Let's think about the twin horrors of the day together for a moment.
In Japan, as the clip reports, some degree of nuclear meltdown is happening at the damaged power plants. And, perhaps even worse, hundreds of thousands of survivors of the earthquake and tsunami have had their existence literally reduced to rubble. As the social adrenaline abates, what will happen to them?
Meanwhile, the agony in Japan has pulled the world's eyes away from the revolt in the Libyan desert. As of today, it looks as though Colonel Qaddafi will succeed in taking back the rebel-held cities. We probably won't be able to see the violent retribution this dictator will visit on people who turned against him. Nor will we know for awhile whether military defeat means the popular revolt in the North African country is truly crushed or merely forced underground.
Our instinctive response to these horrors, as it is to some many others, is an anguished cry: IT ISN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN LIKE THIS!
But it does happen; it can. Power hungry men with enough money and guns can triumph over hope. Brilliant engineering and even the heroism of nuclear emergency workers can't ensure the safety of our attempt to harness the forces embedded in the stuff of the universe.
We will try over the next few months and years to put those insights out of our minds. That's what our ever-hopeful species does. It's not hard; there's lots of other things to concern us, from trying to help salvage lives for the injured from these events to going back to tweeting about Charlie Sheen.
But, at a minimum, let's try not to bring today's two horrors together. Nobody is talking much about this at the moment, but a year ago just about every developed exporter of nuclear technology was crowing about the possibilities of the Libyan reactor market.
The ongoing Japanese meltdown illustrates, again, that human ingenuity cannot insure against all contingencies. Neither can humans avert war and civil strife. But we can try not to mix the two hazards.