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Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Think I Messed My Pants Laughing.

From our fearless leader, President Chimpy:

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," the president said. "Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation."

We've tried eight years of stupid, lets try smart for a change.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slaughter From An Easy Chair

I read that the Air Force is having some trouble with its remote control drone operators' mental health. Think about it. A man or woman gets up, kisses the spouse and kids, goes to work. There it may well go: shoot hellfire missiles at targets detected on the ground, have lunch, fire another missile, turn the Predator UAV over to the next shift, and go home. This is too much mental whipsaw for the human mind to absorb in such a narrow slice of time. Compress, release, compress, release and repeat. Cops and firemen undergo this sort of stress. A volunteer fireman can be eating breakfast with his wife and kids one minute, and fifteen minutes later be helping put out the gasoline fueled maelstrom that had been an airplane loaded with people half an hour ago. Bodies must be retrieved. In a small town, you may well know the shredded and burned victims. Throwing up doesn't help.

When you get home the smell of gasoline and burned flesh seem to saturate the air in your home. You shower, and try to explain the horror to your mate, but you just want to forget. Lots 'o luck there.

A warrior in the immediate theater of conflict has a mindset that allows the mind to understand the threat and response matrix. Pilots are constantly under threat as are ground troops. Combat makes sense on a visceral level, a suburban life punctuated with brief homicidal mayhem does not.

I'm not making a moral judgement here. The UAV is a logical outgrowth of the technological age, and is what it is. Lethality without risk. If the Air Force wants to contemplate the ultimate cost of the UAV, they should add in the cost of rehabilitation of their operators.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

100X2008


This is my 100th post of 2008. Doesn't really mean anything to anyone but me, but it makes me happy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Flip My Floppy, Wash My Wishy, And Abandon Consistency. So Sue Me.

Firstly. I know I promised a few days ago that I was going to take August as a vacation from politics, and I really meant to. I popped a vein in my medulla when the McCain campaign started dismissing conservation as a pussy-assed girly-man's plan for energy independence. Conservation is just another word for efficiency, and nobody disses efficiency on my watch. No Sheik or Emir can cut off our supply of insulated windows. Al Qaeda isn't going to make a dime off keeping our tires inflated. Exxon-Mobile isn't going to gut your retirement by gouging you to fill your tank. Saudi Arabia doesn't do tune-ups. But NO! McCain is the red meat, drill here and now kind of guy, and thinks we should all panic and give the oil biggies everything they want, and lower their taxes. Even though conservation is now proving its power to pop the ruinous oil bubble, the drill-heads won't have it. Right. Hand out cheesy 49 cent Chinese tire pressure gauges with "Obama's Energy Program" stenciled on. That was the way the Young Republicans won class president elections in Junior High. Asses.

Second. Imagine if you had hired a flooring company to re-carpet your living room. And in the process of doing the job the flooring contractor showed up drunk, broke all your lamps, installed used carpet from a rundown Motel 6, burned cigarette holes in the couch, and doubled the price. You would be furious. You must have the job redone, and you are now seriously thinking of having the wrecking crew of the first job do the next. Are you nuts? Sure the guys, even drunk, each have a flag lapel pin and dozens of yellow ribbons on their pickup truck. They do pray before they start "work" the few mornings they show up, and have " Christian fellowship during a beery lunch". One of the foremen spent two years in the Army in Germany keeping track of peanut butter and cracker supplies for NATO, and is now an expert on military tactics. You want to hire a vet and a godly man. You also must get the job done. The living room is our country. The flooring company is the Republican Party, and we the voters are the homeowners. If we accept the level of incompetence and corruption demonstrated by the Conservative movement you deserve the inevitable disaster. I don't, but you do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Save 15% On Your Proton Insurance With Geico.

Starting in a couple of weeks the Large Hadron Collider will start warming up and getting aligned. A few weeks after that some of the most serious collisions ever  on the surface of the earth will start tearing protons into their constituent parts. Quarks. Up Down Charm Strange Top Bottom and their anti-Quark partners. I suppose the real question is: "Is there finer structure beyond Quarks?" Strings? Quantum Loop Gravity? Holographic Brames of M theory? The size of the LHC at CERN allows the magnets to accelerate the protons and anti-protons in opposite beams to within 1/10 of 1% of the speed of light. Speed means mass and energy, and when the speeding hadrons collide the mass and energy blow the little bags of quarks apart. They still have to hit each other at pretty much dead center to effect the necessary shattering of matter. 

Strangely enough this whole pure cutting edge science project almost happened here in the good old USA rather on the border between France and Switzerland. All those physicists and grad students would have been working in Texas if Senator Phil Graham hadn't treated the Superconducting Super Collider as a pork project with little or no understanding from the federal funders. The SSC was designed to be better than twice the size of the LHC, and therefore capable to accelerate hadrons to much higher speeds. The jury is out on wether the LHC can bash protons together with enough energy to answer the questions that the LHC was designed to answer. We'll see.