31 May 2022

American Gentry

Meet America's capitalists.
The reality of American wealth and power is more banal. The conspicuously consuming celebrities and jet-setting cosmopolitans of popular imagination exist, but they are far outnumbered by a less exalted and less discussed elite group, one that sits at the pinnacle of the local hierarchies that govern daily life for tens of millions of people. 
Donald Trump grasped this group’s existence and its importance, acting, as he often does, on unthinking but effective instinct. When he crowed about his “beautiful boaters,” lauding the flotillas of supporters trailing MAGA flags from their watercraft in his honor, or addressed his devoted followers among a rioting January 6 crowd that included people who had flown to the event on private jets, he knew what he was doing. Trump was courting the support of the American gentry, the salt-of-the-earth millionaires who see themselves as local leaders in business and politics, the unappreciated backbone of a once-great nation…

These elites’ wealth derives not from their salary—this is what separates them from even extremely prosperous members of the professional-managerial class, such as doctors and lawyers—but from their ownership of assets. Those assets vary depending on where in the country we’re talking about; they could be a bunch of McDonald’s franchises in Jackson, Mississippi; a beef-processing plant in Lubbock, Texas; a construction company in Billings, Montana; commercial properties in Portland, Maine; or a car dealership in western North Carolina. Even the less prosperous parts of the United States generate enough surplus to produce a class of wealthy people. 
Depending on the political culture and institutions of a locality or region, this elite class might wield more or less political power. In some places, it has an effective stranglehold over what gets done; in others, it’s important but not all-powerful.
From here.

27 May 2022

Prospects For Interstellar Travel Without Breaking The Laws Of Physics

If humanity can refrain from driving itself to extinction, it could send small probes to the nearest star in the foreseeable future, and could send a small village of people there on a one way trip that could be completed in a human lifetime within a few centuries. These are the boundaries of "hard" science fiction.

The key concept is to use lasers from near Earth to supply the space craft with power so that the space craft can have less fuel per payload on board, which in turn means it takes less energy to get the lighter craft relative to payload size up to marginally relativistic speeds.
Breakthrough Starshot is an initiative to explore the Centauri system using laser-accelerated sailcraft. Earlier work produced a point design for a 0.2 c mission carrying 1 g of payload. 
The present work widens the design space to missions having 0.1 mg to 100 kt payload and 0.0001-0.99 c (6-60,000 au/yr) cruise velocity. Also, the beam director may now draw up to 5 GW of power directly from the grid to augment the power drawn from its energy storage system. Augmenting stored energy with grid power shrinks beam director capital cost by 1-5 orders of magnitude. 
The wider design space encompasses new possibilities: 
A 0.1 mg microbiome accelerated to 0.01 c in only 2 min by a beam director that expends $6k worth of energy. 
A 10 kg Solar system cubesat accelerated to 0.001 c (60 au/yr) by a $600M beam director that expends $60M worth of energy per mission. 
A progression from cost-optimized point designs to whole performance maps has been made possible by replacing numerical trajectory integration with closed-form equations. Consequently, the system model now computes 1-2 orders of magnitude more point designs per unit time than before. Resulting maps reveal several different solution regimes that are characterized by their performance-limiting constraints. 
The performance maps also reveal a family of missions that accelerate at Earth gravity. The heaviest such mission is a 2 km diameter 100 kt vessel (equivalent to 225 International Space Stations) that is accelerated for 23 days to achieve 0.07 c, reaching the Centauri system within a human lifetime. While unthinkable at this time, the required 340 PW peak radiated power (twice terrestrial insolation) might be generated by space solar power or fusion within a few centuries. 
Regardless, it is now possible to contemplate such a mission as a laser-accelerated sailcraft.
Kevin L. G. Parkin, "Cost-Optimal System Performance Maps for Laser-Accelerated Sailcraft" arXiv:2205.13138 (May 26, 2022).

Quote Of The Day

25 May 2022

Quote Of The Day

If good government actually came from a violent, armed population, then Afghanistan and Somalia would be the two best-governed places on earth.
- Garrett Epps in The Atlantic.

22 May 2022

Clotting Factors

Suppose that your airship gets punctured. This is bad. Your hydrogen or helium leaks out, and your airship loses altitude.

What could you do to deal with the problem?

One approach would be clotting factors. You could put little cages of full of patches or balls with easily breakable adhesives in them around the interior of your envelope of gas, and if a gauge revealed that you were losing gas from a leak, they could be released. The flow of gas out of the envelope would carry them to the leak, the adhesive would be released, and it would patch the hole.

You might also have a heater in the envelope to raise the temperature of the gas in the envelope when it lost gas so that it could continue to stay fully inflated.

You might also has something that bonds to oxygen faster than hydrogen does as an intentional contaminant in the gas to suppress fires.

The concept of clotting factors could be generalized to any fluid contained in something with higher pressure on the inside than than outside. You could use it is fuel trucks, water trucks, cisterns, liquid natural gas tanks, propane tanks, beer trucks, pipelines, tires, air in a spaceship. whatever.

In the case of something filled with air, or which air could be substitute, you could have a pump that puts more air in after the clotting factors seal the leak.

For example, in the case of an airship, in combination with the heater, you could have clotting factors seal the leak, temperature heat the interior, and could pump air into the envelope, effectively converting the airship to a hybrid airship-hot air balloon, on a temporary basis until it could land, have its holes permanently repaired, and be refilled with its ordinary hydrogen or helium.

What about the opposite problem: high pressure fluids outside an enclosed area in, for example, the case of a submarine or a ship with a puncture?

You could put blisters with a patch material and an easily punctured adhesive outside the shell ready to be released if there was a puncture, and perhaps a drone with magnetic feet or connections to the full to deliver them to the puncture if necessary.

21 May 2022

Quote Of The Day

Which U.S. Regions Have The Most Carbon Emissions Per Capita?

Northeast 17% pop v. 11% emissions (65%)
West 24% pop v. 20% emissions (83%)
South 38% pop v. 40% emissions (105%)
Midwest 21% pop v. 29% emissions (138%)

Carbon emissions per capita in the Northeast are half the carbon emissions per capita in the Midwest, despite the fact that both regions historically had a lot of manufacturing activity.

19 May 2022

How Many Vehicles Did Russia Have Initially?

A Washington Post article lays out the number of military vehicles and logistic supply vehicles that a typical Russian military unit of 700-900 soldiers called a battalion tactical group would have, which I have extrapolated to a 150,000 soldier force with 800 soldiers per unit (188 units) and the mid-range of any variable number of vehicles of a particular type.

My intent to provide a rough baseline of what kind of military equipment the Russian invasion force had in the first place from which to compare its losses. 

With these assumptions it suggests that there were 22,654 vehicles in the entire original Russian invasion force, broken down roughly as follows (with a comparison to my previous post for losses per Oryx except as noted, which is a minimum since it includes only photographically documented and expert reviewed losses):

* 1,880 tanks (664 lost; 1,200 lost per Ukraine)
* 3,008 artillery vehicles  (110 lost)
* 7,520 armored infantry fighting vehicles (705 lost)
* 1,128 armored personnel carriers (110 lost) 
* 9,118 other vehicles (948 lost).

The breakdown of the 9,118 other vehicles is:

* 1,880 air defense vehicles
* 376 electronic signal jammers
* 940 vehicles with drones
* 376 recovery vehicles (i.e. military grade tow trucks for tanks, etc.)
* 658 medical trucks
* 564 food trucks
* 376 mobile kitchen trucks
* 940 water trucks
* 2,068 fuel trucks
* 940 trucks with engineers and their supplies (such as bridging and mine removal equipment). 

Thus, about 1/3rd to 2/3rd of the tanks, 4% of the artillery vehicles, and about 10% of the remaining vehicles have been documented as lost.

The lower percentages for artillery vehicles may reflect their distance from Ukrainian forces in the battle, resulting in fewer being destroyed and those that are destroyed being harder to document. The lower percentage of non-tanks may reflect less interest in documenting those less notable achievements than destroying tanks, or may reflect a priority that has been placed on destroying the most powerful opposing force weapons systems first. 

18 May 2022

Medium Term Benefits To Europe From The Ukraine War

An estimate, first issued by the U.K. Ministry of Defense earlier this week, states that Russia has now lost over one-third of all the forces it brought to Ukraine (58,333-63,333 soldiers from February 24, 2022 to May 15, 2022). 

Russia's losses in just three months are already, proportionate to its population, order of magnitude similar to U.S. military casualties in the entire nine year long Vietnam War. And, in addition to this absolute cost, units that lose 10% or more of their force in a short period of time have degraded morale and effectiveness because casualties of this scale are so disruptive. The Russian army in Ukraine is now in this disrupted and degraded state.
Ukraine says Russia has lost almost 1,200 tanks, a number that we cannot verify. However, the military and intelligence blog Oryx, which counts Russian military equipment losses in Ukraine based on photographs sent from the front lines, says Russia has lost 664 tanks (as of May 13, 2022) and about 3,000 other armored vehicles and heavy equipment so far.

From a military perspective, the Ukraine war is strengthening the rest of Europe considerably. 

It is exposing the strengths and weaknesses of Russian conventional forces and providing "sandbox" tests of what does and doesn't work in terms of weapons and tactics against those forces.

Even more importantly, the attrition that Russian conventional forces are experiencing, since it is drawn from the same pool of military resources that would otherwise be available to use against other European adversaries of Russia, mean that there are significantly fewer tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, mobile artillery systems, helicopters, warships, guided missiles, military logistics vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and soldiers that are available to fight them.

Furthermore, the high tech modern Western weapons used by Ukrainian forces and supplied by its Western (including former Eastern European) allies have been so effective against many kinds of heavy Russian armored military equipment that Russia may simply decide that these conventional military warfare resources are so obsolete that they need to be scrapped entirely. 

After all, this isn't the first conflict in which heavy Russian military systems like its tanks have been utterly trounced, it has been happening since at least the Gulf War in 1991. But, this conflict has shown that even more modern Russian heavy weapons systems are almost as vulnerable as their older ones.

This conflict has also cast real doubt on the desirability of trying to replenish and replace the cruisers and frigates of its Black Sea fleet, because this conflict has more than any other conflict since the Falklands War in 1982, demonstrated in real world conditions, how vulnerable these large warships are to modern anti-ship missiles.

Likewise, the Russian force structure that includes a significant component of green, ill-trained, and uncommitted conscripts, and relatively few seasoned and highly skilled non-commissioned officers, as well as a stunningly incompetent corps of both junior and senior officers, if Russian military policy decision-makers are paying attention, could result in a major overhaul of the Russian army redesigned on an all volunteer basis with fewer, better trained soldiers at all ranks. It could take a decade, however, to first decide to make, and then to implement these kinds of reforms. And, this would involve a necessary quantity-quality tradeoff, leaving Russia with an army that is as competent as its European counterparts but is significantly smaller than its current force which is already reeling from massive casualties in Ukraine. This greatly impairs its future ability to launch wars of conquest and aggression in the future because it takes lots of boots on the ground to control foreign territory, since this military task has not experienced the revolutionary economies of scale and technology that other aspects of conventional warfare have in recent decades.

Furthermore, the massive interactional sanctions Russia is suffering, which has reduced its imports of foreign goods by 44%, led to permanent brain drain, and in general, reduced the capacity of the Russian government to replenish the military equipment that it is losing in this conflict in the medium-term. So for the next several years or so, Russia can't easily replace the military resources it has lost in Ukraine.

It has spurred Sweden and Finland to move to join NATO, which makes the alliance stronger by expanding it, and has caused existing NATO members to acknowledge the alliance's relevance and their commitment to it.

It has also made the transition already underway in Europe towards shifting to renewable energy and to achieving energy independence from Russia which is an unreliable economic partner urgency.

For example, it has led E.U. governments to slash the amount of red tape involved in building new solar and wind power facilities. Energy conservation measures have become much more salient. And, finding alternatives to Russian natural gas supplies (and to a lesser extent, global petroleum supplies) has also become a priority in Europe.

Recent moves by Russia to shut of natural gas pipelines in Poland and Ukraine, and to disconnect Finland from Russia's electrical power grid, before these steps were taken, provided Russia with political leverage to discourage European governments from taking strong actions against it.

But, now that Russia has pulled these triggers, the result has not been that European countries are changing their actions to accommodate Russia in order to restore their access to Russian electricity and natural gas and petroleum. Instead, it has forced reluctant moderates in the affected regimes to acknowledge that they have no choice but to aggressively develop alternatives to these Russian energy exports, because Russia has forced their hand.

The reforms Russia is forcing in European energy policy will also have the incidental side effect of putting Europe on a much more aggressive path towards addressing human caused global warming and climate change.

So, by the end of the next several years of the medium term when Russia might have restored a significant share (but probably not all) of the military equipment and soldiers it has lost while its fighting in Ukraine (the end of which is not currently in sight and will result in significantly more Russian military attrition and lost control over Ukrainian territory before it ends), the rest of Europe is very likely to be effectively energy independent of Russia and no longer subject to the capacity it had for economic duress on the eve of this conflict.

Meanwhile, non-Ukrainian European militaries, because Russia's threats of nuclear warfare have kept them out of direct fighting in this war, have suffered no casualties, no combat losses of their military equipment (although some has been given away to Ukraine as aid), and has spurred increased military spending, all of which, collectively, makes their forces more daunting defenders in the face of an further conventional military attacks by Russia with its military resources available for Europe that are already depleted by the heavy mobilization it has made in the Ukraine War followed by its losses in that war.

The bottom line is that the war in Ukraine to date, further exacerbated by the fighting still to come before it ends and continued economic sanctions Russia will still face, has greatly reduced the amount of military resources Russia has to fight a conventional war in Europe, has reduced the credibility of Russia's conventional military forces as a means to threaten its neighbors worldwide to take it seriously, and has reduced its own economy's health and its economic and diplomatic power over its European neighbors dramatically, while pushing its European neighbors to invest more in strengthening their only ability to repel conventional military attacks from Russia with state of the art modern military systems, with military cooperation, and with greater investment in military resources.

As a result, the war in Ukraine, while excruciating for Ukraine and highly uncomfortable for most of the rest of Europe, has made and continues to make the rest of Europe considerably safer from conventional military, economic, and diplomatic aggression from Russia for a period of at least five to ten years, if not more.

Russia was making a bid in the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the February 2024 invasion to swiftly restore some of the empire it lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union and to increase its power in global geopolitics. But, instead, it has brought upon itself the opposite result, probably losing a little territory controlled by it and its allies or coming out with no net gains, at an incredibly high cost in blood and treasure, and profoundly reducing its power in global geopolitics. 

This could even create a domino effect in other places where Russia has been establishing trying to re-establish a sphere of influence like Moldova, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Syria, with Russian power slipping, for example, in Moldova and the Black Sea.

At a minimum, this more than justifies the massive amounts of military and economic aid that Western nations have provided to Ukraine, that have been pivotal in making it successful in responding to Russia's invasion of its territory this year. 

A fair share of this aid from other countries near Russia has also been of older systems with military aid providing countries, which facilitates the ability of these countries to update their own stockpiles of military equipment to new, state of the art military systems, without simply scrapping the old systems in a total deadweight loss. 

The biggest worry about the current trajectory of this conflict, however, is that with Russia's conventional military resources depleted and devalued, that Russia will be more prone to rely, for lack of military, economic, or diplomatic alternatives, upon its nuclear weapons stockpile, which rivals that of the U.S., includes tactical nuclear weapons not present in the military stockpile of any other country, and bring the entire globe and humanity to the brink of a nuclear war driven apocalypse. 

The path to allow Russia to suffer the serious defeat it has already started to experience, which protects the rest of the world from its conventional military power, its economic threats, and abuses of its diplomatic power, while not causing it to resort to weapons of mass destruction in desperation, particularly while Vladimir Putin remains in power, in a narrow one that will be difficult for world leaders to navigate.

The Smallest Towns Are The Most Corrupt

My first real job was for a firm that had a contract to provide legal services for CIRSA, a self-insurance pool for local governments in Colorado that like an ordinary insurance company hired law firms to serve as insurance defense counsel for member governments facing covered litigation. 

It was our experience that the smaller and more rural the government was, the less competently it was run, with the most outrageous cases of misconduct and mismanagement we had to litigate consistently coming from the local governments with the smallest population. This was because these governments had the least qualified people have to serve as politicians because no one else is available and because, even per capita, more qualified people for this kind of work tended to migrate to bigger cities. 

Competence and lack of corruption go hand in hand, and the reverse is also true. 

[T]he small town of Corsica, in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, was compelled to double its property tax rate. According to this story, the town did so because the town secretary embezzled so much money over a eight-year period that the town was unable to maintain a children’s playground or fix its deteriorating roads. The town went so far as to borrow money from its mayor so that its government did not shut down. The scale of the embezzlement is evident from two facts. The town secretary stole $306,000. There are 319 people living in the town. After being caught and indicted, the embezzler repaid about $41,000 of the embezzled funds. . . . 
She issued checks from the town’s bank account and from the state’s Local Government investment Trust to herself, her husband, and her father. To do this, she forged the name of the vice-president of the town’s council. She also made electronic transfer payments from town accounts. She used that money to pay bills. She used the town’s account at a store to purchase a camera, an iPad, and other things for herself. To hide this activity, she prepared and submitted false bank records to the town council and to state auditors.
Rejecting a request for probation, the judge sentenced her to 21 months of prison and also ordered her to repay the other $265,000 that she had embezzled. Though the secretary, her lawyer, family members, and friends cited health problems in asking for probation, the judge concluded that the secretary’s actions were motivated by greed and that a prison sentence was consistent with the sentences handed down to other embezzlers. Perhaps the judge was also influenced by the fact that after being indicted and released on bond, the secretary was arrested on multiple counts of retail theft for five separate incidents at another retail store.

From Mauled Again

Discrimination Described Empirically

So, about 20% of people cause 80% of discriminatory effects, which implies that discriminatory conduct very likely has a power law distribution. Also, 20% (on a college campus, mind you) is as much pervasive as it is concentrated in my book.
Discrimination has persisted in our society despite steady improvements in explicit attitudes toward marginalized social groups. 
The most common explanation for this apparent paradox is that due to implicit biases, most individuals behave in slightly discriminatory ways outside of their own awareness (the dispersed discrimination account). 
Another explanation holds that a numerical minority of individuals who are moderately or highly biased are responsible for most observed discriminatory behaviors (the concentrated discrimination account). 
We tested these 2 accounts against each other in a series of studies at a large, public university (total N = 16,600). In 4 large-scale surveys, students from marginalized groups reported that they generally felt welcome and respected on campus (albeit less so than nonmarginalized students) and that a numerical minority of their peers (around 20%) engage in subtle or explicit forms of discrimination. In 5 field experiments with 8 different samples, we manipulated the social group membership of trained confederates and measured the behaviors of na├»ve bystanders. The results showed that between 5% and 20% of the participants treated the confederates belonging to marginalized groups more negatively than nonmarginalized confederates. 
Our findings are inconsistent with the dispersed discrimination account but support the concentrated discrimination account. The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Our results suggest that the Pareto principle also applies to discrimination, at least at the large, public university where the studies were conducted. We discuss implications for prodiversity initiatives.
Campbell, M. R., & Brauer, M., "Is discrimination widespread? Testing assumptions about bias on a university campus." 150(4) Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 756–777 (2021).

Globed Together People

The anime series "Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress" (which features zombies that can merge their bodies into a single much more powerful entity) greatly overestimates the volume of a large number of bodies globed together in a single clump.

16 May 2022

An Ugly Defeat For Russian Troops

This is what the war in Ukraine looks like to a Russian soldier, in an area Russia has mostly controlled since 2014, on a bad day. 

One of a series of publicly available satellite images 
of the aftermath of the strike.

On May 11, the Russian command reportedly sent about 550 troops of the 74th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 41st Combined Arms Army to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, in the eastern Luhansk region, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces near Rubizhne.

From the New York Times (more analysis here which is also the source of the map below).

Typically, this brigade would have about 80 armored vehicles and more unarmored ones like supply trucks.

The troops were ordered by their commander to assemble on the river bank in formation to cross a pontoon bridge built by Russian combat engineers because pre-war bridges had been destroyed.

The Ukrainian Army learned that the Russian troops were there, tightly concentrated in a large formation where the Ukrainian forces could strike free of collateral damage to civilians. 

Maybe the Ukrainian forces had a small drone that saw what was unfolding. Maybe they had a scout called a forward observer inform them. Maybe they had Western intelligence assets such as aerial photos from spy planes, satellite images, or radio chatter from the Russian forces. Stealth doesn't work for large military units in a 21st century war with modern technology available to both sides.

Far out of sight and earshot, several miles away, Ukrainian forces acting on this information assembled several mobile howitzer units. At the right moment, those units were ordered to fire at a precisely known location where the Russian troops were assembled. Accuracy didn't matter much because any shell that hit in the right general area would harm the Russian unit.

The barrage from the howitzer units, seemingly out of nowhere to the Russian units who would have had only seconds to react to the initial impact, would have lasted a number of minutes but probably less than half an hour. Shells would have been coming down from the sky everywhere, with the source effectively invisible to them in the chaos other than the vague observation that it came from Ukrainian held territory on the other side of the river. 

There would have been no time to locate the artillery positions attacking them and call in a counterstrike, from the Russian air force or artillery units, in time to make a difference, and the artillery units would have been out of range of the Russian unit's tanks and anti-tank weapons, even if it knew where the Ukrainian howitzers were located.

When the barrage of Ukrainian artillery shells ceased, the pontoon bridge was destroyed. More than 85% of the soldiers assembled were dead, with officers, enlisted men, and conscripts killed in more or less equal proportions. They have been working as a unit for months and built up ties with each other. They have been fighting this war together as a unit for more than eleven weeks and developed the confidence of veterans. The shells destroyed more than 85% of their armored vehicles, a mix of tanks, armored infantry fighting vehicles, and mobile artillery vehicles of their own as well as supply trucks and a small number of tow trucks for disabled armored vehicles. Only a handful of vehicles and perhaps five or six dozen random, lucky soldiers survive the attack.

As soon as the barrage is finished, the mobile howitzer units move and disperse. Their Ukrainian commander reports the strike to headquarters.

Publicly available satellite images show the carnage, which is shared on the Internet. This leads to outrage from leading pro-Russian military bloggers at the incompetence of the Russian commanders for handing Ukrainian forces a perfect opportunity to wipe out a Russian brigade. The Russian commanders should have known not to concentrate their forces for any extended period of time within range of Ukrainian artillery.

The pattern of Ukrainian forces being smart and effective, while Russian troops are incompetent, continues.

13 May 2022

Reflections On Ireland and Wales

On the occasion of my son finishing a semester away at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, our family traveled to visit him and see sights in Ireland, and since it was close, England and Wales as well. 

* After previous raids by Vikings and earlier kings failed, the English Normans came to rule Ireland with an iron fist for about 800 years and have ruled Wales from the late 1200s (Castle Conway was built by a Norman King of England in 1282) until the present. For most of the time since then, these linguistically and culturally Celtic people were second class citizens in their own countries.

After all this time, both the English and the Welsh deeply resent this period. Particularly resented were efforts by Norman landlords and then by Victorian era public schools to eradicate Irish Gaelic and the Welsh language, the seizure of lands from the Irish and Welsh people, and the indifference of the English to the Irish potato famine.

Irish Gaelic is a mandatory subject now in public schools in the Republic of Ireland and is present on all public signs. The Welsh language is resurgent in Wales where it is a mandatory subject in public schools (in the North with Welsh as the primary language of instruction) with about 30% of the population (more than 800,000 people) who either speak it as a first language (which is common among the very old and among young people in Northern Wales) by people who are mostly bilingual with English (but may reach for an English word or two now and then) or as a fluent second language. The Republic of Ireland, of course, is now an independent country within the European Union, Northern Ireland is now an almost fully self-governing region within the United Kingdom, and Wales, while subject to generally applicable English laws, also has its own regional government. There is a community of several thousand Welsh speakers in Argentina. All signs in Wales are bilingual (and short on recognizable vowels, in part, because Y and W and some double consonant letters in Welsh are vowels). Welsh has been attested in writing since before Anglo-Saxon was.

The Republic of Ireland gained independence in its current territory formally in December of 1922 by an Anglo-Irish Treaty entered into a year earlier to end the Irish War of Independence starting in 1919 that lasted two and a half years, although in terms of national identity and consciousness, the most formative and pivotal event in the history of the modern Republic of Ireland is the Easter Uprising of 1916. There was an off again, on again military insurgency in Northern Ireland from about 1956-1997 but the Belfast Agreement also known as the Good Friday Agreement or Good Friday Accords was reached in 1998 together with subsequent agreements and legislation effectively ended the insurgency led by Catholics pushing to unite the island of Ireland into a single country.

Northern Ireland is much less racially and ethnically diverse than the rest of Ireland (although like the Republic of Ireland. most of its non-native Irish population has arrived only recently). It is only slightly more Protestant than Catholic, and has strong geographic differentiation in terms of religious affiliation. Per Wikipedia:

The population of Northern Ireland has risen yearly since 1978. The population in 2011 was 1.8 million, having grown 7.5% over the previous decade from just under 1.7 million in 2001. This constitutes just under 3% of the population of the UK (62 million) and just over 28% of the population of the island of Ireland (6.3 million). The population density is 132 inhabitants / km2. Most of the population of Northern Ireland lives concentrated in its five largest cities: Belfast (capital), Derry, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Bangor.

The population of Northern Ireland is almost entirely white (98.2%). In 2011, 88.8% of the population were born in Northern Ireland, with 4.5% born elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and 2.9% born in the Republic of Ireland. 4.3% were born elsewhere; triple the amount there were in 2001. Most are from Eastern Europe. The largest non-white ethnic groups were Chinese (6,300) and Indian (6,200). Black people of various origins made up 0.2% of the 2011 population and people of mixed ethnicity also made up 0.2%.

At the 2011 census, 41.5% of the population identified as Protestant/non-Roman Catholic Christian, 41% as Roman Catholic, and 0.8% as non-Christian, while 17% identified with no religion or did not state one. The biggest of the Protestant/non-Roman Catholic Christian denominations were the Presbyterian Church (19%), the Church of Ireland (14%) and the Methodist Church (3%). In terms of community background (i.e. religion or religion brought up in), 48% of the population came from a Protestant background, 45% from a Catholic background, 0.9% from non-Christian backgrounds, and 5.6% from non-religious backgrounds.

Data point: at the time the Irish Republic was declared, only 5% of the land in Ireland was owned by Irish people.

Data point: the Irish potato famine a.k.a. the Great Famine (1845-1849) led to a million deaths and a million and a half emigrants from Ireland with Ireland's population not yet restored to pre-famine levels. When aid started to arrive, in the form of meager porridge from India, Irish people had to work for it by building "pity walls" on mountains made out of rock that served absolutely no purpose for a penny a week and one meal of porridge a day. Food was shipped out of Ireland by British landlords while people starved to death. Rural Ireland is full of famine houses, abandoned or ruined little cottages whose inhabitants died or emigrated leaving their homes behind. Whole counties in Western Ireland were heavily depopulated, with government promotional programs in the last four or five decades finally repopulating them, largely as vacation cottage spots. 

Ireland's population continued to decline after the famine to a low in the 1931 census of 4.21 million (including Northern Ireland), after the famine, mostly due to emigration driven by economic factors from a mostly rural country to other indusrializing countries. This was roughly a 50% decline from Ireland's true peak population which it probably reached in 1844 to 1931.

Ireland’s population was estimated to be 5.01 million in April 2021, which is the first time the population has risen above 5 million since the 1851 census, when the comparable population was 5.11 million . . .

The total population on the island of Ireland in 1851 was 6.6 million. Including today’s Northern Ireland population of 1.89 million, the island now has 6.9 million people.
As of 2021, the island of Ireland had still not recovered to its 1841 census pre-potato famine population of 8.2 million (according to the census, but the actual figure may be nearer 8.5 million), let alone its actual peak population in 1844.

The projected peak population for the island of Ireland as a whole is about 8.6-8.8 million (very close to the 1844 peak, which it may or may not ever reach), in about 2070, and its population is predicted to more or less level off with only the slightest growth after 2050, although predicting migration and fertility trends in this long timeframe is more art than science.

* Resentment in Scotland towards England is apparently not as great as the United Kingdom was formed first by the personal union of monarchs from 1603 (under King James VI of Scotland a.k.a. King James I of England) followed by a federal style merger of governments approved by the Scottish and English parliaments in 1706-1707, rather than by conquest and it has much more government autonomy in generally applicable legislation and its judicial system than Wales does, and more than Ireland had when it was ruled by England. Scotland is also less culturally distinct from England than Ireland or Wales, although it certainly has many distinctions.

On the other hand, Scottish sentiment towards independence was in the last referendum in 2014 when 44.7% of votes cast were for independence with 84.6% voter turnout (even though the franchise was expanded down to sixteen year olds) and to E.U. and Commonwealth citizens residing there who were not U.K. citizens, in a pre-Brexit vote where a desire to stay in the E.U. was a major force for the independence vote. Of course, an independence vote wouldn't have been the end of the story because the terms of a split are much less obvious than the terms of a merger of countries.

* Ireland and Northern Ireland, after a long period of free immigration (including all of the U.K.'s E.U. membership pre-Brexit and under treaties before then), and no real language barriers, is very well sorted. People who want to be in the Republican of Ireland live there. People who want to live in Northern Ireland live there. There is little pent up demand to relocate from one to the other.

* The Anglican Church was disestablished in Wales in 1916, and Wales historically had favored non-Anglican, non-Catholic churches, typically with decentralized organization, especially Methodists. The Anglican Church is likewise not the established church of Scotland.

* Only about 8% of people in the U.K. attend religious services at least weekly, and Muslim immigrants and Christian immigrants make up a disproportionate share of this 8%, even though the England has an established church.

* One Irish national treasure which we saw (at the Trinity College Old Library) is the Book of Kells, an ornately illustrated version of the four Gospels in Latin from the 800s, around the time Colorado has the last drought as severe as its current one. The re-Christianization of Europe after the fall of Roman was commenced in Ireland and is associated with Saint Patrick. Monks were a major source of European influence on Ireland prior to the Normans.

* Ireland had bears in the Mesolithic era that early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers there killed off.

* Galway, Ireland was a trading post originally run by fourteen Norman clans known as tribes that assimilated many locals until they were "more Irish than the Irish", trading with France and Spain, for example, from a fortified city.

* In Ireland, the vast majority of structures, from buildings to fences, are made of stone or metal or concrete. Wood has, at least historically been very scarce, partially due to Viking raids that used available trees as lumber for their boats until it was gone, and partially due to poor soil and/or weather conditions for forests. Most deciduous trees are protected by law, although there are some small, recent, intentionally grown pine forests that do well in acidic soils and grow quickly.

* Ireland is served quite comprehensively by transit, mostly well utilized double decker buses with heavy use even in small towns and suburbs, and an intercity rail system in railcars that runs trains many times a day on each route, with passenger cars similar to Denver's commuter rail lines (but with diesel engines) without checked luggage, cabins or food and drink service, and speeds roughly identical to travel by its biggest highways (about 52 miles per hour including time spent at stops on the line from Dublin to Galway, for example, with a peak speed of 100 miles per hjour), and very reasonable prices (equivalent to about $20 U.S. per person for a 130 mile trip, with an average of one stop roughly every 9 miles, for example). There is an addition surface tramline in Dublin on a small number of routes with cars more suited to getting people quickly on and off. Most cities have pedestrian only districts, are bike friendly, and are designed for lots of walking. Alcohol is prohibited on all forms of public transit and in transit stations. A single monopoly firm created in 1987 provides all freight and passenger service in Ireland, although it was divided into an infrastructure company and a rolling stock operations company in 2013 and private companies are permitted in theory to operate competing rolling stock operations (and perhaps some do in the freight market now).

For comparison (from a previous post at this blog):

For example, an Amtrak trip from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado [243 miles by interstate highway] takes 7 hours and 52 minutes. Taking a Greyhound bus would take 4 hours and 20 minutes. The price for a one way trip with no special discounts is identical for Amtrak and Greyhound. Driving a car that 245 miles from rail station to rail station would take 3 hours and 55 minutes, according to Map Quest.

The only high speed intercity passenger rail system in the United States right now, is Amtrak's Acela Express service from Washington D.C. to Boston, along the Northeast corridor (the only part of Amtrak that makes an operating profit) on rail lines dedicated to passenger service. Outside the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak shares rail lines with the freight rail system which owns and maintains the lines.

A trip for the entire length of the Acela line takes six and a half hours (an average of 69 miles an hour with peak speeds of 150 miles per hour) and serves sixteen stops. The roughly 450 mile trip would take about 7 hours, 50 minutes to traverse by car (an average of about 58 miles an hour mostly on urban interstates).

Irish Rail ticket prices are similar to historical Colorado Department of Transportation FLEX and FREX intercity bus service. It is about 45% of Amtrak and Greyhound bus service for similar distances outside the Northeast Corridor at significantly slower speeds (although the dollar is currently exceptionally strong via the Euro and it would probably average closer to 50%), even though Irish rail is similar to Acela service in average speed, a U.S. service which is considerably more expensive (which is still much slower than high speed rail lines in Continental Europe, Japan and China). Also, Ireland's fastest combinations of highways for trips comparable to these rail trips are about 10-15% slower than travel by road in U.S. Also essentially all domestic trips one can take in Ireland are too short for commercial air travel to be competitive with cars, buses, and rail, because air travel has more fixed per trip time of getting to the airport, going through security, boarding, deplaning, and getting from the airport to your destination - it has no truly long haul domestic trips, and international trips must involve either a ferry ride of at least two and a half hours at 23-46 miles per hour, or air travel.

As a reference point, Ireland has a similar population density to Indiana, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee (#16-#20 among U.S states). Wales has about a similar population density to Ohio and California (#10-#11 among U.S. states). England has a similar population density to Connecticut (#4 among U.S. states). Colorado ($37 among U.S. states), which is similar in land area and dimensions to Ireland has about a third of Ireland's population density. Here is a map of population density as of 2011 in Ireland and Great Britain (via Wikipedia scale is in people per square km):

* Public transit (mostly double decker buses) is also heavily used in Wales, with small towns and rural areas full of bus stops even in front of farmer's fields or isolated cottages.

* We have used almost every means of transportation on our trip: walking, pony trap, small ferry boat, gigantic roll on-roll off ferry, public city double decker bus, tour bus, airport shuttle, intercity Irish rail, commercial airliner, rental car (including via a lengthy underwater tunnel), London taxi, elevators, and escalators. We will also use the London Underground, moving sidewalks, and a London commuter rail service before we leave. We saw in use, but didn't use ourselves on  this trip: horse riding, blimps, helicopters, two wheeled electric lime scooters, handicapped transit scooters, human-powered tricycle taxis, bicycles, motorcycles, and Vespa-style scooters.

* Gasoline in Ireland and the U.K. costs about twice what it does in the U.S. (equivalent to about $8 per gallon). In the U.K. the main kinds of gasoline are E-10 (95 octane) and E-5 (99 octane). Gas taxes are high and are a percentage so they go up automatically when prices rise. Rental cars are scarce in the U.K. Most rental cars are manual transmission as are 85% of personal motor vehicles in Europe (although that percentage is falling).

* Potholes are rare in both countries where roads tend to be in good repair. Both countries have narrower roads than they U.S., especially the U.K. Roundabouts are more common than stoplights (rare roundabouts have stoplights of their own). You have to be 30 years old to rent a car at most places in the U.K.

* The first significant intercity road built in England and Wales after the fall of the Roman Empire was built in 1801 (by a Scottish engineer).

* Tipping is rare and modest in both countries where people are paid a regular decent wage and not the U.S. $2ish minimum wage for tipped employees, but some places have mandatory "service fees" of up to 12.5%.

* The value added tax in both countries is quite high but invisible since prices are quoted post-tax.

* The lack of a tip and additional sales tax makes quoted prices for Euros and British pounds more comparable to U.S. prices than you'd expect, also given the very strong dollar when we visited (a Euro was $1.04 U.S.D. and a British pound was $1.22 U.S.D.).

* Ireland has fully converted to metric (except for pints of beer). The U.K. still uses miles in its cars and for distances and speeds on roadsigns.

* Immigration is very quick, low key, and nonchalant in both the Dublin airport and the port for the Irish ferry at Holyhead. But the Dublin airport has a serious staff shortage and is not well run. Almost no one there ever answers their phones at either the airlines or the airport itself. To deal with a luggage problem there we had to call the U.S., where the call was handled from India by a person not familiar with the conditions on the ground, and the airline ticket agents couldn't call the airline baggage handling line. Incidentally, I heard ordinary people conversing in Irish Gaelic in the luggage area (this is also popular with Irish students visiting abroad to afford them privacy). 

* Many places in Ireland and the U.K. have regular sized USB charging ports (as opposed to micro-USB or USB-C) in addition to, or instead of, regular electrical outlets (of the G-type).

* A lot of water and space heating in Ireland and the U.K. is electric, rather than natural gas or heating oil based.

* Ireland generates about 48% with natural gas (96% imported by pipeline from Scotland that is part of a European network), about 14% from coal, about 7% from local peat, and the balance from renewables and other local biofuels. In England and Wales, most renewables are from giant industrial wind turbines both off shore and on land, serving utilities. In Ireland, lots of renewables are grass roots operations serving a home or business or farm.

* The Irish invented whiskey (a term that is derived from a mispronunciation of its Irish Gaelic name). Irish monks brought distillation technology from Moorish Spain. Initially it was used for "pot liquor" involving distillation of barley alone. What makes this grain alcohol into whiskey (from which you must remove the methanol produced first in the distillation process) and gives it its brownish color, is aging in barrels. Bourbon is made with never before used oak barrels in most cases. Whiskey is often made in bourbon barrels, but wine casks or sherry casks are sometimes used instead with a different color or taste. Three years of aging is the minimum for Scotland, three years and a day (to one up Scotland) is the minimum for Irish Whiskey, and more aging is used for premium whiskeys. Malted grains were originally used. Blended whiskeys were developed in response to taxes targeted at pure malted grains. Irish whiskey was originally made with three rounds of labor intensive small batch distillation, and efforts to make it with a mass produced continuously distillation process resulted in lawsuits declaring that product fraudulent to describe as whiskey until parliament legislatively redefined whiskey to allow it.

In the late 1800s, there was a whiskey (and beer brewing) boom in Ireland with hundred of small distilleries in the 1890s. But faced with cheaper Scottish mass production, a trade war with England, and prohibition in the U.S. in the 1930s, the industry collapsed to just five Irish distilleries that were united in a loose conglomerate. Bushnell's the dominant Northern Irish Whiskey was founded by a woman. Irish Whiskey recovered with the popularization of Irish Whiskey, served in Irish Coffee, a custom drink for airmen and travelers crossing the Atlantic to and from Europe invented at an airbase in Western Ireland in the 1950s, popularized it and Jamisons was chosen at the brand to market to lead the resurgence, mostly because of its distinctive logo and green bottle. None of the five historic Irish Whisky brands are now owned by Irish people. Jose Cuervo owns one. Another is owned by a Japanese company. Another is owned by a French company. Telling is the largest Irish owned Irish whisky brand.

* Hard cider (of many varieties) is almost as popular as beer in Ireland with beer bought disproportionately by men (and Guinness by far the most popular kind), and cider disproportionately preferred by their female companions, rather than hard seltzers or wine.

* Trinity College is the sole college of the University of Dublin, founded by Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570s with an intent to be home to many colleges like Oxford and Cambridge, that never materialized. The typical undergraduate degree there is a 3 year degree, as in England. Law, dentistry and medicine are all undergraduate degrees although dentistry and medicine take longer (six years if I recall correctly).

* Ireland's population is rapidly becoming more diverse due to immigration. Currently, more than 17% of the population is foreign born (higher in Dublin, lower elsewhere), with 46% of the foreign born residents having lived in Ireland less than five years. The range of places of origin for its immigrant populations is quite diverse since it is not dominated by past colonial ties. Facially, there is less racial and ethnic discrimination in Ireland than in England or the United States, in part, perhaps, due to a lack of history of bad relations, and in part, perhaps due to an Irish self-identity as an oppressed people themselves.

* Wales is also more ethnically diverse than you might expect, mostly spillover from the mix of immigrants found in greater London, despite a large share of the population having lived there for many generations.

* Rural areas in Ireland and Wales tend to be made up of dense small towns, with lots of townhouse development. Wales even has quite attractive mobile home parks (manufactured housing, not RVs).

* Homelessness isn't entirely absent in Ireland or Wales, but eyeballing it, vagrancy is less than 5% of U.S. levels. The government in both places provides housing for all.

* Ireland invests a lot in youth sports. Gaelic sports are run by a national non-profit (the GAA for Gaelic Athletics Association or something similar) that shares all of its profits from its national events with local Gaelic sports non-profits.

* Ireland and Wales both have far fewer chain businesses and big businesses than the U.S. for reasons that aren't entirely clear. There may be legally or regulatory differences, and/or, particularly in Ireland, the fact that there were so few Irish natives at the time of independence with significant net worths to invest in big businesses and an initially ill developed capital market (it is much more mature now) could be factors. I don't know if there are tax or regulatory factors discouraging direct investment in Irish enterprises to prefer local small businesses, although its European Union membership significant limits what it can do in that regard.

* Farms in Ireland are quite small relative to U.S. farms. Cattle and sheep herds per farmer are tiny. Much of the country isn't suitable to grow crops. Fishing is mostly focused on shell fish, lobsters and crabs, although some fish are also harvested.

* Dublin has the feel of a very large small town, even though it is a major metropolitan area, in large part because it has so few high rises even though it has huge sprawls of mid-rise development and fairly high residential density.

* Ireland has a shortage of skilled tradespeople as it faces a current construction boom.

* Sentiment in favor of Ukraine is very strong in Wales where Ukrainian flags are often seen and public sites light their buildings in Ukrainian flags oftentimes. In Ireland, it is even stronger. Ireland was at the forefront of welcoming Ukrainian refugees and I saw several hotels that had shut down regular operations to provide housing to Ukrainian refugees in individual acts of charity.

* Unlike Ireland which is short of trees, Wales is heavily forested. At one point it was depleted for use a lumber, although never that completely, but the English established conservation programs before it was cool for trees in Wales with an intent to build a stockpile for ship construction for military purposes when ships were still made of steel.

* The first major road project in England and Wales since the Romans was in 1801, to build a road by which Irish and Welsh MPs could travel to parliament. A Scottish engineer was hired.

* Government officials in both Ireland and Wales are very earnest although not particularly effectual, and big on propagandistic public service announcements and P.R. campaigns. We were interviewed by an Irish tourism agency official for an in depth survey of our experience before we left.

* Despite its historical reputation as a less affluent country, the Republic of Ireland has a GDP per capita of about 1/3rd more than the U.S., 6th in the world behind only Liechtenstein, Monaco, Luxembourg, Bermuda and Switzerland, at $85,268 per year per capita by World Bank measures, compared to $63,414 per year per capita for the U.S. (the U.N. also ranks it behind the Cayman Islands). It is the only decent sized country other than Switzerland to do so. The World Bank puts the U.K. at less than half its per capita GDP at $41,125 per year per capita. This defies a lot of common sense about what makes a national economy strong. Adjustments for purchasing power parity don't change the rankings or relative amounts much in these comparison. But, much of this is due to distortions associated with being tax havens of which Ireland is to a significant extent. Indeed:

In 2017, Ireland's economic data became so distorted by U.S. multinational tax avoidance strategies (see leprechaun economics), also known as BEPS actions, that Ireland effectively abandoned GDP (and GNP) statistics as credible measures of its economy, and created a replacement statistic called modified gross national income (or GNI*). Ireland is one of the world's largest corporate tax havens.

This inflates Ireland's GDP by about 62% (its modified figure is about 38% lower in a method that makes the modified calculation and GDP the same for a pool of 28 other countries of the E.U., i.e. $52,886). But, even with that adjustment Ireland is still stronger economically per capita than the U.K. and is only 17% lower than the U.S. as a whole (similar to Michigan relative to the U.S. as a whole).

Updated in various parts on May 16, 2022.

06 May 2022

The Artillery War In Ukraine

The canon artillery (i.e. howitzers) of the Russian forces in the Ukraine war have been its characteristic tactic. 
Though the gains have been modest, they are emblematic of both the Ukrainian and Russian strategy as the war drags into its third month: a slow moving grind that focuses on one village at a time and relies primarily on drones and concentrated fire with artillery.

These weapons, capable of lobbing munitions from outside the direct line of sight of opposing forces, are now the central component of the war following the Russian defeat around Kyiv, where long columns of troops and tanks were visible targets vulnerable to ambush. Without them, Ukrainian and Russian units cannot advance nor can they really defend.

The back and forth maneuvering is playing out across Ukraine’s east — both as Russian forces advance in the Donbas region, and as Ukrainian forces try to force Russian artillery units out of range of Kharkiv, a sprawling city 25 miles from the Russian border.
“This is a war of position, a war of artillery,” said Kostyantyn, the [interviewed Ukrainian army] major[.]
This dynamic has played out for days in Ruska Lozova. The town, just north of Kharkiv, was declared liberated by the Ukrainian military late last month, though the fleeing enemy soldiers have been replaced by incoming artillery shells, and terrified residents continue to evacuate.

Russian drones, namely the small Orlan 10, which sounds like a lawn mower, have proven to be a lethal, loitering presence. The drone’s ability to identify Ukrainian positions for Russian artillery batteries has meant that every foot of gained ground around Kharkiv is met with heavy shelling. . . .

Ruska Lozova was declared liberated on the 28th. The Russian retreat, by all accounts, was relatively orderly. During that time frame, Kostyantyn said, there was a “rifle battle” around the town between Ukrainian and Russian troops, an uncommon occurrence during this stage in the war, which had mostly featured artillery, rocket and mortar fire. . . .
in this chapter of the artillery war . . . the frontline isn’t so much defined by trenches, but the range of the guns on either side.
From the New York Times.

Slug throwing artillery can inflict damage from beyond the range of man portable anti-tank weapons like the U.S. supplied Javelin missiles (and the main guns of tanks), but unlike guided missiles, canon artillery is indiscriminate because it is so much less accurate. 

Howitzers are well suited to scourging enemy cities to punish them and make people flee them. But canon artillery is poorly suited to hitting specific targets without causing undue collateral damage.

From the perspective of a defending force, dealing with enemy artillery units, which are sometimes sometimes mounted on truck or tank-like vehicles, and are sometimes towed behind a military vehicle, is a priority, but difficult. 

Ukrainian forces in the current war don't have a consistently effective solution, but keeping future wars where this tactic could recur in mind, it is worth considering all of the possibilities more closely.

Degrading Intelligence

One approach when faced with enemy artillery is to degrade their ability to target your forces, for example, with camouflaged positions, by patrolling to kill enemy spies, and by finding ways to take out enemy reconnaissance drones, which since they need only carry a camera and a radio, can be quite small.  

Destroying Enemy Artillery

There are basically five possible approaches to taking out enemy artillery.

First, the U.S., in its modern military engagements, has secured air superiority, and then taken out tanks and artillery units with attack helicopters and fighter aircraft. But, where the air space is contested and the opponents have anti-aircraft missiles, this approach is less viable.

Second, another approach is to use aerial armed drones to attack them. Loitering munitions, sometimes called "suicide drones" are one example of this approach. For example, the AeroVironment Switchblade 600 (a smaller Model 300 version of which is shown in the image below with a commercial grade compressed air tank used to launch it) can stay in the air for 40 minutes and has a target range of 40 km, and the Ukraine variant created by the U.S. Air Force called the "Phoenix Ghost" drone can hover for almost six hours and can destroy a medium to small armored ground target. It uses essentially the same warhead used in the Javelin Antitank Guided Missile with a cost of about $6,000 per missile, and doesn't need a large separate missile launching system. An anti-personnel version has been used in real world engagements since 2013, and the anti-armor version just started to be fielded in 2021.

A third approach is to counterattack with your own canon artillery, but because howitzers can be moved quickly and because howitzers aren't very accurate, this grinding war of attrition approach causes lots of collateral damage and takes many attempts to be successful.

A fourth approach would be to use missiles with longer range and greater precision than howitzers, aided by drone, satellite, or airborne targeting intelligence, to target and eliminate enemy howitzers. In the U.S. arsenal, there are multi-rocket launcher systems (MLRS), that come in a lighter, unarmored HIMARS system, and a heavier armored version derived from the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle chassis, to serve that role.

The last two approaches have apparently been predominant in Ukraine so far. According to the New York Times article linked above:
[There] was a duel between weapons like multiple launch rocket systems, some with ranges of roughly 20 miles; howitzers, with a range of around 13 miles and heavier mortars, capable of lobbing shells around five miles.
A fifth approach is to get soldiers "behind enemy lines" (to the extent that this is a concept that really makes sense in modern warfare) with some sort of anti-tank weapon and directly strike the artillery unit.

Defending Against Artillery Shells

There are basically two approaches to defending against artillery.

Passive Defenses Against Artillery Shells

One defense approach is passive defense. Put people and critical equipment in bunkers, or in trenches, or armored vehicles that are capable of withstanding a hit from a 155mm howitzer shell. 

Only the heaviest armor, however, metal armor on the order of 30 cm thick or thicker concrete or earthen walls, is strong enough. And, any bunker or armored vehicle capable of withstanding an artillery shell is either immobile or slow moving, and can still be defeated by an only modestly larger missile or bomb.

Heavy armor or a bunker can also be enhanced with steel "cages" around an armored vehicle that are intended to break up an incoming shell before it hits the main armor to diffuse the impact.

Heavy armor can also be enhanced by "reactive armor" that is triggered and produces a counter-explosion that pushes back on the incoming shell to reduce the amount of kinetic and explosive energy from the incoming shell that the solid passive armor has to sustain. Obviously, however, this loses effectiveness and has to be replenished after each incoming impact the armored surface sustains, but that beats having the armor compromised and defeated by the incoming shell.

Passive defenses can't defend large vehicles or buildings outside the bunker, however, and only work if people get reach the protected area before the howitzer shell hits, which is possible in a sustained attack, but not in the case of the first few rounds of a surprise attack, which leave less than a minute of warning even if you have excellent early warning systems in place.

Active Defenses Against Artillery Shells

The other defense approach is active point defense. Systems that can target and destroy incoming artillery shells are just starting to become technologically viable. And, artillery shells are fairly slow moving (compared to directly fired bullets, tank rounds, or missiles), travel in very predictable unguided paths, and are much larger targets than bullets. 

In the case of artillery shells, electronic defenses designed to thwart missile guidance systems don't work. But there are basically several other active defense approaches. 

One is to use high energy lasers to target incoming shells and cause them to explode prematurely before hitting the defended area. These systems are just starting to cross over from being experimental to being fielded in the last couple of years, and aren't widely available nor are they proven in actual warfare yeet.

A second which is based on the Navy's Phalanx Close In Weapons System, is to shoot a barrage of bullets or grenades in the general direction of the income artillery shell in the hope of hitting it and causing it to explode prematurely before hitting the defended area. This has been used for larger naval ships for a long time, but while it is proven technology, is a much more recent development as a point defense tool for ground forces engaging in point defense.

A third is to have what amounts to a glorified AI targeted sniper rifle or grenade launcher track and shoot an incoming artillery shell with a single round. This is mostly in the near future technology zone, rather than something that is available in a production model.

A fourth is to have a surface to air missile that can take on an artillery shell rather than a missile or aircraft. This is at least as hard or harder than missile defense, however, and is a very expensive (tens of thousands of dollars per missile) way to respond to artillery shells that cost $500 to $1,500 each for your opponent to buy.

Finally, one could, in a variation of reactive armor, have explosive shrapnel set off by a simple motion detector when a fast moving incoming object gets very close, in the immediate vicinity of the incoming object. This is similar to the close in weapons system approach, but like steel cages, is likely to only blunt the impact of the incoming shell and diffuse it somewhat, rather than reducing the threat to bullet sized shrapnel from prematurely exploded shells in random directions.

All of the active point defense system are likely to leave the place defended facing incoming shrapnel from the prematurely exploded artillery shell. But this can be dealt with using lighter armor or defenses, sufficient merely to be "bullet proof" rather than the kind of protection needed to protect against the concentrated strike of a single intact artillery round. In practice, this means that flak jackets and helmets, armored car class armor, ordinary concrete, stone or metal walls, and kevlar tarps, for example, might suffice. And this kind of cover is something that a person might be able to reach with only ten or twenty seconds of early warning.