Oct 072017
 

The world is full of places that have fallen into disuse and despair. Sometimes it’s because some idiots got likkered up and started messing around with an ancient nuclear reactor designed by Socialists, and they wind up trashing the countryside. Sometimes it’s a formerly vibrant auto manufacturing city that got wiped out by unions, politics and recovering post-war foreign auto manufacturing capabilities. And sometimes it’s a shopping mall that was once the hub of activity and is now abandoned and empty, because shopping malls have fallen out of favor, or because the local economy tanked, or because the people running the joint were idjits. Fortunately, there’s the Dead Mall Series on YouTube to show the world some of these dismal, empty reminders of times gone by. Some are truly abandoned, empty shells left to nature and vandals; some are still functioning, but on life support with only a tiny fraction of their stores still open.

If you are of my generation, the shopping mall was The Place To Be back in the day. It was where all the cool kids hung out. But of course if you have the misfortune of actually being like me, you weren’t one of the cool kids, so you didn’t actually hang out at the mall. And of course today a lot of the official function of a shopping mall has been taken up by WalMart, CostCo and Amazon; the socializing function has been taken up by Facebook and such. So there are a *lot* of malls that are now ghosts of what they once were, while still being perfectly decent enough structures. I’ve often wondered what could be done with a shopping mall to turn it, at minimal cost, into something else. Schools and hospitals and museums seem obvious choices, but I doubt there’s enough call for such. Some sort of office complex, maybe. Senior citizen or other assisted living facility with built-in gathering places, amusements, shopping (greatly reduced in scope, of course).

The Dead Mall Series gives tours of some of these places along with commentary, added music (the music *always* seems to fit right in with my 30-year-old recollection of 80’s malls) and often enough added vintage commercials with a few minor tweaks to make them a little more interesting. (The woman in the “Tan Perfect” commercial who doesn’t want wrinkles in this one, is, ummm… yeah.)

 

 

 Posted by at 6:07 pm
Sep 142017
 

The AlternateHistoryHub YouTube channel runs through some interesting “what if” scenarios. A recent one – which the guy had the bad timing to release just after the national socialist LARPer in Charlottesville ran into the crowd of international socialist LARPers – discusses the scenario of what America might be like if the African slave trade never happened. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but a difficult one. The roots of the issue go back so far that even if somehow history could be altered so that the European powers never sailed down to Africa and bought African slaves for use in the New World sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations, so much time has passed that the number of alternate divergent timelines is uncountable.

 

But what he comes up with basically ends up with Europe being somewhat poorer, because they didn’t make as much profit from sugar and such, and the industrial revolution takes a little while longer to kick in. And the USA? Assuming it still comes about, it doesn’t have the same nasty racist history… but it also doesn’t really have any black folks, either.

It’s impossible to say that any one proposed timeline is impossible, barring the sudden use of AND THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED, but one of his assumptions I disagree with: that the industrial revolution would be delayed. The European powers would still want to grow sugar cane and sell the sugar back home (and cotton, etc.), but without slaves they’d have to actually *pay* people. Which means the exercise would be less profitable. That much we agree on. But it seems to me… that would actually *spur* innovation. Slave-based economies tend to not be terribly innovative because they don’t really *need* to be, and because innovation can cause all kinds of social havoc. So I’d suspect that in this alternate history, if we assume the USA is still formed more or less on schedule, the Revolutionary War *might* be fought with some early steam-powered ships. Perhaps some terribly crappy locomotives are running around hauling cargo and troops. The American colonists *might* have had a substantial technological lead over the Brits for the simple reason they would have *had* to. Instead of the North being the unquestioned center of innovation compared tot he agrarian South, perhaps the South would have been industrialized early on in order to make plantations economical.

So by the time the Civil War would have broken out, the alt-USA has no need for a Civil War. The tech level in the alt-USA would be substantially higher than it was in the real-USA at the start of the war… but a few years later, with the pressures of the war, the real-USA might have done a job of catching up. But I dunno… I still think it’s quite possible that in the alternate timeline with the greater economic pressures to be an innovation nation, by the 1860’s the USA will be brightly lit with electric lights and telephone lines cross the land.

In the real-USA, the antebellum South was more-or-less broken down into a few really rich white folks, a lot of dirt-poor white folks, and a lot of dirt poorer black folks. In the alt-USA, the South would have broken down into some kinda rich white folks and a bunch of kinda poor white folks… and essentially no black folks. The poor white folks would be unlikely to be anywhere near middle class… the north, after all, didn’t have slavery in its industrial factories, but instead paid employees… and they were hardly living the high life. Still, the poor whites of alt-South would have been better off than the “poor white trash” of real-South. In the real-USA, small southern farmers were pretty well screwed; how could they compete against plantations using slave labor? In the alt-USA, that wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, they might be faced with the prospect of having to compete with plantations that are early adopters of mechanization.

Without the history of black slavery, the alt-USA wouldn’t end up with the Klan and Jim Crow laws and all that garbage. Probably wouldn’t have had laws against “race mixing” and all that. The alt-USA would have wound up almost certainly being a *really* white country; where the real-USA imported millions of black slaves, the alt-USA would have had to import a roughly equivalent number of European workers. The alt-USA would not have had the blatant racism… but maybe it would have had a more “comfortable” racism against, say, Hispanics and Asians and such. African slavery necessarily made the USA a “multi racial” society. But the alt-USA would at least in principle have had the option of being Europeans-only. *Perhaps* the alt-USA would have blocked the immigration of Chinese, Mexicans or perhaps even Italians… recall that back in the day, the likes of Italians and Irish were considered “non-white” for reasons we’d today find pretty laughable.

Or perhaps without the history of Unpleasantness, the alt-USA would turn out to be a perfectly accepting nation when it came to ethnicities, with none of that racist stuff.

Another recent video is “What if the War On Terror Never Happened?” Here I largely agree with the guy… the world would have turned out much the same, with the Middle East explodey as usual. However, one thing he missed when he assumes the US doesn’t invade Iraq and topples Saddam: the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Yes, the WMD program that the worlds intelligence services largely though was A Thing in Iraq turned out to be a lot of misdirection by Saddam. But the experience and intelligence and industrial base was still there; all Saddam really needed to do was wait out the UN inspection regime. And as memory serves, that would have ended circa 2005. So alt-Saddam, rather than being dead, would have restarted the Iraqi nuclear program, potentially with the assistance of the Pakistani and/or North Korean programs. So then when Iraq does eventually go into civil war sometime in the two-thousand-teens, the alt-ISIS is armed with if not actual nukes, potentially with dirty bombs, chemical weapons, weaponized pathogens. Greeeeeaaaat.

 

 Posted by at 1:50 am
Jul 052017
 

OK, yeah, I featured one of Exurb1a’s videos yesterday, but the guys content is almost entirely good and worth watching. He humorously blends sci-fi with philosophy and science, and sometimes something that vaguely resembles music.

Some good examples:

Basically the history of rockets, done right.

Also:

And this one, which was chuckleworthy throughout… until the very end when I actually did Laugh Out Loud:

 

 

 

 Posted by at 8:25 pm
Apr 072017
 

“Generation Tech” is the YouTube channel of the very best kind of nerd: the kind who over-analyzes Star Wars and tries to apply logic and rationality to it. Some people think it’s silly to try to make popular science fiction or fantasy franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings or the last eight years of the White House make sense, but I find it to be a good way to exercise the brain. With Star Wars, things are complicated by decades of officially licensed novels and comic books and the like that are now officially considered non-canonical, but which still slip into the new canon (witness Grand Admiral Thrawn now being wholly canonical).

Still, some interesting conclusions can be drawn by taking some widely separated, and almost certainly unrelated, hints (hints that were never meant to be linked together by the various authors) and drag them kicking and screaming into some sort of grand unified nerd theory. For example, several details hint at the idea that Emperor Palpatine wasn’t just a simple one-dimensional Bad Guy. Instead… early on in his career he had visions of the galaxy being invaded by an extremely dangerous foe, one that the hidebound Galactic Republic would have been utterly incapable of fighting off. So his obsession with building up a remarkably pointless military (honestly, who was the Imperial navy, with those tens of thousands of star Destroyers supposed to fight?) wasn’t just a pointless obsession, but was a buildup to prepare the galaxy for incoming foes. The Death Stars turn out in this scenario to not be one-off weapons of internal suppression (though that’s what most of the people involved with them thought them to be), but basically the first of a new class of really big battleship to fight off the incoming world-sized enemy ships. There are rumors that this scenario just might ply out in the future Star Wars flicks, presumably the Episodes 10-12 trilogy.

And then there’s the question of “how does a regular schmoe take on a Jedi?” And the answer is the same that I thought up decades ago: shotguns.

Let’s face it: there are few enough situations where “shotgun” is the wrong answer. But against some self-important magical jackass with a laser sword, a shotgun would be extra-handy. Sure, they can use their Force-powers to accurately place their blades to reflect an incoming blaster bolt, which will bounce right off. But what happens to a chunk of lead, copper, steel, or depleted uranium flying at a Jedis face if said Jedi intercepts it with a light saber? He *might* vaporize the projectile. And I’m not sure than an ounce of uranium *vapor* heading at his face it going to be a whole lot safer for him. Not mentioned in the video: grenade launchers. Shoot projectiles at the Jedi that are designed to explode when struck with a light saber… and at no other time. Maybe he can hurl them back at you with the Force, but big whoop. If they go *kerblam* if he uses his blade on them, then he’s got a grenade going off at arms length.

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
Mar 152017
 

The next best thing to video of new atmospheric nuclear tests is previously unseen film of old nuclear tests. Sure, it’s not even close… it’s patently obvious that new atmospheric nuclear tests is something the United States needs to do, but I guess we’ll just have to take what we can get.

Lawrence Livermore National Labs has embarked on a project of finding and scanning and digitally restoring up to ten thousand films of above-ground nuclear tests. This is being done partially for the historic aspect, but mostly because nuclear weapons designers today have nothing to go on *but* old data, so, the more data they have, the better.

LLNL has set up a YouTube playlist of some of these.

And this one. HOLY CARP, this one.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:32 pm
Mar 122017
 

Chris here is simply entertaining. Like many popular YouTubers, he started off as one thing (yapping about video games) and morphed into something else (mockery of current political insanity). He’s a self-proclaimed Leftie, but he’s got a decent head on his shoulders… and a damn fine sense of humor. If I were to yammer about politics on YouTube (not gonna, don’t worry), it would be like this, just probably less funny and less watchable. And certainly with less musical ability.

As one might expect, Chris tends to focus a lot on video game and YouTube culture. But even if you are not involved in those, the crazy nonsense that infects them troubles the rest of society, or soon will. And so I appreciate Chris Ray Guns energetic and foul-mouthed takedowns of nonsense.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 11:05 pm
Mar 082017
 

… here are two Thunderf00t videos discussing recent projects that have consumed lots of money but which were based on bad science, bad math and bad engineering.

The self-filling water bottle remains a stumper to me. The basic idea is quite simple: a solar powered dehumidifier. Not exactly staggeringly new technology. Yet, the math behind the concept is available and accessible for anyone to do… and the math shows that the idea is *monumentally* impractical. And still people shovel truckloads of cash at these efforts.

 

 

 Posted by at 5:12 pm
Jan 032017
 

This YouTube channel is not a producer of content, but an aggregator of vintage documentaries. Additionally, the videos have improved audio and stabilized video – i.e., they’re better to watch and listen to than the originals. The videos are *all* over the place… you’re as likely to see one on nuclear bomb testing as you are on household cleansers. But there are a *lot* of videos that should be of considerable interest to readers of this blog. Lots of military and NASA vids.

Jeff Quitney

Here the page is broken down into convenient playlists.

Some recent videos of interest:

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 9:44 am
Dec 242016
 

There are a bunch of YouTube channels that I look at from time to time. I figured I might as well point them out… these channels will probably be of interest to a great many of the blog readers. Some are history, some aerospace, some humor, some politics.

First up: Forgotten Weapons. This channel is pretty much what it says on the box… videos are uploaded ever day or so that show some unusual and/or rare firearm. Often these videos are shot in an auction house where the firearm is soon to be sold, so, at least theoretically, if your pockets are deep enough you can end up owning them.

https://www.youtube.com/c/forgottenweapons/videos

Some recent videos include this one of the M134 minigun (which, contrary to popular opinion, you *could* legally own, you just can’t afford it… much less afford to feed the thing):

 

And this one of an entirely odd “chain gun” (the Guycot chain pistol) I bet you’ve never heard of… I sure hadn’t. It’s very, very clever: a double-action “semi automatic” pistol from the 1870s with a built-in 40-round capacity. The downside was that it fired a round that would have had a hard time taking down a rabbit. Sometimes cleverness isn’t enough. Sometimes you need brute force.

 Posted by at 12:28 am