Jun 302010

A layout drawing of the Chance Vought Corp. V-460, a VTOL cargo plane design from the mid 1960’s. It was unusual in having a tailless configuration similar to some designs put forth by German aircraft designers at the end of the second world war, but with a multitude of fans embedded within the wings. The fans were themselves driven by gas pressure produced by gas generators (read: “small turbojets”) located above the fuselage, and ducted through the wings. With this arrangement, the thrust lines of the engines roughly parallel the center of gravity of the loaded aircraft (when vectored down for vertical thrust). Thus all engines are used for both vertical and horizontal thrust, theoretically making a lighter weight, more efficient propulsion system… at the expense of added complexity in the hot-gas ducting.

A reverse-engineered “blueprint” based on an original provided by Mark Nankivil.


 Posted by at 10:49 pm
Jun 302010

One of the most common “conceits” of modern science fiction, in particular televised sci-fi, is that aliens just happen to speak English. Shows like “Star Trek” and “Dr. Who” explain this away by claiming that the aliens actually are speaking alienese, but that the shipboard “universal translator” or the TARDIS are translating on the fly.

In reality, when and if we get out there and stumble across another intelligent species, figuring out how to communicate with them is probably going to be nightmarishly difficult. And if what we find is not a living culture, but instead the archaeological remains of a long-dead civilization, how do you even begin to try to translate fragments of an alien written language?

Not a problem that’ll be resolved easily or anytime soon. There is, however, hope that computerized translation systems just might be up to the challenge:

Computer program deciphers a dead language that mystified linguists

The lost language of Ugaritic was last spoken 3,500 years ago. It survives on just a few tablets, and linguists could only translate it with years of hard work and plenty of luck. A computer deciphered it in hours.

In this case, the computer was able to use Ugartic’s similarity to Hebrew to speed things along. Alienese is, of course, highly unlikely to be related to Hebrew or any other Human language. Still, it’s a start.

 Posted by at 10:13 pm
Jun 302010

A storm blew through last evening. Some rain, but a *lot* of wind. For a while there it looked like there’d be a really good rainbow, but it never really came together. So, please enjoy this horse.

dsc_2921.jpg  dsc_2925.jpg  dsc_2927.jpg  dsc_2928.jpg  dsc_2929.jpg  dsc_2935.jpg

 Posted by at 11:32 am
Jun 292010

The US FedGov actually made an exception to one of their rules… an exception in favor of progress, entepreneurship, American business and advanced technology.


Terrafugia Transition ‘flying car’ gets go-ahead from US air authorities

The Transition was designed as a “light sport” aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification, with a maximum weight of 1,320lb. But the manufacturers found it impossible to fit the safety features – airbags, crumple zones and roll cage, for instance – that are required for road vehicles into that weight.

Uniquely, however, the FAA has granted the Transition an exemption – allowing it to be classified as a light sport aircraft despite being 120lb over the limit.

Light sport aircraft licences require just 20 hours’ flying time, making them much easier to obtain than full private licences.

 Posted by at 8:44 pm
Jun 292010

Now we’re talkin’. None of that namby-pamby  six million pound thrust childs play anymore; a rocket engine that a man can respect.

The L-24 AH used four of the turbopumps used by the individual 6-million pound thrust L-6H hydrogen/oxygen engines. Chamber pressure was 2000 psi and the expansion ratio was 40. This engine used a toroidal combustion chamber wrapped around a central “plug,” much like an aerospike engine, but with an external bell wrapped around everything.


 Posted by at 2:28 pm
Jun 282010

In support of my “Nuclear Pulse Propulsion” book, I hunted down Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann. Anyone who knows this blog should be at least aware of the “Enzmann Starship,” and why it would be relevant to my book.

Anyway, Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann is working on a book of his own, and needs an illustrator. It’s something to do with a missing German U-Boat in the last days of WWII. One of the stipulations is that the illustrator should be good at depicting children, although the illustrations are, I gather, only needed to be relatively simple.

A skill I wholly lack. However, if this interests you and you’d like to be put in touch with Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann, let me know.

 Posted by at 2:59 pm
Jun 282010

A tentative “Huzzah.”


The Supreme Court ruled for the first time that gun possession is fundamental to American freedom, giving federal judges power to strike down state and local weapons laws for violating the Second Amendment.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court held that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that binds states.  

Monday’s ruling elevates the Second Amendment right to bear arms to the status of a fundamental right that states can’t abridge.

I say tentative “huzzah” because:

1) 4 of the 5 justices are actually dumb/crazy/evil enough to believe that Americans do not have the right to bear arms. This means that future rulings could easily be controlled by these lunatics.

2) The rulling, while I have not yet read it in its entirety, does not seem to be very firm:


The court grounded that right in the due process section of the 14th Amendment. The justices, however, said local jurisdictions still retain the flexibility to preserve some “reasonable” gun-control measures currently in place nationwide.

Damn. They gave an inch. NEVER give an inch, not even a reasonable inch, in the defense of liberty. Far too often, “reasonable” gun control measures are simply the same old fascist restrictions but with politicians yammering about “the children.” This was the toehold that Chicago was hoping for; expect them to craft new legislation to continue to strip its citizens of their basic rights. Make it legal to own a handgun so long as you fill out form XYZ-42B… but then never bother to actually print out any copies of form XYZ-42B.

 Posted by at 9:41 am
Jun 272010

Ha! I’m out of it for a few days, and a judge  actually makes a good ruling. In this case, smacking down some anti-science loons who wanted to offer phony-baloney “science” degrees:


A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by a creationism think tank and school that attempted to force the state of Texas to allow it to offer master’s degrees in science education.

In 2008, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rejected the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research’s application to offer master’s degrees, which taught science from a biblical perspective. The institute’s graduate school sued in 2009, claiming the board violated its constitutional right to free speech and religion.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin found no merit in the institute’s claims and criticized its legal documents as “overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering and full of irrelevant information.”

ICR trying to offer masters degrees in science would be kinda like the Soviet Communist Party offering theology degrees.

 Posted by at 11:04 pm