So You Think You Can Win Lotto

What Are The Odds

Recently, after collecting a small Lotto prize of just over $20, I began to consider the chances of winning the first prize.

So, I found the odds of winning a first prize in the various Australian Lotto "games". It is hardly a "game", but that is how it is promoted.

Here are the games, and their respective odds:

Now, lets add some perspective to those odds.

Most people are familiar with a drawing pen, such as this one, which will draw a line about 1mm wide.

artline pen

A line 1mm wide is a little wider than that a normal ball point pen might draw.

Now, imagine a strip of paper long enough to represent all the possible number combinations in each of the above lotto games, each represented by a line across that paper strip. Then you come along and draw a line across that strip of paper to represent your chosen numbers for one game such that you win first prize.

For the Powerball Lotto until April 2018, that strip of paper would need to be about 76.7 Kilometers ( 47.6 Miles) long.
After that date it would need to be 134.4Km ( 83.5 miles).


For the Oz Lotto, it would need to be 45.3 Kilometers (28.1 miles) long, and for the 6 from 45 game, it would be about 8.1 Kilometers (5 miles).

You now know why you have not won yet.

In my whole life I have only met one person that won a first division prize in a lotto in Australia. This happened about 40 years ago whilst I was working in a bank, and a customer came in with his winnings.

Lotto = Voluntary Taxation.

Earth Like Planets

So, there are astronomers out there busily seeking out planets that might be similar to Earth.

There was a news report just today that they have found another candidate planet.

Oh great. it is just 500 Light -Years away.  So, what they are looking at is evidence that is 500 years old.

A lot of good that will do humanity.

If we could travel at light speed, an advance party could get there in 500 years. How great would that be. Then they (or their ancestors could) could report back. That would take another 500 Years.

So, just what is the point of such research?  Pretty useless if you ask me.


Fukushima – Nuclear Plant, Japan

This is posted as a copy of data from a comment posted to a South African newspaper site. The writer reputedly works in a nuclear plant at Koenberg.

If you have or can make the time, read it. It is a good summary of the problems in Japan following the earthquake and Tsunami.

But as I post this I learn that the nuclear incident has been upgraded to level 5 on the severity scale 0-7. This is not good.

My heart goes out to those on the ground in Japan working with this crisis. Let us hope that they do get this problem under control very soon.

Not withstanding what has happened, I am still an advocate of the use of Nuclear generated power.

====== 8< ==========

From a Friend of Buff at Koeberg

What happened at Fukushima

I will try to summarize the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was 5 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7). So the first hooray for Japanese engineering, everything held up.

When the earthquake hit with 8.9, the nuclear reactors all went into automatic shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and nuclear chain reaction of the uranium stopped. Now, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat. The residual heat load is about 3% of the heat load under normal operating conditions.

The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. That is one of the most serious accidents for a nuclear power plant, and accordingly, a “plant black out” receives a lot of attention when designing backup systems. The power is needed to keep the coolant pumps working. Since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself any more.

Things were going well for an hour. One set of multiple sets of emergency Diesel power generators kicked in and provided the electricity that was needed. Then the Tsunami came, much bigger than people had expected when building the power plant. The tsunami took out all multiple sets of backup Diesel generators.

When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure (that you thought could never happen) after the other. A tsunami taking out all backup power in one swift strike is such a scenario. The last line of defense is putting everything into the third containment, that will keep everything, whatever the mess, control rods in our out, core molten or not, inside the reactor.

When the diesel generators were gone, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backups to the backups, to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.

Within the 8 hours, another power source had to be found and connected to the power plant. The power grid was down due to the earthquake. The diesel generators were destroyed by the tsunami. So mobile diesel generators were trucked in.

This is where things started to go seriously wrong. The external power generators could not be connected to the power plant (the plugs did not fit). So after the batteries ran out, the residual heat could not be carried away any more.

At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a “loss of cooling even t”. It is again a step along the “Depth of Defense” lines. The power to the cooling systems should never have failed completely, but it did, so they “retreat” to the next line of defense. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator, right through to managing a core meltdown.

It was at this stage that people started to talk about core meltdown.
Because at the end of the day, if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after hours or days), and the last line of defense, the core catcher and third containment, would come into play.

But the goal at this stage was to manage the core while it was heating up, and ensure that the first containment (the Zircaloy tubes that contains the nuclear fuel), as well as the second containment remain intact and operational for as long as possible, to give the engineers time to fix the cooling systems.

Because cooling the core is such a big deal, the reactor has a number of cooling systems, each in multiple versions (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and the emergency core cooling system).
Which one failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.

So imagine a pressure cooker on the stove, heat on low, but on. The operators use whatever cooling system capacity they have to get rid of as much heat as possible, but the pressure starts building up. The priority now is to maintain integrity of the first containment (keep temperature of the fuel rods below 2200°C), as well as the second containment, the pressure cooker. In order to maintain integrity of the pressure cooker (the second containment), the pressure has to be released from time to time. Because the ability to do that in an emergency is so important, the reactor has 11 pressure release valves.
The operators now started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure. The temperature at this stage was about 550°C.

This is when the reports about “radiation leakage” starting coming in.
I believe I explained above why venting the steam is theoretically the same as releasing radiation into the environment, but why it was and is not dangerous. The radioactive nitrogen as well as the noble gases do not pose a threat to human health.

At some stage during this venting, the explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the third containment (our “last line of defense”), and the reactor building. Remember that the reactor building has no function in keeping the radioactivity contained. It is not entirely clear yet what has happened, but this is the likely scenario:
The operators decided to vent the steam from the pressure vessel not directly into the environment, but into the space between the third containment and the reactor building (to give the radioactivity in the steam more time to subside). The problem is that at the high temperatures that the core had reached at this stage, water molecules can “disassociate” into oxygen and hydrogen – an explosive mixture. And it did explode, outside the third containment, damaging the reactor building around. It was that sort of explosion, but inside the pressure vessel (because it was badly designed and not managed properly by the
operators) that lead to the explosion of Chernobyl. This was never a risk at Fukushima. The problem of hydrogen-oxygen formation is one of the biggies when you design a power plant (if you are not Soviet, that is), so the reactor is built and operated in a way it cannot happen inside the containment. It happened outside, which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK, because it did not pose a risk for the containment.

So the pressure was under control, as steam was vented. Now, if you keep boiling your pot, the problem is that the water level will keep falling and falling. The core is covered by several meters of water in order to allow for some time to pass (hours, days) before it gets exposed. Once the rods start to be exposed at the top, the exposed parts will reach the critical temperature of 2200 °C after about 45 minutes.
This is when the first containment, the Zircaloy tube, would fail.

And this started to happen. The cooling could not be restored before there was some (very limited, but still) damage to the casing of some of the fuel. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started melting. What happened now is that some of the byproducts of the uranium decay – radioactive Cesium and Iodine – started to mix with the steam. The big problem, uranium, was still under control, because the uranium oxide rods were good until 3000 °C. It is confirmed that a very small amount of Cesium and Iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.

It seems this was the “go signal” for a major plan B. The small amounts of Cesium that were measured told the operators that the first containment on one of the rods somewhere was about to give. The Plan A had been to restore one of the regular cooling systems to the core. Why that failed is unclear. One plausible explanation is that the tsunami also took away / polluted all the clean water needed for the regular cooling systems.

The water used in the cooling system is very clean, demineralized (like
distilled) water. The reason to use pure water is the above mentioned activation by the neutrons from the Uranium: Pure water does not get activated much, so stays practically radioactive-free. Dirt or salt in the water will absorb the neutrons quicker, becoming more radioactive.
This has no effect whatsoever on the core – it does not care what it is cooled by. But it makes life more difficult for the operators and mechanics when they have to deal with activated (i.e. slightly
radioactive) water.

But Plan A had failed – cooling systems down or additional clean water unavailable – so Plan B came into effect. This is what it looks like

In order to prevent a core meltdown, the operators started to use sea water to cool the core. I am not quite sure if they flooded our pressure cooker with it (the second containment), or if they flooded the third containment, immersing the pressure cooker. But that is not relevant for us.

The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down. Because the chain reaction has been stopped a long time ago, there is only very little residual heat being produced now. The large amount of cooling water that has been used is sufficient to take up that heat. Because it is a lot of water, the core does not produce sufficient heat any more to produce any significant pressure. Also, boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core.

The plant came close to a core meltdown. Here is the worst-case scenario that was avoided: If the seawater could not have been used for treatment, the operators would have continued to vent the water steam to avoid pressure buildup. The third containment would then have been completely sealed to allow the core meltdown to happen without releasing radioactive material. After the meltdown, there would have been a waiting period for the intermediate radioactive materials to decay inside the reactor, and all radioactive particles to settle on a surface inside the containment. The cooling system would have been restored eventually, and the molten core cooled to a manageable temperature. The containment would have been cleaned up on the inside. Then a messy job of removing the molten core from the containment would have begun, packing the (now solid again) fuel bit by bit into transportation containers to be shipped to processing plants. Depending on the damage, the block of the plant would then either be repaired or dismantled.

Now, where does that leave us? My assessment:

The plant is safe now and will stay safe.

Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.

Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.

There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.

The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree.
Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.

The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal”
cooling water

The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.

Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage.
This will take about 4-5 years.

The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

(Updated) I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. 11 of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors in different plants were shut down and will have to be inspected, directly reducing the nation’s nuclear power generating capacity by 20%, with nuclear power accounting for about 30% of the national total power generation capacity. I have not looked into possible consequences for other nuclear plants not directly affected. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. I am not familiar with Japan’s energy supply chain for oil, gas and coal, and what damage the harbors, refinery, storage and transportation networks have suffered, as well as damage to the national distribution grid. All of that will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to power shortages during peak demand and reconstruction efforts, in Japan.

This all is only part of a much bigger picture. Emergency response has to deal with shelter, drinking water, food and medical care, transportation and communication infrastructure, as well as electricity supply. In a world of lean supply chains, we are looking at some major challenges in all of these areas.

If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:

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Oil and Gas Well Frac-ing

Recently I was a guest at an oil-gas well frac-ing (Process of fracturing the down-hole rock formations). The location was way out in west Texas not far from a little town of Pyote. This was my first experience at a well during drilling or under development.

I did some preliminary research on what I might see, and that was very helpful in understanding the tour. The tour lasted about one hour, but seemed much shorter. I was amazed at all the infrastructure in place.

If you want to read more on frac-ing, then head on over to frac-ing at Wikipedia. The description there is pretty much spot on.

The well in question is very deep, drilled down about 12,000ft and then out horizontally to about 4,000ft.

The multi step process.


1) a series of explosives located along a special piece of drill pipe are lowered and then pushed (in the horizontal section) to the desired position. This section of drill pipe may be 48ft or longer, and the explosives are grouped in batches along about 12ft. Electric wires to trigger the shots run up to a control center at the surface. Once in place at its lowest position, the lower set of shots are fired, and the drill pipe is raised about 12ft or more to the next target zone. this process continues until all shots are fired, and the pipe is brought back to the surface.

2) a complex plug, about 3ft long, is sent down hole and is locked at the lower point of the area to be fractured.

3) a slurry of water and proppant (tiny balls of Aluminum Oxide – smaller than the ball in a ballpoint pen) is pumped at high pressure down the well. This slurry can contain several other chemicals to improve efficiency (such as surfactant) and measurement (isotope tracers). I don’t think there were any tracers used at the site I visited. The slurry is pumped down at a continuous high pressure. This can be 7,000p.s.i and greater. Once started, it needs to continue until certain flow rates/pressure changes are detected in the elaborate control center at the surface.

The aim of the process is to open up small fissures in the rock formations below, to allow greater flows of hydrocarbons into the well. This can lead to better economies and return on exploration and development investment.

The Site



site Image


The Equipment


Water Tanks


More Water Tanks


Did I mention Water Tanks?


I would estimate there were 60 or more tanks of different shapes and sizes. Water is critical to the process and must not run out during frac-ing. It is stockpiled in readiness to the commencement and then a steady stream of water trucks will deliver more during the process.

The Proppant


The proppant is stockpiled and there were several large tanks loaded with the substance. The tanks were very similar to the water tanks, but are closer to the slurry mixer and pumper trucks.


This shows one of the trucks that delivers the proppant.

The Pumper Trucks




There were about 10 of these monster trucks, parked 5 abreast in two rows, each row backing up to the other row. This area was out-of-bounds due to running machinery and noise.

Shot Firing



This truck is the logging and firing control center.


Here you see the crew arming the explosive charges in the drill pipe, ready to send it down the hole. No cell phones or walkie-talkies in this area!


A partial length of the explosives pipe. It will be more than twice this length when ready for lowering and firing.

Multi Function Pipe Truck



This truck manages a giant spool of 2inch steel piping. The pipe is a single length of about three miles long. One use is to push the bottom plug down the hole and around the bend where the hole heads off horizontally. As mentioned earlier, this horizontal section is about 4000ft long. The well head can be seen to the right of the photo, as well as in the next…


That pretty much ends the tour. There was one other interesting truck which was not photographed. This was the main control center for the mixing and pumping operations. Mounted on another large truck, it housed around four technical operators controlling such things as water transfer pumps, the slurry mixers and ingredient controls, and the ten large pumper trucks. Lots of computers and screens to monitor in the operations room.

Thanks go to David H Arrington Oil and Gas of Midland, Tx and to Halliburton of Houston, Tx and their staff.

John Griffiths

terabytes bite

Oh Boy this hurts…



As an older computer user, this blows my mind.

And I know from talking with many friends, this deal sounds beyond comprehension.
Makes me wonder where things will be in 5 years.
My first PC was a TRS-80 with 16K of ram and an external cassette sound recorder for more permanent storage. I remember I paid over $2000 for it.

Get the drive at


We Got Hit

Where we live in Australia in the southern summer, we got hot with a massive hail storm last Monday.


Our property sustained significant hail damage, as did out neighbours and surrounding area.

The hail was mostly golf-ball in size, with some the size of hen’s eggs. It all happened at about 3:30pm in the afternoon.

We were sitting outside on a pleasant afternoon and could see a bank of wild rolling cloud approaching from the north. I took some video with by standard Canon digital camera.

Then the storm hit! The hail was sporadic at first, then after about 4 minutes, it was a constant hammering of hail for about 45 minutes. We had to retreat to inside as even under an out-door patio area, the hail was bouncing off everything.

Damages: Flooding inside. Smashed roof tile and sky-lights. Significant denting of heavy metal patio roofing. Lead flashing on roof all holed. TV antennae broken. Garden shed roof holed. Luckily our motor vehicle was undercover. Many vehicles in the path of the storm had broken glass and lots of dents.

The State has declared the event a natural disaster.

Trying to get repairs is hopeless, as all services are stressed to the max. I have managed to put temporary fixes on a few things. Today we removed water laden carpets from one room.

But all in all, we are lucky as we survived and still have a home to live in.



The Price of Oil and Fuel

So, we are all starting to really feel the effects of the rising price of Oil.

I found this snippet on another blog and thought it would be great to share….

$200 oil is still very cheap. 200/160= $1,25 per liter of oil.

1 barrel of oil produces as much energy as 12 workers during 1 year, and at $200 it is still cheaper than Coca Cola.

The problem is that we are used to cheap energy, and this cheap energy is essential especially for aviation. But with production stagnant at approx 85mb/day, and demand rising despite record prices, there might be some dark clouds ahead.

Aviation is beginning to reel from the rising prices… jet fuel went through the $1,300-a-tonne mark last week. Attempts by airlines to hedge against future price increases is becoming more difficult, as hedging providers are being careful not to be burned by price rises. British Airways are planning to reduce flight schedules commencing later this year. Falling demand for tickets limits the airlines ability to raise fares. Other airlines will no doubt follow the the BA lead. Gasoline prices will continue to rise in line with the price of crude. perhaps, if governments raise taxes in an attempt to reduce demand, then gas price rises will exceed the crude price rises. Oh woe are we! The worst is yet to come.

John Griffiths

Two Weeks of Hell

Right after my trip to the CapeSoft World Tour event in Las Vegas, I developed a case of Shingles.

Oh boy, you do not want to experience this. Luckily my case was not as bad as it could have been. I did visit a doctor in time (must be within 48 hours of the appearance of the rash) to be prescribed the anti-viral tablets. The outbreak appeared just a week before we were to take a road trip to Nashville with friends. I managed to endure the trip by taking pain killers. Not much could be done about the rash. It just has to take its course.

My friends were great, and they managed to endure my suffering by imbibing in alcoholic beverages. Thanks go to Candace, Bill, Sandra, Skip and Sharon for your support.

If you are round-about the age of 60, and had chicken-pox as a child, then you would be well advised to see you doctor about having the newly available vaccine for us oldies. The USA FDA approved its use just last year.

Here I sit, three weeks on, and beginning to feel great again.

To find more details on shingles, check out WebMD


Something Profound

I wish I had thought of this first. But no, I left that to my wife Candace…

” We NEED to have MORE than we NEED to HAVE ! ”

This came to her during a late night discussion when we were attempting (as usual) to solve the World’s problems. Luckily I was alert (Dont call me a lert) enough to decide to write it down for later use.

Now we always know what our problems in life are. And they are … that we presently do not have more than we need. So we strive to get more of what we need.

Maybe one day ……