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Off-Topic Discussion => General Discussion => Topic started by: Rhymes on May 07, 2019, 04:41:55 am

Title: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on May 07, 2019, 04:41:55 am
So in spite of my better judgement (and desire to sleep tonight) I decided to sit down and watch Chernobyl.

It's stunning, and harrowing, and I almost wouldn't believe some of the **** the people in it say if I didn't know that it really happened. Absolutely blown away.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: 0rph3u5 on May 07, 2019, 06:54:24 am
For Context:

About Chernobyl on HBO.com (https://www.hbo.com/content/hboweb/en/chernobyl/about.html)
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on May 11, 2019, 11:25:41 am
So in spite of my better judgement (and desire to sleep tonight) I decided to sit down and watch Chernobyl.

It's stunning, and harrowing, and I almost wouldn't believe some of the **** the people in it say if I didn't know that it really happened. Absolutely blown away.

It's really good. Phantom has (correctly) pointed out that it's trying to oversell the scope of the disaster — that artsy montage of ash falling on people in the first episode implies cancer and misery in their futures, but really they're probably all fine. Evacuating civilians from Chernobyl killed more people than Chernobyl ever did.

Fortunately when it does stay in scope, it's incredible. The shots of the core in that first episode walked that thin line between realism and pure terror. I hope we get the heroic/tragic efforts of the liquidators front and center, and I really hope they walk us through the sequence of events leading up to the explosion.

And I've got to compliment the production design, it really nails all the little details of sets and set dressing that sell the time period.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: 0rph3u5 on May 11, 2019, 01:42:39 pm
that artsy montage of ash falling on people in the first episode implies cancer and misery in their futures, but really they're probably all fine.

Well, two things on that ...

One, the scientific study into the effects of the exposure to the particulates released during the Chernobyl disaster has been hampered significantly by political pressures and/or lacking infrasturcture ever since the accident. Mostly because priority was given to investigate immideate over the long term effects. Even the UN reports are very "maybe" on long term effects of the exposures - mostly because the data avalible is insufficent to support more definitive conclusions.

Two, maybe this one is lost on outsiders, but around the Baltic Sea the scare of the effects from the "Chernobyl Cloud" was a real cultural thenomenon, as is the memory of it. For example, both during my military service and my university studies I underwent training with regards to exposure to nuclear material. Each time the instructors found it appropriate to tell an anecdote about where they were in the immidiate aftermath of Chernobyl and who the catastrophe shaped their view nuclear power and radioactive material.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on May 11, 2019, 07:18:39 pm
Also, the bridge those people are standing on is nicknamed the Bridge of Death because all of the people watching the fire from there (supposedly) died, either from radiation sickness or cancer. Unfortunately I can't find any sources to verify that--might have been exaggerated recollections from the survivors.

In terms of what's verifiable, Lyudmilla, Vasily the firefighter's pregnant wife? Her baby was born with serious birth defects and died after a few days. Whether that exposure happened on the bridge or not I'm not sure,  but I wouldn't say it strains credulity.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on May 11, 2019, 11:14:01 pm
Also, the bridge those people are standing on is nicknamed the Bridge of Death because all of the people watching the fire from there (supposedly) died, either from radiation sickness or cancer. Unfortunately I can't find any sources to verify that--might have been exaggerated recollections from the survivors.

In terms of what's verifiable, Lyudmilla, Vasily the firefighter's pregnant wife? Her baby was born with serious birth defects and died after a few days. Whether that exposure happened on the bridge or not I'm not sure,  but I wouldn't say it strains credulity.

Well if that's true color me dumb (and more credit to the show)! But I would definitely want sources. There are a lot of Chernobyl legends, like the suicide mission to do something or other in radioactive water, where the dead people turned out to be alive and just fine.

e: I don't see where there's room in the accepted casualty figures for those deaths. If they all died of cancer, maybe...but the radiation sickness deaths outside of the liquidators definitely seem like they were <100, probably <50 even at the most pessimistic.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on May 11, 2019, 11:20:55 pm
I don't think whether the people on the bridge actually died or not is as important to that scene as the terrifying fact that we don't know what health effects it actually had on them.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on May 11, 2019, 11:25:10 pm
I would like to take that angle on it, but I wonder if the show is going to take sides on whether the Bridge of Death was an urban legend, a hysterical product of traumatized evacuees, or something that actually happened and was covered up.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on May 12, 2019, 04:00:21 am
Yep. That is one thing that worries me too. It would be pretty easy to sensationalise just to make things look worse. I'd prefer to see them keeping things closer to what is know, it's not like that wasn't bad enough.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: jr2 on May 12, 2019, 03:13:58 pm
Well, (the following is all to the best of my recollection) to get the jump on anyone thinking nuclear is terrible: (not saying anyone here has, mind you) that whole reactor was a very, very unsafe design by any standard and the operators were forced by political numb nuts to push it outside of its designed parameters to run a dumb test, over their objections.  The whole thing was a mess from top to bottom.  Not that Three Mile Island wasn't a fiasco, what with the poorly labeled controls, control indicators being wired to switch position rather than actual valve position (yes, indeed the switch is in the right position but the valve is stuck!) but at least it was (comparatively) no big deal as far as the effect.  And Fukishima with their coolant backup generators being under sea level in a Tsunami prone area.

Nuclear is actually the safest form of energy generation bar none.  It's just one of those things that (like travel by aircraft) goes very, very bad in a very spectacular way when faults, mistakes, and human error do line up in a perfect chain of unfortunate events.  And like nuclear, even with that being the case, it's still safer than traveling by automobile.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Phantom Hoover on May 13, 2019, 10:08:59 am
One, the scientific study into the effects of the exposure to the particulates released during the Chernobyl disaster has been hampered significantly by political pressures and/or lacking infrasturcture ever since the accident. Mostly because priority was given to investigate immideate over the long term effects. Even the UN reports are very "maybe" on long term effects of the exposures - mostly because the data avalible is insufficent to support more definitive conclusions.

I'm sceptical of the political angle. The Soviet Union collapsed not long after, and as I understand it anti-communism had a great deal of political currency in its successor states in the 90s. Who, during a 10-year followup study in 1996, would've been covering for Soviet administrators, and why? Relatedly, the late and post-Soviet years were apparently very rough on the population (wit. Russian life expectancy figures (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/Russian_male_and_female_life_expectancy.PNG)) and I'm inclined to suspect that a lot of deaths caused by that economic and social disruption were blamed on Chernobyl.

That said, a friend hooked me up with a pirate copy of Voices from Chernobyl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_from_Chernobyl), a compilation of eyewitness accounts that do frequently challenge my "nobody died except a couple dozen plant workers and firemen" take on the whole thing, and I'm not so churlish as to dismiss them all out of hand. But when the WHO says "fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers (https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/)" I have to assume they did their homework to the point of checking up on the civilian bystanders.

Anyway, the show! The show's fantastic, I loved the first episode. A lot of stuff that I initially thought was dramatic bull**** turned out to be straight from the real accounts. I do get a sense that it will pivot towards political manoeuvring and character dramas from here, rather than surreal nuclear horror, but I'm still hooked.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on May 13, 2019, 11:26:43 am
The podcast is also really good listening as a supplement. First episode is up on Youtube. Pretty sure Spotify has it too.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Phantom Hoover on May 13, 2019, 12:02:16 pm
Interview here (https://thebulletin.org/2019/05/the-human-drama-of-chernobyl/) with a journalist who explicitly raises and refutes the notion of a 'bridge of death':

Quote
People talk about the “bridge of death,” about the idea that a load of residents of Pripyat went out to stand on this railway bridge, which stood at the top of Lenina Prospekt, the main boulevard into the city, and watched the burning reactor from that standpoint. And that, in the subsequent years, every person who stood on that bridge died. I could find no evidence of that. Indeed, I spoke to a guy who was seven or eight at the time, who did indeed cycle over to the bridge to see what he could see at the reactor, which was only three kilometers away. But he’s not dead. He’s apparently perfectly healthy.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on May 13, 2019, 11:08:40 pm
They seem like they’re going with the myth of the suicide mission to stop the second blast. Might not pan out that way next episode but for now I’m skeptical.

The sequence inside the flooded building at the ending was absolutely aces though.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on May 14, 2019, 01:21:17 am
I mean the suicide mission did happen, and I totally buy that it was expected to kill the divers. They just, y'know, didn't actually die.

Well, one did.

Of heart failure.

In 2005.

Guess the Soviets should have tried harder if they wanted to kill those guys. :V

e: And yeah, the ending was excellent. I also like that they didn't spend a bunch of episodes dicking around with everyone in denial. They showed that part, made their point, and moved on.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on May 19, 2019, 11:45:48 am
I listened to the podcast and it made me somewhat more confident in the writer's' commitment to reality. He's pretty open about where the truth was bent or consolidated to tell a better story.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on May 28, 2019, 04:24:54 am
Man, episode 4 is brutal. And then you listen to the podcast and you hear about what they left out....
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on June 04, 2019, 04:46:50 am
Okay, this may be the best TV show I've ever watched.

And apparently I'm not the only person who thinks that (https://www.imdb.com/chart/toptv/)
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Phantom Hoover on June 04, 2019, 09:35:09 am
I thought the last episode was fantastic except for them bringing up the ****ING BRIDGE OF DEATH STOP REPEATING URBAN LEGENDS YOU DICKS
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on June 04, 2019, 09:50:25 am
To be fair to them, if the only contrary source that says it didn't happen is a seven year old, that's something I'd take with a pinch of salt. Seven is a bit young to be a reliable witness, they might have cycled over a different bridge or something. I guess they couldn't find a good source in either direction so they said that the Bridge of Death exists (which it obviously does) and that it is reported that they all died (which is true, that has been reported) but left whether they did actually die undecided. Notice that they also point out afterwards that it is widely reported that the three divers also died. And then they point out that they all survived.

Just look at it as a test to see who was paying attention to the meaning of the show.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on June 04, 2019, 10:47:17 pm
That was a pretty good show.

It wasn't The Wire or Mad Men or even True Detective, but it was real good. I did think it suffered a little from TV Dialogue; a lot of the exchanges seemed to come from the 'what about the reinforcements? we are the reinforcements' school of nonspecificity, and the protagonist turning to the camera to deliver the show's moral at the end really put a button on that feeling. (Mad Men is a show I'd offer as a comparison that almost never fell into a dialogue rut; the exchanges were natural, but surprising.)

So, maybe a little too much Screenwriting, and the show smoothed over some interesting complexities from the real history — I read Midnight in Chernobyl during the show's run and it's full of extra depth, like Dyatlov as more than an obstructionist lump, Legasov's multiple suicide attempts, or Brukhanov literally building Pripyat out of nothing — but very good.

It's also fun to imagine as season 2 of The Terror.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on June 04, 2019, 10:54:20 pm
(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D7l-jEYXYAE-HBF.jpg)
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: X3N0-Life-Form on June 12, 2019, 04:49:32 am
My meme-fu is too weak (esp. @work), but I still think it's worth some follow-up :)

"The reactor has not exploded. Change my mind."
"The other operators all caught a bad bug while applying too much suntan lotion. Change my mind."
"HBO/Sky's Chernobyl : not terrible, not great. Change my mind."
"A major nuclear disaster cannot happen in the Soviet Union. Change my mind (also send us a better robot)."


Now that that's out of the way, I've just finished watching the series & listening to the podcasts, and I've gotta say it's a great series. It knows what to (over-)dramatize and what to cut, the cast is rock-solid, the sets and scenes are breath-taking, and I think the first and last episodes are especially well crafted. I like how lengthy they made the epilogue, spending a not so insignificant amount of run time depicting the actual people involved and their fate, and additional details regarding the incident.

Also, by sheer coincidence I watched a very detailed 2006 documentary on the disaster about 6 months ago, completely unaware that this series was coming and did some follow up research back then and again now after watching all 5 episodes. While that spoiled the events a bit since it was still fairly fresh on my mind (and was one of the reason I post-poned watching the thing), it did highlight the extensive research the show makers have done.

tldr; Great series, would warmly recommend it.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: MP-Ryan on June 25, 2019, 10:56:23 am
My wife and I watched this, and really enjoyed it.  I knew the story of Chernobyl reasonably well beforehand from a macro-perspective, but watching an (admittedly dramatized) version of the events unfold actually made me angry and appalled at what the USSR did.

At first the choice of opening for the series puzzled me, but in retrospect and with the neat wrap-out in the final episode, it was brilliant.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: jr2 on June 28, 2019, 08:19:20 pm
A couple of more technical videos explaining what happened (and different theories as to what happened when it's not certain):


What /Actually/ Happened at Chernobyl by vlogbrothers, 13 mins:



Why Chernobyl Exploded - The Real Physics Behind The Reactor by Scott Manley, 21 mins:


I enjoyed both.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: X3N0-Life-Form on June 29, 2019, 02:34:04 am
A couple of more technical videos explaining what happened (and different theories as to what happened when it's not certain):

[...]

I enjoyed both.

I second that.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Stealth on August 23, 2019, 07:50:46 pm
I actually visited Chernobyl near the beginning of July, just over a month ago.
Awesome experience - would definitely recommend.  Although I've read since that they are going to have to remove and repair the new containment structure, something which will likely take many years to complete, so not sure how open to tourists it will be within the next few months.

Still, one of the highlights of all my trips.

Watched all episodes of HBO's "Chernobyl" the week I visited, back to back.  Very cool show!
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Stealth on August 23, 2019, 07:51:22 pm
Also my above post was the first post in over a year. Hah.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on August 28, 2019, 10:30:14 am
BTW, if you were listening to the Chernobyl podcast, they actually did a sixth episode this week with Jared Harris as the guest star.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: The E on September 28, 2019, 03:15:14 pm
Relevant video essay

Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: jr2 on October 06, 2019, 02:19:36 pm
What are your thoughts?   EDIT: Synopsis is specific examples of the public (even the semi-nuclear tech literate) falling prey to inaccuracies about the tech as portrayed in the series, even though the series purports to finger life in the USSR, which as the article points out is also inaccurately portrayed.

https://twitter.com/ShellenbergerMD/status/1136659996958109696?s=19
Quote
Chernobyl radiation did not crash a helicopter, was not contagious, and didn't kill that baby

Here's the science that debunks the sensational misrepresentations of nuclear in HBO's "Chernobyl"

Link: "Why HBO's Cherynobyl Gets Nuclear So Wrong (https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/06/06/why-hbos-chernobyl-gets-nuclear-so-wrong)"

Please share!
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on October 07, 2019, 11:31:51 pm
My thoughts are that the author is so aggressively pro-nuclear (to the point of dragging other forms of renewable energy) that I find the source to be highly questionable. Furthermore, he ignores the fact that a lot of Lyudmilla Ignatenko's story in Chernobyl was taken directly from her own book--granted there was definitely some stuff she got wrong (her baby definitely didn't "absorb" the radiation, but she certainly thinks so, for example), that Vasily's body was deteriorating so fast that she almost certainly would have been exposed to the radioactive material in his body and bloodstream, and that the helicopter hit a crane and then ****ing disintegrated, which you can see in the show, which suggests that it was structurally compromised by the radiation hitting it.

TL; DR: Source ****.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: jr2 on October 08, 2019, 01:05:59 pm
If there was enough radiation to structurally affect the chopper 6 months after the incident, I'm thinking perhaps anyone getting anywhere near it would be essentially under a death sentence?  Seems kind of a stretch, in fact, a rather stupendous stretch beggaring the imagination.

I think the problem is the facts on the ground aren't salacious enough to feed sensationalism (read: how you make lots of money).  Why all the hyperbole?  The incident was bad enough, you don't need to bring Michael Bay in.

Also, his Bio suggests one cannot lightly propose his being a pro-nuclear shill:

Quote
Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award Winner. He is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and other publications. His TED talks have been viewed over three million times.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on October 08, 2019, 07:08:56 pm
If there was enough radiation to structurally affect the chopper 6 months after the incident, I'm thinking perhaps anyone getting anywhere near it would be essentially under a death sentence?
YES.

I think the problem is the facts on the ground aren't salacious enough to feed sensationalism (read: how you make lots of money).  Why all the hyperbole?  The incident was bad enough, you don't need to bring Michael Bay in.

That's an incredibly unfair characterization, especially when the creative team has been very forward about what they deliberately changed for dramatic license. They're not making a documentary, they're telling a historical drama.

Also, his Bio suggests one cannot lightly propose his being a pro-nuclear shill:

Quote
Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award Winner. He is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and other publications. His TED talks have been viewed over three million times.

His twitter feed very much says otherwise.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: The E on October 09, 2019, 01:48:39 am
Also, his Bio suggests one cannot lightly propose his being a pro-nuclear shill:

Quote
Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award Winner. He is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and other publications. His TED talks have been viewed over three million times.

In a world where a former head of Greenpeace is making money from oil companies by telling lies about climate change, a bio like the above says exactly nothing about anyone's attitudes towards nuclear power.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: X3N0-Life-Form on October 09, 2019, 04:31:53 am
And the nuclear power lobbies like to present themselves as champions of the environment. And oil companies claim that they are among the most environmentally respectful corporations out there, that they are the ones that make the most efforts or stuff along those lines.

As others have said, the showmakers have been pretty transparent as to what they deliberately changed for dramatic reasons, both in interviews, their own podcasts and the epilogue of the series, including the helicopter crash incident. And while they have been accused of perpetrating some unverified myths like the "bridge of death"'s deaths, they've also been careful not to weigh in on the veracity of these claims and outright debunked others like the bubbler divers. And, most importantly they have been extremely careful to avoid making an anti-nuclear power message. On the contrary, their message seem to be more that "western nuclear power is pretty good since we are not as corrupt and morally bankrupt as the Soviet Union was" (at least with regards to nuclear power plants).

So yeah, some of the stuff in the series is factually incorrect and was obviously tweaked for increased drama, and there are a few things here and there that weren't as thoroughly researched as the rest. But honestly, given the usual quality and often laughable accuracy of historical dramas, they've done a pretty damn good job overall.

If there was enough radiation to structurally affect the chopper 6 months after the incident, I'm thinking perhaps anyone getting anywhere near it would be essentially under a death sentence?
YES.
I mean, it's not as if they included a whole subplot regarding the use of robots, and how the radiation was affecting them, and how human couldn't safely spend more than a couple minutes on the roof with protection and should absolutely not look down into the core...

Sarcasm aside, I don't think we know for sure the exact circumstances of the IRL crash (and I'm not an expert on helicopter crashes), but I seem to recall reading that radiation was indeed hard on the helicopters' avionics over time, so it doesn't seem too far-fetched to claim that radiation damage played a role in that crash.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: The E on October 09, 2019, 06:06:03 am
I don't think that a show like Chernobyl will seriously change anyone's mind about nuclear power. If you're already anxious about it, you're not going to be less anxious after watching it; If you're on board with the idea that nuclear power is a useful tool if used responsibly, you're not going to go full anti-nuclear. All this whining about how the show isn't 100% factually accurate in every aspect is, IMHO, just that: whining. The same kind of whining people with no understanding of how stories work engage in when they watch Battleship and then complain that, no, you cannot "drift" an Iowa-class by dropping one anchor.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: GhylTarvoke on October 09, 2019, 10:54:43 am
If you're already anxious about it, you're not going to be less anxious after watching it; If you're on board with the idea that nuclear power is a useful tool if used responsibly, you're not going to go full anti-nuclear.

I'm more worried about people in between, or people who don't really think about nuclear power.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Det. Bullock on October 09, 2019, 01:19:08 pm
I think that the main problem is that the Chernobyl incident doesn't really work as an anti-nuclear story.
The cause of the incident wasn't the inherent danger of nuclear power plants (Fukushima would be better, everything was done correctly yet it all went down the drain anyway) rather the general stupidity of the Soviet system in general at least the way I understand it.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: karajorma on October 09, 2019, 06:12:54 pm
I wouldn't call building a nuclear power station at 10m above sea level in a country so famous for tsunamis that we stopped using our own word for the phenomenon "everything done correctly" :p
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Det. Bullock on October 09, 2019, 06:55:33 pm
I wouldn't call building a nuclear power station at 10m above sea level in a country so famous for tsunamis that we stopped using our own word for the phenomenon "everything done correctly" :p
Hindsight is 20/20. :P
But seriously, Chernobyl is so visibly a product of the incompetence of the communist authorities that using it as a parable about the risks of nuclear power while being even partially honest about what caused it is probably impossible.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: jr2 on October 09, 2019, 07:28:06 pm
I think that the main problem is that the Chernobyl incident doesn't really work as an anti-nuclear story.
The cause of the incident wasn't the inherent danger of nuclear power plants (Fukushima would be better, everything was done correctly yet it all went down the drain anyway) rather the general stupidity of the Soviet system in general at least the way I understand it.
I wouldn't call building a nuclear power station at 10m above sea level in a country so famous for tsunamis that we stopped using our own word for the phenomenon "everything done correctly" :p
Yeah, the backup generators for circulating coolant after a shutdown were diesel and, uh, those don't run under water (although if you put an intake stack ("snorkel") on them they'd run just fine so long as the intake remains above water)
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: General Battuta on October 09, 2019, 10:15:29 pm
Chernobyl is certainly a parable about something, and in fact it beats you over the head with it, but it ain’t nuclear power.
Title: Re: HBO's Chernobyl
Post by: Rhymes on October 09, 2019, 10:27:38 pm
Chernobyl is certainly a parable about something, and in fact it beats you over the head with it, but it ain’t nuclear power.

Hey it's not like it begins and ends with the question "what is the cost of lies?" and then spends the intervening five episodes answering that question.

Oh wait.