Friday, 5 August 2011

Today's links of interest

Don't go chasing polar bears... Memo to soft-lefty nature lovers: Mother Nature is a bitch, and she will kill you  if you are not adequately prepared. In this case Mother Nature was a polar bear who snacked upon a 17 year old would-be medical student on Svalbard Island. (Yes, the same Svalbard that features in Philip Pullman's novel Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass). Apparently it is illegal there to leave human settlements without a firearm.

Boy versus wild. With a father like Bear Grylls to set the example, what do you do when the little girl you're playing with falls into the river? Why, you fish her out, of course. Well done to Master Grylls, aged seven, who keeps alive the finest traditions of British boyhood. Somewhere, Enid Blyton is smiling.

The Nanny State is coming to save you! The Australian Government is set to throw ten million dollars at programs to help teenagers avoid binge drinking. Perhaps if the Australian Government was not so expert at screwing up employment opportunities for said young people by imposing stupid workplace restrictions, and so determined to put the fear of God (or should that be the fear of Gore) into its youngsters that they will all die screaming if they don't pay through the nose whenever they flick on a switch or fill a car or even buy food, youngsters wouldn't feel the need to binge-drink so much?

Then again, if every teenager who binge-drank got a large-calibre nasogastric tube rammed down their gullet and their stomach pumped out every time they presented to hospital intoxicated, they might not be disposed to repeat the experience.

A few years too late, and not necessary. The 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb is upon us, which means the anti-nuclear nutcases are coming out to play once more. This nauseatingly obsequious individual feels the need to apologise for something neither he nor his ancestors had any part in or control over, a common obsession among the (virulently anti-nuclear) Australian Left. Perhaps he doesn't understand that what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the demonstration to the world of how destructive these weapons really were; and that if they had not been used then, they might have been used later when both sides of the Cold War had them and their destructive power was orders of magnitude greater.

Nuclear weapons are the bulwark of the West's defence against tyranny, because dictators and demagogues want them (and sometimes get them), don't give a damn what people like that nauseatingly obsequious individual think, and usually take pains to have them rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, shot, or "any or all of the above". A world without Western nuclear weapons is a world in which dictators and demagogues who have them can bully others into submission. If Obama takes the US out of the nuclear club, he should be impeached and tried for treason. Ditto Cameron, ditto Sarkozy (though I think the French have a far more hardline and realistic attitude to their nuclear arsenal, and will hold on to it as long as they can afford to).

They could probably be done for treason against humanity too, because a well-placed nuke or three or four or five could be the only thing powerful enough to give an approaching asteroid the heavy nudge to the side* that will get it out of Earth's path - ironically it is only nuclear weapons which might one day save us from what is commonly called "nuclear winter" but would in fact be caused by any large celestial body throwing a sufficient volume of dust into the atmosphere. If the time came and the window of opportunity was short, I would not want to have to go begging, cap in hand, to an autocracy (or worse, an Islamofascist theocracy) for the warheads needed to save the world. We need lots of them and we need them to be REALLY powerful (on the order of several megatons). 

* = A nudge to the side is the correct manoeuvre, using a close-range or contact burst to vaporise part of the rock and create a reaction that will divert it to one side. Because the conditions for a hit have to be just right, a hard enough shove the right way will convert it to a miss and buy us some time to ensure that the offending object is either diverted into the Sun or shifted to an orbit guaranteed not to interfere with the Earth-Moon system. Most of these things are too big and tough to blow to small bits, and even if they were we'd be faced with a radioactive meteorite shower when the stuff arrived in Earth orbit. Granted, given the number of nukes we have exploded in tests over the last sixty-odd years without too much damage, and depending on the yield we throw at it, this MIGHT be preferable to taking a hit from an intact object. The further back we find it, the less angular deviation we need to make it miss, but having the ability in extremis to seed its path with nuclear explosives and give it shove after shove after shove is not something I'd like to give up in any great hurry.

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