What I'm Reading (Aug. 3)

Related articles

Oppenheimer and the “Gita”
Releasing the nukes
Where have all the Dinosaurs gone?
The return of the paper bag



“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

It is, perhaps, the most well-known line from the Bhagavad Gita, made more famous perhaps by being uttered by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer at the moment of Trinity and now in a blockbuster movie.

As always, there is more to the tale, in this case, a deeper look at the Bhagavad Gita. From Wired, ‘Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.’ The Story of Oppenheimer’s Infamous Quote


One more piece on nuclear weapons from a few years ago. But as history, it holds up well.

"There's presently a degree of doubt in my mind as to whether I might someday to be called upon to launch nuclear weapons as a result of an invalid, unlawful order."

'How will I know, or can I be sure I'm -- I am participating in a justifiable act?'"

In his letter, he says that if he were ordered to turn his key he would absolutely do so, but because he had not been told what the checks and balances are for the President, he would be doing so with ...

"... a conflict of conscience." Which I've underlined. "I would be required to assign blind faith values to my judgment of one man, the President. Values which could ultimately include health, personality and political considerations. This just should not be."

So we've got a guy training to be the person who pulls the trigger, and he's sitting there wondering, "Okay. There's a lot of checks on me, but who's checking the President?"

From the podcast Radiolab, Nukes. You can read the transcript, but the podcast is far better.


“According to this well-established fire-and-brimstone scenario, the dinosaurs were exterminated when a six-mile-wide asteroid, larger than Mount Everest is tall, slammed into our planet with the force of 10 billion atomic bombs. The impact unleashed giant fireballs, crushing tsunamis, continent-shaking earthquakes, and suffocating darkness that transformed the Earth into what one poetic scientist described as “an Old Testament version of hell.”

… But Keller doesn’t buy any of it. “It’s like a fairy tale: ‘Big rock from sky hits the dinosaurs, and boom they go.’ And it has all the aspects of a really nice story,” she said. “It’s just not true.”

The tale of the scientific fight over the dinosaurs takes us into the behind-the-scenes far messier world of science done by humans. It can inform how we think of all the pontificating from everyone during the Pandemic and should remind us that science is a human endeavor. Its thin layer of objectivity masks a great deal of culture and behavior. From The Atlantic, The Nastiest Feud In Science


It is estimated that we make 5,000,000,000,000 plastic bags a year, each of which, under the right circumstances, can hand around 1,000 years – perhaps they will be our civilization's cultural artifact. With the war against single-use plastic bags well underway, an unintended consequence is the hoard of fabric-type bags we are collecting. Those plastic bag substitutes are meant to be reused, but there is always a hassle in remembering to take them along on your shopping trips.

“With a simple, inexpensive treatment, researchers have found a way to make paper bags strong enough to be reused multiple times, even when they get wet. The bags could be a true ecofriendly alternative to single-use plastic bags…. At the end of their lives, the durable paper bags can be broken down to be used as biofuel.”

Can we bring back the paper bag? From Anthropocene Magazine, Stronger paper bags could be the answer to throwaway plastic