FBI Evacuates New Mexico Sunspot Observatory; Exercise for Predictors

The aura of exotic mystery makes this a good exercise for aspiring predictors. It might drag you in and keep you engaged. A most informative article is Mysterious Evacuation Of Solar Observatory Overlooking White Sands Smells Like Espionage.

Authors Rogoway and Treveithick could be dead on, or close. But as Sherlock Holmes would say to Dr. Watson, the most evident possibility is not necessarily the probability.  It helps to devise  alternative theories for comparison of relative strengths. Holmes’ method of logical deduction emphasized the exposure of contradictions hidden by superficial attraction.

Two theories without evident support are:

  • Something to do with space aliens.
  • Something to do with weapons of mass destruction.

These are examples of conspiracy theories, attractive to emotional disorder, but without any basis in fact. Noting that FBI agents swarmed over the antenna towers on the site, Rogoway and Treveithick find espionage a good fit.   There could have been eavesdropping devices on the towers, which overlook the White Sands Missile Range.

(CNN) Mysterious ‘security issue’ forces a solar observatory to be evacuated quotes a nearby resident: “We were told we had a credible threat through the FBI and to leave,” evacuee Sean Williams told the station. The on site postmaster was required to leave, but Apache Point Observatory, 0.5 miles south, remains open.

“Credible threat” could have literal meaning, or use as a term understood by the general public. This provokes one of the conundrums that would have intrigued Holmes. As a reason, it does not explain why:

  • There is no ground security perimeter.
  • The area under threat is geographically defined with precision.
  • Apache Point Observatory was allowed to remain open.
  • The site is closed “for a week.” Threats are not usually resolved on a timetable.
  • The extensive use of helicopters is not by itself curious, but with the lack of a security perimeter, it is.

So Rogoway and Treveithick are doing pretty good, though Holmes would not be satisfied with the dangling threads. But the above list contains all the information required for a complete solution.

A crucial question, which the news sites are particularly bad at figuring out, is who to consult. They like to cite authorities, meaning, people with badges. We don’t need no stinkin’ badges. Try an electrical engineer, preferably one with experience in RF (radio frequency).

I could give you an informed opinion, but it might seem authoritative, and it would deprive you of legwork. Go run down the electrical engineer. A local ham radio club might suffice. Print this out and bring it along. You’ll have an informed opinion, with a significant possibility of correctness.







Pussy Riot Member Verzilov, Poisoned? Botulin Toxin; A Gareth Williams Clue

(Independent) Pussy Riot activist seriously ill in Moscow hospital’s toxicology department after suspected poisoning. Quoting,

Ms Nikulshina, said that Mr Verzilov woke up and realised that he was losing his sight. …“First it was his vision, then his ability to speak, and then his ability to walk,” she told Meduza.

“Descending paralysis”, starting near the brain and descending over a short time to the legs, is symptomatic of one poison in particular, botulin toxin, which causes a well known form of food poisoning most commonly caused by improperly canned foods.

Was Pyotr Verzilov actually poisoned by the state? Unlike the Salisbury poisonings, forensic evidence will never be obtained. It is my inclination to think that he  probably was. The symptoms should be enough to alert MI-5 with respect to the death of Gareth Williams in 2010. In retrospect, one cause of the ambiguous conclusion was the lack of toxicology evidence. Quoting Wikipedia,

In September and October 2015, Boris Karpichkov, a former KGB agent who defected from Russia and who now lives in Britain, stated during interviews that “sources in Russia” have claimed that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, also known as the SVR, was responsible for Williams’s murder. According to Karpichkov, the SVR tried and failed to blackmail Williams into becoming a double agent.[36]

In response to the SVR’s attempts, Williams apparently claimed that he knew “the identity of a Russian spy inside the GCHQ.” Karpichkov claimed that Williams’s threat meant that “the SVR then had no alternative but to exterminate him in order to protect their agent inside GCHQ.” Regarding the cause of death, Karpichkov claimed that the SVR killed Williams “by an untraceable poison introduced in his ear.”[37][36]

Botulin toxin is the most poisonous substance known, about 1,000,000 times more potent than Novichok. It acts too slowly to be an optimal chemical warfare agent.  It is not undetectable in patients who have suffered food poisoning, but in the quantity required to cause death via the ear, it probably is.

(New Yorker) A Pussy Riot Activist Is the Victim of the Latest Apparent Poisoning in Russia offers good background as to why Verzilov, hardly a professional politician, would be a target. With the help of a sympathetic judiciary, he defied the security forces. If Verzilov has been poisoned, an occasionally independent judiciary complicates the question of what Russian authorities are ultimately responsible for the decision to poison him.

If there is anything positive about this, it’s the opportunity to take another look at power in Russia. We all want to know if Putin has a pad of Rx forms in his desk drawer, with check boxes for the type of poison. Do mutants of the NKVD troikas, which in the early Soviet Union  issued instant death sentences, survive in modern Russia? It would be a waste to leave this on the level of the tawdry and sensational. So let’s proceed.

There has been a tendency to personify Russia in Vladimir Putin, while in fact, Putin is a product of Russia, where multiple clans compete. While the Russian judiciary is rarely independent, the very fact that it was in the case of Verzilov should strengthen our appreciation of the complexities.  Putin is blamed for incidents such as these, because it is conveniently simple,  it is not contradicted by open-source, and he is the most powerful individual in Russia.

Putin  collaborates with the system he leads. His ludicrous statement reported in (Telegraph) Vladimir Putin says Salisbury poison suspects are Russian ‘civilians’ and hopes they will ‘tell their story’ is the most recent example.  Putin cannot disavow the actions of the clans. To do so would erode the myth of power.

In Iran/MEK Bomb Plot; Assassinations; Russia Comparison, I wrote

As with the recent misadventure of Russian mercenaries in Syria (Newsweek: ‘A Total F***up’: Russian Mercenaries in Syria Lament U.S. Strike That Killed Dozens), and the Litvinenko hit, this implies  multiple entities, not inherited from the Soviet Union, with varying degrees of competence, which may not be in complete  control of the Kremlin.

This analysis lacks  the benefit of clandestine signals intelligence, which may tip the scales. But even the statements of MI-5,  asserting that the  Skripal poisoning had high level state approval, don’t take it all the way to Putin. In open source, it remains an open question. The troikas may exist.

But if the ultimate responsibility does not go all the way to the top, it implies that Russia is  more dangerous than when we imagined that Vladimir Putin was supremely powerful. We are dealing with a state that shares a characteristic of a non-state actor: the absence of a rational supreme authority that shares core values of decency.

I feel sorry for Sergei Lavrov, whose job is conducting diplomacy under these conditions. (Reuters) Moscow ready to make steps to improve Russia-U.S. ties: Lavrov.

Sergei, you have a hopeless job. All these poisonings are enough for us to seal the borders to Russians with Super-Glue.



Russians accused by UK in spy case: We were in Salisbury for tourism

Reuters: Russians accused by UK in spy case: We were in Salisbury for tourism. Quoting,

“Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town,” one of the men said of the English town of Salisbury in a short clip of the interview played by RT.

They said they may have approached Sergei Skripal’s house by chance but did not know where it was located. They had stayed less than hour in Salisbury, they said, because of bad weather.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov actually visited Salisbury twice, on March 3 and 4. (Telegraph) Guests of two-star London hotel where Salisbury suspects stayed discover Novichok was found in bedroom.

Was the weather really that bad? On March 4, 2018, in Salisbury, it was partly sunny. The high temperature was 51F/35C. There was just the teeniest drizel, about 1/100 inch of precipitation, not enough to dampen the spirit. Visit  Weather Underground, use “calendar”,  and search for Salisbury. On the same day in Moscow, whence you came, it was snowing, with a high of 15F/14C.

We are sorry your stay was so short. Was there anything you liked that might bring you back again? The thrilling stench of death in the air?

Russia the main suspect in U.S. diplomats’ illness in Cuba: NBC

(NBC) U.S. officials suspect Russia in mystery ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Cuba, China.

Only two state actors with conceivably hostile intent have the required technological base, Russia and China. Hence my early suspicion of Russia. Quoting,

The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence…

The evolving evidence:

  • Reality of the attacks, of which there was initially considerable doubt.
  • Circumstance.
  • Intent, supplied by signals intelligence.
  • Feasibility, with reverse engineering in progress.
  • Smoking gun. Although an actual instance of use is unlikely to have forensic witness,  a close substitute is the weapon itself.  If it can be made, it can be bought.

Circumstance, satisfied long ago, has been followed by intent. Feasibility and smoking gun remain unsatisfied. But convictions for murder have been obtained solely from circumstantial evidence. There is already enough to indicate that the attacks cannot be a rogue operation.


“Although the U.S. believes sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon were likely used on the U.S. government workers, they are also exploring the possibility that one or more additional technologies were also used, possibly in conjunction with microwaves…”

In previous articles, I explored ultrasound. Microwave is discussed in Havana “Sonic” Attacks; Microwaves?  Weaponizing either requires  innovation beyond the obvious. So consider:

  • An attack by multiple technologies at different times could deprive brain tissue of the chance to recover from what medicine calls the “insult”.
  • Simultaneous attacks via microwave and ultrasound could produce synergistic damage, analogous to drug interactions.

Havana “Sonic” Attacks; Microwaves?

(CNN) Microwaves suspected in ‘sonic attacks’ on US diplomats in Cuba and China, scientists say.

This is about the newly popular theory that microwaves, not ultrasonic sound, are responsible for the brain injuries of U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China.  Golomb’s paper (pdf) Diplomats’ Mystery Illness and Pulsed Radiofrequency/ Microwave Radiation is a plausibility argument.

I would have preferred  that the statement on page 2,  “Sonic mediation was justly rejected by the experts”,  had not been made.  The word “justly” suggests that the author may have an emotional stake in the outcome.  But the article does establish that the symptoms are compatible with microwaves.  Quoting, the stated conclusion is:

Conclusions and Relevance: Reported facts appear consistent with pulsed RF/MW as the source of injury in Cuba diplomats.

This is not the same as proof that microwaves are causal. New, incompatible facts could emerge that invalidate the hypothesis.

There is a tentative implication that pulses of microwave, not continuous-wave, are required to produce damage. Very slight heating of brain issue is proposed to cause a pressure wave inside the skull which hits the inner ear from the inside.

The bulk of Golomb’s paper consists of anecdotal or uncontrolled experiments that suggest that the modern environment produces widespread exposure to toxic levels of pulsed microwaves. This may be true. I’m one of the bunch who hold a cellphone well away from our heads, and use the speakerphone or earbuds.

Cellphone use may cause the appearance of heat shock proteins in the brain. (PUbMed) Mobile phones, heat shock proteins and cancer. This is an entirely different kind of damage from that produced by ionizing radiation, such as x-rays. There exists the statistical possibility that John McCain’s glioblastoma was caused by diagnostic x-rays.

Heat shock may result in delayed disease, or nothing at all. Induced pressure waves may be causative or benign. On page 12, Golomb remarks

Scientific “skepticism” about RF/MW health effects is well represented in the literature, but is of the industry-fueled stripe(think tobacco): Effects of conflicts of interest on research results (as well as on funding, regulatory agencies, legislation and academics ) vis a vis RF/MW, has been repeatedly documented and decried 93-97…

I’ve written extensively about the ultrasonic hypothesis, where audible sounds are a side effect. Like the microwave Frey effect, ultrasound can “project” audible sound at a distance. I did not consider microwaves because of the absence of a particular feature from the incident reports. If you stick your finger in a low power microwave beam, around 6 milliwatts/square centimeter, at a few gigahertz, your finger will feel noticeable warmth. Warmth is sensed when there is a differential between the upper and lower ends of the skin thermoreceptors.

Reports of sensations of warmth are absent. Quoting Kenneth Foster via Wikipedia on the proposed MEDUSA weapon,

Experts, such as Kenneth Foster, a University of Pennsylvania bioengineering professor who published research on the microwave auditory effect in 1974, have discounted the effectiveness of the proposed device. Foster said that because of human biophysics, the device “would kill you well before you were bothered by the noise”. According to former professor at the University of Washington Bill Guy, ”There’s a misunderstanding by the public and even some scientists about this auditory effect,” and “there couldn’t possibly be a hazard from the sound, because the heat would get you first”.[9]

The absence of “warmth” is not insurmountable, but it adds a complexity,  that the microwave frequency must be low enough to prevent a skin temperature gradient detectable by the skin thermoreceptors.

The GSM “2G” cellphone is the second primary obstacle to the microwave theory. GSM, which dominated the world cellphone landscape from about 1991 to 2005, is a cellphone standard that uses both UHF and  microwave frequencies. Unlike systems that came before or after, GSM is characterized by intense pulses of energy. If you remember hearing strange noises on your radio that you tracked to somebody’s phone, that was GSM. Pulses from GSM phones  interfered with a lot of supposedly well shielded electronic equipment. The phones were banned from sound studios.

GSM is still in operation as “2G”. If you use your phone in a fringe area, absent 3G or 4G coverage, your phone defaults to it. The result is 1 or 2 watts of microwave emitted very close to your skull, in the form of intense bursts. Check out your phone at Highest and Lowest Radiation Cell Phones.

One or two watts of energy up against your head is equivalent to tens of thousands of watts a few hundred yards distant, unless the transmitter has a very large, very conspicuous and not very portable antenna. The larger the antenna, the sharper the beam.  So we have questions:

  • GSM phone are not optimized as weapons. Is the magic of the theory in the shape of the pulses?
  • If a GSM phone is in any way a proxy for the optimized weapon, where are the legions of brain damaged cellphone users?

When it’s all squared away,, we may finally have the answer to a riddle. (Newsweek) Why Does Vladimir Putin Avoid Smartphones?

Reuters: Yemen’s separatists attack military academy in Aden

Reuters: Yemen’s southern separatists attack military academy in Aden. Quoting,

Southern separatists opened fire on a military academy graduation ceremony in Yemen’s port city of Aden on Saturday, killing a cadet and wounding at least two others, witnesses said. … The incident is the latest in a series of killings and bombings in the southern city…

Yemen, Saleh (Now Dead), and Civil War, Part 2 anticipates a tertiary conflict. Quoting,

There are actually three conflicts:

  • Primary. Houthi versus non-Houthi.
  • Secondary. north versus south.
  • Tertiary, potential.  Zaydi versus Sunni in the north.

Instead of the tertiary conflict, the secondary has become active. The original prediction was based on the passivity of northern Sunnis towards the tradition of Zaydi governance.

We need a friends-and-enemies table to sort this out:

  • All Zaydis are Shia. These are religious terms.
  • Most Houthis are Zaydis. Houthis are a movement, not a religion.
  • Not all Zaydis are Houthis, and not all Houthis are Zaydis.
  • Saleh, like almost all the rulers of Yemen,  was Zaydi, but an active enemy of the Houthis (mostly of the same religion), until his fall from power.  When the Houthis overthrew Mansour Hadi, Saleh allied with the Houthis to regain some power.
  • Mansour Hadi is a southern Sunni.
  • The southern separatists, the same region and religion as Hadi, have attacked the “government” forces of which Hadi is the titular head.

This makes no sense unless one concludes that the conflict, cloaked as sectarian struggle, is actually a tribal conflict over the scarce resources necessary for life.

What remains for the tertiary conflict to become active? For the military situation, refer to Yemen Hodeidah Assault and  (Middle East Eye, 7/26)  Stalemate in Yemen: Why has the battle for Hodeidah ground to a halt? As long as the Houthis stalemate the Saudi coalition, they are not clearly losers. Should this resolve in the favor of the coalition, it is likely that the tertiary conflict will activate.








Mysterious Russian satellite; It’s a Tristatic Locator

(CNN) Mysterious Russian satellite worries experts.

CNN doesn’t ask around enough.  It’s not hard to figure out the likely mission of the Russian satellite.  It’s most likely a  tristatic array.

The U.S. has a stealth satellite program, which aims to prevent detection of the satellite from the surface of the earth.. For this limited goal, it is necessary to specially design the surface of the satellite that faces earth. The surfaces of the satellite that cannot be seen from earth may have relaxed requirements of low observability.

In all cases involving stealth targets,, there is a huge advantage in observing the target from multiple locations. Bistatic radar, where the transmitter and receiver are separately located, can detect a stealth aircraft, though not necessarily track it.

So the “Russian doll” design of the mystery satellite is intended to detect satellites that are difficult to see, but not absolutely invisible. With three dolls, the basic principle of  radar, of timing the signal echo to measure distance, becomes inessential. With pure triangulation, the relative speed of the target is immaterial.

For the Russian approach to work,  a rough idea of where the satellite is required. The satellite is launched on a trajectory that will take it a bit above the target. The biggest doll gets a whiff of the target via radio or thermal emissions and a rough orbit determination.  Then it ejects the intermediate doll into an appropriate nearby orbit. The ejection must be timed carefully, since the two dolls will drift apart. With two observations, they are on their way to a triangular solution.  Now they know where to send the third doll; the U.S. stealth satellite is triangulated, possibly via LIDAR.

The above explains why the dolls are launched as a set, to maximize the time they can stay in close proximity.

In the finale, one of the dolls places itself in the way of the U.S. satellite. Explosives are not required; when cars crash in space, there are no survivors.

Since U.S. reconnaissance satellites possess sensors of extraordinary complexity, functionality, and cost, they cannot be replaced by constellations of more survivable micro satellites. It may be necessary to host future systems on space-planes like the X-37. Since the X-37 has very high delta-V, it could escape the trap of the Russian dolls.

U.S. Space Force

(WaPo) Pence details plan for creation of Space Force in what would be the sixth branch of the military.

I take the pov of Mattis. Quoting,

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last year that he opposed a new department of the military “at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”

Separate service arms were historically the result of the different primary elements of land and sea, and rudimentary communication between the two. Before radio, synergistic application of force was rare. With radio, interservice rivalry became the artificial barrier. Since World War II, generals in charge of theaters have fought not just  the enemy, but also the parochial barriers that come from having separate service arms.

There are still differences. Apart from basic training, which is influenced by the primary element,

  • Since a naval vessel consists of complex machinery enclosed by a hull, a naval officer is almost always an engineer.
  • For  pilots, gymnastic skills are prized, indicating superior ability to orient in three dimensional space.
  • West Pointers swear by American football as uncannily similar to combat. Melding traditional warfighting skills, extreme fitness, and  high technology, ground force soldiers are furthest along the path of technical integration resulting in the cyborg.

The strategies and tactics required by each environment are different, but they share  the common requirements of training in human resources and command. Since the differing environments are natural barriers to force integration, a large part of the path to becoming a general officer is cross training.

We could look at the degrees of freedom of motion  (DOF) for each service. Neglecting intermodal transport, such as helicopter, naval aircraft, and the  depth of a submarine:

  • Navy. A naval vessel is described by a position and a velocity (bearing). It has 4 degrees of freedom. Latitude and longitude convert to X and Y, giving  (X, Y,  Vx, Vy). A naval vessel accelerates only for a short interval before reaching a constant value close to the top speed of the vessel.
  • Ground forces have a sequence of positions, roughly equivalent to two degrees of freedom. Velocity and bearing are not as meaningful as the estimated time of arrival at a way-point, which hopefully aligns with a   phase line on a battlefield map.
  • Air Force. For purpose of intercept or targeting, an airplane or missile has 9 degrees of freedom, 3 each of position, velocity, and acceleration. With the addition of “jerk” to the target equations, 12 may be counted.

A space force vehicle has the same degrees of freedom of movement as an Air Force airplane. The differences:

  • It’s harder to get into space.  The amount of energy required is hundreds of times greater.
  • It’s harder to maneuver once you get there. The ability to maneuver is described by the maximum delta-V. An airplane can make almost unlimited turns, because it uses the air. In space, rockets must be used, and they have limited power and fuel.
  • It’s harder to get back to earth. All the energy used to get into space is turned into heat.  An ordinary airplane would melt.

The boundary between air and space is the Kármán Line, 62 miles up. Below the line, things can fly. Above the line, they have to be thrown. Throwing, which involves rockets, is much more expensive than flying.

Do these differences make it sensible to create a Space Force? No, because:

  • The degrees of freedom of motion are the same as the Air Force.
  • A spacecraft can gain maneuverability by diving below the Kármán Line, gaining delta-V, and swooping back up. So the dividing line between an airplane and space plane is fuzzy.
  • Satellite survivability, redundancy, and replacement  are not addressed in any meaningful way.
  • New bureaucracy is almost always bad. It’s surprising the idea would come from an administration hep on cutting regulations. It is impossible to divide the mission in a logical way.

There has been a huge investment in Block III Arleigh Burke destroyers especially oriented towards missile defense.  The Air Force X-37 space plane is an operational success. Narrowing the responsibilities of the existing services ignores the intermodal nature of this problem.

The problem of survivable weapon systems, particularly of space assets, is real. While the idea of a Space Force may  attract funding, it is not a functional concept.

Let’s not solve real problems with a bureaucracy bloated before it’s even born.




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