US bombs Moon; US president wins Nobel Peace Prize

lcross_right_lg_aPeople interested in space-based warfare often talk about the “kinetic missile.”  If developed, this would be a type of bunker-buster, that is, a weapon designed to destroy underground facilities.  The concept is simple.  Put a metal rod, mounted with rockets and controlled from the ground, into earth orbit.  When you choose, you can aim the rocket at a target on the ground and drive into that target at orbital velocity.  This has the same effect as a meteor strike.  The destructive potential of the kinetic missile is so great that the common nickname for them is “the Rod from God.” 

Today NASA drove a rocket into a target on the Moon.  The stated purpose of this operation was to find water under the surface of the Moon.  It also showed the world that the USA is ready to deploy kinetic missiles at any time.   

Who would be frightened by this demonstration?  Some feverish minds have speculated that the US may be planning a kinetic missile strike on Iranian nuclear facilities in the near term.  Official US sources have fed this speculation by acknowledging that the Defense Department is trying to develop a new generation of bunker-busters specifically to have available against facilities like that at Qom

Whether the Iranians are frightened, we don’t yet know.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee certainly seems to be; they responded to the test by immediately awarding Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.   The Committee’s official announcement gives the reason for Mr O’s selection as “that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman.”  I suppose that sounded better than, “We didn’t want to be the next ones he bombed.”

The Atlantic Monthly, September 2008

This issue includes several pieces about the 2008 presidential campaign, but some interesting things as well. 

A note mentions a RAND Corporation study of piracy which reached the reassuring conclusion that, contrary to hype, terrorists and pirates are natural adversaries.  While terrorists “would presumably aim for the destruction of the maritime economy, pirates depend on it for their livelihood.” 

Guy Gugliotta recounts the increased interest in space-based weaponry in the US defense establishment since the current administration took power, then argues that nothing is to be gained and a great deal lost from the development or use of such weapons. 

Lisa Margonelli’s “Gut Reactions” explains how the biochemical reactions that take place in a termite’s stomach could provide a model for efficient biofuel production.  Along the way, she discusses the complexity of the communities of bacteria found in termites’ stomach’s and quotes the idea that “Maybe the termite is just a fancy delivery system for the creatures in the gut.”  And maybe humans are really controlled by their stomach bacteria, too…

The jewelry of Ted Muehling is the topic of a new book; Benjamin Schwarz reviews the book, taking the opportunity to write at length about how obscure the location of Muehling’s New York shop is (“tucked on a short stretch of the four-block, semi-hidden Howard Street- reportedly the last street in Manhattan to get street lights”) and how all the most sophisticated ladies in New York know and wear his work

In 1974, heiress Patty Hearst was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army.  During her captivity, she was beaten repeatedly, raped hundreds of times, and brainwashed into joining the SLA’s bank robberies.  Apparently something just like that happened to Caitlin Flanagan.  Well, minus the abduction, captivity, beating, rape, brainwashing, and bank robberies.  Her sister left home and became a hippie for a while back in the early 70’s, much to her mother’s dismay.  So as you can see, she knows exactly what Patty Hearst must have gone through, and is the person most qualified to write a highly judgmental essay about her in the guise of a review of a recent book about her case.  

Corby Kummer takes a cooking class on the Greek island of Kea.  His slideshow about the island and its food can be found here.