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July 28, 2004

Another X-Prize Contestant

A second group is vying for the X-prize, a Canadian attempt called The da Vinci Project. The new attempt uses a balloon to carry it to 80,000 feet (technically this makes it a rockoon), where it launches itself to the 62 mile altitude, then uses ballutes for better aerobraking before deploying a parafoil. Aerodynamically it's almost a no-tech solution compared to Spaceship One, but it uses liquid fueled engines (kerosene-LOX) instead of hybrids. I think the biggest recurring expense and problem will be the balloon and its ground handling, but hopefully the rest of the attempt will go well.

It's a good thing it's a private venture or the Canadian government would churn out a white paper explaining why Canada can't afford to be in the space launch business.

July 28, 2004 in Science | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Pentagon's New Pain Weapons

This slightly dated Sacramento Bee story talks about the US Army's new invisible pain beam.

WASHINGTON - Test subjects can't see the invisible beam from the Pentagon's new, Star Trek-like weapon, but no one has withstood the pain it produces for more than three seconds.

people who volunteered to stand in front of the directed energy beam say they felt as if they were on fire. When they stepped aside, the pain disappeared instantly.

The long-range column of millimeter-wave energy is known as the "Active Denial System" for its ability to prevent an aggressor from advancing. Senior military officials, who plan to deliver the device for troop evaluation this fall, say years of testing has produced no sign it will lead to health effects beyond perhaps causing skin to temporarily redden.

Millimeter-wave RF energy is right at the top of the microwave band, at 300 GHz, and beyond that is the low end of the infrared spectrum. These higher frequencies won't penetrate nearly as deeply as the frequencies we use for cooking, at around 2.4 GHz.

Susan Levine, the Pentagon's project manager for the energy beam, said years of tests on humans and animals enabled researchers to establish a margin of safety. After several seconds, the device automatically shuts off to avoid burning its target, she said.

When the beam hits an individual, it penetrates 1/64th of an inch beneath the skin and heats water molecules to 130 degrees in less than a second.

"It tricks the pain sensors into thinking they're on fire," said Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M.

It goes on to mention the rough cost of the program ($50 million) and size of the transmitter (4 tons), which mounts on a Humvee. It's pretty big and quite heavy, but potentially useful for irritating the snot out of crowds. Most of the article is hand-wringing over whether it could be used for torture, and I would ask "What for?" Since it only penetrates about 1/64th of an inch into the skin, generating heat, it has no advantage over a curling iron or George Foreman grill.

I'd like to mention a few things about a couple of our cute new electromagnetic weapons. The one just mentioned uses extremely high frequency microwaves, and we're also working with new types of tasers, one of which uses brief but intense flashes of parallel lasers to ionize a pair of paths through the air, making a low-resistance circuit to the target. A high-voltage, low-current taser beam is sent down that ionized path to shock the target into spasms, just like a conventional taser.

Both these technologies have some drawbacks compared to conventional bullets, mainly the armor that a Western nation, or even any reasonable opponent, would develop in response. Stopping a bullet with lightweight flexible armor is very hard, but stopping these weapons is actually very easy. The microwave weapon only penetrates 1/64th of an inch into the skin, so the solution is to wear skin that doesn't have active nerve endings, commonly called leather. It would work even better if a bit wet, so just spill beer on it. Yep, the Army's new beam weapon is useless against motorcycle gangs.

The taser weapon likewise only produces a current of a few milliamps, so aluminum foil with an insulated backing should short it out, sending the few milliamps skittering through the foil instead of through the body. You could take a piece of carboard or thin plywood, tape aluminum foil to it, then staple a leather hide across the front, and have a universal shield to bring to the next protest. But if the opponents start outfoxing the system then we just resort to other proven methods, such as water cannons, tear gas, horses, or riot gear. And of course there's always bullets.

July 28, 2004 in Science | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Australia's Strange Criminals

What is it with Australian criminals? Today the Sydney Morning Herald had this one

Five men who allegedly forced a Sydney accountant to swallow acid at gunpoint have been charged with his murder.

Accountant Dominic Li, 45, died on January 2 last year after he was allegedly forced to swallow acid at gunpoint in front of his wife and 14-year-old son on December 13, 2002 at their Concord home.

Five men aged 24-39 were all charged with murder and conspiring to inflict grievous bodily harm. Two were also charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm while the other three also face charges of being an accessory.

What's up with that? I guess they could've strapped him down above a shark infested tank, with a swinging pendulum that would slowly cut the rope holding him up, or they could've stuck him in a giant hourglass, but drinking acid?

Just a few days ago in The Age just ran an update on this strange story about an Australian mother of three who was chased around her SUV and murdered in a gangland hit, which they now think was a case of mistaken identity.

Mrs Thurgood-Dove was chased around her four-wheel-drive and shot in front of her children on November 6, 1997.

For more than two years police have been working on the theory that another woman who lived in Muriel Street was the intended target of the hit.

They believe that Carmel Kypri, the wife of criminal figure Peter Kypri, was the woman who was to be murdered. They are now convinced the killer identified the wrong house and shot the wrong woman.

The Thurgood-Doves lived three houses away from a corner in Muriel Street; the Kypris lived in the same street, also three houses away from a corner and on the same side of the road.

She was very pretty, too, and no doubt quite a wonderful mom.


It's a quite interesting crime story, and if you Google up "Thurgood-Dove" you'll find all sorts of details about it, such as the police spending years thinking an obsessed policeman was behind it. Australia definitely has a crime problem, despite the gun bans, sword bans, and knife bans. It stands as proof that scum sucking vermin have never found that killing unarmed and unwary people presented much of a technical obstacle.

July 28, 2004 in misc | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Rogue Waves

Now this is interesting! There have always been stories about giant ocean waves, known as "rogue" waves, such as the one that they think sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. But statistical models said waves as tall as 100 feet should only occur ever 10,000 years or so. Yet the world loses several large ships a month, ships the size of supertankers, and oil platforms using lasers to measure sea height were showing some astoundingly bizarre waves, and not one freak every 10,000 years, but dozens per year in the same oil field. In 1995 the Queen Elizabeth II ran into a wave that the captain said looked like the cliffs of Dover, and in 2001 two different cruise liners had their bridge windows smashed out by waves one hundred feet tall in the same week. Something was definitely going on, so the European Space Agency formed a project called MaxWave to look at satellite radar data to look for such waves.

roguewave Rare Picture of a Rogue Wave Hitting a Tanker

It turns out such rogue waves occur every couple of days, and now everyone needs to take them into account as we update ship and ocean platform designs. Meanwhile scientists will see if they can predict where they will occur, so we can route ships to avoid likely trouble spots. Waves that travel at the same speed as a storm front, or places where large waves encounter a different body of water or front where lensing would focus the energy are likely culprits.

I guess we're just lucky that one of our aircraft carrriers hasn't had her deck cleaned by one of these monsters. I would think that these rogue waves would be associated with large storm systems, and such systems don't allow for carrier operations. They'd also pose a hazard to aircraft strapped down on the flight deck, so maybe our fleets just look at the storm data and give such systems a wide berth, so the fleet wouldn't be running into such freak phenomenon with anything approaching the frequency of oil tankers and container ships. If any Navy personnel want to comment, I'd be curious about that.

Go read it, then Google up Maxwave or "rogue waves", although most of what you find are repeats of this same basic information. I would think routing camera laden aircraft to record such waves would be most interesting, and inevitably some surfer dude is going to become a rogue wave hunter.

July 26, 2004 in Science | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Off for the Weekend

Sorry all, but I've got to take off for the weekend, now that it's half over... I have however been posting a few stories over at The Rott, if you want to skip on over and check them out.

July 24, 2004 in misc | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Sixteen Points

The Arab News of Saudi Arabia had this interesting article, listing sixteen basic points.

1. Our biggest enemy is not Israel or America. Our enemy is our dogmatic approach that leads us into more than temptation.

2. Our anger at the world these days is not justified since we are no more than crybabies who cannot get their visas on the same day we apply.

3. Israel is not wrong to build a wall; they are wrong in building it on other people’s land. We should know that since all our homes are walled in a way that makes the Israeli project silly in comparison.

4. It is not natural to employ suicide bombers to advance any agenda.

5. It is wrong to behead people in public to force others to do your will.

There's nine more, and if only people leaning to Kerry could grasp such basics we'd all be much better off.

July 22, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Sudan Warns US, UK

Now isn't this just special.

Sudan Warns UK, U.S. Not to Interfere in Darfur

Well then consider us warned…

PARIS (Reuters) - Sudan warned Britain and the United States not to interfere in its internal affairs Thursday after British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had not ruled out military aid to help combat the crisis in the Darfur region.

A few sniper rifles and machine guns would no doubt do wonders for the region.

"I don't understand why Britain and the United States are systematically increasing pressure against us and not operating through the United Nations," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said on a visit to Paris.

Well maybe it's because operating through the United Nations is utterly useless and counterproductive. Maybe it's ecause we don't see the need for the UN to come up with a replacement kickback scheme for all their lost Iraqi oil money. Maybe it's because the French foreign minister wants to work with Sudan, given that Elf Fina holds concessions on the largest Sudanese oil field, and Mustafa Osman Ismail was sitting there in Paris, wheeling and dealing with the French scum who run around with Robert Mugabe.

"(This) pressure closely resembles the increased pressure that was put on Iraq (before the war)," he said.

It might closely resemble the pressure except that Iraq actually had an army.

Washington accuses Khartoum of backing Janjaweed Arab militia in a campaign some U.S. officials have described as ethnic cleansing against black African villagers in Darfur.

Such forthright accusations are quite a change from the days of Madeleine Albright when the Clinton administration dared not utter anything that might set the press to worrying about conditions in Rwanda.

The United States has drafted a U.N. resolution that would impose an immediate travel and arms ban on militia members.

And that's about all we can expect to get through the UN, and France is opposed to even that small measure. With France and China both opposed to action, and both holding rights to large oil fields there, trying to go through the UN will be utterly futile, just as it was in the case of Iraq.

"We don't need any (U.N.) resolutions. Any resolutions from the Security Council will complicate things," Ismail said.

Now wait a minute. Didn't this suck-ass Sudanese ass-munch just ask why the US and UK weren't operating through the UN? Now he doesn't want UN resolutions. I guess the complications he's talking about are the nasty little complications we might toss in that keep him from continuing with his ethnic cleansing, known as "killing all the black folks".

Blair stepped up the diplomatic pressure on Khartoum Thursday to deal effectively with what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We have a moral responsibility to deal with this and to deal with it by any means that we can," he said, adding that he had not ruled out the possibility of military assistance to combat the growing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Meanwhile France has come out opposed to any real action, being allergic to such things, and has instead offered the full weight of their humanitarian support, a twin engine prop-jet and $4.43 million dollars in aid, proving to the world that France can step up and be a full-partner on par with Arizon Bob's Discount Truck, RV, and Trailer, just past the bypass on the outer loop.

July 22, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

Bulwer-Lytton 2004

I must here relate my distress at once again having forgotten to send in my contest entry, and not due to forgetfulness or having to upgrade from Win 98 to Win XP or anything so droll, but simply because I forgot, yet forgot in a way that conjures up the impression of forgetfulness, but not its deeper meaning, though maybe I forgot what that deeper meaning really means while I'm all busy trying to upgrade to the latest version of Windows while wondering if I should switch to Linux.

Yes, I forgot to send anything to the Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest, which has just announced the 2004 winners. The coveted number one spot was taken by this impressive piece of dreck.

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail . . . though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.

Dave Zobel
Manhattan Beach, CA

Although I was also impressed with the wit in this one

Her pendulous breasts swung first to the left, then to the right and finally in independent directions, much like semaphore signals, and although he couldn't understand semaphore, Kyle was sure they were saying, "Never ride the Tilt-A-Whirl with your grandma."

Randy Heil
Las Vegas, NV

and this one

Her breath came in short, urgent gasps as beads of sweat slowly coalesced and slipped hesitantly over her lightly-tanned skin, leaving glistening trails down a cleavage that was both feminine and primal while her wide eyes betrayed a mind still struggling to accept that her physical ordeal was over and that she had, in fact, caught the bus.

Ben Connelly
Canberra, Australia

Go take a look at the other entries, category winners, runner ups, and dishonorable mentions. I'll guarantee at least a small part of an hour immersed in bad writing at its finest.

July 20, 2004 in fluff | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Shell Promotes Nigerian

Shell oil put a Nigerian in charge of its operations in Nigeria.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell Group named a Nigerian national Tuesday to head the firm's biggest African subsidiary - the first appointment of a Nigerian to the post.

The appointment of Basil Omiyi followed months of pressure by Nigerian labor unions who threatened production shutdowns to get Nigerians in senior positions with the company.

Omiyi, 58, will become managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria Ltd. on Sept. 1, the company said. Omiyi is the first Nigerian ever appointed to lead a major oil multinational subsidiary in Nigeria.

Well, we might as well get started on this one. *cracks knuckles* Let me see.


How's that sounding?

Anyway, I've had more than one moonbat screech that we're only in Iraq because of their oil, and that we won't help Africa because there isn't any oil there. Nigeria pumps 2.5 million barrels a day and is the fifth largest supplier to the US. Iraq is pumping about 2 million barrels per day and at its peak, prior to the invasion of Kuwait, it was only pumping 3.5 million barrels per day. It's not about the oil, as even the British Communist Party admits.

July 20, 2004 in fluff | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

New FAA Sport License Approved

The FAA just approved a new sport license for pilots. This has been in the works for many years, ok decades going by my old issues of KITPLANES magazine from the 80's. Pilots and industry held that flying very small, lightweight aircraft and ultralights shouldn't need quite the strict certification requirements as a full private pilots license. Essentially the new license is for people who just like to go up and buzz around, as opposed to flying to Topeka for a business meeting. Instead of 40 hours and a medical certificate the new license just takes 20 hours and a driver's license.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Aviation Administration announced new safety rules Tuesday for light recreational aircraft like balloons, powered parachutes and gliders - a victory for private aviation groups that have long sought to lower the hurdles to flying entry-level aircraft.

Under the rules, an aviation enthusiast will be able to obtain a sport pilot license with lower training requirements than for a private pilot's license. The FAA said generally light sport aircraft are safer than private aircraft because they fly so low and so slow.

I wouldn't necessarily say they were safer, but they can land just about anywhere. Let's say that if something goes wrong and you crash into something you'll hopefully just break your leg instead of creating a debris field.

The new rules also apply to manufacturers, allowing sport planes, essentially kit planes, to be built under less stringent standards of manufacturing and inspection. After all, these are closer to a very well designed Sopwith Camel or Piper Cub than a Boeing. They also reworked the rules for ultralights, so its a big change for rules at the low and slow segment of aviation.

There's a bit more on it here at KITPLANES Magazine.

July 20, 2004 in Aviation | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack