November 07, 2006

Canadian TV worth watching (if you're a kid, anyway)

I should probably drop a brief note of praise for the excellent Canadian animated series, Class of the Titans. Yeah, it's kid stuff, but it's exceptionally well done kid stuff: it's the best thing out of Canadian TV stalwart Nelvana studio I've seen in a while, and is definitely a big step up for Vancouver's Studio B Productions, as well.

(If nothing else in this modernized take on Greek mythology, you have to appreciate a series that titles its episode retelling the Myrmidon myth as "They Might be G.I. Ants.")

There's actually some pretty good Canadian youth-oriented animation around these days, generally coming out of the whole Corus Entertainment conglomerate (which owns Nelvana as well as two of the three Canadian English-language kids networks available in the Toronto market (Treehouse and YTV) and half of Teletoon, which airs Class of the Titans. I'd also include Carl Squared, Delilah and Julius, and for an even younger set, Franklin the Turtle and Backyardigans.

Posted by BruceR at 02:51 PM

Fibonacci and proliferation

As opposed to the previous entry, this screed by the once reliable Joe Katzman is purest alarmism. From the previous article referred to in today's text:

"Fibonacci's sequence lives on today in the nightmare form of nuclear proliferation, and all current indications point to the conclusion that nothing of consequence will be done to halt the relentless addition of its sums."

The classic Fibonacci sequence is, of course, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 22, 35...

If you take the number of nuclear powers in each decade, not counting those who dismantled their programs like South Africa and Kazakhstan, and counting from the date of the first nuclear test* one gets:

2 (1940s), 3 (1950s), 5, 7, 7, 8, 9 (now)...

Not quite Fibonacci, is it?

Okay, but Katzman's point is that the rate of proliferation is increasing over time. Well, let's look at the years between the same 9 nuclear nations joining the club, which if it proliferation is accelerating, should be becoming shorter and shorter, something of a "reverse Fibonacci". So what are the intervals between nuclear tests (starting with four years between Trinity and the first Soviet test)?

4, 3, 8, 4, 10, 5, 19, 8...

Hey, let's put that on a graph, compared with an inverse Fibonacci (using 100/F):

Fibonacci nukes

As you can see, the interval between new nuclear tests has actually been steadily increasing: the basic opposite of a Fibonacci progression. If one were to be strictly mathematical about it, one would predict the next nuclear power joining the club somewhere between 2015 and 2030.

Now look, Pakistan's breaking a 19-year history of global nuclear nonproliferation and joining the nuclear club in 1998 was certainly a blow to efforts in this regard, and A.Q. Khan didn't make things any better. But Katzman's argument really boils down to: in 1998 there was one country I don't trust with nukes, and now there's two, and some day Iran will be three. This of course, ignores that the category of "countries we don't trust" has altered greatly over time. And the rate of change that remains after you exclude the currently trustworthy countries has too few data points to have anything to do with any kind of predictive mathematics.

No doubt, more always needs to be done on nonproliferation, which would probably be helped if the U.S. voiced stronger support for international control efforts, by the way. But the fact remains if we want to predict the future mathematically from the past, which Katzman is saying he thinks he can do by citing Fibonacci, there's no doubt the curve has historically been running in the opposite direction (thankfully).

On the basis of the above alarmism, Katzman makes a falsifiable prediction (conveniently on American election day, I might add... boo!): "10-100 million dead [in the Middle East] within the next 2 decades," by which he means an Israeli-Muslim nuclear exchange in that time period. Events will bear him out, and if this blog is still around in some version in 2026, tune back in for my calling him out. I certainly hope and pray he's profoundly wrong.

But here's my own falsifiable prediction, based purely on the mathematical sequence above: if present mathematical trends in the rate of nuclear proliferation continue, in 2026 there will be no more than 11 states with nuclear weapons in the world: two more than today. So I guess that means, stay tuned.

*Using the 1979 Vela incident, considered a possible nuclear test, for Israel, and last month's possibly failed test for North Korea.

Posted by BruceR at 11:01 AM

Michael Yon on Afstan: a caveat

Michael Yon, who is not a stupid man by any means, does go out on the limb a little here:

"Mark this on your calendar: Spring of 2007 will be a bloodbath in Afghanistan for NATO forces. Our British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, and other allies will be slaughtered in Afghanistan if they dare step off base in the southern provinces, and nobody is screaming at the tops of their media-lungs about the impending disaster. I would not be surprised to see a NATO base overrun in Afghanistan in 2007 with all the soldiers killed or captured. And when it happens, how many will claim they had no idea it was so bad and blame the media for failing to raise the alarm? Here it is: WARNING! Troops in Afghanistan are facing slaughter in 2007!"

If I were Yon, I'd be at least as concerned about the U.S. forces from 10th Mountain Division in RC-East. I'm not sure why he gives them a pass, given that they're the ones actually on the Waziristan border, across from all those tribesmen who just signed the truce with Pakistan. Not only would an American base be a potentially more lucrative target politically, but the terrain could be seen as somewhat more conducive to the massing of larger forces, as well. It's certainly a reasonable assessment that there will be some more large-scale insurgent attack attempts in Afghanistan next spring, but it seems unlikely they'll be confined only to RC-South, as Yon suggests above.

UPDATE: I think Sean Maloney basically has it right, although I think talking about Al Qaeda's unwillingness to negotiate overstates the Al Qaeda power over the Taliban a little (if the Karzai government wants to attempt again to open up a back channel to their internal insurgency, we shouldn't be dogmatically opposed to that) and the reference to the Toronto bomb plot as a bona fide Al Qaeda-driven op seems rather ahead of the known facts, so far.

Posted by BruceR at 10:09 AM