Monday, February 04, 2008



Now when the foreign judge had been by the minister questioned As to his people's distress, and how long their exile had lasted, Thus made answer the man: "Of no recent date are our sorrows; Since of the gathering bitter of years our people have drunken,−− Bitterness all the more dreadful because such fair hope had been blighted. Who will pretend to deny that his heart swelled high in his bosom, And that his freer breast with purer pulses was beating; When we beheld the new sun arise in his earliest splender, When of the rights of men we heard, which to all should be common, Were of a righteous equality told, and inspiriting freedom?

Every one hoped that then he should live his own life, and the fetters, Binding the various lands, appeared their hold to be loosing,−− Fetters that had in the hand of sloth been held and self−seeking. Looked not the eyes of all nations, throughout that calamitous season, Towards the world's capital city, for so it had long been considered, And of that glorious title was now, more than ever, deserving?

Hermann and Dorothea By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tribute to Soviet Airwomen: The Night Witches

The Nachthexen

In 1942 the Soviet Union formed three regiments of women combat pilots who flew night combat missions of harassment bombing. They flew obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, that were otherwise used as trainers, and which could only carry 2 bombs that weighted less than a ton altogether. They were so successful and deadly the Germans feared them, calling them "Nachthexen"—night witches. (Some sources state that they were nicknamed "Night Witches" because it was made up entirely of female pilots and they flew their missions in the wooden Po-2's at night.) The Night Witches were the women of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. All of the mechanics and bomb loaders of this regiment, as in the 586th IAP and the 587th Bomber Regiment, were also women. The Soviet women bomber pilots earned in total 23 Hero of the Soviet Union medals and dozens of Orders of the Red Banner. Two women bomber pilots—Katya Ryabova and Nadya Popova—in one night raided the Germans 18 times. The Po-2 pilots flew more than 24,000 sorties and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. Most of the women bomber pilots who survived the war in 1945 had racked up nearly 1,000 missions each. They had served so exemplarily throughout the whole war that they participated in the final onslauqht on Berlin.

Tactics used by the Night Witches

The 588th, like all night bomber regiments, usually practiced harassment bombing. This consisted of going to the encampments, rear area bases, supply depots, etc., where the enemy was trying to rest from a day of heavy fighting to another, and bombing them. The strategic importance of the targets was seldom high, but the psychological effect of terror and insecurity and constant restlessness in the Germans (and Rumanians, Italians, Finns...) was very effective.
Harassment night bombing was very difficult to do, considering the low performance of the Po-2 biplanes (their top speed was 94 mph/150 kph, less even than most World War I fighters!) and how vulnerable that made them to enemy night fighters. But the Night Witches learned their trade well. The Po-2 was very slow, but it was also very maneuverable. When a German Me-109 tried to intencept it, the Russian plane could turn violently and nimbly at much less than the 109's minimum speed (stall speed), requiring that the German make a wide circle to come in for another pass. Then he was again met with the same evasive tactic, time after time. Many pilots got to nearly earth-level, flying low enough to be hidden behind hedgerows! The German fighter could only try again and again until he got frustrated and just left the Po-2 alone. No wonder, German pilots were promised an Iron Cross for shooting down a Po-2.

Note: Actually, the stall speed of the E, F, and G models of the Me-109 (the ones used in the Soviet Union) was nearing 120 mph/192 kph, so the Messerschmitt could never equal the speed of the Po-2, because even the Russian biplane's top speed was lesser than the German fighter's stall speed. The other fighter (more commonly) used in the Eastern Front, the Focke-Wulf FW-190A, had also a high stall speed, so its predicament was the same.

The Witches would fly to a certain distance of the enemy encapments that were to be the target, and cut their engine. They would then glide silently, silently... When the Fascists started to hear the whistle of the wind against the Po-2's wing bracing wires, they realized in panic that it was too late. The Night Witches would sneak up on them and release their bombs, then restart their engines and fly away home.

The Po-2 would pass often undetected by the night fighters' radar, because of the mildly radar absorbing nature of the canvas surfaces, and the fact that mostly they flew near the ground. German planes equipped with infrared seekers would not see the little heat generated by the small, 110 horsepower engine.

Searchlights, however, were another story. The Germans at Stalingrad developed what the Russians called a "flak circus". They would bring out the flak guns that had been hidden during the day, and lay them in concentric circles around probable targets, and the same with the searchlights. Po-2s crossing the perimeter in pairs in the straight line flight path typical of untrained but determined Russian flyers were usually ripped to pieces by the Flak 37 guns. The 588th, however, developed another tactic. They flew in formations of three. Two would go in first, attract the attention of the searchlights, and when all of them pointed to them in the sky, separate suddenly in opposite directions and maneuver wildly to try to shake them off. The German searchlight operators would follow them, while the third bomber who was farther back snuck in through the darkened path made by her 2 comrades and hit the target unopposed. She would then get out, rejoin with the other two, and they would switch places until all three had delivered their payloads. It took nerves of steel to be a decoy and willingly attract enemy fire, but as Nadya Popova said: "It worked."

This is a Polikarpov Po-2 biplane similar to those used by the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. Most were unarmed except for their ordnance, but some carried a 7.62mm machine gun on a swivel-mount in the observer's position in the rear.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chaos Theory and War

1) Chaos Theory

a) "A chaotic system is one in which nearly nearly identical initial conditions can lead after a while to entirely different outcomes."[1]

The presence of chaos in a system means that for any given accuracy with which we specify the intitial conditions, there will eventually come a time at which we lose all ability to predict how the system will behave, but it is still true that however we want to be able to predict the behavior of a physical system governed by Newton's laws, there is some degree of accuracy with which a measurement of the initial conditions would allow us to make this prediction."[2]

i) What this means is that a chaotic system is dependent upon the initial conditions[3]

b) According to Nicholls and Tagarev, there is evidence that warfare is chaotic.

First, strategic decision making, an integral part of war, has been found to be chaotic. Second, nonline- arity, which is a requirement for chaotic behavior, appears to be a natural result of Clausewitzian friction. Third, some computer war games and arms race simulations have been found to exhibit chaotic behavior. Fourth, previous work ... applied several tests for chaos to historical data related to war. Those tests demonsrated that warfare is chaotic at the grand strategic, strategic, and operational levels.[4]
What this means for us is that is warfare is chaotic at the strategic level, it is very difficult for statesmen to control what they have begun. More importantly, the initial period of the war is critical. Chaotic systems are extremely dependent on their initial conditions.

Chaotic systems never repeat exactly because their future behavior is extremely sensitive to initial conditions. Thus, infinitesimal differences in initial conditions eventually cause large changes in system behavior.[5]

c) What this means for warfare is that while it cannot be reduced to a set of equations, chaos theory can at least provide bounds.

i) Problem is that equations which govern chaotic systems are nolinear equations and therefore not analytically soluble.

ii) A theory of warfare must be based on obsertvations, hypothesis and testing. A model of warfare would require a structure of the model, the determination of the number and type of variables, and the determination of the form of the equations. Chaos theory can be used to define the minimum number of variables required in our computer model.

The rate of information loss can be calculated for a chaotic system. This quantity is related to how far into the future predictions can be reasonably be made.[6] For example if we found ourselves in conditions of great unpredictability, we could determine what conditions could bring us to a new position where the outcome is predictable and desirable (i.e., controllable). Additionally, a warfare model can be used to determine the initial conditions and whcih variables have the most effect on the predictions. This would aid in identifying the center of gravity of the enemy.

All chaotic systems are nonlinear. Among other things, nonlinearity means that a small effort can have a disproportionate effect. If warfare is chaotic, then chaos theory suggests COGs may be found where there is a nonlinear process in the enemy's system ... Because you can't predict future behavior of a chaotic system based on initial conditions, chaos theory suggests that the campaign planner should concentrate on process in an emeny system rather than data on its current condition.[7]

iii) Sources of nonlinearity in warfare:

(1) Feedback - Col Warden suggested massing for a few blows rather than many minor blows as a result of attrition analysis.

(2) Psychology associated with interpreting enemy actions. Clausewitz stated that in strategy everything is very simple, but not on that account very easy. Maneuvers, such as flanking movements are simple in concept, they are difficult to accomplish because there is always the danger of what the enemy might be doing. "In this environment, small actions on the part of the enemy often assume larger significance in a commander's mind than they deserve."[8]

(3) There are a number of processes within warfare that appear to be inherently nonlinear. Mass for example being one. Warden showed that airpower losses vary disproportionately with the ratio of forces involved.

(4) Clausewitzian friction demonstrates that there are events in war which, whether through chance or not, have a disproportionate effect out of their apparent importance. Though difficult to predict, it can be taken advantage of once it happens. German doctrine of Auftragstaktik, allowing initiative on part of junior commanders, was designed to do precisely this.[9]

(5) The process of decision making is itself nonlinear. Sometimes decision clear-cut, but other times the decision can depend upon relatively minor circumstances at the time.

iv) If warfare is chaotic, then aspects of it must be fractal

(1) The attracto of a chaotic system is fractal and therefore infinitely complex. Efforts to analyze every aspect of an enemy's system are bound to be in vain as there will always be some finer level to analyze.

(2) Behaviors at the tactical, operational, and strategic level are linked. One thing that succeeds at the tactical level can succeed at higher levels. Sun Tzu implied fractal nature of war "Generally, management of many is the same as management of few." This means that the principles and processes in war are essentially the same regardless of the scale of the fight.[10]

d) Multiple attractors are possible in war. That is the difficlty that we encounter, because chaotic systems can have multiple quasi-stable states.
In war, this means that the enemy can change the organization and means of fighting a war. Example, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong actions. As warfare is chaotic, enemy systems can exist in different states. We must be capable of changing our own state in response. [11]

e) Some terms associated with Chaos Theory

i) Strange attractor - paths around which chaotic trajectories occur. The space paths never coincide and indeed the longer one looks at a chaotic system the more paths are taken and the more messier the phase space plot of the attractor appears.[12]

ii) Poincaré Map - Two-dimensional slice through attractor, makes its structure more obvious.

iii) Fractals - Objects with fractional dimensions. Ex. object wtih 1.5 dimensions is more than a line but less than a plane. An example of such a figure is the Koch snowflake (and equilateral triangle with one-third scale triangle added to each side of the resulting figure, ad-infinitum). Benoit Mandelbrot calculated the dimension of the perimeter of the Koch Snowflake to be 1.26 (between a line and a plane). These geometries are central to chaos theory because strange attractors are fractal. Strange attractors are infinite curves that never intersect within a finite area or volume.[13] If system is chaotic it will have a strange attractor and the Poincaré map will show fractal characteristics.

[1] Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of the Universe, (New York: Vintage Books edition, 1994), p. 36.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Maj David Nicholls, USAF and Maj Todor D. Tagarev, Bulgarian AF, "What does Chaos Theory Mean for Warfare?" Airpower Journal, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Fall 1994, p. 49.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., p. 53.
[7] Ibid., p. 55.
[8] Ibid., p. 55.
[9] Ibid., p. 56.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid., p. 57.
[12] Ibid., p. 51.
[13] Ibid., p. 52.1)

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I am Just a Number to You: One of 73,951

Hispanic Diversity Glance
By The Associated Press
Sat Jul 15, 12:30 PM ET

Hispanics from Puerto Rico and Cuba have had much different immigration experiences than have Latinos from other countries. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and most Cubans are allowed to stay in the United States if they make it to U.S. shores. The number of Hispanics who listed each ethnicity on the 2000 census:

Country No. Pct
Mexican: 20,900,102; 59.3
General Hispanic: 5,540,627; 15.7
Puerto Rican: 3,403,510; 9.7
Cuban: 1,249,820; 3.5
Dominican: 799,768; 2.3
Salvadoran: 708,741; 2.0
Colombian: 496,748; 1.4
Guatemalan: 407,127; 1.2
Ecuadorian: 273,013; 0.8
Peruvian: 247,601; 0.7
Honduran: 237,431; 0.7
Nicaraguan: 194,493; 0.6
Spaniard: 112,999; 0.3
Argentinian: 107,275; 0.3
Panamanian: 98,475; 0.3
Venezuelan: 96,091; 0.3
Other Central American: 93,234; 0.3
Chilean: 73,951; 0.2 . I wonder which one is me?
Costa Rican: 72,175; 0.2
Other South American: 50,941; 0.1
Bolivian: 45,188; 0.1
Uruguayan: 20,242; 0.1
Paraguayan: 8,929; 0.0
Total: 35,238,481
Source: 2000 census.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Beautiful Game

This article appeared in Nature 442, 110(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442110b; Published online 12 July 2006

The beautiful game

Punditry took a hiding in Germany.

One of the overriding messages from the World Cup that has just ended in Berlin is that football (that's soccer to our American readers) is almost impossible to predict. As a low-scoring game, it has an inherently stochastic quality that makes it gloriously exciting and palm-thumpingly frustrating in equal measure.

The struggle to anticipate World Cup results has taken many forms. In London, The Guardian newspaper attempted to verify the mantra of the Internet age that wisdom lies with the masses, inviting readers to vote for different betting options for each match. By the end of the tournament, the people made a profit, turning £250 (US$460) into £356. However, the newspaper's pet goldfish, which chose its bets by swimming to different parts of its tank, put them to shame, ending up with £369.

A look at more 'scientific' efforts at prediction turns up similar examples of painful hubris. A group of Norwegian mathematicians, for example, designed a computer model that simulated the complete tournament 2,000 times over (see It predicted a Brazilian victory — but in reality, Brazil performed rather miserably and only made the quarter-finals. [No Kidding!!!]

Perhaps the tournament's least adroit piece of scientific punditry, however, came from Michael Shadlen, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. In an interview for Nature's online World Cup preview, he hailed French maestro Zinedine Zidane as the world's most intelligent footballer. Zidane certainly made his mark, winning the Golden Ball award as the tournament's outstanding player — before being sent off in Sunday's final for a disgraceful headbutt on an opponent. Not too clever, really. [Especially since no one yelled GOOOOOOOOOOOOl]

At least Italian scientists can take heart from that bombastic finale. The country's footballers have returned home in glory as deserved champions, to face a match-fixing scandal that could see several of the clubs that employ them relegated in ignominy. But as researchers there can testify, flourishing in the face of official incompetence and corruption is just what all Italian professionals have to do, every day of the week.


Bottom line: VIVA FOOTBALL!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Historical Origin of the Term "Aviator"

As aviators, we come from a long line of a secret society, formed around one thousand years ago. We are warriors. Ground pounders and civilians can read it and weep!

Phu Khen (pronounced Foo Ken) 1169-? is considered by some to be the most unrecognized military officer in history. Many have never heard of his contributions to modern military warfare. The mission of this secret society is to bring honor to the name of Phu Khen.

A 'Khen' was a subordinate to a 'Khan' (pronounced 'konn') in the military structure of the Mongol hordes. Khan is Turkish for leader. Most know of the great Genghis Khan, but little has been written of his chain of command. Khen is also of Turkish origin. Although there no word in English that adequately conveys the meaning, roughly translated, it means, "One who will do the impossible, while appearing unprepared and complaining constantly."

Phu Khen was one of ten Khens that headed the divisions, or groups of hordes, as they were known, of the Mongol Army serving under Genghis Khan. His abilities came to light during the Mongols' raids on the Turkestan city of Bohicaroo. Bohicans were fierce warriors and the city was well fortified. The entire city was protected by huge walls and the hordes were at a standoff with the Bohicans. Bohicaroo was well-stocked and it would be difficult to wait them out. Genghis Khan assembled his Khens and ordered each of them to develop a plan for penetrating the defenses of Bohicaroo.

Operation Achieve Victory (AV) was born. All 10 divisions of Khens submitted their plan. After reviewing AV plans 1 thru 7 and finding them all unworkable or ridiculous, Genghis Khan was understandably upset. It was with much trepidation that Phu Khen submitted his idea, which came to be known as AV 8. Upon seeing AV 8, Genghis was convinced this was the perfect plan and gave his immediate approval. The plan was beautifully simple. Phu Khen would arm his hordes to the teeth, load them into catapults, and hurl them over the wall. The losses were expected to be high, but hey, hordes were cheap! Those that survived the flight would engage the enemy in combat. Those that did not? Well, surely their flailing bodies would cause some damage.

The plan worked and the Bohicans were defeated. From that day on, whenever the Mongol Army encountered an insurmountable enemy, Genghis Khan would give the order, "Send some of Phu Khen's AV 8-ers." This is believed, though not by anyone outside our secret society, to be the true origin of the word Aviator (AV 8-er).

Phu Khen's AV 8-ers were understandably an unruly mob, not likely to be socially acceptable. Many were heavy drinkers and insomniacs. But when nothing else would do, you could always could always count on an AV 8-er. A Phu Khen Aviator denied, perhaps rightfully so, his place in history, Phu Khen has been, nonetheless, immortalized in prose.

As the great poet Norman Lear never once said:

"There once was a man named Phu Khen,
Whose breakfast was whiskey and gin.
When ever he'd fly, He'd give a mighty war cry:
Bend over, here it comes again."

Consider it an honor to be a Phu Khen Aviator. Wear the mantle
proudly, but speak of it cautiously. It is not always popular to be one of us. You hear mystical references, often hushed whispers, to 'those Phu Khen Aviators.' Do not let these things bother you. As with any secret society, we go largely misunderstood, prohibited by our apathy from explaining ourselves.

You are expected to always live down to the reputation of the Phu Khen Aviator... a reputation cultivated for centuries, undaunted by scorn or ridicule, unhindered by progress. So drink up, be crude, sleep late, urinate in public, and get the job done.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mors ab Alto

Romance Sonámbulo

Romance Sonámbulo por Federico Garcia Lorca

A Gloria Giner y Fernando de los Ríos

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha,
vienen con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduño,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
¿Pero quién vendrá? ¿Y por dónde...?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
soñando en la mar amarga.
Compadre, quiero cambiar
mi caballo por su casa,
mi montura por su espejo,
mi cuchillo por su manta.
Compadre, vengo sangrando,
desde los puertos de Cabra.
Si yo pudiera, mocito,
ese trato se cerraba.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Compadre, quiero morir
decentemente en mi cama.
De acero, si puede ser, con
las sábanas de holanda.
¿No ves la herida que tengo
desde el pecho a la garganta?
Trescientas rosas morenas
lleva tu pechera blanca.
Tu sangre rezuma y huele
alrededor de tu faja.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
Dejadme subir al menos
hasta las altas barandas,
¡dejadme subir!, dejadme
hasta las verdes barandas.
Barandales de la luna por
donde retumba el agua.

Ya suben los dos compadres
hacia las altas barandas.
Dejando un rastro de sangre.
Dejando un rastro de lágrimas.
Temblaban en los tejados
farolillos de hojalata.
Mil panderos de cristal,
herían la madrugada.

Verde que te quiero verde,
verde viento, verdes ramas.
Los dos compadres subieron.
El largo viento, dejaba
en la boca un raro gusto
de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
¡Compadre! ¿Dónde está, dime?
¿Dónde está tu niña amarga?
¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
¡Cuántas veces te esperara
cara fresca, negro pelo,
en esta verde baranda!

Sobre el rostro del aljibe
se mecía la gitana.
Verde cama, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Un carámbano de luna
la sostiene sobre el agua.
La noche se puso íntima
como una pequeña plaza.
Guardias civiles borrachos
en la puerta golpeaban.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar.
Y el caballo en la montana.