May 292014

The unveiling of the manned version of the Dragon capsule is being live-blogged here:

SpaceX Dragon V2 unveiling — Live coverage

The Dragon V2 will have room for seven astronauts, and will be able to replace American dependence upon Russian Soyuz launches once and for all.

UPDATE: it’s certainly a smooth looking ship, and suprisingly vast on the inside.

[youtube FZJLAo6VRtA]

dragonv2 flash50

It looks vaguely familiar.


 Posted by at 5:31 pm
May 292014

Goosenecks State Park in south-eastern Utah is a wholly remarkable place. The photos below (scaled *way* down from the full-rez versions) really don’t do the place justice. The San Juan river meanders through the area and has cut a canyon a thousand feet deep, resulting in some truly bizarre and impressive features. Sadly, there were no boats visible in the river at the time to give the place scale.

2014-05-21 pano 11small 2014-05-21 pano 19small


Re: high rez versions – see comments HERE.

 Posted by at 5:16 pm
May 292014

The Revell plastic model kit company is soliciting ideas for new models they’ll produce. You can vote and submit new ideas here:

Some of the ideas include (remember, these are just suggestions from the peanut gallery, and Revell is under no compulsion to actually produce them… however, higher vote counts just might help):

2001 – Discovery 1

ESA Hermes shuttle

X-303 Prometheus 1 :350

1/1400 BC-304 Daedalus

Lunar Module 32nd Scale

32nd Scale Gemini Space Capsule

U.S.S. Grissom Oberth Class starship

2001 : Boeing Aries IB

NASA & USAF Lifting Bodies

Hubble Telescope 1 :72

1 :32 Apollo CSM Block 2 Columbia

1/144 Skylab and Salyut Space Stations

1/48 Space Shuttle Orbiter

Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne 1/72

Lockkheed AH-56 Cheyenne 1/48

Douglas XA2D-1 Skyshark

Lockheed A-12 1/144

T-4 ‘Sotka’ 1/144

1 :48 Bell YFM-1 Airacuda

1/32 A-10 C ‘Warthog’

Lockheed A-12 / M-21 & D-21 1 :48

North American AJ Savage 1/72nd scale


 Posted by at 1:40 pm
May 292014

An interesting theory, in need of a *lot* of evidence to back it up:

Scientists think there may be a wormhole in the center of our galaxy

Or go straight to the Arxiv paper:

Distinguishing black holes and wormholes with orbiting hot spots

The supermassive black hole candidates at the center of every normal galaxy might be wormholes created in the early Universe and connecting either two different regions of our Universe or two different universes in a Multiverse model. Indeed, the origin of these supermassive objects is not well understood, topological non-trivial structures like wormholes are allowed both in general relativity and in alternative theories of gravity, and current observations cannot rule out such a possibility. In a few years, the VLTI instrument GRAVITY will have the capability to image blobs of plasma orbiting near the innermost stable circular orbit of SgrA∗, the supermassive black hole candidate in the Milky Way. The secondary image of a hot spot orbiting around a wormhole is substantially different from the one of a hot spot around a black hole, because the photon capture sphere of the wormhole is much smaller, and its detection could thus test if the center of our Galaxy harbors a wormhole rather then a black hole.

It would appear to be largely hypothetical handwaving at this point, but it’s an interesting idea. At the center of many/most galaxies, there might be a very large wormhole that leads *elsewhere.* Perhaps to the other side of the universe, perhaps to a completely different universe… and perhaps to different points in time. Of course, traveling the 30,000 or so lightyears to get to the center of the galaxy might be a bit of a schlep. But if you assume arbitrarily advanced transport technology, and if the wormholes are sufficiently common and do in fact lead to other places in our universe and other times, one could posit a far distant future where a starship sets out from Earth, proceeds to 99.9999…% lightspeed so that the travel time as experienced by the crew is just a few days, goes through the wormhole and pops out in a galaxy say 300 million lightyears away… and 400 million years in the past. The starship then sets out back for the home galaxy, again at 99.999999…% lightspeed, and gets home 100 million  years in the past. It then finds Earth, picks up some dinosaurs, and goes on a tour of the galaxy, returning to Earth every two or three million years, picking up new critters, watching the K-T impactor, and finally stopping at Earth at, oh, 100,000 BCE, where it then drops off a bunch of probes that watch the world closely from then on. Every now and then it drops organic androids to interact with the locals, and examines all of human history up close. When it finally gets to its own original time period – say, 3,000 CE – it pops out of hiding five minutes after it left, and reveals all its treasures.


Or… not.

 Posted by at 12:16 pm
May 292014

Many years ago (early/mid 90’s), I attended the opening of a new war/veterans memorial. It had a number of black granite panels which had been etched (acid? laser? mechanically? dunno) with scenes from various wars… WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf War. It was all ok, but I had two issues. First was the nature of the etched surfaces: the etching looked cool, but was *really* shallow, and I wondered about how well it would stand up to wind, rain, time… it didn’t seem likely that the basic forces of erosion would do these microscopically thin etchings much good in the decades to come. My second problem was the Gulf War panel: it showed troops, tanks and a helicopter, as you might expect. But instead of an AH-64, it was an Agusta A129 Mangusta. An Italian helicopter that I know the US didn’t use, and I’m reasonably sure that *nobody* used in the Gulf War. I quietly pointed this out, but I don’t know what happened after that.

As appalled as I was by that artistic/historical screwup, that’s nothing compared to this nightmare:

Korean War memorial is a historical photoshop horror

Just… wow. M1 Abrams tanks. Huey helicopters. Troops in Viet Nam era gear. Troops in Gulf War era gear. F-16s in Thunderbirds livery. POW-MIA flags. Plus, the actual production of the monument was outsourced to either Egypt or India (sources seem to differ on that point). Just… wow.

 Posted by at 8:47 am
May 282014

One of the most entertaining/most sad reality TV shows of recent years was “Bait Car,” which followed various police departments as they set up bait cars (cars with hidden cameras, tracking systems and remote door locks/engine shutoff). The police would drop the car off somewhere in public, observe from a distance, someone would steal the car and then get arrested.

Unlike a lot of crimes, in the case of bait cars there’s really very little reasonable doubt even possible. The criminals are caught in the act and on *many* different cameras. The criminals are, as might be expected, largely scumbags (why else would they steal a car), and most appeared to be pretty damn dumb. These are exactly he sort of people we *don’t* need in society; while executing them might rankle a few, and locking them up for life would cost too much, can’t we ship them off to a penal colony somewhere? How about Australia?

Anyway, San Francisco has been running a similar program. But instead of using cars, the police are setting up bicycles to be stolen. Because apparently bike theft in San Fran is a serious problem. While I’ve little use for bikes, I recognize that bike theft *is* a serious problem for the victim. Not only is the criminal stealing someone elses property, they are taking a chunk of the victims *life* (bikes cost money. Money requires work. Enough money to buy a  bike might have required a whole lot of work to afford). Additionally, the criminal is stealing the victims vehicle, stranding them not only right then and there, but potentially for some time to come. If the bike is the victims only way of getting to and from work, the criminal is also damaging the victims ability to make money in the future, potentially putting their jobs at risk. A century and more ago,  people would hang horse thieves, and they were right to do so: take a mans horse (means of transport & livelihood) and you might well *kill* *him.*

But even though the bait bike program is clearly sensible, right on cue some people have a problem with it. Why? Because it targets the poor.

Do S.F.’s ‘bait bikes’ stop thieves or entrap poor?

Note that the bikes are locked up. In order to steal them, the thief needs bolt cutters or the like to chop the lock.

Something neat the cops in SF are doing: they’re using high-end expensive bikes. Not only is this more enticing for thieves… since the bikes are worth more than $10,000 stealing them is an automatic bump up from misdemeanor to felony. Ha!

Here’s a thought: a smart phone enabled taser built into the seat of your bike. If you come out of the store or wherever to find your bike stolen, simply dial it up and fry ’em. Alternatively: a shotgun shell or a .22 or a hypo full of polonium or some such. A reservoir of superglue built into the handles… on command it glues the perp to the bike. A small pneumatic projector that shoots a cloud of dust into the thieves face. I might suggest cocaine or heroin, with a  GPS locator that tells the cops precisely where the thief – now covered in illegal drugs – currently happens to be. Oh, sure, boobytraps are against the law and all, but who can truly argue that such a thing wouldn’t be justice?

 Posted by at 11:35 pm
May 282014

In researching the external configuration of American nuclear weapons, a few details have remained elusive. One blank spot in my records is the tail end of the Mk21 RV, the conical warhead used on the MX “Peacekeeper” ICBM. A number of Mk21s are on display at the USAF museum in Dayton, but displayed attached to the post-boost vehicle. This has the effect of blocking off the view of the aft end of the RVs.


It seems reasonable to assume that if the USAF museum has ten of these on display, there might be another one elsewhere. But I haven’t been able to find one, and haven’t been able to find a single photo depicting the aft end of the vehicle. Does anyone know where a guy could get a photo or three that shows the tail of this thing? Note: there are a number of Mk 12 RVs (used on the Minuteman) on display. The Mk 12 looks a whole lot like the Mk 21; the most obvious visible difference between the two seems to be that the Mk 12 aft end is more “rounded” than that of the Mk 21. The Mk 12 has also proven to be a bit challenging to find photos of the tail end… but I lucked out a while back in finding what appears to be a test version of one in an aerospace museum “junk yard.” So… huzzah.

And so long as I’m on the subject, does anyone know of *any* useful photos or illustrations of the Mk 3, Mk 4 and Mk 5 RVs used on the Poseidon and Trident SLBMs? The Navy seems like they actually don’t want everyone to know just what they look like.

 Posted by at 11:32 am