Wheels on Mars: New Curiosity Rover Has Big Tracks to Fill

Wheels on Mars: New Curiosity Rover Has Big Tracks to Fill

by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 25 November 2011 Time: 07:00 AM ET

When the Curiosity rover touches down on the surface of Mars in August 2012, it will be the fourth rover to make tracks across the Red Planet in fifteen years.

Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory, is slated to launch into space on Saturday (Nov. 26) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

It will then begin an 8 1/2-month journey to Mars, before it sets down in the huge Gale crater. There, it will dig, drill and analyze rocks, searching for signs that the planet is or was habitable.

While NASA’s newest rover will be different in many ways from its fellow travelers, it also bears a number of similarities. [Photos: Last Look at Curiosity Rover]

Sojourner: the first of many

When Sojourner landed on July 4, 1997, it became the first robotic rover to explore another planet. Part of the Mars Pathfinder mission, which was itself part of NASA’s Discovery program, Sojourner was intended to be a fast and inexpensive project to explore the Martian surface.

At just over 2 feet (65 centimeters) long, 1.5 feet (48 cm) wide, and less than a foot (30 cm) tall, Sojourner wasn’t large in stature.

Mars "Sojourner" rover.
Mars “Sojourner” rover.

The rover’s six wheels slowly inched across the surface, and it took its power from the sun. Sojourner’s analyses of the surface rocks of the Red Planet paved the way for future Mars exploration.

Sojourner’s three cameras — two black and white in front, and one color camera in back — and a spectrometer helped scientists on Earth gain a better understanding of Mars. Over 17,000 images and more than 15 chemical analyses of Martian rocks and soil were beamed back to Earth, along with data about winds and weather, and hints of water in Mars’ ancient history. [The Best (And Worst) Mars Landings In History]

Sojourner returned information for almost three months, well beyond its planned operational lifetime of seven days.

“Sojourner did amazing things,” Brian Cooper, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told SPACE.com.

When he piloted Sojourner, Cooper became the first person to drive a robotic vehicle on the surface of another planet. Cooper has helped design software for all four Mars rovers, piloted the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, and is slated to steer Curiosity when it reaches the Red Planet.

NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are set to mark the passage of a big milestone – seven years on the surface of Mars.

Spirit and Opportunity: twin explorers

When the Mars Exploration program decided to send the next robot to Mars, two rovers were launched instead of one. Landing on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004, Spirit and Opportunity carried identical tools into different regions.

While better technology usually means components get smaller, Spirit and Opportunity were both larger than Sojourner. At 5.2 feet (1.6 meters) long, 7.5 feet (2.3 m) wide, and 5 feet (1.5 m) high, they literally towered over their predecessor.

Like Sojourner, the rovers were equipped with six wheels for maximum stability across the uneven surface of Mars. They, too, have multiple cameras — a panoramic camera for wide images, and a navigational camera to help them steer.

A robotic arm, which can be moved to analyze specific samples, contains several instruments. A microscopic imager provides high-resolution images of the soil and rocks on the surface. A rock abrasion tool allows the robot pair to scrape surface dirt from rocks, and various spectrometers allow scientists at home to analyze what the rocks are made of.

Usually as technology progresses, things get more compact. Not so with the Mars rovers, which have grown larger. The wheels, from left to right, come from Sojourner, one of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, and Curiosity.

Spirit and Opportunity were equipped with solar panels for power. Scientists expected dust dropped from storms to cover the panels and reduce the available amount of power. But, the winds of Mars helped remove the dust, which lengthened the missions of both rovers.

After three years on the Red Planet, one of Spirit’s wheels stopped working. Spirit continued to hobble along on five wheels, but in June 2009, the rover became stuck in a patch of fine material, and a second wheel gave out.

Spirit continued to explore the area around it until it stopped sending signals in March 2010. Mission controllers hoped the rover would come out of hibernation after the harsh Martian winter, but all subsequent efforts to revive Spirit failed. In six and a half years, Spirit explored about 5 miles (7.73 km) of Mars’ surface.

On the other side of the planet, Opportunity continues to trundle on, almost eight years after touching down. Along with data about the surface, Opportunity discovered the firstmeteorite found on another planet. Currently, the rover has traveled more than 20 miles (34 km), and is still going strong.

Curiosity: the next generation

When Curiosity lands, it will be the largest rover yet to visit Mars. At 10 feet (3 m) long —  plus its 6.2 foot (1.9 m) robotic arm — 9 feet (2.7 m) wide, and 7 feet (2.2 m) high, Curiosity makes the twin Spirit and Opportunity vehicles look tiny.

Curiosity’s increased size means it can’t land on the surface using the airbag system that was employed by the previous three Mars rovers. Instead, it will become the first rover to descend with a complex ‘sky crane’ system. [Video: Curiosity Rover’s Peculiar Mars Landing Described]

The next time the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory be in this same configuration — wheels deployed and remote sensing mast and instrument-tipped arm extended — will be after it is deposited on the surface of Mars in August 2012.
The next time the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory be in this same configuration — wheels deployed and remote sensing mast and instrument-tipped arm extended — will be after it is deposited on the surface of Mars in August 2012.
CREDIT: Robert Z. Pearlman/SPACE.com

Similar to the previous rovers, Curiosity boasts six wheels for increased mobility. But due to its unique landing method, the mobility system itself will also function as a landing system, absorbing some of the shock when the rover touches down.

Curiosity’s robotic arm carries an imager, spectrometer, drill that can pick up rock samples for analysis, brush to remove dust from rocks or equipment, and an observation tray.

“We’ve increased the amount of science happening on Curiosity,” Cooper said.

Unlike the previous rovers, which relied on solar power, Curiosity carries a generator powered by a nuclear battery with a lifetime of 14 years. Previous NASA missions, such as the Apollo moon missions, the Viking Mars lander, the twin Voyager space probes, the Cassini spacecraft around Saturn, and the New Horizons probe currently on its way to Pluto, have used a similar power supply.

Curiosity Mars ChemCam

Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument can vaporize rocks from up to 30 feet (9 meters) away with a laser. Three spectrographs will analyze the composition of the vaporized bits.

The Mar rover tool "Curiosity" will perform numerous scientific experiments of the red planet



7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars

7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars

by Charles Q. Choi, SPACE.com Contributor
A photo of Mars from NASA's Viking spacecraft, which launched in 1975.
Credit: The Viking Project/NASA
Mars was known as the “fire star” to ancient Chinese astronomers, and scientists are still burning with questions regarding the Red Planet. Even after dozens of spacecraft have been sent to Mars, much remains unknown about that world. Here are some of the biggest unsolved mysteries we have about Mars.

Why does Mars have two faces?

 This image was acquired by the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera on 17 May 2010 and shows a part of the northern polar region of Mars at the northern hemisphere summer solstice.
Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Scientists have been puzzling over the differences between the two sides of Mars for decades. The northern hemisphere of the planet is smooth and low — it is among the flattest, smoothest places in the solar system, potentially created by water that once flowed across the Martian surface.

Meanwhile, the southern half of the Martian surface is rough and heavily cratered, and about 2.5 miles to 5 miles (4 km to 8 km) higher in elevation than the northern basin. Recent evidence suggests the vast disparity seen between the northern and southern halves of the planet was caused by a giant space rock smacking into Mars long ago.

What is the source of methane on Mars?

Scientists Seek Scent of Life in Methane at Mars
Credit: ESA

Methane — the simplest organic molecule — was first discovered in the Martian atmosphere by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft in 2003. On Earth, much of the atmospheric methane is produced by life, such as cattle digesting food. Methane is suspected to be stable in the Martian atmosphere for only about 300 years, so whatever is generating this gas did so recently.

Still, there are ways to produce methane without life, such as volcanic activity. ESA’s ExoMars spacecraft planned for launch in 2016 will study the chemical composition of Mars’ atmosphere to learn more about this methane.

Does liquid water run on the surface of Mars now?

Signs of possible water on Mars at Newton Crater

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Although large amounts of evidence suggest that liquid water once ran on the surface of Mars, it remains an open question as to whether or not it occasionally flows on the face of the Red Planet now. The planet’s atmospheric pressure is too low, at about 1/100th of Earth’s, for liquid water to last on the surface. However, dark, narrow lines seen on Martian slopes hint that saltwater could be running down them every spring.

Were there oceans on Mars?

Credit: G. Di Achille

Numerous missions to Mars have revealed a host of features on the Red Planet that suggest it was once warm enough for liquid water to run across its surface. These features include what appear to be vast oceans, valley networks, river deltas and minerals that required water to form.

However, current models of early Mars’ climate cannot explain how such warm temperatures could have existed, as the sun was much weaker back then, leading some to ask whether these features might have been created by winds or other mechanisms. Still, there is evidence suggesting that ancient Mars was warm enough to support liquid water in at least one site on its surface. Other findings hint that ancient Mars was once cold and wet, not cold and dry nor warm and wet, as is often argued.

Is there life on Mars?
Rover Report Card: Prospect of Mars Life More Likely

Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

The first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, NASA’s Viking 1, began a mystery that remains tantalizingly unsolved: Is there evidence of life on Mars? Viking represented the first and so far only attempt to search for life on Mars, and its findings are hotly debated today. Viking had detected organic molecules such as methyl chloride and dichloromethane. However, these compounds were dismissed as terrestrial contamination — namely, cleaning fluids used to prepare the spacecraft when it was still on Earth.

The surface of Mars is very hostile to life as we know it, in terms of cold, radiation, hyper-aridity and other factors. Still, there are numerous examples of life surviving in extreme environments on Earth, such as the cold, dry soils of the Antarctic Dry Valleys and the hyper-arid Atacama Desert in Chile.

There is life virtually wherever there is liquid water on Earth, and the possibility that there were once oceans on Mars leads many to wonder if life ever evolved on Mars and, if so, whether it might be extant. Answering these questions might help shed light on how common life may or may not be in the rest of the universe.

Did life on Earth begin on Mars?
Raining Meteorites

Credit: NASA/JPL

Meteorites discovered in Antarctica that came from Mars — blasted off the Red Planet by cosmic impacts — have structures that resemble ones made by microbes on Earth. Although much research since then suggests chemical rather than biological explanations for these structures, the debate continues. These findings do raise the tantalizing possibility that life on Earth actually originated on Mars long ago, carried here on meteorites.
Can humans live on Mars?
Crew training for 'Marswalk' at the simulated martian terrain of the Mars500 experiment. The terrain, about 10 m long and 6 m wide, is covered with reddish sand and is built to resemble the surface at Gusev crater. On the ‘surface’, they conducted simulat

Credit: ESA/IPMB

To answer whether or not life did or does exist on Mars, people might actually have to go there and find out.

NASA’s plan as of 1969 was to have a human Mars mission by 1981 and a permanent Mars base in 1988. However, interplanetary human voyages pose definite scientific and technological challenges. One would have to deal with the rigors of travel — issues of food, water and oxygen, the deleterious effects of microgravity, potential hazards such as fire and radiation and the fact that any such astronauts would be millions of miles away from help and confined together for years at a time. Landing, working, living on another planet and returning from it would offer a host of challenges as well.

Nevertheless, astronauts seem eager to find out. For example, this year six volunteers lived in a pretend spacecraft for nearly a year and a half in the so-called Mars500 project, the longest spaceflight simulation ever conducted, aimed at replicating a manned mission to Mars from beginning to end. There are even numerous volunteers for a one-way trip to the Red Planet. Tiny rock-eating microbes could mine precious extraterrestrial resources from Mars and pave the way for the first human colonists, and farmers could grow crops on its surface. The mystery as to whether or not humans will ever go to Mars may rest largely on whether or not the powers-that-be can be convinced to go there.

NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars

NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars

by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 26 November 2011 Time: 03:19 PM ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — With a picture-perfect launch behind it, NASA’s new Mars rover has begun the long trek to the Red Planet.

The car-size Curiosity rover blasted off today (Nov. 26) at 10:02 a.m. EST (1502 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, and separated from its Atlas 5 rocket right on schedule, about 45 minutes later.

The huge robot — the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission — is now zipping through space, chewing up the 354 million miles (570 million kilometers) between Earth and Mars. The journey will ultimately take 8 1/2 months.

“We are in cruise mode,” said MSL project manager Pete Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “Our spacecraft is in excellent health, and it’s on its way to Mars.” [Video: Curiosity Blasts Off]

A day to celebrate

MSL aims to determine if the Red Planet is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life. The mission began taking shape in 2003 and was originally supposed to launch in 2009, but it couldn’t meet that deadline. The two-year slip helped boost MSL’s overall cost by 56 percent.

The mission’s prior troubles may have made today’s successful launch especially sweet for the MSL team.

“Today’s a great day,” Theisinger said. “Very happy guy.”

However, Theisinger was quick to point out that liftoff is just phase one of a complicated mission that is slated to last a minimum of about two Earth years.

“We all recognize that this is the prologue to the mission — necessary, but not sufficient,” he said. “We all have our work cut out for us in the next 8 1/2 months.”

Preparing for Mars arrival

Curiosity is slated to touch down on Mars in August 2012. But mission team members won’t exactly be putting their feet up during the 1-ton rover’s long cruise.

For example, Curiosity’s spacecraft will make a series of trajectory corrections, with the first coming in about two weeks. The team will also perform an engineering test in the next few weeks, with a check of the rover’s 10 science instruments coming shortly thereafter, Theisinger said.

This artist's concept depicts the Curiosity rover as it is being lowered by a rocket-powered descent stage during a critical moment of the "Sky Crane" landing in 2012.
This artist’s concept depicts the Curiosity rover as it is being lowered by a rocket-powered descent stage during a critical moment of the “Sky Crane” landing in 2012.

Mission scientists will spend the cruise phase preparing for Curiosity’s work on the Martian surface. They’ll stage 10 separate operational readiness tests over the next 8 1/2 months, gauging their ability to recognize and respond to potential issues that may crop up, researchers said.

“You’re basically just kicking the tires and trying to shake it all out,” Caltech’s John Grotzinger, MSL’s project scientist, told SPACE.com.

Curiosity will land at the 100-mile-wide (160-km-wide) Gale Crater. A mound of sediment rises 3 miles (5 km) into the Martian air from Gale’s center. The rover will investigate this mountain’s many layers, scrutinizing the red dirt and rocks for any signs that Martian environments may once have been habitable.

The rover’s landing will likely inspire more nervous hand-wringing than its launch did. A rocket-powered sky crane will lower Curiosity down to the Martian surface on cables, a daring maneuver that has never been tried before.

The MSL team spent a lot of time designing and validating this unprecedented landing system, and they’ll keep working over the next 8 1/2 months to give it the best chance of succeeding.

But today offered the scientists and engineers who brought Curiosity from the drawing room to the launchpad a chance to reflect and exult — at least for a little while.

“Science fiction is now science fact,” said Doug McCuistion, head of NASA’s Mars exploration program. “We’re flying to Mars.”

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

By Annalee Newitz

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

While everybody is getting stoned on turkey and starch this holiday season, you’re hoping to join a secret collective of super-intelligent scientists who will invent faster-than-light travel and cure cancer. We understand. That’s why we’ve put together this list of great science books that came out in the past year — they’re the perfect gifts for people with inquiring minds (including you!).

Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution, by Holly Tucker (W. W. Norton and Co.)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Tucker’s fast-paced, exciting account of the birth of blood transfusions takes us from murder scenes to the bloody halls of sanatoriums during the earliest days of scientific medicine. From the publisher’s description:

On a cold day in 1667, a renegade physician named Jean Denis transfused calf’s blood into one of Paris’s most notorious madmen. In doing so, Denis angered not only the elite scientists who had hoped to perform the first animal-to-human transfusions themselves, but also a host of powerful conservatives who believed that the doctor was toying with forces of nature that he did not understand. Just days after the experiment, the madman was dead, and Denis was framed for murder.

A riveting account of the first blood transfusion experiments in 17th-century Paris and London, Blood Work gives us a vivid glimpse of a particularly fraught period in history—a time of fire and plague, empire building and international distrust, when monsters were believed to inhabit the seas and the boundary between science and superstition was still in flux. Amid this atmosphere of uncertainty, transfusionists like Denis became embroiled in the hottest cultural debates and fiercest political rivalries of their day.

Eruptions that Shook the World, by Clive Oppenheimer (Cambridge University Press)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Entertaining, funny, and downright weird, this book offers a tour through the geological history of one of the planet’s most destructive forces: the volcano. Oppenheimer explains how volcanoes have controlled Earth’s climate, nearly wiped out all multicellular life, shaped ancient empires, and even contributed to the rise of fascism in Europe. Learn about how we study volcanoes, as well as how they’ve affected life on Earth for the past billion years.

Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson (Riverhead)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Johnson, who made you fall in love with him with his previous bookEverything Bad Is Good For You, is back with a terrific, smart debunking of the idea of lonely, individual geniuses. Instead, he suggests, great breakthroughs can come to the humblest of us all. Packed with entertaining stories and fascinating insights from scientists, this book validates the citizen scientists and garage inventors in us all.

Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science, by Marjorie Malley (Oxford University Press)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, many were left wondering how we ever decided that playing around with atomic energy was a good idea. Dense and fascinating, Malley’s story traces the discovery of radioactivity in the late nineteenth century, to the growth of science (including quack science) and industry around the invisible rays that can both injure and heal.

The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind The Vaccine Autism Controversy, by Seth Mnookin (Simon and Schuster)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown


Ever wonder how the rumor got started that immunization shots can cause autism? This book is a fascinating (and sometimes terrifying) answer to that question. From the publisher’s description:

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on . . . In The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is?

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson (Riverhead)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Ronson is the slightly gonzo science journalist who wrote Men Who Stare At Goats (which became a movie), and now he’s back with a scathing, intelligently-written story about what he calls “the madness industry.” From the publisher:

Jon Ronson’s exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world’s top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he’s sane and certainly not a psychopath.

The Information, by James Gleick (Pantheon)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Gleick is the profoundly literary science writer who brought youChaos and Genius. Now he turns to the spirit of the information age, trying to determine where its roots lie in history and what our ultra-dependence on electrified communication networks will do to us as a civilization. Heady and intense, this book will take you into amazing stories from early computer history and toward a future where we pass beyond information overload and into a new way of thinking.

Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, by Carl Zimmer (Sterling)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Usually the author of serious, meaty books about evolution and biology, Zimmer shows us his whimsical side in this coffee table book featuring gorgeous photographs of people who have science tattoos. This book is a nothing short of a love letter to science, and to the people who are so enchanted by it that they’ve marked their bodies with its symbols.

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, by Mara Hvistendahl (PublicAffairs)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

This is a riveting account of how people across the world are using ultrasound and other pre-natal technologies to give birth to far more male babies than female. What’s especially rewarding is that Hvistendahl never reaches for easy answers in her investigation of why this has happened, and what the consequences will be. As a result, you get a nuanced portrait of a world out of balance. From the publisher:

Rampant sex selective abortion has left over 160 million females “missing” from Asia’s population. And gender imbalance reaches far beyond South and East Asia, affecting the Caucasus countries, Eastern Europe, and even some groups in the United States — a rate of diffusion so rapid that the leading expert on the topic compares it to an epidemic. As economic development spurs parents in developing countries to have fewer children and brings them access to sex determination technology, couples are making sure at least one of their children is a son. So many parents now select for boys that they have skewed the sex ratio at birth of the entire world.

Sex selection did not arise on its own. Largely unknown until now is that the sex ratio imbalance is partly the work of a group of 1960s American activists and scientists who zealously backed the use of prenatal technologies in their haste to solve an earlier global problem.

What does this mean for our future? . . . Traveling to nine countries, Mara Hvistendahl has produced a stunning, impeccably researched book that examines not only the consequences of the misbegotten policies underlying sex selection but also the West’s role in creating them.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman (Pantheon)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Neuroscientist Eagleman delves into the parts of our minds that we’re not aware of consciously, and comes up with tons of stories that illuminate how we can be thinking about things without ever being aware of it. From the publisher:

Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Why do you hear your name being mentioned in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? What do Ulysses and the credit crunch have in common? Why did Thomas Edison electrocute an elephant in 1916? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin with J? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? And how is it possible to get angry at yourself-who, exactly, is mad at whom?

Taking in brain damage, plane spotting, dating, drugs, beauty, infidelity, synesthesia, criminal law, artificial intelligence, and visual illusions, Incognito is a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal (Penguin)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Game designer and futurist McGonigal offers us a hopeful look at the future in this incredible analysis of “gamification,” or how our lives are becoming more like videogames — and why that’s a great thing. This is the kind of book that sheds light on the tactics that have succeeded in the Occupy movement, as well as what works in children’s education. Here’s what the publisher has to say:

In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world. Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science, and sociology, Reality Is Brokenuncovers how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy and utilized these discoveries to astonishing effect in virtual environments. Videogames consistently provide the exhilarating rewards, stimulating challenges, and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? Her research suggests that gamers are expert problem solvers and collaborators because they regularly cooperate with other players to overcome daunting virtual challenges, and she helped pioneer a fast-growing genre of games that aims to turn gameplay to socially positive ends.

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá (Harper Perennial)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Psychologists Ryan and Jethá argue that humans are not monogamous, and that’s actually not a bad thing. Here’s the book flap description:

[The authors] debunk almost everything we “know” about sex, weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality to show how far from human nature monogamy really is. In Sex at Dawn, the authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.

If you’ve ever gotten suspicious of how much humans protest that they are “naturally” inclined to form monogamous families, this is the book for you.

The Physics of the Future, by Michiko Kaku (Doubleday)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

Leave it to Kaku to bring us another trippy book about the weirdest edges of science. Half-science, half-speculation, this is a wild trip a century into the future, giving us a glimpse of what tomorrow’s science might bring. From the publisher:

In all likelihood, by 2100 we will control computers via tiny brain sensors and, like magicians, move objects around with the power of our minds. Artificial intelligence will be dispersed throughout the environment, and Internet-enabled contact lenses will allow us to access the world’s information base or conjure up any image we desire in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, cars will drive themselves using GPS, and if room-temperature superconductors are discovered, vehicles will effortlessly fly on a cushion of air, coasting on powerful magnetic fields and ushering in the age of magnetism.

Using molecular medicine, scientists will be able to grow almost every organ of the body and cure genetic diseases. Millions of tiny DNA sensors and nanoparticles patrolling our blood cells will silently scan our bodies for the first sign of illness, while rapid advances in genetic research will enable us to slow down or maybe even reverse the aging process, allowing human life spans to increase dramatically. In space, radically new ships-needle-sized vessels using laser propulsion-could replace the expensive chemical rockets of today and perhaps visit nearby stars. Advances in nanotechnology may lead to the fabled space elevator, which would propel humans hundreds of miles above the earth’s atmosphere at the push of a button.

But these astonishing revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. Kaku also discusses emotional robots, antimatter rockets, X-ray vision, and the ability to create new life-forms, and he considers the development of the world economy. He addresses the key questions: Who are the winner and losers of the future? Who will have jobs, and which nations will prosper?

Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, by Richard Rhodes (Doubleday)

A Brilliant List of Science Books for People Who Want Their Minds Blown

This incredible book by Rhodes (author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb), out at the end of November, is a portrait of the scientist as a young starlet. It’s a movingly-written biography of early twentieth century actress Hedy Lamarr, famous for her incredible beauty — and for her contributions to radio science. From the book flap:

What do Hedy Lamarr, avant-garde composer George Antheil, and your cell phone have in common? The answer is spread-spectrum radio: a revolutionary inven­tion based on the rapid switching of communications sig­nals among a spread of different frequencies. Without this technology, we would not have the digital comforts that we take for granted today.

Unhappily married to a Nazi arms dealer, Lamarr fled to America at the start of World War II; she brought with her not only her theatrical talent but also a gift for technical innovation. An introduction to Antheil at a Hollywood dinner table culminated in a U.S. patent for a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes-the unlikely duo’s gift to the U.S. war effort. What other book brings together 1920s Paris, player pianos, Nazi weaponry, and digital wireless into one satisfying whole? In its juxtaposition of Hollywood glamour with the reality of a brutal war, Hedy’s Folly is a riveting book about unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.


Nazi eugenics

Nazi eugenics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others.
File:Wir stehen nicht allein.png
“We do not stand alone”: Nazi poster from 1936 introducing compulsory sterilization legislation.

Nazi eugenics were Nazi Germany‘s racially-based social policies that placed the improvement of the Aryan race through eugenics at the center of their concerns. Those humans were targeted that they identified as “life unworthy of life” (GermanLebensunwertes Leben), including but not limited to the criminal, degeneratedissident, feeble-minded, homosexual, idle, insane and the weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while 70,000 were killed under Action T4, a “euthanasia” program.

A eugenics chart entitled  -A eugenics chart entitled Hereditary traits passed down from two mates-

A eugenics chart entitled -A eugenics chart entitled Hereditary traits passed down from two mates-

Hitler’s views on eugenics

Adolf Hitler read racial hygiene tracts during his imprisonment in Landsberg Prison. He thought that Germany could only become strong again if the state applied to German society the principles of racial hygiene and eugenics.

A survivor looks out a barred window at the Hadamar Institute

A survivor looks out a barred window at the Hadamar Institute


Hitler believed the nation had become weak, corrupted by the infusion of degenerate elements into its bloodstream. These had to be removed quickly. He also believed that the strong and the racially pure had to be encouraged to have more children, and the weak and the racially impure had to be neutralized by one means or another.

The racialism and idea of competition, termed social Darwinism or neo-Darwinism in 1944, were discussed by European scientists and also in the Vienna press during the 1920s. Where Hitler picked up the ideas is uncertain. The theory of evolution had been generally accepted in Germany at the time but this sort of extremism was rare.In 1876, Ernst Haeckel had discussed the selective infanticide policy of the Greek city of ancient Sparta.

An emaciated survivor stands naked between rows of beds at the Hadamar Institute

An emaciated survivor stands naked between rows of beds at the Hadamar Institute

In his Second Book, which was unpublished during the Nazi era, Hitler praised Sparta, adding that he considered Sparta to be the first “Völkisch State”. He endorsed what he perceived to be an early eugenics treatment of deformed children:

Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.

Nazi eugenics program


Propaganda for Nazi Germany’s T-4 Euthanasia Program: “This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too.” from theOffice of Racial Policy‘s Neues Volk.

The Nazis based their eugenics program on the United States’ programs of forced sterilization, especially on the eugenics laws that had been enacted in California.

First page of a letter written by Frida Richard, a survivor of the Hadamar Institute, in which she describes her cruel treatment at the euthanasia facility

First page of a letter written by Frida Richard, a survivor of the Hadamar Institute, in which she describes her cruel treatment at the euthanasia facilityhttp://www.holocaustresearchproject.org 

The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, proclaimed on July 14, 1933, required physicians to register every case of hereditary illness known to them, except in women over 45 years of age.Physicians could be fined for failing to comply.

In 1934, the first year of the Law’s operation, nearly 4,000 people appealed against the decisions of sterilization authorities. 3,559 of the appeals failed. By the end of the Nazi regime, over 200Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte) were created, and under their rulings over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will.

Eugenics poster entitled -The German Face

Eugenics poster entitled -The German Face http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Nazi eugenics institutions

The Hadamar Clinic was a mental hospital in the German town of Hadamar, which was used by the Nazi-controlled German government as the site of Action T4. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics was founded in 1927.

Eugenics poster entitled -The Judaizing of Berlin 1932

Eugenics poster entitled -The Judaizing of Berlin 1932http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

In its early years, and during the Nazi era, it was strongly associated with theories of eugenics and racial hygiene advocated by its leading theorists Fritz Lenz and Eugen Fischer, and by its director Otmar von Verschuer. Under Fischer, the sterilization of so-called Rhineland Bastards was undertaken. Grafeneck Castle was one of Nazi Germany’s killing centers, and today it is a memorial place dedicated to the victims of the Action T4.

Exterior view of the main building of the Hadamar Institute

Exterior view of the main building of the Hadamar Institute http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org


The Law for Simplification of the Health System of July 1934 created Information Centers for Genetic and Racial Hygenie, as well as Health Offices. The law also described procedures for ‘denunciation’ and ‘evaluation’ of people, who were then sent to a Genetic Health Court where sterilization was decided.

Information to determine who was considered ‘genetically sick’ was gathered from routine information supplied by people to doctor’s offices and welfare departments. Standardized questionnaires had been designed by Nazi officials with the help of Dehomag (a subsidiary of IBM in the 1930s), so that the information could be encoded easily onto Hollerith punch cards for fast sorting and counting.

German civilians exhume the bodies of 44 Polish and Russian forced laborers who were put to death at the Hadamar Institute and buried in a mass grave behind the euthanasia facility

German civilians exhume the bodies of 44 Polish and Russian forced laborers who were put to death at the Hadamar Institute and buried in a mass grave behind the euthanasia facility http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

In Hamburg, doctors gave information into a Central Health Passport Archive (circa 1934), under something called the ‘Health-Related Total Observation of Life’. This file was to contain reports from doctors, but also courts, insurance companies, sports clubs, the Hitler Youth, the military, the labor service, colleges, etc. Any institution that gave information would get information back in return. In 1940, the Reich Interior Ministry tried to impose a Hamburg-style system on the whole Reich.

Group portrait of T-4 Euthanasia program personnel at a social gathering

Group portrait of T-4 Euthanasia program personnel at a social gatheringhttp://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Nazi eugenics policies regarding marriage

Nazi Germany had strict marriage laws in which marriage partners had to be tested for any hereditary diseases. Everyone was encouraged to carefully evaluate their prospective marriage partners eugenically during courtship. Members of the SS were cautioned to carefully interview prospective marriage partners to make sure they had no family history of hereditary disease or insanity, but to do this carefully so as not to hurt the feelings of the prospective fiance and, if it became necessary to reject her for eugenic reasons, to do it tactfully and not cause her any offense.

Action T4

File:Viktor Brack Nürnberg 2.jpg

Viktor Brack, organiser of the T4 Program

Victor Brack
Born 9 November 1904
Died 2 June 1948
Landsberg am Lech
Cause Execution
Motive Nazism
Conviction(s) Crimes against humanity
Penalty Death by hanging
Occupation Chief Administrative Officer in the Chancellery of the Führerof the NSDAP

Action T4 (GermanAktion T4) was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany’seugenics-based “euthanasia” program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were “judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination”.The program officially ran from September 1939 until August 1941, but it continued unofficially until the end of the Nazi regime in 1945.

Karl Brandt
File:Karl Brandt SS-Arzt.jpg
Brandt as a defendant at the Doctors’ Trial.
Born January 8, 1904
Died June 2, 1948 (aged 44)
Nationality German
Known for Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation
Political party National Socialist German Workers’ Party
Spouse Anni Brandt, née Rebhorn
Children Karl Adolf Brandt

During the official stage of Action T4 70,273 people were killed, but the Nuremberg Trials found evidence that German and Austrian physicians continued the murder of patients after October 1941 and that about 275,000 people were killed under T4. More recent research based on files recovered after 1990 gives a figure of at least 200,000 physically or mentally handicapped people killed by medication, starvation, or in the gas chambers between 1939 and 1945.


Description: Death by hanging is pronounced by a U.S. War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg upon Adolf Hitler’s personal physcian, 43-year old Karl Brandt. Brandt, who was also Reich Commissar for Health and Sanitation, was indicted by the U.S. prosecution with 22 other Nazi doctors and SS officers on war crimes charges in the first case of alleged criminals tried after the judgment in the International Military Tribunal. The Tribunal found him guilty on all four counts charging him with conspiracy in aggressive wars, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and membership in the criminal SS organization. Among those criminal acts was his participating in and consenting to using concentration camp inmates as guinea pigs in horrible medical experiments, supposedly for the benefit of the armed forces.

Brandt, who was executioner of thousands of political, racial, and religious persecutees, was hanged on June 2, 1948 at Landsberg prison after the U.S. Military Commander Gen. Lucius D. Clay and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the sentence of the Nuremberg Tribunal. In a long-winded speech that was finally muffled when the black hood was thrown over his head, Brandt shouted arrogantly, “It is no shame to stand on this scaffold; I have served my country as have others before me.”

Hitler was also once imprisoned here in 1923, following his unsuccessful Munich putsch. He wrote “Mein Kampf” during his confinement. [Original Descriptive Caption]. Date: 20 August 1947 Provenance: From Public Relations Photo Section, Office Chief of Counsel for War Crimes, Nuremberg, Germany, APO 696-A, US Army. Photo No. OMT-I-D-144. Citation: Telford Taylor Papers, Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Columbia University Law School, New York, N.Y. : TTP-CLS: 15-1-1-76.

Two SS survivors of the Hadamar Institute sit on a bed at the former euthanasia facility

Two SS survivors of the Hadamar Institute sit on a bed at the former euthanasia facility

The name T4 was an abbreviation of “Tiergartenstraße 4″, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten which was the headquarters of the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil- und Anstaltspflege, bearing the euphemistic name literally translating into English as Charitable Foundation for Cure and Institutional Care.This body operated under the direction ofReichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler’s private chancellery, and Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician. This villa no longer exists, but a plaque set in the pavement on Tiergartenstraße marks its location.


Philipp Bouhler
Bouhler in 1936
Deputy manager of the NSDAP
In office
September 1922 – November 1925
NSDAP-Business Manager (Geschaftsfuhrer)
In office
1925 – November 1934
In office
June 1933 – 8 May 1945
Chief of NSDAP Censorship in the Reichsleitung
In office
October 1936 – 8 May 1945
Chief of the Chancellery of the Führer of the NSDAP
In office
17 November 1934 – 8 May 1945
Chief of the Aktion T program
In office
Personal details
Born 11 September 1899
Died 19 May 1945 (aged 45)
Nationality German
Political party National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Helene “Heli” Majer

In October 1939, Hitler signed a back dated “euthanasia decree” to 1 September 1939 which authorized Bouhler and Brandt to carry out the program of “euthanasia” (translated into English as follows):

‘Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. med. Brandt are charged with the responsibility of enlarging the competence of certain physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod] after a discerning diagnosis

Hadamar Cemetery where Euthanasia victims were buried

Hadamar Cemetery where Euthanasia victims were buried http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Irmgard Huber, chief nurse at Hadamar Institute, poses in the corridor of the euthanasia facility

Irmgard Huber, chief nurse at Hadamar Institute, poses in the corridor of the euthanasia facility http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Major Herman Bolker, a member of the war crimes investigation team, performs an autopsy on an exhumed Polish victim who was put to death at the Hadamar Institute

Major Herman Bolker, a member of the war crimes investigation team, performs an autopsy on an exhumed Polish victim who was put to death at the Hadamar Institute http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/

Nazi Euthanasia Org chart H.E.A.R.T

Nazi Euthanasia Org chart H.E.A.R.T http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Photographs of a pair of genetically identical twins - on the foundations of the study of heredity

 Photographs of a pair of genetically identical twins – on the foundations of the study of heredity http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org
Propaganda slide featuring a deformed infant
Propaganda slide featuring a deformed infant http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/
Propaganda slide featuring a mentally ill British black man in an unidentified asylum
Propaganda slide featuring a mentally ill British black man in an unidentified asylum http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org
Signed Letter by Hitler Authorizing Euthanasia Killings
Signed Letter by Hitler Authorizing Euthanasia Killings http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org
Propaganda slide featuring three portraits of mentally ill patients
Propaganda slide featuring three portraits of mentally ill patients http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org
Propaganda slide featuring two images of physically disabled children
Propaganda slide featuring two images of physically disabled children
Propaganda slide produced by the Reich Propaganda Office showing the opportunity cost of feeding a person with a hereditary disease
Propaganda slide produced by the Reich Propaganda Office showing the opportunity cost of feeding a person with a hereditary disease http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org
The corpse of a woman lies in an open coffin at the Hadamar Institute where she was put to death as part of the Operation T4
The corpse of a woman lies in an open coffin at the Hadamar Institute where she was put to death as part of the Operation T4 http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org

Herat Citadel

Herat Citadel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others.
File:Citadel in Herat in 2011.jpg

An inside view of the Qala Ikhtyaruddin (citadel) in Herat,Afghanistan.

The Citadel of Herat, also known as the Citadel of Alexander, and locally known as Qala Iktyaruddin, is located in the center of Herat in Afghanistan. It dates back to 330 BC, when Alexander the Great and his army arrived to what is now Afghanistan after the Battle of Gaugamela. Many empires have used it as a headquarters in the last 2,000 years, and was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.

This historic citadel was saved from demolition in the 1950s, and was excavated and restored by UNESCO between 1976 and 1979. From decades of wars and neglect, the citadel began to crumble but in recent years several international organizations decided to completely rebuild it. The National Museum of Herat is also housed inside the citadel, while the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture is the caretaker of the whole premises.


Herat, in the fertile valley of Hari River (Hari Rud), was settled as early as the sixth century BC. A mound located to the north of the Old City, known as Kuhandazh may have been the site of the fort that Alexander the Great built in 330 BC following his conquest of the Achaemenidcity known as Artacoana or Aria. After the depart of Alexander, Herat was ruled by the SeleucidsParthiansKushansSasanians,HephthalitesUmayyadsTahiridsSaffaridsSamanidsSeljukGhaznavids, and Ghurids.

File:Herat 1879.png

An 1879 painting of Herat, the citadel is visible.

Located half a kilometer to the south of Kuhandaz and aligned with the cardinal axes, the walled city described by early Arab geographers had four gates leading into crossing commercial avenues and a square citadel (qal’a) adjoining the northern city wall. This citadel, which has been suggested as another possible site for Alexander’s fort, is known today as the famous Citadel of Herat. Herat thrived with the Silk Road trade from the Levant to India and China, and became an important city of the Ghurid dynasty in 1175. The city was destroyed entirely in 1221 by theMongol army and rebuilt by the Kartid governors who established their rule based in Herat by the mid-thirteenth century.

Herat Citadel


Kartid Amir Fakhr al-Din (reg. 1295-1308) in 1299/1300 reinforced the citadel’s towers, walls, ramparts and moat, and added a walled maidan to its west to serve as an open-air mosque (idgah). His successor Ghiyath al-Din (reg. 1308-1329) built two palaces inside the citadel to the east. The name Ikhtiyar al-Din, which refers to both the eastern and western enclosures, is thought to be the name or epithet of a Kartid amir or military commander. Destroyed a second time by Timur’s army (1380), the citadel was rebuilt after Shah Rukh (reg. 1405-1444) moved his capital to Herat and began a building campaign. He reinforced the citadel in stone and fired brick and covered its exterior with glazed tiles.

Shops next to the Citadel

Shops next to the Citadel http://www.pbase.com/rlankenau/image/49142156

The citadel was used as a royal residence, treasury, prison and arsenal under the Hotaki dynasty/Durrani Empire in the 18th century. It suffered some damage during the Anglo-Afghan War in the 19th century. A modern citadel (Arg-e Herat) was built immediately to its north in the mid-19th century to take over its defensive function. The citadel was saved from demolition in the 1950s, and was excavated and restored by UNESCO between 1976 and 1979.It suffered more damages during the last decades of wars and neglect.

Recent restoration

File:Pathway inside the citadel of Alexander in Herat.jpg

A pathway inside the citadel in 2011

The citadel of Herat was completely renovated in the last five years. It consists of two walled enclosures. The latest restoration involved hundreds of Afghan craftsmen and funds from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and about $2.4 million from the U.S. and German governments.

Citadel and City

Citadel and City http://www.pbase.com/rlankenau/image/49142144

The older compound to the east, found filled with debris, was partially excavated to reveal two courtyard structures. It has a roughly rectangular plan measuring about eighteen by forty-two meters, and it is protected with thirteen semi-circular towers, including two flanking a west-facing gate. It is also known as the Upper Citadel, based on its elevated site, and is built of fired bricks.

File:Inside the Museum of Herat in 2011.jpg

The museum inside the citadel

The Kartid addition to the west, known as the Lower Citadel, has lower walls of baked brick and includes Timurid period military structures. Its polygonal plan measures about twenty-five by sixty meters with nine circular towers, of which six survive along the south and west walls. The tall Malik Tower on its western wall is thought to be named after a Kartid malik and retains segments of its Timurid glazed tile decoration, including parts of a Kufic inscriptive band.

Herat Citadel


An Ethnographic Museum, a Military Museum, Handicraft Workshops and an Archaeological Museum were set up inside the Lower Citadel after the 1970s restoration, while the Upper Citadel was opened to visitors as an Open Air Archaeological Museum, with a northern section reconstructed as a traditional residence. About 1,100 items from the Herat region are stored inside the museum at the citadel, of which 250 are on display currently.

Herat Citadel


At a ceremony in October 2011, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker stated that: “Until 35 years ago, tourists from around the world came here to experience heritage, history and incomparable national landscapes… We look forward to the day when Afghans and visitors from around the world will once again come here to learn about Afghanistan’s rich history and enjoy the great hospitality and beauty that this land and its people have to offer.” Also present on the occasion was Afghan-expert Nancy Dupree and this is what she had to say: “I’ve been here many times, but it was crumbling… This is impressive…. I think the most exciting thing is to see something finally accomplished. I have seen so many half-finished things.”

Afghanistan, October 2011

Afghanistan, October 2011

With a per capita GDP of $900, Afghanistan ranks as one of the world’s ten poorest countries. By any measure, challenges are numerous. Aid agencies observe an erosion of women’s rights as foreign troops prepare to leave, the infant mortality rate is among the world’s highest, and despite eradication efforts, 90 percent of the world’s opium is still produced by Afghan farmers. Meanwhile, military fatalities approach 2800 since the war began in 2001. Civilians are afforded no such precision for their casualties, with varying estimates in the tens of thousands being the only accounting. Gathered here are images from the country made in October of the lives of women and children, daily life, and consequences of the conflict in Afghanistan and in the United States. — Lane Turner (37 photos total)

Meena Rahmani, 26, owner of The Strikers, the country’s first bowling center, holds a bowling ball in Kabul. In an Afghan capital scarred by years of war, a young Afghan woman has bet $1 million that the country could use a chance to have a bit of fun. Located just down the street from Kabul’s glitziest mall, it offers a place where Afghan men, women and families can gather, relax, bowl a few games and not be burdened by the social, religious and cultural restrictions that govern daily life in the impoverished country. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

An Afghan girl works at a brick factory on the outskirts of Jalalabad on October 10, 2011. (Rahmat Gul/AP) #

Girls attend a class at a camp for the displaced in Kabul on October 11, 2011. Women’s rights have improved in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted, but recent Oxfam data shows women’s personal safety, opportunity, and human rights inside the nation are beginning to erode back to conditions that existed previously. Under the Taliban, girls schools had been closed, women were banned from working outside the home, and forced to wear the burqa. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #

Muttahara Mohammed, 5, attends a class on how to read verses of the Quran in a mosque in Kabul on October 26, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

An internally displaced Afghan girl smiles at a camp in Kabul on October 11, 2011. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #

Shafiyah, 27, released from prison after three years in jail, poses for a portrait at a shelter run by women for Afghan women in Kabul on October 12, 2011. Shafiyah was arrested and imprisoned after fleeing her Taliban husband who became destitute after the Taliban was ousted. Women’s rights in Afghanistan risk being forgotten as international troops withdraw, reports by Oxfam and ActionAid said. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Afghan child lies on the ground next to a woman begging for money in a street in Kabul on October 23, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Afghan children pose for a picture on a destroyed armored vehicle on Wazir Akbar Khan hill in Kabul on October 12, 2011. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #

An Afghan girl looks out from a house in Kabul on October 16, 2011. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #

A burqa-clad Afghan woman holds her baby as she walks in the outskirts of Herat on October 25, 2011. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #

Tajj Woroh holds her son Deewar, 4 months, who suffers from chronic malnutrition, while waiting for a doctor at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul on October 27, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

A family walks by riot police during a demonstration against a proposed U.S.-Afghan strategic security agreement in Kabul on October 24, 2011. Several hundred people demonstrated at Kabul University against the agreement that many interpret as affording foreign forces long-term bases in Afghanistan. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Shop owner Mohammed Ahmadi, 32, stands inside his dress shop in Kabul. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Women walk in a market in Kabul on October 26, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Ibraheem Khan, 22, stands in front of the clothes shop where he works in Kabul on October 23, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Afghan children enjoy a swing ride set up in a cemetery outside Sakhi shrine in Kabul on October 11, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

Mohammed Abdulraheem, 3, pauses while heading to school in Kabul on October 19, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

People visit a cemetery outside the Sakhi shrine in Kabul on October 24, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

A man feeds chickens on a farm on the outskirts of Jalalabad on October 27, 2011. (Rahmat Gul/AP) #

Horsemen compete during a Buzkashi game in Kabul October 27, 2011. (Omar Sobhani/AP) #

The Qala Iktyaruddin Citadel in Herat that dates back to Alexander the Great has been restored, a bright sign of progress in a country destroyed by war. The citadel and a new museum was completed by hundreds of local craftsmen with funding and support from the U.S. and German governments and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. (Houshang Hashimi/AP) #

Addicts smoke heroin in a destroyed building in Herat on October 17, 2011. Ten years after the 2001 American invasion to drive the Taliban from power, Afghanistan still produces 90 percent of the world’s illegal opium, funding the insurgency despite an expensive Western eradication program. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #

Boys sit on a grave at a cemetery in Kabul on October 17, 2011. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Laborers have breakfast in their quarters at a coal dump site outside Kabul on October 18, 2011. Each laborer earns ten dollars on an average working day. Most of them come from the northern provinces, leaving their families behind in search of fortune in the capital. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Aziz Ahmad, 25, who believes he has mental problems, is chained to a wall during his 40-day incarceration at the Mia Ali Baba Shrine in Jalalabad on October 11, 2011. It is believed that 40 days in chains and a diet of bread and water at the 300-year old shrine can cure mentally ill people. Ahmad was chained by the shrine keeper at the request of his family. (Rahmat Gul/AP) #

Shepherd Shirwali, who lost his right leg after stepping on a land mine, rests at the International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic center in Kabul on October 9, 2011. According to the Red Cross, security and health care are the biggest humanitarian problems facing Afghanistan. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #

US soldiers fly on a military plane across Afghanistan on October 8, 2011. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images) #

Afghanis look at the site of an explosion in a fuel truck in Parwan province on October 26, 2011. A bomb hidden inside exploded as scores of people gathered to collect fuel that was leaking, killing at least five. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

A man mourns his brother, who was killed in a fuel tanker blast in Parwan province on October 26, 2011. (Ahmad Masood/AP) #

A security man checks the wreckage of a civilian car which was hit by a roadside bomb in Nangarhar province on October 28, 2011, killing two men, a woman and a child. (Rahmat Gul/AP) #

An Afghan policeman reacts as a U.S. helicopter lands at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul October 29, 2011. At least four people were killed when a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of foreign soldiers. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #

Ali Ahmad, 9, injured by a suicide car bomber, lies in a hospital bed after receiving treatment in Kabul on October 29, 2011. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed four Afghans, including a policeman, and 13 American soldiers. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP) #

A severely wounded US Marine hit by an improvised explosive device is carried by his comrades to a helicopter on October 31, 2011. The Marine lost both his legs and fights for his life. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images) #

Donna and Dennis Elm (left) cry during the funeral of their son, Army Spc. Michael Elm, 25, of Phoenix, Ariz., at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. on October 31, 2011. Insurgents attacked his unit in Khowst with an improvised explosive device. (Cliff Owen/AP) #

A woman watches the casket of Army Pvt. Danny Chen placed in a hearse in Chinatown on October 13, 2011 in New York. Pvt. Chen, who had been in Afghanistan for two months, was found dead with a gunshot wound below his chin. While preliminary signs suggest Pvt. Chen killed himself, the Army told the soldier’s parents he was subjected to taunting and violence by some of the soldiers with whom he served. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

The body of Army Spc. Steven E. Gutowski, who died in Afghanistan after an improvised explosive device attack, is carried out of St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth following his funeral on October 17, 2011. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)#

Audrey Jackson waits in her car seat as Lauren Jackson kisses her husband, Captain Benjamin Jackson of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, after a welcome home ceremony celebrating his return from a year-long tour in Afghanistan, at Fort Drum, New York on October 21, 2011. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)#