Jul 312016

If you read enough sci-fi from the late 40’s/early 50’s, you’ll come across references to technologies then in use but which have since vanished. One such technology is the “Wire Recorder,” a way of recording sound magnetically. The basics of the technology are roughly the same as used on tape recorders, but instead of a tape of plastic film covered in iron oxide, the wire recorders used actual stainless steel wire.

The video below describes the technology and history of wire recorders and shows one in operation. The wire recorders actually worked pretty well, but they fell before the might of tape recorders. Why? Two basic reasons. First, magnetic tape recorders were capable of producing far better sound. Second, an hour of wire was nearly a mile and a half of wire. There is a sequence in the video showing  the results of something going wrong during rewinding and, man, you do *not* want to have to try to straighten out that mess.

 Posted by at 11:29 am
Jul 302016

Not only does this Australian robot negate the need for a lot of illegal immigrant laborers, it also supplies a new, cheaper way to build that southern wall Trump is always yapping about:

This robot apparently does in one hour what a standard bricklayer does in about four. Does it cost more than four bricklayers? Well… probably. But it should be possible to run this thing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of weather conditions (except for severe storms, of course). And the next prototype is supposed to do what two bricklayers can do in a day… in one hour.

I note, though, a distinct lack of mortar.



 Posted by at 11:17 pm
Jul 292016

Wait till the authoritarians get a load of this. It’ll be a favorite to emerge as a Presidential Executive Order…

Venezuela has a new ‘forced labor’ law that can require people to work in fields

Apparently, President Maduro signed a decree allowing the labor ministry to order  “all workers from the public and private sector with enough physical capabilities and technical know-how” into the fields for 60 days, with a possible extension of 60 days beyond that.

This sort of thing is pretty much the natural end result of dogged determination among a collectivist government in the face of reality. A pragmatic Venezuelan government would toss Madura out on his ass and change the constitution to make it a treasonous offense for the government to nationalize businesses or try to control prices.

Note: not a whole lot of data available on this one. Search for it online and all the links so far come back to this news.vice.com story. So… who knows, maybe it’s a hoax. But it sure sounds like the sort of genius policy a Socialist would dream up. And Amnesty International seems to think it’s for real, and they don’t seem to be fans of the idea.

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Jul 292016

An artist used my diagrams of the Northrop Low Altitude Penetrator (a concept that competed against the design that became the B-2) to create a full-color layout. I wish I could work in color half as well…

The CAD vector-PDF, released in May:

And US Bomber Projects #2:

Which resulted in this:

The artist (Kurt Beswick) bounced an earlier version of the art off me and we discussed it for a bit. It was my opinion that a stealth bomber like this specifically designed to fly at near-treetop level (200 feet) would either be in green camouflage, or F-117 Nighthawk black. What do you think?

 Posted by at 4:42 pm
Jul 292016

The local news ran several videos shot by Utahns of the Chinese upper stage breaking up over Utah last night, and I can confidently state that whatever I saw… it wasn’t that.

  1. The upper stage appears to have been relatively low in the sky; what I saw was directly overhead
  2. The upper stage was a large collection of bits,a  stretched-out cloud of junk. What I saw was *one* distinct object that only broke into two or three just before it burned out.
  3. No matter how I work it out, what I saw seems to have been about ten minutes earlier than the upper stage entry.

It seems statistically unlikely that two man-made objects would re-enter that close together in space and time and *not* be related. So… perhaps I saw a payload fairing or an interstage structure? An upper stage includes things like propellant tanks which would react badly to re-entry dynamic pressure and heating, and should break up early resulting in the shower of sparks other people saw, but a tankless structural element might hold together as a single chunk long enough to burn out.

Or maybe that was the Chinese *payload* entering a bit early… hmmmm…


 Posted by at 1:32 am
Jul 282016


RIP Jerry Doyle, Babylon 5‘s Mr. Garibaldi

Aged 60. No cause of death yet. He was that rarest of things… a Hollywood actor who wasn’t a raging liberal. Plus he was freakin’ Mr. Garibaldi.


So, time to update the Babylon 5 Curse list:


Jerry Doyle, played Mr. Garibaldi, died July 2016.

Robin Sachs died February 2013, played a number of aliens… Narns Na’Tok, Na’Kal; Minbari Coplann and Hedronn

Turhan Bey, played the Centauri emperor, died in September 2012.

Michael O’Hare, who played the station commander Jeffrey Sinclair for the first season, died in September 2012, two days before Bey.

Jeff Conaway, played Zack Allen, died in May, 2011

Johnny Sekka, played Dr. Kyle in “The Gathering” pilot, died September, 2006.

Andreas Katsulas, played the inestimable G’Kar, died February, 2006

Tim Choate (Zathras) died in September, 2004.

Richard Biggs, played Doctor Franklin, died May, 2004

Paul Winfield, played Doc Franklin’s dad, died March, 2004




The Babylon 5 cast in their prime.

 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Jul 282016

In looking up Martin Mars videos on Youtube for the immediately preceding post, a number of irrelevant videos popped up, presumably dug up via some algorithm that makes sense to somebody. Now, I’m ok with “wrong” videos being pulled up from time to time; sometimes they are interesting. But I’ve noticed lately that I seem to be getting a *lot* of whacko conspiracy vids… and especially disturbing, “flat Earth” vids. It could be some Poe’s Laws thing in effect, with people *pretending* to be flat Earthers… but it’s getting harder and harder to not just automatically assume that anyone who looks like a nut is, in fact, a nut. The video below was something Youtube thought I’d like to see when I pulled up one of the Martin Mars vids. It’s actually a little painful. And since I’m a sharing, kind-hearted guy… I thought y’all would like to experience this particular flavor of idiocy. The guy claims that not only did we not land on the moon, we didn’t put the ISS into orbit. And on top of that, there are no satellites, either.

 Posted by at 6:47 pm