The Damascus-like sample was significantly stronger

June 26th, 2020

Damascus steel is practically synonymous with artisanal forgework, but a new study led by Philipp Kürnsteiner of the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research shows that it is possible to do something very similar with laser additive manufacturing:

Traditional folded steels combined two steels that varied by carbon content and in their microscale structure, which is controlled by how quickly it cools (by quenching). In this case, the researchers were using a nickel-titanium-iron alloy steel that works well with these 3D printing techniques, in which metal powder is fed onto the work surface and heated with a laser.

Rapid cooling of this steel also produces a crystalline form as in quenched high-carbon steels. But further heat treatment leads to the precipitation of microscopic nickel-titanium particles within the steel that greatly increase its hardness—a pricey material called “maraging steel.”

The team’s idea was to use the layer-by-layer printing process to manipulate the temperatures each layer experienced, alternating softer, more flexible layers with layers hardened by that precipitation process. While printing a cubic chunk of steel, they did this simply by turning the laser off for a couple minutes or so every few layers. The top layer would rapidly cool, converting to the desired crystalline form. Then, as additional layers were added on top, temperatures in the crystalline layer would cycle back up, inducing the precipitation of the nickel-titanium particles.

The first test piece was thrown under the microscope for an incredibly detailed analysis, including a close-enough look at the hard layers to see the precipitated particles. The researchers even atom mapped the layers to verify their composition. So the researchers were able to confirm that the process definitely accomplished what they were aiming for.

[...]

For comparison, they printed another block continuously, producing no hardened layers at all. Both were stretched until they fractured and failed.

The Damascus-like sample was significantly stronger, holding up to about 20 percent more stretching force. It didn’t reach the strength of a typical, traditionally made maraging steel, but the researchers note that this requires “a time-consuming and costly post-process ageing heat treatment.”

More than anything else, the Korean War was not a test of power

June 25th, 2020

The Korean War kicked off 70 years ago today — and ended four years later with an armistice, not a “real” treaty.

While reading There Will Be War, Volume 2, I came across an essay — the book is a collection of science fiction stories and nonfiction essays — by T. R. Fehrenbach, called “Proud Legions,” that was borrowed from the introductory chapter of his book This Kind of War: The Classic Military History of the Korean War, and it impressed me enough to buy the book. Here is a taste:

It was a minor collision, a skirmish — but the fact that such a skirmish between the earth’s two power blocs cost more than two million human lives showed clearly the extent of the chasm beside which men walked.

More than anything else, the Korean War was not a test of power — because neither antagonist used full powers — but of wills. The war showed that the West had misjudged the ambition and intent of the Communist leadership, and clearly revealed that leadership’s intense hostility to the West; it also proved that Communism erred badly in assessing the response its aggression would call forth.

The men who sent their divisions crashing across the 38th parallel on 25 June 1950 hardly dreamed that the world would rally against them, or that the United States — which had repeatedly professed its reluctance to do — would commit ground forces onto the mainland of Asia.

From the fighting, however inconclusive the end, each side could take home valuable lessons. The Communists would understand that the free world — in particular the United States — had the will to react quickly and practically and without panic in a new situation. The American public, and that of Europe, learned that the postwar world was not the pleasant place they hoped it would be, that it could not be neatly policed by bombers and carrier aircraft and nuclear warheads, and that the Communist menace could be disregarded only at extreme peril.

[...]

The great test placed upon the United States was not whether it had the power to devastate the Soviet Union — this it had — but whether the American leadership had the will to continue to fight for an orderly world rather than to succumb to hysteric violence. Twice in the century uncontrolled violence had swept the world, and after untold bloodshed and destruction nothing was accomplished. Americans had come to hate war, but in 1950 were no nearer to abolishing it than they had been a century before.

But two great bloodlettings, and the advent of the Atomic Age with its capability of fantastic destruction, taught Americans that their traditional attitudes toward war — to regard war as an unholy thing, but once involved, however reluctantly, to strike those who unleashed it with holy wrath — must be altered. In the Korean War, Americans adopted a course not new to the world, but new to them. They accepted limitations on warfare, and accepted controlled violence as the means to an end. Their policy — for the first time in the century — succeeded. The Korean War was not followed by the tragic disillusionment of World War I, or the unbelieving bitterness of 1946 toward the fact that nothing had been settled. But because Americans for the first time lived in a world in which they could not truly win, whatever the effort, and from which they could not withdraw, without disaster, for millions the result was trauma.

During the Korean War, the United States found that it could not enforce international morality and that its people had to live and continue to fight in a basically amoral world. They could oppose that which they regarded as evil, but they could not destroy it without risking their own destruction.

[...]

Perhaps the values that comprise a decent civilization and those needed to defend it abroad will always be at odds. A complete triumph for either faction would probably result in disaster.

[...]

“Discipline,” like the terms “work” and “fatherland” — among the greatest of human values — has been given an almost repugnant connotation from its use by Fascist ideologies. But the term “discipline” as used in these pages does not refer to the mindless, robot-like obedience and self-abasement of a Prussian grenadier. Both American sociologists and soldiers agree that it means, basically, self-restraint — the self-restraint required not to break the sensible laws whether they be imposed against speeding or against removing an uncomfortably heavy steel helmet, the fear not to spend more money than one earns, not to drink from a canteen in combat before it is absolutely necessary, and to obey both parent and teacher and officer in certain situations, even when the orders are acutely unpleasant.

Only those who have never learned self-restraint fear reasonable discipline.

Americans fully understand the requirements of the football field or the baseball diamond. They discipline themselves and suffer by the thousands to prepare for these rigors. A coach or manager who is too permissive soon seeks a new job; his teams fail against those who are tougher and harder. Yet undoubtedly any American officer, in peacetime, who worked his men as hard, or ruled them as severely as a college football coach does, would be removed.

Seven reasons why police are disliked

June 24th, 2020

Randall Collins casts his sociological eye at why police are disliked and finds seven reasons:

  1. Police are used for collecting fines for municipal budgets.
  2. Police are used for enforcing unpopular regulations.
  3. Police dislike defiance.
  4. Police dislike property destruction.
  5. Adrenaline overload and forward-panic attacks on unresisting targets.
  6. Police training for extreme situations.
  7. Racism among police.

The Order’s Satanism has occasionally proven distasteful to its fellow neo-Nazis

June 22nd, 2020

In what sounds like a bad 1980s direct-to-video movie plot, a U.S. Army soldier allegedly planned a jihadist attack on his own unit with the help of a Satanic Neo-Nazi group:

According to an indictment released Monday, Private Ethan Phelan Melzer provided “confidential U.S. Army information” to an infamous organization known as the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), a British occult Nazi group whose works have been promoted by white-supremacist militia Atomwaffen and which has expressed support for al Qaeda. Melzer’s contacts within O9A described their plans as “literally organizing a jihadi attack.”

[...]

The indictment alleges that Melzer messaged members of O9A in mid-May through the “RapeWaffen” channel on the encrypted Telegram messaging app and sent them sensitive information about his unit’s upcoming deployment to Turkey, where they were preparing to guard U.S. military facilities. According to the indictment, one of Melzer’s interlocutors has been an FBI informant since last month.

[...]

The Order of the Nine Angles or O9A was founded in the U.K. by former neo-Nazi David Myatt in the ’70s. Myatt authored a guide for like-minded racist terrorists, “A Practical Guide to The Strategy and Tactics of Revolution,” which told followers that they are engaged “in a real war for freedom and for the very future of our race” and listed anti-Nazi activists, “Zionists,” judges, police officers, and government officials as appropriate targets for assassination. British police found a copy of the manual in the home of David Copeland in 1999, after he was arrested for a bombing spree across London intended to spark a race war.

While the group denies the Holocaust and believes, per court papers, that “Adolf Hitler was sent by our gods to guide us to greatness,” the Order’s Satanism has occasionally proven distasteful to its fellow neo-Nazis.

Myatt converted to Islam in 1998 and became a supporter of al Qaeda, but has since publicly claimed to have renounced extremism and Islam.

You can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating

June 21st, 2020

What happens to America’s big blue cities, Steve Sailer asks, when The Establishment switches sides from the cops to the blacks?

Our elites appear intent on trying that experiment once again, although we have been through a couple of highly relevant historical examples that they ought to recall first.

Because blacks, despite making up only about one-eighth of the population, have accounted for the majority of homicide offenders in recent decades, overall long-term murder rates tend to be driven by the authorities’ attitudes toward African-Americans: indulgent or hardheaded?

Thus, the first Black Lives Matter era (2014–2016) saw the total number of homicides in the U.S. grow a record-setting 23 percent in two years. Moreover, the most spectacular exacerbations of homicide rates happened precisely where BLM won its most famous political victories over the police, such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and Milwaukee. By this point, Black Lives Matter has gotten more incremental blacks murdered than all the lynchings in American history.

This “Ferguson Effect,” named after the celebrated August 2014 riots, was repeatedly denied by the media, until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point they stopped talking about it.

Voters at the national level didn’t allow the White House to continue to worsen homicide. Murders fell 7 percent from 2016 to 2018 under Trump.

And the earlier period in which the influential sided with blacks over cops, from the end of the Kennedy Era to the end of the Carter Era, saw the murder rate double nationally, destroying many American cities.

Most notoriously, in New York City murders grew sharply in the early 1960s, from 390 in 1959 to 634 in 1965, before exploding under the new liberal Republican mayor John Lindsay, reaching 1,691 in 1972.

Lindsay, a handsome WASP, had sided with blacks against the city’s Irish policemen and Jewish school administrators.

As usual, the cops responded by slowing down on the job: the retreat to the doughnut shop. By one estimate, NYPD cops got down to doing about two hours of policing per eight-hour shift. After all, you can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating.

White residents fled many neighborhoods, such as the once-tranquil Bronx (where Ogden Nash had complained in 1930 about the lack of excitement with the couplet “The Bronx?/No, thonks!”), which saw reported burglaries increase by 1,559 percent from 1960 to 1969. In turn, the white population of the Bronx fell nearly 50 percent between the 1970 and 1980 Censuses.

Today, the media portrays those whites who fled as the Bad Guys, far worse than the criminals who preyed on them: The whites were guilty of the racial felony of abandoning blacks and Puerto Ricans to the ravages of segregation. In the past, however, media coverage was less hateful and bigoted in part because journalists were often related to former outer-borough whites. But today fewer and fewer dare speak up about what really happened to white residents of the cities after the Civil Rights Era unleashed liberalism on them.

Explosive volcanic eruptions triggered by cosmic rays

June 20th, 2020

Japanese researchers suggest that explosive volcanic eruptions are triggered by cosmic rays:

Volcanoes with silica-rich and highly viscous magma tend to produce violent explosive eruptions that result in disasters in local communities and that strongly affect the global environment. We examined the timing of 11 eruptive events that produced silica-rich magma from four volcanoes in Japan (Mt. Fuji, Mt. Usu, Myojin-sho, and Satsuma-Iwo-jima) over the past 306 years (from AD 1700 to AD 2005). Nine of the 11 events occurred during inactive phases of solar magnetic activity (solar minimum), which is well indexed by the group sunspot number. This strong association between eruption timing and the solar minimum is statistically significant to a confidence level of 96.7%. This relationship is not observed for eruptions from volcanoes with relatively silica-poor magma, such as Izu-Ohshima.

It is well known that the cosmic-ray flux is negatively correlated with solar magnetic activity, as the strong magnetic field in the solar wind repels charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays that originate from outside of the solar system. The strong negative correlation observed between the timing of silica-rich eruptions and solar activity can be explained by variations in cosmic-ray flux arising from solar modulation.

Because silica-rich magma has relatively high surface tension (~ 0.1 Nm?1), the homogeneous nucleation rate is so low that such magma exists in a highly supersaturated state without considerable exsolution, even when located relatively close to the surface, within the penetration range of cosmic-ray muons (1–10 GeV). These muons can contribute to nucleation in supersaturated magma, as documented by many authors studying a bubble chamber, via ionization loss. This radiation-induced nucleation can lead to the pre-eruptive exsolution of H2O in the silica-rich magma. We note the possibility that the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption was triggered by the same mechanism: an increase in cosmic-ray flux triggered by Typhoon Yunya, as a decrease in atmospheric pressure results in an increase in cosmic-ray flux.

We also speculate that the snowball Earth event was triggered by successive large-scale volcanic eruptions triggered by increased cosmic-ray flux due to nearby supernova explosions.

(Hat tip to Hans G. Schantz.)

A little bit of pandemic risk was just the thing

June 19th, 2020

Analysts at Munich Re realized that a pandemic could overwhelm life insurance companies — and reinsurance companies, too:

To tackle Munich Re’s exposure, Kraut’s team began attempting to quantify and price this incredibly remote, unpredictable risk. If they managed to do that, they would then need to sell part of that risk—to find someone willing to insure the reinsurer. “No one really had tried to do a transaction at a one-in-500-year return period,” Kraut said. His boss gave it a 50–50 chance of success.

But over the course of two years, the group gradually built up a list of potential buyers. It turned out that there were a few large institutional investors looking to diversify their own portfolios, and a little bit of pandemic risk was just the thing. Munich Re would provide them with annual payments, year after year. In the rare event of a pandemic, they would have to cover Munich Re’s losses. One interested class of investor—if a macabre one—was pension funds, which typically grapple with something called longevity risk: the chance that people will live longer than expected.

“It’s not really good terminology to call it a ‘risk,’ ” Kraut said. “It’s a good thing, technically! But if people live a lot longer than expected, then a pension fund needs to pay out a lot more pensions than they originally calculated.” A deadly pandemic that takes the lives of pensioners, to put it in the most clinical terms, means fewer years of pension payouts, canceling some of the longevity risk. Should no pandemic arise, they would pocket payments from Munich Re.

By 2013, Kraut and his team had put together enough investors—starting with a large Australian pension fund—to take some of the pandemic problem off of Munich Re’s books. But he soon encountered an unexpected hitch: The mechanisms written to trigger the deal relied on a series of “pandemic phases” monitored by the World Health Organization. (Phase 1: Virus is circulating in animals. Phase 2: Reports of human infection. Phase 3: Human-to-human transmission. And so on up to Phase 6: Sustained outbreaks in multiple regions.) Sometime in 2013, however, the WHO abandoned this system for a less specific four phases. Kraut suddenly needed some other organization to delineate the stages of epidemics reliably enough to write into an insurance policy. And he needed someone to monitor epidemics closely, to know when they hit agreed upon triggers—illnesses, deaths, spread. “But you can’t just hire the WHO,” he said.

In studying up on the world of epidemiology, Kraut happened to have picked up a book called The Viral Storm. It was written by Nathan Wolfe. Part memoir, part prescription, the book laid out a vision for how to counter the threat that novel viruses represent to humans. Kraut looked up Wolfe and saw that he’d formed a company.

[...]

Kraut, however, had an even more ambitious idea in mind. What if, instead of simply hedging its own life insurance business in the case of a pandemic, Munich Re could use the same concept to insure other businesses against them? Business interruption insurance, the policies that protect companies against income losses from disasters like fires or hurricanes, often explicitly excluded disease. (And when it didn’t, insurers could still use the ambiguity to deny claims.) The risk was thought to be too large, too unpredictable to quantify. But Munich Re had already proven it could cover its own life insurance risk in pandemics, and now it had a partner in Metabiota that specialized in seemingly unpredictable outbreaks. What if they could create and sell a business interruption insurance policy that covered epidemics, starting with acutely vulnerable industries like travel and hospitality? They could then pass on the payout risk from those policies to the same types of investors who had bought their life risk.

[...]

Where Munich Re’s epidemic solutions division had been struggling to get traction with potential customers, now, in early January, buyers were banging at the door. “That’s just the nature of human psychology,” he said. “Whenever a catastrophe arrives, people immediately want insurance for that catastrophe.” The virus was still confined to China and Kraut faced a grim calculation: Should the company write business interruption policies that would cover SARS-CoV-2, outside of Asia? “You clearly have the human tragedy,” he said. “On the other hand you are in charge of the business unit.” But there were too many warning signs—too much risk for Munich Re. It would have been like selling fire insurance for a house already in flames. Kraut made the decision not to sell.

In a sense, Munich Re had dodged a bullet: Had the company succeeded at selling pandemic protection to corporate giants starting 19 months before, it would have collected almost no premiums and now be paying out on every single one. Kraut acknowledged as much, but offered that if insurers never pay out, “then you lose the reason of existence.”

By March, Metabiota had closed its offices in downtown San Francisco, and its employees joined the legions of new remote workers. “It is painful to see loss of livelihoods, insecurity, fear,” Oppenheim said, “when potentially we would have had tools to prevent that.”

Restraining the suspect on his abdomen is a common tactic in excited delirium syndrome situations

June 18th, 2020

There are six crucial pieces of information that have been largely omitted from discussion on the Chauvin’s conduct:

George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) allows the use of neck restraint on suspects who actively resist arrest, and George Floyd actively resisted arrest on two occasions, including immediately prior to neck restraint being used.

The officers were recorded on their body cams assessing George Floyd as suffering from “excited delirium syndrome” (ExDS), a condition which the MPD considers an extreme threat to both the officers and the suspect. A white paper used by the MPD acknowledges that ExDS suspects may die irrespective of force involved. The officers’ response to this situation was in line with MPD guidelines for ExDS.

Restraining the suspect on his or her abdomen (prone restraint) is a common tactic in ExDS situations, and the white paper used by the MPD instructs the officers to control the suspect until paramedics arrive.

Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

Chauvin’s neck restraint is unlikely to have exerted a dangerous amount of force to Floyd’s neck. Floyd is shown on video able to lift his head and neck, and a robust study on double-knee restraints showed a median force exertion of approximately approximately 105lbs.

Let’s be clear: the actions of Chauvin and the other officers were absolutely wrong. But they were also in line with MPD rules and procedures for the condition which they determined was George Floyd was suffering from. An act that would normally be considered a clear and heinous abuse of force, such as a knee-to-neck restraint on a suspect suffering from pulmonary distress, can be legitimatized if there are overriding concerns not known to bystanders but known to the officers. In the case of George Floyd, the overriding concern was that he was suffering from ExDS, given a number of relevant facts known to the officers. This was not known to the bystanders, who only saw a man with pulmonary distress pinned down with a knee on his neck. While the officers may still be found guilty of manslaughter, the probability of a guilty verdict for the murder charge is low, and the public should be aware of this well in advance of the verdict.

A quiet reservoir of economic strength is forming

June 17th, 2020

A quiet reservoir of economic strength is forming among households flush with cash, the Wall Street Journal reports, and it is reviving consumer spending:

The crisis caused by the coronavirus has pushed millions into unemployment and left them straining to get by. But many consumers in the U.S. and Europe who have held on to their jobs or are getting government benefits have seen their bank accounts swell during lockdowns, according to government data, because of restrictions on shopping and big-spending activities such as tourism.

Consumers with means are driving surprising strength in a number of sectors. People are flocking to home-improvement stores and car dealerships. They want to install pools in their backyards and Jacuzzis in their bathrooms. Spending on furniture has jumped. So have sales of fitness and sports equipment.

And with vacations and summer camps canceled and pool memberships on hold, families are looking for other ways to entertain themselves this summer.

No man-made vehicle has ever presented such an awe-inspiring spectacle

June 16th, 2020

When Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program was considering a nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship, Mechanix Illustrated suggested something even better, an Atoms-For-Peace dirigible. What could go wrong?

Unlike a ship, the dirigible moves in an aerial ocean that completely envelops our globe. Hence, it can display its wares anywhere on the face of the earth. Seas, mountains and deserts present no barrier. Neither, considering its mission of peaceful education, should national frontiers.

atoms_dirigible_0

A modern dirigible would be unique, the cynosure of all eyes. Unlike the ship, one-third of whose bulk is hidden by the water in which it rides, the dirigible discloses every inch of its dramatic size as it coasts along against the clear backdrop of the sky. The lower it flies, the more majestic it appears, as anyone who saw the Akron, Macon or Hindenburg will testify. No man-made vehicle has ever presented such an awe-inspiring spectacle as a giant airship breaking through a low-hanging cloud or cruising above the rooftops of a darkened city.

atoms_dirigible_1

Its effect upon the peoples of the world would be many times more potent than that of an ordinary-looking, seaborne freighter. The fact that the dirigible, traveling at relatively low speeds and altitudes, a silvery giant by day and dramatically illuminated at night, will be visible to practically everyone en route, makes it the perfect Atoms-For-Peace transport. It can show our flag in every nook and corner of the globe, scattering as it goes messages of good will in every literate dialect.

atoms_dirigible_3

I suppose that part’s true. What did they propose?

Magnesium, titanium and strong, lightweight Fiberglas promise greater ruggedness and durability with less poundage. This improved weight-strength ratio opens new possibilities to the dirigible engineer. For instance, the single, bottom-keel structure, an outgrowth of age-old surface ship design, might be augmented by external side and top “keels,” containing additional passenger accommodations. These extra stiffeners would vastly strengthen the airship longitudinally without too great a weight penalty.

atoms_dirigible_4

In place of the Akron and Macon pickup gear and airplane hangar, a modern helicopter landing pad and internal hangar deck might be installed atop the hull’s center section. Built in the form of a shock-absorbing elevator, the pad could lift the copter clear of the hull for take-off and after landing, lower it to the level of the protected hangar deck for the safe, comfortable unloading of passengers. This is merely a reversal of the earlier airplane setup with the added safety advantage that both copter and airship travel at the same speed. The copter could provide a ferry service en route and at points where it is inadvisable or impractical to land the airship.

atoms_dirigible_5

Another possibility is the development of water landing gear. A seagoing dirigible, embodying a water-tight hull and lower gas bag, was recently publicized in Germany. MI feels, however, that retractable pontoons of inflated rubber would prove lighter and more efficient. They need not be large, as airships can be trimmed so as to be almost weightless. Water, pumped up from the surface — using the hose gear long since perfected — would provide ballast to hold the ship down when anchored.

Due to the horsepower limitations of the early internal-combustion engines, dirigible designers have always had to install multiple power plants, scattered along the length of the ship. This has not proven too good an arrangement. In addition to difficulties in coordination, the propeller slip-streams have added to the skin friction of the hull with a consequent increase in drag. Modern research indicates that some form of dragless stern propulsion would better the airship’s efficiency and speed by as much as 15 per cent.

With this in mind, MI weighed the various power plant possibilities.

The final solution proved to be the easiest to apply and the one that offers the maximum advantages weight wise. This is a midship atomic steam plant using turbines to generate electricity. Comparatively lightweight wiring car ries the juice to the stern of the ship where an electric motor drives a huge, four-bladed, reversible propeller. To assist in landing and take-off maneuvers, ducted fans are mounted in gimbals in the forward and after stabilizers. These enable the skipper to move his ship up, down or at sidewise angles.

The fission plant is of the latest type, consisting of a central reactor contained within the core of a cylindrical heat-exchanger, the whole being enclosed in lightweight, laminated shielding. Its operation is simple. Steam, generated in the exchanger by the heat of fission, is ducted to twin turbine-generator installations set on either side of the reactor. Passing successively through high and low pressure turbines, the used steam is condensed and routed back to the heat exchanger in a closed system. The turbines drive twin generators and the electricity thus produced, passes into storage batteries. While heavier than a single installation, the duplicate turbine generators provide a safety factor, one being always available in the event of mechanical failure or repair work on the other.

This compact arrangement is mounted on a reinforced deck within the hull and may be readily reached from the exhibition hall directly below it. Galleries around the engine room permit visitors to inspect the unique plant without interference or danger to themselves. If the public exhibition is considered sufficiently important, a water shielded “fishbowl” type of reactor might be used. While heavier and less compact, it would provide a more impressive show.

The power plant used in the atomic submarine Nautilus weighed roughly three times as much as the entire Hindenburg. That seems like a stumbling block.

The flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter

June 15th, 2020

In a recent Jocko Podcast on the Boer War, he and Echo wondered aloud about how big a signal mirror would have to be to be seen at 40 miles. Not that big, it turns out:

Most heliographs were variants of the British Army Mance Mark V version (Fig.1). It used a mirror with a small unsilvered spot in the centre. The sender aligned the heliograph to the target by looking at the reflected target in the mirror and moving their head until the target was hidden by the unsilvered spot. Keeping their head still, they then adjusted the aiming rod so its cross wires bisected the target. They then turned up the sighting vane, which covered the cross wires with a diagram of a cross, and aligned the mirror with the tangent and elevation screws so the small shadow that was the reflection of the unsilvered spot hole was on the cross target. This indicated that the sunbeam was pointing at the target. The flashes were produced by a keying mechanism that tilted the mirror up a few degrees at the push of a lever at the back of the instrument. If the sun was in front of the sender, its rays were reflected directly from this mirror to the receiving station. If the sun was behind the sender, the sighting rod was replaced by a second mirror, to capture the sunlight from the main mirror and reflect it to the receiving station. The U. S. Signal Corps heliograph mirror did not tilt. This type produced flashes by a shutter mounted on a second tripod (Fig 4).

Heliograph

The heliograph had some great advantages. It allowed long distance communication without a fixed infrastructure, though it could also be linked to make a fixed network extending for hundreds of miles, as in the fort-to-fort network used for the Geronimo campaign. It was very portable, did not require any power source, and was relatively secure since it was invisible to those not near the axis of operation, and the beam was very narrow, spreading only 50 feet per mile of range. However, anyone in the beam with the correct knowledge could intercept signals without being detected. In the Boer War, where both sides used heliographs, tubes were sometimes used to decrease the dispersion of the beam. In some other circumstances, though, a narrow beam made it difficult to stay aligned with a moving target, as when communicating from shore to a moving ship, so the British issued a dispersing lens to broaden the heliograph beam from its natural diameter of 0.5 degrees to 15 degrees.

The range of a heliograph depends on the opacity of the air and the effective collecting area of the mirrors. Heliograph mirrors ranged from 1.5 inches to 12 inches or more. Stations at higher altitudes benefit from thinner, clearer air, and are required in any event for great ranges, to clear the curvature of the earth. A good approximation for ranges of 20–50 miles is that the flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter, and farther with a telescope. The world record distance was established by a detachment of U.S. signal sergeants by the inter-operation of stations on Mount Ellen, Utah, and Mount Uncompahgre, Colorado, 183 miles (295 km) apart on September 17, 1894, with Signal Corps heliographs carrying mirrors only 8 inches square.

Only you can figure out what your stomach can tolerate

June 14th, 2020

As Patrick Wilson points out in his new book The Athlete’s Gut: The Inside Science of Digestion, Nutrition, and Stomach Distress, the path to a happy gut is nuanced and context specific:

One study found that roughly 70 per cent of athletes experience at least one severe side stitch in a given year. Another study found that 40 per cent of marathoners get an uncomfortable urge to defecate during hard runs. “It’s fair to say,” Wilson writes, “that most athletes occasionally experience gut problems during training or competition.”

There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most important is that your muscles demand oxygen-rich blood during exercise, which diverts blood away from the gut. The oxygen-starved digestive organs then struggle to deal with whatever partially digested food remains there.

For that reason, hard exercise is a more potent trigger than easy exercise. Activities with lots of jostling, such as running and horseback riding, increase your risk. Women report more gut problems than men, for reasons that aren’t understood. The bottom line: Most symptoms have more than one contributing factor, which means you’ll need to experiment with several possible countermeasures.

[...]

Is it the lactose that’s messing up your workout? For a few people, yes; for most people, no. Same goes for the gluten, the fructose, the fibre, the too-big or too-small meals, the underdrinking or overdrinking. Only you can figure out what your stomach can tolerate.

But once you figure it out, you can change it. Just like your muscles, your digestive tract adapts to the stresses you put on it. If you carb load, your intestine will develop more transporters to ferry those carbohydrates into your bloodstream more quickly. If you practise drinking on the run, your stomach will adapt to feel less full with a bellyful of liquid.

Heat is now hot

June 13th, 2020

Heat is now hot, in the world of athletic training:

Maybe the sauna-loving Finns — who, in addition to topping the rankings in this year’s World Happiness Report, have racked up more than 100 Olympic track and field medals — have been onto something all along.

The origins of the current boom in heat research can be traced back to the 2008 Olympics. University of Oregon physiologist Chris Minson was helping marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein prepare for what was expected to be a sweltering summer in Beijing. Heat-acclimation protocols, which usually involve a week or two of sweaty workouts, are a well-established way of triggering adaptations — increased blood-plasma volume, lower core temperature, higher perspiration rate — that help you perform in the heat. “But I had this niggling fear,” Minson recalls. “What if the race wasn’t hot? What if it was cooler?”

No one knew for sure whether being well-adapted to heat might come with trade-offs, like performing worse in cool conditions. So Minson set up a study with 20 cyclists to find out. The results, published in 2010, sparked a frenzy among sports scientists. Ten days of training in 104-degree heat boosted the cyclists’ VO2 max by 5 percent and improved their one-hour time-trial performance by 6 percent — even when the testing room was kept at a brisk 55 degrees. Suddenly, hot rooms and nonbreathable track suits were being hyped as the poor man’s altitude training.

The initial thinking was that, whereas working out in thin air triggers the formation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, a main benefit of heat training was an increased volume of blood plasma to ferry red blood cells to your muscles. Whether that plasma boost actually translates to improved athletic performance remains contentious. Carsten Lundby, an endurance expert at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark who has studied heat training, is skeptical that simply increasing plasma volume improves performance after just a week or two. However, the resulting dilution of your blood might trigger a natural EPO response to produce new red blood cells, just like altitude training — an idea he’s currently testing with a six-week protocol.

But plasma volume isn’t the only parameter that heat changes. According to Meylan, psychological resilience and altered perception of high temperatures are among the key benefits his players received from heat training. That, in part, is why Canada’s women’s soccer team will likely head to southern Spain or Portugal right before next summer’s World Cup, which will take place in France.

More generally, heat is a shock to the system, generating some of the same cellular responses that exercise and altitude do. For that reason, scientists are now studying its therapeutic benefits, as well as cross-adaptation, the idea that heat training might prepare you for a trip to high elevations, or help you maintain an edge when you return.

A practical example: Last year, three elite steeplechasers visited Minson’s lab three or four times a week to soak in a 105-degree hot tub for roughly 40 minutes, hoping the heat would help sustain the elevated red-blood-cell levels they’d developed during altitude training in Flagstaff, Arizona. Blood tests suggested the approach worked.

This was amateur totalitarianism

June 12th, 2020

If you think cultural revolution isn’t bad enough, Emil O W Kirkegaard (@KirkegaardEmil) suggests you read Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. John Derbyshire shares his own review:

The Khmer Rouge, a peasant movement led by utopian leftists educated in postwar Paris, took over the country and began shoveling her population around like wet concrete, with the aim of eliminating forever such bourgeois blights as private property, money, love, education, and religion.

The Khmer Rouge practiced a collective style of leadership, but from 1968 onwards a middle-aged cadre named Saloth Sar emerged as first among equals. In 1970 he changed his name to Pol Pot, for reasons he never explained. It is as Pol Pot that he is known to history; and it is under this name that he is commonly listed with the other ideologically driven gangster-despots — Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Kim, and Castro — who brought so much destruction and misery to the world in the 20th century.

Like most communist leaders, Pol Pot came from a well-off family. His sister became a concubine of Cambodia’s King Norodom, and was at the king’s bedside when he died. Cambodia was at that time a French colony, and Pol went to Paris for education as a young man, arriving in the city on October 1, 1949 — the precise day on which Mao Tse-tung declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Pol fell in with a group of other young Cambodians, all receptive to the rampant leftism of that time and place. This was the Paris of Jean-Paul Sartre and his circle, the France in which 25 percent of the electorate regularly voted for the brutishly Stalinist French Communist Party.

Pol seems not to have been an intellectual convert to Marxism. In fact, he seems not to have been very intellectual at all, and probably never read the communist classics. The Cambodia from which these young men came did not at all resemble the industrialized Europe that had brought forth Marx and Lenin. It was a purely agricultural nation in which the major institutions were monarchy and priesthood. The revolution that got these young men’s attention was not the Russian, nor even the Chinese one, but the French. Pol’s revolutionary heroes were not Marx and Lenin, but Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Robespierre.

Returning to Cambodia, Pol and his friends soon fell foul of the deeply unlovely government of the young Prince Sihanouk and were obliged to take to the maquis. This was not difficult to do in Cambodia, which had few roads or railways and tens of thousands of square miles of impenetrable forest. As the terrible great-power game of the 1960s played out in southeast Asia, with Russia, China, the USA and Vietnam all maneuvering for advantage, Sihanouk performed a brilliant balancing act for a while, but fell off the high wire in 1970 when his army staged a coup while he was in Moscow. Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet Prime Minister, broke the news to him as they were driving to the airport for the Prince to catch a plane to Beijing.

With Zhou Enlai’s support, Sihanouk threw in his lot with the Khmer Rouge, thereby adding monarchical and patriotic glamor to Pol Pot’s resistance movement, which was already at war with the coup regime headed by Lon Nol. A united-front party and a government-in-exile were formed, known by their French acronyms as, respectively, FUNK and GRUNC. Full-scale civil war broke out, ending with the Khmer Rouge victory of 1975 and the subsequent four-year reign of horror. Pol Pot’s government was ousted by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979, followed by a ten-year occupation. Popular support for the Khmer Rouge, even as a patriotic resistance movement, rapidly dwindled to nothing. Pol Pot died of natural causes, in the jungle, in April 1998. Cambodia is now a wrecked beggar-nation under the crude and corrupt but non-totalitarian rule of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge foot soldier.

What the reader of a Pol Pot biography mainly wants to know is whether the egregious savagery of Cambodian communism had its origins, or some of them, in the personality of the leader. On Philip Short’s account, the answer seems to be that it did not. Pol was in any case never a supreme leader in the classic totalitarian style. The principle of collective leadership was always maintained. Pol seems not to have possessed the spirit of single-minded ruthlessness towards old comrades that characterized those other despots and left them alone at the summit of power. With the exception of the unfortunate So Phim, nobody at the highest levels of the party was purged.

The overriding impression Philip Short gives of Pol, his comrades, and his government, is in fact one of slovenly incompetence. This was the case even under the apparent rigidities of the 1975-79 period of total power. The Vietnamese invasion, for example, could have been avoided by some adroit diplomacy. The well-documented horrors of the forced evacuations, the interrogations, the massacres, were all counter-productive, even by the Khmer Rouge’s own bleak standards. This was amateur totalitarianism.

C-SPAN2′s Book Tv covered the book when it came out years ago:

In the early 1970s, New York City police officers shot more than 300 people a year

June 11th, 2020

Chicago Sun-Times reports that 18 people were killed Sunday, May 31, making it the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab:

From 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, through 11 p.m. Sunday, May 31, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a city with an international reputation for crime — where 900 murders per year were common in the early 1990s — it was the most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history, stretching police resources that were already thin because of protests and looting.

“We’ve never seen anything like it, at all,” said Max Kapustin, the senior research director at the crime lab. “ … I don’t even know how to put it into context. It’s beyond anything that we’ve ever seen before.”

The next highest murder total for a single day was on Aug. 4, 1991, when 13 people were killed in Chicago, according to the crime lab.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime crusader against gun violence who leads St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, said it was “open season” last weekend in his neighborhood and others on the South and West sides.

“On Saturday and particularly Sunday, I heard people saying all over, ‘Hey, there’s no police anywhere, police ain’t doing nothing,’” Pfleger said.

“I sat and watched a store looted for over an hour,” he added. “No police came. I got in my car and drove around to some other places getting looted [and] didn’t see police anywhere.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on May 31 alone, Chicago’s 911 emergency center received 65,000 calls for all types of service — 50,000 more than on a usual day.

Jason L. Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal, notes that the media likes to break down cops’ behavior by race, but doesn’t do the same for civilian crime:

None of these deaths or shootings involved police, so there will be no massive protests over them, no tearful commentary on cable news and social media, no white politicians wrapped in Kente cloth taking a knee for photographers.

Sadly, the only thing remarkable about the episode is that it occurred in the middle of a national discussion about policing. The political left, with a great deal of assistance from the mainstream media, has convinced many Americans that George Floyd’s death in police custody is an everyday occurrence for black people in this country, and that racism permeates law enforcement. The reality is that the carnage we witness in Chicago is what’s typical, law enforcement has next to nothing to do with black homicides, and the number of interactions between police and low-income blacks is driven by crime rates, not bias. According to the Sun-Times, there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.

So long as blacks are committing more than half of all murders and robberies while making up only 13% of the population, and so long as almost all of their victims are their neighbors, these communities will draw the lion’s share of police attention. Defunding the police, or making it easier to prosecute officers, will only result in more lives lost in those neighborhoods that most need protecting.

[...]

In the early 1970s, New York City police officers shot more than 300 people a year. By 2019 that number had fallen to 34.

[...]

A recent New York Times report, for example, tells us that the racial makeup of Minneapolis is 20% black and 60% white, and that police there “used force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.” Left out of the story are the rates at which blacks and whites in Minneapolis commit crime in general and violent crime in particular.