Tag Archives: Pentagon

Desert tank.

The military is the largest emitter in the US Gov’t — in fact, it’s the world 55th largest polluter

The American military is actually one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world — more than many nations.

Desert tank.

Image via Pixabay.

A new analysis by Dr. Neta Crawford, a professor of Political Science and Department Chair at Boston University, shows that the Pentagon was responsible for around 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. This figure places the U.S. military higher on the list of the world’s largest emitters than industrialized countries such as Sweden or Portugal.

The Costs of War

“In a newly released study published by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, I calculated U.S. military greenhouse gas emissions in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from 1975 through 2017,” Dr. Crawford explains in a piece for LiveScience.

“Since 2001, the DOD has consistently consumed between 77 and 80 percent of all US
government energy consumption,” her paper explains.

In “any one year”, she explains, the Pentagon’s emissions were greater than “many smaller countries’ [emissions],” the study explains. In fact, if the Pentagon were a country, it would be the world’s 55th largest greenhouse gas emitter, overtaking even industrialized countries.

The largest single sources of military greenhouse gas emissions identified in the study are buildings and fuel. The DoD maintains over 560,000 buildings, which account for about 30% of its emissions. “The Pentagon building itself emitted 24,620.55 metric tons of [CO2 equivalent] in the fiscal year 2013,” the study says. The lion’s share of total energy use, around 70%, comes from operations. This includes moving troops and material about, as well as their use in the field, and is kept running by massive quantities of jet and diesel fuel, Crawford said.

Where to?

This January, the Pentagon listed climate change as “a national security issue” in a report it presented to Congress. The military has launched several initiatives to prepare for its impacts but seems just as thirsty for fuel as ever before. It is understandable; tanks, trucks, planes, bombers without fuel — and a lot of fuel — they’re just fancy paperweights.

But, at the same time, the use of fossil fuels is changing the climate. Global climate models estimate a 3ºC to 5ºC (5.4ºF to 9ºF) rise in mean temperatures this century alone under a business as usual scenario. In a paper published in Nature that we covered earlier today, we’ve seen how 4ºC would increase the effect of climate on conflict more than five-fold. More conflict would probably mean more fuel guzzled by the army’s engines.

The paper also looks at how the U.S. military “spends about $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply” to ensure both domestic and military life can continue without a hitch.

“The military uses a great deal of fossil fuel protecting access to Persian Gulf Oil,” the paper explains. “Because the current trend is that the US is becoming less dependent on oil, it may be that the mission of protecting Persian Gulf oil is no longer vital and the US military can reduce its presence in the Persian Gulf.”

“Which raises the question of whether, in protecting against a potential oil price increase, the US does more harm than it risks by not defending access to Persian Gulf oil. In sum, the Persian Gulf mission may not be as necessary as the Pentagon assumes.”

However, not all is dead and dreary. Crawford says the Pentagon had reduced its fuel consumption significantly since 2009, mainly by making its vehicles more efficient and shifting towards cleaner sources of energy at bases. Further reductions could be achieved by cutting missions to the Persian Gulf, the paper advises, seeing as it is no longer a top priority to protect oil supply from this area as renewable energy is gaining in the overall grid make-up.

“Many missions could actually be rethought, and it would make the world safer,” Crawford concludes.

The paper “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War” can be accessed here.

There are 15 possible ways to cover a floor with pentagonal tiles

The funny thing about math is that it offers answers to questions you didn’t even think of asking. For instance, did you know that there are 15, and only 15 ways of covering a floor with pentagonal tiles?

Tiling problems initially became interesting due to mosaics. Credits: Archeologisch Museum Sousse.

Tiling a plane with a single pattern has fascinated people since the Antiquity, not only for the sake of geometry but also for aesthetic reasons. That’s how mosaics got started, and how they became the way to exhibit opulence and social status. Most mosaics were covered with rectangular or square tiles. It didn’t take long for the ancients to understand that a floor can also be tiled with triangles or hexagons, and that was pretty much the end of it, until much later.

This characteristic of a shape, the ability to cover an endless plane pattern, is called tessellation. In 1918, Karl Reinhardt published a thesis on tessellation in which he carried out an exhaustive search for all the convex forms (all angles smaller than 180°) that can tile a plane without overlapping. He showed that all types of triangles and four-sided shapes can tile a plane, and only three types of hexagons can do so. He also showed that no polygon with seven or more sides could do so.

The only question mark that remained was that of pentagons.

Now, almost a hundred years later, that pressing question has been answered by Michaël Rao of the Laboratoire d’informatique du parallélisme (CNRS/Inria/ENS de Lyon/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1).

Five sides

So far, we know of 15 types of pentagons which could fill the tile — many described by Reinhardt himself, several identified by other mathematicians, even amateurs. In 2015, the 15th type was described, 30 years after the previous. But there was no definitive answer as to whether others also remained. In a rather witty introductory note, Reinhardt said his thesis didn’t demonstrate that the list is exhaustive “for the excellent reason that a complete proof would require a rather large book.”

The 15 types of pentagonal tiles and their 4 specific types. Credits: Michael Rao, Laboratoire d’informatique du parallélisme (CNRS/Inria/ENS Lyon/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1)

Rao started with a computer algorithm which generated all possible pentagonal shapes. In his new computer-assisted proof, he used a computer algorithm and found a total of 371 families of pentagons. They were defined by a common rule, such as “side A is equal to side B” or “Angle C and D are equal.”

“For each of the 371 scenarios,” explainedGreg Kuperberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis., “his algorithm tries to piece together a tiling by laying down one tile at a time, using only the allowed vertex configurations.

Here’s a visualization of the computer algorithm:

A video of Rao’s computer program running through tiling possibilities and arriving at the 15th type of pentagon tiling.

Out of these, only 19 were convex and could successfully tile a plane. As it turned out, four of these are particular cases of these 15 types, so lo and behold, 15 and only 15 types of pentagons can fill a tile.

Seeking einstein

Thomas Hales, a professor of mathematics at the University of Pittsburgh and a leader in using computer programming to solve problems in geometry, has independently replicated Rao’s solutions. Rao’s study also provides insight into the search of the legendary einstein (no relation to Albert Einstein, the word just means “one rock” in German). The einstein is a hypothetical shape that can only tile the plane nonperiodically, in a never-repeating orientation pattern. “For everybody who works on tiling, this is a kind of holy grail,” Rao said referring to the einstein. He sees this study not as a goal in itself, but rather as a milestone in a much larger quest.

There’s good reason to believe that at least an einstein exists though if it does, it likely has a very complex shape. As you can imagine, this only adds to its allure.

Researchers believe that the einstein exists because it connects to another problem in tiling theory, called the decision problem. Casey Mann, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Washington who discovered the 15th tessellating pentagon describes the decision problem:

“The question is, if someone hands you a tile, can you come up with a computer algorithm that will take as input that tile and say, ‘Yes, this tiles the plane,’ or, ‘No, it doesn’t?’”

“Most people think there’s too much complexity for such an algorithm to exist,” Mann said.

But Rao plans to move on and set his algorithms on the search for the elusive einstein. Who knew there was so much complexity to tiling, eh?

Journal Reference: Exhaustive search of convex pentagons which tile the plane. Michaël Rao, available on Arxiv.org, arXiv:1708.00274 

Bonus question

Can you figure out why a floor can’t be tiled with heptagonal shapes? It’s a fairly two-liner simple mathematical proof. Hint: the sum of the heptagon’s interior angles is 900 degrees.

All these pentagons are identical. The coloring helps identify the three groups that arrange to form a tilled plane. Image: Casey Mann

Finally, a new pentagon shape that tiles in a plane

Both bathroom decorators and mathematicians have a reason to rejoice (how often does that happen?). Using a computer algorithm, a group of mathematicians at the University of Washington Bothell discovered the 15th kind of pentagon that can tile in a plane. The 14th was discovered in 1985 by mathematician  Rolf Stein, while the previous five before were proven by Majorie Rice, a housewife from San Diego.

All these pentagons are identical. The coloring helps identify the three groups that arrange to form a tilled plane. Image: Casey Mann

All these pentagons are identical. The coloring helps identify the three groups that arrange to form a tiling plane. Image: Casey Mann

You can’t tile a regular pentagon – with all its sides and interior angles equal – but you can tile triangles and squares in innumerable shapes and sizes. As for a convex heptagon or octagon, it was mathematically proven there’s no such shape that can tile in a plane. Tiling pentagons, however, is an open problem, one that’s been fascinating mathematicians for over a century. The first to prove a pentagon could be tiled was  German mathematician Karl Reinhardt who discovered five such shapes that tile in 1918.

The entry foyer of the  Mathematical Association of America's building was designed using the congruent pentagons discovered by Marjorie Rice.

The entry foyer of the Mathematical Association of America’s building was designed using the congruent pentagons discovered by Marjorie Rice.

For almost thirty years there was no tiling pentagon reported, but now using the power of computing Casey Mann, Jennifer McLoud and David Von Derau of the University of Washington Bothell have finally found a new one.

“The problem of classifying convex pentagons that tile the plane is a beautiful mathematical problem that is simple enough to state so that children can understand it, yet the solution to the problem has eluded us for over 100 years,” said Casey for the Guardian. “The problem also has a rich history, connecting back to the 18th of David Hilbert’s famous 23 problems.”

Detailed view of the new tiling pentagon. Image: Casey Mann

Detailed view of the new tiling pentagon. Image: Casey Mann

To find the tiling pentagon, the researchers basically used brute force to search a large, but finite set of possibilities. Eventually they got lucky, but are there more? It’s a simple, yet challenging problem at the same time. After all, it took a 30 years dry spell.

Of course, there are practical uses to finding tiling surfaces, from biochemistry to structural design.

“Many structures that we see in nature, from crystals to viruses, are comprised of building blocks that are forced by geometry and other dynamics to fit together to form the larger scale structure,” he added.

“I am too cautious to make predictions about whether or not more pentagon types will be found, but we have found no evidence preventing more from being found and are hopeful that we will see a few more. As we continue our computerized enumerations, we also hope to gather enough data to start making specific predictions that can be tested.”

All the pentagonal tilings discovered thus far. Ed Pegg/Wikipedia

All the pentagonal tilings discovered thus far. Ed Pegg/Wikipedia

A Russian deep-diving miniature submarine is lowered from the research vessel Akademik Fyodorov moments before performing a dive in the Arctic Ocean beneath the ice at the North Pole in 2007. Photograph: Vladimir Chistyakov/AP

“Climate change is a security risk,” Pentagon report reads

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense issued a report in which it highlights the global security implications of climate change. In the report, the authors note that climate change will exacerbate current world problems like ” poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”

A Russian deep-diving miniature submarine is lowered from the research vessel Akademik Fyodorov moments before performing a dive in the Arctic Ocean beneath the ice at the North Pole in 2007. Photograph: Vladimir Chistyakov/AP

A Russian deep-diving miniature submarine is lowered from the research vessel Akademik Fyodorov moments before performing a dive in the Arctic Ocean beneath the ice at the North Pole in 2007. Photograph: Vladimir Chistyakov/AP

The report was ordered by the Pentagon to identify the most serious and likely climate-related security risks for each combatant command, but also new opportunities. For instance, the melting Arctic is opening new shipping routes through the notorious Northwest Passage which is historically known for trapping ships in the ice. As such, traffic and tourism will intensify in the region. Economic development in the area will also intensify, primarily oil drilling. “Future Arctic offshore drilling will also create a resource demand and the need for emergency response, risk reduction measures, and environmental protections,” the report said.

In the Middle East, the greatest climate change risk is water scarcity, while in Africa – an area where the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) is responsible – humanitarian crisis is the primary risk. Namely, severe drought and disease has time and time again provoked suffering and made the local population fragile. In Hawaii, the Pentagon is concerned with the resilience of its military installations, whether or not these will hold against rising sea levels and more weather calamities.

“The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water,” the report said. “These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”

“The Department of Defense’s primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world,” officials said in a news release announcing the report’s submission. “This involves considering all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in the near and the longer terms.

“It is in this context,” they continued, “that the department must consider the effects of climate change — such as sea level rise, shifting climate zones and more frequent and intense severe weather events — and how these effects could impact national security.”

The Pentagon is very apt at identifying threats. No one can deny this. Personally, I feel that it would be a lot more constructive and helpful if the Pentagon also took steps to help curb the problem. The US Military is the primary polluter in the world’s second highest polluting country.

“Many conflicts throughout our history have been based on resource competition,” said General Charles Jacoby, who was the commander of the US North Command – the primary line of defence against invasion for the US mainland – until last year. He said that this competition would only intensify in the future, with energy and water supply at the top of the list.


The Pentagon’s High Stakes Video Game

What if real war were as simple as killing bad guys in a video game?

Children have played at war since the days of antiquity.  Nowadays, however, technologies have emerged to obliterate the lines between child’s play and real war.  The Virtual Battlespace Systems (VBS) that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) uses to train recruits borrow heavily from video game technologies, having been developed by a Czech video game studio.  Meanwhile, the drones that rain very real hell on modern battlefields are controlled with pads directly evolved from Playstation and Xbox.

And now it seems the US government has initiated an ambitious new program that will add yet another dimension to this evolving paradigm.

For the past year, the Pentagon’s top research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been working on a program designed to make the often complex operations of cyber warfare as simple and intuitive as child’s play.

Plan X

Called “Plan X,” the project’s immediate goal is a touch-screen control panel that allows users to execute cyber effects in a manner comparable to a video game.

The overall objective is simple.  By creating a cyber interface akin to an arcade game, DARPA hopes to permit a broader range of US military personnel the ability to utilize cyber warfare tools as proficiently as they do conventional munitions.

The project is the brainchild of the cyber security expert, Dan Roelker, who likens the military operator using Project X’s cyber tools to a gamer wielding a special sword in World of Warcraft.  “You don’t necessarily know what spells were used to create that sword, right?” he says. “It’s the same type of concept. You don’t need the technical details.”

Flying submarines and robot insects

If Plan X sounds like something from a Thomas Pynchon novel, that is because everything DARPA does is deliberately non-conformal, if not creative.  The agency is, after all, responsible for facilitating research and development efforts for such quirky concepts as powered exoskeletons, flying submarines, and robot insects.

While these ideas may seem like the stuff of science fiction, DARPA has time and again demonstrated the ability and — perhaps more importantly — the willingness to transform far-fetched concepts into reality.  The agency was, in fact, responsible for some of the early research and development that led to the invention of the internet.

“An awful lot of the good stuff we have today is there because DARPA was willing to take a chance on visionary projects,” the late David Waltz told Technology Review back in 2001. “They are the visionary agency.”

A mapping project

To get an idea as to what exactly DARPA executives envision for Plan X, one need only to look at the talent the agency has recruited for the project so far.  For interface and hardware design, DARPA has enlisted the help of Massive Black, a company which is known for its graphics work on Bioshock and Transformers — and Frog Design, the company behind the design of the Sony Walkman and the Apple IIc.

A working prototype of the project’s plumbing is already up and running.  In keeping with Roelker’s original vision, Nick de la Mare, Frog’s executive creative director, says his company had deliberately avoided a cyberwarfare concept for the program’s hardware.  “We didn’t approach it as a cyberwarfare program at all,” said de la Mare. “We approached it as a mapping project.”

Very Angry Birds

Of course, the stakes involved here are much higher than a few tokens on a map.  State-sponsored malware can disable electrical power grids, cripple nuclear power facilities, take out phone systems and public transportation networks, among others.

Plan X aims to provide the US military with a rapid response facility that could cause this much disruption on an industrial scale.

“Plan X is a program that is specifically working towards building the technology infrastructure that would allow cyber offense to move from the world we’re in today — where it’s a fine, handcrafted capability that requires exquisite authorities to do anything — to a future where it is a capability like other weapons,”  DARPA director Arati Prabhakar told reporters recently.

DARPA hopes to award contracts to build the infrastructure for Plan X by October.  If all goes as scheduled, the Pentagon should have its own military-grade version of Angry Birds — complete with a software development kit — some time next year.

(c) Progeny Systems Corporation

New Pentagon Tech: sky drones that identify faces

(c) Progeny Systems Corporation

(c) Progeny Systems Corporation

I’d like to divert from a potential discussion which might build around the trillions of dollars spent on defense by the US government or the more or less futile efforts enterprised in the middle east, and stick to the point at hand – spy drones! Yes, scary, paranoia inducing flying unmanned vehicles whose sole purpose is that of collecting intelligence about its surveyed points. And if you thought there are little places to hide left once with these little buggers up in the sky, seems like the Pentagon is keen on making things even harder for its enemy after it unveiled plans for a new kind of drone tech, capable of identifying individuals from thousands of feet away just by looking at their faces.

The US army has a sort of procedure or technique, if you will, when its efforts of identifying and gathering intelligence about its enemies is concerned, called “Tagging, Tracking, and Locating,” or “TTL”. To this purpose, there is a considerable amount of technology employed to support these efforts, like geo-tagging, heat signature identifies, human thermal fingerprints and all sorts of other tech, most classified. The all-seeing drone visioned by the Pentagon might revolutionize the modern, guerrilla battlefield in the future. You can escape transmitters, you can erase traces, but eventually with enough drones like these in the sky, you’re only hope of not getting discovered is to live underground.

“If this works out, we’ll have the ability to track people persistently across wide areas,” says Tim Faltemier, the lead biometrics researcher at Progeny Systems Corporation, which recently won one of the Army contracts. “A guy can go under a bridge or inside a house. But when he comes out, we’ll know it was the same guy that went in.”

The bird in the sky with the magic eye

Progeny, one of the half a dozen companies awarded contracts by the Pentagon to develop the necessary tech for the new spy drone, just started work on their drone-mounted, “Long Range, Non-cooperative, Biometric Tagging, Tracking and Location” system. In the past, the company has developed algorithms for the army which allowed for 3D modeling of faces, based on 2D photos, a difficult feat. Now, the company is planning on putting the same capability inside a drone, which will have to do its job flying, from a long distance and with loads of perturbant factors – difficulty tenfold.

(c) Progeny Systems Corporation

(c) Progeny Systems Corporation

The company claims that their system will be able to identify an individual indifferent of lighting, pose  or expression, all from an image with just 50 pixels between the target’s eyes to build a 3D model of his face. That’s about the same as what it takes to traditionally capture a 2D image.

If the face is too blurred or masked to identify, Progeny has other means of identifying a target, like its  digital stereotyping tech, developed for a Navy contract. With it, they can asses the identity of an individual based on variou bio metrics, which feeds back the army with anything from age to gender to “ethnicity” to “skin color” to height and weight. To prove their point, Progeny analyzed data containing hundreds of photos from the annual  “Twins Days” festival, where at least pairs of identical twins could be seen. The company zeroed in on the twins’ scars, marks, and tattoos — and were able to spot one from the other.

Drones to intercept “unfriendly” behavior

Identifying known offenders or insurgents isn’t quite enough for the Pentagon. Apparently, it also needs a means of telling which are its potential enemies, without knowing anything about them beforehand. This is where Charles River Analytics is coming with its so-called “Adversary Behavior Acquisition, Collection, Understanding, and Summarization (ABACUS)” tool. Capitalizing on things like informants’ tips, drone footage, and captured phone calls, the system is capable of telling which people are most likely to harbor ill will toward the U.S. military or its objectives.

“The enemy goes to great lengths to hide his activities,” explains Modus Operandi, Inc., which won an Army contract to assemble “probabilistic algorithms th[at] determine the likelihood of adversarial intent,” a system under the working name of “Clear Heart.”

via Danger Room