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Just How Realistic is Fallout 4's Post-Apocalypse Anyway?


Just How Realistic is Fallout 4's Post-Apocalypse Anyway?

Written by Steven Messner
December 28, 2015

The first time you step out of the protective vault and into the irradiated wasteland of Boston in Fallout 4, taking in the devastation can be overwhelming. For two decades, the Fallout series has explored life after the bombs fell. But sorting fact from fiction in Fallout's depiction of a world devastated by war can be tougher than you think. While radiation ravaged ghouls and burly super mutants are easily identified as works of fantasy, how much of Fallout and its post-apocalypse is based in fact?

Few people know more about the damaging effects of a nuclear war than Dr. Michael J Mills, a scientist working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In 2014, Dr. Mills, along with several of his associates, published a study detailing the global climate effects of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India using less than 1 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. The results were terrifying.


From each of these 100 detonations, massive firestorms would engulf whole cities and churn five million tons of black carbon into the stratosphere. That carbon would be so dense that the sun would almost be blocked out entirely, triggering what Dr. Mills described as a "little ice age." Furthermore, the black carbon trapped in the atmosphere would heat up from the sun, destroying the ozone layer by as much as 50 percent over populated areas. The extra harm caused by UV radiation along with a shortening of crop seasons due to cooling could result in the starvation of almost 2 billion people—and that's just from 100 15 kiloton missiles. Considering that the city of Las Vegas from Fallout: New Vegas was the target of 77 nuclear warheads alone, and the fact that page 11 of the Fallout 1 game manual states that the average size of a nuclear warhead is between 200-750 kilotons instead of a measly 15, it's easy to guess that the consequences would be suitably apocalyptic.


In 2006, Dr. Alan Robock, a climatologist and professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, published a study detailing the effects of a nuclear war between the USA and Russia, a popular theme for simpler studies in the 1980s, and found that a war between the United States and Russia could cause upwards of 150 million tons of black carbon to be pumped into the stratosphere. This would trigger a global decrease in temperatures by upwards of -8°C. North America could expect to experience summers -20°C degrees colder than average. In fact, it wouldn't be summer at all, it would be a nuclear winter. And the food shortages caused by this ice age, which would last over a decade, in combination with the widespread devastation from the bombs and subsequent radiation, would likely kill every human alive.

Curiously, though the effects of a nuclear winter were understood well before the first Fallout ever released in 1996, there is barely any mention of it occurring.


But Fallout 4 is a video game and its world is experienced more through the characters and creatures you encounter than the climate of the wasteland. This is exactly where Fallout begins to deviate the most from science.

Dr. Timothy Mousseau has been studying the impact of radioactive contaminants on wildlife populations around the Chernobyl and Fukushima disaster zones, which makes him one of the foremost experts on the deleterious effect radiation can have on living things. Despite recent popular studies and articles suggesting that Chernobyl has become a refuge for animals despite its high amounts of radioactivity, Dr. Mousseau's research takes a much closer look at the harmful effects of radiation rather than just looking at overall population numbers.

"Many of the populations that are out there in the wild are teetering all the time," he said during our interview. "And so a little push towards the negative is often enough to drive them towards local extinction. And if you have a large scale event, this could actually lead to much larger areas of extinction." Dr. Mousseau went on to elaborate that with species that exist within a small geographical footprint, it wouldn't be unrealistic to expect them to go extinct entirely.


Seeing Earth From Space Will Force Rich Space Tourists to Save the Planet


Seeing Earth From Space Will Force Rich Space Tourists to Save the Planet

The Overview Effect, a little known psychological phenomenon, alters how those who leave the planet think about it when they return.

Ben Guarino December 18, 2015


“It was like being in a movie where they will show the actor in a hallway, and they dilate the camera back but they’ll zoom the lens in so it looks like a hallway is collapsing around the actor even though the actor doesn’t change size,” he says. “That was exactly the physical reaction I had.”


Garriott was experiencing a cosmonautic phenomenon called “The Overview Effect,” a profound sense of kinship and magnanimity astronauts have been talking about since Apollo 8’s Earthrise. Garriott changed. When he got back to Earth, he sold his SUVs, bought solar panels, and ended up getting himself inducted into Austin’s Environmental Hall of Fame.

With the age of space tourism on the horizon and the age of income inequality already in full swing, the Overview Effect has never been more relevant or held more promise. Garriott thinks looking down changed him and that it will change others. He’s not alone. A vanguard of top-down thinkers are banking that the next populist movement may head in a surprising direction: straight up.


Using new tools to put the Overview Effect on the clinical side of the scientific-spiritual divide is a key mission of the Overview Institute, a seven-year-old organization that now counts both Whitesides and Garriott as members. It hasn’t been easy, largely because of the pre-packaged narratives about space travel. A few of the first astronauts to describe the Overview Effect framed it in terms of a metaphysical epiphany. “These guys were having some kind of profound experience,” says David Beaver, a founding member of the Overview Institute. Those pull quotes became color for journalists eager to treat American astronauts as relatable heroes and less eager to address the fact that they were, on some level, lab rats. As for the astronauts, they were coming out of the military or MIT or both. They weren’t adept at talking about their feelings.


White believes that zero-gravity plays a role in the euphoric feelings of the Overview Effect. And the thing about Garriott’s world-shifting view of Texas was that it came in planet-sized context. “The problem with the Overview Effect is you need all those pieces,” Garriott says, referring to the context that served as a preamble to his vision of Austin. You need to see the quilts of farmland, the jungles slashed and burned, humanity stamped across the face of the world as if stuck by an all-powerful philatelist. In that view, suborbital flights — which offer weightlessness but don’t give you the same vantage as the ISS — could only work in tandem with VR and vice versa.


Russian space agency cuts most projects related to Moon exploration

Source: TASS

Practically all the projects related to manned flights to the moon are absent from an updated version of the Federal Space Programme for the years 2016 through 2025 drafted by the Federal Space Agency after the downwards revision of its budget, Izvestia daily said on Tuesday referring to the document it had obtained.


"Compared with the version of the programme, which Roscosmos presented in April 2015, the creation of a lunar landing/takeoff complex, a lunar orbital station, construction of a lunar base, the designing of a spacesuit for operations on the Moon, and designing of a system for robotic maintenance on the moon have been removed from the list of financed programmes," it said.

However, works continue on a spaceship that might make flights to the Moon in the future.


On Monday, President Putin signed a decree on disbanding the Federal State Agency that will be replaced with a state space corporation. The same presidential decree instructed the government "to ensure the continuity of powers of and functions transferred to the State Corporation for Space Activity Roscosmos from the Federal Space Agency.".

Read more: http://tass.ru/en/science/847526

New nuclear weapons and an attack on worker benefits


New nuclear weapons and an attack on worker benefits
December 27, 2015

By Rob Hotakainen, Lindsay Wise, Frank Matt and Samantha Ehlinger
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series examining the health problems that afflict the U.S. nuclear workforce as the government launches a $1 trillion plan to modernize the arsenal.

The most expensive nuclear bomb project in American history is gearing up in the Texas Panhandle.


It also has drawn objections from anti-proliferation groups and government watchdogs concerned that the redesign violates a 2010 pledge by the Obama administration not to develop any nuclear weapons with new capabilities.


At Pantex, where workers have the perilous task of taking apart and reassembling nuclear warheads, a proposal to slash medical coverage, prescription plans, sick leave and defined benefit pensions prompted more than 1,100 unionized employees to walk off the job in August.


“We all work with people that have contracted diseases from working (at the plant),” Richards said. “What you try to do is minimize your exposure. You hope the government is giving all the protection they can. And I really do believe they are doing everything they can to keep us protected. But at some point . . . you can’t minimize exposure to zero. The one thing they can do for us is provide good medical coverage.”


Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons High on UN Agenda in 2016


Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons High on UN Agenda in 2016
By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepthNews Analysis

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) - An open-ended working group of the United Nations General Assembly for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world is, along with the Sustainable Development Goals, an important agenda item that the year 2015 has bequeathed to 2016.

The General Assembly also adopted a number of other important resolutions: 139 nations pledged “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”. 144 countries declared that it was in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again “under any circumstances”. 132 states described nuclear weapons as “inherently immoral”.

The General Assembly voted on December 7 to set up a working group that will draft “legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for achieving a world without nuclear weapons. This new UN body – which has the backing of 138 nations – is widely expected to focus its efforts on devising the elements for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons outright.


According to ICAN, the UN General Assembly’s vote on a resolution setting up a working group comes in the aftermath of the success of the three major conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in 2013 and 2014.


GOP lawmakers lead new effort to lift nuclear freeze

Source: Wisconsin State Journal

The Wisconsin Legislature is moving toward eliminating restrictions on nuclear power that were enacted after the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania focused public attention on the potentially dire consequences of accidental releases of radioactive material.

Even Assembly Democrats are joining Republicans who are pushing the effort despite acknowledging that nuclear energy is far more expensive than other sources and that it leaves behind waste that remains dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years.


"This is something that has been on our legislative agenda for a long time," Vebber said of the bills to remove requirements that new nuclear plants be economically advantageous to ratepayers and that storage be available for radioactive waste generated by plants in Wisconsin. "The renewed interest in it now has to do with the Clean Power Plan coming from the federal level."

Many businesses and Republican politicians have vowed to fight the federal plan, which is aimed at reducing greenhouses gases responsible for climate change.


Read more: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/environment/gop-lawmakers-lead-new-effort-to-lift-nuclear-freeze/article_f0f10c54-67c5-5c43-8117-4142b3bec8ef.html

Votes matter, people.

Republicans want expensive nuclear energy to stop global warming, which they don't believe in.

And they'll do everything they can to block renewables, which are needed to stop global warming.

The moratoriums by Wisconsin and other states are only until the technology catches up with the hype - if it ever does, which is questionable.

The HTTP 451 Error Code for Censorship Is Now an Internet Standard (as in Fahrenheit 451)


The HTTP 451 Error Code for Censorship Is Now an Internet Standard

Written by Michael Byrne, Editor
December 21, 2015

The 451 HTTP status code is now official in the eyes of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the independent organization responsible for many of the internet’s operating standards. Now, when an internet user hits a web page that has been blocked for legal reasons (read: censorship), they may be presented with a 451 error instead of the more generic 403 “forbidden” error. This is a win for transparency.

The 451 code has been on the table for two years now, having been first been put forth by software engineer Tim Bray in 2013, who was in turn inspired by a blog post by security thinker Terence Eden. Eden’s call for a censorship error code is clear enough:

My ISP have recently been ordered to censor The Pirate Bay. They have done so unwillingly and, it would seem, have complied only with the letter of the ruling. Their block is, for now, trivial to circumvent. I am concerned that this censorship will become more prevalent. As network neutrality dies, we will see more sites ordered to be blocked by governments who fear what they cannot understand.

So, Eden proposed a code and Bray ran with it, using “451” in reference to Ray Bradbury’s censorship dystopia Farhenheit 451. Web standards are, however, not changed overnight.

In a post published on Friday, Mark Nottingham, chair of the IETF HTTP Working Group, explains a bit more. ...


China unveils two-child policy

Source: CNN

It's official. From January 1, 2016 China will allow two children for every couple.

Chinese lawmakers rubber-stamped the new legislation Sunday during a session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which governs the country's laws, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.



Human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement warning that the change in policy was "not enough."

"Couples that have two children could still be subjected to coercive and intrusive forms of contraception, and even forced abortions -- which amount to torture," China researcher William Nee said.

"The state has no business regulating how many children people have," he said.


Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/27/asia/china-two-child-policy/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

UN chief: Bush deserves credit for climate change 'success'

Source: The Hill

President George W. Bush deserves credit for kickstarting talks that led to a landmark international agreement on climate change, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Ban pointed to a 2007 U.N. climate conference in Bali, when the United States pulled an about-face and agreed to enter negotiations on a new global treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The secretary-general told the Associated Press he still feels "very much grateful" to Bush.

"That was the beginning of our success," Ban said in an interview published Saturday.


Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/264248-un-chief-bush-deserves-credit-for-climate-change-success

Circadian Rhythm of Genes Changes with Age


Circadian Rhythm of Genes Changes with Age
By Traci Pedersen

The circadian rhythm of gene activity changes with age, according to new study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that examined thousands of genes from nearly 150 human brains. The findings also suggest that a novel biological clock emerges in the older brain.


“As we expected, younger people had that daily rhythm in all the classic ‘clock’ genes,” Dr. McClung said. “But there was a loss of rhythm in many of these genes in older people, which might explain some of the alterations that occur in sleep, cognition and mood in later life.”

To their surprise, the team also found a set of genes that gained rhythmicity in older individuals.

The findings could contribute to the development of treatments for cognitive and sleep problems in older people, as well as a potential treatment for “sundowning,” a condition in which older dementia patients become agitated, confused and anxious in the evening.

“Since depression is associated with accelerated molecular aging, and with disruptions in daily routines, these results also may shed light on molecular changes occurring in adults with depression,” said Sibille.


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