In addition to playing a Resistance lieutenant, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd had a special second role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Lourd stepped in to play Princess Leia during the short flashback scene in “Episode IX.”
“Billie was playing her mother,” Industrial Lights & Magic visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Yahoo Entertainment. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”
Here’s a reference of how Leia looks in most of “Return of the Jedi.” The look is reminiscent of how we see her in the new film.
“If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from,” added Tubach. “The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”
The ILM team told Insider that bringing Fisher back was “a gigantic puzzle.” The team utilized previously unused footage from director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” to help bring her to life.
There’s a meme that occasionally makes the rounds on social media that claims you’d have to kill 359 people in order to save up enough human blood to get the iron required to make a longsword. Forging a weapon of war from the blood of your enemies? Sign us up.
But that number seemed a little suspect, so we decided to dig deeper.
It’s true, there is iron in red blood cells — mostly in hemoglobin — but trying to extract that iron from someone’s blood is no simple process. And, with a little math, we’ve determined that if you’re somehow able to get the iron out, the number of people you’d need to drain would be way higher than the meme suggests. Let’s explore this bloody question.
Yes, this scene. Side note: This is why they had Mystique inject iron into the blood of the guard — to keep this scene scientifically accurate.
(20th Century Fox)
First of all, there are roughly 5 million red blood cells in a microliter of blood. Accounting for the tiny fractions of iron in red blood cells and the amount of blood in the body, the amount of iron within an average human body totals 4 grams, enough for about eight paperclips. We’re thinking that whoever invented the meme took this number, did the division, and came to the conclusion that you’d need 359 unfortunate souls to complete the diabolical process. But we’re not finished — not by a long shot.
A single molecule of hemoglobin is comprised of 2952 carbon atoms, 4664 hydrogen atoms, 832 oxygen atoms, 812 nitrogen atoms, eight sulfur atoms, and a whopping four iron atoms. You’d have to strip away the rest of the elements in the molecule to get to said iron. So, now we have to talk extraction — and since you’re probably already thinking of that scene from X2, let’s talk magnets.
The quality of the iron in the blood might be tied to the healthiness of each individual — but we’re just going to assume that’ll average out over the several thousand souls required…
(Photo by Tamahagane Arts)
The iron in the metalloprotein hemoglobin isn’t in a metallic state, which is great for anyone who has ever encountered a magnet. This is why you don’t immediately collapse from a clogged artery when a magnet comes close to your veins. Instead, oxygenated hemoglobin is diamagnetic — meaning it repels magnets — at an extremely low level. The blood that travels between the heart and the lungs is deoxygenated, however, making it paramagnetic, so that’s the first place any chaotic-evil blacksmith should begin.
If you could manage to create a machine to pump and deoxygenate large quantities of blood, like a modified, artificial heart, it would then be prepped for a super-magnet to pull the raw iron out of the blood. Take the blood that’s been pulled out by a super magnet and set it on fire to burn away any remaining oxygen and hydrogen and, voila, you have something to work with — in theory, anyway. Nobody’s tested this, probably because they don’t feel like being labelled a mad scientist.
What you’d be left with is something similar to iron sand. You officially have a workable material for first step in the smelting process. But there’s a huge difference between raw materials and iron that’s able to be forged.
In the real world, for every 1 kg of workable iron ingots created, you end up with an average of 3.181 kg of impurities and slag byproduct — and that’s when working with the highest quality iron sand, stuff from Gampo, South Korea. We’ll give our theoretical blood-iron the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s about the same in terms of quality.
So, you’ll need a total of 4.181 kg of blood-iron sand to get 1 kg of workable iron. Now, let’s get back to the math.
At this point, you’d already be considered a monster, so let’s keep going! To get 25 kg of usable blood-steel for a full suit of armor would require a messy 179,376 blood bags — which, surprisingly, is less than the amount of people killed annually by sugary drinks worldwide.
(Bethesda Game Studios)
An average longsword has a finished weight of around 1.5 kg — but typical generates an additional 0.75 kg of waste. That means we’ll need 2.25 kg of workable iron to make the sword. 2,250 grams of workable iron, factoring for the ratio of impurities, means we’ll need 9,407.25 grams of raw material — of blood-iron sand — to start. At 4 grams per person, you’d need at least 2,352 completely drained donors to make a iron longsword out of blood.
But if you’re going that far, why stop at iron? Why not work it into steel, which makes objectively better weapons?
Continuing folding and forging, removing the impurities, and adding carbon (which, presumably, could be found in the garbage shoot after all the work you’ve done so far) can harden that bad boy into something more durable. Granted, you’d need more blood-iron sand at a magnitude of 1 kg of blood-steel ingots to 27.7 kg of waste. That puts you at 64,749.9 grams of blood-iron sand, or a genocidal 16,188 doomed souls to create a single steel blade.
To put that in perspective, you’re looking at killing roughly half as many people as the bubonic plague did in 1625 London.
The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.
1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”
It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.
Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.
For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.
2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”
Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.
Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.
“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”
The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.
3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”
The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.
While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.
The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.
4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”
Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.
Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.
5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”
Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.
The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.
The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.
The next James Bond movie and Daniel Craig’s last in the role looks like it’s easily going to the best of his movies as 007. And based on the second trailer for No Time To Die, it’s possible this could be the best Bond movie ever. The second trailer for No Time To Die finds Bond teaming-up with a new “double-0” agent, and seemingly allying himself with an old baddie. Most of all though, this looks exactly the kind of escapist action we want from James Bond right now, complete with a jolt or the franchise: moving beyond being just about James.
Following the events of Spectre (2015), this movie seems to be about James Bond coming out of retirement after having lived happily and quietly with Madeline Swan (Léa Seydoux) for a little while. And as we know in the previous trailer (released much earlier in 2020), Swan will have some kind of secret past that puts her at odds with Bond. Is she a secret spy? Someone being controlled by another baddie, like Vesper was in Casino Royale? Is there actually any new plot ideas here? Well, maybe not, but that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t look awesome. Here’s the new trailer, courtesy of the official 007 Twitter.
There are still a few mysteries here, and if we’re being fair, one element that seems to be taking the 007 franchise in a very new direction. We’ve known for a while that Lashana Lynch would be playing a new agent working for MI-6, but some rumors suggest she’s actually the new 007 because after he retired, Bond’s number was given to someone else. In the new trailer, Bond says “I’ve met your new double-o,” referring to Lynch’s new character. It’s also clear that at some point in the movie these two will be teamed-up, which strongly suggests that Lynch will become a new 007 in her own spin-off movies. The Bond franchise floated this idea once before when Halle Berry played the CIA agent Jinx in the 2002 movie Die Another Day, but a Jinx standalone movie never actually happened.James Bond will always be a man, according to series producer Barbara Broccoli, but that doesn’t mean a new 007 can’t be a Black woman.
It’s also not clear if Rami Malek’s new character is secretly Dr. No in disguise, though Madaline Swan calls him by a different name, assuming she’s talking about the same person. As for the rest of the cast, everyone from the Craig Bond-era is back, including Jefferey Wright as Felix Leiter, Ralph Fiennes as “M”, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Ben Winshaw as “Q.” This movie is also a reunion of sorts between Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, who both starred in Knives Out. In fact, just like in Knives Out, it looks like these two are also teaming up! Finally, Christoph Waltz is back as Blofeld, and he implies that he and Bond are now fighting “a common enemy.”
With classic car chases, slick Bond action, it’s possible that No Time To Die could become the Bond movie to rule them all, and a perfect way to close out Daniel Craig’s run as 007.
The new trailer says that No Time To Die will be in cinemas in November. Previously, the release date was pushed back from its first release date in April. Right now, it seems like MGM is pretty serious about this release date. So…we’ll see!
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale had a lot of loose ends to tie up — and a lot of Phase 4 fun to set up. The series began with Sam hesitant to accept the legacy left to him by Steve Rogers and Bucky traumatized from his past. By the end of the action-packed finale, both men have found what they were looking for.
The focus of this episode — and one of the most timely and relevant arcs of the series — was Sam’s journey to become Captain America. After a lot of struggle, he became Captain America the same way that Steve Rogers did — through the integrity of his actions. With his new flight suit from Wakanda, Sam was able to hold his own against Super Soldier Flag Smashers, the acrobat, crashing helicopters and plummeting trucks.
In sharp contrast to John Walker’s downfall, Sam’s heroics were also caught on camera and seen by the public. The message was clear: This is what Captain America looks like.
And while for many Black people in America and around the world a happy ending may feel too perfect, too unrealistic, Marvel has made it clear they are bringing messages of hope in their stories.
Sam’s final victory was not in combat: it was in speaking to the lawmakers in the Global Resettlement Council and asking them, “Who is in the room with you when you’re making decisions?” He pointed out unless the people in power consult with the people who need their help, they’ll never actually be of service.
A moment that hits hard is when Bucky, seeing his friend in action, finally calls Sam “Cap.”
Bucky remains a stalwart wingman, an epic fighter and a man of humor throughout this episode, but it’s in the finale’s final moments when we really see his healing come to fruition. He finally crosses the last name off his list: Yori, the father of the man he’d killed as The Winter Soldier. In offering Yori closure, Bucky found some of his own. Seeing him celebrate with Sam’s family, laughing and playing with the children feels like the happy beginning for the World War II vet.
Sam returns to Isaiah’s home, where we can see the healing that has transpired for Isaiah through Sam’s actions. Isaiah acknowledges that Sam accomplished something he’d never dared dream of: a Black man has become Captain America.
More than that, in one of the most touching moments of the show, Sam brings Isaiah to the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian and reveals that Isaiah and his men have been included in a tribute of their own, finally telling their story that the world may never forget.
John Walker makes an appearance here in an “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” moment. It was a nice touch to give him a choice between attacking the Flag Smashers or saving a truck filled with hostages. Walker chose to save the hostages, reminding us of the man he was — the man with Medals of Honor who served with valor in the Army.
No one is ready for a full John Walker redemption story — but perhaps he will be more understood going forward. It’s clear Marvel has plans for him. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine gives Walker his new suit and title — U.S. Agent — and warns us all that “things are about to get weird.” Can’t wait.
When Sharon shows up with WMDs and straight up murders a Flag Smasher with a chemical agent, I knew it wasn’t good. We learn that during her time on the run, Sharon was the eponymous Power Broker, responsible for funding Dr. Nagel’s Super Soldier research, running the criminal underworld of Madripoor, and influencing the actions of the Flag Smashers.
She kills Karli Morgenthau, the teenager she was responsible for radicalizing, and finally earns her pardon from the U.S. government, who offer her a position within the CIA. She accepts and makes a call to an unknown entity, promising access to “government secrets, prototype weapons, you name it.”
Whether Marvel will order more from these heroes remains unknown (though Sebastian Stan has reportedly said he’s down for anything) but it feels great to see the Disney+ title card shift at the end of the episode. Though it would have been even better to see “Captain America and the White Wolf”… just saying…
The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”
It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.
If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.
Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Adam Savage is taking fans on even more adventures in his new show, Savage Builds. In the eight-episode Discovery channel series, the Mythbusters star works with engineers to develop the craziest projects only he could dream up. In the first episode, Savage starts out strong: he creates a real-life bulletproof Iron Man suit that can fly. Yes, you read that right, it can actually fly.
In a short video detailing the episode, Savage explains that he worked with Gravity Industries’ Richard Browning to 3D print the Mark II suit, which is made of titanium. Obviously, technology has clearly come so far to allow for this to be created. “It sounds like hyperbole but I swear, if Tony Fucking Stark was not fictional and he was making an Iron Man suit right now, this is precisely how he would do it and this is the exact technology he’d be using,” says an excited Savage.
The best part? Engineers installed a jetpack and thrusters, so the suit can be lifted off the ground and actually fly. In a clip of Savage testing the flying suit, he yelps with excitement and joy, as anyone who just freaking flew off the ground a la Iron Man would.
How Adam Savage built a real Iron Man suit that flies
The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.
The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.
One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.
The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.
Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.
Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.
It’s Noadamus again, and I’m here welcome to the magical land of right now. Where the past is done and what it means is open to interpretation, the future is so far away you may never live to see it. Right now is the only moment you are guaranteed. Lightning could strike you down a second from now, a car could wander into your lane an hour from now, but right now, you are alive.
So, you should totally check out your horoscope, because if you are gonna die, you might as well open your mind hole to some wisdom from the stars first. Besides, you’ll probably be fine — this week.
See you soon, and remember, do flutter kicks.
If you find yourself complaining about free food and booze, stop. It’s free. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. This is a good general rule. Most of the great things we are all blessed with in this life are not of our own making. You’re tall? You can’t take credit for it. You’re naturally creative? It’s a gift. When you take those gifts and develop them and feed them in healthy ways, you should feel both proud and grateful. When your life is perfect, little problems keep you from getting bored and complacent. This week will reminded you to pay attention and review your weaknesses and spend some real time addressing them. It could quite literally save your life this week. So do that PMCS and don’t finger drill it, corporal.
You have so many secrets that they are beginning to escape into other areas of your life. Wouldn’t it be easier to say f*ck it and just be yourself? You claim to be authentic and you are, for the most part, but don’t try so hard. Who cares if your friends don’t like your relationship choices? They don’t even like their own relationship choices. And if you find yourself doing the walk of shame back to the barracks right before morning PT, everybody will know about it before formation anyway. No point in hiding, so hit the shower and get out there, Marine.
This week starts at a steady pace jumps to a sprint by the weekend. You are relentless. Grind everyone to dust with your continuous pace. Keep yourself centered and use this inertia to propel yourself into the future. While everyone around you is spinning, troubles roll right off your back this week. Keep moving this week and your efforts will be soon rewarded. If additional fitness or combatives training presents itself, jump on it. You’ll thank me for it later.
A whole lotta excitement is coming your way in the relationship department, but not all of it is good. As the week starts, your social circle is displeased with your relationship choices, but by the end of the weekend, they will have accepted the idea and everyone will probably party their faces off, which means at least everyone’s doing something together. You have many things happening in the background, and by next week they will demand almost all of your attention.
You might find yourself wondering how your job can be so incredibly rewarding and terribly soul-crushing at the same time. This is the duality of life, which the Cancer sign represents, btw. Things change — constantly — but before you decide to change things on your terms, take a knee, face out, and drink water. Do what needs to be done this week, the rest might resolve itself. Besides, worrying about it only affects the way you feel.
This week is a gift; technically, every moment is a gift, but this week is also a time of advancement. Let me rephrase —this is the time where you do the work that will pay off with incredible success later. Spending all week at the range? That will come to fruition soon. Embarking on a new fitness program? A more functional and aesthetically pleasing form awaits you in the near future. Your home and family life is far from perfect, but it is improving. Be grateful for what you have right now while working for a better future. You’re welcome, Chief. Consider yourself counseled.
While you might not be the most adventurous person out there normally, this week ramps your risk-taking impulses up 11. Admittedly, you are extremely well suited to be victorious at the current moment, but no one wins at everything. So if the reward is not worth the risk, it’s a waste of valuable and limited time. Go kick some ass and have fun doing it; you deserve it.
The politics of power rule your home and family life, which is especially true at the moment. However, in addition to being oppressive and restricting, your familial connections are likely to aid in your investment or earning capacity. The secret to gaining this advantage without being consumed by family melodrama: Assert yourself as a powerful and influential member of the family who wishes to improve and grow the family with said advantage, then go do it.
You want the good news or the bad news first? The good news — finances are improving. The bad news — you are still spending way more money than you are bringing in. Money is meant to be spent, right? Totally, but wasting is different than spending. Your relationship is consuming other areas of your life, which is not a bad thing. Just remember you can’t go along with it now and complain about how your life is no longer your own later.
One of your least favorite things is demanding way too much of your time this week. Yes, it is making you money and providing you with a sense of identity and purpose, but it is also getting in the way of doing whatever you want. Work can be tedious and a job does restrict your freedom, to some degree. But it increases your ability to so many other things you want in your life. So, put on those combat boots and get your ass to formation. Besides, civilians don’t get paid to blow sh*t up. Unless they are in demolitions, or mining, or maybe some other stuff, too…. Just shut up and move out.
Holy intensity, Bat Person! (no trademark infringements here) You are so smoldering right now; just be careful to maintain control over yourself so you don’t explode. Your creativity is ramped up to high this week. I’m not just talking about your much-neglected hobbies. We are talking all creativity. From innovative ideas at work to new moves on the field to your secret poetry (I won’t tell anybody) to creating babies. In this extremely fertile period in your life, remember: Always practice safe poetry.
Listen up, private. The federal income tax system is not a conspiracy to steal the hard earned wealth of the average citizen. Okay, maybe it is a little, but it is also supposed to go to improving and maintaining public services and areas facilities of public use. So, even though you ‘don’t believe in taxes,’ you can still be audited (and just might be this year). So, you should probably review all of those ‘expenses’ you claimed this year.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.
The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.
Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.
“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”
Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.
“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”
Seasonal Methane Releases
In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.
Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.
“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”
Finding Organic Molecules
To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.
SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.
The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.
In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.
Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.
These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.
“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”
This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.
The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.
Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.
Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.
“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.
“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.
That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.
In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.
“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”
A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”
“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.
Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.
The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.
According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”
The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.
The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.
Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.
“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.
Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.
“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”
The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.
“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”
Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.
In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.
“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.
Did anyone in your high school complain about gym rats and “show muscles”? Well, there’s not really any such thing as show muscles in the military. Every fiber can make you more lethal, whether it’s the biceps to curl a tank or artillery round that’s about to be thrown into the breech, or the hamstrings to make it through a long patrol.
But think about how badly it will suck for the Space Force. They need to keep those muscles strong enough to beat Martians to death with hammers and wrenches on a moment’s notice, but they need to fuel those gains with freeze-dried foods while working out in low gravity.
Solar Foods’ technique was originally pushed by NASA and is now supported by the European Space Agency. The basic idea is to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, combine it with water as well as some additional nutrients, and turn it protein. The final product is a single-cell protein that can be used like traditional flour. It’s 50 percent protein, up to 10 percent fat, and up to 25 percent carbohydrates.
The entire process only needs a little infrastructure, some electricity, water, and carbon dioxide, so it could potentially be used at bases around the world or in space flight. (The European Space Agency specifically got involved in the hopes that the process could work en route to Mars.)
If you want to get your hands on this high-protein flour, you’ll have to wait till 2021 and, even then, hopefully, be stationed in Europe. That’s when and where the company plans to start its commercial launch with global access coming later in the year.