to study the mathematics and physics, and tell the world whether or not the technology is actually real, or not. If it does turn out to be real, the technology is apparently scaleable, which means that it could power your car, or your cell phone. Much of the energy we use from day-to-day could be generated with this new technology which would have a tremendous impact on our economy.

Hat-tip to Slashdot. For more information, read this, this, and this, or google Steorn.