Here’s how a preemptive strike on North Korea would go down

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it official on Friday: The US is considering a preemptive military strike on North Korea. Recent missile tests show that North Korea really is practicing a so-called saturation attack that would seek to fire ballistic missiles with such volume that they defeat missile defenses and slaughter US and allied forces in Japan and South Korea.

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US President Donald Trump has apparently identified North Korea as his most serious external challenge, and he has reportedly declared the country the single greatest threat to the US. On Friday, Trump tweeted: “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years.” He also blamed China, the North’s biggest ally, for not doing more to help.

In reality, taking out North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, or toppling the Kim regime, would pose serious risks to even the US military’s best platforms.

Business Insider spoke with Stratfor‘s Sim Tack, a senior analyst who is an expert on North Korea, to determine exactly how the US could carry out a crippling strike against the Hermit Kingdom.


First, a decision would need to be made.

 

Military action against North Korea wouldn’t be pretty. Civilians in South Korea, and possibly Japan, and US forces stationed in the Pacific would be likely to die in the undertaking no matter how smoothly things went.

In short, it’s not a decision any US commander in chief would make lightly.

But the US would have to choose between a full-scale destruction of North Korea’s nuclear facilities and ground forces or a quicker attack on only the most important nuclear facilities. The second option would focus more on crippling North Korea’s nuclear program and destroying key threats to the US and its allies.

Since a full-scale attack could lead to “mission creep that could pull the US into a longterm conflict in East Asia,” according to Tack of Stratfor, the US would most likely focus on a quick, surgical strike that would wipe out the bulk of North Korea’s nuclear forces.


Then, the opening salvo: A stealth air blitz and cruise missiles rock North Korea’s nuclear facilities.

 

The best tools the US could use against North Korea would be stealth aircraft like the F-22 and the B-2 bomber, Tack said.

The US would slowly but surely position submarines, Navy ships, and stealth aircraft at bases near North Korea in ways that avoid provoking the Hermit Kingdom’s suspicions.

Then, when the time was right, bombers would rip across the sky and ships would let loose with an awesome volley of firepower. The US already has considerable combat capability amassed in the region.

“Suddenly you’d read on the news that the US has conducted these airstrikes,” Tack said.

While the F-22 and the F-35 would certainly operate over North Korean missile-production sites, it really is a job for the B-2.

As a long-range stealth bomber with a huge ordnance capacity, the B-2 could drop 30,000-pound bombs on deep underground bunkers in North Korea – and they could do it from as far away as Guam or the continental US.


The first targets …

 

Foto: source Flickr/US Air Force

The initial targets would include nuclear reactors, missile-production facilities, and launching pads for intercontinental ballistic missiles, Tack said.

Cruise missiles would pour in from the sea, F-22s would target North Korea’s rudimentary air defenses, and B-2s would pound every known missile site.

Planes like the F-35 and the F-22 would frantically hunt down mobile missile launchers, which can hide all over North Korea’s mountainous terrain. In the event that North Korea does get off a missile, the US and South Korea have layered missile defenses that would attempt to shoot it out of the sky.


Next, the US would try to limit North Korean retaliation.

 

Once the US has committed the initial strike against North Korea, how does Kim Jong Un respond?

Even with its nuclear facilities in ashes and most of its command and control destroyed, “North Korea has a lot of options,” Tack said. “They have their massive, massive conventional artillery options that can start firing at South Korea in a split second.”

But as the graphic below shows, most North Korean artillery can’t reach Seoul, the South Korean capital.

Additionally, Seoul has significant underground bunkers and infrastructure to quickly shield its citizens, though some measure of damage to the city would be unavoidable.

North Korea artillery

Foto:

According to Tack, much of this artillery would instead fire on the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, detonating mines so North Korean ground forces could push through. Also within range would be US forces near the DMZ.

Some 25,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea, and they would face grave danger from North Korea’s vast artillery installations.

But the North Korean artillery isn’t top of the line. It could focus on slamming US forces, or it could focus on hitting Seoul, but splitting fire between the two targets would limit the impact of its longer-range systems.

Additionally, as the artillery starts to fire, it becomes an exposed target for US aircraft.


The next phase of the battle would be underwater.

 

North Korea has a submarine that can launch nuclear ballistic missiles, which would represent a big risk to US forces as it can sail outside the range of established missile defenses.

Fortunately for the US, the best submarine hunters in the world sail with the US Navy.

Helicopters would drop special listening buoys, destroyers would use their advanced radars, and US subs would listen for anything unusual in the deep. North Korea’s antique submarine would hardly be a match for the combined efforts of the US, South Korea, and Japan.

While the submarine would greatly complicate the operation, it would most likely find itself at the bottom of the ocean before it could do any meaningful damage.


What happens if Kim Jong Un is killed?

 

“Decapitation,” or the removal of the Kim regime, would be a huge blow to the fiercely autocratic Hermit Kingdom.

Kim Jong Un has reportedly engaged in a vicious campaign to execute senior officials with packs of dogs, mortar fire, and antiaircraft guns for a simple reason, according to Tack: They have ties to China.

Kim’s removal of anyone senior with ties to China means he has consolidated power within his country to a degree that makes him necessary to the country’s functioning.

Without a leader, North Korean forces would face a severe blow to their morale as well as their command structure, but it wouldn’t end the fight.

“Technically North Korea is under the rule of their ‘forever leader’ Kim Il Sung,” Tack said, adding that “a decapitation strike wouldn’t guarantee that the structures below him wouldn’t fall apart, but it would be a damn tricky problem for those that remain after him.”

North Koreans aren’t shy about putting their leader first, however, and at the first indication of an attack, Kim would most likely be tucked away in a bunker deep underground during the attack.


Then the US defends.

 

“If North Korea doesn’t retaliate, they’ve lost capability and look weak,” Tack said.

Indeed, few would expect North Korea to go quietly after suffering even a crippling attack.

Through massive tunnels bored under the DMZ, North Korea would try to pour ground troops into the South.

“The ground-warfare element is a big part of this,” Tack said. “I think that the most likely way that would play out would be the fight in the DMZ area,” where the US would not try to invade North Korea but rather would defend its position in the South.

Though North Korea’s air force is small and outdated, it jets would need to be a target of the US and allied forces.


Meanwhile …

 

US special operations forces, after North Korea’s air defenses have been destroyed, would parachute in with the goal of destroying or deactivating mobile launchers and other offensive equipment.

The US would face a big challenge in trying to hunt down some 200 missile launchers throughout North Korea, some of which have treads to enter very difficult terrain where US recon planes would struggle to spot them.

It would be the work of US special forces to establish themselves at key logistical junctures, observe the North Koreans’ movements, and then relay that to US air assets.


So how does this all end?

 

North Korea is neither a house of cards nor an impenetrable fortress.

Additionally, the resolve of the North Koreans remains a mystery. North Korea successfully estimated that the international community would be unwilling to intervene as it quietly became a nuclear power, but that calculation could become its undoing.

North Korea would most likely launch cyberattacks, possibly shutting down parts of the US or allies’ power grids, but US Cyber Command would prepare for that.

North Korea would most likely destroy some US military installations, lay waste to some small portion of Seoul, and get a handful of missiles fired – but again, US and allied planners would stand ready for that.

In the end, it would be a brutal, bloody conflict, but Tack said even the propaganda-saturated North Koreans must be aware of their disadvantages.

Even after a devastating missile attack, some of North Korea’s nuclear stockpile would most likely remain hidden. Some element of the remaining North Korean forces could stage a retaliation, but what would be the point?

“If they chose to go the route of conducting a large-scale retaliation, they’re inviting a continuation of the conflict that eventually they cannot win … Nobody in this whole game is going to believe that North Korea can win a war against the US, South Korea, and Japan,” Tack concluded.

If A Nuclear Bomb Is Dropped On Your City, Here’s Where You Should Run And Hide

nuke

  • People who survive a nuclear blast may be exposed to radioactive ash and dust called fallout.
  • Finding a good shelter as soon as possible and going inside is critical to surviving fallout.
  • A scientist has come up with a strategy for when and whether to move to a better fallout shelter.

President Trump has egged on a new arms race. Russia violated weapons treaties to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is developing long-range missiles and practicing for nuclear war — and the US military is considering preemptive attacks on the isolated nation’s military facilities.

Meanwhile, nuclear terrorism and dirty bombs remain a sobering threat.

Though these events are unlikely to trigger the last-ditch option of nuclear war, let alone a blast in your neighborhood, they are very concerning.

So you might be wondering, “If I survive a nuclear-bomb attack, what should I do?”

Michael Dillon, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher, crunched the numbers and helped figure out just that in a 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Likewise, government agencies and other organizations have also explored the harrowing question and came up with detailed recommendations and response plans.

The scenario

New York

TTstudio/Shutterstock

You are in a large city that has just been subjected to a single, low-yield nuclear detonation, between 0.1 and 10 kilotons.

This is much less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — about 15 kilotons. However, it’s not unlikely when looking at weapons like the new B61-12 gravity bomb, which is built by the US, maxes out at 50 kilotons, and can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons. (Russia and Pakistan are working on similar so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons.)

Studieshave shown that you and up to 100,000 of your fellow citizens can be saved — that is, if you keep your wits about and radiation exposure low enough.

One of your biggest and most immediate goals is to avoid nuclear fallout.

How to avoid fallout radiation

Fallout is a mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporized, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds. (In New York City, for example, a fallout zone would spread eastward.)

radioactive fallout zones

FEMA

The best thing to do is to find a good place to hide — the more dense material between you and the outside world, the better — then wait until the rescuers can make their way to help you.

The US government recommends hiding in a nearby building, but not all of them provide much shelter from nuclear fallout.

Poor shelters, which include about 20% of houses, are constructed of lightweight materials and lack basements. The best shelters are thick brick or concrete and lack windows. Like a bomb shelter.

This infographic from a government guide to the aftermath of nuclear attacks gives a rough idea on what makes a building a good or bad place to hide from fallout:

nuclear fallout shelter protection

Levels of protection from radiation that various buildings and locations offer. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/FEMA

Hiding in the sub-basement of a brick five-story apartment building, for example, should expose you to just 1/200 of the amount of fallout radiation outside.

Meanwhile, hanging out in the living room of your one-story, wood-frame house will only cut down the radiation by half, which — if you are next to a nuclear explosion — will not do much to help you.

So, what do you do if there isn’t a good shelter right near you? Should you stay in a “poor” shelter, or risk exposure to find a better one? And how long should you wait?

Should you stay or should you go?

nuclear fallout escape dillon prsa

M.B. Dillon/Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences

In his 2014 study, Dillon developed models to determine your best options. While the answer depends on how far away you are from the blast, since that will determine when the fallout arrives, there are some general rules to follow.

If you are immediately next to or in a solid shelter when the bomb goes off, stay there until the rescuers come to evacuate you to less radioactive vistas.

If you aren’t already in a bomb shelter, but know a good shelter is about five minutes away — maybe a large apartment building with a basement that you can see a few blocks away — his calculations suggest hoofing it over there quickly and staying in place.

But if the nice, thick-walled building would take about 15 minutes travel time, it’s better to hole up in the flimsy shelter for awhile — but you should probably leave for a better shelter after roughly an hour (and maybe pick up some beers and sodas on the way: A study in the ’50s found they taste fine after a blast).

This is because some of the most intense fallout radiation has subsided by then, though you still want to reduce your exposure.

Other fallout advice

Below are some other guidelines that Dillon compiled from other studies and are based on how decent your first and second shelters are:ideal shelter nuclear fallout moving times dillon prsa

M.B. Dillon/Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences

One of the big advantages of the approach that this paper uses is that, to decide on a strategy, evacuation officials need to consider only the radiation levels near shelters and along evacuation routes — the overall pattern of the radioactive death-cloud does not factor into the models. This means decisions can be made quickly and without much communication or central organization (which may be spare in the minutes and hours after a blast).

 

Russia court to consider Jehovah’s Witnesses ban! About Time!

A young woman from the Jehovah's Witnesses is baptised on 20 July 2003 in Prague

Russia’s justice ministry has called for a ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian movement that zealously seeks converts and rejects military service.

The ministry has asked Russia’s supreme court to close the group’s headquarters and stop its 175,000 Russian members sharing “extremist” literature.

A spokesman for the group called the proposed ban “persecuting worshippers just for manifesting their faith”.

Some Russian regions have already shut down branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

According to the justice ministry, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities “violate Russia’s law on combating extremism”.

The authorities object to pamphlets deemed to incite hatred against other religious groups, mainly for proclaiming Jehovah’s Witnesses as followers of the only “true” faith.

One quotes the novelist Leo Tolstoy, describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from Moscow.

The group was registered in Russia in 1991.

Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were deported to Siberia during Joseph Stalin’s 30-year reign of terror. Other Christian groups were also persecuted at the time.

40 Chilling Facts About The Titanic You Wouldn’t Fathom

History.com

The Titanic was a feat of engineering unlike anything the world had ever seen. It was considered unsinkable and was an incredibly sought after cruise liner. The ship was a British passenger liner that started her maiden voyage in Southampton and was headed to New York City. This was the second of three Olympic class liners which was operated by the White Star Line.

Built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, it was looked at as the flagship of the fleet. The architect of the Titanic, Thomas Andrews died during the sinking of the ship on April, 15th 1912. After the collision with the iceberg, the death-toll was one of the deadliest in modern peacetime maritime history. Of the approximately 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, somewhere around 1,500 died. There is much debate about the actual numbers, but most come in somewhere between 1,497 and 1,517 that did not survive the sinking.

This was not because of the ships lack of safety features. In fact, it had some of the most advanced safety features of all ships. These included watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors. The issue was that the outdated maritime safety regulations only required enough lifeboats to carry about half the number aboard.

The Titanic took 2 hours and 40 minutes from collision to sinking. As an unsinkable ship, this was a shock to the world and the following facts talk about the people, the experience and even some facts that are nothing more than shocking.

The question, though, is how did we become so arrogant? Why do we feel that we can create things that are claimed to be immune to the laws of nature? We live on this world and we have to play by its rules. There is never a surefire thing. The Titanic is proof of that. While the disaster could have been mitigated or even prevented as you will learn in the following pages, the fact that we were so sure that we could create something that could not be destroyed by nature was what doomed the ship from the start.

This story, as heartbreaking and fascinating as it is, is a story that can be learned from. The individuals that boarded this ship expected nothing but luxury and safety. Much like when we leave our house each day we expect to make it home that night without issue. The true lesson of the Titanic is that we can not take any one moment for granted. They are all just moments away from our last. Those moments may be decades from now or minutes from now. There is no way to tell. Remember that we are just a speck of dust in this universe and our time is short, so we have to enjoy it and understand that we have no control over what the world will throw at us. That is to say, live every moment as if it were your last.

40. That Is Some Anchor

Via NPVM.org.uk

Via NPVM.org.uk

The main anchor for the Titanic was so large and heavy that it required 20 horses to pull it. These aren’t just any horses either, they were Clydesdales. The procession that followed the anchor started towards Dudley Railway Station on April the 30th of 1911. From there, the anchors and chains would travel via rail to Fleetwood, located in Lancashire. It was late afternoon when the anchors arrived. It took some time after that, until May, for the anchor to arrive at the Titanic. The center anchor was the largest anchor ever hand-forged at the time.

 

39. Accepting Fate

Via Alchetron

Via Alchetron

Benjamin Guggenheim was an American businessman that died during the sinking of the Titanic. He was both an American and German citizen. After his father died, he inherited a great deal of money, which seems to have allowed him to launch his own career. He boarded the Titanic with his mistress, his valet (Victor Giglio), and a few others. When helping two of his party onto Lifeboat No. 9 he spoke to his maid in German, saying, “We will soon see each other again! It’s just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again.”

He knew better, though, to what his fate was at this point. He and Giglio returned to his cabin to change into formal evening wear.  He was heard to say, “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” The last anyone saw of Guggenheim and Giglio was of the two sitting on deck chairs in the foyer of the Grand Staircase. There they sipped brandy and smoked cigars as they awaited their fate.

Trump wings it on Middle East peace

If he wants a regional deal, there has been one on offer for 15 years

 

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The casual way Donald Trump set aside two decades of US and international policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as so often with this president, raised more questions than it answers. His announcement he was “looking at two-state and one-state” solutions startled even Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister and a fan.

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Mr Trump spoke of a “much bigger deal” that could “take in many countries and would cover a much larger territory”, suggesting he wants a region-wide formula to replace the quest for two states. Talks to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and create an independent Palestine living alongside a secure Israel, have so often tantalised only to disappoint. The Trump White House is now floating a so-called “outside-in” solution. Instead of “inside-out” — whereby Israel reaches a deal with the Palestinians as the precondition and springboard to peace with all Arab states — the idea appears to be to build an alliance between Israel and Sunni Arab nations against Iran. This would be used as leverage to settle the Palestinian question. If only it were that simple. Mr Trump seems to believe this has never been considered, and that he has hit on an almost Copernican change. There is, of course, a need to involve the leading Arab states, and bring a desperately needed element of stability to a region in flames. That is different to pushing for a single state. There is nothing to object to about a single state in which Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal and democratic rights, secure land ownership, and a high degree of autonomy under some confederal pact. Lots of Palestinians, fed up with the corruption and fecklessness of their leadership, would jump at it. But there is no conceivable coalition in Israel remotely interested in such a deal. Mainstream Israelis fear Jews will be outnumbered by Arabs in the cramped space between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, where the two populations are now almost equal at about 6.3m each. Yet this is happening in lieu of a two-state solution that would allow Israel to remain predominantly Jewish and democratic. The de facto single entity disfigured by the occupation is a demographic time-bomb that erodes Israel’s legitimacy. It is bad enough that Mr Netanyahu’s government is deepening the occupation with a big new push to settle more Jews on Arab land. His far right cabinet colleagues want to use the US policy shake-up to pre-empt the outcome, annexing swaths of the West Bank. Some exponents of this Greater Israel talk of somehow unloading the Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank on Egypt and Jordan. The right regional approach would be to revive the Arab peace plan, on the table since 2002, which offers Israel peace and normal relations in exchange for its withdrawal from all Arab land captured in 1967, and the creation of a sovereign Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel has never wanted to discuss this. But now it has much more in common with the Arabs — provided it commits to a just solution for Palestinians. Abandoning a two-state framework permits deeper Israeli colonisation and subjugation of the Palestinians, leading to one state by default, but with first and second-class citizens. That will leach away at Israel’s international legitimacy, boost the campaign to boycott the Jewish state and provide a new spur to extremism in a region where fanatics are plentiful. That would not be the “really a great peace deal” vaunted by Mr Trump — for anybody.

 

Iraq Starts Offensive to Retake Western Mosul From ISIS

Iraqi forces advanced toward western Mosul on Sunday. CreditKhalid Al-Mousily/Reuters

 

 

ERBIL, Iraq — Iraq opened the next chapter in its offensive to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul on Sunday, preparing an assault on the western half of the city. Overnight, planes carpeted the ground with leaflets, directly appealing to the group’s fighters to surrender.

“To those of you who were intrigued by the ISIS ideology,” one of the leaflets said, “this is your last opportunity to quit your work with ISIS and to leave those foreigners who are in your homeland. Stay at home, raising the white flags as the forces approach.”

On state-run television, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq announced the beginning of the offensive, describing it as “a new dawn” and calling on his troops “to move bravely forward to liberate what is left of the city.”

The assault is taking place amid new concerns about the condition of hundreds of thousands of civilians still trapped in the western part of the city. Food, water and cooking fuel have all been reported to be in short supply, and residents have described increased harassment from Islamic State fighters preparing for the attack.

Continue reading the main story

The overall push to free Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city, began in October, with local troops pushing from the east into the city’s geographically larger but more sparsely populated eastern half. In late January, they reached the banks of the Tigris River, which bisects Mosul, and declared the city’s eastern section liberated.

The operation took longer than expected and took a high toll on civilians and the Iraqi forces, but much of the city’s infrastructure was preserved and a sense of daily life has returned. That is in contrast to the operations to take back other cities from the Islamic State, including Ramadi and Sinjar, which were laid waste by airstrikes. More than a year since Sinjar was freed, even its mayor has not been able to return.

The fight for Mosul’s western half could be even more protracted than for its east. The west is home to neighborhoods of narrow streets, some so small that it will not be possible for Iraqi troops to enter in their fortified Humvees. That may make the Islamic State’s signature suicide bomb attacks even more effective.

Because all five of the bridges spanning the Tigris have been bombed, Iraqi troops will trace a circuitous path to western Mosul, initially approaching it from the city’s south.

Officials said the first objective would be Mosul International Airport, just south of the city. By midday on Sunday, Iraqi forces had captured a string of nearby villages, advancing within six miles of the airfield, officers from the troops said.

American forces are supporting the operation. “The U.S. forces continue in the same role as they did in East Mosul,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters traveling with him on Sunday, adding that the rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq had not changed: “We are very close to, if not already engaged in, that fight.”

He said that the American-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State would “continue with the accelerated effort to destroy” the group.

Anticipating the offensive, the Islamic State damaged the Mosul airport, carving wide trenches onto the runways and adjacent taxiways and aprons, leaving no paved portion of the airport usable by aircraft, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by Stratfor, a global intelligence company.

While the airport may be unusable, taking it would be a milestone for the offensive, as would taking the adjacent hilltop village of Abu Saif, which sits at a higher elevation than Mosul. Because of the Islamic State’s heavy use of snipers, securing high ground is crucial, and Iraqi forces were nearing the base of the hill by Sunday afternoon.

The troops’ push into western Mosul will be further complicated by the Islamic State’s vast network of tunnels throughout the city, allowing fighters to hide from overhead surveillance. And the group is also increasingly using armed drones, allowing them to spot and remotely bomb advancing Iraqi troops.

Yahya Salah, whose neighborhood in eastern Mosul was liberated in November, described how Iraqi troops were just streets away when Islamic State fighters forced their way into his home, armed with a jackhammer. They herded Mr. Salah’s family into one of the bedrooms. From behind the closed door, Mr. Salah said, he then heard a deafening sound and realized the fighters were drilling a hole.

“They worked without stopping — when one got tired, another took over, and they dug a hole that was 1.5 meters wide,” said Mr. Salah, who said his family was locked in the bedroom for three days. “When we said we were thirsty, they threw water bottles at us,” he said.

He said the fighters had left at noon on the final day. The Iraqi Army arrived at sunset, unlocking the door. When the family stepped into the rest of their house, they found ceiling-high piles of dirt in three of their four bedrooms and a hole in the living room floor. The tunnel the fighters had dug stretched for dozens of yards, allowing the terrorist group’s foot soldiers to slip away.

Residents have shown reporters similar tunnels throughout the eastern part of the city, and officials expect the same in western Mosul. A photo essay published this weekend by the Islamic State titled “Life of Fighters South of Mosul” shows their soldiers cooking a meal on a kerosene stove, reading the Quran and praying inside a tunnel wide enough for five men to stand side by side.

At the same time, the Islamic State has become better at the use of small drones, which are available off-the-shelf in malls across the region, including in Erbil, the nearest major city to Mosul. They use the drones to pinpoint army positions and to target them, and recently recovered Islamic State documents show how the group has cobbled together its own drone program. Iraqi forces describe how they frequently see the twoto-four-foot-long aircraft overhead, whining like a lawn mower. Then 30 minutes later, they will take incoming fire at that location.

“Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world, and the Iraqi forces have risen to the challenge,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the American-led effort against the Islamic State, said in a news release from United States Central Command announcing the beginning of the operation. Some of the 450 American advisers on the ground in Iraq are helping Iraqi officers plan and execute the offensive.

Reached by telephone, residents in western Mosul described the elation they felt at the approach of government troops. “All we have left to eat is tomato paste. We are eating it with salt,” said Umm Anwar, 41, who asked to be identified only by her nickname. “We are ready to kill ISIS ourselves with knives, or by biting them, because we are in so much pain.”

Astronomers Snap Supernova’s Baby Pictures

Images of an exploding dying star taken just a few hours after its detonation are revealing new details of stellar death

 

Supernova remnants—like this one first observed more than 400 years ago—are typically only noticed by Earthbound researchers well after the initial explosion of the progenitor star. Now, astronomers have caught and closely studied a supernova when it was merely a few hours old. Credit: NASA, CXC, SAO

Baby pictures of a newborn supernova have captured this stellar explosion after the first half-dozen hours of its life, shedding light on how these giant explosions happen, a new study finds.

This newly discovered cosmic baby is the type of supernova that occurs when a giant star runs out of fuel and explodes. Supernovas are so bright that they can briefly outshine all of the other stars in their home galaxy.

Astronomers have previously seen glimpses of supernovas within the first minutes after they explode. However, until now, researchers had not captured light from a newborn supernova across the so many wavelengths—including radio waves, visible light and X-rays. The new images add to evidence that suggests that these dying stars may signal their upcoming demise by spewing a disk of material in the months before their deaths, according to a paper describing the finding. [Know Your Novas: Star Explosions Explained (Infographic)]

Much remains unknown about how and why dying stars can detonate with such violence. Studying the final years of a star that is destined to die as a supernova could reveal key details about the way in which these explosions happen, but stars in these brief, final stages are rare—statistically, it is very likely that none of the 100 billion to 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxyare within one year of dying as a supernova, according to the new paper.

Now scientists report the discovery of a supernova just 3 hours after it exploded, helping them capture “the earliest spectra ever taken of a supernova explosion,” said study lead author Ofer Yaron, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. A light spectrum is essentially detailed look at the wavelengths of light emitted by an object. Because chemical elements can absorb certain wavelengths, stellar spectra can be used to reveal the composition of a star.

“Until several years ago, catching a supernova a week after explosion was regarded as early,” Yaron told Space.com. “This is not the case anymore.”

A SUPERNOVA IS BORN

The astronomers detected the supernova known as SN 2013fs on Oct. 6, 2013, using the data from the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) based at the Palomar Observatory in California. Its star was likely a red supergiant about 10 to 17 times heavier than the sun and several hundred times wider than the sun, Yaron said.

The supernova detonated about 160 million light-years away in a spiral galaxy called NGC 7610. This galaxy is relatively close to the Milky Way, making it easier for scientists to aim more telescopes at it and detect signals from it that span almost the entire the spectrum of light, from radio waves to X-rays. Observations of the supernova were made with telescopes at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and NASA’s Swift satellite starting about 6 hours after the explosion, Yaron explained.

SN 2013fs was the most common variety of supernova: a Type II. This kind of supernova happens when the core of a massive star runs out of fuel, collapses to an extraordinarily dense nugget in a fraction of a second and then bounces and blasts its material outward.

The astronomers captured pictures of the newborn supernova early enough to spot a disk of matter the star expelled just before its demise. Normally supernovas are seen after the shockwave from the explosions have swept away such material and any secrets that the disk might have contained.

The researchers found that a year or so before this star died, it rapidly spewed out vast amounts of material, equal to about one-thousandth of the sun’s mass, at speeds of nearly 224,000 mph (360,000 km/h). Previous research had seen cases where such early eruptions occurred among unusual subgroups of Type II supernovas, but these new findings suggest that such outpourings also precede more common kinds of Type II supernovas.

“It’s as if the star ‘knows’ its life is ending soon, and puffing material at an enhanced rate during its final breaths,” Yaron told Space.com. “Think of a volcano or geyser bubbling before an eruption.”

These findings suggest that a star may be unstable months before its turns into a Type II supernova. As such, “the structure of the star when it explodes may be different than that assumed so far,” Yaron said. For instance, the core of a star may experience upheavals during its final days, causing strong winds to travel from the depths of the star all the way to its surface and beyond.

New, automated surveys of the sky such as the iPTF have begun capturing supernovas a day or less after they explode.

“With the help of new sky surveys coming up in the very near future, we expect to significantly increase the number of supernova events for which we are able to obtain early observations within hours and maybe minutes from explosion,” Yaron said.

The scientists detailed their findings online Feb. 13 in the journal Nature Physics.

Ceramic Pottery Reveals an Ancient Geomagnetic Field Spike

The magnetic field surrounding Earth is constantly fluctuating in strength.

Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

More than 2,500 years ago in the ancient Near East, the Earth’s geomagnetic field was going gangbusters. During the late eighth century B.C., a new study finds, the magnetic field that surrounds the planet was temporarily 2.5 times stronger than it is today.

Researchers know about these fluctuations thanks to the bureaucracy of Judah, an ancient kingdom situated around what is now Jerusalem. Pottery jugs from between the eighth and second centuries B.C. bear administrative stamps that changed with the political situation. Unbeknown to the people firing these jugs, the act of heating locked information about the Earth’s geomagnetic field into minerals present in the clay. Because the stamps provide precise information about when the pots were fired, the study allows a detailed look at geomagnetic changes over 600 years.

“This was the system of the king in Jerusalem to be able to collect tax efficiently,” study author Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, said of the stamps. “We are actually benefiting from a good bureaucratic system, the ancient IRS.” [7 Ways the Earth Changes in the Blink of an Eye]

The Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that arises from the motion of iron in the liquid outer core. Direct observation of the field has been possible for only about 180 years, Ben-Yosef told Live Science. In that time, the field has weakened by about 10 percent, he said. Some researchers think the field might be in the process of flipping, so that magnetic north becomes magnetic south and vice versa.

The new study reveals much faster changes in intensity. There was a spike in intensity during the late eighth century B.C., culminating in a rapid decline after about 732 B.C., Ben-Yosef and his colleagues reported today (Feb. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. In a mere 31 years beginning in the year 732 B.C., there was a 27 percent decrease in the strength of the magnetic field, the researchers found. From the sixth century B.C. to the second century B.C., the field was generally stable, with a slight gradual decline.

“Our research shows that the field is very fluctuating,” Ben-Yosef said. “It fluctuates quite rapidly, so there is nothing to worry about,” as far as the current decline, he said. (This doesn’t mean that the magnetic field isn’t going to flip in the near future; the new study looked at only strength of the field, not directionality. The findings do suggest that there’s no reason to worry that a 10 percent decline in the field strength over more than a century is abnormal, Ben-Yosef said.)

At least in the Levant, that is. All of the pottery in the study came from this region, which encompasses what is now Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and nearby areas. That means researchers can’t be sure whether the same fluctuations were happening elsewhere. Because the scientists also don’t know for sure the precise locations within the Levant where the pottery was fired, they can’t say anything about the direction of the geomagnetic field at the time, only its strength. [Photos: Ancient Burial and Metal Tool from Southern Levant]

The clays in ceramic pots contain ferromagnetic minerals, or minerals containing iron. When the clays are heated, the electrons in these minerals align according to the Earth’s magnetic field — imagine a series of iron filings lining up in arcs around a bar magnet. Once cooled, the magnetic patterns are locked in for good. The same process occurs when lava cools, so researchers can also detect changes in the magnetic field by studying volcanic rocks.

A stamped pottery handle from the Israel settlement called Ramat Rahel. The magnetic minerals used in the pottery were sealed in during heating and are revealing the history of Earth's magnetic field.

A stamped pottery handle from the Israel settlement called Ramat Rahel. The magnetic minerals used in the pottery were sealed in during heating and are revealing the history of Earth’s magnetic field.

Credit: Courtesy of Oded Lipschits

Understanding the ancient magnetic field has implications for many fields of research, Ben-Yosef said. Archaeologists would like to develop a new system so they could look at the magnetic properties of heated materials and date them according to what the magnetic field was doing at the time. Earth scientists want to better understand the deep structures in the core that create the magnetic field. Atmospheric scientists want to understand the interactions of the magnetic field with cosmic radiation. Biologists are interested in cosmic radiation, too: Because the magnetic field protects the planet from damaging cosmic rays, Earth owes its flourishing life to the existence of the geomagnetic field.

“This is related to various different phenomena, from biology, Earth sciences, geophysics, atmospheric sciences and archaeology,” Ben-Yosef said.

The researchers are now trying to expand their study of this time period to see if the fluctuations they observed were a regional phenomenon, or more widespread.

More about 9/11 RELEASED

It has been over 15 years since the tragic day of 9/11 and many who have survived that horrendous day are still having a hard time coping with everything that happened. One of those people affected is Ricki, a survivor who lived through the worst of that day and is still suffering physically and mentally from the trauma.

He has explained to us the shell shock and post traumatic stress he goes through almost everyday that made him close off and not develop the photos that he took that day. In an exclusive interview he gave WeAreChange, Ricki has entrusted us with those photos and told us to publish them.

We are releasing all the photos that we were given for you, 14 years later that no one else has seen. Ricki still has other photos that have not been released, these are the photos that we are given and we are letting you make up your own mind about them. Please also note Ricki is not a professional photographer and grabbed what he could to take these photos.

 

Physicists Forge Impossible Molecule That Chemists Failed To Make

 

There’s a bunch of physicists out there that are feeling a little bit pleased with themselves right now, and no wonder – they may have just made all of chemistry redundant. Okay, that’s not really true, but they’ve certainly beat chemistry researchers at their own game.

You see, a team of IBM physicists have managed to forge a new type of molecule, named “triangulene”, that chemistry researchers have been long hoping to synthesize themselves. This suggests that physical processes can be used to make molecules that are essentially impossible to make any other way.

This particular molecule is, unsurprisingly, triangular shaped. Triangular-shaped molecules are fairly rare due to a phenomenon known as “ring strain.” The tight angles of their molecular bonds mean that they are unstable and highly reactive, and don’t last long in a wide range of environments.

Triangulene has been hypothesized to exist by chemistry acolytes for several years now, as a single-atom layer of carbon with the triangular shape being formed from smaller hexagon forms – but no conventional chemical process seemed to be able to create a stable version of it.

Enter IBM, who decided to use a device that could manipulate atoms on an electron scale. First, as reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, they nabbed a precursor molecule from chemists in the UK. This molecule looks a lot like triangulene, but it came with two additional hydrogen atoms.

A sketch of triangulene imposed onto the image of the real deal. IBM Research

They placed this precursor on a range of copper and insulating plates, and used a combination of carbon monoxide and gold to probe the molecule – on the smallest of scales – using a unique atomic imaging device.

This device had previously been used to look at weird molecules like olympicene, one that’s shaped like the official logo of the Olympics. Although the images are blurry, individual atomic bonds can be seen.

The device uses changing voltages to “poke” around the molecule by interacting directly with its electrons. The interaction allows the researchers to view its intricate structure, but the team wondered if they could also use it to actually change the chemistry of the molecule itself.

Using some precisely-aimed, set-voltage “bolts,” they managed to remove the two additional hydrogen atoms, and the precursor molecule transformed into the fabled triangulene. It lasted for four days before reverting back to a more stable form – long enough to prove its existence.

“Triangulene is the first molecule that we’ve made that chemists have tried hard, and failed, to make already,” Leo Gross, who led the IBM team at the firm’s laboratories in Zurich, told Nature.

Far from just trouncing cutting-edge chemistry, the team noted that the two free electrons left over from the physical manipulation could “spin” in two separate directions. This is a key feature of molecules used in quantum computing, in that this type of molecule could have one segment of it representing a “0” and the other a “1”.

By being able to represent both states at the same time, more digital information could be stored on a system made of these molecules than ever before. That, of course, explains why IBM is so interested in the forging of triangulene.

So they didn’t just score a victory over chemistry, but one for the future of quantum computing. That’s pretty damn impressive.

These new molecules could be a vital component of future quantum computers. Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

If you want to be a modern day alchemist, then, forget Breaking Bad – have a look at Cosmos instead.

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