Big News in Science and Other Links

Science

The first evidence for cosmic inflation–i.e., the Big Bang–was discovered this week.

Megan Garber at The Atlantic, “What It’s Like to be Right About the Big Bang?”

The search for Flight MH370 is revealing one thing: the ocean is filled with garbage.

Kim Stanley Robinson alert: Paul Rosenfeld, “Would You Take a One-Way Ticket to Mars?”

And as part of his forthcoming 3 million page novel, Breeze Avenue (2015), Richard Grossman has buried a crystal ball deep inside of Princeton Mountain in Colorado. The ball, “made of synthetic sapphire, which is almost as indestructible as diamond,” has the Ten Commandments inscribed on it in Hebrew, and in “20 million years, as a result of natural forces carefully calculated by the geologists, the Torah Ball will emerge from its eroded resting place and bear the Ten Commandments down the mountain.” Hyperarchivalists of the deep future rejoice!

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

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Ukraine, US Nuclear Policy, Etc.

With the incursion of Russia into the Ukraine, a lot of stuff is going on.

Peter Baker in The New York Times, “Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein in Russia.”

“Ukraine, Putin, and the West” at n+1.

Peter Beinart for The Atlantic: “The Ukraine: Is This How the War on Terror Ends?”

Dominic Tierney for The Atlantic: “Putin’s Improv Act.”

David Rhode for The Atlantic: “Crimea: The Greatest Challenge to Geopolitics Since the Cold War.”

“Kerry Condemns Russia’s ‘Incredible Act of Aggression’ in the Ukraine.”

And a critique of The New York Times‘ coverage of Kerry.

 

Nuclear

“Aim Points in the US Nuclear Arsenal.”

Hans M. Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, has authored an article for the Federation of American Scientists, “Obama and the Nuclear War Plan.”

 

Other

Noam Chomsky, “America’s Apocalyptic Imperial Strategy.”

Noam Chomsky, “The Death of American Universities.”

On Fredric Jameson.

boundary 2‘s latest entry into its Great American Author Series, “A Political Companion to Walt Whitman” by Kerry Larson.

Ezra Klein, “The Real Reason Nobody Reads Academics.”

And Ian Bogost on Flappy Bird.

Diplomatic Solution to Syria?

I have refrained from posting about Syria and the US sabre-rattling in response to chemical weapons attacks both because it would probably be hard to miss in the news and because the situation seems a bit too complex to treat in either a short post or by posting a number of links. But it looks like the US, Russia, and Syria have reached a diplomatic solution, at least according to the BBC. I am a bit surprised and considerably relieved to hear this. Having come of age during the 2000s, I thought such middle-of-the-road compromises, whether between the US and other nations, or within the US gov’t itself, were patently impossible. Obviously this is more complicated than being a simple “solution,” but man, it doesn’t sound like the US will be dropping bombs after announcing that it would/might in this instance, and that is certainly something new in my adult life.

Accumulating Ruin and a Pleasant Apocalypse

Adam Rothstein has a pretty interesting little essay for The State, titled “The Accumulation of Ruin-Space.” In it he asks,

But the question for these ruin-spaces is, how long will the[y] exist? We seem to have an attraction to ruins—we want them and seek them out, though never with the same functional desire with which we seek out current structures. What will we do in the future as these ruin-spaces pile up, unable to be destroyed because of their enforced temporality as preserved agedness? The earth is becoming a solid mass of scar tissue, as the tracks of human endeavor scour crosshatching into its surface.

Is the earth becoming a hyperarchive of ruins?

And also at The State, Asher Kohn writes about Central Asia as a post-apocalyptic space in “A Pleasant Post-Apocalypse.” He suggests that “[t]he history of Central Asia is in many ways a history of eschatologies; not a graveyard of empires but perhaps a graveyard of belief systems.” While “eschatological” might be a bit extreme to describe the history he traces, nonetheless, his description of the landscape of post-Soviet Russia bears considering:

It is truly very difficult to explain how Soviet geoforming was such a disaster. Whole seas were turned into steppe. Whole steppes were turned into blast zones. Whole blast zones were restructured to focus on an alien frontier. There is no real way to overestimate the effect this must have on the people who live in the region. Pastoralism is an artifact, not an economy. Islam was tortured by Soviet hubris. Language changes made it impossible for a grandson to communicate with his grandmother. And the land, the very essence of life itself, the only connection a person might have with the folkways of the parents, grandparents, and ancestors of their society, is turned to factory farms and dust and ash. In the 21st century, Central Asia is a post-apocalyptic world.

The article also has some wonderful pictures.

https://i0.wp.com/www.thestate.ae/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Picture-39.png