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The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative 2013 Conference on the Future of Advanced Nuclear Technologies

ImageLast November I was asked to be a panelist at the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative 2013 Conference on the Future of Nuclear Power at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California. We were tasked with identifying improvements in technology and other approaches that will ensure the future development and supply of radionuclides and radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostic imaging and therapy in the United States. Our team included some of the nation’s most eminent clinicians, radiochemists, nuclear physicists, and one ex-truck washer.

ImageDrinks are on the house!

The other panelists were good fellows all, bright-eyed, energetic, and courteous and deferential to a fault. The chairman kicked off the proceedings by asking each of us to state the problem as we saw it. Being seated immediately to his left, I went last. I took a deep breath and plunged in: (more…)

The Gold Coast Regiment

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Italian Army sword, Italian Army bayonet, and Ethiopian swords on display at the Ghana Armed Forces Museum, Kumasi

The Gold Coast Regiment had its roots in the Gold Coast Constabulary, organized in 1879 as an internal security force and composed initially of personnel from the Hausa Constabulary of Southern Nigeria. The unit first saw action during the Ashanti wars. Reorganized in 1901 as the Gold Coast Regiment, the unit raised five battalions for service in the East African Campaign in the First World War.

Reorganized again in 1940, it was made up of nine battalions totaling just over 10,000 men, and, along with two brigades of soldiers from East Africa, composed the 12th Division of the British Army. (The 11th Division comprised two brigades of East African soldiers along with a brigade of Nigerian soldiers.) The 11th and 12th Divisions, along with the 1st Division of the South African Army, constituted the East Africa Command. Under the leadership of General Alan Cunningham, they entered Addis Ababa on 6 April 1941. (more…)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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Here is a picture of my grand-nephew Patrick, taken on the occasion of his first birthday. (more…)

Rachel Carson: Worse than Hitler?

Close up photograph of an anopheles quadrimaculatus mosquito on

“A pandemic is slaughtering millions, mostly children and pregnant women — one child every 15 seconds; 3 million people annually; and over 100 million people since 1972 –but there are no protestors clogging the streets or media stories about this tragedy. These deaths can be laid at the doorstep of author Rachel Carson.” – Lisa Makson, Front Page Magazine 31 July 2003.

This accusation, in one form or another, has been repeated in such august fora as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Can this be true? Could this mild-mannered author and naturalist from Baltimore really be responsible for more deaths that Hitler? (more…)

Silent Spring, 50 years on

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. (more…)

Last night in Ghana

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On our last night in the chalet that has been our home for almost the past two years, my wife Yaa poured a glass of wine for me and I stepped outside onto the back porch we never used, to take in the night air. The moon was shining brightly but still it was raining, great big fat drops that fell lazily from the sky one by one like tears. (more…)

In search of Nsusun

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The hippopotamus is widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa but its range is now highly fragmented. The only other living species of hippopotamid, the pygmy hippopotamus, is found only in a few scattered locations in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Coté d’Ivoire.

The word “Hippopotamus” is derived from Greek and means “River horse.” The Fante word for hippopotamus is “Nsusun,” which means “Water elephant.” In fact hippopotamids are not closely related to either horses or elephants. Traditionally they have been grouped in the Order Artiodactyla, or even-toed hoofed mammals, but studies of nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and fossils all indicate that their closest relatives are not their fellow hoofed mammals at all, but rather the Order Cetacea, which comprises the whales, including the dolphins. The last common ancestor of hippopotamids and whales is believed to have lived some 55-60 mya. (more…)

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