Why Do Republicans Want to Stop START?
Why are Republicans trying to block ratification of the new START? The original START—short for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty—was proposed by President Reagan to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads the U.S. and the Soviet Union could have. It was signed by the first President Bush in 1991, just months before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It remained in effect between Russia and the U.S., limiting the number of warheads each side could deploy, although each still has enough to more or less entirely wipe out life on earth if it should so choose. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine also continued as parties to the treaty after the break up of the Soviet Union, agreeing to eliminate their nuclear forces completely under the treaty's Lisbon Protocol.
The original START expired at the end of 2009, after twenty years in effect. President Obama negotiated a new START treaty with Russia before the old one expired, signing it in Prague in April of this year. The new START would further limit number of strategic nuclear warheads each side could deploy—although each side would still have enough to wreak unimaginable destruction—as well as limit the number of missile launchers each side could have.
But Republicans are blocking ratification of the treaty. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wrote over the summer that trying to extend START was Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake” because the new treaty gives away too much and would limit our ability to defend ourselves against nuclear attacks from other countries. But as Fred Kaplan notes, the treaty doesn’t place any limits on our missile defense program, nor force us to limit our nuclear arsenal more than it forces the Russians to limit theirs. In fact, as Kaplan points out elsewhere, seven of the last eight heads of the U.S. strategic command and five secretaries of defense endorse the treaty. And Franklin C. Miller, the longtime civilian official in charge of strategic nuclear policy, has testified he is “confident that the United States can safely provide for our national security, and that of our allies, at the launcher and warhead limits that the treaty prescribes.”
Now Senate Minority Whip John Kyl (R-AZ), the Republican who takes the lead on nuclear weapons policy in the Senate, has decided to block ratification of the treaty. In the Wall Street Journal in July, Kyl wrote that the treaty would be “relatively benign” as long as we spent enough money to keep up and modernize our nuclear arsenal. Obama has since promised to spend $4.1 billion—more than Kyl said was necessary—doing just that. In spite of that—and to the surprise of Democrats, who believed they had addressed Kyl’s concerns—Kyl still opposes ratification. Kyl explains that he’s “come to the conclusion that the administration is intellectually committed to modernization now. No sane person could not reach that conclusion. Whether they’re committed in the heart is another matter.”
No concessions, in other words, will satisfy Kyl, who seems simply to want to deny Obama a legislative victory and prevent Senate from accomplishing anything before the new Congress arrives in January. Without Kyl, it’s going to be hard for Democrats to get the two-thirds vote they need in the Senate to ratify the treaty. Of course, as Adam Serwer points out, it was Kyl himself who attacked the administration last year for not renewing the treaty and potentially letting “an extensive set of verification, notification, elimination and other confidence-building measures will expire” for the first time in fifteen years.
Now, as Dan Drezner points out, Europe’s conservative foreign ministers have called on Republicans not to block ratification of the treaty, while both the Anti-Defamation League and the National Jewish Democratic Council say the treaty is essential to ensuring Russian cooperation in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In a recent interview on MSNBC, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) broke with Kyl and called on his fellow senators “To please do your duty to your country. We do not have verification of the Russian nuclear posture right now. We’re not going to have it until we sign the START treaty. We’re not going to be able to get rid of further missiles and warheads aimed at us. I state it candidly to my colleagues, one of those warheads—and there were 13,300 originally—one of them could demolish my city of Indianapolis, obliterate it.”
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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