Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Story on Storytelling

I think human beings are great at telling stories. We have always had a flair for the art of storytelling. I am not saying humans are the only species that tell stories, nor even that we tell those stories better than other species. A paleontologist might hear a hundred human-told stories and still think the story told by a fossil dug up five months ago beats them all.

This is because much of what goes on in storytelling has to do with the listener. And this is exactly what makes me wonder how the act of storytelling might have evolved over our history – the identity and role of the listener. To be honest, as much as I like writing, I’m always uncomfortable knowing that I don’t know the reader. Traffic data and visitor analytics don’t scratch the surface. Such impersonal information doesn’t come close to the kind of rich highly personal rapport our story telling ancestors had with their listeners.

The tribal storyteller of yore lived an altogether different reality from the modern storyteller. They were part of the tribe, they lived with their fellow tribesmen, and they knew each and every one of their listeners in a very personal and intimate way. They knew, much better than any modern storyteller can hope for, the way their stories came across to their listeners. The gap between what they said and what the listener heard was arguable small. In any given tribe, the members all had the same creation stories, the same day-to-day life, similar routines, the same environs and knew the same people and their stories, all of which provide for a far richer context. And isn’t context everything for proper communication? Isn't a common foundation of understanding the basis for accurate transmission of thoughts and ideas? In such a setting, stories have an easier time getting passed down through hundreds of generations almost verbatim. This is how we have lived for 95% of our time on Earth.

Things have changed so much lately that the most popular stories of today, like those mentioned in the scriptures, classics, fables, etc. find multiple interpretations. Every now and then, someone comes out with a new interpretation that they claim is more accurate considering the times that the stories first emerged in. Much is lost in translation, much else is mixed in and what ends up being passed down is neither here nor there. Even stories invented in modern times have messages that vary widely. Not to mention the influence of the state, the ruler, the king, the PR department and other entities that has been vital to what and how anything is said or written.

The modern storyteller hopes that the words he speaks or writes land on the audience just as he meant them but the takeaways vary widely given the diversity of context. Words don’t mean the same thing to everyone anymore. Being multi-lingual or multi-cultural robs the modern man of being rooted solidly in any one context. The challenges for the storyteller and the listener abound. So if I feel a certain uneasiness writing these words, not knowing exactly who is reading, what their background is, and how they are interpreting it, well, I tell myself it’s just one of those many modern problems humanity is facing! It’s not unique to me. It’s a problem human beings find themselves facing in the last 1% of their time here.

It also makes one wonder what storytelling might have been like before the advent of language. In some ways, the invention of language might actually have compromised the quality of story in a way that’s hard to fathom today. To some, this sounds like rubbish, so I will not go there now but will elaborate on this in a comment below.

On the whole, I’d imagine not more than 10-20% of those who read my writing get what I attempt to say. It’s not as if we’re writing children’s books here, after all! :) What worries me though is the possibility that some walk away with an interpretation that’s not personally helpful in their life, not true to their evolution, and not meaningful given their personal context. I have wondered if writing long blog posts on the Internet might be a rather unwise thing to do, given what I know about us all being cultural mutts. Anyone with an Internet connection is an oddity of sorts.

I write because sometimes I just want to write and reach out to that 10% of fellow men and women who do connect. It’s selfish but I’ve made some good friends through writing. Isn’t that what storytelling has partly been about? To gain a sense of “shared reality” with others? How many times have you read a comment or article and gone, “that’s it, exactly IT… just what I wanted to say, and better than I would have said”. Ah… the joy of striking the right chord with another! A balm for a lonely planet!


  1. WoodWose, a commenter on "Nature Bats Last" has this to say when he compares communication with language to communication without language:

    The mode of communication of [octopi]: they become their linguistic intent. This repertoire of blushes, dots, stripes, traveling fields, color changes. And, then, because they are soft-bodied they can quickly reveal and conceal all parts of their body very quickly. So if you watch an octopus in communication its surface texture is changing, its color is changing, and it is hiding, and revealing—it’s dancing, and it’s a dance of pure meaning, perceived visually by the object of its intention, which is other octopi.

    So, compare this for a moment to our method of communication. We use rapidly modulated small mouth noises. As primates we have incredible ability to make small mouth noises. We can do this for up to six hours at a stretch without tiring. No other thing we can do approaches the level of variation with low energy investment that the small mouth noises do. A person using a deaf-and-dumb language is exhausted after forty-five minutes. But a problem with the small mouth noises mode of communication is: I have a thought, I look in a dictionary that I have created out of my life experience, I map the thought onto the dictionary, I make the requisite small mouth noises, they cross physical space, they enter your ear, you look in your dictionary, which is different from my dictionary, but if we speak what we call ‘the same language’ it will be close enough that you will ‘sort of’ understand what I mean. Now if I don’t say to you, ‘what do I mean?’ you and I will go gaily off in the assumption that we understand each other.

    But if I say to you “do you understand what I meant then” you say “yes, you meant that you don’t want to sit with Harry and Sally because their pending divorce makes you uncom”—I say “no, that’s not that I meant: I meant—” So there’s misunderstanding because the dictionaries are not matched. Now notice what’s happening with the octopi. There is no dictionary. Both parties are seeing the same thing because my body is my meaning. I become my meaning. And you behold the meaning I have become. I am like a naked thought. Not even a naked nervous-system. More naked than that. I am a naked thought, in aqueous space, unfolding in time. I maintain this is why octopi eject clouds of ink: it’s so they can have private thoughts. Because if you can be seen you can be understood. Well this is a perfect model, condoned by nature, for the kind of transformation we want to lead our culture toward.

  2. Terence McKenna on visual language:

    if language were a project of understanding that used the eyes for the extraction of meaning rather than the ears, that it would be a kind of telepathy. There would be both a fusion of the observer with the object observed, and with the person communicated with. The place in nature where something like this has actually evolved and occurred is in the cephalopods; the squid and the circoliveral (sp) octopii. These are animals that divided from the line of development that leads to human beings over six hundred million years ago. They're mollusks, they're related to escargot, it's an organism very different from ourselves. Nevertheless, one of the things that evolutionary biologists always talk about is the convergent evolution between the eyes of cephalopods and the eyes of higher mammals. This is because the cephalopods live in an extremely complex visual environment and in fact, they have evolved a form of communication that approximates this visible language that I'm talking about because these octopii have chromataphores all over the exterior of their bodies. Chromataphores are cells that can change color. Now many people know that octopii can change color but they think it's for camoflage, for blending in with the environment, this is not at all the case. The reason octopii change colors in a very large repatoire of stripes, dots, blushes, travelling shades and tonal shifts is because this is for them a channel of linguistic communication. In other words they don't transduce their linguistic intentionality into small mouth noises like we do. Small mouth noises which then move as sound across space in the form of vibrations of the air. Rather, they actually change their appearance in accordance with their linguistic intent. What this boils down to is they physically become their meaning, and one octopus observing another is watching the unfolding of internalized neurological states within the organism being reflected in color changes on the surface of the skin. Now these octopii not only can change their color because their soft-bodied creatures. They can also change the texture of their surface from smooth to rugose and folded. They can also, because they're soft-bodied, fold and unfold and reveal and conceal, very rapidly, different parts of their body. So they're capable of a visual dance of communication that is an extremely dense kind of visual signal and in the so-called benthic octopii, the species that have evolved in very deep water where very little light reaches, they have evolved light-emitting phosphorescent organs, some of them with membranes like eyelids over them, so that even in the darkness of the abyssal depth of the ocean they can carry out this dance of light, self-enfoldment, color change and surface texture which is their linguistic style. In fact the only way an octopus can experience a private thought is to release a cloud of ink into the water into which it can retreat briefly and hide its mental nakedness from its followers.

  3. Satish Musunuru Says:
    February 25th, 2015 at NBL

    One of the ways to think about the ‘I’ is by imagining what the I feels like for someone else. What is it like to be this other person? To be like them? To become their ‘I’? What would it be like to have gone through every single act of providence that he witnessed? What is it like to have made those choices that she did? What is it like to be an immigrant, an Inuit person, an Irishman? What is it like to be that chicken, that cow, that fish, that tree, that rock? There is so much a rock sees that I don’t. It has a much longer life span as the water and sand chip away at it at the rate of a millimeter every 100 years. The more we do this exercise, the more we merge our consciousness with that of other beings around us and begin to feel a sort of kinship with everything around us.

    1. This looks like a good subject for the arts of all kinds:

      The sustainability challenge is to help people learn how to reform their habits of learning so that civilization can be indefinitely sustainable. This implies finding out how to alter attitudes and predilections so as to promote symbioses between nature and cultures, and also to promote symbioses among our various cultures (linguistic, religious, ethnic etc.). It is posited here that by enabling persons to find and exhibit pathological and paradoxical aspects of public communications for each other, that a better understanding of needed changes, and commitment to making them can be cultivated. The multiple-perspective approach taken is partly a modern extension of Karl Kraus' (1974) collage technique whereby he juxtaposed published statements in order to exhibit the falseness and folly of those statements and the hidden vested interests behind them, and partly some practical ways to add graffiti to mass media messages. Our global concern is to do something using philosophical and cyber-systemic insights and computer-communication tools to mitigate the wanton destruction of the non-renewable variety of living and cultural forms of our planet

      Published in:
      Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory, 1995. Knowledge Tools for a Sustainable Civilization. Interdisciplinary Conference., Canadian Conference on
      Date of Conference:
      8-10 Jun 1995
      274 - 281
      Meeting Date :
      08 Jun 1995-10 Jun 1995
      Print ISBN:
      INSPEC Accession Number:
      Conference Location :
      Toronto, Ont.

    2. People who write and comment on such things may too clever for their own good. Simplify, simplify. Weren't those the words of the great Thoreau? Even thought the effort here to write clearly is outstanding.

  4. Storytelling in the news featured a chart showing most of the worst climate change effects will happen before 2c. Therefore now is either time for urgency...or it really is too late to matter anymore.

    Freshwater scarcity also appears to worsen rapidly prior to two degrees warming, and worsen more slowly after. The ruining of crop land appears to slow down around 3 degrees of warming, after significant damage, as indicated by the steep upward slope of the red line, has already been done. The same holds true for damage to UNESCO World Heritage sites.
    The paper also does away with another common trope: that as the effects of climate change get worse, governments will feel more and more pressure to do something about it, like dramatically reduce emissions. But, Caldeira says, the opposite is probably true.

    “Once all the sensitive components of our planet are already damaged, incentive to decrease emissions may decrease.... The incentive to avoid climate change may be greatest before we have done substantial damage.”

    1. I might have discovered a very cheap source of energy for everyone, and it's been hiding in plain sight all along. It's the over-supply of embedded energy in the system. I'd guess that we have at least 10 year's worth. :-)

      Take your typical dishwashing liquid. You can, as I have done, double its volume by adding water to it. And while it's already being done, we could do more reusing of bottles and plastic containers. (I've seen third world people latch on to empty yogurt containers with great passion and purpose.) Everything we have is overbuilt. San Mateo County in CA is using methane from waste to run its fleet of vehicles. Richmond, CA boasts a program to power numerous houses from landfill-waste-produced methane. Houses can be built with paper-crete made from trash. (Why homeless people aren't living in abandoned school buses remains a deep mystery.)

      By distributing some of this over-supply of embedded energy to poor societies, war could be largely eliminated, including the energy to build cluster bombs and any number of unpleasant things...

  5. Yes, I think storytelling is all about connecting! And you do know some of your readers :) - Sonya

    1. That I do, Sonya :) Friendship involves much storytelling!

  6. Collecting back-up info for the radio show with Guy & Mike tomorrow.

    King Tide floods in Miami are becoming a tourist attraction!

    Always something new - 14,000 year old ancient Indian skeletons found in Vero re-write North American settlement history.

    Regional nuclear conflict threats are sharply on the rise from 0.5% to 6.4% in past 2 decades.

    Information about the government's response to Nuclear grid hacks is often protected and sometimes classified; many are never even reported to the government by the energy companies.

    These intrusions have not caused the kind of cascading blackouts that are feared by the intelligence community. But so many attackers have stowed away in the systems that run the U.S. electric grid that experts say they likely have the capability to strike at will.

    And that's what worries Wallace and other cybersecurity experts most.

    "If the geopolitical situation changes and Iran wants to target these facilities, if they have this kind of information it will make it a lot easier," said Robert M. Lee, a former U.S. Air Force cyberwarfare operations officer.

    In 2012 and 2013, in well-publicized attacks, Russian hackers successfully sent and received encrypted commands to U.S. public utilities and power generators; some private firms concluded this was an effort to position interlopers to act in the event of a political crisis. And the Department of Homeland Security announced about a year ago that a separate hacking campaign, believed by some private firms to have Russian origins, had injected software with malware that allowed the attackers to spy on U.S. energy companies.

    "You want to be stealth," said Lillian Ablon, a cybersecurity expert at the RAND Corporation. "That's the ultimate power, because when you need to do something you are already in place."

    The hackers have gained access to an aging, outdated power system. Many of the substations and equipment that move power across the U.S. are decrepit and were never built with network security in mind; hooking them up to the Internet over the last decade has given hackers new backdoors in. Distant wind farms, home solar panels, smart meters and other networked devices must be remotely monitored and controlled, which opens up the broader system to fresh points of attack.

  7. This is too good to just languish on NBL :-)

    Satish Musunuru Says:
    December 22nd, 2015 at 12:02 am
    No Better Place to Meet Yourself
    by Moussa Ag Assarid

    Moussa Ag Assarid (MAA): I don’t know my age. I was born in the Sahara desert, with no papers. I was born in a nomadic camp of Touaregs, between Timbuktu and Gao, in the north of Mali. […]

    J: What do they do for a living?
    MAA: We shepherd camels, goats, sheep, cows and donkeys in a kingdom of infinite and of silence…

    J: Is the desert really so silent?
    (MAA): If you are on your own in that silence you hear your heart beat. There is no better place to meet yourself.

    J: What memories do you have of your childhood in the desert?
    MAA: I wake up with the Sun. The goats of my father are there. They give us milk and meat, and we take them were there is water and grass. My great-grandfather did it, and my grandfather, and my father, and me. There was nothing else in the world than that, and I was very happy!

    J: Really? It doesn’t sound very exciting.
    MAA: It is. At the age of seven you can go alone away from the camp, and for this you are taught the important things—to smell the air, to listen, to see carefully, to orient with the Sun and the stars…and to be guided by the camel if you get lost. He will take you where there is water.

    J: To know that is valuable, no doubt.
    MAA: Everything is simple and profound there. There are very few things, and each one has enormous value.

    J: So that world and this one are very different.
    MAA: There, every little thing gives happiness. Every touch is valuable. We feel great joy just by touching each other, being together. There, nobody dreams of becoming, because everybody already is.

    J: What shocked you most on your first trip to Europe?
    MAA: I saw people running in the airport. In the desert you only run if a sandstorm is approaching! It scared me, of course.

    J: They were going after their baggage, ha ha.
    MAA: Yes, that was it. […]

    J: What do you dislike the most here?
    MAA: Many people here have everything, and it is still not enough for them. They complain. In [the modern world] many people complain all the time! They chain themselves to a bank; many people are anxious to have things, to have possessions. People are in a rush. In the desert there are no traffic jams, and do you know why? Because there nobody is interested in getting ahead of other people!

    J: Tell me about a moment of deep happiness for you in the desert.
    MAA: It happens every day, two hours before sunset. The heat decreases, there is still no cold air, and men and animals slowly return to the camp, and their profiles are painted against a sky that is pink, blue, red, yellow, green.

    J: That sounds fascinating.
    MAA: It’s a magical moment… We all get into the tents and we boil tea. Sitting in silence we listen to the sound of the boiling water… We all are immersed in calmness: with the heartbeats tuned to the rhythm of the boiling water, potta potta potta…

    J: How peaceful.
    MAA: Yes…here you have watches; there, we have time.


    About the Author: Moussa Ag Assarid is the oldest of thirteen children in a nomadic Touareg family. Born in northern Mali in 1975, he moved to France in 1999 to study Management at the University of Montpellier. The above is excerpted from an interview with Víctor Amela.

    1. Ahhh, the good old American dream. 300 presents for 3 children. I hope this prints

    2. shep, like some of the commenters talking about the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree, I never thought toys (especially commercially manufactured toys) are "essential" to a healthy childhood. Modern culture would have one believe so. Many kids outside the over-developed world make their own contraptions and play with them with delight.

  8. I have experienced telepathy many times, with humans, with spirits, and with animals. In fact, in my life it happens all the time. Telepathy is both conceptual and emotional. The fact that there is a feeling factor to it much of the time may be why so many people fail to experience it or recognize telepathy when it occurs; we are an entire era of humans who live in alternate conceptual realities dominated by labels, and few people know what they feel. We can see it in our language, where we endlessly communicate labels and evaluations and cause-and-effect analysis of reality. We don't even talk about emotions and feelings.

    Telepathy is not exactly a "fusion," but you do feel the other being's feelings exactly as if they were your own. If they love you, you can feel that love as if it was your own emotion. If they feel joy, you feel that joy exactly as you would feel your own joy. But you know it is the other being's feelings. The emotional factor is the biggest key to understanding the kind of being you might encounter. When you are with loving, higher beings, you can feel their powerful love. There is no mistaking it.

    Information is concentrated, with full understanding. However, it is rarely the type of analytical, separate-and-label perspective that we have here in this dimension, limited by our biology, so it is different.

    One of my favorite instances of telepathy occurred with my mother's poodle, Lily. My mom had a toy poodle for over 16 years that was the love of her life, and Lily was indeed one of the smartest, best dogs I've ever met. She was wonderful, with a BIG personality.

    I was visiting my mother in Bakersfield one warm September day, and she was busy cutting wood on a table saw outside near the garage. I sat nearby on top of a picnic table just soaking up the sun and not doing much of anything. My mother's poodle Lily walked up and stood in front of me. I was far above her, sitting up on the picnic table, and I was surprised. I immediately had the thought go through my mind - "Can you believe her? (Referring to the noise my mother was making.) I have to put up with this all the time."

    My jaw dropped. I could not move. After doing this, Lily turned and walked over to the farthest, shadiest part of the patio, lay down and covered her ears as best as she could.

    I just sat there stunned. A minute or two later my mother looked at me and could tell immediately that I was not the way I had been, and she asked, "Are you okay?"

    I told her, "I think Lily just communicated with me telepathically."

    My mother's response? "Oh, did she throw thoughts at you? She does that to me all the time." Then my mother started sawing again.

    The dog was complaining. Anyone who doesn't believe that dogs have opinions and judgments and criticisms of people doesn't know dogs well, because they are far more sophisticated thinkers than most of us can see.

    One of the more remarkable moments of my life, and my mother had been living with it for years. Poodles are very good at this, by the way, and it's because they are so emotional. I find that Blue is quite connected, also, and he, too, is an extremely emotional dog. If I am hurt, either physically or emotionally, and I show distress, he gets very concerned. He tries to comfort me and he won't leave my side until I stop crying or expressing pain. He's got that connection.

    1. Thank you, OGF, for continuing to remind us of the sanctity and validity of experiences that are highly personal, like the one you had with Lily. Modern culture would have us dis-believe ourselves and remain skeptical of what we feel because according to experts, our unique personal experience is worth little more than anyone else's unique personal experience, and what matters is the so-called universal Scientific truth. Such truth leaves no space for personal experiences such as telepathy. They are dismissed as "subjective" and hence prone to misinterpretation.

      But listening to oneself, paying attention to one's own gut, is a skill that can be learned and developed, hopefully, and once we do that, life ceases to be a meaningless series of events.

    2. So we can say that language is all approximation, while feeling gets at a clearer truth?

    3. I would say yes, that language is approximation. Whatever I have experienced telepathically never translates perfectly into words in sentence structure. For example, one of my most powerful telepathic experiences was one of guidance that allowed me to avoid hitting a moose on a very, very dark, country road. The message was "TURN ON BRIGHTS!!!" Now, whether it was "turn on THE brights," which could have been a deeper part of myself, or "turn on YOUR brights," which could indicate higher guidance, I cannot say. So, it doesn't translate exactly, almost ever, except for things like "I love you," and that will be a whole package, unmistakable. The dictate to "TURN ON BRIGHTS" was accompanied by a sense of urgency, of tension. It wasn't just the idea or the words, it was also a strong emotion at the same time. They could not be separated. That's why I paid attention to the thought and turned on my bright lights. I was headed right into a moose, and I barely avoided an extremely serious collision that night.

      I would not say that feeling gets us closer to the truth. Feeling is its own truth. I only say that if a person wants to experience telepathy, and more people do than are aware of it, being very in tune with one's feelings and emotions is essential. At some point you'll have a thought and a feeling that you just KNOW is from somewhere outside yourself, because you KNOW what you are thinking and feeling. And then you follow it, listen to it, trust it, and it turns out to be true - you avoided a car crash, avoided (as I did) hitting that moose, encountering that problematic person, etc., etc.

      Feeling doesn't get to a clearer truth - feeling is truth, too, as essential as anything else. On higher levels of reality, there are no negative emotions, and there is love and joy and peace beyond anything humans experience or can even conceive of without having had a glimpse for themselves.

      Love is the highest truth of all, and that's a feeling as much as it is anything, like water is wet and fire is hot. The qualities cannot be separated out and extracted within reality.

      In the example I give above about Lily, she was experiencing emotions of annoyance, disturbance at the sound of the saw, which was quite loud. She was also an older dog and older dogs are like older people, and they just don't have the patience they had when they were younger. Emotion was a big part of that telepathic experience, too; Lily's discomfort and annoyance, and her sense of knowing my mother so well.

      Lily had either never "thrown thoughts" at me before, or I'd never been able to hear her before, but her little body language caught my attention because she walked up to me and stood straight as could be looking in my eyes. I was very relaxed, all alone, and just sitting in the sunshine. It was one of those moments where Lily's thoughts and the feelings of annoyance were so different from mine that I suspected they were in fact her thoughts! Without her body language, however, I might not have understood that telepathy was occurring.

      It was this experience that inspired me to get my poodle many years later. My mother was a total nutcase, and normally anything she advised me to do I would be certain to do the exact opposite. It was always a safe course of action. There were four exceptions to this general rule in my life, however, and my mother gave me four good pieces of advice over the years. One was, for happiness in life, get a poodle.

      I still miss my beautiful poodle, River.

    4. More on telepathy . . .

      When I was six years old and my baby brother was between the ages of about ten months and two, I experienced telepathy with him all the time, but only if he gave it to me. I might have forgotten that we used to do this regularly except for one vivid memory. My brother was slow with language, but very quick to develop motor skills. At the age of eight months he was taking his first steps and literally zooming from room to room in his little walker. But he couldn't talk for a long time. One day I was sitting at the kitchen table drawing while my mother washed dishes. My brother was in his walker going between the kitchen and the living room, which I could not see from my position. He pumped himself into the kitchen and tugged on my mother's pants and garbled his baby gibberish at her. My mother turned to me and asked me what he wanted. As soon as she asked me, my brother looked at me and I knew what he wanted. I told my mother, "He dropped his toy between the wall and his playpen, and he can't reach it."

      Sure enough, she walked in the living room and that was exactly what he wanted. I used to do that all the time with him, and I was never wrong. My mother knew what I was doing, too. She was a crazy person in some ways, but she wasn't stupid and she was also the real deal from a long line of mystics and psychics, something I believe is most often in families, and she totally used my abilities to make life easier. And she didn't think anything more of it.

      When I was seven my baby cousin was born, and almost a year later I could do the same with her, but I could also tell that my ability was fading, something commonly seen in many, many children. Children in general around the age of seven and younger are more psychic than older children and adults.

      If you read about psychic experiences in general, there is almost always an emotional component to them. Large numbers of people routinely have unusual feelings that prevent them from boarding that doomed airplane or ship; it is often loved ones who wake in the night or suddenly strongly feel that something isn't right with a specific person, or they know that someone has passed. Etc.

      When we touch something hot, we have feelings that tell us to back away without us having to even think about it. We have dismissed our feelings too much for us to accurately perceive and understand reality, I think.

    5. "We have dismissed our feelings too much for us to accurately perceive and understand reality, I think."

      I think so too, OGF... feelings and emotions are not conducive to Scientific objectivity. So we have discarded them from the modern worldview altogether. I wonder what the kids today will become tomorrow, with excessive emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

      Thank you for the stories from your childhood. Those are some pretty complex messages to be transmitted through telepathy. It's not like guessing a color or number.

  9. Mark,

    I found this most interesting. Nuclear sites as parks, with stories...and funding!

    Page 14A
    Most-Polluted Weapons-Production Site Is Now A Historic Park
    (Photos): The ruins of Hanford High School symbolize the fate of the towns Hanford and White Bluffs, Washington, which had been evacuated for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The area, now named the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, produced the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The control panel for Hanford Nuclear Reservation's famous B Reactor sits in Richland, Washington. The B Reactor; the world's first full-sized reactor, will be part of the park.
    by Nicholas K. Geranios
    Spokane, Washington - The nation's most-polluted nuclear weapons production site is now its newest national park. Thousands of people are expected next year to tour the

  10. Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home of the world's first full-sized nuclear reactor, near Richland, about 200 miles east of Seattle in south-central Washington. They won't be allowed near the nation's largest collection of toxic radioactive waste. "Everything is clean and perfectly safe," said Colleen French, the U.S. Dept. of energy's program manager for the Hanford park. "Any radioactive materials are miles away." The Manhattan Project National Historic Park, signed into existence in November, also includes sites at Oak ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M. The Manhattan Project is the name for the U.S. effort to build an atomic bomb during WWII. At Hanford, the main attractions will be B Reactor -- the world's first full-sized reactor -- along with the ghost towns of Hanford and White bluffs, which were evacuated by the government to make room for the Manhattan Project. The B Reactor was built in about one year and produced plutonium for the Trinity test blast in New Mexico and for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, which led to the surrender of the Japanese. starting in 1943, more than 50,000 people from across the U.S. arrived at the top-secret Hanford site to perform work whose purpose few knew, French said. The 300 residents of Richland were evicted, and the town became a bedroom community for the adjacent Hanford site, skyrocketing in population. Workers labored around the clock to build reactors and processing plants to make plutonium, to key ingredient in nuclear weapons. The park will tell the story of those workers, plus the scientists who performed groundbreaking research and the residents who were displaced, said Chip Jenkins of the National Park Service, which is jointly developing the park with the Energy Department. "The intention of the park is to tell the full and complex and convoluted story," Jenkins said. That story, which is still being developed, will certainly include a Japanese perspective, he said. "What happened at B Reactor changed the course of human history," Jenkins said. "They went from sparsely populated ranching communities to the first packet of plutonium over the course of 18 months." Eventually, nine reactors are built at Hanford and opened during the Cold War to make plutonium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. That work created more than 56 million gallons of radioactive waste that the government still spends more than $1 billion a year to maintain and clean up. While details of the new national park are still being worked out, French said, the energy Dept. will continue its tours of the B Reactor and the old town sites that began in 2009 and fill up with 10,000 visitors a year. The plan is to greatly expand the number of tourists and school groups who visit the site, she said. Tours will be offered April through October, French said. Exhibits at the B Reactor include the reactor and the control room, where many visitors like to sit and be photographed at control panels, she said. The Hanford story is far from over. Jenkins noted that thousands of scientists and other worker remain active on the Hanford site, inventing and implementing new techniques to clean up the massive volume of nuclear waste.