Wednesday, December 19, 2007

They Said It Was Impossible

Ronald Reagan would be proud. His SDI program (strategic defense initiative) was ridiculed by the left much like the nay sayers who laughed at the idea that we could put men on the moon. Well, the shield is up and according to the DOD all 50 states are now protected by the missile shield system. It's an amazing feat that took someone with vision and commitment to initiate.

Funny thing, a year ago we were hearing how a border fence was impossible. Now, nobody questions whether we can, just whether we should.


James A. Bretney said...

Sweet Emotion!

Sirocco said...

Yeah ... I feel a _lot_ safer protected by an anti-missile system which has repeatedly failed tests under ideal conditions.

Sirocco said...

Actually, a throw-away, smart-aleck remark just isn't sufficient ...

Yes, the last two years there have been some successful tests, and that's encouraging. However, in general these tests involve using target missiles which are launched at a known time and a known trajectory with ideal conditions (no chaff, jamming, other counter measures) ... and even then they don't approach 100% reliability. Let's not even consider a real-world combat environment.

Having said that, the technology _is_ improving, and I do believe can be viable, although I don't really believe it's effective yet. Still, there is an argument to be made anything is better than nothing.

There is a reason, though, the notion was scoffed at in the early 80's - because given the technology of the time it was impossible. SDI is long since gone, technology is generations older and orders of magnitude faster, and we are only just now approaching what is needed to actually achieve the goal.

Maybe 10 years from now I'll actually feel safer. As of now, I'll chalk it up as propaganda.

Framer said...


One could almost make the same type of argument about embryonic stem cells.

It will probably turn out that we will not end up using the embryonic stem cells as the new pluripotent cells from your own skin will be much more useful.

Just a thought.

Sirocco said...

Well, in addition to the several orders of magnitude in cost difference, there is also the matter that in the late 1990's the technology existed to utilize pluripotent stem cells once we were able to culture them. I.e., we weren't (and have not) been trying to do something technologically impossible for the time.

That was not the case with the original SDI program, so the comparison breaks down.

Now, I actually rather favored SDI. There is a lot to be said for funding potentially useful research, even if practical uses may be two decades down the road.

Framer said...


Citing the cost of SDI as the main factor it was opposed is revisionism. People opposed it on idealogical grounds, much like embryonic stem cells.

Also, do you know for certain that no element of SDI is incorporated into today's missile defense? Do you know for certain that all avenues funded where "impossible science?"

It is relatively likely that embryonic stem cells will never be used for potential cures, due to the chance of rejection. It is quite possible that this could never have been overcome making embryonic stem cells impossible science as well.

The major difference is that the government has a constitutional mandate to defend the country, funding embryonic stem cell research is a bit more iffy.

Oh, and Reagan was still right.

Sirocco said...


Hmmmm .. .I do recall some people who were opposed to it on the grounds it was unnecessary defense spending, and would have preferred to see the money spent elsewhere.

I don't think there is any question some of what was developed under SDI helped lead to what we have today ... however, that's not an argument I made.

What I said was we could have spent _any_ sum of money you wish to name in the 1980's (trillions, googles, googleplexes of dollars), and it wouldn't have mattered - the technology simply wasn't available for what SDI was supposed to achieve.

It's barely there now.

Where stem cells differ is at the time we learned to culture them (late 1990's) we already had sufficient technology to make use of them. It's a significant difference.

We spent more on SDI in one year than we have invested in a decade of ESC research ... and that's not even accounting for inflation. The cancer issue may prove intractable ... it sure would be nice to have some funding to find out ... and if that funding had been made available seven years ago (and other barriers not in place), we'd probably know by now. We wouldn't have had to wait two decades for the technology to catch up.

AZAce said...

Define google and googleplex. It sounds like a lot.

exdeadhead said...

Siroco presents the typcial arguments. Doesn't work. Costs too much.

As to doesn't work - BS.

As to costs too much - One nuke will ruin everyones' day.

Sirocco said...

It still doesn't work, not consistently and particularly not consistently under real (as opposed to ideal) condiitions ... but I do think we are finally on the verge of being able to make it work.

Back in the 1980's? Not so much ...

Sirocco said...

By the way, you are soooooo right about one nuke ruining everyone's day. Thanks for making the point for me.

I'm sure if you think about it, you'll figure it out.