Saturday, January 30, 2010

"In This War It Looks Like the Flintstones are Beating the Jetsons"

So said a Marine in an Engineering Battalion in Iraq.  And he's right of course.  Now in our ninth year in Afghanistan, and soon to turn the corner of the eighth in Iraq, those companies, congressional districts, universities, and the ever-expanding defense agencies are crowing as loud as they can hoping that you just behave live a herd of lemmings and continue to throw $hundreds of billions at them in some vain hope that one of their discoveries will strike it rich and stop the IED/landmine threat.  All the while ignoring everyone else.

To make matters worse, several other factors contribute to the urgency of the landmine/IED problem:
  • Guerilla groups ignore Landmine Treaties; they are now planting them at a rate 25 times faster than they [mines] are being cleared;
  • High-tech equipment is quickly neutralized by a combination of low cost, rapid research, and network of individuals willing to defend their homeland at any cost,
  • Civilian casualties, particularly those caused by drones, turns the local populace against the US and its allies,
  • US DoD and DARPA agencies, and their hundreds of kin, myopically pursue a high-tech approach.
  • The above agencies, when confronted with low-tech solutions to their high-tech equipment, refuse to acknowledge even the possibility that a low-tech solution exists,
  • And by far the most serious:  the urgency, quantity needed for the footsoldier in the field, weight, complexity, and effectiveness is unaddressed.  No one, it appears, is accountable for the $billions spent.
Reading Press Releases of High-Tech Equipment:

Learn how to the read the "new" equipment announcements that splash across the national press.  Don't be misled by spokespersons who work for either the DoD or the company making them.  Here are some examples:
  1. When a news items splashes the word "Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)" automatically ask yourself, "How effective is it in wet soil (e.g., the fields along the Tigris or Euphrates)?  Like your morning coffee, water turns microwaves into heat, and does not creat a reflection.
  2. When they tout a new metal detector, ask yourself two questions:  (1)  Why are they relying on metal detectors when most IEDs and landmines are now made out of plastic? and (2) Metal cans litter the highways and streets of Iraq and Afghanistan - detectors cannot see below these surface items.
  3. Ask proponents of bees and plants for IED detection why Insurgents might not use insect or plant killer to keep ground troops off balance.
  4. Ask DARPA why it ignores opportunities to let an armed opponent participate in the robot races.
  5. Taffy Bowen Electromagnetic Research  Society (TBERS) does not sit by and allow these topics to go unchallenged at the level high-tech equipment will meet in the field.
Old and New Threats:

PROBLEM 1:  Trip Wires.  One of the deadliest forms of IED/landmines.  Our preliminary tests are highly successful.  In our "Dowsing Rod Science" series, Part 12 will demonstrate the ease of locating something as thin as fishing line, and as thick as 8 mm tape ribbon.  We urge testing, and have so far been ignored.  Part 12, an enhanced study of trip wires, will go online in a week or so.  A link will appear in this column.

PROBLEM 2:  Drones. The current favorite.  Proponents crow at every available opportunity.  The US is no longer the only user of these weapons, and must be ready to defend its own troops against this growing threat.  TBERS's challenge is to foil the drone's intention.  Only in the planning stage, TBERS is developing methods to identify flight patterns, then launch environmentally-friendly ways to cause abortion of the mission.

PROBLEM 3Chemical Sniffers of all types, combing the battlefields, looking for just the right nitrate compound to identify IEDs, landmines or UXOs.  We're keeping out of that one.  Too high-tech for us, we're leaving that one alone.

PROBLEM 4:  Robots.  TBERS personnel are willing to act as a counterbalance to a test of Robots in the field.  Email us for details.

We'd be happy to work with any and all, but save any insults for someone else.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bee-lown Up

Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan DoD, DARPA, corporations, and universities have engaged in an expanding universe of new ideas that will allow soldiers or civilians to identify and destroy before they or their comrades are injured.

There are a great many ideas, but two common ones are bees that are trained to smell explosives and plants that change color near IEDs or landmines.  One recent proponent of the use of bees was

The diagram at left illustrates (simplistically) the research-to-field flowchart for both US research and insurgent research.  Supporters of US research (e.g., bees) forget that there is a mirrored world where insurgents are planning to deal with any new technique.  Bees or plants or whatever could be effective if all sides were looking to destroy mines from WW II, Korea or Vietnam.  Extrapolating these techniques to current guerilla wars is quite another matter.

They have no intention of letting anyone's army occupy their land and remove IED/landmine barriers with impunity.  The lower red triangle illustrates their priorities:  little money, time, or expensive materials.  Once an agent is found, however, they have abundant personnel to impliment their countermeasures in the field.  As has been the case since the first guerilla war against Napolean the costs are minimal and the battlefield is their research lab.

Countermeasures against the $million bees are numerous, and probably cost under $25.  One example that came to my mind as I read the article was several sticks of dynamite surrounded by several cans of bug killer.

The image at right is a prop, folks, so don't get excited.  The red tubes, meant to "represent" dynamite are nothing more than harmless road flares.

"Know yourself and your enemy and you will win every battle.
Know yourself but not your enemy and you will lose a battle for every one that you win.
Know neither yourself or your enemy and you will lose every battle."

--Sun Tzu, ca. 2500 BC

Insurgent spotters could detonate four or five of these little devices and that would be the end of the bee swarm.  And then it's back to the drawing board.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Benign Neglect; When High-Tech Science Kills

The furor over an Iraqi general purchasing some type of dowsing rod-like tool for his troops has the scientific internet community seething in righteous anger, calling for heads, and building gallows. Now slow down. Bad Astronomy, JREF, and hundreds of others have failed to ask some of the most basic questions. And in a bone-chilling sinister step they have totally neglected the progress [sic] JIEDDO, private companies, and universities have made in solving the problem. The Basic Question: OK, just why did that Iraqi general take the extraordinary step of purchasing some dowsing-rod like explosive detector? Why? If the answer doesn't immediately drill a hole in your skull, then you need to begin a review of the 7-year war in Iraq. Name 10 examples of landmine/IED technologies, developed in the US, that have provided the foot soldier a fighting chance against weapons and are in wide-spread use. Phrases like "under-development" or "to be shipped this Spring" do not count. Name several anti-IED robot companies, their products, and the amount of money they have received from the US DoD. I'll start you out: 1. The Future Combat System. 2. iRobot. 3. Foster-Miller 4. DOE. Now, let's open the door further to universities, who have received large grants to develop their own anti-IED technology. 1. University of Montana (bees) 2. MIT (robbies galore) 3. University of Missouri at Rolla 4. Stanford. Right or wrong, the money spent by that Iraqi general pales by comparison, and we hear nothing from our internet science leaders. It's a low-tech war, although you'd never know it. DARPA, several years ago, offered a $2 million prize for the first robot vehicle to cross a finish line. Oh, the joy of the winners. But we're not in a high-tech war. I offered DARPA a challenge, which they refused to accept. Too bad, it would represent the type of low-tech fighter they face in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here was the challenge. DARPA supplies me with: 1. One Model 1903 Springfield, 25 rounds, fitted with a 6x scope. 2. $250 to buy materials available at any store in any city. 3. Allow me to put up $250 of my own money for the same. Bet me how many robotic vehicles would cross the finish line. Complain about the Iraqi general if you must, but clean up your own house first. taffy

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bird Watching, Ecological Changes in the Counter-IED Woodlands: A Story

New understanding of electromagnetism and its applications are beginning to pop up in journals, magazines, TV, and the Internet. And they are not welcomed. Proposing low-tech solutions to landmines and IEDs is met with the full force of current research thinking, technology, and high-powered public individuals. Often less educated, lower in status, the chastened misfits assume they are wrong. Instead, they return home to spread the official line, and in that way propagate the misconception that only those "chosen few" can make discoveries, and it is the job of the rest of us to support them without question. Not a whole lot different than watching the ecological balance of birds, plants and animals at the Iraq/Afghanistan research woodlands. The birds are the main attraction. Many of these "birds" can only be observed at a distance. Near the top are the Vultures, those scientists who have connections to the Defence Industry-University-Governmental Complex. Many are involved in high-tech research topics that are quietly related to the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly anti-IED and landmine technology. Gliding over the landscape, they watch below as insurgents use $15 weapons to defeat their multi-billion tools, yet say nothing. In the trees below the soaring Vultures are two more species, the Parrots and the Woodpeckers. The Parrots fund the military, medical, and other technological equipment that today stands in rusting piles in war zones. Normally noisy, the Parrots are unusually quiet when "success ratios" of their products are announced. The Woodpeckers are the myriads of scientists, physicists, social scientists, researchers, PhDs, professors, and all those who feed on direct government or University funding. Of course, to ensure that no one sees them, their reports are "classified." Hiding in the woodlands are the Owls. These wise, interdiciplinary creatures remain royally aloof to escalation, civilian casualties, debt, and ineffective weapons. Original thought, criticism of the status quo is met with a swift and often deadly attack. Flitting from flower to flower is the hummingbird, who does get a close look at what is going on in the war zones. These small but dangerous creatures are capable of creating havoc in the defence-science patnership because they can quickly flit to those in power and shock them with the truth, about the wars, the defence industries, the IED countermeasures, and all those who support the system. Fortunately, most of them are snared by a series of nets before spreading the word. The beautiful woodland hillside appears in perfect harmony with its surroundings. Flocks of Grackles and Sparrows noisely patrol the ground gobbling up new seeds that have fallen on the hillside. They perform the biddings of the higher order birds without question. One can spot the empty hulls of AlbertWegnerensis, Semmelweis sp., WatsonCrickensis, and Rosenberg sp. among others. But the climatic is changing, and along with it seeds that may disrupt the quiet hillside and its hierarchy. The newer varieties flourish overnight, communicate with the wind, and have developed shells that none of the birds can break. Even worse, their genetic information, carried in the pollen, is sticking to all the birds who are beginning to have a devil of a time stopping it from spreading to all the creatures on the woodland hillside. And worse for the woodland hillside, that change is accellerating. NB: The format for this story was loosely adapted from William R. Corson, 1968, The Betrayal, W.W. Norton and Co., NY, NY, 317 p. Col. Corson, one of the highest decorated and bravest soldiers this country ever produced, was an early critic of the Vietnam War, the Defense Industry, and their supporters.