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Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Nuclear Spring, frozen brains, repressed memories and flashbacks.

Let's  take it backwards.
Almost 25 years ago to the date; I was a mostly cheerful fellow, taking my prescribed courses at a University and  a busy social life of a student with a stride. A spring was in full blossom, vacations not-to-far away, and grueling exams  not-tomorrow yet, along with the usual bag of things that tend to make young person happy. The news broke out, first through unofficial channels, but soon even the state-controlled media picked it up. There were elevated radiation levels detected somewhere in Sweden, with the source most likely being in Soviet Union. Within the next few days the news became clear. There was a major disaster at a nuclear power plant some 1000 kilometers to the east from my homestead with radioactive plumes spreading over the Europe and around the globe. I left my student's flat in a Big City and arrived at home for the weekend, bringing my usual load of dirty laundry to be washed and a craving for home-made food. My Mom was working the weekend as usual and soon after greeting my Grandmother, ravaging the food and setting up the the washer, I was on my way the the hospital to show myself to her before heading to visit my old friends to commence the other weekend routine.
Here the core of the flashback comes in: my Mom, the most cheerful person I know, with a deep concern or fear in her eyes and slightly shaking hands, handing me a medicinal cup filled with potassium  iodide solution she prepared herself insisting I drink that untasty treat before disappearing into the night.
Repressed Memories.
I am not believer in many thing, I guess it comes with skeptical nature. Among the myriad of things I do not believe is repressed memories. I believe that there is always some awareness of any important events that happened in the past. While not always on the surface (for good information-management reasons), memories are always there, imprinted in the neuronal network and they are accessible for recall, with more or less details when triggered or called for. What I find interesting, is that the collective memory appear to function exactly same way. There is always some awareness in the society of what happened in the past, sometimes elevated to a category of an Urban Legend (see previous post) if the underlying event was serious or curious enough.
Frozen Brains. 
One day, a some kind of quake happens and and the flashbacks are in full force, put in front of your eyes by the media, happy having the very important news of the day and folks glued to TVs gulping on others misfortune. There is a usual parade of experts bringing their three dimes (inflation) largely misinforming the public, not out of ill will but of ignorance. I have been taking my time out of my vacations participating part-time, watching Bill O'Reilly playing down the Fukushima or Sanjay Gupta (generally a lovely fellow) talking about clothing being protective against gamma radiation. In fact, it may help with beta radiation, but for gamma is about as effective as a sunscreen, and there is whole issue of radioactive isotopes getting build-in into living organisms. Radioactive cesium and strontium being the prime example, fitting nicely in the place of calcium in the hydroxyapatite crystals of the bones.
Simply, the news coverage of the events has been pathetic so far, the only stand-out being physicist Michio Kaku who bluntly recommended starting the entombing the faulty reactors now or rather yesterday.
Chernobyl disaster comparisons, frequently deployed now, mainly to tell us that this one is not as bad, seem to be misplaced and in perfect place at the same time. Misplaced mainly because the Fukushima reactors seem to be of different design then Chernobyl's, using water rather than graphite as a moderator.  Graphite was the main source of fuel for the fire and explosion in Chernobyl and the main fallout. The correctness of the comparison is in the fact that in both cases the controlled nuclear reaction in the reactors became uncontrolled and that results in the nuclear fuel meltdown. Believe me, even 4 or 6 inches of steel is a wimpy shield for the nuclear fireplace, and likely we will see open-pit nuclear campfires soon, thanks in part to the bureaucrats' ignorance, denial and negligence. What will be the aftermath? I do not know, but when you finally hear in the media the flood of dire predictions, like about the need to evacuate Tokyo or entire island of Honshu, or the mainland China being affected to the point of economic calamity, or Alaska expecting such a fallout that a human foot would not be able to make a stand there for another 5 thousand years, you could assume that actually the new season is setting in.
Nuclear Spring.
Seasons turn into another, both in nature and in economic activity. Major natural and man-made disasters (wars as prime example) tend  to result in increased economic activity and as likely in change in people's thinking and behaviors. Just keep your eyes open through the blizzard.

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