Update on “Havana Syndrome”

Last week Julia Ioffe published an article claiming that Walter Reed Army Hospital had filled up with victims of unidentified health incidents, although she used the title phrase. I use it only because it is familiar; no medical syndrome has been defined. I am also not linking to Ioffe’s article because she published it on Puck News, where everything is behind a paywall.

The good side of that erroneous claim is that some good factual articles showed up.

Jonathan Jarry of McGill Office for Science and Society

Natalie Shure, TNR

Philip Bump, Washington Post

Some of the insistence that there must be a directed-energy weapon in the hands of our adversaries comes from the feeling that psychogenic illness is “all in your head” and indicates malingering. Bump talks about his anxiety attacks, which bear strong resemblance to some of the incidents.

Followup to my earlier post.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Nature Thought Of It First

The latest is combining two components to make an enormously strong glue, as we do with epoxy. That’s what mussels have been doing much longer.

Mussels live in a difficult environment – sea rocks between the tide lines. They are constantly battered by waves. They glue themselves to the rocks with a glue that they form by mixing iron and vanadium compounds.

Tobias Priemel, Gurveer Palia, Frank Förste, Franziska Jehle, Ioanna Mantouvalou, Paul Zaslansky, Luca Bertinetti, and Matthew Harrington, at McGill University, found that mechanism. The photo illustrates how it works. And vanadium is a very rare metal in biological processes.

Longer article here, and preprint here.

Image:

Image credit: T. Priemel A scanning electron micrograph (left) shows part of a microchannel within the glue-secreting organ of a mussel. The channel is lined with cilia (blue). Mussels release adhesive protein sacs (green) from their tissues (yellow) into the microchannels. The sacs rupture, forming a fluid mass (purple). The mussel also releases metal particles into the channel, where they help crosslink the proteins and cure the glue. A 3D reconstruction of SEMs (right) gives a view across an entire microchannel. Microchannels are 10–100 µm across.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

China’s New Missile System

In August or July, China tested a missile (or rocket) system that may be a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) or maybe something else. I’m not a missile expert, so I have no opinions on what it is, but I know some missile experts whom I will quote.

The exact nature of what was tested is unclear – the term “hypersonic” is being tossed around, but that has been unclear for some time. ICBMs are hypersonic (traveling faster than sound) when they re-enter the atmosphere. The newer vehicles that are given that name are different in being maneuverable. The confusion suggests that we need to clarify what the threat is and use names related to that. But multisyllabic words that are almost understandable are a staple for convincing Congress to spend more on weapons.

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Three National Security Threats

UFOs, Havana Syndrome, and the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a Chinese laboratory are all security threats. But not the way you may think.

All three posit diabolical motives and capabilities on the part of our adversaries. To the extent that those motives and capabilities don’t exist, we get our adversaries wrong. That hurts national security. Additionally, accepting poor science weakens us.

The three have other commonalities.

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Trevor Bedford’s Covid Endgame

I was surprised last week to see one of the epidemiologists I follow admonishing those who think that covid’s “becoming endemic” is a good thing for humans. It is a good thing for SARS-CoV-2, because endemicity means it persists in the human population, although at a mostly steady state. I didn’t realize that some thought it was a good thing for the rest of us.

SARS-CoV-2 is pretty much everywhere that humans go now, and maybe further than that. Covid has even reached Antarctica. There have been several narrative descriptions of what we can expect in the mid-term future, but I am wary of those.

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Nuclear Engineer Sells Sub Secrets To The FBI

Over the weekend, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were arrested by the FBI in West Virginia for trying to sell classified information on nuclear submarines to another country. What Toebbe didn’t know was that he was communicating with the FBI from the get-go.

The other country is identified in the criminal complaint only as COUNTRY1. Toebbe contacted them in April 2020, and they handed the material over to the US in December 2020. That suggests that COUNTRY1 examined what Toebbe had sent them, which wasn’t much, and that their investigative services conferred with their submarine experts and diplomats to make a decision.

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More On Michael Flynn’s Nuclear Adventure

A Dutch newspaper has tracked down participation of a Dutch transport company, Mammoet, in a complex scheme involving Michael Flynn and nuclear reactors.

Of all the outrageous stories to come out of the Trump administration, this one is likely to take the prize. When we get past its being the most complex and figure out what was happening.

The story at the link is consistent with what I know, and Chrome translates it pretty well. I’ve been following the story for some time and still don’t know what to make of it – is it a scam, an attempt to privatize the State Department’s Middle East functions, or something else?

A quick overview: Michael Flynn became involved with some folks who thought it would be a good idea to sell 40 Russian nuclear reactors, with a protection corps, to the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries would pay for it all, they would become developed and industrial, and peace would result. Flynn and Tom Barrack worked hard to sell the program to the government in the early days of the Trump administration. Some remnants of the organization Flynn was involved with continue and hope to sell a downsized (and deRussianized) program, although they no longer have voices in high places.

I have many questions. Why did anyone think this was a good idea? How were a couple dozen general and flag officers who knew nothing about nuclear reactors pulled into this organization? Is it a scam? If so, who is scamming whom? There’s more to the story, too, than what is in the article. I’ve been saving it up until there’s a good news hook to hang it on or until I can make sense of it. It may be a while.

Photo from Rosatom: A Russian VVER reactor installation.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

What Went Wrong

On June 30, the Los Angeles Police Department detonated fireworks in a containment vessel mounted on a vehicle. The resulting blast damaged cars and houses and injured people. Sahra Sulaiman has been covering the blast and subsequent events. She has summarized the events around the blast.

I’m always intrigued by reports of explosives gone wrong. I worked with scientists in the explosives division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in their laboratories, on a chemistry project that did not involve explosives. In order to do that, I had to have training on explosives safety. Additionally, because people who decide to make their career in explosives love explosions, I was invited to observe a number of explosions.

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