Saturday, August 29, 2015

                     POWERS  OF  TWO

The comments at this blogs idiotarian namesake are a constant reminder of late great AI icon John McCarthy who observed:
"Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to talk nonsense." 
Sadly, this applies equally to zealots pro and con in most matters environmental- as surely as half the electorate have two digit IQ's, the majority of  Democrats and Republicans are mystified by numbers larger than their digit count.  

Aspirant PBS producers may script films entitled 'Powers of Ten", but know from bitter experience that the question of American numeracy is better addressed by "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?"   Public television should instead focus the unreasonable power of Sesame Street mathematics  on the looming radioactive apocalypse,  using powers of the largest number generally seen in political advertising: 2.

While the very phrase " order of magnitude" puts ubergeeks to sleep, talking powers of two may,  half the time,  leave a quarter of the audience awake for eight seconds. Mention  half-lives, and that fraction falls by a factor of  four times four or more, raising the sixty-four dollar question of why environmental activists are not terrified  of all thecarbon 14 atoms in sustainable fuels ?

If , as is a known fact,  one atom of plutonium can kill you and radium is even worse, imagine how unimaginably lethal a radioisotope with a half life of just 5,000 years must be ! 

Thank god that, unlike nuclear bomb and reactor radwaste,  nature has given fossil fuels millions and billions of years to cool off ! Thanks to the passage of time, coal, oil, and gas have seen their once lethal carbon 14 decay away,  the numbers of life threatening 14C nuclei cut in two like clockwork every 5,730 years, so that after a mere 114 millennia, scarce one atom in  a million remains.

But wait a minute: as surely as climate change is caused by cosmic rays , the pesky things are constantly creating Carbon -14 atoms in the atmosphere, so that land sea and air , the Earth today contains some 50 tons of the stuff. Taking calculator in hand ( who the hell knows how to divide by 14 ?) and Googling Avagadro's Number, one soon discerns that billions of trillions of trillions of the death-dealing atoms are runing amok in the environment.

While all Fox viewers realize CO2 is plant food , neither plants nor the peple who eat them seem aware of the danger carbon 14 poses, it is clear that a lot of vegetarians are going to die, but what about the rest of us? 

Who will save carnivores from microagression by diminutive but irate carbon 14 atoms when  in the name of sustainability, carbohydrates get turned into gasohol, spewing 14 C into the very air  breathed by chickens, cows, ducks, Miss Piggy and Kermit himself- the whole Green food chain is detectably awash in radioactivity.

But wait a minute- if carbon 14 atoms are  dying like flies, surely  the day must come when the last nucleus standing croaks? Back to the calculator: if only one in a million makes it to the ripe old age of 114,000 years , and one in two million to 228,000, how long will it take to get to the end of the line? 

As twenty powers of two equal six powers of ten,  a scant hundred powers of two should put paid to the problem-  just sit back and wait for half a million years and the problem will take care of itself: not one in 1,267,650,600,228, 229,401,496,703,205,376  carbon 14 atoms will remain !

All antinuclear activists need do to survive the radioactive biofuel apocalypse is retreat to their population bomb shelters , and instruct their posterity to spend the next twenty thousand generations replenishing their vital bodily fluids with vegetables raised in greenhouses fed CO2 from pure fossil  fuels.