Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bombs bursting in the air



So back when I was a tot, the US tried to blow up the Van Allen Belt because "if we don't do it, the Russians will". The light show was spectacular.

You know, looking forward to dooms yet to come -- climate change, ecological devastation, economic collapse -- together with dooms of the past, I am amazed that against fantastic odds, 6 billion people and I are still alive. I can only conclude that it must be something like the anthropic computational principle at work.

I live in one of the few Bay Area towns that permits legal fireworks, so tonight like every year I'm going to set some off in the driveway to entertain the neighborhood kids. These are pretty wimpy as fireworks go. The official label is "safe and sane", that is, mostly roman candle like fountains; no aerial shells or explosions. But I don't see why I have to be safe and sane while the government gets to be the opposite. This is America, damn it!

Previous independence day thoughts here (jeremiadish) and here (philosophical).

[Update: more from Wikipedia and a blog devoted to this stuff. The Starfish blast apparently killed the original Telstar satellite and many others. And Declassified U.S. Nuclear Test Film #62 goes into some detail.

This test also revealed that the EMP effect of nuclear explosions was much more powerful than had been thought previously: streetlights were knocked out in Hawaii, 900 miles away). It is ironic (misusing the term, but I can't think of a better one) that this is the kind of thing that gave rise to the ARPANET and later the Internet, which now allows me to spend my holiday perusing enormous piles of useless information. I have to admit getting sucked into the technical coolness of this horrific stuff -- must have been fun developing the instrumentation packages for these tests, which were shot up on rockets next to the burst and were presumably destroyed in milliseconds.]

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