scott_sanford: (Daria proofreads)
An interesting science demonstration on youtube; these fellows have a laser and a very fast camera...

Watching this, I realize I am not used to considering lightspeed delays over distances of a few centimeters.
scott_sanford: (Default)
So I was looking at my Leatherman tool the other day and had what seemed to me a simple idea for an improvement. This one is a Charge TTi, but it applies to a lot of the models with outside blades, such as the popular Wave. My tool has several gadgets on the outside (so it doesn't need to be unfolded to use them), and comes with two knife blades designed for one-handed opening. The other outside options are a saw and a file, neither of which is quite as useful; held in the right hand, one of the two knives will be under the thumb - held in the left hand it presents the other tools but no blade or thumb opening feature.

Many people are left handed. Also, the blade mounting is standardized; there seems no reason why any blade could not be put in any position. (This is tricky to do yourself because you need moderately rare tools such as a pin torx driver.) Thinking it over, I couldn't see any reason why it couldn't be made with parts on hand nor any difficulty marketing a left-handed Leatherman.

So I found a spare moment and brought this up to the only person I know who's both left handed and a long term Leatherman employee. I hardly had begun my explanation when he got a knowing smile and I realized he'd heard this many times before. Apparently this gets suggested a lot, including several times a month via the website, and the company for some reason has yet to actually try marketing a mirrored tool. Harrumph.


Mar. 1st, 2012 04:49 pm
scott_sanford: (Daria proofreads)
In which my ego explodes with delight – and pops like a balloon.

Like many of us, my fandom includes both mainstream and tiny niche fandoms. Another person active in one of the latter thought that it would be worthwhile to interview me about my history and activities. (“Hooray! I'm liked! I'm validated as a human being!”) So we spent an hour or so exchanging words, covering the usual fan things...and then discovered that the recording program had not, in fact, recorded anything. (“Damn piece of junk! Who programs this crap? Why didn't it say so?”) This installment of my 15 minutes of fame will have to wait.
scott_sanford: (Default)
According to this and this, we've gotten a proof-of-concept prototype on the contact lens display already.

It's not ready to go yet. The rigid lens form factor is a minor concern. Also, the prototype is fitted on rabbits; it's not clear that they've built one that can be tried by humans. The fact that the display only has one pixel is the real problem - we're a long way from a usable HUD at this point.

I admit I'd expected to see a wearable HUD in a pair of glasses well in advance of contact lenses (if you've missed this idea, watch Dennō Coil for an example); the ones on the market now are a long way from the convenient glasses we've been hoping for. Maybe the age of wearable computing will skip past the glasses stage more quickly than we'd guessed.
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A while back I noted here that a company called Neuroware (in Japan, naturally) had come out with brainwave controlled cat ears. Now I discover that an American hobbyist has made his own. Apparently there's a real demand for this, at least among some people. I am aware that I know some of these people.

Among other things, this tells me that some SF authors have been much too conservative about what people will get up to as soon as easy cybernetics and/or genetic modifications become available. Once we have a technology, we'll play with it.
scott_sanford: (Default)
According to this article human energy use over time plots very close to linearly on a logarithmic scale (~10x per century), back to 1650. Extrapolating, we become a Kardashev Type I in only 400 years - much less than I'd guess, but not impossible with SPS arrays. Past that we hit Type II only a thousand years later, and that seems rather soon for a full Dyson Swarm.

While many functions that look logarithmic eventually go sigmoid, it's unclear where the inflection point is - except that we haven't gotten there yet, and it may be quite a ways out. Much like Moore's Law; we know it tops out somewhere... I'll take a stand that it will inflect well before reaching Type II, and that we definitely won't reach Type III on schedule; if nothing else this would require massive FTL travel, which looks unlikely.

The article also points out that if we're using this amount of energy on Earth, the waste heat is going to become first a nuisance and then a damn problem, as the planet cannot radiate that much energy into space without active assistance. (I expect the author will get some flames because only atmospheric CO2 levels are supposed to be mentioned in this context.) It's not clear how much heat we could lose by, for example, a low-orbit radiator disk and orbital towers - but even trying wouldn't be cheap.

PS: Because I know my readers are the kind of people to be curious, humanity currently uses about 22 terawatts per year, about 0.16% of Earth's total energy budget, putting us around 0.72 on Carl Sagan's revised Kardashev scale.
scott_sanford: (Default)
According to an io9 article, a scheme is going down at UMichigan to get a computer to mimic a cat brain. (I'm sure this has been done in science fiction, possibly by an author with the initials C.S.) Having read the article I'm confident that nothing dramatic could possibly go wrong involving emulating the mind of an opportunistic predator and hooking the gadget up to the internet.
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 ran across this, and as at least two of my followers are hams, thought it would be worth passing along.

WARNING Perform as many functions as possible on the ground. Installing antennas on windy days can be strong forces. Be prepared to safely handle these forces at unexpected moments. Antennas Direct Inc. is not injury resulting from antenna installations.

WARNING Antennas improperly installed on an inadequate structure are very susceptible to wind damage. The owner and installer assumes full responsibility that the installation is structurally sound to support all and properly sealed against leaks. Antennas Direct Inc. will not accept liability for any damage cause by an unknown variable applications.

WARNING Do not attempt to install if drunk, pregnant or both. Do not throw antenna at spouse.

Well! Good thing we know how to safely put up antennas now!


Jun. 28th, 2011 01:28 am
scott_sanford: (Default)
I know this will be of interest to some of my readers. Back in 1959 the Orion project was still getting funding (sanity had not yet set in) and some actual flight tests were done. This short video clip shows an unmanned 105kg test vehicle taking off propelled by 1kg C4 charges.

(Related only by reader interest, it seems that Los Alamos has a large wildfire.)
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)

If it's not clear - and why should it be? - those are telephone and data lines serving the local neighborhood. I'm glad I don't need to maintain it.
scott_sanford: (Default)
Lost secrets? Check. Mysterious underground passages? Check. Danger? Well, a little. Not a D&D campaign, but the London Post Office Railway, an underground mail delivery system that moved letters between London's post offices for about a century and has been shut down since 2002. Some determined explorers managed to gain access to this buried treasure of hidden London and report back their adventure.

Let me say in passing that I'm impressed not only with London's urban spelunkers but also the history nerds who equipped the team with background lore and maps. (It's a clear demonstration that our hobbies are only mostly useless.) Well done, gentlemen!
scott_sanford: (Default)
A friend of mine pointed out that in Japan you can now buy cat ears. No, not just costume pieces (nor real cat's ears, yuck), but robotic brainwave-reading ears.

Apparently the headband electronics picks up something it can interpret and moves the ears in response. The company, Neurowear claims this is just the first in a line of, um, something. Their website also has this lovely quote:

"People think that our body has limitation, however just imagine if we have organs that doesn’t exist, moreover we can control that new body?"

Is this not the prelude to SF-nal body upgrades?
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)
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.


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