Asteroid Day

Two Nobel prize-winning economists on Greece. Joseph Stiglitz:

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.

By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.

Paul Krugman:

I would vote no, for two reasons. First, much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone — me included — the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not. But even so, devaluation couldn’t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. Greece is not that different.

Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.

And June 30 is Asteroid Day, and about a real threat rather than an imaginary one.

The End. Finis. Kaput. We grapple with peril, but the threats that frighten us – terrorism, epidemics, earthquakes – are not existential; none are capable of killing everyone, everywhere. An asteroid impact, on the other hand, could render us extinct.

Sixty-six million years ago, the Chicxulub asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. The Tunguska asteroid, which struck Siberia in 1908, destroyed 800 square miles. Estimates suggest that a Tunguska-sized asteroid will strike every 500 years; a one-kilometre object, capable of global catastrophe, every 700,000 years.

The possibility of avoiding cataclysm has inspired the people behind Asteroid Day, supported by an array of scientists, astronauts and media personalities, including the astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May, the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

They are campaigning for a rapid hundred-fold increase in the tracking of Near Earth Objects (NEOs). “The more we learn about asteroid impacts,” argues May, “the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time. We are currently aware of less than one per cent of objects comparable to Tunguska, and nobody knows when the next big one will hit. It takes just ONE.”

P.S. It’s perhaps highly appropriate to post an asteroid impact story on the day that Greece defaults, and sends shock waves through the EU.

About Frank Davis

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10 Responses to Asteroid Day

  1. Frank Davis says:


    In a rambling and self-pitying address in Brussels, Mr Juncker railed against Mr Tsipras’s “betrayal” and accused the “egotist, populist” of jeopardising “my major life’s work”.

    “I will never let the Greek people go down, never, and I know that the Greek people don’t want to let down the European Union,” he said. “I have done everything, and we don’t deserve all the criticism being heaped upon us.”

    Mr Juncker, who in a previous crisis said, “When the going gets tough, you have to lie” – was accused of a “preposterous lie” after claiming that the proposed bail-out contained no pension cuts.

  2. Hi Frank, I’m in Greece at the moment. Due to fly back on Sunday, Referendum Day. Nice timing, me.

    Prime Minister Tsipras is extraordinarily popular here, seen not only as ‘katharos’ (clean, uncorrupt) but as a true leader and now almost reaching hero level. It’s noted with admiration and approval that he and members of his cabinet walk about freely in public without bodyguards and without showing fear. The other day he hopped on to a train on the Athens Metro and started talking to people about his ideas and feelings, and listening to theirs. To me, it feels genuine and not something dreamed up by a PR team.

    People are naturally worried as shit though about what’s going to happen. All they know is that things couldn’t continue as before with no hope and no prospect of growth.

    Yeah, Juncker’s lies about the pension cuts were exposed pretty quickly by Syriza’s simply publishing the latest austerity demands on the table during last week’s negotiations. Raedwald has a lovely little rant at him here:

  3. Frank Davis says:

    Please keep posting through the week.

    And I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to spend a week in Greece.

    • Thanks Frank – I’ve been here a whole month!
      For info in the meantime, our favourite brand of Karelia cigs still only cost the equivalent of £2.54 a packet, and the ashtrays are still out on the tables.

  4. magnetic01 says:

    Riot breaks out at Metropolitan Remand Centre at Ravenhall
    [due to total, including outdoors, smoking ban that will come into effect tomorrow]

    • Rose says:

      The West Australian

      Smoking in jails to stay
      June 29 2015

      “Prisoners will not be banned from lighting up in WA jails, despite concerns about staff being exposed to cancer-causing passive smoking.

      Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said he had asked about the issue during jail visits and it was clear officers and staff were divided on a ban, despite the move being backed by the WA Prison Officers Union amid concerns about the health of staff.

      The decision is at odds with moves in other States, with complete Smoking bans have been introduced in jails in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania and are to come into effect in Victoria and NSW this year.”

      “Mr Francis said he was watching the impact of bans in other jurisdictions and keeping an open mind on the issue.

      “However, I am not yet convinced that the benefits of a smoking ban outweigh the potential negative impact on security and tension within prisons,” he said.

      “A ban on smoking would create a new form of contraband and could be a bridge too far for prisoners with mental health issues and those nearing the end of their sentence.”

  5. jltrader says:

    In the UK 1,316 people are said to have died as a result of drinking sweetened drinks.

    Read more:
    Do remark the precise number – it’s not 1300 or 1350 but exactly 1316 people :)

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