When it comes to international politics, everyone's a wonk, even if they don't have a clue. You'd be amazed how much a little basic science can shoot down. For example, people who say spy satellites can read a newspaper from space. No. Atmostpheric interference won't let that happen. (It's even better for movies like Enemy Of The State, where a satellite gets a license plate from a car when the initial angle says it shouldn't be able to see it. But then again, we're talking mass marketed action movies, where the bad guys can do anything because, well, they have a computer. Want a real laugh? Check out the Cindy Crawford bomb Fair Game for some REALLY silly stuff.) I don't remember how the discussion started anymore, but I told people that nuclear submarines are no longer viable for sneak attacks on targets.
"What makes you say that?"
You know how the news shows thermal imaging for the weather reports?
"You're saying a weather satellite can spot a nuclear sub?"
Yes. You know how much heat a nuclear reactor throws off? They would have to go below crush depth to keep their heat signature hidden. Every government knows exactly how many nukes are out there, whose they are, how big they are, and where their ports are.
I bring this up because the news is now buzzing because of this picture:
This is a picture of the first Chinese aircraft carrier, out to sea on manuvers. People are freaking out because they think this might portend something about China's designs on being a global superpower. Ya think?
Well, everyone thinking this is the first sign that the world will end in a bloody global conflict, let me talk you down from the ledge. I can unravel your nightmares with one simple fact: the history of the carrier. The carrier was initially built in the early 1990's in the Soviet Republic of the Ukraine. When the Soviet Union collapsed, construction was abandoned. China bought the ship in 1998 and has spent the intervening years refurbishing it and finishing it. (Lest you wonder about my l337 research skills, this was covered by the Associated Press. Not exactly a state secret, if you get my meaning. The world governments and military have known about this for a loooooooooooong time.)
You have to keep in mind that part of the reason the Soviet Union collapsed was they couldn't make shit. The Soviet MiG fighter was one of the most feared warbirds in the air until the US managed to bring one down in the 80's without it blowing up. What they found was that the MiG's steel body was riveted in place. Rivets. American planes are welded/fused together for greater strength and had moved past rivets decades earlier. And the Russians were still using rivets. I've talked to a military guy from the Cold War days, and he said they were amazed Russian tech worked at all.
So, you have a framework from those days of Russia as the foundation. Not only that, but remember, the Chinese BOUGHT the ship. You can't tell me, if they really wanted to, the Chinese couldn't convert one of their current shipyards to make a carrier. So they bought a starter kit. And it still took them almost 14 years to come up with something that could be put out to sea. So the Chinese have an aircraft carrier. One. And no signs they are building any more. You have more to worry about Chinese hackers trying to drive-by your Windoze machine than you do this.
So the world isn't going to end because of this.
Shit. And I spent all week packing for Oblivion.