A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘nuclear war

[NEWS] Five sci-tech links: listening phones, HIV denialism, Euncie Foote, nuclear war, asteroids

  • This alarming VICE report notes the ways in which our phones–and other mobile devices, I’m sure–are in fact listening to us.
  • This distressing story looks at how HIV denialism has become popular among many Russians, and the terrible toll this belief system inflicts on people victimized by it (children, particularly).
  • Smithsonian Magazine notes how the 1856 discovery of the greenhouse effect created by carbon dioxide by pioneering scientist Eunice Foote was overlooked because she was a woman.
  • The detonation of more than 100 substantial nuclear weapons, this report notes, would doom civilization through climate change and agricultural collapse. Motherboard has it.
  • Asteroids in orbits linked to that of the Earth would be excellent first targets for asteroid mining, Universe Today reports.

[URBAN NOTE] Five cities links: Bay View, San Francisco, Houston, Washington D.C., Montréal. Québec

  • The Guardian reports on the Michigan town of Bay View, a community that literally forbids non-Christians from holding property locally.
  • Net migration from the San Francisco area seems to be accelerating, with unaffordability being commonly cited as explanation. CBS reports.
  • Will rapid wage increases in Houston be enough to protect the labour market of the city if much-needed undocumented workers are forced out in significant numbers? Bloomberg reports.
  • Data from smartphones is being used to simulate what might happen if Washington D.C. was subjected to a nuclear attack. VICE reports.
  • The tourist agencies of Montréal and Québec City are having a cute little online exchange. Global News reports.

[ISL] Four islands links: Hawaii, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Tuanaki

  • Bloomberg describes the FCC report on the Hawaii missile scale earlier this month.
  • The British Virgin Islands are apparently continuing to undergo their recovery from Hurricane Irma, enough to become tourist attractions again. The Guardian reports.
  • Jonathan Levin and Yalixa Rivera look at Bloomberg at the astonishing lack of good data on Puerto Rico’s demographics after Hurricane Maria. How many have left? Estimates run all the way up to a half-million departures by the end of 2019.
  • Reddit’s unresolvedmysteries shares the story of the supposed Polynesian island of Tuanaki, which went suddenly missing in the 1840s. What happened? Did it ever exist?

[BRIEF NOTE] On how the Hawaii missile scare shows how we know the old fears are back again

On the 13th of January, 2018, when the world learned of an official warning of an impending ballistic missile attack on the state of Hawaii, I was in the American Museum of Natural History with friends. Scott mentioned the warning and flashed me a screen of the screenshotted image of the message from Twitter. I felt stunned. Certainly I’d not been aware of any catastrophic worsening of the United States’ relations with North Korea or anyone else, so this couldn’t be true. But then, this was a wholly unprecedented event in any case, something no one on this world had any experience with. Who was I to say that this might not be the first I’d learn of another world-changing event in my life? I hoped only that the people I knew and love in Hawaii would be safe.

Thank God that this was simply a false alarm, consequence of an appalling badly designed user interface that does not clearly distinguish between different options for issuing state-wide alerts and consequence of the state governor’s unconscionable ignorance of his Twitter password to let the world know of the false alarm. (It does not take 20 minutes to reset a password, at least not on any system I’m familiar with.) It goes without saying that, beyond being a terrifying experience for people in Hawaii and decidedly unsettling for the rest of the population of the world, this sort of alert has potentially catastrophic consequences. What if this false alarm was seized upon as justification for some response? That so much of the world lacks even Hawaii’s flawed preparedness, meanwhile, is worrisome. Mack Lamoureaux’s suggestion at VICE that the first warning Canadians would learn of a missile attack would be fro the nuclear shockwave, unless they signed up for text message warnings which are (first) voluntary only and (second) distributed through an ad hoc combination of ministries and telecom providers is–Well.

One element of the affair that interests me hugely, from a sociological perspective, is the way people in Hawaii dealt with the alert of their potential imminent doom. I may have missed reports between my New York City vacation and the hindrances of later retrospective news searched, but I do not think any of the violence that apocalyptic media tends to predict will occur in these circumstances–looting, violence, riots–actually did. Perhaps it might have if there have been a longer period of more severe tension, but I frankly doubt it. What we did see was people doing their best to try to do as much as they could with the remainder of their lives, to find explanations for what was happening and to share them, to seek shelter, to tell the people they cared for that they cared for them. People tried to protect themselves and others, and, where they thought they might not be able to, they tried to let their likely survivors know just how much they mattered. I think this speaks well of humanity, honestly–if this was a test, we passed.

This brought to my mind Ultravox’s 1984 single “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”, sung from the perspective of a man desperate to get home to his family before the predicted nuclear apocalypse came about.

This song is ostensibly about a nuclear plant meltdown, not a nuclear attack. This song was also sung in the 1980s, released in the same year as (for instance) the BBC’s post-nuclear apocalypse Threads (now on Blu-Ray!). Especially two years before Chernobyl and at the arguable height of the post-détente Cold War, nuclear apocalypse most certainly did include fears of warheads going. Its inclusion on Wikipedia’s long list of song’s dealing with nuclear war, a noteworthy trend in the 1980s’ popular culture–that decade’s sheer density ofsongs dealing with the nuclear apocalypse is something I’ve noted for decades.

That moment when I made the connection between Hawaii now and Ultravox then is when it hit me: We’re back in touch with that 1980s mindset. The adulthood I’ve enjoyed free from fears of nuclear war, free from the contamination it inflicted on earlier generations and even on my childhood, is over. We feel the same threats the 1980s’ generations did; we respond in the same ways, largely irrelevant details like the communications technologies we have aside. (I doubt a false alert of a missile attack on Hawaiian television in the 1980s would have differed that much.) The idyll I, and most of the rest of the world’s population, enjoyed for decades is done with.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 27, 2018 at 11:59 pm

[NEWS] Five culture links: archeology in Canada, Baker Boy, Threads, Ukrainian churches, Kanopy

  • Archeology in Canada is starting to take a leading role in the reconciliation process with First Nations. The Globe and Mail reports.
  • Baker Boy, an Australian Aborigine rapper from the Milingimbi community, is becoming a star with his raps in his native Yolngu Matha language. (Touring with 50 Cent is an achievement.) Australia’s SBS carries the story.
  • Threads, the infamous 1984 British film depicting the aftermath of nuclear war, is coming to Blu-ray. VICE’s Motherboard reports.
  • Andrei Fert writes at Open Democracy about how, after the appalling refusal of a priest in a Moscow-aligned Ukrainian Orthodox church to preside over the burial of a toddler baptized into a Kyiv-aligned church, that whole denomination is coming into disrepute.
  • blogTO notes the introduction, by the Toronto Public Library, of a new video streaming service, Kanopy, offering more than thirty thousand movies free to members.

[NEWS] Five pop culture links: Pioneer Village, Japan, Chippewas of the Thames, I Tonya, porn

  • blogTO notes the reluctance of the TTC to turn on the interactive LightSpell art at Pioneer Village station, even though it is now revealed to have cost $C 2 million (not $C 500 thousand).
  • Connor Cislo notes at Bloomberg the growing importance of intellectual property as a source of income for the Japanese economy, especially in a time of an emergent trade deficit and an aging workforce.
  • Liny Lamberink at Global News notes how the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation is using an innovative eco-home to attract tourists to their reserve.
  • VICE interviews Craig Gillespie, director of the intriguing new film I, Tonya about 1900s figure skater Tonya Harding, talking about the film and the thought that went into it. I must see this one, I think.
  • VICE reports PornHub data from Hawaii during last week’s ballistic missile scare. It turns out porn watching collapsed by 77% during the crisis but then spiked by half after 9 o’clock.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Centauri Dreams links to archival video painstakingly collected from the Voyager missions.
  • Citizen Science Salon notes ways ordinary people can use satellite imagery for archaeological purposes.
  • Good news: Asian carp can’t find a fin-hold in Lake Michigan. Bad news: The lake is so food-deprived nothing lives there. The Crux reports.
  • D-Brief notes that, once every second, a fast radio burst occurs somewhere in the universe.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at the psychedelic retro-futurism of Swedish artist Kilian Eng.
  • Dead Things notes the recovery of ancient human DNA from some African sites, and what this could mean for study.
  • Cody Delistraty reconsiders the idea of the “coming of age” narrative. Does this make sense now that we have abandoned the idea of a unitary self?
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the evolution of icy bodies around different post-main sequence stars.
  • The Great Grey Bridge’s Philip Turner notes anti-Putin dissident Alexei Navalny.
  • Hornet Stories notes reports of anti-gay persecution in Azerbaijan.
  • Language Log takes a look at the dialectal variations of southern Ohio.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money starts a discussion about what effective disaster relief for Puerto Rico would look like.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Mexico, and the story of the buried girl who was not there.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that Toronto real estate companies, in light of rent control, are switching rental units over to condos.
  • Naked Anthropologist Laura Agustín takes a look at the origins and stories of migrant sex workers.
  • The NYR Daily talks about the supposedly unthinkable idea of nuclear war in the age of Trump.
  • Drew Rowsome gives a strongly positive–and deserved review to the Minmar Gaslight show The Seat Next to the King, a Fringe triumph now playing at the Theatre Centre.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains how so many outer-system icy worlds have liquid water.
  • Towleroad features Jim Parsons’ exploration of how important is for him, as a gay man, to be married.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russian language policy limiting minority languages in education could backfire, and wonders if Islamization one way people in an urbanizing North Caucasus are trying to remain connected to community.