scott_sanford: (Daria proofreads)
Conservatives have been praising Ronald Reagan for a few years now, as their model of what a president should be. Lately it occurred to me to ask why.

If our current conservatives like Reagan's policies they should approve of our current president's similar positions, and they don't; many dislike him because he's of the wrong party, and some because he's the wrong color, but overall it doesn't sound like a policy choice at all. It's not that Reagan had a great presidency, either; he didn't. Americans saw corruption charges, an exploding deficit, etc.

Eventually it occurred to me that they're pushing Reagan because he's the only one they've got. Look at the Republican presidents over the last fifty years: the crook, the nobody, the actor, the spy, and the drunk. Of course they're going for the actor. Let's break down their options. Read more... )
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I'm not a professional historian, but the subject came up in conversation at work and I'd like to make two points.

* The Great Depression did not cause the American Civil War.
* The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did not occur during the Eisenhower presidency.

More jems as they appear...
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So I noticed that today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, which I hope has been pointed out by many people in the media - I only knew because I read up on it, but it's the sort of thing which could pad out a news broadcast or newspaper article. And most of us are aware that Cinco de Mayo is a bigger deal in the US than in most parts of Mexico.

But the US has a neighbor to the north, too; why don't we have a Canadian holiday? This may bear pondering.
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For the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, this. Now that I think of it, I really hope somebody sings this where John Cougar Mellencamp can hear it.

Little ditty, 'bout Billy and Ed,
Just a couple of guys,
Each got a crown on his head.
Eddy's gonna be
The king of England;
Billy's Duke of Normandy,
Gonna do what he can.
scott_sanford: (Default)
I'm posting this so I will not lose the link to this article about cities and economics, which is not only intellectually interesting but useful to anyone doing world building for fiction or RPG purposes.

PS: For the, oh, two people who read me but not James Nicoll, see here for his take on it.


Jun. 28th, 2011 01:28 am
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I know this will be of interest to some of my readers. Back in 1959 the Orion project was still getting funding (sanity had not yet set in) and some actual flight tests were done. This short video clip shows an unmanned 105kg test vehicle taking off propelled by 1kg C4 charges.

(Related only by reader interest, it seems that Los Alamos has a large wildfire.)
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Somehow I've managed to miss this until now. It's a video by Isao Hashimoto illustrating all 2053 nuclear explosions from 1945 until 1988.

Several things come to mind watching this, like the odd musical track made by the 'ping' sound effect when a nuke goes off. Testing tended to run in clusters, so you get interesting emergent music - like birdsong, only with radioactivity. Also, the US has maintained its head start in nuking things pretty well; about half of all mushroom clouds were ours.

The most important point is of course that 2051 nukes were popped off essentially to see what would happen. After the second and third units, nobody anywhere ever actually used any of them on somebody else. Good for you, humanity.
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It seems that Claude Choules (b. 3 March 1901) has passed away, on May fifth. He could give an eyewitness account of Scapa Flow. He served in both World Wars. He was Australian. And, it seems at the moment, the last World War I veteran alive anywhere.

We've lost the last German Hun, the last American Doughboy, the last British Tommy, and the last Canadian veteran already. This appears to be the whole set, alas.
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Lost secrets? Check. Mysterious underground passages? Check. Danger? Well, a little. Not a D&D campaign, but the London Post Office Railway, an underground mail delivery system that moved letters between London's post offices for about a century and has been shut down since 2002. Some determined explorers managed to gain access to this buried treasure of hidden London and report back their adventure.

Let me say in passing that I'm impressed not only with London's urban spelunkers but also the history nerds who equipped the team with background lore and maps. (It's a clear demonstration that our hobbies are only mostly useless.) Well done, gentlemen!
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So I'm wasting time on the net as usual when I run across an anecdote from Operation Plumbob, a nuke testing program back in the 1950s.

It seems that their point criticality tests led to some interesting learning experiences. Follow along: Pascal-A was supposed to check that a single faulty detonator could not actually set off the whole bomb (an implosion type design counts on having a bunch of carefully timed detonators to, well, implode). So the test unit is lowered down a 147 meter shaft and set off, which is when they discover that someone's slipped a decimal point somewhere - the yield is about 55 tons, or 50,000 times what they expected. Oops.

Witness Robert Campbell said, "Biggest damn Roman candle you ever saw! It was beautiful. Big blue glow in the sky..."

Right. After this little learning experience, they redesigned things a bit for the next test.

Pascal-B was a near duplicate of Pascal-A, but after the fireworks display last time, the scientists decided to put a cap on the hole. (The military has a very good understanding of "tube with explosives at one end.") Starting with a piece of four inch thick armor plate, a one-ton steel cap for the hole was made and lowered into place for the test.

Like the first time, this test was predicted to yield about as much force as 1-2lbs worth of TNT. Like the first time, this wasn't particularly accurate. Pascal-B went off at around 1/3 kiloton, or 600,000 times what it should have. Oops, again.

The surface high-speed camera caught exactly one frame of that one-ton steel plate as it left the ground, headed upwards at what was later estimated as six times Earth escape velocity, never to be seen again. A flying manhole cover moving face-on through the air is a spectacularly un-aerodynamic shape, and the best guess is that it vaporized long before it left the atmosphere.

While the cap was very, very gone it was not forgotten; this incident was brought up later in connection with the Project Orion concept. There's probably a moral in there somewhere.
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It seems the Brits found a Do-17 that they put into the Channel back in 1940, substantially intact. Read more... )
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Possibly the best troll baiting headline of Pi Day: Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.

There's a long history of saying outrageous things in order to get attention. Phil Zuckerman actually backs it up with something related, so good for him.
scott_sanford: (Default)
The world's oldest pot stash has been discovered. Technically speaking (as I understand these things) it is not really a stash, as the cannabis was among the valuables buried with someone rather than being hidden away for later use - but I'm a layman in that field. More interestingly, the plant had apparently been bred for THC potency, suggesting the species has been domesticated longer than we knew.
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Archeologists in Armenia report the world's oldest winery, preserved due to a cave collapse. This is the same site that gave us the world's oldest shoe a while back.


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