Author Topic: Science Blunders  (Read 28162 times)

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Offline billhunter

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #45 on: December 04, 2011, 11:49:19 PM »
I don't know if its fair to classify nuclear disasters as scientific blunders. These accidents seam far removed from the scientific process.  Fukashima was caused by inadequate defenses against environmental catastrophes. Chernobyl was a result of human error toe-to-toe with inadequate design and irresponsible government. At what point is science responsible?
You are right that the fact of the disaster is not a blunder, but if you look into it further, putting the backup generators in the basement was a clear blunder, especially on a plant right next to the sea on a tsunami prone island. After the tsunami, the basement flooded which stopped the generators. They had electric pumps to take care of this contingency, but without power, they couldn't run the pumps. They needed the pumps to run the generators, and needed the generators to run the pumps. They had a catch 22 which kept the plant without power until it was too late.
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Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #46 on: December 05, 2011, 05:07:38 PM »
If you want a better example of a nuclear accident caused by a science BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPEEEEEEEEEEEER, I'd point to the nuclear accident from the late 1950s (which I might have already referenced in this thread). There weren't anywhere near the level of failsafes at this place, and when a guy pulled a control rod out too far (it's unclear to this day whether he did it on purpose or accidentally), it shot out the rest of the way on its own, impaled him against the roof of the building, and nearly instantly killed the other two people at the station at the time. There were two teams of guys who went in to inspect the place - they had to get out after just a minute due to the high radiation levels. If memory serves, they all ended up dying of cancer. Then a couple nurses confirmed the state of the bodies and a guy drove them far enough away from the reactor that they could be buried on their own. All 3 of them died of cancer too, I think.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #47 on: December 05, 2011, 05:55:01 PM »

Offline Skulker

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #48 on: December 05, 2011, 06:21:48 PM »
If you want a better example of a nuclear accident caused by a science BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPEEEEEEEEEEEER, I'd point to the nuclear accident from the late 1950s (which I might have already referenced in this thread). There weren't anywhere near the level of failsafes at this place, and when a guy pulled a control rod out too far (it's unclear to this day whether he did it on purpose or accidentally), it shot out the rest of the way on its own, impaled him against the roof of the building, and nearly instantly killed the other two people at the station at the time. There were two teams of guys who went in to inspect the place - they had to get out after just a minute due to the high radiation levels. If memory serves, they all ended up dying of cancer. Then a couple nurses confirmed the state of the bodies and a guy drove them far enough away from the reactor that they could be buried on their own. All 3 of them died of cancer too, I think.
Did you get this story from The Onion ?
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Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #49 on: December 05, 2011, 07:36:08 PM »
Nope.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1

Although it took place in 1961, not technically the 1950s.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

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Offline azinyk

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #50 on: December 05, 2011, 07:47:49 PM »
Did you get this story from The Onion ?
It's based on a real event (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1), but substantially exaggerated.  All those investigators didn't die of radiation.  In fact, even the first three guys died from the explosion, not radiation poisoning.

Another engineering blunder:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_aircraft

I see that it was an unsuccessful project, and maybe a bad idea from the start, but what makes that a "blunder"?



Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #51 on: December 05, 2011, 08:06:46 PM »
I didn't say radiation poisoning, I said cancer. That info is primarily from Simon LaVey's book on science blooooooooooooopers. It's entirely possible that all the cancer deaths surrounding the event are coincidence, of course.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #52 on: December 06, 2011, 12:11:35 AM »
Did you get this story from The Onion ?
It's based on a real event (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1), but substantially exaggerated.  All those investigators didn't die of radiation.  In fact, even the first three guys died from the explosion, not radiation poisoning.

Another engineering blunder:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_aircraft

I see that it was an unsuccessful project, and maybe a bad idea from the start, but what makes that a "blunder"?
I'd figure something that looks like a bad idea from the start is a blunder.  The reports I've read indicate that the exhaust from the radioactive jet was, well, radio active.  IIRC, mostly radioactive nitrogen which decays fairly rabidly but still...  Like SL-1 it was the result of perverse incentives.  There was tons of money floating around defense aimed more or less at nuclear energy.  The Navy tapped into it successfully, but the Army and Airforce really screwed it up. 

Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #53 on: December 06, 2011, 12:32:00 AM »
Just to add to the radiation thing: in the Slotin criticality incident, 3 of the 7 onlookers in addition to Slotin himself (who died 9 days later of radiation poisoning) suffered immediate and/or long-term effects from the burst of radiation. Cancer is, well, pretty common in the US nowadays because people aren't dying of cholera or the whooping cough anymore, but it's also not unheard of for there to be long-term consequences of radiation exposure. It does look like there were a lot more people involved in the cleanup of SL-1 than the several that I mentioned, though.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

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Offline Skulker

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #54 on: December 06, 2011, 09:11:06 AM »
Nope.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1

Although it took place in 1961, not technically the 1950s.
Quote
when a guy pulled a control rod out too far (it's unclear to this day whether he did it on purpose or accidentally), it shot out the rest of the way on its own, impaled him against the roof of the building
Ok it wasn't the control rod itself that impaled the guy (that's the part I had a hard time believing) but one of the shield plugs on top of the reactor vessel. It sucks either way though.
The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'.
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Offline cpmorris1001

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #55 on: December 11, 2011, 10:33:06 AM »
In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. One New York prognosticator of the 1890s concluded that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan’s third-story windows.

 :)

Offline ♫♪ FX ♪♫

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #56 on: December 29, 2011, 09:09:32 AM »
All,

For an article I am writing I need the biggest science blunders of all time. I would appreciate any suggestion.

These should be blunders where a huge mental mistake was made, hopefully with a lesson that can be learned.

It may be too soon still, but it looks like the classic blunder of underestimating nature is being repeated, in a very bad way.

Quote
One of the nation's most widely planted crops — a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide — may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45807933/ns/business-retail/

Quote
A scientist recently sounded an alarm throughout the biotech industry when he published findings concluding that rootworms in a handful of Bt cornfields in Iowa had evolved an ability to survive the corn's formidable defenses. Similar crop damage has been seen in parts of Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska, but researchers are still investigating whether rootworms capable of surviving the Bt toxin were the cause.
      Based on the past, I would bet on nature, rather than the scientists. 


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Offline goodthink

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #57 on: December 29, 2011, 10:33:37 AM »
Definitely Einstein's addition of the Cosmological constant in order to meet his aesthetics.


Isn't this coming back into fashion?

Offline Chew

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #58 on: December 29, 2011, 10:44:09 AM »
When Crick wrote the central dogma of molecular biology he didn't fully understand the meaning of the word "dogma". Not really a science blunder; more of a D'oh!
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Offline Xptical

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Re: Science Blunders
« Reply #59 on: December 29, 2011, 11:26:10 AM »
Definitely Einstein's addition of the Cosmological constant in order to meet his aesthetics.


Isn't this coming back into fashion?

That's what I wonder when I hear explanations of dark matter/dark energy and the Higgs boson.

 

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