Friday, January 20, 2006

More Serious Math Errors

Our hero.

Quote from today's math lecture and our Russian professor Grigori. He speaks with this strong Russian accent and looks generally pretty mad, which enhance the impression that he is really cool. ;-)
"You siiiold pay attiientijon to these specjial condiiitions, because if you do not, tsings like... Tjiiernobyl can happen. Sometime maybe I will tiiell you more about Tiiiernobyl... "
Stops talking for a while... then mutters for himself:
"I was involved in that. "
My university goes to far lengths to recruit the professors only with the very best credentials. We learn from the best!

UPDATE 20060210:
Today a paper was passed around for students to give comments on the class. Among comments about the lecture and the content, an almost unanimous class requested that the lecturer revealed more details about his involvement of that unfortunate nuclear plant! I thought I was the only one that noticed when he said that. :-)

UPDATE 20060303:
We just had our last lecture, (perhaps my last lecture at this university!), and finally Grigori got asked about Tjernobyl.
Grigori and Tjernobyl:
Grigori had been working in a very specialized group studying vibrations in the Soviet Union in 1986. There were two of these groups in the country, and one of the groups got assigned to study the experiments that was to take place in Tjernobyl.
Crash-course in Tjernobyl-style nuclear powerplants :
The reactor in these plants heat up water. The produced steam drives generators that produce electricity. The reactor need a very strong flow of water to be cooled. If the water stops, the reactor will overheat and explode. The water is pumped with the power generated by the reactor. If the generator stops, the generators won't produce electricity, the pumps will stop, and the reactor can't be cooled by water.

Instead of making tedious theoretical modeling, the leadership determined to make a practical experiment. The experiment described to some detail by Grigory, was to determine if the reserve diesel-powered generators would have time to turn on in case of an emergency. The answer: they didn't.

The vibration team was to take the opportunity and study the vibrations of the generators during the experiment. A last minute decision determined that the other team would take care of the measurements. They all died during that night. All of them colleagues and friends of his. Perhaps not so funny.

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