Now I am become death

From the first nuclear explosion in 1945 until a moratorium in 1992, the United States conducted 1,054 nuclear tests. Detonated across the U.S.—and on islands in the Pacific Ocean when the bombs were especially destructive (like the 21-kiloton bomb detonated on Bikini Atoll, pictured above)—the consequences are still felt today. “Any person living in the contiguous United States since 1951 has been exposed to radioactive fallout from testing,” one joint study reveals, according to Lesley M. M. Blume for Nat Geo.

Never forget. Our politicians approved all of this.

Could be the most important planned collision – ever!


That last moment before impact

This coming Monday, NASA will broadcast its first attempt to modify the orbit of an asteroid, a capability that will be essential if we detect an asteroid that poses a threat of colliding with Earth. The planetary defense effort is focused on a craft called DART, for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which will target a small asteroid called Dimorphos that orbits the larger 65803 Didymos, forming a binary system. If all goes according to plan, DART will direct itself to a head-on collision that slows Dimorphos, altering its orbit around Didymos…

…The planned collision will also be broadcast live on NASA’s YouTube channels. While we’ll know immediately whether the collision occurred as planned, it may take several months before we’re certain that Dimorphos’ orbit was successfully modified…

During its final approach to Didymos, DART will be distant enough that round-trip transmissions will take over a minute. As such, the final approach and targeting of the asteroid will be handled by an on-board navigation system called SMART Nav (Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation)…

As described by Evan Smith, DART’s deputy mission system engineer, the system will shift over to on-board navigation at about four hours before impact, and the SMART Nav will track the larger Didymos and use that for navigation until about 50 minutes before collision, or about a half-hour after it can be resolved. At 2.5 minutes prior to the collision, the ion engine will be shut off, and DART will coast into a collision at about 6 kilometers a second.

And then, if everything goes well, the transmissions will stop.

RTFA for all the geek details about the mission. Thoughts to be examined, resolved after the mission. Whatever time the Big Bang happens, I plan to be watching. Even though there is a small companion craft accompanying DART that will record the final encounter from (what we hope is) a safe distance. Slo-mo replays and all.

Polio vaccination rates are too low in some parts of the United States


During the height of the polio epidemic in 1956

For more than 60 years, vaccines against the poliovirus have protected virtually everyone in the United States from the disease. Due to an enormously successful polio vaccination campaign beginning in the 1950s when the first polio vaccines became available, by 1979 polio was considered eliminated in the U.S.

Unfortunately, even today, there are communities in the U.S. that have lower-than-necessary polio vaccination rates. Because many people have not been vaccinated, there is now a real possibility of a resurgence of polio in the U.S….

…In July 2022, a man from Rockland County, New York, was diagnosed with polio, the first such diagnosis in the U.S. in nearly a decade. The patient – who developed the severe, paralytic form of the disease – had been exposed to an altered live vaccine strain from overseas.

Then on Sept. 9, 2022, New York declared a state of emergency due to ongoing poliovirus transmission. As of that date, using wastewater surveillance, officials had identified 57 samples of poliovirus in wastewater from four New York counties. More than half of those were detected in the same county where the adult patient is from, just outside New York City.

As a result of the continued poliovirus detection in wastewater, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the U.S. now meets the World Health Organization’s criteria for “a country with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus.”

OK. Unless you live near the trouble spots in the WHO report, you’re probably not in trouble. Yet. As long as you’re vaccinated. As long as you’re in a community with vaccination levels that qualify as providing “herd immunity”.

This news article provides lots of info. And the basic premise is the same for any comparable disease. You need to be vaccinated to even be capable of being out of danger.

A beautiful suicide


Robert C. Wiles

This powerful photo taken by Robert C. Wiles was published as a full-page image in the 12 May 1947 issue of Life Magazine. It ran with the caption: “At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car“.

We didn’t own a TV set in 1947. My family and I saw the newsprint version of this photo the next day. LIFE magazine a few days after that.

The “rice capital of California” is now a wasteland


San Francisco Chronicle

Normally, by September, the drive north from Sacramento on Interstate 5 showcases vast stretches of flooded rice fields on both sides, farms bustling with tractors and workers preparing for fall harvest.

Not this year, said Kurt Richter, a third-generation rice farmer in Colusa, the rice capital of California where the local economy relies heavily on agriculture. “It is now just a wasteland,” he said.

As drought endures for a third year with record-breaking temperatures and diminishing water supplies, more than half of California’s rice fields are estimated to be left barren without harvest — about 300,000 out of the 550,000 or so in reported acres, provisional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows. This year, rice is estimated to account for just 2% of total planted acres across the state…

The dramatic reduction in rice acreage will translate to lost revenue of an estimated $500 million, about 40% of which will be covered by federal crop insurance, according to UC Davis agricultural economist Aaron Smith.

Insurance only covers set amounts. Surviving the death of your livelihood, what may be the last breath of spirit from generations of working families, can drive folks away from everything that has been root and branch of their whole lives.