Thursday, May 31, 2012
by John Twelve Hawks Golden City
In a near future world frighteningly similar to our own two shadowy organisations fight each other over the fate of mankind. The Brethren are dedicated to control through fear, manipulation and constant surveillance, The Travellers and their diverse followers believe in human potential, freedom and choice. Each side seek allies and information on other planes of existence through the activities of brothers Michael and Gabriel who have the ability to leave their bodies at will to travel along well worn paths to worlds out of myth. Now Michael is becoming frustrated at the pace of which his organisation is gaining control over the minds of millions. Convincing the higher echelons of The Brethren that he has the answer to the problems of accelerating control he causes a series of events across the world designed to generate fear and panic. When the time is right they will come out of the shadows to offer their solution to all our fears – a global surveillance system designed to keep us safe. The few remaining travellers know that this is an opportunity to strike back – but can such a diverse group pull together and co-ordinate a global response of its own? Only Gabriel can provide the impetus but his abandoned body lies awaiting the return of his travelling spirit which might very well be trapped in Hell itself.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
This, my second Weir novel, covered similar ground to Innocent Traitor I read some time ago. Indeed both Lady Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey appear in both novels but with the focus reversed. Weir draws a very enticing picture of Elizabeth – arguably our greatest monarch – as a very bright, very astute and sometimes very lucky young woman. Of course setting up the novel as a ‘fight for survival’ has an inevitable problem – we know she survives to become queen (I’m really not giving anything away here). But the far more interesting part is exactly how she survives the intrigue going on all around her. If the fictionalisation of her early years – until she is crowned at age 25 – is as close to the truth as the author maintains (though admittedly with fictional additions, conflations and speculations) then it is a wonder that she made it that far. What a different world that would have been. Arguably without Elizabeth England may have become just another part of the growing Spanish Empire rather than the author of its downfall and after that…. Who knows!
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Mars 'has life's building blocks'
By Mark Mardell for BBC News
25 May 2012
New evidence from meteorites suggests that the basic building blocks of life are present on Mars. The study found that carbon present in 10 meteorites, spanning more than four billion years of Martian history, came from the planet and was not the result of contamination on Earth. Details of the work have been published in the journal Science. But the research also shows the Martian carbon did not come from life forms. A team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based in
, found "reduced
carbon" in the meteorites and says it was created by volcanic activity on Mars. Washington
They argue this is evidence "that Mars has been undertaking organic chemistry for most of its history." The team's leader Dr Andrew Steele told BBC News: "For about the last 40 years we have been looking for a pool of what is called 'reduced carbon' on Mars, trying to find where it is, if it's there, asking "does it exist?" "Without carbon, the building blocks of life cannot exist... So it is reduced carbon that, with hydrogen, with oxygen, with nitrogen make up the organic molecules of life."
He says the new analysis has answered the first question. "This research shows, yes - it does exist on Mars and now we are moving to the next set of questions. What happened to it, what was its fate, did it take the next step of creating life on Mars?" He hopes the next mission to land on the Red Planet - the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the "Curiosity" rover - will shed more light on the big question. "The question 'are we alone' has been a big driver of science but it relates back to our own origins on this planet. If there is no life on Mars why? It allows us to make a more informed hypothesis about why life is here." So does Dr Steele think there was, or is, life on Mars?
He laughs: "Get me some rocks back, I'll have a look and let you know.”
[Of course it’s quite possible that despite the organic building blocks for life being present on the early Mars it never actually led anywhere. But we must remember that Mars had a wet past not unlike Earth. With organic chemicals in liquid solution present for an unknown time it might have been possible for simple life to have emerged before Mars lost most of its atmosphere and surface water. Knowing how tough life can be – just think of Earths extremophiles - it’s entirely reasonable to speculate that life on Mars may have migrated underground along with the water it needed to survive. As we have literally only scratched the surface of the Red Planet I think that’s where the search for life should be focused. I have high hopes that we’ll find something amazing.]
Friday, May 25, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Ancient Warfare – A Very Short Introduction by Harry Sidebottom
I’ve been toying recently with the idea of doing another Masters Degree as my brain seems (at least sometimes) to be turning into mush. I’m almost more than a little fed up and think that’s because I’m not getting enough mental stimulation. I didn’t want to do anything I’ve done or touched on before so when I found a course on Ancient and Medieval Warfare at a nearby University it seemed idea. At the moment I’m still thinking about it – and will probably put it off until 2013 – but the course seems different enough that it could be quite fun even taking into account that I’d need to learn some Latin. This book then looked like an ideal introduction but turned out to be something I hadn’t really expected.
What I had expected was a potted history of the Ancient world with discussions of tactics and technology – The Greek phalanx and the Roman Gladus for example – with side debates on various pivotal battles like
Thermopylae. Doing justice to this subject in a mere 128
pages would be difficult, I thought, but do-able. What I found was completely
different. Instead of discussing things from the ground up the book took a far
more top down approach. The author posed the question: Did the Greek and Roman
civilisations create and develop a distinctive ‘ Western Way of War’ in contrast to their
many enemies and are we living with that legacy today. What hooked me from the
start was the down to earth – and fun – approach to the subject. Not only does
the author know his stuff, which you should expect from someone who teaches in Oxford, but he’s
confident enough to play with his knowledge in order to engage his audience but
without talking down to them or appearing in anyway condescending. I actually
laughed as I read the first page which described the opening battle portrayed
in the movie Gladiator when the Roman legions faced down the German barbarians.
It seems true, the author starts, but in fact it was far from the truth. The Western Way of War
was, he maintained, a cultural construct and like other cultural constructs had
an origin, was based on how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us
and, importantly, changes over time as cultures themselves change.
Throughout the rest of the book – using examples from both the Greek and Roman world – the author expands on his thesis by delving into how the ancients viewed war, what myths and stories about themselves they responded to (or against) and explodes a fair few myths about the way wars were fought and the reasons for going to war in the first place. It certainly gave me a flavour of what I might be up against in a future seminar and certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
The New Atheism – Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor J Stenger
I actually don’t read much atheist literature. This may seem odd to some of my regulars as they know me as a life-long and often outspoken atheist. In the not too distant past I’d spend a significant part of my blogging time debating the existence of God with a number of people on both sides of the divide. I enjoyed it too until I realised that I was completely wasting my time. For one thing it became obvious that my theist opponents could not be swayed or persuaded by arguments – presumably because they didn’t become Christians through the arguments presented to them. Our world views were just too different and it felt, more than once, that we were talking in completely different languages despite the fact that they sounded the same and seemingly used the same words.
Just like those earlier debates I found this book to be largely pointless. For one thing the author was preaching very much to the choir. I for one certainly don’t need my atheism explained to me or my arguments for it bolstered. I have given the subject a great deal of thought over the years and have arrived at what I consider to be a well reasoned position that I am more than happy with – so much so that I no longer give it much thought at all. This book is very definitely aimed at an American audience – which came as no great surprise to me. The battle the author is clearly taking part in is very much an American affair.
I believe, moved on from this debate decades ago. The few books written by
British authors – notably Dawkins and Hitchens – are similarly and squarely
aimed at the US
market. Despite the fact that their books sold well over here I believe that
was prompted more by curiosity than by actual soul-searching.
Despite the fact that I agreed with virtually every word in this book (and because of that becoming increasingly bored with the whole thing) I became increasingly irritated with the authors attitude to his critics and those believers who had either failed to understand his position or where actively hostile to it. I agree with the author that the religious beliefs under discussion are foolish and without foundation. But it does not follow that the people who hold those beliefs are irredeemable fools. Unfortunately this seemed to be the attitude of the author which is rather self-defeating when you consider it. Anyone ‘of-faith’ reading this book would immediately take umbrage with the tone of the work and because of that completely miss the actual content which, despite the fact that I’ve heard it all before, was pretty good and generally well argued (if rather ‘thin’, that is without any real depth). Treating at least part of your target audience as complete idiots is not really conducive to getting them to actually consider your arguments at face value. This doesn’t mean that you have to bend over backwards to accommodate your opponents. You just have to treat them as, at least potentially, reasonable human beings and pitch your arguments accordingly. This the book singularly fails to do starting as it does from a position that Atheism is the obviously correct way of seeing the world (I agree) which needs little further exposition (which it does to those with radically different world views).
Finally it seems that the author is another of those Atheists who want their cake and eat it. A whole chapter was given over – plus references elsewhere – to a secular form of spirituality that can be gleaned from various Eastern religions and especially from Buddhism. Now I’m as interested in that sort of thing as much as the next Atheist but I don’t need it as a faux substitute for religion that the author seems to suggest it can be used as. I’ve come across the idea before that we, being without God, need to bolt on some kind of sanitised religious feelings (not called religious of course!) in order to feel complete rather than at the mercy of an indifferent and purely materialistic universe. I for one reject that cop-out of an idea. It’s like calling yourself a vegetarian and still eating fish or even chicken and thinking it’s OK as long as you don’t actually eat red meat. People like that amuse me to death – they really do.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Saturday, May 19, 2012
FIRST ROCKY PLANET MISSION
Jan. 10, 2011
The discovery of this so-called exoplanet is based on more than eight months of data collected by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010. "All of Kepler's best capabilities have converged to yield the first solid evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler's deputy science team lead at NASA's
Ames Research Center
in , and primary author of a paper on the
discovery accepted by the Astrophysical Journal. "The Kepler team made a
commitment in 2010 about finding the telltale signatures of small planets in
the data, and it's beginning to pay off." Moffett Field, Calif.
Kepler's ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. The distance between the planet and the star is calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface. However, since it orbits once every 0.84 days, Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun and not in the habitable zone.
Kepler-10 was the first star identified that could potentially harbor a small transiting planet, placing it at the top of the list for ground-based observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope in
Scientists waiting for a signal to confirm Kepler-10b as a planet were not
disappointed. Keck was able to measure tiny changes in the star's spectrum,
called Doppler shifts, caused by the telltale tug exerted by the orbiting
planet on the star. Hawaii
"The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own," said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in
"Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find
showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise
of many more to come," he said. Knowledge of the planet is only as good as
the knowledge of the star it orbits. Because Kepler-10 is one of the brighter
stars being targeted by Kepler, scientists were able to detect high frequency
variations in the star's brightness generated by stellar oscillations, or
starquakes. This analysis allowed scientists to pin down Kepler-10b's properties.
There is a clear signal in the data arising from light waves that travel within the interior of the star. Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium scientists use the information to better understand the star, just as earthquakes are used to learn about Earth's interior structure. As a result of this analysis, Kepler-10 is one of the most well characterized planet-hosting stars in the universe. That's good news for the team studying Kepler-10b. Accurate stellar properties yield accurate planet properties. In the case of Kepler-10b, the picture that emerges is of a rocky planet with a mass 4.6 times that of Earth and with an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter -- similar to that of an iron dumbbell.
[Just in case you missed the original announcement! Of course the discovery of rocky planets like Earth is a big step towards finding life elsewhere in our Galaxy. If these planets are as common as they appear to be I think the odds of finding life – even complex life – are pretty good. What we have is still pretty circumstantial but as more evidence accumulates of the possibility of life elsewhere – especially in environments not that dissimilar to those here – that possibility must be moving in the direction of certainty. Now all we need to do is determine which of the present candidates are the most likely to harbour life and send probes to have a look – no matter how long that would take.]
Friday, May 18, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Occupation by Guy Walters
[Oh, and that was my 3000th post.......]
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
Helga is the proprietor of a bar.
She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. Helga keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers' loans).
Word gets around about Helga's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Helga's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in town. By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Helga gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Helga's gross sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Helga's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!!! At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS.
These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AA" "Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.
One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Helga's bar. He so informs Helga. Helga then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.
Since Helga cannot fulfil her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Helga's 11 employees lose their jobs. Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community. The suppliers of Helga's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.
Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers. Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.
The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who've never been in Helga's bar.
Now do you understand?
[From an e-mail doing the rounds at the moment].
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012
World War II fighter found in Egyptian desert
By Nick Higham
11 May 2012
A World War II RAF fighter, which crash-landed in a remote part of the Egyptian desert in 1942, has been discovered almost intact. There was no trace of the pilot, Flt Sgt Dennis Copping, but the British embassy says it is planning to mount a search for his remains. The
Museum in Hendon, north London, says it is hoping
to recover the plane as soon as possible. There are fears souvenir hunters will
start stripping it.
The 24-year-old pilot, the son of a dentist from Southend in Essex, went missing over the
in June 1942,
flying an American-made P40 Kittyhawk single-engine fighter. Two-and-a-half
months ago an aircraft believed to be his was discovered near a remote place
called Wadi al-Jadid by a Polish oil worker, Jakub Perka. His photographs show
the plane is in remarkably good condition, though the engine and propeller have separated from the fuselage. The
original paintwork and RAF insignia are said to be clearly visible, almost
perfectly preserved in the dry desert air. But of the pilot there is no sign.
He appears to have executed a near-perfect emergency landing, perhaps after becoming lost and running
out of fuel, and to have survived the crash. He rigged a parachute as an awning
and removed the aircraft's radio and batteries but then apparently walked off
into the desert in search of help. Western
Almost 100 miles from the nearest settlement, he stood virtually no chance. David Keen, an aviation historian at the
says the pilot broke the first rule of survival in the desert, which is to stay
with your plane or vehicle. But the very same conditions which made the pilot's
prospects so bleak have helped preserve the plane. Mr Keen says of the many thousands of aircraft which were
shot down or crashed during the Second World War, very few survive in anything
like this condition. He said: "Nearly all the crashes in the Second World
War, and there were tens of thousands of them, resulted on impact with the
aircraft breaking up, so the only bits that are recovered are fragments, often
scattered over a wide area. "What makes this particular aircraft so
special is that it looks complete, and it survived on the surface of the desert
all these years. It's like a timewarp." The RAF Museum
has a P40 Kittyhawk on display, but it has been put together from parts of many
different aircraft. Recovering Flt Sgt Copping's plane will not be easy. It is
in a part of the desert which is not only remote but also dangerous, because it
is close to a smuggling route between RAF Museum Libya
The defence attache at the British Embassy in Cairo, Paul Collins, says he is hoping to
travel to the area in the near future, but is waiting for permission from the
Egyptian army. He told the BBC: "I have to go down there. This is a
serviceman who was killed, albeit 70 years ago. We have a responsibility to go
and find out whether it's his plane, though not necessarily to work out what
happened. "He went missing in action. We can only assume he got out and
walked somewhere, so we have to do a search of the area for any remains,
although it could be a wide area. "But we have to go soon as all the
souvenir hunters will be down there," said Mr Collins. He said the British
authorities are trying to find out whether Flt Sgt Copping has any surviving
close relatives, because if his remains are found a decision will need to be
made about what to do with them.
[It’s amazing to think that such things as this can stay hidden for over 60 years and then be stumbled upon in the deep desert. There’s also the very human story of a pilot crash landing his plane and then, after waiting for a rescue that never arrived, walking off into the desert in the hope of finding his way home.]
Friday, May 11, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Terminator and Philosophy – I’ll be Back, therefore I Am edited by Richard
Brown and Kevin S Decker
I am, as most of you will know, a huge fan of the Terminator ‘franchise’ of movies and TV series. So it will come as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to read about some of the ideas behind James Cameron’s original ideas and their offspring. Of course many of these ideas are deeply philosophical – if not exactly anything particularly original. The most obvious point brought up in the movies is about machine intelligence. As Reese explain in the first movie regarding Skynet – “They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence and decided our future in a micro-second” – or words to that effect. So there are several articles about that aspect. My particular favourite however are those dealing with the other major aspect: Time travel and the possibility of changing the past (or the future) which, quite naturally, leads on to discussions of fate and free will. Some of the temporal mechanics is rather mind-bending and I did have to slow things down and read a few passages more than once – but it all made sense in the end. The two things to remember of course is that ‘Judgement Day is inevitable’ – though it can seemingly be delayed – and no matter how many killer robots (or protectors) you send back you can’t seem to change things very much or for very long. Tagged on to all this is the obvious question of where exactly are these Terminators coming from? Does that mean that the future already exists in some form or other? Surely it must if the cyborgs live there, right? Also, rather than repeatedly failing to stop its own destruction at the hands of humanity, does Skynet merely create other worlds and other timelines where different versions of itself sends back robots into our world? As John Conner said in the last movie: ‘This isn’t the future my mother warned me about’. Is that because of the meddling of Skynet (and the Resistance) in The Sarah Conner Chronicles?
I do love thinking about all this sort of thing. If you are as sad as me in that respect then this book is most definitely you. If you read it carefully you might even find out why we cry (cringe worthy moment par excellence!) Highly recommended but, be warned, it might make you watch all four films back-to-back like I did last weekend……..
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Monday, May 07, 2012
Set in Stone by Robert Goddard
In order to help Tony Sheridan start to cope with the sudden, tragic and mysterious death of his wife he is invited to stay with his sister-in-law and her husband in their new house, Otherways. Designed and built before the First World War the house is a one-off experiment of a radical architect who never had another design commissioned. Entirely circular and surrounded by a moat it almost defies description seemingly changing aspects of itself depending on the viewer. As Tony starts to settle into his new surroundings and put his life slowly back together he starts having vivid dreams about his sister-in-law, so like and yet so unlike his beloved wife. As he digs deeper into the history of the house he finds that incidents seem to be repeating themselves and not for the first time. Since its construction Otherways has been at the heart of betrayal, treason and murder. Will Tony become its latest victim or can he find out what is going on before he loses more than a few nights sleep….
This is a really difficult book to categorise – as you can tell from the labels I used: Fantasy, Espionage and Crime. It certainly contains all three genres – the house is like something from a horror movie, though much more subtle than most. There is a brooding malevolent presence about the place that is generally spooky. At the core of the novel is an act of betrayal when secrets are passed to the
and lives are ruined in consequence. Lastly there is murder, infidelity,
suicide and threats of savage violence. With so much going on – and so many
genres seemingly being thrown into the mix – it would have been very easy for
the author to have produced a muddled thriller that failed on each count.
Surprisingly, and rather gratifyingly, he managed to hold things together to
produced a decidedly odd but most definitely gripping thriller which I
described to a work colleague as having more twists than a twisty thing. I can
most definitely say that this is a solid page turner having finished it several
days ahead of schedule after reading in excess of 150 pages on a single day.
That alone is quite a recommendation. The narrative pulls the reader through
seemingly without effort and before you know it whole chapters – and hours –
have flown past. This is my second Goddard book and it will most definitely not
be my last. Highly recommended for anyone wanting something more than a little
out of the ordinary.
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Saturday, May 05, 2012
As ice cap melts, militaries vie for Arctic edge
From ERIC TALMADGE
Monday April 16 2012
To the world's military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the
Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will
open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of
potential conflicts. By Arctic standards, the region is already buzzing with
military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the
years ahead. Last month, Norway
wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever — Exercise Cold Response —
with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from
high intensity warfare to terror threats. Attesting to the harsh conditions,
five Norwegian troops were killed when their C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed
near the summit of 's
highest mountain. Kebnekaise,
Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and
in an unprecedented move, the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers —
Canada, the U.S., Russia,
Iceland, Denmark, Sweden,
Norway and Finland — gathered at a Canadian
military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues. None of this means a shooting war is likely at the North
Pole any time soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases in the
High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing,
border patrols and — if push comes to shove — military muscle to enforce rival
claims. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 13 percent of the world's
undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped natural gas is in the Arctic. Shipping lanes could be regularly open across the
Arctic by 2030 as rising temperatures continue
to melt the sea ice, according to a National Research Council analysis
commissioned by the U.S. Navy last year.
What countries should do about climate change remains a heated political debate. But that has not stopped north-looking militaries from moving ahead with strategies that assume current trends will continue.
and the United States have
the biggest stakes in the Arctic. With its
military budget stretched thin by Iraq,
Afghanistan and more
pressing issues elsewhere, the United
States has been something of a reluctant
northern power, though its nuclear-powered submarine fleet, which can navigate
for months underwater and below the ice cap, remains second to none. Russia —
one-third of which lies within the Arctic Circle — has been the most aggressive
in establishing itself as the emerging region's superpower.
Rob Huebert, an associate political science professor at the
University of Calgary
in Canada, said Russia has recovered enough from its economic
troubles of the 1990s to significantly rebuild its Arctic military
capabilities, which were a key to the overall Cold War strategy of the Soviet Union, and has increased its bomber patrols and
submarine activity. He said that has in turn led other Arctic countries — Norway, Denmark
— to resume regional military exercises that they had abandoned or cut back on
after the Soviet collapse. Even non-Arctic nations such as France have expressed interest in deploying
their militaries to the Arctic. "We have an entire ocean region that had previously
been closed to the world now opening up," Huebert said. "There are
numerous factors now coming together that are mutually reinforcing themselves,
causing a buildup of military capabilities in the region. This is only going to
increase as time goes on."
Noting that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the U.S. Navy in 2009 announced a beefed-up Arctic Roadmap by its own task force on climate change that called for a three-stage strategy to increase readiness, build cooperative relations with Arctic nations and identify areas of potential conflict.
"We want to maintain our edge up there," said Cmdr. Ian Johnson, the captain of the USS Connecticut, which is one of the U.S. Navy's most Arctic-capable nuclear submarines and was deployed to the North Pole last year. "Our interest in the
has never really waned. It remains very important." But the U.S. remains
ill-equipped for large-scale Arctic missions, according to a simulation
conducted by the U.S. Naval War College. A summary released last month found
the Navy is "inadequately prepared to conduct sustained maritime
operations in the Arctic" because it
lacks ships able to operate in or near Arctic ice, support facilities and
adequate communications. "The findings indicate the Navy is entering a new
realm in the Arctic," said Walter Berbrick, a
professor who participated in the simulation. "Instead of other nations
relying on the U.S. Navy for capabilities and resources, sustained operations
in the Arctic region will require the Navy to rely on other nations for
capabilities and resources." He added that although the War College U.S. nuclear
submarine fleet is a major asset, the Navy has severe gaps elsewhere — it
doesn't have any icebreakers, for example. The only one in operation belongs to
the Coast Guard. The U.S.
is currently mulling whether to add more icebreakers.
Acknowledging the need to keep apace in the Arctic, the
is pouring funds into figuring out what climate change will bring, and has been
working closely with the scientific community to calibrate its response. "The
Navy seems to be very on board regarding the reality of climate change and the
especially large changes we are seeing in the Arctic," said Mark C.
Serreze, director of the National Snow and at the Cooperative Institute for
Research in Environmental Sciences University of Colorado. "There is
already considerable collaboration between the Navy and civilian scientists and
I see this collaboration growing in the future." The most immediate challenge may not be war — both military
and commercial assets are sparse enough to give all countries elbow room for a
while — but whether militaries can respond to a disaster. Heather Conley,
director of the Europe program at the London-based Center for Strategic and
International Studies, said militaries probably will have to rescue their own
citizens in the Ice Data Center Arctic before any
confrontations arise there. "Catastrophic events, like a cruise ship
suddenly sinking or an environmental accident related to the region's oil and
gas exploration, would have a profound impact in the Arctic,"
she said. "The risk is not militarization; it is the lack of capabilities
while economic development and human activity dramatically increases that is
the real risk."
[Of course this is humanities depressingly familiar response to a crisis – even one as big as the acknowledge fact that the North Polar ice cap is melting. Rather than even attempting to address the issue and its causes what we do instead is to figure out ways to profit from it while at the same time preventing other countries from doing likewise. In other words we militarise things while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handcart. Some days it truly saddens me to be a member of the human species.]