Jul 292017

A device you see from time to time in science fiction is the “artificial womb.” It would be a handy device for a woman who wants to have a baby but for whatever reason cannot actually carry the baby. Or for interplanetary or interstellar colonization: once you have the machine set up, you can grow baby cows or rabbits or dogs or people from easy-to-ship frozen embryos.

Well, neato: some first steps in developing a practical “artificial womb” have been taken, successfully gestating the last month of premature lambs which were subsequently “decanted” and raised for a year.

An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb

So, good news, right? A technology that could make life better, right? Who could possibly have a problem with this?

If you said “pro-abortion activists,” ding ding ding you win!

How New Technology Could Threaten a Woman’s Right to Abortion

The argument is that the artificial womb should make it possible to push the “age of viability” earlier and earlier during pregnancy, and that could affect the legality of abortions, pushing the legal maximum limit earlier and earlier. And so… this technology is bad.

Right now if you are, say, 9 weeks pregnant and you want you kid out, hoovering it out through a cuisinart seems to be about the only way. So far as I’m aware very little work as been done on safely, much less conveniently, removing a fetus and the associated support infrastructure. The reason for this should be obvious… until now there’s been nothing you could do to save the fetus. But now, at least theoretically a fetus could be extracted and put in an artificial womb and raised successfully.

Of course, carefully extracting a live fetus is more of a chore than a simple abortion. But the artificial womb isn’t quite ready for prime time, either. Seems like some work should allow for a relatively straightforward transfer of a viable fetus to an artificial womb.

What the people upset about this are arguing is that it will make it more difficult for women to get an abortion because a technological advance would expand the definition of what a person is. This is not exactly a new concept in history. Cough cough slavery cough cough.

Here’s the thing that bugs me about the people upset about this: the technology, once perfected, should allow for functionally the same outcome as abortion. You walk in with an unwanted pregnancy, you walk out without one. This difference is… killing a fetus vs. not killing a fetus. If it bothers you that you can’t legally kill a fetus anymore, then it seems to me that your issue was never “a womans right to control her own body,” but rather “I wanted to kill a fetus because reasons.”

 Posted by at 10:01 pm
Jul 292017

On October 12, asteroid 2014 TC4 will pass *extremely* close to Earth: perhaps 4,200 miles from the surface (but perhaps as far out as 170,000 miles). Fortunately it’s a dinky little guy…no more than 100 feet in diameter, probably smaller. The trajectory is vague because it was only tracked for a few days in 2012, and then it was too small and distant to be seen.

Asteroid Flyby Will Benefit NASA Detection and Tracking Network

An asteroid such as this… smallish, passing close to Earth… would make a *fantastic* early target for interception and capture. Adjust the orbit so it swings past the moon; brake it at closest pass and put the rock into  high Earth orbit. Obviously it’d be better to use Earth and perigee kicks for braking and orbit capture, but just *imagine* the red tape wrapped around that environmental impact statement.




 Posted by at 4:00 pm
Jul 282017

US Bomber Projects #20 will be a “special” covering the Boeing XB-59. This will bring together and update the Model 484 and 701 diagrams from prior issues and will add a bunch more, fleshing out not only the development of the B-59 configuration but also showing some of the designs that followed it.

 Posted by at 12:36 pm
Jul 272017

Eighties kids will no doubt remember A-Ha’s mid 80’s song “Take On Me” and the video that went with it. The video was pretty remarkable for the time, visually interesting through animation rotoscoped over live action footage, made to look like black and white “comic book” art. And even though it was only a few minutes worth of music video, it took something like four months to animate.

And now it can be done essentially instantly with an augmented reality app.  The results are a little off, not *quite* the same… but people would have lost their minds in 1985 if the video had been made using something like this. I’m not sure that in 1985 we would have understood just what you were going on about if you said you shot this on your *phone.*

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Jul 262017

So, President Giant Middle Finger continued his trend of WTF-worthy tweeting today by declaring that transexuals would henceforth be banned from the US military. Apparently, the response from the people who actually run the Department of Defense was something along the lines of “who’s doing what now?” CNN’s talking heads are trying to figure out if the President has the power to unilaterally make that change, and, if so, whether he can do it via tweet.

Because I know y’all are just dying to find out, my opinion on transsexuals: meh. Whatever. You be you. My only problem is when “you being you” requires that “taxpayers be paying for you being you.” Now, consider this:

A) Jim Smith joins the Army and gets his arm blown off. He wants a replacement Luke Skywalker robohand; it is good and proper for the US Army to spend what it takes to get him one.

B) Jim Smith gets his arm blown off and then tries to join the Army to get them to give him a new Luke Skywalker robohand. Ummmm… no.

Lots of people are saying that there is a lot of vital talent in the pool of transsexuals that the military could use. Well, no doubt. There is also a lot of talent available in the pool of people with missing limbs, bad hearts, no eyesight, Type 1 diabetes, drug addiction, schizophrenia, flat feet and criminal records. The military has a *lot* of reasons for rejecting applicants that have little to do with talent (80% of Military Recruitments Turned Down).

So, the point: if someone is post-operative, needs no more medical care for their missing limb or gender dysmorphia, or if they are able to do the job *without* the elective and expensive medical treatments and won’t get it until they’re out, then I see little reason to say “trannies out” (other than to annoy SJWs). But if someone wants to sign up for the military with a “pre-existing condition” and expects and demands that the military – i.e. Joe Taxpayer – pay for it, I have a bit of a problem with that.

But springing this change on the military via tweet after there are apparently already transsexuals out in the open in the military, meaning that they would theoretically get kicked out? Yeah… that’s… wellllll…… that’s becoming pretty much par for the Trump course, I suppose.

 Posted by at 5:03 pm
Jul 252017

Well, here’s where the world is… I’m posting a link to a YouTube Gucci ad.

All I can really say about it is that it does effectively capture the look and cheesiness of 60’s/70’s TV sci-fi, in particualr Star Trek, Lost In Space and Space: 1999 (which the ad uses the theme music from). Well… that and I can add that it’s appropriate in that it makes fashion models into effective old-skool SF aliens, because they pretty much look like freaks anyway.

Honestly, what is the purpose of an ad like this? Anybody want to spend money to dress up like that, outside of cosplaying or starring in a fan film?

 Posted by at 10:43 pm