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24 January 2011

a modest achievement by sentient Earth humans: we expand Pi to trillions of decimal digits!

Click to enlarge Chudnovsky Formula

We know -- yes, with certainty -- that we're not alone as the only intelligent organic species in our
Nilky Way Galaxy. We share the Melkweg with tens of thousands of intelligent civilizations. Here on Earth, using radio, we search for others, and we could, within decades, get lucky and tune in on some her Mozart or some other Hawking, at long last answering the ancient, haunting question: Are we

But as other SETI races tune in on Earth's radio transmissions -- listen to our music, decode our alphabetic text, read our novels and our poetry -- they have chosen a sad era to make contact with their intelligent neighbors. For in this era, they are watching MTV's "Skins" as a representative of Earth sentient culture.

And they are learning about an Earth whose noisiest achievement is a race for more nations and Non-State-Actors to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems to send them halfway across Earth and detonate them against humans we hate for religious or political reasons.

And on the conventional warfare side, Earth's greatest sovereign superpower is waging two wars in Asia - in Iraq and in Afghanistan -- both wars dragging on longer than World War Two, neither war with an end in sight.

Embarrassing, shameful, frightening -- that we have learned so much, and done such pathetic things with it. Our neighbors in the Milky Way, eavesdropping on us, decoding us ...

It's mostly bad, car bombs, oaths to annihilate one another ... this is the focus of human brilliance ...

But it's not all bad. It's not all Embarrassment Earth. Here on Earth, 2010 wasn't entirely a race to blow ourselves up on market day, a race to fill up hospital wards with maimed children -- on orders from God, who goes by a variety of aliases.

* * *

Late in 2010, sentient races in the Milky Way would have eavesdropped on this modest achievement by human beings who, just like us, live on Earth. Using desktop computers -- modest boxes just like yours and mine -- human beings used a mathematical equation and expanded the digital decimal expression of the ratio pi into TRILLIONS of decimal digits. (And won a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts.)

The same planet that spends most of its time trying to murder thousands of its citizens, on orders from Allah, Eloheynu, Jesus ... some of us have better things to do. Rather than make home-brew high explosives, some of us find the precise ratio between the circle's circumference and its diameter.

In an environment entirely free of hate, in a zone free of killing, we ask the deepest questions about the fundamental riddles of mathematics.

Here, on Planet Mozart, we did something brilliant and beautiful again, and not a single explosion, not a single wound, not a single corpse.

Don't get the wrong idea. There are a lot of mathematicians on Earth who think that expanding the decimal expression of pi to trillions of places is ridiculous, worthless, useless, mathematical nonsense. There are lots of brilliant professional mathematicians who think the Chudnovsky Brothers, using an equation from around 1910 by the self-taught Hindu mathematician Ramanujan, have accomplished ... well, nothing.

I'm not one of them. The Chudnovsky Brothers, with Ramanujan's equation, and not a single human corpse, took a fundamental mathematical puzzle farther than the most brilliant human beings had ever taken the question before.

However far we got with this question, it's worth a delicious Guinness stout, and a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.

It's worth a grafitti scrawl on Earth for what we did, and we did it entirely non-violently.


5 Trillion Digits of Pi - New World Record -- Pushing the limits of personal computing ... How much further can we go?

By Alexander J. Yee & Shigeru Kondo

(Last updated: September 26, 2010)

This is a followup to our previous announcement of our computation of 5 trillion digits of Pi. This article details some of the methods that were used for the computation as well as the hardware and the full timeline of the computation.

Some of you knew this was coming... It was just a matter of when. (and how many digits)

Although we were very quiet about this computation while it was running, anyone who followed my website or my XtremeSystems thread between February and May would have easily guessed that we were attempting a world record.

1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 : 50
5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 : 100
2962457053 9070959679 6673211870 6342459769 2128529850 : 999,999,999,950
2976735807 0882130902 2460461146 5810642210 6680122702 : 1,000,000,000,000
9354516713 6069123212 1286195062 3408400370 1793492657 : 1,999,999,999,950
8386341797 9368318191 5708299469 1313121384 3887908330 : 2,000,000,000,000
3840840269 5893047555 2627475826 8598006396 3215856883 : 2,699,999,989,950
9256371619 3901058063 3448436720 6294374587 7597230153 : 2,699,999,990,000
8012497961 5892988915 6174704230 3863302264 3931687863 : 2,699,999,990,050
3126006397 8582637253 6739664083 9716870851 0983536511 : 2,699,999,990,100
5628334110 5221005309 8638608325 4364661745 5833914321 : 2,999,999,999,950
9150024270 6285788691 0228572752 8179710957 7137931530 : 3,000,000,000,000
5209957313 0955102183 1080456596 1489168093 0578494464 : 3,999,999,999,950
3638467628 3610607856 5071920145 5255995193 8577295739 : 4,000,000,000,000
2597691971 6538537682 7963082950 0909387733 3987211875 : 4,999,999,999,950
6399906735 0873400641 7497120374 4023826421 9484283852 : 5,000,000,000,000

Click here for access to some of the digits.


    * Numberworld Home
    * Computation Statistics
    * Purpose... Why?
    * The Software: y-cruncher -
      A Multi-threaded Pi Benchmark
    * Contributing Computers
    * Formulas Used for Computation  
    * Sufficiency of Verification
    * Arithmetic Algorithms
    * Maximizing Scalability
    * Error-Detection and Correction
    * Checkpointing + Restartability
    * Opportunities for Improvement
    * Detailed Timeline (With Screenshots)
    * Frequently Asked Questions
    * Special Thanks
    * About Me
    * Questions or Comments

Computation Statistics - All times are Japan Standard Time (JST).

Here are the full computation statistics. As with all significant computations that are done using y-cruncher - A Multi-Threaded Pi Program, a screenshot and validation is included. Since the computation was done in multiple sessions, there is no single screenshot that captures the entire computation from start to finish. The screenshot provided here is simply the one that shows the greater portion of the computation.

The main computation took 90 days on Shigeru Kondo's desktop. The computer was dedicated for this task.

Over the course of the computation, one error was detected and corrected via software ECC. Since the error was corrected, the final results are not affected. The computation error is believed to be caused by a hardware anomaly, or by hardware instability.

Due to the size of this computation, a tremendous amount of memory was needed:

  - Roughly 22 TB* of disk was needed to perform the computation.

  - Another 3.8 TB of disk was needed to store the compressed output of decimal and hexadecimal digits.

If the digits were stored in an uncompressed ascii text file, the combined size of the decimal and hexadecimal digits would be 8.32 TB.

*All units used in this article are binary:

GB = 230 bytes

TB = 240 bytes
Pi - Computation
90 days
Start :  6:19 PM (JST) May 4, 2010
Finish:  1:12 AM (JST) August 3, 2010
Pi - Verification
64 hours (Primary - Bellard's BBP)
66 hours (Secondary - Plouffe's BBP)
Start :  See Detailed Timeline
Finish:  See Detailed Timeline

Computation Step     Time
Series Summation:     73 days
Square Root:     63.3 hours
Final Multiply:     41.6 hours
Base Conversion:     8.2 days
Verify Base Conversion:     45.6 hours
Total Time*:     90 days

Validation File: Validation - Pi - 5,000,000,000,000.txt

Note that the multicore efficiency % is inaccurate. The actual efficiency is about ~85%.

*The total time also includes the time needed to output the digits to disk as well as the time needed to recover from the computational error.

For a detailed timeline of events related to this computation, see here.

Purpose... Why?

Because it's Pi... and because we can!

On a more serious note:

After Fabrice Bellard's announcement of 2.7 trillion digits on a "relatively cheap" desktop, it was pretty clear that the limit of personal computing was a lot higher.

Shigeru Kondo and I wanted to see how much better we could do if we used some more powerful hardware.

Both of us are hardware fanatics. And both of us (especially Shigeru Kondo) had some very powerful machines at our disposal.

So with that, we decided to see how far we could push the limits of personal computing using personally owned hardware.

Unlike Fabrice Bellard's record which focused on efficiency and getting the most out of a small amount of hardware. Our computation focused more on getting the most performance and scalability from a LOT of hardware.

How much hardware can we cram into one machine and still make it faster?

The main challenge for a computation of such a size, is that both software and hardware are pushed beyond their limits.

For such a long computation and with so much hardware, failure is not just a probability. It is a given. There are simply too many components that can fail.

So the questions become:

    * How much can the hardware be expanded while maintaining an acceptable level of reliability?

    * Is it possible to build enough fault-tolerance into the software to cover for hardware failure?

Hardware: Shigeru Kondo's Desktop

Shigeru Kondo's computer had the following specifications:

    2 x Intel Xeon X5680 @ 3.33 GHz - (12 physical cores, 24 hyperthreaded)
    96 GB DDR3 @ 1066 MHz - (12 x 8 GB - 6 channels) - Samsung (M393B1K70BH1)
    Asus Z8PE-D12
Hard Drives
    1 TB SATA II (Boot drive) - Hitachi (HDS721010CLA332)
    3 x 2 TB SATA II (Store Pi Output) - Seagate (ST32000542AS)
    16 x 2 TB SATA II (Computation) - Seagate (ST32000641AS)
Raid Controller
    2 x LSI MegaRaid SAS 9260-8i
Operating System
    Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise x64


Software: y-cruncher - A Multi-Threaded Pi Program/Benchmark

Software for Computation:

The program that was used for the main computation is y-cruncher v0.5.4.9138 Alpha.

See main page: y-cruncher - A Multi-Threaded Pi Program

y-cruncher is a powerful multi-threaded program/benchmark that is becoming an increasingly popular tool within the computer enthusiast community. As of this writing, it also holds the world record for most digits computed for several other famous constants. (These include: e, Square Root of 2, Golden Ratio, Euler-Mascheroni Constant, Natural Log of 2, Apery's Constant, and Catalan's Constant.)

There are several aspects of y-cruncher that set it apart from most other similar Pi-crunching programs:

    * It uses state-of-the-art algorithms to achieve never-before-seen computational speeds. Many of these methods and algorithms are newly developed and first-time tested in y-cruncher. Therefore they are not yet used by other programs.
    * y-cruncher is scalable to many cores. Most other multi-threaded Pi programs do not scale well beyond several cores and are unable to fully utilize many core machines such as the 12-core/24-thread computer that was used for this Pi computation.
    * y-cruncher supports the use of multiple hard drives to use as distributed memory storage for very large computations.
    * y-cruncher is fault-tolerant to hardware errors. It is able to detect and recover from minor computational errors that are caused by hardware anomalies or instablity. This is important for extremely long computations where the chance of hardware failure is non-negligible.

The exact version that was used for the computation is:

y-cruncher v0.5.4.9138 Alpha (PB) - x64 SSE4.1 ~ Ushio

This version was a very early private-beta for v0.5.4. It was slightly modified to display more detail on the progress of the computation. (All public versions display only a percentage.)

Software for Verification:

The program that was used for the verification is y-cruncher BBP v1.0.119.

See main page: y-cruncher BBP

This program implements the digit-extraction algorithm for Pi using the BBP formulas. It's sole purpose was to verify the main computation.

Both programs are written by me (Alexander J. Yee) and are available for download from their respective pages.

For those who have used y-cruncher before and are curious at how it works:

This webpage is the first article I have written that reveals significant details on the inner workings of y-cruncher... Enjoy!

20 January 2011

The Long Wars: We kill them, they kill us -- and we kill us. 2010 was a record year for US troop suicides.

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Giger was one of at least 22 Fort Hood GIs to commit suicide in 2010. / Photo: COURTESY PHOTO / SA

The military of the United States is fighting two wars in Asia. They are Long Wars, and have lasted considerably longer than the US military and its allies took to achieve the unconditional defeat and surrender of all its combatant enemies (Germany, Japan, Italy and other Axis nations) in World War II.

Wars can end with formal surrender ceremonies. But when our enemies are not politically organized into governments and nations which can surrender -- for example, al Quada and the Taliban, different combatant groups in different nations, affiliated, but with different leadership goals and structures, guerrilla irregular combatant forces referred to as Non-State Actors -- then our progress in these Long Wars must be measured less precisely and less dramatically, and more analytically. 

Are we winning at any given moment? Are we losing? We count our battlefield casualties and combat deaths, and as accurately as we can, we count the enemy's battlefield casualties and combat deaths. Defeat and victory at each given season become matters of simple arithmetic -- not because this kind of analysis is a clear indication of winning and losing, but because arithmetic is the best we can do in these kinds of Long Wars. Someone -- political leaders, the press -- wants an accountability of the progress of the Long Wars, and the best response is to crunch our numbers, our dead soldiers and their dead soldiers, our maimed Marines, their wounded soldiers. We also tally combat troops in the field -- how many of our troops versus our estimate of how many enemy troops we face and engage.

In this kind of un-clear, fuzzy winning-losing war analysis, there are odd but very important catagories of the War Arithmetic. In all our Hollywood movies about the great victories of World War II, there was never a mention, never a whisper, of this category: troop suicides.

But in all wars, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines who finish off their service by taking their own life. Despite war's generous distribution of firearms, typically troop suicides are by hanging, often by bootlaces from barracks rafters.

Nor are our troop suicides limited to enlisted men. Commissioned officers -- lieutenants, lieutenant colonels -- take their own lives.

Nearly every year during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, troop suicides have reached such high levels that the Pentagon has declared a Stand-Down Day service-wide, for commanders and specialists to spend 24 hours to draw attention to the troop suicide problem, and to the official resources service personnel can call on to steer themselves away from suicide.

Asking for official help with thoughts of suicide is a difficult request. In traditional leadership structures, asking for psychiatric help can be equivalent to exiting the career military. You don't get help with your suicide problem -- you get no help, and you get tossed out of the military.

But this is part of how the US military wins or loses a Long War. The enemy kills some of our combat soldiers. And some of our combat soldiers kill themselves.


The San Antonio Express-News
daily broadsheet, San Antonio, Texas USA
Thursday 20 January 2011

[US Army Fort] Hood,
Army suicides hit record mark

At least 22 confirmed last year in and around Fort Hood, doubling the post’s total from 2009.

Suicides continue to plague the Army, with 2010 setting a new record. Fort Hood, which has repeatedly sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, led all posts worldwide, with 22 GI taking their own lives.

by Sig Christenson /

KILLEEN, TEXAS -- Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Eugene Giger was a “tall quiet Texan” even after his wife filed for divorce while he was in Iraq, his mom says.

Still, he was devastated.

“The only thing that I know is when she sued for divorce, she charged him with $2,000-a-month child support and insisted that he pay half of the house,” said Helen Giger, 71, of Chandler, east of Dallas. “And by the time she got through charging him with various things, he had very little money left over, not even hardly enough to pay for his rent.”

Authorities found Giger, 42, of Houston dead in his apartment near Fort Hood, hanging by necktie. He was one of at least 22 GIs from the post to commit suicide in 2010.

The Fort Hood mark is a new record for the post and contributed to the Army’s worst year for suicides. There was, however, a sign of hope in the grim tally. Slightly fewer active-duty soldiers died by their own hand compared with 2009. But there was bad news, too: The number of suicides in the National Guard and Army Reserve rose sharply.

The Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told the San Antonio Express-News that suicides at or near Fort Hood have increased as more soldiers have returned from combat.

Fort Hood’s 22 confirmed suicides, meanwhile, doubled its 2009 mark and was eight more than Fort Bragg, N.C., which had the second-largest tally.

And the Fort Hood mark could grow since some deaths haven’t been resolved. Others will remain mysteries, like that of Sgt. Bradley Dale Penman, 34, of Punxsutawney, Pa. Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin of Killeen said that Penman’s body, found last summer, was so decomposed no cause of death could be determined.

The Pentagon has launched mental health and suicide-prevention programs and created an Army task force in hopes of turning the tide. In 2008, the Army began a five-year study with the National Institute of Mental Health. That research effort examines risk and resilience factors associated with suicides. A new military research consortium will test and develop interventions.

So far, however, little has changed. The vast majority of the victims were men, with the bulk of the soldiers coming from lower enlisted ranks.

Eighteen of last year’s 301 suicides were women, prompting Chiarelli to tell reporters on Wednesday that resiliency among females in some cases “seems to be higher” than for men. That could explain “why we have a lower suicide rate in women based on the number that we have deployed,” he said.

Time in the war zone is one factor in the deaths. Roughly two in three active-duty soldiers committing suicide have gone to war, while nearly half of all guardsmen have fought. But other issues also are in play, including depression, alcohol and drug abuse, failed or failing relationships, financial woes, and legal or disciplinary troubles.

The Army Reserve’s chief, Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, said his troops often are far from their units when not on duty. Leaders now must maintain greater contact with their troops, he said.

“Dwell” time at home is another factor. Chiarelli predicted that “when we put more time between deployments, that is going to be a huge factor in helping us get at these problems.”

Giger had spent close to a quarter-century in the Army and been to Iraq three times since 2004, receiving two Bronze Star medals for valor. If he felt stress from the divorce and financial problems, he didn’t let on.

“I think he probably had a lot going on that he just stuffed down inside of him,” Helen Giger said.

Chiarelli told reporters that he believes the programs instituted by the Army in recent years have saved lives, but Col. Carl Castro, director of the medicine research program that established the suicide consortium, said no one is sure of their effectiveness.

“We think they’re effective,” he told the Express-News, “but we haven’t done the research to demonstrate that they may in fact be effective.”

Chiarelli pointed to the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which offers screening tests for soldiers, family members and Army civilian workers, as one successful effort. He said research comparing soldiers who committed suicide against a control group showed that, “broadly speaking, resilient soldiers do not complete suicide.”

The Army has pocket guides on suicide awareness, and Fort Hood has started its own stress-reduction programs and a soldier “resiliency campus.”

The post’s senior commander, Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, ordered commanders to inspect soldiers’ cars and on- and off-post homes after four GIs committed suicide over three days in September.

A trend of increasingly public suicides last year, one in the restroom of a Killeen sandwich shop and another at the end of a police chase near Waco, was a concern for Grimsley, who sought to identify GIs who might be suicide risks.

“I worry about the trend,” he said in October. “The violent nature of it concerns me only because the potential is that it’s bad enough if a soldier chooses to kill himself by violence but the potential impact on others, that that notion of violence could spread to somebody else either by accident or by design.”

- 30 -


7:57 AM on January 20, 2011

$2000 in child suppoert, holly crap how many kids did they have together??
Spouses and their lawyers should be held accounted for if they file divorce and the soldier commits suicide during or after deployment. The story lacks some info regarding to why she filed for divorce but by her wanting all his money is crazy. Hope the system doesn't give her what she wants, she needs to be stoned to death

9:40 AM on January 20, 2011


The soldiers don't want to be on Psycho-Wacko meds that don't work.
The soldiers don't want to be labeled for life CRAZY, ADDICTED, & ALCOHOLIC.
The soldiers don't want never-ending group therapy nonsense.
The soldier don't want anything to do with the 12-Step Religious Cult


9:29 AM on January 20, 2011

Congratulations to the former Mrs. Giger! You discovered a legal way to commit murder. I hope your greed is finally quenched by the blood of your childrens father.

17 January 2011

Mark Twain was wrong, so an Auburn University professor will fix Twain's choice of werds in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

The New York Times
(daily broadsheet, New York City USA)
Wednesday 5 January 2011
 That’s Not Twain
Next month, you will be able to buy the single-volume NewSouth Edition of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University at Montgomery [Alabama]. It differs from other editions of those books because Mr. Gribben has turned the word “nigger” -- as used by Tom and Huck -- into “slave.” Mr. Gribben has also changed “Injun” to Indian.
Mr. Gribben says he wants to make these American classics readable again -- for young readers and for anyone who is hurt by the use of an epithet that would have been ubiquitous in Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s, which is when both books are set. He says he discovered how much Twain’s language offended readers when he began giving talks about “Tom Sawyer” all across Alabama in 2009. He has also acknowledged that what he calls “textual purists” will be horrified by his sanitized versions of the two classics.
We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text. It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past.
When “Huckleberry Finn” was published, Mark Twain appended a note on his effort to reproduce “painstakingly” the dialects in the book, including several backwoods dialects and “the Missouri negro dialect.” What makes “Huckleberry Finn” so important in American literature isn’t just the story, it’s the richness, the detail, the unprecedented accuracy of its spoken language. There is no way to “clean up” Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work.
- 30 -
A version of this editorial appeared in print on January 6, 2011, on page A26 of the New York edition.

10 January 2011

"Twain scholar" Alan Gribben edits new edition of "Huckleberry Finn," substitutes Twain's "nigger" for the word "slave"

Professor Alan Gribben
English Department
Auburn University
Dear Professor Gribben,
I was shocked not by what you did to "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," but to discover that you are an English professor -- and often described as a leading Twain scholar -- at Auburn University.
The first responsibility of a literary scholar is to preserve, respect and protect the original text of a literary classic.
When the classic requires translation between languages. certain liberties in word choice are allowed and even necessary.
But Twain wrote "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in a historically immediate and universally comprehensible dialect of our American English. Every word he chose, he chose for a reason. He did not rely on copyright law to protect his writing. He relied on the demands and expectations of his appreciative readers, who would have been horrified and disgusted at the slightest text changes to his published writing which Twain himself did not make and authorize.
That these changes to "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" occur one century after the author's death -- one century after Twain lost his living ability to defend his text from attack and perverse change -- is frankly cowardly and ghoulish, and is certainly not characteristic of anyone daring to call himself a scholar.
A scholar protects both his author and his author's historical times, as the author scrupulously chronicled them.
Must I remind you that the shame and embarrassment of "nigger" in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" are there, by Twain's choice, to shock and shame his readers for all time as Twain chronicled the details and vocabulary of American life under slavery?
You have no right to pass yourself off as a scholar, you embarrass Auburn, and worst of all, you pervert the right of an author to speak clearly to his readers across the span of time.
Robert Merkin
Chesterfield, Massachusetts USA

04 January 2011

The Tooth Fairy Project rears its violently controversial head again! Is it total crap? Or ... maybe not ... and that ain't good ...

Through absolutely no agency or blame attributable to me, The Tooth Fairy Project and its subsequent morph studies have come alive again on the e-List Ionizing Radiation Afficianados -- and, as always happens, has immediately been responded to by a cannonade of criticism and attack.

Ah, screw it: I don't know what's True and what's Not True. I didn't collect these thousands of baby teeth, grind them up, soak them in nitric acid, and perform chemical analyses on them, looking for the rare and unnatural biproduct of the nuclear age, Strontium-90.

I just love controversy.

And in nuclear tech and nuclear power industry circles, The Tooth Fairy Project is the Mother Of All Heated, Irate, Angry, Never-Ending Controversies. Grown men with crewcuts, in suits and ties, with pocket protectors, leap up and scream: "Liar Liar Pants On Fire!" 

And the USA federal government chimes in with its own study attacking every aspect and conclusion of the Tooth Fairy Project.

And that should settle the matter once and for all.

If you always believe the USA federal government.

Please, if you bother to read this story at all, if any of it grabs your interest, read it all the way to the end, for a wonderful, wonderful quote applicable to any and all scientific controversies.

~ ~ ~

where the Tooth Fairy
takes those baby toofs
and what she does
with those baby toofs


The element Strontium, the nuclide (what used to be called an isotope) Sr87. Add 3 neutrons, and you get the Hot Stuff Sr-90 (Strontium-90 is also the title of a Sting/Police LP). It probably doesn't exist naturally, or if it exists naturally, it exists in a barely perceivable ratio to the natural non-radioactive nuclides.

On Earth, adding the 3 neutrons to the SR87 nucleus and thus making it Hot Sr90 is a process that only occurs inside a nuclear pile or in an atomic or hydrogen bomb explosion. If you want Sr90 from a natural source, you have to fly to the surface or interior of a star.

So nobody on Earth ever had to lose sleep over Sr90 until the first atomic bomb explosion, above ground, in the desert of New Mexico in summer 1945.

Hot Stuff is funny shorthand for an atom which emits ionizing radiation capable of inducing chemical changes in the molecules of living things. So what you thought was a nice healthy Nitrogen atom suddenly becomes an Oxygen or Carbon atom in a biomolecule where one shouldn't be. The chemical sequelæ of this can generate a cancer, or linger in the reproductive DNA to be passed on to newborns as a genetic mutation.

This of course is a drawing based on accepted theory. We really can't see or directly perceive or image an individual atom at this scale. For one thing, if a proton or a neutron was displayed on a computer screen as 2 x 2 pixels, the nearest electron would probably be down by the nearest bus stop from your apartment.

A large atom can be directly imaged through several high-energy bombartment techniques, and produces a very fuzzy shadowy vague foggy black sphere (on a flat image, its 2D shadow, a circle). They've imaged individual atoms since around 1955, but crispness, color, detail and clarity still evade the physicist's Arte. At this scale and tinier, Nature employs fundamental protections -- Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle -- to prevent us, apparently forever, from looking through the window while she's dressing.

Well-confirmed Theory tells us that important things -- transmutations, transitions, changes from being one thing to another -- are occuring at these tiny scales, but we theorize that some, for example, take place in less than 0.000003 seconds. These are generally referred to as virtual particles -- a thing theoretically as real and significant as a tree or a baseball, but whose existence is so brief that we can only guess that it ever existed, sandwiched between real things that last longer. (I just made that fraction up, but you get the idea.) Try imaging something as speedy as that. Now do it again, that first image was too fuzzy.

JRW forwarded this story to the Yahoo List Ionizing Radiation Afficianados and claims his childhood dentist harvested his lost baby teeth and likely passed them on to this Tooth Fairy.

I am an Ionizing Radiation Afficianado. I have TWO Geiger Counters. And you don't have any. (If you do, by all means, Leave A Comment.)

~ ~ ~
The New York Times
Tuesday 11 November 2003

In Baby Teeth, a Test
of Fallout; a Long-shot
Search for Nuclear Peril
in Molars and Cuspids

by Andy Newman

Joseph J. Mangano does not even notice the smell anymore.
It hits you the moment you walk into his tiny, tidy apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, something musty and a little acrid, though not entirely unpleasant.

It is the smell of 3,000 human baby teeth and the crumbling 50-year-old envelopes that hold them, each one scribbled with a few bits of information: cuspid or molar, intact or rootless, milk-fed or breast. The teeth - some split or brown-streaked, some improbably pearly - sit in boxes inside boxes atop his bookshelf, waiting for the next phase of research to see if they contain life-threatening amounts of nuclear fallout.

Mr. Mangano runs the Radiation and Public Health Project Inc., a shoestring organization with offices mostly on his kitchen table, that has spent the last 18 years questioning the safety of nuclear power.

In 2001, the group acquired custody of thousands of baby teeth collected from America's young mostly during the 1950's and 60's for a study of the effects of atom bomb tests.

The original survey, known as the Tooth Fairy study, found many teeth with elevated levels of strontium 90, a radioactive and carcinogenic yellowish metal isotope that bonds to tooth and bone. Mr. Mangano's group is looking to track down donors and find out if levels of strontium 90 correlate with cancer in later life.

But that is only half of the Radiation and Public Health Project's mission - the less provocative half. They are also measuring strontium 90 in the teeth of modern-day children, sick and healthy, to determine the relative levels in children born or reared near nuclear power plants.

Mr. Mangano's group thinks the dual effort might show something that few people want to hear: that the nation's 100-plus nuclear power reactors, when operated under normal conditions, are giving people cancer. They say they have already found signs: disproportionate drops in infant mortality after reactors close; parallel trends in childhood cancer rates and strontium 90 levels.

"We're not trying to scare anyone," Mr. Mangano said last Friday. "We're trying to inform people."

The group's work is, to say the very least, controversial. Though members of the group have published a handful of articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Archives of Environmental Health, their credibility with the scientific establishment hovers near zero. Detractors say they obsess over amounts of radiation that are insignificant compared with the dose humans receive each day from cosmic rays, soil and other natural sources.

And their few government contracts have left a short trail of dissatisfied local officials sharply critical of their methods, their scientific objectivity and their results.

"What they do is what's popularly referred to as junk science," said Dr. Joshua Lipsman, the health commissioner in Westchester County, home of the embattled Indian Point nuclear power plant and, according to the Radiation and Public Health Project, children with the highest strontium 90 readings in the region. "We found a number of scientific errors both in measurement and process in their proposals."

Mr. Mangano, 47, who has a master's degree in public health, defends the group's work. He is not surprised to meet resistance from the military-industrial-energy-pharmaceutical-governmental complex.

"It's something that government does not do, measure radiation levels in the bodies of people living near reactors," he said. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study of disease patterns found no general increased risk of death from cancer for people living near 62 reactors. But Mr. Mangano said the study, while comprehensive, focused on disease patterns, which can have causes other than radiation, and that in any case the most recent data used in it is now 20 years old and needs to be updated.

Zdenek Hrubec, a biostatistician who worked on the 1991 study, said that while the study had its limits, it was difficult to imagine

[a kind of logical and statistical argument and criterion, I guess. the Vleeptron High Non-Junk Science Council likes it, and will use it in the future when necessary. thanks, Zdenek!]

a case where reactors caused an increase in cancer that was hidden in the statistics. "You'd have to postulate that there was a deficit of smokers or industrial pollutants in the same places where there were nuclear reactors," he said.

The Radiation and Public Health Project keeps trying, and with the help of its friends, including left-leaning celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon, it is surviving. Tomorrow at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, the group will announce the receipt of a $25,000 state grant to collect and analyze 50 teeth from children with cancer and compare them with the teeth of healthy children.

Gov. James E. McGreevey is scheduled to speak. Almost more encouraging, Mr. Mangano said, is that a state finance official told him on Friday that the first check was in the mail. "By Tuesday I'll know if he's telling the truth," Mr. Mangano said.

The original Tooth Fairy study goes back to the height of the Red Menace, when scientists began to complain that the government was regularly exploding atomic bombs over domestic soil -- more than 100 nuclear tests were eventually done -- without knowing their effects on people.

In 1959, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, including Barry Commoner, one of the founders of environmentalism, started a campaign to collect baby teeth. Each donor received a button saying "I gave my tooth to science."

Strontium 90 was chosen as a proxy for the dozens of slow-decaying radioactive compounds in nuclear fallout because it was relatively easy to test for.

The researchers determined that from 1945 to 1965, strontium 90 levels in baby teeth had risen 50-fold, a finding used in the successful push for a nuclear test ban. But no one followed up on the health of the donors, and the program was discontinued in 1970.

The Radiation and Public Health Project was founded in 1985 by Jay M. Gould, a retired statistician. The group's first tooth study, done in Suffolk County in 1999, found that strontium 90 levels had dropped steadily in the first 20 years after the nuclear test ban but had been creeping up since the mid-1980's, a finding that Mr. Mangano said has been repeated in every study they've done since then, across several states.

In 2001, a cache of 85,000 old teeth turned up in an old munitions bunker in, believe it or not, Eureka, Mo. Dr. Commoner recommended that they be given to Mr. Mangano's group for analysis. Mr. Mangano said it would cost about $50,000 to track down and study the health of 400 of the old donors. (The 82,000 teeth not in Mr. Mangano's living room are being stored upstate.)

The Radiation and Public Health Project has its teeth tested at a radiochemistry laboratory in Ontario. There they are washed, dried, ground, dissolved in nitric acid and treated with chemicals that help locate the strontium.

But John Matuszek, a retired director of the New York State Health Department's radiological sciences laboratory who was hired by Suffolk County to evaluate the Radiation and Public Health Project's research proposal there, said he found that the proposal had a host of basic scientific flaws.

Dr. Matuszek said that the proposed sample sizes -- a single tooth, as opposed to the 90-tooth batches used in the St. Louis study -- were too small to yield detectable amounts of strontium 90. And that the detectors they used were incapable of differentiating between strontium 90 and some naturally occurring radioactive compounds, and that the error margins they claimed were implausible.

The conclusions the group drew, Dr. Matuszek said, "have nothing to do with cancer cases."

Hari Sharma, the radiochemist the group uses, said the precautions he had taken were more than adequate to screen out false positives and other errors.

Mr. Mangano said Dr. Matuszek had been enlisted by health officials in Suffolk County who "were determined that we not receive those funds and test those teeth."

The group has its defenders. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois, has reviewed some of Mr. Mangano's papers for journals. He called the group's research "good, careful work."

"While they were somewhat overexuberant in their initial stuff," Dr. Epstein said, "they've calmed down and I think they are producing solid scientific work that stands critical peer review."

In the eyes of Mr. Mangano's group, it is the government that has the proven credibility problem. For decades, he said, officials lied or withheld the truth about the extent of civilian exposure to nuclear tests and its health consequences. In 1997, for example, the government belatedly acknowledged that radioactive iodine from nuclear fallout caused thyroid cancer in 10,000 to 75,000 Americans.

"National security considerations are sometimes placed before health concerns," Mr. Mangano said. "These are very inflammatory comments but that's the way it is."

Matt Ahearn, the Green Party assemblyman from Bergen County who shepherded the group's $25,000 appropriation through the budget process, said the debate over their work did not bother him.

"There's corporate junk science and the people's junk science," he said. "Take your pick."

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