The argument has been made that a truck bomb of a few hundred kilograms could not have caused the damage, due to the heavy mass of steel in the bridge. This is incorrect.
Truck bombs are usually employed to destroy buildings. For this purpose, the blast effect is intended to be isotropic, without preferred direction. To damage a bridge, a directional, downwards explosion is desired. This can be achieved with a tamper, a mass of dense material placed over and/or around the charge to multiply the effect in a specified direction. Some materials used in construction fit the bill. The explosive multiplication is limited only by the degree of concentration.
If you google “tamper”, you’ll find references to nuclear weapons technology. Tamper predates this; it is the basis of all modern directional munitions and shaped charges. See Gurney Equations if you’re a techie.
“I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?” Biden said during the event, “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
There may have been a window, before the full extent of Russia’s land seizures, when Russia could have conceivably claimed a win. In the face of Ukrainian resolve, an off-ramp created by the West would be equivalent to Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 selling, in the Munich Agreement, of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, in exchange for “peace in our time.”
In contrast to the majority of world leaders, who are dyed-in-the-wool for life from an early age, Putin’s thought has had epochs of roughly seven years, morphs of transition from a vaguely liberal figure to the autocrat we see now. In the twilight of his life, Putin finds attraction to some of the sticks of the fascist bundle:
- Lebensraum, in his demand for the soil of Ukraine.
- Blood, in the exaltation of Russian culture.
- Primacy of the Russian cultural corpus over the inalienable rights of the individual.
- Use of the above to justify a lot of killing. War for the interests of the state.
- A “Grand Council of Fascism” to help him run the country.
- The dictator’s confidence that he is always right. Science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp called this the “right man personality.”
To set into motion a process that would kill so many people, especially Russians, with the prospect of many more, requires both an ancient type of mind, and elevation of a cultural corpus that is strange to the modern West. In 2003, Putin was part of a political process. He killed off that process, and with that, the part of his mind amenable to conciliation. Conciliation cannot be authored by the West, because Putin’s political mind is in eclipse. It may be useful imagine we are dealing with Stalin, with the mistakes of Yalta in mind.
To put it another way, we can’t trade horses with Putin as if he is a pol, because he is no longer a pol.
The eclipse of Putin as a political figure, with his transition to a “czar”, is mirrored in larger Russian society, where he has mostly escaped derision of some of his subordinates. This redirection of blame is key to a potential off-ramp, authored entirely by the Kremlin.
The key to this is recognition by Russians that the grotesque failure of their armed forces is not due to a few people. The quality of an armed force is one index of the complex of human potential. Russian government and society have defects that permit large scale enterprise, such as military, to evolve without any awareness of relative inferiority.
The growing volume of criticism from inside Russia does not mention this. Instead of blaming the culture, they are blaming individuals who are merely manifestations of the culture. Barring exceptional circumstances, it takes about 30 years to evolve a Western military culture. The exceptions are provided by:
- Necessity, which manifests in cohesion, sacrifice, and even love.
- Entrepreneurship, which allows for small unit initiative and improvised industrial response.
All of these are absent in today’s Russia. Recognition by Russia of inferior military culture as the cause of their Ukraine failure is the key to their own off-ramp:
- Essential to the sale is sacrifice of Shoigu and some generals, in show trials followed by execution.
- An explanation to the Russian public that complete withdrawal is necessary to reform the Russian military.
- A small DMZ in the east.
- The promise that Ukraine will be conquered in the near future.
A frozen conflict is not pleasant to us, but allows for evolution. From Note to China re Russia; Dmitry Medvedev Threatens to Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine,
Russia has taken a wrong turn, away from high culture to a murderous form of cultural narcissism. In consequence, we are in danger of a new dark age.
This will take time to change.
What follows is entirely my own opinion, based exclusively on open-source.
This benefits from the questions of classic homicide investigation. The suspect must have motive and means. It is likely that these actions were committed by someone on the Side of Good, for Good Purpose:
- To obviate backsliding by Germany, which has been notably slow in providing advanced weaponry to Ukraine. This shuts down the wistful hope for a return to the past, which could have fractured the Alliance.
- Of equal import, it demonstrates to the Russians that their premise of weak European solidarity, that Europe could be bought, will continue to be wrong.
- The calls for investigation are quite tongue-in-cheek.
As for the means, the Baltic is quite shallow at the locations. A submarine with a diver lockout chamber is not required. Neither is fancy pipeline repair gear. The depth of 187 feet is reachable by competent scuba divers breathing commercial trimix gas. The dive boat need have no visible adaptations that distinguish it from a fishing vessel.
As to whodunit, I leave it to your imagination. There must be a lot of smiling around office water coolers. As George H.W. Bush famously once said,
I’ve written so much about the (link) Havana attacks, this risks repetition. So this is a brief critique of CNN reportage, in the vein of CNN Editorial, Meredith McCarroll, Anthony Bourdain listened; Appalachia’s Three Percent. In that article, I wrote,
The form and viability of a city depend upon the physical circumstances and imagination of the builders. Lewis Mumford’s The City in History (Harcourt, 1961) may be first to systematize, going beyond title to trilogize the city as the work of man, yet organic, more or less, in relation to the environment.
The problems of the Appalachia have basis in the physical world, not worth a mention in editorial. Only 3% of Pike County, West Virginia is flat enough to build on, a shortage that extends to Appalachia as a whole. If Appalachia were as flat as Nevada, its social history would be entirely different. Yet the words “flat”or “hilly” do not appear. As well, the Havana problem is not defined by what officials say and do. It is a problem in the physical world.‘s
My exposure to CNN is entirely through the website, so I cannot refer directly to the televised special. With Sanjay Gupta, they have in-house neurological expertise. It does not extend beyond this. Ignoring the physical world that contains the problem, the “3%”, the print article, CIA doctor hit by Havana syndrome , is no more than a human interest story that declines the real story, a fascinating technical problem. It’s not the “truth” about anything except for the miserable victims.
Sanjay, you should have asked these questions:
- Was there any attempt to monitor the radiation environment of any victim before the event? Were there any positives?
- “Dr. Paul Andrews”, pseudonym, retreated to the bathroom and donned headphones. What kind of headphones were they?
- Did the headphones generate any anomalous sounds, indicative of microwaves?
- When he moved to the bathroom, did the clicking sound continue with the same amplitude and cadence?
- Was his bed against the wall with the “chase” utility space?
- Did “Dr. Paul Andrews” experience any sensation of warmth on the skin?
- Which side did he favor while sleeping? Did it expose the symptomatic ear?
- Did any of the affected Havana residences have radios or TVs in frequent use? Even when turned off, a radio typically emits noise in a pulsed microwave field.
For who to consult, to inform your reactions, read down.
CNN is not unique in reliance on pronouncements by officials and individuals with impressive-but-too-often irrelevant credentials. This problem view ignores another “3%”, the vast stores of knowledge possessed by some individuals about the world that contains the problem.
Within walking distance of CNN, NYU and Columbia are nearby institutions with excellent physics and electrical engineering departments. For Sanjay Gupta, Georgia Tech is the obvious choice. These are people you would go to if you wanted a directed energy weapon. Of all CNN employees, Sanjay is eminently qualified to interface.
They are not officials. Unlike officials, who bear responsibility, often in excess of their knowledge, these academics possess knowledge without responsibility, knowledge that CNN apparently cares not to access, even for use in highly simplified presentation. This is blinkered, like the carriage horses on 57th.
CNN, you can do better.
(Reuters) Russia’s Medvedev: new regions can be defended with strategic nuclear weapons. Quoting Dmitry Medvedev,
“Russia has announced that not only mobilisation capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection.”
Going beyond the use of tactical nukes, Medvedev’s statement implies Russia could destroy Kiev.
In The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler enumerated nine cultures, which he described as living organisms. Interesting, but overdone and not particularly insightful, I thought — until now.
Four cultures are relevant to the Ukraine conflict: Western, Chinese, Indian “high cultures” and Russian, which Spengler did not then view as a high culture, though it might so develop. Medvedev’s threat indicates this evolution has not occurred. Russia has taken a wrong turn, away from high culture to a murderous form of cultural narcissism. In consequence, we are in danger of a new dark age. See Address to Davos; Avoiding the New Dark Ages.
In contrast, there is no doubt that China and India, along with neighboring countries, exhibit culture and civilization to the highest degree. Although there is some friction between China and the U.S., it is vital to all humanity that China use its considerable influence to prevent the use by Russia of nuclear weapons. If Russia uses nuclear weapons, there will arise a death cult of revenge in kind.
We are already familiar with such cults with roots in Islamic extremism, who desire nuclear weapons and materials. Thus far, their success has been prevented by
- Self-selection; terror is not attractive to the brightest minds who possess the technical skills required for nuclear terror.
- Vigilance by many people, who, if they agree on nothing else, would not wish nuclear terror on anyone else.
- Since nuclear terror has never happened, there is no desire for revenge in kind, which could attract the very intelligent revenge-seekers who have so far declined terror.
- Absence of a meme. We have seen the power of the meme in social media.
In coming years, there may develop a black market in nuclear weapons.. Those Russians who contemplate nukes in Ukraine must take responsibility for the future, distant or not so distant, of stateless, anonymous nuclear attacks on Russian cities. Mutual assured destruction is a profound deterrent to nation states; not so when the actor is stateless. In the days after 9/11, there was in the U.S. discussion of what threat could be made to the Arab world to deter nuclear attacks by Wahhabi extremists. There was no answer. Time is on the side of the death cult.
Perhaps Dmitry Medvedev comforts himself that the above is hypothetical. There is a related threat that can be realized now. I would normally not discuss this; Dmitry Medvedev makes it necessary. Medvedev and Putin should consult their science advisors. There is a radioactive isotope so deadly that if an amount I leave unspecified were dispersed efficiently in a city like Moscow, the city would have to be abandoned — a second Chernobyl. Remediation is impossible. Decay requires multiple human lifespans. Decontamination would require total demolition of the target area.
This has not happened for two reasons:
- Efficient dispersal requires high level engineering talent of the level that declines terror. It is practical.
- Everyone agrees this should not happen to anyone. Hence vigilance by those who may not be your friends.
Before Dmitry Medvedev spoke, there was such a thing as human decency. That, too, can perish with the Bomb.
As we have seen with other terror, nuclear terror can become a meme. If it does, the problem becomes Avoiding the New Dark Ages. Can mankind survive without cities? Perhaps in a diminished, post apocalyptic fashion, a much smaller number can survive. Spengler’s unfounded theories would be ironically correct. See Russia, the new Sparta; Putin, Lycurgus & Oswald Spengler.
China civilization is far in advance of Russia. Russia’s rulers are in thrall of a murderous cultural complex which may prevent appreciation of the above argument. Russia needs the help of China to regain what is referred to in China as the “correct path.”
The message must be strict and hard: China cannot engage with a country that brings nuclear terror into the world for optional foreign policy reasons. China’s self interest is clear; while Moscow would precede Beijing as a victim, every city in the world is vulnerable to the meme of nuclear terror.
The meme of nuclear terror must see neither the darkness of night or the broad light of day.
This was anticipated on 7/12/2022 in (CNN) Generals Wesley Clark vs. Mark Hertling; Are Weapon Stockpiles Sufficient? Quoting,
This applies to a hypothetical high intensity conflict. The unmet near term need is the response to possible Russian mobilization, best served by hot production lines, and additional contracts for long lead-time parts, such as sensors.
Since then, it has become evident from Ukraine casualties that U.S. and Western smart weapon preference has one doctrinal deficiency. While Russian use of low cost massed artillery facilitates avoidance of small-arms combat, the high cost of smart weapons prohibits symmetric use. HIMARS inventories cannot support routine use that inspires the joke name “grid square removal weapon.”
There are some indications that Ukraine is receiving some supplies of 152mm shells from a third country. Perhaps a gun swap could be arranged as well? Quoting Stalin,
Though Stalin’s faith in quantity brought savage carnage to Russians, a kernel of truth is adaptable to Western thinking.
This is possible. More later.
Read these first:
- Power Transition in Russia? Revolution? Part 1
- (CNN) ‘I’m smiling’: Ret. Lt. Gen. Hertling reacts to Putin news; Putin takes Command.
- (CNN) Russian security service accuses Ukraine of Darya Dugina’s murder; Dawn of the Russian Insurgency?
In response to the Ukraine debacle, political power, concentrated for the last few years in Putin’s “inner cabinet”, is diffusing outward. See Exploiting Cracks in the Kremlin; Putin, the New Stalin? Opposition has enlarged with new elements, in addition to the old:
- Security apparatus, part of the extreme right wing.
- An insurgency.
- Extreme right wing populist politicians and idealogues.
- Military hard liners.
- Military pragmatists.
- Genuine political opposition. See (The Hill) Russian municipal deputies call for Putin’s resignation.
Putin’s survival depends upon:
- Balancing these elements. Until the ascent of the extreme right, with an “inner cabinet” that excluded other clans and factions, Putin displayed political acumen as a balancer. Putin has since attempted to exercise absolute power.
- Deflection of blame.
- Avoidance of triggers that might cause a fulmination in one or more elements.
- Some achievement to justify the spiraling costs.
- Reconcentration of political power in the tight, unified cabal that created the mess, or development of a new, broad, quasi-democratic base.
For more on Putin as the balancer, see Putin, rodeo bull rider. There is no opposition consensus:
- The military resents Putin’s meddling, but are themselves incompetent per Western standards.
- The insurgency declares no alternative.
- Exalting militarism as part of the fascist “bundle”, the extreme right wing has limited appeal to a military who must execute.
- The oligarchs just wish things would return to the way they were.
To the contrary, the opposition is divided by harsh, lethal fissures. Perhaps the rodeo bull should be replaced by a keg of gunpowder. The fissures present Putin with the opportunity and necessity to revive his role as the balancer. They also threaten him with the bane of Russian leadership, violent removal. If he pisses off the security apparatus, there could be Novichok in his coffee. If he meets his generals in Sochi, now indefinitely postponed, they might detain him.
This is why Putin’s dedication of a Moscow Ferris wheel is not crazy. (NDTV) Vladimir Putin Opens New Ferris Wheel As Russian Forces Receive Stunning Setback In Ukraine. It’s the trick of an old pol:
- It keeps him in the public eye, apart from individuals associated with the Ukraine debacle.
- It revives populist appeal, Putin as the “caring leader.”
- It enrages some quarters, but is not likely to trigger the powder keg.
Ukraine claims to have discovered a Russian internal social services document that supports casualties of 8000/month. This is the slow poison which will eventually waken the sleeping masses, for exploit by one or more of the above named elements. See also Medical Arguments with CIA Bill Burns (Putin) & CNN (NY Polio).
The mix portends a Russia significantly different from pre-2014 Russia, and pre-2022 Russia.
- Change might be minimized if Putin managed to demote the extreme right and resume his balancing act.
- He could also choose to temporize, in which case he might not be alive to witness the explosion.
- Continuation of totalitarian Putin entails the greatest risk of coup.
Putin should urgently implement this technique for project management:
A survey of alternatives to the rocket for boosting into space, followed by a new (to me) method. Extant proposals require imaginary super-strength materials, or subject a payload to gun-like extreme g-forces. The new method is much closer to current state of the art. It may actually be doable, and g-forces are moderate.
Caveat: The topic is so popular, I would have expected to find evidence of prior art. I didn’t find any. This method is new to me.
Artemis represents the culmination of the disposable chemical rocket, unlikely to be exceeded unless metallic hydrogen becomes a practical fuel. Rockets are subject to the tyranny of the rocket equation, discovered independently by William Moore, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard and Hermann Oberth. Quoting from (NASA) Ideal Rocket Equation,
From the ideal rocket equation, 90% of the weight of a rocket going to orbit is propellant weight. The remaining 10% of the weight includes structure, engines, and payload. So given the current state-of-the-art, the payload accounts for only about 1% of the weight of an ideal rocket at launch. Rockets are terribly inefficient and expensive.
Though Artemis provides a gentle, hopefully reliable vehicle for humans and scientific exploration, the rocket equation prohibits a role in the commercial exploitation of space, or sustenance of colonies. With Artemis, a bulldozer on the moon becomes a billion dollar bulldozer. See also (NASA) The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation.
A rocket has to lift and accelerate its propellant. If a rocket could perform without the weight of propellant, we’d be vacationing on Mars. But there is no way around this; fuel is part and parcel of the concept. There are other concepts, which do not employ rockets, which avoid the rocket equation altogether:
- Tsiolkovsky‘s space tower, the ultimate high-rise, 22500 miles high, through which would run an elevator all the way to the top.
- Artsutanov’s space elevator, a cable dangling 22000+ miles from a synchronous orbit satellite, all the way to ground. Cars or crawlers would travel up and down.
- Momentum exchange tethers, a class of devices, some of which can serve as alternative boosts into orbit.
All of the above rely super-strength materials that do not exist, even in nanotechnology carbons. Carbon fiber was one dashed hope, and carbon nanotubules were actually a step backwards. Evolved graphenes are unlikely to reach the out-of-this world required strengths.
These methods show promise, but involve extremely high g-forces that would crush a spacecraft, let alone a human:
- Gerard Bull’s HARP., a very large artillery cannon.
- Electromagnetic catapult, also known as a mass driver.
- SpinLaunch, a compact centrifugal device that acts as a catapult.
Beam-powered propulsion is derivative of rocket. Fuel carried by a rocket is replaced by a narrow laser or microwave beam aimed at a ground-to-orbit craft, which uses the energy of the beam to heat and expand a reaction propellant. Freeman Dyson wrote (JASON via Wikipedia),
“Laser propulsion as an idea that may produce a revolution in space technology. A single laser facility on the ground can in theory launch single-stage vehicles into low or high earth orbit. The payload can be 20% or 30% of the vehicle take-off weight. It is far more economical in the use of mass and energy than chemical propulsion, and it is far more flexible in putting identical vehicles into a variety of orbits.”
Beam powered propulsion is very promising, but unrelated to the method described below.
If a rocket could perform without having to accelerate the weight of propellant, we’d be vacationing on Mars. What if this were possible? It is, by recombination of the old:
- Impulse engine, a rocket or jet.
- Centrifugal acceleration, analogous to SpinLaunch.
- Momentum exchange tether, 10 kilometers length, more or less. Inspired by but in contrast with the impossibly long tether of the space elevator, it is barely within reach of carbon, with substantial prospect of improvement.
The tether connects two separate objects to transfer momentum from one to the other:
- The propulsion body contains the fuel and reaction propulsion system, a jet or rocket motor.
- The space body may also contain motors and fuel, but these are not active while tethered to the propulsion body.
- Momentum is generated by the propulsion body, and transferred to the space body.
- The momentum of the propulsion body remains static within a small range. The momentum of the space body steadily increases until the tether is cut.
- The momentum of the fuel does not increase.
This is easy to visualize with a hardware nut and a length of string:
- Tie the nut, the space body, to a foot of string.
- Tie the other end to your finger, the propulsion body.
- Dangle the nut.
- Make small rhythmic movements with your finger/hand.
- Discover what movements cause the nut to swing in increasing circular arc.
- If the nut is swinging fast enough, the nut will orbit your finger in a nearly horizontal plane. This can be maintained, with almost no finger/hand movement.
- Momentum is transferred from your finger to the nut.
- Imagine how, if the string were cut, the nut would fly off fast, in a direction tangential to its orbit about your finger.
- A subsonic jet airplane “mothership”, with high-bypass turbofan engines, is the propulsion body, flying at a comfortable 500 miles/hour.
- The space body is suspended from the mothership via a winched carbon fiber or graphene tether.
- The mothership flies in an expanding circle, limited by maximum tether length. The path is precisely determined to maximize energy transfer to the space body, which can be caused to orbit the mothership at 10X the speed, 5,000 miles/hour, neglecting real-world impediments.
- Released at a precise moment, the space body flies off, having received the delta-v of a large booster from a reusable vehicle at a fraction of the fuel cost.
This is CTMT, centripetal tethered momentum transfer.
Next, some napkin calculations.