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Thyroid-Blocking Potassium Iodide in Growing Demand

Threat of radiological attack drive desire for Cold War era treatment

4 min read

17 October 2001–It’s suddenly very, very busy in Shane Connor’s warehouse. Since 1999, this small-town Texas businessman has maintained an e-commerce business selling two main products: surplus Geiger counters from the Cold War era, and bottles of a compound called potassium iodide (KI). Before 11 September, Connor filled about a dozen orders a day for KI, which blocks uptake by the thyroid gland of certain highly carcinogenic nuclear fission products. Since the attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., however, 150—200 people have clicked on his site every day, seeking to stock up on KI.

Connor isn’t the only one on the receiving end of inquiries about potassium iodide. At the Rockville, Md., headquarters of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), calls are coming in from town councils and private citizens alike, asking where they, too, can get their supply. As it happens, after two decades of debate, the commission ruled last January that states containing nuclear power plants must at least consider stockpiling potassium iodide or distributing it to the public.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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