Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cumberland Island Ga. ( maybe the last time)





















Most of the private homes on Cumberland are now the property of the US Federal Govt via eminent domain. The house we have been renting and the one we spent part of our honeymoon in
"Nancy's Fancy" is now officially gone. The Government took it this month. We were fortunate to be the last family to stay in it as my sister in law was buying the large kitchen table and taking it back....we were able to stay for a week. My in laws lost their house to the Feds in 1980 but some families were able to make deals and get another 30 years. Never underestimate the power of Washington DC. The older I get the more Libertarian I become....why is Government the largest land owner in the country? anyway , here are some pics of this wonderful place.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Big snake problem in Guam....innovative solution?

Navy Bombs Guam With Dead Frozen Mice

Published October 01, 2010

| FoxNews.com

In a ploy to rid Guam of its population of invasive brown tree snakes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is bombing the island with drugged frozen mice, military news outlet Stars and Stripes reported.

Using Naval Base Guam as a starting point, scientists drop mice packed with acetaminophen from helicopters into the jungle canopy.

The drug -- commonly found in Tylenol -- provided a regulatory advantage because it had already undergone extensive testing, Dan Vice, assistant state director of USDA Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands, told Stars and Stripes.

Guam’s snake problem began in the 1980s, when the creatures arrived on the island accidentally in military cargo. The mildly venomous snakes can grow up to 10 feet long and, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the State of Hawaii, are the leading cause of endangerment for some of Guam’s native animals.

“The discovery that snakes will die when they eat acetaminophen was a huge step forward,” Anne Brooke, conservation resources program manager for Naval Facilities Command Marianas told Stars and Stripes. “The problem was how you get the snakes to eat it.”


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

State of the Blogosphere Survey 2010

2010 State of the Blogosphere Survey – please give us 15 minutes.

Since 2004, Technorati has been tracking the Blogosphere through our State of the Blogosphere study. The goal of the study is to create a complete snapshot of the activities and interactions that make up the Blogosphere by asking you, the bloggers, to share some information about your habits. The survey includes questions like how, when and why you blog. Is this a side business, full time job or something you do for fun?

Please feel free to send this link to other bloggers you know. And be sure to check back on Technorati.com in November for a summary of the results.

The 2010 State of the Blogosphere Survey: http://research.opinionguru.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=A17275

Thank you!

To UPDATE your subscription preferences visit this link.

If you do not want to receive any more newsletters, visit this link to unsubscribe.

Powered by PHPlist2.10.2, &copy tincan ltd

Friday, September 24, 2010

Horse hoarder in Naples

— A Golden Gate Estates woman’s dream of running a horse rescue foundation in Collier County came to a bitter conclusion on Wednesday when a judge barred her from ever owning horses again.

Tina Ciancaglini, a self-described horse lover who has been called an “animal hoarder” by county officials, was deemed incapable of caring for horses by a Judge Rob Crown after Collier County Domestic Animal Services reported she has consistently failed to provide for her horses.

DAS had been monitoring Ciancaglini’s Estates horse ranch since 2007 when there were reports of neglect. Officers with DAS reported finding consistently thin horses, but worked with her to improve conditions.

Ciancaglini was attempting to run a horse rescue organization, which she called Legacy Rescue Foundation.

But in July, DAS officials finally decided to shut down her horse ranch when, after a citizen complaint, they found 34 malnourished horses.

DAS Director Amanda Townsend said all of the horse scored moderately to dangerously low on a scale that determines healthy weight for horses. One foal since died from malnourishment-related illnesses, she said.

In the three years that the county has monitored the ranch, 19 horses have died in Ciancaglini’s care, reported DAS officer Paul Morris, with causes ranging from panther attacks, electrical fence entanglement and euthanasia due to sickness.

Though the county did not seek criminal animal cruelty charges against Ciancaglini for the deceased and malnourished horses, county attorney Steve Williams said the petition to ban horse ownership was filed to prevent further neglect.

In court on Wednesday, Williams said he doesn’t question Ciancaglini’s love for horses, but he argued she did not have the ability to care for them.

Ciancaglini has maintained that she found herself in a difficult financial situation after losing her job in March. She also cited that she broke both legs in 2007 and her house burned down in 2008.

That, she has said, made it difficult for her to provide proper care.

Ciancaglini’s lawyer, Louis Erickson, called his client “a victim of the Great Recession.”

Erickson also argued their was little reason to permanently ban his client from owning horses, when criminal charges have never been brought against her.

“I think it is absolutely unnecessary in an age where everyone is complaining about government intervention… to restrict this woman from ever owning horses again,” he said.

However, DAS Director Amanda Townsend, who has a background in animal cruelty investigation, said in court that Ciancaglini was likely an “animal hoarder,” or a person who obsessively collects more animals than they care for.

She even recommended the judge mandate psychiatric counseling for Ciancaglini to treat her tendency for collecting horses.

While Ciancaglini admitted that she ran into trouble by having too many horses and not enough resources to care for them, she said she would be capable of caring for horses once she got in better economic standing.

“My situation is purely financial,” she testified at the hearing. “I don’t think I’m an animal hoarder.”

While she said she did not plan to own horses in the near future anyway, Ciancaglini asked Judge Crown not to strip away her rights to be a horse owner in the future.

Her lawyer offered an alternative to a complete horse ban, arguing instead for a limit on the horses his client could own.

Crown neglected the compromise.

Before his ruling, Judge Crown cited testimony that Ciancaglini consistently failed to provide care for the horses she owned.

“Ms. Ciangcaglini, while I certainly hope you do not have another crisis,” he said, “I am not willing to take that risk at the expense of one more horse.”

He ruled not to require psychiatric counseling for Ciancaglini, though, saying that there was no expert testimony to compel that measure.

Townsend praised the ruling. She said it would protect future horses from neglect and save taxpayers money in the cost of monitoring Ciancaglini.

But Ciancaglini said the ruling went too far, and that the government should not be able to restrict her right to own an animal.

Outside the court room after hearing the ruling, she rhetorically asked, “Can you tell someone they can’t have a baby again?”

Connect with Aaron Hale at http://www.naplesnews.com/staff/aaron-hale.

State of the Blogosphere Survey 2010

2010 State of the Blogosphere Survey – please give us 15 minutes.

Since 2004, Technorati has been tracking the Blogosphere through our State of the Blogosphere study. The goal of the study is to create a complete snapshot of the activities and interactions that make up the Blogosphere by asking you, the bloggers, to share some information about your habits. The survey includes questions like how, when and why you blog. Is this a side business, full time job or something you do for fun?

Please feel free to send this link to other bloggers you know. And be sure to check back on Technorati.com in November for a summary of the results.

The 2010 State of the Blogosphere Survey: http://research.opinionguru.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=A17275

Thank you!

To UPDATE your subscription preferences visit this link.

If you do not want to receive any more newsletters, visit this link to unsubscribe.

Powered by PHPlist2.10.2, &copy tincan ltd

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Police horse goes bar hopping through nightclub district


This is pretty funny, we take care of the Jax Sheriff's Dept mounted unit (some really great guys down there) . I would love to see some JSO horses cruisin' thru some of the night spots. What a hoot.
"A horse walks into a bar, across the room, up the back wall, across the ceiling, down the front wall and then up to the bar. The bartender gives the horse a beer, he drinks it and leaves. A guy sitting at the bar looks perplexed and asks the bartender "Hey, what's that all about?" The bartender replies, "Don't take it personally, he never says 'Hi' to anyone."


Police horse goes bar hopping through nightclub district

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mystery Seal deaths


Very interesting image of a seal recently killed off Great Britain in The UK Sun. It appears that there is a continuous circular laceration that corkscrews from the head to the tail. They seem to have eliminated a lot of potential causes such as propellers and sharks. the continuous nature of the wound makes you think that they rotated through the blade much like an impeller in a turbine.
Sad , but an interesting puzzle.

Universal News And Sport
Science sleuths have been hunting for the 'murder weapon' since the first seals started dying last year, but they are still clueless? Now they are appealing to Sun readers to see if you can solve the mystery?
Horrified scientists have found around 60 carcasses so far? Most of the seals were spotted off the Norfolk coast, but ten more have been discovered at St Andrew's on the east coast of Scotland?
The cut goes all the way around the seals' bodies from head to stomach like a
CORKSCREW ?
Professors have so far eliminated sharks, tidal power generators and ordinary boat propellers from the list of suspects - but they have no idea what else could have caused the injuries?
The search is now on for a mystery vessel that could have inflicted the mechanical wounds?
Top mammal scientist Callan Duck told The Sun: "It's a very clean cut - it looks like one single cut? If you're cutting a loaf of bread, there's a sawing action and you leave jagged edges, but there are none of those, so it looks like one continuous movement?
"The skin has been ripped clean off the seals' jaws? It would take hours to do that with a scalpel yourself?" The clever animals have learnt to avoid swimming too close to ships, leaving Mr Duck's team puzzled that they seem to have swum into the blade
HEAD FIRST ?
He added: "Seals are pretty savvy creatures and they won't approach an obvious threat, but very suddenly they're being dragged head first into a rotating blade?"
The Scottish killings have already hit ten per cent of the breeding population of se als - and scientists are worried that the species could soon be wiped out entirely?
The seal team at St Andrew's University has already asked the RSPCA, the National Trust and even the Scottish Government to solve the mystery - with no luck?
The baffled experts are now hoping Sun readers can piece together the puzzle for them?
Mr Duck said: "It's a good mystery? We do believe it's solvable? Once we find out where, we can move on to why and what?
"We'd like to encourage members of the public to call in and make suggestions?"
Experts are also keen for any snaps of the dead seals? Mr Duck added: "They can be smelly but please take a picture?"

Monday, April 26, 2010

1889 Pandemic-from wired.com

1889 Pandemic Didn’t Need Planes to Circle Globe in 4 Months

The 1889 Russian flu pandemic circled the globe in just four months, captivating the world, despite the lack of airplanes or hyperventilating cable news stations.

If that was possible, closing down air traffic in the event of a new pandemic might not do much, argue the authors led by Alain-Jacques Valleron, an epidemiologist at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris.

“The rapid progression of the 1889 pandemic demonstrates that slower surface travel, even with much smaller traveler flows, sufficed to spread the pandemic across all of Europe and the United States in ~4 months,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 26. “This observation supports mathematical model results, which anticipated that restricting air transportation would have little, if any, effect. One possible hypothesis is that the important predictor of the speed of the pandemic is not the absolute numbers of passengers traveling between cities but the connectedness of the network of cities.”

The data on the disease were assembled for the first time from local records in 172 European and American cities. The Russian flu is particularly interesting because it was the first major epidemic to strike Europe after the laying down of dense railroad connections. In 1889, there were already more than 125,000 miles of rail lines connecting European cities. (That’s more mileage than exists today, the authors note).

russianflu

The outbreak began in the spring of 1889. It peaked first in St. Petersburg, Russia, in December of that year. By then, it had spread all across Europe and North America and was front-page news in many places across the country. In papers like The Evening Bulletin in Maysville, Kentucky, the flu hit the front page in the days after Christmas. The paper printed dispatches from cities across the world. “It is safe to say that over one-tenth of the population is affected by it,” a Boston reporter wrote. Meanwhile, doctors in Pittsburgh “expected[ed] ‘la grippe’ to reach here in all its violence before another month has passed.”
telegraphic-briefs
Reports of royalty afflicted with influenza popped up in papers interspersed with bits of other news. The Salt Lake City Herald reported that the czar of Russia was “making favorable progress toward recovery from influenza.”

While popular culture was receiving its information through the papers and informal information networks, the new study shows that more detailed records exist that make detailed, quantitative epidemiology for 19th-century disease outbreaks possible. Local authorities in Germany were already conducting massive surveys of 16,000 physicians, of whom 21 percent actually responded.

Tracking the medical response to the outbreak is much harder. At the time, many different ideas for what caused the disease were floated, according to historian F.B. Smith.

“In keeping with traditional speculations about epidemics, some doctors invoked earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as material energizers, concentrators, and disseminators, but in mechanistic terms, not as mere erratic signs of Providential displeasure,” Smith wrote in a 1995 essay on the Russian flu. “Earthquakes had been reported in almost every month of 1889, in such disparate locations as the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, Manchester, Sicily, Greece, Japan, Samoa, Alabama, and elsewhere round the world.”

One editorial in The Lancet argued that disease could travel around the world as easily as the dust from Krakatoa, which had exploded in 1883 and delivered brilliant sunsets in Europe.

“Why should not this troublesome complaint have been produced by injurious emanations from the earth? Mild at first . . . [influenza] gets worse as it goes on, apparently gathering up other morbific elements on its way,” he wrote. “There is no more difficulty in admitting an atmospheric pollution traveling across the Atlantic to New York than that the red sunsets . . . round the world were lately caused by the dust of a Java volcano.”

Other theories held that electrical and magnetic phenomenon were “likely agents,” Smith wrote, largely because some earlier epidemics had coincided with spectacular northern lights displays. It was hypothesized that electrical currents in the air could produce ozone, which intensified the illness.

In the end, what doctors did may not have mattered much. The French researchers found that the mortality of the 1889 pandemic was about the same as the flu outbreaks of 1947, 1957, 1968, and 1977-1978, and (so far) 2009-2010. Transportation, information and medical networks may have changed, but the virulence of the flu — with the huge exception of the 1918 pandemic — appears to have stayed roughly the same.


Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/04/1889-russian-flu-pandemic/#ixzz0mGUjhphk

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Alzheimer's Vaccine

New Alzheimer vaccine to be tested in Europe

New Alzheimer vaccine to be tested in Europe AFP/File – A woman is pictured holding the hand of a person suffering from Alzheimer's disease. A new vaccine …

VIENNA (AFP) – A new vaccine against Alzheimer's, developed by the Austrian biotechnology firm Affiris, will soon be tested in six European countries, the company announced Friday.

Some 420 patients will be recruited to take part in clinical trials in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Slovakia, Affiris said in a statement.

The AD02 vaccine, developed with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, was already tested for safety and tolerability over the past year.

The clinical trials will now test its efficacy, with results expected as early as 2012, the company said.

ADO2 is meant to prevent the building up of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which cause the degradation of nerve cells and are believed to play a crucial role in causing Alzheimer's disease.

The vaccine works by causing the body to attack these plaques by producing more antibodies, Till Jelitto, a spokesman for Affiris, told AFP.

More specifically, these antibodies are meant to attack only the part of the beta-amyloid protein that causes the plaques, he added.

This would reduce the risk for patients, as the protein as a whole already exists in healthy individuals.

The current vaccine is therapeutic, meaning it is aimed at treating patients already affected by the disease. But if results are positive, the technology could also be used to manufacture a prophylactic, or preventative, vaccine, Jelitto said.

In 2001, tests for a first vaccine against Alzheimer's disease were conducted in the United States and Europe but had to be cut short after serious side effects emerged.

Another vaccine was tested in Sweden in 2005.

Alzheimer's disease, also known as AD, is a neuro-degenerative disease that affects cognitive functions, further impacting patients' behaviour and social adaptation.

The disease, which still has no known cure, affects about six million people in Europe every year.

Affiris is also working on vaccines against Parkinson's and atherosclerosis.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Revellers Article

Jacksonville man having a ball planning Ye Mystic Revellers party

Riverside's Alan Weldon is captain of annual elaborate event for Ye Mystic Revellers


Ye Mystic Revellers

In 1923, George Hardee, a New Orleans native who moved to Jacksonville, convinced the chamber of commerce to start a Mardis Gras-style celebration called the April Follies. The slogan was "Be Yourself." Thousands crowded downtown for the longest parade in history. Hardee was a charter member of the Jesters, a club limited to 53 members, representing a deck of cards. The group was later renamed Ye Mystic Revellers. The April Follies were abandoned, but the Revellers continued and expanded its membership. It continues its storied tradition today.

Source: Ye Mystic Revellers


Alan Weldon of Riverside is planning what he hopes to be the Mardis Gras-style party of the century.

The veterinarian and father of four teenagers is a member of Ye Mystic Revellers, an 87-year-old, invitation-only men's social club founded in Ortega and known for its elaborate parties with lots of booze and debauchery. Most of the members are from the Ortega and Riverside areas, officials said.

"It's very irreverent. We make fun of politicians. Skits with guys in spandex or dresses," Weldon said. "Goofy and baudy. It's bizarre."

One year, someone brought in a bull that got loose and was circling the hall.

Cleaning up the day after is similar to the movie "The Hangover," Weldon said, laughing.

This year, Weldon is captain of the annual Revellers Ball, a black-tie affair slated for 7 to midnight Friday at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.

As is the case every year, a queen and her court will be ordained, and there will be live comedy performances by Revellers trying to out-funny the skits of years past.

Weldon and his family have spent months developing this year's theme: Mission Impossible. In sort of a mystery theater style, a fictional group - the Society Opposed to Booze and Especially Revellers, or SOBER - will kidnap the queen in an effort to destroy the ball and the Revellers.

Weldon has already filmed the beginning video segment, in which Sister Chastity Teatotaller, SOBER leader, wearing a Sunday dress, hat and gloves, announces her evil plan to the audience.

In the end, Weldon's children, nieces and nephews, playing Scooby Doo's gang, show up to save the day.

Weldon chuckled while watching the video on his laptop.

"He loves this stuff," said Weldon's wife, Beth, whose parents, grandparents and siblings have all been Revellers. "This is his creative outlet for the year. Once you get out of school, you don't have many opportunities to get creative, do dramas and stuff like this."

In decades past, city officials and other dignitaries were Revellers, Beth Weldon said. But because the group is not a charitable cause, it fell out of favor, she said.

The ball is for adults only, but, Beth Weldon said, as a kid she was able to scoop up all the elaborate costumes that were tossed away after the ball. Decades ago, the Revellers spent more than $100,000 on parties. Today, the budget is about $35,000. Revellers pay $275 a year to belong to the club. Some fundraisers throughout the year help fill the till.

As captain, Weldon is also keeper of the massive scrapbooks of Revellers past and he's had fun reading through them. He was tickled when he found an onion skin-thin document from a laboratory showing a chemical evaluation of some moonshine.

Over the years, the ball has been held at armories, the Jacksonville Coliseum and the Prime Osborn Convention Center. For more than a decade, it was held at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium on the Southside, but the rent jumped $4,000 this year, so Weldon is moving the event to a 28,000-square-foot space at the fairgrounds.

"How do you decorate 28,000 square feet?" Weldon said, smacking his forehead.

So far, he's planning to have drapes and icicle lights surround the space.

He's hired Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters, a 13-piece band from South Carolina promising to play a three-hour non-stop set.

So far, it's looking good. A writer from Mardis Gras Digest might be there, Weldon said.

Serving as captain is a one-time-only gig and there's no prize for the best ball, Weldon said.

"But there's bragging rights," he said.

For more information, visit www.yerevellers.com.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Thorium reactors? Fascinating.

The full text of this article is posted at wire.com. It's well worth the read.

Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke

* By Richard Martin Email Author
* December 21, 2009 |
* 10:00 am |
* Wired Jan 2010

Photo: Thomas Hannich

Photo: Thomas Hannich

The thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleague’s office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. A rookie NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Sorensen was researching nuclear-powered propulsion, and the book’s title — Fluid Fuel Reactors — jumped out at him. He picked it up and thumbed through it. Hours later, he was still reading, enchanted by the ideas but struggling with the arcane writing. “I took it home that night, but I didn’t understand all the nuclear terminology,” Sorensen says. He pored over it in the coming months, ultimately deciding that he held in his hands the key to the world’s energy future.

Published in 1958 under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission as part of its Atoms for Peace program, Fluid Fuel Reactors is a book only an engineer could love: a dense, 978-page account of research conducted at Oak Ridge National Lab, most of it under former director Alvin Weinberg. What caught Sorensen’s eye was the description of Weinberg’s experiments producing nuclear power with an element called thorium.

At the time, in 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer. A devout Mormon with a linebacker’s build and a marine’s crew cut, Sorensen made an unlikely iconoclast. But the book inspired him to pursue an intense study of nuclear energy over the next few years, during which he became convinced that thorium could solve the nuclear power industry’s most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons.

Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. But thorium hit a dead end. Locked in a struggle with a nuclear- armed Soviet Union, the US government in the ’60s chose to build uranium-fueled reactors — in part because they produce plutonium that can be refined into weapons-grade material. The course of the nuclear industry was set for the next four decades, and thorium power became one of the great what-if technologies of the 20th century.

Today, however, Sorensen spearheads a cadre of outsiders dedicated to sparking a thorium revival. When he’s not at his day job as an aerospace engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama — or wrapping up the master’s in nuclear engineering he is soon to earn from the University of Tennessee — he runs a popular blog called Energy From Thorium. A community of engineers, amateur nuclear power geeks, and researchers has gathered around the site’s forum, ardently discussing the future of thorium. The site even links to PDFs of the Oak Ridge archives, which Sorensen helped get scanned. Energy From Thorium has become a sort of open source project aimed at resurrecting long-lost energy technology using modern techniques.

And the online upstarts aren’t alone. Industry players are looking into thorium, and governments from Dubai to Beijing are funding research. India is betting heavily on the element.

The concept of nuclear power without waste or proliferation has obvious political appeal in the US, as well. The threat of climate change has created an urgent demand for carbon-free electricity, and the 52,000 tons of spent, toxic material that has piled up around the country makes traditional nuclear power less attractive. President Obama and his energy secretary, Steven Chu, have expressed general support for a nuclear renaissance. Utilities are investigating several next-gen alternatives, including scaled-down conventional plants and “pebble bed” reactors, in which the nuclear fuel is inserted into small graphite balls in a way that reduces the risk of meltdown.

Those technologies are still based on uranium, however, and will be beset by the same problems that have dogged the nuclear industry since the 1960s. It is only thorium, Sorensen and his band of revolutionaries argue, that can move the country toward a new era of safe, clean, affordable energy.

Named for the Norse god of thunder, thorium is a lustrous silvery-white metal. It’s only slightly radioactive; you could carry a lump of it in your pocket without harm. On the periodic table of elements, it’s found in the bottom row, along with other dense, radioactive substances — including uranium and plutonium — known as actinides.

Actinides are dense because their nuclei contain large numbers of neutrons and protons. But it’s the strange behavior of those nuclei that has long made actinides the stuff of wonder. At intervals that can vary from every millisecond to every hundred thousand years, actinides spin off particles and decay into more stable elements. And if you pack together enough of certain actinide atoms, their nuclei will erupt in a powerful release of energy.

To understand the magic and terror of those two processes working in concert, think of a game of pool played in 3-D. The nucleus of the atom is a group of balls, or particles, racked at the center. Shoot the cue ball — a stray neutron — and the cluster breaks apart, or fissions. Now imagine the same game played with trillions of racked nuclei. Balls propelled by the first collision crash into nearby clusters, which fly apart, their stray neutrons colliding with yet more clusters. Voilè0: a nuclear chain reaction.

Actinides are the only materials that split apart this way, and if the collisions are uncontrolled, you unleash hell: a nuclear explosion. But if you can control the conditions in which these reactions happen — by both controlling the number of stray neutrons and regulating the temperature, as is done in the core of a nuclear reactor — you get useful energy. Racks of these nuclei crash together, creating a hot glowing pile of radioactive material. If you pump water past the material, the water turns to steam, which can spin a turbine to make electricity.

Uranium is currently the actinide of choice for the industry, used (sometimes with a little plutonium) in 100 percent of the world’s commercial reactors. But it’s a problematic fuel. In most reactors, sustaining a chain reaction requires extremely rare uranium-235, which must be purified, or enriched, from far more common U-238. The reactors also leave behind plutonium-239, itself radioactive (and useful to technologically sophisticated organizations bent on making bombs). And conventional uranium-fueled reactors require lots of engineering, including neutron-absorbing control rods to damp the reaction and gargantuan pressurized vessels to move water through the reactor core. If something goes kerflooey, the surrounding countryside gets blanketed with radioactivity (think Chernobyl). Even if things go well, toxic waste is left over.

When he took over as head of Oak Ridge in 1955, Alvin Weinberg realized that thorium by itself could start to solve these problems. It’s abundant — the US has at least 175,000 tons of the stuff — and doesn’t require costly processing. It is also extraordinarily efficient as a nuclear fuel. As it decays in a reactor core, its byproducts produce more neutrons per collision than conventional fuel. The more neutrons per collision, the more energy generated, the less total fuel consumed, and the less radioactive nastiness left behind.

Even better, Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. The design is based on the lab’s finding that thorium dissolves in hot liquid fluoride salts. This fission soup is poured into tubes in the core of the reactor, where the nuclear chain reaction — the billiard balls colliding — happens. The system makes the reactor self-regulating: When the soup gets too hot it expands and flows out of the tubes — slowing fission and eliminating the possibility of another Chernobyl. Any actinide can work in this method, but thorium is particularly well suited because it is so efficient at the high temperatures at which fission occurs in the soup.

In 1965, Weinberg and his team built a working reactor, one that suspended the byproducts of thorium in a molten salt bath, and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.

That proved to be “the most pivotal year in energy history,” according to the US Energy Information Administration. It was the year the Arab states cut off oil supplies to the West, setting in motion the petroleum-fueled conflicts that roil the world to this day. The same year, the US nuclear industry signed contracts to build a record 41 nuke plants, all of which used uranium. And 1973 was the year that thorium R&D faded away — and with it the realistic prospect for a golden nuclear age when electricity would be too cheap to meter and clean, safe nuclear plants would dot the green countryside.