What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.

The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.


Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.

“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

Another ring around the Sun

Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.

They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.

Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.

So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.

Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.

(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.

Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.

Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.

“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.

The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.

Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.

“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”

Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”

With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.

Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit

This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.

Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.

At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.

This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.

Venus Dust Ring

www.youtube.com

“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.

Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.

Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.

“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”

Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.

But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”

They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.

The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.

Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.

The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)

Dust rings around other stars

The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.

But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

“Ain’t war hell?”

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

See!

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

He was the guest of honor.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Neither game has a winner…

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Now that’s a war face.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: Patton leads America’s first car attack

The man who would construct American armored units in France in World War I and lead combined arms units, with armor at the forefront, in World War II got his start leading cavalrymen and cars in Mexico. In fact, he probably led the first American motor-vehicle attack.


What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Pancho Villa, 5, Gen. John J. Pershing, 7, and Lt. George S. Patton Jr., 8, at a border conference in Texas in 1914.

(Public domain)

The boy who would be Gen. George S. Patton Jr. was born into wealth and privilege in California, but he was a rough-and-ready youth who wanted to be like his grandfather and great-uncle who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

He attended West Point, became an Army officer, designed a saber for enlisted cavalrymen, and pursued battlefield command. When Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing was sent to Mexico to capture raiders under Pancho Villa, Patton came along.

Patton was on staff, so his chances of frontline service were a bit limited in the short term. But he made his own opportunities. And in Mexico, he did so in May 1916.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

U.S. Army soldiers on the Punitive Expedition in 1916.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Patton led a foraging expedition of about a dozen men in three Dodge Touring Cars. Their job was just to buy food for the American soldiers, but one of the interpreters, himself a former bandit, recognized a man at one of the stops. Patton knew that a senior member of Villa’s gang was supposed to be hiding nearby, and so he began a search of nearby farms.

At San Miguelito, the men noticed someone running inside a home and Patton ordered six to cover the front of the house and sent two against the southern wall. Three riders tried to escape, and they rode right at Patton who shot two of their horses as the third attempted to flee. Several soldiers took shots at him and managed to knock him off his horse.

That third rider was Julio Gardenas, a senior leader of Pancho Villa’s gang. The first two riders were dead, and Gardenas was killed when he feigned surrender and then reached for his pistol. Patton ordered a withdrawal when the Americans spotted a large group of riders headed to the farm. They strapped the bodies to the hoods of the cars and went back to camp.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

An Associated Press report from the 1916 engagement. Historians are fairly certain that this initial report got the date and total number of U.S. participants wrong, believing the engagement actually took place on May 14 and involved 10 Americans.

(Newspapers.com, public domain)

It was a small, short engagement, but it boded well for the young cavalry officer. He had made a name for himself with Pershing, America’s greatest military mind at the time. He had also gotten into newspapers across the U.S. He was his typical, brash self when he wrote to his wife about the incident:

You are probably wondering if my conscience hurts me for killing a man [at home in front of his family]. It does not.

Patton’s bold leadership in Mexico set the stage for even greater responsibility a few short years later.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Lt. col. George S. Patton Jr., standing in front of a French Renault tank in the summer of 1918, just two years after he led a motor-vehicle charge in Mexico against bandits.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

When America joined World War I, Pershing was placed in command of the American Expeditionary Force.

Patton, interested in France and Britain’s new tanks, wrote a letter to Pershing asking to have his name considered for a slot if America stood up its own tank corps. He pointed out that he had cavalry experience, experience leading machine gunners, and, you know, was the only American officer known to have led a motorized car attack.

Pershing agreed, and on Nov. 10, 1917, Patton became the first American soldier assigned to tank warfare. He stood up the light tank school for the AEF and eventually led America’s first tank units into combat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army just committed $72 million to battlefield Artificial Intelligence

The U.S. Army is investing $72 million in a five-year artificial intelligence fundamental research effort to research and discover capabilities that would significantly enhance mission effectiveness across the Army by augmenting soldiers, optimizing operations, increasing readiness, and reducing casualties.

Today, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army’s corporate laboratory (ARL), announced that Carnegie Mellon University will lead a consortium of multiple universities to work in collaboration with the Army lab to accelerate research and development of advanced algorithms, autonomy and artificial intelligence to enhance national security and defense. By integrating transformational research from top academic institutions across the US with the operational expertise and mission-focused research from within CCDC, the Army will be able to drastically accelerate the impact of Battlefield AI.


“Tackling difficult science and technology challenges is rarely done alone and there is no greater challenge or opportunity facing the Army than Artificial Intelligence,” said Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the Army’s corporate laboratory. “That’s why ARL is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, which will lead a consortium of universities to study AI. The Army is looking forward to making great advances in AI research to ensure readiness today and to enhance the Army’s modernization priorities for the future.”

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

(U.S. Dept of Defense photo by Peggy Frierson)

This Cooperative Agreement for fundamental research was formed as a result of collaboration that initially started between the Army Research Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon under ARL’s “Open Campus” initiative, which Carnegie Mellon joined earlier in 2018. Carnegie Mellon and the team of academic research institutions will focus on fundamental research to develop robust operational AI solutions to enable autonomous processing, exploitation, and dissemination of intelligence and other critical, operational, decision-support activities, and to support the increased integration of autonomy and robotics as part of highly effective human-machine teams.

“For almost 30 years, the Army Research Laboratory has been at the forefront of bold initiatives that foster greater collaboration with U.S. universities,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “At this time of accelerating innovation, Carnegie Mellon is eager to partner with ARL and with universities across the nation to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and better serve the Army mission in the 21st century.”

In support of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), AI is a “crucial technology to enhance situational awareness and accelerate the realization of timely and actionable information that can save lives,” said Andrew Ladas, who leads ARL’s Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute (A2I2). Through this work, he said researchers expect to achieve automated sense making, or the ability for AI to recognize scenes and generate real-time, actionable correlations, insights and information for humans.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

An adversary with AI capabilities could mean new threats to military platforms including human-in-the-loop platforms, or technologies that require human interaction, and autonomous platforms.

“The changing complexity of future conflict will present never-seen-before situations wrought with noisy, incomplete and deceptive tactics designed to defeat AI algorithms,” said Ladas. “Success in this battlefield intelligence race will be achieved by increasing AI capabilities as well as uncovering unique and effective ways to merge AI with soldier knowledge and intelligence.”

For the Army, advances in fundamental research in AI will enable distributed shared understanding and autonomous maneuver, and facilitate human-AI teaming that can jointly and rapidly respond to dynamic adversarial events while retaining human-like adaption; adversarial learning to defeat the enemy’s AI; autonomous networking that adapts to electromagnetic/cyber events; analytics that rapidly learn/reason for situational awareness with uncertain/conflicting data; and autonomous maneuver/teaming behavior and decision-making that increases survivability in a highly contested environment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel just made these huge changes to its most elite special ops units

The Israeli Defense Force has been known as one of the world’s best militaries. This is particularly true of its commando units.


In a new move the government hopes will professionalize the force, those elite special operations units will likely become even more effective.

According to a report by IsraelNationalNews.com, usually Israeli conscripts serve three years – pilots have a nine-year service term – and most commandos are extended one year. That will now change, with troops going into commando units now being obligated to serve eight years.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
A Sayeret Matkal commando. (Wikimedia Commons)

The units affected by this move are the Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 naval commandos, Shaldag heli-borne commandos, and 669 search-and-rescue unit. The extended term of service, though, will also come with a pay increase of 17.6 percent and an Israeli version of the GI Bill.

The commando units were hard hit by the old policy, since it took anywhere from 18 months to two years to fully train members of these elite units, which are often referred to as “Tier One” units.

This means that the Israeli commando units will operate closer to the model used by elite American and British units like the Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and Special Air Service. In those units, operators are usually career personnel. Both the United States and United Kingdom also have all-volunteer military forces.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
The IDF’s paratroopers brigade operate within the Gaza Strip to find and disable Hamas’ network terror tunnels and eliminate their threat to Israeli civilians. (Photo from Israeli Defense Forces Flickr)

Sayeret Matkal is best known for being the unit that carried out the 1976 rescue operation at Entebbe. That operation, commanded by Yonatan Netanyahu (whose younger brother, Benjamin, became prime minister of Israel), rescued 102 out of 106 hostages for the loss of one commando (Yonatan).

Shayetet 13, a unit similar to Navy SEALs, was credited with sinking five Egyptian ships during the Yom Kippur War. Shaldog was credited with taking part in a 2007 air raid on a Syrian nuclear reactor. Unit 669 is similar to the Air Force pararescue units, and in 2003 were noted for rescuing ten Turkish sailors during a storm in the Mediterranean Sea.

These units, already among the best in the world, will now be much better. Israel’s friends will likely rest easier, while Israel’s enemies will probably lose sleep.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

popular

One guy might be the reason we haven’t found Amelia Earhart

The tragic disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937 remains among the most pervasive mysteries in American culture. Earhart, a groundbreaking female aviator and celebrity in her own time, knew her goal of circumnavigating the globe in her Lockheed Electra was a dangerous one, but she and the American public seemed assured that she would be successful, just as she had been so many times before.


Of course, from our perspective on this side of history, we know her trip was destined for failure, but beyond that, the disappearance of Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan remains shrouded in mystery.

The thing is… maybe it shouldn’t be. The mystery surrounding Earhart’s disappearance may have actually been solved as soon as three years after her plane went down, but because of what seems like the incompetence of one doctor, we’ll likely never know for sure.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan with their Lockheed Electra. (WikiMedia Commons)

 

In 1940, just three years after Earhart and Noonan disappeared, a British expedition arrived on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro and set about scouting the landmass for settlement. As they scouted the island, they came across some rather unusual objects: a human skull and other bones, along with a woman’s shoe, a box made to hold a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant (for use in navigation) that had been manufactured around 1918, and a bottle of Benedictine — which was an herbal-based liquor.

The small stature of the bones along with the other items discovered and the island’s location in the Pacific made it seem entirely feasible that the team had actually discovered the lost remains of the famed aviator. A theory began to form: Earhart may have seen the island in the distance and attempted to make it there as her fuel finally ran out. Based on the bones and other items found ashore, it even seemed possible that Earhart may have survived the sea-landing and made it to the island, only to eventually succumb to starvation, dehydration, or her injuries.

The skull and a dozen or so other bones were gathered from the site and shipped to Fiji, and the following year Doctor D.W. Hoodless of Fiji’s Central Medical School buckled down to study them. There was just one problem: forensic osteology, or the study of bones for these sorts of purposes, was far from the robust and mature science it is today.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Amelia Earhart in the cockpit of her Lockheed Electra. (WikiMedia Commons)
 

Hoodless examined the thirteen bones and took a series of measurements that he recorded in his notes, before coming to a controversial conclusion. According to the doctor, the bones discovered on Nikumaroro didn’t belong to Earhart. Instead, he posited that they belonged to “middle-aged stocky male about 5’5.5″ in height.” It seemed, at least according to Hoodless’ assessment, that the Earhart mystery had not been solved.

Despite the woman’s shoe, herbal liquor Earhart was known to drink, and the box that held navigation equipment, Hoodless’ determination was enough to convince the world that the legendary pilot’s final resting place remained a mystery.

In fact, the world was so convinced that the bones didn’t belong to Earhart that they simply lost track of the bones from there. They’ve now been lost for decades, making a thorough and modern analysis of the remains impossible.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Amelia Earhart. (WikiMedia Commons)

 

But that’s not the end of the story. A study published last year by Professor Richard Jantz from the University of Tennessee contests Hoodless’ findings using the very figures the doctor recorded in his notes back in 1940. Using modern forensics and a computer program designed to aid in determining age and gender from bone measurements, Jantz came to a very different conclusion than Hoodless.

“The fact remains that if the bones are those of a stocky male, he would have had bone lengths very similar to Amelia Earhart’s, which is a low-probability event,” Jantz wrote. In fact, he went on to write that, “This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample.”

Sadly, without the bones to further the analysis, it’s impossible to state conclusively that these bones did indeed belong to Earhart, but based on Jantz assessment, it seems more likely than not that Earhart really did make it to Nikumaroro Island. That conclusion may solve one mystery, but it would create a few more: how long did Earhart survive? What were her final days like?

Unfortunately, it seems likely that we’ll never know.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Troops are very acquainted with using blank rounds. We slap in a magazine filled with them, screw on a blank-firing adapter (or BFA), and continue training for the day. Without fail, we go out and someone inevitably takes a photo of themselves trying to look all badass like in the movies — but they can’t. That BFA just looks ridiculous and lets everyone know immediately that they’re just training.

So if you really want to look as badass as they do in the movies, you have to look at how the special effects teams on a film set do it. They’re obviously not firing actual, live rounds at each other during the film’s climactic ending — that’d violate so many safety regulations and break countless union rules — but to us, the audience, it feels real.

They’re firing firing blanks, just like the troops in training, but they’ve some ingenious ways of hiding that fact.


What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

When you put the flash hider back on, you can’t tell the difference unless you’re up close and personal.

(Combat Disabled Veteran’s Surplus)

Most semi-automatic firearms use the gas expelled from ejected rounds to cycle in another round. Blank rounds don’t create enough gas pressure in the barrel to make this happen, so, if you’re firing blanks, you need a blank-firing adapter. Firing without a BFA will inevitably cause a failure-to-feed.

The BFA acts more as a plug for the gas. It keeps in just enough gas to build the pressure needed in the chamber for a person to continue shooting without interruption while still letting enough oxygen in.

On a film set, however, you can’t have the actors looking like they’re troops in basic (unless that’s what the film is about). Instead, they screw a tiny blank-firing adapter onto the end of the barrel, underneath the flash hider, as shown below.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

If you love ‘Sons of Anarchy’… just don’t hit pause during the gunfights of the first season. Yikes.

(AMC)

Other film sets use entirely decommissioned firearms that have been repurposed as production weapons. Propsmasters will replace most of the assembly with components that require less gas pressure to function. These are close copies, but, ultimately, they’re just replicas — and enthusiasts can tell.

People who’ve been around firearms can quickly spot when filmmakers add an abundance of flash coming out of the muzzle. But it’s a known inaccuracy and it’s done with a purpose. Films, in general, are shown (and often captured) at a rate of 24 frames per second. Without enhancing the muzzle flash, there’s a good chance that the camera won’t capture a flash at all — and that visual bang is an important part of selling the illusion of real gunfire.

But then there are the films crews that skip all of these mechanical steps and add the flashes and sound effects entirely in post-production. It’s comparatively cheaper when you factor in the costs of safety crews and whatnot, but the results aren’t always so great…

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

An interesting and positive side note: Lee’s stunt double, who’d also replace him for the rest of the film was Chad Stahelski, the man who’d later direct John Wick.

(Summit Entertainment)

Which leads us to the elephant in the room — the incident that took place on the set of 1994’s The Crow, which lead to the death of the actor Brandon Lee. One of the special effects guys tried to save time and money by making their own blank rounds from live .44 rounds. The weapon they were using on set was an actual handgun and made use these modified rounds. Well, one day, it didn’t work perfectly and a piece of the cartridge broke off and got lodged in the barrel. No one bothered to inspect the firearm or clean it. They tossed it aside and carried on with production.

A few days later, when they needed more firearms for a bigger scene, they grabbed that same handgun. Loaded with another home-made blank and with that fragment of the cartridge still in the barrel, a stunt actor fired it at Lee. Since his character was supposed to react to the shot (and Lee was known for being a gifted actor) no one noticed that Lee had actually been shot until well after the camera stopped rolling.

Though nothing can undo the tragedy that befell Brandon Lee, the silver lining is that firearms have since been treated with more care on set. Many safety regulations are now in place to prevent such a horrible tragedy from happening again.

Articles

This is how Marie Curie saved soldiers’ lives in World War One

Marie Curie may be one of the world’s best-known scientists, but some of her most important work took place not in the laboratory, but on the front lines of battle during World War One.


Marie Sklodowska Curie started life in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, but in 1891, she left home to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris and it was in France that her reputation was built. In 1903, she and her husband, Pierre, having discovered the elements radium and polonium, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with another researcher.

She would win another in 1911, this time for chemistry, but by that time, she was a widow; Pierre was killed in 1906 when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage while crossing a busy Parisian street.

 

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Pierre and Marie Curie. (Public Domain photo)

Curie’s pursuit of science had not been aided by the resentment and distrust of her male peers, who didn’t believe that a woman could possibly be their intellectual equal. The French Academy of Sciences had been unwilling to welcome her as a member for her scientific achievements.

Several year’s after Pierre’s death, she entered into an affair with a fellow scientist who was married. The spurned wife, who had letters that Curie had written to her lover, sent the letters to French newspapers, where they were published, and the public turned against Curie. In 1914, her Radium Institute was completed, but the year also brought the outbreak of World War I, which took her male laboratory workers off to fight.

She had one gram of radium to use for her research, not enough for her to experiment with during the war. She wanted to do something for the war effort. She was willing to have her Nobel Prize medals melted down to provide the gold that the French government needed, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So she donated the prize money she’d received and bought war bonds.

But she wasn’t satisfied.

Also read: Here is the heroine who was as awe inspiring as Wonder Woman

She couldn’t do the research that had made her reputation, so she opted to try something else: X-rays.

Knowing that war inevitably meant injuries that would require medical attention, Curie thought that X-rays could offer a new technology for the soldiers who were destined to be in harm’s way. X-rays on the battlefield could save lives.

She was named the head of the radiological services of the International Red Cross. She studied anatomy books. She learned to drive and how to fix automobiles. She taught herself how to use X-ray machines and trained medical professionals in the usage of the X-rays. She went on a fundraising campaign to raise money and by October, 1914, she had a traveling X-ray unit in a Renault van, the first of 20 that she would outfit.

The “Petites Curies” came with a generator, a hospital bed, and an X-ray machine. But once again, she had to sell the idea to the medical establishment, just as she had had to sell the science establishment on her qualifications as a researcher. Doctors were skeptical that radiology had a place on the battlefield.

So Curie headed to the Marne where a battle was raging to prove the value of the X-ray machines.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

She was able to detect the presence of bullets and shrapnel in soldiers who came to the van to be X-rayed, making the work of the surgeons on the front lines easier because they knew where to operate.

Curie was galvanized by the need for more X-ray units. In addition to the mobile vans, she wanted to add 200 stationary x-ray units. But the army was as dubious about her idea as they were about the new military technology like the tank and the machine gun.

Once again, Curie wouldn’t take no for an answer. She gave X-ray training to 150 women so that they could provide radiological diagnoses for the soldiers. Over a million French soldiers benefited from the Petites Curies and the accessibility of X-ray machines on the front.

When the war ended in 1918, Curie, like other celebrating Parisians, took to this streets, but with a difference. She was driving a Petite Curie.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Public Domain photo

For Curie, service in the war was necessary.

“What seemed difficult became easy,” recalled the ground-breaking scientist and French patriot. “All those who did not understand gave in or accepted; those who did not know learned; those who had been indifferent became devoted.”

But ultimately, Curie’s sacrifice for science and for the war proved lethal. She didn’t know that the radiation was deadly and the years of exposure — she had the habit of carrying test tubes in her pockets and although she noticed the way they emitted light in the dark, she didn’t understand that the glow was an indicator of danger — led to health problems and ultimately leukemia, which killed her in 1934.

Even now, her notebooks are so radioactive that anyone wishing to view them where they are stored at the National Library in Paris has to put on protective garments and sign a waiver.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine identifies soldier captured by Russian-backed separatists

A Ukrainian military unit has identified a captured soldier in a video posted by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In a Facebook posting on Jan. 3, 2019, the 128th Mountain Brigade said the soldier in the video belongs to the unit.

The Ukrainian military unit said statements by the soldier in the video were made under duress and that all efforts were being taken to secure his release.


Few other confirmed details of the fate of the soldier, identified as Andriy Kachynskyy, were immediately available.

Separatist-controlled media said he was seized while trying to enter a separatist-controlled area of the Donetsk region on Dec. 29, 2018.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

A Ukrainian Soldier looks for the enemy from an armored personnel carrier.

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Walter E. van Ochten)

News of the captured Ukrainian soldier comes amid a new truce in eastern Ukraine.

The cease-fire took effect on Dec. 29, 2018, and is scheduled to last until Jan. 7, 2019.

Ukrainian government forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since April 2014, shortly after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and forcibly annexed it.

Some 10,300 people have been killed in the fighting since early 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Chinese military rips scenes from ‘Transformers’ and other Hollywood blockbusters for this propaganda video touting its bombers

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force posted a new video to an official social media page over the weekend touting its bomber force. The propaganda video includes several scenes from big Hollywood films.

The short video — “God of War H-6K, attack!,” a reference to its H-6 bomber — is set to dramatic music and shows an attack on an airbase.


What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space

Screenshot of the PLAAF Weibo post. (Weibo)

The scenes of Chinese bomber aircraft in flight appear to be real PLAAF footage, but the combat scenes look like they were taken from the films “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “The Rock.” (The links go to the relevant scenes from the movies)

Here’s the “attack” footage from the new PLAAF video showing scenes from the three movies.

A source close to the Chinese military told the South China Morning Post that it is not uncommon for the Chinese military to “borrow” scenes from Hollywood films.

“Almost all of the officers in the department grew up watching Hollywood movies, so in their minds, American war films have the coolest images,” SCMP’s source said.

SCMP reported that back in 2011, Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV presented footage of a training exercise that included scenes from “Top Gun.”

The scenes from Hollywood films are not the only notable inclusions in the PLAAF video though.

Included in the airbase attack scene is satellite footage of an airfield that Reuters reports “looks exactly like the layout of” the US military’s Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, an important strategic location for US operations in the Pacific and a likely target in a US-China conflict.

The Chinese PLAAF bomber force currently consists of variations of the H-6 bomber, a Chinese version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, though newer aircraft are being developed.

“In recent years, China has fielded greater numbers of the H-6K, a modernized H-6 variant that integrates standoff weapons and features more-efficient turbofan engines for extended-range,” the Department of Defense wrote in its latest China Military Power report.

“The H-6K,” the report further explained, “can carry six [Land Attack Cruise Missiles], giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam from home airfields in mainland China.”

Among the Chinese military assets available for strikes on Guam are also DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Lately, China’s air force has been focused on Taiwan.

In just two days last week, the Chinese military conducted 37 sorties involving fighter jets, bombers, and other aircraft that saw planes crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait and crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a press briefing last Friday that the exercises were “legitimate and necessary action taken to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Strait.”

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


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Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.


According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.

Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment.  But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”

Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016.  That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars.  This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”

What scientists found sifting through dust in outer space
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, front row, center right, and fellow defense ministers pose for a photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.

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