This proposed nuke would've destroyed a continent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.


The story of the unnamed weapon centers around one man. Edward Teller was born in Hungary and was one of the European-Jewish physicists who escaped to the U.S. as Nazi Germany began its rise. He was one of the authors of the letter signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that spurred America’s nuclear program in World War II.

But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.

While Teller’s first proposal for the super bomb would later be proven impossible, a 1951 design he created with Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam was the basis of thermonuclear weapons. The Teller-Ulam design was first detonated at Enewetak Atoll in 1952, creating a 10.4-megaton blast that dug out a 6,240-foot-wide crater at the test site. Some of the military men at the test responded with dread, certain that such a weapon could never be used.

Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The Castle Bravo test was the largest nuclear blast ever created by the U.S.

(U.S. Federal Government)

He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. CASTLE Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.

But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.

And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.

So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.

That would be a 10-gigaton blast. Alex Wellerstein, the nuclear history professor behind the NUKEMAP application, calculated that kind of destruction.

A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.

But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The NUKEMAP application shows the damage from a 100-megaton blast on Moscow. The orange and yellow ovals going northeast are the fallout from the blast. While this may look safe for America, Teller’s proposed design would’ve been 100 times larger.

(NUKEMAP screenshot. Application by Alex Wellerstein)

When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.

The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.

After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?

(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways being promoted makes skating duty easier

Being promoted comes with a lot of responsibilities. Having power over those below you, vested in you by your rank, is one of those challenges that never seems to get easier, even with time.

That being said, being picked up for promotion can also elevate you into an entirely new level of slacking off — if that’s your thing. Of course, skipping out on everything makes you a sh*tbag leader who will be the subject of much behind-the-back trash talking. That being said, there are ways of doing the things expected of a leader while deflecting the burden of minor inconveniences.

These are guidelines born from observations, but, as always, know you can only get away with that your rank can afford.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“Don’t worry, Private Snuffy. We’ll get you back up there… in a bit…”

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Hannah Tarkelly)

You’re not slowing down, you’re “motivating the slow runners”

It happens every time during a higher-echelon run. Private Snuffy got too drunk the night before and, despite many warnings, cannot keep up with the mindbogglingly fast pace that the commander set. Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of everyone, you, as a leader, can slow down a bit to go “motivate” Private Snuffy in the back. Let’s not mention that running a bit at their pace is helping you catch your breathe.

The same could also be said for calling cadence. Think about it. After everyone turns on auto-pilot to run, they’ll fall in sync with the cadence. If you decide to take initiative and call a few cadences yourself, you can slow down your voice and everyone will instinctively slow down with you.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“It’s been a long day, let’s grab a bite to eat. My treat.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

You’re not swinging by the PX for snacks, you’re “escorting the new guy around the installation”

First impressions mean a lot. The very first kindness shown to someone will forever leave them with a positive impression of you. NCOs are often the first ones tasked with sponsoring the new person added to the unit. You’ll have to show them around, take them where they need to go, and, basically, work at their pace for a while.

You can also show them the cozier spots that they’d find eventually, like the food court at the PX or where the cheapest place to get liquor around post is — because that’s just how helpful you are.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“You don’t have your MOPP boots, Private Snuffy? You get a pass this time.”

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Liane Hatch)

You’re not skipping out on having your own stuff checked, you’re “busy checking others”

Not everyone is perfect at all times. Take packing list inspections, for instance. You know that those MOPP boots are bullsh*t and you probably won’t even bother taking them out of the plastic bag, but the first sergeant put them on there anyways.

Instead of having your ass chewed out for not following the packing list to the letter, you can instead not mention your own list and assist with helping the other NCOs square away the Joes.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“Oh? This will take how long? That’s not a problem.”

(U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

You’re not missing formation, you’re “handling business”

Ever see a Chief Warrant Officer 5 make it to a standard weekend safety brief? Even if you’re certain that they’ve got to be on the roster, you’ll never see them. That’s because they’re busy… Or so we’re told.

You could instead give a heads up to one of your peers that you won’t be making it to the BS formation beforehand by convincing them that you’re going to be “super busy” at battalion. Battalion S-1 shops are notoriously packed, so no one will bat an eye if you “just happen” to make it in time for the 100% accountability formation.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“Yep. That’s a thing. Check.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt Col Max Despain)

You’re not avoiding working parties, you’re “supervising”

Even subordinates will catch on if you pull this one off lazily. Everyone is trying to lift the heavy junk out of the connex and, if you’re sitting there with your thumb up your ass, expect to get called out for your laziness if, when questioned, you simply say, “I’m making sure you’re doing the work.”

Instead, employ the oldest trick in the book and the greatest open secret in the military: Hold a clipboard and check things off. Occasionally, help lift the heavy stuff and earn a bit of admiration. It’ll look like you’re going out of your way to help. In actuality, you’re just skipping the majority of the manual labor.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“It’s good to be the king commander.”

(Department of Defense photo by Chuck Cannon)

You’re not just missing an entire day, you’re doing “Commander business” 

No names, obviously, but once I saw a Lt. Colonel walk out of his office with a set of golf clubs. The staff duty NCO jokingly said, “busy day, sir?” The Lt. Colonel replied with, “ehh, the brigade commander wanted to see us. I don’t even know how to use these damn things” and proceeded to go play golf for the day. At face value, the full-bird colonel just went out for a day of golfing with his battalion commanders and no one dared to say anything about it.

Once you’re at a certain rank, the whole “check down, not up” policy will protect your ass — even as you blatantly just take a day off.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army accidentally drops humvee 1 minute short of drop zone

Army testers accidentally dropped a Humvee from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft Oct. 24, 2018, about a mile short of the intended drop zone on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Airborne and Special operations Test Directorate was testing a new heavy-drop platform loaded with a Humvee, base spokesman Tom McCollum told Military.com.

“They were going in for a time-on-target on Sicily Drop Zone at 1 p.m.,” McCollum said. “Everything was going well; they were at the one-minute mark to the drop zone.


“We don’t know what happened, but the platform went out early and landed in a rural area. There was no one hurt. No private property was damaged.”

The incident, which is under investigation, follows a similar airborne mishap that occurred in April 2016 when three separate Humvees came loose from their heavy-drop platforms and crashed onto a designated drop zone in Germany.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The Texas Air National Guard 136th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules aircraft completes a heavy cargo airdrop with a Humvee.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Julie Briden-Garcia)

For his role in the incident, Sgt. John Skipper was found guilty of three counts of destroying military property and one of lying during the investigation, according to Army Times.

A court-martial panel sentenced Skipper to be demoted to the rank of private and to receive a Bad Conduct Discharge.

In today’s accident, the C-17 was flying at 1,500 feet during the heavy-drop test, McCollum said.

“Basically what takes place is a heavy drop pallet is inside the aircraft and by this time the doors have already been opened,” he said, explaining that a pilot parachute pulls the platform out of the aircraft and three heavy-drop parachutes then open. “Everything worked as it was supposed to, except it went out early.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A total US withdraw of troops from South Korea is ‘on the table’

U.S. troop withdrawal could be up for negotiation if North Korea and South Korea can solidify a lasting peace deal, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 27, 2018.

Mattis was cautious in his response to a question on the potential for withdrawals following the historic meeting on April 27, 2018, of the leaders of North and South Korea.


“That’s part of the issues that we’ll be discussing in negotiations with our allies first, and of course with North Korea,” he said.

He made no predictions on the status of the 28,000 U.S. troops now stationed in South Korea.

“I think for right now we just have to go along with the process, have the negotiations and not try to make pre-conditions or presumptions about how it’s going to go,” he said.

“The diplomats are going to have to go to work now,” Mattis said at the Pentagon after an honor cordon for visiting Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

The prospect that a U.S. Secretary of Defense would have entertained even the vaguest thought of troop withdrawal from the peninsula would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s attempted transformation from dictator and nuclear bully to potential peace partner has altered the diplomatic and military equation.

“We will build, through confidence building measures, a degree of trust to go forward. So we’ll see how things go,” Mattis said. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I can tell you we are optimistic right now that there’s opportunity here that we have never enjoyed since 1950,” when the Korean War started.

Late April 2018, the U.S. held a drill for the evacuation of civilian personnel from South Korea in the event of war. On April 27, 2018, a smiling Kim stepped across a line in the Demilitarized Zone and was greeted by a beaming South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un andu00a0South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

They shook hands, took a walk together, planted a tree together and later signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula.”

The declaration held out the possibility for the denuclearization of the peninsula and a formal end to the Korean War, which concluded with an armistice in 1953.

The Kim-Moon meeting also set the stage for a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump at the end of May or early June 2018. A site for the talks has yet to be determined.

“We seek a future of peace, prosperity, and harmony for the whole Korean Peninsula unlocking, not only a brighter future for the people of Korea, but for the people of the world,” Trump said at the White House. “However, in pursuit of that goal, we will not repeat the mistake of past administrations. Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Getting accepted into a military academy as a military kid

Dignity, Loyalty, Disciple, Integrity, and Perseverance.


These are just a few of the values that are placed upon the hillside of Trophy Point, at the United States Military Academy. Seen engraved in the history going back to 1845 at the United States Naval Academy and memorialized in granite at the United States Air Force Academy. Internalized forever in the minds of all of the cadets that walk the long line set before them across the country at each one of these distinguished military academies!

These values bring to light the type of person each cadet strives to be as they embark on the journey that has been walked time and time again by some of the most prestigious members in American History.

As a military child, you are often thought to have these same values instilled in you from the time you are able to talk. You already have a great understanding of sacrifice and resilience by the time you are a teenager. Seeing your parents hold themselves at a particular military standard gives you a glimpse of the person you could very well become. Growing up in this lifestyle could be extremely beneficial in setting you up for success in your journey to gaining an appointment at a military academy.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

upload.wikimedia.org

Each of the academies has the same basic requirements.

You must be a United States Citizen at least 17 years of age, but no older than 23 on July 1st of entry. You cannot be married nor pregnant and all around you must be of Good Moral Character.

But this is just the beginning of what can seem like an endless checklist to prove that you could be one of the few who receive an appointment to attend. All of these schools listed as well as a few other academies have several steps that must be taken in order to apply.

Filling out an application page is just the beginning.

You will need everything from a physical fitness assessment, and medical exam, to a written nomination from your Congressional Representative or Senator. The best way to make sure you are navigating the entire process correctly is to reach out to the Academy Admission Representative for that particular school of choice. This staff member will have a wealth of valuable information for you in completing the process. Not only are there summer programs that are offered at these academies, you can also schedule a visit during the academic year to help you determine if this is the right path for you.

As we all know the college path is something thought about early on in our childhood education. The good thing is that it is never too early to start working on your application.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Gaining knowledge and leadership through joining the scouts, or a sports team, will only show the dedication and discipline you have had through your youth. Volunteering with a nonprofit and making sure you have a strong GPA will only help you as you navigate your way through your future.

There are so many different ways your military child can set themselves up for success now and it is beneficial to them in their future choice of attending a Military Academy.

For more detailed information on the Military Academy’s mentioned above check out the admission tabs below.

https://www.westpoint.edu/admissions

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What the Marines overcame to win during Desert Storm

The ground war of Desert Storm lasted all of 100 hours. After giving Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army the Noah’s Ark treatment and raining death on them for 40 days and 40 nights, the Army and Marines very swiftly moved in and expelled the entire army all the way out of Kuwait and deep into their own territory.

But it wasn’t all Iraqi troops surrendering to helicopters en masse.


On Feb. 22, 1991, the First Marine Division already had 3,000 Marines and Corpsmen 12 miles inside of Kuwait. The grunts were on foot, carrying heavy packs along with their weapons for all of those 12 miles since the wee hours of the morning. They crossed a minefield and evaded Iraqi armor to do it, and they had already stormed Iraqi positions and taken prisoners. That’s when the Marines were informed that President Bush called a halt to the invasion to give Saddam time to leave Kuwait on his own.

Up until this point, some of the 92,000 Marines in the area of responsibility had already seen action, defending Saudi Arabia from Iraqi border attacks, Iraqi artillery attacks, and even an Iraqi amphibious assault on the Saudi city of Khafji. In each of these encounters, Marines were left unimpressed with the performance of the Iraqis on the battlefield, so they changed their tactics to make the best use of their speed and armor while making up for their lack of supplies – but the new plan required new logistical plans in the middle of the Saudi desert, which Navy Seabees accomplished in a hurry. The stage was set.

By the 20th of February, the First Marine Division was staged along the minefields that protected the Kuwaiti border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Marine engineers discovered a path through the mines by watching Iraqi defectors walk through the minefield. The Marines simply mimicked that path and within hours were miles inside Kuwait. The Marines, some carrying up to 100 pounds, walked for 30 miles and then crawled through a minefield. In chemical warfare gear.

Marines along the line began to break through the minefields so their heavy armor could roll through. At least three separate locations drove two lines through the mines under enemy fire. They did the same thing through an inner minefield. Once the Marines were through, they carried on to where the enemy was and began taking out the entrenched defenders immediately. Resistance was uncoordinated and incomplete. The First and Second Divisions invading Kuwait might have met more resistance, but Marines were landing all over the area.

Meanwhile, a Marine landing of reserve troops was going down in Saudi Arabia. For days before landing, these amphibious Marines had conducted training exercises throughout the Persian Gulf, making the Iraqis believe a large amphibious invasion of Kuwait was coming. Instead of that, the Americans moved that Marine force back to Saudi Arabia and replaced its force. That force held up 10 Iraqi divisions and 80,000 Iraqi troops who were just waiting to pounce on the invading Americans. All the while, their cities in Western Kuwait would fall.

Marine artillery was at work as well, destroying 9 APCs, along with some 34 tanks. By the time President Bush declared a cease-fire, Marines had defeated 11 Iraqi divisions, destroyed 1,600 tanks and armored vehicles, and taken 22,000 prisoners.

Shortly after the Marine advance, everything was over. Kuwait was liberated, and Iraqis were back in Iraq.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Historic hikes: 4 must-visit trails for history buffs

Almost any hiking area has some sort of history tied to it, but sometimes a historical connection makes a hike even more special. When we walk over old trails, we see what others saw and get a sense for their universe.

History is never far from the surface of our world, and as much as I love a good historical text, hiking in a historic area is a more personal encounter. Here are four historic hikes for nerds who love to be outdoors.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Las Medulas ancient Roman mines, UNESCO, Leon, Spain.

(Adobe Stock photo/Coffee or Die)

1. El Camino de Santiago, Spain

For over 1,000 years, pilgrims have travelled to Santiago along El Camino, or The Way of Saint James. The route reached its greatest popularity in the high Middle Ages, between about 1000 and 1300, and only came back into heavy use in recent decades.

Along the way, pilgrims and secular travelers experience medieval architecture combined with stunning vistas of the countryside of northern Iberia. Unlike most modern trails, however, El Camino has nearly infinite variations, though the classic route to Santiago runs from the French border near Roncevaux, site of the mythical battle in “The Song of Roland.”

A hiker can walk The Way of Saint James alone or with others, though trail camaraderie typically makes the experience more enjoyable. Whether or not you hike with others, El Camino takes you through a region of tremendous history. Churches, little towns, and even the roads have long stories here.

Stunning Stone Monuments of Petra | National Geographic

www.youtube.com

2. Petra, Jordan

For thousands of years, people have lived in the Jordanian desert near Petra. Whether you choose to explore the ancient Nabatean Treasury building featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or a lesser-known area like the Byzantine Church, Petra will not disappoint.

History is rarely linear, and Petra makes this point eminently clear. Layers upon layers of history converge in a single place. The Nabateans, a mysterious pre-Roman people, first built tremendous structures into the sandstone. Then the Romans came, and the site expanded further. The Romans evolved into the Byzantines, then the Islamic world absorbed the area.

With each iteration, another layer of history and architecture was added, only increasing the grandeur of Petra. You can hike in areas with seemingly incongruous Greco-Roman influence, only to remember later how vast those empires were.

The Byzantine monastery is another piece of history left behind in rural Jordan. The Byzantines actually made this building from recycled remnants of older structures. Much of the area still remains buried under time and sand.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Handrian’s Wall west of Caw Gap.

(Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License)

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England

One of Britain’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hadrian’s Wall has stood for nearly 2,000 years, a stone line across the north of England. Built on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as part of his effort to shore up a deteriorating military situation, his wall was meant to deal with Pictish threats to the north of the Roman province of Britannia.

The wall failed, of course, as the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons that finally invaded and conquered Roman Britain had ships.

A modern hiker can walk the 73 miles of wall in just over a week, and the walk itself is fairly easy. The terrain of Northumbria is mostly gentle, rolling hills and farmland.

Best part of this historic hike? You get to sleep in a bed each night if you’d like to.

#FindYourPark Along the Lewis and Clark Trail – The Hunt

www.youtube.com

4. Lewis and Clark Trail, Montana

Between 1803 and 1806, the Corps of Discovery paddled, walked, and rode across North America, led by captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Though the Lewis and Clark Trail stretches over most of our country, the most spectacular part is in Montana, where the captains and their group experienced the most difficulty.

Today, a hiker can paddle the Missouri River or trek over the daunting Lolo Pass. Cross the Continental Divide near Salmon, Idaho, where Lewis became the first member of the expedition to see west of the Divide. You can even horseback ride over the Bitterroot Mountains, as the Corps did after purchasing Shoshone horses in 1804.

The grandeur of the American Rockies is on full display in Montana, and every bit is worthwhile. Stephen Ambrose’s well-researched and -written book “Undaunted Courage” offers a beautiful portrait of the expedition from the perspective of Lewis himself, who kept a detailed journal.

Despite two centuries of industrialism and destruction, the Northern Rockies remain much as Lewis saw them, albeit with less snow and smaller glaciers.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Berlin Wall

This week in history, East German soldiers closed the borders between East and West Berlin. What started as a makeshift wall in 1961, pieced together with barbed wire, soldiers and tanks, eventually morphed into a 15-foot high symbol of division that blotted the landscape. However, the citizens of Berlin proved time and again where there’s a will, there’s a way. In its 28-year history, over 5,000 people risked life and limb to successfully across the border. For today’s history lesson, let’s take a look at a few more things you probably didn’t know about the Berlin Wall.


The wall was built to keep people in 

At the height of the Cold War, Germany was politically divided. East Germany represented life under Communism, and West Germany held the promise of democracy. Consequently, between 1949 and 1961, over 2 million East Germans fled from East to West.

By August 1961, it is estimated that East Germany was losing approximately 2,000 of its citizens every day. Many of whom were skilled laborers in professionals, and their exodus was wreaking havoc on East Germany’s economy. To stop the bleeding, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev advised East Germany to cut off access between the two sides. So, on August 13, 1961, East Germany closed the border between East and West Berlin.

The streets were torn up to build the wall

Initially, a hasty perimeter was set up, and the wall in the city center was made of men and armored vehicles. On the morning of August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) soldiers laid down barbed wire and ripped up the street known as Friedrich-Ebert Strasse, to build a makeshift wall. More armed guards kept watch, ready to shoot anyone who tried to cross as the wall was erected.

Over time the Berlin wall was shored up, reaching up to 15 feet high in some spots, and barbed wire and pipes perched atop the wall made climbing over impossible.

Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous checkpoint, but do you know why?

Along the Berlin Wall, there were a few checkpoints where those with the proper documentation were able to cross between sides. Among them was Checkpoint Friedrichstrasse — more commonly known as Checkpoint Charlie. The U.S. Army maintained Checkpoint Charlie, and it was the only checkpoint where foreigners and allied forces were allowed to cross into East Germany.

Checkpoint Charlie also gained notoriety because it was the preferred crossing for prisoner swaps. The most notable prisoner swap occurred in 1962, on Glienicke Bridge, which stood only a short distance from Checkpoint Charlie. During this exchange American U-2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers was traded for Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy convicted of espionage.

Checkpoint Charlie has often been depicted in film and books as well, perhaps most notably in the James Bond classic Octopussy and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré.

You can own a piece of the wall

On November 9, 1989, East Germany announced relaxed travel restrictions to West Germany, and thousands gathered to demand passage. As East German guards opened the borders, the demonstrations reached a fever pitch. Berliners climbed the wall, defaced it with graffiti, and began chipping away at it, some keeping fragments as souvenirs. While East German guards began dismantling the wall on August 10, 1989, Germany was not officially united until 1990.

Today pieces of the Berlin Wall are available for sale on eBay. You can own a piece of history for .99 plus shipping and handling.

More than 100 people died trying to cross the wall

According to the Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam and the Berlin Wall Foundation, more than 140 people were killed or died at the wall between 1961 – 1989. While many were shot by armed guards, many more perished in an assortment of suicides after failed attempts, freak accidents, and drownings. Perhaps the most bizarre death was the last one to be recorded on August 3, 1989, when Winfried Freudenberg died in a failed attempt to cross the border in a hot air balloon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why nuclear explosions are often shaped like mushrooms

Susan K. asks: Why do nuclear bombs make mushroom clouds?

This phenomenon all comes down to a little something called the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, and by extension, convection. I’ll begin with the somewhat longer, but less geeky explanation before descending once again into extreme nerdery.

It all starts with an explosion that creates a Pyrocumulus Cloud. This ball of burning hot gases is accelerated outwardly in all directions. Since the burning ball of accelerated gases is hotter, and therefore less dense, than the surrounding air, it will begin to rise — in the case of nuclear explosions, extremely rapidly. This ultimately forms the mushroom cap.


As the ball rises, it will leave behind air that is heated, creating a chimney-like effect that draws in any smoke and gases on the outer edge of the chimney — convection in action! Visually, this forms the stipe (stalk) of the mushroom.

The perception that the mushroom cap is curling down and around the stipe is primarily a result of the differences in temperature at the center of the cap and its outside. The center is hotter and therefore will rise faster, leaving the slower outer edges to be caught up in the stipe convection’s awesome attributes.

Once that cloud reaches a certain point in our atmosphere, where the density of the gas cloud is the same as the density of the surrounding air, it will spread out, creating a nice cap.

This brings me to the shorter, yet more geeky answer.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The mushroom cloud from the 15-megaton Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test, showing multiple condensation rings, March 1, 1954.

This entire process is something that describes the Rayleigh-Taylor instability. This instability is well known in physics and, in general, describes the merging between two different substances (mainly liquids and gases) that have different densities and are subjected to acceleration. In the case of an atomic bomb, the acceleration, and the hotter gases creating the differing densities of material, are caused by the explosion.

From this, you might have guessed you don’t necessarily need an atomic bomb to create a mushroom cloud. All you need is enough energy delivered rapidly (in this case an explosion) that creates a pocket of differing densities of material (in this case, heated gases).

There are numerous other examples in our world that create, and are described by, the same phenomenon that gives us this formation. For instance, the magnetic fields of planets, the jet-stream of winds that help control our planet’s climate, the sound of snapping shrimp, even our understanding of certain different forms of fusion can all be attributed to Rayleigh-Taylor instability.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The mushroom cloud from the 6.9-megaton Castle Union hydrogen bomb test, showing multiple condensation rings.

Now, you might have also noticed that nuclear explosions, besides producing this frightening fungal formation, also sometimes result in a cloud ring around the mushroom cap. What’s going on here is that a low pressure area is created via the negative phase of the shockwave (the phase that follows the wave of compressed gases at the leading part of the shock wave). This results in a drop in temperature, which along with the low pressure can potentially lower the dew point sufficiently for a temporary cloud to form. This cloud halo around the explosion is known as a “Wilson Cloud”, named after Scottish physicist Charles Wilson who invented the Wilson Cloud Chamber where similar sorts of things can be observed.

Bonus Fact:

  • What has been commonly referred to as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability was first brought to light by Lord Rayleigh in 1880. He was attempting to describe the motion of liquids when one of higher specific gravity was supported by one that was lighter. Specifically, trying to better understand how cirrus clouds were formed. In 1950, Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor discovered that Rayleigh’s “interfacial instability” occurs for other differing substance accelerations as well. The phenomenon, and all the equations that describe it, became known as Rayleigh-Taylors.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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This Marine single-handedly cleared a rooftop in Fallujah

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.


Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

You can read the full account of what Adlesperger did that day here.

 

MIGHTY FIT

10 things that every soldier can do… can you?

One of the first steps to joining the military is completing a series of physical fitness tests. The bar is set high to keep members of the armed forces from getting injured in the line of duty. It’s dangerous out in the field, and it’s a lot more dangerous if you’re too slow and weak to keep up!


While we civilians probably won’t need to literally run for our lives, meeting military fitness standards are a great way to stay in shape, protect ourselves from injury, and stave off preventable conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Are you tough enough to join the army? The standards are changing in 2020, but if you can handle all of the exercises below, you just might make it.
This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

A two-mile run…or three

To make it in the army, soldiers have to be able to run pretty fast. For men between ages 22 and 26, you have to complete a 2 mile run in under 16 minutes 36 seconds, or 19:36 for women.

For Marines, make that two-mile run a three-mile run. If you’re between 21 and 25, you have to do it in less than 27:40 for a man, or 30:50 for a woman. Want a perfect score? Cut that to a mere 18 minutes for men, and 21 minutes for women. That’s the equivalent of three, back-to-back six-minute miles for guys, and three seven-minute miles for women. Phew! I’m sweating already.

A ton of crunches

To be in any branch of the military, a strong core is a must. To join the Marines, if you’re between ages 21-25, the minimum standard is 70 for men and 55 for women.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Pushups

Time to work on those shoulders and pecs. To be a Marine, men between 21 and 25 have to be able to whip out at least 40 pushups, or 18 for women in the same age group. Soon, you’ll have to be able to handle hand-raised pushups, where your hands come off the ground after each repetition. 10 of those puppies will be the bare minimum to pass!

Pull-ups

Women don’t typically love to work out their upper body, but to get army strong, neglecting your lats, delts, and biceps isn’t an option. If you’re a woman between 26 and 30, doing 4 pull-ups is the bare minimum- only one less than the standard for men!

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Swims

If you prefer swimming laps to running miles, the Navy might be a better fit for you. To join the Navy, you swap a 1.5-mile run with a 500 yd swim. For a visual, that’s over four football fields of water to cover.

Deadlifts

The deadlift is a whole-body strength exercise in which you lift a weighted barbell off the ground to a standing position, then lower it back to the floor. Soldiers can lift at least 140 lbs…and up to 340! Did we mention you have to be able to do it three times in a row?

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Standing power throws

Grab a 10 lb medicine ball, squat, and then throw it behind you, up and over your head. (Check to make sure nobody’s behind you first!) How far did it go? If you made it at least 4.5 yards after three tries, you might be tough enough to be a soldier.

A 250-meter pprint, drag, and carry

If you want to be able to heroically drag your loved ones from a burning building, this is the exercise to work on. A five-in-one test, you have to complete a 50-meter sprint, a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled, a 50-meter lateral movement test, a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells, and a final 50-meter sprint- in under three minutes!

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Leg tucks

Another full-body move, this one will test your strength from head to toe. Beginning with an alternating grip on an overhead bar, hang with straight arms. Then, bring the knees to the elbows while completing a pull-up. It’s crazy hard to do correctly, so only one is required to pass…but 20 reps will get you a perfect score!

Maintain extreme physical and mental endurance

Soldiers can go and keep on going. They can power through the pain, physical exhaustion, and heartbreak of battle. While we’re still against overtraining, don’t be afraid to push yourself within reason. Run a little faster, go a little further, and try things you’re not sure you’re capable of. You might be surprised how tough you really are!

MIGHTY FIT

Meditation is like ‘Bicep Curls’ for your Brain

Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.


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Trying to get enlightened real fast!

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)

This is how your brain works

When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.

When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.

This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.

US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation

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Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.

That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.

Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.

(Photo by Iván Tejero on Unsplash)

What meditation can do in the most extreme cases

Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.

The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.

Meditation Improves Performance at Military University

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What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.

The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.

Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.

(Photo by Amy Velazquez on Unsplash)

How you can implement a practice

Just like in the gym you can’t expect to reap the benefits of meditation after a 10-minute session. How long did it take you to finally bench 225? How are those abs coming?

Shit takes time.

You need to start somewhere though. Here are two methods to go from zero to hero on the brain training front.

Mindfulness Meditation in Military

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Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.

Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
MIGHTY MOVIES

This astronaut says ‘The Right Stuff’ turned his life around

Scott Kelly didn’t always know that he was going to be an astronaut. In fact, he wasn’t even a particularly good student.

“As a student, it’s just really hard, especially at first, when you don’t have the habit-patterns to study and pay attention,” Kelly told Business Insider for the podcast “Success! How I Did It.” “But once I got over that, I was able to go from a kid at 18 years old that was always like a very average, underperforming student and then fast forward almost to the day 18 years later, I flew in space for the first time. It was a pretty remarkable comeback, I think.”


Kelly remained an average student until he went to college, where he stumbled across Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.”

“I read this book, and I could relate to a lot of the characteristics these guys had, with regards to their personalities, their risk-taking, their leadership abilities, ability to work as a team. That made me think,” Kelly said.

“I related to a lot of those characteristics with one exception, and that is I wasn’t a good student, especially in science and math,” he continued. Kelly said he then thought, “Wow, you know, if I could fix just that thing, then I could maybe be like these guys.”

“At the time I was thinking you’ve got to be really smart to be an engineer or scientist. What I realized is really what it takes is just hard work, and it’s not any particular gift you might have.”

He continued: “It was the spark I needed to motivate me to do more with my life than I was currently doing.”

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode below:


“The Right Stuff” inspired Kelly, but it was a phone call from his brother that showed him what hard work really looks like.

According to Kelly, his twin brother Mark, who also became a NASA astronaut, was also a mediocre students — but Mark turned things around in high school, while Scott kept skating by. Mark pinpoints his turnaround to an event Scott doesn’t remember.

“I was this kid that could not pay attention. Was not a good student,” Kelly said. “Always wondering how in the ninth grade my brother went from being like me to getting straight A’s — I never knew how that happened.”

“But apparently, what [Mark] tells me, is that our dad sat us down in like the eighth grade, and said, ‘Hey, guys. You know, you’re not good students, not college material. We’re going to start thinking about a vocational education for you.'” Kelly said. “And my brother thought, ‘Whoa! I want to go to college and do something more.”I, on the other hand, had no recollection whatsoever of this conversation,” Kelly said. “Probably only because there was like a squirrel running outside the window and I was like, ‘Squirrel!’ Otherwise, I probably would have been a straight-A student, too.”

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
Kelly, left, and his identical twin brother and fellow former astronaut Mark.
(Nasa photo)

In his memoir “Endurance,” Kelly wrote that his mind began to wander and he lost focus as a student at the State University of New York Maritime College.

His grades had risen above average and he was studying for his first calculus exam. Having decided to take a break, Kelly planned to attend a big party at Rutgers. When Mark found out about his brother’s attempt to forgo more studying for a party, he scolded Kelly over the phone.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” Kelly remembered Mark telling him. “You’re in school. You need to absolutely ace this exam, and everything else, if you want to get caught up.”

Scott Kelly buckled down, became a NASA astronaut, and has been to space four times.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.