March 19, 2011

Wind Turbines Hot, Nuclear Plants Hotter

After the biggest earthquake in recorded history was followed by a massive tsunami, Japan is now fighting to avoid a nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima. However, wind power is saving the day.

The Guardian reports that health workers have detected radiation levels that are above recognized safety limits in milk and spinach from farms in Fukushima prefecture and in neighbouring Ibaraki prefecture, although it was claimed they represented no risk to human health. Officials have asked people living near the plant to follow basic safety advice when going outside: drive, don't walk; wear a mask; wear long sleeves; don't go out in the rain.

Radiation levels in Tokyo were said to be within safe limits. Nevertheless, the city has seen an exodus of tourists, expatriates and many Japanese, who fear a blast of radioactive material from Fukushima should the situation at the plant worsen. Many Tokyo residents are traveling south to stay with family and friends in the south of Japan.

While the nuclear power plant continues to sputter and spew, Japan's wind turbines and picking up the slack and going strong. "There has been no wind facility damage reported by any [Japan Wind Energy Association] members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami," said Yoshinori Ueda, head of the Japan Wind Energy Association.

Several sources report that the Kamisu offshore wind farm, with its giant 2 MW turbines with blades comparable in size to the wings of a jumbo jet and situated only 186 miles from the epicenter of the quake, survived without any damage at all. "As a result," Grist reports, "the nation's electric companies have asked all of its wind farms to increase power production to maximum, in order to make up for the shortfalls brought about by the failure of certain other aging, non-resilient 20th-century technologies."

March 9, 2011

Where Science Meets Sci-Fi

The crew of the Discovery space shuttle got a nice surprise when their usual wake-up call was changed to a variation of the 'Star Trek' opening as read by Captain James T. Kirk, of the fictitious Starship Enterprise.

William Shatner provided a special Star Trek message to the crew of the space shuttle Discovery during the Flight Day 12 wake-up call today.

Shatner replaced the original television introduction with, "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before." In fact, why not just watch the video below?

The space shuttle Discovery is currently on its final mission before being retired from service. The shuttle will become a museum exhibit, and its retirement marks the end of an era. Hopefully, it also marks the beginning of a new era of space discovery and international cooperation.