DVD Review – The First World War, Le Cateau



This excellent DVD is part of the growing First World War collection. Once again the BHTV team is supported by a re-enactment group.

Location filming and another crisp production of well-lit footage has produced an enjoyable and absorbing account of one of the great European battles. Once again history repeats itself as terrain forces the conduct of war with battles fought over the same ground across the generations.






Isandlwana, Zulu Battlefields



Produced by Zulu Battlefield Productions, this DVD follows the same format as the outstanding BHTV productions for Pen & Sword, covering European battlefields. Well-lit filming with crisp colour and authoritative presentations brings the 1879 battlefield to life and provides a balanced view of what was the greatest disaster the British Army had faced. Even viewed against the losses in France during WWI, this still an unparalleled defeat.






Hitler’s War Machine, Stalingrad 1942-1943



This primary source film was shot by German combat cameramen. During the filming, many were killed or injured.

Until the Germans were halted at Stalingrad, they had enjoyed almost a royal progress in their invasion of Russia. Vast tracts of Russian land had fallen to German hands and although the Red Army did put up a fight in places, the German war machine rolled over them, destroying their tanks and aircraft and taking huge numbers of prisoners.






Boeing Delivers 25th C-17 Training Center to U.S. Air Force

C-17MemphisLandingcopyrightUSANG med

Memphis Air National Guard latest to receive high-fidelity simulator

ST. LOUIS., Aug. 1, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] recently delivered a comprehensive training center for the C-17 Globemaster III airlifter to the Memphis Air National Guard base in Tennessee, improving the service’s training capabilities while reducing travel, maintenance and other operating expenses.




The highly realistic training system prepares C-17 pilots and loadmasters for a host of scenarios, including sophisticated mission operations and emergency procedures. Having that capability on site means the 155th Airlift Squadron no longer needs to send personnel elsewhere for training.

“The Boeing team enabled us to increase training efficiency while reducing travel time, aircraft fuel and operating costs, which is an extremely important factor during this era of increased fiscal restraints and tightened budgets,” said Maj. Joel Taylor, chief of aircrew training for the 155th Airlift Squadron.

The Memphis training center is the Air Force’s 25th C-17 trainer and the fourth of five ordered under a 2010 contract from the service. The fifth of those training centers will be delivered to Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base in Martinsburg, W.Va., later this year.

Rosetta takes comet’s temperature

Rosetta measures comet s temperature node full image 2

Title Rosetta measures comet’s temperature
Released 01/08/2014 2:00 pm
Copyright ESA

The first temperature measurements of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko were made between 13 and 21 July, when Rosetta closed in from 14 000 km to the comet to just over 5000 km. The observations were made by the spacecraft’s visible, infrared and thermal imaging spectrometer, VIRTIS, and revealed an average surface temperature of –70ºC. This implies the surface is predominantly covered in dust rather than ice, which would yield a lower temperature. The finding does not exclude localised patches of ice. The observations were made when the comet was roughly 555 million kilometres from the Sun.
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1 August 2014

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made its first temperature measurements of its target comet, finding that it is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.




The observations of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko were made by Rosetta’s visible, infrared and thermal imaging spectrometer, VIRTIS, between 13 and 21 July, when Rosetta closed in from 14 000 km to the comet to just over 5000 km.

At these distances, the comet covered only a few pixels in the field of view and so it was not possible to determine the temperatures of individual features. But, using the sensor to collect infrared light emitted by the whole comet, scientists determined that its average surface temperature is about –70ºC.

The comet was roughly 555 million kilometres from the Sun at the time – more than three times further away than Earth, meaning that sunlight is only about a tenth as bright.

Although –70ºC may seem rather cold, importantly, it is some 20–30ºC warmer than predicted for a comet at that distance covered exclusively in ice.

“This result is very interesting, since it gives us the first clues on the composition and physical properties of the comet’s surface,” says VIRTIS principal investigator Fabrizio Capaccioni from INAF-IAPS, Rome, Italy.

Indeed, other comets such as 1P/Halley are known to have very dark surfaces owing to a covering of dust, and Rosetta’s comet was already known to have a low reflectance from ground-based observations, excluding an entirely ‘clean’ icy surface.

The temperature measurements provide direct confirmation that much of the surface must be dusty, because darker material heats up and emits heat more readily than ice when it is exposed to sunlight.

“This doesn’t exclude the presence of patches of relatively clean ice, however, and very soon, VIRTIS will be able to start generating maps showing the temperature of individual features,” adds Dr Capaccioni.

In addition to global measurements, the sensor will study the variation of the daily surface temperature of specific areas of the comet, in order to understand how quickly the surface reacts to solar illumination.

In turn, this will provide insight into the thermal conductivity, density and porosity of the top tens of centimetres of the surface. This information will be important in selecting a target site for Rosetta’s lander, Philae.

It will also measure the changes in temperature as the comet flies closer to the Sun along its orbit, providing substantially more heating of the surface.

“Combined with observations from the other 10 science experiments on Rosetta and those on the lander, VIRTIS will provide a thorough description of the surface physical properties and the gases in the comet’s coma, watching as conditions change on a daily basis and as the comet loops around the Sun over the course of the next year,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

“With only a few days until we arrive at just 100 km distance from the comet, we are excited to start analysing this fascinating little world in more and more detail.”

Launch of the IWM Duxford 2014 American Air Museum Summer Residency in London last night

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IWM_2014_058_0114 - (left to right) Phil Reed, American Air Museum Executive Vice-President and Churchill War Rooms Director; Sir Stuart Peach, Trustee, IWM, and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff; Sir Peter Squire, American Air Museum President and Andrew Tyler, Chief Executive UK and Europe, Northrop Grumman.

copyright IWM.

Yesterday evening (Thursday 31 July), the 2014 American Air Museum Summer Residency, sponsored by defence and aerospace company Northrop Grumman, was officially launched at Churchill War Rooms, London.




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IWM_2014_058_0098 – The UK and US teachers together.


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IWM_2014_058_0164 – soaking up the history at Churchill War Rooms.


All images are copyright IWM.

The American Air Museum Summer Residency Programme is a unique professional development project creating a partnership between teachers from the USA and the UK. Run by IWM Duxford, on behalf of the American Air Museum, the residency gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate on a range of innovative ideas which make the study of Second World War history and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) exciting and engaging for their students.


At yesterday’s programme launch, participating teachers from USA met their British counterparts for the first time.


They were welcomed by a number of speakers. Phil Reed, American Air Museum Executive President and Churchill War Rooms Director, said: “we’re here to welcome a flourishing relationship between Imperial War Museums, the American Air Museum and Northrop Grumman.”


Sir Peter Squire, President of the American Air Museum said: “Let me make my own welcome to the US and UK teachers on this programme. I would dearly love to see a younger generation thirst for knowledge about the history of US air power over the past 100 years and for young people to come to Europe to see what America did for us.”


Jenny Cousins, American Air Museum Project Leader, gave the teachers an insight into the programme of activities that they will be undertaking over the next two weeks. She said: “This is a story about historical STEM. We’re aiming to break down the barriers between two different styles of teaching – the arts on one side and technology on the other.”


Andrew Tyler, Chief Executive UK & Europe, Northrop Grumman, said: “The first duty of state is to provide education. Everything else come from education. I was taught history very badly. As I’ve gone through life, I’ve felt that lack of a good history education. There is very little that happens today that doesn’t have its roots in history. When I think of the developments over the past 100 years, two things come to mind. One, the importance of science, technology and engineering. Two, the relationship between the UK and the US. This describes the themes for the residency programme and also why, to Northrop Grumman, it has such an natural affinity and is an important relationship for us.”


Guests in attendance at the launch included representatives of the US Embassy, Northrop Grumman and IWM.


Following the official welcomes, guests were given a guided tour of Churchill War Rooms by its Director, Phil Reed.


The American Air Museum Summer Residency now continues until Thursday 14 August and features a two-day Summer Camp for students aged between 14 and 16, who will enjoy learning sessions with the US and UK teachers on the residency.

How Rosetta arrives at a comet

Rosetta Philae Artist Impression Close node full image

1 August 2014

After travelling nearly 6.4 billion kilometres through the Solar System, ESA’s Rosetta is closing in on its target. But how does a spacecraft actually arrive at a comet?




The journey began on 2 March 2004 when Rosetta was launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Since then, Rosetta has looped around the Sun five times, picking up speed through three gravity-assist swingbys at Earth and one at Mars, to enter an orbit similar to that of its destination: comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

This icy target is in an elliptical 6.5-year solar circuit that takes it from beyond the orbit of Jupiter at its furthest point, and between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun.

Rosetta’s goal is to match the pace of the comet – currently some 55 000 km/h – and travel alongside it to within just 1 m/s between them, roughly equivalent to a walking pace.

Since early May, Rosetta’s controllers have been pacing it through a tightly planned series of manoeuvres designed to slow its speed with respect to the comet by about 2800 km/h, or 775 m/s, to ensure its arrival on 6 August.

ESA’s experts are playing a crucial role, having worked extensively behind the scenes to develop a series of ten orbit-correction manoeuvres that use Rosetta’s thrusters to match the spacecraft’s speed and direction with that of the comet.

“Our team is responsible for predicting and determining Rosetta’s orbit, and we work with the flight controllers to plan the thruster burns,” says Frank Dreger, Head of Flight Dynamics at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany.

The burns were carried out every two weeks in May and June and, after a short test, the three subsequent manoeuvres were some of the longest ever performed by an ESA spacecraft – exceeding seven hours.

These first burns dramatically reduced Rosetta’s speed with respect to the comet by 668 m/s of the necessary 775 m/s required by 6 August, when Rosetta will ‘arrive’ at a distance of just 100 km from the comet.

Throughout July, the burns were made on a weekly basis, and will culminate in two short orbit insertion burns set for 3 and 6 August.

Sea of sand

Rub al Khali desert node full image 2

Title Rub’ al Khali desert
Released 01/08/2014 10:00 am
Copyright ESA

Rolling sand dunes in the expansive Rub’ al Khali desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula are pictured in this radar image from the Sentinel-1A satellite.



Rub’ al Khali – also known at the ‘Empty Quarter’ – is part of the greater Arabian Desert. Its sand dunes reach up to 250 m in height and in some areas are interspersed with hardened flat plains, evident at this bottom half of this image. These plains are what is left of shallow lakes that existed thousands of years ago, formed by monsoon-like rains and runoff.

Today, the region is considered to be ‘hyper-arid’, with precipitation rarely exceeding 35 mm a year and regular high temperatures around 50°C.

Rub’ al Khali has experienced major desertification over the past 2000 years. Until about the year 300 AD, trade caravans crossed what is today an impassable wasteland.

In the upper part of this image, we can see a road snaking through the remote desert and leading to Kharkhir (not pictured), a Saudi village near the border with Yemen.

Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite radar mission for Europe’s Copernicus programme. The first satellite of the pair, Sentinel-1A, was launched in April. The satellite is still being commissioned to prepare for routine operations.

This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
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Tube-Train--London-Underground web

· Swabs from apparently filthy public locations confirm that our assumptions about bacteria are usually wrong

· In many cases, we are safer eating our food off the ground than using our own hands

· Hands are a ‘public transport network’ for harmful bacteria


A new study suggests that avoiding dangerous bacteria in public places is harder than many would believe. The study revealed that our hands are far more likely to make us unwell than the grubby surfaces we strive to avoid.




Swabs were taken from multiple High Street and shopping centre locations across two conurbations in the UK (St Albans & Luton). All of the swabs were taken from dirty looking surfaces in and around food outlets such as cafés and fast food restaurants.

In the study, commissioned by sanitising water brand Aquaint, a total of twenty-five swabs were collected from surfaces including tables, public benches, escalator handrails, high chairs and children’s ride-on toys. In all cases, the surfaces were given a ‘poor’ visual rating which indicates stains, debris and signs of wear. The samples were then laboratory tested for a range of harmful bacteria including staphylococcus, ecoli and enterobacteriaceae which has been linked to deaths.

Despite selecting dirty looking surfaces, there were insufficient traces of harmful bacteria to indicate an actual threat to health. This means that the reading was so low that the bacteria were either not present or in tiny quantities (in most cases less than 10 per square cm).

Looking more generally, the ‘TVC actual’, or overall quantity of bacteria measured was relatively low – 33,000 in the worst example, a wooden public bench. To put this in perspective, the average person carries over 10 million bacteria on the hands alone and a University of Arizona study found that a typical kitchen sponge will contain several million bacteria. There was also no notable difference between St Albans city and Luton town centre.

Alongside this study, Aquaint polled members of the public on habits and attitudes to germs. Unsurprisingly, 92% of those polled said they would avoid dirty looking tables and seats, citing health as the primary concern. By contrast, only 13% said they would avoid eating unless they had washed or cleansed their hands.

This indifference towards hand washing tallies with research by Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 2012 which found that faecal matter is present on 26% of hands in the UK. Faecal matter is rife with germs – around one billion per gram. The UN estimates that hand washing alone could save more than a million lives a year from diarrhoeal diseases and prevent respiratory infections.

Bola Lafe, Founder of Aquaint said: “This study highlights the fact that people avoid what they believe will make them unwell. In fact, we need to narrow the lens when it comes to spotting potential risks to health. Our hands operate a highly effective public transport network for bacteria and viruses. During the course of a day, we all touch hundreds of surfaces and have varying attitudes to hand washing. This is totally out of our control so rather than just avoiding certain areas, good hand hygiene should be the top priority. Our hands are in frequent contact with our mouths or with items that we put in our mouths, making them the fastest route to illness.”

“Visual cues about germs and bacteria can be very misleading. In areas of high footfall, especially in the sorts of places we tested, surfaces are touched and wiped by thousands of hands, bags and cloths every day. Although these surfaces looked unpleasant, we found very little evidence of harmful bacteria because germs are picked up and deposited all of the time.”

He added: “A dirty table is not pleasant but neither is it dangerous by default. By contrast, a gleaming shiny table could well be harboring high levels of potentially dangerous bacteria. The lesson is that unless you’ve cleaned your hands as well as the surface, it’s a lottery.”

The study was commissioned by Aquaint in order to understand how instinctive reactions to environmental conditions might inadvertently lead to an impact on health.

Aquaint’s water-based spray contains a harmless acid that kills 99.9% of bacteria and yet vanishes almost instantaneously. The spray contains no other ingredients and is so safe that it has passed stringent UK drinking water requirements. The product is aimed at families and individuals on the move that want the reassurance of good hygiene as and when needed, and especially when soap and water are not at hand.