The domestication of Amazonia before European conquest – Hexbyte Science News Glen Cove Computer

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

eview article

The domestication of Amazonia before European conquest

Charles R. ClementWilliam M. DenevanMichael J. Heckenberger,André Braga JunqueiraEduardo G. NevesWenceslau G. Teixeira and William I. WoodsPublished:07 August 2015https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.0813

Abstract

During the twentieth century, Amazonia was widely regarded as relatively pristine nature, little impacted by human history. This view remains popular despite mounting evidence of substantial human influence over millennial scales across the region. Here, we review the evidence of an anthropogenic Amazonia in response to claims of sparse populations across broad portions of the region. Amazonia was a major centre of crop domestication, with at least 83 native species containing populations domesticated to some degree. Plant domestication occurs in domesticated landscapes, including highly modified Amazonian dark earths (ADEs) associated with large settled populations and that may cover greater than 0.1% of the region. Populations and food production expanded rapidly within land management systems in the mid-Holocene, and complex societies expanded in resource-rich areas creating domesticated landscapes with profound impacts on local and regional ecology. ADE food production projections support estimates of at least eight million people in 1492. By this time, highly diverse regional systems had developed across Amazonia where subsistence resources were created with plant and landscape domestication, including earthworks. This review argues that the Amazonian anthrome was no less socio-culturally diverse or populous than other tropical forested areas of the world prior to European conquest.

1. Introduction

The word ‘Amazonia’ conjures images of dense rainforests, painted and feathered natives, exotic fauna and flora, as well as rampant deforestation, biodiversity extinction, and climate change. These fragmentary images seldom coalesce into robust understanding of this vast area, which is partially a legacy of eighteenth to nineteenth century descriptions with already decimated human populations [1]. Over the past few decades, archaeology has revealed numerous fairly large-scale complex societies across all major regions, which contrast with the small-scale twentieth century societies described by anthropologists, but agree well with initial European eye witness accounts from the sixteenth to seventeenth century [26]. The current consensus among historical ecologists suggests that Amazonia is a complex mosaic of coupled human-natural systems, typical of anthropogenic biomes or anthromes globally [7], refuting earlier claims of uniform environmental limitations [8,9]. Here, we summarize the nature and extent of these transformations during the Holocene to show that Amazonia was no more limiting than tropical forested regions elsewhere across the globe. Amazonia was domesticated before European conquest.

As elsewhere, human societies dramatically modified species composition in many ecosystems, beginning in some areas by the early Holocene and giving rise to complex and sophisticated systems of land management associated with large, settled populations by European conquest. Specifically, large pre-Columbian societies domesticated large portions of their landscape to make them more productive and congenial [10], as expected in cultural niche construction theory [11]. The modifications of species and ecosystems are due to domestication, both of plant and animal populations and of landscapes [10,1214]. Growing populations caused long-term modifications in soils, creating Amazonian dark earths (ADEs), and transformed naturally biodiverse forests into anthropogenic forest landscapes [3,12,15,16].

This revisionist view of a domesticated Amazonia is contested by some natural and social scientists [1720]. These critiques are based on small samples that are used to extrapolate across the region, often without engagement with the full breadth of scholarship on pre-Columbian Amazonia. Most commentators agree that Amazonia was occupied by societies with different levels of complexity [2] and each had different impacts on their landscapes. There were dense populations along some resource-rich sections of major rivers, less dense populations along minor rivers and sparse populations between rivers [15]. Given the antiquity and intensity of these impacts, few—if any—pristine landscapes remained in 1492. There were anthropogenic forests throughout the basin, and an overall population and landscape footprint far greater than argued recently. Resolving these views has obvious implications for indigenous cultural heritage.

2. Plant management and domestication

Amazonia is a major world centre of plant domestication, where selection began in the Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene in peripheral parts of the basin [10,2124]. By European contact, at least 83 native species were domesticated to some degree, including manioc, sweet potato, cacao, tobacco, pineapple and hot peppers, as well as numerous fruit trees and palms, and at least another 55 imported neotropical species were cultivated [10]. Plant domestication is a long-term process in which natural selection interacts with human selection driving changes that improve usefulness to humans and adaptations to domesticated landscapes [10,25,26]. Hence, there is a continuum from incipient change to fully domesticated status, where the plants depend upon humans for their survival [25]. In Amazonia, plant management was a particularly important part of subsistence strategies [27], including 3000–5000 exploited non-domesticated species [28], following the expectations of cultural niche construction theory [29,30].

Small-scale societies practiced foraging and casual horticulture across Amazonia throughout the Early and Mid-Holocene, and substantially altered forest composition through diverse activities around villages and camp sites, along trails and in fallow fields, and via the unintentional interactions and changes in local ecology precipitated by these activities [12,3138]. Foragers acted throughout Amazonia [17], and their promotion and management of forest resources—although not intensive locally—is more spatially extensive than that of farmers [38,39]. These changes favour useful plants and animals and, although subtle, this minimal level of landscape domestication results in enduring and dramatic anthropogenic footprints in a variety of settings, particularly when considered at centennial and millennial scales [10,16,38]. While plant domestication is driven by selection and propagation, landscape domestication concerns the demography of a variety of useful and domesticated plants, and their interactions with settlement features, soils, earthworks and fluvial works [10,14,15,40].

In Amazonia, the transition from primarily foraging to developed farming systems occurred by ca 4000 BP, as formerly casual cultivation in home gardens and managed forests was transformed by larger and more settled populations [23,41], although the timing and intensity of these changes varied significantly across the basin [27]. As populations expanded, they accumulated crop genetic resources, creating centres of crop genetic diversity (figure 1). These centres provide strong evidence that pre-conquest human populations had intensively transformed and diversified their plant resources [10,21]. Large-scale human population expansions during the Holocene generally depended upon farming technologies, which often provided an adaptive advantage over small foraging groups [42,43]. In Amazonia, this included fairly intensive arboriculture, as well as staple root and seed crops [10]. The first Amazon River chroniclers reported an abundance of well-fed populations along the bluffs, surrounded by orchards on the uplands and seasonal fields in the floodplains [5,6,44].

Figure 1.
Figure 1.Plant management and domestication in Amazonia. The names of species identify known or suspected (with ‘?’) origins of domestication of 20 native Amazonian crop species [24]. The centres and regions of crop genetic diversity contain significant or moderate concentrations of accumulated crop genetic resources [21]. See the electronic supplementary material for Brazil nut.

Fully domesticated species comprised part of emerging farming systems, including arboriculture, but incipient or semi-domesticated species were often managed in forests [10,16,38]. Some forests were highly modified, such as the widely dispersed Brazil nut stands [37], whereas others became high-diversity anthropogenic forests [12,16,38]. Other forests are oligarchic—dominated by a single species—and occupy extensive areas across Amazonia; some of these were managed to enhance yields [45]. For instance, Açaí-do-pará (Euterpe oleracea), which dominates thousands of square kilometres in the Amazon River estuary [45], was a major subsistence resource for the mound-building Marajoara society [3,13]. Many present Amazonian forests, while seemingly natural, are domesticated to varying degrees in terms of altered plant distributions and densities [16,37,38], because trees are long lived [10,16].

The degree of vegetation modification around villages varied significantly, with cultivated fields and orchards close by, surrounded by managed forests with decreasing evidence of management as distance from the village increased [16]. This is also supported by palaeo-ecological and archeobotanical evidence [1820,46]. The extent of these ‘low-intensity’ anthropogenic forests is considerable: recent data from the Purus–Madeira interfluve suggest that the concentration of useful species is detectable as much as 40 km from major and even minor rivers [16]. Barlow et al. [17] suggest that these interfluvial forests, which comprise the vast majority of the region, were used for foraging but not actively managed, and are therefore viewed as essentially natural. However, they ignore the fact that foragers modify forests along trails and at campsites (see above), and that we are discussing thousands of years of activities. Considering the dense river and stream network that covers most of Amazonia [47], that tributaries often have as many archaeological sites as the main rivers [48,49], that tributaries often have as many Brazil nut stands as main rivers (figure 1) and that these stands are often associated with ADE sites [50], it is likely that a significant portion of Amazonian forests was modified to some degree and remains so today.

These conclusions are critiqued in two recent studies [19,20], based on sampling in three and four locations in western Amazonia, respectively, where phytolith and charcoal analysis did not identify extensive land-use change. Curiously, these studies ignore the expectation that land-use change is more pronounced near settlements than further away [16,18]. Although the authors affirm that phytoliths are diagnostic in a small number of families, they conclude that interfluvial forests were little modified during the last millennia and that therefore the entire western Amazon was sparsely populated. They fail to engage with the evidence presented here, which seldom is visible with phytoliths and seldom requires extensive use of fire, but is visible with other botanical and ecological techniques.

3. Anthropogenic soils and earthworks

Amazonia is dominated by nutrient-poor soils in uplands, including dystrophic Ferralsols and Acrisols in central and northwestern Amazonia and moderately fertile Cambisols in southwestern Amazonia [51]. However, greater than 10% of Amazonian soils are naturally nutrient-sufficient or even nutrient-rich, such as Gleysols and Fluvisols in floodplains and palaeo-floodplains that total greater than 40 000 km2 in Brazil alone. Recent studies have documented the frequent presence of anthrosols [52] associated with fairly settled societies, with significantly enhanced nutrients and carbon, as is true across the globe during the Late Holocene [53]. These ADEs are concentrated along bluffs overlooking major and minor rivers [44,49], but are also found in higher floodplain levels [54] and interfluves. ADE sites are widely dispersed across a mosaic of landscapes (figure 2) and have the potential to feed millions of inhabitants.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.Selected archaeological sites in lowland South America, including concentrations of known earthworks and anthropogenic soils (based on WinklerPrins & Aldrich [52] and two decades of survey work by E.G. Neves and colleagues from the University of São Paulo).

ADEs are the result of human waste management in and around settlements, and intentional burning, mulching and composting in agricultural areas [53,55,56]. ADE sites appear in parts of the Amazon in the sixth millennia BP [57], but increase rapidly in number and size after ca 2500 BP, associated with the expansion of sedentary societies [58]. Native Amazonians used an array of technologies and plant species in a multitude of food production systems, and some of these included intentional and non-intentional improvement of soil quality [15,41,55,59]. It is now well accepted that dump heaps around human settlements gave rise to the extremely dark ADE, called terra preta [58]. Surrounding the ‘core’ areas of ADE sites are often found extensive anthropogenic soils with lighter colour and lower concentrations of nutrients and ceramic fragments, which reflect the residues of farming systems around settlements [41,60].

The extent of soil modification in situ, while extensive, is only a fraction of pre-Columbian domesticated landscapes, which often involved regional planning and sophisticated local engineering. Diverse earthworks (ceremonial, habitation, monumental, burial, agricultural), all highly visibly features of these landscapes, have been identified in dozens of areas, although most were only discovered in recent decades with the development of in-depth archaeology, remote sensing and deforestation. Identified are tens of thousands of raised fields in the Llanos de Mojos of Bolivia, the Guiana coasts, Amapá in northeast Brazil and the Orinoco Llanos; many hundreds of kilometres of causeways and roads in the Xingu, Mojos, Orinoco, Guianas and Central Amazonia regions; canals, artificial cuts between river meander bends, artificial ponds and fish weirs in the Mojos, Xingu, middle Amazon, Belterra Plateau and Marajó Island regions and integrated networks of settlement features, including mounds, plazas, ditches, walls and roads, in numerous areas [3,13,15,40,6165].

4. Population

The scale of pre-European human impacts on Amazonian landscapes of Amazonia, in terms of intensity, form and distribution, are related to native population totals and densities. Estimates of 1492 human population vary widely, given the minimal documentary evidence prior to recent times. Conservative estimates of one to two million people are based on current or recent (past 200 years) information (tribal counts or estimates, and densities), which do not account for demonstrable catastrophic depopulation from epidemics, starvation, slavery and brutality soon after 1492. Most pre-1996 estimates for Greater Amazonia suggest up to six million people [66].

Soil creation and landscape engineering for settlements and production of domesticated and managed crops fuelled population expansion. Recent estimates of the extent of ADE suggest even larger population totals. Sombroek et al. [67] estimated that 0.1–0.3% of forested Amazonia contains ADE, although this estimate may be too conservative considering that some tributaries have high densities of ADE [48,49]. Using 0.2% (12 600 km2 out of 6.3 million km2), 10% in cultivation in any 1 year, and three methods based on a maize staple, a manioc staple and rates of phosphorus deposition, produces estimated ADE populations of 3.1, 3.8 and 3.3 million, respectively [68]. With a tentative five to six million for the remainder of Greater Amazonia, the estimated minimum population would be in the range of 8–10 million, with an average density of 0.66–0.81 per km2 [68].

A recent model suggests that ‘terra pretas are likely to be found throughout ca 154 063 square kilometers or 3.2% of the [Amazonian] forest’ [49, p. 1]. Although the model has limitations, including the presence of ADE in a wide range of settings that do not conform to model expectations, notably interfluvial areas of both western and eastern Amazonia, it strongly supports Levis et al.’s [48] observation that ADE sites are very abundant on tributaries. It also supports the evidence that occupation sites were concentrated on river bluffs [44], also supported by early eyewitness accounts of linear bluff villages extending for several leagues and numbering in the thousands of people along the major rivers in the 1500–1600s [46]. Another problem with McMichael et al.’s [49] conclusions is that using the Woods et al. [68] methods just outlined, 3.2% ADE would mean an unlikely 50 million people, hence large areas where ADE is likely to occur in fact do not contain these anthropogenic soils.

Interfluve settlements are generally believed to have consisted of small, constantly shifting villages and nomadic or semi-nomadic hunter–gatherers. While such were undoubtedly common, this is an excessive generalization. There are numerous reports from the sixteenth century to the early-twentieth century of interfluve villages numbering 1000–1500 people, with some having as many as 5000–10 000 [66]. In the upper Xingu region, numerous late pre-Columbian villages as large as 50 ha with populations of 800–1000 or more, organized in densely spaced clusters allow a conservative estimate of a regional population of 50 000 [69]. In seasonally flooded savannahs (Marajó Island, Llanos de Mojos, Orinoco Llanos), village sites associated with earthworks have been suggested to have had 1000 or more people [66]. Tributaries of the Madeira and upper Amazon contain ADE sites up to 40 ha in area, similar to the lower range of larger sites along the main rivers [48]. Given that 30% of Amazonia is occupied by wetlands [47], often associated with bluffs suitable for large villages [49], large unstudied areas throughout Amazonia could have supported complex societies.

5. Late Holocene domesticated landscapes

The transition from subsistence based principally on foraging and small-scale food production to farming started by approximately 4000 BP [3,23], with regional variation [27]. During the Late Holocene, regional population and socio-political complexity within integrated polities increased in numerous areas and networks of interaction were intensified and formalized, linking societies in broad regional political economies [2,3,70]. The net effects, the result of millennia of occupation in many cases, were highly domesticated subregions across Amazonia within networks of greater and lesser anthropogenic impacts criss-crossing the tropical forests. The current consensus is that numerous large pre-Columbian societies existed by the Late Holocene, with regional socio-political integration and broad interaction networks typical of socio-cultural and geo-political variation observed in other world areas [71].

The initial impetus for these changes, alongside development in regional systems, was the influence and actual movements of early farmers associated with ancestors of major linguistic families, especially Arawak, Tupi–Guarani and Carib, and several smaller groups, e.g. Pano, Tukano [7278]. The Arawak family originated in broadly defined western Amazonia and expanded across much of riverine Amazonia, which was associated with early development of farming villages, an Amazonian case of farmer language expansion [2,42,72,79]. They dominated significant areas along major rivers and their headwaters, and were recognized for diverse semi-intensive and intensive landscape management strategies and broad interaction networks they maintained across vast areas [80] (figure 3; see also map in Eriksen [78, p. 222]).

Figure 3.
Figure 3.Distribution of major and some minor Amazonian linguistic groups at contact, following Eriksen ([78]; used with permission). Language names in the map represent suspected origins [78]. Apparently empty areas were inhabited by other minor language groups and linguistic isolates.

Expansions of speakers of the Macro-Tupi and, particularly, Tupi–Guarani family languages (originating in southwestern Amazonia) and the Carib family (in northern Amazonia) were primarily in upland areas [76,77,81]. Movements along small rivers and across interfluvial areas expanded through significant parts of Amazonia, somewhat after the Arawak expansion started [78]. Although they were already horticultural, they may not represent farmer-language expansions similar to Arawak [42]. In many regions, there was substantial presence of diverse groups, including interaction networks and multi-ethnic societies. In central Amazonia, Tupi–Guarani speakers occupied Arawak villages and subsequent Tupi villages were smaller [70,75,82].

By Late Holocene times, enclaves of socio-politically linked peer-polities existed across Greater Amazonia, particularly in three broad macroregions: the Amazon River floodplains and adjacent areas, including the estuary, and the broad northern and southern borderland areas [2]. Earlier mound-building complexes were occupied from 3000 BP, including Sangay in Ecuador, Guyana, the upper Madeira and Purus, and the lower Amazon [3,13,63,65,82]. Substantial domestic and ceremonial earthworks dating to the past two millennia have been identified along the Amazon River floodplain and in northern and southern Amazonian borderlands, particularly in seasonally inundated areas [3,13,65,78,80].

Early descriptions mentioned numerous villages along the Ucayali [4] and Amazon Rivers [5,6]. Each occupied 10–50 ha and numbered several thousand people; some were linked by roads to inland areas [6]. There were larger centres, such as Santarém, at the mouth of the Tapajós River, which comprised a network of occupation areas (up to 50 ha) that together occupied 400 ha [3,13,83]. In Central Amazonia, an eight millennia history of occupations culminated on the eve of conquest in a multi-ethnic regional polity similar in settlement patterns to those documented in the sixteenth century [70,84]. These large centres were among the first native societies to succumb to European conquest [1].

In the northern borderlands, including Marajó Island, Amapá, coastal Guianas and middle-lower Orinoco, there are well-documented cases of settled regional polities by 2000 BP with agricultural and wetland earthworks and monumental architecture [63,80]. By 1500–500 BP, these typically Arawak-speaking societies included large, powerful regional peer-polities that extended into upland areas of the Guiana plateau and pre-Andean areas, notably the western Orinoco [85] and the coastal Guianas [63]. Core settlements were structurally elaborated in production, communication and ritual landscapes. Complex heterarchical polities and regional confederations were typical of areas away from major rivers, and were linked in sacred geographies that connected regions across many parts of Amazonia [13,80].

In the southern borderlands, complex settled regions are focused on major headwater basins of the Xingú, Tapajós, Madeira and Purus, as well as densely settled areas along the eastern margins, including the Tocantins. In these areas, there is substantial landscape modification related to large, permanent settlements, intensive agriculture, well-established communication networks, including monumental sites with regional interaction. The best known cases are the Llanos de Mojos in Bolivia [40,61,86], Acre in southwestern Brazilian Amazonia [13] and the upper Xingú in central Brazil [69,87] (figures 2 and 3), but ethno-history and preliminary archaeological surveys suggest wider distributions across southern Amazonia, including the upper Tapajós and Paraguay watersheds [13,40,61,69,8688]. Like the floodplain and northern borderlands, these settled peer polities created pockets of intensive anthropogenic influence consisting of diffuse but highly planned and integrated regional populations.

6. Conclusion

The emerging multidisciplinary picture of Amazonia is one of great diversity through time and across space. Throughout the Holocene, significant anthropogenic influences occurred in portions of all major subregions. The process and geographical extent of landscape domestication accelerated dramatically with transitions to food production in village gardens, cultivated fields, orchards, domesticated forests, associated anthropogenic soils and earthworks. After 3000 BP, several major Amazonian language families expanded widely across the humid tropical forest and adjacent areas with increasingly diversified inventories of domesticated and managed plants. These societies developed complex systems of regional interaction as they adapted to and modified regional social and biophysical landscapes. Over the past two millennia, these diverse regional trajectories, including substantial internal variation in all areas from large, settled populations to sparsely populated areas within discrete regions, became increasingly articulated within and between regions, and promoted distinctive patterns of land use with related ecological knowledge, but also widespread interaction and connectivity in broad regional political economies.

At the time of European conquest, this variation included a patchy distribution of socio-politically complex systems, semi-intensive techno-economic infrastructure and domesticated landscapes set within a mosaic that also included cultural systems with ‘minimalist’ socio-political organization, simple techno-economies and with less domesticated landscapes. The scales of plant and landscape domestication across Amazonia are comparable to those in other tropical and subtropical regions, and they also fuelled population expansion and social complexity. Larger regional populations clearly fall into the range of medium-sized pre-Columbian polities elsewhere, with population densities well within the range of medium pre-modern urbanized forested landscapes during the Late Holocene in most world areas.

Archaeologists, ecologists and crop geneticists have studied only a small fraction of Amazonia, so the apparently empty areas in our maps represent opportunities for research rather than assumed lack of domestication by pre-conquest peoples, as suggested recently based on a small number of phytolith and charcoal cores in western Amazonia. Engagement with the full range of scholarship on the pre-history of Amazonia reviewed here suggests that western Amazonia is no different than any other major part of Amazonia, although it is different in the lack of an intensive research effort. This is especially true when considering the origins of the Arawak language family and ethnohistorical reports from the region, as well as new archaeology on western Amazonian earthworks. Interdisciplinary studies of coupled natural-human systems reveal that some areas were sparsely occupied but not far away other areas were densely occupied.

The idea of a domesticated Amazonia, i.e. the immense diversity of social, cultural and historical processes that shaped Amazonia during the Holocene, situates this vast area in the company of other world anthromes. It contrasts strongly with reports of empty forests, which continue to captivate scientific and popular media. This view thus problematizes rather than dismisses the human factor in any and all parts of the region, with the corollary that the potential of human influence requires recognition of cultural and historical continuity with many indigenous peoples today. Descendant populations have intrinsic rights to this history and the places it occurred, not simply as disenfranchised groups, but as active partners [89]. They provide a longitudinal view of how human populations actually adapted to changes in the past and how this effected forest composition and distributions. Past systems provide clues to how people responded to opportunities and challenges created by climate change, and offer ideas for present efforts to ameliorate global warming [90]. Indigenous technologies were not only adaptations to changing forest conditions, but also intentional actions to manage those changes. Further resolution of differing views through integrated fieldwork has great global significance given the importance of Amazonia and its sensitivity to climate and human interventions.

Data accessibility

The electronic supplementary material file contains information about the sources of data used to create figures 13.

Authors’ contributions

C.R.C. coordinated the review and co-wrote the plant section; W.M.D. wrote the population section; M.J.H. co-wrote the Late Holocene section; A.B.J. co-wrote the plant section, compiled and designed the maps; E.G.N. co-wrote the Late Holocene section; W.G.T. and W.I.W. co-wrote the soils section. All authors gave final approval for publication.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Acknowledgements

We are also grateful to numerous colleagues (listed in the electronic supplementary material) who kindly contributed unpublished data on the distribution of Brazil nut and of archaeological sites. We thank Dr Love Eriksen for sharing the shape files for the language map.

Funding

We have been supported by numerous funding agencies, among which the Brazilian Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico—CNPq, the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) and the Archaeology Programme at the National Science Foundation are particularly acknowledged for support of research summarized here.

Footnotes

© 2015 The Author(s)

Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2015.0813

Long lost cities in the Amazon were once home to millions of people

Long lost cities in the Amazon were once home to millions of people

We used to think the Amazon rainforest was virtually untouched, but it now seems to have been filled with sprawling settlements whose inhabitants shaped the land76HUMANS 16 January 2019

2631413

By Michael Marshall

THE Amazon rainforest is so vast that it boggles the imagination. A person could enter at its eastern edge, walk 3000 kilometres directly west and still not come out from under the vast canopy.

This haven for about 10 per cent of the world’s species has long been regarded as wild and pristine, barely touched by humanity, offering a glimpse of the world as it was before humans spread to every continent and made a mess of things. It is painted in sharp contrast to the logged forests of Europe and the US.

But it now seems this idea is completely wrong. Far from being untouched, we are coming to realise that the landscape and ecosystem of the Amazon has been shaped by humanity for thousands of years. Long before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, the Amazon was inhabited, and not just by a handful of isolated tribes. A society of millions of people lived there, building vast earthworks and cultivating multitudes of plants and fish.

We don’t fully understand why this flourishing society disappeared centuries ago, but their way of life could give us crucial clues to how humans and the rainforest could coexist and thrive together – even as Brazil’s new government threatens to destroy it.

Some of the first Europeans to explore the Amazon in the 1500s reported cities, roads and cultivated fields. The Dominican friar Gaspar de Carvajal chronicled an expedition in the early 1540s, in which he claimed to have seen sprawling towns and …

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27945-myth-of-pristine-amazon-rainforest-busted-as-old-cities-reappear/

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 8 Rules for the Creative Life -Hexbyte Glen Cove News

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 8 Rules for the Creative Life -Hexbyte Glen Cove News

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News

The biggest stumbling block for many photographers is not knowing how to be creative. You have some natural talent but never seem to break out and become a satisfied creative person. Thankfully, some rules govern a happy and productive creative life. These rules help you to get control and live out your creativity – even with a busy work schedule, and without sacrificing valuable time with your family.

Here are eight of those rules that will help you thrive as a creative photographer.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News Practice your creativity.

Kids have creativity mastered. They may not be very good yet, but they do it all the time. Their life is ordered around exploration and little creative projects. Between the new skills they learn, and the volume of their output, their natural ability increases quickly.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 1. Don’t rely on your natural talent

Maybe you’ve got a natural eye for photography, but that’s not enough. You’ll hit a wall some day and not know how to overcome it.

Even with a good eye already, you should keep learning more about what makes for a good photograph. Go ahead and put your own creative spin on what you’re learning. When you work hard and understand what makes your photography good, you’ll always have ideas and principles to pull from, even when you’re completely uninspired. At the very least, you’ll be able to keep working until truly creative ideas strike you.

Don’t rely on natural talent. Understand how photography works, and exercise your creativity so that you can turn it on whenever you need it. 

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News Practice your creativity

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 2. Successful creative people never stop

Successful creative people never stop working. They are not lazy. They rise to the top because of how hard they work.

But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sleep or never step back from your creative endeavors. Successful creative people rest in order to recharge and come back to their work even stronger.

When you think about it, you’re always doing something with your time (even if it’s just scrolling social media). But the best creative people are intentional and constructive with their time. If you’re always doing something anyway, then why not prioritize something creative?

Many people think they lack time to devote to their photography. You have time, but you’re choosing to spend it on other things. Write down exactly what you do all day. You’ll be shocked at how much time you waste. Don’t waste your time, do photography instead.

Get up one hour earlier. Study and practice photography before your day even begins. You’ll be cheating time by using what you usually would have slept away.

Think about where you could be in a year if you devote one hour to photography every day. Henri Cartier-Bresson says that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. If that’s true, then hurry up and get them behind you. You only need to take about 28 pictures a day over a year.

But working hard does not mean that you need to neglect your family in the process. A workaholic career can destroy your family, and this is not healthy for them or you. Many traveling photographers abandon their families in the name of doing something meaningful with their work. However, what good is their work to the world if their own family suffers for it?

Work, work, work. Get up one hour earlier to do it, but guard your family from abuse of work.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News Black and white Rembrandt lighting

I know this photo is grainy and a little soft. It’s okay with me because I’ve acquired a taste for imperfect black and white photos (and Rembrandt lighting).

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 3. Creativity generator

Exploration is a creativity generator. So explore your craft, other peoples craft, and the whole world around you.

If your craft is portraiture then you need to explore portraiture. But you should also explore other types of photography (photojournalism, macro, wildlife, etc.). You’ll discover interesting ways to improve your portraiture as you study other forms of photography.

Take your learning beyond photography. Study all sorts of creative disciplines (writing, painting, sculpting, or architecture). You don’t have to learn to do these things, just learn about them.

Read memoirs and biographies of creative people too. See what a successful creative life looks like. And learn from the mistakes of tragic lives.

Part of creativity is bringing familiar things together in new ways. The more you explore, the more you have to bring together.

Exploration leads to endless creative possibilities.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 4. Capture your ideas before they disappear

As you learn, work and explore, you’re going to need a way to capture the creative ideas that keep coming into your mind. They light up brightly but disappear quickly. You need to capture those ideas like fireflies in a jar.

Rather than jumping from idea to idea without ever completing anything, carry a notepad or recording device to capture your ideas. Record your idea and then get back to the project you’re working on. Being single-minded is far better than scattering your mind across many half-finished projects. Those half-finished projects will likely become never-finished projects.

Sift through your ideas later when you need something new to work on. You’ll find that many of those ideas weren’t worth pursuing. Moreover, you’ll realize that there were some gems that you had completely forgotten about.

You’ll end up with a lot of ideas, let the best ones rise to the top over time.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News creative black and white photos.

While watching my son build Lego, I noticed the gesture expressed in his toes. Part of exploration is just watching what is going on around you.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 5. Build bridges

Some people prefer to work as a team, others prefer to work on their own. Even if you prefer to pursue your craft on your own, you should still gather with other photographers.

You should especially gather with ones who photograph different subject matter than you. The friendship and feedback will encourage you and help you to avoid becoming narrow and stagnant.

It can get very lonely being the only creative person you know, especially if your spouse doesn’t share your drive for creativity. Before you know it, you’re like an isolated island.

Build bridges to the other creative people around you. 

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 6. One explosion can ruin everything

It’s better to build bridges than it is to burn them.

All it takes is one big emotional outburst to ruin your career as a creative person. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or work in a team, nobody wants to put up with your anger or dramatic outbursts. Treat everyone around you with respect. Even go as far as to treat them as more important than yourself. Everyone will love working with you.

If you do let your emotions get the best of you, be quick to make amends.

Excessive negative emotion stifles your creativity. Be kind to yourself as well and get help dealing with your stress.

In a world of difficult people, be the easy person to work with.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News Creative community

Gathering with other creative people.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 7. Help other creative people be better than you

It would be natural to assume that if you’re generous with your talent, time and resources that people will just take advantage of you. That might happen. But soon enough your generosity will align with people who will be forever grateful for it.

I still remember those who went out of their way to help me when I first started out. They could have protected themselves from the new photographer, wishing that he would fail and disappear. Instead, they helped me. Now, I help other photographers, even if they seem like my direct competitors.

It seems counter-intuitive, but you’ll help yourself more when you help others first. At times, focusing on another person’s creativity may help you more than focusing on your own.

Be the first in a fellowship of creative people helping each other to get better, and better, and better.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News Improve creativity

My daughter wanted to make her own birthday cake. We let her.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News 8. Turn off your phone

You need to have periods of time when you are uninterrupted. The last thing you need when you’re brainstorming ways to complete a creative project is a phone constantly alerting you to something else.

Practice turning your phone off for a couple of hours at a time – maybe even a whole day. It’s liberating to think, play, and be creative without the distraction.

While I was driving back from a 3-hour creative session this morning, I saw a person checking their phone while they waited at a red light. I had a lot on my mind and couldn’t fathom adding a phone to the mix. Now I know that looking at my phone means that whatever creative ideas were on my mind will vanish. So I only look at it a couple of times a day.

We easily become addicted to our digital technology, and a “fear of missing out” keeps us constantly checking in. I’ve developed a greater satisfaction in my creativity and a greater fear of losing my creative drive in the moment. My phone is off most of the time.

You don’t want to trade your creativity for endless digital chatter. Phones, tablets, and computers are useful. But they have a way of talking over.

Turn your phone off and switch your creative mind on.

Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News The creative life

When you follow these eight rules, your creativity will be able to thrive.

You’ll have distraction-free time to learn, work, and explore.

You’ll find yourself encouraged by the other creative people in your life.

Moreover, you’ll always be growing and so will your creativity.

Do you have other tips for your creative life? Please share them with us in the comments below.

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News

Hexbyte - Glen Cove - News 8 Rules for the Creative Life

Read More

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired 20 Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift Ideas and Deals (2019)

Hexbyte Tech News Wired 20 Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift Ideas and Deals (2019)

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

So you forgot that Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 16. You have two options: First, you can cross your fingers and hope that your dad has forgotten it, much in the same way he forgot to give the dog its heartworm medication for the past six months. Or you can relax and realize that you’re not alone in waiting until the last possible minute to get your dad a meaningful gift. We already put together a lovely Father’s Day Gift Guide, but since time is running out, we also cruised the web for steals on some of our favorite gear that will show the father figure in your life that he’s one of your favorite people. Here are our picks.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

The 2019 Kindle is $20 Off

Amazon

This year’s all-new Kindle is the best affordable e-reader on the market. It has most of the bells and whistles that made the old Paperwhite so appealing, like LED front lights. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled and can stream Audible books. If your dad doesn’t already have a Kindle, now is a great time to get him one.

The 2019 Amazon Kindle costs $70 ($20 off)

More Fantastic Dad Gifts

Patagonia

Ring

As always, a 1-year unlimited WIRED digital and print subscription is only $10. Subscribing directly supports the reviews and original reporting we do every day, and you get unfettered access to WIRED wherever you read it. We’re biased, but we think dads (and everyone) would enjoy it.

Father’s Day Retailer Pages

If you’re still on the hunt, here are the full sale pages from some major retailers. We wish you luck!


More Great WIRED Stories

Read More

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired A New Fuel for Satellites Is So Safe It Won’t Blow Up Humans

Hexbyte Tech News Wired A New Fuel for Satellites Is So Safe It Won’t Blow Up Humans

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Two decades in the making, a new satellite fuel will get its first test in space. It is safer for humans to work with and makes satellites much more efficient.

Ball Aerospace

Later this month, a small satellite will hitch a ride on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the world’s first demonstration of “green” satellite propellant in space. The satellite is fueled by AFM-315, which the Air Force first developed more than 20 years ago as an alternative to the typical satellite juice of choice, hydrazine. If successful, AFM-315 could make satellites vastly more efficient, shrink satellite deployment time from weeks to days, and drastically reduce the safety requirements for storing and handling satellite fuel, a boon to humans and the environment. Looking to the future, scientists working on the fuel say it will play a large role in helping get extraterrestrial satellite operations off the ground.

Hydrazine is a volatile fuel that will ruin your day—and perhaps your life—if you’re exposed to it. To fuel a satellite you need a lot of safety infrastructure, including pressurized full-body “SCAPE suits” just to handle the stuff. AFM-315, on the other hand, is less toxic than caffeine, so all you need is a lab coat and a pump. “We literally sat in a room next to a plastic jug of it when we were fueling the satellite,” says Chris McLean, an engineer at Ball Aerospace and the project lead on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission.

Unlike hydrazine, which has a consistency similar to water, AFM-315 is viscous. But its fuel density would increase the “miles per gallon” delivered to a satellite by 50 percent, compared with the same volume of hydrazine.

Ball Aerospace

McLean says one of AFM-315’s biggest selling points after safety is the fact that it doesn’t freeze. AFM-315 is a liquid salt, which means that at extremely low temperatures, it undergoes a glass transition instead. This transforms the fuel into a brittle, glass-like solid, but it doesn’t cause the fuel to expand like frozen water or hydrazine. This attribute prevents fuel lines and storage containers from cracking under stress. Moreover, its glass transition point is extremely low, so the fuel wouldn’t need to be heated on the satellite—a big power suck for other missions. McLean says this will make more power available for other instruments or systems on the satellite, which could open up new possibilities in missions to other planets.

But for all its advantages, AFM-315’s journey from conception to launch has been a long one. First developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory in 1998 as an alternative satellite fuel, McLean says it found limited use due to its high combustion temperature, which was about twice that of hydrazine. This required exotic—and expensive—materials to prevent damage to the satellite. By the late 2000s, the cost of manufacturing propulsion systems that could handle the heat from AFM-315 was low enough to make it feasible to use, but no company wanted to risk fueling their satellites with an experimental propellant. If AFM-315 was ever going to be widely adopted by the satellite industry, McLean says, it would have to prove itself in orbit. Thus NASA’s Green Infusion Propellant Mission was born.

Originally slated to launch in late 2015, the green propellant mission got caught up in the delays that plagued the development of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. On June 24 it is scheduled to fly on the second operational mission of the Falcon Heavy along with several other payloads, including an atomic clock being tested for deep space navigation.

The green propellant satellite bus was developed by Ball Aerospace and is outfitted with four 1-newton thrusters and one 22-newton thruster that will be used to test the AFM-315 propellant. During its 13-month mission it will use the thrusters to perform orbital maneuvers, such as lowering its orbit and changing its attitude or tilt, to test the performance of the propellant.

McLean says there are already customers interested in using the green propellant if the demonstration flight goes well. That means satellites could be flying operational missions around Earth as soon as 18 months after the demonstration. Looking to the future, McLean says AFM-315 could be especially useful for exploring cold regions of the solar system, such as the Martian poles. Looks like the Red Planet just got a little more green.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read More

Hexbyte  News  Computers LaLiga’s app listened in on fans to catch bars illegally streaming soccer

Hexbyte News Computers LaLiga’s app listened in on fans to catch bars illegally streaming soccer

Hexbyte News Computers

Spain’s data protection agency has fined the country’s soccer league, LaLiga, €250,000 (about $280,000) for allegedly violating EU data privacy and transparency laws. The app, which is used for keeping track of games and stats, was using the phone’s microphone and GPS to track bars illegally streaming soccer games, Spanish newspaper El País reported.

Using a Shazam-like technology, the app would record audio to identify soccer games, and use the geolocation of the phone to locate which bars were streaming without licenses. El Diario reports that fans have downloaded that app more than 10 million times, essentially turning them into undercover narcs. The league claims that the app asks for permission to access the phone’s microphone and location, and that the data — which is received as a code, not audio — is only used to detect LaLiga streams. The app does explain in the terms of service that by giving the app permission, users are consenting to LaLiga using their phones to detect fraudulent behavior, like pirated soccer games.

However, the Spanish data protection agency claims that the app didn’t make this clear, and has ordered LaLiga to take down the app by June 30th. The league plans to appeal the sanction, claiming that the agency doesn’t fully understand the app’s technology.

Read More

Hexbyte  News  Computers The Pentagon is battling the clock to fix serious, unreported F-35 problems

Hexbyte News Computers The Pentagon is battling the clock to fix serious, unreported F-35 problems

Hexbyte News Computers

WASHINGTON — Over the past several years, U.S. Defense Department leaders have gone from citing technical problems as their biggest concern for the F-35 program to bemoaning the expense of buying and sustaining the aircraft.

But the reality may be worse. According to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News, the F-35 continues to be marred by flaws and glitches that, if left unfixed, could create risks to pilot safety and call into question the fighter jet’s ability to accomplish key parts of its mission:

F-35B and F-35C pilots, compelled to observe limitations on airspeed to avoid damage to the F-35’s airframe or stealth coating. Cockpit pressure spikes that cause “excruciating” ear and sinus pain. Issues with the helmet-mounted display and night vision camera that contribute to the difficulty of landing the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.

These are some of the problems with the jet that the documents describe as category 1 deficiencies — the designation given to major flaws that impact safety or mission effectiveness.

Thirteen of the most serious flaws are described in detail, including the circumstances associated with each issue, how it impacts F-35 operations and the Defense Department’s plans to ameliorate it.

All but a couple of these problems have escaped intense scrutiny by Congress and the media. A few others have been briefly alluded to in reports by government watchdog groups.

But the majority of these problems have not been publicly disclosed, exposing a lack of transparency about the limitations of the Defense Department’s most expensive and high-profile weapons system.

These problems impact far more operators than the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy customer base. Eleven countries — Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom — have all selected the aircraft as their future fighter of choice, and nine partner nations have contributed funds to the development of the F-35.

Taken together, these documents provide evidence that the F-35 program is still grappling with serious technical problems, even as it finds itself in a key transitional moment.

And the clock is ticking. By the end of 2019, Defense Department leaders are set to make a critical decision on whether to shut the door on the F-35’s development stage and move forward with full-rate production. During this period, the yearly production rate will skyrocket from the 91 jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin in 2018 to upward of 160 by 2023.

Generally speaking, the department’s policy calls for all deficiencies to be closed before full-rate production starts. This is meant to cut down on expensive retrofits needed to bring existing planes to standard.

Hexbyte  News  Computers A maintainer with the 388th Fighter Wing out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, checks for structural damages on an F-35A during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Jan. 25, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard/U.S. Air Force)
A maintainer with the 388th Fighter Wing out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, checks for structural damages on an F-35A during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Jan. 25, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard/U.S. Air Force)

The F-35 Joint Program Office appears to be making fast progress, but not all problems will be solved before the full-rate production decision, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the Defense Department’s F-35 program executive.

“None of them, right now, are against any of the design, any of the hardware or any of the manufacturing of the aircraft, which is what the full-rate production decision is for,” he told Defense News in an interview. “There are no discrepancies that put at risk a decision of the department to approve us to go into full-rate production.”

Nine out of 13 problems will likely either be corrected or downgraded to category 2 status before the Pentagon determines whether to start full-rate production, and two will be adjudicated in future software builds, Winter said.

However, the F-35 program office has no intention of correcting two of the problems addressed in the documents, with the department opting to accept additional risk.

Winter maintains that none of the issues represent any serious or catastrophic risk to pilots, the mission or the F-35 airframe. After being contacted by Defense News, the program office created two designations of category 1 problems to highlight the difference between issues that would qualify as an emergency and others that are more minor in nature.

“CAT 1-As are loss of life, potential loss of life, loss of material aircraft. Those have to be adjudicated, have to be corrected within hours, days. We have no CAT 1-A deficiencies,” Winter said.

Instead, the deficiencies on the books all fall under category 1B, which represents problems “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time,” Winter added.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the F-35 program, said currently fielded F-35s are meeting or exceeding performance specifications.

“These issues are important to address, and each is well understood, resolved or on a path to resolution,” he said. “We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.”

Documents provided to Defense News reveal issues facing the F-35 fighter jet as it nears a major milestone. Find out what they are, if they’ll be fixed and why they’re just now coming to light.

The status of deficiencies

According to a June 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office, the program had 111 category 1 deficiencies on the books in January 2018. By May 24, 2018, that number had decreased to 64 open category 1 problems out of a total 913 deficiencies, according to one document obtained by Defense News.

Another document obtained by Defense News noted that at least 13 issues would need to be held as category 1 deficiencies going into operational tests in fall 2018.

The 13 deficiencies include:

  • The F-35’s logistics system currently has no way for foreign F-35 operators to keep their secret data from being sent to the United States.
  • The spare parts inventory shown by the F-35’s logistics system does not always reflect reality, causing occasional mission cancellations.
  • Cabin pressure spikes in the cockpit of the F-35 have been known to cause barotrauma, the word given to extreme ear and sinus pain.
  • In very cold conditions — defined as at or near minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit — the F-35 will erroneously report that one of its batteries have failed, sometimes prompting missions to be aborted.
  • Supersonic flight in excess of Mach 1.2 can cause structural damage and blistering to the stealth coating of the F-35B and F-35C.
  • After doing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots are not always able to completely control the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw.
  • If the F-35A and F-35B blows a tire upon landing, the impact could also take out both hydraulic lines and pose a loss-of-aircraft risk.
  • A “green glow” sometimes appears on the helmet-mounted display, washing out the imagery in the helmet and making it difficult to land the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.
  • On nights with little starlight, the night vision camera sometimes displays green striations that make it difficult for all variants to see the horizon or to land on ships.
  • The sea search mode of the F-35’s radar only illuminates a small slice of the sea’s surface.
  • When the F-35B vertically lands on very hot days, older engines may be unable to produce the required thrust to keep the jet airborne, resulting in a hard landing.

The Pentagon has identified four additional category 1 deficiencies since beginning operational tests in December 2018, mostly centered around weapons interfaces, Winter said.

“They are not catastrophic. If they were, they’d have to stop test. There’s nothing like that,” he said. “They will be straightforward software fixes. We just need to get to them.”

Those four category 1 deficiencies will likely not be fixed or downgraded before the full-rate production decision, he said. Additionally, the service will likely need more time to address the F-35B engine thrust issue and the radar’s sea search mode problem. The problems that occur when the “B” and “C” models fly in excess of Mach 1.2 will not be fixed, as they are considered to have extremely low probability of occurring during operations.

All told, Winter expects to have about nine category 1 deficiencies still on the books as the F-35 moves to full-rate production: the eight problems defined above, and whatever surprises occur as the jet continues operational tests.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Defense News shared the list of deficiencies with two senior naval aviators — one active and one recently retired — who agreed to review the document. Each offered a different perspective on the seriousness of the problems.

The recently retired aviator said some of the issues jumped off the page at him, including the cabin over-pressurization issue, given the rash of over-pressurization issues in other aircraft, including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-22 Raptor.

But perhaps the most serious for aerial combat operations is the combination of maneuvering issues when the aircraft is operating above a 20-degree angle of attack and the issue of possible structural damage and damage to the low-observable coating when using the afterburner. That coating helps provide the F-35 a stealth capability.

“The one that stood out to me was, wait a minute, you’re telling me that the latest, greatest aircraft — [a] $100 million aircraft — can’t perform?” the retired fighter pilot said. “It has random oscillations, pitch and yaw issues above 20A?”

However, the naval aviator currently in service said the list of deficiencies did not alarm him and that, given that the F-35 is still new to the fleet, such issues are inevitable.

“That document looks like growing pains for an aircraft that we tried to do a whole lot to all at once,” the senior aviator said. “You’re going to see that if you dig back at what Super Hornets looked like for the first few years. Go back in the archives and look at [the F-14] Tomcat — think about that with the variable sweep-wing geometry, the AUG9 radar: There was a lot of new technology incorporated into the aircraft, and there is going to be growing pains.”

Other organizations have also registered concerns about the price of fixing deficiencies.

The GAO in June 2018 warned lawmakers that moving forward with full-rate producing without fixing technical issues could drive up the cost of the F-35 program.

“If the critical deficiencies are not resolved before moving to production, the F-35 program faces additional concurrency costs to fix fielded aircraft — which are currently estimated at $1.4 billion,” the GAO stated in the report.

Winter told Defense News that the program office is taking steps to try to minimize the price of fixing the fighter jet, such as bundling in corrections to deficiencies with other software and hardware updates to decrease labor costs.

However, it is unclear how much of the cost burden will be left for the taxpayers to shoulder. The program office is recording the extra expenditures associated with fixing the deficiencies, Winter said. Ultimately, it plans to bring that data into negotiations with Lockheed in the hopes of getting the company to cover those costs.

Other watchdog organizations have criticized the deficiency litigation process for its lack of transparency. In 2018, the Project on Government Oversight blasted the F-35 program after obtaining documents that showed the Joint Deficiency Review Board downgrading 19 category 1 issues to the lower category 2 rating.

Although the Defense Department has the latitude to reclassify problems that it feels aren’t serious enough to merit the category 1 moniker, the watchdog argued that there was no fix or workaround in place for 10 of those problems.

“With the revelation that officials made paperwork fixes to make these serious deficiencies appear acceptable, it seems that much of that work is being ignored in the name of political expediency and protecting F-35 funding,” the organization stated.

Winter pointed out that the program office does not have the power to waive or downgrade deficiencies, which can be written by the test community, operators or any other stakeholder in the F-35 program. Instead, deficiencies must be evaluated by the Joint Deficiency Review Board, which includes members from the program office, the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team responsible for assessing the F-35 during operational tests, developmental testers located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force Base, as well as other representatives from the armed services and industry.

The F-35’s list of ongoing technical problems are unlikely to pose an existential threat to the program given the recent progress in fixing issues, driving down the costs of the airframe and continued support on Capitol Hill for the fighter jet.

“I would put this down to, frankly, growing pains that you’d expect from a sophisticated, modern aircraft program. Nothing really stands out [as particularly troubling], primarily because they seem to be well on the way toward being addressed,” said Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “What has been done to address these have reduced the concerns regarding safety of flight. Doesn’t mean that there isn’t still work to be done. And it doesn’t mean new things won’t be discovered.”

The list of deficiencies as a whole is in some ways encouraging, the currently serving aviator said, because it looks like the issues are being identified by the engineers and technicians working on the program.

“I think what you see in that document is an airplane that fell behind schedule, that was rushed to get back up to schedule under immense political and industry pressure. They had a lot of next-gen[eration] technologies all at once, and they’re working through what all of that looks like together,” the aviator said.

“I don’t see anything in that document that makes me say: ‘Holy sh–, what did we buy?’ If the questions is, ‘Why does the aircraft have all these problems?’, I don’t know, it may sound trite, but it’s a really f–ing complicated machine.”

David B. Larter in Washington contributed to this story.

Read More