While NASA is mostly known for studying the outer reaches of our solar system, it’s trained countless satellites on Earth, giving scientists a cornucopia of data about our changing planet.
But sometimes, science and art aren’t so different. In November 2017, NASA’s Global Climate Change Group released the most stunning images taken by satellites and astronauts in space.
Many of these images are in false color, which scientists use to display images and features that aren’t usually visible to the naked eye.
Here is our selection of the best of the bunch:
1. No, this isn’t a scene from a sci-fi movie — this spacesuit is empty. Dubbed SuitSat-1, this unneeded Russian space suit was filled with old clothes and launched to orbit the Earth in 2006.
2. This is the Mississippi River, pictured just south of Memphis, Tennessee in 2003. You can see the blocky shapes of towns and fields surrounding the river. Countless oxbow lakes — which are formed as the river changes course — can be seen in the image as well.
3. This is the Lena River in Russia, one of the largest river systems in the world. It’s also an important breeding ground for many Siberian species.
4. This is the Dasht-e Kevir, or Great Salt Desert, the largest desert in Iran. It’s primarily an uninhabited wasteland, composed of mud and salt marshes.
5. Here’s a natural color image of one of the islands of New Caledonia, a remote archipelago 750 miles off the coast of Australia. The paler blue is shallower water, while the dark blue is the deep sea.
6. This false-color image shows Western Australia in 2013. It depicts the rich sediment and vegetation patterns of a tropical estuary.
7. Pictured here are the Anti-Atlas mountains, a subset of the Atlas Mountain range in southern Morocco, Africa. This false-color image depicts some of the world’s largest and most diverse mineral resources.
8. The Manam Volcano, as seen in 2010, is located a few miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea and forms a six-mile-wide island. It’s hard to say what caused the white plume, but it’s likely volcanic activity from this highly active crater.
9. This false-color image shows snow-capped peaks and ridges of the eastern Himalayas between major rivers in southwest China.
10. Here’s a view of Louisiana you probably haven’t seen before: Silt flows into the Gulf of Mexico from the mouth of the Mississippi River.
11. Here’s a view of Greenland’s mostly uninhabited western coast. You can see small glaciers surrounding Baffin Bay.
12. Lake Carnegie, in Australia. This is an ephemeral lake, meaning it only fills with water during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it’s reduced to a muddy marsh. This photo was taken in 1999.
13. This is a false color image of Bombetoka Bay in northwestern Madagascar.
14. In 1984, Bruce McCandless II ventured further away from the confines and safety of his ship than any previous astronaut had ever been. McCandless “free-flew” 320 feet from the safety of his ship, with the help of a nitrogen jet-propelled backpack.
15. On the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, sand dunes are encroaching onto once-fertile lands in the north in this false-color image. Healthy vegetation appears red in this image. In the center, the lone red dot is the irrigation system of one last farm, according to NASA.
16. This phytoplankton bloom was captured off the coast of Iceland by NASA’s Aqua satellite in 2010.
17. Like a Van Gogh painting, massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea.
18. This is an image of the Mackenzie River in Canada, taken from a NASA/USGS satellite earlier this year. The river plays a major role in modulating the Arctic’s climate, as warmer fresh water mixes with colder seawater.
19. This is the otherworldly Richat Structure, a geologic formation deep in the desert in Mauritania. The formation was created when a volcanic dome hardened and gradually eroded, exposing onion-like layers of rock, according to NASA.
20. Here’s a view of an icefall on the Lambert Glacier (the world’s largest) in Antarctica. The icefall you can see in the center of the image illustrates the fascinating movement of ice, which flows like water, except much slower. You can see cracks as the ice bends and twists on its 1300 foot descent.
21. This spectacular image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth. Scientists stitched together thousands of satellite images to form this composite in 2002.
DARPA, BAE Systems, and the Air Force Research Lab are working to pioneer new computer simulations, algorithms, and advanced software to provide military decision makers with organized, near real-time information on causes of war and conflict in operational scenarios.
Drawing upon a range of otherwise disconnected sources of raw data, the new software program is designed to use reasoning algorithms and simulations to analyze intelligence reports, academic theories, environmental factors, and details from operational scenarios and other kinds of user input.
“It is about taking information from disparate sources which would be impossible for a person to consume in a short amount of time,” Jonathan Goldstein, Senior Principal Scientist, Autonomy Controls and Estimation, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The Air Force Research Laboratory recently awarded a $4.2 million deal to BAE Systems to develop CONTEXT; DARPA is sponsoring BAE’s efforts.
The emerging product, called Causal Exploration of Complex Operational Environments (CONTEXT) models different political, territorial, and economic tensions that often cause conflict. These nodes, or variables making up a complex, yet interwoven tapestry of causes, include things like economic tensions, terrorism, tribal or religious conflict and issues about resources or territorial disputes — among other things.
(DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)
“The technology evaluates causal insertions in different forms and innovates them into a model of interwoven causal relationships present in otherwise disconnected sources. We are building a model that can rapidly be used by an expert, so that when a new conflict flares up, decision-makers can understand the underlying issues,” Goldstein said.
While on the surface, organizing and performing some analytics of large pools of data might bring AI to mind, CONTEXT evaluates material input by users and does not necessarily access massive volumes of historical or stored data. Nonetheless, it does appear to perform some measure of automation and AI like functions, in so far as it organizes and integrates different sources for a human decision maker.
“This shortens the decision cycle. People are not good at maintaining a causal model with complexity in their head. The software creates a large graph of causes, evaluates approaches and examines the potential consequences of a given approach,” Goldstein explained.
Automation and AI, which are of course progressing at near lighting speed these days, are often described in terms of easing the “cognitive burden,” meaning they can quickly perform analytics and a range of procedural functions to present to a human operating in a command control capacity.
At the same time, causes of conflict are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined variables – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances, and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.
Leading AI and cybersecurity experts often say that advanced computer algorithms can analyze data and quickly perform procedural functions far more quickly than human cognition – yet there are nonetheless still many things which are known to be unique to human cognition. Humans solve problems, interpret emotions and at times respond to certain variables in a way that the best computer technology cannot.
“War causation is always over determined. Even with advanced statistical regressions on extremely large data sets, it is unlikely that what causes conflict can be determined with accuracy,” Ross Rustici, Senior Director, Intelligence Services, Cybereason – and former DoD Cyber Lead Intrusion Analyst and Technical Lead for DoD, East Asia, told Warrior Maven.
At the same time, despite natural limitations, using software and simulation to analyze data in this fashion is of course by no means useless, Rustici added.
Calling CONTEXT a “step in the right direction,” Rustici said “any effort to update war prosecution and war cessation planning will go a long way towards updating a military that has learned hard lessons in counterterrorism and regime building. Gaining a finer understanding of how populations and defeated military groups will respond to tactics for winning the war and securing the peace is something that is long overdue.”
Rustici further elaborated that human understanding of some elements of causality can without question have a beneficial impact in many respects. However, there are of course substantial limitations, and few would disagree that there are many concepts, feelings, variables and subjective factors informing causality — underscoring the widespread recognition that, despite the pace of technological computer advances, there are still many things which machines cannot do.
“This program is unlikely to have a significant impact beyond understanding how to conduct further modelling in the future,” Rustici said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Regardless of medium, whenever there’s a futuristic, science-fiction war going on, there are lasers. Laser guns, laser swords, laser cannons — laser everything. Now, this isn’t to say that lasers are an impossibility in the real world. In fact, the U.S. military has kept an eye on developing high-powered, laser-based weaponry since the 1960s. Even today, the U.S. military is using lasers to heat up objects, like missiles, to take them down with speed, accuracy, and ease.
But here’s why the sci-fi staple, as we know it, would suck in the real world.
6. The shot itself
The problem with lasers as seen in popular films like Star Wars is that they don’t obey the laws of physics. A laser gun used in combat would feel more like the pen you use to play with cats than any kind of real rifle. Applying actual science to the pop culture weaponry shines a light on how terrible they’d actually be.
There are many works of fiction that employ laser weaponry, so it’s hard to pinpoint all of the problems. If you want to be precise, just know that if the blast moves at a rate slower than 299,792,458 meters per second, then it’s not a laser. Since you can actually see them move in films, they’re plasma — so we’re going to assume this discussion is actually about plasma weaponry from here on out.
5. The cost to produce the weapon
This may not be too much of an issue given that futuristic civilizations often have an entire planet’s or galaxy’s GDP at their disposal, but it’s still worth mentioning. The parts needed aren’t the problem — it’s the power supply that creates the laser and directs it into a single blast.
The power supply would need to be powerful enough to create a blast that deals significant damage. So, you’re looking for elements higher on the periodic table. Even if a fictional, galactic empire had the money, based purely on how unstable radioactive elements above uranium are, you can assume that the means of mining or synthetically creating the power supply needed would be insanely expensive.
4. The weight of the power supply
Unless the power supply is explicitly described as some impossible, fictional element, it’s safe to use uranium as a scientific starting point for theorizing because it’s naturally occurring, stable enough to last more than a few seconds, and, presumably, findable anywhere in the known universe.
A peanut-sized lump of uranium can produce roughly the same amount of energy as 600 pounds of coal. That same peanut-sized lump would approximately be 10cm cubed. That lump alone would weigh 20 kilograms (or around 44 lbs).
Sound heavy? That’s only the beginning. Shielding the wielder from radioactive exposure so that they don’t immediately get cancer would also be a serious concern. Coincidentally, one of the few effective shields against uranium is depleted uranium — which weighs nearly just as much.
3. The heat after each shot
Now that we’ve explained the fuels and costs involved, let’s break down what a plasma blaster is actually doing. Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter; a substance that is superheated past the point of being a solid, liquid, or gas. If all the kinks were worked out and a power supply could heat up whatever projectile is being fired, it would also need a barrel and firing chamber durable enough to withstand the heat.
A good candidate for the round being fired is cesium because it has the lowest ionization energy and turns to plasma somewhere between 1100 and 1900 degrees Kelvin. The most common element with a higher melting point that would be suitable for weapons manufacturing is boron. Using these elements could ensure the weapon doesn’t liquefy upon pulling the trigger, but the person actually firing the weapon would be undoubtedly toasted.
2. The speed of the shot
“Laser” weapons used in most sci-fi films are slow, roughly 78 mph according to Wired. Keep in mind, the muzzle velocity of an M4 carbine is 2970 feet per second — or 2025 mph. Projecting a round by igniting gunpowder simply wouldn’t work with plasma weaponry. Logically speaking, the best way to quickly send plasma down range would be with something like a magnetic rail gun.
The high-energy output needed to superheat cesium would also need to electromagnetize the boron barrel to fire the round. That being said, heat has a demagnetizing effect on all metals. So, even if some futuristic civilization figured out how to heat a cesium round to near 1100 degrees Kelvin without losing magnetism, it’d be damn hard to get the round going 78 mph. In reality, given the length of a typical rifle’s barrel, by the time the round emerged, it’d move at roughly the same speed of a slow-pitched baseball.
1. Sustained fire
Now let’s summarize all of this into what it’d mean for a futuristic door-kicker.
The weapon would be far too front-heavy to accurately raise into a firing position. The uranium-powered battery would need to be swapped out on a very regular basis (which are also heavy). The time it would take to superheat a cesium round to the point of becoming plasma would be far too long. The slow-moving round fired out of implausible railgun would be far too inaccurate to be used reliably.
All of this brings us to our final point: the second shot. On the bright side, there would be little backward recoil, much like with conventional firearms. The second round would also require much less charging time. But the heat generated from the first round would brittle the barrel and make holding the weapon impossible any — let alone fire like a machine gun.
So maybe cut stormtroopers a little slack. It’s not them — their weapons just suck. (Disney)
For years, stealth technology has been silently dominating the world’s skies on various missions.
In 1912, German engineers wrapped their planes in transparent canvas to make them harder to spot during flight. But their plan failed as the coating ended up reflecting sunlight rather than hiding the plane.
Nowadays, stealth is all about beating the electronic eye rather than the human one.
Most anti-aircraft ground radar sends out pulses of electromagnetic energy in forms of radio waves. The surface antenna then switches to receiver mode and waits for the pulses to return from the flying objects it’s tracking.
Once the pulse returns to the antenna, the computer systems will show a blip on the screen called a “Radar Cross Section.” Depending on the size of the incoming pulse, the image will reflect the size of the flying object on the screen.
The bigger the flying object to larger the blip.
The B-2 has a 52-meter wingspan, yet it’s reported to have the same radar cross section as a large bird.
But how is it that even possible? We’re glad you asked.
The B-2’s genius design allows it to almost go unnoticed in whatever area it operates.
The B-2’s shape manages to reflect the ground radar signals away from the aircraft making detection near impossible.
Notice how the aircraft’s intakes and exhaust systems are embedded on the top of the jet’s frame. This sleek construction helps ensure that ground-based radars can’t detect them like they would a standard plane.
One notable stealth characteristic of the B-2 is the lack of a tail rudder. Instead, the aircraft comes with split rudders installed in the left and right wing. They act as air brakes and can help steer the plane without requiring large surfaces that could reflect radar imagery back at the enemy.
The B-2 is built with carbon fiber reinforced plastic and coated with radar absorbing paint. Although this information is readily obtainable, the exact materials are considered classified — for now.
Check out Real Engineering‘s video below to see how this amazing aircraft beats out the enemy’s ground radar systems.
Humans feel the need for speed — without a doubt. From the first time we sit behind the wheel to choosing which roller coasters we prioritize at Magic Mountain, speed is always a primary factor.
But where most of us have to stop our fiending for a speed rush when the “Escape from Krypton” ride ends, others get to go out and design objects and vehicles that go far faster than we can imagine.
Remember as you read this list, an M4 carbine fires a round at 2,025 miles per hour.
8. NASA X-43 – 7,000 mph
The X-43 A is the fastest aircraft ever made. Unmanned, it was designed to test air-breathing engine technology at speeds above Mach 5, though the aircraft could reach speeds up to Mach 10. NASA wanted to use the information collected from its 3 X-43s to design airframes with larger payloads and, eventually, reusable rockets.
7. Space Shuttles, 17,500 mph
In order for anything in low-earth orbit to stay in low-earth orbit, it has to be traveling at least 17,500 mph. The shuttles’ external tank carries more than 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, which are mixed and burned as fuel for the three main engines.
6. Apollo 10 Capsule – 24,791 mph
The Apollo 10 mission of May 1969 saw the fastest manned craft ever. Apollo 10 was the moon landing’s dry run, simulating all the events required for a lunar landing. The men on board were all Air Force, Marines, and Navy astronauts.
From here on out, the vehicles are unmanned.
5. Stardust – 28,856 mph
Anything designed to collect samples of a comet has to be designed for speed. Stardust was designed to catch up to a comet, collect a sample, and then return to that sample to Earth — which it did in 2006. The capsule achieved the fastest speed of any man-made object returning to Earth’s atmosphere — Mach 36.
4. Voyager 1 – 38,610 mph
Voyager also has the distinction of being the most traveled man-made object ever. Launched in 1977, it reached interstellar-goddamn-space in 2013. It covered more than 322 million miles a year.
2. An iron manhole cover – 125,000 mph
During a nuclear bomb test called Operation Plumbbob, Robert Brownlee was tasked with designing a test for limiting nuclear fallout from an underground explosion. A device was placed in a deep pit, capped with a four-inch, iron manhole.
Obviously, the cap popped right off during the explosion, but Brownlee wanted to test the velocity of the expulsed cap. The test was filmed using a camera that captured one image per millisecond and only one frame captured the iron cap.
Brownlee calculated its velocity at 125,000 mph — and that it likely reached space, but no one knows for sure. They never found it.
1. Helios Satellites – 157,078 mph
The first of two satellites designed to study the sun. Also designed in the 1970s, the two Helios satellites broke all spacecraft speed records and flew closer to the sun than even the planet Mercury. It only took the probes two years to get to the sun and they transmitted information about the heliosphere until 1985.
Joint Base Charleston serves two factions of the US military: the Air Force and the Navy. Before 2010, the Charleston Air Force Base and the Navy Naval Support Activity Charleston had separate facilities. This Joint Base is the result of their merging. However, jurisdiction for the base lies with the Air Force. Located near Charleston, South Carolina, Joint Base Charleston also shares runways with Charleston International Airport.
All Hail the 437th Airlift Wing
The 437th Airlift Wing controls the premier active-duty flying wing at the base, flying and maintaining a large fleet of C-17 aircraft, one of the largest in the entire Air Force. That gives Joint Base Charleston a pretty important role, as the fleet provides a significant chunk of Air Mobility Command’s Global Reach airlift capability. They are tasked with providing safe, reliable, and precise airlift to anywhere in the world.
C-17s Are Out There Making the World Better
Their C-17 fleet contains roughly 41 aircraft. The fleet’s value rings in at about $9.2 billion. Each aircraft is with $212 million alone. Every three minutes day or night, one of the aircraft from the 437th Airlift Wing is either taking off or landing somewhere around the globe. These aircraft typically carry humanitarian supplies, war supplies, troops, or medical personnel. If there is trouble or conflict, Charleston’s planes are often the ones called upon to go and help out in some way.
An Aircraft to Write Home About
The C-17 fleet is so capable that it can carry many types of bulk cargo. It can fit two big buses, one large Army tank, or three helicopters, for reference. That means these aircraft are simply enormous, so big it’s hard to truly imagine without seeing it with your own eyes. The tail of one of these planes is more than 55 feet tall, the cockpit is around 20 feet tall, and its wingspan reaches nearly 170 feet.
At full capacity, a C-17 can hold about 600,000 pounds on the ground with a maximum load of 170,900 pounds. It can land in precarious spots as well, on runways as short as 3,000 feet, even with a full load. Now that is one impressive machine. Operating these the 437th Airlift Wing is a workforce of 1,300 personnel, some military and some civilian. They all support the Department of Defense tactical airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, and worldwide airlift.
The world’s vast oceans and seas offer seemingly endless spaces in which adversaries of the United States can maneuver undetected. The U.S. military deploys networks of manned and unmanned platforms and sensors to monitor adversary activity, but the scale of the task is daunting and hardware alone cannot meet every need in the dynamic marine environment. Sea life, however, offers a potential new advantage. Marine organisms are highly attuned to their surroundings — their survival depends on it — and a new program out of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office aims to tap into their natural sensing capabilities to detect and signal when activities of interest occur in strategic waters such as straits and littoral regions.
The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, led by program manager Lori Adornato, will study natural and modified organisms to determine which ones could best support sensor systems that detect the movement of manned and unmanned underwater vehicles. PALS will investigate marine organisms’ responses to the presence of such vehicles, and characterize the resulting signals or behaviors so they can be captured, interpreted, and relayed by a network of hardware devices.
“The U.S. Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Adornato said. “If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”
Beyond sheer ubiquity, sensor systems built around living organisms would offer a number of advantages over hardware alone. Sea life adapts and responds to its environment, and it self-replicates and self-sustains. Evolution has given marine organisms the ability to sense stimuli across domains — tactile, electrical, acoustic, magnetic, chemical, and optical. Even extreme low light is not an obstacle to organisms that have evolved to hunt and evade in the dark.
However, evaluating the sensing capabilities of sea life is only one of the challenges for PALS researchers. Performer teams supporting DARPA will also have to develop hardware, software, and algorithms to translate organism behavior into actionable information and then communicate it to end users. Deployed hardware systems operating at a standoff distance of up to 500 meters must collect signals of interest from relevant species, process and distill them, and then relay them to remote end users. The complete sensing systems must also discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives.
Adornato is aiming to demonstrate the approach and its advantages in realistic environments to convey military utility.
“Our ideal scenario for PALS is to leverage a wide range of native marine organisms, with no need to train, house, or modify them in any way, which would open up this type of sensing to many locations,” Adornato said.
DARPA favors proposals that employ natural organisms, but proposers are able to suggest modifications. To the extent researchers do propose solutions that would tune organisms’ reporting mechanisms, the proposers will be responsible for developing appropriate environmental safeguards to support future deployment. However, at no point in the PALS program will DARPA test modified organisms outside of contained, biosecure facilities.
DARPA anticipates that PALS will be a four-year, fundamental research program requiring contributions in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, machine learning, analytics, oceanography, mechanical and electrical engineering, and weak signals detection.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Molaro is the Co-Founder/CEO of NeuroFlow. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.
I wish I could’ve saved my soldiers.
I was 22 years old when I became a platoon leader overseeing and taking care of 40 soldiers in combat in 2010. At the time, I had only done one tour — 12 months — in Iraq. But many of my soldiers had served four or five tours and had seen much more than I had.
Our job was to drive up and down the International Highway, which connected Kuwait to Iraq, and build relationships with local Iraqi police and sheiks. But we also had to check for improvised explosives, or IEDs.
We didn’t get all of them. In one case, before heading out on a mission, a U.S. envoy truck came careening into our base, half blown to hell and torn to shreds. In the back: three dead bodies. We had missed an IED.
There’s a lot of guilt in seeing something like that, and it can lead to a major symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder called survivor’s remorse. There is a wear on the brain and the body that goes into being in the military, especially for those deployed.
But were you ever to suggest talking to a therapist, you’d be hard-pressed to find many service members who would take you up on it. In the military, getting mental health treatment is viewed as a weakness — which, besides the negative stigma, is just plain wrong. There were soldiers who’d give therapy a try, only to leave after a single session and say, “I don’t feel better. I need to get back to the unit. I need to help out. This is an hour out of my time when I could be spending that with my family.”
And within a few years, there were people in my unit who had attempted suicide. It’s been seven years since I left Iraq, and in that time we’ve lost two people who were in my unit, one of whom I directly oversaw.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Molaro)
As a platoon leader, I viewed it as my responsibility to take care of our soldiers beyond getting the mission done. But with the news of the suicides came a sense that I had failed as their leader. It was my responsibility to take care of these guys, just like they took care of us.
After I retired from the military in 2015, I went to business school in Philadelphia. It had become my mission to find out how I could make our soldiers know that therapy could actually work for them, if only they would stick with it. Just as you wouldn’t return to your normal, daily routine after breaking an arm and undergoing one session with a physical therapist, neither should you expect to be fully recuperated after one session with a mental health professional.
But, I soon realized, to get soldiers into therapy and keep them there, they needed to see — physically, with their own eyes — the progress they were making.
I read up on research that showed how you can use EEG technology, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to also measure one’s emotions. That was when a light bulb just went off, like, “Holy shit, you could make mental health as black and white as a broken arm.”
That meant therapists could measure and track the progress of patients, objectively. And by doing so, they could fight that negative stigma and give people more hope.
So I developed NeuroFlow. The idea is simple: Give therapists a technology that uses basic and affordable medical supplies, like EEGs or heart rate monitors, to examine the health of their clients. That way, patients could see how their heart races — literally — in real time as they talk about something traumatic. And then, over the course of their sessions, they would be able to see their heart rate slow down and return to a more relaxed state as they healed.
This is my new mission: helping the veteran community. With 20 vets killing themselves in the U.S. every day, there is still a lot of work to be done. So I can’t quite say my mission is complete … yet.
This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwell on Twitter.
For decades, allied forces have deployed to the front lines and suffered heavy losses and sustained lifelong injuries. Although various treatments are available to help restore some functionality to those who’ve lost limbs, none come close to the exciting new prosthetics emerging today.
Recently, two Army veterans, Fred Downs and Artie McAuley, both of whom lost their left arms more than forty years ago, became the first recipients of new prosthetic arms, called “Life Under Kinetic Evolution,” that enable a wide range of natural motions.
The LUKE arms were developed by the Defense Advanced Reseach Projects Agency (DARPA) and represent the most significant prosthetic advancement in more than a century.
“There are far too many veterans who have paid a heavy price for protecting our freedom,” Dr. Justin Sanchez, the Director of DARPA proudly states. “We owe it to these people to give them the best possible technology and clinical care.”
These elusive limbs are manufactured by Mobius Bionics, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp.
The advanced system allows the recipient to articulate precise activities, like handling delicate fruit, by using wireless signals generated from sensors worn on the patient’s feet or other readily accessible areas.
The technology took years to develop and, with the help of the Department of Veteran’s Affair, have finally been cleared by the U.S. Food and Administration.
An FBI agent has mapped out the nation states that pose the biggest cyber threat to the US.
Business Insider spoke to Aristedes Mahairas, a special agent in charge of the New York FBI’s Special Operations/Cyber Division, about the cybersecurity landscape in America.
He said the US is always alive to threats from cyber criminals, cyber terrorists, and renegade hacktivists, but nation states are at the “very top” of the threat list.
Mahairas said there has been a “significant increase in state-sponsored computer intrusions” over the past 12 years as it has become a potent way of unsettling an adversary alongside traditional espionage.
“Cyber operations can be a relatively cheap and deniable means to a worrisome end,” he said, talking to Business Insider at the Digital Business World Congress in Madrid, Spain.
Mahairas marked out the four countries most capable of launching a crippling attack on America. They are captured in the map above and comprise Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.
Here’s a breakdown of the four nations, and the different threats they pose to the US:
“Russia remains the most sophisticated and technically capable. They are really good at hiding the digital breadcrumbs that lead back to them,” Mahairas said.
“Cyber is a vector and some of the nation states have realised that this vector can be used as a capability to weaponise the information that has been stolen as a result of hacks,” Mahairas said.
“The goal is to erode the population’s confidence, not only in its institutions, its values, its leaders, and most importantly in its ability to find the truth. The objective is to undermine the target by magnifying any number of existing issues that currently divide people in order to create discord and aggravate tensions.”
“These influence operations are not new, but there is an observed increase in their scalability due to… modern social media.”
The FBI agent added that the best way to flush out influence operations is through transparency on platforms like Facebook. “We have to make the targeted audience less vulnerable by educating them about the threat and providing context to allow critical judgement,” he said.
Up until recently, China launched extremely noisy cyber attacks. “China used to be loud in and around your network, almost like the drunk burglar who’s banging on your door and breaking windows to get in,” Mahairas said.
A notable attack the former counterterrorism agent pointed to was the one on Lockheed Martin, when Chinese military officers stole US state secrets on fighter planes, including the F-35 jet.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In a series of attacks codenamed “Byzantine Hades”, they carried out the attack and the economic impact was estimated to be around $100 million (£75 million). It was a “very significant matter,” according to Mahairas.
Mahairas said there has been a “noticeable uptick in activity” from Iranian hackers in recent years, as they become more sophisticated and targeted in their attacks on the US.
Mahairas’ FBI division led the investigation into Mesri and an indictment was unsealed against the hacker in November 2017. He is now on America’s most wanted list and risks being arrested if he leaves Iran.
Although Mesri appeared to be acting alone, Mahairas said the FBI is increasingly concerned about the “blended threat” from some countries. This is when they work with criminal contract hackers to “do their dirty work.”
North Korea remains a significant cyber threat to the US, despite a thawing in diplomatic relations in recent months. Mahairas said the health of diplomacy between two common enemies has very little to do with how nation states conduct cyber activity.
“Diplomacy isn’t going to impact their ability or desire to continue in this activity,” the FBI agent explained. “What they’re looking for is information, access, and advantage. Whether it’s in the cyber universe or not, those are the objectives.”
Ultimately, Mahairas said cybercriminals are not fussy about their targets: “These nation state actors, they’re not targeting just the US. Anyone is fair game. What they do is generally the same, I don’t think any one nation state brings more specific threat.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In August 2008, Norfolk, Virginia, police investigated the scene of a home invasion and rape. A Navy chief petty officer reported that she awoke to an unknown male assaulting her. Before leaving, he threatened to harm her and her teenaged daughter if she reported him. Nearly a month later, the woman and her daughter entered their residence to find the assailant inside. He bound the daughter with duct tape and sexually assaulted her. Although sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAECKs) were obtained from both women, and fingerprints were collected from the crime scene in both instances, there were no leads as to the identity of the attacker and the case soon went cold.
In April 2010, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, a female Army captain was taking a shower when she turned to find an unknown man behind her. He was wearing a tan T-shirt wrapped around his head in order to cover his face. The man attempted to drag her into an empty stall at the far end of the trailer but she fought back. During the ensuing struggle, she sustained numerous cuts from a box cutter and blows to the head, but she was able to deter her attacker. The assailant fled the scene and Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) were immediately alerted. Agents observed a blood trail leading to the male latrine. Blood stained tissue paper and stains in the sink indicated that the attacker had attempted to clean up. Agents also found a tan shirt with bloodstains in a nearby dumpster. Evidence collected from the male and female latrines, blood trail, and dumpster was submitted to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) in Atlanta, Georgia, for analysis.
Lab examiners processed more than 60 items submitted for DNA, trace evidence and latent print analysis. DNA typing results on the blood evidence found both inside and outside the male latrine determined that it originated from an unknown male. The tan shirt from the dumpster was stained with blood from the same unknown male, and also with blood from the victim, linking it to the crime.
When the DNA profile of the unknown male was submitted to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), it was searched against the national database. CODIS is the generic term used to describe the FBI’s program of support for criminal justice DNA databases as well as the software used to run these databases.
In September 2010, Army CID agents at Camp Arifjan were notified of a database match. The unknown DNA profile had matched another crime scene sample — a DNA profile obtained from semen on a vaginal swab from the 2008 Norfolk case. The case-to-case match did not provide the name of a suspect, but did provide a valuable lead. CID began a joint investigation with Special Agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to try and determine persons of interest who were stationed at both Norfolk and Camp Arifjan during the specified dates and to examine all evidence from the 2008 crime scene that had not been examined by the Norfolk Police Department.
Service members serving at both installations during the specified time frames numbered in the tens of thousands, and agents looked for ways to narrow the focus of their search. The USACIL coordinated outsourcing of blood evidence recovered from the crime scene for ABO blood-typing. This information was used to limit the number of service members to approximately 1,800 males who were blood-type A. Blood samples of service members stored in the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory Registry are collected for the sole purpose of identifying the remains of service members, and legally cannot be searched for criminal investigations except in the rarest of circumstances. Because of this, there was no easy way for the DNA profiles from persons of interest to be searched. CID and NCIS agents were presented with the difficult challenge of collecting DNA reference samples from those 1,800 persons of interest, most of whom had relocated to other duty stations all around the world, and submitting them to USACIL for analysis.
By December 2013, with no new leads, the case went cold again. More than 200 DNA references had been processed at the USACIL with no matches to report when there was a long-awaited break in the case. Latent prints collected by Norfolk PD were forwarded to the FBI to search against military service records. The FBI notified NCIS of a potential “hit” on a Navy reservist named Amin J. Garcia. NCIS agents considered Garcia a person of interest, but wanted to confirm that he matched the unknown DNA profile before an arrest was made.
Garcia was serving at the Navy Operational Support Center in the Bronx, New York when NCIS contacted the USACIL’s DNA casework branch for advice on what types of covert DNA samples to collect. NCIS Agents shadowed the suspect while eating lunch in the cafeteria, and submitted a fork, drinking glass, and swabs from a partially eaten banana for DNA comparison. In December 2013, USACIL reported that the DNA from the fork matched the DNA profile from the blood collected from the crime scene at Camp Arifjan. Early in 2014, PO2 Amin J. Garcia was arrested. His DNA profile was entered into CODIS and matched him to both the Camp Arifjan sample and the Norfolk SAECK sample, linking him to the rape in 2008 and the aggravated assault in 2010.
Army CID Special Agent Charles Rector was the special agent-in-charge of the Kuwait CID Office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, when the second attack took place. Now retired from the military, Rector is a regional special agent-in-charge for the Investigation Division, Office of Security and Integrity, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Even though it’s been more than seven years, he definitely remembers the case.
“It was about a week or so prior to redeploying in 2010, and even though we had worked several sexual assaults during the year-long rotation – this one was an exceptionally brutal attack in a populated area of Zone 6 … very unusual for an incident to happen in the early evening hours in a busy area,” said Rector.
“Initially, I supervised the processing of the crime scene, a large female shower trailer, and the surrounding area. Additionally, we launched many efforts to locate the suspect. Many MP patrols and the local MPI section were used and nearly the entire night was spent working the primary scene and a secondary scene where it appeared the subject had cleaned himself.”
Rector said he and his team faced many challenges during the investigation.
“Zone 6 was largely a transient area of the installation and additionally there had been a concert approximately 150 yards away from the incident location which had concluded about an hour earlier,” said Rector. “As a result, many military and contractors from several of the other smaller camps within Kuwait had attended.”
“At some point after my team redeployed and the initial lab work was completed, a ‘hit’ on the DNA recovered from evidence recovered in Kuwait matched an “unknown” sexual assault in Norfolk from several years prior — involving a female Navy member and her daughter. I attempted to keep aware of the case from the U.S. from several different locations over the next couple years.”
“I am thrilled and overwhelmed, especially for the victim,” said Rector. He said this investigation is a “very good testament to the CID work performed and that the hours “devoted to this assault is a testament to the CID motto of “Doing What Has to be Done.”
Dr. Evelyn Ridgley is a forensic biologist at the USACIL’s DNA Branch and was the DNA examiner assigned to the case. She examined the evidence submitted from the crime scene for the presence of blood or possible touch DNA, which could be used to identify a person of interest. She said that she was always hopeful the case would be solved and was surprised that an older ABO blood type test was what broke open the case.
“It’s an older test that has been replaced by modern DNA testing,” said Ridgley. “In this case, it was a test that was used to eliminate potential suspects based upon the blood type listed in their service records. There was a lot of blood at the scene, so we were able to obtain the unknown suspect’s blood type as well as his DNA profile. We don’t perform that test because it is so rarely used these days, but we outsourced the sample to a private lab.”
Ridgley said there were many challenges to the case.
“One challenge was that I was examining evidence from three different crime scenes,” said Ridgley. “Two scenes were from Camp Arifjan — the shower where the female captain was attacked, and the male latrine where the suspect cleaned up; that evidence was received from Army CID. Later, NCIS sent me evidence from the Norfolk crime scene where the teen-aged daughter was assaulted, that hadn’t been examined during the initial investigation. The agents were exhausting all possible leads trying to identify the assailant. Another challenge was examining more than 200 DNA references that were sent to the lab and checking them against the DNA evidence from the crime scenes. I ended up issuing more than 14 DNA reports for this case.”
To overcome those challenges Ridgley said she maintained open communication with the case agents.
“They would give me a call and discuss any new evidence they were planning on submitting, and I would let them know what tests could be done and if it might yield any useful information to the investigation,” she said. “They would also give me a heads up when they were going to submit a new batch of DNA references. We decided that it was more efficient to process them in batches of at least 20 or so, rather than submit them one at a time.”
Ridgley added that for agents in the field, “when in doubt, call the lab and we will be happy to answer any questions about how to collect a sample.”
In August 2014, Garcia was convicted in Norfolk Circuit Court of rape and abduction for the 2008 crimes. He was later sentenced to life. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced in February 2016 to 20 years for the attack at Camp Arifjan. After a lengthy investigation involving multiple agencies, two different forensic labs, and multiple forensic exams, justice was finally served.
The US Navy announced in May 2018, that it was restarting the 2nd Fleet to oversee the western Atlantic Ocean, including the North Atlantic and the US East Coast.
The decision comes after several years of tensions between NATO members and Russia — and several warnings from Western officials about growing Russian naval activity, including more sophisticated and more active submarines.
NATO has responded in kind, with a special focus on antisubmarine warfare — a capability that has waned among Western navies since the end of the Cold War.
For NATO members and other countries, augmenting antisubmarine abilities means not only adding ships but also advanced maritime-patrol aircraft to scour the sea. A number of aircraft on the market fill this role, but the US-made P-8A Poseidon is among the most sophisticated.
“What it can do from the air, and tracking submarines, is almost like Steven Spielberg,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early May 2018.
“I went up on a training flight,” he said, “and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above.”
“It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
‘The best ASW … platform in the fleet’
In 2004, the US Navy picked the P-8A Poseidon to succeed the P-3 Orion, which had been in operation since the 1960s. The first Poseidon entered service in 2013, and more than 60 are in service now.
The jet-powered P-8A is based on Boeing‘s 737 airliner, but it is specialized to withstand more strain, with aluminum skin that is 50% thicker than a commercial 737. Every surface is equipped for deicing.
A commercial 737 can be built in two weeks, but a P-8A takes roughly two months.
(U.S. Navy photo)
It has a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and, unlike the P-3, is designed to do most of its work at high altitude, where it has better fuel efficiency and its sensors are more effective. The Poseidon’s top speed of 564 mph is also 200 mph faster than the older Orion, allowing it to get to its station faster and reposition more quickly.
Among its sensors is the APY-10 radar, which can detect and identify ships on the surface and even pick up submarine periscopes. It can also provide long-distance imagery of ports or cities and perform surveillance along coasts or on land.
An electro-optical/infrared turret on the bottom of the plane offers a shorter-range search option and can carry up to seven sensors, including an image intensifier, a laser rangefinder, and infrared, which can detect heat from subs or from fires.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The Poseidon’s ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure acts as an electromagnetic sensor and can track radar emitters. Its Advanced Airborne Sensor can do 360-degree scans on land and water. Other electronic surveillance measures allow it to passively monitor a wide area without detection.
The original P-8A design did not include the Magnetic Anomaly Detector that the P-3 carried to detect the metal in sub’s hulls. The MAD’s exclusion was controversial, but the P-8A can deploy sonar buoys to track subs, and recent upgrades allow it to use new buoys that last longer and have a broader search range.
It also carries an acoustic sensor and a hydrocarbon sensor designed to pick up fuel vapor from subs. The P-8A’s cabin can have up to seven operator consoles, and onboard computers compile data for those operators and then distribute it to friendly forces.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Kofonow)
The P-8A carries its own armaments, including Harpoon antiship missiles, depth charges, MK-54 torpedoes, and naval mines. It can also deploy defensive countermeasures, including a laser and metallic chaff to confuse incoming missiles.
A dry-bay fire system uses sensors to detect fires on board and extinguish them, a P-8A pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.
“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” the pilot said.
‘The next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft’
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
Russia’s submarine fleet is a fraction of its Cold War size, but its subs are more sophisticated and have been deployed as US and NATO attention has shifted away from antisubmarine efforts.
“We have found in the last two years we are very short of high-end antisubmarine-warfare hunters,” Royal Navy Vice Adm. Clive CC Johnstone, commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, said in January 2018.
Along with interest in buying subs, “you see an increased focus on other types of antisubmarine, submarine-hunter platforms, so frigates and maritime-patrol aircraft and stuff like that,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider earlier this year.
In 2016, the UK announced it would buy nine P-8As. In 2017, Norway announced it was buying five.
Those purchases are part of efforts by the US, UK, and Norway to reinvigorate the Cold War maritime-surveillance network covering the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK, known as the GIUK gap, through which Russian subs are traveling more frequently between their Northern Fleet base and the Atlantic.
In June 2017, defense ministers from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey agreed to cooperate on “multinational maritime multimission aircraft capabilities.” The US Navy has increased its antisubmarine activities in Europe, leading with the P-8A.
The US’s 2018 defense budget included $14 million to refurbish hangers at Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland, where antisubmarine forces hunted German U-boats during World War II and patrols scoured northern latitudes during the Cold War.
The US Navy decided to leave Keflavik in 2006, but recent modifications would allow P-8As to be stationed there, though the Navy has said it doesn’t currently plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)
Poseidons operate over the Black Sea to track the growing number of Russian subs there. P-8As based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy have reportedly helped hunt Russian subs lurking near NATO warships and taken part in antisubmarine-warfare exercises around the Mediterranean.
“The Poseidon is becoming the next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft,” Nordenman said. “Not only for the US, but increasingly for our allies in Europe, too.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more US rotations to Keflavik and deeper cooperation between the US, the UK, and Norway on maritime-patrol-aircraft operations in the Atlantic,” he added. “I would say this is just a first step.”
‘There is a requirement need out here’
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Like Russia, China has been investing in submarines, and its neighbors have growing interest in submarines and antisubmarine-warfare assets — including the P-8A.
India made its first purchase of the P-8I Neptune variant in 2009, buying eight that deployed in 2013. New Delhi bought four additional planes in 2016, and India’s navy chief said in January that the service was looking to buy more.
In early 2014, Australia agreed to buy eight P-8As for $3.6 billion. They are expected to arrive by 2021, and Canberra has the option to buy four more.
India and Australia are the only buyers in Asia so far, but others, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are interested. South Korea said in February 2018, it would buy maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign buyer — Boeing and Saab are reportedly competing for a contract worth $1.75 billion.
“There is a requirement need out here in the Asian region for P-8s,” Matt Carreon, Boeing’s head of sales for the P-8A, said in February 2018, pointing to the high volume of shipping, threat of piracy, and the “current political climate” as reasons for interest.
But overall sales have been underwhelming, likely in part because the Poseidon and its variants are relatively expensive, and their specialized features require a lengthy procurement process.
US Navy P-8As have also been more active around Asia, where their crews work with non-US military personnel, take part in search-and-rescue operations, and perform maritime surveillance over disputed areas, like the South China Sea, where they have monitored Chinese activity.
As in Europe, this can lead to dicey situations.
In August 2014, a P-8A operating 130 miles east of China’s Hainan Island had a close encounter with a Chinese J-11 fighter jet, which brought one of its wings within 20 feet of the P-8A and did a barrel roll over the patrol plane’s nose.
The jet also flew by the P-8A with its belly visible, “to make a point of showing its weapons,” the Pentagon said.
“I think the maritime mission is going to be as big as the land mission in the future, driven by Asian customers like Australia, India, Japan, Korea, and … other countries will certainly play a role,” Joseph Song, vice president for international strategic development at General Atomics Aeronautical, told Reuters.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just as with civilian flights, ashtrays on an aircraft make little sense. According to both civilian and military guidelines, smoking is forbidden while the aircraft is in flight. The no-smoking signs are a constant sting to every smoker with the urge to light up.
And yet…there are ashtrays on aircraft.
In 1990, the U.S. banned smoking on all flights. In 2000, international airlines followed suit. But before then, smoking was allowed on planes. Even in the military, older Blackhawks were outfitted with ashtrays that required cleaning before each and every flight. John F. Kennedy’s Marine One had been made with several “smoking pits.”
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines were changed after the crashes of Varig Flight 820 and Air Canada Flight 797 were believed to have each been caused by smoking passengers — killing 123 and 23 people respectively.
New rules were enforced, but aircraft models were still required to have ashtrays installed…just not used.
However, if someone does light up, risking a $100k fine and the lives of everyone on-board, the flight attendants need a place to dispose of the cigarette butt. The trash bins are filled mostly with paper waste, so that’d be a terrible (read: flammable) idea.
The FAA doesn’t have much jurisdiction over the U.S. military. Military operations are exempt from FAA guidelines but as a show of good faith while flying in U.S. National Airspace they follow them willingly.
Even down to the size of the UH-60 Blackhawk, an ashtray is still installed to adhere to FAA guidelines. Military helicopters still treat the cigarette butt as foreign object debris and that needs to be disposed of properly so as not to damage the aircraft.