Three things that are pretty to look at in a very similar way.

1) At long last I got around to watching the Edward Burtynsky documentary Manufactured Landscapes. I can't recommend it highly enough. The movie begins with a 10 minute long panning shot of a Chinese factory that appears to be about a mile long and in which nearly every iron on Earth is made. It goes uphill from there. Despite taking place almost entirely in China, the footage from the "breaking yards" for old ships in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The film is a refreshing reminder of how overblown the "China's taking over the world" rhetoric is. Sure, it's a big country with growing political, economic, and military power. It also has problems that are staggering in both number and magnitude, and it will be a minor miracle if they have any potable water in 20 years let alone dominion over the western world.

2) The Daily Mail has a magnificent set of previously unseen photos of Niagara Falls…dry as a bone. In the same year that American astronauts first landed on the Moon, the Army Corps of Engineers diverted the flow around the falls for several months to clean up the remnants of two massive rock slides. "Eerily calm" doesn't begin to describe it. Wicked video of the flow coming to a halt is available as well.

3) In honor of Voyager 1 – still transmitting after 33 years and from 10 billion miles away – reaching an astronomical milestone as the first man-made object to reach the heliopause, check out this sweet-ass gallery of photos taken by V1 and its sibling Voyager 2. It includes what I believe is the single most incredible image from the era of interplanetary explanation – the sulfur dioxide plume of a volcano in mid-eruption on Io:

Shit, dude.

24 thoughts on “NPF: BARREN LANDSCAPES”

  • Oh dear. Star Trek 1 must have been a documentary that slipped through a hole in time. One hopes it will have fond memories of us.

  • Also, China's rigid system cannot hold up forever as the corruption and petty feudalism will drive/is driving the people mad. It will have to half collapse and rebuild before it can really do much that is not due to its sheer size.

  • I've… SEEN things… you people wouldn't believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion… I watched the sulfur dioxide plume of a volcano in mid-eruption on Io…

  • Props to Rutger for the Blade Runner ref. Umm… link issue? "Despite taking place almost entirely in China, the footage from the "breaking yards" for old ships in Chittagong, Bangladesh." isn't a sentence. I'm guessing some text got swallowed in the link?

  • culturedbutter says:

    YES manufactured landscapes! I second your recommendation. I was so moved by that documentary this time last year, I was blabbering about it for weeks to people who couldn't comprehend my enthusiasm for a 90 minute wordless montage of filthy factories. it's a hard sell to most, I guess, but it was one of the more powerful films I've ever seen. the vastness!

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    Of course the distances on Voyager's travel are still mind boggling. It's traveling at less than 1% the speed of light and yet it's the second fastest manmade object right now at 17 km/s. That's ten and a half MILES PER SECOND. Holy shit. And YET, that's still less than 1% the speed of light. If it were headed to Proxima Centauri, it would arrive there in 73,600 years.

  • Having lived in China recently I must say that in my experience your comment about the rhetoric of China taking over the world being rather over-blown is spot on. They have internal issues that will occupy them for quite some time. The Chinese are resilient and driven but the tasks they face are pretty daunting. They'll get there but it will take some time. Remember the "Japan is going to own us" from the 80's? It's the same silliness, now with China as the new boogie man of the east. In a decade the world economic landscape will change and then another boogie man will need to be christened. No doubt one with swarthy skin and/or dark eyes and hair.

    BTW, there's virtually no potable water in China now. Even tap water from wells needs boiling before use in most places.

  • I still think that the two Voyager expeditions are possibly the most impressive human accomplishment. The fact that they are on the verge of entering inter-stellar space is just mindboggling, but I think a lot of people don't know that we have built objects that have traveled so far. I think that the "pale blue dot" photo taken of Earth from beyond the solar system is the most amazing photograph in human history. And Sagan captured the significance of the photo so beautifully:

    "From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

  • CoffeeTim: Your last graph says it all. That was my reaction when spending a few weeks in China a few years back.

    Lovely hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Beijing, but you can't drink the tap water?

    I can go (and have gone) to backasswards towns in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas and drink the water without fear of disease. But it's bottled water or boiled in Beijing and Shanghai and everywhere else — for foreigners and locals.

    Americans are being whipped into fearing the Chinese for a reason. Who benefits from our fearing China?

    Figure that out, and know: They are lying to you to gain power and get more of your money into their pockets.

  • When Galileo discovered the first four satellites of Jupiter, he called the the 'Medicean Stars,' hoping to improve his position through the largesse of the Medicis. The satellites got their present names from Simon Marius, a rival of Galileo and, unusually, a German with a sense of humor: he named them after three young women and a young man — Ganymede — sexually devoured by Zeus, or Jupiter.

  • And clean water running out in China won't stop the Chinese form owning a hefty chunk of our heavily-mortgaged future, which the Bushies put as collateral for the foolish $3TN freedomizing project they pursued only to fuck up badly, like everything else they touched.

    Jus' sayin'.

  • Monkey Business says:

    @Desargues: I think the Chinese will be more willing to bargain with us and revise their economic policies when the run out of water.

  • It's not just clean water the Chinese have issues with. It's all across the development spectrum. It's a big country with big internal problems not easily solved. It will take decades.

    China may own a big chunk of our debt now but so did Japan in the 1980's. Economic times change and the current situation will eventually rectify itself.

    I agree that Bush was a disaster. Oddly enough, most Chinese I know agree with that, too.

  • Point taken, boyz 'n' girls. China has problems. Ergo, we'll be fine. 'Scuse me, but that's a bit of a non sequitur. We continue to tailspin without a good plan, and China's future troubles won't solve ours. The Chinese may run out of water, but we could turn into Upper Volta with rockets, as a British diplomat used to say about Russia. I fail to see how China's looming water problem will relieve our burdens — unless we ask Jed Bush around 2018 to pick up the phone and ask Coca-Cola to sell the Chinese discounted Dasani in exchange for their T-bills.

    I jest, I jest. But seriously, what's our plan? We got rid of our Eighties doldrums by getting rid of our working class. Shall we decapitate de middle class next? That should bring in a few trillion dollars to help the Fed balance its books.

  • Nor did the problems besetting the Weimar Republic stop Germany from endangering the world after fermenting for a few years; on the contrary.

  • They estimate that around 2025 both Voyager 1 and 2 will run our of fuel, hence have to power down and cease transmission. But they'll continue to wander through interstellar space forever, unless some massive body captures them to turn the ships into satellites or swallow them like two man-made meteors. 40,000 years from now, Voyager 1 should reach another constellation, Camelopardalis. 300,000 years into the future, Voyager 2 will swing by Sirius. Oh, the sights to be seen — if only our remote eyes wouldn't have gone blind by then.

  • The Voyager stuff is really cool, but since when is the heliopause the boundary of the solar system? Who made that rule?

    I always took "solar system" to mean the whole system of bodies orbiting the Sun. If that's the case, then Voyager is NOWHERE NEAR the edge of the solar system.

    The Oort Cloud is the outmost region of the solar system. It consists of a bunch of cometary bodies. It's estimated to extend out as far as one light year from the Sun. 1 Light Year = roughly 6 trillion miles. That's a far cry from the mere 10 billion miles that Voyager has traveled. It's got a long, long way to go before it exits the solar system and enters interstellar space.

    Besides, there's no discussion of whether it actually will enter interstellar space at all. In order to do so, it has to be at escape velocity. I have no idea what escape velocity for the Sun is or whether Voyagers is traveling at that speed. But it would be nice to have included a discussion over whether its velocity is enough to escape from the Sun's gravity permanently.

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