So for no real reason, I'm pretty interested in disasters: finding out details, figuring out what went wrong, etc. I'm finishing up a great book: "Normal Accidents" that is highly recommended to anyone else interested in these sorts of things. (Though you should probably read Silent Spring first.) As part of this interest, every now and then I'll spend a few hours poking around the Internet and Wikipedia to learn more. If you're not aware of any of the huge human-caused catastrophes, here are some jumping off points on Wikipedia to get you started: So after spending who knows how many hours reading around, here are a few things I've found that are worth sharing:
  • The Rocky Flats Plant just outside of Denver, CO was used for nuclear weapons production. As detailed in the Wikipedia article, it had a horrendous safety record and during it's operation, none of this was known to the public. See this brief article in Time magazine for an example. The facility has been shut down, and it's pretty interesting to see the transformation in satellite photos. Check out this map on maps.live.com and zoom in and out, note what disappears! The same map on maps.google.com is a mix of older photography and newer ones, so only the left half of the plant is there. Note the highway that goes in a circle around Denver and how it's missing a section that would have gone through this area. According to wikipedia this work was completed in October 2005 and the site is on it's way to being a wildlife refuge.
  • While the Chernobyl disaster was huge, most people don't know about all of the other awful nuclear/environmental things going on in the Soviet Union at the time. Disasters at Mayak between 1945 and the late 1960s have killed many and exposed over half a million people to dangerous amounts of radiation. You can see what remains of the biggest failed reactor here, and from what I understand it's essentially just being left there because it's too expensive to clean up. Lake Karachay, the lake they used _for dumping their nuclear waste into_ has been called "the most polluted spot on earth". You should take a look at it here: make sure to zoom out and pan around to get a sense of scale.
  • And then there are the bioweapons. Things like a 1971 smallpox outbreak caused by Soviet aerosol weapons tests, an anthrax leak in Sverdlovsk, Soviet Union in 1979, etc. These have all kinds of potential to go wrong and it's worth reading Biohazard by Ken Alibek if you want to know more about these sorts of things. (Or atleast follow some links about Biopreparat.)
I hope that was interesting, and I bet I'll post something like this every now and then. Let me know what you think!

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