Oct 262016

The idea was cool. The execution as a static display was excellent. But mobility was excessively compromised, and durability seems non-existent. Can’t fault the enthusiasm of the test subject, though.

This project is from the same feller who turned the same little girl into this uncanny-valley-between-cute-and-nightmare-fuel stick figure a few years ago:

 Posted by at 10:32 pm
Oct 262016

From the excitingly-titled:

Paraspinal lean muscle mass, as indicated by the FCSA, decreased from 86% of the total PSM cross-sectional area down to 72%, immediately after the mission. Recovery of 68% of the postflight loss occurred during the next 6 weeks, still leaving a significantly lower lean muscle fractional content compared with preflight values. In contrast, lumbar IVD heights were not appreciably different at any time point.
The data reveal lumbar spine PSM atrophy after long-duration spaceflight. Some FCSA recovery was seen with 46 days postflight in a terrestrial environment, but it remained incomplete compared with preflight levels.

Short form: long-term microgravity is bad for you. Solution: use some form of artificial gravity if you are in a space station or long-range spacecraft; or get there lickety-split if you’re traveling somewhere. Both are good.

 Posted by at 9:30 pm
Oct 262016

I coulda swore I’d posted this video before. Shrug. Anyway, this here is a good old fashioned western with just a hint of a difference. I think the “old west” set is the same as “WestWorld.” Slightly NSFW, extremely entertaining.

 Posted by at 4:39 am
Oct 262016

Earlier this year a bunch of British Greenpeace protesters got their knickers in a twist over plans to do some fracking, so *obviously* they trespassed on a privately owned farm and set up shop. And then they got even more snippy when the farmer, for some reason annoyed to find people uninvited on his territory, decided to drive around their encampment and spray it down with liquid manure.

That being Britain and all, I imagine the farmer got in some sort of trouble with what’s referred to over there as “the law.” I put it in quotes because in one of the vids you can hear the trespassing criminals calling for the police to be called; if Britain had law, the police would have arrested the trespassers.



 Posted by at 4:16 am
Oct 252016

YouTuber Thunderf00t  takes on the “WaterSeer.” If you haven’t heard of it – and I hadn’t – the idea is simple: a device that uses a wind-driven fan to blow air down a tube into a buried chamber, where the lower temperature a few meters underground is used to condense water out of the air. At first blush, this sort of thing sounds feasible… until you do the math, and it turns out to not only be infeasible, but basically impossible. What gets *really* sad is that a bunch of Berkeley (apparently) engineering students are working away on the idea, apparently without having first run the numbers to see if it’s even possible.

The WaterSeer is essentially a dehumidifier that does not plug into the wall and uses dirt as a heat sink rather than an active refrigeration unit. Now, I grew up in Illinois, which tended to be pretty humid in summer. We ran dehumidifiers to make conditions less uncomfortable, rather than for water collection. But even then the volume of water collected – using humid air (the kind of air that resulted in rainstorms, the sort of thing you generally don’t get a whole lot of in the sort of arid regions meant to be served by the WaterSeer) and a whole lot of electricity – did not match what they’re claiming here. And an active refrigeration system using a condensible gas like ammonia is a whole lot more functional than a dirt-based heat sink. The thermal conductivity of dirt is terrible. That’s why people tend to use it as an *insulator.*

Seems if you want to condense water out of air, a dehumidifier hooked up to solar panels would be the way to go. But even then I’m not sure that that would be so useful in an arid, low-humidity region. A good water filtration system and a reliable way to access local water sources would seem a better approach.


Maybe we need to get rid of science, decolonize out minds, and use local magicians to call down lightningbolts. Sure, what the hell.

Below: diagram of an evolved version. Every bit as practical as the kind described above…


 Posted by at 9:35 pm
Oct 252016

So the dumbass “scary clown” pranks continue. Below is a video of one such prankster, filmed by a buddy as he goes about his inane business of trying to scare people. The last person… not quite as scared as they were hoping.

There are some things that are simply not done.

 Posted by at 11:45 am
Oct 252016

I must admit, when I first saw GoPro cameras some years ago, advertised as the sort of things that surfers or skiers would attach to their equipment to get videos of themselves, I didn’t think too much of ’em. Glorified selfie machines, of little real value to the world. But damn if some people haven’t done some interesting stuff with them. Such as this video, with a GoPro on an aerobatic biplane. That is not new… but  gyro-stabilizing the GoPro is new (at least to me).


GoPros and similar cameras have proven themselves sufficiently that a good case can be made that they should be prit near *everywhere.* Two on each jetliner wingtip… both looking inwards at the whole aircraft, one above the wing, one below. Two or so in the cockpit, watching the crew & instruments. One at the tip of the vertical stabilizer, looking forward at the whole aircraft. One in the nose looking forward. One in the belly looking down. Heck, one in the underside looking aft & down to record any Russian anti-aircraft missile coming in.

 Posted by at 1:02 am
Oct 242016

Jack Chick Passes Away

Jack Chick was 92 and the creator of a large number of downright loopy comic-book-like “tracts.” They railed against anything he felt wasn’t supported by or was in opposition to his extremist Christian views… Muslims, Jews, atheists, Catholics, evolution, Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, and especially the occult, including Dungeons and Dragons.

On one level, Chick Tracts are funny. They are eminently mockable, and for those billions of us who don’t agree with their worldview, they are just plain silly. But there is a substantial dark side. Chick started railing against D&D in the mid 1980’s, convinced that role playing games were actual portals to dark forces. This contributed to the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and early 1990s, a shameful period when many lives were ruined by panic-mongering charlatans.

 Posted by at 5:39 pm
Oct 242016


 The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids. Molecular diagnostics will have been available for the rest by a single day and a good day to the rest have a wonderful time and aggravation for the rest day at home time for the two of us will have a great place for the rest to be great for you tomorrow and tomorrow after all and I am a very happy boy to the great day and I hope he is wonderful.

Nuclear energy is not a nuclear nuclear power to the nuclear nuclear program he added and the nuclear nuclear program is a good united state of the nuclear nuclear power program and the united way nuclear nuclear program nuclear.

Atoms for a play of the same as you can do with a great time to take the rest to your parents or you will be nucleus a great time for a great place. Power is not a great place for a good time.

Huh. Reads like Deepak Chopra to me. But what is it? Is it a badly translated foreign treatise on nuclear physics? Is it indeed the latest brain droppings from some newage “thinker?”

In fact, no. It is actually an accepted scientific paper for the upcoming International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics. And it was indeed a creation of science. Specifically… an iOS autocomplete.

Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference

This is *not* how peer review is supposed to work. But it is interesting how corrupted science is indistinguishable from New Age metaphysics.

 Posted by at 5:01 pm
Oct 242016

“Doomsday” covers a lot of turf. A virus that is 100% communicable and 100% lethal against humans, and only humans, would be a perfectly acceptable “Doomsday,” even though the sudden extinction of Mankind would leave Earth just fine. From there you can move up to, say, a major global nuclear war or a substantial asteroid impact… not only humanity wiped out, but the biosphere of Earth damaged for a good long while. Then you can move up to things that would physically destroy the planet itself, and if you are really enthusiastic, you could blow up the Sun. But even then, blowing up the sun and vaporizing all the planets of the inner solar system is just going to be a pretty light show in the skies of planets orbiting Alpha Centauri, with maybe some damage to their ozone layers. And even if you could destroy the entire galaxy, there are still uncounted trillions of other galaxies that’ll get along just fine. If you want a really comprehensive “doomsday” you need to trash the observable universe.


There are not currently a whole lot of ways, even in theory, to do that. A Big Crunch. Wait long enough for Heat Death. Perhaps Phantom Energy will cause a Big Rip. A brane collision between this universe and another, resetting everything. These are all fine, but they are natural functions of the universe rather than something an evil genius might bring about… like threatening the world with “in 5 billion years the sun will expand and roast the world! MuAHAHAHAHA!!!” Not that much of a threat, as threats go. You need something that can be brought about, rather than something that will just eventually happen on its own. And here we get to “Vacuum Decay.”

The video below explains it nicely. But in short, it’s the idea that the Higgs Field (or some other basic value of the nature of reality) is not currently at its ground state, but is currently at a higher potential level. With a push, some small sector of space could be pushed out of the current “false vacuum” and collapse down into the true vacuum. In doing so, the fundamental constants would change in unpredictable ways. Chemistry wouldn’t work right anymore. Atoms could well fly apart. Particles could dissolve. In short, *everything* would be utterly destroyed. What makes this into a true Doomsday system is that this doesn’t just happen in some discrete volume of space, but it expands outwards as a spherical shell moving at the speed of light. If it began in a galaxy a hundred million light years away, that galaxy would appear to be perfectly fine for a hundred million years. The expanding shell moves at the same speed as photons, so there would be absolutely no warning. One second everything is fine; the next, the shell gets to you and you cease to exist in the time it takes for light to cross you. So there would be no way to detect it coming, and no way to protect yourself even if you knew it was happening.


From a science fiction perspective, here we have a Universal Doomsday Device that could, hypothetically, be the product of a sufficiently advanced Evil Genius. To destroy the universe you don’t need to actually destroy the entire universe. You just need to tick over a small spot of false vacuum. A spot no bigger than a proton would be perfectly adequate. And then the process will proceed from there, encompassing the observable universe.

But if you put this into a science fiction perspective, this is a doomsday that could be survived. If you run into the expanding shell, you’re boned. There’s no surviving it, and no reversing it. But you could outrun it.

Warp drive, hyperdrive, jump drive, etc. all allow science fiction spacecraft to travel faster than light. So you could fly away from the zone of destruction faster than the lightspeed expansion. Of course you’ll need to know to do this in the first place. If, say, the Klingons accidentally began a vacuum decay in one of their research facilities 200 light years from Earth, it will take 200 years for the shell to get to Earth. No radio messages will be able to alert you. Any ships you send towards the research base will not be able to alert you to the problem… they’ll simply vanish. But if you happen to have a large enough mesh of sensors in the area communication with FTL subspace radio, you should be able to get a heads up. The sensor net will simply start shutting down; the individual sensor probes won’t give you any useful data other than their subspace radio transmissions suddenly stopping. Probes sent to check on them will also vanish. But if you figure out that the probes are disappearing based on their distance from a central point, you should be able to guess what’s going on. From there you’ll send a ship loaded with “pingers” to somewhere ahead of the shell. Scatter these devices, simple subspace radio beacons, in advance of the shell, and listen to them shut down.

Once you have determined what’s up, you need to start planning. Earth has two hundred years. But you already have warp drive, capable of traveling hundreds or thousands of times faster than light. Spend then next one hundred years evacuating the population to a fallback position, say, 2,000 lightyears downrange. You now have 2,100 years before the shell gets to you. By which time you will doubtless have greatly improved warp drive. Perhaps capable of velocities millions of times the speed of light, moving whole worlds or even entire star systems. With this you can pull up stakes to another galaxy, tens of millions of lightyears away. If your propulsion systems are really good, you could move tens of billions of lightyears away, beyond the edge of the observable universe. Due to the expansion of the universe, this would put you out of reach of the expanding vacuum decay shell. The distance is so vast that the rate of expansion exceeds the speed of light. You are now permanently safe.

Well, maybe. If those dumbass Klingons were able to make a vacuum decay doomsday device a few thousand years ago, it’s a safe bet that the technology is now available to any morose emo teenager in your society. Vacuum decay bombs might be popping off with the regularity of DDOS attacks today. Additionally, you need to make sure that that far distant galaxy you want to colonize hasn’t already been consumed by its own vacuum collapse, and that there aren’t any in progress between here and there. It might be that the universe is filled with expanding vacuum decay bubbles, and that older civilizations are flying torturous paths between the galaxies in warp drive equipped Dyson spheres.

This, just maybe, might explain the Fermi Paradox. Where is everybody? By all rights the galaxy should be filled with networks of civilizations. Especially if they have FTL propulsion, the aliens should be everywhere. But they seem to be absent. Well… perhaps 30,000 years ago a vacuum decay bomb was set off in the galactic core. Over the next 10,000 years all the spacefaring races got their affairs in order and then took off for Andromeda. Civilizations millions and billions of years old vanished essentially overnight, leaving behind those who did not have starflight capability. You know, us.

One wonders how a vacuum decay and a wormhole would interact. Chances seem good that a vacuum decay event would cause a wormhole to simply collapse. But perhaps the event would transition through the wormhole, spitting out the other end and starting another expanding sphere, unknown lightyears away from the original. If the universe is filled with tiny but exceedingly long natural wormholes, then this would be a way for a vacuum collapse to wipe out the entire universe in relatively short order. It would also be an incentive for an escaping spacefaring race that uses wormholes to be pretty bloodthirsty. Once *you* are through, it’s in your interests to promptly shut down the wormhole behind you lest you let the vacuum decay through. Screw those schmoes behind you…

 Posted by at 12:33 pm