Shutdown: Physics 101 – Nukes: “What the hell is going on?”



What’s true? What is pure hyperbole? How much of CNN is exaggeration? And how much of NHK is gross understatement?

There are a lot of “experts” out there on TV, Intertubes and talk radio at the moment, and more than a few seem to be more interested in milking the limelight than providing factual and useful information. A lot people know people, who worked with someone, who once knew a nuclear engineer that wrote a blog-post on how safe, or indeed how evil nuclear power is.

One minute things are OK, the next it is time to stock up on bacon and trail mix. The sheer amount of misinformation makes it hard to figure out what is really going on without getting caught up in either side of the argument.

We are not going to get into the debate here on whether or not the Apocalypse is neigh. But before taping up your windows and chimney with tin-foil however, it is prudent to have some real working knowledge on the issue without needing a doctorate in nuclear physics.

We present to you then, a no-nonsense LAYMAN’S lecture from UC Berkley, yes THAT UC Berkley, home of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where much of nuclear physics got their start. It is long, entertaining, enlightening and riveting. Most importantly it is given in a conceptual way that most reasonably intelligent people can understand and follow. You won’t win a Nobel peace prize after watching, but unlike the Prime Minister of Japan and many other world leaders, you might just learn “What the hell is going on”.

And if you have a chance, the other videos in the series are also well worth watching too. Unless of course you actually have a life.


Hat tip to John Simpson for the video tip!

Gratuitous Hyperbole and a Half image courtesy of Allie at one of the funniest blogs on the internets

  • Jim-Bob

    Thanks for posting that! I just got through watching the whole thing and will definitely try to watch the whole series. While I already knew most of the basics that were covered, it did manage to tie together a lot of things for me. Please post more stories like this. There’s nothing like coming home from a hard day of pizza delivery to relax by watching a thrilling university lecture on nuclear physics! Makes me want to grab the geiger counter I keep next to my bed and go probe different substances.

  • Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

  • I am going to take some Potassium Iodide and call in the morning.

  • skitter

    Hyperbole and a Half
    Best. Find. Since Toasters.
    I had to scroll to the bottom and make sure it wasn't my middle sister.

    Edit: Okay, cutting myself off now…

  • Great find. I watched the first few minutes. I will watch the rest tonight.

    As an aside, this professor can really draw circles free handed!