Air Force One: 8 Fascinating Facts About The President's Plane

When the U.S. president needs to fly to another city or country, the primary mode of transportation is a huge 747 jetliner dubbed Air Force One. But now, a panel of aerospace and defense analysts is considering trading in the famous Air Force One jet for a smaller, less expensive aircraft to transport the president.

According to a report in Aviation Week, the suggestions for alternatives include a 737 jet by Air Force One's lead contractor, Boeing, and even a B-21 stealth bomber developed by Northrup Grumman.

President Donald Trump has criticized the Air Force One program, saying on Twitter that upgrades and replacement costs for the aircraft are "out of control." And last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered a full review of the $3.73 billion presidential aircraft program, the Associated Press reported. Now, industry experts are taking note. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 22 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets]

According to the report in Aviation Week, major savings can be achieved by switching to smaller planes. The 737, for example, is not only smaller but also has been retrofitted for other military operations, according to Popular Mechanics.

Another proposal is to ditch the 747 for the B-21 Raider, a long-range bomber aircraft under development by Northrop Grumman. The sharp, angular design of the B-21 is based on the B-2, which was created in the late 1980s and introduced in 1997. The new B-21, which was revealed last year, improves on invisibility to radar detection and provides unrivaled shielding against conventional and electronic attacks.

But for now, the president is still using the traditional 747 jets in the Air Force One program to get around. Here are some interesting facts about Air Force One.

Technically, Air Force One is the radio call name for any plane on which the president of the United States travels. It helps avoid confusion with other planes nearby, and the naming convention was established after an incident in 1953, when Eastern Air Lines Flight 8610 flew into the same airspace as President Dwight Eisenhower's plane, which was called Air Force 8610 at the time. Today, the term "Air Force One" refers to one of two twin aircraft that are specially equipped to carry the president.

The two current Air Force One planes are due for replacement. The planes are highly customized Boeing 747-200B series jets that were purchased under President Ronald Reagan's administration and began service in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush. But because Boeing shut down its 747-200 production several years ago, it has become extremely difficult to replace the planes' parts, according to the trade publication Defense One. That's why, during his second term in office, President Barack Obama ordered a replacement fleet for the Air Force One program that will be built based on the new 747-8 series.

The plane must be able to serve as a mobile command center. Essentially, Air Force One is a gleaming, three-level, flying Oval Office, according to the White House. The interior is modified so that the 4,000 square feet (about 370 square meters) of space includes a conference room, offices and state-of-the-art electronics for the president to be able to continue conducting operations midflight. Air Force One also has two food-preparation galleys, a medical operating room and a doctor on board every flight — just in case.

There's room for officers, staff and guests on board. In fact, Air Force One can seat up to 70 people. Plus, there are living quarters to accommodate all of the senior advisers, Secret Service officers, reporters and other guests who accompany the president.

The whole flight is considered a military operation. If the president is leaving from the White House, a Marine One helicopter usually flies the president to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. While in the air, Air Force One has hidden electronic jammers and flares that can be deployed to divert heat-seeking missiles, according to the Defense Media Network. And the U.S. Air Force typically sends the president's bulletproof motorcade ahead of Air Force One in a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane so that the president has access to safe transportation at the destination as well.

Air Force One can be refueled in midair. As with other combat planes, Air Force One can top off its tanks during a flight, with help from a fuel plane that arrives and hovers overhead when needed. This gives Air Force One the ability to stay up in the air indefinitely, such as if an unsafe situation is unfolding on the ground, but this is typically reserved for emergency situations, CNN reported.

It can travel at a top speed of about 600 mph (965 km/h). That's almost the speed of sound. And during flight, Air Force One can reach a maximum altitude of 45,100 feet (13,750 m). For comparison, commercial flights usually fly at an altitude of only about 30,000 feet (9,100 m).

All of the customization and facilities cost a lot. According to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter obtained by Judicial Watch, Obama's Air Force One cost taxpayers $206,337 every hour it flew. Building the replacement 747-8 jets will also be expensive — an estimated $3.73 billion over 12 years. But that's still a small portion of the entire defense budget of $8.132 trillion over that same 12-year time frame, according to Politifact. But because those costs are driven by national security concerns, they could go up in time, too.

Original article on Live Science.

Fast And Ultra-thin: Graphene Nanotransistors

This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Silicon has long been the workhorse of our digital world, but as silicon transistors shrink to the nanoscale, such factors as excessive power consumption in these devices could degrade performance.   

"The scaling of silicon transistors has driven the economy around the world for the past half century," says Jeff Welser, director of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative at the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), a consortium made up of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers.  "The United States is the leader in microelectronics, and to maintain that leadership and to continue to drive the economy, we need to find a way to keep the device scaling going."

Many of the solutions being pursued around the world involve the adoption of new device architectures or new materials.  Bhagawan Sahu, a research physicist at the Southwest Academy of Nanotechnology (SWAN), located at the University of Texas at Austin, is part of a nationwide search to find nanoscale materials and processes that can replace silicon transistors by the year 2020.

Sahu and his colleagues at SWAN aim to make transistors that are less than 10 nanometers long and less than one nanometer thick.  To do so, they are exploring graphene, a single layer of graphite that is one of the thinnest materials in the world and possesses electron mobility (a measure of how fast electrons can move in response to external voltages) higher than silicon.  Those characteristics are attractive features and have generated tremendous interest from the semiconductor industry.

After five years of dedicated study, the group’s novel, graphene-based design was selected by the SRC as one of only a handful of device ideas to be further studied.

"Understanding the device components [at the scale of atoms] through simulations has become [critical] for these nanoscale devices," Sahu says.  "Our efforts at SWAN provide the community with the simulation results, which are obtained by virtual experiments before any real experiments are performed."

The graphene-based system that the researchers created—which they call the bilayer pseudospintronic field-effect transistor (or BiSFET)—is based on two layers of graphene separated by a super-thin insulator of air or a vacuum.  The physics of the device is based on “collective charge motion”, where a superfluid state forms at room temperature under certain conditions.

"In this structure, all of the electrons want to be in one layer or the other," Welser explains.  "By applying a very small voltage—on the order of 25 millivolts—you can get all of the charge to jump from one side to the other.  It acts like a switch, which is exactly how we want our transistors to act."

To explore this phenomenon, Sahu and his team used the NSF-supported Ranger and Lonestar 4 supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).  The computers, by virtue of their size and power, enabled the scientists to model new material systems that cannot be easily fabricated. 

Moreover, the ability to simulate designs quickly and repeatedly allowed the researchers to experiment—virtually, with different widths, lengths, layer orientations, how layers are stacked and external voltages for graphene ribbons and flakes—to see how the variables influence the electronic properties, including the electron band gap, magnetism and other related factors.  The simulations have been critical to understanding the internal and external variables that can affect device performance.

If the SWAN researchers can overcome the challenges involved in fabricating and demonstrating the BisFET devices, the nanotransistor may be the game changer that the semiconductor industry is betting on.

"The simulations are playing a major role in elucidating the interplay of the structure and the electronic properties of graphene," Sahu says. "We're building component by component, so we have an integrated view of what each part does and how it affects the whole device."

Editor's Note:The researchers depicted in Behind the Scenes articles have been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Behind the Scenes Archive.

Obsession: The Dark Side Of Steve Jobs' Triumphs

At the turn of the millennium, "Think Different" was the widely acclaimed advertising campaign for Apple Inc. But for company chairman Steve Jobs, thinking differently was more than just a slogan — it was an unavoidable fact of life.

Jobs — subject of a new biopic, "Jobs" — was a typical obsessive, according to author Joshua Kendall, and Apple's leader probably had a little-known disorder that psychiatrists now refer to as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, or OCPD.

Is this a case of psychiatric overreach, in which any human quirk is declared a dangerous pathology (especially if Big Pharma can invent a pill for it)? Or did Jobs' undeniable success at Apple — perhaps the most imaginative and successful company of the 21st century — cost him his happiness, his family and even his health? [Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds]

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes OCPD as "a mental health condition in which a person is preoccupied with rules, orderliness and control." It often runs in families, but scientists are unclear whether genes, environment or a combination of these factors are behind the disorder.

OCPD or obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Though they're similar, the contrast between OCPD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) couldn't be starker: People with OCD have unwanted thoughts that interfere with their functioning, whereas people with OCPD are highly functioning individuals who are convinced that their way of thinking is absolutely correct, if not superior to everyone else's.

"OCD, in contrast to OCPD, often paralyzes people," Kendall told LiveScience. "Someone with OCD may have trouble working at all, because he might spend hours every day scrubbing his hands to make sure that they are perfectly clean. That person won't have the energy to start Apple or to fly across the Atlantic on a piece of wood like Charles Lindbergh." [The 10 Most Controversial Psychiatric Disorders]

Jobs, Lindbergh and other high-fliers are the subject of Kendall's recent book, "America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation" (Grand Central Publishing, 2013). The book is filled with examples of people (mostly men, as OCPD is less common among women) who rose to the top of their fields, largely due to their obsessiveness.

A long history of obsessives

Thomas Jefferson — architect, botaanist, diplomat, farmer, meteorologist, president and author of the Declaration of Independence — also kept a written log of every penny he ever spent and charted every vegetable market in the Washington, D.C., area, according to Kendall.

Baseball legend Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox also exhibited the traits of OCPD, Kendall said. "When I wasn't eating or sleeping, I was practicing my swing," Williams famously said. He also approached the practice of hitting a baseball as a science, even attending physics lectures at MIT to better understand the dynamics of swinging a bat.

But single-mindedness like this comes at a dear cost — one that's generally paid by other people. "Obsessives tend to miss out on the joys of family life. They have a hard time connecting with others," Kendall said "They are control freaks who are uncomfortable unless they are in a dominant position in a relationship." Indeed, Jobs refused all contact with his biological father, who tried in vain to reconnect with his famous son.

The annals of history are filled with successful, obsessive people who cultivated rich, benevolent public personas, but had private lives that bordered on monstrous. "Lindbergh kept detailed checklists on the so-called infractions of his sons and daughters. He would record every incident of gum-chewing," Kendall said. [7 Personality Traits You Should Change]

Slugger Williams, who championed cancer treatment on behalf of the Dana-Farber Cancer institute in Boston, once admitted that he was "horses**t" to his own neglected children.

Perhaps no one personifies this dichotomy better than Jobs, whose achievements could make his life story read like a hagiography (he was a rags-to-riches electronics wizard, a Zen Buddhist and a billionaire). But behind the scenes, he reportedly could be impossible to relate to on a human level.

"Jobs was difficult to work for," Kendall said, "and would often blow his stack when something wasn't done the right way," which meant, of course, his way.

"And his difficult personality was the reason for his hiatus from Apple in the 1980s," Kendall said. Suffering from a bad reputation earned by his heavy-handed, mercurial management style, Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 (he rejoined the company in 1996).

There's some evidence that Jobs — who was never actually diagnosed with OCPD (Kendall asserts that he's simply suggesting the diagnosis, based on current criteria) — also had an eating disorder that's frequently associated with OCPD. "He struggled on and off with anorexia, a condition that is also associated with a history of trauma in childhood," Kendall said. "While Steve Jobs was lucky that his adoptive parents were kind, he seems to have possessed some scars from the adoption."

"A harsh early life seems to be a common theme in the icons whom I studied," Kendall explained. "Ted Williams was neglected by both his parents, neither of whom was around much when he was a kid. He ended up bonding with his bat rather than with other people."

The benefits of mental illness

There's a large and growing body of research devoted to the link between successful, high-achieving personalities and some degree of mental illness. For instance, a few personality traits of psychopaths may actually be positive in some circumstances, according to researcher Scott Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

Lilienfeld found that a couple of psychopathic traits are, ironically, also linked to heroic behavior. A psychopathic trait called fearless dominance — essentially boldness — was linked with greater heroism and altruism toward strangers.

"Personality traits can be good or bad depending on the person and depending on the situation and also how they're channeled," Lilienfeld told LiveScience in an earlier interview.

"Fortunately, obsessives aren't as dangerous as psychopaths — they don't kill anyone — but they can be destructive," Kendall said. "Obsessionality is part of the way [up] on the psychopath continuum. And we need to realize that just because someone is successful doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is totally sane or even reasonable … Sometimes a person rises to the top precisely because he is a tad mad."

Obsessives and human civilization

There's even some evidence that OCPD may have helped human civilization evolve: A 2012 report in the journal Medical Hypotheses presented the "ADHD-OCPD theory of human behavior," which states that people with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and OCPD were critical in the switch from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society.

Farmers, the theory proposes, who were more meticulous, detail-oriented perfectionists would have been more successful than others, especially when growing just one crop (only corn, for example). Being more successful, these obsessive individuals would have had more children, and their successful traits would have thus spread to other fields, giving rise to merchants, teachers, doctors and other specialists.

There are positions, it seems, in which people with OCPD naturally shine, Kendall asserts. "Obsessives do very well in the IT world. In fact, tech firms such as SAP are now making a concerted effort to hire workers who have Asperger syndrome, which is an analogous condition," Kendall said. "They also do well in athletics, particularly in sports such as baseball or golf in which they need to do the same thing over and over again — such as swing and hit the ball."

But the obvious talents of these individuals don't make them perfect for every task. "Since they lack people skills, they should stay away from jobs that require sensitive interaction with others," Kendall said. "For example, an obsessive would be a disaster as the head of an HR [human resources] department."

The key, then, is playing to the strengths of people with OCPD, while minimizing their limitations, Kendall said. "The challenge for obsessives — and perhaps for everyone, as most of us have a touch of something — is to find a way to channel constructively their passions."

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