Thursday, March 18, 2010

Physics for Everyone

This was the title of an invited session yesterday at the APS meeting.  Ivan Schuller put together a very interesting collection of talks, with subjects of broad interest to a large audience.  Ray Orbach gave an updated version of his presentation about the global energy challenge, including a strong plea that the US re-start reprocessing spent nuclear fuel (an idea I've held for a long time, so clearly it has merit :-) ).  Ted Postol spoke about his ideas on ballistic missile defense.  Charles Falco presented his recent work on converting digital cameras from conventional visible light photography to infrared (and recently ultraviolet) wavelengths, and using those cameras to look at art works.  Fascinating stuffEugenie Reich gave a half-hour talk to a packed room about Hendrik Schön (see this pdf for the whole megillah), based on her book.  No revelations, and surprisingly little discussion of co-author/collaborator responsibilities.  She did have some amusing graphs, like the one displaying Schön's publications vs. time next to the Lucent stock price vs. time.  Finally, the session closed with a fun talk by Alan Nathan about the physics of baseball.  These kinds of sessions are a great feature of large meetings, though they must be a lot of work to put together.

7 comments:

Zach said...

It's my understanding that there is not enough spent nuclear fuel in the US to make reprocessing worthwhile. We'd have to have nuclear facilities on the French scale, and with all the NIMBYism and uninformed hysteria surrounding nuclear power, that's not likely to happen any time soon.

Converter said...

we should try to lessened the nulear spread. its harmful for all of us.

Doug Natelson said...

Zach, I hate to break it to you, but the US already produces considerably more nuclear power than France. See <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_by_country>here</a>. The US, back in the Carter administration, made the decision that fuel reprocessing was not economically worthwhile. The problem is, their analysis did not accurately reflect the real total costs (incl. environmental) of storing the unprocessed spent fuel. This is despite the fact that the US invented much of the relevant technology. France and Japan, for example, decided to have the government subsidize reprocessing. The result is that they get much much more energy out of their fuel, and they have much less total waste which is generally much less radioactive.

Proliferation is a concern, but nuclear power is a proven technology, can be done safely (relative to fossil fuels), and does not produce greenhouse emissions.

Anonymous said...

For me, and a lot of others, nuclear always seems beg the question: why bother?

Given the enormous subsidies, safety regulation, and waste planning nuclear power needs to make it competitive with fossil fuels, why not go with a pure renewable source? Wind, solar thermal and OTEC are all expected to be very cost competitive in the next few decades. If there was enough political will, the US could be off fossil fuels for the grid in a decade.

The Sun is the ultimate fusion power source

Zach said...

Well, that's what I get for shooting my mouth off without checking my facts first. I guess you get to win this one.

vintage bracelets said...

Yehh. That’s called Physics for everyone. I hope that they let the students get involved in some sort of research or internship. This is the field of work that I want to pursue upon graduating from the Cockrell School of Engineering, so I would love any opportunities to get involved!

san diego office furniture said...

His work was really appreciable as his recent work was converting digital cameras from conventional visible light photography to infrared wavelengths.