For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.
WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.
Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.
The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.
Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.
You might think that, somewhere along the way, someone in the staff of a senior senator from Kentucky would have figured out what Duffel Blog really was. Instead, in 2012, a concerned constituent actually had the Senator’s office send a formal letter to the Pentagon concerning Duffel Blog’s report of the VA extending benefits to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Duffel Blog and its writers are more than brilliant. What it does at its best is play the role of court jester – delivering hard truths hidden inside jokes. In the case of Senator McConnell’s office sending a letter of concern to the Pentagon over a Duffel Blog piece, the site was hammering the VA, equating using its services to punishing accused terrorists in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.
We laugh, but they’re talking about the VA we all use – and we laugh because there’s truth to the premise.
Paul Szoldra is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Duffel Blog, former Military and Defense Editor at Business Insider, and was instrumental in the creation of We Are The Mighty. He’s now a columnist at Task & Purpose.
Speaking truth to power is not difficult for Szoldra, even when the power he speaks to is one that is so revered by the American people that it’s nearly untouchable by most other media. We live in an age where criticizing politicians is the order of the day, but criticizing the military can be a career-ending endeavor. You don’t have to be a veteran to criticize military leadership, but it helps.
“If you go back on the timeline far enough, you’ll find a lot of bullsh*t,” Szoldra says, referring specifically to comments made by generals about the now 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. “And I have no problem calling it out, highlighting it where need be.”
Szoldra doesn’t like that the top leadership of the U.S. military exists in what he calls a “bubble” and can get away with a lot because of American support for its fighting men and women — those fighting the war on the ground. Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2010, was one of those lower-enlisted who fought the war. When he writes, he writes from that perspective.
“If we’re talking about sending troops into Syria… I wonder what does that feel like to the grunt on the ground,” Szoldra says. “I don’t really care too much about the general and how he’s going to deal with the strategy, I wonder about the 20-something lance corporal that I used to be trying to find IEDs with their feet.”
His work is thoughtful and, at times, intense, but always well-founded. Szoldra also does a semi-regular podcast with Terminal Lance creator, Max Uriarte, where they have honest discussion about similar topics. Those discussions often take more of a cultural turn and it feels more like you’re listening to Marine grunts wax on about the way things are changing – because that’s exactly what it is, with just as much honesty as you’d come to expect from Paul Szoldra and his ongoing body of work.
The times Duffel Blog articles were mistaken for real news
Duffel Blog’s new party game
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
The USS Illinois (SSN 786) was commissioned Oct. 29 in a ceremony at Groton, Connecticut.
The Virginia-class fast attack submarine can carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike at targets on enemy shores, or it can switch some of its missiles out with other payloads to deliver special operators or mines to contested areas around the world.
Conventional periscopes don’t exist on the Illinois or other Virginia-class submarines. Instead, they feature photonic masts that send video and other image data to screens throughout the ship.
The Illinois is a Block III-version of the Virginia class, and features a horseshoe-shaped sonar instead of the older, spherical sonars. And, instead of packing 12 vertical missile tubes, Block III subs carry two sets of six missiles in Virginia Payload Tubes. If the Navy adopts a new missile in the future, the VPTs allow the Illinois to more easily switch to the new weapon.
The boat carries an S9G pressurized water reactor. The nuclear reactor powers the vessel for its entire lifecycle without ever needing refueling. The pump-jet propulsors push the boat forward are quieter than a traditional propeller.
Missions on the Illinois can go on for three months or longer, and the crew can spend nearly the entire time submerged.
To learn more about Virginia-class submarines, check out the Navy infographic below.
We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.
Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.
Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.
A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.
Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.
“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”
Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.
“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.
“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”
Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)
“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”
Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”
After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.
The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”
Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.
With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.
While most of the Confederate Navy in the states was either penned up or quickly defeated during the Civil War, the Confederacy poured resources into blockade runners and commerce raiders that were successful, and few could even touch the CSS Alabama.
The Alabama was built in England, nominally as a merchant ship. British shipyards were allowed to build warships for the Confederacy early in the war as long as the ship buyers said they were for peaceful purposes and as long as no weapons were present when it was shipped.
But it was clear the Alabama was built for a fight. It had plenty of sails, like a warship or a merchant vessel would, but it also had a steam-powered paddle wheel. Merchant vessels had little use for these paddle wheels, but they allowed combatants to maneuver much better in a fight.
The Laird Brothers of Birkenhead launched the Alabama right as British forces cracked down on the illegal trade under threats of war from then President Abraham Lincoln. But as British troops rushed to seize the Alabama, it slipped up the coast in 1862, and the crew took on weapons before heading to the Azores to pick up Confederate Navy Capt. Raphael Semmes.
Capt. Raphael Semmes, in the foreground, poses on his ship’s 110-pound rifled gun, its most powerful cannon.
The crew was composed primarily of men from the Southern states and England, but it had members from other European countries and even a few from Northern states. And once it got into the water, it started racking up kills and captures.
It started in the North Atlantic where it attacked Union shipments of agricultural goods headed to Europe, and then it headed south to prey in the West Indies. But then it slipped up to the Gulf of Mexico and directly threatened the Texas coast. When the USS Hatteras came out of Galveston, the Alabama captured the ship and crew.
Over two years of raiding, it sank and captured around 68 ships. But two years of sailing and combat had taken its toll on the ship. While the copper plating helped prevent some corrosion and fouling of the hull, it didn’t prevent all damage. And the engine needed maintenance and the ship needed resupply.
So, on June 11, 1864, the Alabama sailed into Cherbourg, France, for docking and overhaul. But the Union had dispatched ships to hunt it, and other commerce raiders, and the USS Kearsarge got wind that the Alabama was in Cherbourg.
On June 19, when the Alabama sailed out, the Kearsarge was waiting. And the French people came out to watch this little battle of the American Civil War play out on their coasts. In order to ensure French neutrality and safety, that nation’s government sent out an ironclad to make sure the fight stayed in international waters.
A map shows the circular path of the Kearsarge and Alabama during their battle in 1864.
(Robert Knox Sneden via Picryl)
The Alabama fired the first shots, but the Kearsarge had chain armor, and the Alabama’s weapons and powder were degraded from seawater damage. The powder could not propel the shells as hard as it should have, and the shells were basically bouncing off the Kearsarge.
The two ships maneuvered on one another. The Kearsarge waited until the Alabama reached 1,000 yards before firing, and then the ships traded blows while trying to cross each other’s T in order to launch a broadside against the enemy’s bow.
This resulted in the ships basically sailing in a circle shooting at each other. The Alabama fired about 150 shots while the Kearsarge got off only about 100 shells. Still, with better powder and chain armor, the Kearsarge was able to quickly defeat the Confederate raider, sinking it in about an hour with a shot through the hull at the waterline.
The Kearsarge picked up most of the survivors, but Semmes and about 40 other sailors were picked up by a British ship and sat out the rest of the war.
This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league has invited 15 Medal of Honor recipients to participate in the official on-field coin toss ceremony before Super Bowl LII officially kicks off.
Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, who earned his distinguished award during the Battle of Iwo Jima, is scheduled to conduct the traditional coin flip at Sunday’s game.
The other Medal of Honor recipients in attendance include:
Kiessling, who works at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gave Business Insider his personal views on North Korea, which do not represent the Pentagon’s official stance.
“If you’re really concerned about an ICBM from anyone, go back and look at history for what everyone has ever done for ICBMs,” said Kiessling. “All early liquid ICBMS are siloed.”
Through a painstaking analysis of imagery and launch statistics from North Korea’s missile program, Kiessling has concluded that the road-mobile, truck-based missiles they show off can’t actually work as planned, and may instead be purposeful distractions from a more capable missile project.
In a paper for Breaking Defense, Kiessling and his colleague Ralph Savelsberg demonstrated a model of the North Korean ICBM and concluded its small size made it basically useless for reaching the US with any kind of meaningful payload.
History suggests that building a true liquid-fueled ICBM that can be transported on a truck presents huge, if not insurmountable problems, to designers.
“The US and the Soviets tried very hard and never managed to reach a level of miniaturization and ruggedness that would support a road-mobile ICBM,” said Kiessling, referring to the minaturization of nuclear warheads needed to fit them onto missiles.
ICBMs that use liquid fuel, as North Korea’s do, are “very likely to crumple or damage the tankage” while being carted around on a bumpy truck.
“While it may not be impossible, it’s bloody difficult and extremely dangerous” to put a liquid-fueled ICBM on a truck, according to Kiessling.
Instead, the US, Soviets, and Chinese all created silo-based liquid-fueled missiles, as the static missiles are more stable and less prone to sustaining damage.
But there’s no evidence of North Korea building a silo for missile launches, and Kiessling said that could be due to a massive deception campaign that may have fooled some of the world’s top missile experts.
Kiessling thinks that North Korea has actually been preparing for a silo-based missile that combines parts of the Hwasong-14, its ICBM, with its space-launch vehicle, the Unha. Both the Unha and the Hwasong-14 have been tested separately, and Kiessling says they could easily be combined.
This analysis matches the comments of Mike Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who told Business Insider he saw the Hwasong-14 as an “interim capability” that North Korea was using to demonstrate an ICBM as quickly as possible.
Elleman believes that North Korea well develop a “heavier ICBM” that “may not be mobile,” but can threaten the entire continental US and carry a heavier payload, including decoys and other penetration aides.
But other prominent analysts disagree with Kiessling’s model, saying he incorrectly judged the size of the Hwasong-14. To that, Kiessling says that North Korean imagery, which has all been purposefully released by a regime known to traffic in propaganda, is geared towards deception.
“One of the hardest problems imaginable is to find something you’re not looking for,” said Kiessling, of a possible missile silo in North Korea.
“If I was in the place of Kim Jong Un, and I wanted to have a cleverly-assembled ICBM program, I’d do it the way everyone else does it,” said Kiessling, referring to silo-based missiles. “But at the same time, you run a deception program to distract everyone else from what you’re doing until you’re done.”
A silo would also prove an inviting target for any US strikes on North Korea, as the target can’t hide once its found. If the US were to find out that North Korea hadn’t succeeded in miniaturizing its warheads enough to fit on its mobile missiles, a smaller-scale strike against fixed targets may seem like an attractive option.
“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.”
As the sun set on the blood-stained beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the thousands of Allied troops dispatched to carry out the largest amphibious landing in military history rang true.
The invasion, codenamed Operation Neptune and remembered as D-Day, sent roughly 156,000 British, Canadian, and American troops to the Nazi-occupied French coast by air and sea, beginning the multi-month Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe from Hitler’s Wehrmacht. This week, as millions gather in Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, National WWII Museum senior historian Rob Citino emphasized that the impact of the landings came at a tremendous human toll. By the end of the Normandy campaign, hundreds of thousands of Allied and Axis soldiers and civilians had died and been wounded, with those involved in the initial landings suffering disproportionately.
“Certain sectors and certain minutes, casualties were 100 percent,” Citino said.
Citino described the most perilous jobs American troops performed to help make the D-Day landings a World War II turning point. “It was bad enough but would have been worse,” he says.
A paratrooper with a Thompson M1 submachine and heavy equipment.
(The National WWII Museum)
1. The Pathfinders
The earliest paratroopers of the US Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions jumped into enemy territory in the dark, facing unrelenting attacks with little back-up and a lot of pressure to light the way.
Strategy and scope: Upwards of 13,000 American paratroopers would jump in the early days of Operation Neptune, the Allied invasion of well-guarded Normandy.
Minutes after midnight on June 6, around 300 101st Pathfinders, nicknamed “the Screaming Eagles,” went in first. Paratrooping in lean, highly-trained formations, the Pathfinders were not out to engage in combat. They were to quickly set up lights and flares to mark drop zones for paratroopers and landing paths for the gliders preparing to land.
General Eisenhower’s advice to the 101st ahead of D-Day? “The trick is to keep moving.”
Pathfinders with the 82nd Airborne Division jumped from C-47 transports into occupied France under the cover of darkness.
(The National WWII Museum)
The Pathfinders paved the way for waves of paratroopers to follow, but paid a heavy price.
Threats and losses: The equipment they carried — from parachutes and life jackets to lighting systems they were to set up once on the ground — made their packs so heavy that they had to be helped onto the planes.
Then there was the jump.
Amid the bad weather and limited visibility that night, some were blown wildly off course after leaping from the C-47 Skytrains. Even those who managed textbook landings into the intended locations were at risk.
“It’s the loneliness — out there all by yourself with no one riding to your rescue in the next 10 minutes if you get in trouble. You’re against all the elements,” Citino said.
Impact: While the Pathfinders saw heavy losses, they ultimately enabled more accurate, effective landings and ability for Allied troops to withstand counterattacks.
They climbed 100-foot cliffs under fire to take out key German artillery pieces aimed at the beaches.
2. The Ranger Assault Group scaling Pointe du Hoc
Strategy and scope: Once dawn broke on June 6, 1944, a force of 225 US Army Rangers of the 2nd and 5th Ranger battalions began their attempts to seize Pointe du Hoc. Their mission: Scale the 100-foot rock and upon reaching the cliff top, destroy key German gun positions, clearing the way for the mass landings on Omaha and Utah beaches.
The multifaceted naval bombardment sent the highly trained climbers hauling themselves up the cliffs using ropes, hooks, and ladders. Two Allied destroyers would drop bombs onto the Germans in an attempt to limit the enemy’s ability to simply shoot the Rangers off the cliffs.
The sheer cliff walls the Rangers scaled, shown about two days after D-Day when it because a route for supplies.
The Rangers climbed the cliffs in sodden clothes while Germans above them shot at them and tried to cut their ropes.
Threats and losses: Beyond the challenging mountain climbing involved in getting into France via the cliffs along the English Channel, the Rangers faced choppy waters and delayed landings, which increased the formidable enemy opposition.
Nazi artillery fire sprayed at the naval bombardment. Landing crafts sank. Those who made it to the rocks were climbing under enemy fire, their uniforms and gear heavy and slippery from from mud and water. Germans started cutting their ropes. Rangers who reached the cliff top encountered more enemy fire, along with terrain that looked different from the aerial photographs they had studied, much of it reduced to rubble in the aftermath of recent aerial bombings. And they discovered that several of the guns they were out to destroy had been repositioned.
Impact: The Rangers located key German guns and disabled them with grenades. They also took out enemy observation posts and set up strategic roadblocks and communication lines on Pointe du Hoc. The 155mm artillery positions they destroyed could have compromised the forthcoming beach landings.
US soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division aproach Omaha Beach in a landing craft.
(The National WWII Museum)
3. The first troops on Omaha Beach
Members of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions and the US Army Rangers stormed the beach codenamed “Omaha” in the earliest assaults. These were the bloodiest moments of D-Day.
Strategy and scope: Beyond enemy fire, the Allies were up against physical barricades installed to prevent landings onto the six-mile stretch of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall.”
To break through, infantry divisions, Rangers, and specialist units arrived to carry out a series of coordinated attacks, blowing up and through obstacles in order to secure the five paths from the beach and move inland.
American troops approach Omaha Beach on June 7.
(The National WWII Museum)
A fraction of the first assault troops ever reached the top of the bluff.
Threats and losses: In pre-invasion briefings, troops were told there would be Allied bombing power preceding them and that the Germans would be largely obliterated and washed ashore, Citino said.
While there were aerial bombings, the impact was not as planned. Some of the B-24s and B-17s flying overhead missed their targets. German troops sprayed guns and mortars with clear views of the soldiers, stevedores, porters, and technical support charging the narrow stretch of beach. Men waded through rough, cold water from Allied landing crafts under withering heavy fire. The dangers continued with mines in the sand.
The scene was similarly gruesome for combat engineers moving in with Bangalore torpedoes to blow up obstacles. Meanwhile, amphibious tank operators tried to shield Allied infantry and medics came ashore to try to administer emergency care while facing counterattacks and navigating around the dead and wounded.
Impact: A fraction of those who landed reached the top of the bluff. Some company headcounts went to single digits. But the troops who helped secure Omaha and the five paths off the beach in the coming days cleared the way for massive tanks, fuel, food, and reinforcements important to the rest of the campaign.
Soldiers prepare to deploy a barrage balloon on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion.
(The National WWII Museum)
4. The 320th Balloon Barrage Battalion
These combat troops landed on Utah Beach and set up key lines of defense to prevent Luftwaffe raiders from strafing the incoming army of troops and supplies.
Strategy and scope: The Allies knew that as soon as the landings began, German air attacks would present a major threat to the masses of troops arriving in thousands of landing crafts. To defend against air raids, they turned to defensive weaponry units, including the 621 African-American soldiers in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, to land with 125-pound blimps and work in teams to anchor them to the ground. Each blimp was filled with hydrogen and connected to small bombs that could denote if enemy aircraft made contact with the cables.
Threats and losses: They came ashore on Utah Beach from some 150 landing crafts on the morning of June 6, facing the dangers of fellow infantry and the added threats that came with maneuvering heavy cables and balloon equipment on the beach under fire. They set up barrage balloons, digging trenches to take cover as waves of fellow soldiers landed.
The landings would have been even more deadly without the defensive balloons set up by the 320th.
(Army Signal Corps)
The air cover allowed Allied troops to move inland with less threat of being bombed or strafed by German planes.
Impact: As landing craft after landing craft came ashore on and after D-Day, the 320th’s balloons gave Allied troops and equipment some protection, allowing them to move inland with less threat of being blown into the sand by German fighters.
The hydrogen-filled balloons they deployed along the coast created barriers between the Allied troops and the enemy aircraft out to decimate them. Citino said that their actions setting up the defensive balloons under enemy fire were “as heroic as it gets.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth.
Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the “propulsion” category titled, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions”.
The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Business Insider first learned about in a post by Paul Szoldra at Task & Purpose.) The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy” — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.
“Control of this higher dimensional space may bе а source of technological control оvеr the dark energy density and could ultimately play а role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, а warp drive,” the authors write. “[T]rips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”
However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.
“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t.” Carroll said. “This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”
James Т. Lacatski, a Defense Intelligence Agency official listed as a contact on the report, did not immediately to respond a query from Business Insider.
Where the warp-drive study came from
The nature of this study is still making its way to the public.
What is known is that it’s an “acquisition threat support” reference document, which helps the US military anticipate or describe new enemy technologies — apparently including (very, very) notional ones. It was also one work in “а series of advanced technology reports” for something called the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program, or AAWSAP.
The New York Times and Politico revealed AATIP’s existence in December 2017. The outlets said former Nevada senator Harry Reid helped organize it and secure millions in secret government funding (sometimes called “black money”) for the effort.
A large share of this money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow — a real-estate mogul who’s working to build private space stations through Bigelow Aerospace, is a friend of Reid’s, and someone who has funded his own UFO research for years. The billionaire reportedly formed a separate entity, called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, to secure the government funding and use it to hire 46 researchers and “dozens of other support personnel,” KLAS-TV said.
An anonymous senior intelligence official told Politico that AATIP began mostly to root out the existence of unknown Chinese and Russian military technologies. But after a couple of years, “the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” the official said. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find.” AAWSAP and AATIP reportedly ran out of funding in 2011 or 2012.
Scientists are also skeptical of UFOs, even after viewing spooky videos obtained by AATIP, one of which shows an undated encounter with “an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves,” the Times wrote.
Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute previously told Business Insider that, after 50 years of reported alien visits, “the really good evidence that we’re being visited still has failed to surface.” He added: “It is a little odd that aliens would come hundreds and hundreds of light-years to do nothing.”
The larger program that looked into the feasibility of warp drives, wormholes, and stargates is meeting similar scrutiny from established experts.
The physics of warp drives
In the warp-drive study, the authors laid out several well-established ideas in physics.
Those concepts include dark energy; general relativity, which Albert Einstein pioneered and predicted some bizarre-yet-real phenomena in the universe (like the warping of spacetime and gravitational waves); the Casimir effect, which describes the existence of a quantum “vacuum energy”; and M-theory — the idea that perhaps seven extra dimensions (which a warp drive could exploit) may be wrapped up in the four we’re familiar with, including time.
It then mashes this work together to lay out a potential use of these properties that’d circumvent Einstein’s cardinal rule: Nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum.
“If one is to realistically entertain the notion of interstellar exploration in timeframes of а human lifespan, а dramatic shift in the traditional approach to spacecraft propulsion is necessary,” said the report, which goes on to suggest that a warp drive might be feasible.
The study includes a table of various destinations and how quickly they might be reached by bending spacetime to travel 100 times faster than light.
The way this might work, the report says, is by using a lot of dark (or negative) energy to expand an extra dimension into a “bubble.” Such a bubble would be made large enough to fit a spaceship of perhaps 100 cubic meters — roughly the size of a semi-trailer truck.
A contracting region of spacetime in front of the ship, plus an expanding region behind it, would then propel the bubble and ship down a sort of spacetime tube without technically exceeding the speed of light.
Carroll also said that the concept of a warp drive “is not crackpot” — Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, invented the concept in 1994.
“You can’t go faster than the speed of light. But what you can can imagine doing is effectively twisting spacetime so that it looks like you’re moving faster than the speed of light,” Carroll said. “If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, for example, you can ask yourself, ‘Well, could I bend spacetime so that Alpha Centauri is next to me, so that it takes a day to go there, rather than tens of [thousands of] years? Can I make the warping of spacetime do that?’ And the answer is sure, you can do that.”
But Carroll said the DIA report goes too far in its analysis.
“There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there’s dark energy. All of these things are true,” he said. “But there’s zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that.”
The problems and perils of faster-than-light travel
Carrol said warp drives are so removed from plausible reality because no one knows what negative energy is, how to make it, or how to store it, let alone put it to use.
What’s more, the amount of negative energy you’d need to reach a place like Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to Earth, at 4.367 light-years away — in a couple years with a 100-cubic-meter ship is truly astronomical.
“If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that’s how much energy you’d need, except you’d need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make,” Carroll said. “We’re not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We’re making them cease to exist.”
Then this energy has to be captured, stored, and used with 100% efficiency.
“It’s completely crazy talk,” Carroll said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, we need better transistors.’ This is something that is not anywhere within the realm of feasibility.”
The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure “is, indeed, an incredible number,” and adds that “a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away.”
However, it suggests “that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider оr developments in the field of M-theory could lead to а quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations.”
Nearly a decade on, none of these developments have panned out. The LHC has yet to find any evidence of particles that’d crack the mysteries of dark energy, nor have experiments really advanced M-theory.
But assuming negative energy could somehow be extracted, a planet’s worth of exotic matter fed into a spaceship’s warp drive engines, and a suitable destination picked out, the crew might encounter a number of show-stopping problems.
Interstellar travelers may lose control of their ship the moment they start it due to the warping of space itself. Hawking radiation — which is theoretically found at the edges of black holes and other highly warped regions of space — might roast passengers while shutting down their warp field. And slowing down may be deadly: Several light-years’ worth of cosmic dust and gas between the origin and destination might turn into a dangerous shockwave of high-energy particles and radiation upon arrival.
“It’s possible in the sense that I can’t actually rule it out, but I don’t think it’s actually possible,” Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. “I think if we knew physics better, we’d just say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Making Alita, the humanoid main character in “Alita: Battle Angel,” work next to live-action characters onscreen was the biggest challenge for the visual effects team to bring to life in the film.
You may not have realized it, but a lot of work went into making the character’s big, bright brown eyes look just right, especially after the film’s first trailer.
“We had our original design, all based on the original artwork and [producer] Jim [Cameron]’s artwork and [director] Robert [Rodriguez]’s artwork, and even after the first trailer that came out, we got some criticism online about, ‘Hey, the eyes are too big. They don’t look right. Uncanny valley,'” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon told Insider during a visual effects press day for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot.
Here’s how Alita looks in the first trailer released for the film.
(20th Century Fox)
Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” the film follows a female cyborg, Alita, who has trouble remembering her past.
Saindon said the visual effects team spoke with Cameron and Rodriguez after the trailer came out in December 2017 to see what they thought of the criticism and whether or not they should change Alita’s look at all as a result.
“‘Do we want to shrink the eyes?'” Saindon said. “They came back and both said, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to go bigger on the eyes.'”
“We didn’t actually go bigger on the eyes, but we did enlarge the iris,” Saindon continued. “We reduced the amount of sclera, the white around the eyes, and it sort of just popped everything back together. It popped her to be that manga character, but to be able to sit next to a live-action character. You never questioned it.”
You can see how Alita changed from that first trailer to the final film here. It’s a subtle change you may not have noticed:
Alita’s face is also softened a bit more in the final film. The lighting in this scene is a bit brighter on her face now.
(20th Century Fox)
Why Alita’s eyes were the most important to get just right
For the team, it was important to get the eyes right because not only is that the first thing you see when you meet Alita, but they believed that was going to be one of the main things that helped sell the believability of the character to audiences.
“Eyes are really critical in an actor’s performance,” said animation supervisor, Mike Cozens. “That’s why, you know, as shots get more intimate, we cut in closer and closer… Eyes are sort of what are telling you what’s going on inside the head, keeping that performance alive in the eyes, beyond the design and into performance was really critical, a critical part of the storytelling.”
Here’s how Alita looks when she opens her eyes for the first time in the films first trailer versus the final film.
(20th Century Fox)
“Truly, the eye size shouldn’t matter,” added visual effects supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment, Richard Baneham. “Ultimately, when we look at a screen, I think it’s point-four of a second for us to read whether there are eyes onscreen or not. We immediately, as humans, go to that, because we want to understand how somebody is emotionally, what their state is. It’s what we do when we meet people, it’s how we read the room.”
Baneham said that regardless of the eye size, you can usually tell a person’s emotional state almost instantly through posture and their facial expression. That’s why it was important to get Alita’s eyes just right.
“So long as you communicate properly the emotional state of the character, the eye size, not that it’s irrelevant, it shouldn’t be the thing that’s in the way,” added Baneham. “We often say on our side, you don’t smile with your face, you don’t smile with your mouth, you smile with your eyes… As soon as you, you can cut to a pair of eyes and tell whether somebody’s smiling.”
If you covered up everything but Alita’s eyes in this image, you would be able to tell she’s smiling.
(20th Century Fox)
This isn’t the first time a trailer’s criticism has resulted in changes to a film.
After the release of the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film in April 2019, the video game character’s design sparked criticism and jokes online.
The image on the left shows Sonic’s original design. The image on the right shows how Sonic looks after the redesign.
How does the “Alita” visual effects team feel about receiving audience criticism right away after a trailer’s release?
“I didn’t mind hearing input from the outside world. It really solidified us, though,” said Saindon of reactions to the first trailer. “It kind of got everybody together and the real choices that were made beforehand kind of held. There was hardly any change, if you will, because I remember having, we had various different sizes and stuff out there and we were pretty big on the trailer, and it just kind of stayed there. It just made everybody reconsider what they were doing.”
“Whether she had big eyes or not, towards the end, I think all of us realized it was worthwhile worrying about it, and certainly it’s all about this expression that’s getting through or not getting through and worrying about that.”
Most of Alita’s design comes directly from the performance of actress Rosa Salazar who embodies the character.
(20th Century Fox)
Baneham added that it’s about making sure the audience invests in the character and comes along for the journey.
“That’s what you care about first and foremost, is making sure when the audience watch the movie, they’re not thinking about the technical aspects of the movie in any way, sort or form. They go on this, hopefully, immersive journey with the character,” said Baneham of what he wants viewers to get out of watching “Alita.”
“All the changes that happened afterward were not about, you know, pandering to the noise in any way. It was about bettering the character,” Baneham added.
“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of 10 finalists in the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced Monday morning.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
A Russian naval research team has claimed to have discovered five islands in the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Kara Sea area of the Arctic Ocean.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Aug. 27, 2019, quoted Russia’s Northern Fleet as saying the islands range in size from 900 to 54,500 square meters.
The land areas are located in Vise Bay, west of Severny Island in the area of the Vylki Glacier, the report said.
It added that the islands were first sighted during an analysis of satellite photos three years ago.
The expedition to confirm the existence of the islands began on Aug. 15, 2019, and is expected to run through the end of September 2019.
Russian-owned Franz Josef Land is an archipelago of some 192 islands inhabited only by military personnel.
Severny Island in the Kara Sea.
The Arctic region has gained importance in recent years as rising temperatures have made the waters navigable for longer periods and because of the vast reserves of natural gas and minerals.
Russia has beefed up its military presence in the Arctic region, modernizing its Northern Fleet and reopening bases that were abandoned following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In March 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Arctic archipelago, saying he had ordered the government to step up development of the region and calling for “large infrastructure projects, including exploration and development of the Arctic shelf.”
Other countries, including the United States, China, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, have also been looking to increase their activities in the Arctic.
Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.
We earned a pretty epic deal.
But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.
Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.
1. Getting accepted
Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.
It’s a fact.
It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.
Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)
2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects
The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.
We know you do! (Image via Giphy)
3. Booking classes
Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.
Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.