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Sliding Doors - a new World

Had John Fitzgerald Kennedy not won the 1960 US Presidential election then the 1960's would not have been as we remember them. 

If there had been no escalation of the Vietnam War: 'to make US power seem credible', then there would have been no conscription in Australia; no American or Australian 'Draft Dodgers'; no calls to 'give peace a chance'; no protest folksingers. No 'swinging sixties'? No hippies?    

On the other hand it's probable that racial tensions in the United States would have been handled less sympathetically and it was Kennedy who founded the Peace Corps.

Kennedy's nuclear standoff with the Russians evolved into the MAD (mutual assured destruction) doctrine. Soon sufficient weapons of mass destruction were, and still are, held by both the US and Russia to assure the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender should it ever come to nuclear war.

Kennedy's 'robust' confrontation with the Russians continued under Johnson and eventually a nuclear test ban treaty was signed. Successive administrations have been more conciliatory.  President Regan proposed talks leading to START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed by President Bush (Senior) and President Obama more recently signed New START with the Russian Federation.  Meanwhile Marxist economics failed in every country that tried it and the world (including the those countries that are still nominally Communist) has largely returned to a market based economic model.  Nevertheless US confrontation with Russia (and vice versa) has become a habit and the MAD doctrine still hangs over the World like the Sword of Damocles.

Kennedy's other competition with the Russians was the 'Space Race'.   Kennedy was famously opposed to the rather ragged US space program until April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became 'the first man in space'.  The evident Russian lead in rocketry obviously had defence implications.  It meant that the Russians could potentially deliver a nuclear bomb to any point on earth.  It was Kennedy's epiphany.  With this flash of Russian light in the sky he became a convert to space technology.

On May 25 1961 he announced to congress:  "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."  It was to be enormously costly and needed to be sold.  In September the following year he told a public audience in a televised speech:

No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. ...
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Rice University, September 12, 1962

 

The impact of this program on the future is difficult to overstate.  It gave us the technology of the 21century:  everything from silicone chips to non-stick frypans. The ability to cheaply travel the world and to communicate electronically even faster rely on technologies developed for that programme.  A myriad of spin-off  technologies flowed from the Space Program, like all those that depend on small powerful computing devices; as well as new understandings and abilities in medicine and genetics.

But more than all these changes in the fabric of time, the sixties was when those of my generation met and wed (or not) and bred.  We met at sixties parties and produced a generation of children who would not be here if the times had been different.  Perhaps their siblings would be here but many pairings simply wouldn't have happened at all.   Those children are now producing children of their own.

So we now have a world of people who simply wouldn't have been had Francis Gary Powers done as he was told.

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel

South Korea & China

March 2016

 

 

South Korea

 

 

I hadn't written up our trip to South Korea (in March 2016) but Google Pictures gratuitously put an album together from my Cloud library so I was motivated to add a few words and put it up on my Website.  Normally I would use selected images to illustrate observations about a place visited.  This is the other way about, with a lot of images that I may not have otherwise chosen.  It requires you to go to the link below if you want to see pictures. You may find some of the images interesting and want to by-pass others quickly. Your choice. In addition to the album, Google generated a short movie in an 8mm style - complete with dust flecks. You can see this by clicking the last frame, at the bottom of the album.

A few days in Seoul were followed by travels around the country, helpfully illustrated in the album by Google generated maps: a picture is worth a thousand words; ending back in Seoul before spending a few days in China on the way home to OZ. 

Read more: South Korea & China

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Password

 

 

 

 

How I miss Rio.  Rio de Janeiro the most stunningly picturesque city on Earth with its dark green mountains and generous bays, embelezado with broad white, sandy beaches.  Rio forever in my heart.   Rio my a minha pátria, my homeland, where I spent the most wonderful days of my life with linda, linda mãe, my beautiful, beautiful mother. Clambering up Corcovado Mountain together, to our favela amongst the trees.

Thinking back, I realise that she was not much older than I was, maybe fifteen years.  Who knows?

Her greatest gift to me was English. 

Read more: The Password

Opinions and Philosophy

Discovery of the Higgs boson

 

 

Perhaps the most important physics discovery of my lifetime has finally been announced.  I say 'finally' as its existence has been predicted by the 'Standard Model' for a long time and I have already mentioned this possibility/probability in an earlier article on this website (link).

Its confirmation is important to everyone, not just to physicists working in the field of quantum mechanics.  Like the confirmation of the predictions of Einstein's Theory of Relativity we are now confronted with a new model of reality that has moved beyond an esoteric theory to the understanding that this is how the Universe actually is; at least as far as the Standard Model goes.

Read more: Discovery of the Higgs boson

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