Sep 262010

As if the UN wasn’t bad enough here on Earth, now it seems they are planning for the future when they’ll speak for humanity to any aliens we encounter:

THE United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.  …  She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before – and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

Ugh. The last thing we need is that pack of third world thugs speaking for mankind to the Galactic Federation.

 Posted by at 10:35 am
Sep 262010

It was funny on Futurama. It looks kinda goofy in real life:

I think the market for such spray-on clothes will be kinda limited. However, the mentioned idea of spray-on bandages seems like something with merit… a can of bandage could become a standard part of any first aid kit.

And while not mentioned in the piece, an application I think might might have a real future: spray-on spacesuits. Spacesuits have so far been hideously expensive, and tailored to the wearer. A type of suit long discussed and desired is the “skinsuit,” which, instead of encasing the human form ina  pressurized garment, encases the human in a tight-fitting “bodyglove.” The skinsuit simply prevents the body from expanding. Theoretically, this would be just as good as a regular suit… give the suit a bubble helmet, and some thermal-control outerwear, and you’ll be good to go.

 What’s shown available in the video is a spray system that hoses you down with cotton fibers and some kind of adhesive. I can see a future variant that hoses the prospective astronaut down with much the same, but then switches to a different system that switches the cotton fibers for longer Kevlar fibers and a stronger adhesive. The first layer of cotton provides comfort and protection from the stronger outer-layer adhesive, while still being form-fitting. Heck, if it can be made good enough, a Kevlar skinsuit for use as a terrestrial form-fitting (and thus basically undetectable) low-end bulletproof vest.

 Posted by at 10:26 am
Sep 252010

“Avatar” was a thinly veiled allegory for “evil white man vs. noble savage Injun Native American.” Fine. So… do the Na’vi have THIS hiding in their closet?

Crushed leg bones, battered skulls and other mutilated human remains are likely all that’s left of a Native American population destroyed by genocide that took place circa 800 A.D., suggests a new study.  …  The unearthed bones and artifacts indicate that when the violence took place, men, women and children were tortured, disemboweled, killed and often hacked to bits

Ha-ha! Even the Vikings hadn’t gotten to North America by this time.

Beware dangerous genocidal Native Americans!


 Posted by at 5:36 pm
Sep 252010

A common idea in much of science fiction literature is that those otherwise normal humans who are raised in lower gravity environments (Mars, on the Moon, or even zero-g space stations) will be taller. The idea is that without Earths crushing gravity, a persons bones will grow longer. Commonly (like in John Varley’s “Rolling Thunder,” which I just finished) authors posit Moon/Mars-raised humans being about 20% taller than Earth-raised. That would turn these pioneering folks…


Into either these people (assuming a purely vertical “stretch”):


Or these people (assuming a 3-D scaleup in all dimensions):


Personally, I doubt it, or at least I doubt that it would make a meaningful difference. Those who have spent extended periods in zero-g *have* come home taller, due to the relaxation and expansion of the softer materials in the joints in the spine; but in time they squish back down.

Since we have not, sadly, given birth to whole generations in space (and it’s a damned crime that we haven’t… let’s face it, had we not cheaped out in 1968, but instead made an actual effort, we could have had permanent space settlements of some sort by 1980… and the kids born there would now be THIRTY FRICKEN’ YEARS OLD by now, with kids of their own), this is a tough one to test. My recommendation for those *truly* interested would be to examine the records of those who spent their whole lives bedridden due to disease or paralysis, from childhood to adulthood. These people have not spent their lives being squished by gravity in the normal standing direction, and thus should demonstrate the supposed lengthening of bones.

One area that’s typically *not* examined with sufficient criticality is the arm. Rather than spending time standing around being compressed by the weight of the body, the human arm typically just hangs there… in tension. So if lower gravity would result in bone length change in bones that are normally compressed, then this same effect should also work on bone that are normally in tension. But here, since the tension is reduced, this should make the arm bones *shorter.* So here, kids, is roughly what these superbeings, these gods among men, would look like:



To me, these look like long-legged dwarfs (Midgets? Little people? Whatever the hell the PC term is these days). Note that with leg and torso stretched 20% and arms shortened 15%, you wind up with a whole race of people who can’t… hmmm. In an effort to avoid causing any possible offense to delicate reader sensibilities, what’s a good euphemism for “wipe their own asses?”

Additionally: notice that apart from the arms, I didn’t do differential scaling of the bits and pieces. Such as the heads. Would the skull get bigger? If so, why? The underside of the skull only needs to support the brain, and the sides and top obviously don’t need to support even that much. So the skull is not exactly getting crushed out of shape by gravity. And lets face it… the guys nads aren’t getting stretched (well, not by gravity at any rate). And there’s no real gravity stress on the hands, and while the foot clearly is under a great deal of weight, the length of the foot would not seem to be gravity-driven. So, the final sketch shows 20% stretched legs and torsos, 15% reduced-length arms, normal heads (which now look tiny), necks, hands (which now look huge), feet and nads (which now look… well…).


And this is why “low gravity makes you tall” is a feature of science fiction literature, but not so much science fiction TV or movies, or even art. Because if low gravity causes your bones to grow differently, you’re gonna wind up goofy lookin’.


 Posted by at 1:51 pm
Sep 242010

Right HERE.

The US military is slowly opening up to the idea of allowing Sikhs to serve and wear beards, long hair and turbans. I can see both sides of the arguement… the military likes conformity, and turbans don’t really fit that well under helmets and beards play hell with gas masks. But on the other hand, Sikhs kick substantial ass, seem to have no trouble whatsoever co-existing peacefully in and with the West, and take precisely no crap from Islamists. A few divisions of American Sikh Special Forces and Marines could do wonders in Afghanistan.

Of course, if Sikhs are allowed this, then other religions will demand the same. While Jewish troops wearing the yarmulka under their helmets wouldn’t seem to be a problem, Muslim female soldiers in full burkha getup would seem to be problematic (a camo burkha? With all rank and ID insignia on the outside?). Heathen soldiers might demand full beards and long hair as well. Of course, prior to roughly WWI, American soldiers (and probably pretty much all soldiers) seem to have been able to style themselves largely as desired, so long as they wore the basic uniform. And of course you had your General Custer and Colonel Roosevelt types who had their own uniforms made up special. One is left to shudder at the thought of some future US military where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are allowed to make up their uniforms pretty much as they wish… *and* DADT has gone by the wayside.

 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Sep 242010

… from your B-70 Valkyrie bomber. Fortunately, you have the latest, most advanced crew ejection capsule on the market, featuring a clamshell design that will safely and comfortably encapsulate you. Extendable booms will protrude aft to make you safely aerodynamically stable, and airbags will assure that your landing will be safe and comfortable!

Nothing can go wrong!






Courtesy Nankivil/SDAM

 Posted by at 8:05 pm
Sep 232010

A bit of a different one: $15 worth of downloads to the first person to tell me where – specifically – these rad warning signs are located.


 Posted by at 11:06 pm
Sep 232010

Scruffy is a true alpha male of a cat – there’s no such thing as a fight he can walk away from. As a result, he’s a mass of scars and injuries… even has a broken fang. He’ll come right up to me and weave in and around my feet, all friendly-like… but attempts at petting him result in blitzkrieg attacks to sever fingers. He seems to have successfully claimed my home as his turf… Buttons the cat hasn’t been seen a two or so weeks, and the last time I saw Mark the cat was a bit short of a week ago as a Siamese-colored blur across my back yard, followed by a very scruffy blur in hot pursuit.




 Posted by at 11:02 pm