February 4, 2003

linkage/technology

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at February 4, 2003 6:21 PM In a gee-whiz sort of mode, here are a couple interesting links I ran across.

The first is a short piece about a proposed nuclear reactor design. (I found this on bottomquark.) This design uses uranium-238, the more common isotope, to produce energy. Conventional reactors use fuel rods composed primarily of U-238, but derive their energy from the rarer U-235 which makes up only 4% of the rod. Thus, this new reactor uses fuel far more efficiently - rods need to be replaced on the order of decades instead of years. In addition to being less wasteful, this has the additional property that the reactor cores may be sealed more permanently - allowing nations to demonstrate their commitment to non-proliferation.

My feeling is that even if this design surpasses these claims, it won't do much to increase the use of nuclear power in the United States due to knee-jerk opposition to anything nuclear from certain groups. Certainly upgrades to reactors currently operating in the US will help (and perhaps alleviate the concerns of those living near Yucca Mountain), but I think the greatest benefit will be to developing nations that would meet opposition to the construction of an unsealed reactor.

I've posted the reactor story as a Plastic quicklink (it's in the sidebar).

The other story that caught my eye today is a nice summary of the semi-famous economic study of Everquest, the online fantasy role-playing game. (Yes, it's another Slate link - this is pure coincidence; I assure you it's not the only site I read.) The report itself is somewhat old news at this point, but articles I had previously read focused on the "wow, cool" aspects (e.g., the estimate of Everquest's per capita GNP is larger than India's or China's) rather than the deeper implications. The Slate column goes a bit further in discussing how the game mechanics translate into government regulation of the economy. Tags:
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