Newly-digitized Nuclear Test Films Reveal More Data about Death and Destruction

❝ The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance…

Another film, showing the charmingly titled “Operation Teapot,” is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the sky and setting off a wave of soil or smoke or both, so powerful that the camera starts to shake.

❝ These are films of the nuclear age, and there are thousands of them. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

❝ Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late…

❝ Gregg Spriggs and his team started digitizing the films using special scanners that move the film without gripping it by the holes in the edges. But as they watched the old films, they noticed something: The nuclear yield data based on the images was wrong.

These aren’t just any old government movies: They are scientific documents that are key to understanding nuclear power. And even though the films are very old, scientists don’t get access to these sorts of nuclear tests anymore. Atmospheric nuclear tests have been banned since 1963…

❝ So Spriggs and his team set about reanalyzing all of the old films, using new techniques. The indicators remain the same, in some ways: The double flash of light, the fireball and the shock wave captured on film all provide significant information for researchers on the energy generated by the nuclear blast…But the newly digitized films allow researchers to more clearly see the fireball’s edge, allowing for much more accurate yield estimates. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent,” says Spriggs. “One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”

❝ The lab has posted a number of the films on YouTube, and the ability to watch these films from the cold remove of one’s desk chair is an arresting experience.

These brief portals to the Cold War are oddly devoid of context. Each film on Lawrence Livermore’s Atmospheric Nuclear Test playlist is accompanied by nothing more than its code name — no date, no location, no mention of lingering radiation. The films are silent, the explosions otherworldly. But they were in our world: enormous nuclear weapons, unleashed over Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

We have politicians, pundits and other political pimps for death and destruction who miss the Good Old Days depicted in these films. If only the ideology of hegemony over the world that sparks these thugs would die out with them.

I doubt that.

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Arms sales around the world are the highest they’ve been since the end of the Cold War


Noah Seelam/AFP

❝ Global arms sales over the last five years reached their highest level since 1990, with India continuing to top the charts as the world’s largest defense importer, a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found.

Between 2012 and 2016, India accounted for 13 percent of global arms imports, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Algeria, said SIPRI, which tracks global arms purchases. Between 2007 and 2011, India accounted for 9.7 percent of global imports, still more than any other country…

❝ Despite rising threats, and a ‘Make in India’ program to encourage local arms production, India’s domestic defense sector is not capable of meeting New Delhi’s growing requirements…

“They spend a lot of time and also money trying to develop weapons in India and things just go hopelessly wrong,” Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with SIPRI, said, adding that leaves them relying on imports…

❝ …The shift under Modi to rely more on private Indian companies for defense procurement, could lead to success. India signed an $8.7 billion contract to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation SA…Analysts also warned that structural changes to India’s defense purchasing would take a long time, given the lengthy timelines involved in defense R&D and manufacturing, as well as the necessity of meeting the military’s pressing requirements for combat-ready equipment.

RTFA for the gory details. Getting caught in the same sort of military-industrial complex that only shares ownership of the US economy with fossil fuel barons doesn’t seem like forward-looking economic design or planning. India might have more of a chance at long-term economic success working at building a mutual relationship based on peace with neighbors in the region. After all, they all were shoved into the same trick bag by departing Imperial England back in the day.

Wonder what the civilized world thinks of Trump’s so-called leadership?


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On Twitter, this morning, I bumped into a discussion led by a well-meaning Liberal on “how can we convince Trump acolytes to come to their senses?” Which is why I stopped worrying about being a Liberal approximately in 1956.

How about fighting for honest democracy in this country? Overcome criminal gerrymandering and the raft of illicit laws passed by Republican gangsters which prevent everyone from having a chance to vote. Let the Trump chumps keep their Tea Party, cigarettes and Hummers. And let the rest of us have a realistic shot at an equal opportunity to vote.

The Doomsday Clock just ticked closer to Midnight – thanks to Trump

It’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight,” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which warned Thursday that the end of humanity may be near.

The group behind the famed Doomsday Clock announced at a news conference that it was adjusting the countdown to the End of it All by moving the hands 30 seconds closer to midnight — the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since 1953, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb test.

In announcing that the Doomsday Clock was moving 30 seconds closer to the end of humanity, the group noted that in 2016, “the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.”

❝ But the organization also cited the election of President Trump in changing the symbolic clock.

“Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,” theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss and retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed on behalf of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

Like so many meaningful sources of information affecting the future of this planet and all the species on board – I doubt Trump has ever read the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Or ever will.

Dropped from Air Force jets, an autonomous 100-drone swarm plans and executes its mission

U.S. military officials have announced that they’ve carried out their largest ever test of a drone swarm released from fighter jets in flight. In the trials, three F/A-18 Super Hornets released 103 Perdix drones, which then communicated with each other and went about performing a series of formation flying exercises that mimic a surveillance mission.

But the swarm doesn’t know how, exactly, it will perform the task before it’s released. As William Roper of the Department of Defense explained…

Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.

They’re not required to behave like human sheeple. Should we worry?

“Project Horizon” – another Cold War latrine hole filled with taxpayer dollar$

❝ The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Believe it or not, in the 1950s the U.S. seriously considered building a military base on the Moon. Why? As Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson later put it, so that Americans would never have to go to bed “by the light of a Communist Moon.”

❝ Just before 10:30 p.m. on the evening of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit around Earth. Sputnik was just a metal sphere with some antennas attached, not much larger than a basketball. All it did was send radio signals beeping back to Earth. But it passed over the United States several times a day, and there was nothing the government could do about it. The implications were obvious: Russian missiles that carried satellites like Sputnik into orbit might someday be used to launch nuclear weapons against America.

The Russians didn’t stop there: One month later they commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution by launching a dog into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. They boldly predicted that Soviet cosmonauts would celebrate the Russian Revolution’s 50th anniversary, in 1967, on the Moon.

❝ U.S. intelligence analysts who studied the secretive Soviet space program feared that the Russians might indeed be capable of landing on the Moon by 1967. That raised some disturbing possibilities for American military planners: What if the Soviets claimed the Moon as Russian territory? Even worse, what if they established a military base on the Moon, perhaps even a nuclear missile base with its missiles pointed back at Earth? The United States would have no way to defend itself. The only answer, at least as far as planners in the U.S. Army were concerned, was to get to the Moon first and build a lunar base before the Russians did.

…the Army’s chief of research and development, Lieutenant General Arthur Trudeau, in March 1959…directed the army’s chief of ordnance to “develop a plan…for establishing a lunar base by the quickest means possible.” Two months later the three-volume report for “Project Horizon” landed on General Trudeau’s desk.

The article is long and looney. Still worth a read. I think you can look around at some of the nutballs inhabiting our government nowadays who learned “everything they know” from the kind of people who came up with Project Horizon.

For myself, embarrassing enough to see one of the most dangerous weapons I ever worked on. Dangerous, mostly, to anyone who tried to use the piece of crap called the Davy Crockett Rocket.

Fake news provokes Pakistan Minister to aim a nuclear threat at Israel

❝ A fake news article led to gunfire at a Washington pizzeria three weeks ago. Now it seems that another fake news story has prompted the defense minister of Pakistan to threaten to go nuclear.

The defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, wrote a saber-rattling Twitter post directed at Israel on Friday after a false report — which the minister apparently believed — that Israel had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. Both countries have nuclear arsenals.

“Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh,” the minister wrote on his official Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too.”

❝ Mr. Asif appeared to be reacting to a fake news article published on awdnews.com.

That story, with the typo-laden headline “Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack,” appeared on the website on Dec. 20, alongside articles with headlines like “Clinton is staging a military coup against Trump.”

The fake story about Israel even misidentified the country’s defense minister, attributing quotations to a former minister, Moshe Yaalon. Israel’s current minister of defense is Avigdor Lieberman.

❝ The Israeli Defense Ministry responded on Twitter to say the report was fictitious.

Legitimate news sources haven’t had much of a problem in decades with promulgating fake news. Perhaps, online profiteers might consider moving beyond copouts. Even a sleazy neighborhood bar requires proof of age. Algorithms could be a sufficient first-level challenge.

The Lost Tapes from Pearl Harbor

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❝ One style of history documentary — vintage clips plus reminiscences plus talking heads — is so common that it’s easy to forget that there are other options. “The Lost Tapes,” a series the Smithsonian Channel introduces on Sunday night with an episode on Pearl Harbor, effectively employs an alternative that really ought to get more use, especially for history that falls within the era of film and sound recording.

The program consists of just clips and still images with an occasional caption. No academics in office-chair interviews interpret things for you. No survivors grow weepy while dredging up their decades-old memories. No narration intrudes. The idea is to come closer to putting you in the historical moment, to give you a sense of what people experienced and felt at the time.

RTFA. Know what to expect, what to look for, when you watch this – as I plan to do. Never forget.

Cartoon: same as it ever was

I had friends, kin, in the Allied force that invaded, confronted the German military ruling most of Europe till the crushing bonfire that was all that was left of Germany at the end of World War 2. They helped bring about an end to the Thousand-Year-Reich. Something much longer than anything Steve Bannon proposes for Trump and their white supremacist gang.

Along the way they were often reminded of what they could – and could not – fire upon. That latter category included anything with a sign that said Krupp.