Thirty Years Later, Time To Reopen Our Embassy In Iran

Thirty years after Iranian extremists stormed the U.S. embassy and held 52 Americans hostage in Iran it is well worth asking: Isn’t it high time we serious consider reconstituting some kind of American presence in Tehran? Today the shell of the old embassy compound remains, its walls scribbled with anti-U.S. invective graffiti. It would be symbolically important to reopen its doors. As Obama as said, we do not punish our enemies by not talking to them. The same goes for not having formal diplomatic relations.

Whether we want to press Iran on the nuclear issue or pressure it to release a trio of American hikers, having a consulate or attaché of some kind on the ground would give us more leverage and a better understanding of the murky world of Iranian politics. It would also relieve us of relying on the Swiss as our intermediaries.

Right now we have scant human intelligence on Iran. Last June U.S. officials were reading about events in Iran just as the rest of us were: from scattered news reports, videos posted on YouTube, and Twitter feeds. To my knowledge, we still have a “listening post” in Dubai, which tries to pump info out of Iranian businessmen. We rely on our German, British and Israeli allies for intelligence. We also rely heavily on the Iranian diaspora, which has been helpful in revealing Iranian nuclear secrets (i.e. Natanz reactor) but is less helpful about human rights abuses (too unreliable).

It is scary how little we know about Iran, considering how much ink we spill fretting out its foreign policy and nuclear shenanigans. “When it comes to Tehran, America is effectively blind,” wrote MIT’s David Weinberg a few years back in Haaretz. Better intelligence would lower the level of uncertainty and get rid of the need to drop bombshells like the one in Pittsburgh, when it was revealed that Iran was developing a clandestine nuclear reactor. It would make our foreign policy vis-à-vis Tehran more predictable and less fly-by-night. It would facilitate more cultural and educational exchanges, which have some effect at boosting bilateral relations in the political sphere (but are less effective when official policy is outwardly hostile). Finally, it would reduce the threat of military hostilities in the Gulf.

True, it might embolden those conservatives who still chant “Death to America” and become a locus of demonstrations, to say nothing of the obvious security concerns (not sure I’d want to be posted there if I were stamping passports as a first-year FSO). That said, most of the embassies we have in that part of the world are bunker-like compounds and relatively safe. Thirty years on, let’s admit that not having a consular or embassy presence in Tehran has not helped our ability to contain or coerce Iran, much less understand its intentions. It’s time to restore some American presence on the ground there and tear down that graffiti-scribbled wall.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less