Sunday, November 22, 2015

Command and Control

I just finished listening to Command and Control - Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser.  This is a very very interesting book.  This is a very very long book. 

I am very surprised at how many nuclear bomb accidents we've had.  Wow.  Here's Wikipedia's page outlining the many nuclear accidents.  This book includes many more details about some of them than I could find anywhere online.  This was all especially interesting to me because many years ago I worked in the ICBM world.

Throughout the book, Schlosser gives a very detailed account of the 1980 Damascus accident, where a Titan II ICBM blew up in its silo near Damascus, Arkansas.  That event began when a maintenance technician dropped a socket down the silo that bounced off something and struck the missile, puncturing the rocket and the first stage fuel tank.  This led to a cascade of human errors culminating in rocket fuel explosions that blew off the top of the missile silo and tossed the 9 megaton thermonuclear warhead hundreds of feet away.  It was amazing that only one person died.  It was amazing that half of Arkansas wasn't incinerated.  

I found these images online.  This graphic of a Titan II missile silo complex was very useful in following the story during some sections of the book.

Here's a photo of a Titan II in its silo, followed with a photo of the hole created by the Damascus accident.

This book was a finalist for a 2014 Pulitzer Prize.  For more information about the book, check out the NY Times review and this NPR story and interview.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hiking Mt. Lukens

I hiked Mt. Lukens with a friend a few days ago.  This small peak is just north of La Crescenta, California, in the Angeles National Forest.  We hiked the loop shown in the image below.  Starting at the Deukmejian Wilderness Park, we hiked up the Crescenta View Trail to reach the ridgeline, then back down along the Rim of the Valley Trail.  So we hiked counterclockwise along the track shown. 

The ascent was a constant climb, but not too steep.  

The views were hampered by the haze.  This one barely shows downtown Los Angeles in the distance.

The route downhill was more fun.  Mostly because it was downhill.  None of the turns we had to make were marked.  We stopped at a few of them to consult the map.

This was a nice hike and the weather was perfect.  It was a total of 10.4 miles and took us about 6 hours, including rest stops. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Ascent of Money

I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of financial systems and services.  It's a nice refresher for those who've studied the subject long ago.  I won't outline the book here because Wikipedia has a nice outline on their page.