Sunday, April 20, 2014

Win win: Energy from (nuclear) waste

Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment, ORNL
Did you know about the Waste Annihilating Molten Salt (WAMS) reactor idea? I didn't, though it sounds similar in principle - passively safe - to the molten salt thorium reactor which ran for 4 years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Why aren't these means of both generating massive amounts of power plus ridding the world of highly active nuclear waste at the top of the energy agenda?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Shit, euphemisms and a bear of very little brain

To me, the word 'poo', now ubiquitous, is deeply insulting to its ursine homonym Pooh, aka Winnie the Pooh, that famous and actually rather smart bear created by A A Milne. I mention this because 'poo' has crept into serious science writing and science programmes put out by the likes of the BBC.

A letter in New Scientist (15 February 2014, p.34) prompted me to write this post, firstly because the use of the word 'poo' gets up my nose (when my children were young, we as a family, used the word shit) and secondly because of Stuart Tallack's aforementioned letter. Since it is not preserved in the magazine's online archive, I reproduce part of it here. Indeed, it could have been written by me:

I am not 5 years old and so don't need the prissy and childish word "poo" to assault my eyes. Excreta, faeces or droppings are perfectly acceptable; dung is perhaps not, as it implies manure. Shit was originally used without any connotation of vulgarity and should re-enter respectable society. But please, not "poo". What next? Articles on genitalia using such euphemisms as "front bottom", "naughty bits" and "meat and two veg"?

Thank you, Stuart! It needed saying. Now I'm off for a shit... and maybe I'll read one of my favourite Pooh stories while I sit on the bog (throne, john etc.). Got that?