Thursday, December 3, 2015

Two Important Statements

We've all seen a lot in the news lately about university students protesting. What initiates the protests is frequently an asserted institutional racism. A significant part of that claim has been imported from outside the universities, including the infamous false "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" falsehood from Ferguson, Missouri. Other parts come from perceived racial slights, or from having accidentally seen a Confederate flag passing by off-campus. A number of the incidents later turned out not to have happened; they were simply rumors that by repetition became accepted as fact. To put it less charitably, a number of the precipitating events seem to have simply been made up.

The protesters didn't stop with these grievances. They added others. They feel disrespected because there aren't enough instructors that meet their racial and ideological preconceptions. They feel disrespected — and "erased", "excluded", "victimized", "marginalized", and a few other words by the "microaggressions" they claim they are frequently subjected to. They want "safe places" available to them, and they want "trigger warnings" before anyone within their hearing utters anything that contradicts their cherished fantasies — what they call "violence" or "rhetorical genocide". They object to anything that makes them "feel bad". The victimhood culture is there in full force.

There is finally beginning to be a bit of pushback. I've seen several items on this, nearly all about groups of students who have gotten fed up. But the best pushback item is from a college president, the first I've noted who actually shows he has a spine. His statement is here. Here is his summary, talking about his university.

Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.

This is not a day care. This is a university.

A university is supposed to be a place where free discussion of conflicting ideas is encouraged, the home of the viewpoint that the solution to any problems caused by free speech is more free speech. That's the way it was in the past. That's why there were protests and anti-protest protests. There were serious discussions going late into the night between serious people on all sides. People were forced to reexamine their beliefs and prejudices, and sometimes even what they had believed were facts. As a result, people learned and grew outside of class as well as inside class. It is incredibly sad that this seems to be no longer the case.

This story, as Drudge would say, is             Developing.


Separately, there was a Wall Street Journal article headlined A Nuclear Paradigm Shift? (sorry, it's behind their subscription pay wall) with the sub-headline saying "U.S. regulators may radically revise safety assumptions about atomic radiation." At issue is the LNT model [the Linear No-Threshold model] that has been used and abused in all things atomic and nuclear since the phenomenon of radioactive decay was discovered.

The LNT model says that getting hit by a car going 1 mph (about a third of walking speed) can be just as lethal as getting hit by a car going 50 mph, just less frequently (2% of the time). The article notes that LNT "underlies predictions of thousands of cancer deaths from Chernobyl or Fukushima that have consistently failed to be borne out."

It's worse than that. People living at higher altitudes naturally get much higher doses of radiation than those living near sea level. (My favorite comparison is below, at *.) The LNT model predicts those high altitude residents should have much higher rates of cancer and all other maladies related to radiation than their cousins living at low altitude. But reality disagrees. All over the world, the areas with the longest-lived people are those at high altitude. In other words, not only does the higher radiation level at high altitude not cause higher cancer and death rates, it appears to have an annealing effect on organisms that helps increase their longevity. That is even broader than the other evident conclusion, that the problem with the LNT model is precisely that its predicted effects have no threshold.

I would say that, if radiation followed the LNT model, it would be the only thing in the world that does.

The Wall Street Journal story notes that

In June, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission began soliciting comments on whether to revise the safety standards in favor of a more sophisticated view, known as hormesis, which recognizes that organisms bathed in natural radiation have evolved cellular responses that protect against low-level radiation doses.       . . .

By now hundreds of papers have added evidence against LNT. A study last year from Munich’s Institute of Radiation Biology showed a specific mechanism by which low levels of radiation induce a nonlinear response in certain cell protection mechanisms.

Even now, anything associated with the terms "atomic" or "nuclear" evokes a panic response. It is long past time for a more reasoned and logical response.

*Remember Three Mile Island? It was played as a nuclear disaster almost as big as Chernobyl. But if there had been someone in the control room through the entire time of that crisis, that person would have gotten less radiation than I did simply because I lived in the Albuquerque area (the same altitude as Denver) — even if the control room had stayed at its peak radiation level through the entire crisis period.

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