Monday, February 27, 2012

spring is here

I know that it may be a little early but spring has arrived.   The ?????? bushes in front of the house are blooming in great profusion.  
The flowers are absolutely magnificent with such an intense color.  
There was a light rain today and so there are small rain droplets on the flowers and the leaves.   Can you guess the name of the flower?   Make a guess in the comment section and I will also make a comment after to let you know what it is.   But only after you make a comment.   You have to make a guess first. 
            In the back yard there is what some consider a weed but the flowers are so pretty that I just can’t call it a weed.
It has such a deep rich sapphire blue.   The picture just doesn't do the richness of the color justice.
But this is Florida and what would spring be without some orange blossoms on the orange tree in the backyard.
There was a bright sun when I took this picture and the flower came out too bright.   Just can’t see the detail of the flower so I darkened it some to bring out the detail.
And the aroma of the flowers is so strong.   A real sweet smell which reminds me of jasmine.   I can pick up the sweet scent when I am about five feet from the tree as I approach it.   No wonder honey bees are attracted to it.   And speaking of honey bees, orange blossom honey is my favorite.   But the prices of honey, oh my.   When I lived in San Diego there was a woman who worked at the hospital and was also a bee keeper.   She kept bees for pleasure and not as a business.   She told us to bring in a large jar and she would take it home and fill it with honey.   She would charge a dollar for this which even at that time was a ridiculously low price for the large amount of honey that she gave.   I need to find someone like that here in Orlando.
With this spring-like weather comes warmer temperatures and high humidity which we are starting to get today.  Next week the weather is forecast to be around 87.   I think that we are going to have a very warm summer thanks to global warming.    Tomorrow I will tell you all about my adventures with my resurrection plant.   Until then enjoy the day and tonight is wrestling so don’t forget to watch all of those body slams.    Be good.    Lew

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Culverts

This is the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant.   Well actually I guess that I should say the Turkey Point Electrical Generation Plant since there are also fossil fuel electrical generation here as well.   There are four electrical generating units.   The two blue structures on the left with the smokestacks behind them are the fossil fuel units designated unit 1 and unit 2.   The two round cement structures on the right are the nuclear reactors designated unit 3 and unit 4.   A lot of electrical generation here.   But what is unique about the Turkey Point plant is the cooling method of the units.    We are always use to seeing those hyperbolic-shaped cooling towers which are associated with nuclear power plants.
But at Turkey Point a cooling canal system is used.   The canal system has a shape like a giant car radiator.
The water comes out of the plant in a discharge canal which functions much like the top of a car radiator and distributes the water to the cooling canals which is like he core of the radiator where the cooling actually takes place.   Then the cooled water is collected in a return canal much like the bottom of a car radiator and is carried back to the plant to start the cycle all over again.   In the picture below you can see the temperature of the water cool as it flows from the top to the bottom of the cooling canals. 
 A very simple and effective design.   Fortunate also.    I sometimes wonder how much damage that the intense Hurricane Andrew would have done to a cooling tower.
There was a canal that was outside of the cooling canal system and had nothing to do with the cooling canals.   Since coral rock is porous and this canal is in close proximity to the cooling canal system, samples were taken from it and checked for radioactivity.   The water flow was tidal in nature.   Flowing out at low tide and flowing in at high tide.    There was three large culverts where a road passed over the canal.   This was a beautiful area and for a time was one of my favorite spots.
I use to stand on the culverts and bend down to the waters surface to get water samples.   I had done that for about a year when I happened to mention it to one of the biologists.    He strongly recommended against standing on the culverts because there was a large 11 foot crocodile who would get up close to the culverts and grab fish in her powerful jaws as the fish were carried through the culverts by the tide.   How did they know that it was a female?   I have no idea but biologists seem to know those things.
He said that there were both alligators and crocodiles in the area but that this one was a crocodile which he said is bad because crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators.   The first time that I saw this crocodile she was in the water and only inches from the bank watching me.   Waiting for me to come close to the water like in the documentaries you see when the animals come to the water to drink and the crocodiles grab them.   And that was what this one was doing.   Waiting for me to get close.   I had no idea she was there and when I spotted her by chance I was about 10 feet from the waters edge.   Much too close for comfort.   Initially I froze for about 20 seconds and then I slowly walked backwards to the car which was near.   I jumped into the car to relax and get a breather and to give time for my blood pressure and fear levels to drop back down.   After a period of time I got back out of the car and continued my work while continuously scanning the area around me.   I was behaving just like the animals in the documentaries when they come to the river to get a drink.   They take a drink and then look around for danger, then they take another quick drink and once again look around the are for danger.   Well, that was me.   Get a sample and look around for the croc.   Get another sample and look around again for the croc.   I spotted her on two more occasions that day but she was about 20 or 30 feet away and so I wasn't as terrified as I was the first time.   After that day I always looked around about every 30 seconds for the croc when I was at the culverts.   A Crocodile Dundee I wasn't.   But as the Crocodile Dundee would say, "G'day mate".   Lew

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Atomic Glass

The world's first atomic bomb was tested on the White Sands Missile Range near Alamagordo, New Mexico.   The test site is called Trinity but no one seems to know the origins of that particular name.   The scientists needed to test the plutonium atomic bomb because of it's implosion technology for compressing the central plutonium core to criticality.   It was a hot morning on July 16, 1945.  The bomb sat at the top of a steel tower that was 100 feet high.  
The tower was a surplus Forestry Service fire-watch tower.   At the top of the tower inside the enclosure sat the plutonium bomb referred to as "the gadget".
At 5:29 am on that fateful day of July 16, 1945 the world would lose its innocence with the explosion of the first atomic bomb.    Since the bomb sat at the top of a tower that was only 100 feet high, the fireball reached the ground vaporizing the metal tower and turning the desert sand into a green glass.
The crater created  by the nuclear explosion was a shallow depression 2400 feet across.   The sand which had been fused into an atomic glass which is now called trinitite.  
And yes, it is mildly radioactive.
Every time I see a piece of trinitite I am fascinated by the fact that this was at one time inside of an atomic fireball.   Each piece of trinitite is a piece of history.   You can still find pieces of trinitite but it is getting harder and harder, and more expensive with the passage of time.    The glass trinitite was bulldozed and put into metal drums and buried somewhere.   But some small pieces remain in the crater.   There is some trinitite out there which is not really trinitite.   At the north entrance to the White Sands Missile Range where the trinity test site is located there was a rock shop.   This north entrance is called Stallion Gate, a colorful name.   On one of my visits to the Trinity test site I stopped at the rock shop.   There was a nice older gentleman there.
I don't know his name but he has appeared a couple times in the pages of the National Geographic magazine.   Here he is holding a handful of trinitite.   He told me that he use to go to the trinity site to collect the trinitite until they bulldozed the site and secured the site with a locked chain link fence.   He told me that he sold all of the trinitite that he had but people were still asking for trinitite and so he decided to manufacture trinitite with a blow torch melting the desert sand into a glass.   Depending on which way the fallout cloud drifted and where he collected his sand it may not contain the radioactive Cs-137 which is found in fallout.    He was a nice gentleman and we had a pleasant conversation.    The trinity site is open to the public on the first saturday in April and the first saturday in October.   I always liked the first saturday in October for visiting the site because I would spend the weekend in Albuquerque and the first weekend in October is also when there is a massive hot air balloon festival with over 600 hot air balloons.
What a magnificent sight.   And there is so much to see and do in relation to the balloon festival.   Have a great day and if you ever have the opportunity to see a piece of trinitite, just remember that it was once inside of an atomic fireball.   How unique.     Lew