The angry Demiurg

Sunday, October 22, 2006

To Serious – Or how I learnt to Blow

I have had a nagging feeling lately that I have been too serious. In the midst of a cruel world with people taking advantage of us, or building doomsday machines we need to laugh at it all.
Here is a bona fide advertisement from Greenpeace!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Nuke – Or how I learnt to build the Bomb

The worlds greatest Secret is not a Secret

A few weeks ago I moved to the countryside and as one do when moving you find the odd tidbits and whatnots that constitutes your past. One of the more odd relics I found was an old physics tests from way back when I was thirteen. One of the questions was to draw up something that utilized a nuclear process. What the teacher was thinking about, asking that kind of a question to thirteen year olds is now unfathomable to me, but as a thirteen year old I just tried to answer it as well as I could. What I drew was a simple nuclear Bomb. What amazed me more than 20 years later was that the design basically would have worked.
Okay, I was not a normal kid and I am still not exactly normal. Not in the way of being crazed, more in the way of looking at the world in a different way than the normal. Where other people look upon the world out of the sum of their sensory perceptions, I look upon the world as the sum of the actual relativistic forces and quantum electro dynamical effects. How did my world view come to this?
Well, you take a twelve year old with a lot of free summer time on his hands and add a library. Here I might as well point out that one word I never heard when I grew up was “impossible”. So when I heard about relativistic theory I got infuriated about the speed of light being absolute and that it is impossible to travel faster than light. I kind of preferred my science fiction books with hyperspace and whatnots. So I had to read about it all.
The face of the librarian when I ordered the actual first article from Annalen der Physic was spectacular. When I finally got it I found out one of life’s surprises. It was written in German.
A friendly librarian than helped me and gave me Albert Einstein’s book “Relativity: The Special and the General Theory”. With that one I withdrew from the world just too pop up to get a few books on Cartesians and Minkovsky rooms.
After painstakingly having thought myself relativistic physics over the summer I became a kid who could understand the fundamental principles of how a nuclear Bomb might work.
Of course I hadn’t calculated the Bomb. To do that you need to know Quantum Electro Dynamics and I didn’t run into that until I was fifteen.
What now is the idea behind this story? Well it is a reminder that it is not hard to build the Bomb. Very few teenagers can do it, but most good physics majors can do it. What took some of the greatest minds ever to build and calculate at the Los Alamos site is today scientifically mundane.
First of all you know that it works. Most of the knowledge needed is known and you can look them up in books in a research library. And the few things that are secret you can deduce from the known fundamentals of physics.
The most secret of all the secrets of all time is supposedly the “Pincher formula” that you use to calculate the critical mass of weapons uranium and plutonium. It was invented by Richard Philips Feynman and Hans Bethe at Los Alamos and that formula is the heart of the atom bomb project. Supposedly it has never been shared or spread. But that is of course myth, one of the scientists was a spy for the Soviet Union and he handed it over to them within weeks. But with that exception it has never been given out.
A couple of years ago I got interested in seeing if I could re-invent the formula. By then I knew how much Plutonium 239 and respectively uranium 235 it took to build a simple fission bomb. I was a bit surprised about how tricky it was, but after a couple of weeks I was finished. Happy with myself and my new totally useless knowledge I perused a couple of sixties physics books in a different area. To my surprise the first thing I ran into was a slightly different equation that rendered the same pincher results in a text book on high energy particle physics written by a Swedish physicist. Big secret, yeah!
Okay, but isn’t it hard to build and tool a nuclear Bomb? It once was, but nowadays quite normal machine tools are built to produce things with sufficient tolerances. Basically the guys at Orange City Choppers have the tools to build a nuke. Thankfully they lack the knowledge!
Okay, but then it must be hard to get the uranium or plutonium required? The answer to that is, not really if you have a nuclear reactor of the right type and a big lardy bunch of cyclotrons. This is where you either have or you don’t.
North Korea for instance have a very limited supply of cyclotrons, perhaps just one or two. And that explains the limited amount of reactive material put into their Bomb and the low kiloton yield. And no, I will not go into the technology of this. I never said I like the idea of nukes. In the end it is simpler to steal the material.
For some reason the world is teaming with unused high grade plutonium stored in low security facilities. Stealing a couple of tons is quite possible, which the Israelis proved beyond any doubt when they raided the Oak Ridge facility in the United States.
So in the end I might just say that it is surprising that so few states have nuclear Bombs and that getting one is nightmarishly simple. And to top it off as we will see, it is even theoretically possible to build weapons that will make the nuke look like a Chinese firecracker. But first we must understand the intermediate stage of the computational Bomb.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea – Or how we learnt to love the Bomb

North Korean nuclear testing is a step in the right direction.

This is the first part out of five about explosive weapons capable of mass destruction.
If you are not living in a bunker or spent the last days in some remote unconnected area of the world you probably know that North Korea have blown the Big One. For anyone with a bit of insight it was not an unexpected development.
The North Korean nuclear program has been, if not open, so pretty well known. First of all they refuelled and started their nuclear power plants, invested in cyclotron technology, ended their participation in the nuclear non-proliferation program and declared themselves as a nuclear power. So there was no beating around the Bush from Kim Jong Ils side. And that is actually something good. Open intent is transparent and makes the opposing side less afraid, reducing the risk of actions that are less considered.
Let us be clear about something, North Korea has been pushed pretty hard by the US the last few years. And since the US is pretty well known these days to actually carry out their threats the North Koreans have had a lot to be afraid of. That is not to say that I in any way feel kindly towards North Koreas deranged leader.
For those with less than a passing acquaintance with the man who shares hairdresser with Don King I will give a shortlist of facts. Kim Jong Il claims to run one hundred meters in under seven seconds, make a round of golf with eighteen consecutive hole in ones, and in his own little universe he hold the Olympic record in all sports imaginable. When he is not swimming at the speed of light he goes for extended picnics in his armoured train without telling anyone. This is mostly giving his aides a headache since he often invades China while picnicking. So that loose cannon of a pathological liar has the Bomb. How does this make the world safer?
First of all, the reason for the North Koreans getting the Bomb in the first place is that they needed one. They by all rights feared an American attack, and scared people are dangerous and prone to do rash things like starting a war. Now that they have the Bomb they can feel pretty safe since the probability of an attack has diminished greatly.
The reason for the risk of a US attack has decreased is historical. No one has ever attacked a known nuclear power. The risks are too great for the attacker. Today the world has a small number of known nuclear powers that have tested a nuclear device of explosive nature. Here is a pretty complete list of them in the order of when they first triggered one. These countries are the US, Russia, England, Sweden, France, China, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, India and now North Korea.
This club of eleven countries are probably not the only ones actually owning nuclear devices of explosive nature. Among the known or suspected you will find some of the former Soviet states, Libya, Japan and Australia. And about ten more states and a couple of private organisations that probably have the capability to trigger a nuclear device of explosive nature. Albeit the probability that Libya actually having one is not that great.
So for North Korea the threat level has decreased, it can therefore use less money on the regular army. And that money has certainly been a large part of the equation because they know that economic sanction will be a probable result. And for their neighbours the stability has also increased since the likelihood of a North Korean pre-emptive strike has decreased.
In the end their might not even be any economic sanctions against North Korea, instead there might be an increased acceptance of the country in the same way that other nuclear states have enjoyed in the past. This policy is probably for the good since it is better to gently guide states with capacity for mass destruction than to threaten them.
The Foreign Commissioner for the European Union, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has already stated that the financial support to the power and poverty stricken country of North Korea will remain in place for the time being.
The only party loosing ground in the end is the US since they no longer have the capacity to carry out the planned 2008 attack on North Korea without risking retaliation with a nuclear device of explosive nature. The role of the US in the region is therefore pretty much gone.
The lesson from this is that to be sure to be left alone by the US you have to posses’ nuclear devices of explosive nature. One country that really needs the Bomb is of course Iran. If the country fails to produce one it risks immanent attack by the US which will destabilize the area even more.
By the way, the reason I am using the cumbersome term nuclear device of explosive nature is that there exists nuclear weapons of mass destruction that do not produce an atomic explosion. One of those is the so called “dirty bomb” design where you take nuclear waste and use explosives to spread it. The more high-tech version is the cobalt bomb that if exploded high up in the stratosphere will poison the land under it for thousands of years. If you want to sleep badly contemplate that these weapons are cheaper, more easily produced, and in the long run more dangerous than the regular Bomb.

Here is what the next four parts will be about.
First I will write about the nuclear bomb and the myth of them being hard to build. After that I will go into the really scary things that are possible to build. Some of the ideas are purely speculative but theoretically sound, and some of them are not further away than that a technologically advanced state can build them with a little work. Among the things I will write about are Computational bombs, Quantum Foam bombs and the penultimate nightmare, the Feynman-Whelan E-bomb. How Nightmarish? Well let us just say that it is goodnight universe.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How bin Laden saved the US

How on earth can I say a thing like that? The short answer to that might be that it is true. But there is a longer and much more informative answer, so let’s stick to that instead.
First of all, let me start to say that I in no way think that the 9/11 attack was a good thing. Like so many others I had a personal reason to be appalled by the attack. Mine was that a childhood friend worked in the twin towers. And as things where the hours after the attack it took two long days until we found out that he had been attending a conference at the IBM headquarters instead of being in his office. For me and his parents it all ended well, for a lot of people it did not.
So how did bin Laden save the US? If you look back to the day’s right before 9/11, you will probably not remember all the tax cuts and new spending the Bush regime had instigated. The effect of them was a drastic increase in the foreign debt of the US. Remember that in 2002 the US debt to foreign states and banks was a staggering 2400 billion dollars. That was the equivalent of 23 percent of the US GDP.
And with a fiscal policy that renders a loss with 430 billion dollars annually the debt had increased to 3700 billion dollars at the end of 2005, or 30 percent of the GDP.
Okay, let’s put it in a layman’s terminology that everyone can relate to. Let us say that you in 2002 had a bank loan on your house to the equivalent of 240.000 dollars and every year you went to the bank and borrowed another 43.000 dollars the bank would sooner or later say no. If the bank also new that you earned 43 grand less than the sum of your expenditures, didn’t pay the mortgages and the interest, they would call for the police when you showed up.
Already in 2002 the US was starting to feel the effects of it as it became harder and harder to borrow the money needed. European banks started to say no altogether; only the Chinese continued to dole out the money due to the idea that they got it back out of selling products to the US, making the US into a consummation subsidiary.
Enter bin Laden and his marry bunch of mummers. After the attack the coffers once again opened up to support the war effort, both domestically and internationally.
What would then have happened if the 9/11 never had occurred? Well, one of two things would have happened. Either the US would not have been able to secure its loans. Or someone, perhaps a medium sized foreign company selling to the US state would have demanded payment in advance due to the bad US finances. If the second had happened first, the latter would have followed. And vice versa.
A state does not go into bankruptcy, and there is no international bad debts claiming system. To put it shortly, there is no one who can force the US to pay the debt. What they can do is to seize US property and funds abroad. And that would happen.
Where does this leave us? Today the goodwill after the 9/11 is gone. It is once again getting harder to get new loans. And we are back to the American economy hanging by its nails.
In the end one might wonder what is more stupid, the philosophy of getting constantly deeper into debt or bin Laden? If he hadn’t attacked the US, it would probably have been in greater trouble now than by anything he would have been able to do, and that includes using a nuke.
The US can still reduce the debt either by cutting the federal budget with 430 billion dollars or increase the taxes with the same amount. If not? Well in less than ten years the US will not be able to make the payments since they would be larger than the GDP. And then the long night decends.

Friday, September 22, 2006

That torture thing

Nobody really know the truth behind the phrase ”hard interrogation methods”. Mainly due to the fact that the exact practices is declared to be a secret after a recent senate decision to allow it. But we might make a learned speculation if we study what happened in the Abu Ghurayb prison and at Guantanamo Bay.
Inserting of glass rods into the male urethra, the rod is then broken while inside. Serial raping of the prisoners by their warders. Lack of food, sanitation and sleep. Stripping, the practice of cutting away thin strips of the prisoner’s skin. Applying acid to the skin so that the skin burns away. Forced sex with animals.
Popping is when you use a blowtorch to burn the eye until it coagulates explosively in a fashion that will make the entire eye explode out of its socket. And the list just goes on.
I am sorry to force you readers to even read this nightmarish list of inventions from the darker side of the human imagination.
Now some of you are probably arguing that this is not true. Sadly it is, all of the above described practices have been verified by either the UN or the international Red Cross. Some of the things you have even seen pictures of, like the happy rape pictures from Abu Ghurayb.
Some might say that the persons held at those places are not so nice people that are out to kill you. In some cases that is probably true, but we now know that most of the people held there was quite innocent, or that it was impossible to prove anything even after the torture was applied to them.
So in effect we now have a lot of tortured innocent people walking around. Anybody who believes that they liked the experience? Is it really worth torturing ten innocent to get one guilty?
But let’s say that in a perfect world only the guilty will be tortured. Any interrogation specialist will tell you that the intelligence they get is outdated before they can get it. American soldiers are told to speak if they are interrogated. Why? Because everyone change their plans when they suspect that the enemy knows about their plans. So in the end all the torture gives no new information.
Let me again talk about how to torture people. Let’s talk about hosing. The word seems nice enough and leads the mind into thinking about car washing, watering the lawn and other nice things.
The hard interrogation meaning of the word is that you fill a rubber hose with lead and then you use it to crush the bones in the prisoner’s feet. Then you leave them with the untreated crushed bones so that they have to crawl around on the concrete floor. Most of the victims of this practice is handicapped for the rest of their lives. Who is it then that do these things?
Well it is most often not a highly trained interrogation officer from one of the three letter government organisations. It is mainly done by regular soldiers in the army or in the Marine Corps. Young poorly trained men and women who do not know anything better. And like a lot of German boys they just follow orders. Okay, is it not hitting home? I am talking about your sons and daughters!
Okay, so you do not give a rats ass about any foreign idiot who is probably a terrorist? Well that is your right to your opinion. But just remember that your son or daughter is getting irreparable psychological damages by being used as torturers.
Save them from that, let them feel that they actually are fighting the good fight. The good guys aren’t supposed to torture people, they are supposed to be so morally superior that in the end they will know that they did the right thing.
So you do not agree with me yet. Just think about the young men who returned from Vietnam. Compare them with the men who returned from fighting the Nazis. The veterans of world war II saw horrible things, but they knew they where the good guys and mankind will salute their bravery until time as we know it ends. The same is not true of the Vietnam vets. Just think about it for a while.