Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 anniversary

Today, September 11, is the 10 year anniversary of the hijacking of four airplanes by terrorists, resulting in the death of all passengers, the destruction of the Twin Towers in Manhattan, and damaging the Pentagon. Nearly 3000 died in the attacks. The attacks caused the US to go to war in Afghanistan, and, by a leap of logic, also caused the US to invade and occupy Iraq. It also led to the opening of the Guantanamo bay detention camp. So far there have been 1700 US casualties in (and around) Afghanistan and 4400 US casualties in Iraq. The estimates of the total number of deaths, all nationalities included, in Afghanistan and Iraq varies wildly, but the bulk (100000 to 800000) consists of Iraqi civilians.

Today, September 11, is also the 6 months anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. The earthquake shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in). The speed of the Earth's rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to the redistribution of Earth's mass. (This affects the way that spacecraft being sent to Mars are navigated.) It triggered tsunami waves of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in places. The earthquake and tsunami caused 125000 buildings to be damaged or destroyed, as well as the meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima. 20000 people are dead or missing, more than 140000 people living near Fukushima were evacuated and are not returning there in the foreseeable future, and the consequences of the meltdowns are still developing.

Radioactive particles keep popping up in more and more places. Almost every day there is a measurement somewhere showing some radioactivity. The amounts are sometimes small, sometimes with sudden local spikes, but they show an irresistible spread. What are the long term consequences of relatively low-level radioactivity in the environment, the food, the water? Time will tell.

Progress in Fukushima: if you look at the raw data, it is not easy to spot signs of progress, however for the last couple of weeks the temperature of the first nuclear reactor has dropped below 100 Celsius degrees (, so there is some slow, slow progress.

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