Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

The Nuclear Fusion Family

July 18, 2008

Recently, a Korean nuclear fusion research facility succeeded in creating plasma from hydrogen.  In fact, they were the second to produce plasma.  A Chinese facility also did it, in 2006.  This is a big step on the road to developing nuclear fusion as a viable source of clean, safe energy in the future.  It’s expected that there will be nuclear fusion reactors producing electricity by the 2040s.

Unlike nuclear fission, fusion does not result in radioactive waste.  It also doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.  That means it will be an integral part of a sustainable energy future.  Korea and China are partners in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, an international initiative to develop nuclear fusion as an energy source.  The list of ITER partners includes almost every industrialized country, except Canada.  Besides Korea and China, there is the EU, the US, Japan, India, and Russia.  Why Canada has not decided to pursue this is beyond me.

The government touts our new identity as an energy superpower, so why aren’t they investing in the energy source of the future?  The day will come when nuclear fusion and other sources replace harmful oil and gas powered plants, so why not be a major player in the new fusion industry that will emerge?  That would help maintain that energy superpower status.

The government also talks of significantly reducing greenhouse gases by the middle of the century.  Why not invest in a technology that will help make it happen?  By not being a part of this, it looks like they aren’t interested in expediting the development of a clean energy alternative because they rely on oil revenue.

Could it be that the cost is prohibitive?  No.  The KSTAR facility in Korea cost about $307 million.  Surely an energy superpower like Canada, which is doing quite well relative to other industrialized countries these days due to strong fundamentals and high commodity prices, can afford to develop a technology that will change the world for the better and secure its position as an energy superpower for probably the entire century.  Think of how much oil and gas revenue will come in over the next thirty-five to forty years until electricity from fusion becomes reality.  The costs pale by comparison.

We shouldn’t stop at fusion, either.  With energy and commodity prices as high as they are, we are in a luxurious position.  We should be investing in science and national projects that will challenge Canadian industry to develop the technologies and industries of the future, and raise our profile in the world.  The more successes we have, the more top scientists and success-oriented people we will attract, which will result in more successes.  This kind of success spiral will result in ongoing, sustainable economic growth as new technologies find applications in the consumer marketplace as well as in industry.  Think NASA.  The economic benefits from its Apollo program were enormous.

This is our opportunity.  Let’s take it.

A Certain Ennui

March 24, 2008

I haven’t written much lately.  In fact, aside from yesterday’s brief observation of global conquest, it’s been a week.  I’ve been feeling a kind of malaise, a lack of motivation to write posts even though I’ve commented on a few other people’s.  I just haven’t felt like writing.

I couldn’t even be bothered to finish any of the partially written posts I have saved just for such occasions.  Yes, I’m familiar with the concepts of forward planning, putting some away for a rainy day, and having a ‘Plan B’ in your pocket.  Imagine you’ve been putting money in the bank just in case you ever need it one day.  Then, when that day comes, you can’t be bothered to go to the bank to get it.  That’s how I’ve been feeling about blogging this past week.

There could be other explanations.  As my blogroll grows, I find myself reading other people’s work more, leaving less time to write.  I’ve also been trying to teach more online.  Since the students are in Korea, the classes are late at night and in the early morning hours.  That means I’ve been sleeping well into the day.  When I can fill the whole night, and I’m told it will get busy in April, it’ll pay off.  Right now, I’m just tired.  Then there’s the fact that my mind drifts to what I’d like to do.  Torn between what I want to do and what I have to do, I don’t put enough time or energy into either.

But, I’ve also been procrastinating.  I sometimes wonder if the time of year has something to do with it.  As far as I can remember, March has always been a slow month for me.  Even in my senior executive level negotiation days with an international publisher, I don’t think I ever closed a deal in March.  Budget and fiscal issues may have played into it because April was usually good, but I still feel below par in March.

I started to feel this way about the middle of the month.  Now, I even have a mild cold or flu to recover from.  Beware the ides of March, indeed.  Maybe its the darkness before the dawn – the final days of winter just before spring, the time of renewal or return to life.  Most cultures celebrate this time of year for that purpose.  Easter was actually hijacked from an earlier pagan celebration, Eastre, as many religious holidays are.  Of course, some will say that is not true – Easter is a unique celebration of the rejuvenation of a corpse and its ascent to heaven.  If this be true, I be Caesar.

As I look around my one bedroom East Van apartment it’s apparent that, not only am I not Caesar, it’s also in need of a spring cleanout and renewal.  Whatever.  I’m just waiting for April to roll around.

Not So Passive Aggression

March 4, 2008

Passive aggression can be a dangerous thing.  The good people of the church appear to be quiet and peaceful, on the surface.  In practice, however, they are aggressively expansionist.  They want to spread the word, spread the faith, and convert the heathen.  One of their favourite methods of doing so is under the guise of Christian charity or aid.

Conditional charity is not uncommon.  Asking recipients to pray or attend a service in return for food or other assistance happens, as I’ve mentioned before.  This can lead to international incidents with consequences.  A while back, a group of South Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.  One was executed, I believe.  Their government negotiated the release of the rest, eventually, no doubt after paying a hefty ransom.

There is a debate going on in South Korea about this incident.  What the western media didn’t seem interested in reporting is that these missionaries weren’t just helping people, they were trying to convert them and spread Christianity.  Should the government be responsible for them?  Should they bail them out and pay taxpayers’ money to save them from a situation they got themselves into?  Why should the country pay for their aggression and mistakes?

South Korea has the second highest proportion of missionaries in the world.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is a growth market for Christianity.  How did it become so popular in a traditionally Confucian or Buddhist country?  It’s growth has its origins in the aftermath of the Korean War.  I use the term ‘aftermath’ loosely because, technically, the war is not over – there is only a truce.  After the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. military stuck around to keep North Korea in check.  With American soldiers on the ground, Christianity was able to spread.  This should come as no surprise.  Religion has often followed armies around and spread with empires.  Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and expanded with it.  The pace accelerated after Constantine’s army, reputedly ordered to display the Christian logo on their shields, were victorious at Milvian Bridge and he took control of the empire.

Faith and the sword became partners again in the medieval age when Christendom responded to the spread of Islam with Crusades and Inquisitions.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I suspect this may also be when the death sentence for leaving Islam may have been introduced.  If you think you have problems today, consider yourself lucky that you weren’t a Moor given a choice between “Convert or die” and “Convert and die”.

Missionaries came to the New World, protected by European soldiers, to convert the indigenous populations.  The results were often disastrous.  From the New World the faith has spread to Asia.  So many souls to convert and save.  So many donations to collect.  The temptation is too great to ignore.

It’s not enough to keep the faith and live by the word.  They have to spread them.

God’s Free Gift

January 27, 2008

A couple of years ago, on my way to the supermarket one Sunday, I was walking along East Broadway and passed a church.  There was a man standing just inside the church’s property line facing a couple of young girls, who were probably about twelve or thirteen years old, standing on the sidewalk just outside the property line.  As I approached, I heard one of the girls say something like, “So, if we come in, do we get to keep the presents?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Had the religious really stooped to such new lows?  Luring unaccompanied children – without parental consent – into their churches with presents?  I glanced at the man.  Incredibly, HE shot ME a dirty look.  I guess I offended him by catching him doing what he must have known was wrong.  If he didn’t know it was wrong, he would have carried on nonchalantly and wouldn’t have noticed me passing.  Couldn’t he hear his own conscience?

Imagine there wasn’t a church behind the man.  You see a man offering young girls presents to come inside.  What would you think?  Utterly abhorrent, predatory behaviour.  For some reason, religions get away with things we would otherwise find offensive, or even criminal.

Although this was the first time I’d ever seen such blatant and crass religious marketing, I later found out it was by no means an isolated incident.  A Korean student told me last summer that it’s common in Korea.  Christian churches routinely offer children presents to come in and join a mass.  Korea and Asia are ‘growth markets’ for Christianity.  Make no mistake, they’re in the god ‘business’.

Looking back, the guy standing just inside the property reminds me of the legal fine line the girls standing in the doorways of the ‘hostess’ bars in London’s Soho district tread.  Now there’s a comparison to be proud of!

I feel a little ashamed that I didn’t do anything about this guy.  I wish I’d called a cop.  But, being the nice, tolerant Canadian that I am, I didn’t.  We have to respect religion, after all.

Why?

A Winter Morning

January 9, 2008

It’s a grey, wet day in Vancouver.  Nothing unusual about that, in January.  Typical, in fact.  Welcome to winter, west coast style.  From November through April, this is what to expect.

The rain was the second thing I heard early this morning, after the rude awakening of the alarm at 5:30.  It was splashing down pretty hard on the deck and roof outside my window, like a sound effect in a moody, atmospheric song.  Then came the coffee machine, beeping, as I’d set it to.  Good timing.  No milk.  One mug of black coffee later, I’m sitting down with a refill to face my webcam-topped monitor.

I have to confess, I get a kick out of the fact that I meet face to face with people in Korea half an hour after dragging myself out of bed.  It’s way more interesting than the various places I’ve worked around town, and more time efficient.  Commute time?  Thirteen steps from the bed to the coffee machine and eight or nine from there to my desk.  Doing business with Korea is easier than doing business locally!

I tried to go back to bed after the session but couldn’t sleep.  So, I got up and showered and here I am, eyes burning.  I was considering a matinee, but sleep has to come soon.  Batteries must be recharged.