Saturday 18 July, 2020

What if the Trinity test had failed?

Fascinating counter-factual essay by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science and nuclear weapons.

After getting the successful results from Trinity, Truman took a very hard line with Stalin. He believed that the bomb gave him leverage for both the end of World War II and the peace that would follow. Though he did not try to argue that the Soviets should not declare war on Japan or stop their invasion plans, he was less convinced he would need the Soviet entry into the war, and did not encourage them. Without the confidence from Trinity, would he have pushed so hard? I’m not sure he would have; he might have felt the Soviet invasion too necessary for the end of the war to risk alienation. And if he had taken a more compromising approach, what would the impact of that had been on the later Cold War to follow? The Cold War was a complex thing, not the result of a single interaction, but there are scholars who have attributed some of its formation and angst to Truman’s post-Trinity bravado, so it’s not outside the realm of contemplation.

A Covid lexicon

From the New Yorker.

Maskhole: an individual who wears a mask in a way that makes it completely ineffective — e.g. below the nose, under the chin, on the back of the head.

Face naked: The state of facial exposure that occurs when an individual declines to wear a mask in public.

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatter day: Days of the week.

Pan-demic: A potentially dangerous increase in the baking of bread in a quarantined home.

What comes after Zoom fatigue?

Long essay which basically comes to the conclusion that we’ll just get used to it — just like we got used to the telephone.

What comes after Zoom fatigue is what I’d call Zoom acquiescence. It’s an inevitability.

During the pandemic, we’ve all started relying on video chat technology for health care, religion, entertainment, and simply keeping up with friends. It will remain relevant in our lives going forward, especially for work. Much like those who were gobsmacked by telephones a century ago, we’re likely witnessing a transformation in communication — a leap forward with no return. The new thing is scary, imperfect, and often off-putting. We might as well make the best of it.

“We’ve been forced to use these tools for things that we otherwise never would have dreamed of, like buying and selling houses,” said Nicole Ellison, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. “We’ll essentially come out of this with a better, more calibrated sense of what we really need to do face to face.”

We might not, for instance, need to go to the doctor’s office as often. While telemedicine has existed for years, the pandemic forced all kinds of doctor’s appointments to happen online. Some experts think there’s no reason to go back, arguing that over half of doctor’s visits don’t require an in-person meeting. Research has also shown that telemedicine is significantly more efficient than traditional in-person visits for mental health care, and these benefits could mean more people seek help.

In other words, the pandemic has fundamentally changed our relationship with these tools and with digital spaces generally.

Pressure from Trump led to 5G ban, Britain tells Huawei

Surprise, surprise.

Guardian story:

In the days leading up to the controversial announcement on Tuesday last week, intensive discussions were held and confidential communications exchanged between the government and Whitehall officials on one side and Huawei executives on the other.

As part of the high-level behind-the-scenes contacts, Huawei was told that geopolitics had played a part, and was given the impression that it was possible the decision could be revisited in future, perhaps if Trump failed to win a second term and the anti-China stance in Washington eased.

Senior Huawei executives have gone public since Tuesday’s decision saying that they hope the British government will rethink, apparently encouraged by the results of back-channel contacts.

Basically, the Brexiteers are trying to have it both ways. And they really don;t want to annoy the Chinese. Trouble is, they need to play nice with both the US and China, since they need trade deals with both. Sooner or later they are going to discover that having cake and eating it is a fantasy.