atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#793: Lead in the air, and Sunday's news digest.

Some say that lead pipes led to the fall of Rome.

The contamination of the drinking water with lead made people stupid and/or crazy, goes the theory, and Rome couldn't handle several generations of an ever less-responsible electorate.

We used to put tetraethyl lead ("lead") into gasoline as an anti-knock additive and a valvetrain lubricant. The stuff was really good at what it did; it let us build cars with huge engines that made monster horsepower--muscle car engines in the late '60s and early '70s could easily make a horsepower per cubic inch.

Problem is, it's lead.

The magnitude of the problem was never really explained to me until I recently learned how much lead was actually put into the environment: enough that it was detectible in human bone at levels far beyond levels in remains from before the twentieth century.

The switch to unleaded gasoline was inconvenient but everyone always said it was done because we had to have the catalytic convertors on the cars to prevent pollution; no one ever said that we were getting lead poisoning.

The switch to unleaded happened in the early 1970s. I expect that the levels of atmospheric lead have dropped precipitously since leaded gasoline was phased out; I bought my last tank of leaded gas (for my 1975 Impala, which had had a 1969 engine put into it) in 1988 or 1989 when leaded fuels were taken off the market entirely. Assuming 1988, that was 19 years ago.

I find it interesting what societal impulses coincide with the years of peak lead usage. The decades of the 1960s and 1970s were rife with the stupidity and craziness of hippies, and our society is still trying to recover from that crap. Lead in the air explains a lot.

* * *


The Three Gorges Dam (3GD)is causing problems for people that live near it. Why be surprised? Can anyone show me a communist dictatorship which actually cares about the little people? 3GD is "too important" for the commisars to worry about a few proles losing their homes or their lives (or both). And a communist dictatorship means never having to file an environmental impact study, either.

In the same vein, who gets Mao's millions? Communist dictator Mao made a lot of money on his various books, including his Little Red Book which was required reading for hundreds of millions of Chinese. Mao the Hypocrite persecuted all sorts of artists and writers for having "capitalist" ideals, but he himself was richer than Croesus.

It all goes to show that when all these guys say "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs", they mean "from each of you according to his means, to each of us according to our needs".

So much for Netscape. I've used Netscape for, like, ever. Now I guess I'd better start getting used to Firefox or something. *sigh*

Pilot injured after F-15 just kind of breaks. To be fair, they're getting rather elderly. The F-15 was a highly advanced fighter when it was designed in the 1970s. But since the armed forces want the extremely expensive "all in one" aircraft these days, the older fighters have to keep being used because no one's making airplanes that can fit those jobs.

I don't know how many times the Air Force has tried to get rid of the A-10 "Warthog". The AF doesn't want to do close-in air support--the AF's idea of "air support" is to drop precision bombs on targets from 30,000 feet--but neither does it want the other armed forces to take up those missions. I think the Air Force needs to be rolled back into the Army, but good luck with that one happening any time before Jesus comes back.

Good! A 6-year-old lost her tickets to see Hannah Montana because she lied in her essay. It sounds to me like her mother put her up to it: "Just say this and that!" The mother is quoted as saying, "We did the essay and that's what we did to win. We did whatever we could do to win."

"We"? C'mon. I doubt your 6-year-old daughter came up with that plan. Well, the mother sounds like a lost cause, but hopefully the little girl learned a very valuable lesson from this.

More likely? Mommy said, "Those mean people decided they didn't like your essay after all."

Airplanes can, and do, fail gracefully. When your propellor comes off, you usually have a pretty good chance of living through the crisis if you keep your wits about you and don't panic. In any situation, your first priority is always to fly the airplane. That's what that guy did.

Mystery tank on beach! They're trying to figure out what it is, what it contained, and where it came from. In the meantime, stay away, the authorities advise.

It's nearly 100 feet long and maybe 30 in diameter, judging by the picture. It looks brand new, though.

Finally, no Sunday is complete without the funnies:

Well, a funny. Server bandwidth doesn't grow on trees, you know.

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