How the “Bomber Mafia” planned to win World War II with just a few dozen bombs

Can a war be won from the air? A group of renegade pilots in the 1930s thought so.

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  • Malcom Gladwell's new book The Bomber Mafia traces the stories of major personalities during WWII as bombing tactics developed.
  • Of particular interest to him were the men who dreamed of precision bombing as a way to make war quick, efficient, and far less deadly.
  • He concludes that the Bomber Mafia was ahead of its time.
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The renegade WW2 pilots who tried to end war as we know it | Malcolm Gladwell

The Bomber Mafia nearly changed the world—and you've likely never heard of them.

  • Much has been written about World War II in the seven and a half decades since it ended in 1945. But as writer Malcolm Gladwell shows with his new book The Bomber Mafia, some incredible stories and perspectives have been largely forgotten.
  • A group of pilots, led by Brigadier General Haywood Hansell, earned the derogatory nickname Bomber Mafia because of a not-widely-shared dream that they could use a few strategic bombings to lower the death toll and have a "clean" war.
  • "But that's not what war ever is," says Gladwell. "It never has that kind of fairy tale ending." A few failed attempts led to a changing of the guard, the invention of napalm, and a summer of attacks on Japanese cities that Gladwell says was at "a scale of destruction almost unmatched in human history."
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Autonomous killer robots may have already killed on the battlefield

A brief passage from a recent UN report describes what could be the first-known case of an autonomous weapon, powered by artificial intelligence, killing in the battlefield.

STM
  • Autonomous weapons have been used in war for decades, but artificial intelligence is ushering in a new category of autonomous weapons.
  • These weapons are not only capable of moving autonomously but also identifying and attacking targets on their own without oversight from a human.
  • There's currently no clear international restrictions on the use of new autonomous weapons, but some nations are calling for preemptive bans.
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U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
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Wireless brain-to-brain communication steps closer to human trials

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently issued $8 million in follow-up funding to a team of neuroengineers developing brain-to-brain and brain-to-machine technology.

Credit: Rice University
  • Brain-to-machine interfaces have existed for years, but wireless and non-invasive interfaces aren't yet precise enough to be useful in real-world applications.
  • In experiments on insects, a team at Rice University has successfully used light and magnetic fields to both read and write brain activity.
  • The team hopes to use the technology to restore vision to the blind, while DARPA hopes to use brain-machine interfaces on the battlefield.
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