Monday, June 27, 2005

Math Problem VIII / Physics Problem I

The Bush Administration is renewing production of Plutonium-238, a radioactive substance not found naturally on the Earth. 94Pu238 has a half-life of 86 years and decays by ejecting an alpha particle. It has a high spontaneous fission rate and a very high heat output. It is not normally used for weapons, nor is it normally produced in pure form. It is typically a minor constituent of plutonium produced by neutron bombardment of 92U238.

Plutonium can be used as a power source in space probes, espionage devices, etc., owing to its intrinsic heat, as well as in nuclear weapons. The Bush plan calls for 330 pounds of Plutonium to be produced over a 30-year period. The program would cost $1.5 billion over that period; no specific information has been released about the intended use of the material, but powering espionage devices is the assumed purpose for most of it.


Plutonium will cause death in a few days to a few weeks if swallowed as 500 mg of a soluble salt or a finely divided powder. Inhalation effects depend on the size of the particles inhaled, but 20-100 mg is sufficient to cause death within one month if the particles are retained.



Into what isotope does 94Pu239 decay?


(1 kg = 2.205 lb)

1) If all the plutonium about to be produced according to the Bush Administration's plans were converted to soluble plutonium and ingested by human beings, how many human beings could it kill?

2) If all the plutonium about to be produced were converted to finely divided airborne particles and inhaled by human beings, what is the maximum number of people it could kill?

3) If the overall estimate of the program's cost at $1.5b is correct, what would be the cost per person of killing the people in 2)? Can you think of other ways to kill that many people which would be cheaper?

Answers in comments.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Music Project III / Biology Project I / Religion Project II

Write a song which compares God to the giant squid (Architeuthis dux) without irony. You may view this page for information about A. dux which may prove inspirational. Songs will be performed in front of the class and grades assigned on the basis of other students' assessments.

EDIT: This project has been cancelled because it has been brought to my attention that the pro-animal-rights Christian Contemporary heavy metal band "Tourniquet" has already written such a song. You can read the lyrics here. You may read reviews of the album on which "Architeuthis" was released, Where Moth and Rust Destroy, here. A new project will be assigned shortly.

Poetry Worksheet I

Your assignment is to follow this link to refried ORACLE phone and answer the questions therein.

Responses will be graded by Stan according to whatever criteria he chooses.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Future of the United States Pop Quiz I

1. Silicon Valley, California : 1987 : : ________ : 2030

a. Casper, Wyoming
b. Salt Lake City, Utah
c. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
d. Research Triangle, North Carolina

2. The end point for the collapse of church-state separation in the United States (by 2035) will be:

a. Sunday shopping and working still permitted
b. contraception allowed for married couples
c. divorce still possible in cases of infidelity
d. mandatory child-bearing or adoption for all married couples

3. The most valuable thing (as determined by its value in trade) to own in the U.S. in the year 2045 will be:

a. a Bible
b. a beer
c. a gun
d. a ten-day course of antibiotics

4. Reproductive cloning will first be achieved in _______, but will never be widespread because of the attendant __________.

a. 2006, expense
b. 2015, legal risk
c. 2019, health problems of the clones so made
d. [will never be achieved], [impossibility of the process]

5. By 2027, ________ will be the new crude oil.

a. hydrogen
b. drinkable water
c. sunscreen
d. gold

6. The current Iraq war will end in _________, amid ___________.

a. March 2007, George Bush's impeachment hearings
b. December 2018, the collapse of the global economy
c. November 2005, huge demonstrations protesting the draft
d. February 2010, catastrophic nuclear assault on the U.S. by North Korea

7. AIDS : 1980 : : ________ : 2030

a. the Ebola virus
b. smallpox
c. multidrug resistant tuberculosis
d. influenza

8. In 2021, it will be illegal to teach evolution in ______ U.S. state(s).

a. one
b. three
c. fourteen
d. twenty-nine

9. The point of the United States' greatest consumerist excess will be realized in the year _____ by the ______.

a. 2006, self-tearing toilet paper roll
b. 2008, portable microwave oven
c. 2009, 'MegaHumvee' sport-utility-assault vehicle
d. 2011, personal x-ray machine (with optional CAT scanner attachment)

10. You personally, going into the decades of the 2020s and 2030s, are most going to miss:

a. infections that can be cleared up with a course of antibiotics
b. drinkable water
c. electricity
d. food-transportation infrastructure

My answers in comments. Yours may vary. Grades will be assigned in 2045. Each question is worth ten points.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Art Project V

you will need:

food coloring
8-oz. drinking glasses (number subject to personal discretion)
a two-gallon or smaller desktop aquarium with top-down illumination
a bucket or plastic wastebasket
small syringe (preferable) or turkey baster
(preferably viral:) sinusitis with pronounced post-nasal drip, bronchitis1, or tonsillitis2

1 If you have asthma, COPD, emphysema, or other condition in which bronchitis would be more than usually life-threatening, I must have a note from your parent(s) or guardian(s) giving permission for you to go ahead with bronchitis. Students unable to get permission are encouraged to get a sinus infection instead.
2 You will not be able to get tonsillitis if you have had your tonsils out already.

WARNING: Students with elevated blood pressure, or who are on sodium-restricted diets, may skip this project with the written permission of their doctor.

1. Wait for peak mucus production from your respiratory infection of choice. Post-nasal drip is highly desirable.
2. Disconnect and discard aeration equipment, if any, from the aquarium.
3. Remove top (including light) from aquarium and fill with clean, lukewarm tap water.
4. Place salt in each of the drinking glasses, and fill to 8-ounce mark with warm water. Amount of salt should vary between glasses from half a teaspoon to four teaspoons. Stir water until salt is dissolved.
5. Add food coloring to the salt water in the drinking glasses. No two glasses should have exactly the same color composition. Keep in mind that the colors will be diluted considerably by the time they appear in the work.
6. Gargle with the colored salt-water mixture for as long as possible and spit it out into the wastebasket or bucket.
7. You should now have some highly-colored, very salty, mucus left in your mouth. Carefully spit it into the aquarium. If all has gone according to plan, and the sinus infection, salt level, coloration, and etc., are at appropriate levels, you should now have a string or blob of colored mucus in the aquarium. If it is highly saturated in salt, it will be at the bottom; if your mucus is of inconsistent quality, or you had to spit it out with force, it may be stringy. Low-salt or low-viscosity mucus may spread out at the top of the aquarium; if this is not a desirable effect for you, remove it by sucking it out with the syringe, or skim the top with a glass.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 as many times as desired for each of your color selections. You may need to take a break or two in the process of building up your mucus sculpture, to give your body a chance to produce more mucus. Rinse with water twice between each color switch; otherwise, some of the preceding color may taint the working color.
9. When you have finished, replace the aquarium top, and turn on the overhead light and assess your construction. Are the colors pleasing? Are the mucus blobs and strings relating to one another harmoniously ? If there are any air bubbles in the piece, do they enhance it?
10. Use the syringe to remove undesired elements, nudge mucus globs into alternate positions, remove or add small air bubbles, etc.
11. As your construction would be destroyed by even minor jostling from transportation, your grade will be assessed on the basis of photographs or sketches of the work. For photographs, get as close as possible while still keeping the picture in focus: detail is critical! Experimenting with lighting of different intensities, or at different angles, may be helpful. Sketches are likely to be of better image quality but are more time-consuming, and the mucus may dissolve during the production of the sketch. Keeping the work cool may slightly delay disintegration.
12. Students who are unable to achieve satisfactory results with photography or sketches may bring their apparatus to school with them and construct their pieces on-site. Principal Brown may or may not view the pieces as well, and may or may not know the method for their construction when he views them.


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Results of Art Project III, done in January with a smaller-than-recommended number of balloons.