FEMA Asteroid Impact Tabletop Exercise Simulations

From The 13th Hypervelocity Impact Symposium:

The worst case, given the specified uncertainty, would be that the approaching object is already fractured and weak enough to explode at high altitude. Such an airburst can spread its energy out over a larger area and will be more damaging than a crater-forming impact. The worst-case scenario would be a high altitude airburst releasing about 10.6 Mt of energy. The best estimate would be that the fragment is a slightly less dense 50-meter object. Even a relatively strong object of this size is likely to explode at high altitude; although it is possible some fraction of it could reach the ground and form a crater. This best estimate is almost identical to current understanding of the Tunguska explosion. [...]

Since the uncertainty in impact location is extensive, we also provided a map showing the damage footprint at several locations within the ellipse, which we then we convolved with the footprint (Figure 3). We advised participants that preliminary evacuation plans for an airburst over land should be in a lateral direction into area known already to be at no risk, but that detailed plans should wait until radar data becomes available (about 6 days before impact) [...]

Much of the uncertainty ellipse spans parts of the Gulf of Mexico. An impact within that part of the ellipse would produce a tsunami, and would affect the whole of the coastline from Texas to Florida. According to calculations by Souheil Ezzedine of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) a tsunami generated by an impact in the easternmost part of the ellipse would have wave heights of 3 to 10 m and would arrive at the coast over a time spanning from 1 to 4.25 hours after the impact. The tsunami would first reach the Louisiana coastline, causing near total destruction to the barrier islands, The wave run-up would extend inland as far as 16 km.

When planetary physicists start role-playing, you end up with the darkest tabletop strategy game ever.

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Lightning storms triggered by exhaust from cargo ships

Give me control of the shipping lanes and I'll make all the lightning you want.

When Joel Thornton at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues looked at records of lightning strikes between 2005 and 2016 from the World Wide Lightning Location Network, they noticed there were significantly more strikes in certain regions of the east Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, compared with the surrounding areas. Unusually, they occurred along two straight lines in the open ocean, which coincided with two of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Along these paths there were twice as many lightning strikes as in nearby areas.

"We were quite sure the ships had to be involved," says Thornton. But they still had to eliminate other factors that influence storm intensity, such as wind speeds and temperatures.

Once these had been ruled out, the team concluded that aerosols from the ships' engine exhausts were the culprit. Aerosol particles act as seeds, around which water vapour condenses into cloud droplets. In clean air there aren't many seeds, so the cloud drops quickly grow and fall as rain. But when there are a lot of seeds, like over busy shipping routes, a greater number of small cloud drops form. Since these are light, they rise up high into the atmosphere and freeze, creating clouds rich in ice.

It is this that leads to more intense thunderstorms: lightning only occurs if clouds are electrically charged, and this only happens if there are lots of ice crystals. [...]

Although lightning activity is higher over the shipping lanes, the amount of rainfall is no different to nearby regions.

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Email: a lost relic of the before-before times

Today on the Unfrozen Caveman show, I learned that when iOS displays a notification about new email, it ignores the text/plain part in a multipart/mixed message and instead displays the text/html part, after stripping all the tags without ceremony or finesse.

Because that's a totally reasonable thing to do.

It's not like "Hey I would like to display a plain-text version of this angry tag salad" is why multipart/mixed exists in the first place or anything.

My guesses on the thought process here, from least to most likely:

  • Eh, everybody just generates their text/plain part by stripping tags anyway, without even the courtesy-reacharound of turning <BR> into \n so why bother?

  • I tried that but then 90% of my mail notifications turned into, "Please use an HTML capable mail reader to view this message" because nobody generates text/plain parts but for unknown reasons they feel compelled to include them anyway.

  • By the time we are putting that dialog on the screen, we are thirty levels above the last framework that had access to the MIME parts, because that's how software works now, so fuck it, fuck it all, burn it all down.

  • Even though I'm on the team that writes a mail reader, I have not read RFC2046.

  • Herp derp I eat paste.

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In Month After Charlottesville, Papers Spent as Much Time Condemning Anti-Nazis as Nazis

"Local College Professor in Altercation with Alt-Right Serviceman"
Hashtag not all newspapers

Since the Charlottesville attack a month ago, a review of commentary in the six top broadsheet newspapers -- the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, San Jose Mercury News and Washington Post -- found virtually equal amounts of condemnation of fascists and anti-fascist protesters. [...]

While most "both sides" columns added a qualifier clarifying that there was no moral equivalency between antifa and neo-Nazis, this framing could not help but imply that there was. And a few explicitly argued that, yes, anti-fascism was just as bad as fascism: [...]

The Washington Post and New York Times published markedly more critiques of neo-Nazis than of antifa: the Post by five to two and the Times 13 to five. This was in contrast to the coverage in the Wall Street Journal -- five antifa condemnations and no anti-Nazi ones -- and USA Today, which featured seven anti-antifa pieces and only three opposing white supremacists or calling on Trump to do so. The LA Times and Mercury News were basically split down the middle, with the former publishing six anti-antifa and five anti-Nazi takes, and the latter publishing three against antifa and two against Nazis.

The Wall Street Journal felt compelled to publish five pieces on the resistance to resurgent white supremacy -- without publishing a piece criticizing the resurgence of white supremacy itself.

The Wall Street Journal seemed particularly averse to calling out Trump for soft-pedaling and dog-whistling white supremacists. A recent Guardian expos documented how dozens of writers have left the Journal in response to corporate pressure to "normalize" the Republican president -- an effort evident in the uniformly positive takes on Trump's response to Charlottesville.

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