Pure awesomeness: James Cameron and the Mariana Trench

I’m a movie fan and I certainly have enjoyed the work of James Cameron, but I’ve never thought of him as awesome. Of course Titanic was great. And, despite the storyline not being anything new, Avatar was visually spectacular (especially since I saw it in an IMAX). And I guess he’s done other stuff? I don’t know, but that’s what IMDB claims. Anyway, as far as I know, he’s a pretty good director. For that, I view him favorably. But for what he’s about to do I’ve already decided I view him as just fantastic:

In the coming weeks, the director of “Titanic” and “Avatar” will climb inside the Deepsea Challenger, a single-pilot submersible vehicle he helped design, and dive to the Challenger Deep, the lowest point in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean 200 miles southwest of Guam. Once he’s there he plans to spend six hours on the ocean floor collecting scientific samples and filming for a 3-D theatrical feature documentary that will also be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.

This will be just the fourth time any man-made craft has gone that deep and just the second time any person will find themselves submerged so far. The first time people sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench was in 1960 when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took on the challenge. Once they hit the bottom, they found they had disturbed some bottom-dwelling fish. This was incredible. Just a handful of decades earlier it was still thought that no life could exist below about 2,000 feet. The thinking was that no light could ever penetrate that deeply, so there would be no viable ecosystem that far down. The first trans-Atlantic communications cables to be pulled up for repairs, however, were found to be encrusted with barnacles. They had been laying about 2 miles beneath the surface.

Fast forward the better part of a century and we’ve discovered, with the movement of that bottom-dwelling fish and a few shrimp, that life can exist anywhere underwater. Just anywhere. But here’s the crazy thing: We have been able to send people to the bottom of the ocean for longer than we’ve been able to send them to the moon, yet we’ve visited the latter far more times than we’ve even seen the former, much less visited it. And isn’t that bizarre? Imagine we knew nothing of the flora and fauna of a place like California and in order to learn about it all we send a couple of non-scientists to take a quick glance at the first few forms of life they see. That’s a fair approximation of how much we know about the Mariana Trench. Don’t we want to know more about all the life that exists in this amazingly exotic locale?

I’m glad that not only is a human going to once again visit such an incredible place, but that this human happens to be a big-name celebrity. Who knows what this will do for deep-sea exploration, but at the very least it will get the attention of people who normally would never know anything about any of this. Education is fun. I can’t wait to read about the experience and see the video.

Thought of the day

I will never get old. I’ll age, sure. But I will never become old.

The military war on obesity

Now here’s a war I can support:

The Pentagon spends more than $1 billion a year on medical care relating to weight and obesity. And America’s growing weight problem means finding new troops fit enough to fight has never been more challenging.

Army recruiter Sgt. Laura Peterson says America’s growing waistline is shrinking the pool of those qualified to serve.

“I’ve definitely seen the problem getting worse,” she said. “The population has gotten bigger. They don’t move as much.”

Among 17- to 24-year-olds, 27 percent are too overweight for military service. Over the past 50 years, the number of women considered ineligible due to weight has tripled, and the number of men has doubled, officials say.

Retired Rear Adm. James Barnett has said of obesity, “(It’s) not just a major health issue for our nation; it’s also become a national security issue.”

I was tickled pink when I first heard this story even though it was just a small piece I had caught in passing. Now that I’ve had the chance to read a full article, I’m even happier because of the big name they have involved:

And these days, it’s a battle the military is taking up. Teaming up with more than 300 of his colleagues, Barnett is fighting the war against obesity with a powerful ally: first lady Michelle Obama.

In February, Mrs. Obama announced sweeping changes to improve nutrition standards for 1.5 million troops and 1,100 military dining facilities across the country.

The Army now requires nutrition education as part of its basic training.

Barnett said, “When you talk about nutrition, you talk about healthy bodies, but you also talk about healthy minds. Nutrition affects strong bodies, strong minds. We need both.”

Military officials monitor soldiers to make sure they’re fit enough to fight on a consistent basis. Recruits who can’t keep the weight off may be kicked out of service.

As I’ve said in the past, I don’t inherently support the troops. I just can’t make myself become another mindless, ‘patriotic’ goof who falls for such obvious propaganda. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a certain respect for service members. I recognize that there are many parts of the military that are physically demanding – I respect that. (In fact, I’ve always been interested in the idea of doing basic training merely for the sake of doing it.) I like and value fitness, so when presented with something which has always been associated with high physical rigor, how can I not appreciate it? Well, as it turns out, it’s pretty easy to not appreciate a mass of people who have became masses in their own, individual rights. A billion dollars a year? Come on.

Now excuse me while I actually leave for the gym right now.