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Posts Tagged ‘war

“War is progress, peace is stagnation”*…

 

Even if one doesn’t share Hegel’s copacetic take on conflict, one can observe that wars do, in fact, usually encourage bursts of technological innovation.  Indeed, most of us are pretty familiar (in both senses of the phrase) with the range of epoch-defining technologies that were a product of World War II: radar, radio navigation, rocketry, jet engines, penicillin, nuclear power, synthetic rubber, computers… the list goes on.

But we are perhaps a little less familiar with the advances– now so ingrained that we take them for granted– that emerged from World War I.  Readers will recall one such breakthrough, and its author: Fritz Haber, who introduced chemical warfare (thus lengthening the war and contributing to millions of horrible deaths), then used some of the same techniques– nitrogen fixation, in particular– to make fertilizer widely and affordably available (thus feeding billions).

Five other key developments at “The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I.”

* Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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As we look for the silver lining, we might that it was on this date in 1917, “Army Registration Day,” that the draft was (re-)instituted in the U.S. for World War I.  Draft board selections were subsequently made, and conscription began on July 20.

These draft boards were localized and based their decisions on social class: the poorest were the most often conscripted because they were considered the most expendable at home.  African-Americans in particular were often disproportionately drafted, though they generally were conscripted as laborers.

Young men registering for conscription during World War I in New York City, New York, on June 5, 1917.

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Written by LW

June 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”*…

 

Your correspondent is old enough to remember the Cold War and the Civil Defense efforts (booklets, films, duck-and-cover drills) aimed at “preparing” us for atomic conflict.  It’s a sad sign of our times that they’re re-emerging:  “Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area.”

(If there’s a silver lining in this fallout-laced cloud, it’s that it’s re-directing attention to a problem– a threat– that never actually went away; c.f., Ploughshares.)

* J. Robert Oppenheimer

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As we enter the Twilight Zone, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that The Times (London) newspaper reported that Marie and Pierre Curie communicated to the Academy of Sciences that the recently discovered Radium…

… possesses the extraordinary property of continuously emitting heat, without combustion, without chemical change of any kind, and without any change to its molecular structure, which remains spectroscopically identical after many months of continuous emission of heat … such that the pure Radium salt would melt more than its own weight of ice every hour … A small tube containing Radium, if kept in contact with the skin for some hours … produces an open sore, by destroying the epidermis and the true skin beneath … and cause the death of living things whose nerve centres do not lie deep enough to be shielded from their influence.

That same year the Curies (and Antoine Henri Becquerel) were awarded the Noble Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity and radiation.

Marie and Pierre Curie

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Written by LW

March 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“And worse I may be yet: the worst is not/ So long as we can say ‘This is the worst’.”*…

 

Terror attacks, Zika, Brexit, police shootings, Syria, Trump, record-hot temperatures, the losses of Prince and David Bowie—this has been one unrelenting turn around the calendar. Have terrifying events truly piled up on each other in 2016, in a way they didn’t in any other year in human history? Or is it impossible to judge the awfulness of a year while it’s still unfolding? Do we just notice negative happenings more these days because of our high levels of connectivity? And what does “worst year” even mean—“worst year” for Americans, for humanity, for the planet?…

In an effort to understand how to determine a “worst year” in history, Rebecca Onion asked ten historians to nominate their own “worst years” and to reflect on what constitutes a “really bad year.” Explore the bottom of the barrel at “Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?

* Shakespeare, King Lear

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As we hold our heads in our hands, we might spare a thought for Mark Antony; on this date in 30 BC– pretty surely his worst year ever– he won a minor victory over the forces of Octavian (Augustus) in the Battle of Alexandria.  But most of Antony’s army, cowed by the Roman forces, subsequently deserted, leading to his suicide.

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Written by LW

July 31, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Raising the flag and singing the anthem are, while somewhat suspicious, not in themselves acts of treason”*…

 

All– and I do mean all— about the flags of the world: Flag Stories.

* Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

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As we stand and salute, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that a convoy of South Vietnamese navy ships, fleeing the homeland that had fallen to North Vietnamese forces, sailed into Philippine waters seeking asylum.  The Philippine government would not let the ships land so long as they were flying the colors of a dissolved government; so the South Vietnamese performed a flag-lowering ceremony of their ensign for the final time, raising in its stead an American flag.

The final lowering of the South Vietnamese flag

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Written by LW

May 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”*…

 

The Boeing airplane factory in Seattle got the “fake neighborhood” treatment. The women shown are walking on a suburban landscape made of chicken wire and planks, positioned over the roof of the factory. Underneath, B-17s were being built for the war effort.

Military forces have used camouflage of one sort or another since antiquity.  But with the advent of the airplane and the rise of aerial warfare, camouflage (to hide targets) and decoys (to draw fire away from real targets or to intimidate the enemy) became bigger and bigger: “Massive Wartime Decoys and Camouflage Operations.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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As we misdirect, we might send convincingly animated birthday greetings to Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen; he was born on this date in 1920.  A visual effects pioneer, he became a writer and producer of films featuring the stop-motion model animation technique, “Dynamation,” that he developed.  He is probably best remembered for the animation in Mighty Joe Young (1949, with his mentor, King Kong animator Willis H. O’Brien), which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, his first color film); and Jason and the Argonauts (1963, which featured an amazing sword fight between Jason and seven skeleton warriors).  His last film was Clash of the Titans (1981).

Harryhausen and one of the skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts

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Written by LW

June 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You know who’s going to inherit the earth? Arms dealers. Because everyone else is too busy killing each other”*…

 

The United States is at the center of a great colorful pinwheel of death, at least according to the latest infographic from Natalia Bronshtein, a data visualizer who focuses on economic trends and political developments. She has worked to produce an interactive visualization of the world’s top 100 arms-producing companies.

Surprising no one, the United States makes more money on war than any other country. Really, it’s not even close. Using the 2013 arms production database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as her data source, Bronshtein shows that 40 of the top 100 arms-producing companies in the world are based in the United States, with Lockheed Martin and Boeing being the biggest of the bunch. The visualization represents each company as a circle within the larger circle of its nationality — the bigger the radius, the more money the company or country made selling arms…

The invisible elephant in Bronshtein’s chart ends up being China, which is missing from the SIPRI database, but it’s doubtful it would bump America down. According to SIPRI, China spent $188 billion to America’s $640 billion on its military in 2013, making it the world’s second most expensive military. If China’s companies are making as much money on arms as its military is spending on them, China still likely wouldn’t be enough to knock America from the top of the list…

Read more at “Guess Which Country’s Companies Profit Most From War?”  and explore Brohstein’s visualization here.

* “Yuri Orlov” (Nicolas Cage), Lord of Wars

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As we give peace a chance, we might send ingenious birthday greetings to Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson; he was born on this date in 1910.  A storied aeronautical engineer, He contributed to the design of 40 aircraft, from the P-38 Lightning fighter and the Hudson bomber to the U-2 spy plane and the F-104 Starfighter interceptor.

But Johnson is probably best remembered as the founding leader of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, a development group that has become a model in the business, engineering, and technical arenas of an effective approach to innovation– a group with a high degree of autonomy within an organization, unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.

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Written by LW

February 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”*…

 

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In January of 1942, as the U.S was entering World War II, a Pennsylvania dentist (and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt) named Lytle Adams submitted the design of a new weapon to the White House, suggesting that it could be effective against the Japanese.   Adams’ creation was a bomb that would drop over 800 hibernating bats– to each of which was attached a small incendiary device…  as the bomb descended from a high-altitude drop, the bats would awaken, disperse, and nest in structures– which in Japan at the time were largely made of bamboo, paper, and other highly-flammable material.  Later in the day the incendiaries would go off, starting fires across a wide area.  Adams estimated that 100 bombs might start as many a 1,000,000 fires.

The U.S. military developed the “Bat Bomb”; and while the yields were never quite what Adams predicted, they were impressive enough to drive investment of an estimated $2 million.  The project was abandoned only when it became clear that the Manhattan Project would finish before the Bat Bomb was ready.

Read more about the Bat Bomb here.

[TotH to Quora answerer Tal Reichert]

* Albert Einstein

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As we try to find the ploughshare, we might recall that it was on this date in 1849 that Lewis Phectic Haslett was granted the first patent for a gas mask.  In fact, Haslett was building on a long tradition: the ancient Greeks used sponges as make-shift gas masks, and the Banu Musa brothers in Baghdad described a rudimentary gas mask (for protecting workers in polluted wells) in their wonder-full 9th century Book of Ingenious Devices.  Still, Haslett’s creation was the forerunner of the modern gas mask.

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Written by LW

June 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

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