Friday, 21 April 2017

09:30 – It was 59F (15C) when I took Colin out at 0645 this morning, gray and damp. We’re to have rain on and off over the next several days. Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket this morning and is volunteering this afternoon at the Friends of the Library bookstore.

Barbara and I were reading the local paper yesterday at lunch. I was scanning through the police/court reports section and noticed something horrifying. A 16-year-old girl had been arrested and is due to go to trial on 5 May for intentionally contaminating food or drink. She and two other teenage girls are believed to have put a drug in another teen’s drink which disabled the victim physically and mentally, presumably temporarily. I hope they throw the book at them. In fact, I suggested to Barbara that if it were up to me, I’d haul them all down to the public square, strip them to the waist, clamp them into the stocks, and give them 100 lashes each with a cat ‘o nine tails.

When I mentioned that, Barbara told me about another recent incident that was really, really horrifying. From what Barbara knew, about a dozen(!) teenage girls decided for thrills to murder a random woman by placing sleeping pills in her food or drink. They never carried out their plan because one of them chickened out and reported the scheme to the police.

These girls are irretrievably broken. They’re murderous psychopaths, and the best course would be to try them and, if they’re convicted, convene a public hanging.

I admit to being shocked when I heard this news. I expect stuff like that to happen in the cities, which is bad enough,  but not in little Sparta. There are obviously good kids and bad kids, and always have been anywhere and anywhen. But up here I expected bad kids to do stuff like shoplifting or maybe stealing cars. The worst of them I might expect to commit armed robberies. But not something like this.

I got email yesterday from someone who’s very concerned about North Korea launching a nuclear attack on the US. He’s seen the news articles about the Japanese government evacuating the 70,000 Japanese citizens currently in South Korea, and about the Hawaii legislature revamping and restocking their fallout shelters, which had last been maintained in 1985.

Maybe they know something we don’t, but I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that North Korea could launch a nuclear attack against even Hawaii let alone the continental US. Not that that little maniac dictator wouldn’t do it if he could, but I think doing so is well beyond their capabilities and is likely to remain so for many years. That’s not to say that North Korea couldn’t attack South Korea, of course, and that might rapidly escalate if China, Japan, Russia, the US, and other real powers got involved. But I think nuclear attack is very low on the list of things to worry about.

That said, prepping for such an eventuality isn’t much different from prepping for general serious emergencies. You’ll want water, food, medical supplies, etc. stored away. The one real difference is the radiation threat.

A nuclear detonation produces four types of harmful radiation. Neutrons are produced by the explosion, and are a threat only if you’re in the immediate vicinity. Gamma rays are penetrating, and are produced both by the explosion itself and by radionuclides that are deposited on vaporized soil and subsequently become part of fallout particles. Alpha and beta radiation are produced by radionuclides deposited on fallout particles, but neither of those types of radiation are strongly penetrating. Both are dangerous only if they are in direct contact with your skin or, worse, are ingested.

But fallout gamma radiation can be blocked only by putting a lot of mass between you and the radiation source. For typical gamma radiation, the tenth-value layer is about 2.2 inches of concrete (at ~150 pounds/ft^3) or 3.3 inches of dirt (at ~100 pounds/ft^3). That means that reducing radiation levels by a factor of 1,000 requires either about 22 inches of concrete, just under two feet, or 33 inches of dirt, or just under three feet.

If you’re concerned, the first thing you need to do is make a fallout shelter, which can be as simple as a trench in your yard, roofed with 4X4 supports and plywood or solid-core doors covered with a pile of dirt. For more information about formal or ad hoc shelters, I recommend Cresson Kearney’s book, Nuclear War Survival Skills. You can buy a printed copy on Amazon or simply download an electronic copy on the Internet. It’s out of copyright, so it’s even legal to grab a copy.

You may also want to stock either potassium iodide or potassium iodate, which we’ve discussed before, and perhaps a radiation survey meter like this one. Perhaps pick up a roll of Visqueen and some duct tape in case you need to seal your doors and windows. Again, I don’t think the threat is likely to materialize, but I certainly don’t take issue with anyone who decides to prepare for it anyway.

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