My Novels

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Much warmer in Dixie today, near 60 degrees. I went on the bike ride early, before it got so warm. We're in for rain tonight and tomorrow morning, but perhaps I can ride late in the afternoon tomorrow.

I don't expect to hear anything else on my PC upgrade till late tomorrow, if then. Drats!

I watched a fascinating episode of Nova on PBS the other night, entitled Death Star about gamma ray bursts in the cosmos, and then went to their website for the supplemental material. Again, it proved intriquing -- unless of course, you are of the opinion that earth has some 'divine' right to exist. Otherwise, the future looks rather bleak.

Here's an excerpt:

A Bad Day in the Milky Way

If the [gamma ray] burster were closer, say less than 3,000 light-years away, the gamma-ray flux received in a few tens of seconds could wipe out the entire ozone layer for years to come. At the very least, the drastic increase in solar ultraviolet radiation reaching Earth's surface would cause severe skin cancers. For humans and other animals, slow starvation would likely result, as the harmful ultraviolet flux inhibited plant growth and damaged and altered ecosystems supporting the food chain. As in a nuclear winter, the nitric oxides darkening our skies could also cause acid rains and significant cooling of the Earth's surface. Such pollutants would take decades to settle out of the stratosphere.

But that's not all. In addition to the chemical changes in the atmosphere, the nuclear interactions induced by the high-energy gamma rays would rapidly produce huge quantities of radioactive nucleids, such as carbon-14, which has a half-life of 5,700 years. Of course, winds would distribute this fallout worldwide.

Shaviv and Dar postulate that as the neutron stars begin their own catastrophic merger, jets of matter would be flung from the system at nearly the speed of light. These atoms and ions would be so energetic that they would absorb visible starlight and re-emit gamma rays, which we would detect as a gamma-ray burst. Impinging on our fair planet shortly after the horrific flash of gamma rays, the energetic particles themselves would join in the destruction, triggering still more deadly atmospheric cascades of nuclear interactions lasting up to a month.

If Shaviv and Dar are correct, a collapsing binary neutron star system anywhere nearby would spell doom for our fair planet.

These authors and others note that known pairs of neutron stars exist in our galaxy, including one within about 1,500 light-years. This knowledge has led to the speculation that in the past the Earth has found itself uncomfortably close to a violent neutron star merger. Some estimates hold that one occurs within about 3,000 light-years of the sun every 100 million years on average. Intriguingly, this timescale is roughly the same as the time between mass extinctions in our planet's geological record.


The mainstream media seems to continuously downplay the Enron scandal (not that any will name it that!)...but look at this headline from CNN:

CNN/Money: Enron flap prompts 401(k) probe

EXCUSE me, but it's more than just a little flap. In fact, here's a more in-depth analysis/commentary:

Enron is not Bush's Whitewater [Commentary: It will be worse]

What it is about, [the investigation] and what the public will get to hear and read about in wrenching detail over the coming months, is how business gets done down in Texas. How a small group of business leaders exert enormous clout over Bush and his team in getting the rules changed to their benefit.

It will explain why Bush has locked up presidential records, locked out any voices opposed to his pro-business agenda and rammed through an expensive economic plan that wiped out the budget surplus but to date hasn't had any positive effect on the economy.

It will explain what influence Enron Chief Executive Ken Lay and his advisers had with Cheney and his energy taskforce when they met six times last year while the Vice President was putting together the administration's energy policy.

And it will explain why Bush is now thinking about acting on a proposal from that very taskforce that seeks to roll back a key provision of the Clean Air Act that helps keep factory pollution down by requiring new controls when old plants are upgraded.

It's an ugly story. One that explains a lot about what's going on in our nation's capital right now. And it's only just beginning.


Of course, it's true that Bush's popularity is still very high. I think, and always have, that his popularity is the result of the Fear Factor...the more afraid Americans are of terrorism, the more they rally behind our leader. If the threat of terrorism subsides, then other issues that have been put on the back-burner amongst the public will come to the forefront. I don't like Bush, but I am patriotic, in that I support my country. However, fortunately we DO have the right to vote, and unless the Supreme Court decides to hijack the next election (like they did the previous one), then I don't think Bush will be our next Prez.

Just my two-cents worth of thought today!

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