Betelgeuse go boom?

Astrophysicists say that Betelgeuse, the red super-giant that is the second biggest star in the universe, is losing mass—an indication of gravitational collapse. Brad Carter, a senior lecturer of physics at the University of Southern Queensland, explained to news.com.au that the star is essentially running out of the fuel at its core. “This fuel keeps Betelgeuse shining and supported. When this fuel runs out the star will literally collapse in upon itself and it will do so very quickly,” he said. The subsequent explosion will appear tens of millions of times brighter than the sun, meaning 24-hours of light on Earth.

Of course, one should mention that Time has made a minor error.  Betelgeuse is about 640 light years away, so if we see it go boom in 2012, it actually exploded some time before.  It’s a point that sometimes even astronomers forget to make, but it’s one that I think needs to be made– we’re not watching live TV, but the universes collection of old VHS– perhaps even Betamax– tapes.
Oh and of course for the 2012 sorts:
THE MAYANS WERE RIGHT– WE’RE GOING TO DIE!
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Why the hate for democracy?

Seriously, a metric ton of science fiction seem to hate it– usually they go back to some form of monarchy (Prince of Sparta, from Jerry Pournelle), or an oligarchy with the strong men making hard decisions(tm), and in fact it’s very, very rare that we see democratic or republican forms of government portrayed in a positive light, either they’re incompetent, corrupt, power hungry, or some combination of all three.

Which is pretty odd when you consider the real world track record of oligarchies, monarchies, etc.  The Strong man on the white horse in both Russia and Germany lead their nations to utter ruin– in the course of a devastating war in the case of Germany, while after a long economic decline in the case of Russia.  Meanwhile, the United States, Great Britain, Australia etc, keep plugging along– in fact if you look at longevity and over all well being, they far, FAR outmatch the other forms of government.

And yet, to read much of Science Fiction, you’d think that democracy, or even a republic with an unlimited franchise, has never worked.

Which is very odd, because I can think of a lot of places I’d like the world to go in the future– but back to the days when you had to bow your head to some happy sociopath with a fixation on the purity of his blood that had his family tree crossing a few too many times….

Well that ain’t exactly my idea of the future I want.

PS: Charlie Stross in The Merchant Princes Series does a damn good job of showing just how ugly this sort of nobility oriented society can be.