Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nuclear Nonsense

When you hear "nuclear energy" what comes to mind? Is it The Simpsons with bald-headed Homer sleeping in a control room and hitting a reactor meltdown button? Is it the damage caused in Japan at Fukushima? Like most things, the only things portrayed in the media are the worst outcomes and never the benefits.

Let's start by telling you what nuclear power actually is. By utilizing radioactive materials, nuclear fission can be used to create heat.

Courtesy of Google: Picture of Nuclear Fission

This heat is used to boil water in a Water Boiler (catchy name right?). As the water evaporates the steam, is is lifted and turns a set of Turbines, which power generators, which produce electricity!

Nuclear power plants provide 6% of the world's energy, 14% of the world's electricity, and one single power plant, Diablo Canyon, provides 10% of all electrical power in the state of California. Nuclear energy reduces carbon emissions and provides virtually no air pollution, such as the smog and greenhouse gases caused by fossil fuels.

Also, did you know that in working at a nuclear plant, there is less exposure than there is in other everyday situations?
  1. If you fly for business, you get more of a radiological dose from flying than you would from being at a nuclear plant.
  2. You get a higher radiation dose having your teeth x-rayed than by being at a nuclear plant.
  3. If you use a microwave constantly, you get more of a radiation dose than you would at a nuclear plant.
France gets 75% of it's power from Nuclear plants. 75%! That means less emissions, cleaner air, and a reliable source of power! Nuclear is a low cost means of creating electricity, and by creating so much of it, is able to sell much of it to neighboring countries while maintaining the lowest electricity costs to it's citizens in all of Europe.

Is nuclear power actually scary? It can be if not properly maintained, monitored, and made sure to handle the most extreme situations. To me, it just feels like a small bit of nuclear nonsense.

Everytime I drive my truck...Vroom!

You know what makes me feel like a total girl? Cars...

Do I know how to change the oil? Kinda.

But last April, I got a wonderful gift from my Grandpa...his Chevy Truck...
Image Courtesy of VWVortex

Personally, I call it "Sally" or "The Green Giant" (I think his name for it was "The Green Hornet" names are close enough)

To the point! This truck is manual.  No automatic transmission for my baby. :-)

The fact that my truck is manual has given me such a sense of accomplishment and freedom (in terms of cars)...and I finally feel like a Mechanical Engineer (I know having a stick says nothing about my accomplishments in the field of engineering, but hey! I can drive a stick :-P).

Sometimes I put on my bug glasses (see below), and see what kind of expressions I can get from people. It's a game of stereotypes that I LOVE to play :-)
Image Courtesy of UncleBoise

When is your favorite scenario to beat the stereotype? 

PS My truck doesn't look like/doesn't do tricks like the one above.  That picture just made me laugh that I HAD to post it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"We want you to make a movie"

Image Courtesy of

Last summer, I got my first internship. Woohoo!

I got placed in Air Liquide's Electronic's Headquarters in Dallas, Texas.  This plant "refines" all of the oxygen, argon, nitrogen, and hydrogen for Texas Instrument's Headquarters...basically.  There's a lot of gas flowing through these pun intended.

So I was the intern. Basically, I was expecting  to copy papers, write up a few reports, crunch a few numbers, identify pipes/valves, etc, etc.

One day, I get a call from two different people.  First one is from the director of training.  Basically, he trains everyone within Electronics.  Really nice guy.  Then, I get a call from the head of operations.  They ask for a meeting (remember, I am the intern, not a lot is expected from why would I be getting a call from the Head of Operations...hmmmm). They sit me down and say,

"We want you to make a movie about *insert safety jargon here*; we want it to be about an hour long, and *enter topics here* need to be discussed."

Oh, did I mention that they were willing to pay someone $15,000 to make this video? Yeah....

I was very confused on many different levels...
  1. My major is Mechanical Engineering. Do I know anything about movie making? No really.
  2. They want this movie to be an hour. I know there's a lot of work that goes into a 30-second commercial...let alone a 1-hour safety video.
  3. Basically, I had no budget. Priceless.
So Rule Number 1 for your future internship: Never say "I can't/I'm not willing to do _____."
They knew my major was in engineering. They really didn't expect much out of the video (*psss* they were expecting the intern to make the video). They gave me some tools, threw out some ideas (while I talked about some of my own), and we went from there.  (Oh, and another side note: since I was from LA, they thought that I had more movie-making skills than the average person...hahaha)

So I did some research, compiled my Powerpoint slides with Windows Movie Maker, and did my best.  And guess what? I showed my video to the President of Electronics, and guess what? He liked it.

Never say you can't/won't.  You might just learn something, and earn brownie points :-P


PS. I never mentioned that I, personally, narrated this movie...It's really strange to edit your own voice recording...It's just weird.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Pursuit of Happyness"

As I've said before, I've been reading "The Happiness Project". And throughout Spring break, I've had a a sense of "soul searching."
  • What do I want to do with my life? 
  • What jobs will make me happy? 
  • What are my interests (outside of school)? 
  • How do I want to make an impact on society? 
I've used a few sources...some of which my mentor suggested to me...many years ago :-) 
  1. Research Journal Abstracts. "It's the advantage of going to a big school (like UC Davis)" It's likely that the university subscribes to most journals out there...and you can peruse for a lifetime. (If you need help with the UC Davis's library's VPN, let me know.)
  2. TED. TED stands for "Technology, Education, Design" and some of the most influential people in the world try to advocate you through short videos.  They talk about all sorts of topics (Technology especially), and could be source of inspiration for you to jumpstart your career.
  3. Professor Richard Feynman. He was a Nobel Laureate for his work in quantum physics.  He even worked at Los Alamos and was one of the only people to see the White Sands nuclear test in the 1940s. A few weeks back, I read "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" and I was hooked on finding what makes me happy (like he did). In this book, he mentions that his Nobel Prize was a derivative of throwing plates in the cafeteria. Don't believe me? Read it.
  4. ScienceNOW. Don't forget that you can read full articles using your UC Davis Connection from Off-campus.  However, ScienceNOW give news that is easier to read (similar to a blog style).  I spent a couple hours on it reading about the brain and neuron disorders...
This is definitely NOT an exhaustive list.  What sources do you search for fun?