Nov 272022
 

Someone just sent me a YouTube link to a video, made in May 2022, showing some of the nightlife in a Tehran shopping district.

What I found especially interesting is the youth of the crowd, but also how ordinary, how “Western” most of them appeared. Were it not for the Persian script and the (rather loosely worn, I noted) headscarves, it could be a scene from any Western metropolis.

And not a single Muslim terrorist in sight! Scandalous, really.

No, I have no illusions about the ayatollahs’ regime. But looking at these scenes makes me wonder: how much longer will a population this young, this full of energy, endure being ruled by senile septuagenarian religious ultraconservatives?

 Posted by at 1:46 am
Nov 152022
 

CNN reports a Russian attack (likely unintentional, but an attack nonetheless) on a Polish farm, killing two.

That’s an attack on the territory of a NATO state.

 Posted by at 2:56 pm
Nov 072022
 

Every so often, I am presented with questions about physics that go beyond physics: philosophical questions of an existential nature, such as the reasons why the universe has certain properties, or the meaning of existence in light of the far future.

I usually evade such questions by pointing out that they represent the domain of priests or philosophers, not physicists. I do not mean this disparagingly; rather, it is a recognition of the fact that physics is about how the universe works, not why, nor what it all means for us humans.

Yesterday, I came across a wonderful 1915 painting by Russian avant-garde painter Lyubov Popova, entitled Portrait of a Philosopher:

What can I say? This painting sums up how I feel perfectly.

 Posted by at 1:19 am
Nov 052022
 

Today is November 5, 2022. Here we are in Ottawa, supposedly the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulan Bator. It is 9:15 PM.

And it is 21 degrees (centigrade — 70 F, for my American friends.)

Our A/C ran several times today, especially while we were baking something.

This is beyond incredible. I’ve seen snowstorms in this town in October. I’ve never seen summer-like weather in November.

If this is global warming… well, if folks who will likely be swept away by the sea in places like Florida don’t care, who am I to complain?

Still… weather like this in November is a bit creepy.

[And yes, I still use Windows gadgets, with the help of third-party software. What can I say? I like them.]

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Oct 272022
 

To those who know my city of birth, Budapest, this is an astonishing picture that I came across on Facebook.

In the foreground is Margaret Bridge, spanning the Danube. The kink in the bridge is where it touches Margaret Island. Beyond that, on the Pest side, it’s Saint Stephen’s Boulevard, named after Stephen I, Hungary’s first king. The two small domes on the left are part of the Western (“Nyugati”) railway station building, designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel).

But then… thanks to the magic of the telephoto lens, in the background we see another major railway station, the Eastern (“Keleti”) station. I never before realized that these two railway stations, which are actually miles apart, line up like this.

Not only that but behind that second railway station, we can even see some housing projects that are quite some distance away, near the terminus of the city’s #2 subway line.

Telephoto lenses are really tricky. By the way, in case anyone wonders, the image is from 1982. There’s plenty of traffic on the bridge, but notice that most of the cars are characteristic East Bloc models: Ladas, Trabants, a Skoda, a Moskvich if I am not mistaken, a Wartburg. The buses are the same Ikarus models that once roamed the streets even here in Ottawa. The streetcars were built by Hungary’s Ganz. That streetcar line is supposedly the world’s busiest, today served by rather nice-looking, very long, high-capacity Siemens trains.

 Posted by at 1:41 am
Oct 242022
 

Oh, moments after posting about not having worthwhile subjects to post about, I suddenly remembered something that I have been meaning to post about for some time. That is to say, Moore’s law in computing, the idea that the capabilities of computer technology roughly double every 18-24 months or so.

It has been true for a long while. Gordon Moore made this observation back in 1965, when I was just two years old.

I observed a form of Moore’s law as I was swapping computer hardware over the years. My first major planned upgrade took place in 1992, when I built a really high end desktop computer (it even had a CD-ROM drive!) for many thousands of dollars. Months later, my older desktop machine found a new life as my first ever Linux server, soon to be connected to the Internet using on-demand dial-up.

The new desktop machine I built in ’92 lasted until 1998, when it was time to replace it. For the first time, I now had a computer that could play back DVDs without the help of external hardware. It also had the ability to capture and display video from cable. Ever since, I’ve been watching TV mostly on my computer screen. I watched the disaster unfolding on September 11, 2001 and the tragic end of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003 on that computer.

Next came 2004, when I executed a planned upgrade of workstation and server, along with some backup hardware. Then, like clockwork, 2010 and finally, 2016, when I built these fine machines, with really decent but low power (hence low thermal stress) Xeon CPUs, three of them.

And now here we are, in late 2022. More than six years have passed. And these computers do not feel the least bit obsolete. Their processors are fast. Their 32 GB of RAM is more than adequate. Sure, the 1 TB SSDs are SATA, but so what? It’s not like they ever felt slow. Video? The main limitation is not age, simply finding fanless video cards of decent capabilities that a) make no noise, b) don’t become a maintenance nightmare with dust-clogged fans.

I don’t feel like upgrading at all. Would feel like a waste of money. The only concern I have is that my server runs a still supported, but soon-to-be-obsoleted version of CentOS Linux. My workstation runs Windows 10 but support won’t be an issue there for quite a while.

And then there are the aging SSDs. Perfectly healthy as far as I can tell but should I risk relying on them after more than 6 years? Even high-end SSDs are becoming dirt cheap nowadays, so perhaps it’s time to make a small investment and upgrade?

Moore’s Law was originally about transistor counts, and transistor counts continue to rise. But transistor counts mean nothing unless you’re interested in counting transistors. Things that have meaning include execution speed, memory capacity, bandwidth, etc. And on all these fronts, the hardware that I built back in 2016 does not feel obsolete or limiting. In fact, when I look at what I would presently buy to build new machines, quite surprisingly the specs would only differ marginally from my six year old hardware. Prices aren’t that different either. So then, what’s the point, so long as the old hardware remains reliable?

 Posted by at 8:10 pm
Oct 242022
 

There are only about six days left of the month of October and I have not yet written anything in this blog of mine this month. I wonder why.

Ran out of topics? Not really, but…

… When it comes to politics, what can I say that hasn’t been said before? That the murderous mess in Ukraine remains as horrifying as ever, carrying with it the threat of escalation each and every day? That it may already be the opening battle of WW3?

Or should I lament how the new American radical right — masquerading as conservatives, but in reality anti-democratic, illiberal authoritarianists who are busy dismantling the core institutions of the American republic — is on the verge of gaining control of both houses of Congress?

Do I feel like commenting on what has been a foregone conclusion for months, Xi “Winnie-the-pooh” Jinping anointing himself dictator for life in the Middle Kingdom, ruining the chances of continuing liberalization in that great country, also gravely harming their flourishing economy?

Or should I comment on the fact that prevalent climate denialism notwithstanding, for the first time in the 35 years that I’ve lived in Ottawa, Canada, our air conditioner came online in the last week of October because the house was getting too hot in this near summerlike heat wave?

Naw. I should stick to physics. Trouble is, apart from the fact that I still feel quite unproductive, having battled a cold/flu/COVID (frankly, I don’t care what it was, I just want to recover fully) my physics time is still consumed with wrapping up a few lose ends of our Solar Gravitational Lens study, now that the NIAC Phase III effort has formally come to a close.

Still, there are a few physics topics that I am eager to revisit. And it’s a nice form of escapism from the “real” world, which is becoming more surreal each and every day.

 Posted by at 7:41 pm
Sep 302022
 

I cannot escape the sensation that the unthinkable is drawing closer and closer with the passing of each and every day.

Today, the Institute for the Study of War released a special update, titled Assessing Putin’s Implicit Nuclear Threats After Annexation.

They assess that “Putin likely intends annexation to freeze the war along the current frontlines” and that if successful, “the Kremlin could reconstitute its forces and renew its invasion“.

They stress that although Putin mentioned nuclear weapons as he did in past speeches, he was “avoiding making the direct threats that would be highly likely to precede nuclear use“.

Nonetheless, the situation is wide open for miscalculation. As the ISW asserts, Putin “likely incorrectly assesses that his nuclear brinksmanship will lead the United States and its allies to pressure Ukraine to negotiate“.

The ISW then informs us that they “cannot forecast the point at which Putin would decide to use nuclear weapons“. That language is perhaps scarier than intended and not just because it raises the obvious question, if they cannot, who can? But also because it may be an accurate reflection of reality, as the question is not “if” but “when”.

Concerning Putin’s efforts, the ISW states that “rushing thousands of untrained and unmotivated Russian men to the front will not meaningfully increase Russian combat power“. And that while “Europe is in for a cold and difficult winter, yet the leaders of NATO and non-NATO European states have not faltered“.

In short: Putin is maneuvering himself and the West into a situation with fewer and fewer options, none of which are palatable.

In the end, the ISW comes to a conclusion that I wholly agree with: “The more confident Putin is that nuclear use will not achieve decisive effects but will draw direct Western conventional military intervention in the conflict, the less likely he is to conduct a nuclear attack“. This is why the West must make it abundantly clear that such a conventional intervention is a foregone certainty if nuclear weapons are used.

Is this enough? I have no idea. But it is the one option that might yet help us avoid turning this mess into WW3. Otherwise, the unthinkable just might happen… not in years, not in months, but possibly within weeks or less.

The trouble is, deep inside I suspect Putin already knows that there are no good outcomes left for him personally. And this is why he may decide, like other pathetic despots have done throughout history, that if he must burn, the world must burn with him. The trouble is, unlike despots of the past, Putin indeed wields the power to burn much of the world.

 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Sep 282022
 

I don’t always agree with Sabine Hossenfelder but every once in a while, she hits the nail spot on.

Case in point: Her article, published in The Guardian on September 26, about the state of particle physics.

Imagine going to a zoology conference, she says, where a researcher discusses a hypothesis (complete with a computer-generated 3D model) of a 12-legged purple spider living in the Arctic. Probably doesn’t exist but still, how about proposing a mission to the Arctic to search for one? After all, a null result also contains valuable data. Or how about a flying earthworm that lives in caves? Martian octopuses, anyone?

Zoology conferences do not usually discuss such imaginary monsters but, Sabine argues (and she is spot on) this is pretty much what particle physics conferences are like: “invent new particles for which there is no evidence, publish papers about them, write more papers about these particles’ properties, and demand the hypothesis be experimentally tested”. Worse yet, real money is being spent (wasted might be a better word) on carrying out such experiments.

She points out that while it is true that good science is falsifiable, the opposite isn’t always the case: Just because something is falsifiable does not make it good science.

And not just particle physics, I hasten to add. How about cosmology and gravitation? Discussions about what may or may not have happened during the Planck epoch? Exploring exotic spacetime topologies, often in dimensions other than four? And let me not even mention quantum computing or fusion energy…

Perhaps I am a born skeptic lacking imagination, but to me, these are all 12-legged purple Arctic spiders. The science we actually know and have the ability to confirm are general relativity in a spacetime that is by and large the perturbed Minkowski metric; and the Standard Model of particle physics, extended with a neutrino mass mixing matrix. These are the things that work. Not perfectly, mind you. General relativity needs “dark matter” (name aside, we don’t know what it is except that it has a dust equation of state) and “dark energy” (again, it has a name but beyond that, we don’t know what it is beyond its equation of state) to account for galaxy dynamics and cosmic evolution. The Hubble tension, the discrepancy between values of the Hubble parameter measured using different methods, is real. Observations by the James Webb space telescope suggest that we do not understand the “dark ages”, the first few hundred million years after the surface of last scattering (i.e., the epoch when the cosmic microwave background radiation was produced), well. Massive neutrinos invite the question about the apparent absence right-handed neutrinos.

And yes, we are very much in the blind concerning these issues. Nature has not yet provided hints and we are not smart enough to figure out the answers entirely on our own. But how is that an excuse for inventing 12-legged spiders?

I think it isn’t.

 Posted by at 6:40 pm
Sep 262022
 

Putting aside Trumpism, woke-ism, the politics of the day, populism, the whole kaboodle, here’s something to contemplate.

Tonight, Russia is continuing its efforts to subjugate the independent nation of Ukraine, not refraining from committing serious, intentional, criminal acts against the country’s civilian population to further its goals.

Also tonight, the space agency of the United States, NASA, is conducting a ground-breaking experiment, the first of its kind testing a method that might one day avert a global disaster, protecting the entire planet from an asteroid impact.

DART: View of the asteroid Dimophos 20 minutes to impact

I think it speaks volumes about the different ways in which these countries see their respective roles in the world.

I almost long for Soviet times. The regime was assuredly brutal, but at least it professed to seek noble goals. Not anymore, I guess.

 Posted by at 7:18 pm
Sep 232022
 

I admit that to date, I only viewed the first season of Game of Thrones. One of these days, I’ll watch the rest but there’s so much good television and so little time… I don’t spend much time watching TV, so I am behind even with series that I really like. (Hint: haven’t yet finished the last season of The Sopranos.)

Yet… I get the catch phrase. Winter is coming. And yes, I am filled with a sensation of dread because winter, indeed, is coming. quite possibly the world’s worst winter since… 1914? 1939? 1941? Not sure.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a silly but perhaps relevant analogy: the flight envelope. Move too slow, your airplane falls out of the sky. Move too fast and your airplane is overstressed and disintegrates. The higher your altitude, the smaller the difference between the two, until eventually you run out of options: no matter what you do, you fall out of the sky. That was the tragic fate of AF447 over the Atlantic Ocean 13 years ago.

And I now feel that geopolitics is locked in a very similar pattern. With each and every passing day, our options are becoming more constrained. Take Putin’s nuclear threat, combined with the sham referenda he’s organizing in the occupied Ukrainian territories. He says he’s not bluffing. What if he means it? What are our options if he does deploy a tactical nuke in the battlefield?

There really are no good choices.

If we do nothing, that will only encourage him to go for more. The rest of Ukraine. Moldova. A Kaliningrad corridor. Perhaps the Baltic states since if NATO failed to respond to nukes in Ukraine out of fear of triggering a nuclear world war, he can count on NATO’s restraint in the Baltics, too. Where will he stop? Will he stop?

If we respond tit-for-tat, with a NATO tactical nuke, that risks escalation. The genie is now truly out of the bottle.

The best option I can think of is to use all of NATO’s might to do two things: 1) immediately establish a no-fly zone over all of Ukraine, and 2) use a direct, overwhelming conventional strike to annihilate the unit that launched the nuke.

This still carries the risk of escalation. But at least it would show that the West is not afraid to respond, it just calibrates its response appropriately: to deter, but not to escalate. And of course telegraph this well in advance, to make it clear to Putin that unlike him, the West really isn’t bluffing.

Yet I cannot escape the thought of that flight envelope. When the difference between your minimum speed and your top speed gets reduced to nothing, that means you have no good options left. Whatever you do, you fall out of the sky.

Winter is coming. A winter bringing with it the risk of escalation in Ukraine. A global food crisis as a result of the Ukraine war. An energy crisis (which may be mitigated but cannot be fully averted) in Europe. Growing tensions concerning Taiwan. A democracy crisis throughout the West as right-wing populism prevails and the rule of law suffers.

I am increasingly convinced that October 1962, the Cuban missile crisis, was a pleasant afternoon tea in a kindergarten, surrounded by friendly teddy bears, compared to what we now face, in the fall of 2022.

Back then, the choices were clear and the major players shared a common goal: avoid global confrontation.

Today? The choices are murky and we have leaders who built cults on the shared belief that they are all victims. That they have no choice but to defend themselves. From what, you ask? Well, how about defending yourself from the rule of law when you want to break it. Defending yourself from a country you attacked and tried to destroy or occupy. Defending yourself from a territory that does not want to live under your one-party totalitarian regime. Of course they do not see things this way. And that’s what make things scary.

And that’s why I worry that winter, indeed, is coming, a kind of winter we have not seen in many generations, if ever.

From the opening scenes of the Fallout 3 computer game:

War. War never changes.
Since the dawn of human kind,
when our ancestors first discovered
the killing power of rock and bone,
blood has been spilled in the name
of everything: from God to justice
to simple, psychotic rage.

 Posted by at 5:54 pm
Sep 212022
 

I looked up a book, States of Matter by David Goodstein, yesterday on Amazon, thinking about purchasing it. Except that Amazon told me that I last purchased this book on February 12, 2020.

I did?

I quickly checked my library database. Many-many years ago, I did a complete inventory of all our books, and since then, I’ve been keeping that database meticulously updated. New books that come to our house land on my desk and stay there until I enter them into the database. This is the only way to keep that database synchronized with reality.

The Goodstein book is not in the database.

I do not remember ordering it. I do not remember receiving it. Yet it clearly happened: The credit card transaction is there, duly entered into my books. The e-mails from Amazon, duly archived in the appropriate folder.

Now it is true that it happened just two and a half weeks before my last overseas trip. Could it be that I simply forgot about this order in the days leading up to my travel, and then never realized that the order failed to arrive? Perhaps. But then, why do I remember clearly other books that I ordered around the same timeframe? Besides, though my trip was upcoming it was not that close; this order and the supposed delivery happened two weeks before my departure.

I would be less suspicious, mind you, were it not for the fact that another weird thing happened yesterday. I have a tiny promotional toy sitting on my monitor. Yesterday, I found its identical twin brother in a box in which I was looking for something else altogether. This is definitely beginning to feel like that moment in The Matrix when Neo sees a black cat cross the hall… and then, a moment later, the same black cat cross the same hall in the same direction once again.

Still doesn’t help me with the Goodstein book. Should I keep looking for it? Under the rug, perhaps? Cat dragged it off to the litter box? Or should I just write it off and buy another copy?

 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Sep 182022
 

In recent weeks, I came across two quotes that are worth recording here.

As I watch Florida’s governor playing cheap board games with the lives of Venezuelan refugees, I recall the words of Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco:

We need an enemy to give people hope. Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards: those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and the bastards always talk about the purity of the race. National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same. Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion. The enemy is the friend of the people. You always want someone to hate in order to feel justified in your own misery. Hatred is the primordial passion. It is love that’s abnormal.

The hypocrisy of those who cry the loudest for freedom was already evident two centuries prior, to British author Dr. Samuel Johnson:

How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?

The more times change, the more they remain the same, I guess.

 Posted by at 1:59 am
Sep 172022
 

One of the many novels by prolific 1930s Hungarian author Jenő Rejtő featured a horrific penal colony somewhere in colonial French Africa. Near the end of the novel, one of the minor protagonists, the military commander of the colony, already in retirement in Rome, recalls the past. As he enjoys the beautiful view from his window, he thinks that “and right now, Bahr el Sudan also exists for sure, and Tiguer, the corporal with the red moustache, is just now hanging a wet blanket, which smells like horses, over the window. This is a strange and unsettling notion.

Sometimes I feel the same way, not so much with respect to distant places in the present, but distant places in the past.

Take this image, a montage of two photographs taken from a wonderful Hungarian photographic archive that someone just shared on Facebook, showing an intersection in downtown Budapest, not far from where I grew up.

The picture predates us living there but not by much; it was taken in 1961, we moved there in 1967, but everything looked pretty much the same. I know this intersection like the back of my hand: the stores, the buildings, everything.

And when I view this image, it comes to life in my mind. It feels tangibly real. I can even smell the smells: the smell of freshly ground coffee (I even remember the noise made by the electric grinder) in that deli store on the corner, the smell of paint and household solvents permeating the hardware store next door. The sound made by those trolley buses as they rolled down the cobblestoned street (only the intersection was asphalt-paved at the time) as it even rattled our fourth-floor living room windows.

It all feels so real… it is a deeply unsettling thought that I am separated from what is depicted in this image not just by distance but also by time. The view that I am looking at is older than I am, as it was taken 62 years ago.

 Posted by at 1:36 am
Sep 132022
 

Oops. It’s past midnight already, so technically it was yesterday but to me it is still today, September 12.

The sixtieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous “we choose to go to the Moon” speech. How many more years before another human sets foot on the Moon?

Oh, and it was thirty years ago that Ildiko and I became married.

Yup, that’s us; 1979 vs. 2019.

 Posted by at 1:54 am
Sep 092022
 

In the wake of the passing of Elizabeth II, there are once again voices advocating that Canada should shed its “colonial past”, get rid of the institution of monarchy, and transform itself into a republic.

I think it’s an absolutely horrible idea. Why? Well… let me present the ten countries at the top of the 2021 Freedom in the World index:

Finland Parliamentary Republic
Norway Constitutional Monarchy
Sweden Constitutional Monarchy
New Zealand Constitutional Monarchy
Canada Constitutional Monarchy
Netherlands Constitutional Monarchy
Uruguay Presidential Republic
Australia Constitutional Monarchy
Denmark Constitutional Monarchy
Ireland Parliamentary Republic

Notice that seven out of these ten countries are constitutional monarchies (four of them, in fact, under the same monarch.)

Let me present, in contrast, the ten countries at the bottom of the list:

Central African Republic Presidential Republic
Tajikistan Presidential Republic
Somalia Parliamentary Republic
Saudi Arabia Absolute Monarchy
Equatorial Guinea Presidential Republic
North Korea Socialist Republic
Turkmenistan Presidential Republic
South Sudan Federal Republic
Eritrea Presidential Republic
Syria Presidential Republic

With the sole exception of Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) all of them are republics.

I think these lists speak for themselves.

Thankfully, changing the Canadian constitution is a monumental task and I doubt any major political party would have the appetite to initiate something like this.

As for the “colonial past”, this excessive wokeness is beginning to sound almost as crazy as the convoy nutbags’ cries for “freedom”. Enough with the insanity already. Stop trying to turn this wonderful country into a battleground between two competing insane asylums.

 Posted by at 1:48 pm
Sep 012022
 

A few days ago I had a silly thought about the metric tensor of general relativity.

This tensor is usually assumed to be symmetric, on account of the fact that even if it has an antisymmetric part, \(g_{[\mu\nu]}dx^\mu dx^\nu\) will be identically zero anyway.

But then, nothing constrains \(g_{\mu\nu}\) to be symmetric. Such a constraint should normally appear, in the Lagrangian formalism of the theory, as a Lagrange-multiplier. What if we add just such a Lagrange-multiplier to the Einstein-Hilbert Lagrangian of general relativity?

That is, let’s write the action of general relativity in the form,

$$S_{\rm G} = \int~d^4x\sqrt{-g}(R – 2\Lambda + \lambda^{[\mu\nu]}g_{\mu\nu}),$$

where we introduced the Lagrange-multiplier \(\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}\) in the form of a fully antisymmetric tensor. We know that

$$\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}g_{\mu\nu}=\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}(g_{(\mu\nu)}+g_{[\mu\nu]})=\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}g_{[\mu\nu]},$$

since the product of an antisymmetric and a symmetric tensor is identically zero. Therefore, variation with respect to \(\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}\) yields \(g_{[\mu\nu]}=0,\) which is what we want.

But what about variation with respect to \(g_{\mu\nu}?\) The Lagrange-multipliers represent new (non-dynamic) degrees of freedom. Indeed, in the corresponding Euler-Lagrange equation, we end up with new terms:

$$\frac{\partial}{\partial g_{\alpha\beta}}(\sqrt{-g}\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}g_{[\mu\nu]})=
\frac{1}{2}g^{\alpha\beta}\sqrt{-g}\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}g_{[\mu\nu]}+\sqrt{-g}\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}(\delta^\alpha_\mu\delta^\beta_\nu-\delta^\alpha_\nu\delta^\beta_\mu)=2\sqrt{-g}\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}=0.$$

But this just leads to the trivial equation, \(\lambda^{[\mu\nu]}=0,\) for the Lagrange-multipliers. In other words, we get back General Relativity, just the way we were supposed to.

So in the end, we gain nothing. My silly thought was just that, a silly exercise in pedantry that added nothing to the theory, just showed what we already knew, namely that the antisymmetric part of the metric tensor contributes nothing.

Now if we were to add a dynamical term involving the antisymmetric part, that would be different of course. Then we’d end up with either Einstein’s attempt at a unified field theory (with the antisymmetric part corresponding to electromagnetism) or Moffat’s nonsymmetric gravitational theory. But that’s a whole different game.

 Posted by at 11:40 pm
Aug 302022
 

I am reading the story of the second atomic bombing, the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

It succeeded against all odds, after almost everything that could possibly go wrong, did.

Like, having a plutonium core bouncing around on the floor of an airplane in turbulence.

A misunderstood radio message (that was itself sent in clear violation of the rules of radio silence) that led many on the ground believe that the B-29 carrying the bomb was lost.

A failed rendezvous attempt that caused the airplane, already hindered by a faulty pump, to burn precious fuel.

A bomb that was incorrectly assembled, leading to a late-night repair that involved using a soldering iron, powered by a string of extension cords connecting two an outlet two rooms away, in the presence of high explosives.

And last but definitely not least, a bomb that appeared to arm itself mid-flight, with an ominous, blinking red light, and a crew that was frantically looking for the reason in the manual, until finally they reset some switches to the appropriate positions.

Yes, it was wartime. Things don’t always go as planned in wartime. And in the end, the bomb was delivered, Japan surrendered, and WW2 ended without additional bombs, without an invasion that would have been incredibly costly in terms of human lives. And the crew managed to make it to a safe (albeit scary) landing in Okinawa, flying on fumes.

More than 77 years later, August 9, 1945 still marks the last time (for now) when a nuclear weapon was used in anger. When I was a child, I daresay no sane adult believed that we’d live to see, never mind 2022, the year 2000 without nuclear Armageddon. Yet here we are. So maybe there’s hope for us yet.

 Posted by at 8:36 pm