Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones' San Francisco (not Frisco) office. Reach him at dgilson@motherjones.com. Follow him on Twitter or read more of his stories.

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The United States of Online Dating

| Thu Jun. 2, 2011 4:45 PM EDT

Last year, an artist named R. Luke Dubois joined 20 online dating sites, not in search of love, but data. After sampling more than 19 million profiles, he created "A More Perfect Union," an atlas that remaps America based on how we digitally describe ourselves to potential partners. In this new nation, where place names are dictated by the aggregation of proclivities and personalites, New York has become Now. Chicago is Always. Los Angeles is Acting. Las Vegas is Strip. Richmond, Virginia is Tobacco. St. Petersburg, Flordia is Dieting. Anchorage is Outdoorsy. Omaha is Steak. San Francisco is Gay.

Look closely at the maps and you'll discover more previously uncharted communities. Zooming in on the San Francisco Bay Area reveals new towns and neighborhoods: North Beach and Chinatown are Folksy; Potrero Hill is Silkscreen; the Outer Richmond is Subconcious. Oakland is Hyperactive. Sausalito is Transsexual. The area near San Quentin is Bratty. Surrounded by locales with names like Dateable, Lucious, Unmitigated, and Kitten, the quiet delta burg of Crockett sighs: Whew.

Find your new hometown here.

(h/t Flowing Data)

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Remembering America's Soldiers…With Charts

| Mon May 30, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

How long should you spend commemorating Memorial Day? It can be accomplished in just 60 seconds if you follow a 2000 presidential memo from Bill Clinton that encouraged Americans "to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all." That comes out to 0.0000446 seconds of reflection for each of the approximately 1.3 million Americans who have died in uniform since the earliest days of the republic (according to Wikipedia).

If you have some more time, check out these charts about those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Let's start with a quick review of the biggest conflicts in American history:

Of course, not all Americans who gave all were participants in such memorable campaigns. This list of historic Marine and Navy casualties reminds us that hundreds perished in all but forgotten engagements with Chinese "bandits," Japanese feudal warlords, and even illegal booze makers in Brooklyn. And pirates:

Being a soldier has always been a dangerous job, but fighting on the frontlines has gotten statistically safer. In the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of all casualties are deaths on the battlefield.

A major reason why more soldiers are surviving modern combat is the vast improvement in battlefield medicine (germ theory, antibiotics, medevacs, etc.). If you were wounded in the Civil War, your chances of survival were worse than a coin flip. Compare that with Iraq and Afghanistan, where a wounded soldier's chance of survival are about 85 percent.

Though still relatively low by historical standards, casualty rates are on the rise in Afghanistan as more troops have surged into the country. Meanwhile, the casualty rates have dropped significantly in Iraq as more troops have left (often for Afghanistan).

Not all wartime deaths occur in combat. A look at the top causes of death for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that while IEDs and other weapons have taken the heaviest toll, more mundane incidents such as car crashes are also a risk.

And with that in mind, stay safe out there on this Memorial Day.


Major wars: Dept. of Defense (PDF)
Pirates: US Navy Naval History & Heritage Command
Combat deaths: Dept. of Defense (PDF, PDF, PDF, PDF)
Survival rates: Congressional Resarch Service (PDF), Dept. of Defense (PDF, PDF, PDF)
Iraq/Afghanistan: Congressional Resarch Service (PDF), Dept. of Defense (PDF, PDF, PDF)
Causes of death: Dept. of Defense (PDF)

Area 51 and Roswell: The Craziest Theory Yet

| Thu May 19, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Area 51, Annie Jacobsen's new exposé of the military's so-secret-it-doesn't-exist base in the Nevada desert, is a very odd book. On the one hand, much of it is a sane, grounded history of the installation's key role in Cold War nuclear testing and spy-plane R&D, full of previously undisclosed information based on declassified records and dozens of interviews with people who worked there. It's a refreshing antidote to the popular idea, promoted by ufologists and screenwriters, that Area 51 is part of a massive cover-up involving alien autopsies and the reverse engineering of interstellar spacecraft. Those associations are understandable, Jacobsen explains: Area 51 launched its fair share of unidentified flying objects over the years; after all, it was in the business of developing flying objects no one (especially the Soviets) could identify.   

Jacobsen sticks to that sensible course for about 90 percent of the book. But the other 10 percent—the parts that are already getting attention in places like NPR's Fresh Air and The Daily Show—are kind of, well, nuts. Things get weird when she links Area 51 to the Roswell incident, the legendary crash of some kind of flying object in New Mexico in the summer of 1947. Jacobsen says the remains and debris from the crash were eventually brought to Area 51, where they were studied by one of her sources.

Based on this single, unidentified source, she spins a truly amazing tale of what really happened in Roswell. The crash didn't involve a weather balloon, as the Air Force insisted, or a UFO. Rather, it was a super-duper-hi-tech remote-control stealth Soviet flying saucer developed at Stalin's behest, designed by a couple of ex-Luftwaffe aeronautical-whiz brothers, and manned by "child-size aviators." These diminutive fliers appeared to be 13 years old and had oversized heads and "haunting, oversize eyes." But they weren't little gray men; they were "biologically and/or surgically reengineered children" created by…fugitive Nazi doctor Josef Mengele! The crash, reasons Jacobsen, was staged as part of a Kremlin plot to send Americans into a fit of UFO-induced hysteria.

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