The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

30 years of Star Wars. And 20 years of Star Wars.

I noticed all sorts of Web headlines about the 30th anniversary of Lucas' Star Wars franchise, which gave us three and a half extremely badass movies, two and a half crummy movies, a notorious holiday special, and God only knows how many knickknacks, plastic figures, promotional tie-in collectible soft drink cups, etc. Still, those three and a half movies were awfully cool.

The other Star Wars has been around twenty years, but it's also become noteworthy for involving monstrous sums of money and inspiring a rabid, cultlike following-- only there's nothing badass about missile defense. It sucked from day one, continues to suck, and has the most short-sighted, arrogant and irrational supporters imaginable. I'd rather eat turkey legs at the Ren Fest while dressed as a mugato.

The United States scrapped on Friday a key test of an emerging missile-defense shield after a dummy missile that was to have been the system's target went astray over the Pacific. . .

"We need more demonstrations of the capability and this just delays this," said Riki Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a group funded partly by missile shield contractors. . .

The botched test "reinforces the need" to install U.S. 10 interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar station in the Czech Republic as a defense against a potential missile attack from Iran, [Pentagon spokesman richard] Lehner said.

The brief article also mentions the efforts touted as "successes" of the program, but points out obliquely-- in that let's-not-bruise-conservative-egos spirit of balance-- that the tests only worked when they were rigged. So what we really need is some way to convince rogue nations that their missiles aren't complete without an electronic device specifically made to allow our missiles to track them. Oh, and to call us beforehand and let us know the exact time, position, and trajectory of the launch. Then it might work. Occasionally.

UPDATE: Physicist Fred Lamb,
who headed up an American Physical Society study of boost-phase interceptors, was reportedly worried that the test might succeed. Not because he hates America (that sure is a versatile accusation, isn't it?), but because it would lead to the erroneous conclusion that "the system has a substantial capability in a real battle situation. That would be a gross exaggeration."