Can anyone remember the last time an Arab nation (or for that matter, an Islamic nation) won a war unassisted?
Leonard David has an article in today’s Space.com on the rapidly-approaching feasibility of a space elevator. Apparently, rapid advances in the manufacturing of buckey-tube-based materials of unprecedented tensile strength are making this a viable near-term technology, which in turn makes it possible to build a tower to the heavens.
The basic concept is that if you place a satellite in geostationary orbit (where most communications satellites reside) it will, by definition, remain at a single point over the earth’s surface (at the equator). Drop a cable all the way down thousands of miles to that point, and tether it (just as suspension bridges often start as a single cable across a gorge). Now beef up the structure, and put the center of mass of the system beyond geostationary altitude, which puts it into tension.
Build elevators into the structure, and you have a means of getting into space for the costs of the energy alone (plus, of course the amortization and maintenance costs for the elevator). This is just a few dollars per pound, which is orders of magnitudes less than the current methods of using rockets.
That would make a space vacation possible for almost anyone who can now afford a trip to Hawaii. It would also make space a much more practical location for the storage of nuclear waste and the construction of solar power satellites that might eventually render nuclear plants unnecessary.
Unfortunately, as was brought home most dramatically last September 11, it would also make the most visible and monumental target possible for a terrorist.
The potential energy in such a structure would be unimaginable (though not incalculable). If it were somehow released from its equatorial mooring (in addition to the tremendous loss of capability and loss of life of whoever was on it), it might whipsaw around the local landscape like a python on meth, potentially causing tremendous damage on the ground before finally drifting out into space (where it would become a major navigational hazard for orbiting satellites, facilities, and even tourist hotels). It’s possible (though unlikely) that it could even ultimately strike the Moon. It would make the events of last September look like a Sunday-school picnic.
This is, of course, not an argument against doing it. But it does add some additional requirements for its construction that might not have been considered prior to the WTC attack. For instance, the structure near the base should probably be capable of withstanding a small nuclear detonation, if possible. It should certainly be capable of withstanding a collision with any existing aircraft (including supersonic). Security in the area should be strict (at least as far as explosive devices go), with a large keep-out zone on the ground and in the air.
I might be using this as the basis for the Fox News column tomorrow, so I’d appreciate any other thoughts that people have on the subject.
[Update at 5PM]
OK, having given it a little more thought, it seems to me that the problem with the article was that it didn’t mention any of the problems. It was gung ho about how the technology to do this is almost here, which means to me that we now have to give some serious thought to the real showstoppers.
I see two serious issues, either or both of which are likely to keep this from happening for a long time, and perhaps forever.
First, if a structure is towering from the equator to a third of the way to the Moon, no objects can safely orbit the earth at any altitude below that. No GPS, no remote sensing satellites, no space stations, nada. The only satellites that can safely orbit are the geostationary comsats. The reason for this is that all other orbits will eventually intersect the structure, resulting in a spectacular collision, unless they are managed carefully, and they can’t be managed that carefully–such an accident is inevitable.
The second problem is the one that I mentioned above, and it’s potentially much worse. If it breaks off in space, while the part above the break will go flying off into an elliptical orbit, or perhaps out into the solar system, the part below will come crashing down to earth. Much of it won’t burn up, because it won’t have much velocity.
So, as technically neat as skyhooks are, I have trouble seeing any political conditions under which such a risky project, requiring the total obsolescence of our existing orbital infrastructure, to fly. We are going to have to continue to work at creating new markets that can drive down cost of the launch rocket-based space transports, because I think we’ll be stuck with them for a long time.
Thanks to a suggestion by Jeff Goldstein, I’ve decided to make my blogspot watch script available.
All I ask is that you give me credit, and provide a link to my page if you decide to try to implement it. I make no guarantees…
At the suggestion of Charles Johnson, I’ve done something even more nefarious.
You will no longer have to check the asterisks to see if you should bother to click on blogspotties. If Blogspot is down, the Blogspot links will simply…vanish. They will return when the server is back up.
This should make life easier for my faithful readers.
A Munich man was investigated for murder after his neighbors reported seeing him carrying a corpse into his apartment.
When the police entered the place, he showed them (not clear whether it was with any degree of pride) his collection of inflatable bedtime companions.
I’d seen another story about this, and didn’t get around to posting on it. Ken Layne was more diligent over at Fox News today.
Saddam has given a pay raise to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Other than that, there’s no known connection between the Iraq regime and terrorism. Well, if you ignore the Prague meeting. And…
But I guess Chris Matthews thinks that it’s OK to pay people to murder civilians, as long as they’re just Israeli civilians.
Instantman points out an amusing post by Happy Fun Pundit (who I really have to permalink one of these days, albeit with an asterisk, as he’s a blogspottie) about Hollywood egos and the Academy Awards, and the fact that they aren’t all that popular in the “Red” states that voted for Bush.
I’ve never understood the cult of celebrity. It’s always been fairly obvious to me that rising to the top of Hollywood is mostly a matter of luck. Looks and acting ability are certainly necessary, but there are many more people with those qualities than jobs in the industry or room on movie and television screens. If all of Hollywood came down with some kind of plague, replacements would appear within a year. Certainly brains are not a requirement, judging by some of the asinine things that some of these people do and say.
Anyway, I was amused at all of the egotistical concerns about security for the event, as though it would be bin Laden’s highest-priority target. I suspect that if terrorists were actually stupid enough to attack this parade of (fortunate) pompous blowhards, at least half the country would cheer.
It’s long been known that people aren’t very good at aligning their fears and emotions, and resulting behavior, with statistics. For example, the chance of dying in a car is much greater than in an airplane, but many more fear to fly than to ride. Even people who are numerate are prone to this quirk of human nature (e.g., the great science fiction author and chemistry PhD Isaac Asimov had a severe fear of flying, and always traveled by train). On the other hand, people vastly overestimate their chances of winning the lottery, at least from a rational expected-value perspective.
I’ve occasionally talked about the dangers of asteroids in this weblog, and in fact featured it in my Fox News column last week. I’ve seen quite a bit of skepticism on the issue, some of which may be justified, but it often appears to me to be driven as much by the non-rational parts of us as the rational, even when coming from scientists.
When coming from politicians, of course, it’s even worse. A couple of weeks ago, an Australian cabinet minister ridiculed people who were concerned about asteroids, and refused to allot the paltry sum of a million dollars in order to look for them in the Southern Hemisphere, one of our current major blind spots. There are many sky surveys being done above the equator, but very few below.
It actually reminds me of the controversy of a couple of decades ago, when Luis Alvarez at Berkely first put forward his theory of dinosaur extinction being caused by an extraterrestrial impact. While it’s become fairly well accepted today, many aren’t aware, or have forgotten, that there was a tremendous amount of resistance to it when it was first propounded. And that resistance seemed to go beyond rational scientific argument–it seemed almost religious in its fervor.
Viewing this as a college student, who was interested in and familiar with space, I found nothing exceptional about the theory at all, but it was clear to me that much of the scientific community had a deep emotional investment in not believing that our planet could be so dramatically affected by an event beyond our atmosphere.
I’m not sure why exactly, but one might speculate that, to a planetary scientist used to thinking in terms of geological and biological processes forming and reforming the earth and its inhabitants, invoking forces extraterrestrial perhaps had the feel to it of the supernatural–a blow literally from the heavens, and one from a source with which they were (not being astronomers or extraplanetary scientists) unfamiliar and unknowledgable. It may have almost seemed like a creationist theory of evolution.
More practically, to accept such a concept might imply that their chosen field was much broader than their traditional education, and that much of what they had been taught was wrong. It was probably a natural resistance to a major scientific paradigm shift.
Fortunately, unlike actual creationist theories, it was testable, and evidence for it has been found, and now, after a quarter of a century, it’s now taught as the prevailing theory.
Anyway, there’s an interesting article on this subject in Space.com today, that has some interesting statistics on the subject (though I can’t vouch for them). Anyone whose interest has been piqued by my previous comments on the subject will find it at least as interesting as mine.
Basically, the thesis is that we base our fears not on analysis, but on what’s familiar. Prior to September 11, few took the terrorist threat seriously–now concern about it is very high and it can command huge numbers of societal resources. Hopefully, it won’t take an asteroid strike to get similar motivation to map and deter potential cosmic threats, but judging by human nature, it may.
Krauthammer has a piece in (be still, my heart) the WaPo about the notion that the spate of suicide bombings in Israel over the past decade are not the fault of that nation, but (gasp!) Yasser Arafat.
It is precisely in the context of the most accommodating, most conciliatory, most dovish Israeli policy in history that the suicide bombings took hold.
Where, then, did they come from? During the past eight years–the years of the Oslo “peace process”–Yasser Arafat had complete control of all the organs of Palestinian education and propaganda. It takes an unspeakable hatred for people to send their children to commit Columbine-like murder-suicide. Arafat taught it. His television, his newspapers, his clerics have inculcated an anti-Semitism unmatched in virulence since Nazi Germany.
Up is down, in is out, and Canada has come out with a sensible recommendation set for hijacking procedures (despite the reporter’s hysterical description).
The most dramatic proposal advises the government to adopt a public position of non-compliance with hijackers, a hardline stance that would force pilots to ignore terrorists’ demands even if it puts passengers at risk.
Currently, air crews are trained to negotiate with hijackers and acquiesce to their demands when passenger safety is threatened. The new approach recommended by the working group would instruct pilots to land the plane as quickly as possible, regardless of what hijackers are doing to passengers.
The new policy was recommended because the suicide hijackings in September dramatically changed the dynamics of airline terrorism. Since then, pilots have been working without any new instructions on how to deal with hijackers, although many vow to never give up control of the flight deck after having seen commercial airliners used to bring down the World Trade Center.
But non-compliance creates the horrifying scenario of pilots, locked in the cockpit, refusing to cede control of their aircraft even as hijackers torture or kill passengers in the cabin. It is also thought that, in some situations, firm non-compliance could escalate confrontations with hijackers who are not suicidal.
This, of course, assumes that the passengers will just sit by as greatly-outnumbered hijackers kill or torture them. This seems like an unrealistic scenario, post 911. At least, on American (the nationality, not the airline) aircraft. I suspect that ordinary Canadian citizens also have more spunk than this comment would give them credit for.
Hey, is there any constitutional reason that we can’t get a Canadian to replace Norm Mineta?
OK, as a public service to Blogdom, I’ve set up my Blogspot traffic signal. It’s a script that runs in background on my server, and attempts an http access of blogspot.com once a minute. If it’s successful, it gives the green signal. If not, you’ll get the red traffic signal. (Note: I only run it on the main index page, so if you came here via a link to the specific post, you won’t see it).
Next, I’m going to put the Mark of Blogspot on the blogspotties, so you’ll know which links to not bother with when it’s down.
Let me know if it works. It seems to be doing OK, so far. Blogspot’s been down for while, and it just came back up, and the script seemed to pick it up.
He shouldn’t be. Though you’d never know it from the libelous screeds put out by the liberal press after the Republicans won the Congress, from which you’d assume that he lived in a cave, and had the nightly chore (like me) of clawing grit out of his knuckles, Newt is actually a futurist and an idealist.
In the early eighties, he was on the board of the L-5 Society, a non-profit organization that promoted the colonization of space. He is familiar with, and has promoted the concept of solar power satellites. But when he became speaker, he probably decided that it would be wise to avoid such issues, and stick to those that were more politically crucial and realistic.
Anyway, people who only think of him as a neanderthal will be shocked to read this interview. He was one of the most technologically-savvy politicians to have ever held office.
The Chronicle continues to live up to its reputation as the worst newpaper in the world, as evidenced by this latest bit of stupidity from Chris Matthews. Poor Chris–he’s adrift in a sea of confusion. Can someone please toss him a clue? Make it a really big one, with lots of handles, and the words “CLUE” emblazoned on every side in big, loud red letters, with a klaxon horn.
It will take 200,000 U.S. troops to invade Saddam Hussein’s capital and effect the “regime change” demanded by neo-conservative policy wonks and backed by oil-patchers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Cite? Logic? Analysis?
We don’t need no stinkin’ justification for these numbers we pull out of our nether regions–we’re a big-time newspaper columnist.
The question America needs to answer now, while there’s still time to stop this road trip, is whether a war justified by ideology and energy economics is truly in this country’s interests.
Ummm…Chris? That would be known as a complex question. You know, like the one about whether or not you’ve quit beating your wife? Or when you’re going to stop writing columns in which you’ve tarted up some ill-founded and ignorant opinions to masquerade as informed fact?
Here’s a fact, Chris–the war is driven by national self defense, a concept with which former Kennedy liberals like yourself used to be familiar, but with which you have somehow become disengaged since the era of, oh, Vietnam or so.
A U.S.-Iraqi war has advanced well beyond the “contingency” phase. The last barrier of restraint, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been broken by the will of a Bush administration partnership of ideology and oil that is now set on war.
He first put up brave resistance against the evil ideologists and oil men, but Cheney called up the goons. He was taken to a room deep in Dick’s locationally-undisclosed cave, where he was liberally lubed with central Texas Sweet, and trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. They alternated between rubber hose beatings, bright lights, Iraqi dripping-oil torture, and readings from Rice and Wolfowitz.
After weeks of this unending gruesome anguish, disoriented (unlike Chris), he could barely tell the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter like Yasser Arafat or Saddam Hussein.
Now, a shattered man, by day he attends the cabinet meetings, but only in a perfunctory manner, for appearances. At night, he lies curled up there on the Bottom called Foggy, his will broken, whimpering. He was the Only Man Who Could Save The World, and he has failed.
[most of hysterical screed against neo-conservatives snipped]
The neo-cons casually compare Iraq to the Third Reich, Israel to forsaken Czechoslovakia and skeptics to Neville Chamberlain, but their evidence for attacking Iraq doesn’t hold up. The anthrax letters came from a source far nearer to our shores than Baghdad. And CIA chief George Tenet testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the “jury’s still out” on whether Hussein had anything to do with Sept. 11.
Well, here you make the same error as your like-”minded” friends over on the other side of The Pond. There is an unstated, and false assumption implicit in this statement. You believe, and expect everyone else to agree, that only states that participated in the events of last summer can justifiably be attacked.
Of course, by your logic, we couldn’t have gone in and done a regime change in Afghanistan prior to September 11, even if we had found evidence of exactly what bin Laden planned to do.
Here’s the deal, Chris. See, we’re defending ourselves. And often the best defense is a good offense.
Before September 11, when folks in funny hats said they wanted to kill us, we thought that was just so cute. We patted them on the head, said “nice little terrorist,” and sent them off to play.
After September 11, we believe them. We’re trying to prevent them from doing it again. Sometimes that means hitting them before they can hit you.
Oil is a much more powerful motive for an Iraq attack.
Iraq is the Mideast’s No. 2 supplier of oil, behind Saudi Arabia. The United States, swallowing a quarter of the world’s production, is the world’s No. 1 consumer. This country is led by a pair of oil-patch veterans who share a sense of entitlement about the world’s oil reserves regardless of what flag flies above them. Bush and Cheney see Hussein’s chief weapon of mass destruction as his threatened grip on the Persian Gulf oil tap.
What’s your point? Do you understand the difference between correlation and causation? The fact that Iraq has oil, and we need oil to run our economy, does not lead to the ineluctable conclusion that we will make war on the Iraqi regime because we want the oil (though that may very well be a beneficial side effect).
After all, the Saudis are number one, Chris. We’re not beating the war drum to do a regime change in Riyadh (though we probably should be).
Basically, what you’re doing here is libeling Bush and Cheney–accusing them of being disingenuous liars.
This confluence of interest between ideology and oil has put us on the road to Baghdad. It’s time for us to realize that American principles have precious little to do with this costly prospective military campaign.
“Ideology”? I suppose, if you think that being opposed to our own destruction by amoral, cold-blooded psychopaths is a blindly ideological position.
Here’s a massive, glow-in-the-dark clue for you from Victor Davis Hanson, Chris:
After 30 years of listening to nauseating chanting from Teheran to Islamabad to Nablus, hearing the childish rants about “The Mother of All Battles” and “The Great Satan,” and witnessing presidents from Carter to Bush burned in effigy, the ritual torching of the American flag, the misspelled banners of hatred, the thousands of paint-by-the-numbers posters of psychopaths from Khomeini to bin Laden, televised threats that sound as hideous as they are empty, Nazi- inspired anti-Semitism, embassy takeovers, oil-boycotts, hijacked planes, cars, and ships, lectures from unelected obese sheiks with long names and gold chains, peacekeepers incinerated in their sleep, murders at the Olympics, bodies dumped on the tarmac of airports, shredded diplomats, madmen in sunglasses in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, demented mullahs and whip-bearing imams in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, continual televised murders of Americans abroad, our towers toppled, our citizens butchered, our planes blown up, hooded Klansmen in Hamas and Hezbollah, killers of al-this and Islamic-that, suicide bombers, shrill turbaned nuts spouting hatred on C-SPAN broadcasts, one day the salvation of Kuwait, the next sanctions against the swallower of Kuwait, the third day fury against the sanctions against the swallower of Kuwait, the fourth day some grievance from 1953, the fifth another from A.D. 752; and all the time sanctimonious fingerpointing from Middle Eastern academics and journalists who are as bold abroad in insulting us as they are timid and obsequious under dictators at home in keeping silent, I’ve about had it. No mas. The problem is you, not us ? you, you, you…
The truth is that there is a great storm on the horizon, one that will pass ? or bring upon us a hard rain the likes of which we have not seen in 60 years. Either we shall say “no more,” deal with Iraq, and prepare for a long and hard war against murderers and terrorists ? or we will have more and more of what happened on 9/11. History teaches us that certain nations, certain peoples, and certain religions at peculiar periods in their history take a momentary, but deadly leave of their senses ? Napoleon’s France for most of a decade, the southern states in 1861, Japan in 1931, Germany in 1939, and Russia after World War II. And when they do, they cannot be bribed, apologized to, or sweet-talked ? only defeated.
If you want to write a newspaper column, learn from the master. That’s why we’re going into Iraq.
The Chinese claim to have successfully launched their new manned capsule (without anyone in it, this time).
They do seem to be on track to developing their own independent crewed space capability, with the medium-term goal of sending Taikonauts (their word for astronauts) to the Moon. I hope that they do, because they’ll likely succeed, which may spur us to get off our butts here, and the way they’re going about it (using expendable rockets) will be easy to compete with if we ever harness free enterprise to the problem. Their program is basically a knock off of the Soviets.
Layne is being culturally insensitive today.
You’ve heard of the insanity defense? Apparently the Arabs are trying to use the stupidity defense.
Buy a plane ticket? Sure! Next thing you’re going to tell me is that an Arab Muslim can drive a car or use an ATM or brush his teeth. Arab Muslims are retarded! We know that.
After 911, Bill Clinton was whining to his toadies and sycophants about how cruel and unfair history was–he never had an opportunity to be a great president, because he didn’t get to preside over a war. That sum’bitch Bush just had all the luck.
But as I pointed out, there was a lot of evidence of international connections to the OKC bombing, which was the biggest terrorist attack on US soil up until that time (since the first WTC attempt in 1993 was unsuccessful). But the Administration actively avoided following the evidence trail.
I already pointed out one reason–they wanted to demonize their political enemies, and not dilute any of the blame. But the other reason is perhaps that, had they actually found hard evidence of Iraqi involvement, they would have had to do something about it, and the public would have likely been unimpressed with lobbing a few cruise missiles at aspirin factories. Particularly considering Mr. Clinton’s own history, and his cabinet picks, this was not an Administration with either the temperament or talent to fight a real war.
So Mr. Clinton potentially had his opportunity for a war against terrorism in Oklahoma City. He chose instead, as Mr. Hudnall says, to use it for crass domestic partisan advantage. Had he instead sought to find the full truth, and properly responded to it, what happened on September 11 might have been avoided.
And thus the legacy continues to build.
Most political observers agree that the Oklahoma City bombing resurrected Bill Clinton’s political career, or at least initiated the process. The Democrats had just lost the Congress in the 1994 elections, due to the health-care debacle, gun control, and a number of other overreaches. There were stories in Time and Newsweek about the “incredible shrinking President” and whether or not he was “relevant.”
OKC changed all that almost overnight. It not only allowed the Big He to go out on one of his “feel your pain” trips, but he and his minions used it to blast militias, talk radio, and evil Right-Wing Republicans, blaming them and their “hate speech” for the bombing.
All of this slander was contingent, of course, on the fact that the job was done, and done solely, by a member of such a “right-wing group.” So Tim McVeigh was the perfect fall guy, from the Administration’s point of view. Once they had the goods on him and Nichols, they basically quit looking for anyone else. Remember “John Doe #2″? Few others do, either, because all evidence that could implicate anyone but McVeigh and Nichols was excluded from their trial, and it became quickly forgotten.
While it could be argued that such evidence was irrelevant to the case against them, and thus properly excluded, it was also convenient to those who wanted to demonize the “right,” since it allowed the finger of blame to be pointed only at the evil right wingers. That full justice was never served wasn’t as important as making clear how evil McVeigh and like-thinking people were.
Well, now that we’re digging into terrorism, and terrorist connections, in light of the past few months, some old skeletons may be starting to clatter out of the closet, as described in this article at Insight. In the process of seeking additional justifications to go after Saddam, yet another old Clinton coverup may finally see the light of day.
Note the last, and key, paragraph:
But one thing is clear: Bill Clinton and Janet Reno exulted when they found a domestic conspiracy behind the Oklahoma City bombing, say administration insiders, and immediately ordered the FBI to call off its investigation of any international connection. Details of that connection finally are beginning to emerge.
I’m whomping up a little perl script that will check once a minute or so automagically to see if it’s working. It’ll turn on a little traffic signal (green for up, red for down) so people can know not to waste any time with blogspotters.
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