Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Fukushima Fifty

The heroes of our culture, celebrities of one species or another who've done nothing particularly worth admiring, let alone lionizing, look insubstantial and superficial compared to the kind of men we read about in this article on the Fukushima Fifty:
Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, the mother of one of the men tells Fox News.

The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of brave plant workers struggling to prevent a meltdown to four reactors critically damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.

Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: “My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation.
I wonder how many of the pampered, narcissistic, morally effete, recipients of our adulation and encomiums, the people we so handsomely remunerate for entertaining us in one way or another, would make a similar commitment.

We have men and women like the Fukushima Fifty in our society, too, of course. We saw them in action on 9/11 climbing the stairwells of the World Trade Towers knowing they probably wouldn't come out. We read about them in accounts of combat in far off places and stories of everyday police work in high crime communities, and yet if you ask the average Generation Xer, or Yer, to name one of them or explain what they have done, most would be struck dumb. We cheer and worship someone who plays the guitar or drums with a modicum of skill. We put posters on our bedroom walls of film stars and athletes. We soak up all the information we can of the details of these persons' lives. But we know little or nothing of real heroes.

Why do we have such a perverse, shallow understanding of what and whom deserves admiration? The Fukushima Fifty have much to teach us about this if we can break away from American Idol and Entertainment Tonight long enough to learn from them.

Mountain Bluebird

I drove over to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster, Co. PA early this morning to get a look at this beauty. It's a Mountain Bluebird, fairly common in the west but very rare in the east. In fact, the bird at Middle Creek is only the sixth record of a Mountain Bluebird in Pennsylvania.

The photo is not of the same individual that's at Middle Creek, but it's the same species. I've seen them at very close range (today's bird was a couple hundred yards out) in Montana and Colorado, and the blue just takes your breath away. An interesting fact about this is that in birds blue color, unlike most other colors, is not due to a pigment. In fact, the feathers of birds like the Mountain Bluebird are actually colorless. The appearance of color is due to the structure of the feather which causes the light to reflect in such a way that most of the waves cancel each other out, leaving only the blue light to travel to your eye. A common blue bird in the east in summer is the Indigo Bunting, which superficially resembles the Mountain Bluebird, but as brilliant as its color appears, it's not due to pigment but to wave interference which cancels out the other colors of light.

Indigo Bunting
Compare the two pictures and see if you can tell how the two birds differ.