Monthly Archives: April 2018

A monster in the realm!

The internal i/o is a mess—the methods that allow the digital creatures to read and write to and from themselves and each other. I’ve always planned on changing it. Each figure, (one of the digital creatures I created) gets a turn, one after another, enough time to execute one instruction. But, no matter how much they are reading or writing, it all happens in one instruction.

That’s too fast!

If one figure is deleting another one, if it happens all at once, the one getting deleted doesn’t have a chance to react. There’s no defense.

I thought I’d test this out, so I did something like core war, and stuck in a figure that does nothing but empty out the memory of other figures. It’s a monster, and all it does is kill.

In the following output, each “n” stands for “null” A letter n means that there is nothing in that slot. Otherwise, you’ll see the size of the given figure. There are 4 slots, and a maximum population size of 3—if every slot is filled, the death object takes out the oldest figure. The figures that copy themselves, the replicators, are 9 numbers long. The monster is only 6. The replicators take three turns to make a new copy. The monster kills a figure every two turns.

Taking all bets!
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Ep 165: It can’t melt down if it’s already melted

It can’t melt down if it’s already melted

Today we look at the latest and greatest in reactor design, molten salt nuclear reactors.
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Ep 164: Nuclear powered aircraft

Nuclear powered aircraft

In the 1950/s the United States Airforce and Navy considered nuclear powered aircraft. Instead of burning fuel to heat air and provide thrust, a nuclear-powered jet engine would heat the air from the heat generated by a nuclear reactor. If it had worked, the aircraft could have remained airborne for months at a time, limited only by the endurance of the flight crew.
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Ep 163: Blast me to the moons!

Blast me to the moons!

Once you’ve learned how to tap nuclear energy, what can you do with it? One proposal was to take a couple thousand nuclear bombs, drop them behind a spacecraft, and set them off to push the craft from the Earth’s surface, into orbit, and then around the solar system. Called “project Orion,” it is undoubtedly the most spectacular use of nuclear energy ever seriously considered.
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Ep 162: Nuclear alchemy

Nuclear alchemy

The medieval alchemists wanted to change lead into gold. It was, by the methods they were attempting to use, impossible, but modern physics might be able to turn gold into lead. it is possible to change one chemical element into another. In nuclear reactors, with all those neutrons flying about, materials that absorb the neutrons are changed.
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It was a clever notion, but not a good idea.

It’s been several days since I noticed that my oh so very clever notion wasn’t actually a good one. I’ve been developing my little subleq creatures, called “figures,” layer by layer. There is one more layer to go, and I had what I thought was a brilliant way to implement it. That is, until I tested the new layer against the old version and saw that the same exact run, with the same exact results, was taking up to 59 percent longer!
Continue reading It was a clever notion, but not a good idea.

Ep 161: Isotopes and enrichment

Isotopes and enrichment

A given element can have different numbers of neutrons. While the protons determine an elements chemical properties, the different number of neutrons can have different nuclear properties. Uranium occurs naturally with mostly u238, with only about 0.07 percent of it occurring as u235. It’s the uranium 235 that can support a nuclear chain reaction. For most nuclear power reactors, you need around 4 or 5 percent of the uranium to be u235. If you want a nuclear explosion, it requires more than 90 percent. The process of increasing the percentage of 235 in uranium is called “Enrichment,” and it is a difficult and dangerous process.
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Ep 160: Let’s relax with nuclear physics

Let’s relax with nuclear physics

I’d like to thank john peacocke for giving me the idea for the next few episodes. We’ve been chatting via email, and he told me about molten salt nuclear reactors. That reactor and the general subject are interesting, and they make a nice break from the if and maybe of things like biology and evolution that we have been and will be talking about. Today, we cover the basics of nuclear fission.