Rainbows & Unicorns

game-of-thrones-recap-dragon-970x546-cIn the TV show Game of Thrones there are dragons. Three of them.

Big scary scaly things which can fly, breath fire, kill anything they want and are notoriously hard to train. The Queen of the dragons in the show can sort of control them, like the mother of a steroid pumped bodybuilder; he might listen to her, or he might not but if you were to have a go at his mum….

So it would take a very brave person indeed to do anything bad to the Queen whilst she has three CGI dragons behind her on a leash. They are a fantastic deterrent to the rest of the made up characters in the show. No one messes with the Queen.

Well so far – let’s see how the story pans out.

What would happen though if everyone else somehow managed to get their hands on a dragon or two? Suddenly the Queen might start feeling a little less secure, her deterrent neutralised. Everyone in Westeros and beyond would be on a level playing field.

If that was to happen then there would probably be a moratorium on the use of the Dragons and I would imagine there would be strict controls imposed on who else have get them. There would probably be unilateral agreements on breeding them and perhaps a limit on how many one could have.

And, of course, there is no way the Dothraki are going to be allowed to get their hands on some…

Now you can’t develop a dragon, however cool that might be. In fact you can’t even breed any because they are, unfortunately or fortunately, not real.

But drones are real.

Unmanned combat aerial vehicles are very real and only a few countries have them. Even less countries have actually used them in combat; US, UK, Pakistan and Israel. A few other countries have them but to this point they remain unused in a military sense.

Drones give the country owning them a clear advantage; controlled from thousands of miles away, no human life put at risk (in the drone that is) and using the most up to date, cutting edge sophisticated technology they are very very effective.

Who wouldn’t want to have a fleet of fire breathing drones at their disposal?

A long time ago a group of people invented the bow and arrow and they instantly had the advantage, they were able to kill the enemy from a distance. Then along came the Steppe people who combined the cutting edge technology of horses with the bow and arrow and they took over the advantage.

Suddenly armies which moved at the speed of a walking man were facing armies which moved at the speed of a galloping horse and they were armed to the teeth. Whole continents were razed to the ground because of the advantage this gave them. But soon everyone caught up and they lost their advantage.

Tanks were developed specifically to break the deadlock of WW1 trench warfare. But then the other side developed their own. And so on. History shows that the advantage of such technology is short lived.

And it will be the same for drones and also for whatever the next technological leap forward happens to be, robo-warriors?

How will we feel when Kim Jong-un starts showing off his own drones, or IS or anyone else we think are not capable of using them in the ‘proper way’?

But drones have their limitations, like almost all weapons of war with one clear exception – nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons followed a similar path to every other weapon which preceded them. At one point only the US and the UK had them. And at that time most people were ok with that. Well people in the US and UK were. I would guess the residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were less enthusiastic.

But then following the normal course of events others found, stole or somehow acquired the technology and then it became not ok. As we descended into an arms race and the cold war nuclear weapons became the scariest thing we ever invented.

As we all know, what sets them apart from any other weapon is their sheer destructive power. They don’t just have the capability of hurting the enemy, they have the capability of wiping the human race from the face of the earth, and a similar to dragons that makes them very fucking scary indeed.

But this is the point in history where nuclear weapons diverted from the normal course of military technological advancements. They never got used, in anger. Tanks, drones, airplanes, bows and arrows, horses, armour, guns, missiles have all been used. Nuclear weapons not.

We stepped back from the brink and took a breath. The stockpiles of nukes which exist around the world today are primed, pointed and programmed but lie dormant, unused. Even at the height of the cold war, when nuclear annihilation seemed almost certain the powers that be paused and removed their respective fingers from the button. Its one thing to have Russian tanks rolling through Germany in a westerly direction, it’s another pressing a button and in doing so knowing for certain you are setting in motion the mutually assured total destruction of the planet.

And it’s for this reason I would argue the world is a much better place today with nuclear weapons than it would be without them.

No one can rewrite history but try to think for a moment what would have happened had the Trinity tests in New Mexico been unsuccessful and Einstein’s theory turned out to be just the ramblings of a madman with funny hair.

The war in the Pacific would have lasted years longer that is guaranteed. Many more casualties would have occurred than were incurred in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Just imagine the US having to invade mainland Japan at that point in history, it would have ended but it would have been horrific and much, much more bloody, on all sides.

Would the Warsaw pact countries and the West have maintained the stalemate they did without the threat of all round destruction hanging over their heads? I think not.

I do believe WW3 was only avoided because of the existence of nuclear weapons.

Don’t get me wrong, I dislike them as much as the next person. I just believe they are a necessary evil. It’s easy to criticise them, march against them or demand they are not in my back yard but what is the alternative?

Jeremy Corbyn is anti-nuclear, which is understandable. I am too.

But what I keep wondering is, given we know they exist what do we do with them? They are not dragons; they are real so how do we deal with the real world?

Unless you can persuade everyone who has them to dismantle them all, at exactly the same time and then forget how to make them, I’m not sure what other solutions there are.

Jeremy if that’s your solution then I will applaud you and maybe even vote for you if you manage to pull it off but I don’t hear you saying this.

All I hear you saying is they are nasty things and we don’t want them.

The problem is the real world isn’t a nice place. It never has been ever since that girl took an ill-advised bite out of that apple. The real world is full of nasty people and nasty bombs. If one person has a dragon they have an advantage if two people have them then the threat is neutralised.

The nuclear genie was let out of the bottle way back in 1945. Until someone figures out how to put it back in anyone who thinks we can just get rid of them, Mr Corbyn included, are living in a fantasy world of rainbows and unicorns.

It’s easy to criticise when you don’t have the power but that said I still would expect more from elected politicians.

Even one I would never vote for.

Unless he’s got a real dragon that is.

In search of Dragons

top-10-newly-recorded-monkeyThe gestation period of alpaca is a year. Baboon 187 days and the black bear 220 days.

I know this because my internet searching today has taken me from the Magna Carta through a brief study of unicorns and ending up with an alphabetical list of the gestation periods of mammals. Don’t even ask me why.

Zebra; 380 days.

So what have I learned after an hour of clicking with little purpose? Well not a great deal actually. I have one or two golden nuggets to remember during a pub quiz and have a great deal of sympathy and respect for the female domestic white mouse (20 days).

Poor wee thing 20 days really is no time at all to have a crazy, shit did I really? and with him?? night, to popping out a few little baby mice. No time to paint the room blue or pink, no time to book your maternity leave, no time at all. Its tough being a mouse.

But if you think the mouse has a rough ride, spare a thought for the poor Alien out of the Alien movies. Theirs is somewhere between 5mins and an hour depending on the editing, albeit the female alien doest actually have to carry the young so its probably not a fair comparison.

It’s a relative size thing. Elephants are the longest, mice the shortest. So following his logic Karen Carpenter would only take about 3months and Pavarotti’s mum carried him for over 2 years. Probably.

Unicorns are strange animals. A horse with a horn. And according to my searching and the so called experts they don’t exist. You are as likely to bump into a unicorn in a field as you are a Jedi knight. But I am not so sure.

In a believable hierarchy of mythical creatures should one exist unicorns have to come pretty close to the top. Why wouldn’t a unicorn exist? If you can have a horse or a stripy black and white horse or even small hairy narky horses then why not one with a horn?

Horns exist, horses exist so it’s a logical combination no?

The list of mythical animals is a long one. Each society has their own; big foot, Nessy, dog of Yama, leprechaun to name but a few. Dragons and unicorns seem to exist in most societies and appear in most continents around the world though. When I say appear, I mean have been depicted.

My favourite, for today at least, is the Loveland Frog. It lives in Ohio in the US and has the body of a human and the head of, you guessed it, a frog.

Can you imagine such a monstrous creature? Think of the ugliest person you know, imagine them with bad green skin and warts. If that wasn’t enough now imagine them being able to puff up their cheeks like bubble-gum and employing a curious seduction technique – that’s the Loveland Frog.

Is Yoda the last of his race?

So yes, Unicorns I think existed at one time and believe its only a matter of time before some anthropologist or bearded time team type proves it. That or we manage to recreate one from a mozzie trapped in amber. Dragons also, why not?

They could have existed. We have dinosaurs, we have flying dinosaurs so why not dragons? The fire breathing piece is a little problematic but if today we found a non-fire belching dragon I think it would  be reasonably big news regardless.

An animal was discovered last week.

High up in the treetops of the Andes lives the Olinguito. Weighing in at two pounds it is a member of the raccoon family and for years has been mistaken as another raccoon, the Olingo. This ‘discovery’ was announced to much fanfare and news coverage. Pictures of the small, bored looking dull brown animal were plastered over websites or newspapers under misleading headlines like ‘NEW SPECIES OF MAMMAL FOUND!’ or ‘DISCOVERY OF THE DECADE!’.

Really? I don’t think so.

The Olinguito is just one or two DNA strands or two vowels and a consonant different to the Olingo and its not like it was found, Indiana Jones style, in some remote cave or jungle. The Olinguito has been sitting in plain sight in Zoos and in Peruvian casserole dishes for ever. This discovery is no discovery.

Strangely enough another animal was discovered in the last few years, a monkey no less and I don’t quite know why this had significantly less news coverage. This particular monkey known to the scientific community as the Lesula Monkey was discovered in Africa and aside from DNA differences it distinguishes itself with unique colouring and markings. Including blue testicles. As you might imagine the common name for the newly discovered monkey is the Blue Balled Monkey and why this didn’t precipitate a tsunami of headlines I don’t know.

Both are some way from discovering a Unicorn or a Dragon though.

Put me in charge of the Smithsonian Institute please.

Put me in charge and I would be diverting all the considerable resources and bearded anthropologist to hunt them down. To hell with analysing the DNA of raccoons or studying the colour of Monkey balls, lets go after the Unicorn or start a quest to find a Dragon.

If you want the headlines one of both of these would guarantee it.

I would ignore the frog-faced lady from Ohio though because that would just be silly.