Monday, April 4, 2016

Tailing Dams Get Bigger, and More Dangerous

Wall Street Journal:

Half an hour’s drive from this colonial town in southeast Brazil, trees suddenly give way to what looks like a desert salt flat. It is a 2-mile-wide valley filled with mine waste.
On Nov. 5, an earthen dam holding back this sea of sludge collapsed, releasing a deluge that killed 19 people, destroyed villages and traveled more than 400 miles to the Atlantic Ocean, where it left a reddish-brown plume visible from space. As tall as a 30-story building and holding enough refuse to fill 19 Dallas Cowboys stadiums, the dam was the largest structure of its kind ever to give way.
It won’t be the last. From Chile to Australia to the U.S., the quest for economies of scale has prompted mining companies to dig larger and deeper pits, creating record volumes of waste. To house all that detritus they have constructed some of the most colossal man-made structures on the planet. Known as tailings dams, these earthen embankments hold back sprawling reservoirs of mud, finely ground rock and water—what is left after a mill separates metals from ore.
In theory, tailings dams are intended to last forever. In practice, they fail often enough that industry engineers themselves are sounding alarms. Fifteen months before the Brazilian disaster, Canada suffered its biggest tailings-dam failure at a copper mine that was in full compliance with local regulations. Experts estimate that between one and four breaches occur each year at tailings dams world-wide, roughly 10 times the failure rate of water dams.
The largest tailings dams, at copper mines high in the Peruvian Andes, are already as tall as the Hoover Dam and have permits to rise even further.
 “Our dams and dumps are among the highest-risk structures on Earth,” says Andrew Robertson, a Vancouver-based consultant who has designed a number of very large tailings dams for mining companies. He notes that the biggest mines increase their waste output by 10 times every third of a century.
Remember, we've had two major fly ash spills, and one sizable mine waste water spill in the past 8 years here in the United States.  And the mine waste spill was mainly news because EPA caused it while trying to manage the abandoned mine's waste water.  Mining and power generation waste is a massive threat, and weakening oversight and regulation increases the risk of future failures. More extreme weather in the future is going to make the risk of failure that much greater.

It's Baseball Season!

The Reds are going to have a long, painful season, but at least baseball is back!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Meet the Tesla Model 3


NASA Photo of the Day

March 31:

Big Dipper to Southern Cross
Image Credit & Copyright: Petr Horálek
Explanation: Welcome to an equatorial night. This remarkable 24 frame night skyscape was captured from Maba Beach on the Indonesian island of Halmahera during the evening of March 4. Seen from a mere 0.7 degrees northern latitude, both famous northern and southern asterisms and navigational aids lie within the panoramic view. The Big Dipper is on the far left and Southern Cross at the far right. Beyond the fading campfire on that night a yellow-orange celestial triangle is set by Mars, Antares, and Saturn. It stands above the rising central Milky Way, or "Miett" in the local Maba language. Of course, you can follow the pole pointing stars in the cup of the Big Dipper or body of the Southern Cross to the north and south celestial poles. Both lie just at the horizon in the view from the island's equatorial beach.

It's Time For My Annual George Will Column Post

That's right, it's opening day, so I can count on George Will having a column I will enjoy.  Here is his quiz for 2016 (I didn't do very well, but I got a few I wasn't sure of):

Pitcher Jim Bouton said: “Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?” To show how smart you are, identify:
(1) The team that won a record 26 consecutive games (but finished fourth).
(2) Among those with 3,000 hits, the player with the fewest home runs.
(3) The player who led both leagues in homers and triples (not in the same season).
(4) Who hit the only Game Seven World Series walk-off home run.
(5) The four players who hit World Series homers in three different decades.
(6) The first manager to lead three teams to pennants.
(7) The manager who, after Connie Mack and John McGraw, had the most consecutive years managing one team.
(8) The first player to hit 30 home runs, score 125 runs, and steal 45 bases in a season.
(9) The four hitters who, since World War II, had five or more seasons batting .350 or better.
(10) The five hitters ranked in the top 25 in career singles, doubles, and triples.
(11) The player whose 44 hits in his first month is second to Joe DiMaggio’s 48.
(12) The four Hall of Fame pitchers DiMaggio faced during his 56-game hitting streak.
(13) The youngest player to lead the National League in hits.
(14) The three players to get two extra-base hits in an All-Star Game before age 23.
(15) The player with seven straight seasons with a .300 average, 20 homers, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks.
(16) The Hall of Famer who played most of his games as DH.
(17) The second player, after Ty Cobb, to have at least 221 hits, 46 doubles, and 54 steals in a season.
(18) The team that had five consecutive Rookie of the Year winners.
(19) The player who slugged .826 in a six-game World Series, with a record 10 RBIs, but whose team lost.
(20) The player who had the most consecutive World Series hits (7).
(21) The record number of games in a season in which a team homered.
(22) The player who had the most career RBIs (1,903) without ever leading the league.
(23) The player who reached a base in a record 84 consecutive games.
(24) The most recent former Rookie of the Year elected to the Hall of Fame.
(25) The two pitchers who pitched 27 World Series innings without yielding an earned run.
(26) The only player in the last 100 years who twice in a season scored four runs in a game without a hit.
(27) The pitcher who won 107 games before age 23.
(28) The first pitcher to have two 300-strikeout seasons.
(29) The four pitchers to win at least two Cy Young awards, to win at least two World Series rings, and pitch a no-hitter.
(30) The three pitchers who started five All-Star Games.
(31) The team that had the highest American League season winning percentage.
(32) The team with the most wins in an AL season.
(33) The NL team with the best single-season winning percentage since 1900.
(34) Which team that existed in 1900 took the longest to win a World Series.
(35) The youngest unanimous MVP.
(36) The three pitchers to strike out at least 150 in each of their first nine seasons.
(37) First infielder (other than first basemen) to hit 500 home runs.
(38) The manager of the AL team with a season-record 116 wins.
(39) Who won a home-run title with a batting average lower than that of year’s Cy Young winner, Steve Carlton (.218).
(40) The pitcher who retired 46 consecutive batters.
Bonus question: Who said, “All of the Mets’ road wins against the Dodgers this year occurred at Dodger Stadium.”
Answers after the jump: