Two recent time lapse videos of the Northern Lights have crossed my path recently. They combine two of my perennial fascinations - time and the sky - so I couldn’t help but be impressed. Both of the videos are produced by Norwegian photographers who have been benefiting from the recent increase in solar activity. Watching the aurora in person is one of the only reason I’d consider moving to such a norther clime.
Rob Stein at the Washington Post adds some more reasons to the nuclear pile. There are many reasons why humans fear radiation so intensely. One reason is because radiation is silent, invisible and odorless. Another is because radiation is associated with cancer, which itself is one of the most feared words. Another reason is that in accidents, as opposed to medical treatments, exposure to radiation is involuntary. Other reasons are the searing images of victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a generation raised fearing Cold War-mushroom-cloud annihilation and the way radiation is portrayed by popular culture.
So why are we so collectively scared of nuclear power? Bradford Plumer interviewed some cultural historians in an attempt to answer that question. Our fears of nuclear power have a long history and predate World War Two and Hiroshima. Movies about the dangers of radiation were being made as early as the 1930s. In 1928 a lawsuit brought by the “radium girls” against the United States Radium factory in New Jersey was settled.
The recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan captured my attention for most of the past week since the March 11 earthquake. Based on the headlines over the last few days it appears that the focus of media attention has shifted to war in Libya. Neither event leads to optimism. The frustrating thing about the nuclear disaster in Japan has been the not unexpected backlash against nuclear power. Having grown up in the 1980s I remember the many nightmares about nuclear war that seemed to plague that decade.
Today Noam Chomsky, still kicking it at the age of 82, addressed a standing-room only crowd at the Cox Auditorium on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. His hour-long speech boiled down to a simple principle: the powerful will continue to promote policies that help themselves as long as the masses are quiescent. If no one objects then the wealthy will get wealthier, the stronger will get stronger, and the dictators will become more dictatorial.
NetLibrary is a horrible interface for reading or doing research. Suppose I want to look up “Clifford Geertz” in the Encyclopedia of Social Anthropology. First I try a search - no results. I know this can’t be right. Geertz is a pinnacle of anthropology, social in particular. So I go to the name index. The index is not displayed as a single page of entries because each frame of the NetLibrary reader is tied to a physical book page.
Back in October 2002 Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Senator, was killed in a small plane crash in Northern Minnesota. The memorial service for Wellstone was the last political memorial service that I watched with any personal interest. I don’t have a television so I didn’t see the recent Tucson memorial in response to the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt. But the same people who criticized the Wellstone memorial for becoming too partisan are making complaints about the memorial ceremony in Tucson.
I don’t know and I don’t care very much whether Jared Loughner tried to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords for political reasons. Trying to divine the motivations of madmen is a fool’s game. I do, however, care about political discourse and the rhetoric of our daily lives. Back in 2000 I bid on my first E-Bay auction for a video camera. A few hours after I won the auction I received an outraged email from another bidder telling me that I had screwed everything up by bidding too high for the camera.
Stephen M. Gardiner from the University of Washington visited UTK today to speak about climate change and environmental ethics. He identified three major “storms” that we face when trying to deal with global warming. The first is a global storm of political failure. Since 1990 there have been a number of international attempts to limit the release of carbon dioxide. So far those attempts have failed. Carbon dioxide concentrations continue to grow at an accelerating rate.
From Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft I headed over to Salon and Heather Havrilesky commenting on NBCs new television series “The Event”. The real problem is, we don’t care because there clearly isn’t any larger meaning guiding the action, and the only thing we know about each character is that he/she totally loves his/her fiancé/wife/husband/children sooo much that he/she would do anything to keep them safe. In a country where many viewers don’t have a lot of thoughtful or idealistic notions outside of a “love of family” – worthy though this love obviously is – this is what passes for character development and premise, over and over again.