Nov 302010

Sadly, Specialty Press is shutting down their aviation publication biz effective right now. This means that the books that were due to come out in 2011… won’t be coming out (unless they find another publisher).

I called them earlier today to confirm that this was true, and sadly it is. The reason is purely economic… the market for aviation books has been in decline for the last decade or more (call it “since the end of the Cold War”), and the current recession has made an even bigger dent.

Here’s what I got from a phone call to the VP of operations:
1) Yes, they are shutting down publishing of their own books. No more new titles.
2) They are in the process of informing the affected authors. The public announcement of this was to occur sometime in the next day or so, but they wanted to talk to the authors first.
3) They are hoping to find new homes for the cancelled titles with other publishers, but the options are few.
4) This is a result of the economy in general and a several-year-long major decline in sales of books in this area in particular. Sales have been so slim that the print runs have been too low to be economically viable.
5) Piracy is *not* considered a major factor… just economics and a change in the demographics. people just aren’t as interested in the aviation topics as they used to be.
6) SP isn’t shutting their doors… they will continue dealing with other publishers. But their own publishing business is, sadly, kaput.

So if you were planning on buying one of their forthcoming books… tough luck. if you were planning on buying one of their current books… do so now, as there probably won’t be any more. And the chances are, they’re not going to get any cheaper when there aren’t any more of them.

Here’s a link to the Amazon search results page for “Specialty Press:”

Specialty Press
And here are some SP books I recommend from personal experience:

AAAARGH. I really wanted volume 2 of that…

Damn, I’ve got a lot of their books.

 Posted by at 9:38 pm
Nov 302010

As previously mentioned, I’m working on the chapter in the Orion book on pulse unit design and development. In the course of doing so, I’m working ona  series of scale drawings comparing the external configurations of the known pulse units with a few relevant nuclear weapons, including the M388 Davy Crockett battlefield bomb. And it occurs to me that the 10-meter Orion pulse unit, at 13 inches diameter and 24 inches long, and just maybe the Davy Crocket, at 11 inches diameter and 30 inches long, would be things that I could make full-scale replicas of using the equipment I have. While it would be beyond neato to lathe these out of solid aluminum, fiberglass makes a lot more sense.

Replicas like these, full scale, would be kinda pricey (upwards of $300 for finished display items, probably). Would anyone be interested?

 Posted by at 3:11 pm
Nov 302010

Normally a video of two cats tearing each other up wouldn’t interest me too much. This one, however, is made freakin’ hilarious due to the addition of two corvids who are counting coup. The wonderfully editted music helps as well.

[youtube PNqNfxo42J8]

Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies) are really damned smart. They are beyond tool using smart… they are tool inventing smart. And with smarts comes “acting like a dumbass.” We see it in all the higher-ends brains on the planet… the smarter you are, the more “play” you’re into… and the more “dangerously stupid and stupidly dangerous” play you’re into. Corvids like to pick on predators much bigger than them just, apparently, to prove that they can.

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Nov 302010

This might be interesting…

NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Participants are:
–     Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
–     Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
–     Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
–     Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
–     James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Feel free to speculate wildly. My preferred speculations:

1) An Earth-mass planet in some stars “Goldilocks Zone”

2) A planet has been spectraly analyzed and shown to have free oxygen and/or water vapor in its atmosphere

3) Chlorophyll on the surface of Europa.

UPDATE: Maybe it’s this…

Will Proof of Extraterrestrial Life Be Revealed at a Ramada Inn?

A Michigan man claiming to possess an ice meteorite rich in extraterrestrial organisms will announce in a news conference Tuesday that alien life, at long last, has been found. The announcement will take place at a Ramada Inn in South Haven, Mich.

“I prayed for Jesus to send me an ice meteorite, because I knew it would be quite valuable,” Duane P. Snyder, 65, said of the chunk of ice he found on a South Haven roadway in 2000.

 Posted by at 10:57 am
Nov 292010

Still haven’t figured out who this is. The F-102’s look like early models (with a particularly odd and droopy “U.S. Air Force” painted on the sides), so my guess would be mid/late 1950’s.

Photos from the SDAM via Mark Nankivil.

These are pretty much exactly the sort of photos the USAF doesn’t use for publicity anymore.

Apparently the woman in the photos was a celebrity of some type… if not a famous movie actress, she may have simply been the “Miss America” contestant from whatever this state was. Seems like back in the day, military PR guys liked the idea of hot chicks checkin’ out hot jets.

 Posted by at 11:50 pm
Nov 292010

“Apogee” seems to be having a sale. I just read about it; I gather it’s going to end Real Soon Now. A lot of their $30 books going for $5.

 Posted by at 11:21 pm
Nov 292010

From The Guardian:

Short form: Harvard scientists managed to turn old (genetically engineered) mice into young mice by injecting them with enzmes that tinkered with their telomeres (sort of the “best if used by” dates on the end of DNA chains).

A few things:

  1. The mice used were modified specifically to have messed-up telomeres in the first place.
  2. This same trick in humans might cause cancer.
  3. If it does work in humans, will people demand it as part of their free health care?
  4. Will people still demand to retire by 65 and be taken care of for the rest of their lives by the few remaining younger workers?

Sure, sounds great… but there are some minor issues. Not least of them are the prospects of destroying civilization utterly in a massive economic collapse coupled with a generational war.


Harvard scientists?


 Posted by at 11:36 am
Nov 292010

A timely followup to this post, here is a cutaway illustration of the Consolidated Vultee Model 36 (development phase of the B-36) dated 4-19-1944. The fuselage and tail appear to be pretty much what the XB-36 wound up with, but the defensive armament is still a ways off. In the top and bottom forward gun bays are manned, pressurized, retractable turrets each packing two 37-mm cannon. The aft top and bottom gun bays each have a single remotely controlled turret each with four 50 caliber machine guns.

I can’t help but think that “pressurized, retractable turrets” would have been another way of saying “design headache, maintenance nightmare.”

 Posted by at 1:09 am