Friday, May 29, 2009

Half of Women Have Sexual Problem

Almost Half of Women Have Sexual Problems

By Amanda Gardner

HealthDay Reporter

Friday, October 31, 2008; 12:00 AM

FRIDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- In a double whammy for the female gender, new research shows that 40 percent of women report sexual problems, but only 12 percent are distressed about it.

"The good news is that 12 percent is a very different number than 40 percent," said study author Dr. Jan Shifren, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Vincent Menopause Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston.

But 12 percent of 83 million U.S. women aged 20 to 65 is nothing to scoff at, noted a related editorial in the November issue ofObstetrics & Gynecology. The research was funded by Boehringer Ingelheim International, maker of flibanserin, a drug for female sexual dysfunction that is currently being tested in clinical trials.

Previous surveys have reported similar estimates of female sexual dysfunction, including low desire and problems with orgasm. The most widely quoted figure, from the U.S. National Health and Social Life Survey, is 43 percent.

However, few of those surveys have looked at distress, despite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association and U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidelines require such distress as part of the diagnostic criteria.

This study included almost 32,000 female respondents aged 18 and older.

Overall, 43.1 percent of those surveyed reported some kind of sexual problem: 39 percent reported diminished desire, 26 percent reported problems with arousal, and 21 percent problems with achieving orgasm.

Only 12 percent, however, reported significant personal distress associated with this problem.

And there were age differences. "The highest prevalence of sexual dysfunction was in older women, but they experienced less associated distress," Shifren said. "The most distress occurred at mid-life, and the youngest women had the lowest prevalence of problems and of associated distress."

Although the study did not specifically look at why older women had more problems yet less distress about them, the authors postulated that reasons could include partner changes, other medical problems, or problems with their partners health.

Women currently experiencing depression had more than double the risk of having distressing sexual problems when compared with non-depressed women. While conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease affect men's sexual health, none of these issues impacted women's sexual health in this study.

"This is a wake-up call to health-care professionals . . . of the importance of sexual health and sexual quality of life," said Sheryl Kingsberg, chief of the division of behavioral medicine at MacDonald Women's Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "Forty percent of patients have sexual concerns, and 12 percent have enough of a concern that it's a significant dysfunction in life. This needs to be addressed."

While clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals as well as sex therapists have been working with couples on these issues for decades, medical options, including flibanserin, are now also on the horizon.

"There is research going on, and my hope is that women are finally going to have some options when it comes to sexual disorder treatments," Kingsberg said. "Right now, there are very limited options, but I think it's coming."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on female sexual dysfunction.

SOURCES: Jan L. Shifren, M.D., associate professor, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, Harvard Medical School, and director, Vincent Menopause Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., chief, Division of Behavioral Medicine, MacDonald Women's Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland; November 2008,Obstetrics & Gynecology

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posted by u2r2h at Friday, May 29, 2009 0 comments

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

ESA Herschel Telescope finds WATER !!!

'Silver sensation' seeks cold cosmos

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News


The Herschel space observatory is ready for its great voyage

Stare into the curve of Herschel's mirror too long and you get a slightly giddy feeling that comes from not being able to judge where its surface really starts.

It is enchanting, spectacular and - at 3.5m in diameter - it will soon become the biggest telescope mirror in space, surpassing that of Hubble.

The great 18th Century astronomer William Herschel would have been astonished by the silver sensation that now bears his name.

The design keeps Herschel's critical detectors in an ultra-cold state

More details

The European Space Agency (Esa) is certainly very proud of its new observatory. It has been working on the venture for more than 20 years.

"The mirror is an enormous piece of hardware," enthused Thomas Passvogel, Esa's programme manager on the Herschel space observatory.

"It's a ceramic mirror; it's the biggest piece ever made from silicon carbide. It's very hard but much, much lighter than glass and the performance is excellent."

This week, the finished observatory will be flown to Europe's Kourou spaceport in South America. There, it will be bolted to an Ariane rocket and hurled into orbit.

It will take up a vantage point a million-and-a-half kilometres from Earth, to open up what scientists expect to be an utterly fascinating new vista on the Universe.

"Very simply, the science pillars of Herschel are to understand better how stars and galaxies form and how they evolve," Göran Pilbratt, Esa's project scientist on Herschel, told BBC News.

Herschel (BBC)
Hubble has viewed some near-infrared wavelengths. Its "successor", James Webb (2013), will seek infrared light also but with an even bigger mirror

Unlike Hubble, which is tuned to see the cosmos in the same light that is visible to our eyes, Herschel will go after much longer wavelength radiation - in the far-infrared and sub-millimetre range.

It will permit Herschel to see past the dust that scatters Hubble's visible wavelengths, and to gaze at really cold places and objects in the Universe - from the birthing clouds of new stars to the icy comets that live far out in the Solar System.

Some of these targets, though, are frigid in the extreme (between five and 50K; or -268 to -223C); and for Herschel to register them requires an even colder state be achieved on the observatory itself.

This involves the use of a cryostat. It is akin to a giant "thermos" bottle. Filled with more than 2,000 litres of liquid helium, its systems will plunge Herschel's science instruments into the deepest of chills.

Critical detectors will be taken to just fractions of a degree above absolute zero (0K; -273C), from where they can make the most of their remarkable design performance.

"Imagine one million, million, millionth of the brightness of a 60W lightbulb - that's what we can detect with one of our detectors," explained Professor Matt Griffin, who leads the international consortium behind SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver), one of Herschel's three instruments.

"Turning that around - imagine observing one of our very faint sources; let's say a very distant galaxy. If we were to observe it with SPIRE for a billion years, we would collect enough energy to light that 60W lightbulb for just one-twentieth of a second," the Cardiff University, UK, researcher said.

Herschel's other instruments are HIFI (the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared) and PACS (Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer).

With the entire package, the observatory can investigate a broad range of wavelengths (55-672 microns), including a swathe that has hitherto been missed by orbiting telescopes.

Eagle Nebula at different wavelengths (Nasa/Esa)
The classic "Pillars of Creation", great columns of gas and dust. Viewing the star-forming region at progressively longer wavelengths opens up new features
(A) Visible light: Reflected light from the nebula is seen (0.5µm)
(B) Near-infrared: Nebula suddenly becomes transparent (1-2µm)
(C) Even longer: Possible to see emission from the nebula itself (7µm)
(D) Longer still: Different structures start to become apparent (50µm)

Herschel's interest will be piqued near and far.

Close to home, it will study the mountainous balls of ice, dust and rock (some of them comets) that orbit our Sun beyond Neptune. The nature of these "primitive" objects has an important bearing on the story of how our Solar System came into being.

And beyond our little corner of space, Herschel's vision will allow it to see inside the clouds of gas and dust that give rise to stars in the Milky Way galaxy today, to see the conditions "in the womb". Studying these embryonic events will give astronomers further insights into the Solar System's beginnings 4.5 billion years ago.

Herschel instruments (Esa)
Once the liquid helium boils off, Herschel's instruments will go blind

Another key target for Herschel's investigations will be those galaxies that thrived when the Universe was roughly a half to a fifth of its present age. It is a period in cosmic history when it is thought star formation was at its most prolific.

Herschel will need to look deep into space to make these observations. The data will be used by scientists to test their models of how and when the galaxies formed their stars and how successive generations of those stars produced the abundance of heavy elements (everything heavier than hydrogen and helium) that now exist in the Universe.

Professor Griffin summed up the Esa mission in this way: "Herschel is not about studying mature stars or galaxies; it is really about studying the processes by which they are created.

"We know very little about that and we need to understand it in order to put together a picture of how the Universe we live in today grew from the earliest stages after the Big Bang."

A double deal

Herschel's launch will be doubly significant because it sees Esa loft two major science missions on a single rocket. The other passenger on the Ariane will be the Planck telescope, which will look at even longer wavelength (microwave) radiation.

Planck (Esa)
Herschel will share its ride with the Planck telescope

Read about Esa's Planck mission

One reason for the dual launch, says Esa's head of science projects, Jacques Louet, is logistics. Both telescopes have been designed to operate at the so-called Lagrange Point 2, a gravitational "sweet spot" in space where the observatories can stay fixed in the same location relative to the Earth and the Sun.

"The other reason is that we have coupled them industrially," he told BBC News.

"Both spacecraft share the same service module, so there is an economy in building them together. And because you build them together, you have basically the same timing on each mission. So, overall, I think it is a good strategy, but a risky strategy."

At a combined value for Hershel and Planck of approximately 1.7 billion euros, you get an idea of just how risky this strategy is. If the rocket fails, both missions are lost.

One is tempted to say "good luck"; but as Göran Pilbratt points out, when you have put as much effort into these missions as Esa has over the past 20 years, "luck doesn't come into it".

Herschel-Planck Mission Will Be ESA's Highest-Stake Science Endeavor Ever

Apr 5, 2009

Of all the uncertainties that bewilder astronomers, none is more puzzling than what transpired in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang. Understanding what occurred then will help unravel some of the best-kept secrets in the universe - including the density and nature of matter, the existence of "dark energy," and the origins of stars and galaxies.

That will be the objective of a €1.3-billion ($1.7-billion) twin-telescope mission due to lift off from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at the end of April.

Herschel - the larger of the two telescopes - will study the formation and evolution of galaxies and stars. Like its predecessor, the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), and earlier probes from the U.S. (Spitzer) and Japan (Akari), this mission will make observations in infrared wavelengths, not in visible light, as does the big Hubble Space Telescope. This will make it possible to view relatively cool and diffuse matter, such as interstellar and circumstellar dust and gas, or hidden stars and galaxies, which have gone largely unseen so far. "By observing in the infrared, we can study how things get formed, the very early steps, because formation processes very often happen in cool and dusty places," explains Goran Pilbratt, the European Space Agency's Herschel project scientist.

Named after the British astronomer William Herschel, who discovered infrared radiation (as well as the planet Uranus), the three-axis stabilized spacecraft - which is about 7.5 meters (24.5 ft.) high and weighs 3,300 kg. (7,260 lb.) - will operate in the far infrared to submillimeter wavelengths (60-670 microns). These are the bands in which - because of a displacement known as the red shift - the light from the most distant and youngest galaxies (which existed in the initial period after the Big Bang) emit. In addition to its primary mission, Herschel will study the chemical composition of the atmosphere around celestial bodies - in particular, interesting objects discovered in earlier missions - and explore the molecular chemistry of the universe, notably by studying the atmospheres of comets.

Initially called the Far Infrared and Submillimeter Telescope (First), Herschel is equipped with a primary mirror 3.5 meters in diameter that is half again as big as the one on Hubble. It will remain the largest until Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is launched around 2013.

The second telescope on this mission, Planck, will survey the whole sky to help scientists understand the origin and evolution of the large structures that inhabited the universe immediately after the Big Bang. Carrying on from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer, launched in 1989, and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, sent aloft in 2001, the 1,800-kg. Planck will measure the temperature fluctuations (or anisotropies) of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity. Astronomers hope that such ultra-precise measurements will help determine fundamental cosmological conundrums - such as the density parameter and the Hubble constant - that have long eluded their grasp. A further objective of the mission, which will observe the sky simultaneously in nine frequency channels from 30-900 GHz., will be to derive the polarization state of the CMB, which has never been done before.

Moreover, there is a possibility that Planck - which was named after the German physicist Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory - will detect a slight distortion of the CMB caused by a suspected period in cosmic history known as the inflationary epoch. Inflationary theory postulates that the universe underwent a period of enormously accelerated expansion just after the Big Bang that should cause the whole of space to ripple in a special way. This slight ripple might show up in the Planck data. "Of all the exiting science that we will do, this is the most exciting possible measurement of all," says Jan Tauber, the Planck project scientist.

Herschel and Planck will be lofted into orbit by the same Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift rocket. The two spacecraft will then journey independently to the L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million km. (930,000 mi.) from Earth, where they will operate unaffected by Earth, lunar or solar gravity effects. Upon arrival, 60 days after launch, they will be inserted into Lissajous formation, with Herschel in the larger of two concentric orbits and Planck in the smaller one. Herschel is expected to remain in operation for at least 3.5 years and Planck, for 18 months - long enough to map at least 95% of the sky twice.

The telescopes were combined in a single mission in an attempt to save money for ESA's perennially underfunded science program. However, the complexities involved in readying two such sophisticated telescopes at the same time caused a €180-million cost overrun and pushed back liftoff well beyond the initial February 2007 launch date. "It was a nightmare," acknowledged Jacques Louet, ESA's head of science projects (AW&ST Apr. 24, 2006, p. 38). The experience convinced planners to opt for a different approach based on sharing bus, instruments and subsystems in single, smaller missions, as has been done on Mars Express and Venus Express.

Both Herschel and Planck employ cutting-edge technologies, in particular reflectors and cryogenic coolers, which caused the most design headaches. Thales Alenia Space, which built ISO, is prime contractor for the twin mission.

Thales Alenia's Italian arm is supplying the bus for the two satellites, while EADS Astrium is responsible for Herschel payload and integration. Numerous subcontractors and institutes from nations - including the U.S., Russia, Israel and Taiwan - are participating.

Herschel's primary mirror - which replaced a carbon-fiber composite design that NASA had initially planned to contribute - is made entirely of silicon carbide (SiC), a lightweight composite that makes it possible to build very large mirrors with excellent thermal, mechanical and acoustic properties without incurring a prohibitive weight penalty. Unlike the beryllium JWST mirror, which will be 6.5 meters in diameter, the Herschel unit will be monolithic, not folding.

Despite its size, the 3-mm. thick Herschel reflector will weigh barely 320 kg., versus 1,000 kg. for that on Hubble.

Engineers at Boostec, an Astrium affiliate that built the mirror, say the primary difficulty in single-piece constructions of this size is brazing the 12 petals together within tolerances that guarantee optical performance.

Specifications require that the mirror surface roughness be less than 30 nanometers and reflectivity, better than 0.97 (AW&ST Feb. 23, 2004, p. 95). The same SiC technology will be used in ESA's Gaia observatory, to be launched in late 2011, and Japan's Spica, a cooperative mission with ESA that will work in shorter IR wavelengths than Herschel.

Herschel will also feature an advanced cryostat, derived from experience with ISO, that will allow instruments to operate at 1.7 Kelvin (-271C) - a fraction above absolute zero - to prevent it from emitting infrared emissions and thus obscuring incoming infrared light. The spacecraft will always be facing the Sun to maximize energy from the solar panels. A shield will help protect it from the Sun's glare.

Designing the cryostat - with a main tank designed to hold 2,250 liters of liquid helium and a 50-liter buffer tank that keeps the main tank cold while on the ground - posed the biggest technology challenge in the Herschel-Planck mission. The cryostat could complicate launch arrangements, too, because it will be unable to tolerate a flight slip of more than 24 hr. If delayed beyond that point, it will be necessary to roll back the rocket to the assembly building so the cryostat main tank can be emptied, refilled and subcooled.

Planck will use a special low-spin platform equipped with a 1.5-meter offset Cassegrain telescope designed to focus cosmic background radiation toward its detectors. The reflector was developed by the Danish Space Research Institute and ESA. The telescope's high-frequency detectors are passively cooled by means of a cooling chain (comprising a 20K hydrogen sorption cooler, a compressor-driven 4K cooler and a dilution cooler) that maintain the temperature at 0.1K, essential for obtaining high sensitivity. Sensitivity will be better than 2 X 10-6 and angular resolution, 10 arcminutes.

Herschel will carry:

·The Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI), built by Frank Helmich of the Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Groningen. HIFI will perform high- and very-high-resolution spectroscopy in the 250-600-micron range, useful for obtaining information on chemical composition and kinematics.

·A Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS), built by a consortium led by Albrecht Poglitsch of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. PACS will handle image line spectroscopy and photometry in the 80-210-micron bands.

·The Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (Spire), an incoherent bolometric instrument assembled by a team led by Matthew Griffin of Cardiff University in Wales. Spire will run photometry measurements simultaneously in three bands and spectroscopy across the whole 260-670-micron wavelength range.

The Planck package comprises low- and high-frequency instruments (LFI/HFI). The LFI - developed by Nazzareno Mandolesi at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Bologna, Italy - consists of an array of tuned radiometers that use 56 high-electron-mobility-transistor detectors; these will convert microwaves into radiation intensity for each frequency. The HFI, led by Jean-Loup Puget of the Institute for Space Astrophysics in Paris, will investigate the 100-857-GHz. frequency range using 48 bolometric detectors, useful for pinpointing and measuring small amounts of thermal radiation.

Astronomers expect measurements from the five instruments to provide the most detailed picture yet of different aspects of the cold cosmos, setting the stage for missions to follow at the end of the next decade.

A bit of History about Infrared
The discovery of Infrared Radiation
William Herschel, an amateur astronomer famous for the discovery of Uranus in 1781, made an important discovery in 1800. Herschel was familiar with Newton’s discovery that sunlight could be separated into that separate chromatic components via refraction through a glass prism. Herschel thought that the colors themselves might contain different levels of heat, so he devised a clever experiment to investigate this. Herschel passed sunlight through a glass prism to create a spectrum (the rainbow created when light is divided into its color components) and measured the temperatures of the different colors. He used three thermometers with blackened bulbs and placed one bulb in each color while the other two were placed outside the spectrum as controls.
Sunlight passes through a prism forming the usual rainbow spectrum. A row of thermometers is positioned on a table beyond the red end of the spectrum. Thermometer 1, aligned with the spectrum, registers a rise in temperature, while the control thermometers 2 and 3 do not.
As he measured the temperature of the violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red light, he noticed that all the colors had temperatures higher than the controls and that the temperature increased from the violet to the red part of the spectrum. After understanding this pattern, Herschel measured the temperature just beyond the red portion of the spectrum and found this area had the highest temperature of all and thus contained the most heat. What Herschel discovered was a form of light beyond red light. Herschel’s experiment was important not only because it lead to the discovery of infrared light, but because it was the first experiment that showed there were forms of light not visible to the human eye.
Beginning with Herschel’s observations we now understand the full nature of electromagnetic radiation and have developed a wide range of technologies to observe it and exploit it to man’s benefit.


The mission, formerly titled the Far Infrared and Sub-millimetre Telescope (FIRST), will be the first space observatory to cover the full far infrared and submillimetre waveband.[1] At 3.5 meters wide, its telescope will incorporate the largest mirror ever deployed in space.[2] The light will be focused onto three instruments with detectors kept at temperatures below 2 K. The instruments will be cooled with liquid helium, boiling away in a near vacuum at a temperature of approximately 1.4 K. The 2,000 litres of helium on board the satellite will limit its operational lifetime. The satellite is expected to be operational for at least 3 years.

Herschel will carry aboard three detectors:

PACS (Photodetecting Array Camera and Spectrometer)
An imaging camera and low-resolution spectrometer covering 55 to 210 micrometres. The spectrometer will have a resolution between 1000 and 5000 and be able to detect signals as weak as a few times 10-18 W/m². The imaging camera will be able to image simultaneously in two bands (either 60-85/85-130 micrometres and 130-210 micrometres) with a detection limit of a few millijanskys.
SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver)
An imaging camera and low-resolution spectrometer covering 194 to 672 micrometres. The spectrometer will have a resolution between 40 and 1000 at wavelengths of 250 micrometres and be able to image point sources with brightnesses around 100 millijanskys (mjy) and extended sources with brightnesses of around 500 mjy.[6] The imaging camera has three bands, centered at 250, 350 and 500 micrometres, each with 139, 88 and 43 pixels respectively. It should be able to detect point sources with brightness above 2 mjy and between 4 and 9 mjy for extended sources. A prototype of the SPIRE imaging camera flew on the BLAST high-altitude balloon.
HIFI (Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared)
A detector with a spectral resolution as high as 107. The spectrometer can be operated within two wavelength bands, from 157 to 212 micrometres and from 240 to 625 micrometres.


Herschel will specialise in collecting light from objects in our Solar System as well as the Milky Way and even extragalactic objects billions of light-years away, such as newborn galaxies, and is charged with four primary areas of investigation:[1]

  • Galaxy formation in the early universe and the evolution of galaxies;
  • Star formation and its interaction with the interstellar medium;
  • Chemical composition of atmospheres and surfaces of Solar System bodies, including planets, comets and moons;
  • Molecular chemistry across the universe.

Launch and orbit

The five Lagrange's points

The satellite, built in the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center with a joint launch cost of €1.1 billion (US$1.7 billion), will be carried with the Planck satellite into space by an Ariane 5 ECA rocket, scheduled for 14 May 2009.

In July 2009, app. sixty days after launch, it will enter a Lissajous orbit of 800,000 km average radius around the second Lagrangian point (L2) of the Earth-Sun system, 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth. The mission is named after Sir William Herschel, the discoverer of the infrared spectrum.

Water Print

With HIFI it will be possible for the first time ever to get a complete inventory of the most important rotational lines of water and its isotopomers. It therefore provides a really unique possibility to trace the water evolution from its origins to its dissociation. This water trail will be one of the key science subjects for HIFI.

Water has many lines available with intrinsic strengths that vary over several orders of magnitude and at energy levels from almost zero to several thousands K. Different water lines will therefore probe vastly different environments


Following the local water trail is just as important as looking to other galaxies. HIFI is capable of performing water studies in the nuclei of active galaxies closeby and far away. Moreover, HIFI will be the only instrument in decades with the ability to study so many rotational water lines.

Here we display some examples of the vastly different environments where water is (expected to be) found, "The Water Universe".

A SWAS spectrum of comet Lee.
A SWAS spectrum of comet Lee.

A SWAS spectrum of the planet Mars.
A SWAS spectrum of the planet Mars.

Spectra of BHR 71.
Spectra of BHR 71.
The Orion Molecular Cloud.
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posted by u2r2h at Wednesday, May 13, 2009 0 comments

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Robot wars - undeclared unknown war crimes

Bicentennial Man (1999)
Directed by Chris Columbus. With Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Sam Neill. An android endeavors to become human as he gradually acquires emotions.

"Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

The US has carried out thirty drone attacks on alleged al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistani territory since last summer, killing an estimated 250 people. The Predator attacks highlight the US military.s increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other robotic devices on the battlefield. We speak to P.W. Singer, a former defense policy adviser to President Obama.s election campaign and author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. [includes rush transcript]

P.W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the new book Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. Served as coordinator of the Obama campaign.s defense policy task force. He is also the author of Corporate Warriors and Children at War.

Rush Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to war. Three days after President Obama took office, an unmanned US Predator drone fired missiles at houses in Pakistan.s Administered Tribal Areas. Twenty-two people were reported killed, including three children. According to a tally by Reuters, the US has carried out thirty such drone attacks on alleged al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan since last summer, killing some 250 people.

The Predator attacks highlight the US military.s increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other robotic devices on the battlefield. At the start of the Iraq war, the US had only a handful of drones in the air. Today the US has over 5,300 drones. They have been used in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as here at home. The Department of Homeland Security uses drones to patrol the US-Mexico border.

There has been a similar boom in the use of ground robotics. When US forces went into Iraq in 2003, they had zero robotic units on the ground. Now they have as many as 12,000. Some of the robots are used to dismantle landmines and roadside bombs, but a new generation of robots are designed to be fighting machines. One robot, known as SWORDS, can operate an M-16 rifle and a rocket launcher.

A new book has just come out examining how robots will change the ways wars are fought. It.s called Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. The author, P.W. Singer, joins me here in the firehouse. He.s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, served as coordinator of the Obama campaign.s defense policy task force. He is also the author of Corporate Warriors and Children at War.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

P.W. SINGER: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Let.s start with Pakistan. Explain what these unmanned drones are.

P.W. SINGER: Well, talking about systems that can be flown remotely. So, the planes, these Predator drones, are taking off from places in, for example, Afghanistan, but the pilots are physically sitting in bases in Nevada. And there, you have incredible capabilities. They can see from a great distance. They can stay in the air for twenty-four hours. And so, very valuable in going after these insurgent and terrorist hide sites, which is in, you know, mountainous terrain, and it would be difficult to get US troops in.

But the flipside is that there.s a question of what.s the message that we think we are sending with these systems versus the message that.s being received on the ground, in terms of the broader war of ideas.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

P.W. SINGER: Well, so, I spent the last several years going around trying to meet with everyone engaged in this robotics revolution, everything from the scientists behind it to the science fiction authors influencing them, to the drone pilots, to the four-star generals, but also went out and interviewed people in the region.

And this question of messaging, one of the people that I met with was a senior Bush administration official, and he said, .The unmanning of war plays to our strength. The thing that scares people is our technology.. But that.s very different when you go meet with someone, for example, in Lebanon. One of the people that I met with for the book was an editor of a leading newspaper there. And he had to say that basically this shows that you are cowardly, that you are not man enough to come fight us. So a disconnect between message we think sending versus message that.s being received.

Or another illustration of this would be, there was a popular of the hit songs in Pakistan last year talked about how the Americans look at us like insects. Shows you how it.s permeating pop culture. So you have this balancing act that facing between short-term goals and long-term goals.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, the SWORDS, the CRAM, the talk about the robots taking on the .Three D.s..

P.W. SINGER: The .Three D.s. are roles that are dull, dirty or dangerous, and basically areas where found robotics have been useful. Dull would be, you know, you can.t keep your eyes open thirty hours straight; a robot can. So it can monitor empty desert for just in case something happens. Dirty is the environment. It can operate not only in, you know, chemical or biological but also in dust storms or at night. We can.t see at night. Things like that. And then, of course, dangerous is you can send out a robot to do things that you wouldn.t send a soldier to do. And the sort of joke of it is that, you know, when it comes to war, you are the weakest link.

Now, the problem is, what are the implications of that for our democracy? So, for example, if you are sending less and less Americans into harm.s way, does it make you more cavalier about the use of force? And one of the people that was fascinating that I interviewed was a former assistant secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan, who actually had this to say about these systems. He worried that they would create more marketization of war, as he put it. We might have more shock and awe talk to defray discussion of the true costs of war.

AMY GOODMAN: But that is a very serious issue, when.I mean, the time when wars are ended is when one side cannot take the number of casualties, that, for example, if your soldiers that are fighting are being killed. But if robots.

P.W. SINGER: I mean, the concern I have is that it takes certain trends that are already in play in our body politic. We don.t have declarations of war anymore. We don.t have a draft. We don.t buy war bonds anymore. We don.t pay higher taxes for war. And now you have the fact that you may be sending more and more machines instead people. And so, you may be taking the already lowering bars to war and dropping them to the ground.

And then there.s another part of this, of course, is it changes the public.s relationship with war. It.s not just that the public is becoming de-linked, but remember, these machines record everything that they see. And so, we have the rise of what I call YouTube war. That is, you can go on YouTube right now and download video clips of combat footage, much of it from these drones. And so, in some ways, you could say that.s a good thing. The home front and war front are finally connected. You can see what.s going on. But we all know this is taking place in sort of our weird, strange world, and these video clips have become a form of entertainment for people. The soldiers call it war porn.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, you write about robots making mistakes, like in South Africa in 2007, a software glitch in a robotic gun; in .88, a semi-automatic defense system of the USS Vincennes accidentally shoots down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 people on board, including sixty-six children.

P.W. SINGER: The challenge here is that while we are gaining incredible capabilities with these systems, it doesn.t end the human mistakes and dilemmas behind them. Another way of putting it is, a lot of people are familiar with Moore.s Law, the idea that you can pack in more and more computing power, such that they double in their power every two years. It.s the reason why the Pentagon in 1960 had the amount of computing power that you and I can get from a Hallmark card right now. Now, Moore.s Law is certainly operative. These systems are getting better and better. But Murphy.s Law is still in place. And so, you get what robot executives call these .oops. moments with robots, when things don.t work out the way you want. And it.s just like, you know, our laptop computers crash. Well, imagine your laptop computer crashing with an M-16 rifle.

AMY GOODMAN: How does international law address robots in war?

P.W. SINGER: The problem right now is we don.t have a good answer to that question. Some of the people that I met with for the book were at both the International Red Cross and then also at Human Rights Watch. And there.s two sort of interesting things that came out of that.

At the Red Cross, they basically said, .There.s so much going on in the world that.s bad, we don.t have time to focus on something like this, something that.s like this kind of science fiction.. And that.s a completely justifiable thing to say. I mean, there.s a lot of bad things going on in the world, you know, Darfur, for example. But you could have said the exact same thing back in, say, 1942, where there was lots of bad things going on then, but it doesn.t mean that we shouldn.t have, if we had had the chance, launched a discussion about atomic weapons back then. And unlike with atomic weapons, robotics isn.t being worked on in secret desert labs that no one knows about; it.s in our face. It.s being worked on in, you know, suburban factories we all know about. We can see the video clips of it.

The Human Rights Watch visit was sort of interesting, but both funny, because while I was there, two of their lead people got in an argument over whether the Geneva Conventions were the best guideline or the Star Trek prime directive. And it kind of points to that grasping at straws right now when it comes to regulating these machines. And this is.again, as you pointed out, this isn.t science fiction. We have 12,000 of them on the ground right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What happens if a robot commits a massacre?

P.W. SINGER: It.s a great question. You know, who do you hold responsible? Do you hold responsible the human operator? Do you hold responsible the commander who authorized them there? Do you hold responsible the software engineer who wrote it wrong? And how do you hold them accountable? We don.t have good answers.

And what was funny is, one person that I interviewed was a Pentagon robotic scientist. And he said, .You know what? wrong. There.s no social or ethical or legal dimensions with robotics in war that we have to figure out.. He said, .That is, unless the machine kills the wrong person repeatedly.. Quote, .Then it.s just a product recall issue.. That isn.t the way I think we should be looking at the social, ethical and legal dimensions of all of this. And that.s why we need to launch a discussion about it. Otherwise, going to make the very same mistake that a past generation did with atomic bombs, you know, not talking about them until Pandora.s box is already opened.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, who makes these drones? What are the corporations involved?

P.W. SINGER: It is a wide industry that.s growing, and it includes both the large traditional defense contractors.and not just in the US. There.s forty-three other countries working on military robotics right now.

But it also includes companies that people may think of in a different way. The book opens with a visit to iRobot. IRobot named after the Isaac Asimov novel and know, the Will Smith movie. And they make the PackBot, which is one of the most popular robots in Iraq. It.s about the size of a lawnmower and goes out and defuses bombs, and now it.s being armed. But iRobot also makes the Roomba, the robot vacuum cleaner. And so, I joke it.s, you know, one of the few companies in the world that sells both to the Pentagon and also to Linens .n Things.

AMY GOODMAN: Who else? What other companies?

P.W. SINGER: Well, right down the road from iRobot is a company called Foster-Miller. And Foster-Miller is interesting because, just like it, it was launched by three MIT engineers. Now, Foster-Miller is a fascinating company, because iRobot started out in robotics and moved into the defense world; Foster-Miller is a defense company that moved into the robotics world. And it.s actually a subsidiary of QinetiQ, which is also linked to, you know, the company that everybody loves to speculate about, the Carlyle Group.

AMY GOODMAN: Say more about the Carlyle Group.

P.W. SINGER: Oh, your listeners are probably more familiar with the Carlyle Group than I am. It.s, you know, one of the large investment firms based in D.C. that has sort of a who.s who of people on its board, and it.s the company that conspiracy theorists love to hate.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, you write a previous book, Corporate Warriors, you write about mercenaries.

P.W. SINGER: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a link between mercenaries and robots, having to do with deniability, not being included in the body count, and other issues?

P.W. SINGER: That.s a really great question. And a lot of people ask, you know, .How do did first did a book on private contractors, then a book on child soldiers, and now one on robots. You know, what.s the thread that links these?. And there.s two.

One is that the sands are shifting underneath us in warfare, and in denial about it. We have an assumption of who fights wars, and it.s usually a man in a uniform, and that means, oh, well, he.s part of a military, and he must be fighting on behalf of a government, and it must be politics and patriotism. But look at, for example, the rise of the private military industry. That is someone who.s fighting not on behalf of a government, but a private corporation. Profit motive is involved. Child soldier is another breakdown. Ten percent of the combatants in the world today are children. You know, war is not an adult game anymore. And then, with robotics, it.s sort of the ultimate breakdown of humankind.s 5,000-year-old monopoly on war.

But the second thing, as you raised, is an important point, that the use of contractors, as well as the movement towards machines, is, in a sense, a sort of outsourcing of responsibility, an outsourcing of risk, trying to avoid some of the political costs that go to war. You know, I.m often asked, .Well, does this save us money?. Well, that.s not the right question on either the contractor issue nor the digital issue. We aren.t using these systems because simply they save money. It.s because they allow us to avoid certain political costs.

AMY GOODMAN: Are these robotic technologies available to the mercenary companies like Blackwater?

P.W. SINGER: Yeah. There.s a section in the book. I call it .Soldiers of Fortran,. after the old software program Fortran. And there.s a great story in it, which actually encapsulates some of the weird ways this is going, where a group of college students fundraised money to do something about Darfur, and they ended up actually raising about a half-million dollars. It went well beyond their wildest dreams.

And so, then they explored whether they could hire their own private military company. And they know, sent messages out via email, and a number of private military companies called them back, to their dorm room, and one of them actually offered to lease them some drones use in Darfur. And the kids were talking about this. They didn.t imagine it would take off like this, but it did. Now, fortunately, some other people spoke with them and said, .Hey, this is really not the best use of the money that you fundraised..

But it points to how these systems, not just accessible to militaries. As you noted, being used by DHS, by police agencies. And, of course, many of them use commercial technology. For $1,000, you could do it yourself. You can build the version of a Raven drone. And so.


P.W. SINGER: Well, it.s a little more complex than we can go into on the show, but basically there.s a do-it-yourself kit for building very similar to a Raven drone. And the point here is that you have.

AMY GOODMAN: And the drone shoots people?

P.W. SINGER: That drone isn.t armed. It.s the ability to sort of toss it in the air, and it could go off and, a mile away, show you what.s on the other side of that hill. Now, of course, you could probably jury-rig it yourself to do bad things.

What I.m getting at is that just as software has gone open source, so has warfare. And these systems are not something that requires a massive industrial complex to build, like an aircraft carrier would or like an atomic weapon would. They use commercial technology. And so, that means that they can be used both for good and ill, by actors that have both good intent and bad intent. And the ethical question that we need to think about, you know, when we talk about robots and ethics.most people just want to talk about, you know, Asimov.s laws.well, we also need to think about the ethics of the people behind the robots.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let.s talk about specifically the experience of the soldiers who are now pushing buttons. They, themselves, their lives, are not at risk. not experiencing the person at the other end.

P.W. SINGER: Yeah, when I use the term "robotics revolution,. I need to be clear here. You know, I.m not talking about a revolution where, you know, your Roomba vacuum cleaner is going to sneak up and ambush you. talking about a revolution in the way wars are fought and who fights them. And this aspect of distance is one of the big ones. It changes the very meaning of going to war.

You know, my grandfather served in the Pacific fleet in World War II. When he went to war, he went to a place where danger took place, and the family didn.t know if he was ever coming back. And that.s very different than the experience of, for example, a Predator drone pilot that I met with who described that basically his experience of fighting in the Iraq war was getting in his Toyota Corolla, driving to work.he.s doing this in Nevada.driving into work, for twelve hours he puts missiles on targets, then gets back in the Toyota, commutes back home, and within twenty minutes he.s talking to his son at the dinner table.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say .puts missiles on targets,. you mean bombs.

P.W. SINGER: Hellfire missiles. You know, he.s basically.he is engaging.

AMY GOODMAN: He attacks, I mean.

P.W. SINGER: He is engaging in combat. But he.s doing it from 7,000 miles away. And then, at the end of the day, he goes to a PTA meeting or takes his kid to soccer practice. And so, it.s a whole new experience of war, which is actually creating a new concept of a warrior.

AMY GOODMAN: But you write, interestingly, that these soldiers who are engaging in war remotely actually suffer greater rates of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

P.W. SINGER: Yeah, it actually creates a huge psychological disconnect for them and challenges for them on a lot of different levels. And one of the people I met with was a commander of one of these squadrons, and he said it was actually tougher leading an unmanned squadron based back home than it was leading a squadron based in the Middle East, deployed.

And it was a couple things. One is the distancing. at home, but watching these scenes of violence. watching both Americans die in front of you and not able to do anything about it, or engaging in kills on enemies, and seeing it. And then you leave the room, and it.s just like nothing else happened. Your wife is asking you about, you know, why were late for a PTA meeting. You also have the fact that war is 24/7 now. And so, at home, but your time schedule is off because know, it.s 7,000 miles away.

There.s a lot of psychological challenges that just trying to figure out. And there.s also a little bit of denial, in terms of the military support, because these guys don.t want to seem like soft, and they don.t want to say, you know, .I.m suffering worse than the guys in the field.. And not, in many cases, getting as much support as they should be.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the use of drones here at home, for example, on the border?

P.W. SINGER: It.s a fascinating thing, because it raises this question of who should be allowed to have these systems and how should they use them. So, for example, DHS saw the success that the military was having with drones and said, you know, .We want our own.. They bought them using mainly counterterrorism money, but, of course, we know being used for a different kind of infiltrator across the border than al-Qaeda agents. been used to deal with immigrants and some drug smuggling.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they armed?

P.W. SINGER: No, those ones are not armed, but these are issues that you have to think about, moving forward. Who should be allowed to have armed systems or not? Should police be allowed to have it? You know, the LA Police Department is exploring purchasing a drone to put above a high crime neighborhood and just have it fly above and document everything. Is that something we think is OK for our rights? What about.remember, drones aren.t just big large planes. Some of them are as small as.they could fit on your fingertip, and they could climb up to a windowsill and peer inside.

AMY GOODMAN: The relationship with games? You write that the best pilot is an eighteen-year-old kid who trained on an [Xbox] video game?

P.W. SINGER: Pretty much. It.s a sort of fascinating story of.


P.W. SINGER: Yeah. He was actually a high school dropout who wanted to join the military to make his father proud. He wanted to be a helicopter mechanic. And they said, .Well, you failed your high school English course, so not qualified to be a mechanic. But would you like to be a drone pilot?. And he said, .Sure.. And it turned out, because of playing on video games, he was already good at it. He was naturally trained up. And he turned out to be so good that they brought him back from Iraq and made him an instructor in the training academy, even though he.s an enlisted man and he.s still.he was nineteen.

And the fascinating thing is, you go, .That.s an interesting story.. You tell that story to someone in the Air Force, like an F-15 pilot, and they go, .I do not like where this is headed. You know, got a college education. The military spent $5 million training me up. And telling me that this kid, this nineteen-year-old.and, oh, by the way, he.s in the doing more than I am?. And that.s the reality of it.

AMY GOODMAN: ABC News says you wrote the campaign paper for Obama on robots?

P.W. SINGER: I served as defense policy coordinator for the task force that advised him on defense policy, so not just robotics, but across the board. And it was an amazing experience. And one of the things that I was proud of is how we brought together a really diverse set of advisers and experts, you know, people.everything from retired generals to young veterans to academic experts, a whole mix that gathered around helping to advise who is now the President and what our policies should be.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, P.W. Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His new book is Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

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posted by u2r2h at Sunday, May 03, 2009 0 comments