|"Our local reactor" at full power. |
The blue glow is Cherenkov Radiation
surrounding the core.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
What Is In Your Wine, And Steaks
A few minutes ago, Dad and Cyrus sat huddled around the grill, trying to start it in the middle of a rain/snow- drizzle/ hail storm. Now, with the grill alight, the the rain clouds have cleared out to make it a beautiful day. Thats the way its been for all day. This morning, Cy and I ran in the Shamrock Run's 5k, as we finished the weather was warm and sunny. When we got home, there were a few seconds of snow, and intermittent rain and sun, at one point the backyard shed was steaming. Despite the questionable and unpredictable weather, Cy decided to open grilling season today. He's got steaks on the grill, and a salad in the works. Outside, tending the grill, his breath is as visible as the smoke.
The past few weeks I've been taking a Saturday Academy class at "our local nuclear reactor" at Reed College. Tucked into the basement of the Psychology Building, the reactor sits at the bottom of a twenty five foot pool of water. On one side is a hallway, the other side is a control room, and the third and fourth sides are concrete and brick walls to the outside. One of the things we got to do for the class, which was attended by a total of 8 kids, all except me from the distant suburbs, was NAA. NAA stands for Neutron Activation Analysis, and is a process by which the atomic makeup of the objects irradiated in the reactor can be inferred. Everybody tested different things, from table salt to chewing gum (surprising finds: selenium in the salt, titanium in the gum). I tested three wine corks, a French red, an Argentine red, and a white from Washington. Each of the wines had selenium, sodium, potassium, and arsenic, and the reds had cadmium, bromine, and cobalt. The French had thallium, and most surprisingly, gold. The Argentine wine had iridium and tellurium. Both the French and Washington wines, though not the Argentine, had measurable amounts of manganese and radium. It's interesting to think that there's titanium in our chewing gum, and gold in your wine.