Friday, December 29, 2006

The January, 2007 edition of Scientific American has a couple of interesting article surrounding the recent (Oct. 9th, 2006) attempt by North Korea to test a nuclear devise. The first article under the 'News Scan' section of the magazine is entitled 'Kim's Big Fizzle', and it is more than dismissive of the North Korean attempt. (Molly Note: the history of "real existing socialism" in the last century is a very exemplary example of behavioral analysis applied to humans in that it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt how much "operant conditioning" (the carrot) is superior to "aversive conditioning" (the stick). Western economies that offer rewards rather than threats produce missiles that fly-unlike NK missiles- and nuclear devises that actually explode properly- once more unlike NK devises. This is not a matter of a superior 'economy". It is simply a matter of proper understanding of what produces results on a "lower" biological level) The article in SA reported that the consensus was that the yield of the devise was very much lower than that usually for a 'first devise". Most countries initial tests range from 5 to 25 kilotons (the first US test 'Trinity' yielded 20 kilotons). The consensus was that the NK test had a yield of about half a kiloton. Sceptics who opined that the test had not been "nuclear" were confounded by air samples collected by satellite two days after the explosion that confirmed the nuclear nature of the event, especially detection of radioactive isotopes of xenon that can only be produced by nuclear reactions.
What went wrong with the NK devise depends on the type of nuclear material used. The consensus is that it was a plutonium based devise, and this is supported by what is known of North Korea's enrichment programs. The state of uranium enrichment in NK is unknown at this time. Plutonium devises may "misfire" because the implosion that triggers the the critical mass of the devise may be asymmetrical. This depends on engineering skill to combine both fast and slow conventional explosives that compress the plutonium core. It also depends upon a skilled labour force that can machine the designed components into a configuration that will produce a precisely !!!! spherical implosion upon detonation. The critical density is at least 2 to five times the natural density of plutonium. The higher the density the greater the final nuclear yield.
If the initial implosion is not symmetrical (by even a factor of 100 nanoseconds ie 1/100,000,000th of a second) then the plutonium core will "squirt out" in the direction where the shock wave is the weakest, and the core will not reach "critical mass".
Another potential engineering problem is the "initiator", a small area at the centre of the plutonium core that in a functioning nuclear devise will emit a burst of neutrons that will trigger the chain reaction of a nuclear explosion. If this core triggers too early, as may occur when too much of the isotope Plutonium 240 is present the burst of neutrons will occur too early, and the explosion will "fizzle". This is called "predetonation". When nuclear fuel rods are originally processed there is much more of the desired isotope plutonium 239, but as they are stored plutonium 240 becomes more abundant. Nobody knows the storage time of NK plutonium. (Molly Note: including the North Koreans because, as I have mentioned before, a system depending upon punishment rather than reward encourages lying at such a high level that few can tell truth from fiction. Certainly heads have rolled because of Kim's latest failure, but the structural problems have NOT been addressed. Sell the technology to a country such as Pakistan where there is "reward" rather than terror, and the engineering problems are solved decades before they are solved in the source country. Simple animal conditioning that political theories don't take account of).
The January edition of Scientific American goes on to describe the methods whereby the detonation of nuclear devises are detected in the further article entitled 'Seismic Sentries'. This article describes the worldwide network of seismic devises that have been set up to detect both ordinary seismic devises and nuclear explosions. The article notes that nuclear explosions "typically" produce a different seismic signature than ordinary earthquakes do. To those who are familiar with ECGs/EKGs the language is similar, but for those who are not this is the best I can do to translate. Nuclear explosions produce a initial pulse of "P waves" that propagate in ALL directions and produce intense spikes that gradually and regularly quite down. In contrast classic earthquakes begin with a VERY slight reading of P waves followed in a few seconds to minutes by "S wave" representing shear forces as the earthquake develops and faults slip side to side along each other.
The Scientific American article goes on to describe the complications of this simple model and how a nuclear detonation can create the same sort of shear forces t5hat an ordinary earthquake cane depending upon the local geology or how P waves can turn into S waves upon transmission through certain strata. There is also the complicating factor of certain strata "muffling" the much more intense S waves so that they appear like P waves.
(Molly Note: this is VERY much like how we take an ECG (a term that I!!!! prefer to EKG). The "S" waves that the speak about above are part of the "QRS" complex that we measure in the electroconductivity of the heart, and the reason why we use several different leads in these tests will become apparent as I go on in this article. Quite frankly I find this a matter of deep pleasure. To find connections between diagnosing problems in one area of a mammalian heart and "diagnosing" "what has happened with the Earth. This is ONE of the reasons I recommend people become acquainted with science rather than superstition. The connections are much deeper and more rewarding. ...but anyhow...)
The method that people have discovered to separate the effects of intervening geological strata is basically to "sum" the reading from various monitoring stations across the Earth and also to compare the signals from these stations with known events. Seismographic stations in China "located" the Korean event while American stations gave an estimate of the "fizzle" yield" od said event. Some stations may be of greater accuracy as to "location" while others, because of geological structure, may be better for "yield". Such is life and reality.
None of these methods are EXACT. During the Cold War the US missed 26 of the Soviet Union's 366 underground tests in Central Asia, mostly because there were no "local" seismographic stations available. Unlike the situation today where Chinese stations report automatically worldwide.
(Molly Note:Pull one of the leads from an ECG and see how much information you get. It isn't totally useless, but it is less than if you had all leads attached attached)
Further Molly Notes: To get an idea of the worldwide seismographic network consult . The Scientific American article actually quoted outdated statistics in terms of the monitoring stations available today (2006). For the latest updates see where the most recent numbers for seismic/hydrasound and other monitoring stations are gathered.
One more further Molly Note. It may be hard for me to gauge the North American "popular press" response to the North Korean test as I was "out of the country" when it happened. Let's take the following- as may be apparent from what I have said above- I am of the opinion that commies can do nothing right without great effort. Stalinist Russia advanced their industry by the "great effort" of eliminating 10 to 15 % of their population. That's a GREAT EFFORT !!!! No fascist regime has exerted this effort and therefore no fascist regime has achieved such "success". The Chinese Maoist regime killed 50 million with far less economic effect, often a regression rather than a progression.
What I can say about the popular press is as follows. I am sure that the whole matter of North Korea and its "nukes" (whether they be be 'real nukes' or the usual 'socialist nukes' that fizzle like the SA article suggests) was far,far,far,far,far less of a matter of concern in Europe where I was when it happened than it was back in Canada. The event took place while I was in Praha in the Czech Republic, and it did not register on the news there at all. By the time we reached Venezia in Italy where I could more or less understand news broadcasts and papers I found the same thing. In Italia the news was dominated by the Pope's visit to Verona, how he had criticized "secularism" in his visit and how the right wing forces in Italia had turned his visit into a demonstration for their (his ?) views. The news was also dominated by either further revelations of the corruption of the right wing (and some lefties) forces that supported Il Papa. This is Italy. Is this news ? Fascists, Catholics, Socialists, Greenies, Communists--they are ALL the same grey money grabbers to the average Italian.
The news was also dominated by the local opposition to expansion of the American Air Force/Strike Force base in North East Italy. Whether in favour of such or against it the papers/TV/radio gave far more play to this plan than was given to the NK events.
I have no idea how the North Korean tests played out in the USA. All that I can do do is compare the play that they got in Canada "before" we left the continent and compare it to the "non-play" in Europe. The degree of hysteria would undoubtedly have been far greater in the USA without the realistic view of NK's "achievements" presented in Scientific American. I have little doubt that OVER 98% of the American population believes that North Korea is presently able to rain an infinite amount of nukes down on then as we speak. It would be a great proof of conservative ideology IF it was true. But "truth" has little to do with ideology. So much of American neo-con ideology resembles the NK devise. It exploded and produced a "puff" rather than an explosion.

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