Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Depleted Uranium, Fisk and Numbers

Some people make decisions based entirely on "feelings". Others prefer facts. I myself use intuition as a guide, but then look for facts to either confirm or disprove what I suspect.

Others don't bother with that last step.

Here's Robert Fisk last week in the Independent, and picked up over at the Gulf Times and other papers:
A British scientist, Chris Busby, has been digging through statistics from the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment which measures uranium in high-volume air samples. His suspicion was that depleted uranium particles from the two Gulf wars – DU is used in the anti-armour warheads of the ordnance of American and British tanks and planes – may have spread across Europe. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but here’s something very odd.

When Busby applied for the information from Aldermaston in 2004, they told him to get lost. When he demanded the information under the 2005 Freedom of Information Act, Aldermaston coughed up the figures. But wait.

The only statistic missing from the data they gave him was for the early months of 2003. Remember what was happening then? A little dust-up in Iraq, a massive American-British invasion of Saddam’s dictatorship in which tons of DU shells were used by American troops. Eventually Busby, who worked out all the high-altitude wind movements over Europe, received the data from the Defence Procurement Agency in Bristol – which showed an increase in uranium in high-volume air sampling over Britain during this period.

Well, we aren’t dead yet – though readers in Reading will not be happy to learn that the filter system samplings around Aldermaston showed that even they got an increase. Shock and awe indeed.
As usual, the only rule in these things is that USA = Bad. No need for facts, mere "hunch" will do.

In the same article, he goes on to make parallels with the way the US and USSR covered up the fact that they'd caused the Earth to start "falling into the sun" - in a film, that is - and the fact that the weather has been alternately colder and warmer than average in various places. As it has been since records started being kept.
But I have a hunch that something more serious is happening to our planet which we are not being told about.

So let me remind you how The Day the Earth Caught Fire ended. Russian and American scientists were planning a new and joint explosion to set the world back on course. The last shot in the movie was set in the basement printing rooms (the real ones) of the Daily Express. The printers were standing by their machines with two headlines plated up to run, depending on the results of the detonation.

One said "World Doomed", the other "World Saved", As that great populist columnist John Gordon of the Sunday Express used to write: makes you sit up a bit, doesn’t it?


UPDATE: Over at Tim Blair's place, there's at least one commenter who knows his stuff :
According to sources found on Google, most of them moonbatty, 320 tons (320 thousand kg) of DU was expended during the Gulf War. Let’s do some physics.

DU has a half-life of 4.51 billion years = 1.42 10^17 seconds. Therefore its decay constant lambda is ln(2)/(1.42 10^17) = 4.9 10^-18 Multiply this by the number of atoms of DU, and you get the activity. A mole of DU has a mass of 238g, therefore we have about 1.34 million moles of DU. That’s N = 8.1 10^29 atoms, for an activity of lambda N = ~ 4 10^12 s^-1 or a little over 10.6 Curies (a Curie is the measure of bulk radioactivity and is equal to 3.7 10^11 disintegrations per second).

By comparison, the 1986 Chernobyl accident released 50 million curies into the environment; many of the radioisotopes released were significantly more bio-available than DU, and almost all with much shorter half-lives (and hence higher specific activity). Yet no more than 60 fatalities have been directly attributed to radiation from Chernobyl, mostly among site workers and first responders. No significant rise in cancers or birth defects have been recorded.

Think about that: the worst nuclear accident in history released five million times the radioactivity of the DU weapons used in the 1991 Gulf War, and yet the death toll over the next fifty years is projected to be below 4,000 (effectively indistinguishable from noise). DU doesn’t persist in the body long enough to dump significant radiation (and it’s primarily an alpha emitter, to boot). But the moonbats continue to insist that DU causes all manner of horrific complaints.

His next line is not factual, a matter of opinion only :
People that stupid should be put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit.

Too good for 'em, I say.

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