Thorium based Nuclear Power does not produce Plutonium239, which is the preferred material used in nuclear bombs. The higher Plutonium isotopes and other TRansUraniums are about as nasty as they get, and need expensive protection against terror attacks, and need to be stored for a very long time.
One anecdote from my youth. The time had come to apply to University, and to my delight I was accepted to Chalmers’ University in Sweden as a Technical Physics major. I felt, maybe I can do my part by becoming a Nuclear Engineer and help solve the energy needs of the future. The Swedes at that time championed the heavy water – natural Uranium program together with the Canadians. Sweden is a non-aligned country, so it was not privy to any atomic secrets, it had to go it alone. They settled on the heavy water moderated natural Uranium process because Sweden had an ambition to produce its own nuclear bomb. Officially this was never talked about, and I was not aware of it at that time. They could have gone with Thorium instead, but a Thorium based nuclear reactor produces very little Plutonium, and what it produces is PU-238, not suitable for bomb making.
I was excited to learn about all the possibilities and signed up for a couple of nuclear classes. One lab was to design a safety circuit, then run the heavy water research reactor critical and hopefully watch the reactor shut down from the safety circuit before the system safety circuit shutdown. About that time the word came that U.S. will sell partially enriched uranium at bargain basement prices if Sweden agreed to abandon the heavy water project and sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a treaty being formulated by U.N.
Sweden was in awe about U.N, all the problems of the world were to be solved through it, and it had such capable General Secretary in Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swede. I looked at the light water, partially enriched Uranium nuclear power plants being developed and decided to have no part with it, not due to safety concerns but it was the design that produced the most nuclear waste of any of the available designs. At that time there was still optimism that fusion would be ready by about the year 2010 or so. The cost of maintaining spent fuel in perpetuity was never considered, so light water reactors became the low cost solution.
India on the other hand refused to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, kept their heavy water program going and had by 1974 produced enough plutonium for one nuclear bomb, which they promptly detonated. They still use heavy water moderated reactors, but since India is low on Uranium but rich in Thorium they have now converted one heavy water reactor to thorium with a Plutonium glow plug. It went on-line in 2011.
They are also developing molten salt Thorium reactors, but full production is still a few years off.
There we have it. We could have gone with Thorium from the beginning, but the cold war was on, and the civilian peaceful use of nuclear energy was still all paid for by nuclear weapons research and development. Once all the bombs we could ever need were developed the greatest asset of nuclear power became its greatest liability.
Being an engineer I have always tried to understand what makes us tick. The heart is a wonderful piece of engineering and it keeps on ticking no matter what, faster when anxious or exercising, then going back to resting pace when the challenge is over. It worked fine for the first 75 years of my life, but then I noticed a gradual change. Well, this is part of normal aging I thought, so I shrugged it off and went on with my life as best I could. One very early morning I woke up with a cold sweat and pain in my chest and both arms, so I stood up and started to walk it off. I burped and burped and after a couple of minutes it went away and I felt a good warmth in my chest and that was it, so I went back to sleep. Checking my stamina later I found it had gone down by at east a factor of two. This fall I had a congestive cold and found that I could not do the trick that always worked before, whenever I found myself short of breath with a slight pain in my chest I hyper ventilated until it went away. That does nor work well in a coughing spell. Anyhow, I decided to wait until my yearly physical checkout. That is when my doctor discovered I had anemia as well. Sudden anemia is usually a sign of internal bleeding, so first I was in for a complete plumbing checkout. But I insisted that I better see a cardiologist asap, and there was a cancellation, so I could go in the day after the colonoscopy. I failed the stress test miserably, and they found blockages. Off to catheterization. It revealed that my Left Anterior Descending artery (yes, that is the so called widowmaker) was more than 90% blocked. But it also revealed that another artery was 100% blocked, and the heart had connected that artery with another artery, it had provided its own bypass. Isn’t it wonderful how God in the 750 Megabyte DNA information provided in every cell He also provided us with a very good repair kit. However, the widowmaker artery is alone, so when it goes altogether, that’s the end. For me, it was not too late, so they put in a stent, and already when I was wheeled out of the operating room I felt like a new man. (Yes, you are awake during the procedure, they tell you to hold your breath so they can take yet another x-ray as they poke around.) Poking around they found a third, partially blocked artery, but it may be fixed with medication.
I am thankful to God for modern medicine. They can do all these things just by going in through the artery in the wrist, look around and put in a stent. When I grew up, if you got a heart attack, that was it. But most of all I stand in awe at the wonders of God
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
We have finally decorated our Christmas tree! From our Scandinavian traditions Christmas Eve is the big day. We are awaiting the arrival of our children and grand children. First we all go to church, singing Christmas carols, After a short message telling the real reason for the season that Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, sent to die to redeem us from our sins, risen again and is now back in Heaven with the Father, as He was from before the beginning of time. The singing ends with all singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.
Then we go back home and enjoy our Christmas dinner, followed by at least one more hour of singing Christmas carols, all choose at least one, beginning with the youngest. We do this while dancing around the Christmas tree. Then we eat the Marzipan cake, decorated as the Rose of Sharon and sing happy birthday, Lord Jesus. After that, it is the giving out of Christmas presents. We open them, one at a time, giving thanks, or whatever come to mind after each present.
There is no Santa in our Christmas, that would take away from the centrality of Jesus Christ.
Christmas Day is for eating and relaxation.
This is our traditional Scandinavian Christmas. No Lutfisk, my wife is from Denmark.
The great physicist Stephen Hawking died at the age of 74 in 2018. He had Lou Gehrig’s disease for over forty years and was the longest survivor of that disease in the world. He was interviewed before his 70th birthday and was asked if there were any mysteries left in the universe that was above his intellect. His answer was: “Women. They are a complete mystery to me.”
With his book “The Grand Design,” the late Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking appeared to have further bolstered his reputation as a latter-day Charles Darwin. He went on to explain that the universe created itself from nothing.
Hmm. Let us see: Genesis 1:1 In the Beginning God Created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:3 (King James Version) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Psalm 14:1 (King James Version) The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
Yet there remained mysteries even for Stephen Hawking. Women remained a complete mystery to him. To understand women one cannot deny the spiritual dimension.
And that is where God comes in. The spiritual dimensions were there before the physical time and space. God can never be accepted or understood while rejecting the spiritual dimension.
Thursday, two days before finals was the PSU Engineering Capstone showcase. Even though I have been a lecturer there for the last six years I didn’t realize it is by far the largest Capstone showcase of this type in the world, and it is growing year by year. This year there were over 200 teams competing, mostly graduating seniors, but a good number of freshmen in engineering, and not a few graduate projects, in all over 1000 participants.
The set-up began at 10:30 a. m. in the Bryce Jordan main Arena, with 139 senior Capstone projects displaying their projects.
The overflow training area had over 70 projects from Civil Engineering and Earth Science, Nuclear Engineering, as well as graduate projects and the displays from the freshman Engineering Design course.
The success of the showcase is in part because of a large number of corporate sponsors, many who sponsor multiple projects. Some of these projects are the very cutting edge of science, and provide a real challenge for the students.
My role as an instructor is quite simple: To convert the engineering students from students to world class engineers in 17 short weeks. The engineering students are organized in teams of 4 or 5 persons. Most of the teams consist of engineers from more than 2 disciplines. So the teams must get to know each other, work together as a functioning team, do the research, build a prototype or a final product as a team, with deadlines to meet. This is quite different from cramming for an exam.
The projects are quite different:
Here is a project to build a prototype fit-bit that monitors the total activity and inactivity of a subject.
Next is a happy team that made a LED light that can adjust the color and saturation of light and modulate upon command.
Not all projects are innovative. This project from Philips ultrasound division involved upgrading an old impedance measuring device to function with the newest hardware and software, in short a project that many computer engineers will experience; what to do with legacy hardware and software.
Next was a project to utilize the internet of things.
This project was interesting: Modify existing wood carving software to get a realistic wood carving of a dog from a photo.
They certainly seem happy!
My favorite project this year was to use a hololens to make an image of a liver projected in 3D in the hololens. The object was to help the surgeon by identifying nerves and vessels to improve the accuracy of surgery.
At 3 o’clock it was time for the presentation of the awards. Free Creamery ice cream for everyone!
Another successful Showcase at Penn State University, making yet another batch of world class engineers. Yes, they come from all over the world, one of my teams only had one American!
Twenty-two years a girl was born with undeveloped optical nerves and mild cerebral palsy. She was not expected to live more than at most one year. But God had other plans for her. At age two she began to sing. Her love for singing praises to God has never ceased. And so, in God’s providence she was chosen to sing at the 2017 inauguration interfaith prayer service. And sing she did! Her name is Marlana VanHoose, a little girl, but with a voice.
Meanwhile, the media was busy tracking the protest rallies all around Washington that day. I watched all day and never saw it.
How did the audience that was privileged to watch react? It is worth to listen to it a second time, this time around watching the reaction of the public in attendance, notably Melania Trumps reaction.
After the song Melania led the standing ovation to acknowledge God’s grace, not only for the song, but for the whole day and for the whole presidency.
This is what give us evangelicals hope. She not only sang it, she also sang the third and fourth verses, so often omitted in public settings, especially in interfaith services. Why is that so important?
Let us look at the history of “O store Gud”, and how it came to be the most favored Hymn of at least three presidents before Donald Trump!
Clouds have always been my fascination. They come and go, form and disappear, cool by day and warm by night. But most impressive of all are thunderstorms, forming when the temperature and humidity are high, transport a lot of water vapor to higher elevations, there condensing as rain or ice, coming down, cooling and watering the earth. Clouds and thunderstorms are the thermostat of the earth. Without it the earth would respond like climate models, predicting a sharp temperature rise as carbon dioxide levels increase. The models are all flawed, since they predict a hot spot in the troposphere over the equator, but there is none. The thunderstorms in the tropical doldrums take care of that. “Settled science” instead has settled on ignoring the lack of the hot spot, for to acknowledge it would make the global warming claim invalid.
I thank God for providing us with a thermostat that protects the earth from overheating, and especially for thunderstorms!
Such was the case in July 1885, when Carl Boberg, a 26 year young pastor of a small congregation of the Swedish Missionary society was the honored guest of the ladies’ auxiliary annual picnic, held in a meadow near Mönsteråsviken, (a bay of the Baltic Sea in southeastern Sweden). The day was perfect, the sky was clear, pleasant temperatures, the cows were grazing on the meadow, the birds were singing, in short, a pastoral idyll. Then it happened. In a few short minutes thunderclouds appeared out of nothing. There was no time to go home, so they all sought shelter in a barn close by. The rain came down hard, and lightning struck a nearby tree. Then as suddenly as it started the rain stopped and all was calm. In Sweden it turns much cooler after a thunderstorm, and the birds sing like they got a new lease on life.
They all went home, and the young pastor pondered the events of the day. He
heard the Coalthrush singing its melodic, beautiful drill and in a distance he heard the church bells ringing from Kronobäck’s church. The bay was calm like a mirror, and inspired he started penning the song “O store Gud”. Here is the first verse:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Refrain: Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
He continued to write and write of all the mighty works that God has made and what He has given us through His word, and continued long into the night. Before going to bed he had penned over twenty verses. The next Sunday he wove the poem into his sermon. They all loved it, but that was about it. Slowly the word got around the poem was pretty good, after much editing down 9 verses were published in the local newspaper Mönsteråstidningen in 1886. Carl Boberg didn’t make any efforts to publish it further, and was surprised when he heard it sung a few years later to a Swedish folk melody (in 3/4 tempo). This was then published in the periodical “Sanningsvittnet” (witness of the truth) in 1891.
It was translated into German by an Estonian, Manfred von Glehn. Five years later it was translated into Russian by Ivan S. Prokanoff, the Martin Luther of modern Russia. It was published in a book with the title “Cymbals”.
Later, while in the Carpathian Mountains of what is now Western Ukraine the English Missionary couple Hine heard the song sung in Russian, this time as a wandering song in march tempo. He got impressed by God’s great works in the Polish mountains, and as Stuart Hine heard the people singing it on their way to church he penned a translation. This become the second verse:
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
From now on the English version is different than the Swedish original. This is the origin of the third verse: It was typical of the Hines to ask if there were any Christians in the villages they visited. In one case, they found out that the only Christians that their host knew about were a man named Dmitri and his wife Lyudmila. Dmitri’s wife knew how to read — evidently a fairly rare thing at that time and in that place. She taught herself how to read because a Russian soldier had left a Bible behind several years earlier, and she started slowly learning by reading that Bible. When the Hines arrived in the village and approached Dmitri’s house, they heard a strange and wonderful sound: Dmitri’s wife was reading from the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ to a houseful of guests, and those visitors were in the very act of repenting. In Ukraine (as I know first hand!), this act of repenting is done very much out loud. So the Hines heard people calling out to God, saying how unbelievable it was that Christ would die for their own sins, and praising Him for His love and mercy. They just couldn’t barge in and disrupt this obvious work of the Holy Spirit, so they stayed outside and listened. Stuart wrote down the phrases he heard the Repenters use, and (even though this was all in Russian), it became the third verse that we know today: And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
The second world war broke out, and the Hines were forced to return back to England, but they continued their ministry. The fourth verse was was added by Stuart Hine after the Second World War. His concern for the exiled Polish community in Britain, who were anxious to return home, provided part of the inspiration for Hine’s final verse. Hine and David Griffiths visited a camp in Sussex, England, in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. The testimony of one of these refugees and his anticipation of the second coming of Christ inspired Hine to write the fourth stanza of his English version of the hymn. According to Ireland: One man to whom they were ministering told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
The complete song was soon published, not in England but in the Soviet Union (in English). The famous Gospel singer George Beverly Shea got hold of it, liked it a lot, but he wanted to change two words in the first verse: Instead of works, he wanted to use worlds, and instead of mighty he wanted to use rolling. Very reluctantly Stuart Hine agreed, but only for use in the Billy Graham Crusades. It was first sung in Canada in 1955. It became so popular that in Billy Graham’s 1956 New York Crusade it was sung at all 99 events, and from there the song spread out through all the world, even back in Sweden where the new version became the popular one. One of the visitors to this Crusade was the little boy Donald Trump, who went with his Father and Mother and Brother (and Sisters?) to listen. God’s word never returns void.