The Disneyland iteration of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open. Early reviews — from those who were able to navigate a less-than-stellar ticket reservation system — are positive. An especially bright spot: the souvenir lightsabers available exclusively at the park.
As we’ve reported before, the lightsabers are customizable — guests choose their components and assemble their saber themselves — and pricey. The total price with tax comes to $215.49, exactly $215.49 more than a souvenir coaster from Olga’s Cantina. Still, the sabers themselves and the experience of designing your own are getting rave reviews from the lucky fans who’ve already had the chance to get theirs.
The Los Angeles Times has a good rundown of what the experience is like, and it seems that, in true Disney fashion, narrative is front and center. The story created around Savi’s Workshop, the exclusive home of the customizable lightsaber, is that it has to masquerade as a simple scrap metal shop.
Light-up blades come in red, blue, green, and Mace Windu purple.
The employees who work there play along, reminding visitors who say the l-word that they don’t want any trouble from the First Order.
They will help you pick out the pieces of “salvaged” scrap metal you’ll need to build your lightsaber, with drawers full of hilts of four different themes. Pick your hilt and you’ll get a corresponding pin when you set up an appointment to build your saber as part of a group with 13 other “Builders.”
After some practice assembling lightsabers outside — which may be interrupted if Stormtroopers happen to walk by — you’re ushered inside to a room dominated by a large table. You’ll hear a spiel about Jedi history and the power of the Force before guiding you through the process of choosing the remaining parts and assembling your lightsaber.
Once assembled, everyone inserts their assembled blade into a pod for a final ceremony that ends with everyone igniting their lightsabers.
Whether or not that experience and the saber itself are worth the steep cost depends on your budget and how much time you’re willing to spend at Savi’s (line are, predictably, quite long). But if your trip won’t feel complete without bringing a lightsaber home, it looks like Disney has created an attraction that goes beyond a simple gift shop to create an immersive, narrative experience.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.
As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.
Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.
But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.
“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.
On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.
“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.
Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.
Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.
Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.
Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.
“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Military simulators are always a huge hit within the gaming community. Flight simulators give gamers the opportunity to sit in a (simulated) cockpit. First-person shooters imitate the life of an infantryman. World of Warships and World of Tanks give the gearheads out there a chance to pilot their favorite vessels.
And then there’s the game that’s taken gaming world by storm lately: Fortnite. It features a 100-player, battle-royale mode that has players duke it out until only the best (or luckiest) player survives. At first glance, it seems like a standard PUBG clone — until you realize that a huge part of the game is about, as its name implies, building forts.
Underneath its goofy graphics and RNG-laden (random number generator) loot system is actually a fairly intricate game. The overall premise is simple: Land somewhere, scavenge materials to build, find loot, build stuff, fight the enemy, move toward the objective, and build more stuff.
Then, it suddenly hits you.
What separates the skilled players from the 10-year-old kiddies screaming memes into their headsets is the ability to construct a dependable, defensible position. In order to be successful in Fortnite, you have to quickly build and rebuild secure bases that can’t easily be destroyed while giving you the ability to get up high and view the battlefield.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley J. Hayes)
This is not unlike the essence of what a real combat engineer does in real life: Deploy somewhere, get hand-me-down materials from the last unit who was in Afghanistan, build stuff, fight the enemy, continue the mission, and then build more stuff.
Granted, you’re distilling an entire career into a 20-minute long video-game match, but the parallels are there — but real engineers have more fun. Building stuff is only half of the job description; using explosives to take out enemy positions is when the real fun begins.
Netflix dropped its latest British TV series on March 29, a spy thriller set at the end of World World II.
“Traitors” is streaming globally exclusively on Netflix outside of the UK and Ireland, and airs on the UK’s Channel 4 network. It stars “Call Me by Your Name” actor Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Appleton, and Keeley Hawes.
Netflix describes the series like this: “As World War II ends, a young English woman agrees to help an enigmatic American agent root out Russian infiltration of the British government.”
Netflix has built a library of British shows in its effort to draw worldwide audiences, many of which are co-productions with UK networks. The strategy benefits both Netflix and British TV networks like the BBC, as the shows reach a wider audience and can reel in potential subscribers.
Other British shows Netflix has acquired include “The Last Kingdom,” which wasn’t a hit in the UK but found a worldwide audience; “The End of the F—ing World,” which Netflix renewed for a second season; and “Bodyguard,” which was nominated for the best drama series Golden Globe this year and won the Globe for best actor in a drama series for star Richard Madden.
From left to right: Luke Treadaway, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Appleton, Keeley Hawes, Brandon P. Bell.
(‘Traitors’ on Netflix)
Critics are mixed on “Traitors” but leaning positive. “Traitors” has a 71% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. Den of Geek called it a “satisfyingly grown-up spy thriller,” but others criticized how it takes historical liberties.
“I don’t usually mind this kind of revisionism; can appreciate, revel in its freshness, its new eyes, but this is in mild danger of being slathered on with a trowel,” Observer’s Euan Ferguson wrote. “It’s always heartily good to keep an open mind. Maybe not so open that your brains fall out.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The man from Sugar Land, Texas with a passion for travel and teaching children doesn’t seem like a stereotypical ISIS recruit.
Warren Christopher Clark, a black, Texas native who sent a cover letter and resume to ISIS as early as 2015, the New York Times revealed, was captured in Syria by US allies. His goal was not to become a militant or fighter, he later told NBC News. He just wanted to teach English.
Clark, who was charged Jan. 25, 2019, for material support to ISIS, may not be the type of person who comes to mind at the mention of ISIS. But a study published by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed US-based jihadist terrorism activities in the post-9/11 era, shows that the Texan represents aspects of the new reality of terrorism.
“The portrait that emerges from our analysis suggests that the historic stereotype of a Muslim, Arab, immigrant male as the most vulnerable to extremism is not representative of many terrorist recruits today,” the report says.
The changing face of terrorism
That US citizens pose the greatest terrorism-related threat within the US is not a recent development.
In 2015, the George Washington University Program on Extremism reported that of 71 people arrested for ISIS-related activities in the US in that year, 58 of them were US-born citizens.
The GWU study for the most part matches a trend reported by RAND, which independently found that as ISIS gained influence in the post-9/11 era, the number of US-born recruits drawn to jihadist terrorism started to grow.
Of the 152 US persons with known affiliations with ISIS, RAND found that 106 were citizens born in the US.
Comparatively, only 59 of 131 al-Qaeda affiliates were US-born citizens.
In another revelation, RAND showed US-based ISIS recruits have become more racially and ethnically diverse as the group gained influence, and are notably more diverse than those with known al-Qaeda affiliations.
About 65% of US-born ISIS recruits since 2013 are either African-American/black or Caucasian/white. This is a shift from the group’s earlier years, and an even more radical shift from those persons drawn to al-Qaeda.
ISIS has a broader appeal
Aided by the internet, terror organizations began targeting more vulnerable populations over time, specifically young and socially alienated people who find a sense of belonging in a far-away group.
While ISIS has a far more sophisticated understanding and usage of social media, al-Qaeda has shown an ability to tap into the vortex of the internet — RAND reports that the number of “terrorist-related websites exploded from 100 in 1998 … to approximately 4,300 by 2005.”
In that year, ISIS was still in its infancy.
Even so, al-Qaeda’s marketing typically appealed to a narrower field of recruits in terms of religion, race, and nationalism. ISIS, on the other hand, appealed to a wider range of people. Heather Williams, the lead author for the RAND study, told Business Insider that Clark represents an increasingly common type of recruit who is not necessarily drawn to violence, but some other component of terrorist organizations.
“There were people who fit that before, but they are more frequently fitting that profile now,” Williams said.
Terrorism may be changing, but experts caution against reliance on stereotypes
Clark, the 34-year-old teacher from Texas who was recently captured in Northern Syria, doesn’t quite fit into any stereotypical “terrorist” category.
Warren Christopher Clark, who was captured in Syria in early January 2019, sat down with NBC News.
Clark is a US-born American citizen. According to an interview with NBC News, he did not initially leave the US with intentions of joining ISIS, but sought travel opportunities that ultimately drew him to Turkey, Iraq, and then Syria.
He told NBC that he never took up arms for ISIS and was even detained by the terrorist organization after trying to defect, maintaining that he was drawn to ISIS out of curiosity, not a desire to become a militant.
“The take-away is that the ties [people drawn to ISIS] have to the terrorist organization can be very loose,” Williams said.
The RAND report was published in December 2018, nearly a month before Clark’s capture. But Williams said his background is a good example of the range of individuals answering ISIS’ call.
“A great number of the individuals studied were lured to the call of jihad in Muslim lands abroad rather than domestically; whether adventure seekers or inspired by misguided senses of religious duty, they were not necessarily aggrieved with the US homeland,” the report states.
Still, Williams cautioned against stereotyping a particular profile, especially one based on nationality.
“I don’t think that’s a productive diagnostic tool, and can also lead to bias,” she told Business Insider.
The Trump administration’s travel ban, which targets many Muslim-majority countries, is not necessarily a helpful counterterrorism policy, Williams said, and may even be a distraction.
“If [law enforcement agency] perceptions are based on history, there is validity but they should recognize the shift.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Soldiers aren’t likely to don space suits and blast off into space to fight an enemy, the head of Army Space Command said this week.
But the domain is going to play a big role in the way the Army trains and fights in the future, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We need to make sure we’re going to be able to protect what we have in space,” the three-star said. “But I don’t think that lends itself necessarily to formations in space.”
Space as a future conflict zone led President Donald Trump to direct Pentagon leaders last year to create a Space Force. The U.S. has since stood up Space Command, a new unified combatant command that’s serving as a precursor to the future Space Force.
“Space is very important,” Dickinson said. “It’s gotten a lot of national senior leader attention over the last year or so, and the Army is excited to be part of that.”
The service is developing a new space training strategy, he added, which will likely be completed in the next three or four months. That could lead to changes across the force about how soldiers train for ground fights.
There are a lot of space-based tools on which soldiers currently rely, he said, that could be jammed or degraded by adversaries. The Army will need to place soldiers at the unit level who understand those risks and challenges.
“We need soldiers that are subject-matter experts who know about space in formations,” Dickinson said.
The Army’s upcoming training strategy could suggest how those formations will be organized, he said. It’s also going to outline how security challenges in space will affect future operating environments.
“The training strategy … will give you fundamentals on what we need to look for as far as environments we’re going to operate in and what we see in terms of those formations and who will be in those types of formations,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.
In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.
These could revolutionize drone warfare.
(Metal Storm Limited)
In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”
Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.
Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.
On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.
Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.
These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.
There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.
Most of the time, people have the best intentions when they’re talking to a veteran.
“By and large, at this stage in history, the American people are very, very supportive of veterans,” Brandon Trama, a former US Army Special Operations Detachment Commander, CivCom grad, and associate at Castleton Commodities International, told Business Insider.
Indeed, according to Gallup, the majority of civilians view each of the five branches either very or somewhat favorably.
“I’ve encountered numerous people when I transitioned who were willing to help me out, whether it was buy me a cup of coffee, give me thoughts on their career path, or put me in front of other people who may be able to point me in the direction of other opportunities,” Trama said.
And despite the good intentions of many civilians, there’s still a growing gap between the military and civilian worlds. So it’s important for civilians to remember that there’s a difference between reverence and understanding.
Business Insider spoke with veterans from several different branches of the military about transitioning back to civilian careers.
Here’s what they said they wished civilians would understand — and, in some cases, refrain from saying:
1. ‘We all owe you’
The military is widely held in esteem in the U.S. A whopping 72% of Americans have confidence in the institution, according to Gallup — compare that with the 16% of folks who have confidence in Congress.
But quite a few of the veterans Business Insider spoke with asserted that well-intentioned adulation can go too far.
Some advised civilians against overdoing it when thanking veterans for their service. These veterans also warned fellow ex-service members from letting any praise go to their heads.
“Stop thinking people owe you something,” Omari Broussard, who spent 20 years in the Navy, told Business Insider. “Nobody owes you anything.”
The New York Times reported that some veterans view being thanked for their service as “shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go.”
According to Broussard, it’s best for veterans — especially those who recently left the service — to not take the praise to heart, especially at work.
“When you get out, you’ve got to compete with the best,” the founder of counter-ambush training class 10X Defense and author of “Immediate Action Marketing” said. “Go get it. That may require you doing a lot more work than you think you need to do.”
2. ‘Do you have any friends that died?’
Probing and ill-advised questions from civilians can make many veterans feel dehumanized and othered.
“People will ask me plainly, ‘Do you have any friends that died?'” Garrett Unclebach, who served as a Navy SEAL for six years, told Business Insider. “And then the second question they’ll ask me is, ‘You ever kill anybody?’ Two super inappropriate questions to ask people.”
Unclebach said people should remember they don’t necessarily have a full grasp on the issues an individual veteran is facing.
“People talk about PTSD and they don’t really understand it so I would tell you that some guys who have it are embarrassed by it,” the VP of business development at construction firm Bellator Construction said. “Everyone needs an opportunity to be human and be vulnerable.”
3. ‘I don’t really understand how your ability to go fight is going to add value to my organization’
Edelman Intelligence’s study of 1,000 employers found that 76% want to hire more veterans — but only 38% said veterans obtain skills in the military that “are easily transferable to the private or public sector.”
Phil Gilreath, who served as a Marine officer for nearly 10 years, said this is a potential “stigma” veterans face in the business world.
“In reality, over 95% of what we do is kind of planning and operations and logistics,” he told Business Insider. “That absolutely translates to the corporate world, not to mention the things that aren’t necessarily quantitative, such as your leadership experience, your ability to operate in a dynamic, stressful environment that’s ever-changing.”
Gilreath is now director of operations at storage space startup Clutter and was previously a fellow at the Honor Foundation, a group that specifically helps Navy SEALs transition to civilian life.
He said veterans must enter the civilian world prepared to explain and demonstrate how exactly their skills cross over.
Evan Roth, an HBX CORe alum and former US Air Force captain who now works for GE Aviation, agrees.
“Not only does this involve creating a résumé that has readable — no strange acronyms — skill sets and experience, but also learning how to talk to companies in a way that demonstrates value,” Roth said. “Many members never practice how to give a 15-second ‘elevator pitch’ about how they can be valuable to a company, or in an interview they’ll tell a three minute ‘war story’ without tying it back to how this could be useful in the civilian world.”
4. ‘What the heck are you talking about?’
Many branches of the military rely upon specific jargon and acronyms to get things done.
Randy Kelley, who served as a Navy SEAL sniper for 11 years, said this means things can get lost in translation for recent veterans.
“Just like in any other cross-cultural situation, it’s going to create a little bit of animosity, and create the division that sometimes can actually hurt the military guy,” the founder of wellness startup Dasein Institute told Business Insider. “They have to stop speaking to civilians like they understand what a PRT is. All these different things that were important to them in their last career are no longer relevant.”
He said it’s best for veterans to drop such phraseology in a civilian setting, and for civilian employers to understand where veterans are coming from.
But, in the case of recent vets, it’s better to be understanding and ask for clarification, rather than just writing someone off because they’re still relying upon a military style of communications.
5. ‘You must want to go back into security-related work’
Not all veterans automatically want to work for a defense contractor.
James Byrne, who served as a US Navy SEAL officer for 26 years, said it’s important not to encourage veterans to “mentally lock themselves into the belief” that their skills only transfer to security-related industry.
When he first returned to civilian work, he said some well-intentioned civilians encouraged him to pursue a gig as a security guard at Walmart — simply because they couldn’t envision his abilities translating elsewhere. Today, he’s the director of sales and business development at solar tech company Envision Solar
“The sky’s the limit,” he told Business Insider. “You’re only stopped by your imagination of what you can do and what you can work with your network and yourself and your education and your soft skills and hard skills. There’s no limit to what you can do and how you can do it.”
6. ‘You must be glad to be back’
The process of leaving the military can be disorienting for some veterans. It’s patronizing to assume someone is in a better place just because they’re no longer in the service.
Former US Marine Corps rifleman and Victor App founder Greg Jumes told Business Insider he struggled with addiction and lived out of his car for a time after he left the military.
“When you get out, you’re surrounded by a group of people and you don’t know what the hell their deal is,” he said. “You just kind of feel all over the place and that kind of brings you back into a state of isolation.”
He said it’s crucial for military servicemembers interested in leaving to plan ahead.
“You have to plan,” he said. “You have to find where you should be moving to. You have to start networking before you get out.”
7. ‘You must have gone through so much’
Never assume you have an idea of what a veteran’s experience was like.
“The narrative that has been established for returning veterans has been unhelpful,” retired Green Beret Scott Mann, who served in the Army for 23 years, told Business Insider. “The narrative has been ‘the island of misfit toys.’ We’re broken.”
Today, Mann runs a leadership training organization MannUp and the Heroes Journey, a non-profit devoted to helping veterans transition. He said it’s harmful to have a perception of veterans as “damaged goods.”
“That could not be further from the truth, in most cases,” he said. “There are cases where some people need care for the rest of their lives. Most of the veteran population are high functioning and we actually need them in our communities and businesses leading in the front, putting those skills into play.”
Remember, there’s a ton of diversity when it comes to the experiences military servicemembers have across the five branches — and even within those branches.
“What I did in the Navy is probably unlike with the other 99% of people did in the Navy,” Charles Mantranga, Navy veteran and implementation manager at tech firm Exitus Technologies, told Business Insider. “It’s pretty hard for people to understand it, really.”
If you’re anything like me and had a subscription to Civil War Times Illustrated when you were ten years old, the first time you saw Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame), you probably thought to yourself: “That’s not a colonel! I’ve seen colonels before in Civil War Times Illustrated and they definitely don’t dress like that. What gives?”
Ten-year-old me wasn’t wrong, but Colonel Harland Sanders was a colonel – a Kentucky Colonel – and the distinction is less about military service and more about service. Specifically to the State of Kentucky.
Get this man some bourbon.
The Kentucky Colonels are a voluntary but exclusive philanthropic organization, and the only way to receive a commission as a Kentucky Colonel is to be nominated by the Governor of Kentucky. The Colonels offer grants, scholarships, and more in the form of charitable donations from its membership. The goal is to give back for the betterment of the people of the state while doing the most good with the money they have.
They enjoy the occasional party now and then too.
In order to become a Colonel of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you’ll need first to be nominated to the Governor or the Secretary of State. The Colonels are, after all, designated representatives of the governor of Kentucky and the “aides-de-camp” of the commonwealth’s chief executive. That’s all due to the history of the organization.
The title of Kentucky Colonel began as a way to bestow respect on elder generations who fought the British in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as the Kentucky Militias were particularly feared and/or respected by British troops. The governor, Isaac Shelby, personally led Kentucky troops in the War of 1812. When there was no war left to fight, the militias were disbanded – but the governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky still required an aide-de-camp, so he hired one. That was Col. Charles Stewart Todd. After a while, the role of the governor’s aide-de-camp became more ceremonial and, eventually, honorary.
Nowadays, being designated a Kentucky Colonel still means assisting the governor, but the Colonels exist as envoys of the governor and state, those who preserve Kentucky heritage and history, while improving the lives and living conditions for those who live there. Previous Colonels include boxer Muhammad Ali, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, actress Betty White, Pope Benedict XVI, and the past seven U.S. Presidents, just to name a few.
So while the uniform and rank may be ceremonial, the duties and expectations of the Kentucky Colonels are very real.
In Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”, the actors were mentored by the type of warfighters they portray in the film in order to accurately depict their abilities and experiences. Each of these men was a member of an elite group called the Global Response Staff, which draws from the full suite of special operations units.
We Are The Mighty partnered with “13 Hours” to bring together spec ops vets of each branch to discuss the differences between Army Rangers and Green Berets, Air Force Pararescuemen, Navy SEALs, and Marine Recon.
Their explanations are specific and nuanced and explained as only those who’ve “been there and done that” can.
Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.
But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.
To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.
The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.
The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.
During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.
When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.
The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.
A B-52 bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)
Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.
That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.
The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details
The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)
W80 nuclear warhead.
The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.
The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.
If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.
But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Sept. 5, 1986, New York-bound Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by armed terrorists at Karachi airport in Pakistan in what would become one of the bloodiest hijackings of the 80s.
During the 17-hour ordeal, Neerja Bhanot would help the cockpit crew escape and ground the plane, hide the passports of passengers to protect their identities and nationalities, and open the emergency door to help others escape.
Bhanot would give her life saving and protecting the passengers on board that day. She was just shy of 23 years old.
Just after 0600, four gunmen sped onto the tarmac in an airport security van and entered the plane, firing their weapons. Flight attendant Sherene Pavan hailed the cockpit crew and pressed the hijack code as the hijackers grabbed Bhanot and held a gun to her head, demanding to be taken to the captain.
Upon arrival in the cockpit, they saw that the crew received the warning and evacuated by means of a safety hatch in the cockpit.
Inside the plane, 29 year-old American Rajesh Kumar was pulled out of his seat, shot, and kicked out of the plane.
The hijackers wanted a pilot to fly the plane to where other members of their militant group were imprisoned. As negotiators communicated with them from outside the aircraft, the terrorists began looking for more Americans on board.
This is when Bhanot and the other flight attendants began hiding the passports of the travelers to protect their identities. As the hours dragged on, the power of the aircraft began to dwindle. When the lights finally went out, the terrorists began to fire into the aircraft, killing the on-board mechanic Meherjee Kharas.
Bhanot and other members of the crew took the opportunity to open at least three doors and help passengers escape.
Bhanot was shot helping the hostages out of the plane and was evacuated by her colleagues, but she died at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital.
22 people were killed in the attack, including two Americans, and another 150 were injured. The combined efforts of the 16 flight attendants likely saved hundreds of lives that day, and for two more days after the attack, the crew continued to care for minor passengers until they could be reunited with their families.
Taran Butler is a better shot than you. Sure, there are people who may be better at very specialized skills within shooting, or who shoot better with a particular style of firearm under certain conditions or at a specific range of distances. But Butler, who runs Taran Tactical Innovations and trains both Hollywood stars and military/law enforcement clients at his facility in Southern California, is often regarded as the best all-around shooter alive.
If his name eludes you, here’s what you’re missing. Butler is a multiple United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) 3-Gun National and World Champion; he’s the man who helped turned Keanu Reeves into John Wick; and he can shoot six, 8-inch plates set 30 feet away with one hand while drawing from the hip in well under two seconds. If you’re not impressed, you should be.
Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.
Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.
Butler said that he was a natural shooter from the start, but his competitive career officially began in 1995. He attended his first match with a Glock 21 pistol — which had a lower capacity than the pistols of the other competitors and required an additional reload. Butler still finished 7th in a field of 118, and that’s when he realized that he had a future in competitive shooting.
The next year he won the Southwest Pistol League’s Limited Division, and from there he went on to win the SPL’s Unlimited Division and a handful of Glock Shooting Sports Foundation matches. After that initial 7th place finish, Butler won every match he entered for the next two years, which were all pistol-shooting competitions. It wasn’t until the following year that he would jump into the world of 3-Gun, an arena he considered “kinda lame” before trying it out.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
In 1997, Butler competed in his first 3-Gun match, the Five Dogs Winter Classic, despite the fact that he didn’t yet have his Benelli shotgun tricked out for 3-Gun — and none of the ways he was taught to load a shotgun were practical for competition. He borrowed two shotguns for the weekend and described those stages as an “absolute disaster because the shotguns didn’t function properly … [it] was a box-office fiasco on every level.”
Butler, who had gotten used to winning, was livid, but he pressed on. He noticed that most of the competitors were going into the prone position to shoot the farthest rifle targets, a distance Butler estimated to be about 100 yards. Figuring that he had nothing to lose after the shotgun stages, Butler shot standing. The second place time for that stage was 25 seconds — Butler finished in 16. On the pistol stages, since that’s Butler’s expertise, he “went dog nuts and absolutely shredded the pistol stages into the ground.” Even though he came in near the bottom for the shotgun stages, his incredible performances during the pistol and rifle stages propelled him to the top, winning the entire match overall. It was the first of many wins, but also some heartbreaking losses.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler’s first trip to the 3-Gun Nationals was in 1999. He was leading by a large margin (about 200 points) after 14 stages, but there were still two to go. The 15th stage required each competitor to rest their rifle on the roof of a car while shooting. Butler’s rifle didn’t have a free-floating handguard, so the contact with the car interfered with the vibration of the barrel, causing the gun to shoot extremely high at 100 yards. The bullets were impacting the torso target at the top of the head when Butlet was aiming for the A zone. He suffered eight penalty misses, ultimately losing the match by five points — which he equates to about half a second. At his next 3-Gun Nationals appearance, the cross pin holding the trigger group in his shotgun broke during the final stage, and the entire trigger group fell out of his gun. He ended up losing by a few points. These losses taught Butler the importance of having high-quality gear and knowing the gear that you have.
In 2003, Butler finally broke through. At the time, Bennie Cooley was the reigning 3-Gun champion. He was unstoppable with a long-range rifle, and Butler was unstoppable with a pistol, so the shotgun stage was where they met in the middle. First up was the pistol stages, and Cooley shot first. He was slower but had no penalties. Butler shot three or four seconds faster but suffered penalties — the pressure had gotten to him, and he was upset with himself. Great, throwing away the Nationals again, he thought. On the next stage, Butler again beat Cooley on time — but, also again, he shot a hostage. At that point, Butler had to shake off the pressure and focus solely on the shooting. The next pistol stages were left-hand, right-hand, and Butler shot them clean. He went on to shoot the long-range rifle and close-range hunting rifle stages, and then shotgun.
Taran Butler, left, with Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler dominated the stages and ultimately won the 2003 3-Gun Nationals in the Limited Division. That was the beginning of a long winning streak and a record-breaking career. The following year, Butler became the first shooter to win the 3-Gun Nationals’ Tactical Division. In 2012, he won the Open Division, making him the USPSA’s first-ever Multigun Triple Crown Champion, having won Nationals in each of the three divisions.
“It’s kind of like winning a championship belt in three different weight classes in the UFC,” Butler said of his accomplishment.
Another defining moment in his career was in 2007 at the Fort Benning Multigun Challenge. Butler was unaware of a rule change in his division that limited shotgun magazine tubes to eight rounds. His shotgun held nine, so he was automatically moved into the unlimited division where he was shooting against competitors with 16-round mag tubes on their shotguns — and in one case, a 32-round drum mag. They also had 30-round pistols, and their firearms were tricked out with the best upgrades available. Butler said it “is the equivalent to showing up in a bicycle at a motocross competition.”
Against all odds, Butler won. Legendary shooter Jerry Miculek, who Butler described as “a man of few words and one of the greatest shooters that ever walked the earth,” was also competing that day. After the match, he approached Butler and said, “Taran, you’re a fuckin’ animal” — and then walked away. Butler said it’s one of the best compliments he’s ever received from a peer. After the Fort Benning match was televised, Butler’s sponsorship opportunities quadrupled. Despite this massive success, Butler had his sights set on accomplishments outside of the competitive shooting world.
The next step for Butler was appearing as the go-to firearms expert on the hit TV series “TopShot” for five seasons. From there, things took off for his career as a firearms trainer. He was hired to work with Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves and Khloe Kardashian. When one of Butler’s videos with Keanu Reeves went viral, his popularity in Hollywood exploded.
Keanu Reeves honing his shotgun skills at Taran Butler’s shooting range in California.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
If you enjoy watching current films with actors who actually look like they’ve held a gun before — and don’t utilize a 1970s-style teacup-and-saucer grip — you can thank Butler for helping to establish a higher standard for gunplay in movies and television. He has consulted on numerous films and has trained A-list Hollywood celebrities, including training Michael B. Jordan for his role as Killmonger in “Black Panther” and Halle Berry for her role alongside Keanu Reeves in the most recent “John Wick” movie. He also trained director Ang Lee and star Will Smith for “Gemini Man.” The film features a young Will Smith shooting a Glock 41 modified by Butler’s company, Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), against an older Will Smith shooting a Gucci’d-out TTI Combat Master Glock.
Butler also mentioned several projects that have yet been released, including his work with “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders for her new ABC show “Stumptown,” an adaptation of a popular graphic novel. He has also trained John Cho for Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop”; Josh Lucas for the upcoming “Purge” film; Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne for “The Old Guard”; and Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, and Aaron Taylor Johnson for an unnamed upcoming film.
Halle Berry training with at Taran Butler’s range in Southern California.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler also trains military and law enforcement groups whose jobs and lives rely on the skilled handling of weapons. “Three-Gunners are the deadliest weapons handlers on the planet,” Butler said, pointing to the fact that grueling matches that last three to four days are frequently won and lost by fractions of a second. So world-champion 3-Gun shooters like Butler spend countless hours “training their asses off.” He acknowledged that military and law enforcement groups are more proficient with combat tactics, but they frequently come to people like Butler for firearms operation and manipulation training.
While training military and LEO groups, Butler said he noticed that those who also compete in 3-Gun “annihilate” their non-competition-shooting counterparts. He encourages everyone he trains to also compete in multi-gun or USPSA competitions to hone their skills. While he sometimes works with celebrities for months, Butler usually has only a day or two with tactical groups, so training them is more about tweaking small habits and incorporating 3-Gun fundamentals into their tactics.
In his impressive career, Taran Butler has learned from some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the shooting sports. Few, if any, will ever be able to match his accomplishments in that realm. But he used it as a springboard into an adjacent career that helps shine a light on others as well. Butler’s work with military and law enforcement demonstrates the value of his 3-Gun training and has the potential to save lives. His work with Hollywood stars has raised the standard across the board, even in media he doesn’t touch, when it comes to the realism we see on screen. So, yeah, he may be a better shot than you — but he earned it.