October 3, 2009
Sociopolitical stuffs for this week
Werewolf brings us a very informative piece on Iran’s internal politics and how that relates to their world position: Iran: Paranoid, But With Real Enemies. Well worth mulling over (or just bookmarking as a reference to dramatis personae, since the medias insist on calling Ahmadinejad the ruler of Iran).
I recently discovered a documentary about Project Orion on Youtube (link is to part one of five, click through to the rest). It’s interesting from a technical point of view; I take the view that Orion is the only nuclear-powered spacecraft we actually know how to build, and I don’t have a problem with a nuclear-powered spacecraft if you keep it away from our biosphere. But the reason I’ve posted it as sociopolitical is the attitudes of the guys (all guys, this was military-industrial complex in the sixties). Freeman Dyson seems to think that ecology is an ideology, even though he was prepared to trust his life to a closed-cycle ecological experiment. And he was working with people who designed nuclear weapons, and didn’t see an ideology inherent in that.
Like I said, weird stuff. Friendly Atom KoolAid all ’round. Yes, we’re planning to launch directly from the ground, but we never did solve the fallout problem… no kidding. They were all extraordinary gung-ho, too. Controlled experiment, what’s that? Was that really the culture of people doing cutting-edge work in the middle of the 20th Century? Perhaps they didn’t mention details because some of it is still classified, but they don’t come across like any of the engineers or scientists I know. More like big kids playing with really cool toys, and hardly idea of consequences.
This all ties into something I’ve been thinking a bit about, which is the lasting psychological effect of the Cold War. I didn’t really grow up with it; too young and too far away. The Iron Curtain came down when I was ten years old. But people who were adult, or coming of age in that period seem to have internalised it in an odd way. I think that somewhere still in the back of their minds, off course the world is full of nuclear weapons. So of course it’s logical to use that technology for low-carbon power generation (just as a for example, and because it’s currently topical: I think it’s a more general mindset than that). Normalising things that are actually quite nasty and best avoided is of course a pretty common human behaviour. I’m just curious as to what extent people did this with the threat of nuclear war, and how it shapes their current attitudes.