The Astronomical Money-Shot?
Last Friday the Sun put on a magnificent display, ejecting a massive solar filament that was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in all its glory. According to NASA's announcement, the filament – a form of solar prominence – had been hovering in the Sun's atmosphere, or corona, since early August, and erupted …
I'm not a Sun scientist but from what I understand there simply isn't enough energy to fry the Earth from these events (even if it was fired at a direct trajectory to us). Although the numbers sound incredible, by the time it's reached Earth, our magnethosphere is perfectly capable of protecting us (and has done for the last several billion years).
No crispiness would ensue, at least not of the biosphere. The Sun isn't really the right sort of star to do that; the Earth is a pretty long way away, and the ejected plasma is pretty diffuse by the time it reaches us. Big flares can play havoc with sattelites and land-based power grids. I'm too lazy to find out how powerful this flare was in relation to other big 'uns that have actually had bad effects on Earth, however.
NASA are on an amazing roll at the moment. Which is probably why they are having their budget repeatedly slashed. :(
Hopefully their current awesome escapades will inspire a few more of our kids to give second thoughts to taking Golf Course Management and the like, and get into science.
Why does a country that is 3,000 miles from anywhere feel the need to spend* more on "defense" that the rest of the world put together, and then some ? Yet at the same time they manage to spare a few (relative) coppers to produce this amazing stuff. A place of paradoxes for sure.
* yes I know it's because it's an "industry" and they don't know any better what to do with their time/money ... there's the rub
Even though we are a young nation, we have read history. "If you want peace, prepare for war." and "Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who do not." If you will notice, those nations which consider themselves our "enemies" are the nations that treat their people the worst - North Korea and Iran come to mind. Neither one of those places has people risking their lives to get in, most of the time they risk their lives to get OUT. Your own James Fallows said it well, "If America were set on world domination and conquest, it would be over in a week, and they would win, utterly." (Thank you, James.) We aren't, we are SLOW to go to war, we are RELUCTANT to go to war (political noises notwithstanding), but when we DO decide to go to war, we go in to WIN. (Yes, we did learn from our southeast Asia fiasco of the 60s and 70s).
Some people may not like us (and sometimes we could stand to work on being a little more likeable), but we are NOT malicious, and we are by FAR the least worst candidate to have the biggest military in the world. Can you imagine if someone like Mugabe or Assad were "King of the roost"? Do you like China's record on human rights or the environment? What about Uncle Vlad's? One of the worst "America Haters", Noam Chomsky, is alive and well in New York, where he even has police protection! In many, many, many other countries he would have been executed long ago.
SCM - The connection was that some posters complained previously that the US should be spending a lot more on NASA and a lot less on making enemies around the world. I happen to agree with that, but unfortunately reality (and often international politics) intrudes on that . . .
Thank you and best regards.
Before you start harping on about how other nations treat their populous badly, maybe you should consider who it is that has the highest proportion of their people in prison? Not that I'm saying places like North Korea and Iran are likely to be idyllic to live in, but there is also an adage about glass houses and throwing stones that comes to mind.
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> Your own James Fallows said it well, "If America were set on world domination and conquest, it would be over in a week, and they would win, utterly."
Sorry, I call bollocks to that. It is a straw man argument, but I'll come back to that, shortly.
It also depends on what you mean by "domination". If you mean destruction, then I think there might be a few other candidates for that title. If you mean the overthrow of governments and the whipping of their peoples into slavery, I think the lessons of Vietnam prove that to be a nonsense.
In all practical ways, world domination is a fantasy.
But as I said above, a total straw man argument. Most of the bad feeling against the US is actually about their government's hypocricy with how they deal with the rest of the world. On the one hand, we have the "benevolent" US, the one that wants to free peoples and give them their liberty from oppression. That's a laudable aim. On the other hand, everyone knows that the US's main motivation behind these grand gestures is actually oil and control of other resources important to the US, and political manipulation of foreign governments to those ends.
I think the US government would have a little more respect (not a lot more, a little more) if they were a bit more open about their real motivations. After all, protecting your country's interests abroad is actually one of the most important and legitimate roles for government. Why be so secretive about it?
Of course physical world domination is an impossible fantasy - but that doesn't stop various religious groups and aggressive nations from trying it anyway. I am glad (and a rather thankful) that the US has never overtly decided to "rule the world" either by military means or other (economic, cultural) means. The US certainly does have a huge influence (like the understatement?) in world affairs, but that is the result of various accidents of history, not of a pre-planned deliberate policy. We developed our military primarily for self defense, and after the collapse of the major threat (the old Soviet Union), we were left as the only remaining military superpower. Being a wealthy country doesn't hurt, either.
Being "benevolent", concerned with freedom, and resource control/political manipulation of foreign governments are not incompatible activities. We'd like North Koreans to be free - and they have no resources whatsoever. All governments seek control of resources and manipulate (or attempt to manipulate) other governments, that's what governments do. Look at China, they are buying their way into Africa looking for resources, and they couldn't care less about human rights as they do it. Is their way, openly cynical, preferable to our way, in which we actually decline to do business with nasty regimes? We're getting ready to stop buying Tantalum (for capacitors, that's the IT angle) from several repressive third world countries because they abuse and exploit their people.
" preferable to our way, in which we actually decline to do business with nasty regimes?"
Erm, dont most American tech companies use cheap (and sometimes forced) Chinese labour to make their shiny things?
China isnt exactly a bed of roses where human rights are concerned.