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Posts Tagged "military"

Anecdotes from the Archive

This Week in World War I: August 15, 1914

Germany’s Opening Gambit The German attack on Belgium and France, starting on August 4, 1914, was designed to deliver a crushing blow to the French armies before the Russians and British could mobilize; after defeating the French, the Germans planned to use their extensive railway system to rush their forces to the eastern front to [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

“We Build, We Fight”: The Role of the Seabees in the Invasion of Normandy

Seabees Logo

Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-day, when the Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. Whereas all branches of the Armed Forces who took place in the invasion deserve recognition, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to a group that I hadn’t heard of until I read about them in Scientific American’s archive: [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

How to Find the True Shape of a Soldier

Conformator on cover

In 1915, it was imperative for France to keep its soldiers in good physical condition. The French War Ministry’s physical education school in Joinville looked for ways to improve soldiers’ performances and spot any problems with their health before they were sent to the Front. According to the cover story from the May 8, 1915 [...]

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Cross-Check

Battle fatigue: Can pretend warfare cathartically curb real war?

My teenage son, Mac, shot me. Twice, on the same day. I felt pride. And pain. Together with about 60 other guys, Mac and I were playing an "Airsoft" war game in a wooded Army Reserve training camp in Tolland, a tiny town in western Massachusetts. Airsoft is like paintball, except that the gas- or [...]

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Cross-Check

Obama’s choice for warrior in chief, Gen. James Mattis, calls Iraq invasion “the dumbest thing we ever did”

James N. Mattis is the four-star Marine general whom Barack Obama just nominated to head the U.S. Central Command, with oversight of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. If confirmed by the Senate (a hearing is set for today), Mattis will replace David Petraeus, who took over command of troops in Afghanistan from Stanley [...]

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Cross-Check

Why soldiers get a kick out of killing

Do some soldiers enjoy killing? If so, why? This question is thrust upon us by the recently released video of U.S. Apache helicopter pilots shooting a Reuters cameraman and his driver in Baghdad in 2007. Mistaking the camera of the Reuters reporter for a weapon, the pilots machine-gunned the reporter and driver and other nearby [...]

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Guest Blog

What Is a Drone, Anyway?

Launching a Puma drone

At a time when drone aircraft have become a daily feature of the news and are about to proliferate in U.S. airspace, it’s a good idea to take a step back and examine a very basic and very important question: What, exactly, is a drone? The answer turns out to be more complex than might [...]

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Observations

Sequester-Hobbled DARPA Takes Aim at New Types of Terrorism

GPS satellite

With relevance to homegrown, lone operator terrorist threats highlighted by the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a series of initiatives Wednesday aimed at defending the U.S. against increasingly ambiguous threats. Whereas its core mission will remain the same—researching new types of technology for the military—the cutting-edge agency [...]

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Observations

A Ride in an Air Tanker Refueling F-15s

Air tanker at JFK

NEW YORK CITY—I’ll probably never live out my childhood fantasy of riding in a fighter jet, let alone piloting one. But gazing down on a airborne F-15 Eagle from a cruising air tanker was more than enough to satisfy my adult self, who doesn’t mind vicariously taking in a thrill ride from a safe distance. [...]

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Observations

4-Fingered Robot Can Replace Flashlight Batteries [Video]

A robot that can reproduce the dexterity of the human hand remains a dream of the bioengineering profession. One new approach to achieving this goal avoids trying to replicate the intricacy of the bones, joints and ligaments that produce our most basic gestures. A Sandia National Laboratories research team has adopted just such a strategy [...]

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Observations

Flying Orb Built by Japan’s Ministry of Defense [Video]

About the size of a beach ball, this flying sphere takes off vertically and hovers in place, but can zip along horizontally at speeds of up to 60 km/h (about 37 mph). It has gyroscopic control that keeps it stable even when the presenter smacks it on the side: Perhaps the most amazing aspect of [...]

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Observations

The deity by any other name: Army resilience program gets a thumbs down from atheists

Atheists The best thing about writing a story as a journalist is that you get to interact with astute readers who are never reticient about telling you what you missed in your reporting. My story, “The Neuroscience of True Grit,” the cover in the current issue, talks about what we know, and what we’re still [...]

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Observations

U.S. Air Force robotic space plane set for second long-duration flight

USAF space plane

In 2010, a new U.S. Air Force test vehicle, the X-37B, took flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The unmanned plane, which looks a bit like a compact version of the space shuttle, later landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, completing its autonomous flight. "There is no one on the ground with a [...]

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Observations

Exoskeleton defines a new class of warrior [Video]

Raytheon, exoskeleton, robot, military

Technology has always defined how wars are fought, from swords to bows and arrows through the invention of gunpowder and the dawn of the aircraft and, now, to the presence of laser-guided unmanned aerial drones and bomb-diffusing robots. The U.S. military is now hoping the next decade will see a new class of warrior—a faster, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopus-Inspired Camouflage Flashes to Life in Smart Material

Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins are the undisputed masters of disguise. An octopus can change its color, texture and luminosity faster than you can say “camouflage.” So far our lowly human attempts at imitation have been quite crude. But a flashy new smart material might just be our closest step yet. The main tool the [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

3-D Printed Octopus Suckers Help Robots Stick

octopus robot suckers

Legions of animal-inspired robots are being created to improve military missions and disaster response efforts—from crawling cockroach-like RHex bots to leaping Sand Flea robots and the speeding Cheetah machines. Now, a squishier source for smart robo-tech has joined the ranks: octopuses. Teams of researchers are already developing soft-bodied, octopus-esque robots for search and rescue. These [...]

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Talking back

Researchers Hack Drones. A Science Project Anyone?

My son Benjamin once got honorable mention for his science project, which consisted of going to a firing range and seeing whether silk is really bulletproof, as it’s sometimes purported to be. The guy at the range smiled upon hearing about what the skinny teenager was up to and said the silk would never stand [...]

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