Posts Tagged ‘Sami Grover’

The army base at Camp Century in Greenland was abandoned in the ’60s, leaving behind buried toxic waste that may become exposed by the end of the century. (Photo: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons)

by Sami Grover

When the Cold War ended, much of the world breathed a huge sigh of relief. And while the immediate threat of nuclear armageddon may have faded, there are countless sites around the world that are still burdened with the toxic legacy of military superpowers.

As global climate change reshapes our world, at least one such site is in danger of becoming a more immediate problem.

As reported over at Scientific American, Camp Century in northwest Greenland was a U.S. military base abandoned in the mid-1960s. When American forces shipped out, they left behind literally thousands of tons of waste buried deep inside tunnels that were dug out of the thick, year-round ice. Not unreasonably — given that the tunnels were 120 feet below the surface, and that fresh snow fell every year to bury the tunnels ever deeper — an assumption was made that the waste would remain buried for tens of thousands of years. But we all know what they say about assumptions…

With the rapid rate of Greenland’s ice melt (which CNN reports is off to a record start this year), concerns are surfacing that the buried waste — which includes everything from radioactive coolant to toxic PCBs — will be exposed much sooner than previously thought. A new study led by glaciologist William Colgan of York University in Toronto suggests that while cleaning up the site will have to wait until melting brings it closer to the surface, now would be a good time for world powers to start thrashing out who is responsible for such long abandoned waste materials.

Did you know that the person who invented the color photograph was from Scotland? So was the inventor of the color triangle that forms the bases of the RGB color model we use in computing today. So was the man who proved the link between electricity and magnetism, as was the guy who figured out what Saturn’s rings were made of, and innovated the model for a modern research laboratory. Not only did each of these developments originate from Scotland, but they came from the curiosity, intelligence and hard work of one man: James Clerk Maxwell.

Maxwell’s discoveries and innovations form the foundations of our current understanding of science. Without them we would not have X-rays or radio. In fact, many in the science community consider Maxwell to be as significant a figure as Einstein or Isaac Newton. His discovery of the laws of electrodynamics has been described by leading physicist Richard Feynman as “the most significant event of the 19th century.”

So why has Maxwell’s name been forgotten in popular history?

Whether it was his death at a young age from stomach cancer, or that many of his discoveries were only later commercialized into technology like radio by figures like Heinrich Hertz and Guglielmo Marconi, is hard to say. It also seems that Maxwell’s humility led him to focus on his work, rather than engage in self-promotion.