I’m known for stretching the boundaries of this blog’s topics. But I spend a significant portion of my time in Washington, D.C., given that my workplace is there. And while I’ve used Alex Wesertien’s fascinating use of the Google Maps API before for “fun(sies),” this one map has been foremost on my mind today and I just need to get this off my chest.
For me, this more-or-less comes down to an existential risk calculation, learned from at least the Film Theorists’ YouTube channel if nowhere else. In short: the worse the consequences, the lower the acceptable probability.
Even as I type this (and I’m NOT making this up, even if I move the paragraph in editing), my town air alert siren is going off. It happens periodically, for no apparent reason. There’s no announced schedule of testing; the air horn sounds with all the spontaneousness of a person who keeps sitting on the panic button of their car key.
But tonight, it’s not really an irritation. Fear has finally gotten inside my head. Perhaps I’m well ahead of the curve, or perhaps I’ve just had enough nonsense.
Today, my home country stands in a peril it probably hasn’t been aware of since 1962. Though the details are quite different. In this day and age, the risk of a nuclear blast doesn’t have to come from a next-door neighbor; the other side of the world is plenty close enough.
Not to be hyperbolic, of course. I don’t expect the big one tomorrow. What I am seeing though, is a horrid beginning. Two maniacs have started playing chicken. And I’m pretty damn certain our player isn’t a quitter.
The volley has begun. A month-old intelligence report leaks stating that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has the capacity to miniaturize their nuclear weapons to a point where they’re “missile-ready.” A second, slightly older report states that we also have underestimated the number of bombs in their arsenal.
United States President Donald Trump has responded to this report (that I hope he was aware of a month ago rather than just today) by saying that the U.S. would respond violently if North Korea kept up its threats. North Korea returns the volley by claiming they might nuke Guam.
We know how Tump responds to his authority being challenged. We know how he responds to the slightest perceived slight. We also know he’s sometimes all talk. Sometimes.
The problem here is escalation. The best-case scenario is that the leaders of both countries are doing strong-man posturing that amounts to nothing. It’s all it could ever have been before, after all. But the key difference here is that North Korea has allegedly made sufficient, generational advances in their missile and bomb technology this year, to where they are just recently capable of making good on a threat. For the first time, the possibility of that exists.
And that’s the problem. Only one of these two leaders needs to push it too far for the outcome to be terrible. A unilateral preemptive strike of any size on North Korea would have plenty of non-war consequences to be unpalatable, to say the least. But Trump seems unlikely to listen or respect the “globalists” who would be most likely to warn about the economic and political consequences.
On the other side, North Korea already has sizable political and economic consequences and those walls are still closing in. If it gets to a point where Kim Jong-un perceives there is nothing left to be lost by launching an otherwise ill-advised attack (either due to even stricter sanctions or getting attacked by the U.S.), we’ll see what he’s really made of. It would be best for all involved not to find out.
I don’t trust the situation or the people involved not to become more escalated than it is presently, which is already more escalated than it has ever been. Not to mention the historic nature of the escalation became so in a matter of mere hours. This situation isn’t even close to being over, so there’s a lot of potential waiting to be discovered.
And that brings us back to that map. Assuming that our intelligence is and has been sufficiently correct, the lower bound on a North Korean bomb would be 10 kiltons, the estimated power of a nuclear bomb test from four years ago. Given the great and apparent strides made in missile technology, it’s hard to believe their best bomb remains the same explosive yield as the “fat Boy” dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. But I’m, unsurprisingly, not well educated on the possible tradeoffs involved in a first-timer’s miniaturized nuclear bomb. So I made that map with a 10 kiloton blast in mind.
Were I at work, the building would suffer massive damage, but probably remain structurally sound. If the radiation got in, I could suffer third degree burns over my entire body and and a lethal dose of slow-death radiation in the first second. Even if I were at home, there’s not a total escape; the fallout conveniently stretches all the way to my door. With that amount of fallout that’d be lingering, I’d get more radiation exposure in a week that NASA allows an astronaut to have in a lifetime.
For me personally and everybody else in a colored-in area on that map, the consequences are most dire. That being said, there are no guarantees. Inconsistant build quality could doom an unlucky missile before it gets here. Some place might be considered a better target than D.C. The missile defense system might deliver a clutch performance. Our intelligence on weapons of mass destruction could be incorrect. Kim Jong-un might be a capable leader who knows when to quit.
For know, the only thing I know for certain is that you want to be to the west of a nuclear blast. I wonder if “flyover country” is such for missiles, too.
In these times of hardship, just remember: We are Groot
Circling back to YouTube, Disney released a promo for the upcoming home video release of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. Entitled “Guardians’ Inferno,” it’s a period-piece music video for the first song in the movie’s ending credits. And it just crushes it.
This will help us all unwind a bit.
KitKat flavor of the week: Butter
Before I decided to kill the food videos, I had already committed to bringing you reviews of a wide variety of KitKats. Rather than making a big ‘ol post about it, though, I decided to just slip them in at the end of various Semantic Nonsense columns until they were all done.
The butter Kit Kat gave me pause. It had an obnoxious creaminess boarding on a sour taste. While parts of the experience did taste somewhat similar to butter… who would want to just snack on butter? This one is at best a Jones Soda Holiday Pack-like curiosity.