Does the Military Train the Best Corporate CEOs?

Most Americans are already familiar with the famous generals who have led the United States' epic military: Pershing, Patton, Eisenhower. Now, in a society increasingly keen on measuring success, the military is infiltrating leadership ranks across a broad swath of the American commercial landscape.

In the sports world, where success is easily measured by wins and losses, two of college basketball’s most successful coaches, Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski and the currently-retired Bobby Knight, have military backgrounds. Knight, whose intimidating drill-sergeant approach to basketball earned him the nickname “the General," became the winningest coach in Division I basketball history after enlisting in the U.S. Army in the 1960s. His protégé, Krzyzewski, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and is currently in the top five in NCAA Division I coaching wins.

More recently, the National Football League has seen military leadership translate to the playing field. Last year’s Super Bowl saw the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in sports history. The credit for the Giants’ unbelievable victory was spread pretty evenly, but within the team’s inner circle, inspiration came courtesy of Lt. Col. Greg Gadson. A veteran of the war in Iraq and former Army football player, Gadson lost both his legs to a roadside bomb before being invited by the Giants’ coaching staff to help motivate the team from the sidelines. A longtime friend of Giants’ assistant coach Mike Sullivan, Gadson was named a team co-captain and has been a fixture with the team ever since.

The Giants aren’t the only New York team drawing inspiration from the military. While the New York Jets haven’t seen the same success as their hometown rivals, their special teams have been particularly strong over the past few years, punctuated by a Pro Bowl berth this year for special teamer Leon Washington. Some of the credit for that performance can go to Ben Kotwika, the team’s Assistant Special Teams Coach who flew apache helicopters in Iraq and is a recipient of the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal.

As in sports, the business world has seen a spike in military representation among its leadership. In fact, a 2006 report from Korn/Ferry International and the Economist Intelligence Unit appropriately entitled “Military Experience & CEOs: Is There a Link?” found that military officers were actually over-represented among American CEOs. While only 3% of American males served in the military, about 8.4% of CEOs represented in the S&P 500 had a military background. The report even found that executives with military experience enjoyed an average tenure of 7.2 years compared to four years for the rest of the S&P CEOs. Military CEOs listed included Electronic Data Systems’ CEO and former CBS executive Michael Jordan and Rockwell Collins’ Clayton Jones.

More recently, the mission to deconstruct the military’s success in developing real-world leaders has become something of a phenomenon in the world of self-help publishing. In his new book, Colonel Tom Kolditz attempts to explain the connection. Elaborating on the topic in the Harvard Business Review, Col. Kolditz explains “military leadership is based on a concept of duty, service, and self-sacrifice; we take an oath to that effect. We view our obligations to followers as a moral responsibility.”

Altogether, it points to a new generation of military men who could potentially come home to find themselves jettisoning boot camp for the board room.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less