The most destructive man-made force in the history of the planet exploded for the first time 75 years ago today:
On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
The scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves 10,000 yards away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporized.
The Alamogordo blast tested the "Fat Man" implosion design that compressed two hemispheres of Pu-239 around a U-235 trigger through a perfectly-timed set of high explosive detonations around the sphere. This resulted in almost 40% more yield than the gun-type "Little Boy" design that exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, three weeks later. The second "Fat Man" exploded over Nagasaki, Japan, three days after that.
In 1952, the United States demonstrated a fusion bomb that produced 450 times more yield than the Nagasaki explosion, igniting an arms race that ultimately led to the USSR developing a 100 MT "Tsar Bomba" that, were it detonated over O'Hare, would produce a fireball completely vaporising the airport and surrounding villages, would destroy any masonry or wood-framed buildings from Mundelein to Oak Lawn and St Charles to the Loop, and would cause third-degree burns to any exposed flesh in a 74 km radius encompassing Kenosha, Channahon, De Kalb, Gary, and more than halfway across Lake Michigan.
The half-strength (!) Tsar Bomba tested on 30 October 1961 remains the most destructive weapon ever demonstrated on earth.
The United States remains the only country to have prosecuted a nuclear war against another country.
In a side note, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 100,000 people outright and perhaps another 50,000 people over the following year due to secondary effects like radiation sickness and disease. This is only 10,000 more than the number of Americans killed by Covid-19 since March.
Writing in the Independent UK, Chicago-based Noah Berlatsky argues that state leadership has made Illinois a lot better off than, say, Florida:
Illinois' achievement is both a model and an accusation. It points a way forward for other states. It also shows that the disaster facing the country now was thoroughly preventable.
State officials in Illinois have managed to contain the virus by acting early, aggressively, and imaginatively. In mid-March, with only about 100 cases in the state, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot cancelled the annual St Patrick's Day Parade, and Governor J B Pritzker closed schools. He delivered a shelter-in-place order on March 20.
At the same time, before the the caseload had reached crisis levels, Pritzker brought in proactive measures to increase healthcare capacity. He called retired doctors and nurses to return to work. He also ordered McCormick Place convention center to be converted into a 3,000-bed field hospital — a step that proved unnecessary, but which shows how seriously he took the crisis. The state worked ceaselessly to increase testing, and by early June had enough capacity that anyone in the state concerned about their Covid status could get a test. From less than 10,000 tests a day in April, the state now tests almost 40,000 people daily.
Pritzker's aggressive, multi-pronged efforts to promote masking, social isolation, testing, and healthcare capacity stands in sharp contrast to the actions of governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis. In March, while Pritzker was closing schools and businesses, DeSantis left stay-at-home orders to local authorities, despite a rapidly rising caseload. Since then he's consistently downplayed dangers from the virus, even as cases have spiked over the last week. Disney World is reopening, just as many hospital report they have already run out of ICU beds. And deaths are slowly but ominously creeping up. Florida hit a one-day record high of 120 deaths from Covid on July 9.
Still, Pritzker has shown how much can be done statewide despite Trump's malevolent incompetence. Illinois has not done everything perfectly. But there's no doubt Pritzker has saved hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives. He's largely done the right thing for his constituents. In the coming weeks, I fear we'll see how badly DeSantis and other governors have failed theirs.
We're not perfect, though. Yesterday, while walking the 10 blocks down Clark Street from Addison to Surf, I counted 37 total zeros not wearing masks, 3 half-wits whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses, and 34 good citizens with full mouth and nose coverings. So we have some work to do.
Happy tax day! And now, we're off to the races:
Finally, Bloomberg takes a backward glance at the rise and fall of the Segway.
Back in May I started listening to every CD I own, in the order that I bought them, starting with Eugen Jochum conducting Mozart's Mass in C-Major, K317 (purchased in May 1988). I'm up to July 1989 now, and as I write this, I'm playing The Mama's and the Papa's [sic] If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1967). This follows The Beatles' With The Beatles (1963) and Paul McCartney's Pipes of Peace (1983).
And then it goes sideways.
Next up: Haydn's Piano Concerto #11 (1781), and Josquin's "Missa L'Homme Armé" (ca. 1500). I bought those five CDs on 7 July 1989.
Three days later I acquired a batch of six, including a collection of English madrigals sung by the King's Singers, Oscar Levant playing Gershwin, and the soundtrack from The Breakfast Club.
There are stretches of classical and stretches of modern throughout this list, but right now I'm in summer break after my first year of college when I was expanding both sides of my collection as fast as I could afford to.
I just did some math: at the rate I'm going, I'll be out of my university years around November 17th, in the 21st Century around the beginning of April, and through all of them in the fall of 2021. (That's a moving target for obvious reasons.)
It's a little trippy. I haven't heard some of these in a long, long time.
Today's interesting and notable news stories:
Finally, Lawrence Wright explores how historical plagues, particularly the European one in 1347, can sometimes spark radical social change.
Lake Michigan continues to set records for high water levels, with yesterday's 177.5 m being more than 90 cm above the long-term average:
Here is the scene yesterday at what used to be the Belmont Harbor dog beach:
Using Google Earth, it's striking to see the change from a more-average April 2015 to the near-record-levels (but still lower than today) in October 2019:
The harbor has even taken part of the pedestrian path running along its edge:
At least the weather yesterday turned out great, giving me an opportunity to walk 13 km and boost my steps a bit.
For the first time since reporting its first Covid-19 death on March 11th, New York City yesterday reported zero confirmed or probable deaths from the virus:
The milestone came Sunday in initial data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
New York State reported five deaths statewide on Sunday but didn’t specify where those fatalities occured. The highest number of deaths statewide was reported on April 9, at 799.
New York City has reported a total of 18,670 confirmed Covid-19 deaths and 4,613 probable ones.
State and local data often conflict, and numbers can change due to delays in lab results, as some deaths initially reported as probable may be later changed to confirmed.
This comes on a day when we hit all kinds of records, none of them good. I'll take it.
Yesterday, Florida reported 15,300 new cases of Covid-19, handily breaking the one-day record for new cases we set waaaay back in early April. We've now passed 70,000 new cases nationally in one day (another record), and 230,370 new cases worldwide (another record). We could lose control of this situation completely any day now--as Florida already has.
And yet, " 'There was no justification to not move forward' with the state's reopening in May, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday, according to NBC Miami."
Yes, folks, Ron DeSantis is that stupid. In fact, new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that lower cognitive ability correlates with lower compliance with social-distancing and other mitigation strategies.
Meanwhile, even as Illinois set a record for the number of tests administered in a day, while our new cases per day hovers around 1,000, other parts of the country continue to experience testing shortages and delays getting results.
And why is this happening? President Donald J. Trump takes the lead in his stupid, craven, and psychopathic failure to do anything remotely useful to stop the spread of this virus. This graph circulating around social media illustrates the problem:
We were close. We had stopped the spread, and even reversed it. Then our idiot president and a few sycophantic Republican governors reversed our progress.
Just look at that graph. Look at it. If that doesn't enrage you, then please get your head out of your rectum.
November 3rd is 113 days away.
Who could forget?
Rolling Stone explains:
Forty [one] years ago this evening, a doubleheader at Chicago’s Comiskey Park devolved into a fiery riot when crazed fans stormed the field as part of anti-disco promotional event dubbed Disco Demolition Night. The whole thing was the brainchild of disc jockey Steve Dahl, who dressed up like the general of an anti-disco army and called his followers “The Insane Coho Lips.”
Dahl thought the demonstration would consist of simply blowing up some disco records on the field between games. It was a scheme cooked up between the radio personality and White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was desperate to increase attendance at the ballpark in the middle of a lackluster season.
The game sold out, but thousands of additional ticketless fans showed up to voice their hatred of an entire genre. Many stormed the gates and filled the ballpark way beyond capacity, setting up a dangerous situation when Dahl blew up the disco records. Fans threw firecrackers and bottles onto the field, eventually storming onto it, starting fires and battling with police. The second game was eventually called off amidst the madness.
[F]or minority groups, the incident had highly disturbing undertones given many of the perpetrators were white men and the genre was incredibly popular amongst homosexuals, blacks and women. “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning,” Chic’s Nile Rodgers once said. “This is America, the home of jazz and rock and people were now afraid even to say the word ‘disco.'”
Not Chicago's finest hour, despite the White Sox forfeiting a game because of their own bad management.
The pardon power granted in Article II of the Constitution exists so that the President can save people from true miscarriages of justice. Well, originally, anyway. Now it exists to save President Trump's friends from their own misdeeds, as demonstrated once again last night:
President Trump has said he learned lessons from President Richard M. Nixon’s fall from grace, but in using the power of his office to keep his friend and adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. out of prison he has now crossed a line that even Mr. Nixon in the depths of Watergate dared not cross.
For months, some of Mr. Trump’s senior White House advisers warned him that it would be politically self-destructive if not ethically inappropriate to use his clemency power to help Mr. Stone, who was convicted of lying to protect the president. But in casting aside their counsel on Friday, Mr. Trump indulged his own sense of grievance over precedent and restraint to reward an ally for his silence.
Democrats immediately condemned the commutation of Mr. Stone’s 40-month prison term and vowed to investigate, just as Mr. Trump’s advisers had predicted they would. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the move an act of “staggering corruption,” said she would pursue legislation to prevent the president from using his power to protect those convicted of a cover-up on his own behalf, although that would face serious constitutional hurdles and presumably would never be signed into law by Mr. Trump.
Utah US Senator Mitt Romney (R) condemned the action immediately:
So did just about everyone else except other Congressional Republicans:
The list goes on. All of them seem to agree with Max Boot: "the worst president ever keeps getting worse."
Let's recall what Roger Stone did: he acted as an interlocutor between the Trump 2016 Campaign and the Russian intelligence services to help get Trump elected, and then lied in court about this to protect his boss. (Fun fact: it's not illegal to work with an adversarial intelligence service openly. The crime here was providing foreign aid to an election campaign.) Some might call that pattern of behavior treason. Some certainly would if the perpetrator were a Democrat, or if the president were one. But not the modern Republican party.
As Roger Cohen wrote yesterday, we're going into "the most dangerous phase of Trump's rule," and we're still 115 days from the election.