scott_sanford: (Sanford)
When I showed up for the first day of GameStorm I discovered that the prereg desk didn't have a badge waiting for me. This wasn't what I was hoping or expecting to hear; granted it's been a year since the last one but I was still about 90% sure I'd invested in a membership on Sunday afternoon. I didn't have enough cash for an at-the-door membership in my wallet right that instant but it left me considering my options with my wallet in hand, which led to me picking through the scrap paper accumulated there, and my faint hope was realized. I still had my receipt! Not only had I gotten a membership last year but I still had the proof on me! (Along with several other small and worn receipts.) I called this to the attention of the registration staff and correcting the problem went amazingly quickly and smoothly after that.

The moral appears to be to not clean out your wallet...
scott_sanford: (Daria proofreads)
This was just one of several regenerations of the Doctor who attended in 2013.

scott_sanford: (Default)
I've been using the classic Bic four-color pens for longer than I care to think about, but while one goes with me everywhere I go I don't lose them as fast as I once did. So today for the first time in a year or two I actually had to buy one. It wasn't until I actually opened the package that I saw the only design change I can remember in twenty years: the little round ball at the butt end had been modified into a fat ring, allowing a string or lanyard ring to be added. I've not tried adding anything yet, but this strikes me as a useful improvement.
scott_sanford: (Default)
On the off chance that my readers who would be interested have not seen this yet, I present a link to Gay Marriage: the Database Engineering Perspective. This has been copied all over the net by various amused geeks, gays, libertarians, and gay libertarian geeks. If you fit at least one of those categories, you may find it entertaining to read.

The synopsis: people are complicated!
scott_sanford: (Default)
I really shouldn't be talking about writing here, as my readers mostly aren't fiction writers and the exceptions have published novels and/or gotten nominated for Hugos, so I'm either talking to the wall or being the n00b who should STFU. Read more... )
scott_sanford: (Default)
So I happen to be re-reading Charles Stross's Halting State at the moment; no big deal, except that this was brought to my attention.

Most of you can skip the URL; it's a proposal to expand the old Multi-User Dungeon text based virtual reality concept onto a multi-platform multi-world system. Among other things, that would let player avatars move from one world to another, and move objects between various servers. It would be modular and expandable. Open source code so anyone with a net connection could run a server. Clients would not need to be desktop computers but would run on celphones – gaming anywhere, any time, connecting to any world.

Aside from the absolutely crappy keyboards of celphones these days, a MUD is absolutely perfect for the smartphone environment; the database size, CPU load, and bandwidth requirements are all tiny by today's standards. (I played on and wrote content for MUCKs on a dumb terminal and a 300 baud modem; I speak from experience.) So what? Two points.

It's really just nerds wanking at each other about software that doesn't even exist yet. But...

It's also the multi-node dynamic VR concept Charles Stross described in Halting State - and instead of a bazillion-euro megacorp doing it, these hobbyists want to write it for kicks.
scott_sanford: (Default)
As seen on Charles Stross's blog, it is now possible to run linux on (some) web browsers. Really: try it. There are of course technical notes on how Javascript pretends to be a 486 linux box.

Actual useful applications of this feat are still coming, but the immediate attraction is the coolness factor.
scott_sanford: (Default)
Somehow I've managed to miss this until now. It's a video by Isao Hashimoto illustrating all 2053 nuclear explosions from 1945 until 1988.

Several things come to mind watching this, like the odd musical track made by the 'ping' sound effect when a nuke goes off. Testing tended to run in clusters, so you get interesting emergent music - like birdsong, only with radioactivity. Also, the US has maintained its head start in nuking things pretty well; about half of all mushroom clouds were ours.

The most important point is of course that 2051 nukes were popped off essentially to see what would happen. After the second and third units, nobody anywhere ever actually used any of them on somebody else. Good for you, humanity.
scott_sanford: (Default)
This article has much to say about how humans weigh evidence vs. beliefs, and the pitfalls of telling people what they don't want to hear.

The comments fell to ad hominim attacks surprisingly quickly.
scott_sanford: (Default)
Today, for the first time in many years I read Omnilingual by H. Beam Piper. A few things came to me that I hadn't recalled from years ago.

Never mind a Mars expedition in the 1990s; that was plausible when it was written. What hit me was that the characters smoked like chimneys. Okay, so in the '50s this wasn't unusual. But is it worth mentioning in a story? Also, why haul cigarettes along on the first Mars expedition when it would be easier just to hire non-smokers?

Having said that, the story ages well. Earthlings missing Martians by only fifty thousand years is a frustratingly near miss.
scott_sanford: (Default)
So I'm wasting time on the net as usual when I run across an anecdote from Operation Plumbob, a nuke testing program back in the 1950s.

It seems that their point criticality tests led to some interesting learning experiences. Follow along: Pascal-A was supposed to check that a single faulty detonator could not actually set off the whole bomb (an implosion type design counts on having a bunch of carefully timed detonators to, well, implode). So the test unit is lowered down a 147 meter shaft and set off, which is when they discover that someone's slipped a decimal point somewhere - the yield is about 55 tons, or 50,000 times what they expected. Oops.

Witness Robert Campbell said, "Biggest damn Roman candle you ever saw! It was beautiful. Big blue glow in the sky..."

Right. After this little learning experience, they redesigned things a bit for the next test.

Pascal-B was a near duplicate of Pascal-A, but after the fireworks display last time, the scientists decided to put a cap on the hole. (The military has a very good understanding of "tube with explosives at one end.") Starting with a piece of four inch thick armor plate, a one-ton steel cap for the hole was made and lowered into place for the test.

Like the first time, this test was predicted to yield about as much force as 1-2lbs worth of TNT. Like the first time, this wasn't particularly accurate. Pascal-B went off at around 1/3 kiloton, or 600,000 times what it should have. Oops, again.

The surface high-speed camera caught exactly one frame of that one-ton steel plate as it left the ground, headed upwards at what was later estimated as six times Earth escape velocity, never to be seen again. A flying manhole cover moving face-on through the air is a spectacularly un-aerodynamic shape, and the best guess is that it vaporized long before it left the atmosphere.

While the cap was very, very gone it was not forgotten; this incident was brought up later in connection with the Project Orion concept. There's probably a moral in there somewhere.
scott_sanford: (Default)
The Forbes Fictional Fifteen is out, showing us that just because you work for a finance magazine doesn't mean you lack a sense of humor. This year they let us peek behind the scenes and show how to calculate the net worth of dragon hoards, which is admirably nerdy and math-heavy. (Anything that involves reading J.R.R. Tolkien and a calculator sounds like something for us.) But if you just want the bottom line: Smaug is worth not less than $8.6 billion.
scott_sanford: (Default)
Among [ profile] james_nicoll's verbose postage was a link to a space warfare essay, Battle of the Spherical War Cows: Purple vs. Green. Well! How can you pass up a title like that?

But from there we link to the Atomic Rockets site, with...even more essays! I am doomed! DOOOOMED!
scott_sanford: (Default)
No, not people trained to ride robots, but robots built to ride camels. I'm not sure what to think of this.

I see it's an improvement on the small child jockey. American jockeys are probably too well unionized or something to let this happen here. Personally I would have guessed we'd see humans riding robot horses first, but there's no telling.

Also, this means the Inevitable Robot Uprising is going to have a cavalry arm.
scott_sanford: (Default)
Come to think of it, this is every bit as informative as many other articles I've seen on nuclear power recently: U.S. Reactors Completely Safe Unless Something Bad Happens.

Pi chart

Mar. 14th, 2011 07:10 pm
scott_sanford: (Default)
Since I haven't seen it elsewhere today, here's my March 14th contribution. Read more... )
scott_sanford: (Default)
Possibly the best troll baiting headline of Pi Day: Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.

There's a long history of saying outrageous things in order to get attention. Phil Zuckerman actually backs it up with something related, so good for him.
scott_sanford: (Default)
For a friend (she knows who she is): a trip to HAARP! Read more... )
scott_sanford: (Default)
I stumbled across the factoid that there is only one British teddy bear manufacturer.
Read more... )
scott_sanford: (Default)
Apparently this is an actual object.

Read more... )


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