Dec 292012

Not much info on this as yet. An early 1958 General Electric study to provide the Snark intercontinental cruise missile with a nuclear turbojet to give the craft 200 hours of Mach 0.9 performance at 30,000 feet. As the Snark had only a single warhead, it’s not at all clear what this performance was hoped to accomplish. Best guess: These things would be launched, and then the Soviets would be told they’re out there, just orbiting around awaiting a “come home” code. Code not received… Snarks wander on in into the USSR and cause a ruckus. Sort of a last chance for Uncle Joe to get his nonsense under control. If the “come home” code was sent, presumably the Snarks would ditch in the ocean, either for recovery, or to plunge straight to the bottom.

 Posted by at 7:11 pm
Dec 292012

A DUKW on display at the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington, Nebraska. This particular amphibious truck has certainly seen better days, but I suspect it’s probably in line for restoration at some point. I don’t recall it having been there in previous years, so it might be a recent acquisition.

 Posted by at 7:04 pm
Dec 292012


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What we have here is the “Beam,” a robotic surrogate that can wander around your workplace and irritate your co-workers. It bears a striking resemblance to Shelbot, the robotic surrogate of the character Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” that, in episode “The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification,” which wanders around his home and workplace and irritates his co-workers. As the episode in question aired on September 30, 2010, the “Beam” was very likely well into development and its developers didn’t get the idea from TBBT, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see the convergent evolution. The same basic requirements led to the same basic layout and collection of hardware, though of course the “Beam” has a much higher level of finish.

An interesting thought, though. You can buy a “Beam” for $18,000. I suspect TBBT did not have that high of a budget for their prop. How much would a DIY Shelbot cost?

 Posted by at 9:04 am
Dec 292012

In these dark times it is a rare joy to be able to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, a dent is being made in the power of “personal injury” lawyers to completely screw up society:

Slip-and-fall cases tough to make in Michigan courts

The courts in Michigan have had a sudden and inexplicable bout of sanity. As the Fark headline put it:
 Posted by at 2:17 am
Dec 272012

Stopping the spread of deadly assault weapons

In January, Senator Feinstein will introduce a bill to stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

  • Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
    • 120 specifically-named firearms;
    • Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics; and
    • Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.
  • Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
    • Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test;
    • Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test; and
    • Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans.
  • Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
  • Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
    • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment;
    • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes; and
    • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons.
  • Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
    • Background check of owner and any transferee;
    • Type and serial number of the firearm;
    • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
    • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
    • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.
Translation: BOHICA
Basically, it looks like:
1) Virtually All semi-automatic long guns are going to (attempt to) be banned
2) Existing long guns will be grandfathered, but you will be legally obligated to register the weapon and yourself with the authorities
3) *Standard* pistol magazines are to be similarly banned/grandfathered.
Note that this bill specifically goes after firearms with “one or more military characteristics.” Note that when the USSC said in the Miller case that it was Constitutional to ban sawed-off shotguns, it was Constitutional because such a shotguns *wasn’t* military, and that the purposed of the 2nd A was to make sure that guns appropriate for the militia were available (and that, somehow, a sawed-off shotgun had no military purpose). So Feinstein is going specifically after those guns that the 2nd Amendment was written to protect.
ADDITIONAL: I may be wrong, but I *think* “grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act” means that your semi-auto plinker will now be a Class III firearm. This means that the moment you register it, you give up your 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. As anyone with a Class III firearm will attest, the BATF can show up at will, at any time and unannounced to the location where the firearm is registered and demand to see it, paperwork and storage accommodations, no warrant needed. Get ready to have agents of the government welcome themselves into your home for whatever reason they may dream up at a moments notice.
For the children.
 Posted by at 6:56 pm
Dec 272012

Before the International Space Station was the International Space Station, it was originally Space Station Freedom. This was in the heady days of Reagan and anti-Soviet technological developments such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, the latter half of the 1980s. The Station as then envisioned would have been an all-American Station (although the Europeans and Japanese could tag along with modules of their own), designed to fulfill NASA and DoD requirements, rather than State Department requirements like the ISS. As with SDI, it was grandiose and of course not to be.

The Station as planned circa 1987 could be grown into a “dual keel” design quite a bit larger than the ISS as actually built. It would feature numerous solar power plants, both photovoltaic and solar dynamic. It was planned that a satellite servicing center would be fitted, allowing, as the name suggests, for the repair and refitting of satellites. In order to permit that, a space tug (OMV – Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle) would also need developing that could retrieve the satellites, then return them to their orbits.

Sadly, the Station was always a political football. The cost was immense, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military applications of the Station (not least of which would have been the propaganda value of a Real American Space Station) ceased to seem relevant. Plans were scaled back, it was transformed into an International effort in order to spread cost and curry political favor, and the ISS end result is but a shadow of what was originally planned.

 Posted by at 11:00 am