May 312013

The Weather Channel has a storm chasing truck, for “Tornado Hunt 2013.” Looks like their hunt was successful!

Apparently the crew was on board when the truck successfully hunted down a tornado and got successfully hurled a reported 200 yards. Injuries were reported to be only minor, which is a tad surprising.


This video is two years old, was taken by a guy sitting in his truck, talking to his sister on the phone, when a tornado passes *real* close. The guy is the virtual definition of “calm.” He faces death just about as well as a man can.

[youtube aijg8hWU4fM]

 Posted by at 8:21 pm
May 312013

First: according to the Department of Justice… First Amendment? Never heard of it.

Group sets meeting to increase tolerance of Muslims, culture

Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee … Killian and Moore will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media.

“This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian told The News Monday. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”

“Inflammatory” ain’t illegal in the US. Making it so specifically for one religious group *is* anti-American.

But then…

Leading neuroscientist: Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’

This will go over well.

 Posted by at 4:38 pm
May 312013

Finally picked up the final piece – I hope – in the puzzle of making large format vellum cyanotype blueprints reliably and with high quality: a sheet of plexiglass 2 feet wide, 6.5 feet long and 3/8 inch thick. So I hope within a few days – weather and whatnot permitting – I’ll start offering them on a regular basis.


 Posted by at 3:56 pm
May 312013

Then here is a list of words you can use on social media that will grab the attention of Homeland Security. Maybe you can find a new friend!

Dept. of Homeland Security Forced to Release List of Keywords Used to Monitor Social Networking Sites

Drill! Crash! Cops! Facility! Recall! Cloud! Wave! AMTRAK! Smart! Mexico! Ice! Hail! Snow!


 Posted by at 10:01 am
May 312013

Fake documentaries have been around forever. Fake documentaries about truly wacky stuff are rarer, and making them truly believable, rarer still. With the advent of affordable and quality computer graphics, more and more fictional presentations are tricking people to believe in fictional stuff. One of the more recent examples of this are two “mockumentaries” on Animal Planet that purport to show evidence of the existence of mermaids. The evidence is convincingly presented in the form of supposed YouTube videos, everything from crappy cell phone vids to video from remotely operated subs to the inevitable government conspiracy videos.

But it’s still fake. And it seems to be irritating marine biologists.

No, Mermaids Do Not Exist

This week, Animal Planet aired two fake documentaries claiming to show scientific evidence of mermaids. I say “fake documentaries” because that’s exactly what The Body Found and The New Evidence are. The “scientists” interviewed in the show are actors, and there’s a brief disclaimer during the end credits. … It is, after all, airing on a network that claims to focus on educating viewers about the natural world. “The Body Found” was rightfully described “the rotting carcass of science television,” and I was shocked to see Animal Planet air a sequel.

The author of the piece goes on to give reasons why promoting “mermaids are real” is a bad idea, mostly revolving around the notion that the ocean and its resources are in trouble. But there is a more fundamental issue: convincing people to believe in stuff that simply doesn’t exist is bad for society as a whole. Mermaids,  “ghost hunters,” “ancient aliens,” “Nazi flying saucers,” “bigfoot hunters,” “pet psychics (or *any* psychics),” and all the rest of it are all based on wishful thinking rather than facts and critical thinking. By promoting such things as worthwhile endeavors, the producers are promoting a worldview where it’s ok and common to believe *anything* so long as it’s interesting or entertaining. Given how readily so many people will believe in utter rubbish anyway – faith healing, “intelligent design,” belief that vaccines cause autism, collectivism, so on – promoting a lack of skepticism will only make things *worse.*

An upside might be that when people realize that “Mermaids” and others are just fictional BS, maybe they’ll realize how easily they can be tricked, and will be more skeptical going forward. But history does not really support that thin hope.

 Posted by at 9:38 am
May 302013

Alex Tremulis was an industrial designer. Best known for designing the Tucker automobile, he spent WWII in the Army Air Corps at Wright Field designing advanced combat aircraft. One of the most interesting designs he produced was known as the “Zero Fighter,” a rocket powered interceptor which had a large booster rocket first stage.

I mastered parts for a kit of the Zero Fighter for Fantastic Plastic. FP has just released the 1/48 kit.  I understand that this is a limited run kit, so get yours soon…

Tremulis Zero Fighter (1944)


 Posted by at 7:48 am
May 292013

In Star Wars, Han Solo brags about the Millenium Falcon being fast. By way of explanation, he claims that  “it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” Of course, since a parsec is a unit of distance not time, this doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ve read a number of explanations that try to make this not sound as dumb as it sounds. The most convoluted explanation goes like this:

1) Every ship in hyperdrive travels at exactly the same speed.

2) Everything from giant stars down to asteroids are navigational hazards while in hyperspace. They must be avoided.

3) Travel in hyperspace in in straight lines only.

4) Long distance travel is not a straight line, but a series of line segments at slight angles as the ships computer adjusts the course to avoid navigational hazards

5) The Kessel Run is a mess of black holes in tight orbit around each other. Travel through requires a lot of course corrections to avoid hazards.

Thus, the Falcon is fast not because it travels faster than other ships, but because it has a snazzier navigational computer. It can project better courses with fewer turns; thus, a shorter total distance. This, however, seems a very unsatisfying explanation.

There is a better one. One that fits in well with Han Solos personality and business model.


 Posted by at 3:29 pm