Cold war getting hotter scenario from 1987

Tom James @ 19-06-2009

DD-ST-87-08751Alternate-history fans will appreciate these US Department of Defense maps of a projected Soviet invasion of Western Europe, heralding as they would have done the beginning of WWIII:

This map is a really a picture in macro-scale of the epic tank battle for the plains of Germany, that entire generations of Western and Soviet officers built careers around planning and preparing for. In the history of human civilization, the Soviet Western TVD invasion was probably the most researched, contemplated, and gamed out battle that was never actually to take place. Fifty years of voluminous strategic studies were compiled by both sides on this very subject, as both sides searched for advantages in a truly enormous field chess game.

I don’t know enough about the history to say if this is paranoiac or just horrific.

[via the Exile][image and article from TechConex]


The lost cosmonauts of Russia’s black space program

Paul Raven @ 01-05-2009

Russian Wostock space rocketOK, this isn’t strictly a science fictional post, but it’s just that interesting a story – and a well-told one, too – that I thought it deserved sharing here, where I think it’ll be appreciated. It’s the tale of two Italian radio geeks, and how they accidentally became the ears of the West within Russia’s space programmes – the one that’s common knowledge, and the ones that were kept quiet.

It is the ultimate in Cold War legends: that at the dawn of the Space Age, in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the Soviet Union had two space programmes, one a public programme, the other a ‘black’ one, in which far more daring and sometimes downright suicidal missions were attempted. It was assumed that Russia’s Black Ops, if they existed at all, would remain secret forever.

The ‘Lost Cosmonauts’ debate has been reawakened thanks to a new investigation into the efforts of two ingenious, radio-mad young Italian brothers who, starting in 1957, hacked into both Russia’s and NASA’s space programmes – so effect­ively that the Russians, it seems, may have wanted them dead.

True, or bunk? I don’t know – but it’s a damned good story. Go read it – it’ll be fifteen minutes well spent. [via the indispensable MetaFilter; image by James Duncan]


Macrograffiti: Communist slogans carved into forests

Paul Raven @ 16-02-2009

No commentary or speculation this time; I’m just throwing this up here because it tickled my WTF spot, and I thought it might do the same for you lot.

So: Soviet-era Russian forestry projects that form political slogans when viewed from space. Bam.

'100 years to Lenin' - Communist slogan cut into Russian forest

There’s a whole bunch of these (plus the Google Maps coordinates, so you can see they’re not ‘shopped) at the consistently bizarre EnglishRussia blog; the hat-tip goes to Strangeharvest.


More bartering business

Paul Raven @ 10-02-2009

barter at a car boot saleIf you think your local economy’s in a mess, just be thankful you’re not living in Russia, where it appears that big corporations are turning to barter trade in a desperate attempt to keep business moving:

So far, economists doubt that barter will grow to the level it reached in the 1990s. Earlier in the transition to a market economy, industrialists still had little monetary stake in their businesses but were dependent on the prestige that went with executive positions, said Andrei Yakovlev of the Higher School of Economics here. They had little incentive to cut costs, and barter deals kept them going for five years, he said.

Now, business owners and managers “are really trying to reduce costs and reduce inefficiency,” Mr. Yakovlev said. Interest in barter, he said, is more likely to come from regional governments, which have the most to lose from high unemployment.

Local government moving towards barter is a little scary… but then a bit of decentralisation might not be a terrible thing if it means that, in the long run, the system becomes more resilient to global clusterfucks like the subprime collapse.

Meanwhile, there are other comparatively recent examples of communities surviving without the assistance of banks – the Irish bank strike of the early seventies, for example. And the sheer amount of coverage being given to alternative currencies and financial systems in places where economics is not traditionally the foremost subject of interest speaks volumes for the overnight erosion of trust in banking as we know it. [image by shawnchin]

What will we build in its place as we move into John Robb’s global guerilla century?


Russia blasting biomass at Martian moons

Paul Raven @ 09-01-2009

Earth-Mars montageWhile the Western world waits to see what President-Elect Obama does with the US space program, the Russians are getting busy with a Mars mission of their ownDue for launch in October, the charmingly-named Phobos-Grunt mission will be robot-manned, of course, but there will be earth lifeforms aboard, albeit very tiny ones:

LIFE [Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment] is intended to help better understand the nature of life, its robustness, and its ability – or not – to move between planets. The journey will be a test of one facet of the “transpermia” hypothesis. That is, the possibility that life can voyage from planet to planet inside rocks blasted off one planetary surface by impact, to land on another planetary surface.

Don’t worry, though; they’re not going to break the 1967 Outer Space Treaty by infecting Mars with Earth biology. Or at least they’re not going to do it deliberately – but that’s not stopping a few NASA types getting a bit hot under the collar about the whole business:

… I am uncomfortable with sending native tundra samples so close to Mars, because this is a location on Earth that could possibly contain organisms capable of adapting to Martian conditions,” and to do so “seems ill-advised,” Conley told SPACE.com.

Well, we surely don’t want to corrupt Mars with Earth microbes if we can avoid it. But how much of that discomfort is rooted in the Planetary Society using a Russian mission arther than a NASA one, I wonder? [superb montage image by Bluedharma]


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