ISIS talks a big game in posting propaganda videos on the internet, especially at the height of its power in 2014 – 2015. But one GoPro slamcam video, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and posted to YouTube shows, ISIS fighters aren’t always the hardcore soldiers ISIS says they are.
A warning: although most of the video just shows ISIS fighters under intense SDF fire, some of the images can get graphic.
The video is part of the “War Diary” project, an educational documentary project to archive real events in combat by the people who fought there. It features a squad of ISIS fighters directly engaged in combat with the Kurdish SDF. The GoPro camera appears to be attached either to a helmet of a squad commander or strapped to his chest. The commander, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, is accompanied by a fighter named Abu Aisha Iraqi, who keeps telling the man in charge that they should retreat.
Abu Aisha, you can probably guess, was right about getting out of there. The Kurds were coming at the ISIS fighters with fire so intense, the jihadis couldn’t even look at where they were shooting back. The ISIS commander has to order his men repeatedly to shoot back instead of fleeing. When he orders a grenade or RPG, his troops stay motionless with fear.
If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s okay. The Kurds translated the video for you.
The confrontation took place in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor Province in December 2018. It was part of a greater campaign by the SDF to push ISIS forces back across the Euphrates River, eliminate its fighters from the Iraqi border, and capture all remaining ISIS strongholds. It happened at the same time as the SDF push to capture the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the Syrian government’s push against the jihadist group in Western Syria. The result of the combined campaigns was the final defeat of ISIS as a formal army, occupying any territory.
In the video, you can see hear the frustration of the commander as his troops fail to shoot back, forget their weapons, and abandon an armored vehicle to escape the oncoming enemy. Even the ISIS commander begins to fumble with his AR-15 as the Kurds get closer. Abu Ayman Iraqi gets shot around 9:00. his men desert him in the armored vehicle as he shouts at them to come back.
One soldier is proving childhood dreams can come true as she prepares to launch into space for her first time.
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, and her crewmates, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch Dec. 20, 2018, aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month rotation on the International Space Station.
“When you look over the history of human space flight during the past 50 years, it is a relatively short time,” McClain said. “Every vehicle that has been built and every flight that has been taken is an accomplishment in and of itself. We have been flying to the space station for about 18 years and the thing we are always doing at all of our agencies is [asking], ‘What’s next? What is the next step we can take where mankind has never been before?’ For us, that is deep space.
“At the crew level we are fortunate,” she continued. “We have been training together more than a year for this flight. It is actually very easy to forget we are from three different countries and three different places because we are doing the same things together every day. We have the same concerns and the same issues in dealing with our families and we just connect as human beings.”
‘We are all in it together’
“At the end of the day, the Earth is a small place and we are all in it together, McClain said. “The decisions we make affect one another. From our perspectives, rather than taking politics and letting them inform our friendships, we actually take our friendships and let them inform our view of how politics should be and how our world could be.
“The peaceful exploration of space is absolutely a unifying aspect,” she added. “Working with this crew is an incredible opportunity, but it is also an example of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and really focus on what motivates us.”
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain.
McClain is a native of Spokane, Washington, and earned her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Additionally, she earned two master’s degrees while studying in England. She was a member of the USA Rugby Women’s National Team and said her experiences have played an integral role in helping her work with the international members of her NASA team.
“We are not just going to the International Space Station to visit, we are going there to live. It will be our home, and we are going to adapt to it,” McClain said. “When I go to Russia, it is absolutely a second home for me right now. I always tell people it is amazing the perspective you get when you get out of your comfort zone long enough to make it your comfort zone.
“It is amazing to see how people on the other side of the world approach the exact same problems yet come up with different solutions,” she added. “Getting comfortable in another culture really helps you understand perspectives and that we are not that different from one another.”
As a soldier, McClain earned her wings as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter pilot. She has more than 2,000 flight hours and served at every level of Army aviation units at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, and at Fort Rucker, Alabama; as well as in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The Army has given me everything I have as an adult,” she said. “It gave me my undergraduate college education and two master’s degrees. It gave me flight school and test pilot school. But I think, most importantly, the Army gave me really humbling, selfless leadership experience.”
“I went into the Army probably a little overconfident in some of my abilities, and I came out very humbled and very in awe of the people I serve with and with a recognition that I could never accomplish remotely what others can when given the right tools,” McClain said. “My biggest role as a leader or as a member of the team is to enable other people around me to perform at their optimal best.”
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (center) and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (right) pose for pictures following their final Soyuz spacecraft qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
(NASA photo by Elizabeth Weissinger)
“I try to be the leader who synergizes the team and tries to recognize barriers to the team around me and knock those barriers down,” she continued. “Our soldiers in our military are some of the most innovative, smart, dedicated, selfless people who I have ever worked with in my life. I am humbled every day just to be in their ranks. I learned from them to trust the people around me.
“Here at NASA our lives depend on each other every day,” McClain added. “I was in a vacuum chamber last week that can be a real threat to your body. These guys put on my gloves and pants while doing a leak check to make sure everything was good. My life was in their hands last week and it will be again in the future. I learned to have that trust in the Army.”
In 2013, McClain attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where she was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. Her astronaut candidate training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. She completed astronaut training in 2015.
“If you do the thing everybody else does, you are going to get what everybody else does,” McClain said. “If you want to do something amazing and something great, you need to start being different today and stay dedicated to that. There is nothing you are doing that is not important so you must excel in everything you do.”
During the upcoming mission, McClain and her team will facilitate about 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations. She explained that science experiments conducted in space yield benefits and technology advancements for all humanity and looks forward to achieving more scientific progress.
“The benefit of science experiments in micro-gravity and low-earth orbit are too numerous to just leave and move onto the next thing,” McClain said. “I am overwhelmed at the quantity of tasks we have, in a good way. One of the really neat things about going to the space station for six months is that we don’t specialize.”
“One of the things I really like is getting into academic areas I had no experience with before,” she continued. “I am an aerospace engineer by training and I was a test pilot in the Army. One of my favorite things now is biology and learning about the human body. To me this is really fascinating, and I could have had a totally different career and loved it also.
“What I am most excited about is space walks. We have some ‘penciled in’ for our mission,” McClain added. “It is what I dreamed of when I was a little 5-year-old girl and it is pretty neat to think that maybe in the next six months it could be happening.”
During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.
Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West
The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.
A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.
A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.
An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.
(Alfred Rudolf Waud)
The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.
At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.
This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.
Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.
At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.
Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.
(David Humphreys Miller)
During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.
But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.
The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.
An underwater drone which moves like a squid and can explode on command was one of the stranger weapons on display at a massive arms fair in London.
The device, named the Sea Hunting Autonomous Reconnaissance Drone (SHARD), is being marketed by the Australian arms manufacturer DefendTex.
It was one of many exhibits at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show, which is running this week in east London’s Docklands.
One was on display bobbing up and down in a tank, moving with its tentacle-like legs. Here is a video:
DefendTex staff told Business Insider that the drones are meant to float unassumingly in the sea, and are purposefully designed to look like squid as a type of camouflage.
The drones are meant to attach themselves to passing enemy vessels. They can then be detonated remotely by their operators. Each one can act by itself or as a swarm with others.
DefendTex said the drones swim using a motor, and can recharge by sinking to the ocean floor, attaching themselves to rocks, and allowing ocean currents to rotate and internal motor which charges the battery.
The drones are meant to be used in Anti-Submarine Warfare missions or Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions, according to DefendTex.
The project is still in development, and is not yet on sale.
DSEI is the UK’s largest arms fair, attracting representatives from the world’s 50 largest militaries, who come to view the latest defense and intelligence technology.
Over 1,600 manufacturers attend the event, which in 2019 is at London’s ExCel center.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently oversaw the launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and apparently pulled the trigger on four of them himself, the Associated Press reports.
The large-scale military drill exercised Russia’s land, air, and sea-based nuclear capability with test launches from submarines, supersonic bombers, and a launch pad.
“The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said. And the missiles, as well as the warheads, were very advanced.
Not only does the land-based missile boast a range of over 6,000 miles, enough to hit anywhere in the US with hundreds of kilotons of explosive force, but it has been tailor-made to evade US missile defenses.
Russian media reports that the Yars ICBM tested by Russia flies in a jagged pattern to evade missile defenses. Once the missile breaks up, it carries multiple reentry vehicles and countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm missile defenses.
Russian investigators say they have launched investigations into three separate attacks that wounded several police officers in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 20, 2018 assaults in an announcement by its Amaq news agency, without providing details or evidence to back up its statement.
The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected the IS claim, alleging that the militant group had “no support, no social basis” in the North Caucasus republic.
At most, the IS group might have influenced young people on social media, Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram.
Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov told the TASS news agency that the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that in one of the Aug. 20, 2018 attacks, two attackers entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded two officers with knives.
The two assailants were shot dead, according to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry.
“The main purpose today is to create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said.
(North Caucasus Service RFE/RL)
In the village of Mesker-Yurt, north of Shali, a young person carrying a rucksack blew himself up at a police post, investigators said, adding that “officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast.”
Reports earlier said the attacker had survived.
And in the regional capital, Grozny, police opened fire on a vehicle that had hit two policemen. Investigators said the driver was killed.
Authorities reportedly identified the driver as 17-year-old Ali Akhmatkhanov — a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.
The other person in the car was 11 years old, Umarov told TASS.
Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, claimed that the assaults’ main purpose was to “create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya.
The Chechen leader also dismissed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, saying, “The task was to darken this holiday, to cause a broad public response, and to prevent residents of Chechnya from celebrating Eid al-Adha.”
Islamic militants in the region have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to IS.
Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have fought alongside IS in Syria.
Organized crime, business turf wars, political disputes, and clan rivalry also contribute to the bloodshed in the region.
Critics say Russian authorities and Kadyrov’s government sometimes use allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.
You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.
Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.
Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.
Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.
And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.
Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?
Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?
To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.
As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.
That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”
This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.
On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.
As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.
This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.
The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.
Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.
Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.
Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.
So what’s going on here?
There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.
As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”
Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.
As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.
Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.
That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:
[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”
Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”
It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.
You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.
So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.
On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.
So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.
On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”
As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:
We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.
Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.
After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.
In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.
As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”
In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.
In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.
Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.
That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.
Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.
Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.
However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.
As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.
And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.
In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.
As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”
Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Russia is busy trying to drum up sales for its newest high-tech weapons, and one of those is the Su-35S Flanker – a heavily upgraded version of the Su-27, also called the Flanker.
According to the London Daily Mail, Russia has released a brief video of the Su-35 being taken for a test flight.
The Su-35’s biggest change is the use of thrust-vectoring engines. This only enhances the maneuverability inherent in the Su-27 design. The Su-27 is famous for being able to do the Pugachev Cobra, a maneuver that allows it to fly tail-first for a period of time.
The Daily Mail noted that the Su-35S has a top speed of Mach 2.25, the ability to fire a variety of missiles and drop up to 17,000 pounds of bombs from 12 hardpoints, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon for close-in dogfighting. Some Su-35s were sent to Syria by the Russian government, which backs that country’s dictator, Bashir al-Assad.
Russia also did a video of its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The video, though, omitted relevant details, like the carrier’s poor operating condition. There were also at least two splash landings during the Kuznetsov’s deployment off Syria.
Major James Capers (centered). Featured photo courtesy of The Veterans Project.
Major James Capers Jr. is a living legend.
If you do not know who “The Major” is, it is highly recommended that you read here to learn more about this great American and highly decorated war hero. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina in the Jim Crow south. During the Vietnam War, just three generations removed from slavery, he became the first African American to receive a battlefield commission as part of Marine Force Recon. Capers’s team, which called themselves “Team Broadminded” conducted more than 50 classified missions in 1966 alone.
During his 22-years of service, Major Capers has been awarded the Silver Star; two Bronze Stars; and Combat V; four Purple Hearts; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; three Good Conduct Ribbons; Battle Stars; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; CG Certificate of Merit; and multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation. There is a new push for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime; he turned 83 years old on August 25.
On Friday, August 28, Capers’s hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina held a ceremony in honor of his service and dedication to this great country.
After several high profile guests bestowed deserved recognition and honors upon Capers, he began his speech with a tribute to his dear wife, Dottie Capers, and son, Gary Capers. They have sadly both passed away, several years ago, but clearly still have a special place in his heart and mind. Capers began his speech by saying: “I’m a little bit overwhelmed because my precious Dottie is not here, and my wonderful baby [Gary] is not here. They are in heaven and God has promised me that I will see them again.”
The event included a parade through Bishopville accompanied by USMC veteran Danny Garcia from Honor Walk 2020 and a color guard comprised of Marine Raiders.
The Mayor of Bishopville presented “Capers Boulevard and intersection,” a bronze wall sculpture with his likeness. Additionally, Major Capers was recognized by Congressman Ralph Norman and other elected officials. He was also given South Carolina’s “Order of the Palmetto.” This is the state’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The award was presented by Senator Gerald Malloy.
In addition to a large crowd of civilians, Marines from several generations were also present to honor Major Capers and witness the public outpouring of gratitude and respect for his service.
Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Capers has continued to mentor countless young Marines who look to him for natural and spiritual guidance as they navigate life. Major Capers’s legacy is not only long-lasting because he was a warrior and leader, but also because he was a devoted husband to his late-wife Dottie and a loving father to his late-son Gary. As he neared the conclusion of his speech, Major Capers stated, “All of these accolades today mean a lot to me, and it means a lot to Dottie because she’s up there watching.”
A humble and soft-spoken man, Capers said, “I don’t deserve all of this.” To which the captivated crowd strongly disagreed. The reality is that no one deserves this honor and respect more than he does. He is a true patriot, great American, and hero to the highest degree.
For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project: