Friday, June 16, 2006
Even as Earth faces new threats, President Bush made wonderful
use of his authority under the 1906 National Antiquities Act to
establish a new national monument. A vast marine sanctuary
stretching across the Northwestern Hawaiian archipelago. The
area, which contains 70% of the shallow water coral reefs in the
United States, will be the largest marine conservation area in
the world, and fortunately has absolutely no oil reserves.
Hawking told a news conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday, that the
survival of the human race depends on having someplace else to go
when disaster strikes. He said we could have a base on the moon
in 20 years and a colony on Mars in 40. According to an AP
story, Hawking cited global warming, nuclear war, and genetically
modified viruses as examples of world disasters. These are human
engineered disasters, of course, and it might make more sense to
solve human problems. Ironically, even as Hawking's computer was
speaking in Hong Kong, the Sci Fi Channel was on Capitol Hill
promoting "Countdown to Doomsday," a Wednesday TV special that
included natural disasters such as gamma ray bursts and giant
solar flares. For these disasters, neither moon nor Mars offer
refuge and no time to get to the lifeboat, even if you could get
a seat; the Population Clock this morning read 6,522,550,980.
Maybe we should focus on taking care of the home we have.
The excitement is palpable at Los Alamos and Livermore. "This is
a chance to exercise skills that we have not had a chance to use
for 20 years," the head of the Los Alamos design team gushed.
The two labs are locked in the playoffs to win the coveted honor
of designing the new "reliable replacement warhead." To get
congressional approval, it was claimed the new weapon would not
need testing. Sid Drell, former director of SLAC, and longtime
advisor on nuclear weapons to DOE, scoffs at the notion that it
would be relied on without testing. Linton Brooks, chief of the
National Nuclear Security Administration, dreamed up the gimmick;
he knows that before any new warheads go into the stockpile,
pressure to test will be irresistible. All at a time when we are
seeking to restrain Iran's nuclear program.
If you thought I had the story about the terrorist going to meet
his virgins backwards, you were not alone. Judged by the e-mail,
about half the readers thought I was even more confused than
usual. "The plan was boldly simple, find al-Zarqawi and track
him until he leads us to Rahman." The problem with satire is
that it's not funny unless it's subtle, but if it's too subtle
people won't know it's satire.