Sex and the Single Android up now at New Myths

In 2013, a survey of one thousand Americans indicated that 9% of them would have sex with a robot. A similar survey in 2014 of Britons reported that 17% would have sex with a robot. The same British survey reported that almost half of people thought the idea of robot sex was “creepy.” Of course, when we talk about human-robot sex, we are really talking about sex with an android–a robot in the likeness of a human.


Starship Troopers’ Influence on the American Military

Science fiction is part and parcel of the American culture that is reflected in the American military. In fact, military men and women have a special affinity for sci-fi. The influences of sci-fi on the military are both technical and cultural and flow in both directions; from the military into the general society and from sci-fi into the military.

Mercenaries and the Congo Crisis

Mercenaries have existed as long as organized armies and for as long as they have existed they have been despised and denigrated. Aristotle wrote against them,[i] as did Machiavelli.[ii] Yet there has always been a “market for mercenaries.”[iii] In the mid-20th Century’s best market for mercenaries was the newly independent Republic of the Congo, indeed Africa in the 1960s was a “golden age” of mercenarism.[iv]

This paper will examine what were the specific circumstances during the Congo Crisis of 1960-67 that precipitated this new heyday of the mercenary and what where the responses to this new mercenarism? Mercenarism as a military, political, and economic phenomenon in post-colonial Congo will be examined. By focusing on the Congo Crisis, this paper will illustrate the circumstances that encourage the wide-scale use of mercenary soldiers. Counter-mercenary operations will be examined. Further, mercenarism as a driver for United Nation interventionism and Cold War conflict in the post-imperial Third World will be explored. Lastly, the economics of mercenarism will be analyzed.

[i] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1116b and Politics 1306a

[ii] Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XII.

[iii] David A. Latzko, “The Market for Mercenaries” presented at the Eastern Economic Association Meetings, Crystal City, VA, April 4, 1997 at research/presentations/mercenary.html. (Accessed 18 Dec. 2013)

[iv] Mpako H. Foaleng, “Private Security in Africa: Manifestation, Challenges and Regulation”, Monograph No 139, November 2007, Institute for Security Studies at (Accessed 18 Dec. 2013)

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Book Review: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham

The fact that we humans are different from our ape cousins is self evident. We have bigger brains, walk upright and we make and use tools. But ever since the publication in 1871 of Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man the question was and is how we got to be so different.

Richard Wrangahm offers us a good, new answer to that question in his book: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. The answer is simply that we cook our food. Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and also the Curator of Primate Behavioral Biology for Peabody Museum, so he knows of what he speaks.

Written in clear, accessible prose the book draws on diverse scientific disciplines such as Wrangham’s own studies of ape behavior, paleontology, biology, chemistry, sociology, physics, and nutritional science as well as studies of hunter-gathers to draw the conclusion that cooking “made” humans, well, human.

Wrangham knowledgably speculates that about 1.8 million years ago our ancestors brought fire under control, turning it from a fearful destroyer to a tame helper and then cooking was invented. According to Wrangham, it was this ability to cook that drove the development of the first “true” humans, homo erectus. Cooking started to drive evolution. The ability to cook and eat cooked food gave a huge advantage to our forbearers. It made food easier to chew and digest and therefore less body energy was required for these activities allowing more investment into hunting and gathering. Further homo erectus’ body started to change; teeth and jaws became smaller, as did the digestive tract and more calories started to go to the burgeoning brain.

Cooking also drove social changes. Cooking created the pair-bond and specialized sex-roles. Wrangham makes the point that monogamy developed as a deal in which men would provide and protect the food source, while women cooked it. In short men hunted and defended the food, while women prepared it. This wandering into evolutionary psychology is Wrangham’s weakest argument, but he doesn’t put too much reliance on it.

Finding new, interesting and sweeping ideas in the field of evolutionary science are rare. Even rarer is a clear, concise and truly fascinating treatise on these any of these big new ideas. Wrangham has written just such a book with Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.

Book Review: Babylon’s Ark by Lawrence Anthony

Babylon’s Ark subtitled: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo is the compelling and ultimately heartwarming story of how one man rescued the abandoned animals of the Baghdad zoo in the middle of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The book is an odd and quirky combination of a Tom Clancy thriller and a James Herriot animal care story.

Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist, who at the start of Operation: Iraqi Freedom in 2003 realized that no one would be caring for the animals of the Baghdad Zoo. He soon arrived in Kuwait, rented a car and recruited two native speaking zoo keepers from the Kuwait City Zoo and was the first non-reporter civilian to enter the war torn country.

Traveling 500 miles thru a warzone, Anthony found the zoo in appalling condition with only a few animals surviving. Anthony and his two helpers soon set to work. They ‘liberated” equipment from bombed out hotels to care for the animals. They bought donkeys in markets to feed to the carnivores. Anthony soon formed an unlikely alliance with the local American military unit, the US 3rd Infantry Division (Rock of the Marne). Sometimes acting against orders, individual soldiers were soon helping Anthony. Friendly soldiers gave him a weapon to defend the zoo from looters, which he soon had to do. They used their own money to buy herds of sheep and other food for the animals. The remaining zoo staff soon returned to work and more international help arrived as well.

Not satisfied with those successful efforts Anthony and his team were soon rescuing cheetahs, ostriches and other animals from Uday Hussein’s private menagerie. With US Army Captain William Sumner and his soldiers, Anthony and his team also rescued abused and neglected exotic animals from black markets all over the warzone. In one exciting adventure, a military raid lead by Captain Sumner and Captain Gavino Rivas rescued seventeen horses from Saddam Hussein’s famous herd Arabian Horses.

After the fighting eased the US Army deployed engineers to repair and improve the zoo and the surrounding park which reopened to the public in July of 2003. Anthony left the country in September 2003.

If the book has any problem it is Anthony’s writing, which frankly leaves much to be desired. He could have used a good ghost writer or strict editor when completing this book.

This book is a must read for animal lovers ever where.

Book Review: War Beneath the Sea by Peter Padfield

Since the publication of War Beneath the Sea: Submarine Conflict During World War II in 1996 it has become the standard text on submarine warfare in World War Two and a must have in any World War Two historian or general naval historian. The position this book has seized has more to say about a dearth of books that deal in depth and scope with that aspect of warfare then the excellence of this book. Which is not to say that War Beneath the Sea in not a good book; it is, but it does have some flaws.

In scope and depth this book is impressive. It covers in great detail the submarine operation of Germany, Britain, Japan and America. Padfield give rather short shrift to the Italian Submarine forces operations. Padfield draws on his vast knowledge of the German Kriegsmarine and how Grand Admiral Donitz absolutely dominated U-boat operations.

Padfield deals with how morale was maintained under the horrible conditions of the submarines of the time, not to mention in the face of rising causalities. The writing is clear and concise and the narration is nicely organized both chronologically and by operational area. He also delivers detailed stories of convoy battles and submarines individual actions as well. It is here that the book becomes almost more than the reader can bear. While the stories are well drawn and interesting, Padfield is unrelenting in his retelling of the death of submariners. The brave men on both sides die by drowning, by fire, by suffocation, by the crushing depths of the sea.

Padfield can be credited with taking no sides in this book, he is critical in his analyses and evaluations of all the major combatants submarine operations. His descriptions of the features and shortcomings of the major weapon systems are uncompromising.

It is fair to say that the book is not perfect. Although mind boggling complete in its depth. It is more of a synthesis of already existing ideas and information and doesn’t even try to break new ground in either description or evaluation of the submarine and its role in World War Two naval warfare, both tactically and strategically.

The book has a comprehensive chronology in the back. Also extensive notes and references are included.