At last, it’s the holidays and whether you’re already exhausted, excited, or both, heaven knows we all need a good laugh. After all, a laugh a day keeps the hectic holiday stress (at least some of it) away; think advent calendar for jokes. Here are the 25 days of holiday memes.
Huh. What could it be?
It’s definitely a dog.
Calm down, Darth.
Some people take their decorations a little too seriously.
Michael emerges from his cave.
Ah, the majestic creature awakens just in time.
It’s not safe out there. There’s merriment afoot.
Baby, it’s Covid outside
Very good reasoning you two; Tis’ the Covid season, as well.
Can I get you anything?
Classic Griswald Hospitality
When your relatives argue on Christmas
Sorry, bro. I didn’t pick ’em.
It’s like coal, but better.
Look at what the dog did!
Wait a sec. We don’t have a dog…
A Very Snoop Dog Christmas
The version your kids haven’t read.
Christmas decorating level: Advanced
Santa would be pleased.
Grinch Parenting 101
Santa? Yes, hi. No need to bring presents this year. I would like some silence instead.
How to establish dominance
You’ll never forget me if you find tiny sparkles all over your house for the next year.
14. Admitting your defeat
That’s enough LEDs and electricity usage to cover half the block.
15. Add a dinosaur
No, no, I didn’t screw up the gingerbread house. The kids needed to learn about paleontology.
16. When one goes out, they all go out
Their commitment is annoying, but on point.
17. One snowflake falls
A timeless Christmas classic.
18. He sees you when you’re sleeping
And by the looks of it, that’s not all he sees.
19. What happened to all the cookies?
Fine, it was him. But can you blame him?
20. Every mom on Christmas morning.
Pretend to be shocked. Moms deserve a win this year.
21. Front of the tree vs. back of the tree
Only the wall is going to see it anyway.
Guilty. Distribute the ornaments *evenly*, or suffer the consequences.
23. Ye Shall Return Home
Ah yes..ye old turn off, wait 30 seconds and turn back on again.
Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.
1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs
Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.
2. Learning that ten minutes early is early
Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.
Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.
3. Civilians have no idea what military time is
Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).
4. Learning the language
Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”
5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street
In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.
6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt
Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.
7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records
You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.
If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.
8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin
Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.
You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.
9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks
Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.
What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.
10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal
Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.
See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.
11. Speaking without acronyms
FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.
If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.
12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing
Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.
13. Pointing instead of knife-handing
Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.
When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.
14. First names
That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.
But we both know you’re not.
15. What to do with all your moto
In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.
As America works quickly to find ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it might not always be easy to know which industries are being affected and in what ways. Restaurants are offering takeout, cable companies are giving rebates on data usage, and the mail… well, the mail is working just like it always has. And for good reason.
Some people have expressed concerns that the coronavirus known as Covid-19 seems to have a fairly long survival window on hard surfaces like kitchen counters, so it seems feasible that one could be exposed to Covid-19 through a letter or package they receive. Others have worried that isolation procedures could disrupt delivery of mail and other shipments. Fortunately, most of these concerns can be readily dismissed.
So, here are some frequently asked questions, along with expert-backed answers.
Q:Is it safe to send and receive mail or packages amid the coronavirus outbreak?
A: Yes, according to the CDC and WHO.
Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already considered our concerns about viral transmission through the mail. They point out that the likelihood that the virus could potentially survive throughout the duration of shipping is so small, there’s really no risk associated with sending or receiving packages.
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC website reads.
The CDC aren’t the only ones saying mail is safe to send and receive. The experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) have echoed the CDC’s sentiments in their own releases.
“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO said.
Q: Are mail rooms shutting down at basic training?
A: No, and if that changes, we’ll let you know right away.
Sandboxx News’ close relationship with Sandboxx Letters gives us a unique insight into how the letters apparatus runs, and just how closely our friends on the Letters side of the business keep in touch with the mail rooms at basic training installations all around the country.
Sandboxx’s operations team have been working double time to keep open lines of communications with mail rooms around the force, making sure they’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue and relaying the updates to Sandboxx’s executive leadership, Customer Happiness team, and us at Sandboxx News.
“Under normal operations we call every mailroom that we ship to across all 5 branches of the military once a month,” explains Bobby Vigil, Sandboxx’s Operations Manager and a Marine Corps infantry veteran. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have been calling mailrooms once a week and will continue doing so, so we can stay on top of any changes made to base operations.”
The mail printing procedure at Sandboxx is also particularly safe for a number of reasons. Most of the Sandboxx staff has switched to working remotely, so the operations crew has limited exposure to others. The process of printing and even stuffing the letters into envelopes is all handled by machines, so there’s very little chance for issues to arise.
Sandboxx Letters works with FedEx for to ensure rapid delivery. You can see what they’re doing to make sure packages get through on their site here.
Q: Will mail be delayed because of the coronavirus?
A: It isn’t now, but we’ll let you know if that changes.
It may be safe to send and receive letters, but many have found themselves wondering if letters will still reach their destination in a normal amount of time amidst all the changes businesses have made to minimize the spread of Covid-19.
At least for now, the answer is that things are progressing more or less as usual. Letters are still being delivered in the usual amount of time through the regular postal service, and most letters sent through Sandboxx will still reach basic training the next day, just like always.
Of course, this is one answer that may change over time. As America continues to manage this outbreak, some services may run into delays. Remember that if delays do come, they’re likely the result of ensuring the safety of the package carriers.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) during a replenishment at sea March 17, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dylan Lavin)
When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.
But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.
I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.
We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.
PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)
Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.
In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.
The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).
Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.
Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.
Joining the Armed Forces is nothing to poke fun at. It’s one of the most honorable undertakings on the planet. That said, we all need to laugh at ourselves now and again. If you’re in the Army, these memes are all too relatable, so what are you waiting for? Come on down and laugh a little! If you’re a Marine, don’t get too cocky. No branch is safe from Internet memes.
They weren’t wrong.
Sometimes you’re the Armed Forces. Other times, you’re just the arm.
2. Oh. So that’s how tanks are made.
They don’t teach you everything in high school bio, kids.
3. Possibly the least peaceful type of angel…
But it’s still very nice. Could someone please tell him the holidays are over, though?
4. Do it once, and you’ll never do it again.
Better yet, kick the habit before you enlist, or your drill sergeant might kick it for you. Technically, it only takes a second to remove your hands from your pockets. In combat, however, every second counts. For that reason, hands in pockets are against regulation. It also ruins the clean lines of the uniform.
5. You can do it, right?
Like, it’s not even that hard.
6. Too much?
Commander: We need to distract the enemy. Private: Hold my beer.
7. Puddle, lake. Same thing.
Forget the map. Someone get him some glasses.
8. Um, excuse me? I think you have a stowaway.
A really, really cute stowaway. On second thought, keep him. Ya know, for backup.
9. Permission granted.
Isn’t he majestic? The Navy needs to step up their game with a Titanic remake.
10. I mean, finals ARE stressful.
Not quite as stressful as, oh, I don’t know, dodging bullets. Stress isn’t really a contest, but if it were, soldiers would win.
11. They skipped a few details.
When you said you wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty, someone must have heard “doody” instead.
12. Someone unlocked a new army prank level.
Here, take these trash bags and collect samples of every vehicle on base. We need to test their carbon monoxide output for maximum efficiency.
13. Whoever told him to trust his intuition, please tell him to stop.
The photographer perfectly captured the moment that Kevin realized he had utterly effed up.
14. Poor Marines…
It’s just not the same, is it?
15. This is the part no one warned you about.
They told you about the most dangerous parts of enlisting, but neglected to mention that duffle bags might be your most stubborn opponent.
16. Not sure what’s happening here, but it looks fun.
What happens when you combine an ice rink, a plastic wagon, and two guys in the army? This, I guess.
17. You mean it? I didn’t realize we were getting so serious.
Might as well propose, honestly.
18. It’s worth checking, at least.
Check again just to make sure. Maybe it changed to 0500 when you weren’t looking.
19. It had to work somewhere.
Ask Grandma if she can mail her couch to the Middle East. Modern problems require modern solutions.
20. Don’t do it.
Be careful. This level of enthusiasm is dangerous.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.
Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.
“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”
“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”
“What freezing cold?”
“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”
“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”
“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”
(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)
There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.
Three of the guys earned the following monikers:
Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!
William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!
Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!
Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:
Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!
When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.
There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.
Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:
Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.
(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)
We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.
To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.
(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)
“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.
The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!
Contrary to popular belief, a decent percentage of the human population has known definitely the Earth was roughly spherical for over two thousand years. Hardly impressive, as noted in our BrainFood Show podcast, bees also use this fact in their own absurdly fascinating navigation and in communicating directions to other bees.
As for humans, we took a little longer to realize this, with Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) generally credited with being the first known person to have suggested a spherical Earth, though the idea didn’t exactly catch on at this point. Aristotle (4th century B.C.) agreed and supported the hypothesis with observations such as that the southern constellations rise higher in the sky when a person travels south. He also noted that during a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow is round. Much more definitively, the 3rd century BC head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, built on their ideas and managed to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy. How? He simply used the knowledge that at noon on the Summer Solstice there was a well in Syene where the sun shown directly down to the bottom, with no shadow. Thus, at noon on Summer Solstice he used a rod to measure the angle of the shadow made in Alexandria and found it to be about 7 degrees or about 1/50th of a circle. With this information, he now just needed to know the exact distance between Syene and Alexandria to get the circumference of the Earth (about 50 times the distance between Syene and Alexandria). He hired a survey crew, known as bematists, to measure the distance, which they found to be about 5,000 stadia. He then concluded the Earth must be about 250,000 stadia around. Depending on which stadion measurement he was using, his figure was either just 1% too small or 16% too large. Many scholars think it likely that he was using the Egyptian stadion (157.5 m), being in Egypt at the time, which would make his estimate roughly 1% too small.
Moving on to the so called Dark Ages in which Christianity supposedly squashed such outlandish ideas as a spherical Earth, the truth is actually the opposite. In Christian medieval Europe, 7th century Catholic monk and scholar Bede produced an influential treatise that included a discussion of the spherical nature of the world. This work, The Reckoning of Time, was copied and distributed to clerics across the Carolingian empire. Later, in the 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy also describes the Earth as a sphere and again nobody seemed to have a problem with this.
Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco.
The Catholics and later other branches of Christianity weren’t the only religious sects that seemed to have its clergy and scholars almost universally think the world was spherical. The Islamic world also concurred. As historian Jeffrey Burton Russell sums up,
With extraordinary few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.
Beyond the academics of the Western world, even the most empty headed sailor knew the Earth was spherical simply by the fact that ships disappear over the horizon with the bottom first and then the mast the last to be sighted. A similar effect is observed when spotting land from a ship. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize the sea’s surface must curve continually.
Despite this, there really still is a tiny percentage of the populace of the developed world who believe the world is flat.
You might at this point be wondering just how many? While internet comment threads make it seem as if the percentage is large, the reality is probably drastically less. (Comment trolls gonna troll.)
As for some numbers, according to a 2018 poll run by the massive market research firm YouGov, the 8,215 responses which were chosen to have a high probability of accurately representing the wider adult populace, showed,
84% of respondents said they have always believed the world is round
5% stated “I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”,
2% stated “I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”
and 2% went with “I have always believed the world is flat”.
The remaining 7% stated “Other/not sure”.
While the good people at YouGov certainly know their stuff with respect to getting accurate data that represents the wider populace, we were curious as to what a larger sample of our own audience would reveal, though with the caveat that a general internet poll can sometimes be notoriously inaccurate. But for the curious and for whatever it’s worth, our poll asking more or less the same questions received over 72,000 votes. What were the results? Approximately
96% of respondents stated they “firmly believe the world is round”,
1% went with “I used to firmly believe the world is round, but now have doubts”
1% voted for “I firmly believe the world is flat”
0% stated “I used to firmly believe the world is flat, but now have doubts”
1% noted “I am not sure what I believe on this issue.”
These numbers seem surprisingly reasonable for an online poll when compared to something a little more rigorously implemented like the YouGov poll. While our numbers skew more towards Round Earthers, this is perhaps to be expected given we know definitively that our audience skews towards being much more educated than the general populace.
And just because we were curious about the many, many online trolls who, as stated, it’s our pet hypothesis are actually making it seem like there are a lot more Flat Earthers than there actually are, we did a follow up poll which got 54,000 votes. For whatever it’s worth, in this one, approximately
9% of respondents stated “I believe the world is round, but sometimes say online it’s flat”
2% stated “I believe the world is flat and advocate this position online”
The remaining 89% stated “Neither applies to me.”
(And, yes, we know those numbers don’t add up to exactly 100% in either case, but YouTube’s polling system rounds to the whole number, so here we are.)
Those numbers out of the way, this finally brings us to who started the relatively modern Flat Earth movement and how on God’s oblate spheroid Earth this movement is actually growing in an era where nearly all human knowledge is almost literally at everyone’s fingertips?
The genesis of the modern Flat Earth Society started in the mid-19th century thanks to one Samuel Rowbotham of London, England. Dropping out of school at the tender age of 9, Rowbotham would eventually become convinced, or at least claimed he was, that not only was the Earth flat, but that everything we see in the heavens is actually only a few thousand miles from the Earth- stars and all. While his ideas were absurd for an incredible number of reasons, even given the technology and scientific knowledge of his era, what Rowbatham had going for him was he was reportedly incredibly quick on his feet in debates and an extremely charismatic speaker, able to twist the words of even the best academics. It didn’t matter if he was actually right or not, only that he was better at convincing laypeople than the academics he regularly debated, or at least good at creating reasonable doubt. As noted by a contemporary article published in the Leeds Times,
One thing he did demonstrate was that scientific dabblers unused to platform advocacy are unable to cope with a man, a charlatan if you will (but clever and thoroughly up in his theory), thoroughly alive to the weakness of his opponents.
Besides making a small fortune public speaking, he also wrote various works including a book aptly titled Earth Not a Globe. Rowbotham ultimately created the Zetetic Society, which, besides advocating for a flat Earth, also advocated that only facts one could prove themselves could be accepted as true. On the side, Rowbotham also began going by “Dr. Samuel Birley” and making money selling people on cure-alls and life extenders of his own invention, among other such activities.
While by the early 20th century the society he started had gradually faded into even more obscurity than it already was at its peak during Rowbotham’s lifetime, all was not lost. The truth cannot be killed so easily! In 1956 when mankind was on the verge of putting a satellite in orbit, Samuel Shenton of Dover, UK, came across the former works of the Universal Zetetic Society, the successor to Rowbotham’s, and was hooked. He then established the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS) which adopted some of the ideas of the Zetetic Society before it, most notably, as you might have guessed from their new name, that the Earth is flat.
A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.
Of course, his timing wasn’t exactly ideal given the launch of Sputnik in 1957 which, beyond being in orbit, put out a signal that anyone with a little know-how could track, very clearly demonstrating the spherical nature of the Earth.
This didn’t phase him in the slightest, however. He simply noted that satellites circled over the disc of the world and that, “Would sailing round the Isle of Wight prove that it were spherical? It is just the same for those satellites.”
When pictures of the Earth were taken from space clearly showing the planet’s spherical nature, the man who strongly advocated trusting what you can see with your own eyes stated, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”
When astronauts came back still believing the Earth wasn’t flat, he went with the catch-all explanation for any conspiracy theory when no other suitable explanation can be thought up- “It’s a deception of the public and it isn’t right.”
Despite the giant, roughly spherical mound of evidence staring the members right in the face, including the variety easily confirmed by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in physics, the society did not die completely, though by 1972 had dropped from a peak of about 3,000 members down to around 100 spanning the globe.
That same year Shenton died and Californian Charles Johnson more or less took over the remnants, creating the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Johnson also advocated that there was a global conspiracy with regards to the very flat Earth, not just today, but spanning millennia. To quote him, this was a conspiracy that “Moses, Columbus, and FDR all fought” against. Beyond that Columbus most definitely thought that the Earth was roughly spherical, simply misjudging its circumference, we’re guessing Moses didn’t have to fight anyone on this one as the Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in the concept of a flat Earth, as did seemingly the Hebrews around the time he supposedly lived.
A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE.
So what exactly do the world’s governments and countless scientists and high school physics students throughout human history have to gain by convincing people the world is spherical instead of flat? Well, Johnson advocated that this is a tool used by scientists to get rid of religion. Of course, as noted, Christian scholars throughout history on the whole advocated for the very spherical Earth and we’re not aware of any major religious denomination the world over today that goes with the flat Earth model, so no apparent conflict… But, hey, we guess Eratosthenes must have really had it in for those Ancient Egyptian and Greek gods…
In any event, despite Johnson’s less than compelling arguments, over time this new society actually gained followers up to a peak of about 3,500 members under his leadership. Disaster struck, however, when a fire at headquarters destroyed some of the records of membership in 1997. Ultimately Johnson himself passed away in 2001 and the society was temporarily just as dead.
All was not lost, however, as there is no medium greater than the Internet at giving humans ability to discover the truth in anything for themselves… if we weren’t all so lazy and our monkey brains not so chock full of cognitive biases.
And so it was that in 2004, one Daniel Shenton created a discussion forum home for the mostly dead Flat Earth Society and by 2009 a new wiki website was created in its place, with the society slowly growing from there to apparently around 500 members to date. There are also many Flat Earth pages and channels on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sometimes exceeding 100K members or subscribers of a given page, channel, or profile, for whatever that’s worth.
In the latest incarnation of the society, as with their forebears, the modern group strongly advocates for only accepting that which you can see with your own eyes and prove with your own efforts. As they note on their website,
The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
As for the model of the Earth they go with, while there is some dissension among the ranks over exact details, the current belief advocated by the Flat Earth Society is that the the Earth is disc shaped. The North Pole lies at the center of this disc and there is an ice wall surrounding the outer most parts of the Earth that keeps the oceans contained. This wall is nearly impossible to reach owing to the fact that NASA is closely guarding it, ensuring no one ever gets close enough to see it for themselves. NASA also is extremely active in generating satellite photos of the Earth and generating other data all meant to keep people believing in a spherical Earth. Seemingly the Google Earth team must be in on it too, clearly abandoning the company’s long held unofficial mantra of “Don’t be evil.”
As evidence of this conspiracy and how far reaching it is, they also point out on their website that the United Nations emblem strongly resembles the Flat Earth Society’s view of what the Earth actually looks like.
(We guess clearly showing the logo design team, led by industrial designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, in 1945, didn’t get the memo that the true shape of the Earth was supposed to be a secret. You had one job Lundquist!!!
To be fair, however, when his team designed it, it was originally just supposed to be used on the badges at the United Nations Charter signing conference, so only for people who already knew the Earth was flat… Fun fact, Lundquist did, however, make up for the screw up by later designing the classic blue and white Q-tip box.)
In any event, you might at this point be wondering how the Flat Earth Society believes commercial airlines and ships the world over continue to seemingly travel in one direction and manage to circle the globe. Well, this is because these ships and planes are literally circling. They state, “circumnavigation is performed by moving in a great circle around the North Pole.”
As for how the ship and plane captains don’t seem to be aware of this, in modern times it’s because GPS devices and autopilots are designed in software to simply make it seem like the craft is circling a globe and not continually turning slightly. Of course, it’s not clear how they account for people tricking themselves when navigating before or without GPS, which has only been ubiquitous for a couple decades or so.
There’s also the fact that fuel burn on these ships and airplanes are carefully calculated, particularly important for planes where weight and balance is always an essential consideration if one doesn’t want to die a fiery death. Thus, if they were really traveling in the way the Flat Earthers claim, the fuel requirements would be different, sometimes vastly so. (No surprise here that Big Oil must be involved…)
As for, you know, the whole day and night thing, this is explained on their website “The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area and its light acts like a spotlight upon the earth… The apparent effect of the sun rising and setting is…a perspective effect.”
The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station.
How exactly the light from the Sun only works as a spotlight isn’t clear. It’s also not clear how the phases of the Moon and lunar and solar eclipses work given this spotlight model and given they believe the Sun is always above the Earth…
Moving on — as for the many people who claim to be able to see the curvature of the Earth when on high altitude commercial flights, well, the Flat Earth Society, who advocated trusting your own senses over what anyone tells you. tells these people, to quote, “Quite simply you cannot… the windows on commercial aircraft are small and heavily curved. Even if they flew high enough for a person to see curvature, it would still not be visible to passengers.”
As for the issue of someone with even a half way decent telescope being able to see the spherical nature of other planets in the solar system, including them spinning away, the Flat Earth Society claims,
Planets are orbiting astronomical objects. The Earth is not a planet by definition, as it sits at the center of our solar system above which the planets and the Sun revolve. The earths uniqueness, fundamental differences and centrality makes any comparison to other nearby celestial bodies insufficient – Like comparing basketballs to the court on which they bounce.
As for how gravity works in the flat Earth model, it turns out that, “The earth is constantly accelerating up at a rate of 32 feet per second squared (or 9.8 meters per second squared). This constant acceleration causes what you think of as gravity. Imagine sitting in a car that never stops speeding up. You will be forever pushed into your seat. The earth works much the same way. It is constantly accelerating upwards being pushed by a universal accelerator (UA) known as dark energy or aetheric wind.”
You may have spotted a problem with this explanation given the whole issue of eventually exceeding the speed of light. In fact, if constant acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared, it would only take about a year for the Earth to reach the speed of light.
Well, they’ve got you covered, explaining: “Due to special relativity, this is not the case. At this point, many readers will question the validity of any answer which uses advanced, intimidating-sounding physics terms to explain a position. However, it is true. The relevant equation is v/c = tanh (at/c). One will find that in this equation, tanh(at/c) can never exceed or equal 1. This means that velocity can never reach the speed of light, regardless of how long one accelerates for and the rate of the acceleration.”
Anyway, as to what lies below the Earth, this is heavily disputed among Flat Earthers. But it doesn’t really matter as you can’t get there anyway. You see, to quote Flat Earther Robbie Davidson in an interview with Forbes, “We don’t believe anything can fall off the edge, because a big portion of the flat earth community believes that we’re in a dome, like a snow globe. So the sun, moon and stars are all inside. It’s very high but all contained inside. So there’s no way to actually fall off of the earth.”
Given it only takes a modicum of effort to disprove pretty much everything said on their website and prove definitively for one’s self that the Earth is roughly spherical without needing to trust any scientist or government, you might think the Flat Earthers just aren’t trying. Well, you’re kind of right, but there are exceptions! Case in point — limo driver Mike Hughes who managed to raise about ,000 thanks to a Flat Earth fundraiser. Why? To build a rocket to reach the heavens with to once and for all prove the Earth was flat.
Reportedly the final hilariously fitting steam powered rocket and launch platform cost around ,000 and took about ten years to build. With it, Hughes managed to achieve an altitude of almost 1,900 feet, which while kind of impressive for an amateur built home made rocket that could carry a human, was nonetheless not able to achieve his objective of getting him to space.
If only it was possible to build more powerful rockets… Or if there existed a balloon designed to be able to soar into the heavens with some sort of device on board that could capture and store what it sees through an eye like apparatus… Or, stick with us here people, if a human going along for the ride was a requirement to show NASA hadn’t tampered with this futuristic visual capture device, some sort of bird-like machine that could carry humans above 1,900 feet…
All joking and head scratching aside, it’s always important to note that many of the core psychological quirks that see Flat Earthers intractably convinced the Earth is flat in the face of all evidence to the contrary exist in all of us. Monkey brain gonna monkey. We further all have many beliefs we firmly cling to just as tenuously supported by our level of knowledge on a subject, though thankfully for most of us the absurdity isn’t quite so easy to spot, allowing us to safely continue to think of ourselves as superior to mere mortals with alternate ideas…
In the end, we all firmly believe many things that aren’t true at all and no amount of evidence could ever convince any of us to change our minds on some of these things. Food for thought.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.
The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.
What the Piss
This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.
The Snake Pit
Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.
Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.
The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.
Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.
“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.
AF Form 341
Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.
The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank
More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.
Dirtbag Airman (DBA)
The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.
Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.
The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.
A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”
Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.
Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.
Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.
This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read.
The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”
Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.
An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.
FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.
First Shirt or “Shirt”
The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.
Operation Golden Flow
Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.
Why Not Minot?
Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.
Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.
Prop Wash and Flight Line
A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”
The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.
Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.
Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)
Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).
Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.
Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.
Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.
So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.
To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.
Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.
Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.
Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.
“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.
According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”
Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.
“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”
That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.
Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.
“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.
Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
Dr. Heather Shangold.
Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”
Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”
Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The military does a lot of things, from humanitarian aid missions to security operations for the world’s shipping lanes, but without a doubt, the thing the military excels at is war-fighting. Specializing in such a dramatic and chaotic enterprise requires a great deal of preparation, planning, and above all else, communicating.
In fact, communication plays an integral role in just about everything the military does — from fire teams that need to “shoot, move, and communicate” in combat operations to policy level decisions that need to be relayed and enforced across a massive body of service members across dozens of different commands. At the end of the day, the military may use weapons to enforce America’s foreign policy, but it’s the communication from the top down and back again that really makes it happen.
Of course, communicating isn’t always easy — especially over great distances and in hectic environments. That’s why the U.S. military relies on numerous forms of communication systems, teaches common hand gestures in combat training, and instills the use of the phonetic alphabet, sometimes referred to as the “military alphabet” when communicating over radios or telephone lines.
The phonetic alphabet wasn’t originally intended for military use — back when a group of French and English language teachers led by Paul Passy invented it, the point was to have an international system of transcription. It didn’t take long, however, for the military to recognize its value in relaying letters across communication lines that were susceptible to background noise or interference in the signal.
Today, many service members are expected to memorize the phonetic alphabet (often at basic training) and use it commonly when communicating over the radio or telephone. As a result, it’s not all that uncommon to hear veterans continue to use it while talking on the phone — not as a means of holding on to their military pasts, but because the method has proven extremely effective when it comes to relaying the spelling of a name (for instance) over a phone line. While a listener might mistake a “B” for “P,” as an example, it’s pretty tough to mistake “Bravo” for “Papa.”
There have been changes to the phonetic alphabet over the years, bringing us to the most modern iteration in common use today among members of the U.S. military.
The Pentagon’s funding of MIT’s “beerbots” is getting some attention lately. Congress, reasonably, has posed the question of, “Why is the Pentagon researching beer delivery robots, especially while hotels and bars are already deploying robot bartenders?”
Well, the answer is a little more logical than you might think. So, Alexa, crack open a cold one and let’s talk about beerbots.
Waiters that are part of MIT’s “beerbot” program go into an office to work with humans.
First off, we think it’s awesome that Congress accepted the possibility that the military was researching beer-delivery robots in order to distribute cold beers more cheaply (and was seemingly okay with it so long as it wasn’t redundant). That being said, the actual MIT program is focused on figuring out how to get robots to best coordinate their actions in uncertain environments, something that could prove vital for everything from future hospitals to underground fighting.
See, MIT was building a system of cooperative robots, robots which could communicate with each other and share sensor data and other observations to work more efficiently. When they designed a complex, real-world situation to test them in, one obvious angle was to have them serve drinks in an office. And, surprise, the drink that graduates students want is beer.
And so, the “beerbots” were born. There’s a “PR2” robot that picks up drinks and places them in coolers which are carried by the “turtle bots,” and the turtle bots act as waiters. The turtle bots move from room to room, taking orders and either filling the orders or marking that the room has no orders.
And here’s the key part: The robots share their data with each other. The PR2 doesn’t know what orders are placed until the turtles get close, and the turtles rely on each other to map out routes and obstacles and to share drink orders to figure out the most efficient path to fill them.
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, take part in an Army Asymmetric Warfare Group program designed to improve military tactics, techniques, and procedures while fighting underground.
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Sonise Lumbaca)
This is actually a complex logic problem for the bots when they also have to deal with humans moving from room to room and constantly creating and changing obstacles in the office.
And this is basically the starter level for robots that could help humans on battlefields of the future. Take subterranean warfare, an area so important that the U.S. is considering naming it as a new warfighting domain, for example. Robots helping humans underground will be physically limited in how they can communicate with one another as concrete or subterranean rocks block electromagnetic signals and lasers. So, robots will need to aid the humans there by carrying loads or ferrying supplies, and then communicate directly with one another to determine what’s going on in each section of the underground network.
Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, fire during a squad live-fire exercise at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, March 14, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)
Or, take a battle above ground. The Marines think they may be denied conventional radio communications in a war with China or Russia. Any robots helping them will only be able to communicate within a short range or by using lasers. Lasers, obviously, become short range communications when there are a lot of obstructions, like dense foliage or hills, in the way.
So, these robots will also need to complete moment-by-moment tasks while also coordinating their actions whenever they can communicate. All of this requires that the robots keep a constantly updating list of what tasks need completed, what humans haven’t been checked on in a while, and what areas are safe or unsafe for the robots to operate in.
MIT’s PR2 robot loads beers into the cooler of a “turtle” waiter bot as part of a program to improve robots’ ability to coordinate their actions in challenging environments.
Or, as MIT graduate student Ariel Anders said, “These limitations mean that the robots don’t know what the other robots are doing or what the other orders are. It forced us to work on more complex planning algorithms that allow the robots to engage in higher-level reasoning about their location, status, and behavior.”
“These uncertainties were reflected in the team’s delivery task: among other things, the supply robot could serve only one waiter robot at a time, and the robots were unable to communicate with one another unless they were in close proximity. Communication difficulties such as this are a particular risk in disaster-relief or battlefield scenarios.”
So, yeah, at MIT, a beerbot is never just about beer. And the actual tech underlying these social-media-friendly beerbots is actually necessary for the less sexy but more vital missions, like disaster relief. And, potentially, it could even save the lives of troops under fire or wounded service members in the next few years or decades.
Let the military have its beerbots. And, if they sometimes use them for beer instead of medical supplies, well, they would’ve found a way to get drunk anyways.
Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.
For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.
The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.
If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)
The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:
Don’t drive and drive.
Don’t assault your spouse.
Don’t assault your children.
These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.
To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.
As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)
There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.
The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.
In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.
In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.
A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.
(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)
The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?
And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.