Thursday, 30 November 2017

RE: Common Myths About WWII

This is a response to a popular article that was posted on FTR (for the record) a few years back. They are a blog associated with the online game war of tanks. They make frequent posts that circle around the game and its setting: Tank combat during the 30s to 60s. The quality of these articles vary wildly depending on the topic in question. They are of respectible quality until it comes to WW2, in which case FTR delves into full on historical revisionism. Among other things, they are strongly opposed to the theory that the german army was a uniquely powerful and competent military force. Any individual who makes that claim is shouted down and decried as a wehraboo. Unfortunately for FTR, this theory happens to be supported by all the known facts about the heers organisation, and from their performance against opposing armys during WW2. The usual consensus among historians is that the germans were simply overwhelmed by the burden of fighting against three huge empires, and the superior industrial resources they could muster. One of the authors at the blog (EnsignExpendible) decided that he'd finally had enough with this theory.

He wrote a misleading and duplicitous article that attempts to dispute the heers superiority in weaponry and tactics. In keeping with the 'war of tanks' theme, the author has most of his criticisms focused on armored warfare. The Ensign was wise to choose a narrow subject that played to his strengths, but even then, he falls well short of managing to do a proper debunking. Normally, this kind of opinion piece wouldn't even warrant a response. But since it is being promoted on revisionist forums like ShitWehraboosSay, it has now become a worthwhile effort to debunk this article. The Ensign is clearly a lightweight without much understanding of warfare in general, and most of his criticisms rely on pairwise comparisons of equipment (17 pounder guns vs Tiger tanks, for example). Worse yet, he relys very heavily on websites like tankarchives for sources. The site in question is run by a russian blogger who makes a career out of translating soviet field reports from the war, and using them to make deceptive claims... Much like EnsignExpendible himself does. Could there be a connection between these two individuals?


These are the kindof stupid memes 
that get promoted on the FTR blog
  
 
Shermans were not especially fire-prone (consider German tanks that also used gasoline engines, but avoid this reputation). Fires were caused by improper storage of ammunition, when it was literally stuffed everywhere inside the tank it could fit. The end of this practice drastically reduced the number of Sherman fires 

Fun fact: In order for a tank to catch fire, its armor has to actually be pierced. Its true that the Shermans weren't any more fire-prone than the german tanks they faced. But the problem is, its armor was pierced much more frequently than the opposition. In one study, 95% of Shermans hit by 75mm or 88mm guns were penetrated, and of those tanks, 65% were burned out. [1] We can safely conclude that its armor was too thin to keep out enemy shells, therefore. Thats one of the reasons why the Sherman acquired a bad reputation after the war. On the other hand, the crews had a pretty good chance of escaping their vehicle alive if it was struck. The roomy interior, spring loaded hatches, ductile armor, and (later) wet ammo stowage were responsible for this.


The Ronson nickname is attributed to the slogan “lights every time”. The slogan was launched post-war, and thus could not influence the nickname.

Are you seriously claiming that the Ronson nickname was a postwar fiction? On what grounds are you dismissing the memoirs of veterans like David Holbrook, who disparagingly compared their tanks to a lighter? Were they all mistaken? Anyway, there are images online which show the slogan years before the war. This ad poster is dated from 1929, and it already has the theme: ''A Ronson lights every time.''


Tigers were vulnerable to even Shermans armed with 75 mm guns. The longer 76 mm gun (superior in AP performance to the Soviet 85 mm gun, which could handle Tigers just fine) had no problem with Tigers or Panthers.

What are you talking about? The 75mm M3 gun used by the Sherman was completely useless against the Tigers frontal armor, and was unable to penetrate it even from point blank range. This is made clear from the data about the armor and gun in question, and is also borne out by countless testimonys from veterans and field reports. In combat, the Shermans 75mm gun was only useful against the Tigers side armor. As for the 76mm M1 gun, while this was certainly a better weapon, it was far from ideal. When using the common M62 shell, it could only penetrate the Tigers mantlet from 100 meters, and the glacis from 400 meters. [2] It was unable to pierce the Panthers glacis from any range at all, and could only penetrate the mantlet from about 200 meters. [3] So where do you get off saying that the 76mm gun had no problem with the german 'cats'? When the enemy tanks can destroy a Sherman from a much longer range than vice versa, that is the definition of a problem!

Your claims about russian tank guns are equally facile. While the theoretical performance of the 85mm S53 gun was at least equal to the 76mm gun, in practise, it was hampered by the choice of ammunition. Due to manufacturing difficultys, soviet AP rounds did not use an armor piercing cap to raise the shatter velocity. [4] As a result, they had a bad tendency to break up against german tank armor: This problem wasn't fixed until sometime in 1944. Even with the improved ammunition, though, the 85mm guns could only pierce the Tigers turret (not mantlet) from 500 meters, and the glacis from 300 meters. The 88mm KWK 36 gun could pierce the T-34/85s armor from a much longer range. So really, your examples only confirm how much of a disadvantage the allies were at in these tank on tank duels. There was obviously a reason why they needed numerical superiority to win battles.


Myth: German tanks and crews were superior to anything the Allies had, and achieved an X:1 kill to death ratio (the number varies greatly).
Fact: The flaws of German kill counts are covered in detail here and here.

The first source you listed is a rant about nothing. Since when does a different method of counting losses qualify as 'flawed' or 'cheating'? A German tank unit would keep damaged vehicles on the unit list and report a reduced operational readiness rate. An american or british tank unit would have damaged vehicles stricken from the unit list and replaced with new vehicles. So the only real difference here is that the germans were simply less willing to send damaged vehicles back to army level workshops. The second source you listed is just as problematic. It talks about BRL memorandum No. 798, which summarises numerous tank engagements in the western front. In order to come to their conclusions, the BRL used after-action reports from the 3rd and 4th armored divisions. Unfortunately, their figures don't add up with the losses actually sustained by the germans. From August 1944 to December 1944 alone, they lost 4973 AFVs on all fronts: Of those AFVs, 2861 were tanks. [5]

The heer then lost a similar number of AFVs again from January to May of 1945. So how many of those vehicles were due to american action in the western front? Well...The 4th AD reported making 847 tank kills, while the 3rd AD reported making 1023 tank kills! Yes, you read that correctly. Those are the actual claims made in their after-action reports. This is so incredible that it needs to be put into perspective to be fully understood. In the last 10 months of the war (when these two divisions were active), the german army lost about 10,000 AFVs on all fronts to all causes. And these guys claim to have been responsible for 1870 of them! Hallelujah, what a pair of tank wrecking monster divisions! Heh. This is just an obvious example of inflated kill counts, and overeager crews counting everything twice or thrice. Even if you increased the german AFV losses to double the actual number (thus providing a better 'vacuum'), the kills claimed by those two divisions would still be laughable from a statistical viewpoint.


Soviet guns do not lack mechanical accuracy, and are occasionally more accurate than their German counterparts. As for optics, Americans praised them at the Aberdeen trials: “Consensus: the gun sights are the best in the world. Incomparable to any currently known worldwide or currently developed in America.”

Accuracy is dependent on the barrel length and twist rate of the gun (velocity and stabilisation), along with the aerodynamics of the projectile (drag). Soviet tank guns weren't particularly noted for their ballistic excellence or low dispersion. And this source reveals just how dismissive the germans were towards their optical suite, considering them to be ''very limited''. Its true that soviet designs were superior to those of the americans, but this is damning with faint praise. Remember, the M38 telescopic sight used by the Sherman tank was so bad that the U.S. army was demanding a replacement by early 1943. ''We must have a better optic for our guns, something with a four power to six telescopic power and something focusable. The sight should have a larger reticle and it must be illuminated for night fighting. This is extremely important; it should be changed immediately.'' [6]

 Gunsight of the Tiger I tank

 
While trials at Aberdeen uncovered some flaws in early T-34 tanks, the tank sent to them was an obsolete model that went through major refurbishment. Furthermore, American testing was flawed (for example, they failed to oil up the air filter). Read more details here and here.

Thats only half true, Ensign. From all indications, the tank tested at Aberdeen in 1942 was ''specially prepared using the highest quality parts at the Ural Tank Factory (UTZ), which at that time produced the best T-34s in Russia.'' So any automotive flaws encountered with the vehicle are inherent to its very design. We know that the early T-34 tanks had major problems with their transmissions and final drives. One source states that they would require maintenance after a journey of 50 to 80 kilometers. Another claims that the T-34 could not travel more than 200 kilometers without an overhaul. A disappointing performance, to be sure. According to the Aberdeen report: ''On the T-34 the transmission is also very poor. When it was being operated, the cogs completely fell to pieces. A chemical analysis of the cogs on the cogwheels showed that their thermal treatment is very poor and does not in any way meet American standards for such mechanisms.'' These reliability problems were not fixed until 1943, when the tanks received a better clutch and transmission.


The Tiger II was penetrated many times by various weapons in trials. Even the meek 85 mm gun on the T-34-85 was capable of dealing a fatal blow to it at 300 meters. The Wikipedia article for the Tiger II has a very nice photo of a Tiger II with a 17 pounder hole in the front.

You know what the difference between trials and combat is? The difference is, the 'target' isn't moving around and shooting back at you. Those soviet tests you're so eager to mention include 152mm, 122mm, and 100mm weapons being fired at the Tiger II. It should not surprise anyone that a 152mm shell can destroy a tank, due to the combination of sheer momentum and explosive filling (which can remove turrets). Unfortunately, the potential impact of the smaller weapons was reduced by the poor ammunition which lacked an armor piercing cap. Again, this was due to a manufacturing difficulty that wasn't overcome until sometime in 1944. Lets focus on the 85mm S53 gun. When firing from an angle of 30 degrees, it only penetrate the Tiger Is turret from 500 meters, and the glacis plate from 300 meters. [7] So what could possibly lead you to believe that this same gun could pierce the much thicker armor of the Tiger II from the same range?

Such a conclusion is not supported by the known facts about the gun or armor in question. You keep harkening back to tankarchives, but theres a problem. The soviet reports discussed there are all written in cyrillic (obviously), we are forced to take the author at his word. Tankarchives doesn't always list the report name, and he rarely gives the page number hes quoting from. Worse yet, he is also known to lie and obfuscate on occasion. Some of his assertions are downright contradictory. In the report you mention, he claims that the 85mm S53 gun was able to spall the Tiger IIs glacis from 300 meters. In another report, however, he claims that the 75mm KWK 42 could only spall the Tiger IIs glacis from 100 meters. This is complete nonsense, because the KWK 42 has much greater penetration than the S53. At a range of 100 meters, the german gun can pierce 185mm, while the soviet gun can pierce only 139mm.


Myth: Germans had the best optics in the entire war.
Fact: Not really, just some minor advantages in sight form factors (and not glass quality, like is often said). Daigensui explores the topic here. 

Minor advantages? Your own link acknowledges that those telescopic sights have a wider field of view (FOV) for the same magnification. A german 2.4x power sight had a 25 degree FOV, while an american 3x power sight had only a 13 degree FOV. Thats not a minor advantage, Ensign. And despite your claims to the contrary, the panzer optics did indeed posses higher glass quality. A french army report stated: ''The clarity and ranging reticles of the periscope gun sight was excellent and more effective than of the allied counterpart, the Sherman.'' The telescopic sights on the Tiger or Panther tanks also had adjustable magnifications, meaning they could go from 2.5x power to 5x power. This, along with their stadiametric notches, gave the germans a notable edge in long range gunnery. Don't forget, the tank that strikes its target first will usually win the engagement!

 
Myth: The Panther was a great tank that could have turned the tide of the war if only _________.
Fact: Panthers, even the latest models, were full of mechanical issues, such as final drives that lasted 150 kilometers. The_Chieftain goes over them here. Additionally, the armour was of exceptionally poor quality, cracking after non-penetrating hits.


Gee, do you think? World war 2 was the largest conflict in human history. The chain of events were far too complex to be decided by a single line of vehicles, no matter how impressive their performance may appear to be. While its true that the Panthers had issue with their final drives (as the early models of T-34 did), the sheer extent of this problem has often been exaggerated. The french experience of the tanks only going 150 km before a break down needs to be tempered with the reality that those crews weren't trained to properly operate the Panther. They had a bad habit of keeping the tank in 3rd gear during long marchs, and then controlling the speed using only the accelerator rather than shifting to the higher gears. This is something that german crews had been explicitly warned not to do, as it would lead to premature stripping of the cogs. [8] The 3rd gear was under-designed because it wasn't meant to spend much time in that position: It was only meant to be a transition to the higher gears. But even so, the notion of the Panthers final drives having a 'fatigue life of only 150 km' is bizarre and anomalous.
 
If these brand-new tanks were breaking down before they had even completed a full march (200 km on road), then thats because the driver is an ignorant moron. The British actually did tests on a captured Panther tank which had 500 miles (800 km) on it. The vehicle was certainly worn out. But after repairs had been made to the engine and steering system, it was able to successfully pass an obstacle course that both the Sherman and Cromwell failed. It was then put through two additional trials, which is when the transmission finally broke down. That means it traveled five times further than the french claimed was possible. Again, thats not to say that the final drives weren't a weak point. They used single-teeth spur gears that were inappropriate for a 44 ton tank, and the war ended before this design flaw could be rectified. Poorly trained drivers who selected gears carelessly would overtax the Panthers drive train and cause premature break downs. This just goes to show that no tank is without its flaws.


Sources

[1] British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, by John Buckley. (Page 125)

[2] Panther vs Sherman: Battle of the Bulge 1944, by Steven J. Zaloga. (Page 25)

[3] M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943–53, by Steven J. Zaloga. (Page 10)

[4] Soviet Armed Forces Review Annual - Volume 14, by David R. Jones. (Page 260)

[5] Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II, by Steven Zaloga. (Page 223)

[6] M4 Sherman at War, by Michael Green. (Page 85)

[7] Tiger 1: Heavy Tank: 1942-45, by Thomas Jentz. (Page 20)

[8] Panzers at War, by Michael Green. (Page 87)

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The military is no place for transgenders

Theres been alot of biased media coverage on the issue of transgender soldiers in the military. The articles published on this topic have ranged from mediocre to pathetic. One of the more groan worthy examples was released by the Washington post, which took issue with Donald Trumps claim that the acceptance of LBGT troops would harm social cohesion in the military. The hack writers were so confidant about the validity of their position that they actually had the gall to begin lecturing readers about 'myths' that supported Trumps positions. Its pretty astonishing that journalists think they can jump into this realm and begin throwing around their opinions as facts, while demonstrating that they have no grasp whatsoever of military affairs.

So what exactly did they say? Heres a quote: ''But these statements rely on two myths: that diversity reduces unit cohesion, and that unit cohesion enhances military effectiveness. In fact, there is little evidence for either.'' Haha. So right from the outset, the Washington post goons commit themselves to a 2 pronged attack that has no hope of succeeding. They could have went about their rebuttal of Trumps in any number of easier ways. They could have accused the president of being biased or prejudiced, but instead, they decided to attack a well supported theory that Trump leans on for support. The things that these writers denounce as 'myths' are actually nothing of the sort. Lets take a look at their attempted refutation.

 This was the only tolerable and professional choice



Experience and research debunk the claim that uniformity among members is required for cohesive groups to form.

You're spouting utter nonsense. The most exhaustive works we have on the subject of primary groups all conclude that 'diversity' among primary groups is harmful to their cohesion. According to authors like William Henderson, the soldiers in a unit must have a common race, religion, language, and culture in order to co-operate with high degrees of efficiency. Uniformity is therefore very much required.

A post-World War II Army survey about the experience of units that received black infantry replacements after D-Day found 80 percent of white officers and 96 percent of white NCOs stated that black and white soldiers had gotten along very well or fairly well.

So what? Black and white soldiers being nice to each other when off duty or in non-combat situations is all well and good. But it doesn't give much indication of how well these soldiers would function together as a unit when placed in an intense, stressful battle. It is an empirical fact that mixed-race units tend to 'fracture' in combat more quickly than a same-race unit. The 'survey' you cited doesn't refute this consensus.

The reason is simple: The heterogeneity of a group’s members is unrelated to its cohesiveness.

Thats completely untrue, because studys have shown that there is a major correlation between heterogeneity and low unit cohesion. The correlation becomes even stronger when you introduce greater levels of heterogeneity. To put it simply, if the unit contains soldiers of a different race, then cohesion will inherently decrease as a result. If the soldiers are of a different religion and culture, on top of that, then cohesion will decrease even further.



The argument that cohesion is crucial to a combat unit’s performance has its roots in an article written shortly after World War II by two University of Chicago sociologists, Edward Shils and Morris Janowitz.

Yes, they were both early advocates on the theory of primary groups. But their work has been improved upon by a number of different writers, including William Henderson. So try not to fall into the same trap that creationists do. Namely, their belief that nitpicking and 'disproving' Charles Darwin is a substitute for a refutation of the theory of evolution. This is a fallacious approach because scientific theorys tend to branch out and expand with time.

Furthermore, as the historian Omer Bartov has shown, German casualties were so massive that combat units were quickly annihilated, meaning that primary groups hardly had time to form, much less motivate men to fight.

Are you trying to imply that because the soldiers in questions didn't train together, that they were unnable to form primary groups? If so, then you're wrong. These units were all composed of soldiers from the same military district (wehrkreise). They hence had a common race, religion, language, and culture. You have no basis to suggest that they had low cohesion. Even if the men hadn't trained together, they had the homogeneity needed to form a primary group.

None of this scholarship supports the contention that small-unit cohesion improves battlefield performance.

You are mixing apples and oranges here. There are a wide variety of human factors that contribute to a units effectiveness in battle. There is cohesion, nationalism, discipline, rewards, punishment, etc. Even the type of war being fought can influence a soldiers state of mind. How did you come to the conclusion that these other factors are of such pivotal importance that they make the subject of cohesion irrelevant?

Monday, 2 October 2017

Las vegas shooting

(Article under construction)

Hours after the mass shooting in las vegas, when many facts are still unknown, we can already notice a narrative beginning to take shape in the leftist media. There are energetic and widespread calls for gun control. As always, the liberals are using tragedy to push their anti-gun agenda. They never grasp the fact that this is a settled question in the united states: Regardless of how many mass shootings take place, they do not invalidate the 2nd amendment. We already learned the folly of trading freedom for security after the september 11 attacks and the patriot act. The liberals are attempting ram their policys through while the public is still in a state of shock and unable to respond logically. They push the idea that more gun laws would have prevented the atrocity, even though the shooter must have violated dozens of laws to carry out his vile deed. We need to keep an eye out for politicians who act too quickly in the wake of this mass shooting. There are treacherous elements within america who want to see the country turned into an anologue of europe: A dumbed down populace infiltrated by muslims and communists, that has been disarmed mentally and physically.

The timing of this event is certainly unfortunate, as it comes at a time when the fake 'refugee crisis' was showing signs of beginning to unravel. The narrative was crumbling under sustained attack from independent media, who were able to prove that non-government organisations (NGOs) like Save The Children and Support Refugees were engaged in illegal human trafficking. For obvious reasons, mass immigration of 3rd worlders is a bigger threat to civilisation than a few mass shootings. We have to remember to keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted by sensational tragedys. The most important thing to do at this point is to compile video archives of the event and compare them all for mutual consistency. This will allow us to verify whether the shooting was indeed done by 'just a lone nut' (TM). It will also allow us to determine whether or not there are anomolous events which are being ignored by the mainstream media.


Las Vegas shooting: Hillary Clinton leads calls for tougher gun control 

Sen. Murphy Tells Congress to ‘Get Off Its Ass’ on Gun Control

Newsom, Harris call for increased gun control in response to Las Vegas shooting

Las Vegas Shooting: John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Other Celebs Call for Gun Control

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Myths about the german nuclear program

When germany invaded poland on September 1, 1939, the army ordnance office (HWA) devised a program to explore the possible development of nuclear weapons. The first meeting was organised by Kurt Diebner, a nuclear physicist who advised the HWA, and was held on September 16, 1939. The second meeting drew in major players like Klaus Clusius, Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg, and was held on September 26, 1939. Before the year was out, Diebner had assembled a fairly large team of scientists, formed a consensus on what goals they should pursue, and organised everyone into teams to carry out theoretical and applied research. Within germany, the nuclear program was known as the uranverein. They made alot of progress early on in the war, and were actually ahead of the british and americans until early 1942 or so. From that point on, though, the americans began to rapidly outpace them with the manhattan project and the huge resources marshaled toward it. While germany eventually lost the war and any hope of winning the nuclear race, the achievements made by their scientists were considerable. The scientists encountered numerous difficultys, most notable of which was when the HWA relinquished control of the project in July 1942. Almost as bad was when the allys began their strategic bombing campaign, which resulted in some of the laboratorys being destroyed. In spite of all this, the germans dilligently continued their work and maintained a strong research program. This was especially true for the team run by Paul Harteck, as we will eventually see. At the time, there were known to be just two approaches to weaponizing the strong nuclear force.

The first method is to enrich natural uranium by separating U-235 from U-238. The U-235 isotope is fissile, but makes up only 0.72% of natural uranium by mass. If uranium is to be used in a bomb, its U-235 concentration must be raised to 90%. The second method is to bombard natural uranium with neutrons and transmute it into plutonium. The U-238 isotope is fertile, and if it captures a neutron, it will turn into U-239, which then decays into Pu-239. If plutonium is to be used in a bomb, its Pu-239 concentration must be raised to 93%. Uranium can be enriched to weapons grade by a variety of techniques, but uranium can only be transmuted into plutonium by a reactor. In hindsight, the german nuclear program made significant steps towards uranium enrichment, but were lagging in their efforts to make a reactor. The details of this subject are complicated and sometimes convoluted, since many historians have offered many appraisals that are mutually exclusive. Authors like Samuel Goudsmit (of ALSOS fame) have such a prejudice against the nazis that it interferes with their ability to even tell a coherent narrative. Other writers go in completely the opposite direction, and try to credit the germans with all kinds of specious achievements. As always, though, only some of these appraisals can be corroborated. This article will focus on a number of myths about the german nuclear program and how it measured up to the manhattan project.

The  B-VIII pile uranium pile in haigerloch


The uranverein was never able to develop an effective means of enriching uranium to weapons grade.

This is simply not true. Early in 1943, the research team under Paul Harteck had created a centrifuge of novel design, subdivided into multiple rotors and multiple chambers. This 'ultracentrifuge' was tested by separating isotopes of xenon gas, and then by separating uranium hexafluoride. This machine was able to enrich several grams of uranium to 7%, good enough to warrant funding from the reich research council (RFR). More centrifuges were made, and the design was constantly tinkered with. By May of 1944, a company in freiburg had built and successfully tested the MK III ultracentrifuge, which persuaded Harteck to move his laboratory there. The team set up a facility in the nearby town of kandern, where a few centrifuges were assembled into a cascade. After a few months, however, allied bombings forced them to stop work and relocate to a town called celle. Early in 1945, the facility only had 20 or so of these machines, but was still enriching 50 grams of uranium to 15% each day! The MK III ultracentrifuge was a technological marvel with a performance far exceeding the american centrifuges. [1] There were actually plans to put it into mass production, but the war ended before this could take place. Other research teams in germany had experienced similar ups and downs. By June of 1943, Erich Bagge had created an 'isotope-sluice' machine that ran uranium hexafluoride through two shutters revolving at high speed, allowing the lighter U-235 to be separated. This was a totally novel approach which never occurred to the americans, using a combination of electromagnetism, centrifugal force, and thermal diffusion.

While his first two prototypes were destroyed by air raids, Bagge was able to relocate to butzbach and set up another machine. By July of 1944, the 'isotope-sluice' had undergone an endurance test lasting 120 hours, yielding several grams of much enriched uranium. The models indicated its efficiency could be greatly increased. At around this same time, Manfred von Ardenne was testing a magnetic isotope separator, not unlike the calutrons used at the Y-12 plant at oak ridge. Both machines used magnetic fields to deflect charged particles and separate them based on differences in mass, but the german design used an ion source to sublimate the uranium. This greatly increased its enrichment capacity. Ardennes laboratory was located underground in his manor, which protected it from air raids. And since he was financially supported by the post office, work on it was able to continue unimpeded. Fortunately for the allies, however, only one of these machines were made during the war. Putting the technical details aside for now, it should be clear that the uranverein had made major strides in their knowledge and ability to separate U-235 from U-238. The problem was that these efforts were all confined to laboratorys, and were never expanded to the industrial scale that was needed for an atom bomb. There were not enough scientists and engineers working on uranium enrichment, and there was not enough funding from the RRC to produce these machines in anywhere near the numbers required. The only team that came close was the one run by Harteck.

The german ultracentrifuge, which was 
superior to the american design


German scientists were never able to achieve a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, much less a working reactor.

This point requires some background. One of the things needed for a nuclear reactor is a substance which can act as a neutron moderator, and allow a chain reaction to continue unabated. During WW2 there were only two known substances that could fulfill this role: Graphite and heavy water. Allied and axis scientists investigated each of them. In January 1941, Walther Bothe had performed experiments on the purest graphite available, to see whether it could slow down the neutrons without absorbing them. Eventually, he determined that the capture cross-section of graphite was too large to make it an effective moderator. The americans actually came to the same conclusion as him, but would quickly learn that this was due to trace amounts of boron, which could be removed by making the graphite out of petroleum instead of coke. The germans never did this extra step, and were now totally dependent on a supply of heavy water, which was synthesized at only one location in all of europe: The norsk hydro plant. By May of 1942, enough heavy water had been assembled to make a uranium pile at leipzig. The L-IV experiment by Werner Heisenberg yielded a neutron increase of 13 percent, meaning that the pile emitted more neutrons than what had been injected into it. This was a step in the right direction. [2] Unfortunately, the containment vessel exploded soon after the experiment, leaving them with a shortage of heavy water. In April of 1943, Kurt Diebner performed an experiment of his own at a laboratory in gottow. Rather than mix the uranium and heavy water together into an aluminum sphere, he had the uranium cast into cubes, and the heavy water frozen into ice. The G-II test ended with a neutron increase of 36 percent, 'an extremely favorable and unexpected result.' 

Diebner had proven that uranium cubes were superior to the plates that Heisenberg used, and that the aluminum containment vessels were completely unsuitable. While the basic research problems had been overcome, no new reactors could be built without an adequate supply of heavy water. Progress on this area stalled as a consequence, and results came at an agonisingly slow pace. Conditions were only worsened when the allys conducted raids against the norsk hydro plant, interrupting the supply of heavy water. The months and years dragged on, and optimism soon gave way to pessimism. By the spring of 1944, Heisenbergs team in berlin finally went forward with the B-VI experiment, which had been delayed for roughly a year due to the bombings. After many months of testing and altering the layout of their uranium pile, they were unable to yield significantly higher results than Diebner. Thus, Heisenberg was forced to admit the inferiority of the plates, and to use a carbon reflector instead of light water. By the winter of 1944, they had no choice but to move their equipment to haigerloch to avoid the relentless air raids. Diebners team had already evacuated from gottow to stadtilm for the same reason. By this time, they were carrying out the G-IV test which yielded the highest neutron increase of any german reactor. Diebner was elated with the results, later claiming that his pile had briefly went critical. In the spring of 1945, Heisenbergs team began their final experiment of the war. The B-VIII pile also obtained a high result: For every 100 neutrons injected into the pile, 670 neutrons were emitted at the surface. This was a very significant achievement, but it wasn't quite enough for a self sustaining reaction.


The german reactors were very unsafe, basically an accident waiting to happen: They had no control rods, and no way to stop a meltdown from taking place.

This criticism focuses on the final two 'reactors' created near the end of the war, which used uranium cubes and heavy water. The first was run by Kurt Diebners team at stadtilm, while the second was run by Werner Heisenbergs team at haigerloch. Both of these uranium piles were assembled under very difficult circumstances. The scientists were on the run from allied armys, and had to carry all the necessary supplys by truck. A containment vessel had been built prior to their arrival: This was a simple cavity excavated into the ground, and lined with carbon to act as a neutron reflector. When the experiments were actually ran, the germans didn't use control rods: Their preparations were more haphazard. In the event of a dangerous thermal runaway, the scientists plan was to drop a lump of cadmium down the reactor chimney, which would smother the radium initiator. If this didn't shut the reaction down, their only option would be to open the cavity lid and remove the uranium cubes. This procedure could take up to 10 minutes. Most people therefore get the impression that the G-IV and B-VIII reactors were very dangerous, and could have undergone an explosive meltdown that would irradiate the entire area for centurys. This is completely false, however, because they are comparing a uranium pile to a full scale reactor. The one is related to the other by about the same amount that a toy truck is related to a caterpillar truck! A uranium pile operates at much lower power levels than a true reactor, and is physically incapable of 'melting down.' [3]

The B-VIII uranium pile, in all its glory


The uranverein never measured the fission cross section of uranium-235: Hence, they were never able to properly estimate the critical mass for an atomic bomb.

That isn't supported by the facts. After the conquest of denmark and france in mid 1940 (among other unfortunate victims of the blitzkrieg), germany had access to cyclotrons at vienna, copenhagen, and paris. These are a type of particle accelerator that can generate 'fast neutrons', and thus allow scientists to measure the fission cross section of an element. Each of the laboratorys in vienna, copenhagen, and paris were visited by german teams during the war. This is unsurprising, because determining the critical mass of U-235 was a key parameter for which much of their work would hinge on. The scientists made fission cross section estimates at three points in the war, each more accurate than the last. [4] In August of 1941, an individual named Fritz Houtermanns (who was employed in the laboratory of Manfred von Ardenne) wrote a paper which discussed runaway chain reactions and the possibility of transmuting uranium into plutonium. This paper was circulated among members of the uranverein, eliciting a flurry of discussion. By February 1942, the HWA team had published a document outlining the critical mass for a U-235 bomb: The estimate was 10 to 100 kilograms. This was comparable to the estimate made by the NAS team in america, back in November of 1941. The baseless claims about the german scientists being unable to do these basic experiments were promulgated by authors like Samuel Goudsmit after the war, who despised the men for their deeds during the war.

 
After the destruction of the norsk hydro plant in 1943, the germans were unable to produce heavy water, and were forced to rely on their existing stocks.

First off, the norsk hydro plant was never fully destroyed. It was disassembled after the bomb raid and shipped to germany. Second, the scientists involved were always aware of the dangers of relying exclusively on one source of supply. That is why they set up four different plants over the course of the war. They even invented new hydrolytic techniques to produce more deuterium oxide at a lower price, which were eventually used in these facilitys. The first was the leuna plant, south of merseberg, which used the Harteck/Suess process (and was codenamed stalins organ). The second was the kiel plant using Dr Geibs hydrogen sulphide exchange process. Then the hamburg plant, which used the Harteck low pressure distilation process. And finally, there was the munich plant using the Clusius-Linde process. The west didn't learn about the existence of these facilitys until long after the wars end. The ALSOS mission by Samuel Goudsmit only ever knew about one of them: The leuna plant run by IG farben, which was destroyed in a bomb raid on July 28, 1944. This was one of the reasons they underestimated the progress made by the uranverein.


Bibliography

The Virus House: Nazi Germany's Atomic Research and the Allied Countermeasures, by David Irving.

German National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power: 1939-49, by Mark Walker.

Heavy Water and the Wartime Race for Nuclear Energy, by Per F. Dahl.

Hitler's Nuclear Weapons, by Geoffrey Brooks.


Notes

[1] Although to be fair, funding for the centrifuge research was cancelled in 1943. Its possible that the americans could have come up with a design that was as good as that of the germans, but they never got the opportunity to do so.

[2] There were quite a few more tests after the L-IV experiment: There was the G-II to G-IV tests in gottow, along with the B-VI to B-VIII in berlin. Other teams may have carried out their own uranium pile experiments, as well.

[3] In fact, the german reactors were more safe than the chicago pile tested by Enrico Fermi in 1942. The reason for this is that heavy water is a more effective moderator than graphite, which means their design used much less uranium to generate a chain reaction.

[4] Fritz Houtermans used radium to make the 'slow neutron' measurements in 1941. Walther Bothe used the paris cyclotron to do the fast neutron measurements in 1942. Jentschke and Lintner used the vienna cyclotron to do more fast neutron measurements in 1943.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Animorphs FAQ

This is another entry into what is quickly becoming a large catalogue of thoughts on the animorphs series. The first post was an overview of what the storys were about, how they set a high bar in childrens sci fi, and have never really been surpassed in terms of thematic content. I also offered some thoughts I had about certain dilemmas that had plagued readers of the series. The second post was an attempt to determine whether the animorphs hometown had a real world analogue. I was able to firmly prove that the descriptions of their city matched those of ventura, californa. This post will take more of a FAQ format, and answer some questions that were never addressed in the books. Mostly about those big, sciency questions that people tend to shy away from. Alot of this is about the yeerk species, and how they evolved in a biological and cultural manner. When K.A. applegate sat down to wrote the animorphs series, her aim was to provide the young heros with a unique race of aliens to fight against. At first glance, they are your standard group of evil alien parasites trying to enslave humanity, thus yielding the moral high ground to the humans who were fighting in self defense. But as the series progresses, applegate presents the yeerks in an increasingly sympathetic light. Their natural bodies are so inadequate that they cannot see, hear, or do any of the things that humans take for granted. They are a race of cripples that have no choice but to enslave others.

Alien races from the series


How is it possible that a self aware race like the yeerks evolved to become parasites, and control the functions of another creatures brain? 

Were they parasites before they became sentient, or were they sentient before they became parasites? This is something that has always perplexed me. Yeerk nature is at the core of the animorphs series, the reason they came to earth and put humanity in their sights. Their parasitic nature is what compelled them to infest other self aware beings, denying them freedom so that they could be free themselves. I have a speculative theory on how this might have happened. While details from the book are scarce, what we do know is that they are hermaphrodites that reproduce through epigamy. Putting it simply, they only reach sexual maturity in very specific conditions, because the metamorphosis is irreversible and reproduction is fatal. During the spawning process, yeerks merge together and somehow 'fuse', and from them emerge juvenile 'grubs.' There appear to be both male and female yeerks, even though they carry both pairs of sex organs. Most importantly, they are an aquatic species that can move through an animals ear canal and into their actual skull, sinking into its every crevice. By attaching their neurons to those of the hosts brain, the yeerks are able to take complete control over their bodys and use them as a puppet. Can natural selection provide a explanation for such a bizarre race? My answer is an emphatic yes. 

Before we go any further, though, I would like to posit two separate claims. 1) That the ancestors of yeerks had a 'neural patch' as part of their anatomy. 2) That these proto-yeerks could only reproduce by migrating to some ancestral spawning ground. If both these claims are true, then we can venture the following theory. Like salmon, the yeerks must travel from an ocean up into a river, and hence, swim against strong tides and up into waterfalls. I imagine this would require incredible exertion on their part, and that some of the yeerks wouldn't complete the journey back. If so, then the bottleneck for reproduction is limited to those who can succesfully migrate back to the spawning grounds. Maybe the yeerk ancestors faced a crisis at some point, something which caused the journey to become more dangerous and more difficult? If so, it would hardly be surprising if some of the yeerks managed to cheat and find another way to get upriver... Maybe they swam into the ear canal of some creatures (like the gedd) who were taking a drink, using their 'neural patch' to direct them towards the spawning ground? * This approach would have given the yeerks in question a major advantage over their peers who were trying to swim upriver the hard way. Perhaps it created a selection pressure great enough that the yeerk anatomy changed, so successive generations had a larger 'neural patch' that could take more and more control over the gedd brain? We have seen similar instances of parasitism here on earth.


Did the yeerk empire have conflicting needs when it came to the species they tried to conquer?

Absolutely. After they set up their colony on the hork-bajir world, and their population grew to number in the billions, the yeerks faced a catch-22 situation with regards to their hosts. They have five different classifications for potential host species. Class 1 are those which are physically unfit for infestation. Class 2 are those which are fit for infestation, but suffer from severe drawbacks. Class 3 species are those that would make excellent hosts, but are few in number and can't be bred quickly. Class 4 are those that would make excellent hosts, but are too formidable to conquer. Class 5 are those fit for infestation, are large in numbers and able to breed quickly, and cannot fight back. The existential crisis plaguing the yeerks is that despite decades of searching, they had seen no examples of the desperately needed class 5 species. You see, it all comes down to agriculture. If a species doesn't have agriculture, then its population will number roughly the same as neolithic humans, I.E about 5 or 10 million. This is why the hork-bajir were rated as class 3. Their small numbers and lack of technology made them easy to conquer, but it also meant that they couldn't supply the full needs of the empire. But if a species did have agriculture, then its population would quickly explode in numbers, developing better technology and a state apparatus to manage them. (This usually implys a military) This is why humans were rated as class 5. They were harder to conquer than class 3 species, but also yielded a much greater payoff for the empire.

The huge problem here is that within just a few centurys, a species can go from type 5 to type 4 status, just as the andalites did. Technological evolution would rapidly allow a type 5 species to leave its planet, build an armada of spaceships, and colonize other worlds, which means they are no longer type 5! The central paradox for the yeerks is that the type 5 species they coveted so badly were unstable and transitionary: They were nothing more than a brief period of adolescence that was eventually grown out of. Both the yeerks and andalites believed that humanity was nearing the end of its type 5 status, and would quickly mature into a type 4 species like them. This must have been incredibly frustrating to the yeerks. Even after they had picked a needle from a haystack and discovered earth, they would not get an effortless victory over mankind. Conquering them would require scarce resources that were needed elsewhere. And the situation wouldn't have been any better if they had somehow went back in time and discovered humanity back in the 1800s (when its population only numbered 1 billion). The yeerks would have an easier time conquering earth, yes, but the payoff in hosts would be smaller. It takes about 18-19 year for humans to grow to maturity, and they literally didn't have the time to wait that long. The empire had an immediate need for huge numbers of hosts to stem back the advancing tide of the andalite fleet. It was an unenviable situation for them.


*In the movie avatar, the alien na'vi use a neural cord that can attach to those of other species and control their behaviour. Its an interesting analogue, if nothing else.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Radio jamming

This article aims to clear up some myths about electronic warfare (EW), particularly as it pertains to radio jamming. EW is a really complex subject which people have a bad habit of skipping over. They don't take the time to understand any of the details, but that doesn't step them from having all kinds of wildly unrealistic expectations. Military morons love to write breathless articles about radio jamming, and how it will allow 'our guys' to dominate the electronic battlefield. They like to bluster about how their cutting edge equipment will effectively neutralise the enemys ability to communicate by radio, without exception and without the possibility of counter-measure. Unfortunately, reality hardly ever bears out these flights of fancy. Before you can make any sortof predictions like that, you need to know the specifications of enemy radio sets, and the specifications of your own EW equipment. You also need to know the basics about radio engineering. First off, the range of an emitting radio depends on its frequency, power output, antenna type, and how clear its line of sight (LOS) to the receiver is. Second, these factors heavily influence your sides ability to actually detect the enemys comms and triangulate them. If they are using low power backpack sets in the confines of a forest, and your receivers are located miles away on top of a mountain thats getting alot of interference, then you're not even going to be aware of their presence.



Line of sight (LOS) is a very important
factor in radio communications


Lets use a less extreme scenario that puts you and the enemy on flat grassland, with a good LOS to each other. [1] They are carelessly using an omnidirectional antenna that your receivers can actually detect. What happens then? If you have something like a AN/TLQ-17 jammer, it can find the emitting radios position, match its emission frequency, and bathe the surrounding area in white noise. As a result, nearby radios will have their reception disturbed and won't be able to receive any signals. Does this mean that they are no longer able to communicate with each other? Not at all. If the enemy becomes aware of jamming, they can re-orient the antenna to try and lessen interference, and if that fails, switch to a backup frequency and issue a briefing message. [2] Both the emitter and receiver can then relocate to a different position, somewhere less prone to interference, to continue sending radio messages to each other. Keep in mind, this ignores the possibility that enemy radios may actually be able to defeat the jamming through brute force! They can do this by keeping the distances between emitter and receiver short, by using radio repeaters, or by cleverly using antenna masking. So even in ideal situations where you have flat terrain, good signal to noise ratio, and a high concentration of jammers, a competent enemy can bypass persistent attempts at jamming.

That last point (about the number of jammers in an area) is quite important, because the enemy may have many different radio sets communicating on many different frequencys at once. Going after all of them presents a workload so high that impractical, broad spectrum jamming will be needed. [3] And if the enemy is a real jerk, he might develop a habit of triangulating your jammers, finding their position, and bombarding them with artillery. This would force you to keep them many miles behind friendly lines for safety, reducing their effective radiated power. Thats very undesirable when the enemy uses AM radios, which do not distinguish noise and interference from the true signal, and make the task of jamming them alot harder (since you need to completely saturate the receivers with white noise). At such a great distance, your jammers will have a reduced area of dominance, and might not be able to reliably blot out their communications. So again, people need to realise that electronic warfare is a complicated endeavor whose success is dependent on many variables, including how you and the enemy interact. Despite what military morons claim, you can't just press a button at divisional HQ that blots out all their comms on all frequencys. [4] Just like tanks or infantry units, your EW assets need to be deployed in the field in a manner that will enable them to succeed.


 Antenna masking is useful for evading
enemy receivers and jammers

Notes

[1] This ignores situations where the enemy needs to send only a single report over radio, as the messages brevity makes it impossible to stop. Instead, we'll focuses on the steady flow of radio traffic, and how well it can be disrupted.

[2] Thus enabling them to temporarily bypass the jammer, which needs a few seconds to analyse and match the new radio frequency being used.

[3] Broad spectrum jamming is best done with multiple jammers, rather than one by itself. After all, the larger the spectrum being jammed, the less power is available to create noise.

[4] Even with a high concentration of radio jammers, the enemy have ways of getting around this!

Note: Because of the length of their transmissions, the peculiarity of their signal, and power output, jammers are easily located and identified as targets for attack by suppressive fires.


Sources

The Infantry Battalion (Infantry, Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger)

Threat Handbook: Battlefield Survival and Radioelectronic Combat

Operator's and Organizational Maintenance Manual: Radio Set AN/GRC-143

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Donald trump victorious!

A phenomenal victory for donald trump, and a spectacular defeat for hillary clinton! Trump fought against washington, fought against the media, fought against all the naysayers who said he had no chance, and he won the election fair and square. Democrats (and some republicans) used every under-handed and manipulative trick they had to marginalize trump and boost hillary. They created false dilemmas, engaged in illegal campaign co-ordination, instigated violence at political rallys, and coerced dozens of celebritys to support hillary, and they still couldn't win! Their decision to nominate and support clinton was a collossal error in judgement, as was their immense overconfidence in victory in the weeks leading up to this day. They counted their chickens before they had even hatched.

The democratic party has now suffered a major setback and loss of credibility, and they have NO ONE to blame but themselves. Trump and pence did a phenomenal job on the ground of convincing ordinary americans to vote for them, while clinton and caine bought their votes through proxies and committees. So disingenous... In any case, america has taken a major step in the right direction. Disaster was certainly averted, but the battle is not yet over! The fact that hillary clinton was able to embark on a presidential race, much less come close to winning at one point, is an alarming sign of how much corruption there is in america. The mainstream media needs to be punished for their absurdly biased reporting that verged on propaganda. Hillary clinton needs to go to prison for all the laws she broke in aiding her globalist friends. Its time to drain the swamp!


Onward to victory!