Summer 2017 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Nearing midnight: “Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

Mehdi Hasan, “The Madman with Nuclear Weapons Is Donald Trump, Not Kim Jong-un.”

David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein, and “Global Hiroshima: Notes from a Bullet Train.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, “Au Revoir: Trump Exits the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Fiona Harvey, “World Has Three Years Left to Stop Dangerous Climate Change, Warn Experts.”

Damian Carrington, “Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Floods after Permafrost Melts.”

Benjamin Powers, “An Abandoned US Nuclear Base in Greenland Could Start Leaking Toxic Waste Because of Global Warming.”

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End of the Semester Links, Spring 2017

It’s been a long year, long for many reasons, but here’s a backlog of some links. (Some very good news is imminent. . . .)


Nuclear and Environmental

New York Times Editorial Board, “The Finger on the Nuclear Button.”

Rebecca Savranksy, “US May Launch Strike if North Korea Moves to Test Nuclear Weapon.”

Kaveh Waddell, “What Happens if a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off in Manhattan.”

Radiolab, “Nukes.”

Laurel Wamsley, “Digitization Unearths New Data From Cold War-Era Nuclear Test Films.”

Michael Biesecker and John Flesher, “President Trump Institutes Media Blackout at EPA.”

Brian Kahn, “The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-Era Information.”

Zoë Schlanger, “Hackers Downloaded US Government Climate Data and Stored It on European Servers as Trump Was Being Inaugurated.”

Cass R. Sunstein, “Making Sense of Trump’s Order on Climate Change.”

Laurie Penny, “The Slow Confiscation of Everything.”

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Atomurbia and Other Links


Bill McKibben, “Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?”

Paul Krugman, “The Big Green Test: Conservatives and Climate Change.”



What I’ve been speculating about for years now: physicists are saying consciousness is a state of matter.

The Hubble has seen a star eat another star.



Benjamin Kunkel’s long review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

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Continuing (Nuclear) Tensions in East Asia

Tensions are continuing to mount between North Korea, its neighbors, and the US. The New York Times reported Tuesday that N. Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for weapons. Despite this, and other recent developments, the White House feels its all just blustery bravado. Whatever the bravado, however, the US still moved a missile defense system to Guam, according to The Guardian.

Even my local paper is getting in on the action (via the AP): “North Korea warned early today that its military has been cleared to attack the United States using “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear” weapons, while the United States said it was strengthening protection in the region and seeking to defuse the situation. Despite the intense rhetoric, analysts do not expect a nuclear attack by North Korea, which knows that the move could trigger a destructive, suicidal war that no one in the region wants. The North is not believed to have the ability to launch nuclear-tipped missiles, but its other nuclear capabilities aren’t fully known.” I am not reassured.

And to make matters worse in the region, the tensions between Japan and China are increasing, as The New York Times also reported that Japan simulated a battle recapturing an island from a clearly Chinese invader. There is obviously cause for concern, as Martin Fackler writes: “Until recently, a simulated battle against Chinese forces would have been unthinkably provocative for Japan, which renounced the right to wage war — or even to possess a military — after its march across Asia in World War II resulted in crushing defeat.”Again, this is cause for considerable concern.

More Unsettling News From North Korea

As The New York Times reports, North Korea shut down its last military hot lines to South Korea, and that “it put all its missile and artillery units on ‘the highest alert’ on Tuesday, ordering them to be ready to hit South Korea, as well as the United States and its military installations in Hawaii and Guam.” Perhaps even more disturbing, especially considering how provacative N. Korea has been in the last week, it was reported that “The South Korean Defense Ministry [. . .] vowed a ‘thousandfold, ten-thousandfold retaliation’ against a Cheonan-like provocation from the North” (referring to a sub that sank in 2010 that the South claims was attacked by the North). I find the extreme rhetoric flying around fairly chilling.

It is quite possible that N. Korea is responding to the announcement yesterday of a written agreement b/t the US and S. Korea detailing how the US would respond to aggression against the South (though the specific details were not released). The agreement b/t the two countries was reached last Friday, 22 March 2013.

Nukes, Antiquated and Simulated

At Defense News Paul McLeary reports that in a recent war game conducted by the US Army, they simulated the aftermath of a collapsed regime in a country that very much resembles North Korea. The simulation concerned how  the US military would go about securing the failed state’s nuclear arsenal after the collapse. McLeary writes, in “U.S. Army Learns Hard Lessons in N. Korea-like War Game”: “It took 56 days for the U.S. to flow two divisions’ worth of soldiers into the failed nuclear-armed state of ‘North Brownland’ and as many as 90,000 troops to deal with the country’s nuclear stockpiles, a major U.S. Army war game concluded this winter.”

And in nuke news about the past rather than a speculated future, the Physics Buzz blog unpacks the fallout shelters stocked by the Office of Civil Defense during the Cold War. Geiger counters. Lots of Geiger counters.[1]

[1] On an only semi-related note, I ran across this little gem yesterday: “So this ground bass [sic] of material production continues underneath the new formal structures of the modernist text [. . .], its permanencies ultimately detectable only to the elaborate hermeneutic geiger counters of the political unconscious and the ideology of form” (Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981], 215, emphases mine).

More North Korea (Nuclear) Sabre Rattling: An (In)Appropriately Ridiculous Response

As io9 reports, North Korea “has released a four-minute propaganda clip depicting the White House under attack. Entitled, ‘Firestorms Will Rain on the Headquarters of War,’ the video is yet another example of the disturbing — and seemingly inexplicable — rhetoric that’s suddenly pouring out of Pyongyang.”

I’m tempted to think that this video should be read in the long tradition of hurriedly making a film based upon a forthcoming blockbuster in order to release the derivative film before said blockbuster so that the derivative film can capitalize on the attention leading up to the release of the blockbuster. (I tried to find a more elegant way of putting this, but have clearly failed). For example, Deep Impact (1998) was clearly made in order to benefit from Armageddon (1998), which came out two months later, and the terrible Skyline (2010) was made anticipating (the also not good) Battle Los Angeles (2011). (I wrote about Skyline a while ago.) Other examples are too numerous to list, but there are many.

The above is clearly anticipating Olympus has Fallen (2013), which will be released tomorrow. If you have seen the trailer (below), Olympus has Fallen portrays the destruction of iconic Washington DC monuments w/ better special effects than the Capitol Building in the crosshairs right before the 3:00 mark of the above video (an understatement). N. Korea should have taken a page from The Asylum, a “studio” wholly devoted to this kind of anticipatory capitalization (i.e, they released Transmorphers [2007] on video a week before Transformers [2007] appeared), and might have gone ahead and titled the above video: Asgard has Fallen (which basically captures the gist of what they were going for in their original title anyway.)

(And is it any coincidence that Morgan Freeman steps in as the President in Olympus has Fallen, reprising his presidentiality from Deep Impact? Is it not the case that Olympus has Fallen capitalizes on Freeman’s initial anticipatory capitalization in Deep Impact? And since now there actually is a black president, does not Freeman’s role in OhF work through a kind of anticipatory capitalization après la lettre? And doesn’t the trailer below also look awful? Like Olympus has Fallen is itself an anticipatory capitalization on a film that does not exist yet? That this summer there will be a film called Valhalla in Flames or The Fall of Valhalla [or maybe Valhalla Rising] that is just way better than OhF? I think there’s a recursive loop here. I will stop writing so as not to fall into it.)