Tag: Radar

Radar Wars: a Case Study in Expertise and Influence


In today’s WSJ, David Mamet writes about expertise and influence, pointing out that experts who get important things wrong, sometimes causing great harm to millions of people, often pay no personal price whatsoever. One example he mentions is the pre-WWII secret British debate on air defense technologies and especially the role played by Churchill’s scientific advisor, Professor Frederick Lindemann.

It is an interesting and important story, and is discussed by the scientist/novelist CP Snow in his 1960 book Science and Government…which, he says, was inspired by the following thought:

Pioneering Allied Airborne Operations Recounted


The Germans were the first nation to airborne troops in combat, using them decisively in 1939 and 1940.  The British were not far behind, developing their own airborne forces in 1940. They initially used their airborne troops as raiders.

“Churchill’s Shadow Raiders:  The Race to Develop Radar, WWII’s Invisible Secret Weapon,” by Damien Lewis examines the first two combat operations by British paratroopers, Operations Colossus and Biting. It combines these stories with a look at the “Wizard War” – the battle between Britain and Germany for electronics superiority.

Colossus and Biting were intended to smash vital targets unapproachable to soldiers, except by air. Operation Colossus was a February 1941 landing by paratroopers to destroy an aqueduct delivering water to Southern Italy. Operation Biting, in February 1942, was supposed to appear to be a British attempt to destroy a German radar station. In reality, it was to carry off the radar for intelligence analysis.

Rabaul, Radar, and Aces


Robert M Hanson, USMC (USMC Photo).

One of the delights of writing a book is the aha! moment. That is the moment where apparently unrelated facts come together and reveal the answer to some puzzling inconsistency. Sometimes these moments change the book. Other times they provide an answer to a nagging question.

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Our Broken Political Radar


shutterstock_135181361When’s the last time you persuaded someone who didn’t agree with you about one of the issues that dominate this year’s political campaigns to change his or her mind? If your experience is anything like mine, it’s been a while since you persuaded someone to support your candidate, or to accept your view about how best to deal with terrorism, health care, jobs, trade, or any other of the national issues that confront us. And it’s getting harder every day.

I believe there’s an explanation for why political persuasion has become so difficult, so frustrating — so nearly impossible — that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Simply put, we Americans may still share a country, but we’re living in different worlds.

Just for a moment, imagine you’re the captain of a jumbo jet. You’re at 40,000 feet, and it’s a real mess out there — thunderstorms, mountains off both wings, and other aircraft whizzing around too close for comfort. So instead of looking out the windshield, you look down at your radar screen. After all, radar is the instrument in your cockpit that gives you — and your co-pilot and your navigator — a clear, accurate, and complete picture of what’s going on out there. Radar doesn’t tell you what to do; the assumption is that if you give competent aviators good information, they’ll make appropriate decisions.