The control tones had to be within the range of normal human speech

January 26th, 2020

Those beeps you hear in recordings of astronauts in space have a name — Quindar Tones:

First, let’s be specific about those beeps: there’s actually two different beeps that happen, one a sine wave tone at a frequency of 2.525 KHz that lasts for 250 milliseconds, and one that’s a sine wave tone at 2.475 KHz, for the same duration.

That first and slightly higher tone is called the intro tone and the lower one is the outro. As their names suggest, one is for the start of something, and one for the end.

What that something is related to how the CapCom — that means “capsule communicator” which was what they called the ground control team member (usually an astronaut) who was in charge of talking directly to the astronauts on the spacecraft. Having one person designated to communicate with the astronauts helps reduce any possible confusion and cross-talk.

Since the CapCom would be in the busy, noisy Mission Control room, they’d want to choose when to open their microphones to talk to the spacecraft, so NASA used a push-to-talk (PTT) system.

It’s like how a CB works, if you’re as miserably old as I am and remember that — you hold down a button while you talk, and let up when you’re done.

This is normally not a big deal to implement, but the space program had very unique requirements. In the setup that NASA developed, which used tracking stations all over the world to keep in near-constant communication with the spacecraft, the audio from CapCom to be sent into space was transmitted to the various stations across the globe via dedicated telephone lines.

These lines were just for voice audio — if NASA wanted to send control signals like transmit on and off, they’d need to run a whole parallel set of wires, which would be expensive. So, they came up with a solution: use the same lines for control signals as well!

Because the lines were optimized for human voice audio, the control tones had to be within the range of normal human speech, which is why the tones are audible.

The U.S. Navy should acquire B-1s and Marine Corps A-10s

January 25th, 2020

Both Marine Corps air wings and Navy Tactical Air have glaring capability holes, which could be filled by repurposing Air Force platforms:

The U.S. Navy should acquire B-1s and Marine Corps A-10s.

[...]

The Air Force’s number one priority is procuring a fleet of more than 1,700 F-35s and 100 B-21 heavy bombers, which is an enormously expensive goal. The Air Force is also updating its part of the nuclear triad, beginning to develop its sixth-generation air-dominance platforms, recapitalizing elements of the F-15 fleet, procuring the KC-46, re-engining the B-52, and more. To help pay for these priorities, the Air Force has published plans for accelerated retirement of both the B-1 and the B-2 and continues to loudly proclaim its desire to retire the A-10. (Warthog).

[...]

It would be difficult for the Marine Corps to imagine a better aircraft than the A-10. The current A-10C configuration provides a partial glass cockpit, a full suite of laser and GPS precision-guided weapons, targeting pods, and tactical data links, as well as a mission-computer capable of continuous upgrades. The A-10 is equally capable in roles such as close air support, strike coordination and reconnaissance, forward air controller airborne, and tactical recovery of aviation personnel. It can execute offensive air support, air reconnaissance, and self-defense anti-air warfare. It could also readily fill the Corps’ light-attack gap due to its legendary ability to dispense and absorb damage and its gun.

For a Marine air-ground task force commander, especially a special purpose or Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) commander, a Marine A-10 has sufficient loiter and slow speed capability to provide both close and stand-off escort to air combat element (ACE) tilt rotor and rotary wing elements while having enough speed to work with Harriers, Hornets, and Lightnings. Such capability would allow ACE assets escorted access into higher threat areas than are currently feasible. For a Marine expeditionary brigade or Marine expeditionary force, A-10s would massively enhance ACE offensive air support, deep air support, and close air support capabilities. With an upgrade to fly Intrepid Tiger II pods, A-10 EW capabilities could even support Marine maneuver non-kinetically.

Though the A-10 is exclusively land based, the expeditionary nature of a Marine air-ground task force in no way precludes its employment. OV-10s were always land based as are F/A-18Ds. Marine EA-6Bs were exclusively land based until their retirement. F/A-18C squadrons remain split between those that support a Navy carrier air wing (CVW) and those that remain land based. The C-130s attached to a MEU ACE remain land based while the MEU is afloat. Having a land-based component to an afloat expeditionary force is the norm for the naval services, not the exception.

Close air support is a classic example. Though the F-35 can provide close air support, the role does not capitalize on the aircraft’s capabilities. An F-35 knocking down air defenses and attacking command-control nodes followed by A-10s executing close air support in the newly lowered threat environment is the definition of a synergistic effect. The Marine A-10s providing close air support in the newly lowered threat zones free F-18s and F-35s to stay forward and shape the battlespace. The combination of aircraft creates and sustains a virtuous circle. The A-10 thus complements and enables the F-35 instead of competing with it.

The A-10 is also an inexpensive aircraft to fly. At $6,118 per hour, the flight hour costs for the A-10 are minuscule compared to any fixed wing aircraft the Marine Corps is currently flying.

[...]

With the reintroduction of a B-1 as a maritime patrol bomber, the Navy would reconstitute a capability that was divested after World War II—a capability that takes distributed fires to a logical extreme. In an airborne operations in support of maritime operations fight, B-1Bs could support fast-attack craft/fast inshore attack craft defense with heavy loads of cluster munitions or other precision-guided munitions, as well as function in a strike coordination and reconnaissance role to bring other assets into the fight. In permissive environments, the B-1s heavy precision-guided munitions load would provide a massive anti-surface warfare magazine. In non-permissive environments, a single B-1B can carry 24 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles from a sanctuary halfway around the world.

[...]

At the design level, this not only brings symmetry, but overmatches the current heavy asymmetric anti-surface warfare advantages enjoyed by both the Chinese, with their anti-ship cruise missile equipped H-6 series bombers, and the Russians, with their newly modernized anti-ship cruise missile carrying TU-22M Backfires. A B-1 can also bring all its anti-ship cruise missile back if they are not expended, something that is not guaranteed with a carrier air wing strike.

B-1Bs also bring an aerial mining capability far beyond the current fleet capabilities with both gravity and extended range versions of the Quickstrike series mines. The extended range Quickstrikes mate the mine with a winged joint direct-attack munition kit, meaning the B-1 can sow denser minefields that are faster than anything in the current inventory, while remaining at standoff ranges. En route to a strike, a Bone could provide theater intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance support to a maritime operations center or over the horizon targeting for surface action groups, enhancing their survivability and lethality. With its heavy weapons load it could also free carrier air wing assets for other missions or reduce the numbers of carrier air wing assets needed for a strike, increasing carrier flexibility. B-1Bs already provide close air support to the Joint Force and could continue to do so while providing outstanding armed reconnaissance, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and forward air controller airborne capabilities in support of troops on the ground—plus the heavy conventional bombing capability that the Navy has never possessed.

Upgrades could unlock even more potential with anti-submarine warfare on the table, as B-1Bs could be modified to carry the HAAWC air-launched torpedo, creating synergy between hunter P-8s and heavily armed killer B-1s. It could be modified to carry the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM ER) and its developmental cousin the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) and team with carrier based Growlers to knock down air defense radars with anti-radiation homing shots.[5] It could serve as an arsenal jet, supporting hitherto unexplored air to air combinations for defensive counter air and offensive counter air missions or be a mothership for a future air launched unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned underwater vehicles.

Two of the greatest advantages to Navy acquisition of the B-1B are directly associated with the Air Force’s desires to divest itself of the bomber: its lack of nuclear role and its lack of broadband low observability. The lack of a nuclear role means there is no treaty obligations preventing its retention. The B-1 was intended to be a penetrating nuclear bomber, but the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) removed its nuclear capabilities and made it subject to yearly inspections by Russian observers. Because of the required yearly inspections, the Air Force has fully invested in the infrastructure to support them. The Navy could retain all the existing infrastructure to support New START inspections without paying for them. This precludes costly spending to build new hangars or other base infrastructure.

The lack of low observability capabilities is also highly advantageous to the Navy. Though overland penetration demands the highest levels of survivability, the open ocean provides a wholly different threat environment, especially when coupled with standoff weapons. Additionally, because the B-21 will need extensive, specialized hangarage to support its maintenance, the existing B-1 infrastructure will not suffice, even if the B-1 is retired. Since the Air Force will not be able to use those hangars, signing them over to the Navy will function create infrastructural savings, freeing up budget dollars for B-21 infrastructure. A true win-win situation.

B-1Bs cost $49,144 per flight hour, a little more than flying a section of F-35Cs or a division of F/A-18Fs but with intercontinental range and 75,000 pounds of munitions.

The action-name trend for boys is a backlash

January 24th, 2020

Parents tend to be more conservative about naming baby boys, Isabelle Kohn says, but when they do get creative, they turn them into throat-ripping action heroes:

Recently, there’s been a surge in female babies being named things like Echo, Victory and Ireland, and the girls’ names coming out of Hollywood are even more flamboyant. We all know Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy, but have you met Hilary Duff’s spawn Banks Violet Bair, Cardi B’s Kulture Kiari Cephus or Kylie Jenner’s mononymous child accessory Stormi?

Whereas it’s rare to see boys with more expressive names that set them apart, it’s normal — expected, even — to see girls with names or spellings that make them stand out (lookin’ at you, Maddisyn). Laura Wattenberg, a naming expert and self-proclaimed “Baby Name Wizard” who combs through annals of Social Security Administration (SSA) data to suss out naming trends, says the most popular “unique” girls’ names in recent years have been Genesis, Serenity, Heavenly, Promise, Legacy, Treasure and Egypt. Basically, she says, if it’s a word, it can — and will be — a girl’s name.

By contrast, expressive naming practices don’t seem to apply to baby boys at all. According to research from the SSA, parents are three times more likely to give girls “unusual” names than they are boys, a phenomenon often referred to by naming experts as the “originality gap.” The result of this gap is hordes of boys named Andrew. And Greg, and Michael, and Matt, Sam, Mark, Chris and Ryan — humble, simple and inoffensive names that convey neither the expressiveness nor poetry of feminine monikers like Eden, Phoenix or Diva Muffin, the label Frank Zappa so kindly applied to his daughter.

“For most of recent history, Western boys have been given drab, biblically informed names like Brian, John or Nicholas,” says Matthew Hahn, a professor of biology and informatics at the University of Indiana who co-authored a 2003 study comparing baby name trends to evolutionary models. “In general, they’ve been nowhere near as ‘creative.’” They’ve also been extremely patriarchal — it’s an honor to be named after the (male) head honcho of your family, and first-born boys are particularly prone to being gifted with grandpa’s nominative legacy.

[...]

According Wattenberg, a new breed of rugged, hyper-macho and blatantly “action-oriented” names for boys has exploded in popularity in recent years, and their inventiveness is starting to match the creativity and expressiveness that girls names have always enjoyed. Combing through pages of recent Social Security Administration data, she found that the usage of “doer” names like Racer, Trooper and Charger have risen more than 1,000 percent between 1980 and 2000, and have increased exponentially ever since.

In a recent Namerology article on the topic, she lists several of the burlier, more aggressive names that have been picking up steam: Angler, Camper, Tracker, Trapper, Catcher, Driver, Fielder, Racer, Sailor, Striker, Wheeler — deep breath — Breaker, Roper, Trotter, Wrangler — still going — Lancer, Shooter, Slayer, Soldier, Tracer, Trooper — wait, “Slayer”? — Blazer, Brewer, Charger, Dodger, Laker, Pacer, Packer, Raider, Ranger, Steeler, Warrior — kill me — Dreamer, Jester and — wait for it — Rocker.

[...]

For today’s parents, it seems the more aggressive and bloodthirsty the name, the better. Wattenberg’s research found that 47 boys were named “Raider” in 2018, and “Hunter” tops the brawny baby charts as the country’s most popular hypermasculine name. According to Hahn, names like these give parents a way to be creative without breaking the masculinity mold. They’re expressive, vivid and undeniably unique, but they’re also pulsating with testosterone and so certifiably burly that he suspects some parents are using them as anti-bullying shields. “Who’s going to make fun of Striker?” he says. By the same token, names like “Shooter,” “Gunner” or “Slayer” seem particularly resistant to playground taunting.

[...]

It’s also possible, he says, that the action-name trend for boys is a backlash to the evolving definition of masculinity. As the concept of masculinity evolves into something more dynamic, personal and sensitive than the John Wayne stereotype of the past, groups of conservationist parents are staking a claim on the increasingly endangered species of traditional manhood by naming their children after the most stereotypically masculine things possible. “It could be a backlash to changing norms around what it means to be a man, and a staking of a position about masculinity and traditional values,” he suggests.

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

January 23rd, 2020

Greg Ellifritz looks at the Texas church attack and discusses post-shooting procedures:

Given the fact that you have at least five people on the volunteer security team, how would you optimally deploy those individuals after the threat is neutralized?  Seriously.  Stop right now and think about it.  Before reading further, think about what the security team’s priorities should be after the immediate threat is no longer active.

The security staff member who took the shot approached the bad guy, kicked his gun away from him and covered the lifeless body. This is a very common reaction, especially in police shootings. I would argue that approaching the down bad guy and kicking his gun away isn’t the best course of action.

The bad guy may be playing dead. He may also be momentarily unconscious, but not out of the fight When people fall to the ground, it’s easier to get blood circulating to the brain. The person you assumed was dead may suddenly regain consciousness on the ground. Low blood pressure from hypovolemic shock reduces blood flow to the brain. When the body falls, the circulatory system doesn’t have to fight gravity any more and many times people will spontaneously “wake up.”

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

I would argue that standing over the now animate armed bad guy is a poor place to be.

There’s no need to separate him from the weapon if you have enough people to cover him with a lethal force threat option. Approaching the down bad guy is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Instead, move forward only far enough that there are no innocent parties between you and the downed criminal. Get behind whatever cover you can find (the church pews would work pretty well in this case). From that position of cover, keep your gun trained on the bad guy until police arrive.

Who should do this job if you have more than one security staff member available?

I would argue that the shooter may not be the best person to perform this role. After the shooting, adrenaline will start affecting the guy who took the shot faster than the other people on the team. His hands will likely start shaking. Sometimes those folks will also get nauseous or light-headed. Do you really want the shaky-handed guy who is about to throw up covering down on the bad guy until the police arrive?

If I had five armed security staff members in a shooting like this, I would assign a different person to cover the bad guy and move the shooter to a someplace quiet and non-threatening until the cops arrive.

Why are medieval buildings made of squares and rectangles?

January 22nd, 2020

Why are medieval buildings made of squares and rectangles?

Smooth-striding beauties sometimes finish at the back of the pack

January 22nd, 2020

Running, Alex Hutchinson notes, is surprisingly complicated:

The physiologist and coach Jack Daniels once filmed a bunch of runners in stride, then showed the footage to coaches and biomechanists to see if they could eyeball who was the most efficient. “They couldn’t tell,” Daniels later recalled. “No way at all.” Famously awkward-looking runners like Paula Radcliffe and Alberto Salazar sometimes turn out to be extraordinarily efficient. Smooth-striding beauties sometimes finish at the back of the pack.

[...]

One solution to this problem is to slow it all down. Film a runner and watch the footage in slow motion. Or better yet, attach a bunch of markers to key joints, feed the data into a computer, and create a three-dimensional model of the runner’s stride, so that you can analyze every joint angle and acceleration at your leisure. That’s what biomechanics researchers have been doing for years now, trying to link certain gait characteristics — a knee that rotates inward more than usual, say — with particular injuries like patellofemoral pain or IT band syndrome. They’ve had hints of success, but overall the results have been somewhat muddled and hard to interpret.

[...]

They ran the data from 3D gait analysis of a bunch of runners, some injured and some healthy, through a form of artificial intelligence called unsupervised machine learning, to see if it could group the runners into categories based on their strides, and whether those categories would reflect the types of injuries the runners were subject to. The answers — yes to the first question, no to the second — are both worth thinking about.

What rooms are inside real medieval castles?

January 21st, 2020

What rooms are inside real medieval castles?

Every stuffed friend is a characteristic of PTSD

January 21st, 2020

A. A. Milne served as a lieutenant in the Great War, was wounded at the Somme, and then finished the war writing propaganda back in England. He went on to write an anti-war book, Peace with Honour, and may have suffered from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder — mistaking buzzing bees for bullets and popping balloons for gunshots:

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga & Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

Why do medieval buildings overhang their lower floors?

January 20th, 2020

Why do medieval buildings overhang their lower floors?

(Hat tip to Alistair, who led me down the Shadiversity rabbit hole.)

Comfortable lives at constant ambient temperature contribute to a lower metabolic rate

January 20th, 2020

Since the early 19th century, the average human body temperature in the United States has dropped, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine:

That standard of 98.6 F was established by German physician Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich in 1851. Modern studies, however, have called that number into question, suggesting that it’s too high. A recent study, for example, found the average temperature of 25,000 British patients to be 97.9 F.

[...]

Parsonnet and her colleagues analyzed temperatures from three datasets covering distinct historical periods. The earliest set, compiled from military service records, medical records and pension records from Union Army veterans of the Civil War, captures data between 1862 and 1930 and includes people born in the early 1800s. A set from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I contains data from 1971 to 1975. Finally, the Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment comprises data from adult patients who visited Stanford Health Care between 2007 and 2017.

The researchers used the 677,423 temperature measurements from these datasets to develop a linear model that interpolated temperature over time. The model confirmed body temperature trends that were known from previous studies, including increased body temperature in younger people, in women, in larger bodies and at later times of the day.

The researchers observed that the body temperature of men born in the 2000s is on average 1.06 F lower than that of men born in the early 1800s. Similarly, they observed that the body temperature of women born in the 2000s is on average 0.58 F lower than that of women born in the 1890s. These calculations correspond to a decrease in body temperature of 0.05 F every decade.

[...]

The decrease in average body temperature in the United States could be explained by a reduction in metabolic rate, or the amount of energy being used. The authors hypothesize that this reduction may be due to a population-wide decline in inflammation: “Inflammation produces all sorts of proteins and cytokines that rev up your metabolism and raise your temperature,” Parsonnet said. Public health has improved dramatically in the past 200 years due to advances in medical treatments, better hygiene, greater availability of food and improved standards of living.

The authors also hypothesize that comfortable lives at constant ambient temperature contribute to a lower metabolic rate. Homes in the 19th century had irregular heating and no cooling; today, central heating and air conditioning are commonplace. A more constant environment removes a need to expend energy to maintain a constant body temperature.

The bird’s fingers are important for steering

January 19th, 2020

Birds change the shape of their wings far more than planes do, and David Lentink, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, and his team explored this while creating their PigeonBot:

The researchers used common pigeon cadavers to try to figure out the mechanics of how birds control the motion of their feathers during flight. Scientists had thought the feathers might be controlled by individual muscles. But they learned that some aspects of bird wing motion are simpler than they expected.

Lentink says that several doctoral students realized that simply by moving the birds’ “wrist” and “finger,” the feathers would fall into place. When the bird’s wrist and finger moves, “all the feathers move, too, and they do this automatically,” he said. “And that’s really cool.”

The findings are some of the first evidence that the bird’s fingers are important for steering. The team replicated the bird’s wing on the PigeonBot using 40 pigeon feathers, springs and rubber bands connected to a wrist and finger structure. When the wrist and finger move, all the feathers move, too.

The researchers used a wind tunnel to see how the feather-and-rubber band design worked under turbulent conditions. “Most aerospace engineers would say this is not going to work well, but it turned out to be incredibly robust,” Lentink says.

They also pinpointed something interesting about how the feathers work together that helps most birds fly in turbulent conditions. At certain moments during flight, such as when a bird is extending its wings, tiny hooks on the feathers lock together like Velcro.

“These tiny, microscopic micro-structures that are between feathers lock them together as soon as they separate too far apart, and a gap is about to form. And it’s really spectacular,” Lentink adds. “It requires an enormous force to separate them.”

These tiny hooks are so small that they’re hard to see even through a microscope. Then, when a bird tucks its wing back in, the feathers unlock automatically, like directional Velcro. Separating the locked feathers makes an audible sound for most birds. The team published this finding in a separate paper in the journal Science.

It’s worth noting that the PigeonBot doesn’t incorporate something you might associate with birds’ wings – flapping. The designers were focused on incorporating the more subtle wrist-and-finger motions of the wings, so the bot appears to be gliding through the air while it’s in flight.

I guess Dune‘s ornithopters might not be so fanciful after all, and we might see a better human-power ornithopter, too.

Instinctive sleeping and resting postures

January 19th, 2020

Michael Tetley presents an anthropological and zoological approach to the treatment of low back and joint pain, based on instinctive sleeping and resting postures:

If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a “civilised” country you probably know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild. You probably do not know that nature has provided an automatic manipulator to correct most spinal and peripheral joint lesions in primates. In common with millions of other so called civilised people you suffer unnecessarily from musculoskeletal problems and are discouraged about how to treat the exponential rise in low back pain throughout the developed world. Humans are one of 200 species of primates.1 All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems; nature, recognising this fact, has given primates a way to correct them.

The study of animals in the wild has been a lifelong pursuit. I grew up with tribal people and in 1953-4 commanded a platoon of African soldiers from nine tribes, who taught me to sleep on my side without a pillow so that I could listen out for danger with both ears. I have organised over 14 expeditions all over the world to meet native peoples and study their sleeping and resting postures. They all adopted similar postures and exhibited few musculoskeletal problems. I must emphasise that this is not a comparison of genes or races but of lifestyles. I tried to carry out surveys to collect evidence but they were meaningless, as tribespeople give you the answer they think you want. They often object to having their photographs taken, so I have demonstrated the postures.

Tetley was born in Kenya, where he encountered much worse Mau-Mauing than what Tom Wolfe described:

Mike, who was born and raised in Kenya speaking its native language Swahili, was conscripted to command indigenous troops in the King’s African Rifles as unrest began to spread throughout his homeland.

It was after Mau Mau militants ambushed a police truck that a battle erupted between the rivals.

A clash Mike so vividly recalls as it marked the last time he could appreciate the gift of sight before it was lost.

Remembering the battle, Mike said: “One of the Mau Mau threw a grenade at me and it landed by my foot. I jumped away from it and threw myself on the ground hoping that when it went off I wouldn’t get hit.

“The next thing I remember I was running flat out and I got a bullet in my right ear which came out of my right eye.

“My dad always said I didn’t have anything between my ears and now he’s got definite proof.

“The next thing I remember I fell over and as I picked myself up everything went black. I sat down and I can’t remember much more than that — not in a logical sense anyway.”

Dissatisfied with blasting their victim with a rifle — nearly killing him — the Mau Mau rebels returned armed with machetes to cut up Mike, who lay helpless on the ground nursing his wound. Powerless to defend himself, Mike has always owed his survival to an ally soldier, Reguton — with whom he still has regular contact — who shot dead the seven rebels.

“I was on the ground and they came forward with guns and knives and they tried to cut me up,” he said “Reguton had his gun and shot them and killed them. He killed seven of them from 25 yards — that’s very good shooting, particularly when you’ve only got 28 bullets in a magazine. From 25 yards he would have had three bullets for each person until they were on top of him — I’m very indebted to him.”

For Mike, vivid scenes of massacre and torture remain poignant in his memory. Images of bloodshed to which Mike was repeatedly exposed before he lost his sight have proved impossible to dispel from his mind.

More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians are known to have been murdered by the Mau Mau. Many of the murders of which they were guilty were brutal in the extreme and Mike recalled just one of the savage killings.

“I was walking back to my tent and there was a 12-year-old girl in the middle of the road with her throat cut. There was a note next to her which read ‘We’re not frightened of you, we’ll take you on, the army and the police. It was signed Corporal Kanwemba of the Mau Mau.”

Mike was transferred to a military hospital in England after the attack where he received the devastating news that he would never see again.

He enrolled in a physiotherapy course with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) — which brings us back to his paper:

Figure 1 shows a mountain gorilla lying on the ground on his side without a pillow — a position in which I have also seen chimpanzees and gibbons sleeping — and a Kenya African in a similar position on a palm leaf mattress on a concrete floor. Note how he uses his laterally rotated arm as a pillow and can listen out for danger with both ears.

Sleeping Figure 1A Kenyan

Sleeping Figure 1B Gorilla

When lying on one side you do not even need the arm as a pillow: when the lower shoulder is fully hunched, the neck is completely supported. I think the neck should deviate towards the ground as gravity then shuts the mouth, preventing insects from entering, and a little traction is applied to the cervical spine (fig 2, top). When the head is down, the vertebrae are stretched between two anchors and every time the ribs move through breathing the tension is increased, the vertebrae realign themselves, and the movement keeps the joints lubricated. Current thinking is to keep the spine straight by use of a pillow. Has anyone ever seen a gorilla shinning up a tree with a pillow? Note also the plantar flexed foot. A dorsiflexed foot rotates the knee and alters the Q angle (between the resultant pull of the quadriceps muscle and the patella tendon), producing uneven wear and, in time, pain.

Sleeping Figure 2B Side Lying Modified

Sleeping Figure 2A Side Lying

Tribal people do not like lying on the ground in the recovery position while wearing no clothes as the penis dangles in the dust and can get bitten by insects. When the legs are in the reverse recovery position (fig 2, bottom), the penis lies on the lower thigh and is protected. In this position the Achilles tendon of the leading foot can be inserted in the gap between the big toe and the first lesser toe to help correct a bunion.

When sleeping in the open in very cold climates and when the ground is wet, humans often resort to sleeping on their shins, like the Tibetan caravaneers photographed by Peter, Prince of Greece and Denmark, in 1938 (fig 3). Nature has not covered the anterior border of the tibia and the medial border of the ulna with muscle, so in this position there is only skin and bone in contact with the cold ground and heat loss is reduced. The body is also folded to conserve heat; both ears can listen for danger, be it lion or terrorist; and when the head is down gravity shuts the mouth and it is impossible to snore.

Sleeping Figure 3 Tibetans

Figure 4 shows the “lookout posture,” another position using the arm as a pillow to reset shoulder, elbow, and wrist: accessory joint movement is regained because the weight of the head resting on the arm is at right angles to the line of movement, producing a lateral glide. I have seen Howler monkeys using this position in Costa Rica

Sleeping Figure 4 Lookout Posture

Quadrupedal lying (fig 5) is ideal for stretching collagen fibre throughout the body. In the penis protect position, with the pelvis locked, the spine is rotated and flexed. With the elbows out sideways and the chest on the ground, many spinal lesions can be corrected gently using nature’s automatic manipulator. Animals are clever because they use the radiant heat from the sun to encourage relaxation of their muscles when they adopt this posture. In this photograph note that the dog’s sternum is in full contact with the ground but that of the human is not: this can be easily corrected by rotating the right arm medially to lower the sternum. It has been noted that guide dogs working in towns breathe the same pollutants as humans yet do not have asthma. Could this be because when they lie on their chests the kickback from the upper ribs keeps the corresponding vertebrae mobile, allowing the sympathetic system to work efficiently?

Sleeping Figure 5 Quadrupedal Lying

Arabs in the Sahara will sit in the position shown in figure 6 for hours and it keeps the forefoot aligned on the hindfoot, as the ischia rest directly on the calcanea and the feet point straight backwards. People who sit like this do not seem to get much osteoarthritis in their knees in old age. Cross legged sitting prevents arthritic hips. A flying doctor from Kenya remarked to me that over the years as local tribesmen became more civilised he more often saw arthritis of hips and knees.

Sleeping Figure 6 Sitting on the heels

The full squat, with the heels on the ground (fig 7) resets the sacroiliac joints; takes hips, knees and ankles through the full range; and can be very useful in treating backs. To start with, some Westerners have to hold on to a door frame.

Sleeping Figure 7 Full Squat

Largely anecdotal evidence has been collected by “old timers” for over 50 years from non-Western societies that low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures. This observation must be recorded to allow further research in this direction as these primitive societies no longer exist and the great apes living in the wild are heading for extinction. All we have to do is to be good primates and use these preventive techniques.

(Hat tip to Gwern.)

Lothar Zogg counts to 10

January 18th, 2020

On James Earl Jones’ birthday yesterday, the Muppet History Twitter account remarked that he was Sesame Street’s first celebrity guest, which sent me down a rabbit hole:

In 1969, Jones participated in making test films for the children’s education series Sesame Street; these shorts, combined with animated segments, were shown to groups of children to gauge the effectiveness of the then-groundbreaking Sesame Street format. As cited by production notes included in the DVD release Sesame Street: Old School 1969–1974, the short that had the greatest impact with test audiences was one showing bald-headed Jones counting slowly to ten. This and other segments featuring Jones were eventually aired as part of the Sesame Street series itself when it debuted later in 1969 and Jones is often cited as the first celebrity guest on that series, although a segment with Carol Burnett was the first to actually be broadcast.

Jones is a famous movie star now, but what had he been in when they filmed these segments in 1969? Two movies: Dr. Strangelove and The Comedians. I’m assuming the Sesame Street crowd knew him from his stage work.

For the 40th anniversary of Dr. Strangelove, Jones looked back:

Kubrick based his initial script on “Red Alert,” a tense thriller about the possibility of an accidental nuclear war written by the British author Peter George. When Stanley came to New York to scout George C. Scott for the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, George happened to be playing in “The Merchant of Venice” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. So was I. Stanley recruited George, and given that Kubrick wanted to make the film’s B-52 crew multiethnic, he took me too. It was my first movie role.

As the script evolved, Kubrick decided to bring in the renowned “bad boy” Terry Southern to rework the film as a satire. Among many other changes, an entirely new character was added to the story — the eponymous Dr. Strangelove (initially called Von Klutz). Southern and Kubrick gave all the characters comic-book names. Sterling Hayden’s Gen. Quintin became Gen. Jack D. Ripper. Slim Pickens now played Maj. T.J. “King” Kong. Keenan Wynn was Col. “Bat” Guano, and George was Gen. “Buck” Turgidson. Of course, Peter Sellers took on three roles: Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, a British Exchange Officer; Dr. Strangelove himself; and U.S. President Merkin Muffley.

My character, the B-52′s bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg, took his name from Mandrake the Magician’s sidekick, a black and bald-headed man who provided Mandrake with muscle power when prestidigitation failed. In the original script, the bombardier’s role included pointed questioning of the authenticity of Gen. Ripper’s command-orders to nuke Russia. But as “Dr. Strangelove” evolved into a satire, Zogg’s voice of reason shrank to essentially a single question: “Sir, do you think this might be some kind of loyalty test or security check?”

In spite of having been stripped of the lines that made the role attractive to me in the first place, I felt very fortunate to be working with Kubrick, one of the most brilliant and innovative directors of our time.

I had to look up Mandrake the Magician and his supporting cast:

Mandrake the Magician was a syndicated newspaper comic strip, created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom). Mandrake began publication on June 11, 1934. Phil Davis soon took over as the strip’s illustrator, while Falk continued to script. The strip was distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Mandrake, along with the Phantom Magician in Mel Graff’s The Adventures of Patsy, is regarded by comics historians as the first superhero of comics, such as comics historian Don Markstein, who writes, “Some people say Mandrake the Magician, who started in 1934, was comics’ first superhero.”

[...]

Lothar is Mandrake’s best friend and crimefighting companion, whom Mandrake first met during his travels in Africa. Lothar was the Prince of the Seven Nations, a mighty federation of jungle tribes but forbore becoming king to followed Mandrake on his world travels. Lothar is often referred to as “the strongest man in the world”, with the exception of Hojo — Mandrake’s chef and secret chief of Inter Intel. Lothar is invulnerable to any weapon forged by man, impervious to heat and cold, and possesses the stamina of a thousand men. He also cannot be harmed by magic directly (such as by fire bolts, force bolts, or spell incantations). He can easily lift an elephant by one hand. One of the first African crimefighting heroes ever to appear in comics, Lothar’s début alongside Mandrake was in the 1934 inaugural daily strip. In the beginning, Lothar spoke poor English and wore a fez, short pants, and a leopard skin. In a 1935 work by King Features Syndicate, Lothar is referred to as Mandrake’s “giant black slave.” When artist Fred Fredericks took over in 1965, Lothar spoke correct English and his clothing changed, although he often wore shirts with leopard-skin patterns.

What they need to do is die

January 18th, 2020

I was not expecting to stumble across a GQ video of Jocko Willink breaking down combat scenes from movies:

Putting knife-defense to the test

January 17th, 2020

Nick Drossos decided to challenge random folks at the park to “cut” him with a marker, to test his knife-defense skills: