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New Scientific Discoveries, Part Deux


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#61
Lexx

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Reminds me of that one movie from a million years ago. At the end of it, the camera moves back from survivors in a house and you see all the landscape covered in webs. Horrific.

#62
Raithe

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Is Thorium the safer way to exploit Nuclear Power?

 

 

 


Is thorium the safer way to exploit nuclear power?
Nuclear power is back in the news so can a new type of reactor make it both free and safe?
 

Nuclear scientists are urging politicians to fund a new type of nuclear reactor using thorium instead of uranium or plutonium.

 

Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said “in my opinion we should be trying our best to develop the use of thorium. I realise there are many obstacles to be overcome but the benefits would be great.”

 

"Thorium will be safer in reactors” Blix told a CERN conference “and it is almost impossible to make a bomb out of thorium. These are very major factors as the world looks for future energy supplies."

 

Thorium is being touted as something of a wonder fuel that could solve the world’s energy crisis and decrease carbon emissions to prevent further global warming. It has “absolute pre-eminence” says Carlo Rubbia, former director of the CERN laboratory and joint winner of the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics. “In order to be vigorously continued, nuclear power must be profoundly modified.”

 

Testing thorium out

 

A private organisation called Thor Energy is performing thorium tests at the Halden Research Reactor in Norway. The test will help to further research the use of thorium in traditional nuclear power plants.

 

Norway, it should be pointed out, has particular interests in this area. Norway doesn’t need the extra energy, (it’s the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas) but it is sitting on an estimated four per cent of the world’s thorium reserves.

 

Thorium is far from a rare substance though. It’s a naturally occurring radioactive element discovered by Jöns Jacob Berzelius a Swedish chemist in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of Thunder. It is found in widespread locations all over the world and is considered to be around four times as abundent as the uranium scientists hope it will replace.

 



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Thor Energy

Thor Energy's test rig containing six thorium fuel rods shown being installed in the IFE Halden Research Reactor

 

"There is lots of thorium in the world” says Oystein Asphjell, Thor Energy’s chief executive it is “very well distributed all over the globe. In operations, in a reactor, it has some chemical and physical properties that make it really superior to uranium as well. On the waste side, we don’t generate long lived waste."

 

“Weinberg called it burning the rocks” says Gordon McDowel, a filmmaker working on a documentary called Thorium Remix. “You can literally mine rock just for its energy content. Thorium is so common in the earth's crust that an average American's energy demand, including industry and transportation, could be met by a half barrel of everyday rock. Dirt, anywhere in the world - worth many multiples of crude oil. The key is to very efficiently convert thorium into energy.”

 

There is so much Thorium around that America has started to dispose of it’s unused supplies. “Go out to Nevada, and dig down about 12 feet “ says McDowel “and in nice tractor-trailer containers … there is barrel after barrel of thorium nitrate, about 3,200 tons, which would provide about two-thirds of the planet's energy needs for a year. Thorium would never need to be mined. Ever.”

 



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Energy From Thorium

Thorium fuel is so plentiful that it’s unlikely to ever need mining

 

Thorium: less waste and no weapons?

 

The key advantage of Thorium over other nuclear fuel isn’t how profligate the fuel source is, but how much of the fuel is burnt up during the process. In traditional nuclear energy production only one per cent of uranium is used, the rest is turned into leftover materials like plutonium, that are either weaponised or disposed of. In a thorium reactor almost all of the thorium is used up.

 

It’s also safer to produce. “It's not prone to runaway chain reactions that can lead to nuclear disasters” says Duncan Clark, Visiting researcher at UCL Energy Institute “[thorium’s] waste products remains dangerous for a much shorter period, and its byproducts aren't useful for making nuclear weapons.

 



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Energy From Thorium

The thorium test is using a standard Boiling Water Reactor manufactured by General Electric

 

Traditional nuclear reactors “leave behind two classes of materials.” explains McDowell, “one is the actual fission products… then there is what's called the transuranics.” The fission products aren’t really a problem “they decay rather quickly. They don't really have long-term radioactivity.” But “the real challenge with spent fuel management is the presence of those transuranics: plutonium, americium, curium. When you're looking at a Yucca Mountain [Nuclear Waste Repository] or a disposal site you say, ‘What are we going to do with that?’"

 



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Wikipedia

Halden, Norway where the Thorium Reactor is being tested

 

Thorium power has, itself some powerful backers. In a famous TED speech on global warming Bill Gates said “the equation on CO2 is actually a very straightforward one… [it]  leads to a temperature increase, and that temperature increase leads to some very negative effects… and so you get ecosystem collapses.

 

“So this is a wish.’ says Gates “It's a very concrete wish that we invent this technology. If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years - I could pick who's president, I could pick a vaccine, which is something I love, or I could pick that this thing that's half the cost with no CO2 gets invented - this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact.”

 

 



#63
Raithe

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Engineering principles at work again..

Hoverbike - The Twin Rotor bmw Boxer powered Flying Motorcycle

Hover-Bike.Com
 

If Chris Malloy's Hoverbike works as it's designed to work, there's going to be a long line of customers waiting for a chance to get on board, this twin rotor BMW boxer powered hovercraft flying motorcycle will do more than give you the feeling of flying, you'll BE flying.

The carbon fiber Hoverbike weighs 231 pounds with a maximum takeoff weight of 595 pounds. On just the primary fuel tank it has a range of 92 miles at 80 knots (92 mph), with a theoretical top speed of 172 mph and a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet! So far, all tests have been tethered so these performance figures are somewhat speculative, but if he gets into the next phase of actual untethered flight, we'll know whether those numbers can be achieved.


Control is by the motorcycle style handlebars, twist grips control rotor thrust and deflection of the air vanes which provides forward and reverse, turns are controlled by turning the bars, somewhere in the near future are gyros for stability and explosive parachutes to bring the craft down in the event of engine failure or the rider can wear a chute, too. Counter rotating rotors eliminate the need for a tail rotor.

Malloy says the Hoverbike is actually designed for utilitarian purposes like search and rescue, power line inspection and the like, but I can't see this staying out of the hands of thrill seekers who have always dreamed of a bike like this. He figures it will be classed as an ultralight in the US eliminating the need for a pilot's license.

Personal hover type vehicles have a long history of great designs that never make it to market because they always seem to come up short in actual flight testing, but if there's ever been one I would like to see make it to production, this would be the one.


Edited by Raithe, 03 December 2013 - 03:52 PM.


#64
Woldan

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Interesting theory about death being merely an illusion and life/consciousness creating the universe not the other way around using quantum mechanics.


Edited by Woldan, 09 December 2013 - 05:55 AM.


#65
Rosbjerg

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I don't see the correlation between the observer effect and biocentrism. It seems logical that an observation "forces" a quantum state and thus an observation changes the outcome - and so an observer is simply another factor in a system - rather than resorting to the conclusion that reality is a product of intelligent/conscience presence.. I don't know, it just seems like quite a leap.


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#66
Woldan

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IMO its just as much of a leap as all the other theories we currently have about time, death and reality. Its all equally abstract.

 

It seems logical that an observation "forces" a quantum state and thus an observation changes the outcome. 

Thats what he said, he said that the consciousness of an observing person changes the behavior of the particle.



#67
Rosbjerg

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I know, we just disagreed on the causation after that. As he argued this was proof that life created the universe and I think it only really proves that observation should be seen as part of the phenomenon observed.



#68
aluminiumtrioxid

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Eh.



#69
Walsingham

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*Thinks*

 

Wow. Maybe this will make sense of all my weird death dreams.

 

*sees it's on the Daily Mail website*

 

 

AAAAAAAGGGHHHHHHHH!


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#70
Gfted1

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Army laser weapon KOs mortar rounds.


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#71
rjshae

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For me this is a very intriguing story...

 

Hubble Space Telescope Sees Evidence of Water Vapor Venting off Jupiter Moon

 

The moon being Europa.



#72
Raithe

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Not directly "New" but a collection of fun science based images from the last year..
 
 
io9 - The most amazing science images of 2013?

#73
Hiro Protagonist

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China lands rover on moon. Has a backdrop at a trade fair with Europe being nuked.

http://www.news.com....e-1226786319994



#74
BLnoT

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Real life light sabers : http://gizmodo.com/s...6580/@jesusdiaz

 

An intresting concept by my favourite physicist, Michio Kaku

 

I would like to point out Graphene. Although its not a recent discovery  i beleive most people have no idea of its existance. It is AMAZING! As soon as we can produce large quantaties it will liturally change the world around us. Mabye even give us that fabled space elevator =o


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#75
Gfted1

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We’re One Step Closer to Nuclear Fusion Energy.

 

High-Powered Lasers Deliver Fusion Energy Breakthrough.



#76
pmp10

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Nice to see that NIF is not turning out to be a complete disaster.

But please don't believe any of the breakthrough/break-even claims made.



#77
Wrath of Dagon

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Not really a discovery, but since we once had a long thread on lotteries and probabilities, here's an interesting article : http://www.scientifi...ng-the-lottery/
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#78
Gfted1

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Steve Perlman's Amazing Wireless Machine Is Finally Here.



#79
Gfted1

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Kepler Space Telescope's Alien Planet Bonanza Explained.



#80
Mor

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^ now all we need is stargates ;)




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