Bombs and rockets

After a 20-year mission, and to avoid any risk of contaminating Saturnian moons with microorganisms from Earth, the Cassini space probe was deliberately crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere today. The science it has returned has been stimulating and the imagery spectacular. The watery moon Enceladus now joins Europa among the solar system’s most intriguing life-compatible bodies.

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I saw the 70mm film version of “Dunkirk” last night and found much to appreciate about it. The production values are excellent, and it generally seems an unusually realistic depiction of history and combat, with less of the spectacle and fewer of the implausible dramatic storylines that often dominate the genre. The non-linear storytelling adds […]

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I find the debate about Canadian arms companies selling weapons and vehicles to Saudi Arabia a little perplexing. The media coverage seems to turn on the question of whether the arms and equipment are being used to oppress the civilian population of Saudi Arabia. I find this perplexing because there seems to be ample evidence […]

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When we think about global trends, we tend to focus on their importance and how rapidly things are changing. China’s economic rise, along with massive economic development and urbanization around the world, all have unambiguous importance, though we will endlessly disagree about how they will interact and few of us will live long enough to […]

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The New York Times has a good piece on the late stages of the Voyager missions as they pass into interstellar space. It’s especially interesting to read about some of the unexpected faults they have encountered, and the ways they need to work within the limits of the 1977-era hardware.

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Writing in The Guardian, Jacques Peretti has compiled an interesting summary of the technological capabilities and government-to-business relationships of Palantir, a secretive technology company focused on identifying patterns within large data sets and making them accessible to people without specialized training. With sensors getting cheaper all the time, the tricky part of ubiquitous surveillance isn’t […]

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Gwynne Dyer makes some good points about glacier/snowpack, river flow, and geopolitical stability in this video, at 39 minutes 18 seconds:

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Nevertheless, the exact nature of launch authorization procedures is ambiguous. Several sources refer to a system of two separate codes—one civilian and the other military—amounting to a “dual key” system. However, several authoritative accounts mention a three-man rule. In particular, the code to arm a weapon can only be inserted in the presence of three […]

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Western sources claim that China had provided Pakistan with fissile material in exchange for centrifuge technology assistance. Zia-ul-Haq hoped to exploit the close relationship with the Chinese further in order to protect Pakistan from potential preventative attacks… [T]he impact of Israeli attack on Osirak and the crash of the centrifuges in 1981 forced Zia-ul- Haq […]

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