Sunday, April 21, 2013

LiveScience on last week's explosions in the news

I concluded last night's entry on the science of terror attacks by promising "I'll return to the topic should I find more science, science fiction, or collapse-related angles to the story."   I did.  Follow over the jump for the stories from LiveScience on both the West, Texas, fertilizer explosion and the Boston Marathon bombings I included in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Kepler discovers more super Earths) on Daily Kos.

LiveScience: Could Your Town Explode?
Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 19 April 2013 Time: 05:09 PM ET
The fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on Wednesday (April 17) killed at least a dozen people and destroyed several blocks of the small town.

Is your neighborhood next?

Investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of the fire and powerful explosion that leveled up to 75 homes, tore the roof off a 50-unit apartment building and severely damaged a nearby nursing home and school, according to

But the disaster is bringing increased attention to the thousands of facilities nationwide that store or manufacture fertilizer, especially ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used in agricultural fertilizers.
Click on Why Fertilizer Is Dangerous (Infographic) for a map of fertilizer production facilities (West was a retail storage facility), as it doesn't seem to embed here.

LiveScience: What Causes Fertilizer Explosions?
Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 18 April 2013 Time: 01:01 PM ET
A fire anywhere is cause for concern, but a fire at a fertilizer plant is a potential catastrophe.

That's because ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used in agricultural fertilizers, is a highly explosive compound, as shown by the massive fireball at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, Wednesday (April 17).

Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are essential plant nutrients, and fertilizers are graded by the amounts of these elements the fertilizers contain, also called their "NPK rating" (from those elements' abbreviations on the periodic table).
TechNewsDaily via LiveScience: Boston Bombings Used as Malware Scam Bait
Elizabeth Palermo, TechNewsDaily Contributor
Date: 17 April 2013 Time: 05:06 PM ET
Just hours after the Boston Marathon bombings Monday (April 15), scammers were already using the tragedy to fuel their malware campaigns, according to a study by Romanian anti-virus firm Bitdefender.

The study found that the words "marathon," "Boston" and "explosion" found their way into the subject headers of one out of every five spam messages in the hours and days following the event.

The use of news events to spread malware is nothing new for scammers. Just last month, scammers used the news of the pope's installment as bait for email victims. Emailscontaining links to malware-laden sites were circulated with subject lines such as "New Pope Sued for Not Wearing Seatbelt in Popemobile."
LiveScience: Inside Twisted Terrorist Minds — Where Is the Empathy?
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 16 April 2013 Time: 03:13 PM ET
A video of the scene from Monday's Boston Marathon bombing showed people running toward the wounded, trying to help. A flood of support and sympathy poured out all across the Internet. And Bostonians rushed to donate blood and offer spare bedrooms to those displaced by the blast.

Even though a human (or humans) caused the carnage at the finish line, such acts of kindness, as well as a sense of empathy, are actually hard to overcome — even for the terrorists, psychologists say.

"A whole industry of propaganda is aimed" at convincing potential terrorists that their intended victims are worthy of death, said Arie Kruglanski, a psychologist at the University of Maryland who has researched the roots of terrorism.
LiveScience: What Is Shrapnel?
Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 16 April 2013 Time: 01:11 PM ET
The shrapnel bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon have a long and bloody history.

Shrapnel is a general term used to describe the fragments thrown off by a bomb or other explosive device. Usually comprised of nails, ball bearings, needles or other small metal objects, these shards are the leading cause of death and injury following the explosion of a shrapnel bomb.

In the 1780s, a British lieutenant named Henry Shrapnel developed a long-range artillery shell, packed with lead shot, that used a delayed-action fuse. Shrapnel's shell was designed to explode near or above the heads of enemy soldiers, causing widespread death and injury, according to Wired.

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