Archive for the ‘War’ Category

warheads

Here’s a remarckable fact: For the past two decades, 10 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States has come from Russian nuclear warheads.

It was all part of a deal struck at the end of the Cold War. That deal wraps up today, when the final shipment of fuel arrives at a U.S. facility.

The origins of the plan lie in the early 1990s. At the time, Philip Sewell was working for the U.S. Department of Energy. The Soviet Union had just disintegrated, and Sewell’s job was to find ways to collaborate with the former adversaries. In practice, this involved driving out into the Russian countryside, to military facilities that weren’t even on the map. When Sewell got there, what he saw wasn’t pretty.

“Windows were broken, gates were not locked, and there were very few people around,” Sewell says.

But inside these crumbling buildings, the Russian government stored the uranium from thousands of decommissioned nuclear weapons. It seemed like practically anyone could walk off with stuff for a bomb. Sewell and his colleagues wanted to get rid of this uranium. So they decided to try to persuade the Russians to sell their surplus to the U.S. After all, the stuff was just lying around.

Initially, the Russians refused. “It was a matter of pride, principle and patriotism,” Sewell says. “Even though they didn’t need that excess material, [and] they didn’t have the money to protect it, they didn’t want to let go of it.”
But in the end they did let go. For one reason: money.

“Russia’s nuclear industry badly needed the funding,” says Anton Khlopkov, the director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies outside Moscow. He says Russia’s nuclear complex had nearly a million workers who weren’t getting paid a living wage.

So, in 1993 the deal was struck: The Russians would turn about 500 tons of bomb-grade uranium into nuclear fuel. The U.S. would buy it and sell it to commercial power plants here. Khlopkov says it was a win-win. “This is the only time in history when disarmament was actually profitable,” he says.

Very profitable. The Russians made around $17 billion. Sewell’s government office was spun off into a private company — the United States Enrichment Corporation — and made money from the deal too. And the U.S. power plants got the uranium at a good price.

But all good things must come to an end, says Matthew Bunn at Harvard University. “Russia is a totally different place today than it was twenty years ago,” Bunn says. “As the Russian government is fond of saying, they’re ‘no longer on their knees.’ ”

Still Bunn says this deal will go down in history as one of the greatest diplomatic achievements ever.

“I mean, think about it – 20,000 bombs’ worth of nuclear material, destroyed forever,” he says. “[Bombs that] will never threaten anybody ever again.”

The last shipment arrives today at a US storage facility. It will be sold off to utilities in coming years. So when you turn on the lights, feel good. Your bulb may be powered by what was once a bomb.

http://www.npr.org/2013/12/11/250007526/megatons-to-megawatts-russian-warheads-fuel-u-s-power-plants

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).

Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing”the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.

http://memolition.com/2013/10/16/time-lapse-map-of-every-nuclear-explosion-ever-on-earth/

Thanks to Jody Troupe for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

paul-newman-still-130327

Despite a known link between a masculine-looking face and aggression in men, macho-faced soldiers didn’t survive Finland’s World War II Winter War in greater numbers than recruits with less masculine faces.

The macho-looking men did, however, have more children in their lifetimes than thinner-faced guys, suggesting that face shape is a sign of evolutionary fitness.

The new findings, published today May 7 in the journal Biology Letters, reveal nuances in how hormones, genetics and societal structures might work together to influence evolution. For example, the technology of 20th-century warfare may have turned survival into a matter of luck rather than evolutionary fitness, said study leader John Loehr, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Helsinki Lammi Biological Station.

“You have very little individual ability to change your fate,” Loehr told LiveScience. “You’re put in a situation where you and the 20 other people who are in your trench are hit by a shell, and it’s game over.”

High levels of testosterone during development are linked with a certain macho look: a broad face, strong jaw and narrow eyes. Any number of swaggering movie stars, from Paul Newman to Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe”), has parlayed this face shape into successful onscreen careers.

Meanwhile, psychologists have found that guys with Newman’s squint or Tatum’s wide cheekbones tend to be higher in aggression than men with thinner faces. One study on Japanese baseball players, released in April, found that wider-faced players hit more home runs. And in 2008, Canadian researchers discovered that hockey players with wider faces spent more time in the penalty box than other players for aggressive behavior.

The hockey player finding got Loehr thinking about whether high testosterone (and thus, aggression) might confer a survival advantage on wider-faced guys.

“The obvious thing, for me, was, ‘Well, can we get some military data?'” he said.

Fortunately, he could. Finland is a country with meticulous record-keeping, and at the library for the Finnish National Defense in Helsinki, Loehr inquired of a librarian where he might find resources with photos of World War II soldiers (for facial width measurements) as well as personal data about those men.

“She sort of walked around the corner and there were rows of these books sitting there with all the pictures and an amazing amount of personal data,” Loehr said.

Over several months, Loehr pulled together other resources, including photo books of dead soldiers compiled during Finland’s three-and-a-half-month Winter War with the Soviet Union in 1939. Using these old books, he was able to measure facial widths of both surviving soldiers and men lost during the war. He also knew these men’s ranks and how many children they had during their lifetimes.

Military service was and still is mandatory in Finland, Loehr said, so World War II soldiers were a good representation of the male population.

Loehr focused on three WWII regiments, for a total of 795 soldiers. He and co-researcher Robert O’Hara of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Germany found that wider-faced soldiers fathered more children than narrower-faced ones. The finding would have been expected by evolutionary researchers, given previous studies suggesting that fertile women are drawn to more masculine men.

The other findings were more surprising. For one, the wider-faced guys were actually less likely than narrow-faced men to rank higher in the military hierarchy. In other words, the higher the rank, the more likely the man was to have a narrow face.

“That’s a curious one,” Loehr said. Ecologically, he said, you’d expect the men who fathered more children in a community to be the socially dominant guys.

“For human species, it’s perhaps more nuanced,” Loehr said. For example, wide-faced guys have been shown in laboratory experiments to be less trustworthy. Trustworthiness might be more important for military leaders than dominance or aggression.

Another possibility is that the wider-faced guys could have moved up the military ranks during periods of conflict, Loehr said, as his findings were based on rank before the Winter War started. A study published in June 2012 found that in competitive situations, macho-faced guys are the most likely to work together to defeat a common enemy. If that’s the case, any testosterone advantage may not have come out until war began.

Second, Loehr and O’Hara found that face shape didn’t affect survival at all. A wider-faced man was equally as likely to die in battle as a man with a narrower face.

Technology may trump testosterone, Loehr said. One study, published in 2012 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that in fights involving hand-to-hand combat or other physical contact, narrow-faced men were more likely to die than wide-faced men. In conflicts where a gun, poison or other remote weapon was used, face shape made no difference.

The same could be true for Finnish soldiers, who fought and died with guns in the trenches, Loehr said.

“You would think that thousands of years ago, when combat would have been more hand-to-hand, without much use of tools, that you would have a different result,” he said. “It’s possible that humans have changed how selection can operate by developing this technology.”

http://www.livescience.com/29393-macho-faces-war-survival.html

drone-proof-burqa
As debate over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the U.S. rages on, a fashion designer introduces clothing that blocks drone-mounted infrared cameras.

As the U.S. government draws up plans to use surveillance drones in domestic airspace, opposition to what many consider an unwarranted and significant invasion of privacy is mounting across the country, from rural Virginia to techopolis Seattle. Although officials debate anti-drone legislation at federal, state and local levels, one man is fighting back with high-tech apparel.

A New York City privacy advocate-turned-urban-guerilla fashion designer is selling garments designed to make their wearers invisible to infrared surveillance cameras, particularly those on drones. And although Adam Harvey admits that his three-item Stealth Wear line of scarves and capes is more of a political statement than a money-making venture, the science behind the fashion is quite sound.

“Fighting drones is not my full-time job, but it could be,” says Harvey, an instructor of physical computing at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and the creator of the CV Dazzle project, which seeks to develop makeup and hairstyles that camouflage people from face-recognition cameras and software.

Harvey’s newest medium, metalized fabric, has been around for more than 20 years. It holds in body heat that would burn bright for infrared cameras—a characteristic that could prove attractive to those who do not want unmanned aerial vehicles spying on them.

Metalized fabric
Metal is very good at absorbing and scattering infrared light, says Cheng Sun, a Northwestern University assistant professor of mechanical engineering. In that sense there is nothing exotic in how metalized fabric works—it “would strongly attenuate the [infrared] light,” he says. The metal would dissipate heat to surroundings as well, making the wearer harder to pinpoint.

To date, the fabric has primarily been used in tape and gaskets to protect electronics and communications equipment from static electricity and electromagnetic interference, according to Larry Creasy, director of technology for metalized fabric-maker Laird Technologies, based in Saint Louis.

Here’s how metalizing works, at least at Laird: Woven fabric, commonly nylon or polyester, is coated with a special catalyst—a precious metal Creasy declined to specify—that helps copper bind to the fiber. Once dry, the fabric is submerged in a copper sulfate–plating bath and dried. A nickel sulfamate bath follows to help the finished fabric withstand the elements and abrasions. The result is a flexible, breathable fabric that can be cut with ordinary tools but that protects against electromagnetic interference and masks infrared radiation, Creasy says. The process adds weight to the original fabric. An untreated square yard of nylon weighs about 42.5 grams. Treated, the same patch weighs more than 70 grams.

The fashion
Harvey’s fabric is coated with copper, nickel and silver, a combination that gives his scarves, head-and-shoulders cloak and thigh-length “burqa” a silvery and “luxurious” feel. The material blocks cell signals, as well, adding an element of risk to tweeting, texting and other mobile activities, as the wearer must break cover to communicate.

Stealth Wear is sold only via a U.K. Web site. The burqa goes for about $2,300, the “hoodie” is $481 and the scarf is $565—luxury items, but so, too, is privacy today, Harvey says.

The impetus
The high cost and limited availability are significant drawbacks—Harvey says he’s only sold one Stealth Wear item online, a scarf. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts 10,000 commercial drones will ply domestic airspace by 2017—almost twice the that of the U.S. Air Force’s current fleet of unmanned aircraft. The number of drones flying in the U.S. today is hard to pin down because not every company and agency that gets FAA approval to fly a drone actually puts one in the air. In fact, 1,428 private-sector and government requests have been approved since 2007, according to the FAA. A Los Angeles Times report states that 327 of those permits are still active. Meanwhile, President Obama signed a law in February 2012 that gives the FAA until September 2015 to draw up rules that dictate how law enforcement, the military and other entities may use drones in U.S. airspace.

As of October 2012, 81 law agencies, universities, an Indian tribal agency and other entities had applied to the FAA to fly drones, according to documents released by the FAA to the Electronic Freedom Frontier following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Government entities as diverse as the U.S. Department of State and Otter Tail County, Minn., are among them.

Discomfort rising
Although Harvey’s anti-drone fashions are not currently flying off the shelves, he could soon find himself leading a seller’s market if recent events are any metric:

•The Charlottesville, Va., city council has passed a watered-down ordinance that asks the federal and commonwealth governments not to use drone-derived information in court. Proponents had sought to make the city drone-free (pdf).

•Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Montana, Arizona (pdf) and Idaho legislators are trying to at least regulate or even prohibit, drones in their skies.

•Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn returned the city’s two surveillance drones after a hostile public reception.

•A bipartisan pair of U.S. Representatives has introduced legislation to limit information-gathering by government-operated drones as well as prohibit weapons on law-enforcement and privately owned unmanned aerial vehicles.

Drone advocates defend the use of the technology as a surveillance tool. “We clearly need to do a better job of educating people about the domestic use of drones,” says Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Gielow says U.S. voters must decide the acceptability of data collection from all sources, adding, “Ultimately, an unmanned aircraft is no different than gathering data from the GPS on your phone or from satellites.”

GPS does not use infrared cameras, however, and satellites are not at the center the current privacy debate brewing in Washington—factors that could make Harvey’s designs all the more fashionable.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=drone-proof-anti-infrared-apparel&page=2

It could be the scene from a nuclear holocaust. A once-thriving city reduced to mere rubble, a 700-year-old cathedral barely left standing, trees that proudly lined an idyllic avenue torn to shreds. There’s barely anyone in sight. But the devastation wrought in these rare, haunting images was caused long before the atomic bomb came into existence.
It is the apocalyptic aftermath of dogged fighting along the Western Front during World War One when Allied and German forces tried to shell each other into submission with little success other than leaving a trail of utter carnage and killing millions.

The strategically important Belgian city of Ypres, which stood in the way of Germany’s planned sweep into France from the North, bore the brunt of the onslaught.
At its height, the city was a prosperous centre of trade in the cloth industry known throughout the world. After the war, it was unrecognizable. The Cloth Hall, which was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages when it served as the city’s main market for the industry, was left looking like a medieval ruin.
Its stunning cathedral, St Martin’s, fared little better

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Apocalypse: This was all that remained of the Belgian town of Ypres in March 1919 after fierce fighting during World War One reduced it to mere rubble

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In rehab: An aerial view of Ypres under construction in 1930 which gives an idea of how the city looked before it was bombarded during the Great War

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Felled: Trees along an avenue in Locre, Belgium, lie torn to shreds. These images are from a series documenting the devastation caused along the Western Front

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Destroyed: The Hotel de Ville in Arras, Northern France, looks more like a medieval ruins after it was heavily shelled during World War One

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Shaping nature: A huge bomb crater at Messines Ridge in Northern France, photographed circa March 1919, soon after the end of World War One

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Reflected glory: A peaceful pond is what remains today of the craters made by massive mines on the Messines Ridge near Ypres. Their explosion was heard in London

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Sorry sight: The Cloth Hall at Ypres, which was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages when it served as the main market for the city’s cloth industry

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Standing proud: How the Cloth Hall looked just before before the 1st bombardment by the Germans during the first battle of Ypres in October 1914

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Doomsday: St Martin’s cathedral at Ypres, which was rebuilt using the original plans after the war. At 102 metres (335 ft), it is among the tallest buildings in Belgium

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Devastation: St Martin’s Cathedral was the seat of the former diocese of Ypres from 1561 to 1801 and is still commonly referred to as such

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How it looked before: The cathedral was rebuilt to the original Gothic design, with a spire added, as seen here in 1937

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Clear-up effort: The East end of the Nave in the Basilique at Saint-Quentin in Northern France photographed soon after the end of World War One, circa March 1919

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Shot to pieces: The wreckage of a tank. Some 7.5million men lost their lives on the Western Front during World War One

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Forlorn: A little girl cuts a sorry figure surrounded by the ruined buildings in the French village of Neuve Eglise, which was heavily bombed

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2282108/World-War-One-wasteland-Haunting-rare-images-apocalyptic-destruction-Western-Front.html#ixzz2LZUhxVxX

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

drone

NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.

Known as the “double tap,” the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.

A 2007 report by the Homeland Security Institute called double taps a “favorite tactic of Hamas” and the FBI considers it a tactic employed by terrorists.

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Christof Heyns said that if there are “secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.”

The U.S. refuses to discuss the merits of its overtly covert drone program, but the reports featured on @dronestream clearly document that U.S. hellfire missiles have intentionally targeted funerals and civilian rescuers.

And that’s only a 10-month window in Pakistan. It has happened in Afghanistan as well, and the first instance of “explicit intelligence posthumously proving” that an innocent civilian had been killed happened in Yemen.

In September the NYU and Stanford law schools released a report detailing how double taps by U.S. drones affect the Pakistani population, and noted that “high-level” militants killed only accounted for 2 percent of U.S. drone strike casualties.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/us-drone-tweets-reveal-double-tap-plan-2012-12#ixzz2EyCYyb3N

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

 

Thanks to Da Brayn for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.