Americans are war-apathetic, not war-weary – It makes sense. Where there are American boots on the ground, there’s also typically vast American advantages in supporting fire and infantry technology. For all the fighting, there are few enough American combat deaths that it’s typically local news when there is one, which is pretty wild.
Billion-dollar contract awarded for sonobuoys – Sounds like a lot, but the contract is for 932,500 by 2023. Granted that the contract is just for manufacturing existing designs, but $1000 a pop and a four-year timeframe is pretty intense by procurement standards.
Why the JEDI cloud is single-vendor – From a technology perspective, I can’t imagine one huge company partnering with another huge company to do a huge cloud project. It’s like two continents colliding: a long, drawn-out crash bringing forth fire and brimstone at the point of contact. Also, JEDI is an ominous name for a cloud system.
DoD has a Chinese electronics problem – Not a terribly bad one, though. Evidently GoPros are a security risk? I can see printers and laptops, the other two categories, being a bit more dangerous.
Science and Technology
You aren’t anonymous on the Internet – That is, it’s still easy to identify specific people in anonymized data sets. If you have, say, twenty demographic dimensions, merely scrubbing names out isn’t going to do very much.
Does that mean we’re in a physics crisis? – Could be. Astrophysics has been in need of a shakeup for a while, I feel like. We base an entire model of the universe on a mere handful of measurements by most other fields’ standards.
Yours truly at the other local match – Well, ‘other’ means about one of five within easy driving distance, but USPSA is pretty much a morning sport, and I don’t do sports that overlap with church if I can avoid it.
My first attempt at some USPSA stage design – In this revision, four of the six stages are illegal for various reasons. Can you spot them? Check your answers with the spoilers at the bottom of the post. A USPSA stage repository might be a future Many Words Press project.
How many people play D&D compared to other roleplaying games? – Answer: a lot. Granted that Roll20 is a D&D-focused platform, but even so, the numbers are pretty dramatic. D&D 5E campaigns represent just more than half of all campaigns played on Roll20. ‘Uncategorized’ (that is, games which aren’t 5E, Call of Cthulhu, 3.5E, Pathfinder, Warhammer, World of Darkness, Starfinder, Shadowrun (any edition), or Star Wars (any edition)) comes to just 14%.
Three of the four illegal courses are illegal for the same reason.
Spoiler for Stage Design Quiz Big Hint
The rules being violated are 1.1.5 and 2.1.4.
Spoiler for Stage Design Quiz Answers
Happy Feet, Should I Stay or Should I Go, and Criss-Cross all illegally specify mandatory reloads and shooting positions in the stage briefings. Since they require more than 20 rounds to complete, they’re long courses, and long courses must be freestyle.
Happy Feet and J-Turn are additionally illegal because you can be downrange of some of the targets and still see them.
Happy Feet is trivially fixable by adding fault lines up to the wall and moving the barrel stack to hide the left-side targets from beyond the wall.
Should I Stay or Should I Go can be fixed by adding barriers to the left and right of the start box which form a tunnel pointing at the plate rack, and removing the language in the stage briefing about shooting the plate rack from the box, or by dropping to best 2 on paper to turn into an 18-round medium course, which at Level I matches can specify shooting positions and reloads.
Criss-Cross is easiest to fix by removing four shots to convert it to a 20-round medium course. By adding some walls and converting the shooting boxes to a single fault line, it can be fixed while maintaining the shot count and remaining truer to the USPSA ‘everything is freestyle’ ethos.
J-Turn can be fixed by placing barrels to hide the right-side pair from downrange. A further suggestion was to remove a barrel stack to
I’ll redo the book to show the stages in the long course form, with some setup notes on how to convert them to the easier-to-set-up medium courses.
How Boeing won the T-X competition – TLDR: by innovative cost-saving techniques, and (counterintuitively) by offering a new airframe which could be manufactured on the cheap and doesn’t need as much maintenance as an updated legacy airframe would.
Percentage of population with carry permits – Our native or adopted PA is right up there with some of the best. Note that some of the heartland states are permitless carry or soon to be, and full of farmers who are perfectly free to carry however they like on their vast properties anyway, so they may look worse in this comparison than they are.
How long do criminals own guns before using them? – The median is two months. The article suggests that more effective enforcement of gun sales laws could have a quick effect on gun use in crime—but DAs don’t like to come down hard on straw buyers and so on, because they get accused of racism.
What caused American aircraft losses in Vietnam? – Mostly archie, which makes sense. It’s way harder to suppress a battery of guns in the jungle than a massive 70s SAM site or a MiG-sized airfield. Of the remaining 16%, 15% were unknown/operational, and 1% of losses were from friendly fire.
The NY Times’ interactive desk has an excellent piece on how the Notre Dame fire started and spread – The fire warning system was confusing and complicated. It detected the fire almost immediately, but a muddled message on the console (“Attic Nave Sacristry”) led the security guard who made the check to the attic of the sacristry, a building next to the cathedral, rather than the cathedral’s attic. The fire warning system was, of course, designed and built with great effort and at great expense by a coalition of experts, and proved to be all but useless in practice.
The Corvette C8 is a mid-engine sports car for $60,000 – They say ‘less than $60,000’, but we all know that means $59,995 list, without destination fees. Still, Chevrolet is keeping the Corvette name meaningful: if you go with them, your $60,000 buys something a great deal closer to a supercar than if you were to spend $60,000 on a BMW or a Ferrari. (Not that you could buy more than a few Ferrari parts for $60,000.)
Summer is in full swing, and speaking of things in full swing, I plan to continue my recent superhero kick by doing up a review of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
If the number of articles in this series were years of its age, we would now refer to it as over the hill.
Komsomolets is leaking radiation – But it’s way underwater, and water is an excellent radiation shield, so it’s not a very big problem. Plenty of cool pictures of the wreck, though.
Please stop calling it Skyborg – The Air Force Research Lab will be testing Boeing’s autonomous UCAV this summer. Unfortunately, the supervillain section was last week, but ‘Skyborg’ gets, at the least, an honorable mention.
How to fight China on American terms – Spoiler: by cutting off China’s oil imports. I can’t think of any time in the past century when blocking a rising Asian power’s access to oil has ended badly1.
F-35 sales are America’s Belt and Road – As China uses infrastructure projects in Third World countries (in the unaligned sense from the Cold War) as a way to spread its influence, the US uses the promise of F-35 sales and parts production as a way to lean on First World countries.
USPSA match video: me, last weekend – I bought a camera which clips to the brim of a baseball cap, so I don’t have to mess around with tripods or finding someone to record me2. The resolution is quite poor for an allegedly-720p video, but it does, at least, work.
Related to the above, Facebook reminded me of a fun CZ story. When I bought the P-09 originally, I got the night sights version, even though I was planning on taking the night sights off immediately, because it came with an extra magazine and the price delta was less than the cost of one magazine. In the manual, it said that the tritium gas, if it escapes, is mostly harmless, and “[…] in case of its inspiration it is recommended to increase the intake of liquids and eventually to take some diuretic (beer with low content of alcohol) for acceleration of the body water exchange.”
USPSA match video: one of the local fast shooters – Shared because he has a super-fancy Max-Michel-branded video app which analyzes your audio to find your shots, then lets you tag the intervening time with various activities, then gives you a breakdown of the result. Very handy—”I spent six seconds on transitions on that stage, but only three seconds on splits” tells you a lot about what you should be practicing. It’s the kind of thing parvusimperator and I might aim to recreate by hacking an open source video editor, so we don’t have to go out and buy an iDevice to use it.
A fully renewable energy economy isn’t plausible in the near term – The numbers are just too big. That’s why I present Fishbreath’s Genuine Patent Carbon Neutral Energy Economy Plan, if you’re concerned with such things: 1. Nuclear power, in the quantity ‘lots’. 2. Switch to synthetic fuels made with electrolysis and atmospheric carbon capture. #2 isn’t cost-competitive yet, but there’s a pilot plant in Canada which says it’s cost-competitive with dinosaur fuels given $200/ton carbon tax, which translates to about $2 per gallon of extra cost on refinery products. Scale up and add cheap power, and I bet you can get that cost way down.
Whatever happened to French cuisine? – TLDR: “nothing, and that’s the problem.” English chefs, once they discovered that there’s a whole world of colorful, tasty food out there, leapfrogged their Continental brethren, who have been slow to catch up. Still, the article is something of an elegy for and a paean to the classic French restaurant.
Written language drives sentential complexity – It being difficult to keep track of a spoken sentence with vast numbers of subordinate clauses and dozens of words, and written language being a popular mechanism by which to conduct science, it seems that, to the linguistic world, the idea that oral languages might, to ensure ease of speaking and ease of comprehension, tend to favor short sentences and limited recursion, which is to say, nestedness of clauses, is novel. See, for instance, the preceding sentence. I don’t talk like that, but I do write that way on occasion3.
Granted, the article is talking about a blockade (a piece of wartime strategy) rather than an embargo (a diplomatic lever), but the comparison’s just too juicy to pass up. ↩
Open-source hardware idea: a cheaper version of those $800 tripods which turn to follow a radio beacon. I can’t imagine a stepper motor, a few circuit boards, and some RF voodoo cost nearly that much. ↩
Some of the examples in the article remind me of my favorite thing about English: it’s a very easy language—not to be fluent in, but to be comprehensible in. No tones, very little formal grammar, and a long history of interaction with wild accents and local flavors make English a better lingua franca than French ever was. ↩
Since the long-form articles this week are both on the subject of a superhero roleplaying game, I’ve helpfully separated out the articles for today’s post which are thinly-disguised supervillain plots.
A very brief history of repurposed American warships – Including some oddball plans for future repurposing. Of course, they touch on what to do with the LCSes, but they also have a fun idea for the Nimitzes they retire when the Fords start coming online. I’m interested to hear what you think.
USAF suggests that long-range nuclear-armed cruise missiles will stop wars – On the one hand, the 60s were pretty tense. On the other hand, nobody’s really gotten into a major, state-on-state shooting war since nukes became a thing. Apropos of nothing, the Air Force is designing the LRSO to fit the B-52, which is a great case of ancient design decisions shaping the modern day. Only 11,968 days until we get to celebrate the centennial of B-52s in flight, and from here in 2019 I have a hard time believing that there won’t be a flyover by B-52s in active service at that time.
Is Russia crating a Nazi-style army of genetic supersoldiers? – And now you see why the heavily-modified secret projects submarine was not worthy of inclusion in this section. Notwithstanding that the headline is a prime example of the only reason why you end a headline with a question mark2, it is still pretty villainous.
The USAF once made serious plans to nuke the moon – Okay, granted, it was the late 50s, and what better way to show those dirty Reds that you won’t be bullied by a little softball beeping its way around the planet than by H-bombing the moon? We’re not behind in the space race. You’re behind in the space race. Just imagine what the universe would have been like if, rather than racing to manned landings on various solar system bodies, we had instead raced to land bombs on them.
The sinkhole that saved the Internet – A sinkhole, in this usage, is a server which sucks up traffic that would otherwise be bound for a worm’s command and control servers. In this case, the ransomware known as WannaCry had a killswitch—if it could reach a particular web address, it deactivated itself. A security researcher set up a server there, and prevented something like tens of millions of infections from going active.
China 2050: in the throes of demographic decline – The one- and two-child policies in China put its native population growth below the replacement rate. China’s closed nature and impossible language mean it doesn’t get very much immigration. In the middle of the 21st century, it could very well be looking at the same problems Japan is looking at today.
The oyster poachers of Connemara – Shared because I quite liked Connemara on my trip to Ireland, and because ‘oyster’ and ‘poaching’ would not have been my first guess in either case if you gave me one word and asked me to guess the other.
to stan: to be an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity, or, in this case, branch of the armed services or aircraft. Evidently it comes from an Eminem song. Since I’m using Twitter lingo already here, don’t at me. ↩
The only reason to end a headline with a question mark is because libel law requires you to answer it with ‘no’. Otherwise, you just make the headline a statement. Modern journalists ignore this rule, but modern journalists are also, in large part, comically bad at their jobs. ↩
American diplomats are not ready for war – For a number of reasons; I won’t steal the article’s thunder. I will note the parallels with early 20th century diplomacy, which I’m developing a familiarity with thanks to Castles of Steel. Nobody wanted to deal with the British, because Parliament and public opinion were too fickle.
Ten reasons to keep your aircraft carriers – Loren Thompson warning, but he’s not wrong. Even if carriers are vulnerable in a great power shooting war, they’re much too useful in every other situation to get rid of.
Lifetime 30 years (min. 10 000 km to general rebuild)
Programmable ammo for the 30 mm canon
Coaxial MG 7.62 mm
ATGM (2 in container, 1 in the vehicle)
Smoke grenade launchers covering 360°
Sights with min. 4000/3500 m range day/night
Ballistic protection (base vehicle min. K2 + addon min. K5) i.e. STANAG 4569 II/V
Protection against IED (jammer)
Surveillance systems: day CCD camera, night IR camera, laser rangefinder
Top speed on the road 65 km/h, in terrain 40 km/h
Range min. 500 km
Intercom + VKV/UKV radios voice/data (GPS, TACSAT and cypher connection)
Science and Technology
BitTorrent usage increases as streaming sites fragment – Thinking face emoji. Not that I would ever publicly advocate stealing intellectual property, but I confess my Netflix subscription is looking less and less compelling, and that there are now a number of things I would watch that I can’t get there1.
Have $400,000 and want a fun toy? Here’s a working jetpack – Parvusimperator and I, although neither of us has $400,000 to drop on a toy, agreed that we could do better. His pick: a 1980 Learjet 35A. A bit over budget, but comfortable and useful. I decided to go another direction: a 1980 MiG-21UM, for a mere $139,000. I figure I can use the remaining $261,000 to make it flightworthy and maybe buy a spare engine or two. In either case, be it fancy business jet or supersonic manned missile, I suspect we would have more fun than we would with the jetpack.
NERVA back in the news – If I learned anything from Kerbal Space Program, it’s that nuclear propulsion is worth rushing for immediately, because skipping the oxidizer makes your delta-v budgeting easy.
Identifying people by laser-fingerprinting their heartbeats – We live in the future. Granted that this is a Pentagon project, but it does suggest to me that the Cyberpunk Future is here already. Maybe, though, we need a new term for it—kind of inherent in the Cyberpunk Future is the idea that heavy industrial conglomerates will run the world, when it turns out to be big data conglomerates instead. Ideas?
Image-recognition neural networks work mostly on texture rather than shape – There’s a classic illustration of how a multi-level neural network works: the first layer takes pixels and recognizes edges, the second layer composes edges and recognizes shapes, the third layer composes shapes and recognizes objects. If you take the article at face value, this is now wrong.
Further protests in Hong Kong reach the Legislative Council’s chamber – In a delightful bit of fun, the protestors hung the British colonial-era flag on the podium within. I consider the article itself to be craven capitulation to the Chinese government, however, given that it mainly quotes former Hong Kong police officials aghast that the people might dare to rebel.
Chinese carrier numbers increment differently – Carrier 001, CV-16, stays the same. Carrier 001A, now Carrier 002 or CV-17, goes up one. Carrier 002 is now 003/CV-18, the first catapult-equipped carrier. Carrier 003 is now 004 or 00X, and is either a second catapult-equipped carrier or China’s first nuclear carrier. There’s more at the link.
40% of Marine Ospreys are not mission-capable – From a historical/analytical perspective, it’s a shame that the US has never before been in a stance of high military spending but low imminent risk of war. Would readiness have been so bad with, say, 1935 technology and a similar geopolitical position?
Brigade Combat Teams are modern legions – That is, smallish, modular units which contain near enough to everything they need to fight. The author goes on to suggest rebranding BCTs as Legions, which is a bit too whatever-you-call-it to Rome as weebs are to Japan for my tastes. (Ed.: Although Chris Bradshaw makes a compelling counterargument in the comments.)
Blessed Be Thy Nuclear Weapons – The Russian Orthodox Church weighs heavily on the minds of the nuclear arm of Russia’s military, but then, the Russian Orthodox Church also weighs heavily on the minds of all traditionally-minded Russians. It’s easy to forget for English-speakers, because the Anglicans are a bunch of spineless wimps nowadays and the other major English-speaking power takes a dim view of state religions, but having a church more or less unified with the state is an extremely powerful tool for the man in charge of both.
Ubuntu to ditch 32-bit architecture, libraries – Steam, thereafter, to ditch Ubuntu. The only 32-bit things on my work laptop are, I grant you, Steam, wine, and a bunch of libraries used by Steam and wine, so it isn’t that bad for modern Linux users who don’t play games.
The USAF launch services agreement isn’t fair to SpaceX, says this guy – But he also says that the USAF should just spend some money on SpaceX on the side, rather than delaying the LSA awards. That’s reasonable, but even as someone who’s low-key rooting for Blue Origin over SpaceX, I think it’s also reasonable to ask that the LSA should probably go to a company which actually hits the requirements today (i.e., non-Russian engines, proven reliability). Rockets are hard, and realistically, Blue Origin and ULA-with-Blue-Origin-engines will have some teething issues to work out.
Here we are at the leading edge of the summer doldrums. Parvusimperator’s low on things to write about, and I’m in at-home productivity mode. So it goes. Happily, there’s a ton going on in the world, so we do have links for you. Lots of links.
The IAF (Indian) wants to buy IAF (Israeli) missiles – Pakistani F-16s with AIM-120-C5s outranged the Indian Flankers with R-77s, which Indian sources claim can’t really engage targets at more than 80km. India wants to replace the Vympel missile with the extended-range Derby.
Everything old is new again, naval strategy edition – In which it is argued that the fleet should be concentrated, Mahan-style, in the Pacific. The only problem is that I think it would require some cleverness with advanced basing and perhaps corvettes/motherships of some kind1.
Starlink is mostly going to be for rural customers – Obviously. If you look at the bandwidth per satellite and the size of the constellation, it’s clear that even 12,000 satellites isn’t enough to serve dense populations. For myself, I’m glad to rub that in the faces of people (primarily Ars Technica commenters) who a) clearly live in cities and b) are so blinded by Ol’ Musky that they were looking forward to satellite internet.
Those are the wrong weapons, though – With all the ink spilled about China’s A2/AD capabilities making it a headache to operate near Taiwan, maybe Taiwan should invest in A2/AD capabilities to make it a headache to operate near Taiwan the other direction.
The Navy’s chance to return to Subic Bay – Given the difficulties in reloading VLS systems at sea (namely, we don’t have a way to do so right now), a good port close to China seems like it should be a gimme.
Is cyber where radar was in 1942? – Yes, in the sense that nobody really understands it. No, in the sense that ‘radar’ actually described a specific technology, whereas ‘cyber’ is a meaningless buzzword.
Understanding the F-15X purchase – I’m still for it, if only on the grounds that it behooves us to have two aircraft manufacturers with active fighter production lines. Also, jamming will be more important than stealth in the middle of the 21st century. You heard it here first.
Science and Technology
Quantum leaps, assumed to be instant, actually take time – This has ramifications which I am unqualified to communicate. Quanta Magazine, absent from this series for some time, makes a triumphant return, with the usual endorsement that they’re great at explaining highly technical findings in physics for the average intelligent reader without physics training.
Where will all the residual fuel oil go when ships are banned from burning it? – On January 1, 2020, ships without exhaust gas scrubbers will be banned from using high-sulfur fuel oil. The guy quoted in the article calculates that the marine fuel market’s consumption will drop from 3.5 million barrels of HSFO per day to 2.7 million, leaving about 240 million barrels per year unaccounted for.
LockMart withdraws the Freedom-class from FFG(X) – Good. Let the other defense contractors have a go. Parvusimperator and I still think the F105 is the best choice, but also not the most likely (I think). Probably time for a re-handicapping, now that the field has narrowed.
Corvette carriers: a littoral combat strategy – Missile boats are awesome, but short-legged. So, build a ship to fuel them and shepherd them to wherever you want them to be. Britain’s Future Navy had a similar idea, although built to merchant standards rather than military, and for minesweepers/pirate hunters/subchasers/etc. with a logistics support/helicopter carrier mothership.
Another open-source project switches to a license which excludes resellers – An interesting problem. The norm in the software industry used to be this: if you develop an open-source project, you have dibs on selling that project as a service. The Big Three cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) broke that norm, reselling open-source-projects-as-a-service. The open source projects have now fired back with a new breed of open-source licenses that permit users to do everything but that.
John Wick is saving action movies – I enjoy a CGI superhero romp more than parvusimperator does (much more4), but importantly, you watch a superhero romp for the characters, not the action scenes. John Wick (and the approximately contemporaneous Mad Max: Fury Road) dispense with the CGI in favor of watchable, clearly-shot action, not the shaky-cam quick-cut mumbo jumbo you see so often today5.
Rather than send flowers on the day, I sent them a day early. That way it’s surprising. ↩
Mr. Alexander says that this is the second article in a sequence. Idle speculation in the comments wonders where he’s going with it. One commenter put forward the idea that it might be a literal come to Jesus moment, which would be a victory for Christendom on par with the conversion of C.S. Lewis, but I don’t put much stock in that one. I lean more toward a shift in politics. ↩
Do you know what else did a good job at this, hard as it is to believe? The Star Wars prequels. Can you picture a single Lucas-era lightsaber duel with quick cuts? Of course you can’t, because none of them were shot that way, despite the fast pace and acrobatics involved in most of them. ↩
Loren Thompson on the NRASM – Loren Thompson is the biggest DoD shill who regularly makes an appearance in these pages, but the articles are still usually fun. (Also, if DoD shilling pays, is there a signup sheet somewhere, or do they come to us?)
On the M-1A2C – Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a built-in Easy Eight-style nickname.
Steam catapults by presidential decree? – I’m pro-electromagnetic-catapult, given the advantages. I also think the fact that Donald Trump has an opinion on aircraft catapults is amusing and humanizing.
Used IBM mainframe buyer’s guide – In case you’re looking for a fun hardware project. All you have to do is spend about as much as you would on a cheap new car, and be prepared for an extra $170-some per month in electricity1.
Arm2 is the latest to suspend business with Huawei – That’s terrible for Huawei, given that they do a lot of ARM-architecture processors.
SpaceX succeeds on another launch – This one to deploy the first 60 satellites in their proposed, uh, 12,000-strong Starlink constellation. They stuck the landing, which means they’re up to 40 of 47 on landing attempts.
No link for this one, because I forgot to pop it into our chat, but given how many Starlink satellites are planned, the FCC’s standard satellite-hits-someone-or-something calculation suggests that it’s even odds after six years that reentering debris will bonk something more important than dirt.