Popweekly: Digest for 04.19.10

Jeep convoy on the glacier Myrdalsjökull Iceland
Jeep convoy on the glacier Myrdalsjökull Iceland

Airlines conduct more test flights on ash cloud safety

KLM flew a Boeing 737-800 at the regular altitude of 10 km (six miles) and up to 13 km without incident. Lufthansa flew 10 aircraft to Frankfurt from Munich at up to 8 km.
“We have found nothing unusual, neither during the flight, nor during the first inspection on the ground,” said the Dutch airline’s chief executive, Peter Hartman, who was aboard the test flight.
A KLM spokeswoman said later that the successful test did not mean that KLM thought it was now safe to fly. “This is the responsibility of the European authorities,” she said.
“We have simply demonstrated that flying can be achieved, and we hope today’s tests will show the same.”

A world without planes

Bees and sparrows would be masters of the skies
In a future world without aeroplanes, children would gather at the feet of old men, and hear extraordinary tales of a mythic time when vast and complicated machines the size of several houses used to take to the skies and fly high over the Himalayas and the Tasman Sea. The wise elders would explain that inside the aircraft, passengers, who had only paid the price of a few books for the privilege, would impatiently and ungratefully shut their window blinds to the views, would sit in silence next to strangers while watching films about love and friendship — and would complain that the food in miniature plastic beakers before them was not quite as tasty as the sort they could prepare in their own kitchens.

Scientists find world’s deepest known undersea volcanic vent

A group of scientists exploring the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean said they have found the deepest known undersea volcanic vent. The waters near the vent are so hot they could yield clues to how life started on Earth and could contain never-seen-before marine life, scientists say.
“A tremendous roar went up in the main lab as a beautiful cluster of black smokers came into camera view,” the crew of the RRS James Cook wrote in their online diary of the exploration found 3.1 miles undersea. “It was an amazing feeling to know that in a world with more than six billion people, we were seeing part of our planet that no-one had ever seen before.”

Taiwan: The world’s most misunderstood island

I find Taiwan always produces strong reactions from those who visit or stay. Some are put off by the drab urban environment and the dirty crowded living conditions. Others transcend those immediate reactions and come to love this place like home. Despite living here for close to 12 years I don’t consider Taiwan my home but find it at times incredibly interesting and the people very friendly and more than accommodating. There is no doubt Taipei is a great city.
During a 10-day visit to Taiwan I’m repeatedly blown away by the island’s natural beauty, cultural experiences, and diverse, friendly people. Not to mention an astonishing variety of food.
The capital city, Taipei, is a sprawling, fascinating, and surprisingly fun mass of urbanity that’s home to nearly seven million people and the world’s until-recently tallest building. I discover that many of the greatest artistic and cultural treasures ever created by the Chinese — from the Neolithic Period through the Ch’ing Dynasty — aren’t in China at all. They’re beautifully displayed in Taipei’s magnificent, state-of-the-art National Palace Museum. When the Chinese
Beyond the museum, Taipei offers an astonishing number of interesting diversions, including colourful Daoist/Buddhist temples tucked between highrise apartments and old-fashioned street markets near modern supermarkets. Shopping malls vie with street vendors to sell the latest fashions. Nightlife can mean Beethoven performed by the Taipei Symphony at the Symphony Hall — a structure reminiscent of Beijing’s Forbidden City — or a street performance of Taiwanese-style opera with colourful masks and clanging gongs. It’s an amazing city for wandering, especially in the smaller alleys and side streets.

Thai Official Broaches Taboo Topic: Role of the Monarchy

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, speaking at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington on Monday, called the current upheaval in Thailand “a traumatic experience” that was nevertheless “part of the process of becoming a more open and democratic society.”
He also said, “We should be brave enough to go through all of this and even talk about the taboo subject of monarchy,” adding at another point, “I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy, how would it have to reform itself to the modern globalized world.”
His speech, in the remoteness of American academia, put into words an emerging viewpoint about the structure of Thai power that had been drowned out here by the din of politics and competing agendas. For the past four years, Thailand has been caught up in a series of confrontations as social and economic fissures between an entrenched elite and a traditionally passive poor majority have come into the open.