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June 23, 2011

75% of U.S. nuclear reactors leak radioactive tritium into the groundwater

AP IMPACT: Tritium leaks found at many nuke sites - Yahoo! News
BRACEVILLE, Ill. – Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation. Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies. At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.

June 22, 2011

Whining is the worst sound ever

Whining May Be World’s Most Annoying Sound | Wired Science | Wired.com
The high-pitched, cat-like sounds that infants begin to make between two-and-a-half and four years of age, otherwise known as whining, were shown to be the most distracting sounds by the study, at least in comparison to other infant cries and “motherese” — the exaggerated baby speak adopted by adults. Psychologists from SUNY and Clark University put participants through the daft trial of trying to do maths problems while listening to a range of six sounds, including a screeching saw on wood, machine noise, a baby crying, motherese and whining, for a whole minute each. Weirdly, the whining sample actually came from an adult, as child actors could not “act out a sustained whining bout”. Previous research has shown adult and child whining to be similar enough to enable this substitution. The study subjected both men and women, parents and non-parents, to the tests, who were rewarded for their troubles with either M&Ms or toy shop vouchers, depending on their childrearing experience. After having looked at the maths results, the psychologists found that while all “attachment vocalisations” — meaning motherese, crying or whining — caused greater distraction than silence to the participants, a minute of whining resulted in a greater number of mistakes than machine noise or motherese. Furthermore, both parents and non-parents were affected similarly by whining.

New research suggests video games may be responsible fr a drop in crime rates

Research Indicates That Video Games May Be A Factor In Declining US Crime Rate - GayGamer.net
The article takes a snapshot view of several different theories on what may be causing or contributing to this, including smarter policing, less demand for crack (cocaine, that is), and the baby boomers growing older than the "criminal age" (which is a just a euphemism for 18-29 year-old males). Among the other reasons is the one that's caught the gaming community's eye: 9. A study released last month suggested video games were keeping young people off the streets and therefore away from crime. Researchers in Texas working with the Centre for European Economic Research said this "incapacitation effect" more than offset any direct impact the content of the games may have had in encouraging violent behaviour. This is an interesting little tidbit as it flies in the face of the greater narrative of video games corrupting our youth (speaking of flying in the face of greater narratives, check out the article's graphing of robbery and murder rates: Both stay flat during the three Bush administrations, but drop sharply during the Clinton and Obama years). According to that research, then, video games are keeping young people too busy to commit crimes, the inference being that young men disproportionately play video games and young men disproportionately commit crimes. A few words of caution are in order, however: The article doesn't claim that this is the only reason for dropping crime rates, but rather it's one of many; also, the article doesn't link to the study from the Centre for European Economic Research (aka. the ZEW). After having scoured the ZEW's website and the internets in general, I was unable to find the study to which the BBC article refers - so if any of our readers has a link, I'd love to see it.