Sep 262017

This… this struck many a nerve. Back in my aerospace engineering days, I had a *lot* of meetings that went more or less like this.

The end result, both in the video and in reality, is for the engineer to just give up and say “yeah, sure, I can do the crazy incomprehensible thing you think you want.” Work from that point forward then becomes an effort not to produce the impossible thing, but to plan out in advance how you’re going to blame who for what.

There were times when I was told to design a component that would only be physically possible in a reality with four physical dimensions. There were *many* times when I had to actually invent something (not just design, but invent, as in come up with a new propellant combination and propellant geometry that had apparently never been tried before, with all the tests and undoubtedly failures and revisions that would require) and I had to tell management in advance how much it would cost and how many man hours it would take, to within a few percent accuracy. There were times when I was told to replace an electrical conductor with a non-conductor, but to make sure that it maintained its conductance. Told to make a rocket motor that performed as well as a standard one, weighed the same, cost the same, but didn’t have a hot exhaust plume. And so on. And every time I made an objection I was told I was being “negative” or was told “that’s your job” or “make it work.”

This also works as an allegory for “a rational man among the social justice warriors.”


 Posted by at 3:15 pm
Sep 252017

Yes, I’ve posted these before. But I feel it’s important for everyone to maintain a proper level of understanding of the encabulator, the turbo-encabulator and the retro-encabulator.

And of course once you have an encabulator, you’ll need to diagnose it from time to time:



There have of course been advances in the field of encabulators, such as the micro-encabulator:


And the retroprototurboencabulator:


OK, the Encabulator is never going to not be funny. But the thing I noticed: in all the variants of it produced over the years, there hasn’t been a whole lot of actual variation. Where are the *all* *new*scripts?

 Posted by at 3:15 pm
Sep 212017

UC Irvine aims to transform public health with record-breaking $200-million donation

The donation comes with a bit of a hitch: it’s to be used to promote homeopathy.

On Monday, UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman announced that the Samuelis have donated $200 million to launch what he billed as the nation’s first universitywide enterprise to embed integrative health approaches in research, teaching and patient care.

“Integrative health approaches” in this context means “alternative medicine.” You know what we’d call “alternative medicine” if it actually worked? “Medicine.”

I suppose if it’s used to actually do good science on crap like homeopathy and reiki and psychic vampire repellent sprays, sure, fine, whatever. But I suspect that it’ll be used to ram woo into the medical industry *despite* the science.

 Posted by at 11:54 pm
Sep 152017

Pitch Black Exoplanet: Hot Jupiter WASP-12b Reflects No Light

Short form: the “hot Jupiter” (so called because it’s a Jupiter-like gas giant really close to its star) turns out to have an albedo of 0.064, darker than new asphalt.

Here’s the thing, though: WASP-12b is so close to its start that its orbital period is 26.2 *hours,* and its surface temperature is 2600 degrees Celcius. At those temperatures, it would be incandescent, glowing sorta orangish:

So it might absorb virtually all the light that falls on it from its star, but it re-radiates that energy back out into space largely in the visible spectrum. It would not look “black” anymore than the filament in a lit lightblub looks black. Additionally, it’s so close to the parent star that it is physically distorted into an egg-shape. No doubt if you were close enough to see the planet clearly, the pointy-end, closest tot he star, would likely be *really* hot, glowing intensely; the night side would look like a slightly dim star.

The link provides an illustration for the article that seems of dubious value in illustrating the situation:

 Posted by at 9:56 pm
Sep 112017

Another example of technology apparently proving itself and promptly becoming a political football.

Row over AI that ‘identifies gay faces’

A program looks at a photo of a human face and can tell you with 70% to 80% accuracy whether that person is gay or straight. And interesting trick, I suppose, but at this point in society I’ m unclear what actual purpose such a thing would serve. But unsurprisingly, people are annoyed that the capability seems to exist.

The algorithm was built using 14,000 photos culled from dating sites. On one hand, this is a useful strategy… the site members would presumably accurately self-report their sexuality. On the other hand, it is necessarily somewhat limited… people post what they think are their best photos, and ugly folks of any sexuality would *presumably* be less likely to post their photos.

Additionally, all the photos were of white folks. This is again a useful strategy for early development; keeping the group of limited visual diversity would presumably help the computer from getting too confused. But to be *truly* functional, it would need to be able to tell a gay white guy from a straight black woman from a straight Thai man to a gay Eskimo woman.

But even then… “functional” it may be, but “useful?” I suppose it could be handy for forensics… find a dead body somewhere, if you can reconstruct the face, knowing if the corpse was gay or straight might be useful in a police investigation.

Of course, it being early in the process the whole thing could easily fall apart. It may prove to be an unrepeatable system, as reliable as phrenology.

 Posted by at 4:04 pm
Sep 082017

Processed images from the Juno probe orbiting Jupiter. This Flickr account has some damn fine images at some damn fine resolution.


And then there’s this video composited from various images… with the ABSOLUTELY PERFECT music to go with it.

A little while ago I posted about some “2001” bluray screenshots and someone suggested that the movie needed to be redone with all-new visual effects; i argued that the only bits in the movie that could really benefit might be replacing the rather bland matte paintings of Earth. After seeing this, I can see how updating Jupiter could be *spectacular.*

 Posted by at 12:40 am
Sep 042017

Neutronium is a common substance in science fiction. It is a real substance of incredible density, so a lot of authors have decided that it would make a neato structural element. The problem: it would explode.

Neutronium is, as the name suggests, a substance made out of pure neutrons. It exists in neutron stars… but really nowhere else. It *can’t* really exist anywhere else. Neutrons exists in close proximity in the nuclei of atoms, but there they are held in place with the strong nuclear force; eliminate the protons, and the neutrons will go flying apart. In neutron stars, the neutrons are held together solely by gravity. If you were to somehow teleport a chunk of neutronium off a neutron star, it would promptly explode.

Here’s an old video from Thunderf00t explaining another problem with neutronium: outside of the gravitational field of neutron stars and the strong force of nuclei, neutrons decay with a half life of about 10 minutes. And the results of that are pretty energetic.

So if you want to use neutronium in your sci-fi story, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

 Posted by at 2:35 am
Sep 022017

Scientists have spiders producing enhanced web that can hold a human

Scientists gave water containing carbon nanotubes to spiders,the spiders drank it and incorporated the nanotubes into their silk, producing webs five times stronger than usual.

One the one hand: neato. All kinds of interesting potential applications there, including cranking out kilotons of fibers equal to or surpassing kevlar in strength.

On the other hand: yeeeeeeeesh.

Below: artists concept for future manufacturing facility for baby hammocks.

 Posted by at 9:04 pm
Aug 282017

Health professionals report cases where people put sunscreen on their eyeballs to watch eclipse

In stupidity-related news…

KTVU anchor: ‘I experienced hate firsthand’ at Berkeley rally


Masked anarchists violently rout right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley


“I experienced hate firsthand today. It came from these people dressed in all black at a protest in Berkeley. Ironically they were all chanting about no hate.”


In Berkeley on Sunday, some observers derived satisfaction from watching far-left protesters beat up and chase off a young man at the rally in apparent support of Trump.

“It’s a good time,” said Tom Martell, 70, of Crockett, who stood in Civic Center Park with his girlfriend, Lisa Argento, 53.

“They’ve got to be chased out,” Argento said. “I moved to the Bay Area and pay good money to live here. I don’t want these people here. They need to leave us the f— alone.”

Now imagine if a right-winger had said supported the use of violence to keep out “those people,” because he pays good money to live there and doesn’t want their kind nearby. Go on, imagine it.

 Posted by at 9:42 pm