Making up for a light week last week, a heavier one this time around.
Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague
- Marine Corps marksmanship test to get harder – Appropriately, in the parlance of competitive shooters, they’re moving to Trooper Class.
- Raytheon gets the nod for a 360-degree radar for Patriot batteries – It uses three AESAs, one main array in the direction of greatest interest and two small ones facing off-line.
- Video of a South Korean exercise – Whatever Korean for ‘hooah’ is, it makes me want to say that.
- Raytheon’s advertising video of Griffin missile testing looks like it was ripped off a VHS from 1986
- Amazon’s lawyers interrupt Microsoft’s JEDI celebration – A judge halted further work until a court can shake out whether the contract was correctly awarded.
- What’s an expeditionary force? – Spoiler: the current official definition (“Expeditionary Force: An Armed Force organized to achieve a specific objective in a foreign country”) is over-broad to the point of uselessness.
- How can small units prepare for large conflicts? – The short version is, do what they always do but more so.
- On the GAU-5/A – Which, if you recall, is the Air Force’s new M4-like survival carbine. It fits under an ejection seat.
- In the mid-2020s, the Royal Navy will be smaller than the French Navy and the Italian Navy – Not combined, smaller than each one individually. The heroes of the past roll over in their graves.
- QC problems plague the M109A7, the AMPV – Deep cuts in the 2021 budget will hopefully give them time to get back on track.
- What do US military missiles and bombs cost? – Thanks to this helpful article from The War Zone, you too can play budgeteer!
Science and Technology
- App-based car rentals don’t work if you take them off-grid – You’d think they would have thought of that, but nobody in Silicon Valley making hardware is big on making hardware that sees much testing outside of Silicon Valley, so I can’t say I’m surprised, strictly.
- Will Boeing make a full recovery after the MAX crashes? – This opinion writer thinks the answer is yes.
- The UAE gets the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant
- Scientific American with a long, detailed, and helpful summary of the ongoing Hubble Constant cosmological crisis – News to me: there’s now a third method of measuring that number which provides a third, non-overlapping answer to the question. (Or, perhaps, an answer which overlaps with the other two, based on a response paper, but the two classic methods still don’t agree.)
By order of the Central Commission for Calendrical Gynmastics, today is Wednesday for the next, oh, three to five minutes.
- Or COVID-19, according to the WHO – Because we live in an era where calling something by an easily-recognizable, human-friendly name is insensitive. Not being deeply concerned with sensitivity here, we’re going to stick with ‘the Wuhan coronavirus’.
- A snippet of an interview with the director of the NIH
- A paper and associated model on the start date of the outbreak, from the University of Toronto
- Big spike in cases in Hubei province… – … caused by changing methods of diagnosis. Namely, lung imaging can now be used, which may sweep up some unrelated pneumonia cases, but how many of those are there, really?
- Incubation period may be as long as 24 days instead of the standard two-week quarantine – That’s just how I’d design a virus if I wanted it to spread in spite of control efforts.
- Epsilon Theory remarks on the epidemic – I agree that China’s numbers are probably still under-reported, but disagree that, as the author thinks, we should be seeing exponential growth—that’s only the case if there are no efforts at control, and there’s been quite a lot of ink spilled over the past month or two about just such efforts.
Science and Technology
- Jailbreaking used Teslas – Tesla, in the same manner as noted corporate villain John Deere, believes that a durable good and the software that powers that durable good are sold separately. Buyers of used Teslas rightfully do not like this.
One month into 2020 already. Goodness.
Upcoming features for February include a continuation of parvusimperator’s Cadillac Gage commentaries (probably), a holster review (my wife has been pushing me to carry more often), and, of course, the continued exploits of our fictional French Navy for Thursday wargaming.
Science and Technology
- What happened to the Iowa caucus results? – And how are they going to steal the primary from Bernie? (Not that I really care how one part of the left screws over another part of the left, as long as it suppresses left-leaning turnout.)
Winter Wargaming may be slightly delayed—I have a lot of writing left to do on that front, and tonight in which to do it.
- Rainbox Six, a re-read. The last time I read it was also post-9/11, but I’m much better informed about the state of the world today than I was last time, and the starkness of the divergence between that fictional timeline and our real one is worth mentioning.
- Castles of Steel, a re-read in progress. I’m up to just past the Dardanelles. That particular campaign (the naval side, not the ugly, unproductive land side) strikes me as one we can’t really game out. Could the Royal Navy have forced the straits alone? Maybe so. But, if so, would the Ottoman Empire have collapsed? Nobody knows for sure, and neither can we design a wargame which gives us an impartial answer.
- The Mauritius Command, which I thought was a re-read, but now that I’m halfway through I’m not so sure. You can’t go wrong with Patrick O’Brian.
- Return of the Obra-Dinn, a rollicking good nautically-themed murder mystery. The conceit: an empty ship floats into harbor circa 1807. You, an insurance investigator, go aboard, with a watch in your possession which permits you to view the moment at which a person died, given a bit of their body (or a vision of their body in a vision of someone else’s death). Worth the price of entry.
- A Painted Ocean. It’s not so much a game as a toy, but it’s a brilliant little toy: you’re the skipper of a full-rigged ship with detailed physics, and you sail it around. That’s the whole game. It’s delightful. The only thing that seems a bit off to me is that she has a habit of ‘sticking’ by the wind as you come out of a tack, not making enough way for the rudder to bear her up; I usually have to reef the mizzen-sails and the spanker to get her head to come away from the wind.
- You can tell it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, because this is an article on Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes after the Suleimani hit
- USNI blog piece on UFOs strikes this author as somebody’s op – The only question is whose? And why? I guess that’s two questions.
- USS Little Rock to get 150kw laser
- Super Bug gets an IRST – A podded IRST, but still!
- OMFV program canceled, will be restarted – Another win for the odds-on favorite for any new procurement project.
- Armata still not quite delivered to the Russian army – ‘Нет, еще пока нет,’ said the guy in charge of Ростеха. (‘Not quite yet’, more or less.)
- The Italian Navy, circa 2020
- ALIS is dead, long live ODIN – LockMart gets another chance to make a repair and mission data software package which works. It’s scheduled for 2022. Parvusimperator, how long do you think it would take the two of us?
- Sig demoing .338-caliber MG to various special forces
- A longer article on the Streetfighter II Chally package – Courtesy of our friends at The Drive.
- The aging US sealift fleet cloud lose the next war – Loren Thompson, when he isn’t being (presumably) paid to cheerlead for American military hardware, can make a good point. On the one hand, it’s worth noting that in previous wars, we didn’t have a pre-war sealift fleet. On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that we had a merchant marine.
- Vortex announces a 1-10x optic – The adjustability! It’s tremendous! Also tremendously expensive. Let me know when Primary Arms makes one.
- As gun rights cases orbit the Supreme Court, don’t forget Caetano – Which made clear that the court is willing to unanimously police compliance with a decision that not all its members feel was rightly decided. Some of the lefties dissented from Heller and McDonald. Nobody dissented from Caetano.
- Do you miss the 80s? Then you want this side-folding stock for your Ruger rifle!
- Antifa marches with gun rights protesters, because even a stopped clock is right twice a day
- A drop-in trigger system for 1911s – It’s kind of funny that, while there is only one rifle platform (in the sense that you can build one from widely available parts and swap things in and out), there are two for pistols: Glocks and 1911s.
- On the disparate racial impact of the Virginia gun bills – They’re only going to get enforced in cities, and will probably disproportionately fall on minorities.
- Heterodox take: actually, gun rights are winning – Certainly, if you look on the basis of land area or count state-by-state, as the author does. He has more compelling arguments, too, which I won’t steal.
Science and Technology
- Dark matter may not exist, says a group of scientists with a paper to push – Soapbox correspondents reportedly watching closely. I’ve said repeatedly that I look at the dark-matter-as-actual-physical-matter theories as the 21st century’s luminiferous aether.
- Cory Doctorow on the parallel computing bubble – When all you have is a massive cluster of slow but cheap and efficient processors, every problem looks like a machine learning problem. Also, in the article he remarks that, 15 years ago, he predicted that computers would stop getting faster and start getting wider, so given how exactly he called that, I think he’s earned some additional speculation.
- Reports of Tesla unintended acceleration… – … which Tesla vehemently denies, pointing out that a short-seller is behind the petition sent to the NHTSA.
- Continents of the Underworld – “It would be like having an object in the sky, and asking, ‘Is that the moon?’ And people are like, no. ‘Is that the sun?’ No. ‘What is it?’ We don’t know!” said Vedran Lekić, a seismologist at the University of Maryland.
- MIT researchers use a blanket of carbon nanotubes to heat and cure aviation-grade composites – The previous state of the art was, “Build a three-story autoclave.”
- 40-year-old tractor prices reach an all-time high – In large part because John Deere is an awful company which wants to provide tractors-as-a-service without being responsible for the cost of maintaining tractors.
- Did you know that you aren’t supposed to use Google Fi if you spend a lot of time overseas? – Which is rather annoying, given that its easy international roaming is one of its draws. (Granted, I don’t travel internationally very often, but still.)
- Coronavirus outbreak in China continues – Man, I wish I hadn’t just read Rainbow Six. If a biotech company says they just happened to be working on a vaccine, be suspicious!
Winter Wargaming tomorrow. Don’t forget to check back and vote on the direction for our fictional France—I typically play over the weekend.
I have to write the 2019 audience report at some point. The very short version is: slightly reduced traffic over 2019, but counting Discord, massively increased audience engagement. To our regulars, both the commentariat and the lurkers, we’re happy to have you around.
- Me: Castles of Steel, by Robert Massie. I’m reminded of an era when the government owned the design of its warships.
- Parvusimperator: Samurai!, by Saburo Sakai.
- Soleimani bites it thanks to good old American Hellfire, Iran retaliates, US perhaps to retaliate back? – I don’t really need to link anything for this, do I?
- Navy Act restricts LCS fleet to 35 hulls
- 8 F-15EXes for the USAF in 2020 – That’s 176 AMRAAMs, or 29⅓ F-35A/Cs, or 44 F-35Bs.
- The Diplomat on the Chinese influence campaign in the US – I still belong to the ‘Overheard at ‘ Facebook group, and it’s been utterly fascinating watching the pro-China Chinese students square off against the anti-China Westerners. For one thing, the Chinese are using the language of the social justice movement, which is a masterstroke—very few of the Western students have any idea how to argue if that rug is pulled out from beneath them.
- Iran has better missiles than it used to – In particular, these ones can actually hit point targets.
- Coast Guard to face narco-sub epidemic in 2020? – Granted that most of them are semi-submersibles rather than full-on submarines, but still. In related news, have you heard about the transatlantic narco-submarine trade? I hadn’t.
- On the next world war – The article misses the fact that latent industrial capacity is not really enough to make modern military equipment. You could convert a 1943 Ford factory to make B-24s. It would be much, much harder to convert a 2020 Ford factory to make F-35s.
- Back to H. I. Sutton: how will the balance of power in world submarine fleets change in the 2020s?
Science and Technology
Welcome to the New Year, folks!
- Ospreys land at the US Embassy in Baghdad – In video! Great way to land your reinforcements.
- LRASM now on Super Hornets – Finally, the US Navy enters the 21st century, with a proper air-launched anti-ship cruise missile.
- HMS QE launches an F-35 while moored – One advantage to the STOVL carrier: you don’t need to worry about wind as much, and you can park your carriers two in a row without impairing landing operations on either one.
- In news related to the prior bullet, HMS Prince of Wales, moored behind QE, was commissioned on December 10, and I don’t think we reported that. The UK moves into a multi-way tie for second place on the carrier leaderboards, at least until China and India commission the ones they have under construction.
- Reported on Christmas Eve: Pentagon proposes cuts to destroyer construction – And right after I visited Bath Iron Works, too.
- Also on the cut list: one FFG(X), one Virginia
- ProPublica with a deep dive into the VMFA-242 Hornet/tanker collision
- Correcting the legacy of the Los Angeles boats – They’re typically seen as Cold War warriors. A submariner who served on three says some of their most distinguished service came in the 90s and beyond.
- China is mapping the sea floor in the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea – Wonder why they might be doing that.
Science and Technology
- The New York Times with a two-part story on cell phone location data tracking for advertising purposes – I feel less good about carrying a smartphone around.
- Mathematician achieves an important result on the Collatz conjecture – That is, the 3n+1 n/2 jobber. The short version is that the result shows that the conjecture is almost true for almost all numbers. The long version is, it’s a Quanta Magazine article, so you can probably follow the argument there better than I could reproduce it here.
- Is Betelgeuse going to explode? – If it does, I hope it does in the winter, because I’d trade a dozen eclipses for a supernova brighter than the full moon.
- A brief history of AT&T’s microwave relay towers – Came across it when reading a search and rescue story at the excellent Otherhand.org, discovered that I drive past an old microwave relay tower every day on my way to work. After the microwave relay system was decommissioned, ours was sold off and is now a telecom tower of some other kind.
- Drones are scouting rural Colorado – Isn’t that where Red Dawn started?
- The Internet used to be a lot more anarchic – (I put it that way because I’m playing Shadowrun: Dragonfall right now, and anarchic Flux State Berlin is a fun setting.) Walled gardens (i.e., Medium for blogs) have largely taken over, but fear not! Our little kiez here isn’t going anywhere.
It’s an even more eclectic week here at Soapbox World HQ than usual.
Lead Story: Magnetized Target Fusion is awesome
- Fusion with pistons: General Fusion gets Bezos backing – If I were a billionaire, I’d definitely fund cool Future Technology projects, too.
- Here’s the 2007 paper describing General Fusion’s concept – Start with a steel sphere two meters across, studded with steam-powered pistons. Fill it with a liquid lead-lithium alloy. Use equatorial pumps to turn it into a vortex, and polar pumps to pull it out the top and bottom, so you get a vertical cavity. Inject plasma into that cavity. Fire the pistons, which all impact the steel sphere at the same time and make a compression wave in the lead-lithium. That compression wave ignites the plasma, heating the lead-lithium. Run the hot lead-lithium from the polar pumps through a heat exchanger, which generates steam for turbines and the pistons. Repeat once per second. Neutron activation turns the lithium into tritium, and the use of liquid lead as a working fluid means you don’t need to worry about neutron bombardment turning your steel sphere into Swiss cheese.
- Here’s a video, if my description isn’t clear – Obviously, General Fusion is invested in saying it’ll work, but the math seems to check out, and this particular approach to fusion seems to have a number of advantages over pure magnetic confinement and pure inertial confinement. The biggest one, as I see it, is that it operates on principles broadly familiar to today’s industrial equipment: it has some pumps, and it has some steam-powered pistons (with some electronics to control impact timing), neither of which is all that complicated. The devices to generate the plasma are a bit more esoteric, but well-understood.
All told, a nifty system, and one with a number of seeming practical advantages. Also, I love the idea of a fusion power plant being bulky, spiky, and loud. (All those pistons hitting a steel sphere…)
Science and Technology
- Gameanalytics: increasing the efficiency of your web API the good way – “For each byte we save on this endpoint’s response which gets five billion hits per day, we save $7.50 per month.” They manage to cut nearly three kilobytes.
- Plaid: increasing the efficiency of your web API the bad, wrong way – “So, we run 4,000 Node.js workers, each of which only processes a single [web] request at a time…” Not only do they lose points for having an awful, awful, awful pre-existing system, they lose points for their solution being, “Well, we can bandage this up!” rather than “Kill it with fire!”. Also, they lose points for the silly Silicon Valley affectation of using ’30x’ (pronounced thirty-ex) as a verb. It boggles the mind that they posted this look at their architecture on their own website as a way to brag. The only thing it’s done for me is ensure that I recommend nobody ever use Plaid under any circumstances.
- QuadrigaCX investors/currency-holders demanding exhumation of definitely-for-sure-dead-in-India-of-a-typically-non-fatal-disease CEO Gerry Cotten – Fun fact: Cotten, in high school, was active in online Ponzi scheme communities. Also, Simpsons quote!
- Google debated leaving the cloud computing realm altogether, but instead decided to try to become a top-two player by 2023 – …and if they aren’t? Will they abandon the market then?
- From the Slashdot comment thread above, a telling description from an insider: “A perfect example is Google’s HQ in Mountain View. While the grounds are maintained, all the lawn art and furniture, all outside decorations are decaying and rotting away. All the Android statues except the latest one are tilted, broken and missing chunks. And each new version of Android has a smaller statue that the previous one. And of course, the official Google Visitor Center is permanently closed and the Google Gift Shop is open only 10-6 on work days – dealing with customers was never Google’s strong point.”
Thanks to church choir obligations, Winter Wargaming will likely start in early January, or possibly late December.
- Will plasma thrusters help next-gen satellites dodge attacks? – Probably, but I still lean toward large arrays of cheap satellites, thanks to the American cheap-launch strategic advantage.
- Related: the SpaceX Starlink satellites generate about as much power (3kW) as the old Soviet RORSATs, orbit only 90km higher (350km vs 260km), and can be launched 60 at a go.
- Chinese defector speaks out on China’s strategy – He’s currently in Australia.
- China bans US military vessels from Hong Kong – parvusimperator wondered when the last visit was. The BBC says April.
- RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft spotted with a strange new antenna – For those, like me, who weren’t in the know, the RC-135 does all kinds of signals intelligence.
- How good is the Visby’s stealth? This good – A merchant watchstander caught one visually, then followed it on radar up to 15 miles away. The results are pretty spectacular.
- The Great Game in the 21st Century: the scramble for Africa – Three poles instead of two this time around, though—Russia, China, and, broadly, The West.
- PMCs and private security companies in modern warfare
- Some modern Polish tank destroyers – Content warning: Polish text.
- Slides from a PLAAF presentation following some J-11 vs. Gripen training – The Gripen fared poorly in dogfights and well outside of dogfights, which isn’t too terribly surprising.
Science and Technology