Back to: The coming storm | Forward to: Worldcon in the news

Same bullshit, new tin

I am seeing newspaper headlines today along the lines of British public will be called up to fight if UK goes to war because 'military is too small', Army chief warns, and I am rolling my eyes.

The Tories run this flag up the mast regularly whenever they want to boost their popularity with the geriatric demographic who remember national service (abolished 60 years ago, in 1963). Thatcher did it in the early 80s; the Army general staff told her to piss off. And the pols have gotten the same reaction ever since. This time the call is coming from inside the house—it's a general, not a politician—but it still won't work because changes to the structure of the British society and economy since 1979 (hint: Thatcher's revolution) make it impossible.

Reasons it won't work: there are two aspects, infrastructure and labour.

Let's look at infrastructure first: if you have conscripts, it follows that you need to provide uniforms, food, and beds for them. Less obviously, you need NCOs to shout at them and teach them to brush their teeth and tie their bootlaces (because a certain proportion of your intake will have missed out on the basics). The barracks that used to be used for a large conscript army were all demolished or sold off decades ago, we don't have half a million spare army uniforms sitting in a warehouse somewhere, and the army doesn't currently have ten thousand or more spare training sergeants sitting idle.

Russia could get away with this shit when they invaded Ukraine because Russia kept national service, so the call-up mostly got adults who had been through the (highly abusive) draft some time in the preceding years. Even so, they had huge problems with conscripts sleeping rough or being sent to the front with no kit.

The UK is in a much worse place where it comes to conscription: first you have to train the NCOs (which takes a couple of years as you need to start with experienced and reasonably competent soldiers) and build the barracks. Because the old barracks? Have mostly been turned into modern private housing estates, and the RAF airfields are now civilian airports (but mostly housing estates) and that's a huge amount of construction to squeeze out of a British construction industry that mostly does skyscrapers and supermarkets these days.

And this is before we consider that we're handing these people guns (that we don't have, because there is no national stockpile of half a million spare SA-80s and the bullets to feed them, never mind spare operational Challenger-IIs) and training them to shoot. Rifles? No problem, that'll be a few weeks and a few hundred rounds of ammunition per soldier until they're competent to not blow their own foot off. But anything actually useful on the battlefield, like artillery or tanks or ATGMs? Never mind the two-way radio kit troops are expected to keep charged and dry and operate, and the protocol for using it? That stuff takes months, years, to acquire competence with. And firing off a lot of training rounds and putting a lot of kilometres on those tank tracks (tanks are exotic short-range vehicles that require maintenance like a Bugatti, not a family car). So the warm conscript bodies are just the start of it—bringing back conscription implies equipping them, so should be seen as a coded gimme for "please can has 500% budget increase" from the army.

Now let's discuss labour.

A side-effect of conscription is that it sucks able-bodied young adults out of the workforce. The UK is currently going through a massive labour supply crunch, partly because of Brexit but also because a chunk of the work force is disabled due to long COVID. A body in a uniform is not stacking shelves in Tesco or trading shares in the stock exchange. A body in uniform is a drain on the economy, not a boost.

If you want a half-million strong army, then you're taking half a million people out of the work force that runs the economy that feeds that army. At peak employment in 2023 the UK had 32.8 million fully employed workers and 1.3 million unemployed ... but you can't assume that 1.3 million is available for national service: a bunch will be medically or psychologically unfit or simply unemployable in any useful capacity. (Anyone who can't fill out the forms to register as disabled due to brain fog but who can't work due to long COVID probably falls into this category, for example.) Realistically, economists describe any national economy with 3% or less unemployment as full employment because a labour market needs some liquidity in order to avoid gridlock. And the UK is dangerously close to that right now. The average employment tenure is about 3 years, so a 3% slack across the labour pool is equivalent to one month of unemployment between jobs—there's barely time to play musical chairs, in other words.

If a notional half-million strong conscript force optimistically means losing 3% of the entire work force, that's going to cause knock-on effects elsewhere in the economy, starting with an inflationary spiral driven by wage rises as employers compete to fill essential positions: that didn't happen in the 1910-1960 era because of mass employment, collective bargaining, and wage and price controls, but the post-1979 conservative consensus has stripped away all these regulatory mechanisms. Market forces, baby!

To make matters worse, they'll be the part of the work force who are physically able to do a job that doesn't involve sitting in a chair all day. Again, Russia has reportedly been drafting legally blind diabetic fifty-somethings: it's hard to imagine them being effective soldiers in a trench war. Meanwhile, if you thought your local NHS hospital was over-stretched today, just wait until all the porters and cleaners get drafted so there's nobody to wash the bedding or distribute the meals or wheel patients in and out of theatre for surgery. And the same goes for your local supermarket, where there's nobody left to take rotting produce off the shelves and replace it with fresh—or, more annoyingly, no truckers to drive HGVs, automobile engineers to service your car, or plumbers to fix your leaky pipes. (The latter three are all gimmes for any functioning military because military organizations are all about logistics first because without logistics the shooty-shooty bang-bangs run out of ammunition really fast.) And you can't draft builders because they're all busy throwing up the barracks for the conscripts to eat, sleep, and shit in, and anyway, without builders the housing shortage is going to get even worse and you end up with more inflation ...

There are a pile of vicious feedback loops in play here, but what it boils down to is: we lack the infrastructure to return to a mass military, whether it's staffed by conscription or traditional recruitment (which in the UK has totally collapsed since the Tories outsourced recruiting to Capita in 2012). It's not just the bodies but the materiel and the crown estate (buildings to put them in). By the time you total up the cost of training an infantryman, the actual payroll saved by using conscripts rather than volunteers works out at a tiny fraction of their cost, and is pissed away on personnel who are not there willingly and will leave at the first opportunity. Meanwhile the economy has been systematically asset-stripped and looted and the general staff can't have an extra £200Bn/year to spend on top of the existing £55Bn budget because Oligarchs Need Yachts or something.

Maybe if we went back to a 90% marginal rate of income tax, reintroduced food rationing, raised the retirement age to 80, expropriated all private property portfolios worth over £1M above the value of the primary residence, and introduced flag-shagging as a mandatory subject in primary schools—in other words: turn our backs on every social change, good or bad, since roughly 1960, and accept a future of regimented poverty and militarism—we could be ready to field a mass conscript army armed with rifles on the battlefields of 2045 ... but frankly it's cheaper to invest in killer robots. Or better still, give peace a chance?

1471 Comments

| Leave a comment
1:

EDITORIAL CLARIFICATION:

I am all in favour of giving peace a chance.

Unfortunately it seems clear that Vladimir Putin is not in favour of giving peace a chance.

(Ditto any number of wannabe and actual dictators.)

Once diplomacy and economic sanctions fail, it would be good to have an option other than throwing explosives around, or assassination (assassination invariably seems to make politics worse, as witness Japan in the 1930s, or -- arguably -- the USA in the post-2016 period). But in the absence of magic lamps and djinni bearing wishes, I'm coming up blank. Hence at least considering the pros and cons of rearmament.

2:

the geriatric demographic who remember national service (abolished 60 years ago, in 1963) ... Err ...
NO!

I was terrified that I would be forced into NS, when I was at senior school, as I knew what it would be like - 2+ years of bullying & torture, same as the football field, only lots worse.
Fortunately, it was abolished about 2.5 years before I would have been "caught".

And ... you are wrong, actually - it's only the Telegraph & some of the Mail "readers" who emote that way ... it simply is NOT a vote-winner.
It shows, yet again, how utterly out-of-touch the tories are - think, if you can bear it, of Liz Hernia & thicko Frostie?

As you say, it's utterly impossible - even more impossible than "Rwanda", not that it stops these wankers.
CORRECTION: The UK is currently going through a massive labour supply crunch, partlyalmost-wholly because of Brexit, & COVID certainly didn't help ... & we can't have those NASTY foreign workers, either (!)
Yet another tory disconnect.
The correct answer is NOT to outsource recruiting to Crapita, but, then, "Our friends" won't make any money, oops.

3:

Charlie @ 1
Agree, our navy is woefully under-strength, & Putin seems determined to stir the pot, before he pops it ...
Scary thought, is he likely to do an Adolf & pull everything down with him?

4:

Greg, this time it's not a Tory politician calling for conscription -- it's a senior ranking General!

(Although admittedly he was talking to the Daily Telegraph about it, and you know what they're like: all "fellow billionaires: when shall we eat the poor?" and "why not tax oxygen instead of bizjet fuel?")

5:

I think Putin and Russia are the best thing for NATO and armed forces in Europe in a long, long time. Gives good reasons to spend more.

I'm kind of biased here, but we do still have (male) conscription here and it seems not to be a big factor anyway. Nobody really talks about getting rid of it, but, uh, we do have some land border with Russia. Also some history of special military operations and imperialism. There is some risk of there being a shoot-out in some years' time. Still, I'm not sure half a million UK conscripts are the best you could do, if Finland or the Baltics (for example) get attacked.

This has also increased militarism here, obviously. I can imagine it's good for the arms industries, too. I'm not happy about it, but, uh, I kind of like to have an independent Finland and Russia sadly is still there on the other side of the border. Of course everybody would've been better off with them not doing what they are doing, but that's not what happened.

I think NATO should have some kind of plan and maybe some actions done for it (see: artillery shells), in regards to Russia. I think there have been a couple of years when maybe somebody could have done some more to help Ukraine, if only to lessen the risk of Russia getting ideas about some other real estate near its borders.

But as a new thing for the UK: I agree, it'd be folly with only negative consequences. So the English politicians are probably all for it and it'll be reality in a couple of years.

6:

Yes, mass conscription can only exist in a well-run labour market... Or a centrally-planned labour scheme with work camps.

Oddly enough, it is compatible with a failing labour market, insofar as the government of the day might regard mass unemployment and a permanently immiserated underclass as a successful social and economic strategy.

The problem with that economic structure is that the numbers add up to slums, malnutrition, endemic disease and mass illiteracy, for at least the bottom quartile of the population and probably more than half.

...And that's not a sufficiently productive economy to feed and house the conscripts well enough to maintain discipline and train an effective army. Or even an adequate one, for the widespread repression required to keep order in such a society.

The Russian model is all about dialling-up the brutality and damn the casualties, and it only works with oil money, not with a productive economy.

Which leaves open the option of external resources to maintain the army and prop-up the unproductive economy: the polite term is 'Client State'.

It's an attractive option, for people with private jets.

7:

My great-great-grandmother lived to the ripe age of 103, and for her "the war" was the one in 1864, because nobody she knew got hurt in the two world wars in the previous century.

One thing she pointed out, was that "back then", which for her were the start of the 1900s, there were a serious surplus of young men without good prospects.

The mechanisation of farming was making a huge difference, for instance the threshing machine hired for a couple of days did what half a dozen farmhands used to spend all winter doing.

The oldest son inherited the farm, the second one became a teacher or some other public service job, but number 3 to 7 were by and large surplus to requirements.

That's not the case today.

The people beating the war-drums today are in the late 50'ies, they are the widest bit of the age-pyramid in most western countries, so there are 25% more 57 year olds, that there are 18 year olds here in Denmark.

Charlie is right that 3% of the workforce is a lot, but it becomes much more catastrophic when you take age into account.

When politicians have started talking about conscripting women, it has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with there being no other choice.

8:

It's an attractive option, for people with private jets.

... Yeah. And I am not okay with that. (Guess who doesn't have a private jet?)

Really, the correct response to the current crisis should be for the generals to badger the government not for conscripts but to place bulk orders for NATO-spec artillery ammo (and a few new tubes and tanks to throw it with), then start rotating the older stockpile out to parts east (Ukraine, Moldova) at a very steep discount, easy credit terms apply. Call it Military Keynsianism. Build up the reserves, send support where it's needed right now, boost British manufacturing industry, train more munitions workers. That is an achievable goal and can be ramped up relatively fast and the CBI will approve of it ... but, as Boris Johnson said, "fuck business" (and that's still the order of the day for the current Tory party).

9:

"We can't have those nasty foreigners..."

Indeed. And they can have us: mass emigration of the workforce - especially people in their late teens and early twenties - as undocumented migrant labour in the building sites and care comes of more successful societies is A Thing; and I maintain that the likeliest future for Urban Brexitstan will resemble Dublin and Cork in the 1960's and 1970's.

Or, quite possibly, Belfast: certain types of regime require conflict and internal enemies.

10:

Charlie is right that 3% of the workforce is a lot, but it becomes much more catastrophic when you take age into account.

Yup.

A side-effect of the austerity economics, social cuts, and class war waged by the Tories since 2010 is a relative collapse in the British birth rate; women of childbearing age can't afford to start a family, especially given the cost of housing.

This was also the case under Thatcher (my wife has anecdata about her classmates from school, who either never had children or deferred childbearing until the late 1980s/1990s) but the pressure was less severe than it is today.

Also women who want children base their desired family size (within the constraints of their income) on how many kids their cohort are averaging. In a culture where 4 children is the average, having 6-7 doesn't put you wildly outside the mark; but if the average has dropped to 1 child, then having 2 represents a 100% overshoot and 3 kids is bizarre cult-level fecundity. In other words, demographic changes come with inertia attached.

China's being bitten by that one right now, South Korea's TFR has collapsed to 0.6 children per women (and they're looking at having to conscript women to keep the numbers up, or abolish national service within a generation). The UK had a TFR of roughly 1.7 last time I looked, but that was pre-2020 and I suspect post-Brexit social changes haven't improved the picture.

So drafting 3% of the work force probably means drafting 10-15% of the work force in the 18-34 age group.

11:

It makes no sense to me that “the West” (America in particular, but also all of Western Europe) isn’t sending every single weapon system and scrap of ordinance they can get their hands on to Ukraine right now. Everyone not on his payroll has been wanting him vanquished for the last twenty years and here’s a cheap way to do it that doesn’t involve the unenviable politics of sending your country’s best and brightest to die in a field. I know “everyone not on his payroll” isn’t an entirely empty set, but surely it’s not so big as to be a political obstacle?

When I’ve voiced this sentiment in public a frightening response has been that there are world leaders (… who aren’t on the take) who are quite suited by a long war of attrition—a quick vanquishing of Putin would leave a power vacuum and the USSR descending into warlordism and do you want a nuclear armed Kadyrov? Because that’s how you get a nuclear armed Kadyrov. I find this an abhorrent abandonment of our Ukrainian friends and I’m really hoping it doesn’t backfire.

12:

"Russia has reportedly been drafting legally blind diabetic fifty-somethings: it's hard to imagine them being effective soldiers in a trench war."

It works because plenty of them get papers for disabilities via bribing doctors. Also, the Russian Army is, at this point, a tier system—some units with more or less competent contract soldiers. Those who had pre-war training and survived the war experience are probably really good at this point). Plus, plenty of so-called "mobiks" tasked with firstly support functions like being mules for providing supplies to first-line trenches (if they are lucky) or going to semi-suicidal attacks against well-set up lines (less fortunate) on pair with ex-prisoners.

BTW, during Soviet times, the lower echelon NCOs in the Warsaw Pact army were conscript soldiers deemed as having leadership qualities during the initial couple weeks of service and then provided with just a couple of months of basic NCO training.

13:

I'd be wary of suggesting the General Staff were not advising just that. Ukraine is fighting the war my generation trained to fight, and sending the equipment for that seems entirely sensible. We expected the front line to start on the Inner German Border (and with 5th columns disorganising and weakening the bonds within snd between NATO states, stirring up the Middle East etc, /of course/ ) so a front line further from home is better than it might have been.

I don't see a stop line between there and the Atlantic otherwise.

14:

"We can't have those nasty foreigners..."

Indeed. And they can have us: mass emigration of the workforce - especially people in their late teens and early twenties - as undocumented migrant labour in the building sites and care comes of more successful societies is A Thing; and I maintain that the likeliest future for Urban Brexitstan will resemble Dublin and Cork in the 1960's and 1970's.

Or, quite possibly, Belfast: certain types of regime require conflict and internal enemies.

15:

BTW, during Soviet times, the lower echelon NCOs in the Warsaw Pact army were conscript soldiers deemed as having leadership qualities during the initial couple weeks of service and then provided with just a couple of months of basic NCO training.

Also I think here nowadays conscripted officers and NCOs get about 12 months of training, basic conscripts six months. Apparently that's enough to train for tanks and artillery, too. There are rehearsals, but not everybody gets the invite, at least it used to be because of money. (I did my service almost three decades ago and never got invited to practice the things I did learn.)

So I'm not sure doing conscripted NCOs and officers is a failure by default. You probably need enough career soldiers but for a war-time large conscript army you also need those conscripts to lead.

Of course things depend on what kind of war you're planning for. I've said it before, but attacking and defending are different missions, and I have the impression that it's easier to motivate people to defend their own country than attack a neighbouring one. Or even defend an another country.

Obviously this is on a bigger scale - of course you need to attack tactically even when defending.

16:

Killer robots are great, but the politics behind sending those killer robots to Ukraine nowadays is beyond moronic (a HIMARS rocket is a killer robot, after all, so are FPV drones with shaped charge warheads).

Massive deliveries of advanced weapons to UAF would enable them to decisively crush the Russian advances in the previous year, but instead, we rationed them out in small amounts so that Russian doctrine has time to adapt to them. Great job.

Anyway, the joys of drone warfare is that we will be able to get some old geezers raised on computer games to operate drones, I fully expect one of my possible futures to be a drone tank operator somewhere in the eastern plains of Poland in the 2040s.

17:

You're massively overestimating how much training the weaponry takes. The British Army's specialist weapons school (including anti-tank training) is about 10 weeks long. The Armour School course is similar.

The weapons are designed for befuddled 18-22 year olds to use -- they're not easy but they're not the mystery you make them out to be.

You're also assuming that the current training is the bare minimum necessary -- it's rather probably too much. During WWII, British conscripts got six weeks basic training and then six weeks for specific roles. And no, weapons now are not more complicated than they were back then. In fact, they were probably more complicated back then.

Two other points: the shortage of NCOs is real but solvable. If the government went to conscription, every current solder becomes a training NCO. 55K soldiers handling 50 conscripts each is about 2.5 million people under training. Does that work well? Not really, but it can work.

On barracks -- lot of free office space in British cities at the moment...

18:

Shrinking demographics, low birth rates, more old people and fewer young people is a problem every nation outside of sub-Saharan Africa faces.

Nobody has the manpower to fight any kind of war, especially with high tech drones creating a meat grinder statement (aka trench warfare) like we are seeing in Ukraine.

Which is why the Ukraine war is a demographic disaster for Russia, the last nail in its population coffin. All those young males dying in the Donbass or otherwise not being home at their prime breeding age should be back in civilian life f*king their wives and girl friends to make more babies (see post-WW1 France in the 1920s and 30s for an historical example).

The coming baby bust will finish off Russia.

Look for a spike in Russian mail order bride advertisements.

19:

Training people to be acceptably proficient is not too bad in terms of time. Up to about lieutenant. Then, well, we're talking decades and a whole institution with memories and actual battle experience.

But you're right people forget that there's a cost to the economy when people play at being soldiers (hopefully it stays a game...) instead of doing something productive. A large cost. Switzerland shortening their military service saw that year a 1% extra GDP growth...

But it's also the case that because the Jolly Band of International Autocrats is keen on not having democracies around because that really increases the costs of keeping troubles down, we're in dire need of a larger army. A larger professional army. With enough supplies they could face a campaign like Ukraine.

And so, I'm going to conclude this rant by saying that people wanting to conscript their way out of what is an issue of not paying personnel enough and skimping on equipment and consumables is basically a traitor.

20:

The people beating the war-drums today are in the late 50'ies, they are the widest bit of the age-pyramid in most western countries, so there are 25% more 57 year olds, that there are 18 year olds here in Denmark.

They are also the ones decrying the work ethic of younger people, and blaming them for not having permanent careers and being able to afford houses like they could when they were that age… Most people's view of the world is set when they are young, and they don't realize how things are different now. (Hans Rosling did some great videos on this, and wrote a book about it.)

It's also safe for older folks to advocate for conscription, because they know they won't be drafted. If you get the demographic just right, their children are also too old for the draft, and their grandchildren too young, so from their personal standpoint there's nothing to lose!

21:

On the subject of training, another big infrastructure constraint is the training estate. The ‘obvious’ parade grounds where soldiers learn to march during their initial / basic training are only a small part of this. Much more significant are the specialist training areas and schools where soldiers are inducted into specific military trades such as infantry, armour, artillery, engineering, signals, etc, in the second six months of their career. The schools and training areas are usually operating at full capacity. Some are overseas, notably in the Canadian prairies and Kenya where there is enough space for battlegroup-sized forces to practice combined-arms manoeuvres over multi-day exercises (these need a massive 3D box of land and airspace – bigger than the warry bits of Salisbury Plain – where there are no civilians). The schools are also the place where instructors are trained, i.e. the soldiers who staff the schools themselves, or who do on-the-job training when they return to their units.

Furthermore, reducing the size of the armed forces reduces the number of ex-soldiers who are available to supplement serving instructors as contractors, working for companies like Babcock. Contractors are essential for keeping the schools going, and freeing up actual soldiers for operations (rather than being stuck at home, training). There are only a few situations where the army can hand out training to purely civilian staff, e.g. basic driving (many new soldiers don't have a driving license) and physical fitness.

22:

The birth rate is probably a lesser problem than the health state of young people. With over 20% of year 6 children obese (and ignoring any other issues), I would be surprised if more than 60% of potential recruits would be medically suitable even for the standards of WW II, let alone those of today. By 2030, that might easily be 40%.

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn03336/

Furthermore, the relatively fit subset overlaps closely with the subset that is capable of performing many critical jobs, including HGV and PSV driving.

If you thought the political problems of getting the public to accept conscription were bad, imagine those of taking on the ultra-processed food companies, supermarkets, fast food addicts and motoring and development lobbies (plus others), simultaneously. Plus, of course, the governmental changes needed, which also fly in the face of the last 50 years' policies.

23:

the Jolly Band of International Autocrats is keen on not having democracies around because that really increases the costs of keeping troubles down

I submit that a better solution to "keeping troubles down" would be to downsize the Jolly Board of International Autocrats.

(With a guillotine, if they won't go peacefully.)

24:

Very much so, but we would have to do the same to the military-industrial complexes for that to be effective. Unless you can think of a way of eliminating venality in the human species.

25:

Russia could get away with this shit when they invaded Ukraine because Russia kept national service, so the call-up mostly got adults who had been through the (highly abusive) draft some time in the preceding years

Um no. One of the reasons Russia has not been able to crush Ukraine is that they divested of all the infrastructure for a mass conscript army also. They go through the motions of conscription but they don't have boot camps or drill sergeants either.

We don't hear too much call for re-instituting conscription here in the US. When you talk about reintroducing conscription in a country that's had decades to build a long-service professional mercenary corps, you're talking about COMPLETELY REPLACING your Army with a DIFFERENT KIND of Army. 20 years would not be a bad estimate for how long it would take.

All that being said, I've concluded that getting rid of conscription and building the AVF was a mistake. I was there when the debate happened, and as a draft-age young man was paying close attention. The thinking was that we would deprive the Deep State (didn't call it that, then) of the cannon fodder for another Vietnam-type adventure. What nobody thought about was what the State could do with an AVF that was militarily effective like they one they built. The interventionism has arguably gotten worse, after the capabilities of that were revealed.

26:

Actually, it IS a great job, from the point of view of those that benefit from it. See also Mikko (#5). The tragedy is that there were fairly easy ways of giving European peace a chance in the 1990s, and decreasingly easy ones as time went on, but that did not suit those people.

27:

You've got my vote on that one. They, however, care little for votes. Somewhat more about steady supplies of ammunition to the countries they're trying to invade, which brigs us back to the point.

28:

ITT: Various familiar nonsense from highly opinionated people whose first real thinking about military affairs started after Russia continued its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Emptying the inventories of the NATO powers to equip the Ukrainians would not have enabled the Ukrainians to roll back the Russians last year. The full explanation of why this is, is too lengthy to fit in the margin of a blog post. The basic theme is illustrated by what the Ukrainians did have this past summer, two NATO-spec combat brigades. Actually one of them was NATO-spec+. The Ukrainians could not use them, the way they are meant to be used. They are not good enough yet to have independent platoons operating in a way that makes the company achieve its objectives, and the companies cannot operate independently in a way that makes the battalions achieve their objectives, and so on up the line. You cannot hand NATO-spec weapons system complexes to effectively-Warsaw-Pact troops and expect the troops to be able to make the complex operate with all of the synergies that are designed into it.

As for the supply of 155mm NATO artillery ammo, it does appear pretty shortsighted for all of the Western powers to have divested of the capacity to make it in bulk. The US has started to address this but it will take a couple of years to build the capacity to make shells at the rate the Ukrainians were using them last year at peak time. It seems plausible that some big chunk of that couple of years is a lack of urgency though.

29:

There seems to have been a fair bit of clarification/backpedalling since the initial story broke. It's not now a call for peacetime conscription (If it ever was.) but a predition that we'll end up going to war with Russia sooner or later and we'd better be ready. And if the war comes then it will mean conscription.

In the short term getting ready means reversing the decline in the army. Numbers of troops are one thing but there's the reserves of fighting kit to consider as well. It's easy to run down stocks when budgets are cut as an easy option but once things start getting lively it quickly becomes apparent.

30:

Robert Atkins
Go & ask the US "republican" party why not?
They clearly want Putin, an enemy of their country to win .. are they arr bribed, or is it something in the water?

31:

In the short term getting ready means reversing the decline in the army. Numbers of troops are one thing but there's the reserves of fighting kit to consider as well.

A run-down which has been well under way since 2010 (thanks, austerity!) and will presumably take a similar length of time to fully redress -- at the current rate.

32:

I wonder how much of the General's comments are motivated by concern about the reliability of the U.S. commitment to NATO? 😕

33:

assassination invariably seems to make politics worse

I'm not sure that's true for dictatorships (or wannabe-dictators like Trump). Part of the playbook for every dictator is that once they're at the top, their next step is making sure none of the people who got them there can easily replace them. Not only is succession planning not a thing, it's something they actively oppose. So taking out the dictator will inevitably collapse the whole system, or at the very least put a serious dent in it.

For sure there's the argument that attributable assassinations aren't exactly going to make relations better. But a truck full of ANFO doesn't necessarily come with a signature. And it's fairly possible that if the regime is crappy enough, you could recruit someone in-country who's good with a suicide mission.

34:

Charlie Stross @ 10:

"Charlie is right that 3% of the workforce is a lot, but it becomes much more catastrophic when you take age into account."

Yup.

A side-effect of the austerity economics, social cuts, and class war waged by the Tories since 2010 is a relative collapse in the British birth rate; women of childbearing age can't afford to start a family, especially given the cost of housing.

This was also the case under Thatcher (my wife has anecdata about her classmates from school, who either never had children or deferred childbearing until the late 1980s/1990s) but the pressure was less severe than it is today.

Also women who want children base their desired family size (within the constraints of their income) on how many kids their cohort are averaging. In a culture where 4 children is the average, having 6-7 doesn't put you wildly outside the mark; but if the average has dropped to 1 child, then having 2 represents a 100% overshoot and 3 kids is bizarre cult-level fecundity. In other words, demographic changes come with inertia attached.

China's being bitten by that one right now, South Korea's TFR has collapsed to 0.6 children per women (and they're looking at having to conscript women to keep the numbers up, or abolish national service within a generation). The UK had a TFR of roughly 1.7 last time I looked, but that was pre-2020 and I suspect post-Brexit social changes haven't improved the picture.

So drafting 3% of the work force probably means drafting 10-15% of the work force in the 18-34 age group.

Isn't Russia facing demographic collapse someday soon? Some of the commentary I've seen on Ukraine says this could be Putin facing a now or never situation vis-a-vis restoring the Russian Empire?

35:

Golly gee, we’ve got all these veterans of proxy wars doing black market things over much of the world. And we’ve got the US making huge surpluses of wink wink civilian assault rifles, while their marketing arm, the NRA helps foment insurrection to get the hobbyists to buy more guns and sell the rest on the black market….

…I wonder how this could all possibly turn out?

To be less grim and twee (bad combination),from my Yank perspective, the UK at this point is basically a large offshore financial center in the making, but unfortunately one that used to be a huge empire. Briefly (I think the Mongol Empire lasted about as long?). The question isn’t how to become an imperial power again, because that won’t happen. Instead it’s how to stop becoming an OFC designed by billionaires, for billionaires, where everybody else better know their place.

If the UK wants to militarize, South Korea and Taiwan are good examples of what that looks like, with Taiwan being an example of having gotten sloppy and now playing catch up. But that only works if the enemy is as close as the EU, which it isn’t.

So maybe the UK needs to get back in the shipping game? Copy the Netherlands instead of Taiwan? Or instead of the Cayman Islands?

Possibly, if TFG loses the US election by collapsing into full blown dementia in August, and if the NRA gets broken up for parts (which appears to be slowly happening), the American gun industry will be gently re-aimed at arming Ukrainian soldiers and diverted from selling to secessionists and the drug trade. And the UK can play a role by transshipping those Barbie-pink surplus AR-15s to the front maybe?

I’m making it sound silly, but it’s not. I suspect the US gun scourge is a bit of a sideshow to the US military industrial complex perpetuating itself however it can. It arose at a time of relative world peace in the 1980s and 90s, with the NRA becoming the gun industry marketing agency and gun companies fighting off bankruptcy. Now there’s a growing military demand for small arms, and the NRA’s financial problems no longer have to be borne. And oddly enough the NRA is in existential trouble.

This still doesn’t address the problems of having millions of veterans of proxy wars worldwide, all trying to make their way in a world where migration due to climate change is growing. Didn’t the Roman Empire get into a similar mess with the Sassanians and migrating tribes of former mercenaries awhile back? Thing is, the big empires in this metaphor are the US, China, India, the EU, and Russia. Brexit took the UK out of that game. Are you going to get back in, and if so, how? Train geezers on fashion colored AR15s, as they’re doing in American Red States now? Or maybe choose a different metaphor, close down the Chunnel and copy Tokugawa Japan? I don’t think it will work, but it’s a different path.

36:

Remember, too, that the tail is not wasted. (T. Rex teeth with no tail might as well be dentures on a nightstand — great display, not much use on a steak.) The enthusiastic cannon fodder conscripted infantry isn't going to fight from the barracks that, as noted above, don't actually exist… and historically are not within "marching distance" of any objective an enemy with more military skill than the average lemming would be reasonably expected to attack.

So the simplest possible case is motor vehicles. That need to be kept maintained, fully fuelled/charged, with trained drivers and maps (because yeah, Google Maps is going to work really well when everybody is trying to use it at once, presuming it hasn't been intentionally crashed and/or interdicted) and spare ammo and medical kits. Uber might be able to deliver some three-person fire teams to the Battle of Epping Forest, but that's precisely the opposite of "using a conscripted levee en masse" anyway.

We'll tastefully ignore what has to happen to the casualties — fatal and otherwise — after the first battle (BTW, how's the NHS doing for urgent primary care of late, without an enemy doing its very best to lengthen the queue?). Or feeding the soldiers a diet of other than crisps and takeaway curries, two or three times a day, and not just when they're in those barracks that are away from where they'd need to fight. And somewhere, somehow, there has to be a corps of officers and senior NCOs to do the thing that distinguishes an army from a rabble: Make decisions.

I suspect that the general "quoted" in the Telegraph was asked if he really believed in the Monty Python solution to the problem of the poor, from the perspective of the upper-class twit/stockbroker portrayed by Cleese: Bomb them out, and when they run screaming into the streets, mow them down with machine guns. Then, release the vultures. That esteemed edifice of neutral journalism then edited out the question to which the general was responding and presented it as a context-free policy preference.

37:
…that didn't happen in the 1910-1960 era because of mass employment, collective bargaining, and wage and price controls, …

Particularly earlier in that time period, also a large contingent of women who'd been arbitrarily excluded from many parts of the workforce but were suddenly accepted when it became convenient.

38:

(BTW, how's the NHS doing for urgent primary care of late, without an enemy doing its very best to lengthen the queue?).
I think that enemy is called the Conservative Party :). Surprising that no one has mentioned the elephant in the room on war with Russia, namely nuclear weapons. Back in the cold war, few could see any major direct, rather than proxy war with them not descending in to total destruction within a matter of days. Has this changed? If yes, how is it different and how is nukes going off all over the place, nuclear winter, global famine and all the other happy fun stuff now less likely than it was forty to sixty years ago?

39:

In the same way that a country established by armed rebellion has to work really hard for the first generation or so to disestablish armed rebellion as a legitimate political tool, opening the door to assassination tends to be... bad. For example, every Roman emperor but two* for the 50 years after Commodus was assassinated died the same way - and we're not sure about the two after.

*Macrinus was executed, Septimius Severus died of an illness.

40:

On barracks -- lot of free office space in British cities at the moment...

And where do they train?

41:

Various items and questions.

Does the UK have the same demographic bump as the US. One reason our unemployment rate is so low, (in addition to COVID), is that my generation is retiring en mass and we were the biggest population bump for 20+ years.

In the US a raw recruit typically isn't assigned to a combat unit until they've had about 6 months of training. To the comment of someone above, no they ware not ready about as fast as a WWII soldier. And those guys also had months of training before combat. They go out in the field with specialized training in all kinds of stuff. So much electronics that 10-15 years ago each soldier in a patrol had about 88 AA batteries on them to keep everything going for 3 days.

I don't know about Europe but in the US virtually all of the money allocated to Ukraine is really asset allocation. Taking things from stores and shipping it to them. Some cash went to the Ukraine government and some to transport and training costs.

And the US is actually working hard to ramp up production of munitions. Rifles and bullets are easy as H noted. But Smart shells are hard to ramp up. Got a few 100 trained workers in the middle of nowhere Arkansas where the only factory for one type of them is located? The current one shift is running full out. To go much faster they need to add a second shift. Not to mention the supply chain issues for guided munitions. Even 155mm shells require precision work.

I agree with Charlie. Ramping up the military with conscription would be HARD. In WWII in the US it was hard. But everyone (well most everyone) sucked it up and did it. Basically no automobiles made for 3 years. Or tires for civilian autos. And so on.

As to training we are lucky in the US in one sense. We do have some very very large military bases where combined arms training can happen. I think most or all of the UK can fit inside of Fort Hood. Ft. Bragg Liberty is huge and so large groups of foot soldiers can train in vast wooded areas. (At times the army will notify the locals that they might encounter armed groups on vehicles on local roads.)

42:

»"assassination invariably seems to make politics worse"

I'm not sure that's true for dictatorships (or wannabe-dictators like Trump).«

As far as I remember history, the trick is to make it look like an act of an angry god.

43:

A stopping point is Poland, and Germany. But given the Russian problem with shortages of troops, I really don't seem them going on past Ukraine. Really, I don't.

44:

I volunteer for the troop transporting and feeding the Humane Invention. I have a little list of people whose heads need to be on a spiked fence here....

45:

Conscription in the US, no. There are far too many of us who were, on were in danger of being conscripted during 'Nam, and it ain't going to happen, as many are now in the government.

However, a year or two of national service, esp. if it offered two years of free college, yes. In fact, something that can actually work is already in place: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/09/20/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-launches-american-climate-corps-to-train-young-people-in-clean-energy-conservation-and-climate-resilience-skills-create-good-paying-jobs-and-tackle-the-clima/

46:

Yes. Please note that a lot of white states (I refuse to call them red...) have high lead levels literally in the water. https://www.policyinnovation.org/publications/lead-in-water-harms-red-states-too

47:

But hey, we can call up all the self-proclaimed militias, who are already armed and trained, and send them to the front! (Do search on "meal team 6".)

48:

Conscription in the US, no. There are far too many of us who were, on were in danger of being conscripted during 'Nam, and it ain't going to happen, as many are now in the government.

Nope, not true.

The Vietnam war ended in 1975; an 18 year old who set foot in Saigon would have been born in 1957. So today they'd be not less than 67 years old — and that's the youngest possible Vietnam vet. As the war got rolling in 1965-ish, the average age is somewere over 70.

I know US politics is a gerontocracy at the highest levels, but even so, I think you overestimate how many Vietnam era conscripts remain in politics.(Gulf War and Iraq/Afgh vets are another matter, but they were volunteers …)

49:

w{ sarcasm = on }

ell consider the target... these are city boys, eh?

with Moscow as end goal... our glorious troops (never say too loudly bullet sponges) shall live, train, exercise, deploy in cities... preparation for street-to-street maylays with specialist training for shopping malls and/or office towers

big plus... wiping out vermin as practical practice deployments... corner retail drug dealers, graffiti artists, vegetarians, uppity women, protesting college snowflakes and (of course) Jews...

all those corpses of rebellious peons get shipped to factories for automated rendering and ill be canned as either upmarket dog food or packaged as MREs (meal-ready-to-excrete) brand labeled by Soylent Green Industries so our troops are well fed

{ sarcasm = of }

50:

»but even so, I think you overestimate how many Vietnam era conscripts remain in politics.«

There was a story, I think in LA Times, some years ago, about how many of the members of congress who had dodged the draft using the various tricks available mainly to the rich. The answer was: Almost all.

51:

The only way conscription would come back in the US absent a new Pearl Harbor would be if it is universal.

But it would create all the problems that Charlie talked about in this post. Even if it wasn't required that all service be in boots with a gun.

And by Pearl Harbor I mean something much bigger than 9/11. Like a nuke on Seattle.

52:

opening the door to assassination tends to be... bad.

I suspect that a fair number of folks who wouldn't like to see Trump back in the Oval Office know that and are holding off for the next 5 to 10 months.

53:

Charlie, in First World War and in Second World War UK had shown that it is capable of building a huge army from scratch in record time. I believe in you brits, you can do it again in time for WW3. British Expeditionary Force will march on Moscow yet!

54:

And somewhere, somehow, there has to be a corps of officers and senior NCOs to do the thing that distinguishes an army from a rabble: Make decisions.

Which, if I may be allowed a USian interjection, is one of the reasons (there are others), why MAGA talk of a new Civil War is silly. Wars need armies and MAGA has yahoo rabble which, even if equipped with AR-15 assault rifles, come nowhere close to an army.

I suppose if regular military forces could be subverted to join the insurrection things could be different. Doubtless there are MAGA members in the Army, but I've yet to see that they are all that numerous

55:

Like a nuke on Seattle.

Pick a redder city. I suspect Trump II would welcome that as an opportunity to have friendly negotiations with the perp.

56:

hmmm @ 19:

Training people to be acceptably proficient is not too bad in terms of time. Up to about lieutenant. Then, well, we're talking decades and a whole institution with memories and actual battle experience.

But you're right people forget that there's a cost to the economy when people play at being soldiers (hopefully it stays a game...) instead of doing something productive. A large cost. Switzerland shortening their military service saw that year a 1% extra GDP growth...

But it's also the case that because the Jolly Band of International Autocrats is keen on not having democracies around because that really increases the costs of keeping troubles down, we're in dire need of a larger army. A larger professional army. With enough supplies they could face a campaign like Ukraine.

And so, I'm going to conclude this rant by saying that people wanting to conscript their way out of what is an issue of not paying personnel enough and skimping on equipment and consumables is basically a traitor.

I'd like to put a word in for ready reserve forces (that "well-regulated militia" in USAin parlance). I think one way the U.K. could expand their forces would be to start manufacturing & stockpiling "beans & bullets" (arms, ammunition, vehicles, equipment ...) and beef up the Territorial Army (as I understand it the U.K. equivalent of the U.S.'s "National Guard & Reserves").

You don't really need a large number of full time soldiers to enhance readiness.

I'm kind of out of the loop on current practice, but back when I joined up, it was 8 weeks Basic Training followed by Advanced Individual Training - for Infantry it was another 8 week Basic Infantry Training PLUS whatever additional training might be required (jump school if you were going to an airborne unit, and YES there are Airborne Units in the Guard & Reserve).

After you finished your initial entry training, you basically were a soldier one weekend per month & two weeks in the summer, although there were opportunities to attend additional active duty schools (a boon to somebody like me subject to the vagaries of the economy).

If you integrate your reserve soldiers with your active duty soldiers during training, they provide a pool of cadre to rapidly expand your forces in a dire emergency. But you gotta' think about training them (and provisioning for them) NOW if you're going to need them in the future.

I'm now a long way over-the-hill to serve as a front-line soldier, but I retain SKILLZ I learned years ago, so that I think I could still be an effective trainer - freeing someone more capable for "front-line service".

And I've played enough computer games I think I could probably learn to tele-operate a drone in short order. Think of us geezers as Dad's Army REDUX

57:

The low birth rate and general economic environment has even more hidden pitfalls.

I'm somewhat younger than the majority on this blog, being a hair under 40. That makes me a millennial. I'm also a parent with one child and no more planned, in line with the majority of my parent-friends. As Charlie noted, having 2 kids is unusual and having 3 is weird.

A big reason for the pushback against this from my generation would be the lack of slack to take two years out of normal employment to go and be a soldier. Even 6 months would be pushing it. To be a millennial enjoying similar prosperity to their parents generation (a partner, a mortgage, a car, a kid, before 40) you need to be very lucky or not make any mistakes. Pick a career from school or uni, stick at it, don't get fired, change career, or take two years out to be a conscript.

58:

Charlie Stross @ 23:

"the Jolly Band of International Autocrats is keen on not having democracies around because that really increases the costs of keeping troubles down"

I submit that a better solution to "keeping troubles down" would be to downsize the Jolly Board of International Autocrats.

(With a guillotine, if they won't go peacefully.)

I feel like it would be less wasteful to issue 'em a rifle & a parachute and kick 'em out the door over Donetsk or Mariupol.

59:

British Expeditionary Force will march on Moscow yet!

You know the BEF got massacred, right?

After the Marne it took the army six to nine months to rebuild in readiness for the Somme: they lost a metric shitload of experienced officers and NCOs, and the mass army they rebuilt after the crazy first six months of the war was distinctly inferior in quality (although they made up for it in sheer weight of numbers). WW1 probably hastened the end of the British Empire by at least a generation by inflicting huge demographic damage: such that by the Battle of the Bulge, 25 years later, General Montgomery literally committed all the British Army reserves to combat -- he couldn't release any more soldiers to help the embattled US Army because there was nothing left.

60:

I feel like it would be less wasteful to issue 'em a rifle & a parachute and kick 'em out the door over Donetsk or Mariupol.

You need to watch the movie "Edge of Tomorrow".

61:

Oh, talk of a second civil war is utterly a bad joke. For one, something like half of those who say it are part of Meal Team 6. And all of them play at "war games" running around in the woods - never in a city. Nor do most of them live in cities, where 80% of the population is.

And worst of all, someone "in charge" tells them to charge that machine gun nest, 100% of the rest are going to say "you ain't the boss of me". They have no actual real organization. Any inner-city street gang has vastly more organization and training.

62:

Conscript armies are really only good for suppressing already conquered populations. It doesn't take a lot of skill to be part of a group of scared uniformed thugs bullying a bunch of civilians.

As far as actually fighting in an offensive war, conscripts won't work anymore. It is foolish to think otherwise, especially in countries that already have plenty of capacity to obliterate conscript armies (i.e. US, UK etc).

I agree with JohnS that an expansion and support for reserve armies might be a good middle ground. But for that you must pay for them, their training and their equipment. For it to be viable you must pay them well also. In Canada we have reserve troops who train part-time. I know many of them went to Afghanistan (and some died there). I have friends who are active Reserve members, and I was encouraged to join myself at a couple of points (NOPE).

63:

why MAGA talk of a new Civil War is silly. Wars need armies

What the USA will get is not a stand-up battle of armies, like 1860-65, but door-to-door retail violence like the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, only with AR-15s and social media targeting rather than machetes and local guides. It'll be encapsulated in a million tiny spree shootings, so that the media can continue to portray it as "stochastic terrorism" or "lone wolf shooters".

In other words, expect more of what's already happening, only on a scale 1-5 orders of magnitude larger.

(The level of inter-community violence in the USA today is already within an order of magnitude of the Northern Ireland Troubles, which were rated a civil war by most commentators.)

64:

It took me 14 weeks to become a (minimally) qualified armored reconnaissance specialist back in the '80s. It took me an additional 7-8 months of active duty to really know my job and to be able to deal with my Bradley without supervision.

I only trained with a conscript army twice in my career. I was not impressed by the skill of the French Army during '80s and '90s. On the second occasion I manage to get a chance to chat with a French Army company commander (c. 120-150 men) after the gov't had reduced the required service to 12 months and he complained that he could get his least skilled men (infantrymen and machine gunners) up to speed in about 8-9 months, but that it took a full year before his more skilled men (snipers, mortarmen, etc.) were combat ready and by then they were getting ready to be discharged.

I agree with JohnS about the best way to increase numbers is to expand the Territorial Army rather than draft en masse like they did back in early 39 when they pretty much doubled the size of the Army (including the TA) overnight with neither the equipment nor the training base to handle the deluge of men.

65:

A run-down which has been well under way since 2010

It was happening well before that. The British contingent in GWII was known as "The Borrowers" by the Americans due to their habit of scrounging kit.

66:

Greg Tingey @ 30:

Robert Atkins
Go & ask the US "republican" party why not?
They clearly want Putin, an enemy of their country to win .. are they arr bribed, or is it something in the water?

I don't think it's so much that U.S. RepubliQans want Putin to win (although SOME OF THEM obviously see Putin as the "Great White Hope") - as it's short-sighted partisanship. They'll do anything to deny Democrats a "win".

And since Zelenskyy wouldn't do Trumpolini a little favor manufacturing dirt on Hunter Biden, Ukraine now must pay ...

After they’ve cut off their noses to spite their faces, the next step is to shoot their foot out of your mouths!

67:

Of course going back to the old conscription system is bonkers.

But there are two countries in Europe who have a working conscription system and could be used as models: Finland and Sweden. Especially Sweden since they restarted conscription in 2017.

But both systems cost money (the Finish model costs metrics tons of it) so it certainly won't happen. And any general should know that there are better ways to spend the money (like more ammunition).

We have a similar discussion in Germany since 2022: It's clear that the cold war conscription system won't work. And the military has looming demographic problems (probably the same in the UK). They are now discussing enlisting foreigners and giving them citizenship in return (the US model)...

68:

David L @ 41:

Various items and questions.

Does the UK have the same demographic bump as the US. One reason our unemployment rate is so low, (in addition to COVID), is that my generation is retiring en mass and we were the biggest population bump for 20+ years.

In the US a raw recruit typically isn't assigned to a combat unit until they've had about 6 months of training. To the comment of someone above, no they ware not ready about as fast as a WWII soldier. And those guys also had months of training before combat. They go out in the field with specialized training in all kinds of stuff. So much electronics that 10-15 years ago each soldier in a patrol had about 88 AA batteries on them to keep everything going for 3 days.

I don't know about Europe but in the US virtually all of the money allocated to Ukraine is really asset allocation. Taking things from stores and shipping it to them. Some cash went to the Ukraine government and some to transport and training costs.

A large proportion of arms, ammunition & equipment provided to Ukraine are materials the U.S. was soon going to have to replace in any case. Ukraine got M2 Bradleys (and some M2A1s) because the Army is replacing them with M2A2 Bradleys & Strykers ...

Stockpiles of ammunition have to be replaced periodically whether you use them or not. Many of the 155mm guns & ammunition were reaching "end-of-life" for the U.S. Army. Providing them to Ukraine so they could shoot at the Russians actually saved the U.S. disposal costs ... let 'em go out with a bang instead of a whimper!

And the US is actually working hard to ramp up production of munitions. Rifles and bullets are easy as H noted. But Smart shells are hard to ramp up. Got a few 100 trained workers in the middle of nowhere Arkansas where the only factory for one type of them is located? The current one shift is running full out. To go much faster they need to add a second shift. Not to mention the supply chain issues for guided munitions. Even 155mm shells require precision work.

I agree with Charlie. Ramping up the military with conscription would be HARD. In WWII in the US it was hard. But everyone (well most everyone) sucked it up and did it. Basically no automobiles made for 3 years. Or tires for civilian autos. And so on.

As to training we are lucky in the US in one sense. We do have some very very large military bases where combined arms training can happen. I think most or all of the UK can fit inside of Fort Hood. Ft. Bragg Liberty is huge and so large groups of foot soldiers can train in vast wooded areas. (At times the army will notify the locals that they might encounter armed groups on vehicles on local roads.)

About the the U.S. in WW2 - PLANNING for the mobilizaton started in the mid-1930s
The U.S. mobilized the National Guard & instituted THE DRAFT in 1940
The U.S. held maneuvers in much of the south, particularly in Louisiana during 1940 & 1941
Many large military installations in the U.S. date from 1940 (although many of them had previously been used by the U.S. in WW1.

Camp Bragg1 outside of Fayetteville, NC was one such WW1 facility RE-established in 1940 to house the 82nd Artillery Division. Shortly thereafter the Powers That Be decided they didn't need another Artillery Division (in fact I don't think the Army had ANY Artillery DIVISIONS in WW2) so the division was repurposed ...

One of my mentors when I joined the National Guard in 1970 was in 1940 a newly enlisted 17-y.o. member of the North Carolina National Guard's 30th Infantry Division when it was mobilized.

One of their first tasks upon arriving at Camp Jackson2 outside Columbia, SC was to BUILD the barracks they (and following generations of recruits) would live in while undergoing training.

I lived in those "temporary" WW2 barracks when I went through Basic Training in 1975. Throughout my career in the National Guard I often lived in "temporary" WW2 barracks, including when we were mobilized 1 October 2003 for deployment to Iraq in 2004 (the ones at Bragg were finally demolished some time after we demobilized in 2005).

1 Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg in 1947 IIRC, and became Fort Liberty in 2023. I don't really agree with the name change - I'm fine with disestablishing the name from that of the Confederate General, but I think it should have been renamed for a worthy North Carolinian:
• Either Fort Blackwell to honor "Robert Blackwell, 30th Division Medal of Honor recipient from World War 1" or
• Ft. Lee in honor of Major General William Carey Lee; North Carolina native from Dunn, NC, "Father of the U.S. Army Airborne"

2 Now Fort Jackson and not subject to having the name changed because it honors South Carolina native (or maybe North Carolina native - the border was subject to dispute in colonial times) Andrew Jackson

69:

Martin Schröder
CORRECTION: They are now discussing enlisting foreigners and giving them citizenship in return (the US model)... - the ROMAN EMPIRE model, actually!

70:
"I feel like it would be less wasteful to issue 'em a rifle & a parachute and kick 'em out the door over Donetsk or Mariupol."

You need to watch the movie "Edge of Tomorrow".

Yeah. I'll add a used DVD onto my next Amazon order. Question though - Why is it two different names?

71:

Greg Tingey @ 69:

Martin Schröder
CORRECTION: They are now discussing enlisting foreigners and giving them citizenship in return (the US model)... - the ROMAN EMPIRE model, actually!

Not sure which THEY you're referring to, but the Légion étrangère has been doing that since at least 1945.

And U.S. citizenship is NOT guaranteed for foreigners enlisting in the U.S. military. An honorable discharge can help you in applying for naturalization, but it isn't guaranteed.

(I've known a couple of people who thought it was and got an unpleasant surprise upon their ETS.)

72:

In other words, expect more of what's already happening, only on a scale 1-5 orders of magnitude larger….(The level of inter-community violence in the USA today is already within an order of magnitude of the Northern Ireland Troubles, which were rated a civil war by most commentators.)

There’s an important bit of nuance here. A lot of the threats and intimidation are aimed at Republicans, especially Republican politicians, by MAGAts, who are, by everything I can find, a minority within the party even within ardently yellow-red states.

As Talking Points Memo has been saying for years: “Remember that Will Saletan quote I’ve been repeating off and on every year since 2016: The GOP is a failed state and Donald Trump is its warlord. That’s still where we are. A warlord is either unable or uninterested in creating a proper state. They dominate part of it and overawe the rest through menace and violence. That remains Donald Trump’s relationship with the GOP.” (Original quote at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2016/01/the-gop-is-a-failed-state-donald-trump-is-its-warlord.html )

This doesn’t mean that we won’t have unrest. But it may well not go above 2020 levelsf pandemic violence.

The problems Trump has are that he has no even semi-competent successor, he’s not well, he’s at most as good an organizer as the average Mafia don, and the right-leaning military and police got a bitter lesson on Jan 6th that he won’t support them either, so they’re unlikely to follow him into revolt. This is drastically different than what happened in 1860, when the US officer corps lost quite a few of its best officers to the rebellion. Trump’s already lost, what, a 1000 active insurrectionists to the Jan 6th cleanup, and it’s not clear that he’s got even another thousand like them ready to rise.

Basically, our election is fucked up, our election reporting doubly so, and I think everyone wishes Trump would go away and Biden would turn 50 again. But here we are, and Biden, despite his age, is pretty damn competent at governing. We’ll see.

73:

Good point.

According to https://www.militarytimes.com/news/election-2022/2023/01/03/breaking-down-the-number-of-veterans-in-the-118th-congress/ , there are only 4 Representatives in the whole US House (435 people) who served in Vietnam. (John Kerry's still alive but serves in another role, as United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. There's also maybe one US Senator left who served in Vietnam, would have to double-check.) Anycase, while of course there are many other ways and levels in which people serve in a public capacity, this is certainly in line with your reasoning :) ...

74:

I hope that, were a major US Republican Party figure to condemn political violence (whoever by) as strongly as President JR Biden* did in a recent speech, that it could have -some- effect on this burgeoning (somewhat one-sided?) civil war/stochastic terrorism/permission structure... but I'm probably dreaming.

*(no Dallas reference intended)

75:

"Not sure which they you're referring to"...

The sentence began:

"We have a similar discussion in Germany since 2022:"

German society and military, I believe.

76:
  • Conscript armies are really only good for suppressing already conquered populations. It doesn't take a lot of skill to be part of a group of scared uniformed thugs bullying a bunch of civilians.*

Conscript armies won the Second World War, which is better than any professional army has done since then. The US hasn’t won a war, with one exception, since they went volunteer. So speak respectfully when you speak of draftees.

77:
  • the mass army they rebuilt after the crazy first six months of the war was distinctly inferior in quality (although they made up for it in sheer weight of numbers). WW1 probably hastened the end of the British Empire by at least a generation by inflicting huge demographic damage: such that by the Battle of the Bulge, 25 years later, General Montgomery literally committed all the British Army reserves to combat -- he couldn't release any more soldiers to help the embattled US Army because there was nothing left*

Charlie, you know just enough history to be badly wrong. The conscript British army of 1918 was a much more skilled force than the conscript army of 1916. It was, in fact, the most effective British army post-1815 (excepting maybe the Indian Army of 1944-45), facing the largest mass of the enemy in the main theater of the war, and defeating it. It was a far more skilled, experienced, and effective army than the BEF of 1914 and in fact of any professional army of the 20th century. That's where Montgomery learned how to wage the "colossal cracks" that killed the German army in WWII.

The manpower shortage in WWII was partly demographic but it was largely because the British kept home millions of men to build the munitions of war -- the Spitfires, Flower-class corvettes, and Bren guns needed to actually fight the war. The US had the same issue -- not because of demography, but because the mass industrial demands of total war.

The British empire was at its largest geographic expanse in the 1920s. What killed it finally was the fact that the Japanese, in particular, had showed the colonial populations how tenuous the imperial grasp had always been, and when the war was over, they were not excited to have their former colonial masters try to reassert control.

I'm happy to give you a reading list if you want to not be badly wrong.

78:

"The conscript British army of 1918 was a much more skilled force than the conscript army of 1916."

One edit: "The conscript British army of 1918 was a much more skilled force than the volunteer British army of 1916."

79:

There are significant differences between the people who join and are successful in a peacetime military and those who join to fight a specific war, especially one with popular support and where they believe they are the good guys. Many of the innovative and successful wartime leaders, paricularly in WWII, were not peacetime officers. By and large these are the same people who otherwise would be being innovative and successful in private enterprise, since those behaviours don't tend to be as well rewarded in peacetime military service. So it's not just that you are pulling the most physically able out of the labour pool, you are also pulling a lot of the best leaders and managers. Modern warfighting requires much more individual intelligence and initiative than WWI and earlier tactics. A significant proportion of the physically capable would not be mentally/psychologically capable of being effective on a modern battlefield, quite apart from whether they can be taught to use their equipment. I recommend the Royal Armouries recent publication "Fighting to Kill" which analyses how the British army changed it's approach in preparation for and during WWII, to focus on section level independant action. I am curious whether recent improvements in communications technology is reversing this as it becomes once more possible to co-ordinate actions across larger groups of troops.

The British Army pre 1914 was largely set up and practiced at policing the empire. They hadn't fought a European war for long enough that none of the troops actualy in combat had any relevant experience. So while the BEF of 1914 was a skilled force, the skills it had were not well suited to the new task it was given. The conscripts were being trained for the war they were fighting, which inevitably meant they were better at it. (The flip side of this is what happens when soldiers trained for a killing war are deployed in a policing role without retraining, or join a routinely armed police force after they leave.)

80:
There’s an important bit of nuance here. A lot of the threats and intimidation are aimed at Republicans, especially Republican politicians, by MAGAts, who are, by everything I can find, a minority within the party even within ardently yellow-red states.

"Intra-community discipline" is a fairly standard feature of insurgent groups; there was (and sadly, is) a whole class of attacks on Northern Ireland that relate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramilitary_punishment_attacks_in_Northern_Ireland

81:

I don't think General Sanders wants (or even find desiderable) to restart conscription. I read it as a not too subtle way to put pressure on the Civil government to increase spending on Defence in order to avoid the scenario of having an open war with Russia with the necessity of conscription.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

82:

Charlie, you know just enough history to be badly wrong. The conscript British army of 1918 was a much more skilled force than the conscript army of 1916.

Yes: I was talking about the first 12 months of the war, not extrapolating to late 1918, by which time the British Army had re-formed, then gained experience over three years of bloody slogging. We're in violent agreement.

Also: the trend of the past two centuries in warfighting has for warfare between great powers to become increasingly mechanized and capital intensive. And it exceeds the general rate of inflation. A Spitfire in 1940 cost roughly £25,000, which (per the BoE Sterling inflation calculator) is roughly £1.2M in today's money. Meanwhile the Eurofighter Typhoon II, the backbone of today's RAF air defenses, cost roughly €109M each (circa 2010). Yes, a Typhoon II is vastly more effective than the Spitfires of 80 years ago, but that's not the point because no plausible opponent flies Me-109s these days. You have to pay to play, which means having an industrial back end (whether your own, or imported from allies) that can produce, operate, and maintain hundred-times-pricier weapons systems.

83:

I am curious whether recent improvements in communications technology is reversing this as it becomes once more possible to co-ordinate actions across larger groups of troops.

I suspect not, because communications technology allows a competent enemy to get inside your head and mess with you either via disinformation or simply by reading your orders and positioning accordingly. See also Russia and Ukraine hacking each other's 4G phone networks, ad nauseam.

Anecdata from a friend who was in Iraq: when deploying, British troops stationed near Basra were ordered to turn off their cellphones and remove the batteries, especially if their convoy would be going anywhere remotely near the Iranian border, because the IRG were deploying Stingrays (IMSI sniffers) to identify their phones and snooping on them, then phoning their families back in the UK to offer their condolences over the soldier's untimely death (while blocking their phone from working). Which as you can imagine didn't do anything good for morale, and that was without any actual overt hostilities, it was just fuckery.

84:

Something that nobody has commented is that both the USA and UK paid for and built up their supply lines by a level of government control (the New Deal etc.) that even Sanders and Corbyn didn't propose. What are the chances of Biden or Starmer even considering that? Let alone Trump or Badenoch. By modern standards, Roosevelt and Churchill were diabolical communists.

85:

I was thinking of tactical co-ordination being easier as I believe each infantrybod has an individual comms system, so it no longer requires earshot/line of sight to co-ordinate action. I have no knowledge of how the current systems operate or how secure they are, but one of the problems the Russioans were having was that they ended up reduced to using cellphones because their military networks were not sufficient. One of the things that drove the WWII changes to British organisation was the problems of communication on a mobile, fast changing battlefield where the troops were largely separated into small groups and not often acting as platoon or larger formations.

86:

»A Spitfire in 1940 cost roughly […] £1.2M in today's money. Meanwhile the Eurofighter Typhoon II, the backbone of today's RAF air defenses, cost roughly €109M each (circa 2010).«

A retired general from USAF gave a presentation about 10-15 years ago, where he had plotted the price of one fighter-plane against time.

His conclusion, based on that plot, was that USAF would buy the last fighter-plane around 2035, and they would only be able to afford one.

87:

Conscript armies won the Second World War, which is better than any professional army has done since then. The US hasn’t won a war, with one exception, since they went volunteer. So speak respectfully when you speak of draftees.

History shows that conscript armies are pretty good when they are defending their homes from invaders. History also shows that conscript armies are crap when they are sent to some tropical hellhole they never heard of, to kill people who never did anything to them or their families.

88:

Many of the innovative and successful wartime leaders, paricularly in WWII, were not peacetime officers. By and large these are the same people who otherwise would be being innovative and successful in private enterprise, since those behaviours don't tend to be as well rewarded in peacetime military service.

This was especially noticeable in the Soviet army, because being innovative was not especially rewarded (and often was punished) in Soviet peacetime economy circa 1930's. War was really the only possible outlet for such people.

89:

I was thinking of tactical co-ordination being easier as I believe each infantrybod has an individual comms system, so it no longer requires earshot/line of sight to co-ordinate action.

I have the impression that unless you are using wired communications or otherwise limiting the extent of your EM emissions, it's quite easy to pick up where and when the transmission is coming from.

You also don't need to know what the people are talking about, if they are somebody you want to shoot at, only where they are. Sure, intelligence could be useful, but even the location info is intelligence.

I'd be kind of wary of any transmitters (even for drones!) in the front lines. Of course, I'm very unlikely to be anywhere near there and am very much extrapolating here, but radio silence is a thing. Might even be useful on a modern 'if you can be detected, you can be shot at' battlefield.

90:

By modern standards, Roosevelt and Churchill were diabolical communists.

Churchill is treated as a hero of the western world by most people in the US but with some exceptions.

Many R's in the US have treated Roosevelt as a damn socialist who ruined the country. And lately calling him a commie is just fine as what is the difference? [snark off]

And these narratives have been true in the US since just after the war.

91:

I'd be kind of wary of any transmitters (even for drones!) in the front lines.

I've read several news stories from reporters embedded with front line Ukraine troops.

It has gotten to where drones need to have frequency skipping over a wide range as both sides now scan for EMF and jam what they see. So drone operators have to be agile and fast or they lose the drone. I'm referring to the small quad copter type drones.

Reading between the lines you can't jam everything or you can't operate your own kit.

92:

The British empire was at its largest geographic expanse in the 1920s. What killed it finally was the fact that the Japanese, in particular, had showed the colonial populations how tenuous the imperial grasp had always been, and when the war was over, they were not excited to have their former colonial masters try to reassert control.

Hopefully others will correct me as needed, but I believe the people of India credit Gandhi for their independence, and he was active well prior to WW2. The British Empire, AIUI, started devolving power to its colonies after WW1, when Japan was an ally, not an enemy. And even earlier with Canada (1867).

What the Japanese did in the Pacific and South East Asia to British colonies in WW2 had historical precedents going back to the French and Indian War of the 1750s, which was just the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War between the British and French Empires. Colonial wars are nothing new..

93:

And even earlier with Canada (1867).

You can credit the Americans for Canada, in a roundabout way. The desire to not be absorbed by an expansionist America was one of the motivations for Confederation. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny was viewed as a threat.

94:

General question: Charlie’s question is about restarting conscription for the British Army, but what about the Navy and Air Force? It would seem that bottling Russian ships in the Baltic and Bosporus would be more important in conflict than Army boots on the ground. How much can they be grown, especially with new tech?

Also, with drones, the utility of a “Chair Force” might be increased, with less need for lightning reflexes and gee-tolerance due to remote piloting and perhaps AI editing out the stupid commands before they’re sent. How’s droning (the new kind, not the geezer or bagpipe kinds) developing in the UK?

My suspicion is that a Chair Force of aging pilots is decades away, much like fusion?

95:

You also don't need to know what the people are talking about, if they are somebody you want to shoot at, only where they are. Sure, intelligence could be useful, but even the location info is intelligence.

Yup. Also: don't sit in the same place for long for any reason. And remember, the last war's doctrine is fresh in your enemy's mind, so try not to repeat it.

There was an incident in the Ukraine war a few weeks back -- sorry, can't find the news item (it came over Ukrainian social media anyway, so take with a pinch of salt) about a Russian CO who wanted to give his troops a pep talk. So he lined them up on a parade ground out in the open for him to orate at for an hour.

The Ukrainian drone operators eventually stopped rubbing their eyes for long enough to call in an MLRS strike.

Messy.

96:

The Royal Navy's most recent scandal was having to lay up two big-ass supply ships because they didn't have enough sailors to put a carrier group together if they didn't -- it was either the Type 45s or the CV itself that were coming up short, but the RN in general is horribly short of sailors this decade.

The RAF is indeed (quietly and without any fuss) operating drones, including the General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper (with three squadrons of the MQ-9B planned).

97:

Thanks! I guess it’s a good thing that no one has broached the idea of reinstating press gangs.

That said, I suspect that in the current political climate, offering a living wage, job security, and UK citizenship to able sailors who enlist in the Royal Navy from poorer, maritime Commonwealth countries (looking at Kiribati) is a non-starter?

98:

It might well work, but it'd be horrendously unpopular with the Conservative back benches, who are such raving xenophobes that they're unhappy about giving retired Gurkhas with a good service record permanent residence.

99:

Yes. The Japanese victories were probably the trigger for Burma's independence, but it's debatable whether even the other far eastern countries' independences were. By far the biggest factor was plain bankruptcy; Britain could no longer afford to run an empire!

100:

...and the USMC would get to use it on alternating Tuesdays

yeah... it got a lot of air play

it was also an update of something from the early 1990s when they were arguing over the JSF specifications (since then deployed as F35 and a dozen variants)

pilots need stuff, Pentagon wants stuff, those defense contractors and sub-contractors are looking for stuff they can sell at eyepopping markups... and what was straightforward becomes a tangled knot

one of my favorite bits that was leaked after the JSF was awarded, the original design approved required five guys and special wrenches (vendor supplied of course) to dismount each of the wheels... with differing fasteners on the port side wheel versus the starboard wheel... not too annoying in daylight on a stable worksurface, but near-impossible in midst a battle-zone and beyond possible on pitching deck of a aircraft carrier out on blue water

how it got resolved is of course TOP SECRET... and it NEVER EVER HAPPENED so don't bother to summit a FOIA request nor would any congress-critter be encouraged to ask questions about this and any other design gaffs

101:

we are accustomed to 'visible light' when predators are seeking prey (humans having been both at varying moments)... what a shock for humans to learn there's a broader spectrum... explaining that to politicians took years... imagine if radio frequencies lit up as shades of blue... on a real time map, you could watch troop/vehicle movements... and someone clever could write code for a missile to focus its aim accordingly... whichever was the radio origination point with the most outbound traffic...

102:

"You can credit the Americans for Canada, in a roundabout way. The desire to not be absorbed by an expansionist America was one of the motivations for Confederation. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny was viewed as a threat."

There was something that had just happened in the US in the 1860s, which various Canadians were very interested in not happening here. Also, the US had a large, mobilized and recently victorious military to go along with their delusions of taking over the entire continent. Canada was very motivated not to be absorbed, particularly the Western part of the country (and the gold fields of the Klondike).

103:

Yeah. Americans forget how much of our modern country was created by the Civil War’s aftermath. And we forget about what kind of assholes we were then. “Fortunately,” the neoconservatives and MAGAts are busy resurrecting the anti-Reconstruction playbook and reminding us all of how ugly it was.

I’ll admit that I’ve wondered idly what might have happened if Manifest Destiny had foundered with the Civil War. Perhaps if The Unpleasantness had stretched out over a decade or more, as happened elsewhere? If the US had become the Sick Man of North America that couldn’t get to peace?

As a thought experiment, it’s kind of interesting. Turning it into alt-history without triggering a lot of latent xenophobia seems considerably harder.

Anyway, back to British militarism and trying to figure out how to fit aging chavs into the uniforms available.

104:

It took about 18 months to get a useful army that way. From January 1916, when conscription started, to the autumn campaigns in 1917. The British battles in 1916 were farces, fought by formations that couldn't do better than meat waves and artillery that couldn't hit anything on a map without days of ranging in.

The British battles of 1915 were fought by trained, volunteer reservists (the Territorial Army, volunteering for overseas service), not by conscripts.

105:

Yup. And the EA-18G training school for electronic warfare is known as Havoc for a reason. They’re just down the hall from the Topgun dogfighting school, but for whatever reason, they don’t publicize their training. Much.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/37053/the-ea-18g-growler-has-its-own-topgun-school-for-electronic-attack-instead-of-dogfighting

106:

If renewed military service ever got serious consideration, gender equality would kill it.

Back in the day, some female voters quietly approved of military service because it took annoying boys off their hands and returned men who'd grown up a little (sometimes into utter bastards, but them's the breaks). It didn't inconvenience women.

Nowadays, conscription would presumably be of both men and women. I don't see modern, sensibly-feminist young British women putting up with that. Months of being abused by toxic drill-sergeants, who are mainly male? Zero to mutiny in one week.

National service, that is not necessarily military, might be accepted. The boys could opt to play soldiers if they want and everybody else could do socially-useful things like work parties to improve drainage.

(I acknowledge that some women like soldiering, most men don't, and the men who do can join the army reserve anyway.)

107:

Yeah, well, as John said, foreigners who enlist in the US military do not get automatic citizenship. I have (had? haven't heard from him in years) a friend from Brazil, I think it was, who was a Marine in 'Nam, and had all kinds of grief getting US citizenship.

108:

Not really. The mob doesn't like him, because he's incompetent. (Search how is it possible to bankrupt a casino?) And shoots his mouth off, and can't control it. If you're a mobster, and want to launder money, you do not overextend so far, and take out so much, as to be in bankruptcy after bankruptcy.

Also, Millbank, in the Washington Post, just did a column where he was in NH and attended a Turnip rally, and though his speech was being fed to him on a teleprompter, he repeated several stories multiple times, and didn't seem to notice.

Good news: his rallies are having empty seats. Lots of them.

109:

"...the British kept home millions of men to build the munitions of war -- the Spitfires..."

I Beg your pardon? My late mother-in-law was literally Rosie the Riveter, and until she died had a small pension from the UK for her work first drilling rivet holes, then promoted to riveter, riveting the wings on Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

They called in women to do the work.

110:

A lot of them would, in peacetime, do well in business? In modern business?

You mean like Boeing? Or the Union Pacific? Or the Hollywood studio bosses who cancel megamillion dollar films in post-production for tax write-offs?

111:

Transmitters? Um, why am I reminded of why it's not a good idea to smoke on the front lines, when you have to light your cigarette with a match (hello, Mr. Sniper!)?

112:

ilya187 @ 87
Tell that to the very few left of the XIVth army ...
Who were the ONLY people to beat 7 break the Japs in open battle, in a long campaign & defeat them utterly.
It helped that they had the best general Britain produced in WWI - Uncle Bill Slim.

H @ 92
Many "colonial" peoples decided, after about a week's experience, that the "Brits" actually weren't too bad after all, once they'd had experience of what the IJA did to their people & property.
& @ 94
Point of information ...
The RN turned round & told Parliament to stuff conscription where the sun don't shine as early as, IIRC 1956 (?)
They openly stated that being a properly-trained sailor, especially anyone above "AB" required lots of time & the ancient tradition of everybody working together.
The Hufton-Buftons of that time harrumphed & protested, but the Navy didn't shift.

EC @ 99
Bollocks
The Burmese were the prime example of "welcoming" the IJN & then changing their mind, after a very short period ....

Guy Rixon @ 104
MORE bollocks
FIRST day on the Somme was an utter disaster, as we all know ... BUT
By the very next morning, all the junior officers - up to somewhere in the Major -> Lt-Colonel bracket knew that doing that again wasn't on, & by day three it had reached the HQ's.
My oldest uncle went "over the top" on day 3 of the Somme ... he wasn't even scratched, from there until 11/11/1918.

113:

If renewed military service ever got serious consideration, gender equality would kill it.

Um, if you’re ever in Illinois, you probably won’t want to go to the office of Senator Tammy Duckworth and say that ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammy_Duckworth ). That’s Lt. Col (retired) Duckworth, who lost both legs when the Blackhawk she was flying got shot down in Iraq in 2004. After collecting six medals and retiring from the military, she went into politics. She’s also been knighted by the Kingdom of Thailand, where she was born, in case you’re harboring any notions that oriental women are naturally meek and submissive, Thai women being doubly so. They. Are. Not.

Let women serve if they want to. I’ve met a number who are far more qualified than I ever will be.

114:

With all this about WWI, I need to listen to The Green Fields of France. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxkhBvO8_kM

115:

I recommend actually reading posts, and thinking for at least a second or two, before posting.

116:

'Saki' (H.H. Munroe) was a corporal in WW I, and his last words were "Put that bloody cigarette out."

117:

Go & ask the US "republican" party why not? They clearly want Putin, an enemy of their country to win .. are they arr bribed, or is it something in the water? This American is telling you--yes. They were bribed, or more exactly, they got owned.

The time for pondering this inexplicable information has passed. We have known for eight years now that Putin owns Trump. Trump owns the Republicans. The Republicans expected the Democrats to do the dirty work of taking down Trump, but they can't do it. Please, Europe and UK, keep your politicians honest. I don't know how to do this either, but the US is not going to ride up and help you take out Putin.

118:

W.r.t. your last paragraph: it ain't gonna happen. The UK government is trying to maintain its position as the USA's Mini-Me in foreign adventurism, without either pissing off its oligarchical paymasters or hammering the furrcyr enough that they actually DO something. Unfortunately, the country is sufficiently dysfunctional that that is becoming impossible, so it will continue degrading until the whole edifice collapses.

119:

History shows that conscript armies are pretty good when they are defending their homes from invaders. History also shows that conscript armies are crap when they are sent to some tropical hellhole they never heard of, to kill people who never did anything to them or their families.

Sure, that's why the British and Americans totally lost WW2: trying to use conscript armies outside their own homes.

And of course, the Americans totally failed when they invaded "tropical hellholes" like Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and the Philippines.

(One does have to wonder, though: since the Japanese Army was also a conscript army, how was it they did so well at conquering Malaya, Indonesia, Burma, and the Philippines in late 1941 and early 1942?)

(Less sarcastically: "History shows" no such thing.)

120:

Eric @ 73:

Good point.

According to https://www.militarytimes.com/news/election-2022/2023/01/03/breaking-down-the-number-of-veterans-in-the-118th-congress/ , there are only 4 Representatives in the whole US House (435 people) who served in Vietnam. (John Kerry's still alive but serves in another role, as United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. There's also maybe one US Senator left who served in Vietnam, would have to double-check.) Anycase, while of course there are many other ways and levels in which people serve in a public capacity, this is certainly in line with your reasoning :) ...

OTOH, there are a number of veterans from the U.S.'s "wars" in Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East currently serving in Congress. IF it became apparent the U.S. needed to restart conscription they'd have a say in how it will be done.

Additionally, the Selective Service apparatus (including local draft boards) that oversaw the draft still exists (reinstated in 1980 after the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan).

"The Selective Service System (SSS) is an independent agency of the United States government that maintains information on U.S. citizens and other U.S. residents potentially subject to military conscription (i.e., the draft) and carries out contingency planning and preparations for two types of draft: a general draft based on registration lists of men aged 18–25, and a special-skills draft based on professional licensing lists of workers in specified health care occupations. In the event of either type of draft, the Selective Service System would send out induction notices, adjudicate claims for deferments or exemptions, and assign draftees classified as conscientious objectors to alternative service work."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_System#Who_must_register

"Under current law, all biological male U.S. citizens between 18 and 25 (inclusive) years of age are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthdays. In addition, certain categories of non-U.S. citizen biological men between 18 and 25 living in the United States must register, particularly permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants."

I add that last bit because of the prior mention of serving in the U.S. military as a path to citizenship ... neglecting the step of registering with Selective Service prior to enlisting can adversely affect your application for naturalization ...

And, ODDLY, military retirees cannot serve on local Selective Service Boards ???

121:

Leaving aside the health issues surrounding smoking, that's one area where e-cigs are unambiguously an improvement -- if you're at risk of being sniped.

122:

Edge of Tomorrow ended up with two names because it was abysmally marketed when released, which caused it to bomb when it should have busted blocks. (Arguably three names, since it occasionally gets called All You Need is Kill, which was the source material graphic novel and an utterly dreadful name for anyone over 14.)

123:

So he lined them up on a parade ground out in the open for him to orate at for an hour.

That seems as if it could be truth-like. Lining up the subordinates so the commander can talk at them is a Russian thing I noticed long ago. Probably other militaries do such, but IDK.

At any rate it seems like a bad idea in modern circumstances.

124:

Who were the ONLY people to beat 7 break the Japs in open battle

Rubbish: tell that to Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasilevsky, who broke the IJN in China completely in a month. Admittedly he went in with over one and a half million troops and outnumbered the Japanese forces by 5600 tanks to 300 ...

125:

Did you read the last part of my post? I am not arguing that women make bad soldiers, or that no women wants to serve, or that women should not serve. I'm suggesting that most modern women would react badly to being conscripted and forced through basic training. Not that they couldn't cope, but that they'd object more widely and more strongly than men of the same cohort.

126:

Here's a newspaper report: Himars strike wipes out crowd of Russian soldiers lined up to hear general's speech:

“Near Kremenna a tragic incident took place in one of the divisions mustered there for an offensive. People stood in a crowd for two hours in one place and waited for the divisional commander to give his motivational speech,” reported Rybar, a war blog with close links to the Russian military. The crowd was hit by “Ukrainian Himars and artillery” before the general showed up, Rybar reported. Kremenna is the Russian spelling for the Ukrainian town of Kreminna. It is currently held by Russia but is less than ten miles behind the frontline, putting it well within range of larger artillery systems.
127:

(Less sarcastically: "History shows" no such thing.)

What US military history does show is that unit cohesion is a must for almost anything to work properly. McNamara's "individuals are swapable rotation system" was a disaster in the 60s. No you can't organize a military like you can an assembly line. And now it turns out assembly lines work better if you don't do it there either.

128:

Sure, that's why the British and Americans totally lost WW2: trying to use conscript armies outside their own homes.

I am pretty sure The Blitz, Corregidor and Pearl Harbor count as "did something to them or their families".

You have a better point with the Japanese conscript army, but how strong were the defenders of Malaya, Indonesia, Burma, and the Philippines?

129:

No, not bollocks. It's gratifying to know that the slaughter lessened during the Somme campaign, but "not everybody died" is too weak a criterion for an effective army. As I understand my reading about that war, the whole Somme campaign achieved very little, apart from deflecting German reserves from Verdun. The British Army of 1916 wasn't able to do effective, combined-arms attacks and that didn't change until late 1917.

If the weather had been better during 3rd Ypres, or if proper follow-up had been planned at Cambrai, then the war might have ended sooner. As it was, by summer of 1918, the conscript army was refined and coordinated enough to break through the Hindenburg line, which was beyond them in 1916. See also Total's post about this.

130:
  • Did you read the last part of my post? I am not arguing that women make bad soldiers, or that no women wants to serve, or that women should not serve. I'm suggesting that most modern women would react badly to being conscripted and forced through basic training. Not that they couldn't cope, but that they'd object more widely and more strongly than men of the same cohort.*

You’re right that I missed the last paragraph’s h, but I think the reasoning is off. It’s not abut toxic male DIs or even endemic sexual assault. Women reporting this abuse are starting to help men who have been abused come forward, not that the problem has been solved.

And I don’t think it’s female complaining that is keeping women from serving in South Korea, but rather, it’s misogyny.

Given what’s happened with countries like Israel that regard sexism as a problem, I suspect that if the UK or US reinstated a draft, it would be of all genders for national service, with people being assigned to jobs they could do, not to gendered jobs. Probably there would be more male proctologists and more female gynecologists in the medical corps, and likely the jobs requiring huge muscles would go more to men, but beyond that, I don’t think sex or gender will matter much, given how dire circumstances would have to be to start a draft in the first place.

131:

likely the jobs requiring huge muscles would go more to men

The vast majority of casualties on the modern battlefield are inflicted by artillery, and I note that modern NATO artillery is mostly motorized and come with containerized ammunition (eg. MLRS/HiMARS), including a built-in crane for loading/unloading -- muscle-bound hulks are a niche requirement.

Whereas Russian artillery relies on break-bulk shipping on railroad flatbed cars; Russia never really containerized and (male) conscripts are cheap so there's lots of lifting of heavy artillery shells/rockets by hand.

132:

ilya187 @ 87:

"Conscript armies won the Second World War, which is better than any professional army has done since then. The US hasn’t won a war, with one exception, since they went volunteer. So speak respectfully when you speak of draftees."

History shows that conscript armies are pretty good when they are defending their homes from invaders. History also shows that conscript armies are crap when they are sent to some tropical hellhole they never heard of, to kill people who never did anything to them or their families.

Other than that one attack on the military bases in a territorial possession that hadn't even become a state yet, the WW2 U.S. Army never faced any invaders at home.

And while the Pacific war had it's share of jungle fighting, I suspect our European Allies in that conflict would probably beg to differ with your characterization. The German "people" never did anything to the Americans (or their families), the German Government definitely had other designs ...

1941-12-07 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, invades Hong Kong & Thailand - with a belated formal message to the U.S. breaking off diplomatic talks (but NOT an actual declaration of war ...)
1941-12-08 Britain, the U.S. and Canada declare war on the Empire of Japan (Britain got there first because operating on GMT gave them a head start)
1941-12-08 Japan invades British Malaya & attacks Singapore (still without any declaration of war ...)
1941-12-11 Germany (& Italy) declare war on the United States
1941-12-11 The U.S. declares war on Germany (& Italy) ... in this instance the "time difference" favors the U.S. & we could respond the same day.

Churchill didn't waste any time declaring war on Japan, a war he knew Britain was in no way able to prosecute. Obviously his "ulterior motive" was to ensure continued U.S. support for Britain's war against Germany. So? Churchill was a smart guy and an astute politician.

Hitler screwed the pooch. If he had not declared war on the U.S., American politics would almost certainly have resulted in us turning away from Europe to prosecute a solo Pacific War against the Japanese Empire. Hitler's action guaranteed that could not happen.

Bottom Line: Neither the British Army, nor the U.S. Army in Europe were fighting a defensive war against invaders (despite Britain fighting against invaders in parts of the Empire).

Yeah, Germany WOULD HAVE invaded Britain if they could have, but the RAF made sure that bit never got off the ground (so to speak).

AFAIK only the Soviet Union (which had the largest number of conscripts in their army) and Nationalist China were fighting invaders on their own soil ... & the Soviets pretty soon managed to carry the war to German soil.

133:

Israel is interesting because they do conscript women and the women do serve without (apparently) much complaint. And Israel does seem to fill certainly military roles mainly with women: the observation posts along the Gaza border are reported to have been worked by women soldiers (who took disproportionate casualties when Hamas attacked).

However, Israel is effectively doing wartime conscription. There's been a looming military threat there for my entire lifetime. If I were a young Israeli I'd feel sort-of OK about national service to defend my country. (Not good about a war of genocidal revenge.) There's also the effect of tradition. It's easier to continue conscription were it once accepted than to start it up.

British Conscription as currently punted would start in peacetime, with no real threat to defend against. I'd feel very differently about military service to guard against a non-threat. I'm talking about an invasion of the British Isles here, hypothetically resisted by the army rather than denying the attacker a chance to land. The threat to Russia-bordering countries is real, but I don't see British conscripts being sent to a war in those places. NATO has other options.

134:

David L @ 91:

"I'd be kind of wary of any transmitters (even for drones!) in the front lines."

I've read several news stories from reporters embedded with front line Ukraine troops.

It has gotten to where drones need to have frequency skipping over a wide range as both sides now scan for EMF and jam what they see. So drone operators have to be agile and fast or they lose the drone. I'm referring to the small quad copter type drones.

Reading between the lines you can't jam everything or you can't operate your own kit.

How Hedy Lamarr Developed a Secret Communications System [PBS: YouTube]

Frequency hopping (aka "spread spectrum") for secure voice communications has been around since WW2.

Solid state electronics has made it possible to shrink the radios down to the size of an iPod which can mount to the side of the helmet. The "key" is accurate synchronization (playing from the same sheet of music at the same time ... like a piano duet).

The time signals from GPS satellites provide the sync signal. You don't even need continuous GPS reception, you just have to update the time sync periodically to account for the rate of "drift" in various devices ...

Also, those helmet mounted radios are very low power, limiting the range at which they can be detected. They still have larger more powerful radios to communicate with higher echelons.

135:

And Israel does seem to fill certainly military roles mainly with women

Mixed units with live ammo were on street patrol 5 to 10 years ago when my wife was there.

But Israel doesn't have universal conscription. The ultra religious get to be exempted. Which in my limited knowledge does create some tension. But it keeps Bebe in office.

136:

31: For the last 25 years anyone suggesting the army/navy/airforce was too small and Putin an evil little shit was deemed a dumb Cold War Warrior. And austerity was down to the country being run by two ignorant public school boys.

109: Yep. 1 gran worked in a munitions factory the other went from home maker to accounts clerk. Aunty and mother were WRAF. One grandfather knocked 10 years off his age to sign up again (after being at the Somme you would think he would know better). Dad and Uncle were in North Africa. So a pretty even spread of women in our family involved in the War effort.

137:

Canada did have some conscription in both World Wars, but in both instances it was a last resort - largely because of a strong French Canadians opposition to being drafted to go fight for England. (Plenty did volunteer, particularly the Vandoos, but quite a few understandably didn't want to fight for what they perceived as the colonial oppressor).

There was a famous line by W.L. Mackenzie King, the PM during WWII, where he stated 'Conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription.' They did go ahead with it, but it was relatively modest in percentages and didn't last long.

My great grandfather went over the top at the Somme, and thus never met my grandmother.

138:

Howard NYC @ 101:

we are accustomed to 'visible light' when predators are seeking prey (humans having been both at varying moments)... what a shock for humans to learn there's a broader spectrum... explaining that to politicians took years... imagine if radio frequencies lit up as shades of blue... on a real time map, you could watch troop/vehicle movements... and someone clever could write code for a missile to focus its aim accordingly... whichever was the radio origination point with the most outbound traffic...

Blue force tracking

139:

Israel is interesting because they do conscript women and the women do serve without (apparently) much complaint.

Yeah, about that…

Apparently the spotters are not very happy with sexism in the IDF, not happy with being ignored by the (male) brass, and especially not happy when that means they end up at the sharp end after their repeated warnings are ignored.

Dozens of female army recruits refused to leave an Israel Defense Forces recruitment center and accept their assignment as military spotters, with some of them detained or arrested, according to a report published by the Israeli news site Ynet on Tuesday.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2024-01-24/ty-article/dozens-of-female-idf-spotter-recruits-refuse-to-serve-in-unit-after-assignment/0000018d-3c26-d07d-a79d-fde7dbf60000

140:

whenever I hear how much good it does for idle youth to do an involuntary tour of duty in the military...

this comes to mind

You have gifts; selfish for you to do only what you want with 'em. You people must be utilized properly. People like you must be given order, must be controlled. You must be used where you are most valuable to the collective society.

wherein, swap any element in set {blacks, Jews, women, IT nerds} for "you"

with the implicit assumption nobody ought be allowed to exploit their own talents but ought be forced to do so for the benefit (i.e., profit, comfort, advantage) of 'ruling elite'

keeps coming out just how f'ed over IT nerds in Silicon Valley and financial services sector due to illegal cartels suppressing wages and hamstringing promotion of anyone who is not 'the right kind'

141:

Rocketpjs @ 102:

"You can credit the Americans for Canada, in a roundabout way. The desire to not be absorbed by an expansionist America was one of the motivations for Confederation. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny was viewed as a threat."

There was something that had just happened in the US in the 1860s, which various Canadians were very interested in not happening here. Also, the US had a large, mobilized and recently victorious military to go along with their delusions of taking over the entire continent. Canada was very motivated not to be absorbed, particularly the Western part of the country (and the gold fields of the Klondike).

Fifty-four Forty or FIGHT! 😏

142:

You have gifts; selfish for you to do only what you want with 'em. You people must be utilized properly. People like you must be given order, must be controlled. You must be used where you are most valuable to the collective society.

It is a little more convincing when the person saying it went through conscription himself without complain, and makes sure his children do too. But that is rarely the case.

143:

whitroth @ 111:

Transmitters? Um, why am I reminded of why it's not a good idea to smoke on the front lines, when you have to light your cigarette with a match (hello, Mr. Sniper!)?

If you're too stupid to squat down into the bottom of your fighting position to light up, you probably won't last long enough on the front lines for a sniper to find you.

With (even first generation) night vision the end of a lit cigarette shows up like Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on a dark and stormy night.

144:

Greg Tingey @ 112:

H @ ... 94 Point of information ... The RN turned round & told Parliament to stuff conscription where the sun don't shine as early as, IIRC 1956 (?) They openly stated that being a properly-trained sailor, especially anyone above "AB" required lots of time & the ancient tradition of everybody working together. The Hufton-Buftons of that time harrumphed & protested, but the Navy didn't shift.

OTOH, the USN in WW2 had no choice but to use draftees. The USN commissioned 143 Aircraft Carriers (Fleet, Light & Escort) up from 6 Aircraft Carriers on 7 Dec 1941. Every Aircraft Carrier required support vessels - Destroyers, Destroyer Escorts, Oilers & Supply ships. The USN grew from 790 ships on 7 Dec 1941 to 6,768 active vessels on 14 May 1945.

My Mom had four brothers. Three of them were "drafted" into the Navy in WW21. IF I understand how it worked back then, when your number came up you had the option to volunteer for the Navy instead of being assigned to the Army or Marines, and if you were good enough the Navy would take you, but either way, the ranks were filled with draftees.

Guy Rixon @ 104 MORE bollocks FIRST day on the Somme was an utter disaster, as we all know ... BUT By the very next morning, all the junior officers - up to somewhere in the Major -> Lt-Colonel bracket knew that doing that again wasn't on, & by day three it had reached the HQ's. My oldest uncle went "over the top" on day 3 of the Somme ... he wasn't even scratched, from there until 11/11/1918.

One of my friends in High School had a grandfather who HATED Armistice Day/Veterans Day. His best friend in the Army was killed at 9:00am (local time in France) on 11/11/1918 and he never forgave the Army nor the politicians.

1 The fourth brother was 14 years old, living with my Mom & Dad while he finished high school when I was born in 1949 (9th grade in Junior High School - the same Junior High School I later attended).

He ENLISTED in the USN in 1953.

145:

Heteromeles @ 113:

"If renewed military service ever got serious consideration, gender equality would kill it."

Um, if you’re ever in Illinois, you probably won’t want to go to the office of Senator Tammy Duckworth and say that ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammy_Duckworth ). That’s Lt. Col (retired) Duckworth, who lost both legs when the Blackhawk she was flying got shot down in Iraq in 2004. After collecting six medals and retiring from the military, she went into politics. She’s also been knighted by the Kingdom of Thailand, where she was born, in case you’re harboring any notions that oriental women are naturally meek and submissive, Thai women being doubly so. They. Are. Not.

Let women serve if they want to. I’ve met a number who are far more qualified than I ever will be.

AFAIK, women CAN serve if they want to. The argument is over whether or not women should be subject to conscription. Should they have to register for the draft just like men do?

I pretty much fall on the side of "Sure, why not?" Equal rights, equal obligations ...

146:

clarkegerms @ 117:

Go & ask the US "republican" party why not? They clearly want Putin, an enemy of their country to win .. are they arr bribed, or is it something in the water? This American is telling you--yes. They were bribed, or more exactly, they got owned.

Technically I believe that should be "pwned" ... All your Congress are belong to us!

147:

I think it's TFG was pwned, and the former GOP hates Ukraine because the Dems want to support it in it's defense against Russia.

148:

I have a feeling we're going to end up in national mobilization level efforts to mitigate climate change. We should be there already, but of course that might interfere with profits. I think we'll see something like that in the next 10-15 years, everywhere that can manage it.

149:

Let me just add at this point ...

When I enlisted males & females served in different Basic Training Battalions; parallel tracks - the women had to go through the same training the men did, but it was segregated by gender. The Drill Sergeants1 for women's Basic were women.

I understand that now it's integrated training with gender segregation only applying to living quarters. All of the other training it's men & women together and the women just have to keep up (which unsurprisingly they do).

1 The ARMY has Drill Sergeants. The "DI" is a USMC thing and I don't know anything about Marine Corps Basic/Boot other than what I saw portrayed in Full Metal Jacket, which I understand was a fairly accurate portrayal USMC training in 1966-1967.

I don't know about the murder/suicide that ends the first part, but it is found within the source novel, Gustav Hasford's "Short Timers".

PS: R. Lee Emory was a former Marine DI hired by Kubrick to teach the actors how to walk & talk like a Marine DI ... but he was so good none of the actors could duplicate his manner, so they recast the actor who was supposed to play Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and Emory was given the role.

If you've seen the movie, when "Joker" asks the door gunner how he can shoot women and children and the door gunner replies, "You just don't lead 'em as much" ... the actor playing the door gunner was originally cast as the DI Hartman.

150:

I enlisted in USAF in 1985. In Basic Training there was a lot of mixing of men and women -- both male and female flights[1] had TI's (Training Instructor) of both genders. Our barracks was kitty-corner from a female barracks, and late at night there was occasional flashing on both sides. It was possible for a male recruit to be assigned as a door guard at a female barracks, and it was a REALLY bad place to be -- pretty much any facial expression other than a total stone face was "leering" and grounds for a major shitstorm. Thankfully, I was never assigned that.

[1] "Flight" is what USAF calls platoons

151:

As an aside, the only TI I truly hated was a woman. She was a TI-in-training, and thus had to prove herself. She was absolute worst.

152:

DI also gets used in the Navy, I think. Interesting that if I understood Ilya correctly, the USAF has TIs. I was wondering how Texas Instruments got the contract for awhile, but I suspect it’s Training Instructors?

Yes, I think all genders should be drafted for national service, should the need arise. The problem arises that it’s uncool for draft boards to force kids into foster care or elders or handicapped into shelters by drafting all their caregivers, and I’m not clear that said boards have the skills or cognitive capacity to deal with the problem.

Anecdata, my father was registered for the draft in his rural hometown, but he went and got a PhD in the 60s and went to work for an aerospace company. His specialty was hardening first generation integrated circuits against radiation, so as you might expect he had the kind of security clearance that wouldn’t allow him to be sent overseas. And a few times a year, he had to go back to his home town and explain to those fine gentlemen in his draft board that he couldn’t be drafted. Over and over and over again. They didn’t like nerds where he was from, and this was how they showed it.

Given the state of American politics, I can easily see a rural draft board calling up both partners in a gay marriage, never mind their kids. That kind of mean-spirited bigotry is getting juiced by politicians all over the place.

153:

When I look at { Putin, Trump, etc } there's one thing there in their eyes after a lifetime of grafting 'n grifting as well outright murder...

:

Now all that remains is the hunger.

:

nothing but the ugly

154:

as someone who lives near there Tacoma might be a better target what with joint base Lewis Macchord being right there. and if you hit Seattle someone beside Boeing might make the planes and as theirs seem to fall apart and out of the sky without anyone shooting at them any rival might want to boeing them making their deathtraps

155:

Munro, actually, and his last words aren't known definitely (Wikipedia has "according to several sources") - as far as I know, anyway.

I wish people didn't see all of his output through the lens of satire, tangentially; "The Unbearable Bassington" and "When William Came" are serious novels that are also funny in places (and in the former case, if not tragic, at least depressing), not failed attempts at satire.

156:

For a look at women in Israeli military service prior to the second Intifada, I suggest the 2014 film Zero Motivation (Hebrew title: אפס ביחסי אנוש, Zero on Interpersonal Relations). Noteworthy is a Ukrainian-born actress whose name is transliterated as Tamara Klingon.

157:

[H]ow is nukes going off all over the place, nuclear winter, global famine and all the other happy fun stuff now less likely than it was forty to sixty years ago?

It was my understanding that it's as or more likely now than it has ever been. I'm sure I've seen several independent expressions of the view, but I can't think of an example right now.

Well actually there's the Doomsday Clock statement for 2024.

See also the Doomsday Clock timeline. During the Cuban Missile Crisis it was 7 minutes to midnight versus 90 seconds now. It's obviously based on speculative opinion, but the people who do it take it seriously.

158:

And by Pearl Harbor I mean something much bigger than 9/11. Like a nuke on Seattle.

I’ll be contrary as usual and throw out some other horrors.

Some will require mass mobilization but not conscription: Lake Mead running dry, The Big One earthquake, an ArkStorm, dams bursting on major rivers, Rainier erupting, variola getting out of Koltsovo or the CDC, Chernobyl doing a big oopsie towards Europe due to Russian mismanagement, angry grad student unleashing a crop killing epiphytotic fungus on wheat because reasons, designer flu, covid26, Ebola Beijing, etc. Massive horrors, millions to billions of lives changed permanently, but they only trigger conscription if there’s unrest in their wake. Which there might well be.

What I suspect will trigger a conventional WW3, though, is a nuclear fizzle war: the great powers launch their nuclear arsenals, and almost all of them fizzle, with a few cities incinerated and a enough isotopic fallout from the fizzles to leave every human on the planet really, really angry and upset. At that point everyone is going to start wondering who has eight billion bullets saved up to kill all the people who now want to overrun their country, and how rich whoever survives will be. I mean, 335 million Americans versus 7700 million rest of the world and no nuclear deterrence? Why not invade? Ditto especially for Russia, England, France, Israel…

I’m guessing something like this would trigger conscription. What do you think?

159:

I think the randomness of a nuclear fizzle makes the subsequent threat environment from any particular country's point of view unpredictable, and likewise any particular country's capacity to handle threats.

Russia is purported to have an "escalate to de-escalate" doctrine regarding nuclear weapons, but is this one of the very things we're currently seeing some doubt about? See also new ICBMs in development and this nuclear torpedo drone thing we've been hearing about.

160:

I think Scalzi had the right idea: limit military service to the over 60's. Or over 70's. Maybe the over 80's.

Sorry Greg :)

161:

r for Russia, the last nail in its population coffin. All those young males dying in the Donbass or otherwise not being home

Do they still have people fleeing the country or was that just Ukraine? I vaguely recall a few stories about middle class Russians leaving the country (not rich enough to buy their way out of service, not too poor for a border crossing).

It would be bleakly amusing if one consequence of the invasion was a new generation of "Polish" and "Ukrainian" young men working whatever jobs they can find all over Europe as long as it doesn't involve going "back" to Poland or Ukraine.

162:

FWIW I think the non-Russian countries should encourage those Russians. And encourage the "not in Poland or Ukraine" part too. I'd love it if Aotearoa or Australia said "yeah, sure, we'll take the first 1000 conscription-eligible Russian men who want to move here, and they can bring their WAGs if they can get them out.

Daqmage Russia and benefit your country. What a great way to help the war effort...

163:

otherwise limiting the extent of your EM emission

Moxdern electronics are mostly CDMA (code division multiple access, or "frequency hopping" as once known) because that lets you break various "laws" regarding bandwidth https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon-Hartley_theorem

That makes them harder to spot using RF detection gear unless they have special features added to make them spot-able (cellphones, for example, broadcast "can anyone hear me" signals if they don't have a connection to a cell tower). Military gear normally uses lower power over a wider bandwidth to make signals even harder to spot, particularly their battlefield comms stuff that doesn't have to fuss about civilians. But there's a reason cellphones are so loathed by military spook types :)

I'm writing just as someone who studied the theory 30 years ago, so this is horribly out of date and wrong in key aspects.

164:

A 10,000-lb all-terrain forklift is a wonderful thing! That said, stowing the 100-odd pound shells inside a self-propelled 155 mm howitzer is not for the feeble. The automated cranes, etc., only get the ammo to the vehicle.

165:

I'm both amazed, and yet not surprised, that, 2 years into the Ukraine invasion, the UK seems to have done very little to built up our armed forces and solve the logistics issues highlighted above. But then, when it all kicked off in 2014 we didn't even bother to stop importing Russian gas. What worries me is how we'd keep an army on side. They've had decades of underfunding and being dicked around while private contractors rake in money for fuck all (E.g., terrible housing, new equipment that doesn't work but costs millions (ajax)). I was talking to a mate from college* a few years back, she was saying how that year (2018 I think?) almost the entire adventurous training budget got spunked on a TA trip to the south pole. This meant she had a camp full of bored squaddies with nothing to do but PT, drill and boot polishing. Our forces are pissed off. Now, you want them to fight against a country where soldiers are lauded as heroes**, and "they don't do any of this woke bollocks?" Spend 5 minutes reading ARRSE, and you get the feeling half of them would defect on day 1. Since the start of Covid my Dad, died in the wool ex cold war soldier, has increasingly sounded like a Russian propaganda channel. He's far from the only one.

*An odd little place meant to turn out technical officers, that in hindsight feels like something straight out the Laundry-even down to the old institution being put in a new PFI building that made everything terrible. One of my maths teachers from there is my mental image of Angleton. I was one of the 50% who failed to finish the scheme, which is why it closed.

**They also get abused and treated as disposable, but that's fine if you reckon you'll be doing the abusing

166:

New blog entry: worldcon in the news (Spoiler; this will not be news to many of you).

167:

Thanks for the correction. I had a biography (not one of the ones in Wikipedia) that asserted that as a definite fact, but no longer have it so cannot check if it gave a reference.

168:

I'm in my mid fifties, and grew up in the Netherlands. At the time, NL had conscription; I went for the medical assessment, and got a deferral to go to university. At the time, the rationale for conscription was to build up the (male) population into reserves, that could be called up in case of war. People were called up for refresher sessions, and the whole system was based on lotteries - not every 18-year-old was called up, and not everyone was called up for refreshers. It was possible to opt out of military service and spend your time in community service. I avoided going, but many of my friends did their conscription time; most reported it as a fantastic opportunity for drinking, lazing about, and generally being absolute legends.

Conscription ran through the times of labour shortages in the 60s and 70s - taking some proportion of 18-year olds out of the labour force for 18 months didn't seem to have a huge economic impact; the boosters said that they returned from military service more capable of fitting into the workplace.

Conscription ended in the 90s; the rationale was that modern warfare required highly trained, highly cohesive armies, which could only be staffed with volunteers.

I do think that conscripting some proportion of 18 year olds for 18-24 months - starting small and building up to enable infrastructure to catch up - might be logistically feasible, without tipping the labour market into (further) meltdown, and - with appropriate investment and planning - the infrastructure question isn't intractable as long as you can start small.

However, the political question is completely intractable. Whoever does this would face the obvious question of "why don't you invest in the actual volunteer army/navy/airforce, rather than pressing people into service to act as cannon fodder".

169:

Moxdern electronics are mostly CDMA (code division multiple access, or "frequency hopping" as once known)

Just to be a bit pedantic, CDMA implemented as a "direct sequence" modulation and frequency hopping are both spread-spectrum techniques and share many of the advantages you cite, but the means by which they achieve the spreading are somewhat different.

170:

I think Scalzi had the right idea: limit military service to the over 60's.

In exchange for a new body…

Scalzi's military also used child soldiers (the Ghost Brigades). It was a very dystopian setting.

171:

"Frequency hopping (aka "spread spectrum") for secure voice communications has been around since WW2."

The Germans used it in WW1, and the idea goes back at least to 1913.

172:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/25/how-drones-froze-ukraine-frontlines

never mind hitting hard metal such as tanks... wreck the engine blocks of trucks... no fuel and tanks become stationary targets and wait long enough the crew inside either freeze or boil given lack of electricity ("exit the tank after you strip to your underwear and if you destroy your documents or hold a gun or damage the tank we'll shoot you")... no ammo reloads and there's no point in a tank, is there? and soon infantry will not be armed with long ranging rifles but clumsy clubs...

one thermite device per truck engine... best done at night when trucks are stationary in a cluster and sentries dozing off... twenty (or maybe only five) drops per successful placement... then remote trigger 'em all for a brief bit of fireworks...

lots of drones hovering to record video of Russian officers screaming falsetto running around futilely attempting to extinguish thermite with water buckets... if really clever the Ukrainians will build a web site to allow musical bands to bid on who gets the best video raw feed to splice in with their tunes as, yeah, “music videos” as per heydays of 1980s era of MTV...

keep in mind these drones will be reused till each one is worn to a nub and bits 'n pieces cannibalized to keep others flying... three teleoperators per day... only stationary for re-arming and recharging... cost of US$2000 still cheaper to replace than a human soldier (really basic drones are US$300)... all those slightly crippled Ukrainians -- civilian as well military -- have the best of motivations to become ultimate teleoperators in 'Ukrainian chair force'

cost of replacing Russian tank = US$1,200,000

cost of replacing Russian truck = US$18,000

versus

cost of replacing Ukrainian drone = US$2,000 (assuming one for one destruction, but if reused, then a fraction of that)

...and then there's are all the soft targets in Moscow

GRRM made the phrase “Winter Is Coming” into an American cliché but it has been a horror in Eastern Europe for centuries

never mind buildings or politicians, Ukrainians will selectively target distribution transformers in Moscow... you've seen 'em so much you've tuned 'em out... https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1c/Polemount-singlephase-closeup.jpg/440px-Polemount-singlephase-closeup.jpg

casual googling ==> Moscow's energy system includes 103,142 kilometres of power networks, 158 power centres and 20,093 transformer and distribution substations

no electricity means no water

no electricity means no heat

no water and no heat means Moscow will be uninhabitable in just days (3? 5? 10?)

thousands of enraged refugees with nowhere to go... a sight sure to be terrifying to the oligarchs looking down from high rise luxury apartment buildings as their goons expend all their ammo on attacking hordes without killing 'em all... the sounds of howling as refugees climb the stairs to sledgehammer the doors in splinters... oh sure many oligarchs would have bugged out just as soon as the power failed but some will cluelessly remain

but no need to wreck all of Moscow... not at first... just darken the richest neighborhoods first and wait till the oligarchs recognize by personal experience how Ukrainians will quickly turn Russian civilians into refugees without hope and thus into a mob enraged suicidally inclined refugees numbering in the tens of thousands...

so doing the math... wreck 1,000 distribution transformers by way of 20,000 drops (assumes successful attack rate of 5% by 1,000 drones)... yeah doing that will require trucking in three TEUs (three shipping containers) into range... daily thousands of these units are brought into Moscow, so what's three more?

cost of surgical attack on oligarchs = US$3,000,000

someone should tell Vlad Putin that “Winter Is Coming” for him

173:

I sort of started this. My reading of the article about it seemed to imply the Ukrainians were doing things like having multiple radios or the frequencies were widely spaced. Something like a drone listening on multiple widely spaced channels but only transmitting on one. Till it got jammed then switching to another.

The frequency hopping that is embedded into military comm is more of a sequencing thing multiple times be second. Maybe 100. Which is a similar but separate thing.

And for an odd footnote to frequency hopping, check out the biography of Hedy Lamarr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr

174:

You really do want to start WW III, don't you? The USA might survive it, but Europe assuredly wouldn't. NATO and NATO countries have been bending over backwards to pretend that this isn't a proxy war between them and Russia, and that is why they have forbidden Ukraine to attack Russia itself with NATO-supplied weapons. Your proposal would blow that out of the water, make it very clear that Russia is fighting an existential war, strengthen the hawks within the Kremlin, and probably send the whole thing nuclear.

175:

Should they [women] have to register for the draft just like men do?

I pretty much fall on the side of "Sure, why not?" Equal rights, equal obligations

I was discussing this with a friend some years back; her take was that it sounds fair and equal, but in practice it's women who do most of the work of childcare, senior care, etc. Women's (social) obligations to others in the society are typically far greater than men's. Thus restricting the conscription (or national service) to men would balance that out to some extent.

176:

I should add for context: we were both in Germany at a time when they had conscription (alternatively community service) for men, and no war on the horizon. The latter in particular affects all calculations.

177:

RancidCrabTree @ 154:

???

178:

Damian @ 157:

"[H]ow is nukes going off all over the place, nuclear winter, global famine and all the other happy fun stuff now less likely than it was forty to sixty years ago?"

It was my understanding that it's as or more likely now than it has ever been. I'm sure I've seen several independent expressions of the view, but I can't think of an example right now.

The threat vectors are somewhat different today. Forty to sixty years ago you didn't have certified fuckin' lunatics with their "finger on the button" (Putin, Kim Jong Un ... DJT?)

179:

This reads a lot like a BBC newsnight discussion in the early part of the Falklands war. Three retired generals were egging each other on and getting more and more Gung Ho. Eventually Jeremy Paxman said “Gentlemen! You’re getting a little boisterous.”

180:

You are Tom Clancy and I claim my five pounds.

181:
The threat vectors are somewhat different today. Forty to sixty years ago you didn't have certified fuckin' lunatics with their "finger on the button" (Putin, Kim Jong Un ... DJT?)

Is that so? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory

182:

Heteromeles @ 158:

What I suspect will trigger a conventional WW3, though, is a nuclear fizzle war: the great powers launch their nuclear arsenals, and almost all of them fizzle, with a few cities incinerated and a enough isotopic fallout from the fizzles to leave every human on the planet really, really angry and upset. At that point everyone is going to start wondering who has eight billion bullets saved up to kill all the people who now want to overrun their country, and how rich whoever survives will be. I mean, 335 million Americans versus 7700 million rest of the world and no nuclear deterrence? Why not invade? Ditto especially for Russia, England, France, Israel…

I don't think the threat of "nuclear fizzle war" comes from the "great powers" (other than I'm afraid Putin might nuke Ukraine if he thinks he can get away with it). The real threat is from North Korea or an India-Pakistan war that gets out of control ... or Iran gets nukes1

I’m guessing something like this would trigger conscription. What do you think?

Not so sure about that. For one thing in a "fizzle war" the U.S. would retain the majority of their nuclear arsenal.

The form a return to conscription might take in the U.S. would be a universal requirement that EVERYONE between the age of 18 & 25 has to attend Basic Training & an abbreviated AIT then perform as "weekend warriors" (active reserve training) for the remainder of 2 or 4 years before being transferred to a "manpower" reserve pool.

That would also work as a hedge against a "fizzle war" ... gonna' be a tough sell though.

Don't know how they'd handle Conscientious Objectors, but there couldn't be ANY exemptions or it's not going to work. There would have to be some acceptable form of equally burdensome alternative service.

Poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war is already a drag on recruitment in the "all volunteer" military. Any form of conscription that allows the wealthy to escape service ain't gonna' fly ever again.

++++++++++++++

1 And as I've said before, in extremis Israel ain't going down ALONE.

183:

Pigeon @ 171:

"Frequency hopping (aka "spread spectrum") for secure voice communications has been around since WW2."

The Germans used it in WW1, and the idea goes back at least to 1913.

Link or Reference?

184:

runix @ 175:

"Should they [women] have to register for the draft just like men do?

I pretty much fall on the side of "Sure, why not?" Equal rights, equal obligations"

I was discussing this with a friend some years back; her take was that it sounds fair and equal, but in practice it's women who do most of the work of childcare, senior care, etc. Women's (social) obligations to others in the society are typically far greater than men's. Thus restricting the conscription (or national service) to men would balance that out to some extent.

I understand & respect your friend's opinion, but I disagree.

I do agree that men should shoulder a larger share of the social burden.

185:

Boeing the aerospace company and major military contractor is in Seattle, their planes have had an alarming habit of falling apart lately. (https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2024/01/scary-incident-forces-alaska-airlines-flight-back-to-pdx.html) evidently they haven't been bothering to bolt their planes together properly. (https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/alaska-airlines-found-loose-bolts-many-max-9-airplanes-ceo-2024-01-23/)

This is part of a ongoing series of issue with Boeing planes including a few years ago when they would start flying themselves nose first into the ground. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737_MAX_groundings#Groundings)

My suggestion is that a US adversary wouldn't nuke Seattle as the US airforce would then have someone else more competent manufacture warplanes rather than Boeing. Tacoma being next door to Seattle and a largish city with a major military airbase, seaport, rail lines, and one of busiest interstate highways in the in the western US running through there would probably be a better target than Seattle.

186:

anonemouse @ 181:

"The threat vectors are somewhat different today. Forty to sixty years ago you didn't have certified fuckin' lunatics with their "finger on the button" (Putin, Kim Jong Un ... DJT?)"

Is that so? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory

Yeah, I thought it was a stupid idea THEN, and I still think it's a stupid idea now ... perhaps even MORE stupider now when we're facing threats from ACTUAL madmen!

187:

I admit my ignorance of your reference... what's that "five pounds" all about?

188:

Poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war is already a drag on recruitment in the "all volunteer" military.

A number of your Republican politicians are quite open about how the poor can't be supported too much or otherwise they won't sign up which will weaken the military. "We can't give poor young people alternatives because then they won't sign up" is apparently a vote-getter among some demographics.

189:

Summary and references list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency-hopping_spread_spectrum (although some of them are books).

I did once find some technical details of the circuitry at the Nauen transmitter site with a description of exactly what they were doing. It was fairly crude. Can't find it again though because search engines are too shit these days.

190:

Robert Prior @ 188:

"Poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war is already a drag on recruitment in the "all volunteer" military."

A number of your Republican politicians are quite open about how the poor can't be supported too much or otherwise they won't sign up which will weaken the military. "We can't give poor young people alternatives because then they won't sign up" is apparently a vote-getter among some demographics.

That's another drag on recruitment. Would YOU want to join a military knowing the PTB want to use and discard you like used toilet paper? They'd still be against helping poor young people even without the military recruiting.

At least the "demographic" you refer to is shrinking (and can't shrink fast enough for my taste).

Fuck ALL MAGAt republiQans!

The U.S. military CAN be a boost to your prospects early in life - training, pay & GI Benefits ... just be sure you cross your eyes and dot your tees. Especially if you're a "furriner" hoping to improve your chances of gaining citizenship by military service. Don't skip any steps (like registering with Selective Service).

And always remember one thing RECRUITERS LIE - it's part of their job description! Just ask yourself, "Would I buy a used car from this guy?"

191:

172 para the last 'someone should tell Vlad Putin that “Winter Is Coming” for him'
I'd make that ""General Winter is coming for him". A Russian will understand exactly what that means as a personal threat.

180 "You are Tom Clancy and I claim my five pounds."
A reference to 1980s British newspapers where you could win a small cash prize by identifying a member of their staff in $town and saying "you are $person and I claim my five pounds" to them.

194:

The five pound claim is a good deal older than that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobby_Lud

195:

Charlie said: "I submit that a better solution to "keeping troubles down" would be to downsize the Jolly Board of International Autocrats.

(With a guillotine, if they won't go peacefully.)"

That might soon be difficult.

One of the JBIA appears to have taken "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" as a road map.

SPOILER ALERT FOR TMIAHM

Witness his investments in:

AI

Electromagnetic mass drivers

Tunnel boring machines

Giant spaceships

The premise of TMIAHM is (roughly) that if you drop enough 100 tonne rocks on Earth, it will do what you want.

His reusable super heavy lift vehicle is probably less than three years away from being able to launch 100 tonnes to orbit every 90 minutes. We're very close to having a private individual with more firepower than all the non nuclear states combined.

If he builds a couple of large mass drivers in lunar tunnels built on the dark side, he'll have more firepower than all of Earth combined.

196:

just heard it on radio

T(he)Rump is fined US$83M for libel about denying he was a rapist (yeah it's more complicated than that but summarizing for non-USA)

if you regarded him as batshit crazy before this oh-so-very-public humiliation will just toss another gasoline soaked log onto the flames... the jury refused to accept him as the demi-god-slash-messiah-slash-cleansing-flame as proclaimed by Christian Nationalists

if he gets back in power he is gonna barbed wire gift wrap everyone associated with this trial, not just the jury, everyone including the janitors who scrubbed the toilets that the jury used

that, atop of his 'loss' to Biden in New Hampshire, where Trump spent big whereas Biden was a no-show and never spent a nickel... just gonna drive him further around da bend

197:

If he builds a couple of large mass drivers in lunar tunnels built on the dark side, he'll have more firepower than all of Earth combined.

That's an exaggeration.

Back when I read TMIAHM, the explosive yield of the projectiles seemed off to me, so I did the calculations. An object hitting Earth from Moon's distance has kinetic energy 17 times its mass in TNT. Nothing to sneeze at, but hardly in nuclear range.

Also, there is absolutely no way "he" could keep the location of these mass drivers secret. (That was also the case in TMIAHM, but for somewhat different reasons)

198:

atop of his 'loss' to Biden in New Hampshire, where Trump spent big whereas Biden was a no-show and never spent a nickel

How so? They were in two different races/primaries.

199:

Trump spent a lot of money to get support from ~55% of the people who publicly support his party, and his competitor got ~45%.

Biden spent no money to get support from ~61% of people who support his party after they were told not to vote for him. His competitor got 16%.

It's not so much that they were competing against each other as that one got a bigger share of the votes AND a much bigger winning margin support despite not competing.

200:

ilya187 @ 198:

paragraph "atop of his 'loss' to Biden in New Hampshire, where Trump spent big whereas Biden was a no-show and never spent a nickel"

How so? They were in two different races/primaries.

The DNC is trying to democratize the candidate selection process, so this time South Carolina was annointed to be the FIRST primary ... New Hampshire begged to differ and moved their primary even farther forward to retain first position.

Biden stuck by the the DNC timetable, so he couldn't campaign there; couldn't even put his name on the ballot ...

But Biden's supporters organized an independent campaign to have Democrats submit his name on the ballot as a "Write-In" candidate. Biden won a landslide; 63.9%.

Meanwhile Trump only got 54.3% with more than 70% of the NON-Trump voters saying that IF Trump is the nominee they're voting for Biden instead.

Nationally the Democrats & RepubliQans are split ~ 48% to 48% (with about 4% SWING voters who actually decide the elections), but if Biden gets ALL of the Democratic votes in the general election (which seems likely) and 30% of the Republican votes (70% of NON-Trump Republicans) - that puts Biden in landslide territory, somewhere in the range of 60% to 65%.

I ain't counting any chickens, 'cause the eggs ain't even been laid yet and the Electoral College could still fuck everything up just like they did in 2016, but Trumpolini "LOST" in New Hampshire.

201:

you are acting as if 'crazed leadership' and... 'madman in reach of the big red button' and... 'WTF was he drinking before he said that' ...are not at all common amongst the so-called ruling elite

my only point of surprise at this example...?

not Florida

quote:

“The Missouri Republican civil war continues to escalate as a member of the Freedom Caucus faction has filed a proposed rule change to allow senators to challenge an ‘offending senator to a duel'.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/jan/26/missouri-republican-dueling-statehouse

202:

I don't think the threat of "nuclear fizzle war" comes from the "great powers" (other than I'm afraid Putin might nuke Ukraine if he thinks he can get away with it). The real threat is from North Korea or an India-Pakistan war that gets out of control ... or Iran gets nukes1

You and I seem to have very different ideas about what a nuclear fizzle war is. Here’s my idea.

It starts with the notion that basically everyone is bullshitting about the readiness and quality of their nuclear warheads. Not the rockets, the explosives. I may be wrong, but aside from North Korea’s “hello world” underground nuclear announcement, no one has taken a warhead off a missile and exploded it even underground in decades.

Why should they? Nukes are about deterrence. No sane person and rather few insane people actually want to use the damned things. So nobody pushes nuclear-armed countries too hard, because the cost is too high.

The other half of the problem is that nuclear war doctrine is use it or lose it. Once missiles are incoming, you have to launch your missiles before the explosions render them inoperable. So it’s all or nothing if strategic nukes are used.This permeates global politics. For instance, the whole basis of the imperial POTUS is that he alone has the responsibility of responding to a nuclear attack. Congress can declare war, but the president nukes.

These both lead to the Fizzle Wat scenario. Someone, for whatever reason, launches their strategic nuclear missile stockpile at their enemies. Everyone retaliates rapidly following their doctrine, and we all get ready to go extinct. Then 99% of the warheads turn out to be duds, spraying radioactive isotopes where they crash but not exploding.

What happens next? Not only are all the survivors glad to be alive, but the basis for the entire world order for the last 75 years or so turns out to be a complete sham. There aren’t working nukes, just wealthy countries that have used theater sham evade responsibility for truly horrific acts for decades.

If we get to this point, I think a conventional WW3 is inevitable, and conscription will almost certainly happen. Yes, AIs, drones, and self-driving vehicles will likely get pressganged first, but they’ll come for the humans fast enough.

203:

the USA has a fleet of submarines ("boomers") which could in theory perform an unprovoked attack ("first-strike") but the official policy is retaliatory ("reciprocal") by way of second-strike capabilities given how the submarines are almost impossible to locate

while test firing the warheads could hardly escape notice ("earthquakes") the delivery vehicles are likely being routinely fired in places unlikely to be observed closely

and of course there is the long standing (and justified) paranoia of one or more nukes smuggled in by way of shipping containers and stored in a warehouse (or basement or office)

yes, the warhead degrade over time, especially the electronics soaking in a steady flow of decay particles and the explosive charges experience chemical degrading as well

Rachel Maddow mentioned in one of her books something about the loss of the instructions for manufacturing an enhancer ("foghorn"?) without which USA's nukes are less effective (40%?)

204:

Question for USA-ians
When is the last date a person can be formally nominated for POTUS?
Ideally, you want DJT criminally convicted a day or two after that date ...

Afterthought .. the orange shitgibbon is persistently popular with the insane supporting him ... so what?
What do all the unaffiliated think? What do the "never-trumper" R's think?
And how will they vote or abstain?

205:

Then 99% of the warheads turn out to be duds, spraying radioactive isotopes where they crash but not exploding.

That's pretty much how I interpreted it first time around, though I'm more pessimistic about that 99% figure, and my comment that the situation after such an event is unpredictable are premised on somewhere between 30% and 50% of nukes being effective. But within that there is potential for high variability of failure rates across different weapons systems in different countries.

206:

»while test firing the warheads could hardly escape notice ("earthquakes") the delivery vehicles are likely being routinely fired in places unlikely to be observed closely«

You are not even wrong.

There are /no/ places you can fire anything resembling an intercontinental or even intermediate-range rocket that is not being "observed closely", even a test-firing of the engine in static stand will be detected.

There is no way you can get anything into (near-orbit), without the booster rocket being detected before it has risen above 5km from the surface.

There are also no way and no where you can drop anything as large as a re-entry vehicle from (near-)orbit into the atmosphere, without it being detected by one or more early-warning radar systems.

All the GNSS satellites, except possibly Galileo, are dual use and equipped with both rocket-detectors and "Bhang-meters" (look it up!)

There's an entire UN organization (CTBTO) dedicated to detecting /any/ explosion with a yield in the nuclear range, and to detect any radioactive substance in the atmosphere which is indicative of nuclear weapons, testing or production thereof.

Energy consumption and releases are being monitored closely on a global scale in order to detect clandestine nuclear reactors and centrifuge-cascades.

Whenever any of the super-powers wants to test their ICBMs, something which they typically do twice a year, in order to not exceed the "best before date" on the solid fueled rockets, they go to great lengths to tell everybody and anybody when, where, how and why.

It was "FOGBANK" and not "foghorn", which is most likely the x-ray-transparent interstage physical support for the primary and secondary. The production problem was that the original reagents contained trace amounts of Cd, which was a critical, but undetected and therefore undocumented catalyst. They found a vial of the original reagent in a disused lab in Lousianna.

207:

» I may be wrong, but aside from North Korea’s “hello world” underground nuclear announcement, no one has taken a warhead off a missile and exploded it even underground in decades.«

What they do instead is replace the fissile parts of a warhead with Tungsten replicas, put the war-head into a steel container, fire it while recording x-ray pictures to verify the compression of the spherical shell goes as expected.

The discovery of such a steel wessel outside a building in the middle of a desert in Iran is a major reason why everybody assume that they already have a nuclear warheads of some level technology.

You seen to be laboring under the mistaken assumption that it is hard to make a nuclear explosion: It is not.

If you can get hold of two pieces of Pu of sufficient size, dropping one on the other will get you a non-ignorable nuclear yield. Doing it well up in a skyscraper could easily kill 10k people, because of the resulting panic.

Everybody who tried, got a good-sized bang in first try and now that everybody know how a two- or three-stage warhead works, that's not particularly difficult either.

But you are not going to get a "suitcase" nuke, or anything that can be fired by a piece of artillery to work in less than a handful of tests, and getting the diameter and weight down will probably take some tests too.

There's a critical tradeoff in sophistication in the sense that the ICBM for a less advanced two-stage design or one-stage design needs to be bigger diameter and much beefier, than for an advanced two- or three-stage design.

Similarly, for pathfinders, drones and torpedoes: The diameter and weight are critical performance parameters.

What /is/ hard is making predictable and reliable nuclear warheads. Warheads which can rattle around in a submarine for decades and still be (almost) guaranteed to work when you press the several buttons, and it gets rocketed through seawater, atmosphere, empty space, thrown back into the atmosphere at hyper-sonic speeds only to explode at the 3D coordinates, and with the yield it was configured to.

USA estimates that 90% of all their nuclear weapons will perform "to spec" and that 99% of them will produce nuclear yield. The 9% difference is almost entirely about 2-stddev distance from target and more than 10% variance in yield.

The often repeated claim that Pu240 "is no use for nuclear weapons" is another piece of anti-proliferation-propaganda: Pu240 makes fine nuclear explosives, but their yield is a lot less predictable and their neutron radiation makes the dangerous to be near and degrades the non-nuclear components.

There is a not so tacit assumption "everybody else's nukes will perform worse than the US nukes", but there is absolutely no data to back that assumption up, it's just the usual "God's Own Country" jingoism. If USA's nuclear planners actually believed that, the US arsenal of ready-to-go nukes would be correspondingly smaller.

In an actual "major exchange" the major failure mode for nuclear weapons is expected to be fracticide because the targeting plans are utterly ridiculous.

208:

John S @ 182

Poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war is already a drag on recruitment in the "all volunteer" military.

The "military recruits from poor people" is a well-worn cliche, dating to the Vietnam-War-era conscripted military, where college deferment did tend to disproportionately benefit upper-middle and upper-class men.

It's also not actually true. As military historian Robert Farley explains, the US military recruits disproportionately from the middle 60% of the US income distribution, with the top and bottom quintiles underrepresented. (If you include officers, then it would probably include relatively more from the top 20% and even fewer from the bottom 20%.)

209:

His reusable super heavy lift vehicle is probably less than three years away from being able to launch 100 tonnes to orbit every 90 minutes.

Yes in principle, but that's 100 tonnes in LEO, not 100 tonnes in-falling from Luna. There's a huge kinetic energy difference: LEO orbital velocity is roughly 7.79 km/s, but velocity at perigee for an object on a free-return trajectory from circumlunar space is 10.84-10.92 km/s. And the kinetic energy of a body in motion scales as the square of its velocity, so the extra 3km/s turns out to be very significant indeed.

210:

Also, Starship is a non-starter as a weapons system. It takes two hours to fuel up and count down for launch, sitting stark bollock naked on an exposed pad near the coastline, less than a kilometre away from tanks holding about 5000 tonnes of liquid methane and LOX.

Which reminds me of the USSR's first deployed ICBM, the R-7 "Semyorka", NATO reporting name "Sapwood", which was deployed at the end of the 1950s and retired within 3 years because as ICBMs went it was utter rubbish. (Although its descendants are still flying today -- it matured into the Soyuz launcher.)

The R-7s sat on exposed pads (like the Soyuz launch pads) and took 6 hours to prep for a strike on Washington DC. But the pads were 4 hours from the Soviet border as the B-52 flies, and had been pinpointed by U-2 and then spysat overflights. And there were only about a dozen of them.

The technical term for an unhardened static launch site with a giant-ass liquid-fueled rocket that takes most of a day to prepare for launch is "a sitting duck".

212:

nuclear war doctrine is use it or lose it. Once missiles are incoming, you have to launch your missiles before the explosions render them inoperable.

Which is why the most important strategic nuclear forces are the submarines.

The USA, Russia, France, China, and the UK all field a continuous at-sea deterrent patrol (CASD) with enough warheads on board to ruin an idiot head of state's re-election prospects. (In China's case they may be working up to CASD but they've got a third generation of home-built SSBN under construction.) I believe India intends to get into the game in the next decade. This is dated to 2016 at which time India had one SSBN undergoing sea trials and a second under construction. (It's a good bet that Modi's aggressively nationalist regime will be pushing hard in that direction.) Israel has a regional CASD, believed to consist of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles carried by SSKs; they're really pointed at Iran, Saudi, and maybe Pakistan.

The point of bringing this up is that submarines are really hard to pinpoint, especially SSBNs hanging out in a huge volume of ocean pretending to be a hole in the water. (Even Israel's cheap-ass version would be an absolute nightmare for their adversaries to deal with.) So "use it or lose it" only really applies if your adversary has spotted the needle hidden in the haystack. Which in turn means they're a second-strike deterrent: you don't have to launch them, you can afford to sit tight and see if the other guy is bluffing first.

At this point, airborne and missle-carried nukes are actually a liability: they attract enemy attention (and nuclear weapons) but they're fragile and destabilizing. (That's why the UK got rid of theirs in the 80s and went to SLBM-only deterrence.)

So my guess is that the crown jewels -- the bombs on subs -- are the ones that get most of the maintenance budget, especially from those nations who are a bit piss-poor at keeping things in working order (cough, Russia, cough).

Which is why we haven't seen Russia pop a nuclear cap on Ukrainian soil so far. They're deeply unsure whether their battlefield nukes would work at all, even if they're confident that the sub-borne missiles would fly and go boom adequately.

213:

Rachel Maddow mentioned in one of her books something about the loss of the instructions for manufacturing an enhancer ("foghorn"?) without which USA's nukes are less effective (40%?)

FOGBANK. Believed to be an aerogel (back before aerogels were public knowledge) needed as a spacer inside the "spark plug" side of a Teller-Ulam configuration device to channel prompt radiation from the initial fission core to where it can be refocussed to implode the Li-D booster and trigger fusion.

It was reported a while ago that they'd reverse-engineered the production of new FOGBANK, then worked out that it didn't work because they were making it too pure -- missing a critical trace element the 1950s synthesis had inadvertently introduced. So presumably they've got it right now.

214:

If you can get hold of two pieces of Pu of sufficient size, dropping one on the other will get you a non-ignorable nuclear yield.

No it won't.

That will work for Uranium 235 (and for all I know, U-233), but Plutonium 239's chain reaction goes exponential so fast that gun-type bomb designs don't work, hence the need for spherical implosion. If you drop a big lump of 239-Pu on top of a 239-Pu target, the surfaces in proximity will go supercritical and evaporate before the main mass can fully assemble, so at best you'll get a small but dirty fizzle (and a lot of vapourized Pu-239 floating around). Explosive yield: tiny. Cleanup cost: enormous.

215:

If we have a 'civil war' in the US it will be a very dirty war, fought house-to-house, probably with block-size engagements being the very largest. Look for our increasingly right-wing and racially panicked police departments to ignore all hits undertaken by Meal Team 6. (Maybe not all police depts, but a substantial minority at least.)

In thinking about this war, multiple issues are misunderstood by the right, including the question of how many leftists are armed, the number of people who make up various population blocks, the number of Democrats who have military training, and other issues as well, which I'm not going to talk about publicly.

I don't think a U.S. civil war is likely to happen, particularly if Biden serves another four years.

216:

The BEF did get massacred, but they also were crucial to stopping the Germans at Marne, and without them the Germans might well have conquered France. They were also incredibly well-trained, and reloaded/fired their single-shot rifles so quickly that the Germans thought they were using automatic weapons (which really didn't exist in person-carriable form at the time.)

217:

Nope. Many other countries have successfully transitioned to armies which employ women. If the UK can let some intelligent people handle the problem it won't be a big deal.

218:

Modern Republicans are also able grifters who have an ugly track record when it comes to mishandling their own sexual urges, and an audience who won't tolerate sexual peccadilloes the left would laugh-off. Both the grift and the sex make them easy targets for blackmail. Most of them aren't readers, and so don't get how espionage works when it comes to 'seducing' (not necessarily sexually) a target.

My suspicion is that Trump's criminal behavior is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg; if Biden started in office by unleashing some counter-intelligence types we'll be seeing some interesting arrests in the next couple years.

219:

I think the speed at which the object exits the mass-driver has a lot to do with it's velocity at impact. Are you sure you duplicated Heinlein's assumptions about the initial velocity?

220:

I think the speed at which the object exits the mass-driver has a lot to do with it's velocity at impact. Are you sure you duplicated Heinlein's assumptions about the initial velocity?

Yes. Manny repeatedly says how in this scheme Earth's gravity does almost all the work.

Also, TMIAHM never says whether the catapult is on Earth-facing side of the Moon or not, but if it is on the far side then any significant added velocity would send the payload away from Earth on an escape trajectory.

221:

an audience who won't tolerate sexual peccadilloes the left would laugh-off

Are you serious? Matt Gaetz is not even trying to hide his affairs; he only insists his mistresses fully consented. So far this has not cost him any votes. Compare that with what happened to Al Franken.

The only "peccadilloes" the Right really does not tolerate are homosexual ones.

222:

from T(he)Rump's very self-centered perspective winning is not enough... he has to crush everyone else... which is why he's well known for cheating at golf in not counting every stroke (which is akin to a five year old stealing opponent pieces off a chess board; obvious to anybody watching)

Joe Biden write-in 63.9%

Donald Trump 54.3%

Biden spent zero dollars

Trump spent a zillion

Biden bigger winner

Trump enraged

...and no it is not logical it is Trump raging at being described by media as achieving second place

223:

They might not be keen on bestiality.

224:

JohnS @ 200:

Addendum/Clarification to my Previous: South Carolina was anointed to hold the first official Democratic primary in 2024

... it should be a different state next time around in 2028, but I don't know if "the plan" will hold up that long.

225:

They might not be keen on bestiality.

Neither is the Left

226:

"Plutonium 239's chain reaction goes exponential so fast that gun-type bomb designs don't work"

There is essentially no difference in how fast it goes between U or Pu, under equivalent conditions (though in practice Pu goes quicker because the use of implosion compresses it to several times its normal density). The important part is that it is orders of magnitude quicker than the assembly time (by either method, though by fewer orders in the case of implosion).

The trouble is that with Pu you always have a lot of stray neutrons floating about, mainly from spontaneous fission of 240Pu which is an inevitable contaminant. So if you use the relatively slow method of gun assembly, one of these will start the chain reaction when the bomb is only partly assembled, and the resulting energy release halts the assembly and blows it apart again before it can produce a yield of more than tons.

Implosion assembly uses shock waves to move mass at several kilometres per second, much faster than guns, and the geometry gives you a much sharper transition from subcriticality to supercriticality. So you've got a much better chance of making it all the way from that transition point to the point of maximum density without a stray neutron turning up at the wrong moment and buggering things up. (You then supply neutrons artificially when it reaches maximum density to make sure it does then go off at the right moment.)

The difference between "weapons grade" and "reactor grade" plutonium is basically that "weapons grade" has been extracted from the fuel elements after as short an exposure time as they can get away with and still find a useful amount to extract, to minimise the chance of any of the atoms absorbing more than one neutron and producing 240Pu or higher isotopes. "Reactor grade" you don't care and you can leave it in for as long as other considerations make convenient.

This distinction was crucial in the Manhattan project and for some time after. It has become less important as improvements in implosion modelling and other design aspects have made it possible to achieve faster assembly times and sharper transitions, so the process can tolerate a higher level of stray neutrons. Thus it is no longer true that "you can't make a bomb with reactor grade plutonium"; it's been possible for some decades now, but it's more difficult and it still doesn't work as well as one made with the pukka stuff.

"the surfaces in proximity will go supercritical and evaporate"

No, the surfaces have the least to do with it. The mean free path of the neutrons is at least centimetres, so most of them get well into the inside of the lumps of plutonium before they notice there's anything there. It's the middle of the lumps that reacts.

Looking at the various accidents where they've been doing this kind of thing in the laboratory and it went wrong, what seems to happen is that the massive rate of heat release in the middle of the plutonium in a matter of microseconds causes a mechanical shock from the rapid thermal expansion, which whacks the apparatus apart from the inside (whacks it, as opposed to blowing it up) and halts the reaction. But the amount of heat released isn't enough to melt or vaporise anything it's heating. So the scientists and the lab receive an enormous dose of penetrating radiation, but the lump of plutonium survives undamaged (to the extent that a few years later someone else can make the same mistake again with the same lump).

227:

David Cameron fucked a dead pig...

228:

Greg Tingey @ 204:

Question for USA-ians
When is the last date a person can be formally nominated for POTUS?
Ideally, you want DJT criminally convicted a day or two after that date ...

It doesn't really work that way. If you want to be elected President, you have to have your name on the ballot in enough states that you can win 270 Electoral Votes1.

What you have to do to get your name on the ballot varies from state to state ... 50 different ways to leave your lover as the song goes.

Ideally we want DJT "criminally convicted" as soon as it's possible to schedule the trials & present the evidence to the jury - with the caveat that under U.S. law he's "innocent until PROVEN guilty". There's always the off chance he might be acquitted ...

But even if he's convicted that wouldn't prevent him appearing on the ballots (UNLESS the conviction falls under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment - the insurrection clause).

Afterthought .. the orange shitgibbon is persistently popular with the insane supporting him ... so what?
What do all the unaffiliated think? What do the "never-trumper" R's think?
And how will they vote or abstain?

According to news reports I've seen along with the New Hampshire primary, polling suggests that 70% of the RepubliQans who voted for Haley reportedly say they'll vote for Biden if Trump is the nominee. I don't know about the "unaffiliated". I don't understand them and I'm not convinced they understand themselves ... but it's still 10 months until election day2 and in that time any number of horses might learn to sing IYKWIM.

++++++++++++++++++

1 Two-hundred-seventy is the number that sticks in my head, I didn't bother to look it up, so if I'm wrong about the number TOUGH!

2 The Presidential & Congressional elections are held in even numbered years (every 4 & 2) on the "first Tuesday after the first Monday in November". The earliest date the election can occur is November 2 and the latest is November 8. This year it's November 5. (I did look that up.)

PS: Friday the 13th occurs twice in 2024, September & December

229:

Yeah, they'll let a seventeen-year-old go, and note that the age of consent varies from one U.S. state to another, but other kinds of sex? Maybe not so much, and there are also spouses and family members to consider when making the decision to be blackmailed (or telling whoever to do their worst.)

There are other factors as well, such as who the blackmailer threatens to mail their pictures to (church, newspaper, spouse, in-laws, etc.) And of course not all blackmail is sexual. For example, when that lady from $OtherCountry gave you a donation, did you sign a receipt?

230:

Thanks. "17 times its mass" and "gravity does most of the work" definitely keeps all impacts in the low-kiloton range even if fired at a somewhat higher velocity, so I'd expect nothing more than 5K, and more likely 3K even with the best assumptions for a hundred-ton load. At that point questions like "how many loads" and "how accurate" become a very big deal if you're looking to defeat someone militarily, so I'd have to say you're correct not to be impressed.

231:

Damian @ 205:

"Then 99% of the warheads turn out to be duds, spraying radioactive isotopes where they crash but not exploding."

"That's pretty much how I interpreted it first time around, though I'm more pessimistic about that 99% figure, and my comment that the situation after such an event is unpredictable are premised on somewhere between 30% and 50% of nukes being effective. But within that there is potential for high variability of failure rates across different weapons systems in different countries."

Estimates from the Federation of American Scientists put the number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. at 5,429 & Russia at 5,997.

Wikipedia puts the numbers at U.S. at 5,244 and Russia at 5,889

A 99% failure rate would mean between 52 - 54 U.S. warheads would function; 50% gives you 2,622 - 2,714.5 ...

I can't speak for Russia, but the U.S. does maintainance on its warheads. They're periodically removed (replaced) and refurbished at the Pantex plant in Amorillo, TX. I expect for U.S. weapons the failure rates would be fairly low.

More would be rendered inoperable by "fratricide" in saturating a target than would just fail to go boom. My guess is 5,000+ effectives ON BOTH SIDES

In any case, a "Great Powers" exchange between the U.S. & Russia (or U.S. vs China; China vs Russia) would NOT be a "fizzle war"

OTOH, North Korea vs South Korea, U.S. (and probably China 'cause "What the fuck you think you're doing, YOU IDIOT?") ... India/Pakistan or Israel/Iran might be tamped out before it spread to an all out general exchange (although I don't think it would) ... so a "fizzle" in terms of a very small number of weapons used.

Bottom line, a "fizzle war" is pretty damn unlikely. If they ever get used ONCE (again) it's likely to spread like Covid. And countermeasures to prevent the spread will be just about as effective.

232:

new FOGBANK, then worked out that it didn't work because they were making it too pure -- missing a critical trace element the 1950s synthesis had inadvertently introduced. So presumably they've got it right now.

The article(s) I read said that back in the day, there was some residue left over from how the cleaned the piping in the process. And it turned out the traces of this residue apparently were critical to making it all work. And unknown at the time.

233:

Estimates from the Federation of American Scientists put the number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. at 5,429 & Russia at 5,997.

In a "usable" state, maybe 1/3 of that. Or less. Those numbers includes those removed from delivery vehicles for upgrades/repairs/inspections etc. And while much of that 2/3s could be put back into use in theory, time would be required. And a working delivery system.

234:

When is the last date a person can be formally nominated for POTUS?

You think you're asking a simple question with a somewhat simple answer.

JohnS's answer is not even complete.

Presidential elections are really elections for electors. So each candidate has to get a slate of electors to supposedly promise to vote for a single candidate.

Rules, dates, process, and a really big one, what do to in case the system runs off the rails, varies by state and federal law. And what can be done changes by the date it happens.

This is somewhat like the discussion about Cons and what happens when a bad actor tries to make use of everyone NOT playing nice.

235:

Earth's gravity does almost all the work.

Pretty much. The Moon's escape velocity is 2.5 kps and its orbital velocity around Earth is 1 kps. So launch at 3.5 kps so it finds itself hanging in space relative to Earth and it will hit the ground(*) in a week at Earth escape velocity, 11 kps.

(*) Well, the top of the atmosphere, but a dense object with small cross-section shouldn't be slowed down too much before it gets to the ground.

236:

»If you can get hold of two pieces of Pu of sufficient size, dropping one on the other will get you a non-ignorable nuclear yield.

No it won't.«

Theodore B. Taylor is on the record (in "The Curve of Binding Energy") saying that you can, and given that he designed all the small US warheads (SADM, Davy Crockett etc.) I'll take his word.

Notice that "non-ignorable nuclear yield" (his words) is probably not even measured in tens of kg TNT.

Along the same lines: You can make a gun-type device with Pu, even Pu240, you're just not going to get a very high yield because you cannot control the exact moment the chain-reaction starts.

When studying this field, it is imperative to understand that everything that has been released has come through a prism of nonproliferation: Tell 'em Pu is the most dangerous substance to make them think twice. Tell 'em Pu240 is "useless for weapons" to make terrorist abandon that idea.

Neither of those to claims are strictly speaking false, they're just very, very, very misleading:

Pu /is/ the most dangerous substance, because it takes so little to make a two-stage weapon which can kill millions.

Pu240 /is/ useless … for weapons with the longevity and predictability demanded by DoD.

But Pu as a chemical is no worse than many other chemicals and a lot less poisonous than many organophosphates.

And USA tried Pu240 in an underground test and got a nontrivial bang, which is why they want to keep people away from it.

All nonproliferation efforts have the sole focus of preventing access to HEU and Pu, because once you got one of those, the rest is trivial engineering.

And FOGBANK is guaranteed not aerogel, which disintegrates at the mere mention of Newton.

Yes, aerotgel is the strongest material relative to its weight, but it weighs nothing! Almost all people instantly crush the first sample of Aerogel they get to touch.

My personal guess is that FOGBANK is a strong structural polymer which can hold the primary and secondary in place under launch conditions, but which has been designed to not get too much in the way of the photon output from the primary, or possibly even has an active role in distributing those photons across the surface of the secondary.

One should never read anything into code-names, but if this one is older than that rule, it could be some kind of "paint" for the near end of the secondary to delay compression a shade of a nanosecond so other photons get to the far end/side of the secondary before the sequeze starts.

237:

»I can't speak for Russia, but the U.S. does maintainance on its warheads.«

Russia has opted for continuous production, where expired warheads are taken apart and recycled and new warheads manufactured with some amount of recycling.

This difference of approach has given Russia a big advantage when it comes to reducing the stockpiles, first because their entire stockpile is current production, second because they have a facility with trained crew who know how to take them apart, but mostly because their warheads have been designed to be dismantled again.

Most of the warheads USA dismantle were never intended to be reopened as a matter of routine, and they are generally very old designs so no current staff have ever seen their insides or the assembly procedure.

238:

»My guess is 5,000+ effectives ON BOTH SIDES«

And for reference, several studies have found that a "limited nuclear exchange in a regional war" (by which they mean India&Pakistan) is plenty to send the planet into nuclear winter.

One of the most amazing aspects of nuclear weapons is, that no matter how gung-ho a politician might be when he gets access to his country's 'red button', after "the briefing" he /never/ talks about using nuclear warheads again.

239:

My understanding is that, at least in most cases, the electors could say "What a pair of losers" and elect two people not on any slate. Is that so?

240:

Almost certainly not. An elector who doesn't vote for the candidate to which s/he's been assigned is considered 'faithless' and some states allow civil or criminal penalties against such electors,* so it's not likely to happen, though in fact it's supposed to work that way per the Constituion.

* Such a prosecution would probably be unconstitutional.

241:

Peter Erwin @ 208:

John S @ 182

"Poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war is already a drag on recruitment in the "all volunteer" military."

The "military recruits from poor people" is a well-worn cliche, dating to the Vietnam-War-era conscripted military, where college deferment did tend to disproportionately benefit upper-middle and upper-class men.

It's also not actually true. As military historian Robert Farley explains, the US military recruits disproportionately from the middle 60% of the US income distribution, with the top and bottom quintiles underrepresented. (If you include officers, then it would probably include relatively more from the top 20% and even fewer from the bottom 20%.)

I probably should have written "The perception of poor people being sent to fight the rich man's war ..." and that perception dates from well before the Vietnam War era draft, and it IS "actually true".

I'm familiar with Dr. Farley's oeuvre (at LG&M and elsewhere) even though I don't always agree with him based on my own experience1 and observations of the "all volunteer" military from within. Dr. Farley (Patterson School, University of Kentucky) teaches at the U.S. Army War College, where the UPPER third of that "middle 60%" are over represented in the student body.

The majority of military Officers careers don't advance to the point where they are invited to attend the Army War College (or Command & General Staff College), but a successful Officer's career CAN lift someone from the lower third to the upper third.

A successful career that includes attendance at AWC or C&GS can even lift someone OUT of the "middle 60%" (i.e. into the TOP economic quintile2 ... with maybe even an opportunity for a POST-military career that lifts one into the TOP 10% or the top 1%.

Many officers start out in the lower third & move up into the middle third ... and if they are successful maybe even into the upper third or beyond. But there's a winnowing along the way.

The military academies are dominated by people already in the Third & Fourth quintiles.

Military recruiting is counter-cyclical to the economy. The worse the economy is doing for most people (First, Second & Third Quintiles) the better military recruiting does. The modern U.S. military also requires EDUCATED soldiers and the First Quintile is not only economically disadvantaged but educationally disadvantaged

... AND YET, for many the military IS an opportunity to advance economically and educationally. A lot of them fall by the wayside; a lot are one enlistment and out, but SOME manage to advance and end their careers in a better place than they began.

The military recruits from the First, Second & Third quintiles, with the majority of officers coming from the Second & Third with Academy graduates primarily drawn from the Third & Fourth ... and Dr. Farley's students are the successful career officers who if they didn't start out in the Fourth quintile, have certainly advanced INTO it by the time they attend his courses.

... and I haven't even started on what the military does for economic prospects of Non-Commissioned Officers (corporals & sergeants")

+++++++++++

1 I served for thirty-two years in the military and my own economic background is right smack dab in the middle of the bottom third of his "middle 60%".

2 Economic Quintiles - five divisions of economic participation representing a 20% slice of the income pie. First (bottom) 20%, Second 20%, Third (middle) 20%, Fourth (upper) 20%, Fifth (top) 20% - Dr. Farley's "middle 60%" represents the Second, Third & Fourth Quintiles.

242:

Charlie Stross @ 214:

"If you can get hold of two pieces of Pu of sufficient size, dropping one on the other will get you a non-ignorable nuclear yield."

No it won't.

That will work for Uranium 235 (and for all I know, U-233), but Plutonium 239's chain reaction goes exponential so fast that gun-type bomb designs don't work, hence the need for spherical implosion. If you drop a big lump of 239-Pu on top of a 239-Pu target, the surfaces in proximity will go supercritical and evaporate before the main mass can fully assemble, so at best you'll get a small but dirty fizzle (and a lot of vapourized Pu-239 floating around). Explosive yield: tiny. Cleanup cost: enormous.

It sounds like he's referring to the Demon Core criticality accidents at Los Alamos.

243:

Troutwaxer @ 215:

If we have a 'civil war' in the US it will be a very dirty war, fought house-to-house, probably with block-size engagements being the very largest. Look for our increasingly right-wing and racially panicked police departments to ignore all hits undertaken by Meal Team 6. (Maybe not all police depts, but a substantial minority at least.)

In thinking about this war, multiple issues are misunderstood by the right, including the question of how many leftists are armed, the number of people who make up various population blocks, the number of Democrats who have military training, and other issues as well, which I'm not going to talk about publicly.

I don't think a U.S. civil war is likely to happen, particularly if Biden serves another four years.

I hope you're right, but I think you over-estimate how "organized" it would be on either side.

244:

not the worst thing they've tried... failed efforts include...

lowering the age for marriage for females to 14... banning books... outlawing epi pens... restricting vax (and other preventative treatments) from convicted felons and anyone in prison...

I share a language and a gender and a continent with these wacko's but their culture's centerpoint is approximately seven sigma off the average of my culture... and way below mine own flawed sanity...

if we left 'em alone they'd eat their young... burn all their books... piss where they sleep... die of infected dental cavities... problem being they will not leave us alone...

FUNFACT: 50% of USA population is east of Mississippi River, another 41% is west of the Rocky Mountains (more or less) which means about 8% of the populace is scattered over half the CONUS land area but provides us with 95+% of our annual harvest of #BSGC notions (batshit crazy gonzo)

245:

Is that so?

There are over 50 laws on what an elector can do or not do and not violate the law.

Faithless is just the most common example. And what can happen if they are such, varies all over.

246:

I read the book when it came out

{ flips thru e-books to find it and look up when read }

...in 2013

I'm impressed I could remember FOGBANK's role never mind all the fiddly bits

which right there ought make for one hell of a novel, someone brews up a neuro-supportive med that makes it impossible to forget fiddly bits and everyone not only aces quizzes but get gets 2400 on SATs, perfect scores on MCATs and LSATs [1]

...and husbands finally are on an even playing field with wives in recalling every conversation right back to their first date... divorces will of course soar

[1] for non-USA folk those are make-or-break standardized exams precursor to med school, law school, etc

247:

three words:

Marjorie. Taylor. Greene.

{ shudder }

248:

ilya187 @ 221:

an audience who won't tolerate sexual peccadilloes the left would laugh-off

Are you serious? Matt Gaetz is not even trying to hide his affairs; he only insists his mistresses fully consented. So far this has not cost him any votes. Compare that with what happened to Al Franken.

The only "peccadilloes" the Right really does not tolerate are homosexual ones.

Every Accusation Is A Confession

The only "peccadilloes" the Right doesn't tolerate is a Democrat GETTING CAUGHT.

See Also: "IOKIYAR"

They don't give a shit about what Gaetz does with teen-age girls. They don't give a shit about him being a sexual predator, it's revenge for him for screwing up the RepubliQan "majority" in the house when he went after Kevin McCarthy (not that they gave a shit for McCarthy either).

249:

JohnS @68:

I'm fine with disestablishing the name from that of the Confederate General

Braxton Bragg did a lot more to ensure the South's defeat than many Union generals!

Mikko @ 89:

I have the impression that unless you are using wired communications or otherwise limiting the extent of your EM emissions, it's quite easy to pick up where and when the transmission is coming from.

ISTR that the US / UK actually used this in WW2 to identify the locations of German formations. Even in the absence of codebreaking, you can get a pretty good idea of where / how large an enmy is.

They even reverse-engineered a few units of their own, whose only existence was lots of signalmen producing signals sent to non-existent units to make the German leadership believe (if they were using the same techniques that the Allies were) that there was a second D-Day that would be happening in the Pas de Calais after 6 June 1944.

JohnS @ 200:

that puts Biden in landslide territory

Between 1920 & 1940, the winning candidate in the US Presidential elections won the popular vote with more than 10% of their closest rival.

That kind of blow-out has only happened twice since 1940: 1972 & 1984. Let's hope for a three-peat? (If Drumpf is even the candidate. I keep hoping (against all hope) that he will have to abandon his candidacy due to heath / legal reasons).

250:

Along the same lines: You can make a gun-type device with Pu, even Pu240, you're just not going to get a very high yield because you cannot control the exact moment the chain-reaction starts.

A gun-type plutonium bomb with multiple kilotonnes of yield is possible but it's not readily weaponisable. A hot-hydrogen gas gun can assemble the Pu lumps fast enough to prevent them squibbing but it's something the size of a train carriage and less transportable.

The issue with Pu240 is that it's self-heating due to radioactive decay to the point where enough Pu-240 contamination can make an implosion core too thermally hot to handle without heat-resistant gloves (nearly typed asbestos there but that's way more dangerous than Pu-240). You can imagine what that heat could do to the RDX/HMX (melting point ca. 200 deg C) used in the implosion lenses, the detonation systems etc. The extra radiation is just another issue that makes any weapon with noticeable amounts of Pu-240 not deployable. It might work for nuclear land-mines where the device doesn't have to be moved after it's emplaced, preferably by remote-handling gear.

251:

And you wouldn't need to be cruel to chickens.

252:

Re: Nuclear Fizzle scenario.

First, I appreciate the responses, especially Poul's comment about the non-nuclear core testing. I didn't know about that.

The point to remember is that the last time an entire nuclear weapons system was tested from launch to detonation was August 1945. Ever since then, pieces of weapons systems have been tested, or simulations of pieces are tested. If nukes were detonated, as in North Korea, everybody's seismograph networks would get a huge amount of data from the explosion, just as they get radar and satellite data from missile tests. Since the primary point of a nuclear force is deterrence, having the explosion characteristics be an apocalyptically huge unknown actually helps, rather than hinders, their mission. If half your nuclear detonation tests fail, everybody will know it, and that erodes your deterrence capability. If your adversaries don't know anything other than your announced arsenal...is it worth extinction to call your bluff and find out you weren't bluffing? No.

But how big a nuclear bluff can a world power get away with? That's what I don't think any of us know. For us, it's probably safer to assume that there's no bluff at all.

Second, about boomer subs. AFAIK, the US ones get their commands from ELF radio systems, which means they're limited to receiving about 8 characters of code, and then they do what that code tells them to. The POTUS doesn't have much strategic maneuver room during a nuclear war, so at most he gets to tell the DoD to implement an order set in The Football and that's it.. Probably he's going be incinerated within an hour of giving the order, and if one of his successors survives, they can only order a second boomer strike if the ELF system survives, which I'll bet it won't. They're big, fragile systems. Also, for a boomer to blow all its tubes, IIRC it has to remain on or near the surface for 15-30 minutes, which means it may well get targeted. I'm not sure they're intended to survive the first strike either.

Third and perhaps most important, I don't think this nuclear fizzle scenario is likely, especially in the next few years. To me this was blindingly obvious in what I wrote. But today, I also read a paper wherein some theoretical physicist apparently argued that, in principle, planet-sized masses could be entangled and used in a double-slit experiment, and thus gravity has to be quantized, this cited in a paper showing how the arguments that gravity must be quantum are incomplete or wrong.

So if you're someone who thinks that "in principle" is more-or-less synonymous with "this is reality," you may get confused by what I write. If I'm writing that a nuclear fizzle is what I think is a good way to get conscription restarted, the unwritten part is "I don't think conscription will start anytime soon." Similarly, if I post that in the military, future sex-segregated jobs will include gynecologists, proctologists, and SpecOps crews that are expected to hike 50 kg packs 50 km/day through mountains, then I'm implying that I believe that a vast majority (or all) of military jobs don't need to be segregated by sex or gender.

Finally, I'll point out that I do think nuclear deterrence will fail, either through nuclear war, a fizzle, or because the systems are abandoned due to climate chaos and other problems.

If you're thinking of this in terms of "which scenarios makes the best SFF story," well, post-nuclear war stories have been around since On The Beach if not Gojira. Need to write another one? Go for it.

A nuclear war fizzle story IMHO verges on Torment Nexus territory. On the one hand, exploring the stories of people who go through a fizzle could be great fiction if done well. Unfortunately, if the story encourages nuclear brinksmanship and it turns out no one was bluffing, the result is about as bad a real Torment Nexus as anyone might imagine. So maybe think about the consequences of writing about what happened after the world learned that Gen. Jack D. Ripper was bluffing?

But what will happen when nuclear deterrence ceases to play any role in global politics? That really might be worth thinking about, simply because it plays such a foundational role today. Someday it will go away, and that is something that SFF authors might want to explore. Thoughtfully.

253:

Nukes are an existential weapons, possessing them is a defence against extinction. For that reason they are the crown jewels of any nuclear nation and treated thusly.

I was, as I have said before, a very minor cog in the British nuclear weapons program a long time ago. The stated mission of AWRE and its associated manufacturing and refurbishment plant was that all British nuclear weapons would work to close to spec if they were ever used in any conflict. Not 90%, not 99% but 100%.

There are a number of ways to maintain a stockpile of nuclear weapons even without testing. Supercomputers play a large part in this, modelling the effects of ageing of components or changes to existing designs, replacement parts etc. The French signed the Test Ban Treaty after firing off a series of test devices in the Pacific (and offing a Greenpeace volunteer) so they could compare their computer modelling with real devices and they apparently got a good enough correlation that no more actual testing was needed.

The British nuclear stockpile includes several shelved nuclear warheads, these are complete assemblies kept in store to monitor ageing of parts and components in deployed weapons. They can be disassembled and tested in part to spot any intrinsic issues with the (theoretically) identical weapons in store or in silo on the CASD boats. I expect the US and other nuclear powers do the same sort of thing.

254:

Thanks Nojay. I want to be very clear that I'm not questioning the integrity or skill of any missileers out there, especially you.

This gets at the "in principle" versus "in practice" problem. In principle, every part of every nuke is kept to spec, and every individual component is tested to the extent practicable. So in principle, all nukes will work flawlessly, because all their components are kept to spec.

In practice...if I offered you a trip to Mars on a ship where every individual system had passed tests, but this was the first time it's being launched fully assembled, would you take that trip? Heck, would you get in a passenger airplane that went into service without all systems being assembled and tested together first?

That's what we don't, and can't, know about nuclear missiles. The first time they fly fully functional is in war, and this is not by accident.

The fizzle scenario is admittedly extreme. I do not think it will happen right now. Bankrupt the US, Russia, or the UK, then try to launch after a decade of neglect? Might fizzle. Decades of neglect? Fizzle. I do think it's worth contemplating what happens then.

255:

»The point to remember is that the last time an entire nuclear weapons system was tested from launch to detonation was August 1945.«

Wrong.

A significant fraction of the more than 1000 atmospheric tests were actual tests of deployed weapons, including their mode of delivery.

Check out "Atomic Annie" and the "Grable" test for instance.

I'm sorry to say, but your perception of this seems to be far more "Hollywood" than "Sandia" and therefore I am not going to spend time refuting them, point by point.

People much smarter than us have been thinking about every aspect of nuclear weapons for the last 75 years, and the only easy to grasp fact about them remains, that if they are ever used in anger, civilization as we know it, ends.

Everything else about nuclear weapons is complicated (and fascinating!)

I cannot recommend the book "The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States" by Jeffrey Lewis enough, it was real-time SF at the time he wrote it, the only difference between the book and reality being that the trigger event did not happen in reality.

256:

The point to remember is that the last time an entire nuclear weapons system was tested from launch to detonation was August 1945.

https://www.bntva.com/frigate-bird-the-polaris-missile-test-at-operation-dominic-christmas-island

they can only order a second boomer strike if the ELF system survives,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TACAMO (It's VLF, not ELF, but same idea.)

257:

Theodore B. Taylor is on the record (in "The Curve of Binding Energy") saying that you can, and given that he designed all the small US warheads (SADM, Davy Crockett etc.) I'll take his word.

Yes, I've read the book. The SADM/B54 Bomb/Davy Crockett was a spherical implosion device. You cannot achieve supercriticality by "dropping" a lump of plutonium on top of another; you need shockwaves traveling at some kilometres per second to do the job.

258:

It sounds like he's referring to the Demon Core criticality accidents at Los Alamos.

Yes. Which was not, in fact, an explosion -- although it got to prompt criticality if not supercriticality and killed people. (The proof is that the core was later installed in a bomb and detonated in a test. The criticality incidents didn't render it extra-spicy, they just sprayed neutrons everywhere.)

259:

The point to remember is that the last time an entire nuclear weapons system was tested from launch to detonation was August 1945.

Then there was this collection of crazy. I'm sure a few people thought it a good idea at the time. But still....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfish_Prime

261:

You’re right. I did a little digging in Wikipedia, and the last live nuclear missile tests were conducted around 1962, before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For those who are counting, that’s a couple of years before the Boeing 737 entered service. Aren’t we a couple of generations of missiles beyond the 1960s designs?

I think the point about in principle versus in practice stands. If there are any emergent problems from assembling all the tested systems into entire missiles everyone is using, they will only emerge if live firings resume. Do we dare hope they fizzle if that happens?

262:

the last time an entire nuclear weapons system was tested from launch to detonation was August 1945

Not true. See the Grapple-1 test in which an RAF Valiant strategic bomber dropped a thermonuclear weapon on Malden Island, which popped a 300 kiloton air burst. (Grapple-1 used a prototype version of Green Grapple and needed some subsequent tweaking to get to a production weapon, but: yup, RAF bombers dropping live H-bombs was A Thing in the 1950s.)

Also, for a boomer to blow all its tubes, IIRC it has to remain on or near the surface for 15-30 minutes, which means it may well get targeted.

Not true. In Operation Behemoth-2 in 1991, the Russian Delta IV-class submarine K-407 Novomoskovsk salvo-launched all 16 of its missiles in just 224 seconds, with a 13 second interval between missiles.

263:

See 261. Our comments crossed paths.

The long surface time was something I saw for American subs, and I don't know if it's correct.

264:

Sorry, hit submit before I read this 2023 AP article: "Inside the delicate art of maintaining America’s aging nuclear weapons" (nostalgia warning for Nojay?)

https://apnews.com/article/nuclear-warheads-military-bomb-plutonium-6b86198def4516cebe496c9f5fbfbb75

Issues of interest may include using 50 year-old Pu pits in live missiles, not having any test detonations since the early 1990s, performance data of the pits are being extrapolated from live detonations that ended 30 years ago, questions about whether to restart Pu production (there isn't any, so they're currently planning to recycle pits), struggling to keep the system fully staffed (missileers don't make a lot of money) and most of a trillion dollars earmarked to revamp the entire stock with entirely new weapons systems, designed and built probably without live firing tests, but with lots of live politics.

265:

It's almost certainly not correct -- the SSBN is at its most vulnerable while it's firing its missiles (it can't move fast or go deep and those rocket plumes are visible from orbit) so they've got to be designed to blast them out as fast as possible, lest enemy anti-submarine aircraft in the area get a lock on them.

Three minutes to salvo-launch the payload means a plane that's above the horizon can see the sub but would have to be nearly on top of it to do anything to stop the launch. But half an hour? In half an hour a P-8 Poseidon can fly 250 miles, and it carries Harpoon missiles and torpedoes. That's a "friendly" ASW plane, and I'm not sure Harpoon has an anti-submarine capability, but I'm pretty sure Russia and China have equivalent kit, and if you're hunting SSBNs for real it would make sense to do so with nuclear-tipped missiles of your own.

266:

It's almost certainly not correct -- the SSBN is at its most vulnerable while it's firing its missiles (it can't move fast or go deep and those rocket plumes are visible from orbit) so they've got to be designed to blast them out as fast as possible, lest enemy anti-submarine aircraft in the area get a lock on them.

Looks like you’re right: https://www.globalzero.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Full-LOWTimeline.pdf

I think I misremembered because of all the 15-30 minute intervals in there.

267:

If I remember correctly (and that's a big IF), it used to be true up to (say) the 1960s, and the then strategy was to launch a couple of missiles, dive down deep, run away and hide, rinse and repeat.

268:

https://lite.cnn.com/2024/01/27/middleeast/unrwa-israel-hamas-october-7-allegations-intl/index.html

quote:

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) fired several employees in the wake of the allegations, which have not been made public.

Given the unlikelihood of appeasement by the UN, there has to be some mode of ugly acts leading up to firing 'em in midst of a mega-scale humanitarian crisis. Which in turn suggests the rot in Gaza has reached into the ranks of this UN agency, not much surprise given the political slant arising from long standing bias.

Which in turn raises unpleasant speculations there might not be enough neutral parties with sufficient credibility to administer negotiations amongst the combatants. Which, combined with overt breaches of prior treaties-agreements-contracts – I'm looking at you Hamas -- will make any further efforts at a lasting truce all the more difficult. Right now, “truce” is as much as can be accomplished; “peace” might well never happen. Not along any meaningful, longer term time frame measured in years. (Never mind decades.)

And between well documented fraud-graft-incompetence by various groups in Gaza and the widespread wreckage, it will take 30Y (40Y!?) to fully rebuild. Assuming sources of aid are available in light of Hamas lengthy list of bad faith policies and acts of barbaric cruelty.

Europe ought get ready for a million (or more) refugees climbing into any hull that will cross the Mediterranean Sea because they don't want to die of cold-hunger-thirst. All that is preventing that at this moment, no boats are in reach of shore, since if ever any did, they'd be swapped. Literally sunk under the weight of human flesh. Given the temptation to inflict harm upon the nations of Europe not much surprise if one day real soon, someone -- I'm looking at you Iran -- buys up a hundred small freighters (paying cash, operating through cutouts, zero paperwork, zero witnesses). And all of 'em end up in the shallows off off Gaza, all on the same morning.

With the right-wingers setting the tone all across Europe, those refugees will end up drowning or forcibly sent back or packed densely into inadequate facilities. Whatever combination of refugee encampments or stepped up border watches or high volume fast paced deportation, will require allocating thousands of soldiers to provide security. A task no sane man will want to do, given the sure-to-slow-burn horrid conditions.

So, military draft. Minimalized training of less than three weeks. Forcibly deployed. Different cultures. Alien religions. No language in common. Insufficient planning. Hasty response. Resentful 'n sullen draftees. Hungry 'n hopeless refugees.

What could possibly go wrong?

269:

strategy was to launch a couple of missiles, dive down deep, run away and hide, rinse and repeat.

It may be partly a military culture difference. The Russian one is enamored of salvo(*) fire in many situations, the US one not so much.

(*) Perhaps because Russian has such a neat word for salvo: zalp.

Zalp! Zalp!

270:

Given the unlikelihood of appeasement by the UN, there has to be some mode of ugly acts leading up to firing 'em in midst of a mega-scale humanitarian crisis. Which in turn suggests the rot in Gaza has reached into the ranks of this UN agency, not much surprise given the political slant arising from long standing bias.

Not sure about unlikelihood. Here's what the head of UNRWA said Friday:“To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.” That sounds like appeasement. The alleged perps have been fired before the investigation began. By my reading, UNRWA prioritizes access above loyalty to its staff, which might be appropriate in this case, given the crisis.

271:

JReynolds @ 249:

JohnS @68:

"I'm fine with disestablishing the name from that of the Confederate General"

Braxton Bragg did a lot more to ensure the South's defeat than many Union generals!

I quite agree, but he WAS a Confederate and on "general" principles I agree with removing his name along with the names of the other Confederate generals.

It's actually kind of hard for me because I spent so much of my life at and around "Ft. Bragg", relating anything in my history Fort Liberty just doesn't fit.

JohnS @ 200:

"that puts Biden in landslide territory"

Between 1920 & 1940, the winning candidate in the US Presidential elections won the popular vote with more than 10% of their closest rival.

That kind of blow-out has only happened twice since 1940: 1972 & 1984. Let's hope for a three-peat? (If Drumpf is even the candidate. I keep hoping (against all hope) that he will have to abandon his candidacy due to heath / legal reasons).

OTOH, there is the worry that IF for whatever reason Trumpolini is not the nominee, the GQP might nominate someone who wasn't such an obvious monster and the fascists could sneak one over on the electorate.

272:

Charlie Stross @ 257:

"Theodore B. Taylor is on the record (in "The Curve of Binding Energy") saying that you can, and given that he designed all the small US warheads (SADM, Davy Crockett etc.) I'll take his word."

Yes, I've read the book. The SADM/B54 Bomb/Davy Crockett was a spherical implosion device. You cannot achieve supercriticality by "dropping" a lump of plutonium on top of another; you need shockwaves traveling at some kilometres per second to do the job.

The Davy Crockett was the end result of the U.S. Army's quest for an Atomic Hand Grenade. Taylor was the chief designer on that project.

One quote I've heard attributed to Taylor (concerning the implosion packages), "One the size of an orange WILL NOT work, one the size of a watermelon will definitely work and one the size of a grapefruit is 50/50".

It amuses me to note the Davy Crockett's warhead is slightly larger than a watermelon.

But IIRC, the majority of The Curve of Binding Energy deals with Taylor's fears that nuclear waste could easily be stolen by criminals (& terrorists) to fashion a "dirty bomb" - radioactive contamination spread by conventional explosives.

I also remember reading a SF story written during the early days of WW2 that had the allies dropping such bombs on Germany rendering the country uninhabitable (and thereby putting them out of the war).

I think it might have been one of Heinlein's short stories, (earning him a visit from authorities looking for possible leaks in the Manhattan Project's security).

It's been at least 40 years since I read The Curve of Binding Energy. I suppose I should read it again to refresh my memory.

Charlie Stross @ 258:

"It sounds like he's referring to the Demon Core criticality accidents at Los Alamos."

Yes. Which was not, in fact, an explosion -- although it got to prompt criticality if not supercriticality and killed people. (The proof is that the core was later installed in a bomb and detonated in a test. The criticality incidents didn't render it extra-spicy, they just sprayed neutrons everywhere.)

I know the difference, but I don't think the majority of people who stumble upon the story would.

274:

Europe ought get ready for a million (or more) refugees climbing into any hull that will cross the Mediterranean Sea because they don't want to die of cold-hunger-thirst. All that is preventing that at this moment, no boats are in reach of shore

Well, that and the Israeli navy, which has been doing a pretty good job of closing all access to Gaza from the sea for years (including preventing local fishers from actually fishing).

https://www.oxfam.org/en/timeline-humanitarian-impact-gaza-blockade

275:

Long time reader (10+ years?), first time poster. I would like to offer some counterpoints regarding Russia gathered from my own readings and listenings.

Russia has already undergone a demographic collapse in the early 90's. Between that and ~1mil mostly young people leaving in 2022, they are tapped out. Many of the issues raised regarding UK apply. They were thinking of a second mobilization and there just wasn't anyone to call up.

Which means Russia cannot sustain the war very much longer. And certainly not transition into attack. So I find all this alarm from Poland, Finland etc. a little ridiculous. Especially since such an attack would have nothing to do with justifications given for this war about reuniting brotherly nations (or even the same nation). I guess it doesn't hurt to be prepared just in case.

I think the western governments know this and this is why you are not seeing industrial production of artillery shells ramped up. The governments don't want to sign 5-10 year contracts and the manufacturers don't want to invest into new capacity without these contracts in hand.

The demographic situation is of course the same in Ukraine but with a much smaller population and a weaker economy. So Russia may last just long enough to bring Ukraine to admit defeat. A really unfortunate catch-22 for Ukraine.

276:

I think the western governments know this and this is why you are not seeing industrial production of artillery shells ramped up.

You may not be seeing that, but don't presume to speak for the rest of us.

277:

I agree that Starship makes a terrible weapons system if you're thinking of launching from the ground to do some sort of ad hoc strike.

Which is why you wouldn't do that.

The plan is to move a million tonnes to Mars. You'd be stashing your ace cards in space, not on the ground.

Ace cards could take all sorts of forms. You could set a bunch of rocks on an over the pole gravity assist. That alters the plane of the orbit. A couple of passes and you're in a retrograde orbit with maybe 50 km/s relative to Earth. A few ion drives and you can put them anywhere to within a few metres.

A fully fuelled Starship can lift 1000 tonnes from lunar surface to LLO. Refilled there it would have no trouble cancelling out the 1 km/s orbital velocity of the moon and dropping that on the Earth. That's about the size of the Hiroshima bomb.

Two mass drivers, a battery the size of Hornsdale and a couple of hundred MW of solar panels and you could launch 100 tonnes every half hour during the lunar day.

There's perfectly legit reasons for wanting to be able to launch stuff off the lunar surface. That's the plowshare, but it converts to a sword pretty easily.

There's absolutely no current means to strike something on the lunar surface with any sort of weapon. Even less so after 50 one kt strikes.

Then there's the fact that hundreds of Starships may be coming back from Mars every 2 years or so, and all they'd need to do is forget to brake at the end to make a big mess.

278:

In Operation Behemoth-2 in 1991, the Russian Delta IV-class submarine K-407 Novomoskovsk salvo-launched all 16 of its missiles in just 224 seconds, with a 13 second interval between missiles.

There's video on YouTube of a modern Borei-class SSBN volley-firing four missiles. Assuming the video isn't edited the fourth missile cleared the surface about thirty seconds after the first one did, so an interval of about ten seconds.

279:

Rocks? That's one possibility

If you want stupid paranoia fodder, imagine NRO Signals Surveillance Satellites in geosynchronous orbit. They're Hubble-sized. Now imagine that the SIGINT portion of the hardware is tiny, and the rest of it is a Minuteman III-scale MIRV warhead cluster and a system to drop it precisely on target with as little notice as possible.

Not only is it the stealthy "4th leg of the nuclear triad," in theory it might be an asteroid defense (although probably Delta V says this probably won't work, sort of like using a poisoned dart as a defense against a rifle bullet).

Now imagine all sorts of largish military satellites from many nations actually being camouflaged nukes in various orbits. It's an obvious place for the Russian Dead Hand deterrent, for instance.

Actually looking at it, Musk's Starlink satellites are about the same size as the W87s the Minuteman carries. Hmmm.

Anyway, makes me wonder if the USSF X-37 and analogous Chinese and Russian sats are surreptitiously checking to see which satellites are camouflaged nukes.

More nightmare fuel for Howard, Poul can tell me why it won't work, and Charlie can rhapsodize about Surprise Nuclear Kessler Syndrome. Fun times for all!

280:

however appealing as the script for a James Bond-esque thriller the economics of LEO storage of WMDs being just silly

so let's sketch it out for fuzzy values of “Hollywood physics”

every time something gets launched, there's a ten kilogram stowaway... over time there's a lot of those chunks which are gathered up by a tele-operated robotic spacecraft... great visuals!

in addition not everything in LEO and GEO de-orbits to burn up

there's a significant number of (officially) dead satellites, (supposedly) expended boosters, and various assorted broken off chunks ranging up to the size of a refrigerator...

and mixed in with those odds 'n sods could be anything

not just buckets of instant sunshine, there might be KEWs intended to hit hardened installations too tough or too remote for B2 bombers... but if you really are looking for nightmares consider highly effective chemical weapons such as binary nerve gases or tweaked variants of organomercury compounds which are extremely long lasting thus effective in area denial on time scales of decades... those I've read about I will not post given how the DHS is likely sweeping all pages on all sites for mention of 'em... never mind the materials are open source and not behind paywalls or password walls... doubtful there are vicious micro-organisms hardy enough to endure long term cold(ish) conditions... never mind space-based single celled critters as per The Andromeda Strain...

...so at the eleventh hour, with the clock ticking down a ragtag assemblage of granola chomping goofballs and thin necked nerds and drunken astronauts frantically disarm a swarm of WMDs to Save The World Yet Again™

((( cue closing credits and roll seven minutes of comic outtakes )))

281:

I still think rocks take a lot of beating, they're just not quick.

This occurred to me while walking the dog

The Mars colony is planning to make fuel. (The whole thing falls in a heap if it can't)

So there's fuel, and there's two big rocks in LMO, and there's a lot more Starships lying around than anyone can use (because think about the logistics of taking the empties back to Earth)

Load 1000 tonnes of Deimos into a Starship. Fire it at Jupiter. The Starship drops the rock, turns around and boosts back to Deimos for another load. 100 starships do this 10 times a day for 100 days.

A couple of years later the rocks whip around Jupiter and end up on a highly eccentric retrograde orbit. 4 years later they meet Earth on the other side of the sun, going in the opposite direction for a closing speed of about 70 km/s

283:

I guess the question is why? Most of the setup for this attack will take years, it will be mostly visible from the Earth, the Earth is closer to Mars than Jupiter is, which means Earth can retaliate before the strike hits, and Earth can more rapidly build countermeasures, such as solar-powered laser/mass-driver arrays on the far side of the Moon to mess up both the attack and Martian settlements. Further, it assumes there's no use for Deimos, which I'm not sure I believe. Landing big spaceships on Mars is a bit tricky, and it may make more sense to use Mars' moons as transit hubs between Mars surface ferries and interplanetary craft.

284:

I think they'd be the same reason as nuclear weapons on Earth. The "you can't push me around because I can kill us both". Rather like negotiations while holding a grenade with the pin pulled.

I don't think a few million tonnes mined out of Deimos would make much difference, as it's about a trillion tonnes.

I think what's interesting is that this is going to be wielded by a company rather than a nation. I can't really think of a parallel other than The East India Company, and even that's not exact. How do you negotiate taxation or regulation with a company like that? If it's controlling cis lunar space as well, then any Earth based countermeasures run into the issues Charlie raised, big immovable infrastructure that's easy to see and easy to knock flat. With Earth denied access to space, Martian attacks can take decades if they want.

285:

The problem is that it's more like "thanks for selling me the nuclear bomb. I've put it in the middle of Times Square set to go off on the 18th of October 2037".

Even if it works once no-one is going to let you have another bomb/launch another rocket from earth. Look at the sanctions on Russia right now... if they were completely dependent on the outside world for everything (think Taiwan) exactly how long do you think a war of aggression would last? Let alone a series of well-telegraphed terrorist atrocities?

Add in the fragility of an off-world colony, especially one in orbit just waiting for someone to start a game of "my secret antistallite weapon is better than your secret antisatellite weapon", and it comes perilously close to the "if you don't love me I'll kill myself" toxic relationship model.

286:

H
And .. it looks as though a defence against such attacks { Never mind vapourising drones } is already under development.
Welcome the return of the Battleship & shore bobardment!

This whole scenario reminds me of the "world" imagined by a missed SF author - died of a brain tumour - Charles Sheffield

287:

»The "you can't push me around because I can kill us both".«

But that only works if you are actually willing to push the button, and since nobody is in a hurry to do that with a suicide-weapon, it is possible to blackmail nuclear super-powers along the "gimme this or I will force you to commit nuclear suicide".

This is precisely why DoD has ben trying to find a way to make nukes more "usable" for 50+ years, they desire an option to actually use nukes against geopolitical ass-holes, without letting it all go to ruin.

288:

SF authors have been talking about interplanetary wars between Earth and a Mars colony for multiple decades, if not an entire century at this point.

I believe a Mars colony will be dependent on Earth for most of its computing infrastructure for decades -- they'll be too busy trying to grow food and not die to import the latest ASML EUV semiconductor lithography machines, let alone to clone them -- and they'll be importing SCADA controllers. And the most elegant and effective way to wipe out a bunch of rebels on Mars (as Kim Stanley Robinson pointed out) is to simply crank the percentage of oxygen in the air supply up to 35% or so and wait for a spark or other spontaneous ignition source.

And now we're getting into Reflections on Trusting Trust territory because how do you prove that your SCADA controllers haven't been rooted to cause spontaneous human combustion if all the dev tools and compilers came from earth along with the microcontroller semiconductors, and even microcontroller semiconductors can be rooted by a dopant-level attack that adds circuitry that is literally invisible even under an electron microscope.

Need for critical masses of very expensive controlled substances: zero. Mass of payloads to throw at another planet: zero. Detectability: near-zero (similar to the Iranian nuclear enrichment project at Natanz detecting the SCADA attack on their ultracentrifuge line before it happened). Chance of retaliation: zero unless they've got a "Dead Hand" doomsday device.

289:

Footnote: obviously, not being vulnerable to a SCADA attack on the life support system would be good. But mechanical or discrete-component (non-microcontroller mediated) industrial control components are heavier, bulkier, more susceptible to failure, and harder to reconfigure. That's why computerized SCADA systems have become so ubiquitous in recent decades! Now add the cost of shipping to Mars, and the obvious question of "why would folks back on Earth give a rat's ass about what people are doing on Mars, when it is always at least 50 million miles away and doesn't have nuclear weapons" is a potent incentive for not bothering to ship several hundred extra tons of relays and valves and thumbwheels to Mars ... until it's too late.

290:

not bothering to ship several hundred extra tons of relays and valves and thumbwheels to Mars ... until it's too late.

I keep asking the question of just how often a Mars colony would need keyboards, batteries, etc... for their laptops? And or tablets? Those things wear out or just plain break. How many extra of this and all the things you mention do they pack on each flight?

291:

Interestingly,

the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter trail-blazed some new tech

-- notably using a circa-2015 smartphone CPU instead of a space-rated computer (spartphone processor: 0.5 grams; regular space-rate computer: 500 grams: oh, and the smartphone chip was about a thousand times faster) ... and Ingenuity ran on lithium-ion batteries designed for power tools (not phones or laptops). The batteries performed fine despite the Martian diurnal temperature cycle, from -90℃ to +20℃, which is somewhat outside the range they're designed for.

I suspect keyboards are going to be touchscreen ones for a while: shares weight with the display element, no moving parts to get dirt of crumbs trapped under, and so on. Multitouch screens are deceptively light -- a lot of the weight we expect from them today consists of the enclosure and/or batteries if they're portable, the multiple layer glass screens themselves, with backlight, are not significantly thicker than a sheet of watercolour cartridge paper. So send one enclosure (frame to be 3D printable from PLA, and recyclable for repairability) and a couple of dozen replacement display elements in a ~ 1cm thick pack.

292:

I should have said, "for example".

Cables, medical syringes (no longer disposable), tooth brushes, sewing kits, and all of those valves, fittings, controls, etc...

I would expect a Mars colony to get ruthless about every thing electronic being USB-C or some other follow on. No exceptions.

293:

(Throwing rocks from the moon)

Doing some finger-in-the-air numbering ...

Escape velocity from the earth (ignoring atmospheric drag) is about 11 km/s. The point of equal attraction between the earth and moon is "high" enough that we can approximate it as infinite. So if you launch a mass from the moon so that it just reaches the point of equal attraction, it will gain about 11 km/s on the way down. That's about 60 MJ/kg.

So 100 tonnes is about 6 TJ. That's about 1.5 kt TNT equivalent. Which is not something I'd want to be anywhere near when it hits.

294:

Reusable syringes are problematic, there's a reason we went to disposable ones: reusable syringes and needles need to be cleaned and sterilized between uses, which means you need an autoclave, which itself is problematic (on Mars). And the needles ... I've seen old reusable needles and they're a horror story (relatively fat bore by modern standards, need to be re-ground to sharpen them regularly or they hurt like hell going in, etc).

An autoclave is essentially a pressure cooker. Modern ones for sterilizing medical instruments would of necessity be equipped with sensors to avoid cold spots and ensure proper circulation of live steam throughout: you could probably make one the size of a small Instant Pot, but it's going to draw at least a kilowatt of power while it's running for a minimum of 15 minutes to achieve by-the-book conditions for sterility, and a small (1-5 litre) autoclave won't hold much stuff. Ideally you need a bigger one for recycling surgical instruments, scalpels, and so on -- not to mention prepping i/v fluids.

I'm pretty sure it's cheaper just to ship several kilograms of lightweight disposables at first (that's several hundred to thousands of syringes) than glass ones and the gubbins for recycling them.

And if you want to put someone on an i/v drip full of isotonic rehydration fluid? I've worked with compounding pharmacy scale autoclaves. The things are the size of a compact car and draw tens of kilowatts ...

295:

without deep drilling, my guess is 90+% of the chatter on this thread is from males

why point out the obvious?

to point out the overlooked

tampons

you might not consider certain items as critical but there's 50% of the crew-colonists-cargo who will insist there's no such thing as civilization without those items

never mind 3D printers and perfect recycling of plastics there will be stuff impossible to produce without a minimal population of 50,000 specialists and their narrowly focused equipment

adapting crops to novelty is never easy... the conditions on Mars (or the Moon) will necessitate decades of tweaking... indirectly by selective breeding or by quasi-miracles of hand-waving-uber-tech (CRISPR that really really lives up to the hype)

returning to the specific example of tampons, every paramedic who got trained in the military as a field medic I've chatted with will admit to a pocket full up of tampons... in chaos of battle, if someone got hit multiple times, and the wounds were narrow, tampons were useful for lifesaving

there's going to be lots 'n lots of industrial accidents in midst of Space Colony v1.0 until all the gee-whiz gizmos are field tested and flaws fixed the old fashioned way of users using 'em

so... spaced-based medical care

emergency treatment... tampons

296:

I ran across this article that may have some information relative to the topic under discussion:

Rules for the Ruling Class The New Yorker magazine via "archive.today" webpage capture

297:

You might be able to devise some sort of contraption for injection-molding disposable syringes on Mars, using locally-recyclable plastic, and a stock of fine tubing and a die and cutter arrangement for drawing new needles. But that's definitely not something you pack on a first expedition, or even consider before you're looking to support more than a thousand permanent residents.

298:

History shows that conscript armies are pretty good when they are defending their homes from invaders. History also shows that conscript armies are crap when they are sent to some tropical hellhole they never heard of, to kill people who never did anything to them or their families

Depends which history book you read. A Japanese conscript army wiped the floor with the Briish in Malaya

299:

to point out the overlooked

tampons

Tampons are generally disposable. In a gravity well, moon cups do pretty much the same job but are reusable. Source: married someone who swore by her moon cup -- used it for years and never needed to buy a replacement.

As a single moon cup weighs less than five days' worth of tampons, that's a no-brainer. They seem to be less popular in the USA and UK only because there's fuck-all profit to be made by selling a single silicone cup that's good for a decade than a box of disposable cotton produce every month.

I submit that carrying a pocketful of tampons for emergency bullet wound packing is unlikely to be a priority in the first decades of a Mars colony.

This highlights one important aspect of packing for Mars: the usual products emphasized by a late phase capitalist economy are probably very sub-optimal for a long duration expedition, and there are substitutable alternatives that we mostly don't hear about simply because nobody advertises them because they're not profitable.

(For another example, consider the Lewis and Clark Expedition's approach to firearms -- IIRC they carried Girandoni pattern air rifles plus bullet molds and a spare ingot of lead to replace any bullets they lost permanently (couldn't recover from the game they were hunting). Gunpowder muskets would have been cheaper to buy, but the gunpowder for a two year expedition would have been much heavier.)

300:

Howard NYC @ 295:

returning to the specific example of tampons, every paramedic who got trained in the military as a field medic I've chatted with will admit to a pocket full up of tampons... in chaos of battle, if someone got hit multiple times, and the wounds were narrow, tampons were useful for lifesaving

I did Combat Lifesaver training in 2003 (with a refresher in 2004 while I was deployed) and nobody ever mentioned tampons to me. I never carried any. We did have a special "Israeli Bandage", but were warned to check if wounded soldiers had "shellfish allergy" before using it.

Fortunately, I never had to actually USE my training (except FOR unannounced training exercises).

OTOH, I was once married, so I do have some familiarity with tampons and it just seems they'd contaminate a wound (non-woven, loose fibers).

I'd use one IF I had no alternative, but they were never part of my kit.

301:

I did Combat Lifesaver training in 2003 (with a refresher in 2004 while I was deployed) and nobody ever mentioned tampons to me.

I read about the tampons-for-bullet-wounds thing circa 2004-2010 as something the medics had discovered for themselves in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan, and didn't know about at the time of the initial invasions. Like the US Army finally waking up and starting to procure a Camelback system as standard equipment in desert conditions, it took a few years to become official policy after hostilities started. (I saw reports of soldiers buying their own Camelbacks before deploying then getting shouted at for using unapproved hydration systems ...)

302:

I remember reusable syringes and needles. They hurt pretty badly, anyway, and like hell (as you said) when blunt or hooked. I am sure that they weren't autoclaved, but I don't know how they were disinfected. My recollection is that they were just dipped in something, but that may have been me mistaking what they were doing.

303:

Rules for the Ruling Class The New Yorker magazine via "archive.today" webpage capture

I am getting "Not Found (yet?)" error.

Here is actual New Yorker article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2024/01/29/rules-for-the-ruling-class

Depending on a browser, private window may bypass the paywall.

304:

I remember my childhood GP's surgery had an autoclave for his syringes and needles. This would have been late 60s/early 70s.

By the time I was studying pharmacy (early 80s onwards) they'd already been sunsetted in the NHS in favour of disposable syringes and disposable needles -- mounted separately, today I gather best practice is to have integral syringe/needle combos except for procedures where they need to take multiple blood samples in one go or stick several things at once into an i/v infusion bag.

(Intravenous fluids in glass bottles that needed autoclave sterilization were still a thing in hospital aseptic manufacturing suites in the late 80s. I worked in one.)

Your early memories of syringes and needles merely being washed, not autoclaved, probably predates AIDS -- from 1982 sterilization was absolutely mandatory for needles. (Needle sharing by missionaries running vaccination campaigns in Africa from the 1920s onwards is believed to have been the main driver of the spread of HIV before it reached the western gay and drug injecting communities in the 1970s.)

305:

Come gentle rock And drop on Slough, There’s nothing left Worth selling, now. (With apologies to whoever)

306:

I think it’s simpler to say that an offworld settlement that relies on regular shipments of disposables from the homeworld in order to exist is a station, not a colony, especially if it’s designed as a garbage dump and a spaceport, with habitat buildings between the two to turn stuff ported in into garbage.

This is also why consumerism is such a lousy ideology for off-planet exploration. Hoarders would do better.

So far as autoclaves go, I’ve got a pressure cooker that doesn’t need a rubber seal, it’s just precisely engineered steel that seals when the pot is heated. Speaking from experience, seal problems are what shut dow autoclaves and other pressure cookers, so minimizing the use of imported polymer seals in an offworld station might be useful.

Given that Mars habitats will basically be underground grow operations (minus the cannabis) with machine shops attached and people sleeping in hammocks in either of these, it’s worth thinking about what crops flourish in such conditions and how to cook them. This is a fancy way of pointing out that pressure cooking will likely be very common, so it’s not stupid to have a lot of pressure cooker/autoclaves in Mars stations, for use in food, medicine, organic recycling, sewage decontamination, etc.

Oh, you expected people to have private rooms? Why waste the space? Hammock and space chest is probably a more realistic accommodation.

307:

Original John Betjeman.

I'd suggest these days more "Come gentle rock And drop on Slough,
There’s nothing left Worth stealing, now."

308:

Lots of Mars talk. Anyone who hasn't read 'A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?' by Dr. Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith should do so, stat.

And of course OGH hammered on the idea pretty hard here

309:

Nick K @ 298
CORRECTION A Japanese conscript army TEMPORARILY wiped the floor with the Briish in Malaya - until Uncle Bill Slim took charge.
By the end of the IJA's retreat down the Arakan, the casualty/kill ratio was 100:1 in our favour.
See also: G MacDonald Fraser

310:

(Going from 40 year old lectures) pharmaceutical-grade autoclaves are not simple pressure cookers; they require an external steam generator and flush the pressure vessel repeatedly with live steam to ensure there's no trapped air, so no bubble formation or superheating. You can probably do that with metal-on-metal seals but it's going to be trickier engineering. You also ideally want thermocouples inside the pressure vessel to monitor the internal temperatures, pressure valves for shutdown, and an emergency fusible plug in case something goes wrong.

The modern instant pot style cookers come close, but still probably fall short on the "let's drive all the air out and get to 100% steam at 1 bar overpressure, 115 celsius, uniformly for 21 minutes" requirement.

311:

If it turns out to be advantageous overall to have the atmospheric pressure in the habitat lower than Earth standard - as with spacesuits - then you'll have to have pressure cookers to cook with anyway.

Don't see why everyone's so scared of them, anyway, they're just a thick saucepan with a heavy duty lid. Nor do they chew energy - they only need a lot of power to heat them up quickly, and once they're up to temperature you can turn them down to simmer, same as a normal saucepan.

Standard terrestrial autoclaves do chew masses of energy because they are not equivalent to pressure cookers. A pressure cooker is a closed volume with no mass going in or out (apart from safety valve releases). For reasons I can't remember (though they did seem to sort of make sense at the time), an autoclave is basically a boiler - continuous feed of cold water which it vaporises and then dumps the steam - and for some related reason which I can't remember but did seem to sort of make sense at the time, it also does not recover the heat from the exhausted steam to preheat the feedwater, it just dumps it. So it's no surprise that it's wasteful as fuck.

For a Mars habitat, though, I am sure that the need to avoid venting precious water would be strong enough to override the earthly reason for doing it, even if I can't remember what that reason is. You'd recycle it as a matter of course, and design the installation around that assumption. And the waste heat that you did end up with from the process could still be fed into the habitat's central heating system, so you've not lost that either. The autoclave begins to sound like a better fit to the circumstances on Mars than it is to those on Earth.

312:

Come friendly bombs/rocks and fall on Slough
It isn't fit for humans now
There isn't grass to graze a cow
Swarm over, Death!

313:

If it turns out to be advantageous overall to have the atmospheric pressure in the habitat lower than Earth standard - as with spacesuits - then you'll have to have pressure cookers to cook with anyway.

Only for boiling stuff in water. Hint: air fryers will work just fine, as will deep fryers and microwave ovens.

Don't see why everyone's so scared of them, anyway, they're just a thick saucepan with a heavy duty lid.

You have clearly never been in the same room as a pressure cooker where the valve went BANG, bounced off the ceiling, and left a geyser of superheated soup squirting everywhere. (Which used to happen with the old kind if you didn't keep an eye on it and turn down the heat once it hit full pressure -- instant pot electronic ones are far safer, they stop heating automatically.)

314:

I've no doubt that the ones all into "let it roll" are the losers, and fast. Every member of Meal Team 6 will announce "you ain't the boss of me", and argue while their opponents come down on them with APCs and air support.

And, as I've mentioned before, remember TFG calling on his supporters to literally "surround Philadelphia" (while the votes were being counted), and intimidate them? My instant reaction was for inner city gangs to declare peace, or at least a truce, and go take their guns away from them, one way or another. You know which side would win on that.

315:

Looked up Bragg. So, for those old enough to remember L'il Abner, the comic strip, was he the inspiration for Gen. T. Cornpone ("We had the Yankees beaten, but the issue still was in doubt; he suggested the retreat that turned it into a route")?

316:

Why you do not allow corporations to own a planet.

317:

I've used pressure cookers since I moved away from home, a long time ago. The only time I've ever had a problem was a few years ago, when I started it up, and asked my now-ex to turn it down when it hit pressure. She was clueless, and the weight blew off, and stew on the ceiling.

Otherwise, I stay in the kitchen until it's time to turn it down.

318:

RE: pressure cookers and keeping humans alive on Mars...

The basic points about Mars that are relevant are:

--It's fundamentally inimical to human life, so putting durable doors between areas of different pressure and chemistry is a fundamental technology. Pressure cookers are a subset of that technology. Microwaves are not.

--It's far away from Earth by modern standards, so assume it will take 26 months or so to get a replacement part from Earth.

--Martian mineralogy is different and probably considerably less diverse than on Earth, since up to half the minerals on Earth have biotic processes involved in their formation. ( https://www.quantamagazine.org/life-helps-make-almost-half-of-all-minerals-20220701/ ). As a result, it may be even more difficult to make many things on Mars than it is to import them, and polymer hoses and seals are high on the list of importables. Minimizing critical imports is fairly critical.

This is why I'm going on about seal-less pressure cookers, and pressure doors in general. I completely agree that precision engineering metal doors to seal between areas of different temperature, pressure, and chemistry is a pain, but it's somewhat less painful than losing the seal on the airlock door and having to wait two years for a repairman to come and replace it.

As for scary pressure cookers, maybe someday I'll give you the safety briefing I got for working with an autoclave that sterilized soil one tonne at a time and had a 1.5 m diameter door with a rubber seal. It was out of commission for months when the seal went, before they could get it replaced. We did not want to be in the same room as that monster when it malfunctioned. It was uncomfortable enough being in there when it was working properly (1.5 x 4 meter metal cylinder, boiling hot when operating).

319:

As for scary pressure cookers, maybe someday I'll give you the safety briefing I got for working with an autoclave that sterilized soil one tonne at a time and had a 1.5 m diameter door with a rubber seal.

Back atcha with the hospital unit that manufactured continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis fluid for the hospitals in West Yorkshire in the 80s. (CAPD lost popularity relative to haemodialysis when antibiotic resistance really took off, but was widely used in the UK until then because it was cheaper and could be set up at home. Downside was, each patient needed about 40 litres of sterile dialysis fluid a week and generics manufacturers couldn't be arsed making it because it sold for about the price of Evian.)

Those autoclaves were built to load/unload batches of 100-250 one litre glass bottles of dialysis fluid at a time, so similar-ish scale to your soil sterilizer.

The safety lecture included the bit about the poor maintenance worker at Evans Pharmaceuticals in the early 70s who fell inside one while it was about to run a test cycle: he'd been working alone so nobody hit the emergency stop button. It was a closed coffin funeral ...

320:

The airlocks I've used were just a flat plate on the door frame, (obviously with a hole you can crawl through) and a flat plate forming the door, with a groove machined into it. The groove contained an o'ring.

The o'ring was custom made to suit the door.

You just pushed o'ring cord into the groove until you'd gone around once, mark the spot, pull it out, then cut the o'ring cord and glue the ends to make a full ring. When it was dry you push your new o'ring into the groove and you're done.

How to glue.

https://youtu.be/m1IUUmdMGP0?feature=shared

What to glue

https://au.rs-online.com/web/c/bearings-seals/gaskets-seals-packings/o-ring-cords/

321:

ilya187 @ 303:

"Rules for the Ruling Class The New Yorker magazine via "archive.today" webpage capture"

I am getting "Not Found (yet?)" error.

Here is actual New Yorker article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2024/01/29/rules-for-the-ruling-class

Depending on a browser, private window may bypass the paywall.

I thought about pasting both links. I have a subscription to the New Yorker and I'm never sure if the URLs I see for U.S. newspapers & magazines will work outside the U.S.

I remember Charlie expressed a dislike for New York Times links because of that.

Whenever I'm in doubt I'll try to see if there's and "archive.today" link. I'm pretty sure it was someone in the U.K. or E.U. who first suggested it.

I hope that between my link & your link anyone who is interested is able to read the article.

322:

pharmaceutical-grade autoclaves

I don't know about the rest of the planet but office and even hospital autoclaves are a vanishing thing.

Our local Duke Medical Center scandal caused the insurance companies across the country to basically say "prove you are doing it right or no insurance". So over the last 10 to 20 years, sterile instruments for medical use have become a "rental" thing. They come packaged / sealed and are opened at the time of use. And they come in kits for various procedures.

I have to wonder if this is a thing (building autoclaves) where the knowledge base is vanishing. At least in the US.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4797392

323:

PS, unlike the video, I only ever used a rubber cement, the name of which escapes me, but there's lots of similar things on the market.

324:

Charlie Stross @ 304:

I remember my childhood GP's surgery had an autoclave for his syringes and needles. This would have been late 60s/early 70s.

By the time I was studying pharmacy (early 80s onwards) they'd already been sunsetted in the NHS in favour of disposable syringes and disposable needles -- mounted separately, today I gather best practice is to have integral syringe/needle combos except for procedures where they need to take multiple blood samples in one go or stick several things at once into an i/v infusion bag.

(Intravenous fluids in glass bottles that needed autoclave sterilization were still a thing in hospital aseptic manufacturing suites in the late 80s. I worked in one.)

Your early memories of syringes and needles merely being washed, not autoclaved, probably predates AIDS -- from 1982 sterilization was absolutely mandatory for needles. (Needle sharing by missionaries running vaccination campaigns in Africa from the 1920s onwards is believed to have been the main driver of the spread of HIV before it reached the western gay and drug injecting communities in the 1970s.)

In the mid 1950s here in the U.S., my pediatrician used those glass syringes & needles. I remember them being in a bundle wrapped in a white towel (which I think is how they were autoclaved). After use they were placed in a dish of alcohol. I don't think they were re-used before being autoclaved again.

I don't remember ever getting a childhood vaccination where the Doctor did NOT open a fresh pack of syringes, but there were always some used syringes in the dish of alcohol (which IIRC was dyed blue or blue/green?).

325:

The o'ring was custom made to suit the door.

The problem with your process on Mars is that there is no Granger (US nation wide industrial supply house) on Mars. You can't just order up a certain diameter seal and the special glue it needs and get it in a day or less.

To my point about USB-C or similar cables. To make all of this work someone will have to work through the bill of materials and get ruthless about reducing the uniqueness of the build and spare parts that are to be used / taken. A reducing in uniqueness in parts numbers will take precedence over perfection to the particular job.

327:

Charlie @ 318
That sounds even more fun than students (guess who?) being royally pissed-off with the "hall" cooking & sabotaging the giant soup cauldron ... with "Dry Ice"
Absolutely wonderful Hammer-Horror visual effects, the kitchen staff having conniptions & various physics/engineering/chemistry students desperately trying not to wet-themselves laughing ...

Also ... re. "H"
"Pressure cookers are scary" - yes?
Every working steam locomotive ever built on the planet is a working self-mobile pressure cooker, after all!

328:

In a gravity well, moon cups do pretty much the same job but are reusable.

I was wondering about that, because moon cups operate in an ozzing environment rather than a peristaltic one, but OTOH so do ears and sinuses so if that approach didn't work at all zero gravity would be unpleasant for everyone. So I suspect that a moon cup would still work at least as a barrier, allowing use of a reusable wipe or pad to collect the mess, or you could just centrifuge the blood into the cup*. But it seems that the current approach is "don't do that then".

As you would hope there's active research being/been done on the topic. Variations on this artcile are all over the place: https://theconversation.com/how-women-can-deal-with-periods-in-space-58294

  • women I've known have varied in their approaches from a very prim "we don't talk about that" to "you want gore, I got gore", and IME tend towards the latter. Pads are very traditional and modern washing machines make reusable ones easy enough to deal with at least down here (or "towels" as they're sometimes called)
329:

"You're massively overestimating how much training the weaponry takes. The British Army's specialist weapons school (including anti-tank training) is about 10 weeks long. The Armour School course is similar."

Ay which point one can join an established unit as a teainee.

330:

"And no, weapons now are not more complicated than they were back then. In fact, they were probably more complicated back then."

I drove a M113 back in the day, and have seen videos of the inside of a Bradley. The increase in complexity was staggering.

331:

Steam trains, in spaaaaace!

Or at least on Mars. What you'd use instead of water I'm not sure - I wonder if you could make a CO2 condensing heat engine (rather than a pressure engine or a gas-phase heat engine)

332:

"Training people to be acceptably proficient is not too bad in terms of time. Up to about lieutenant. Then, well, we're talking decades and a whole institution with memories and actual battle experience."

You misspelled 'sergeant'.

333:

Greetings! It's been a while.

Back at Fort Benning we got a lot of training about what do to in the event of a tactical nuclear strike. That sounds stupid, but it really wasn't. Tactical nuclear weapons are really only useful if you use them in very large quantities.

I took a deep dive into it here.

TLDR: The Russians would need to use hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons in order to materially affect the war. I suppose that fears over nonfunctioning systems could be a factor, but given how many tactical weapons the Russians would need to employ, I doubt that was the key factor.

The political costs of a massive use of weapons in Ukraine would probably outweigh the benefits, even if Moscow believed that the U.S. would do nothing. You would be better off going right to strategic strikes ... but see previous about the political costs.

334:

I agree completely.

Which is sort of why I'm arguing against metal to metal seals that have to be machined to exact tolerances and maintained against corrosion with exact hinges and a locking mechanism that applies significant force (implying either shipping the whole airlock from earth, or taking up a lot of precision manufacturing time on Mars), vs any old steel plate that's slapped with paint and some rubber cord that is light and can be shipped up.

335:

The M113 is/was a battle taxi, an Armoured Personnel Carrier intended to deliver a squad plus support weapons to their intended drop-off point and then leave before it attracted the attention of The Other Side. It might have a light machine-gun on the roof and it was sufficiently well armoured to keep the rain out, mostly.

The Bradley and its kin are Infantry Fighting Vehicles, intended to carry a squad of troops like the APC but also remain in the combat area and provide fire support with a 25mm cannon plus TOW missiles, all directed by a gunner with night vision and thermal sights built-in. The Bradley's armour is a lot better than previous APCs and it's also mine-resistant to some extent.

336:

...and then whilst still on Earth before packing 'em for shipment to Mars come up with the means of automating the quality assurance of each 'n every cable with special attention paid to the attributes unique to each as well robustness of male plug v. female plug (yeah, yeah, make your snarky remarks) because those cables are going to used and re-used... a zillion times... by overworked and exhausted people who will not always be gentle

My bitter experience with USB, RJ11, RJ45, old school serial, various exotic fiber optic connectors, et al, after those things are cut and capped they are not tested before shipping... there was a data center at {REDACTED} where we finally figured out it was not our prototype application which was causing routers and servers and workstations to experience dementia-like symptoms but rather cables that swayed in the breeze of the HVAC and/or someone brushing pass 'em to abruptly lose packets... So after the typical screaming 'n blame passing the resolution was to manually test every single cable after flaying it against the wall a couple times... my contribution was to insist the techs wear eye protection since inevitably those not-quite-crimped caps got knocked loose... one of the senior managers bitched about how a set of goggles got cracked and had to be trashed... it did not help when I pointed out the goggle's fail mode prevented a highly paid tech from getting blinded...

so if any of you want to write stirring novels about the Final Frontier be sure to include the Financial Frontier of yet again fighting the good fight over quality assurance and safety whilst testing...

{ what me, bitter? }

337:

...almost forgot the punch line

1 in 20 cables failed and was replaced, out of about a thousand

after replacement, our proto-app loaded and ran on a hundred-plus workstations allowing for overly delayed user evaluation

338:

"I guess the question is why?"

I didn't really answer that.

Remembering that it was in answer to the proposal of using the guillotine to manage the rich.

Essentially backing them into a corner where they give up their life's work, and their life, or they point out that they can drop 100 million tonnes at 70 km/s wherever they want, albeit in 8 years time.

339:

Which is sort of why I'm arguing against metal to metal seals that have to be machined to exact tolerances and maintained against corrosion with exact hinges and a locking mechanism that applies significant force (implying either shipping the whole airlock from earth, or taking up a lot of precision manufacturing time on Mars), vs any old steel plate that's slapped with paint and some rubber cord that is light and can be shipped up.

Corrosion may be a lesser problem than dust and grit on the Martian surface. I agree that that scratches or corrosion from anything will be bad, but a rubber gasket might fail faster than a metal one.

Anyway, the pressure difference between habitat pressure and martian air and the difference between habitat and pressure cooker interior is about the same: 10-15 psi, or around one atmosphere. The only difference in gaskets between the airlock and the cooker is that the first has to work well below freezing on the outside, while the second has to work well above boiling on the inside. If you can use variations on one sealing technology for both systems and they use readily available materials, that's ideal.

340:

because those cables are going to used and re-used... a zillion times... by overworked and exhausted people who will not always be gentle

As a client moved from an in office setup with virtually all desktops to a post pandemic hot seat office with provided same setup for each staffer at home...

I pointed out that all the cable insertions / removals might break a soldered to the logic board USB-C connection. With the only practical repair being a new logic board.

So I suggested buying a pile of magnetic USB-C adapters. I had already been using them myself for a couple of years.

So I did a search on Amazon (try and find them anywhere else) for ones rated at 40GB/s for USB-C and Thunderbolt 4. Picked 4 out of 20 to 30 to try. Two of them had weak magnets. The other two both worked well but one was bulkier than the other. So we bought a pile.

They are working great.

Here's a link.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BGD9RGB1

We bought extra as the market for these things isn't big enough for long term production and SKUs tend to vanish as they sell out.

341:

I see I wasn't fully clear.

EVERYONE in this office now has an company issued laptop. And when issued a laptop they are reimbursed up to $50 to buy the satchel / backpack of their choice.

342:

I did the same for my phone when it was new because breaking the USB-C connector seemed to be a popular thing on the support forums (Fairphone, so you don't need a whole new phone but still)

Dell Laptop has USB-C for everything, I should see if there's a short magnetic extension cord I can buy for that since the Dell one is solid.

343:

Current hospital autoclaves have a door which only closes when the door button is continuously held down. For service engineers there is a safety override which locks the door open with a single key- anyone working inside locks the door, removes the key, and keeps it themselves (plus the machine has a steam jacket so has to be turned off and cooled before you can work in there). The big cart washer disinfectors have a cycle stop button inside the chamber at both ends. If anyone goes in there while its on, nowadays, somebody put them there...

344:

As we're past 300... how is the Fairphone?

345:

You wouldn't want to use steam traction on Mars: Sterling engines would be viable, though.

But really, if you're going to run on rails, your best bet is hyperloop: yes, Dilbert Stark is a horse's ass, but hyperloop emerged from a symposium on how to do transit for an early Mars colony (eg. to get key workers and parts between outlying installations and a central colony dome or warren). The "evacuated narrowbore tubes" works perfectly for Martian conditions -- you run it through tubes to keep the dust and grit out, but the air pressure is already around 0.01 bar, the ground's tectonically pretty stable, and if you use cut-and-cover to bury the tubes that helps provide radiation shielding for your human payload.

346:

Yeah, for practical transport going fast in a dust-reduced environment sounds sensible. But steam engine enthusiasts are even less concerned with practicalisty than the Eloi are. The whole point is that you have a giant, barely working machine that takes a lot of fettling to not do anything very well. The fettling is the point. And the greatfulness and bigness.

I'm just kind of sad that NASA broke their drone.

347:

Nice article. I would add a minor corrective in that Strangelove is a composite, not just Von Braun. There's definitely a healthy dose of Herman Kahn in there.

348:

I have a FP3 bought in Germany and posted to Australia. I'm running the default Android setup and it's not rooted. It works fine, it does all the standard Android things that I bought it for (I need to run Android apps for work and for the One True Government Computer System (my.gov.au) which amusingly has multiple apps - the ServiceNSW one had my driving license, there's a Medicare one with my vaccination records etc, a commercial code-generating one to log into the tax office website, probably more if I did more things.

It links to my desktop PC and bluetooth speakers quite happily, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack which is VERY IMPORTANT to some people but not really important to me (I have a separate music player that also incidentally runs Android).

The fingerprint sensor does not meet the latest Google requirements so I have to password unlock it if it's been locked for an hour or so, and it's not the most reliable thing in the world anyway (it's obsessive about "clean me" and does not like wet fingers).

It seems to be pretty robust, I've dropped it a few times and it escapes the "phone pouch" in my pannier to go and play with the pump, multitool and keys pretty regularly. I don't have a case for it (oops!) and because fairphones are so rare I strongly suggest buying a case with the phone. IIRC the only dedicated FP3 case I liked was ~60 euro from Spain, plus 50 euro shipping. Getting it shipped to German would have been much cheaper and not affected the Germany-to-me shipping cost.

349:

I have an FP5, it's fine. I find the lack of a 3.5 mm headphone jack annoying but not a deal-breaker (I very rarely need headphones for it anyway).

Otherwise I agree with Moz, it's pretty robust but I haven't had it for too long. No problems with the USB-C port, this far. I got a case and a screen protector, but the shipping was much less than to Australia. The fingerprint sensor works because it's a newer one.

I got it mostly because of the promised updates until 2031. The price of a mobile phone seems to be about 100 € / year but not having to change it every couple of years is nice for me.

I should probably get a new screen protector, the current one seems to be doing a good job of protecting the screen but it gets progressively more destroyed with time.

350:

Thanks, both of you! I'm a relatively new smartphone convert and my previous phone was an indestructible Nokia; I've a flinch reflex to upgrade treadmills. The hope would be a Fairphone would at least lessen the necessity.

351:

»As we're past 300... how is the Fairphone?«

I have a FP4 with the /e/OS "de-googled" Android.

For what it's worth, I dont hate it, and that's pretty high praise coming from me.

352:

Dell Laptop has USB-C for everything, I should see if there's a short magnetic extension cord I can buy for that since the Dell one is solid.

The one I linked to above should work with any USB-C / TB4 setup. You put the tiny nub in the device and the bigger right angled part on the cable. And you can find them without the right angle. But the right angle was what I and the office found worked. It got the cable going straight back without taking up desk space.

353:

Speaking of USB-C borkage, yesterday my wife lost her grip on her laptop (she was juggling stuff and needed a third hand) and it slid edge-on to the floor while plugged in. Laptop was undamaged but the USB-C plug got bent when it acted as a shock absorber, so that cable's in the trash.

Anyway, aside from the magsafe thing, you can get L-shaped adapters: socket on one side, then a plug at a 90 degree angle that goes into the laptop or tablet so that the cable sits flush alongside the edge of the machine rather than sticking out. So one of those (and a new cable) is out for delivery tomorrow.

I agree that if packing for Mars you wouldn't take any normal plug-socket data/charge cables at all, you'd go for 100% breakaway magnetic connectors. Too much risk of dirt or grit getting inside the computer and shorting it out or damaging something. You'd also probably want the current equivalent of Framework modular laptops -- designed for upgrades to be carried out in the field by the owner, spare parts available, some bits are 3D printable, and they issue upgrade motherboards when new chipsets come along.

354:

if packing for Mars

Which reminded me of the book by Mary Roach, which many here have already read but I think some haven't (and would enjoy it):

https://maryroach.net/packing-for-mars.html

355:

»I agree that if packing for Mars you wouldn't take any normal plug-socket data/charge cables«

It's actually an interesting question what you can and should bring.

The dust on Mars has a lot of iron in it, enough that it clings to the magnets mounted on the rovers for that precise purpose.

It is theoretically possible to keep the dust out of habitats, and it will probably be policy until the effect on the respiratory system has been evaluated on animal models. (Iron in dust in the respiratory system is not easy to predict, it can be harmless, mostly harmless or really bad news, depending on chemical composition and physical shape.)

I expect dust to enter the habitat eventually, and therefore fine-pitch contacts like USB-C are not indicated, so I would expect communication to be wireless and power to be magnetic.

But keeping the dust out of /all/ equipment and wiring outside is going to be impossible, Things will have to be connected, attached & strung together.

For communication optics is the obvious solution, either fibers or possibly by direct laser through atmosphere.

For power the obvious option is the red/blue CEE-plug solution: Make the creeping distance extraordinary long and the contact dimensions near-grotesque. This has worked great for muddy EU construction sites and harbors.

Metallic connectors for power transfer can be avoided with AC and transformers, which has added benefits in terms of ground potentials etc.

Cables could be outfitted with coils on the ends, which are then "connected" by closing an iron-core through them. You've probably seen a physics teacher do this already.

That way you would have no exposed electrical potentials, no metalic path for surges to propagate through, reducing the stray magnetic fields will be important.

356:

...and orbital mining of Moons of Mars to provide the metals since concentrating sunlight up there than trying to do it on the ground

of course de-orbiting large sections of fabricated tunnel with a low rate of crumbling 'n crashing is slightly challenging and will be left as a graduate level thesis assignment for hyperactive Mars fan boys at MIT

{ how more ERB can ya get than oh-so-casually typing "Moons of Mars"? }

357:

Nojay @ 335:

The M113 is/was a battle taxi, an Armoured Personnel Carrier intended to deliver a squad plus support weapons to their intended drop-off point and then leave before it attracted the attention of The Other Side. It might have a light machine-gun on the roof and it was sufficiently well armoured to keep the rain out, mostly.

FWIW, when I was platoon sergeant, all of mine mounted a M2 Browning .50 cal. The "armor" was good enough to stop small arms fire (7.62x39 & 7.62x54))

358:

What concerns me about metal-to-metal seals is just wondering how close the tolerance is... can you say "Josephson junction welding?"

359:

Re: designing for Mars.

One place to think about a colony is the Medusa Fossae, which may contain a buried ice layer several kilometers thick, and is fairly close to the equator. ( https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Buried_water_ice_at_Mars_s_equator#. ). Mining ice is, of course hugely advantageous for the colony. The two obvious problems are that the permafrost is unlikely to be stable, especially in areas where the colony doesn’t exercise appropriate thermal discipline, and if there are any frozen microbes on Mars, they’re probably there, although this is unlikely to matter. Much. I think the rewards of ice mining far outweigh the risks, but it means train tunnels and such need more engineering than just digging a hole through unconsolidated regolith.

Speaking of regolith, if it’s feasible to make large amounts of silica fiber out of Martian regolith, I’d recommend shipping up fiber manufacturing systems and industrial scale looms for making beta cloth out of it. The beta cloth can be used for alll sorts of things, but I’m primarily thinking of it as a construction material, as a major component in architectural dirtbags, gabions, Hesco bastion type systems, and similar. This is so that the Martians can build durable structures out of regolith,in areas where there’s no bedrock but lots of ice.

Finally, for tunnel trains, I was going to sarcastically suggest using nuclear power, but it occurred to me that for many tasks, like moving people, human power would work just fine and could scale up pretty well. All you need for a people mover is a life support capsule, a pedal powered system that moves the wheels, and space for the engineer to do guidance, braking, life support, refill beers, and similar stuff.

So long as it fits in the tunnel, human powered cars don’t have to be boring, and they could be works of art. Or whimsy and local pride ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_sculpture_race ).

360:

All you need for a people mover is a life support capsule, a pedal powered system that moves the wheels, and space for the engineer to do guidance, braking, life support, refill beers, and similar stuff.

You don't want to do that with direct transmission -- it implies a rotating drive shaft or similar with a seal around it capable of holding air against a 1 bar pressure differential. Air being notoriously not very viscous ...

Pedal power to drive a dynamo to power an electric motor outside the life system, sure, but that's going to be very lossy. Maybe as emergency backup for the batteries? (If it's running on rails there'll be very low rolling resistance, and if it's built for low-ish speeds at 0.3g it can be pretty lightweight.)

I suspect a Mars colony hab that's somewhere between the "series of tin cans connected by habitrail tunnels" and "Neom, on Mars" stages of construction will have a lot of scope for roller skates, scooters, and bicycles as personal transport.

361:

One problem with HPVs on Mars is that you would need sealed rotating bearings to transmit the pedal power out to the wheels. That's an additional maintenance and replacement cost, and new bearings are likely to have to be imported for a considerable time. You could hook the pedals up to a generator inside and just send wires through the pressure vessel which helps, but you're also trying to shift a lot of mass. Vague rule of thumb is you need around 1000kg of capsule and life support per passenger, the heavist manned Mercury capsule was 1400kg, a Crew Dragon is 7700kg empty (unfuelled) for potentially 7 passengers. Anything built for Mars surface transport is going to be around that size and even with only on third gravity that's still a lot to be trying to move. No doubt some of the regulars here can comment on how easy it would be for one person to move 330kg+ on Earth.

362:

Pedicabs on Mars?

363:

You don't want to do that with direct transmission -- it implies a rotating drive shaft or similar with a seal around it capable of holding air against a 1 bar pressure differential. Air being notoriously not very viscous ...

How do submarines do it? Their pressure differential is considerably higher. I’m willing to bet that it’s workable. Per Reddit, it is: https://www.reddit.com/r/submarines/comments/rc4bmi/how_do_submarines_seal_shafts_that_move/?rdt=53978

That said, if the settlement is built within the regolith, using dirtbags as the primary building material because concrete and rebar are unavailable in bulk, then you can’t build more than one or two story structures because beta cloth isn’t that sturdy. Horizontal sprawl thus becomes necessary. With any scale up, the risk of depressurization increases, so having airlocks and probably depressurized transit tubes are necessary to isolate blowouts to specific sections.

Adopting a subterranean lifestyle on Mars makes sense, but “John Carter and the Mole Men of Mars” is just a bit sexist for this century. Do we call them fossorial Martians, if they’re mining ice in Medusa Fossae? Something else?

364:

"direct laser through atmosphere."

In the 90s I worked for a publishing company in Bath that had a rooftop-to-rooftop laser link to connect the networks of two buildings. Clever stuff… until one of those days that filled the entire Avon valley with fog.

The company eventually got fed up of it and dug a trench for a fibre-optic link.

I'm sure the technology has improved since then, but enough to punch through a Martian dust-storm?

365:

Pedicabs on Mars?

Yes, but why does colonial Mars have to be minimal and functional? For instance, if you google “Yakima kingfish kinetic sculpture race, “ you’ll see pictures of the kinetic art that races in the three day, 68 km, Kinetic Grand Championship, which goes on city streets, up and over sand dunes, and across Humboldt Bay. The biggest sculpture to complete the race was the 92 foot long Yakima Kingfish. Since I went to Humboldt State and saw the race and the vehicles, yes, it’s possible to race something the size of a school bus using human power alone. And to be creative in doing so. The race is segmented across three days so that they can reconfigure their sculptures for each leg, but iirc, they have to carry all their parts with them and change in the field.

366:

Submarines only have to stop water getting through the seal (if water can't get in, air won't escape). It's partly a matter (as Charlie said) of viscosity, but things like surface energy play into it as well.

There's a reason why we distinguish between "watertight" and "airtight"; they're very different requirements.

367:

Yeah, those Martian dust storms are pretty grim. Also terrible news for PV panels, unless you can nip out afterwards and brush the dust off them (dust build-up on the panels has done for a number of Mars landers).

On the other hand, shine a laser along a dead-straight pipe with seals to keep the dust out? The pipe doesn't have to be very thick/heavy at all, and you can use it for other purposes -- to distribute gases, for example. If you've got a synfuel plant manufacturing methane for the Starship return flights, the pipes can serve double duty as high bandwidth comms if you're shipping gaseous methane through them: with no free oxygen in the atmosphere there's no ignition risk.

368:

Saw a proposal recently for a swarm of Mars Exploration Vehicles (MEVs not delivered by a Zero-X unfortunately) on the surface using normal radio to talk to satellites in areosynchronous orbit, which then retransmitted to Earth via laser. AEO can be tricky for stable orbits due to Deimos wandering by on a regular basis, but it's not an insurmountable problem.

369:

a critical design distinction in submarines as pressure-resistance containers and Mars colonies: breaching the seal

in general, a colony will be cycling its airlocks (and sterilizers and crock pots) many more times than any submarine

repeated cycles will degrade the sealing materials and/or deform the airlock doors minutely

depending upon attributes of deployment-slash-mission a given submarine could potentially seal up in harbor, head out for 90 days and not breach main hatches until RTB... aside from snorkeling for morale's sake --smell of fresh sea air taking edge off stress -- USN submarines (supposedly) never need to come into contact with the world above the water

370:

"how easy it would be for one person to move 330kg+ on Earth."

It's doable. According to this report from Transport for London, 300kg loads are feasible.

Moving that much mass with human power alone does require very very low gear ratios, but chain drives with 1:2 ratios can be had off the peg easily enough.

As for sealing bearings against an atmosphere or more of pressure, when I worked on Mountain Biking UK magazine in the early 90s we were into doing features about daft stunts. In one, we had riders in SCUBA gear trying to ride bike on the seabed. I seem to recall they got down to about 10m, which is conveniently an extra 15psi above atmospheric pressure.

Before we returned the bikes our mechanic completely stripped down all the bearings and found no water at all in the hubs, which were mid-range Shimano units with labyrinth seals and cup-and-cone bearings.

"I think these hubs would tolerate being jet-washed," he told me, "but if you print that I'll have to kill you."

If such consumer-grade parts can be made that pressure-resistant, surely a space project's resources can top that.

371:

One problem with HPVs on Mars

Zorbs are an obvious exception to that. Instead of a hole in the side you make the thing basically a big spreical space suit and just walk to your destination. Or wherever the wind is going, depending.

372:

Submarines only have to stop water getting through the seal (if water can't get in, air won't escape). It's partly a matter (as Charlie said) of viscosity, but things like surface energy play into it as well.

If you’d checked the Reddit link, you would have found that sealing revolving shafts with labyrinthine seals has been done for at least a century, and it’s routinely done with systems, such as hydraulic actuators and oil drilling rigs, where the environment and pressure gradients are orders of magnitude more extreme than what humans would face on the Martian surface.

Basically it’s a solved problem.

I agree with Vulch that a life support capsule is going to be heavy to lug around, but given what I’ve seen done with human powered vehicles, I think it’s doable. This appears to be a reasonable solution for moving people and goods less than, say, 20 km. The airlock is probably the trickiest thing to engineer, mostly because you have to keep it light weight, rugged, versatile, built with local materials, and easy to mate with other airlocks.

373:

If you're going to send a laser down a pipe, you could make the pipe out of a solid, high-refractive-index material… and I think we just reinvented fibre-optics :)

374:

Moving loads ( @ 370 )
A single human can easily sift several tonnes - if it's a barge, floating in water.
Ask any canal draught-horse!

375:

Basically it’s a solved problem.

I suspect one reason it is solved is that it is easier to design bearing seals where the pressure differential is great. You use the force of the high pressure side to forces things into a seal.

When the differential is not so great, it can be harder.

376:

if it's a barge, floating in water.

Braking can be an issue. Unless you don't mind your "car" ramming something at the other end.

377:

Heh, all the discussion of autoclaves... I just got back from my dentist, minor oral surgery, pulling out the tip of a root (long story). I mentioned autoclaves, and the tech said they have five of them.

378:

The problem with labyrinthine seals might turn out to be the lack of pressure on the outside. Liquids will boil off, and the tolerances needed for pure gas seals could be a PITA to maintain in a corrosive, dusty environment. It would be interesting to see how remanufacturable they are on Mars as well, because they could well turn out to be another high precision part at the apex of an annoying technology pyramid.

My guess is that hydraulic systems will be out of the question because of the dust and possibly because it will take a while to find a combination of oil+metal that works in the chemical environment. Hydraulic systems I've been around are all slightly sticky.

The issue with barges on Mars is that the canals all leak, so they become more like a hydraulic piston where you pump water in behind the barge and it floats along and stops immediately you stop pumping water in. The Panama Canal is currently experiencing a similar problem, where every ton of cargo that goes through uses 5-10 tons of fresh water but the drought keeps getting worse (not Mars bad but comparitively) and people (currently) living in Panama use the same source for drinking water.

379:

Slightly changing the Mars subject, it occurs to me that realistic SF about the colonization of Mars should be Afrofuturist. Especially if we scrap the domed cities and absorb the wisdom of the mole rats.

Here's why:

  • When we get to the point of colonizing Mars, the continent with the most astronaut-aged people will be Africa. The rest of us will be on the far side of the demographic transition.

  • Africa straddles the equator, so launch facilities will be local.

  • If they can solve the problem of the Saharan expansion forcing millions of climate refugees out of the Sahel and points south, Mars will be less of a problem for them.

  • You have to admit that architecture built from dirtbags already vibes with West African mud architecture, so there's a good pattern language to build your underground settlements from (fractal settlement patterns too!).

  • The presumed First Emperor of Mars is an expat South African.

  • And...guess who owns the Boring Company and at least three of the 9,334 active US trademarks incorporating the word "Boring?"

This all suggests that the working titles for the near future SF saga of the First Martian Dynasty, from its founding to the inevitable rebellion, are: The Emperor of Boring, The Boring Dynasty, The Underground is Boring, and...(wait for it)...The Borer Wars.

I'll see myself out.

380:

One problem with HPVs on Mars

For a moment I thought "Why are you suddenly bringing up sexually transmitted diseases?"

381:

I mentioned autoclaves, and the tech said they have five of them.

I wonder how they are used?

My dentist opens up a "kit" or individual instruments for everything. They are in sealed plastic like stuff like the throw away plastic ware you get with fast food.

High quality but "seal for your protection" or similar.

They still might use an autoclave for odd things.

382:

If you have to ask....

383:

There's something I need to tell you...

384:

shine a laser along a dead-straight pipe with seals to keep the dust out?

Why not just use fibre-optic cable? No need to keep the pipe straight, and we already have lots of experience laying cable in the ground.

Back in the 80s when fibre-optics was just getting going I heard a story from one of the senior engineers, about a communication system in Britain that used waveguides for microwaves to provide high-capacity interference-free comms. It actually worked but of course fibre had higher bandwidth. Apparently the microwave engineers weren't terribly happy when one of the fibre engineers pointed out that it wasn't wasted effort, because the waveguides made lovely conduits for fibre-optic cables…

385:

»used waveguides for microwaves to provide high-capacity interference-free comms.«

If you want to read about one of the craziest technological projects /ever/, read about "WT4" in the Bell Systems Technical Journal (on archive.org).

Tl;dr: Run 2" silvered wave-guides across USA with house-sized repeaters every 60km, in order to transfer half a million phone conversations at frequencies up to 90 GHz.

386:

{ sung to the twanging of a overly taunt violin string }

Booooooooorrrrg...! gggg...!ig...!

387:

I mentioned autoclaves, and the tech said they have five of them. ... I wonder how they are used?

In rotation.

It takes 15 minutes at 1 bar overpressure with live steam to achieve sterility. It takes an autoclave a minimum of 2-3 minutes of pulsing to definitely flush out all the air spaces and hit operating pressure. And it takes half an hour to cool down afterwards because the contents are in equilibrium at 121 ℃ by the end of the run and your friendly local dentist does not want to be fiddling with drill bits and widgets at second degree burn temperatures.

So, call it an hour per run.

Now, how many patients does your dentist see for routine inspection/descaling in an hour?

388:

Oh, dear. In order for your scheme to work, you need to be able to convert between magnetic and optical communication at either end. So it needs active logic at both ends, an internal battery, and at least one of the two ends needs to be capable of charging it, magnetically. For every signal cable.

I have used kit where the cable was bulkier than the device, and that was a right pain. I have used other kit where there were far too many active components, and diagnosing and replacing failed ones was a pain in the arse. Frankly, for no more hassle, it would be simpler to use connectors that were electrically USB-C but were dust-resistant; yes, they would be bulkier.

389:

»In order for your scheme to work«

The proper threshold is not "to work" but "to bet your life on."

»connectors that were electrically USB-C but were dust-resistant«

USB-C are differential pairs running at several GHz frequencies, the contacts have to be less than a millimeter apart to maintain the impedance and balance.

There is no way to make a "dust-resistant" connector for that, because the very signals being connected are simply not dust-resistant.

I dont think you fully appreciate how insanely advanced and marginal technology USB-C actually is ?

The book "Open Circuits" (highly recommended!) has a gorgeous cross-section picture of a USB-C cable, here is an outtake by the author:

https://twitter.com/TubeTimeUS/status/1125926941469462528

The scale at the bottom of the picture is in millimeters.

390:

I don't know that I agree assassinations always make political situations worse, tbh. I would have agreed, right up until 2022. I'd argue Shinzo Abe was the most politically significant assassination since Lincoln, and unlike that one it shifted things in a positive direction.

(Also, as has been pointed out already, military gear really isn't as hard to use as you seem to think. The rule I was always taught was "It has to be simple - if it isn't, squaddies couldn't do it!" A Challenger II can, for pretty much anything that isn't a complete mission-kill or a track break at the wrong place (which requires a second vehicle to move it so you can get at it) be put back into at least limping order by four enlistees with CTE. This is one of the (many) reasons UK troops sneered at their American colleagues in Op Granby, because they'd fix their vehicles themselves while the yanks would call out engineering teams.)

391:

hmmmm... sounding more 'n more as "basic tech kit" needs be redesigned for Mars NSSH (not sea surface height)

not to be overlooked on the shopping list: fully outfitted hospital

dental equipment in addition to kits for: limb reattachment; tumor removal; bolting shattered bones together; limb amputation (hopefully this is in extremis most rare)

so... here's my next Netflix pitch: "Mars Simulator"

mockup of colony placed some place hostile to human life (Ukraine and Gaza are no go due to insurance companies refusing to pay out death benefits for film crews)

for 26 weeks minimum... better yet 52 weeks... deliberate delay in comms due to simulated lightspeed... and upon arrival, travel weary astronauts have to assemble their habitat and then keep the water, air, data, etc system operational w/o resupply...

a literal version of "Survivor"

but this one comes with real body bags and simulated graves (yeah that's right every time anyone experiences a vac suit blowout or a fatal infection before they go they are gonna be stuffed in a bag and with a camera on top of the bag there's dirt heaped atop for max macabre spine chills)

lots of activities so in addition to the highlights edited down for weekly broadcast, for a mere US$5.95/month fans can flip through 200-plus livefeeds (priced to entice high school science classes; there being 100,000+ high schools in the US and another 100,000+ across Europe and other ODECs)

where? Gobi was mentioned, also on short list is Iceland... which nation would offer biggest subsidies to long term film crews to offset production costs?

392:

Sounds rather like the Antarctic to me...

393:

»here's my next Netflix pitch: "Mars Simulator"«

NASA got there first:

https://www.nasa.gov/humans-in-space/chapea/

394:

You missed: ob/gyn care (including IUDs, contraceptives, surgical abortions -- childbirth and ante-natal care won't be wanted for the first several years but you need to be prepared for the worst, and fuck the Republican party if they refuse to take the need for contraception and abortions seriously). Also cardiovascular care including stents, bypass surgery, and vascular patches, respiratory care (I'm betting on lung diseases as being a real problem), GI tract disorders, and a bunch of other specialties. Life expectancies among the first cohort of Mars colonists will probably be as bad as Russia today, even if there's no alcohol or tobacco to be had -- simply because they'll be dying of new problems and old ones that require exotic extras to fix.

Oh, and medicines? Better try and quarantine them from pathogens for months before they fly, you want Mars to be a common cold (and COVID) free zone.

Something most folks don't understand at all is just how complex the medicine supply chain is, how many drugs a high street pharmacy needs to have in stock, and how much of it runs on just-in-time. JIT simply isn't practical on Mars, so if someone develops Type II diabetes they're probably going to be SOL.

A maintenance dose of Metformin, the first line go-to drug for Type II, amounts to 2000mg/day. So that's 1.5kg per Martian year, which is the minimum likely interval between resupply missions. If you have a Musk-level colony of 1M people, with a 10% rate of Type II diabetes -- which is what we are trending towards in older and more overweight populations here on Earth: I have no idea if fitter middle aged colonists in a low-gee environment will be more or less susceptible -- then you'd need to import up to 150 tons of Metformin tablets per year -- is that sufficient to justify importing a factory instead? Now multiply by the 500-2000 meds in a basic formulary ...

395:

I wonder how they are used

Thanks. But it wasn't my point.

As I've said a lot (most? all?) of medical / dental providers around where I am (and Duke being in the area may have something to do with it) have switched to a packaged sterile instrument service for normal situations. They may still have autoclaves but use them for the odd things they don't get in the kits they rent. Single use kits.

Need to ask my son's fiance as she is an RN in the Duke system. (Which makes her one of maybe 50K or 100K people.)

396:

even if there's no alcohol or tobacco to be had

Well I'm going to bet more than a few there will know how to make a still of some sort. Or can figure it out in a hurry.

Got a drinking problem, you can't go. I'm betting that those first ones (well after the celebs go) will have to take a pee test daily for a year or so.

And lets not go to the genetic testing uproar that you know will happen.

397:

(Which makes her one of maybe 50K or 100K people.)

I overshot. Depending on if you count the university medical research folks there are 26K or 37K.

398:

as an optimist I'm assuming an on site 3D printer of basic chemical compounds providing meds-on-demand...

{ please stop laughing you'll hurt yourself ROFLing }

there's the fun fact that many folks in the USA are stable in a pre-diabetic status until they've been injured and/or been smacked by mega-infection... so colonists might be filtered as being not diabetic on launch day but slammed by too much breakage 'flip the switch'

mainly I'm self-monitoring to preclude posting 1500 entries which is why I simply typed "hospital"

399:

Pitch it to the Mars Society, and they may give it a go at their campus north of Hanksville, Utah.
https://mdrs.marssociety.org/

400:

please stop laughing you'll hurt yourself ROFLing

Charlie can step in to give chapter and verse on the involved multi step processes required to make the drugs that stock the shelves of our pharmacies. And to my understanding there is very little in the way of using any particular one of these process lines to make more than a few limited choices.

401:

Pedal power to drive a dynamo to power an electric motor outside the life system, sure, but that's going to be very lossy.

"very"? Back in 1980, the rule of thumb for a diesel-electric loco (basically anything numbered between 10000 and 69999) was that you lost 10% in the generator and 10% in the motors, for a net output of 81%. That's lossy, but not very lossy, I would say.

That was with stuff using wound coils and brushes on both generators and motors. Modern designs with squirrel cage motors would be much more efficient (and longer lasting).

As for whether people can move things like that, there are theme park rides for children involving peddling several people along a track. I'm sure that fit astronauts can manage many kilometres each. Rail is efficient (it takes 2 km to stop a train from 200 km/h with brakes because of the low friction involved). For that matter, shunters used to push multi-tonne wagons along the track by pushing on them from the ground using a pole. It's not going to be the same as having to carry the weight on your back while you pedal a bike.

402:

RE: Alcohol on Mars...

It's worth noting that many of my bad jokes are designed to make serious suggestions in memorable ways. Like pointing out the likely personal character of a Martian overlord by joking that the story of the colony could be called Mars is Boring, after the name of a company a certain billionaire founded, and indirectly suggesting that its (fictional) politics might be more like those of a African dictatorship than those of, say, Finland.

Probably living as a Martian colonist would be closer to life in the Sahel than the privileged life we lead, too.

Here's another serious joke: any Martian colony will fail without a plentiful supply of alcohol and regular parties.

Back about a decade ago, when we were beating on generation ships on this blog, I made the observation that any generation ship that couldn't devote at least 10 percent of it's food carbohydrates to making beer and drinking it was doomed. This isn't because I drink much (I don't), but about dealing with crop failures and disabled crew members. The point was two-fold:

First, any operation needs to plan for generating a food surplus and storing it, because crops will fail occasionally. If your closed ecology is so lean that no surplus can be generated or saved, you're on the edge of famine, even if you have enough food now. But all stored food has a shelf life, so you have to use or compost it. Periodic festivals are a time-honored way to do this. So if your Mars colony can't afford to throw parties on a regular basis, it's in trouble.

Second, a colony has to be able to keep running with key personnel disabled. Letting everyone get drunk occasionally is a good way to hard-wire this in to the colony structure. It's a "dry run" for keeping the colony functioning when these people are taken out by accident, injury, age, moving away, pregnancy, etc.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say that a Mars colony should be able to function indefinitely on 10% of its population, though not the same 10% at all times. Here's how to figure it, given that someone will have to be performing critical functions at all times and it's underground, so no need for a sol-based cycle:

The colony runs on three ten-hour shifts per day (three eight hour shifts with overlap for handoffs at each end, as in a hospital). That means only one third of the colony is working at a given point, so if you need more than one-third of the population at work to keep everyone alive, you're in trouble.

But a functioning population has children, elders, and variously disabled people in it, because birth and death are inevitable. Call them up to two-thirds of the population. So on any one shift, maybe only one-third of the people are actually keeping the colony going. The rest aren't but for the most part, they aren't surplus either, especially the children and those recuperating to rejoin the workforce.

Oddly enough, everything from volunteer groups to termite colonies seem to run on 10% of their members doing most of the work. In volunteer groups, it's generally the same 10% all the time, which is why they tend not to last long (the groups or the burnouts). In a Mars colony, in an emergency you need at least half the colony to be able to do their work well, but during normal times, you should be able to run the colony with only 10% of the colonists doing all the essential work. Having a regular schedule of festivals and work breaks lets you maintain the surplus capacity you need for emergencies. After all, you can always cancel a party and use the food for an emergency. If there's no party to cancel, what emergency supplies do you have?

Given the way Elon Musk has reportedly run various companies, I don't think he'd be open to this argument as anything other than a lame joke. So perhaps the best model for someone like him running Mars would be an African-style dictatorship after all? Just a thought.

403:

Robert Prior @ 384:

"shine a laser along a dead-straight pipe with seals to keep the dust out?"

Why not just use fibre-optic cable? No need to keep the pipe straight, and we already have lots of experience laying cable in the ground.

Back in the 80s when fibre-optics was just getting going I heard a story from one of the senior engineers, about a communication system in Britain that used waveguides for microwaves to provide high-capacity interference-free comms. It actually worked but of course fibre had higher bandwidth. Apparently the microwave engineers weren't terribly happy when one of the fibre engineers pointed out that it wasn't wasted effort, because the waveguides made lovely conduits for fibre-optic cables…

I'm pretty sure waveguides have been around since at least the 19th century ... probably a lot longer than that.

After all, what is a trumpet? It's a wave guide for sound.

404:

Re "indestructible" phones, I had a similar thing recently. I needed to upgrade from my very elderly Samsung S5 Neo, mainly due to Samsung refusing to upgrade the version of Android for it, but also the GPS had started to fail often enough to be a problem.

My two non-negotiable requirements were (1) must be water-resistant and (2) must have a replaceable battery. Water-resistance is a big deal if you do any amount of hill-walking; waterproof cases do exist, sure, but they're large and expensive. The battery thing though, the main reason my elderly S5 just kept on chugging was that what will always die first in normal use is the battery. I replaced 3 batteries on that S5. And as a bonus, if I wanted to go somewhere where charging wasn't easy to come by, I could put a spare battery in a little Tupperware box and I'd be good for another 2-3 days.

What I landed on was the Samsung Xcover Pro. It's a lot fatter than a regular phone; but if you put a regular phone in a decent case then it'd be a fair bit bigger than the Xcover. It's basically designed to survive construction sites, which is why it's engineered how it is. The general feel is the same kind of robustness that I remember from Nokia days, which more modern phones don't tend to do well. Samsung make all sorts of claims about drop-testing - I wouldn't do that myself, but a thin rubber bumper cover is more than enough for it to survive what I've put it through. Which, yes, has included enough drops onto concrete from a metre or so that I wouldn't say their claims are implausible.

The screen is really nice too, and it's got a headphone jack for people who care about that. The cameras are adequate but not great, but then it's not really a phone for people doing the heavy social media thing - and they're all on iPhones anyway.

405:
sealing revolving shafts with labyrinthine seals has been done for at least a century

Yes, I know, I've worked with such systems.

and it’s routinely done with systems, such as hydraulic actuators and oil drilling rigs, where the environment and pressure gradients are orders of magnitude more extreme than what humans would face on the Martian surface. Basically it’s a solved problem.

No. It's a solved problem for liquids in a variety of pressure environments. As I and others here have told you repeatedly, the relevant properties of gasses - particularly their viscosities and interface mechanics - are NOT THE SAME as those of liquids. You currently sound like someone demanding that people stop being silly about "aquaculture" and just use the things we know work for cows and sheep because obviously they'll work equally well for prawns and oysters.

Solutions that work for viscous liquids mostly do not work for gasses. (Solutions that work for gasses will generally work for liquids, except in cases where making them strong enough to resist the pressure is difficult.)

You also might want to look up "cold welding", to see why using metal-on-metal pressure seals with a near vacuum on one side is very much not like using them between two filled with gasses at different pressures. It's not just the pressure difference that matters.

406:

I'm thinking of how much there is to be made by of 'bespoke medical care' as envisioned by those most greedy of insurance providers... such as an on site med-on-demand dispensary leased by the ultra-uber-wealthy for US$1M/year (plus $$$ per pill) inside their gated-communities-personal-estates-remote-refuges-vacation-homes along with smaller upmarket hospitals

{ hmmm... plot line, that }

that's the profit-driven motivator for the R&D leading to med-on-demand dispensary which by the time there's a Mars colony in 50Y, then NASA (or NASA-eqv) simply becomes just one more subscriber

it also will drive Big Phrama nuts as their bottleneck control over manufacture is weakened and Smallish Phrama Research (compared to Pfizer everybody is smaller) gets the upper hand in negotiations over licensing... yeah I'm ignoring complexities of drug approval

407:

I used vacuum grease in classroom labs as a grad student. I'm not sure why you think this hasn't been solved, but people seal stuff against gas leaks too. I know that's vacuum grease is not for high vacuum, but it's worth googling "space qualified grease" and looking at what's out there? Castrol Braycote appears to be a grease commonly used in high vacuum.

You might also be interested in https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19920022596/downloads/19920022596.pdf

408:

The tech, prepping for my surgery, opened about 8 bags, each with one or two tools in it.

409:

Hah. It's a practice, with, I think, four dentists, and at least two, if not more, oral surgeons. Usually pretty busy.

410:

Oh, but they'll have robot surgeons, don'tcha know? That won't need to be remote controlled... (Yeah, right. Maybe in a century...)

411:

No, not joking about how long it takes to stop. I have a story from a guy who volunteered at a railroad museum, and "emergency stop", for 8 heavyweight passenger cars, from 55mph, was three-quqrters of a mile.

412:

The idea that there would be no booze or weed in a colony is a ludicrous juke. Hemp has a lot of good uses, in addition to mellowing out, improving appetite, etc.

And alcohol? I have it on very good authority that in jails, prisoners have been known to put bread into Kool-aid (tm) and let it sit for a few days to get something slightly alcoholic.

Yes, for real

413:

That means only one third of the colony is working at a given point, so if you need more than one-third of the population at work to keep everyone alive, you're in trouble.

Actually you need 4 shifts of bodies unless you have no days off. And really 4 1/2 or 5 shifts worth of bodies to deal with sick time and such.

Submarines get by with less but to them a 90 day deployment is consider LONG. I think most run on a 60 day deployment.

I grew up in a house where my father worked a swing shift for about 2/3s of my time there. We had interesting cards posted around the house where we could look up what shift he was on on any particular day.

And this all gets into do you have what is considered a "day time" or do you ignore the sun? Which leads to do people rotate shifts or get stuck on the night shift forever?

414:

A dental benchtop autoclave will run at about an hour and hold equipment from two to three cases. Full scale medical autoclaves might hold 6-12 surgical sets depending on size and will take c55 minutes (at 135C in the UK) A hospital decontamination unit will have anywhere from two to a dozen . My own local dental centre (12 treatment rooms) takes up 2-4 cycles on the hospital autoclaves for a days treatments. The local private practice has four treatment rooms and uses two benchtops on rotation. Depends whats available and what instrument stock you can store/ afford.

415:

Autoclaves. Charlie, this might amuse you: in my upcoming novel, there's a scene where one of the major secondary PoV characters - she's a nurse at the Clinical Center on the NIH campus - and two others have just moved someone in extreme isolation, I may have called it level 5, and they were in full suits. They're out of the room... and in a sterilization chamber. When one of the others complains about having to sit and wait 15 min after the sterilization's done, she notes that they're cooling down, and sterilization is pretty close to autoclaving them.

416:

Well I'm going to bet more than a few there will know how to make a still of some sort. Or can figure it out in a hurry.

They've got easy access to low pressure and sub-freezing temperatures on the other side of the wall, so vacuum distillation and freeze fractionation are both easy-ish. No bet.

417:

Robot surgeons, you say? But robots require maintenance. While meatsack surgeons are pretty much self-maintaining (as long as you replace them within their specified lifecycle -- surgeons typically hit retirement around 50 +/- 5 years because presbyopia, hand tremors, and reflexes gradually degrade). You might eke some extra work out of an old human surgeon by using a surgical robot (steadier hands), but again: that's something for later, after your human surgeons have put in their working decades.

418:

Social cohesion militates against universal shiftwork.

IIRC in the 1920s the Soviets tried to abolish the weekend. Instead everybody got two consecutive rest days per week, but they were staggered.

Problem was, married spouses and children and other relatives were all running on different shift cycles. And the public hated it. So eventually they went back to a standardized workweek/weekend cycle for everyone.

I'm pretty sure that the same thing will happen if you try to run society 24.5/7 (the .5 extra per diem is for Mars): people will get annoyed if their shift pattern stops them socializing in groups with their friends and family.

Yes, some jobs need to be fully staffed around the clock: life support, medical, network operations, and emergency response. But they don't all need to be fully staffed all the time -- they just need to be able to react to an unusual condition arising. Other jobs -- bottle washing, crop harvesting, cooking -- is probably best run on the same rest cycle as everyone else.

419:

will take c55 minutes (at 135C in the UK)

Huh. They jacked it up after my time -- a precaution against prions eg. nvCJD, I guess?

420:

"IIRC in the 1920s the Soviets tried to abolish the weekend. Instead everybody got two consecutive rest days per week, but they were staggered."

Hey, that's my idea...

Only I figured you'd have to allow people to swap "shifts" with each other by mutual agreement (railway style) to avoid the problems you mention in the next paragraph.

421:

And alcohol? I have it on very good authority that in jails, prisoners have been known to put bread into Kool-aid (tm) and let it sit for a few days to get something slightly alcoholic.

Water + yeast + sugar = alcohol. IIRC, pineapple hooch was popular with the American troops during the unfortunate Vietnam affair.

422:

We're past 300, so I'm going to put this up. It appears that someone has found (what they claim to be) an entirely new for of terrestrial life. Not yet peer-reviewed, but even the possibility wasn't on my bingo card for my lifetime. https://www.sciencealert.com/obelisks-entirely-new-class-of-life-has-been-found-in-the-human-digestive-system

423:

Alcohol is easy to make but problematic to use. It's addictive, poisonous and psychologically damaging to the individual as well as socially damaging to the group. It's also expensive energetically and physically bulky.

Barring religious reasons I suggest a Martian is far more likely to be using MDMA, THC/CBD and similar things where you need less of it and while they're more complex to make less=cheaper, plus the personal and social consequences of use are milder. I suspect that there are things like THC that don't persist as long, and that would likely be important.

FWIW the overwinter crews in Antarctica officialy only use alcohol. And prescription drugs, because life without opioids is apparently not worth living.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28599208/ "Occurrence of pharmaceutical, recreational and psychotropic drug residues in surface water on the northern Antarctic Peninsula region"

Australia has a very firm policy about alcohol being the only permitted recreational drug (pdf) https://www.antarctica.gov.au/site/assets/files/49424/drug_and_alcohol_policy_2022-2024.pdf

424:

The proper threshold is not "to work" but "to bet your life on."

And that is why I think that your scheme will not work. It means that every cable, every connector and every socket has to be 'smart'. The failure modes of mechanical connectors are when putting them in, moving them, and corrosion, and are relatively easy to check for (in theory). The failure modes of 'smart' connectors are those of networked embedded computers, and are very likely to be intermittent or to pass all the available tests yet fail in actual use.

I have had just such a failure with a MUCH simpler 'smart' connector system, and it took two of us three 10-hour days to locate. That is really NOT good news if it is the control for the power or oxygen supply of a Martian dome.

425:

Charlie Stross @ 418:

Social cohesion militates against universal shiftwork.

IIRC in the 1920s the Soviets tried to abolish the weekend. Instead everybody got two consecutive rest days per week, but they were staggered.

Problem was, married spouses and children and other relatives were all running on different shift cycles. And the public hated it. So eventually they went back to a standardized workweek/weekend cycle for everyone.

I'm pretty sure that the same thing will happen if you try to run society 24.5/7 (the .5 extra per diem is for Mars): people will get annoyed if their shift pattern stops them socializing in groups with their friends and family.

Yes, some jobs need to be fully staffed around the clock: life support, medical, network operations, and emergency response. But they don't all need to be fully staffed all the time -- they just need to be able to react to an unusual condition arising. Other jobs -- bottle washing, crop harvesting, cooking -- is probably best run on the same rest cycle as everyone else.

I wonder if with computer scheduling it might be possible to group people together so that mom & dad and the kids at least are on the same schedule? They'd be able to build social cohesion with others on the same schedule?

Could this might make it a bit less unpalatable?

Or did the Soviets already try that?

426:

Kardashev @ 421:

"And alcohol? I have it on very good authority that in jails, prisoners have been known to put bread into Kool-aid (tm) and let it sit for a few days to get something slightly alcoholic."

Water + yeast + sugar = alcohol. IIRC, pineapple hooch was popular with the American troops during the unfortunate Vietnam affair.

Take an old fashion bottle of coke, add raisins, loosely cap and put it in the back of a closet for several days makes a somewhat potent beverage ... or so I've been told 😉

427:

Scheduling is a notoriously hard problem, made complex by the fact that humans change. Think of a kid transitioning from preschool to primary school - their schedule and needs change, which ripples outward and now everyone changes. Repeat every day (hour!) across a city of a million people.

The hassle there is that people are notoriously bad at obeying instructions about who to form social bonds with. "The Schedule" can tell you that your social group is some set, but especially children are notorious for randomly bumping into someone and immediately deciding that this is their new best friend regardless of whether that's appropriate within the scheduling system.

The flip side is that progress has given many of us societies in which there is no day of rest, often no rest at all for the wicked or poor. Weekends seem to stop when people leave education, if not before. Shift work ditto, but most places have rules around the hours kids can work.

https://yla.org.au/nsw/topics/employment/when-can-i-start-working/

428:

https://www.corporateknights.com/issues/2024-01-global-100-issue/rare-earth-facility-canada-clean-up-dirty-side-of-green-energy/

Interesting discussion of the difficulty of refining/recycling rare earth minerals when increasing quarterly profits are what matters and your competitors have fewer restrictions (environmental, labour, required profits etc etc). Meanwhile the Chinese are refusing to play any of those games and often regard "we have to have this" as overriding all the restrictions, especially "profitable now, more profitable tomorrow".

429:

waldo,

My wife sends her thanks, that is quite relevant to some stuff she's working on.

JHomes

431:

"Alcohol is easy to make" and very hard to suppress. I suspect that how hard or easy it is to suppress should someone want to (for good reasons or bad) will play a major part in what gets used.

JHomes

432:

Hydroponic weed in the atmosphere plant...

433:

FUNFACT: the active ingredient in medications typically measured in milligrams... so a kilogram of pure Diazepam is about 100,000 doses of 10 mg which when mixed 'n matched with a 100 cc of 15% booze will knock you off your feet or by itself, doses of 20 mg do that too

as per wikipedia:

Diazepam in doses of 5 mg or more causes significant deterioration in alertness performance combined with increased feelings of sleepiness

hiding one kilogram of contraband will be a test of moderate cleverness and crew members selected are going to have reason to be very, very clever