Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 5

Death Star anyone? If you are looking for the next big laser thing, I give you this:  "it is fired to produce [10] large laser beams several feet wide that are then combined and focused down onto a tiny spot..." That will,  "tear apart the fabric of space." with 200 petawatts of laser power; "100,000 times the power of the world's combined electricity production."

Are you ready for Cyber War? ('Cause it's coming...)

Genetically modified mosquitoes designed to kill off their children before reaching maturity released into the wild.

Threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and for some strange reason, they consider a preemptive attack; you know, before you finish building your nukes. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 4

Computer virus hits US drone fleet. Refuses to leave.

US Army to deploy the new Switchblade, a backpack portable drone/guided missile.

114 year old electric car had same range as the Chevy Volt.

A NY senator believes that we have too much freedom of speech: "Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated." (Emphasis added.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comic-Con 2011

I went to Comic-Con International yesterday for the first time. It was also the first time I've been to this sort of Con when I was the one calling all the shots. I learned how not to make a lot of serious and painful noob mistakes, the hard way. But, I got in for free, so I can look at them as low cost lessons, however painful they may have been.

The one thing that I did really right was to get into Comic-Con for free by pre-registering to be a volunteer. You work a three hour shift doing some menial task at some point in the day, and get to play the rest of the day for free. You can get in like this as many days as you want, and they throw in a free t-shirt to boot. (Thanks to for letting me know that this could be done!)

Lessons Learned:

  1. Go more than one day. One day is simply not enough time to even skim the floor if you want to go to any panels. This is the most important lesson I learned. When presented with the option of stopping to get a photo of this costume and to chat with the person at that booth, or to keep moving to see what is further ahead, I usually picked the latter because I didn't have enough time. And even while making that painful choice so often, I still never did cover the whole floor.
  2. A written out schedule is essential. I missed several events I would have liked to see because I had the wrong times in my head and or because I just forgot about them with so much else going on.
  3. Arrive before 7 am. I got there too late to get an early volunteer assignment, so I wasted three hours doing stuff for the con instead of doing stuff at the con after it opened.
  4. Some panels have epic lines, others have none.
  5. Bring a mini-folding chair. There will be time spent in those epic lines. Be ready.
  6. There are boring lines, have a (small, light!) book with you.
  7. Make sure shoes are ready for lots of walking/not-quite-running. A panel on each end of the building and zero time to get from one to the other means you won't always be able to stroll from one place to the next. (Mine needed fresh gel pads.)
  8. Bring paper. I saw several people I would have liked to get signatures from, but had nothing for them to sign.
  9. Check the signing schedule carefully and bring the appropriate books.
  10. Most signings require a ticket/bracelet you have to get before hand, or you can't even get in the line.
  11. Bring more snacks. Between the walking around all day and seeing thousands of people eating plate pizza, etc., I wanted to eat more than I brought with me.
  12. There is a lot going on.
  13. Bring an SLR with some serious zoom. There were some pretty awesome pictures I could have taken if I had a lens with 20x or 30x magnification instead of my paltry 4x.
  14. 20 GB of cards for my camera was more than enough. However, had I gone to more panels, I would likely have shot a lot more video, so 20 GB was not overkill. Also, three batteries was a close call, so bring four next time to be on the safe side.
  15. Rob a bank on the way there to have enough cash. There was a lot of really cool things I could have bought, and not all of them cost an arm and a leg. Admittedly, some of them did cost a few limbs, hence the bank job.
  16. The floor closes early, like a business, and does not stay going forever like a fair. (Hence the "could have" in #15. I was going to go back down to the floor after the Mythbusters panel and buy the things that I thought I was being smart by purchasing later and therefore not carrying around all day.)
  17. You can row hop close to the front of a big-deal panel by arriving several events ahead and moving fast when it empties out after each event.
  18. A volunteer job may be very boring. I was a Human Wall for two hours before I got reassigned.
  19. Get your volunteer shirt as soon as possible after you can, things close down earlier than you may think. 
  20. The Mythbusters are even more funny in real life than they are on TV.
Coolest Costumes Seen:
  1. An older Steampunk Lady with a Predator on a leash.
  2. The Monty Python set of three: A king and two knaves. Massive pack and clomping coconut shells included.
  3. A Centaur with articulated rear legs.
  4. A family of Klingons.
  5. A Death Star.
  6. I think Darth Vader requires a special mention. There were more flavors of him than you might think. There was the Classic Vader, the Mini-skirt and leather Lady Vader, the Black and White with Jar-Jar's head on a platter with lettuce Vader, the Bobble Head Vader, the Hello Kitty Pink and Black Vader and more.
  7. I saw one Captain Jack Sparrow that was so good that I thought it was Johny Depp for several seconds.
  8. I'm not even going to mention the mountains of Stormtroopers, fairies, elfs, zombies, superheros and capers. But there were hundreds and hundreds of them.
People seen:
  1. Molly Quinn from Castle just walked across my path which was very cool.
  2. Jim Butcher was at a signing.
  3. The entire Mythbusters Cast was at their pannel:
    1. Adam Savage (Twice! Once at the panel, and once on the floor in disguise, so I didn't recognize him at the time.)
    2. Jamie Hyneman
    3. Tory Belleci
    4. Kari Byron
    5. Grant Imahara 

All in all, I had a great day and hope that I can make it back next year. With these lessons learned, I plan to have an absolute blast next time around.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 3

Putting the Intelligence Into AI
Not content to create an AI that could learn how to play the computer game Civilization on it's own (and win 46% of the time) researchers at MIT taught the AI how to learn how to read English. (Note that they did not teach it English, they actually made it smart enough, that it was able to learn English it on it's own by playing the game and looking at the manual!) When it was given the general help / instruction manual for Civilization, it was smart enough to assimilate that knowledge, and increase it's win rate to a staggering 79% of the games it played.

Synthetic Burgers
Professor Mark Post, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and his team have grown synthetic pork  strips and claims that within a year, they will also be able to grow synthetic beef for use as a cheap and efficient  meat source.

Global warming?
"The earth is heating super rapidly! It's caused by man! We are killing our planet!" Only, the temperature has not moved in over a decade. Hmmm. Asia pollution "blamed" for halt in warming. The key sentence from the article: "World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show." (emphasis added.)

Man Induced Climate Change?
"Global warming will cause terrible storms which will grow to truly epic proportions!" Only, "During the past 6-years since Hurricane Katrina, global tropical cyclone frequency and energy have decreased dramatically, and are currently at near-historical record lows." (emphasis added.)

Don't take no pictures!
"Be afraid. Fear everything and everyone!" That's the message we hear every time you get near an airport. Fear is used as a catch-all excuse to do anything. Don't like a passenger taking a picture of your name badge when you are rude to passengers? Call them a "security risk" and have them booted off the airplane!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 2

The Pentagon finally starts to move into the future of cyberwarfare. Now they have guidelines:

Scientists create blobs of cooled light particles.

New Japanese machine takes the super computer lead, and they're not even done building it. The "K" will rise from 8.16 petaflops to reach 10 petaflops once it is at full power.

Scientists grow rat organs in mice, and are ready to try growing human organs in pigs. Don't mix up that bacon!

Micro drones are on their way.

Chart of current drone in use by the US military:

Apple to decide when you are allowed to use the video camera on new iPhones. Forget recording that favorite band of yours.

Obama: Libya isn't a war. Because flying aircraft over a country and dropping bombs on people isn't war as long as there are no troops on the ground and the targets can't return fire effectively. According to Obama's arguments, he could nuke a country off the map without Congressional approval.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bizarre / Interesting / Newsworthy (BIN # 1)

From the B.I.N. for this week, I give you the following articles:

In China, genetically modified cows produce human breast milk. It will be sold in stores within three years. Other cows modified are resilient against mad cow disease, and yet other beef cattle are genetically modified to produce more nutritious meat.

Matt Stutzman, a man born with no arms, still has none. But what he does have is a qualification for the National U.S. Olympic team in archery. Yep. Armless archery.

A mother in the UK has volunteered to donate her womb to her infertile daughter, to be transplanted so that the daughter can have a daughter (or son) of her own. If successful, Sara could conceive and carry a child in the same womb she herself was born from.

I don't care so much about the game aspects of this, but the voice controls  in "Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" is really rather impressive. As shown in the video near the bottom of the article, even with another demo blasting near by, the Xbox (via Kinect) was able to pick up almost every voice command given by the both the interviewer and interview-y. It's still not as good as you've seen on the Enterprise, but it sure is getting close.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Building a Reprap, Pt. 3 (The Frame, A)

Part one of this series is here.

I bought a set of cast plastic structural supports from Fireraiser for $30. Sadly, they have to be drilled by hand, unlike printed parts.

I got all of the hard drilling out of the way with a drill press: about 2.5 hr.


Cut some of the needed threaded rods with hacksaw: 20 min.

Cutting once. (x6)

Assembly: over 1 hour due to messing up the ends and needing to clean them up first. It's starting to come together.

The workspace