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Radioactive Snails Crawl Up From Beneath 397

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-powers-of-a-man-sized-snail dept.
slidersv writes "Reuters is reporting discovery of radioactive snails in the area where three hydrogen bombs were lost by US in the 1966. The radioactive creatures crawl up from underground, where authorities suspect deposits of uranium and plutonium may be located."
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Radioactive Snails Crawl Up From Beneath

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  • by P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) <math.induction@gmail.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:40AM (#16404821) Homepage Journal

    Jokes about radio-cochlear overlords aside, two things come to mind:

    • If we don't survive nuclear holocaust: what creatures, more robust than we, will? (Reminds me of the thriving Chernobylian fauna [phschool.com].)
    • What ungodly mutations must an organism undergo to thrive therein?
    If the future is bleak for humanity, it may be less so for simpler, more robust organisms.
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:57AM (#16404921) Journal
      "If the future is bleak for humanity, it may be less so for simpler, more robust organisms."

      As George Carlin once said: "It's not the planet that needs saving, it's us!"
      • by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @08:14AM (#16406409) Homepage
        Maybe the planet just wants plastic all to itself?
    • by RsG (809189) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:07AM (#16404967)
      Actually, IIRC, humans have a very low radiation tolerance. Some of the characteristics that serve us well in other areas are counterproductive for surviving radiation.

      For example, we hit reproductive maturity late. This means that the time period in which we might be subject to radiation damage, but can't start breeding yet, is longer. Say hello to sterility and genetic damage! We're omnivores at the top of the food chain, so irradiation of plant and animal life can work it's way up to us more easily, either by subjecting us to contaminated food, or to starvation if food sources die out. We're social animals, so we do not do as well when our numbers take a hit - individual humans can't survive alone as well as other animals. Our life expectancy is fairly long, so the likelyhood of getting cancer is higher in humans than in most other species, since cancer takes time to develop.

      All of the above means that biologically we're particularly vulnerable to fallout. Culturally we're also reluctant to subject ourselves to risk - a 1 in 100 rate of radiation damage would be too high for humans to consider safe, and too small to affect most other species. Most animals in the wild don't live long enough to have to worry about cancer, and it takes an awful lot more radiation in the short term to aflict them with radiation poisoning or sterility.

      In fact, in the case of the Chernobyl life, we evacuated low radiation areas where the lack of human presense is doing more good than the radiation is doing harm - either the animals are more resistant than us, or they are suffering losses to radiation that we would consider dangerous, but that local life doesn't especially notice.

      Basically what it boils down to is that nuclear accidents and nuclear weapons are a larger problem for mankind than for the rest of the planet. I've always thought of radiation as more of a safety hazard than an environmental one.
      • by cyclomedia (882859) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:09AM (#16405233) Homepage Journal
        Another thing to add to the factors you mention is that when humans' offspring are not quite, shall we say, perfect. We do our damndest to save them, be it an emergency cesarean to save mother and baby both or via ongoing operations and treatments afterwards. The reason that so many seemingly health animals are seen hopping around Chernobyl could well be down to survival-of-the-fittest, radio-mutant embryos having been quickly aborted and another mating attempt made.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          It's not survival of the fittest..

          The animals that survived clearly did so because they were more intelligently designed.

          (Apologies to the person who made this comment last time around)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            If god made humans in his image, does that mean he is also a weakling?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MightyYar (622222)
              He had a bad mirror.
            • by hey! (33014) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:09AM (#16406949) Homepage Journal
              If god made humans in his image, does that mean he is also a weakling?

              Nah, we just tell ourselves that to cover for the undeniable fact that we were scraped together at the end of the Creation project. And at that, using leftovers after the main project deliverable: implementing every imaginable variation on the the concept of "beetle".

              And if that weren't enough to kick us in the anthropocentric nutes, it's clear we aren't even in the same league as termites, as measured by biomass or biodiversity. This caused some severe editing of the Creation story, particularly Genesis 1:25 - 1:31, which originally went something like this:

              25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

              26 And God said, We have checked our deliverables and Creation is complete; so let there be Slack; and God saw the Slack, that it was good, and God separated the productive phase of the Project from the mindless consumption of excess Resources.

              27 And the Slack was fruitful of all manner of Diversions of surplus Resources; so God said, Let Us celebrate; and the Celebration begat the Kegger, and the Kegger begat Beer, and Beer begat all manner of amusing indiscretions. And God saw that these where more or less Harmless.

              28 Then God noticed that the Project had this left-over mud, and this He fashioned into a Man; but there was not enough fuel left over to fire the clay, so when Man was half-baked, He breathed upon Man and brought him to life.

              29 Then Man opened his eyes, and looking on God asked, are You Me? And God said no. Then looking around, Man asked, Is all this for Me? And God said, No, you are only the half-baked leftovers, but if you study Creation perhaps you can become full-baked. And Man thought that this was Bad, and set out to Improve on Matters.

              30 So Man said,let there be Self-Serving Sophistry, and let there be Willful Ignorance; and these were fruitful beyond all Measure, and so begat Religion, Conformism, Bigotry and every manner of Officious Narrow-Mindedness. And Man thought these were Good, and he wrote his version of Events down so that none would ever challenge Conformity without Fear.

              31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good, except for the bits that came after the Beer which in retrospect looked somewhat Doubtful. And God, seeing that Slack had used up the Resources He needed to Fix the Problem, said, Let there be Muddling Through; Let there be Counting On Things Working Out in the End. And seeing that these were not Satisfactory and He was over budget anyway, God said, Let there be Hope. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
        • by Gulthek (12570) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:21AM (#16407959) Homepage Journal
          No matter how many times I repeat this, there are always more of you that don't "get it".

          Evolution is NOT thwarted by allowing "weak" individuals to live. Evolution takes place when those better fit for reproducing reproduce *more* over the long term.

          Evolution is not a progression towards a perfect being, it is a reaction to changing environmental stresses. You cannot stop it, it's not a Plan, it's just the mathematics of breeding played out over millennia.

          Evolution depends on a varied gene pool to be able to pull new traits from. Removing any genes, even "bad" genes, from that tool box LIMITS the capability of our species to evolve. Taking your example to the extreme: kill off all genetic strains of humanity until you are left with a single "strongest" line. Now severely change the environment. The "strongest" is suddenly at a big disadvantage and our species, lacking any other lines to draw from, quickly becomes extinct.

          How can so many of you people get this stuff so wrong? It's not like what I'm describing is a deep arcane mystery. It's obvious to anyone who spends more than two minutes considering how evolution works.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Actually we're a lot more resistant that is commonly believed.

        In the 60's they worked out how much radiation damage was caused by things like hiroshima and basically worked out our tolerance by drawing a straight line on a graph.

        The problem is chernobyl has shown that it isn't a straight line at all - at low-medium radiation exposure we are quite hardy - just as resistant as the animals around us (as you would expect - there's nothing 'special' about humans that would make us especially vulnerable). Predic
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RsG (809189)
          IIRC, what you're talking about is the theory that low levels of radiation are dealt with fully by cellular repair mechanisms up to a certain threshold, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. The older linear model of radiation exposure assumes that nothing can repair the damage caused by exposure, which ignores the fact we've been dealing with low levels of background radiation for all of our evolutionary history.

          But that isn't restricted to humans. Background radiation is pervasive, and every
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Loconut1389 (455297)
      While not about radioactivity, this is related.

      Funny enough, I was microwaving a bowl of soup yesterday and some sort of gnat-like bug flew in as I was shutting the door and I didn't notice until I saw it flying around while the microwave was running. For several minutes it just kept buzzing around like nothing bothered it at all. My only other experience with microwaved creatures was when I was young and a rather large spider (tarantula size) that had had me hunting my room for hours was finally caught- su
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        The miracle of life?

        The physics of microwaves.

        The wavelength of your average microwave oven is about 1.2mm, so anything smaller than that can stay cool. Microwaves area also unevenly spread throughout the oven so there are areas where your gnat could have flown and not been affected.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by M1FCJ (586251)
          Typical microwave oven wavelength is about 12.2cm. You are two orders of magnitudes wrong. A typical microwave owen operates around 2.45GHz. Handy calculator for such stuff [1728.com] and more info at wikipedia. Last time I looked at my microwaveable pop-corn, the corns were definitely smaller than 12cm.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BobTheLawyer (692026)
        The reason is that the ratio of surface area to volume for a small insect is very high, so they lose heat very quickly to the surrounding air (which, of course, the microwave doesn't heat).
    • Kosher food (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iendedi (687301) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:57AM (#16405427) Journal
      It's interesting to think about what kinds of food would be safe to eat after a large scale nuclear war. You certainly couldn't eat shellfish or snails, because they soak up toxins very readily. Also, you should probably avoid pigs, because they eat everything. And, if you eat meat, it would be advisable to bleed it first because toxins build up in the blood.

      Makes you wonder about the real history of Kosher laws in Judaism.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:16AM (#16405521)
        Makes you wonder about the real history of Kosher laws in Judaism.

        Indeed. I imagine the radioactive exhaust of the flying saucer that parted the Red Sea contaminated some of the food supply for at least the next 40 years. Coincidence?
    • by rtyall (960518) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:47AM (#16405635) Homepage
      Lets hope noone gets bitten by one of these suckers, then we'll have to put up with "Snailman" who can do anything that a snail can.
      Cue very slow W 0 0 T.
    • by famebait (450028) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:11AM (#16406971)
      If we don't survive nuclear holocaust: what creatures, more robust than we, will

      Or more importantly, in a fight, who would win:
      • Radiocative snails
      • Sharks with frickin lasers on their heads
      Mod "Interesting" for snails, "Informative" for sharks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by khallow (566160)
        Mod the parent post as "troll" if you think cockroaches will win, possibly with radioactivity and/or cranial mounted laser beams.
  • Oh no (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)
    Imagine all the stupid giant mutant nuke-spewing snail movies this will inspire. Bruce Willis versus ..... slime?
  • I for one welcome our radioactive overlords... Sorry, i tried.
  • by Revenge_of_Solver_Ta (862178) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:46AM (#16404849) Homepage
    ...are gonna git them some good eatin' now... Escarglow!
  • by Redlazer (786403) * on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:47AM (#16404853) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our radioactive snail overloads.

    Clearly, they are in cahoots with the giant bug that was found on Google Maps, not too long ago.

    Also, I understand they are radioactive...

    But do they run Linux?

    On a more serious note, I find this fascinating - radioactivity is one of the least understood and possibly most useful sciences in the world.

    -Red

  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:47AM (#16404861) Journal
    Isn't this not so much a non-story, as a story fragement, or story-ette, that's too small (or too specfic) to expect anyone to make comments other movie and TV references? Sounds like Quickie-fodder to me.
  • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:49AM (#16404873) Homepage Journal

    If you're in Tokyo right now...

    RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 10Ghz (453478)
      It should take the snails about 2000 years to reach Tokyo. Unless they hitch a ride on a plane or something ("Snakes on a plane 2: Snails on a plane". You heard it here first!). So there's no rush. Yet. Assuming that the radioactivity didn't mutate them so that they can reach slithering-speeds of up to 200mph
  • by jginspace (678908) <jginspace AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:50AM (#16404879) Homepage Journal

    I thought the TFA might be talking about the crash of the B52 in Thule. This incident refers to a 1966 crash in Spain whereas the Thule incident happened in 1968.

    Perhaps scientists should check out the Thule site for similar happenings? More here: http://www.semp.us/biots/biot.php?biotID=5 [www.semp.us] and http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/low/dates/stories/ january/28/newsid_2506000/2506207.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • by vought (160908)
      "There's no snails in Thule. Some people want to undermine our efforts to bring plutonium to the Nokos, uh, Arctic Circle by saying that there are radioactive snails. I say those people hate our freedom."

      -George W. Bush
    • by isj (453011)
      Radioactive frozen snails?

      Would make a great B-movie, though.
  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by JanneM (7445) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:57AM (#16404919) Homepage
    I for one will be happy to welcome our radioactive slime-spouting overlords.

    In, oh, just over twenty years, which is the time it'll take for the snails to crawl from Spain to menace Tokyo (which, as we all know, is the ultimate goal of everything radioactive, oversize or alien in this world).
    • by Chaffar (670874) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:16AM (#16405003)
      In, oh, just over twenty years, which is the time it'll take for the snails to crawl from Spain to menace Tokyo
      The distance between Spain and Japan [mapcrow.info] is 10705.50 km.
      Knowing that a garden snail moves at around 0.013 m/s, this would mean that it would take him 823 500 000 seconds to cover, or around 9531 days (26+ years).
      So we can see that your initial projection of just over twenty years was bang-on ! I can't wait for 2032 :D
      • by Arimus (198136)
        But you're forgetting something: these are radioactive snails and so might be capable of speeds far in excess of what we usually expect a snail to do, maybe even as high as a 1m/s

    • by o'reor (581921)
      How should we call them ? SlimeZilla ? SnailZilla ?
  • by JimZim (917146) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:58AM (#16404927) Homepage
    Teenage Mutant Ninja...Snails?
  • Snail Jokes (Score:5, Funny)

    by ExploHD (888637) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:02AM (#16404939)
    If anyone post anymore snail jokes, they will be slugged.
  • by Travoltus (110240) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:18AM (#16405017) Journal
    Why should Spain pay for part of the clean-up? It was our mess. We should be cleaning it up. Either the military goes in and fixes it, or we taxpayers foot it.

    When I was a kid, I was raised to clean up the mess I made, not entangle everyone else (financially) into the task. I broke a window, I worked it off.

    It's all about responsibility...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Barnoid (263111)

      Why should Spain pay for part of the clean-up? It was our mess. We should be cleaning it up. Either the military goes in and fixes it, or we taxpayers foot it.

      From TFA: The governments have yet to agree on who would pay for a clean up, according to a U.S. embassy spokesman in Spain.
      ...

      Since 1966, the United States has helped pay for Palomares residents to be checked for signs of radiation poisoning.


      Well, at least they are still talking about it. Even though I generally disagree with US foreign policy, in t

    • Either the military goes in and fixes it, or we taxpayers foot it.


      Psst: the military is paid for by taxes.

      Just thought you'd like to know that.

      - RG>
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by konekoniku (793686)
      It was a NATO operation, flown by the US in protection of its NATO allies in Western Europe. In that sense, the US was performing a service on behalf of Spain (among others). Due to this fact, Spain is also footing part of the bill, in recognition that the known risks of such an accident were borne by the US in part on behalf of Spain.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgv (254536)
        As stated before, Spain was not in NATO at that time. And NATO does not have any control over nuclear weapons: the US has it.

        If some oil carrier spilled a large part of its cargo somewhere, say Alaska, would you say that the people living there should pay for the cleaning? After all, it was there for the good of these people as well and they knew the risks living near the coast...
  • by Heir Of The Mess (939658) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:19AM (#16405021) Homepage

    I'm not really good at history, so I'm wondering if someone could explain why in 1966 the Americans had B-52 bombers flying over Spain carrying 4 nuclear bombs.

    Was this some kind of pre-emptive strike plan?

    We're ICBMs not so good back then?

    It seems to me that if you could damage and capture one of these planes, you could lay your hands on 4 nuclear bombs. Something that would be a bit of a security risk.

    • by Spookticus (985296) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:25AM (#16405055)
      They were trying to get rid of the spanish inquisition before monty python showed up
    • by RsG (809189) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:37AM (#16405109)
      It seems to me that if you could damage and capture one of these planes, you could lay your hands on 4 nuclear bombs. Something that would be a bit of a security risk.
      Who'd want to? In 1966 the bad guys were the USSR, and they didn't need another piddling 4 nukes when they already had thousands. Plus downing a nuclear-armed bomber without anyone noticing or retaliating would have been difficult.

      As for why it was there, the US had plenty of nukes in western Europe, with the idea that if a war broke out, those bombs would be headed into Russia. Where this particular plane was going I do not know, but it wasn't alone or out of place over Spain.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      ICBM is one thing, but both sides also had some nuclear bombers waiting near the ennemy borders 24*7 to either back up a first strike ICBM launch or retaliate if the homeland was destroyed. I don't have the details, but I think Spain was just on their route from an US base to the waiting point when they had that accident.

      Have you ever seen Dr Strangelove? Of course, it is a comedy, but it is based on a real situation: during cold war, there were constantly dozens of nuclear warheads flying around with the r
  • TAKE ON THE WORLD! The Day of the Tentacle is upon us. :P
  • by bananaendian (928499) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:09AM (#16405237) Homepage Journal
    I'm not really good at history, so I'm wondering if someone could explain why in 1966 the Americans had B-52 bombers flying over Spain carrying 4 nuclear bombs.

    The B-52s were performing Airborne Nuclear Alert duty under the code-name "Chrome Dome" where bombers would loiter near points outside of the Soviet Union (see Dr. Strangelove).

    During this program a mid-air collision between a B-52 [wikipedia.org] and a KC-135 [wikipedia.org] tanker aircraft occurred during aerial refueling [wikipedia.org] over Palomares [wikipedia.org], Spain on the 17th of January, 1966.

    Four megaton-range hydrogen bombs [wikipedia.org] were lost. Two were recovered eventually fairly intact while the other two underwent a minor detonation of the conventional explosives that were an integral part of them. The safety fuses in them prevented a disastrous nuclear detonation. However dispersion of both plutonium and uranium material over several hundred hectares resulted in thousands of tons of contaminated radioactive soil having to be sent back to the USA. The USAF decided this was too expensive to risk again, and it ended that part of the airborne alert program.

    There have been several reports of contamination remaining in the area in recent years and currently U.S and Spanish governments have agreed to investigate the need for further clean up, this time sharing the costs.

    Interestingly the search efford for the missing bomb out at sea was performed using the Bayesian search theory [wikipedia.org]. Eventually the bomb was recoved with the help of a local fisherman, who then claimed salvage rights from it under the high seas (usually a reward of a few percent of the actual value). But not before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had publicly stated a value of no less than two billion U.S. dollars for it. The Air Force settled out of court.

  • by maetenloch (181291) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:38AM (#16405347)
    Don't forget about the Tybee hydrogen bomb [wikipedia.org], lost in 1958 during a collision between two planes. The Air Force has never located it, and it's presumed to still be buried in mud just off the coast of Savannah, GA. Supposedly it didn't have the plutonium core installed, but did have enriched uranium and high explosives.
  • by achurch (201270) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:47AM (#16405381) Homepage

    And now I have to worry about not just nuclear excitement to the northwest, but also radioactive snails??

    Well, I guess I can at least give a play-by-play when they---holy shit WHAT'S THAT?! NO NO NOT WITH THE TAIL NOOOOOOOO

    NO CARRIER

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:05AM (#16405465)
    USA NUCLEAR WEAPONS LOST or MISSING

    March 10, 1956, Over the Mediterranean Sea
    July 28, 1957, Over the Atlantic Ocean
    February 5, 1958, Savannah River, Georgia
    February 12, 1958 Savannah, Georgia
    September 25, 1959, Off Whidbey Island, Washington
    January 24, 1961, Goldsboro, North Carolina
    December 5, 1965, Aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) in the Pacific Ocean
    Spring 1968, Aboard the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) in the Atlantic Ocean

    List does not include the much larger list of fully recovered and contained accidental weapons drops.

    Some diverted material (noit in weapons) was CIA swapped to israel some think.

    Enough weapons grade plutonium was mysteriously stolen from the US gov over the decades, according to accurate reports, to build over 20 H bombs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That plutonium might not be "missing". I heard a talk from one of the chemists working on remediation at Hanford, who said that at Oak Ridge they'd discovered a significant portion of the "missing" plutonium hanging out as drifts of barely sub-critical plutonium dust in the ventilation system. Not 'explode' subcritical, mind you, but 'a little more accumulation, and we'll have a real radiation event' subcritical.

      So, rather than having been repurposed as weapons, it could still be polluting the faciliti
  • by chowdy (992689) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:43AM (#16405619)
    Immune to radioactivity, yet incredibly susceptible to salt. Nature sure had fun making you.
  • by cheros (223479) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:46AM (#16405845)
    I mean, with a half life of several centuries, where's the rush? :-)

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