OPEN THREAD 20200208

Basically, all legal free speech is allowed. We will assist the authorities in dealing with illegal speech. You are each other’s moderators. Have fun. And don’t forget to MAGA at nuclear levels.

Citizen U

Day 94 – PLUTONIUM.

15 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20200208

  1. Plutonium is interesting for various reasons.

    First and most famously, of course, is its use in nuclear weapons.

    That’s generally plutonium 239…which, if you’ve been following along, is generated by decaying neptunium 239, which in turn is generated by decaying uranium 239, which comes about when uranium 238 in a breeder reactor captures a neutron.

    It’s called a breeder reactor because it actually creates nuclear fuel, to wit the plutonium 239. It’s an excellent fuel, easily made (far more so than uranium-235) but it’s much more difficult to make a bomb out of, fortunately. It won’t fission unless it’s compressed, and the best way to compress it is to surround it with explosives and have those explosives detonate simultaneously so the plutonium has nowhere to squirt out to. A large part of the Manhattan project was figuring out how to do this–precision explosives.

    A plutonium bomb, like the one dropped on Nagasaki, is basically a hollow sphere of plutonium surrounded by the explosives; when the explosives are detonated, the plutonium is compressed to far higher than its normal density and it goes *kaboom*.

    This was just complicated enough we felt the need to test it, before dropping the bomb on nagasaki, so the very first nuclear explosion was near Alamagordo, New Mexico. It worked quite satisfactorily so we could drop “Fat Man” on Nagasaki to end World War II.

    It’s called “Fat Man” because of its bulbous shape (to accomodate the sphere of plutonium and the surrounding explosives). By contrast, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima involved moving part of the critical mass along rails, so it was relatively long and thin, “Little Boy.”

    Nowadays the hydrogen bomb functions by putting tritium and deuterium in the bomb, and letting the heat and pressure of the plutonium detonation cause them to fuse, resulting in a MUCH more powerful bomb. A 50,000 kiloton hydrogen bomb was built and detonated by the Soviet Union once; without hydrogen we were pretty much limited to a few dozen kilotons.

    The plutonium in hydrogen bomb–the little bang before the big bag–is often called a “trigger.”

    OK, more to say just as fast as I can type.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Plutonium 239 has a half life of about 24,000 years.

    Plutonium has another very useful isotope, plutonium-238, with a half life of 87 years It’s used as radioisotope fuel for spacecraft, and at one point, even in pacemakers, in nifty devices called radioisotope thermoelectric generators that directly generate electricity and heat. Its half life is comfortably longer than a human will live, or a space mission will run, without being so much longer we just don’t get as much energy as we could out of it. (Why put something that decays slower than it needs to in your spacecraft? You don’t get as much bang for your buck.) This isotope has a density of 19.3+, similar to gold.

    As I mentioned above, it was used in pacemakers for a while starting in 1966, until someone realized tht if the body was cremated, the container might rupture. Not being able to guarantee that some idiot wouldn’t cremate a corpse with one of these installed, the program was canceled. Meanwhile 139 people had received the pacemakers. As of 2007, seven were still with us. On dying the undertaker is supposed to ship the device home to Los Alamos where it will be lovingly cared for.

    But that’s not (to me at least) nearly as interesting as another isotope…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Plutonium 244 has a half life of 80 million years. It’s one of the two longest-lived non-primordial radioisotoes.

    (There are 34 primordial radioisotopes, i.e., ones that have long enough half lives that they still exist on earth, 4.5 billion years after its creation. Obviously, Uranium 235 and 238, and thorium 232 are on this list, but there are also isotopes of lighter elements that are slightly unstable. In fact most of the indium, tellurium and rhenium on earth today are unstable isotopes, as is all of the bisuth. The tellurium has a halflife in the septillions of years, the indium in the trillions, and the rhenium in the tens of billions of years, so it’s all very, very mild.

    Of the primordial radio isotopes, potassium 40 (1 billion years) and uranium 235 (700 million years) have the shortest half lives, after that the next POSSIBLE isotope is Plutonium 244 with its 80 year half life. (It’s interesting that there is no isotope in between 80 and 700 million year half life.)

    The age of the earth is 57 half lives of plutonium 244, so some have estimated there might still be about ten grams of it in the earth’s crust. Indeed, someone in 1971 claimed to have detected it. But more recent lab work has failed to confirm this. On the other hand some of the meteoric dust that hits the Earth is of interstellar origin, and some Pu-244 has been detected in that.

    It was probably never particularly common, though, because to make Pu-244, you have to keep adding neutrons to something like pu-239, and Pu-243, one of the stepping stones, has a short half life (5 hours), making it unlikely that any slow natural process will manage to get past it–it will most likely decay before another neutron happens along. But that’s a slow process. The same issue arises inside our nuclear power plants, for the same reason, so Pu-244 doesn’t show up much in spent fuel rods. For a fast process, like inside a nuclear bomb, the neutrons get added on quickly, and indeed Pu-244 has been detected in the residues of nuclear bomb blasts.

    But it’s interesting to think that, say, two or three billion years ago someone could have mined plutonium from rocks in the earth’s crust. And that some of it, a very small amount, might still be around, a residue of the creation of the solar system and our earth.

    One more isotope to consider: Pu-240. This one is a nuisance. When one is creating Pu-239 by exposing U-238 to neutrons, it’s important to pull the sample out of the reactor before too much of the freshly-created Pu-239 has a chance to capture another neutron and become Pu-240, because Pu-240 will actually act to damp the chain reaction that is desired. It simply absorbs the neutron and says, “Ok, give me another” rather than fissioning and creating more neutrons, like Pu-239 does.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think I’m going to drop a musical interlude in here so SteveInCO can cool his hands down….

    Half the lyrics are through a vocoder, so are included here:

    What do you do when your falling
    You’ve got 30 degrees and you’re stalling out?
    And it’s 24 miles to your beacon
    There’s a crack in the sky and the warning’s out

    Don’t take that dive again!
    Push through that band of rain!

    Five miles out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out
    You’re Number 1, anticipating you

    Climbing out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out
    You’re Number 1, anticipating you

    Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
    Calling all stations!
    This is Golf-Mike-Oscar-Victor-Juliet
    IMC CU. NIMB… icing
    In great difficulty, over

    The traffic controller is calling
    “Victor-Juliet, your identity
    I have you lost in the violent storm!
    Communicate or squawk ‘Emergency’!”

    Don’t take that dive again!
    Push through that band of rain!

    Lost in static, 18
    And the storm is closing in now
    Automatic, 18!
    (Got to push through!)
    Trapped in living hell!

    Your a prisoner of the dark sky
    The propeller blades are still!
    And the evil eye of the hurricane’s
    Coming in now for the kill

    Our hope’s with you
    Rider in the blue
    Welcome’s waiting, we’re anticipating
    You’ll be celebrating, when you’re down and braking

    Climbing out
    (Climbing, climbing)
    Five miles out
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Five miles out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Five miles out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Climbing out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Five miles out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Climbing out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…
    (Climbing, climbing)

    Climbing out
    Just hold your heading true
    Got to get your finest out…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The first nuclear reactors dedicated to manufacturing plutonium (as part of the Manhattan Project) were at the “Hanford Site” in Washington State, on the banks of the Columbia River. Being in the rain shadow of the Cascades, the area is pretty much a desert.

    The facilities are massive, and by April 1945, they were making a shipment of Plutonium to Los Alamos every five days.

    The Hanford Site is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Site

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Two men are at the bar, making some idle conversation. One of the men is a linguist, and decides to tell his friend an interesting story.

    “Hey, man! Did you know that, in the UK, each country has its own version of ‘fuck?'”

    His friend replies, “I haven’t heard of that before, man. What’s the English way?”

    “Well, go figure, they say ‘fuck’.”

    “Huh. What about the Scots? How do their ‘fucks’ go?”

    “The scots tend to go ‘Feck!'”

    “What bout the Irish? What are their fucks?”

    “The Irish fucks sound like ‘Fook’!”

    “And the Welsh? What does the Welsh fuck sound like?

    “A Welsh fuck goes ‘Baaaaaaahhh’.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. And…..

    A linguist’s husband walked in and caught his wife in bed with a grad student. He said, “Why, Susan, I’m surprised.”

    She bolted upright, pointed her finger and corrected him, “No. I am surprised. You are astonished.”

    Liked by 4 people

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