OPEN THREAD 20200212

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


20 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20200212

  1. Californium is 70 years old this week! It was first synthesized on or about February 9, 1950. Relativistic effects probably account for the uncertainty.

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  2. Kalifornium is the second element named after a communist pesthole, although admittedly it wasn’t a communist pesthole at the time.

    The most stable isotope is Kf-251, with a half life of 900 years, and it’s a bit odd. The number of protons is even, but the number of neutrons is odd, a bit of an anomaly because an isotope tends to be most stable if both numbers are even.

    Kalifornium is found in nuclear reactors and in the debris from nuclear fission explosions (and every hydrogen bomb contains a fission bomb, so basically that means any nuclear explosion). This includes the natural Oklo reactor.

    The Oklo reactor, by the way, was about 2 billion years ago. It was (and still is) a substantial uranium deposit, but back then, there was proportionately more U-235 than there is today; U-235 decay faster, so if you run the clock backwards, it accumulates faster on your backward-running movie. Oklo at the time was about 3% U-235 and that means it was enriched just barely enough that it behaved like a natural nuclear reactor. One of the things that happens in such a reactor, of course, is that the U-238 starts capturing neutrons, and since no one was around to collect the plutonium-239 as it was created, the process of piling on more neutrons just continued past it. You can get all the way up to fermium this way.

    In a bomb, this process is basically the same–but much, much faster. Which is why kalifornium is found in nuclear debris.

    more coming…

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  3. kalifornium isotopes actually do have commercial uses as neutron sources; for this application the isotope Kf-252 is most commonly used, with a half life of about two and a half years.

    What do you use a neutron source for?

    You can actually analyze a material by “neutron activation.” You bombard the item with neutrons. Some of those neutrons are absorbed by whatever is in the item, so some small fraction of the atoms in the object become different isotopes.

    Those different isotopes are often radioactive. But you can actually analyze the radioactivity you see, and determine which isotopes are decaying in the item. From there just step backwards. If you detected a lot of carbon-14 in the item…well it had to have had carbon-13 in it before you added neutrons! From there you can determine (since C-13 is about 1 percent of all carbon) that it had 100 times as much carbon 12 as well.

    Comparing that to all the other readings you get, you can get a sense of the proportions of different elements in whatever it was you just turned radioactive.

    The minor problem, of course, is that now you’ve altered what you analyzed, but that’s basically true any time you make any sort of measurement–a circumstance which Werner Heisenberg riffed off of to propound his uncertainty principle.

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  4. After World War II, a lot of German physicists were kept in a compound by the Allies. Someone peeked over the fence and may have spotted Heisenberg exercising in the nude. And then again, maybe he didn’t.

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  5. In the reading I did, it said that Californium could be cut with a razor blade…..which got me thinking…..where do you get razor blades that small?

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  6. A mechanics wife goes to the doctor, beaten black and blue.

    Doctor: “What happened?”

    Woman: “Doctor, I don’t know what to do. Every time my husband comes home drunk he beats me to a pulp.”

    Doctor: “I have the perfect medicine for that” he said. “When your husband comes home drunk, just take a glass of sweet tea and start swishing it around in your mouth. Just swish and swish but don’t swallow until he goes to bed and is asleep.”

    Two weeks later the woman comes back to the doctor looking fresh and reborn.

    Woman: “Doctor, that was a brilliant idea! Every time my husband came home drunk, I swished with sweet tea. I swished and swished, and sure enough he didn’t touch me!”

    Doctor: “You see how much keeping your mouth shut helps?”

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  7. Well, so much for making an early night of it….

    I was intrigued by several leads in several places that said you could buy a microgram of Californium from Oak Ridge National Labs for about $27. (e.g. * ; * ; * ).

    And I started thinking — what if you want a point source? What if you want it evenly deposited on a 1cm x 1cm carrier? What kind of box does it ship in? What does the MSDS look like? Do you have to have a license to buy it, or will a credit card work?

    So, I started poking around the and websites, and I have yet to find anything listed as being for sale. Which started really annoying me. So, now it’s later than I’d hoped. I have, however, done my best to cause trouble. We’ll see what the morning holds.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. An auto mechanic received a repair order that read: “Check for clunking sound when going around corners.”

    Taking the car out for a test drive, he made a right turn, and a moment later he heard a ‘clunk’.

    He then made a left turn and again heard a ‘clunk’.

    Back at the shop he opened the car’s trunk, and soon discovered the problem.

    Promptly he returned the repair order to the service manager with the notation, “Removed bowling ball from trunk”.

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  9. I’m going to try to not have WP insert this, and have you click on the link instead.


    This is a container for shipping up to one gram of californium-252. The container weighs fifty tons.

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  10. Musical interlude #3 —

    And a note… “etude” is a “study” — it is not a large-scale serious piece. It is a demonstration of how to work something out or how something is supposed to work. That’s why these come in at a couple of minutes each — ideal for the post-iphone lack-of-attention-span world. Chopin cranked these out by the buckets-load, probably more than one a week, during his short life. We still listen to them today. He supported himself more as a piano teacher than a performer — during the last 18 years of his life (in Paris), he may have had 30 public performances. But he performed in private salons much more frequently.

    He also composed nocturnes (about an hour), a couple of piano concertos (about 40 minutes) and an odd waltz that is nicknamed because of its curiously short duration.


  11. A blonde pushes her BMW into the gas station and tells the mechanic that it died.

    After working on it for a few minutes, he has it idling smoothly.

    “What’s the story?” she asked.

    “Just crap in the carburetor,” the mechanic replied.

    “How often do I have to do that?” asked the blonde.

    Liked by 1 person

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