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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Songs of Tragedy and Disaster

Good old Imperial College! Some have said that UK science is behind the curve, not in the top rank, with its best days behind it. What rot. Today we learn that the British boffins are the best, up there with the rest; coming up with up to the minute scientific wizardry - thanks to South Kensington's Imperial College.

"Impact Earth!" is the most up to date tool allowing you, dear reader, from the comfort of your computer screen to simulate the effects of an impact on the earth by an extraterrestrial body. The combination of scenarios is almost limitless: from a mere knee tremble as a 1 metre meteorite plops down gently next to you to a literally earth shattering 10000 km monster slamming into home, sweet, home at 70 km per sec.

And it's all British! Gosh, it makes one proud.

It's a British achievement that is in tune with the times. Times of uncertainty, change and gut wrenching fear. What more appropriate piece of software than something that allows you to finely tune the destruction of the world. If I have one criticism it is that you can't aim your asteroid. It would be fun to be able to smash your chosen bit of rock into America or Bolivar or into the Isle of Sheppey, Kent: with little loss of intelligent life.

I have noticed a few minor teething troubles. For example, when I sent a small planet made of iron  hammering into Mother Earth, I was told that in terms of Global Damage ( I like to get the big picture first) change in the length of day would not be significant. However, more detailed analysis suggested that the length of the day could change by 42 hours - which could be a little inconvenient. Especially if you realise that just under 40% of the planet would melt and you'd be hit by an air blast travelling at 130,000 mph. I'm sure these are minor technical points which our esteemed scientists will iron out.

These rather strong winds bring to mind the hurricane that's cleared the Democrats out of Congress in the mid term elections. The Grand Ol' Party (GOP) is cock-a-hoop; the American people have sent a clear message to Washington. Less Government, fewer taxes and no health care,  at least not one run by bureaucrats. Older, wiser GOP heads  know that now  they're part of the solution/problem. Obama must be quite relieved; from now on the Democrats won't take all the blame.

I'm afraid much of America is waking up from the American Dream and there's no Morgan Freeman or Danny Glover to rescue them - not from a flying piece of rock or the tide of history. It's going to take some strength to make the transition from super power to ex- super power.

Our own experience doesn't seem to offer much comfort.

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