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10 Cool Discoveries You Should Know About

From asteroid mining to HIV prevention, here are 10 things you should know about from the week.

On Science Friday last week, Ira Flatow reported on a grassroots group of scientists and science advocates calling for a presidential science debate. After all, what do politicians actually know about scientific issues they want to be able to influence?

Good question, and one that makes us think about the importance of the sciences in our lives.

Science represents hope. It’s scientists -- not lawyers or talking heads -- who are providing preventive healthcare research, advances in communication and will work in the jobs that not only make people excited about the future but make them feel like there is a future. This week we touch on all those things as well as a couple of finds that are just beautiful or bizarre, that advance only our sense of wonder and “WTF?” because those are important, too. What influences action if not imagination…and appreciation? Here are 10 interesting and important discoveries made this week.

1. A Sunday Eclipse and Io Full

Our Amazing Planet gave us the full skinny on this Sunday’s solar eclipse, an event where the moon will block the sun, not fully, but just enough to leave what’s called  “ a ring of fire” around the edges. The East Coast will miss out because the sun will have set by the time it occurs (boo!), but OAP offers the scoop on the numerous national parks out west from which you can best see the the event, some of which are offering special celebrations to go along with it.

But it’s not just our planet, amazing though it is, that boasts spectacular scenery: check out this  stunning series of photos of how the orbit of Jupiter looks from one of it’s moons, Io. Hard to believe this is real and not the creation of some filmmaker’s CGI department...makes you proud to live in the same galaxy (plus, the volcano eruption gives it a little zhuzh).

Thanks to io9’s Ron Miller for these interstellar Kodak moments.

2. Clicka Boom

Speaking of Kodak…

Everyone has had junk in their basement they don’t exactly advertise…a broken trampoline…old home movies...that nuclear reactor….

Not in even in a novel did I ever think I’d read the words “why did Kodak have a hidden nuclear reactor loaded with weapons-grade uranium?” but that’s precisely what  Jesus Diaz in Gizmodo wrote about the 3.5 pounds of uranium the company acquired in 1974. Private companies generally don’t have this kind of stuff. An in-depth story  by Steve Orr of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (which has a picture of it) says, “ It had been mentioned many years ago in research papers, and was referred to obliquely in a half-dozen public documents on a federal website, though none hinted where it was located,” which was in Rochester, Orr, notes “didn’t have a clue.” It wasn’t made public, Diaz reports, until a former employee leaked it.

Glad the employee was the only thing that leaked. 

Orr writes Kodak decided to dismantle the reactor six years ago and the uranium was “spirited away” in 2007, moved to a federal facility in South Carolina. 

The amount of uranium in the reactors wasn’t enough to make a bomb, but Diaz writes “illegal arm merchants are seeking small amounts like this to put them for sale in the black market.”

The reactor was used to check for impurities in materials and for  neutron radiography testing, an imaging technique that’s kind of like an X-ray but illuminates material other than metal ( here’s a helpful illustration of how neutron radiography differs in imaging from an X-ray; check out the cigarette lighter for the best comparison). 

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