How many carriers does the United States Navy have? Well, between the ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the freshly commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of her class, you might think the answer is 11 — but you’d be underestimating. There are nine other ships in the fleet that can serve as carriers in a pinch.
Those are the eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships and the single America-class vessel in service. Their primary role, currently, is to carry about a battalion’s worth of Marines and attachments, usually in conjunction with an amphibious transport dock, like USS San Antonio (LPD 17), and a landing ship dock, like USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). But these massive ships are actually much more versatile.
Just look at a ship like USS America. What does she look like? Well, there’s a flat deck all the way down the ship and an island on the right. In fact, if you were to take a look at perhaps the greatest U.S. Navy ship of World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6), you may notice a striking similarity.
Today, USS America, as well as her Wasp-class predecessors, haul around the Air Combat Element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. In Tom Clancy’s 1996 book, Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was equipped with six AV-8B Harriers, twelve CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, eight CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, eight AH-1W Cobras, and three UH-1N Hueys for a deployment. That is a total of 37 aircraft.
But imagine for a moment that you were able to mess around with the numbers a little. First, let’s offload all of the helicopters. Instead, let’s put an entire squadron of 15 Harriers on board, or offload the six Harriers in favor of a squadron of 16 F-35B Lightnings. Next, let’s add about a dozen of the Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. And presto, you now have an air group on board that is outclassed only by the air groups on the French Charles de Gaulle and the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-classes of carriers.
Because the America and the Wasp were designed to haul Marines around, they’re not going to perform as well as a full-scale carrier. They’ll also have a much more limited capacity than their larger counterparts. But they could fill in somewhere in a pinch. In essence, they are “backup carriers” and you never know when having those backups might save America’s butt.
Members of the Armed Forces will be familiar with the term “contraband.” In basic training, it was civilian clothing. On deployment, it was alcohol. For the Union soldiers that occupied Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1861, contraband referred to the slaves they captured. These captured slaves were pressed into service as cooks, laundresses or nurses to support the Union war effort. Among these captured slaves was 17-year-old Cathay Williams, who worked as a cook and washerwoman and eventually, as a soldier.
In September 1844, Williams was born in Independence, Missouri, to a free man and an enslaved woman. This made her legal status that of a slave. She worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation outside of Jefferson City, Missouri.
Painting of Cathay Williams by Williams Jennings (U.S. Army Profiles of Bravery)
After she was pressed into service, Williams served under General Philip Sheridan and accompanied the infantry on campaigns around the country, including the Red River Campaign, the Battle of Pea Ridge, and the Shenandoah Valley Raids in Virginia. Her extensive travels during the war influenced her decision to enlist afterwards.
On November 15, 1866, Williams enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment (“Rock of the Marne”). Because women were prohibited from military service, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted under the name “William Cathay”. At the time, the Army did not perform full medical examinations on enlistees, so Williams was able to maintain her cover. Only two people in the regiment, a cousin, and a friend, knew Williams’ true identity. “They never blowed on me,” Williams said. “They were partly the cause of me joining the Army. The other reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”
Williams was able to keep her secret despite a case of smallpox shortly after her enlistment. After her hospitalization, Williams was able to rejoin her unit at Fort Bayard in the New Mexico territory, helping to secure the construction of the transcontinental railroads. However, a case of neuralgia (intermittent nerve pain) sent her to the post surgeon who uncovered Williams’ secret and reported her to the post commander. On October 14, 1868, she received an honorable discharge with the legacy of being the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.
Williams went on to work as a cook, laundress, and part-time nurse in New Mexico and Colorado. Years later, her declining health led to a hospitalization from 1890 to 1891. In June 1891, Williams applied for a military disability pension. A doctor concluded that she did not qualify, and the Pension Bureau cited the fact that her Army service was not legal. It is estimated that Williams died between 1892 and 1900. Her final resting place is also unknown.
American women have disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolutionary War. Williams, however, was the first known African-American to do so. She is also the only known woman to disguise herself as a man during the Indian Wars. Her fierce independence and determination to serve are hallmarks of the American spirit that she, and so many others before and after her, have sought to defend.
Bronze bust of Cathay Williams at the Richard Allen Cultural Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee)
The Army has had a love-hate relationship with its PT tests. It seems like every few months, soldiers catch wind of a new APFT that is definitely coming, so they should start getting ready. This has been circulating through the Private News Network for over a decade and has steadily been covered by military journalists since 2011.
While the actual events in proposed tests differ from year to year, each potential revision generally includes adding to the existing three staples (push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run) some events more consistent with the military lifestyle. They also usually change up the grading system to either being a single, unified scale for everyone in the Army or something so convoluted that no one can easily figure them out at 0530.
Also unanswered: “Is the VA cool with all of the back-problem claims they’re about to receive?”
(U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has been very open about feedback and answering soldiers’ questions about the test, as seen in an article on Army Times. Nonetheless, the ever-looming question of, “will it actually happen this time?” remains unanswered.
But at least scoring a 300 gave soldiers their very much owed bragging rights.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Seong Joon Kim)
The Army Physical Fitness Test was first introduced in 1858 at West Point and has been evolving ever since. In the 20s, it was standardized and the 40s gave us a seven-event system that was bonkers. There were minor changes made to the system until the APFT as we know it came into being in 1980.
The current test focuses on three fitness groups: upper body, core, and endurance. You are then scored according to the average performance of others of your age and gender, giving you a rough idea of how physically fit you are. The test is combined with a “tape test” to measure body fat, but this portion is often skipped if the soldier is obviously not overweight.
The main criticism of the test that’s been in place for 38 years is that it doesn’t accurately identify if a soldier is fit for combat. A scrawny 18-year old could score a 300 and still won’t be able to carry anyone else in the unit should the worst happen.
According to Army Times, here’s what the new test will look like. Note that all events are now graded on a “go/no-go” scale. From the moment the first dead-lifts start, soldiers are only allowed brief rests before moving to the next event. The entire test would take 50 minutes.
Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
Standing power throw. You’ll be required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. You’ll have three minutes to make one practice throw and two for a grade. The longest distance is recorded.
Hand-release push-ups. You lower your chest to the floor and lift your hands off the ground between each rep. You’ll be required to do the most reps in three minutes.
Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, you will go 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each repetition will include a different activity. Meaning you’ll sprint, drag a sled, run a lateral shuffle, or carry two 40-pound kettle bells, and then sprint again.
Leg tuck. You will be required to hang from a pull-up bar and, with your body parallel, pull your knees to your elbows. Do as many reps as possible within two minutes.
Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.
In the very likely scenario that this will happen (because my faith in some soldier’s intelligence is laughable) please send those photos to US Army WTF Moments.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux)
See any red flags in there? The overhaul brings about some serious concerns that have been largely avoided with the three-event test. The sit-ups are out entirely and the regular push-ups have been modified into “hand-release push-ups,” in which you must clap your hands mid-rep.
There’s an obvious risk involved in rushing a company full of soldiers through a mandatory test while instructing them to blindly throw a heavy-ass ball behind them. There’s a less obvious risk involved in requiring dead lifts. The fact is, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, an improper dead lift is going to devastate your back. There’s also the risk of soldiers slipping up on the hand-released push-ups and eating pavement — which is nothing more than funny if it doesn’t involve a trip to the dentist.
While it’s only in the hearsay-phase, if the test were to be in ACUs, it’d make things even worse.
Then there’s the cost factor. Only two of the seven events don’t require some sort of special equipment to perform. In order to keep up with the “two-minute rest” condition in the test, units are going to need to dish out a metric a*s-load of cash to buy enough equipment to test everyone. Add to that the money needed to store all that equipment when it’s not in use and the costs of keeping all the equipment in working order — the bill is starting to add up.
This is all without addressing the most polarizing aspect of the new test: it uses a single grading system for all soldiers. There’s a reason for the current grading system — it’s based off of averages for each gender and age group. Realistically speaking, a 41-year old female who’s been in the military her entire adult life would obviously not do as many push-ups as a fresh, 18-year-old football jock.
The current test compares her to women in her age group. It accurately tells the command that, yes, her 300 score means she’s kicking all of her like peers. Pitting her in a dead-lift competition against Mr. Teenage Quarterback just doesn’t make any sense.
There are many, many roadblocks ahead for an updated PT test. Since the onset, critics have been vocal and yet many problems remain unaddressed, so don’t hold your breath on this one happening by 2020 as projected. Army brass is keen on this test so, if it does happen, expect a lot of backlash, back problems, high costs, and countless classes on proper dead-lift form.
These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.
This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.
I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:
MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.
Schedule video conference calls.
Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.
Create a virtual water cooler.
Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.
Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.
Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!
Dedicate a space.
This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.
Don’t neglect hygiene.
Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.
This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.
2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.
You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.
First up is yoga.
Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.
I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high.
He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.
You can also turn into your grandma to relax.
Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.
There is also the option to go get some fresh air.
Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.
Are these things too tame for you?
Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…
So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?
Top Gun is an iconic movie, no doubt about it. The action flick, which came out in 1986, was a blockbuster hit and has stayed popular in the three decades since.
The sequel comes out this summer and its trailers have already made us crave the need…. the need for speed.
The movie’s lexicon has permeated into our everyday language over the years. We tell others to “Cover me, Goose,” “Be my wingman anytime,” or “take me to bed or lose me forever.”
If you have ever been stationed in or have visited San Diego, you might have sung “Great Balls of Fire” at Kansas City Barbeque, sang “Highway to the Danger Zone” as you watched jets fly around Miramar, or hummed, “Take my Breath Away” as you hung out on a beach in Oceanside. The San Diego Padres have even tried several times to make “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” their version of the Red Sox’s “Sweet Caroline.”
One of the most iconic parts of the movie has to be the call signs.
Everyone loves call signs. They can be badass, cool, funny, and always give some glimmer of personality to a person in a military that tends to dissuade individuality.
(When my unit first got to Iraq, our command floated the idea of letting us pick a call sign. For an afternoon, I went back and forth between “Indian Outlaw” and “Buckeye” (my parents were from India and I left Ohio State to enlist in the Marines). Unfortunately, the movie 300 had recently come out, and after having every junior enlisted Marine fight over why they deserved to be called “Spartan” or “Leonidas,” the idea was scrapped, and we were assigned call signs based off our rank and last name.
Hence, instead of “Indian Outlaw,” I became “Echo4Juliet”… [puke]
On the flip side, Top Gun had some amazing call signs.
So let’s rank them from worst to first. We went off how awesome they sound, if they fit the character, and if they resonate with the audience. Here we go!
Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, was based on a real-life civilian mathematician and maritime air superiority expert Christine “Legs” Fox. Her character did showcase the amount of data and analytical studies that went into studying and perfecting the art of aerial warfare. But the call sign Charlie was pretty lazy (the character’s first name was Charlotte) and really didn’t add anything to her personality.
Chipper is barely in the movie and is more of a seat filler. The lack of character doesn’t really give us much to wonder about his name. Doesn’t look very chipper to me.
When you think of the name Merlin, you think of wizardry and magic. You would think that someone with that call sign would either be doing some type of aviation wizardry. Instead, Merlin, played by Academy Award winner Tim Robbins pretty much looks like he’s about to crap is pants most of the time. Merlin is more apt for Andy Dufrense because of his escape from Shawshank and less Robbins character in Top Gun.
“Slider…. You stink…” Does it have to do with how he gets with the ladies? Or sliding in behind the enemy? Did he slide off a runway when in training and end up in the backseat as a result? Or was he a college baseball player that just had one pitch? I don’t know why this name doesn’t sit well, but it just doesn’t.
Maybe Cougar liked to go after older women. But, he probably was named after a ferocious animal. Its not a bad call sign, but not that original. His character, losing his edge, didn’t help.
Wolfman should have been called Cowboy. He wore a cowboy hat in class, after all. But he does have a personality that shines through all throughout the movie and comes across like an old school radio DJ ala Wolfman Jack. So that pushes him up on the list.
“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” Lines like that make it obvious why Stinger is well, Stinger. His butt-chewings would make him a great first sergeant, and when he speaks, he means business. “And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog s**t out of Hong Kong!”
Hollywood looks good and acts the part. He’s got the shade and swagger and doesn’t seem to lose his cool. The name fits so much that after he is shot down and ends up ejecting and needed to be rescued out of the water, he still looks Hollywood-like.
It might have to do with the fact he is African American. It might have to do with the fact when he flies in, the sun goes down, and darkness arrives. Or both.
Regardless it is an awesome name. The helmet is even more bad ass.
Goose normally would suck, but it fits its characters personality so well. A guy with a callsign, Cobra wouldn’t be serenading women in bars, yelling “Great Balls of Fire” after getting in trouble, or taking Polaroids of MiGs…. WHILE INVERTED. Anthony Edwards, the actor who played Goose, later gave insight on why writers came up with the name.
“You can run kid, but you can’t hide” Jester is probably the perfect name of an instructor. He is wily, knows all the tricks, and is keen to remind you of why you are the student while he is the teacher. He also will break the rules and then throw them back in your face when you break them. (He did go below the hard deck first…..)
Jester was played by veteran actor Michael Ironside, whose own last name should be a call sign.
“That’s right…. Ice…Man… I am dangerous.”
Iceman chomps his teeth at him.
Everyone in the military fashions themselves to be the Iceman type. Cool. Calm. Collected…and Cocky. You keep your cool under pressure and stick to your training and planning. Nothing gets under his skin, and he thrives at the hint of competition.
Iceman looks Maverick right in the face and tells him why he is dangerous but doesn’t go running to higher command. He takes it as a challenge and goes out and wins. The only time he starts to crack is when he’s taking on five MiGs by himself (and can you really blame him on that?)
Based on Vietnam veteran, Top Gun instructor, and technical advisor Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew (holy Harry Potter name), Viper is a bad ass based on a real-life bad ass.
Vipers might look slow and sluggish but will deliver a quick strike. In the same manner, Viper doesn’t go around yelling like Stinger or Jester. He is quiet and calm and gives off the demeanor of tranquility… until he is in the air.
There he makes short work of his pupils.
Did you really think this name wasn’t going to be number one? Maverick has become synonymous with breaking the rules and flaunting the fact you’re doing it. It has been co-opted by politicians, someone you served with, and is now the #73 most popular boy’s name in America.
The name fits the character perfectly.
Jester : His fitness report says it all. Flies by the seat of his pants. Completely unpredictable. Viper : He got you, didn’t he? Jester : [pauses] Yeah.
Maverick knows what it takes to get the job done and has the talent to do it. He also does what drives a lot of the military brass (and Iceman) crazy. He thinks outside the box.
Once he is able to reconcile being a good wingman while still utilizing his talents, it is game over for the enemy MiGs. All we can do is enjoy the ride with the “oh crap” look that Merlin has.
Let us know if you had a great call sign in the military! Comment your call sign and why you got it!
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley wish their families goodnight after launching into low-Earth orbit. Screenshot via SpaceX/YouTube
SpaceX released a video on Tuesday that chronicles its Demo-2 mission, the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon spaceship. The mission carried NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the International Space Station, and it went remarkably smoothly – an outcome that felt somewhat out-of-keeping with this turbulent year on Earth.
“We hope it brings a little bit of brightness to a pretty tough 2020,” Hurley says at the end of the video.
The never-before-broadcast footage shows Behnken and Hurley driving to the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After giving thumbs-ups to onlookers, the two astronauts board the Crew Dragon.
“Three…two…one…ignition, liftoff,” Mission Control says. Then SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket ignites.
Once they enter space, Behnken does a backflip as a stuffed sequined dinosaur floats around the capsule. “Tremor the Apatosaurus” was the latest in a long line of stuffed animals that astronauts have brought into space as zero-gravity indicators; when the toys start to float, observers know the ship has entered microgravity.
The video also shows the moments after Crew Dragon docked with the space station, when the astronauts met up with the members of Expedition 63. The montage ends with their return to Earth: A small white capsule shrieks through the atmosphere, then its parachutes deploy, slowing it to a gentle splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
Astronaut Bob Behnken pushes aside a plush dinosaur toy floating around the cabin of the Crew Dragon as it reaches low-Earth orbit, May 30, 2020. NASA TV
Still, the mission wasn’t without snags. For instance, once the Crew Dragon landed, its thrusters began emitting toxic fumes. Throngs of boats carrying tourists and onlookers also ignored commands to keep their distance.
These problems serve as learning opportunities for NASA and SpaceX as they prepare for the next crewed mission in their partnership, Crew-1. That’s scheduled to launch at 2:40 a.m. ET on October 31.
From top left: Shannon Walker, Soichi Noguchi, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins pose with SpaceX founder Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Jim Bridenstine/NASA
That crew includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Hopkins is slated to be the mission’s commander, Glover the pilot, and Walker and Noguchi mission specialists.
The Demo-2 astronauts have already offered some words of wisdom for that group. Hopkins said Hurley warned him about the shocking speed of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
“His comment about entry was, ‘It happens fast,'” Hopkins said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “From the time the de-orbit sequence starts, the entry sequence starts, to when you touch down is very fast.”
“For me, that means I need to make sure that we, as a crew, are ready for it,” Hopkins added. “When things happen fast, you need to be anticipating.”
But minor issues and surprises aside, NASA and SpaceX officials are mostly hoping for a repeat of Demo-2’s success later this fall.
“It will be a great mission if Crew-1 goes exactly the same way,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, said during the Tuesday briefing. “I’m counting on a beautiful mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Melanie Macdonald, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Specialist, with 1st Marine Air Wing, poses as a zombie and hides, waiting to jump out at kids as they trick-or-treat, on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Oct. 31, 2020.
Places of anguish, death and chaos are magnets for paranormal activity. Locals living near battlefields of the past bear witness to lights and chills in the darkness. Spirits echo through time on an infinite loop imprinted on the fabric of time. Filled with ancient bones and soviet phantoms, Afghanistan itself is a nationwide graveyard. U.S. troops stationed abroad have reported experiencing unexplained phenomena on their tours in the barren wasteland.
1. The haunted Military Outpost of Observation Post Rock in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s notorious Helmand Province is plagued with the sounds and sights of the paranormal. Before Operation Enduring Freedom, The Rock or OP Rock, was a crumbling mud-fort controlled by the Taliban. The Rock’s elevation is a defensive advantage and thus an ideal place to establish a base. While it resembles a rock, it is not one. The locals claim that rebel fighters were buried alive during a missile strike during the surge. However, some of the bones are ancient and believed to be from hundreds of years ago. Since recorded history of the site is near impossible to find without the help of expert archeologists, whom will not set foot into a warzone, we may never know the stories of the dead.
Soldiers described seeing strange lights, hearing strange static on the radio, seeing sudden temperature swings from hot to freezing, hearing lights and voices in the night, and having a creepy, uneasy feeling. Several Marines posted there said someone or something was keeping an eye on them. Several people said they heard Russian sounds in the darkness. The smell of rotten flesh is a characteristic of poltergeist hauntings. Marines stationed at the base claimed to smell decaying flesh at random times during the night.
2. The village of Najeeban is a literal ghost town
The village of Najeeban was full of anti-American sympathizers who actively aided and abetted the Taliban. In 2012, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly suffered from a mental psychosis brought on by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine. He testified that before he went on a murder spree, he was experiencing hallucinations and flashing lights. What he failed to mention, until a year later during a sentencing agreement, was that he was also under the influence of alcohol as well. He went on a rampage, slaying 16 civilians and setting their corpses on fire. Locals abandoned the village due to the trauma, superstition and labelled one house a holy place called ‘Shrine of the Martyrs’. Now empty, it serves the dual purpose as a ‘a place where prayers can be answered’ and a piece of propaganda for insurgent recruitment.
3. Forward Operation Base Salerno
The base’s location lends itself to ghost stories already, with an ancient Afghan graveyard on its outskirts, guarded by two large watchtowers. Indeed, these towers are claimed to be haunted by the ghost of a little child, who is said to be heard or seen wandering around the buildings or the surrounding city. Civilians unfortunately are the biggest casualty in warfare — modern or ancient. For some reason the specters of children are creepier than those of adults. Perhaps it’s the loss of innocence or their willingness to cling to a world they are not ready to leave.
Even though no specifics of the mysterious ghost could be seen. She was there and then she was not. Sometimes the pitter pater of tiny foots steps would run un behind you and vanish. Toughened Marines were reportedly reduced to tears and refusing to return to the tower after the incident. Other troops heckled the Marines until the little girl came to visit them on night watch. It’s all fun and games until the spirits show up.
Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.
You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.
Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.
Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.
But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.
And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.
And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.
AC/DC, Estadio de San Mamés, Bilbao, 28/VI/2010. Foto por Dena Flows.
At the end of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” CWO Mike Durant is sitting in a dark room as a POW, as a helicopter flies by overhead. From the passing bird, comes a voice: “Mike Durant, we won’t leave you behind.”
This makes for an agonizing scene, with Durant suffering from a broken cheekbone, eye socket, back, femur, and nose as the sun goes down over Mogadishu. He thought he was going to die. And the Somalis did try to kill him three times.
But the Army didn’t just remind one of their soldiers that he wouldn’t be left behind, his friends in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment wanted him to know they were actively looking for him and they wouldn’t stop until they found him.
“When you’re in captivity,” Durant told documentarians filming AC/DC’s “Beyond the Thunder,” “if you hear an aircraft, it obviously gets your attention because the first thing you’re trying to determine is, ‘Do they know where I am?”’
As the Somalis started to scramble, Durant heard a telltale “BONG” of his favorite song, and then the opening lines of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.”
“It was an incredible moment,” Durant recalled. “They had loudspeakers attached to this Black Hawk, flying around the city, broadcasting this music.” That’s when the voice bellowed the words echoed in the movie:
“Mike, we won’t leave here without you.”
It was a moment Durant says he will never forget. He spent 11 days in captivity.
Durant’s helicopter, Super Six-Four, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade after dropping off his 18 Rangers into the heart of Mogadishu. His mission was finished until he was called to replace Super Six-One as fire support over the target.
The Army lost five Black Hawks that day. When the helos hit the ground, the Somalis would overrun the wreckage and kill everyone aboard. Mike Durant says he was incredibly lucky that someone recognized his value as a prisoner.
The US Air Force completed a first-of-its-kind training exercise involving the stealthiest aircraft in the world in a massive show of force meant to demonstrate the US’s commitment to bucking down a rising China in the Pacific.
B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri took the long flight out to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for the first time ever starting in September 2018.
And while the B-2s familiarized themselves with their new home, they took off for training missions with ultra stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, US Air Force director of air and cyberspace operations in the Pacific, said in a statement.
“The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Williams. “The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”
A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The US recently started calling the Pacific the “Indo-Pacific” in what was widely seen as a slight against China. Addressing “free and open” travel there seems to needle Beijing over its ambitions to determine who can sail or fly in the international waters of the South China Sea.
But beyond the rhetorical messages, flying B-2s and F-22s together sends a clear military message — you can’t hit what you can’t see.
The US doesn’t have any bigger guns — this is the real deal
Despite the B-2’s massive size, its stealth design and lack of vertical stabilizers make it almost invisible to radars. The F-22 also benefits from all-aspect stealth and a marble-sized footprint on radar screens. Together, the nuclear-capable B-2 and the world-beating F-22 fighter jet represent a force that can go anywhere in the world, beat any defenses, drop nuclear or conventional heavy payloads, and get out of harm’s way.
China has sought to defend the South China Sea with surface-to-air missiles and large radar installations, but the B-2 and F-22 have specific tactics and features to defeat those.
An Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft banks away after being refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean, July 15, 2017.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Additionally, the Air Force tweaked the old tactics used by the Cold-War era stealth airframes to show a new look entirely.
Instead of simply taking off and landing from Pearl Harbor, a known base and likely target for Chinese missiles in the opening salvo of a conflict, a B-2 trained on something called “hot reloading” from a smaller base on a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific called Wake Island.
There, specialists refueled the B-2 and reloaded its bomb bays while the engines still ran, enabling a lightning-quick turnaround thousands of miles out from Pearl Harbor and into the Pacific.
“We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron’s commander, said in the statement.
While Beijing increasingly takes a militaristic line towards the US, which is trying to preserve freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the US Air Force made the purpose of its new training regime explicit.
The mission sought to “to ensure free, open Indo-Pacific” with stealth nuclear bombers and fighter jets purpose-built to counter Beijing’s South China Sea fortress.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.
In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.
The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.
In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.
Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.
According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”
That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.
Aleksandr Torshin (right)
Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”
Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.
In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.
Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.
Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.
Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.
In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.
Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.
“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.
“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”
Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”
Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.
Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.
Contrary to popular belief, a decent percentage of the human population has known definitely the Earth was roughly spherical for over two thousand years. Hardly impressive, as noted in our BrainFood Show podcast, bees also use this fact in their own absurdly fascinating navigation and in communicating directions to other bees.
As for humans, we took a little longer to realize this, with Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) generally credited with being the first known person to have suggested a spherical Earth, though the idea didn’t exactly catch on at this point. Aristotle (4th century B.C.) agreed and supported the hypothesis with observations such as that the southern constellations rise higher in the sky when a person travels south. He also noted that during a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow is round. Much more definitively, the 3rd century BC head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, built on their ideas and managed to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy. How? He simply used the knowledge that at noon on the Summer Solstice there was a well in Syene where the sun shown directly down to the bottom, with no shadow. Thus, at noon on Summer Solstice he used a rod to measure the angle of the shadow made in Alexandria and found it to be about 7 degrees or about 1/50th of a circle. With this information, he now just needed to know the exact distance between Syene and Alexandria to get the circumference of the Earth (about 50 times the distance between Syene and Alexandria). He hired a survey crew, known as bematists, to measure the distance, which they found to be about 5,000 stadia. He then concluded the Earth must be about 250,000 stadia around. Depending on which stadion measurement he was using, his figure was either just 1% too small or 16% too large. Many scholars think it likely that he was using the Egyptian stadion (157.5 m), being in Egypt at the time, which would make his estimate roughly 1% too small.
Moving on to the so called Dark Ages in which Christianity supposedly squashed such outlandish ideas as a spherical Earth, the truth is actually the opposite. In Christian medieval Europe, 7th century Catholic monk and scholar Bede produced an influential treatise that included a discussion of the spherical nature of the world. This work, The Reckoning of Time, was copied and distributed to clerics across the Carolingian empire. Later, in the 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy also describes the Earth as a sphere and again nobody seemed to have a problem with this.
Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco.
The Catholics and later other branches of Christianity weren’t the only religious sects that seemed to have its clergy and scholars almost universally think the world was spherical. The Islamic world also concurred. As historian Jeffrey Burton Russell sums up,
With extraordinary few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.
Beyond the academics of the Western world, even the most empty headed sailor knew the Earth was spherical simply by the fact that ships disappear over the horizon with the bottom first and then the mast the last to be sighted. A similar effect is observed when spotting land from a ship. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize the sea’s surface must curve continually.
Despite this, there really still is a tiny percentage of the populace of the developed world who believe the world is flat.
You might at this point be wondering just how many? While internet comment threads make it seem as if the percentage is large, the reality is probably drastically less. (Comment trolls gonna troll.)
As for some numbers, according to a 2018 poll run by the massive market research firm YouGov, the 8,215 responses which were chosen to have a high probability of accurately representing the wider adult populace, showed,
84% of respondents said they have always believed the world is round
5% stated “I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”,
2% stated “I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”
and 2% went with “I have always believed the world is flat”.
The remaining 7% stated “Other/not sure”.
While the good people at YouGov certainly know their stuff with respect to getting accurate data that represents the wider populace, we were curious as to what a larger sample of our own audience would reveal, though with the caveat that a general internet poll can sometimes be notoriously inaccurate. But for the curious and for whatever it’s worth, our poll asking more or less the same questions received over 72,000 votes. What were the results? Approximately
96% of respondents stated they “firmly believe the world is round”,
1% went with “I used to firmly believe the world is round, but now have doubts”
1% voted for “I firmly believe the world is flat”
0% stated “I used to firmly believe the world is flat, but now have doubts”
1% noted “I am not sure what I believe on this issue.”
These numbers seem surprisingly reasonable for an online poll when compared to something a little more rigorously implemented like the YouGov poll. While our numbers skew more towards Round Earthers, this is perhaps to be expected given we know definitively that our audience skews towards being much more educated than the general populace.
And just because we were curious about the many, many online trolls who, as stated, it’s our pet hypothesis are actually making it seem like there are a lot more Flat Earthers than there actually are, we did a follow up poll which got 54,000 votes. For whatever it’s worth, in this one, approximately
9% of respondents stated “I believe the world is round, but sometimes say online it’s flat”
2% stated “I believe the world is flat and advocate this position online”
The remaining 89% stated “Neither applies to me.”
(And, yes, we know those numbers don’t add up to exactly 100% in either case, but YouTube’s polling system rounds to the whole number, so here we are.)
Those numbers out of the way, this finally brings us to who started the relatively modern Flat Earth movement and how on God’s oblate spheroid Earth this movement is actually growing in an era where nearly all human knowledge is almost literally at everyone’s fingertips?
The genesis of the modern Flat Earth Society started in the mid-19th century thanks to one Samuel Rowbotham of London, England. Dropping out of school at the tender age of 9, Rowbotham would eventually become convinced, or at least claimed he was, that not only was the Earth flat, but that everything we see in the heavens is actually only a few thousand miles from the Earth- stars and all. While his ideas were absurd for an incredible number of reasons, even given the technology and scientific knowledge of his era, what Rowbatham had going for him was he was reportedly incredibly quick on his feet in debates and an extremely charismatic speaker, able to twist the words of even the best academics. It didn’t matter if he was actually right or not, only that he was better at convincing laypeople than the academics he regularly debated, or at least good at creating reasonable doubt. As noted by a contemporary article published in the Leeds Times,
One thing he did demonstrate was that scientific dabblers unused to platform advocacy are unable to cope with a man, a charlatan if you will (but clever and thoroughly up in his theory), thoroughly alive to the weakness of his opponents.
Besides making a small fortune public speaking, he also wrote various works including a book aptly titled Earth Not a Globe. Rowbotham ultimately created the Zetetic Society, which, besides advocating for a flat Earth, also advocated that only facts one could prove themselves could be accepted as true. On the side, Rowbotham also began going by “Dr. Samuel Birley” and making money selling people on cure-alls and life extenders of his own invention, among other such activities.
While by the early 20th century the society he started had gradually faded into even more obscurity than it already was at its peak during Rowbotham’s lifetime, all was not lost. The truth cannot be killed so easily! In 1956 when mankind was on the verge of putting a satellite in orbit, Samuel Shenton of Dover, UK, came across the former works of the Universal Zetetic Society, the successor to Rowbotham’s, and was hooked. He then established the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS) which adopted some of the ideas of the Zetetic Society before it, most notably, as you might have guessed from their new name, that the Earth is flat.
A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.
Of course, his timing wasn’t exactly ideal given the launch of Sputnik in 1957 which, beyond being in orbit, put out a signal that anyone with a little know-how could track, very clearly demonstrating the spherical nature of the Earth.
This didn’t phase him in the slightest, however. He simply noted that satellites circled over the disc of the world and that, “Would sailing round the Isle of Wight prove that it were spherical? It is just the same for those satellites.”
When pictures of the Earth were taken from space clearly showing the planet’s spherical nature, the man who strongly advocated trusting what you can see with your own eyes stated, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”
When astronauts came back still believing the Earth wasn’t flat, he went with the catch-all explanation for any conspiracy theory when no other suitable explanation can be thought up- “It’s a deception of the public and it isn’t right.”
Despite the giant, roughly spherical mound of evidence staring the members right in the face, including the variety easily confirmed by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in physics, the society did not die completely, though by 1972 had dropped from a peak of about 3,000 members down to around 100 spanning the globe.
That same year Shenton died and Californian Charles Johnson more or less took over the remnants, creating the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Johnson also advocated that there was a global conspiracy with regards to the very flat Earth, not just today, but spanning millennia. To quote him, this was a conspiracy that “Moses, Columbus, and FDR all fought” against. Beyond that Columbus most definitely thought that the Earth was roughly spherical, simply misjudging its circumference, we’re guessing Moses didn’t have to fight anyone on this one as the Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in the concept of a flat Earth, as did seemingly the Hebrews around the time he supposedly lived.
A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE.
So what exactly do the world’s governments and countless scientists and high school physics students throughout human history have to gain by convincing people the world is spherical instead of flat? Well, Johnson advocated that this is a tool used by scientists to get rid of religion. Of course, as noted, Christian scholars throughout history on the whole advocated for the very spherical Earth and we’re not aware of any major religious denomination the world over today that goes with the flat Earth model, so no apparent conflict… But, hey, we guess Eratosthenes must have really had it in for those Ancient Egyptian and Greek gods…
In any event, despite Johnson’s less than compelling arguments, over time this new society actually gained followers up to a peak of about 3,500 members under his leadership. Disaster struck, however, when a fire at headquarters destroyed some of the records of membership in 1997. Ultimately Johnson himself passed away in 2001 and the society was temporarily just as dead.
All was not lost, however, as there is no medium greater than the Internet at giving humans ability to discover the truth in anything for themselves… if we weren’t all so lazy and our monkey brains not so chock full of cognitive biases.
And so it was that in 2004, one Daniel Shenton created a discussion forum home for the mostly dead Flat Earth Society and by 2009 a new wiki website was created in its place, with the society slowly growing from there to apparently around 500 members to date. There are also many Flat Earth pages and channels on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sometimes exceeding 100K members or subscribers of a given page, channel, or profile, for whatever that’s worth.
In the latest incarnation of the society, as with their forebears, the modern group strongly advocates for only accepting that which you can see with your own eyes and prove with your own efforts. As they note on their website,
The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
As for the model of the Earth they go with, while there is some dissension among the ranks over exact details, the current belief advocated by the Flat Earth Society is that the the Earth is disc shaped. The North Pole lies at the center of this disc and there is an ice wall surrounding the outer most parts of the Earth that keeps the oceans contained. This wall is nearly impossible to reach owing to the fact that NASA is closely guarding it, ensuring no one ever gets close enough to see it for themselves. NASA also is extremely active in generating satellite photos of the Earth and generating other data all meant to keep people believing in a spherical Earth. Seemingly the Google Earth team must be in on it too, clearly abandoning the company’s long held unofficial mantra of “Don’t be evil.”
As evidence of this conspiracy and how far reaching it is, they also point out on their website that the United Nations emblem strongly resembles the Flat Earth Society’s view of what the Earth actually looks like.
(We guess clearly showing the logo design team, led by industrial designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, in 1945, didn’t get the memo that the true shape of the Earth was supposed to be a secret. You had one job Lundquist!!!
To be fair, however, when his team designed it, it was originally just supposed to be used on the badges at the United Nations Charter signing conference, so only for people who already knew the Earth was flat… Fun fact, Lundquist did, however, make up for the screw up by later designing the classic blue and white Q-tip box.)
In any event, you might at this point be wondering how the Flat Earth Society believes commercial airlines and ships the world over continue to seemingly travel in one direction and manage to circle the globe. Well, this is because these ships and planes are literally circling. They state, “circumnavigation is performed by moving in a great circle around the North Pole.”
As for how the ship and plane captains don’t seem to be aware of this, in modern times it’s because GPS devices and autopilots are designed in software to simply make it seem like the craft is circling a globe and not continually turning slightly. Of course, it’s not clear how they account for people tricking themselves when navigating before or without GPS, which has only been ubiquitous for a couple decades or so.
There’s also the fact that fuel burn on these ships and airplanes are carefully calculated, particularly important for planes where weight and balance is always an essential consideration if one doesn’t want to die a fiery death. Thus, if they were really traveling in the way the Flat Earthers claim, the fuel requirements would be different, sometimes vastly so. (No surprise here that Big Oil must be involved…)
As for, you know, the whole day and night thing, this is explained on their website “The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area and its light acts like a spotlight upon the earth… The apparent effect of the sun rising and setting is…a perspective effect.”
The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station.
How exactly the light from the Sun only works as a spotlight isn’t clear. It’s also not clear how the phases of the Moon and lunar and solar eclipses work given this spotlight model and given they believe the Sun is always above the Earth…
Moving on — as for the many people who claim to be able to see the curvature of the Earth when on high altitude commercial flights, well, the Flat Earth Society, who advocated trusting your own senses over what anyone tells you. tells these people, to quote, “Quite simply you cannot… the windows on commercial aircraft are small and heavily curved. Even if they flew high enough for a person to see curvature, it would still not be visible to passengers.”
As for the issue of someone with even a half way decent telescope being able to see the spherical nature of other planets in the solar system, including them spinning away, the Flat Earth Society claims,
Planets are orbiting astronomical objects. The Earth is not a planet by definition, as it sits at the center of our solar system above which the planets and the Sun revolve. The earths uniqueness, fundamental differences and centrality makes any comparison to other nearby celestial bodies insufficient – Like comparing basketballs to the court on which they bounce.
As for how gravity works in the flat Earth model, it turns out that, “The earth is constantly accelerating up at a rate of 32 feet per second squared (or 9.8 meters per second squared). This constant acceleration causes what you think of as gravity. Imagine sitting in a car that never stops speeding up. You will be forever pushed into your seat. The earth works much the same way. It is constantly accelerating upwards being pushed by a universal accelerator (UA) known as dark energy or aetheric wind.”
You may have spotted a problem with this explanation given the whole issue of eventually exceeding the speed of light. In fact, if constant acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared, it would only take about a year for the Earth to reach the speed of light.
Well, they’ve got you covered, explaining: “Due to special relativity, this is not the case. At this point, many readers will question the validity of any answer which uses advanced, intimidating-sounding physics terms to explain a position. However, it is true. The relevant equation is v/c = tanh (at/c). One will find that in this equation, tanh(at/c) can never exceed or equal 1. This means that velocity can never reach the speed of light, regardless of how long one accelerates for and the rate of the acceleration.”
Anyway, as to what lies below the Earth, this is heavily disputed among Flat Earthers. But it doesn’t really matter as you can’t get there anyway. You see, to quote Flat Earther Robbie Davidson in an interview with Forbes, “We don’t believe anything can fall off the edge, because a big portion of the flat earth community believes that we’re in a dome, like a snow globe. So the sun, moon and stars are all inside. It’s very high but all contained inside. So there’s no way to actually fall off of the earth.”
Given it only takes a modicum of effort to disprove pretty much everything said on their website and prove definitively for one’s self that the Earth is roughly spherical without needing to trust any scientist or government, you might think the Flat Earthers just aren’t trying. Well, you’re kind of right, but there are exceptions! Case in point — limo driver Mike Hughes who managed to raise about ,000 thanks to a Flat Earth fundraiser. Why? To build a rocket to reach the heavens with to once and for all prove the Earth was flat.
Reportedly the final hilariously fitting steam powered rocket and launch platform cost around ,000 and took about ten years to build. With it, Hughes managed to achieve an altitude of almost 1,900 feet, which while kind of impressive for an amateur built home made rocket that could carry a human, was nonetheless not able to achieve his objective of getting him to space.
If only it was possible to build more powerful rockets… Or if there existed a balloon designed to be able to soar into the heavens with some sort of device on board that could capture and store what it sees through an eye like apparatus… Or, stick with us here people, if a human going along for the ride was a requirement to show NASA hadn’t tampered with this futuristic visual capture device, some sort of bird-like machine that could carry humans above 1,900 feet…
All joking and head scratching aside, it’s always important to note that many of the core psychological quirks that see Flat Earthers intractably convinced the Earth is flat in the face of all evidence to the contrary exist in all of us. Monkey brain gonna monkey. We further all have many beliefs we firmly cling to just as tenuously supported by our level of knowledge on a subject, though thankfully for most of us the absurdity isn’t quite so easy to spot, allowing us to safely continue to think of ourselves as superior to mere mortals with alternate ideas…
In the end, we all firmly believe many things that aren’t true at all and no amount of evidence could ever convince any of us to change our minds on some of these things. Food for thought.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.