Water use reduction April 20, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
In the last 30 years, the U.S. has more than doubled its GDP, and added 70 million new people, and reduced total water use.
We use less water to produce an economy of $13 trillion than we did to produce an economy of $6 trillion.
That’s dramatic progress. Most of it comes in efficiency from power generation and farming. Farmers, overall, use 15% less water than they did in 1980, but produce 70% more food. That’s an increase in farm-water-productivity of 100%.
There’s a simple, potent lesson in those numbers: dramatic progress can be made in using water more smartly without sacrificing modernization or closing the swimming pools in the summer.
The figures are indeed impressive, although perhaps not as much as the author suggests.
(Image courtesy of Wamito via Wikimedia Commons.)
As Scott noted in an earlier post, a similar situation holds true in the Waterloo region. That is, water usage has declined as economic growth has climbed. Some of this trend may be due to more efficient water use, such as low-flush toilets, better irrigation, and so on. However, much of it may be due to the fact that water-intensive industries have moved out of the region and overseas, e.g., to China. Statistics from WorldWater.org suggest that Chinese freshwater consumption has gone from 460 km3 (cubic kilometers) per year in 1980 to 549.76 km3 per year in 2000. Undoubtedly it is gone up substantially since then.
It is hard to estimate how much of China’s water consumption can be accounted for through taking over American industrial production. However, I suppose it must be quite a bit.
Water consumed in one area on behalf of another is sometimes known as virtual water. Another source of US virtual water consumption comes with oil imports. In 2009, Canada exported 2,479 barrels of oil per day to the US. That amounts to roughly 144 million liters of oil. The oil extraction process requires a fair amount of water because the oil needs to be “washed” out of the tar sand:
Approximately 12 barrels of water are required to produce one barrel of oil by surface mined oil sands operations. About 70% is recycled leaving a net requirement of between 2 to 4.5 barrels of water per barrel of bitumen production.
So, about 1.7 billion liters of water were used to produce the oil that the US imported from Canada in 2009. As US oil imports from Canada (and elsewhere) continue to rise, the US consumption of virtual water will likely increase substantially.
We also have to reckon with US imports of physical water. In 2009, the US imported over 442 billion liters of bottled water. How should this water count? It is a small amount set against industrial water consumption, but it is very expensive and raises external costs of its own:
In summary, the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons) .849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or .26 gal) and emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds).
As I noted in connection with home energy use, it is not a simple matter to get the accounting right when considering the relationship between efficiency of resource usage and overall consumption. In particular, a lot may depend on which consumption you choose to leave out.
Election 2.0 update April 19, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV302 , comments closed
I recently talked about the role of IT in our current national election. Another interesting item came up today. It concerns a Liberal attack ad portraying Conservative leader Stephen Harper as an opponent of Canada’s current health care system. The ad quoted Mr. Harper as saying that, “it’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act…” The Conservatives pointed out that the quotation is actually from David Somerville of the National Citizens Coalition. (They did not deny that Mr. Harper is in sympathy with the opinion.) The Liberals retracted the quotation, claiming, in their defence, that the remark is misattributed in their sources, the Globe and Mail and Macleans magazine.
In any event, the Liberals have decided not to can the ad but to crowdsource it. That is, they plan to ask visitors to their campaign website to select another quote from Mr. Harper regarding healthcare from a menu. The Liberals will then retool the ad and release it with the new quotation. The options are:
- “Governments across this country have experimented with alternative service delivery….We’re not going to wave the finger at provinces because they experiment with different delivery.”
- “We also support the exploration of alternative ways to deliver health care. Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care”
- “Each province should raise its own revenue for health care — i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points.”
- “Our health care will continue to deteriorate unless Ottawa overhauls the Canada Health Act to allow the provinces to experiment with market reforms and private health care delivery options.”
- “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.”
I assume that these quotations have been thoroughly checked.
Well, people might like to participate in the campaign in this way. However, the move is a timid one. For one thing, it does not allow for a write-in quotation. I suspect that motivated netizens could perhaps come up with something better. Of course, such an offer would also invite abuse from trolls or Conservatives. Even bolder would be to crowdsource the whole ad. The “breaking up with Stephen” ads, that I mentioned before suggest that the means and will to so do exist out there. It might also spark some more interest in the election. After all, if Liberals want the public to engage with their party and platform, then it might be a good idea to give the public an incentive to re-present it in their own terms.
Election 2.0 April 18, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV302 , comments closed
As noted in an earlier post, we are having a national election in Canada, and the ‘net is playing an increasing role in people’s engagement (or otherwise) with it.
For example, Rick Mercer did one of his “rants” on his TV show challenging Canadian youth to vote. This challenge has drawn a response: University students have created the vote mob, a kind of flash mob in which university students arrange to show up, more or less all at once, at a polling station to vote. Students post videos of their vote mobs to YouTube to celebrate themselves and to encourage others to do similarly.
Interestingly, a student voting event at the University of Guelph stirred controversy. A special poll was arranged at the campus for students to vote. The Conservative Party lodged a protest claiming that the poll did not meet the requirements of Elections Canada, and a local Conservative organizer allegedly tried to interfere with the balloting:
Student Claire Whalen was just about to receive her ballot just before 5 p.m. when the episode unfolded.
“That’s when a guy came up and said it was an illegal polling station and that he was confiscating the ballots. And then he tried to take (the ballot box),” Whalen said.
Why did the Conservatives protest and not the Liberals or NDP? One surmise would be that university students tend not to vote Conservative, so that the Tories had more to lose than anyone else. Or it could be that Conservatives have a particular antipathy to voter self-organization:
Asked about a recent University of Guelph flash mob that took place at a Conservative campaign event, Conservative MP John Baird told reporters on Tuesday, “I’m not sure what a flash mob is but it sounds a bit disconcerting … I don’t know about ‘flash’ or ‘mobs’ but I don’t like the context of either word.”
I guess it could be disconcerting, like “blog”, which sounds too much like Bloc.
At any rate, Elections Canada later ruled that the 241 votes cast in the special poll would count, but also forbade any further special polling.
Also, the ‘net provides voting advice, such as the CBC’s Vote compass, a kind of eHarmony for linking voters with parties based on their policy preferences. Also, the ‘net offers ways of making your vote count for more. For example, you can arrange to swap votes with another voter in order to increase the chances that your vote will help to elect an MP from the party of your choice. That assumes, of course, that you can trust your partner to vote as promised. Alternatively, you can find out how to make your vote count against a given party, usually the Conservatives, as long as you are not choosey about which alternative you do vote in favour of.
Finally, there is the new phenomenon of women breaking up with Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservatives. That’s right, Mr. Harper gets the proverbial heave-ho right on YouTube for everyone to see! It reminds me of the Obama girl video where a smitten voter declared her love for Barak Obama, except that for “Barak Obama” substitute “Stephen Harper” and for “love” substitute “dislike”.
When I think of the ‘net and elections, my first thoughts tend towards topics such as e-voting and fundraising. It is interesting to see how Canadians are starting to the use ‘net to organize themselves politically. I suspect vote mobs and the like will be only the first steps of a process wherein voters try to carve out more political power outside of the established system.
Colbert on technolgy and society April 14, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
The Colbert Report by Stephen Colbert is often a fund of technology-society reporting. Yesterday’s show was no exception. Stephen raised two issues that are of relevance to this blog.
(Image courtesy of David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.)
First, Stephen talked about Unilever’s cure for unattractive, female armpits, Dove Ultimate Go Sleeveless deodorizer. Research, conducted by Unilever, reveals that 93% of women consider their armpits to be unattractive (compared to what?). Colbert considers this notion questionable, a gimmick whereby companies invent a malady to which their new product is the only cure, thereby cornering the new market. As the Wall Street Journal article points out, this manoeuver is something that may backfire on marketers:
Still, it is territory where brands must tread lightly. “Any marketer has to be careful of appearing to create a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Mr. Asher [senior vice president at consumer-products research firm Perception Research Services International Inc] says. “You can suffer a backlash if you do that.”
Do women really suffer from such armpit problems that “Go Sleeveless” promises to cure? It does sound like an instance of what used to be called consumption engineering, that is, the manufacturing of consumption through marketing ploys such as this one.
Unfortunately, this analysis misses an important aspect of this marketing strategy. It is not simply that women might see ads for this product and come to feel ashamed of their pits. Instead, it may be that men (or other women, for that matter) see the ads and start to feel that there might indeed be reasons to consider armpits a beauty concern where they did not do so before. In other words, the ad seeks to create a social situation where none existed, which will then provoke insecurities in women.
In the same episode, Colbert also comments on a dispute over unicycles in New York City. Kyle Peterson, a unicyclist, has sued the City, claiming that his rights were violated when he was given a ticket for riding his unicycle on the City’s sidewalks. It seems that the City’s bylaws do not explicitly label unicycles as vehicles or bicycles (which have two or three wheels), leaving unicycles in a kind of gray area. The beef with unicycles is that, because of their speed, collisions with pedestrians put pedestrians at unacceptable risk of injury. (Hm. How do they feel about joggers, I wonder?) The problem is reminiscent of the problems of the Segway, that was banned from many cities’ sidewalks for being too imposing on pedestrians. Well, what sort of transportation designs are we prepared to allow on sidewalks?
Thanks, Stephen, for your ongoing attention to issues of technology and society!
Bright lights, and a bit witty? April 13, 2011Posted by Scott Campbell in : STV100 , comments closed
I’m a little behind the times, but there is a (relatively) new uWaterloo homepage these days as the whole uWaterloo brand undergoes some review.
The message is a nice way of reminding people of this university’s long-standing intellectual property policies, and that contrary to many other institutions, faculty and students and everyone else here owns their own intellectual efforts.
Visually, I like the image: we have bright students! They sparkle! That said, drawing with lights and long exposure photography is still an old game. Pablo Picasso tried his hand at it in the late 1940s for a series of photographs published in Life magazine.
Picasso is said to have uttered that
“Computers are useless, they only give you answers”
Witty, but I doubt that’s an accurate attribution. Another more famous Picasso quote:
“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
Which certainly throws an interesting light on the problems of intellectual property and who owns ideas. Good students are likely to imitate existing work and great students will take old ideas to new places, and presumably we’ll all profit? How does that contrast with the ongoing problems in higher education with academic integrity and plagiarism? Fortunately, I haven’t had any student try the “Picasso” defense yet.
On the downside, the image of students waving lights around in front of a long-exposure camera reminded me of the Gilbreths, the husband and wife team who specialized in a particular kind of Scientific Management in the early 20th century. Part of their method was to take long-exposure photographs of employees with lights attached to their appendages as they went about their daily tasks, so that the Gilbreths could better analyze and optimize the task and the employee.
The Gilbreths (Frank and Lillian) were independently famous as the heads of the household that inspired the book and 1950 film “Cheaper by the Dozen” of two parents with twelve children. How did they do it, asked one astounded witness? “Well,” replied Frank, “They’re cheaper by the dozen you know.”
I can only hope our students are not being compared to either of these latter circumstances: that they must be watched closely to ensure they are performing optimally, or that they really are, like eggs or donuts, available in easy to carry packages and cheaper by the dozen.
But can it play shinny? April 12, 2011Posted by Scott Campbell in : STV100, STV404 , comments closed
Walking to work this morning through the new Engineering 5 building on campus, I got to see a robot play hockey.
Well, it wasn’t playing hockey, per se, but it fired a slapshot or two. It’s “the first ever robot capable of properly mimicking the professional slap shot”, a product of UW professor John McPhee and several Mechanical Engineering undergraduates. The purpose of the project and the company founded to promote it, Hockey Robotics, is to figure out the hows and whys of hockey stick breakage, particularly in the modern world of composite sticks. (For what it’s worth, McPhee is a faculty member in the Systems Design Engineering Department, and CSTV is partially linked with Systems Design, but this blog post is purely that of serendipity. I happened to catch the team filming a promotional video).
The inevitable comparison might be to wonder “will this eventually lead to robots playing hockey?” It doesn’t look like there’s any place to lace up skates or strap on a helmet, and I doubt it could hop over the boards with those legs. But in a country that is willing to move federal election debates to accommodate hockey playoffs, almost anything hockey-related is fair game for discussion. I think that in the post-Watson era, people have probably come to understand that even if computers can reduce some drudgery (like Wikipedia replacing the need to memorize facts), computers are still in no danger of replacing humans outright, at least intellectually. Of course, there might be some factory workers going back, oh, two hundred years or so, that might have something to say about robotics and automation and employment. I wonder if in a few years we might witness the Luddites vs the Robots in an ice hockey championship. Would the humans underestimate the robots, or fear them? At the famous 1972 Summit Series, the Canadian all stars were famously casual about going up against “the Big Red Machine”. Just like the Slapshot XT? Hmm.
It all sounds a bit silly, but I remember many years ago reading a young-adult book Hockeyeurs cybernétiques by the Quebec writer Denis Côté. It was about that very thing: a team of human players going up against a robotic hockey team sponsored by a robot manufacturer. The subtext of the book was of robots replacing humans, creating rampant unemployment and a new social class, les inactifs. As I recall, the story featured a three game series between the teams, described in great detail, but I what can’t remember is who won!
And what might happen if Hockey Robotics does end up helping make a better hockey stick? I’m not a hockey player and claim no great insights here, but technological improvements have not always lead to overall sporting improvements. Edward Tenner’s 1997 book Why Things Bite Back had two chapters about the revenge effects of sports technologies: The Risks of Intensification, and the increase in chronic injuries and health problems that ironically often come about from better sporting safety equipment, and The Paradoxes of Improvement, on the problems of technologies that are simply too good for sport. With regards to the first, its is often observed that athletes that participate in contact sports with considerable padding and protective equipment are often more likely to suffer serious injuries — the armor everyone wears make it easier to hit harder then necessary to complete a check or hit. As for the second, there are many instances of technology simplifying or otherwise reducing some human element giving an unfair advantage, going against the general sense of fair play expected in sport; alternately, new technologies can disrupt the game, changing the manner of play, and creating in effect a technological-sports hybrid. Composite hockey sticks that break less often doesn’t seem too risky, but what if the same sticks made accurate slapshots easier or more reliable for more players, particularly those beneath the NHL elite? Would hockey scores start to creep up? Would it change the strategies and game plans? Would it initiate and eventually escalate a war between goalie equipment and hockey stick manufacturers? Will leagues start to crack down on the “Canadian robot sticks”?
Perhaps I’m out of my depth here (offside? or two minutes for interference?) I wish the team the best of luck, and that it would generally improve, rather than detract from the game.
Twitter abbreviates political discourse April 12, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV302 , comments closed
We are in election mode here in Canada, and so public discourse is turning, somewhat reluctantly, to issues of national politics. Now, the fact that social media are becoming a prevalent mode of public discourse should not shock anyone. However, there are questions about how the medium itself might be affecting the conversation.
(Image courtesy of Pasquale D’Silva via Wikimedia Commons.)
A recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press notes that allegations that the Conservative government misled Parliament (again) have become the focus of much Twittering:
Online forums and social media exploded Monday with discussions about a draft auditor general’s report concluding the government misinformed Parliament on G8 spending.
It represented the largest single-issue spike in election chatter to date.
In a forum limited to 140 characters per tweet, the ideas that gain the most traction in this election are ones that are easy to explain, simple to discuss and amenable for partisan tweeters to paint as black-and-white issues, Blevis [a "digital public affairs strategist"] said.
“Twitter really thrives on these polarizing issues,” he said. “When you think about the limited space, these grey-area issues don’t really fit.”
For example, while more nuanced issues such as health care, education and the economy are being discussed on blogs, there has been very little discussion of them on Twitter, Blevis found.
Because of its design, each media favours a certain form of conversation. Due to its brevity, Twitter becomes the natural forum for views that require little elaboration.
This same tendency has been noted in US politics:
Sarah Palin quickly adopted Twitter perhaps because it enabled her to blast forth dramatic proclamations that, given the 140-character limit, she couldn’t be expected to explain or defend.
Followers of this blog will not, then, be surprised to have their attention drawn back to Marshall McLuhan’s claim that “the medium is the message”. McLuhan pointed out, among other things, that television tends to chop up information into pieces that are easily presented on the small screen. In the case of political discourse, that means soundbites. Although Twitter is not television, its format may be having a similar effect.
Is this aspect of Twitter regrettable? Not necessarily. The ‘net has provided people (with access to it) with many different ways of acquiring and dishing out information. The article above points out that blogs are different than Twitter in the sort of information they convey, for example. If anything, we now have available many more formats for political debate than McLuhan did in his day. It will be interesting to see, however, how Twitter and other social media compete with television for influence. The English candidates’ debate is set for television this evening and, I suspect, this will still be the most influential media event of the campaign. Of course, the networks will likely be following the Tweets afterwards to gauge its impact.
University 2.0 April 11, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV302 , comments closed
The Chronicle has an interesting article about course-recommendation software that is in trial at places like Austin Peay State University. The system is a kind like Netflix for students: It suggests courses for students to take based on their program, standing, and what other students like them have taken and enjoyed.
(Image courtesy of Yohey1028 via Wikimedia Commons.)
A system like this one presents some obvious pros and cons. Pros include:
- The system could help students to identify a program that best suits their interests. One of the problems with faculty advisors is that their knowledge of the students, and of courses outside their area, can be superficial. A software system could apply a broad base of information to better satisfy the student’s interests.
- Such a system can be more systematic about ensuring that students satisfy all their program requirements, and about guiding students towards courses when it is most appropriate. One problem mentioned in the article is that students sometimes enroll in courses that are too advanced for them.
- Early tests of the system suggest that it helps to enhance student achievement and retention. That is, students using the test system have higher overall averages and are more likely to remain in their studies than similar students in the old advisory system.
- The system may work more efficiently that the existing system, and the software is available 24/7, unlike a human advisor.
Some of the cons include:
- The system predicts what grades students are likely to get in each course they consider. As a result, the system may steer students toward “bird” courses (“gut” courses in the US), that is, courses that may be easy but are not as challenging or otherwise rewarding for the students.
- The system may tend to excessively narrow the menu of courses that students consider taking. Music and movie recommendation systems tend to play it safe, depriving customers of opportunities for experiences that they would have enjoyed given the chance.
My own feeling is that a system of this sort could be a boon to students and universities if implemented appropriately. Course selection is an important part of a student’s career, obviously. The more relevant information that can be applied, the better it will be for the student. Also, a system that deals with course material might be more useful that systems like RateMyProfessor that trade mostly in information about personality and hotness. Course selection is also an important part of how students develop their identities as adults, so the ability to play around with selection and evaluate the possibilities accurately is important too.
The potential drawbacks are serious concerns, however. To those mentioned in the article, I would add the difficulty of introducing new courses into the curriculum. How would you attract students to a new course that they might really benefit from if no one has taken the course before? Designers would have to think seriously about how to avoid these problems, perhaps by weighting a variety of information besides previous experience.
In any event, I suspect that automated course planning is on the way, whether implemented by universities, entrepreneurs, or students themselves. So, universities might as well get into the act while they still can.
Jevons’ Paradox and home energy use April 8, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
A recent article from FastCompany points to another example of Jevons’ Paradox. In this case, a survey by the US Energy Information Administration suggests that the amount of energy consumed in American homes has remained constant from 1978 through 2005. This non-drop in consumption should be puzzling because of the substantial increase in appliance efficiency over that same time period. That is, furnaces, air conditioners, and major appliances have become much more efficient, which should result in a drop in energy usage.
The article blames the non-decrease on Jevons’ Paradox: the claim that increases in efficiency do not necessarily lead to drops in consumption because consumers simply find other ways to consume the resource. In this case, the slack in energy consumption due to home heating, cooling, etc., seems to have been taken up by an increase in electronic gadgets. That is, Americans have increased their usage of energy at home by increasing the number of TVs, computers, and so on, that they use there.
(Image courtesy of Milford via Wikimedia Commons.)
As Scott has pointed out earlier, the appearance of Jevons’ Paradox depends upon how consumption is accounted for. Water consumption in Waterloo region may decrease, for example, due to exporting water-using industries and not due to more efficient home water use. In the case of home energy use, an accounting issue may arise from the increase in average house size, as I have pointed out earlier:
The average new house floor area has gone from from 983 ft2 in 1950 to 2266 ft2 in 2000, while the amount of floor space per person has gone from 286 ft2 per capita in 1950 to 847 ft2 per capita in 2000.
This increase in average house size is due to a number of factors, perhaps including the increased efficiency in house construction, and the American penchant for home ownership and real estate speculation. So, you could argue that Jevons’ Paradox does not really apply here. After all, if home energy usage has remained constant while floor space per person has increased, then energy consumption per square foot has decreased vigorously over the years. So, Jevons’ Paradox appears if we measure energy consumption per household but disappears if we measure energy consumption per square foot. Why should we be more concerned with one measurement than the other?
From a purely mathematical standpoint, I do not see much difference. However, Jevons’ Paradox is not a mathematical claim but one about human nature. People do not necessarily respond to increased efficiency with lower consumption. So, we have to tune our accounting of the Paradox to units that matter to people. You could make a case that a per household measurement of energy usage makes more sense to people than a per area measurement because people are more affected by households than area. I would think that an even better move would be to look at home energy usage on a per capita basis. Per capita usage of energy has been steadily increasing, along with usage of many other things. At the same time, the number of persons living in each household has declined, going from 3.14 in 1970 to 2.62 in 1992, for example.
What to make of this? First, it seems that the application of Jevons’ Paradox is legitimate in this case: Home energy use per person is increasing, in spite of gains in efficiency of individual energy-using designs. Second, housing is becoming increasingly inefficient: Each square foot of housing is doing less and less work in being a home for individual persons. A traffic engineer faced with road system in which each kilometer is conveying fewer and fewer cars would probably suggest that we should close some lanes. If anything, the appearance of Jevons’ Paradox in home energy use suggests that we should make houses smaller or get more people into them. How can we do that?
More on nuclear risks April 1, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
Yesterday brought more commentary from Science and Nature regarding what can be learned from the disaster at Fukushima. Let me continue the discussion from this post by noting some points relevant to risk assessment.
(Image courtesy of César via Wikimedia Commons.)
This article in Science notes that the possibility of a large earthquake in the region had already been raised in the scientific literature. Japanese researchers excavated sediments in the region found evidence for a major earthquake that resulted in a large tsunami, one that had been recorded by Japanese historians in 869 AD. Their work also prompted them to estimate the hazard of another such quake occurring:
They estimated the Jogan earthquake’s magnitude at 8.3 and concluded that it could recur at 1000-year intervals. “The possibility of a large tsunami striking the Sendai Plain is high,” they wrote in a 2001 article in the Journal of Natural Disaster Science.
In spite of this article, the possibility of such a large quake and tsunami were not considered in risk assessments of the safety of the Fukushima plant. Yukinobu Okamura, the lead scientist in studies that confirmed the initial work, states that an expert panel did not heed his concerns during a review of the safety of the Fukushima plant in 2008. The reasons for not attending to this concern remain unclear.
There is also uncertainty about the cause of the explosion in the spent storage pool for reactor 4. The purpose of this pool is to cool the fuel for reactor 4 when it is not in use, and to shield workers from the radiation it gives off. There was an explosion in the pool on March 15, four days after the initial disaster. Calculations had suggested that such a problem should take several weeks to develop:
During normal operation, 7 meters of roughly 40°C water sit between the top of the fuel rods and the surface of the 1425-ton pool. The water is constantly circulated and replenished. There’s little doubt that temperatures in the pool would have risen steadily after power was lost. But several scientists have independently calculated that it would take much longer than 4 days—perhaps as much as 3 weeks—for the heat of the fresh fuel in the #4 pool to evaporate or boil off the water.
The upshot is that there is some failure mode for this pool that its designers and operators do not yet understand.
Finally, this article in Nature outlines some of the lessons from the Chernobyl disaster that might be applied to Fukushima. One of those lessons concerns the effect of general disinterest in shutting down the Chernobyl reactors once the dust has settled. Funding from international bodies is needed to study the continuing effects of radiation on the people and environment affected by the disaster there, as well as for the construction of new containment structures to prevent any further problems from arising.
But the international Chernobyl Shelter Fund that supports the US$1.4-billion effort still lacks about half of that cash, and the completion date has slipped by almost ten years since the shelter plan was agreed in principle in 2001.
The disaster at Fukushima will likely mobilize the international community to pony up the dough to get this work accomplished. Hopefully it will not take another disaster in future for the consequences of the Fukushima disaster to be probably understood and dealt with.
Among other things, these points serve to remind us that the likelihood of some events, and the hazards that they pose, have been subject to uncertainty and disagreement. So, one of the unfortunate lessons of the Fukishima disaster is that we must avoid overconfidence in assessing the risks posed by new technologies.