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Last March, engineers from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) gathered in the control room of a high-temperature tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. After a countdown, a jet of blue flame fueled by methane gas roared down the 12-foot length of the tunnel. A low rumble crept into the control room. It sounded like a rocket firing, which actually wasn’t far from the truth.
“Okay to inject,” a test director announced when the flame had reached full force. An angular pedestal covered in bolted copper plates rose from the floor of the chamber, placing an experimental scramjet engine called the X-1 into the inferno. “AOA modulating,” called the test director as the engine tilted slightly. “Model on centerline.” Then, “We are in ignition.” And with that, an exhaust flame even hotter than the 2,000°F-plus methane jet around it began to dance behind the activated engine, growing brighter as it ramped up to full thrust. After one minute, the engine shut down and descended through the floor.
The test was part of the X-51A Flight Test Program, a research project funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s research arm. The X-51A project is, in turn, one piece of a global effort—part collaboration, part race—to build jet-powered aircraft that fly as fast as rocket ships. And the technology that will make this breakthrough possible is the scramjet, an engine that inhales air at tremendous speeds, squeezes the air until it’s thousands of degrees hot, and then mixes that air with fuel to generate massive thrust at higher speeds than any other jet-engine design.
To put things in context, the world’s fastest jet, the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, set a speed record of Mach 3.3 in 1990 when it flew from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in just over an hour. That’s about the limit for jet engines; the fastest fighter planes barely crack Mach 1.6. Scramjets, on the other hand, can theoretically fly as fast as Mach 15—nearly 10,000 mph.
This could mean two-hour flights from New York to Sydney. It could also mean missiles capable of hitting targets on another continent at a moment’s notice, and when you put it that way, it’s not surprising that militaries around the world—the U.S., Australia, China and perhaps others—are trying to build them. After decades on the drawing board, it seems scramjet technology is finally about to arrive.
Ordinary jets have a major limitation: They can’t go faster than Mach 3 without their turbine blades melting. Rocket ships can reach Mach 25, but they have to carry tremendous amounts of liquid oxygen to burn their fuel. The space shuttle, for example, weighs only 165,000 pounds empty, but it must carry 226,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen and 1.4 million pounds of liquid oxygen to reach orbit.
But a scramjet—a “supersonic combustion ramjet”—changes things. A scramjet does away with the diffuser that a ramjet uses to slow down incoming air, allowing the air to move through the engine at supersonic speeds so it can fly above Mach 5. The tradeoff: A scramjet engine in flight is a delicate system. Achieving balanced combustion at those speeds is an engineering challenge often compared to keeping a match lit in a hurricane.
So far, the most public scramjet project has been the National Aerospace Plane, or NASP. Unfortunately, it was a spectacular failure. Announcing the project in his 1986 State of the Union address, President Reagan called it “a new Orient Express” that would be able to reach Tokyo from Dulles Airport in two hours; the goal was to have it running by the late 1990s. NASP was meant to be all things to all customers—America’s next space shuttle as well as the Air Force’s next bomber and the next big thing in passenger travel. But by 1994, it appeared that research had stalled, and President Clinton canceled NASP. That might have been a good thing. “We didn’t stop our research,” says Charlie Brink, a scramjet program manager at the Propulsion Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “We reevaluated it and said: Now that we’re not trying to make a Mach-0-to-25 vehicle take off from a runway, let’s take the technical problem and break it down into more manageable chunks.”
“What you’re seeing now is a transition of the technology out of the laboratories into the flight-test domain,” says David Van Wie, a scramjet research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Armed with a new understanding of hypersonic aerodynamics and air-breathing propulsion, Van Wie says, “it’s really to the point that people who work in the field feel they’re ready to take the steps into flight test, experimentation and demonstration.”
Scramjet Nick Kaloterakis
Escape from the Lab
In 2002, Australian researchers with the HyShot program at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Hypersonics made history by conducting the world’s first scramjet “flight.” They strapped a small scramjet engine into the nose cone of a solid-fuel rocket and launched it to the edge of space. Then, some 200 miles up, the rocket dropped off, the scramjet shed its protective fairing and, as planned, nosed over and plummeted back toward Earth at thousands of miles an hour. At an altitude of 20 miles, the scramjet engine kicked in, firing for five seconds and reaching Mach 7.6, or more than 5,000 mph, before slamming into the ground. It wasn’t graceful, but it was a historic achievement and a scientific success—a low-cost way to gather data from a scramjet while subjecting it to brutal heat and incredible velocity outside of a wind tunnel.
Since then, a loose federation of researchers from NASA, the Air Force, the Navy, Darpa and the University of Queensland, working on a variety of projects, has conducted a number of tests outside the lab. So far, no engine has pulled off more than a few seconds of sustained flight. But there have been major breakthroughs along the way. In 2004, NASA’s unmanned X-43A—a disposable, rocket-boosted craft that was launched from a moving airplane—reached Mach 9.6, setting the world speed record for a jet-powered aircraft. It took only 10 seconds of scramjet power to get it up to that speed. And HyCause, the program that succeeded HyShot, conducted tests in Australia last summer that reached Mach 10, but only for three seconds.
A scramjet that can stay lit for several minutes could power a hypersonic long-range missile. That, at least, is the idea behind a joint Darpa and Navy project called Hypersonics Flight Demonstration, or HyFly. Last fall, the program carried out the latest in a series of test flights in which a scramjet was dropped from an F-15 fighter jet off Point Mugu in California and boosted to operating speed by rocket. The goal was to reach Mach 6 and keep the scramjet going for 100 seconds or more. (It didn’t make it that time, but the tests will continue, program officials say.)
A payload-carrying, piloted craft that can take off and land under its own power will need an engine that can produce power for a lot longer than 100 seconds, though. Breaking that barrier is the goal of the X-51A Flight Test Program, whose engineers spent much of last year torching its X-1 engine design in Langley’s high-temperature test tunnel. So far, the X-1 has had to take more punishment than any scramjet engine ever built. It’s made of a steel-nickel alloy that stays strong up to 2,100°F, and its leading edges are coated in a heat-resistant carbon mesh. Even these materials aren’t enough, though, so the X-1’s engineers borrowed a technique from rocket designers, who typically circulate fuel—in this case, the same petroleum-based jet fuel that powered the SR-71—along channels within the engine’s walls before it enters the combustor. This both cools the 3,000°F-plus combustor and preconditions the fuel, turning it into a hot gas that packs 10 percent more energy than it does in liquid form.
The X-51A’s target is five minutes of uninterrupted scramjet-powered flight. If it works, longer-burning scramjets should quickly follow. “The five minutes of flight we’re talking about is not limited by the propulsion system,” Berger says. “That’s just how much gas we have in the tank.” On a modified vehicle with a bigger gas tank, that five minutes could easily turn into an hour or longer. And that, says Mike McKeon, PWR’s manager of Hypersonic and Advanced Programs, is key. “This engine has demonstrated that the propulsion technology is ready for application,” he says of the X-1. “It’s no longer in the research-technology mode.” Next-generation engines based on the X-1 are already being built at PWR’s plant in Florida.
With any luck, sometime in 2009, the X51-A will shatter all previous records for sustained scramjet ignition. The PWR team imagines that a B-52 bomber will take off from Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert, head toward the coast and, at 45,000 feet, drop the X-51A from the plane. A solid-fuel rocket attached to the X-51A will fire, blasting it up to 60,000 feet and past Mach 4.5, and then drop off to let the scramjet ignite. For five minutes, the scramjet will accelerate the X-51A to a peak speed past Mach 6 and an altitude above 80,000 feet. Then it will fly into the Pacific, its data safely telemetered to engineers on the ground.
The test will also mark the moment when scramjets move from flash-in-the-pan science experiments to useful tools. “This is an airplane,” Berger emphasizes, “not just something where you light a scramjet and fire it and see where it goes. This is really beyond something you might do for a weapon application. The whole idea is to prove the practicality of a free-flying, scalable, scramjet-powered vehicle.”
The Real Race Begins
The first true reusable, free-flying scramjet could be Darpa’s HTV-3X. Also known as Blackswift, the unmanned vehicle looks like an alien spaceship, with black curves, a rapier-like prow and oval exhaust ports. It’s still only in the planning stages as part of Darpa’s Falcon program, but it could represent the biggest breakthrough in aeronautics since the jet engine itself. It will demonstrate for the first time all the technologies needed for a practical scramjet-powered aircraft by taking off and landing under its own power and running on scramjets as long as needed to complete its mission.
The HTV-3x could make its inaugural flight as early as 2012. Here’s how a perfect mission would go: The unmanned craft taxis out of a hangar at Edwards Air Force Base. Its twin conventional turbine engines throttle up before it accelerates down the runway and climbs into the desert sky, followed closely by a chase plane. The chase plane keeps pace until shortly after the unmanned craft hits the speed of sound. At Mach 2, doors just within the jets’ inlets close off the turbines and open the airflow to the scramjet engines, which fire out of the same nozzles used by the turbine jets. On the ground, engineers watch their bird hit Mach 6, twice as fast as any turbine- jet-powered craft ever built. The test completed, the craft slows to subsonic speed, switches to turbine jets, and lands back at Edwards, mission accomplished.
Darpa officials are keeping quiet about Blackswift for now. Spokesperson Jan Walker says no project engineers could give interviews for this article because “it’s a very busy time for the program.” But Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is already at work on the engine that HTV-3X will use—a combined-cycle turbine-scramjet engine—and although Lockheed Martin won’t confirm it, the company’s famously secretive Skunk Works division is widely believed to be building the vehicle itself.
Meanwhile, there’s competition. Last July, engineers from China showed up at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Joint Propulsion Conference in Cincinnati and revealed a growing scramjet research program of their own, including a new hypersonic wind tunnel in Beijing and work on rocket-powered combined-cycle scramjets. None of the American scramjet experts we talked to would discuss their reactions to the Chinese revelations. But Craig Covault, an editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology who reported on the conference, believes one of the main reasons the Chinese attended was to glean all available intel on Western scramjet research. “I would bet that they have a serious research program under way that has a lot more going on than just the few papers that they issued at this forum,” Covault says. “The reason that they issued them was just kind of a message to the rest of the world that they are engaged in these high-tech things. It also allowed them to get the 500 or more other papers in propulsion technology of all kinds delivered at the conference.”
Scramjet projects have failed before, and some of the initiatives under way today could fail too. But many researchers say that this time around, scramjets are for real. “Advanced propulsion technology has a development timescale that appears to be on the order of decades,” says Johns Hopkins’s Van Wie. “The first scientific paper on rockets was published in 1903, and rockets became practical during World War II, 40-some years later.” He points to a seminal conference in 1960 during which researchers first hashed out the major challenges to building practical scramjets. “So if you look at that—1960 to now, 47 years or so—it’s kind of on the same timescale to see this roll out.” In other words, that two-hour flight to Tokyo just might be leaving sooner than you think.
Michael Belfiore’s book Rocketeers chronicles the private space industry.
At NASA’s Langley research center. Courtesy Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
The X-1 scramjet engine is subjected to the hellfire of a test tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center to simulate the intense heat and friction of hypersonic flight. Courtesy Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
A HyCause rocket with a scramjet engine on its nose takes off. Courtesy Chris Stacey/University of Queensland
The record-setting scramjet-powered X-43A. Tony Landis/NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
The record-setting scramjet-powered X-43A. Tony Landis/NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
HyShot’s scramjet engine. Courtesy Chris Stacey/University of Queensland
HyShot’s scramjet engine. Courtesy Chris Stacey/University of Queensland
The record-setting scramjet-powered X-43A. Tony Landis/NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
The record-setting scramjet-powered X-43A. Tony Landis/NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
You're reading The Hypersonic Age Is Near
The march of time is inevitable. And every year, some new technology pounds the nail into the coffin on something older.
Whether the horse and buggy are replaced by the automobile or the slide rule is replaced by the calculator, everything eventually becomes obsolete.
And if you listen to the rumors, this time around, it’s search engine optimization. Rest in peace, SEO: 1997-2023.
There’s just one tiny little problem.
SEO is still alive and kicking. It’s just as relevant today as it has ever been. If anything, it may even be more important.
Today, 53% of all website traffic comes from organic search.
And what’s helping Google determine which results belong at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs)? SEO, of course.
Need more proof? We have more statistics to back it up.
Thanks to consistent updates to the Google search algorithm, the entire SEO field is undergoing rapid evolution.
Completely ignoring the many small changes the search engine’s algorithm has undergone, we’ve seen several major updates in the last decade. Some of the more important ones are:
Panda – First put into place in February 2011, Panda was focused on quality and user experience. It was designed to eliminate black hat SEO tactics and web spam.
Hummingbird – Unveiled in August 2013, Hummingbird made the search engine’s core algorithm faster and more precise in anticipation of the growth of mobile search.
RankBrain – Rolled out in spring 2023, this update was announced in October of that year. Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into all queries, RankBrain uses machine learning to provide better answers to ambiguous queries.
BERT – Initially released in November 2023 and updated in December 2023, this update helps Google understand natural language better.
Vicinity – Put into place in December 2023, Vicinity was Google’s biggest local search update in five years. Using proximity targeting as a ranking factor, local businesses are weighted more heavily in query results.
Each of these updates changed the way Google works, so each required SEO professionals to rethink their approach and tweak their strategy to ensure they get the results needed. But the need for their services remained.
Now that it’s been established that SEO is not dead, it raises the question: Where did all this death talk come from in the first place?
Most of it is based on unfounded conjecture and wild speculation. The truth is that SEO is in a state of transition, which can be scary.
And that transition is driven by three things:
Artificial intelligence and machine learning, particularly Google RankBrain.
Shrinking organic space on SERPs.
Digital personal assistants and voice search.The Rise Of Machine Learning
You’ve probably already recognized the impact AI has had on the world.
This exciting new technology has started to appear everywhere, from voice assistants to predictive healthcare to self-driving automobiles.
And it has been a trending topic in SEO for quite a while.
Unfortunately, most of what’s out there is incomplete information gathered from reading patents, analyzing search engine behavior, and flat-out guessing.
And part of the reason it’s so difficult to get a handle on what’s happening in AI concerning search engines is its constant evolution.
However, we will examine two identifiable trends: machine learning and natural language.
Machine learning is just what it sounds like: machines that are learning.
For a more sophisticated definition, it can be described as “a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building… a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.”
For SEO purposes, this means gathering and analyzing information on content, user behaviors, citations, and patterns, and then using that information to create new rankings factors that are more likely to answer user queries accurately.
You will want to read this article for a more in-depth explanation of how that will work.
One of the most important factors machine learning uses when determining how to rank websites is our other trend – natural language.
From their earliest days, computers have used unique languages. And because it was very unlike the language humans don’t use, there was always a disconnect between user intent and what search engines delivered.
The most important one for SEO professionals is RankBrain, Google’s machine learning system built upon the rewrite of Google’s core algorithm that we mentioned earlier, Hummingbird.
Nearly a decade ago, Google had the foresight to recognize that mobile devices were the future wave. Anticipating what this would mean for search, Hummingbird focused on understanding conversational speech.
RankBrain builds upon this, moving Google away from a search engine that follows the links between concepts to seeing the concepts they represent.
It moved the search engine away from matching keywords in a query to more precisely identifying user intent and delivering results that more accurately matched the search.
This meant identifying which words were important to the search and disregarding those that were not.
It also developed an understanding of synonyms, so if a webpage matches a query, it may appear in the results, even if it doesn’t include the searched-for keyword.
The biggest impact of RankBrain and machine learning has been on long-tail keywords.
In the past, websites would often jam in specific but rarely search-for keywords into their content. This allowed them to show up in queries for those topics.
RankBrain changed how Google handled these, which meant primarily focusing on long-tail keywords was no longer a good strategy. It also helped eliminate content from spammers who sought rankings for these terms.Honey, I Shrunk The Organic Search Space
Search engines are big business, no one can deny that.
As a result, organic results were pushed further down the page, or “below the fold,” to borrow an anachronistic idiom.
From Google’s business perspective, this makes sense. The internet has become a huge part of the global economy, which means an ever-increasing number of companies are willing to pay for ad placement.
Changes to local search have also affected SERPs. In its never-ending quest to provide more relevant results to users, Google added a local pack to search results. This group of three nearby businesses appears to satisfy the query. They are listed at the top of the first page of results, along with a map showing their location.
This was good news for local businesses who compete with national brands. For SEO professionals, however, it threw a new wrinkle into their work.
And these are not the only things pushing organic results down the page. Depending on the search, your link may also have to compete with:
Video or image carousels.
With this in mind, and as organic results sink lower and lower, it’s easy to see why some SEO professionals are becoming frustrated. But savvy web marketers see these as more than challenges – they see them as opportunities.Use Your Voice
Not long ago, taking a note or making out your grocery list meant locating some paper and writing on it with a pen. Like a caveman.
Thankfully, those days are gone, or at least on their way out, having been replaced by technology.
Whether you’re using Siri to play your favorite song, asking Cortana how much the moon weighs, or having Alexa check the price of Apple stock, much of the internet is now available just by using your voice.
In 2023, 4.2 million digital personal assistant devices were being used worldwide. And that’s a number expected to double by 2024 as more and more people adopt the Amazon Echo, Sonos One, Google Nest Hub, and the like.
And users don’t even have their own one of these smart speakers to use the power of voice search. 90% of iPhone owners use Siri, and 75% of smartphone owners use Google Assistant.
According to Think with Google, 27% of the global population uses voice search on mobile devices.
Voice shopping grew by 213% from 2023 to 2023.
In 2023, 127 million Americans used in-car voice assistants.
Isn’t technology grand?
It depends on who you are. If you work in SEO (and because you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you do), this creates some problems.
The answer is quite obvious: You need to optimize for voice search.
Voice-controlled devices don’t operate like a manual search, so your SEO content needs to consider this.
And because people have figured out that more specific queries generate more specific responses, it’s important that your content fills that niche.
In general, specificity seems to be a growing trend in SEO, so it’s no longer enough to just have a web copy that says, “t-shirts for sale.”
Instead, you need to drill down to exactly what your target is searching for, e.g., “medium Garfield t-shirts + yellow + long-sleeve.”What Does All This Mean For SEO?
Now that we’ve looked at the major reasons why pessimists and cynics are falsely proclaiming the demise of SEO, let’s review what we’ve learned along the way:
Google will never be satisfied with its algorithms. It will always feel there is room to grow and improve its ability to precisely answer a search query. And far from being the death knell for SEO, this ensures its importance moving forward.
Machine learning, especially regarding natural language, allows Google to better understand the intent behind a search and as a result, present more relevant options. Your content should focus on answering queries instead of just including keywords.
Long-tail keywords are important for answering specific questions, particularly in featured answer sections, but focusing solely on them is an outdated and ineffective strategy.
The use of voice search and personal digital assistants is on the rise. This calls for rethinking SEO strategies and optimizing content to be found and used by voice search.
Have you noticed a theme running through this entire piece? It’s evolution, survival of the fittest.
To ensure you don’t lose out on important web traffic, you must constantly monitor the SEO situation and adapt to changes, just like you always have.
Your strategy needs to become more sophisticated as new opportunities present themselves. It needs to be ready to pivot quickly.
And above all, you need to remember that your content is still the most important thing.
If you can best answer a query, your site will get the traffic you seek. If it can’t, you need to rework it until it does.
Just remember, like rock and roll, SEO will never die.
Featured Image: sitthiphong/Shutterstock
Preparing for warfare with tools that will exist two generations in the future means aiming to build the stepping stones to get to those technologies. These are three of the most interesting programs, geared towards preparing the Ministry of Defence to fight wars into the 2050s and beyond.Hypersonics
In development by nations including the United States, China, and Russia, “hypersonics” is the category for any weapon traveling at five times or greater the speed of sound. These weapons have profound implications for long-range attacks and even nuclear deterrence.
In its brief statement on developing a hypersonics program, the Ministry of Defense emphasizes that working on the weapon will prove that the country is “a credible partner for hypersonics science and technology,” likely keeping it in the orbit of partner nations alongside which the UK regularly develops weapons.
While it’s not clear how every technology in the portfolio will transform warfare, the hypersonic one is pretty straightforward: A missile that can fly at Mach 5 can threaten warships, buildings, armies, and even political leadership of a country at distance and speed, while complicated the challenge of interception for any potential missile defense.Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction Cubesat Experiment (CIRCE)
Borrowing a name from the sorceress of Homer’s Odyssey, CIRCE is a pair of satellites that together will carry sensors to analyze space weather. The satellites, described as “cereal-box sized,” are designed to monitor changes in the iosophere, the part of the atmosphere where “variations in the environment can interfere with the operation of GPS, communications and sensing technology.”
The Global Position System, or GPS, now familiar as the bedrock navigation technology of civilian life, started as and remains a military technology maintained by the US Air Force, and these satellites will improve understanding of the space through which its signal travels. Knowing ionospheric weather, and how it can influence signals, means the military could better know how to adapt to an unexpected interference.
Once in orbit, “CIRCE will enhance our understanding of space weather and help us to keep critical satellites safe from the many hazards associated with operating in space,” Paul Godfrey, Commander of UK Space Command, said in a release.
The CIRCE satellites will get into space thanks to a launcher made by Virgin Orbit, attached to the wing of a 747 jumbo jet. Using a plane to get some of the distance to space greatly reduces how far the rocket has to travel, and wing-mounted launches of small satellites could be a more cost-effective way to populate space with useful sensors.Seeing through smoke and other obstacles
To fight the wars of the future, an army of the future will need to see what it’s up against. Future sensors are another of the technologies in the next-generation (and generation after that one) portfolio. With the goal of finding new ways to collect and share useful information in dangerous and difficult situations, like combat in urban areas or in terrain that’s challenging for radio signals, the Laboratory is working on a range of technologies all grouped under “future sensing.”
One such hazard is smoke, which is both a natural effect of gunpowder and often deliberately employed to block sight. An approach to dealing with that is using lidar, and in a 2023 study, a lidar-based technique allowed for real time mapping through smoke at a distance of up to almost 500 feet, or 150 meters.
Other work funded by the Laboratory is exploring how existing, or new, cameras can see through snowstorms and clouds. New sensors to track small drones against open sky or urban environments can also make the world more visible in front of a soldier, allowing an army to better act on deeper information of a battlefield.
Muslim Students in the Age of Trump Trying to de-demonize their religion after years of harassment
Harassment of minorities, including Muslims, is reportedly on the rise under Donald Trump, who seems to have a darker view of Islam than his Oval Office predecessors.
Walking in Kenmore Square after returning from the Christmas break, Doaa ElTemtamy says, she passed an elderly man who, seeing her hijab, spat at her and told her to go back to her own country.
That country would be Florida.
The US-born-and-raised ElTemtamy (CAS’18, Questrom’18) says she and other Muslims have endured such indignities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But Donald Trump’s campaign and election touched off a jump in harassment of, and threats against, minorities, nationally and in Massachusetts, according to law enforcement and hate-group monitors. While recent numbers are hard to come by, the FBI reported 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2023, a 67 percent increase from the previous year, in the most recent accounting available. The increase prompted the Massachusetts attorney general to set up a hotline (1-800-994-3228) for reporting incidents.
“These are taunts that we’ve received our whole lives,” she says. “If we were to report each time that happened, it would be ridiculous,” which is one reason she and her peers tend not to report harassment incidents. But they’re not being passive.
The ISBU devoted the February edition of its monthly Unfiltered Talk series to Activism and Spirituality in the Age of Trump. The series started last fall to allow students, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, to discuss potentially uncomfortable topics in Islam, ElTemtamy says.
“A lot of Muslims are being put on the spot…asked questions about their religion. It’s pretty tough to answer questions on behalf of your entire religion, especially when there are multiple interpretations,” she says. She adds that non-Muslims have said to Muslim students, “‘To be honest, I came here thinking you guys were a bunch of terrorists.’ If you don’t know any Muslims, and all you see is the news, why wouldn’t you think that way?”
The ISBU is contending with outside political waters lapping at the campus borders. Whereas Trump’s two predecessors took pains to distinguish between radicalized Islamic terrorists and the majority of peace-loving Muslims, the new administration “sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world,” the New York Times reported recently. “In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.”
Noman Khanani (SED’17), the ISBU’s chaplain, was no fan of Bush and Obama policies such as drone attacks, which have killed innocents in addition to terrorists. Yet, he says, those presidents were “respectful in the way they spoke of Muslims” and avoided generalizations about Islam.
“We know rhetoric has an impact on the way the public reacts, and that is what makes Muslims fear the general public giving in to this rhetoric and fear-mongering,” he says. “I’ve spoken to multiple students who have taken steps to avoid being alone in situations such as walking back late at night from the library.”
ElTemtamy says Muslim students have received heartwarming support from students of other faiths and from Marsh Chapel. Khanani agrees that the ISBU “has built numerous alliances with organizations across campus and has a strong relationship with much of the administration…to help counter Islamophobia.” While he’s the ISBU chaplain, he is not one of Marsh’s University chaplains. He would like to see at least a part-time Marsh chaplain to address the unique needs of Muslim students.
The Rev. Robert Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, says the chaplain for international students ministers to Muslims and the devout of other world religions. While he’s interested in building on that “because of the timeliness, importance, and sensitivity of the needs of our Muslim students,” he says, a Marsh-affiliated chaplain would require some financial support from the Muslim community, as is the case with other denominations having University chaplains.
In the end, ElTemtamy says, she cares less about Trump and his supporters than about her God.
“Being the best person you can be—we’re not doing that, essentially, because Trump’s campaign is painting us out to be like a bunch of terrorists.…We’re doing that because that’s what our religion taught us to do.” Trump’s campaign, she says, deepened her religion, “made me closer to God, and made me lean on Him even more so.”BU Resources for Reporting Harassment
A student who is being harassed has several options for reporting to authorities.
“Any student or staff member who feels threatened or harassed can always call” the Boston University Police Department at 617-353-2110, says its acting chief, Scott Paré, BU deputy director of public safety. He cites Massachusetts law, which defines criminal harassment as “willfully and maliciously engag[ing] in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.”
BU’s complaint procedures for discrimination note: “Unlawful discrimination includes harassment based on an individual’s membership in any legally protected category.” The procedures note that BU bans discrimination based on several categories, including race, creed, religion, and ethnicity.
Students may initiate a harassment complaint by contacting the dean’s office at their BU school, the Dean of Students office, the University’s Equal Opportunity office, or for those living in dorms, Residence Life.
There are limits to what authorities can do in some cases. “I’m not aware of any way to address harassment from random people on the street who are not known, except to contact the BU police if there appears to be a danger or repetition of harassment by the same person,” says Kim Randall, executive director of the Equal Opportunity office.
The University can investigate if students are harassed by an identifiable BU affiliate, including employees of companies doing business with the University, Randall says. She encourages students to report such incidents to her office, the Dean of Students, BUPD, or Human Resources.
Even if authorities can’t identify harassers, Nigeria-born Eniola Anuoluwapo Soyemi (GRS’17) found some solace, after several racist taunts, in reporting the incidents to the Massachusetts attorney general’s hotline (1-800-994-3228) and having a sympathetic ear for her story. “They were extraordinarily helpful in my case,” she says, “and I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone with such experiences to contact them without hesitation.”
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During the 1950s, architecture, cars, and gadget design took on a curiously spaceflight-inspired aesthetic. Manufacturers built vehicles with ornamental tailfins. Upswept roofs and parabolas cropped up on buildings. Logos incorporated starbursts and satellite shapes, while parallelograms, wings, and free-form boomerangs became the motel sign shapes du jour. In retrospect, those designs look a little gimmicky, but they nonetheless reflect a collective 1950s confidence about America’s dazzling future as a leader in space flight and economic prosperity.
While historians generally date the Space Age back to Sputnik’s launch in 1957, our captivation with space travel began much earlier. Comic books, TV programs, and furniture borrowed components from science fiction, while businesses lured customers by incorporating futuristic elements in their buildings. The trendiness of the aesthetic both stimulated and exploited our enthusiasm for the future, culminating into a quick turnover for consumer products and a greater movement toward materialism.
Plenty of Space Age buildings might have already been demolished (because let’s face it, populuxe hasn’t aged very well), but it’s almost impossible to avoid the so-called Googie motif in our archives. How could we not cover the era with gusto, being a science magazine and all? Our gallery begins in 1951, where we published the dream car designs of Ford employees. All looked as if they were half-rocket, half car; unfortunately, none made it to the production line. On a happier note, swivel-mounted television sets gave living rooms a Jetsons-like quality, oval picturephones debuted in New York, and esteemed Googie architect John Lautner built his octagonal Chemosphere above the San Fernando Valley.
In spite of our optimism, we knew it could be awhile before commercial space flight became available. But no matter. We had plenty of saucer-shaped buildings and domed cars to tide us over.
Dream Cars: February 1951 Pop Sci Archives
Although modern historians consider Sputnik’s launch in 1957 as the start of the Space Age, its aesthetic can be traced back to at least a decade earlier, when rocket ships, spaceflight and nuclear energy entered the public consciousness. These dream cars designed by Ford’s Advanced Styling Studio were never produced, but they include several of the era’s most distinctive design characteristics: tailfins, sleek silhouettes, curved edges, and a hood that could probably impale you. We predicted that fender curves and radiators grills would make their way into vehicle production lines later in the decade and in the 1960s.
Coleopter: May 1955 Pop Sci Archives
The coleopter might not have been intended for spaceflight, but this colorful concept from a group of French-German researchers reflects a distinctly 1950s optimism about the future of space exploration. Instead of using wings, the coleopter employed a circular extension serving as the outer part of the jet engine while helping the aircraft achieve level flight, as well as vertical ascent and landing. During takeoff, the coleopter would rise straight up like a rocket before alighting itself for cruise mode. To land, it would reposition itself vertically again.
Researchers came up with four models that could be used for either leisure or combat: A guided missle (called “the Ogre”), a pilotless interceptor, a light ground-attack plane, and a three-seat private private, pictured left.
TV of the Future: August 1958 Pop Sci Archives
Ah, the television set of the future. This Philco 1958 model, which boasted a portable picture tube, looks like something straight out of The Jetsons. Aside from its appearance, what made this set so novel was that it wasn’t restrained in a cabinet.
For several years, manufacturers struggled in vain to convince the public to buy new models, but consumers couldn’t find any reason to part with their perfectly functional television sets. That is until company designers realized that they needed to revamp the TV’s appearance in order to further consumption and innovation. Philco emerged as the market winner after successfully shrinking the cathode ray tube enough so that it could be accommodated in a 21-inch TV set. This model was not only portable (it even came with a handle), but it did away with the outdated-looking “rabbit ear” antennas. Unlike the bulky cabinet models, this set could be placed anywhere in the room to allow for optimal viewing angles.
Space Suits for Factory Workers: May 1959 Pop Sci Archives
While the suits of these factory workers don’t conform to the populuxe aesthetic so integral to the Space Age, their suits bear a tremendous resemblance to a late 1950s space suit design; in fact, we acknowledged their similarity in the article’s title, which proclaimed that workers would wear space suits in a new gas-filled factor (which might as well have been a hostile planet). In the new $3 million “In-Fab” plant, an argon gas atmosphere would protect refractory metals like molybdenum from being damaged by oxygen during the fabrication process. In fact, the argon would be so thick that if a light bulb inside the room were to break, the filament would keep glowing. Clearly, working in the metal mill was a dangerous venture. “Should a lifeline break, a man might live a minute or two–as helpless as if he were out in space or under water without an oxygen supply.”
Space Age “Boy-Topia”: October 1959 Pop Sci Archives
Evidently, the future looks a lot like a 1950s suburban utopia, and Space Age architecture, also called “Googie style,” is exemplified in this design commissioned by the Boys’ Club of America. This was no ordinary clubhouse. It was “Boy-Topia,” an extravagant playground for future generations who would play with radar, solar energy, atomic batteries, and spacecraft engines. The design called for an aircraft work area and shops, television and radar labs, a football stadium with a foldable plastic roof, and an observation tower, among other traditional facilities. We can only wonder if designers Griswold, Heckel and Keiser Associates would be disappointed that today’s children are too preoccupied with video games to tinker with radar and aircraft.
Chemosphere: April 1961 Pop Sci Archives
John Lautner, one of the most eminent Googie architects, built the Chemosphere in Los Angeles to show how it was possible to erect a home in an otherwise uninhabitable slope off Mulholland Drive. The massive octagonal structure contains 10 rooms, 2 baths, and is accessible only by a funicular. Since it is built on an incline, the entire structure is supported by 30-foot concrete pole supported by an underground concrete pedestal. The house has inspired sets on several sci-fi films and TV shows, such as Charlie’s Angels and Lost in Space, and it is also considered a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument.
DeVry Advertisement: February 1964 Pop Sci Archives
Picturephone: December 1965 Pop Sci Archives
The videophone is one of the most iconic retro-future technologies, having appeared in classic science fiction movies and TV programs, like Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and of course, The Jetsons. AT&T; introduced their Picturephone during the 1964 New York World’s Fair, giving fair-goers (like the PopSci editor pictured left) the opportunity to make calls on the oval-shaped device. Later that year, AT&T; installed their first commercial videophone unit, the Picturephone Mod I, in public booths around the country, but the expense of making a call curbed the technology’s popularity.
The Amazing Urbmobile: October 1967 Pop Sci Archives
2001: A Space Odyssey: June 1968 Pop Sci Archives
In addition to shaping architecture, car and gadget design, the Space Age had a profound impact on American pop culture. Although films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, It Came From Outer Space, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers grew a little campy with age, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is now considered one of the greatest films every made. Two months after its release, we published a behind-the-scenes feature that examined the film examining how Kubrick used camera work and scientific facts to craft a convincing depiction of space travel. To ensure his film’s scientific accuracy, Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clark hired consultants from the NASA Voyager program and scientists from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Unlike other films of that era, A Space Odyssey showed outer space as a silent place, rather than as a hotbed of deafening explosions. The inside of spaceships also lacked gravity, while the actual ship design conformed to aerospace engineering rather than a “futuristic” aesthetic.
Over the last few years, the role of Chief Security Information Offers (CISOs) has changed at an unprecedented rate. They are responsible for establishing security strategy, managing safety risks, and ensuring data assets are protected. The shift in a CISO role is largely driven by the deployment ofThe CISO Role in IoT Security
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