April 05, 2006

Scientists Find Weird Fish Fossil Way The Fuck Up In Canada

A bunch of scientists found a weird fish fossil that looks like it might be a transitional species between fish and lizard. Or frog. Or whatever. Between fish and something that crawls or slithers on the land.

When I flew to Europe our plane went over the Hudson Bay. I was amazed at how barren it looked down there. But these scientists were working much farther north than that. In fact, the article says they all carried guns just in case a hungry polar bear came by.

Interestingly, when this fish/lizard was alive, it lived near the equator in the mud of a now non-existent continent called Laurentia. Yeah, 400 million years ago. You gotta love plate tectonics.

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March 28, 2006

Coolest Thing On The Internets Of The Day

Anyone who tries this, let me know if it works.

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March 26, 2006

First Woman Osprey Pilot

Congratulations to Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, USMC. She's the first woman to take on the very tricky V-22 Osprey aircraft. Good luck to her. She sounds like she has the right stuff.

Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah spent the first five and a half years of her career in the Marine Corps as a CH-46E “Sea Knight” pilot, but when Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263 began transitioning to the Osprey Program while she was stationed there, she became one of the first female pilots to begin training on the controls of the tiltrotor aircraft.

. . .

“She’s going to go a long way because she never quits. She can succeed at anything she puts her mind to,” said Okoreeh-Baah’s father, Isaac K. Okoreeh-Baah Sr., a native of Ghana, North Africa. “She gets that from me, I think.”

The controversial Osprey is supposed to take off like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane by tilting its huge propellers forward.

Here's some cool video of the Osprey in action.

Before the Osprey, there was always a trade off between fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The spinning blades of a helicopter make it inherently slower than a regular airplane, with a shorter range and a lower top altitude. But fixed wings need a runway. The Osprey gives you get the best of both worlds: the speed, range and ceiling of an airplane, plus the vertical take-off and hovering capability of a helicopter. The V-22 is designed to replace the big dual rotor CH-46 Sea Knight, which has been around since 1960.

The Osprey is controversial because the military spent a lot of money on it and then it started crashing. A lot. There was a time when the DoD wanted to cancel the program. All I know is when I tried flying my dad's computer game Osprey, I kept crashing it. So I've not always been a fan of the plane (or helicopter, or whatever).

The 1986 estimated cost of a single V-22 was about $24 million with a projected 923 to be built. The first Bush administration cancelled the project in April 1989, by which time the cost of a single craft was estimated at $35 million. However, Congress continued to allocate funding for the program in a November 1989 authorization. Throughout Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney’s tenure, he and Congress wrestled over the question of the V-22 as he felt the project would cost more than the amount appropriated. Eventually he relented, proposing that $1.5 billion be spent in fiscal years 1992 and 1993 to develop the project. The arrival of the Clinton administration into the White House in 1992 provided new support for the program.

Osprey crashes have resulted in 30 deaths. No one died in a June 11, 1991, Osprey crash, but a crash July 20, 1992, in Virginia killed three Marines and four civilians. The Osprey was grounded for 11 months after this crash. A crash in Arizona April 8, 2000, killed 19 Marines, grounding the aircraft for two months. Another crash in North Carolina Dec. 11 of the same year killed four Marines. After the December crash, the Osprey was grounded until May 29, 2002.

One of the crashes was caused by something called "vortex ring state," which happens when a helicopter descends through its own air turbulence. To correct this, Osprey pilots are supposed to descend slowly, although some say that Ospreys should be able to descend faster than conventional helicopters.

Supposedly all the bugs have been worked out. So I'll keep my fingers crossed, and hope that the Osprey lives up to its promise.

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March 25, 2006

This Is How They Get Ya

I saw no reason to want a video Ipod, until I discovered that there is a "Strong Bad Email" video podcast. Now I must have one.

Dammit!

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March 17, 2006

New Boys' Toy

Best quote: "I thought this thing was sick."

Have fun guys!

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March 05, 2006

Coolest Thing On The Internets Of The Day

The Robotic Mule.

Wanna bet the second generation will kick back?

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February 15, 2006

Plane Crash In Roseville, 2.0

Sheesh, I'm taking unexpected criticism for my "fuel feed problems" statement in my post about the Glasair II crash in Roseville. The manufacturers' reps must be trolling the web. Here's some clarifying points to remember.

  1. I never said that the Roseville crash was due to a product defect. Obviously, I have no idea and if I had to guess, I'd blame pilot error first.

  2. Just as obvious, if the pilot was indeed doing aerobatics over a populated area, he would have been clearly negligent.

  3. One thing that should be investigated is how many hours that particular plane had been flying. There is a rule that you cannot have passengers in an experimental plane until a certain amount of flight time has been logged. I can't remember the requirement, maybe some of you know it.

  4. Perhaps I should have said fuel feed "challenges" instead of "problems." But, come on. There is a difference between low wing and high wing aircraft fuel systems. The difference is gravity. On a low wing plane, fuel has to be pumped to the engine. If air gets in the line the engine could die. The danger is magnified if the plane is doing stunts. I'm certainly no expert, but I did learn that to prevent cavitation in the fuel lines, tolerances have to be exact throughout the system. Also, some low wing planes do not allow a "both" setting on their fuel selector switch.

  5. It may be that kit planes are made with higher quality materials, as one commenter said. That's not my beef. I would much rather be in a plane that was mass produced, since there's a greater likelihood that any design problems will have been previously discovered by some other sucker, and not me. Also, I would expect quality control to be somewhat better at a factory than in Joe Blow's back yard.
That is all. Have at it.

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February 12, 2006

Plane Crash In Roseville

A plane crashed into a house in Roseville, northeast of Sacramento today. From the video, it looks like a missile strike. The house is toast. Four people are feared dead, including possibly two inside the house.

The aircraft was a Glasair II, low-wing experimental kit plane. As a law clerk, I worked peripherally on a case involving the crash of a kit plane very similar to the Glasair II. Due to client confidentiality, I can't get into the specifics of the case. But suffice to say, you'd never catch me getting into one of them kit planes.

I don't know what possesses pilots to build their own plane when there are plenty of reliable manufacturers out there. Especially a low-wing plane with it's inherent fuel feed problems. Today's crash occurred after witnesses say the pilot was doing some aerobatics. Not smart over a populated area like Roseville.

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January 21, 2006

Long Live The Whale

I could only come up with four flippant* comments about the whale. They are as follows:

  1. Haven't seen this many Londerners lining up to see a dead body since Diana's funeral.
  2. Why make such a big deal over this whale, when thousands of fish are lost along the Thames every day, and no one tries to save them. It's species favoritism, I tell you.
  3. Is there a way they can blame Bush for this one?
  4. "Unsuccessful attempts had been made during the night to encourage the Thames whale to swim back downriver." Maybe they should have tried a bikini whale.
Extremely lame, I know. Okay, so you can do better?
_______________

* Five if you count that pun.

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December 26, 2005

Nano Nano

i love my new Nano. It's the perfect size. If it were any smaller, you wouldn't have anything to hold on to. If it were any thinner, you might bend it. And it's so pretty, it's like a work of art. When it finally craps out i'm going to sell it on eBay for a profit. i wish i had kept my original Walkman, i could have made a few bucks off it.

Interestingly, i just got done listening to "Night Prowler," by AC/DC, which ends with the words "nano nano." How cool is that?

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September 28, 2005

Speaking Of Monsters

Remember my Job post from a few weeks ago, where i made reference to the giant squid? [to great rhetorical effect, i might add] Turns out that about a year ago some Japanese scientists obtained film of a live giant squid ― the first time any human being has ever seen one alive! You may have seen the story. It's listed among the most popular links at Yahoo news.

gsqd.gifPeople are fascinated by giant slimy things i guess. The giant squid has always held a particular mythological importance. Mainly, i think, because so little is known about it. As a monster it was known as the Kraken, and you can see it in the corners of those old time maps, usually clutching a square rigger within its tentacled death grip.

Maybe it's the fact that those things can grow to the length of a football field. Or those ten snakelike tentacles, all studded with suckers the size of pie plates. Or the fact that it spews forth black ink when it gets excited. Or that vicious parrot beak that can bite off the head of a pig.

As for me, i like 'em sliced up and fried in beer batter with tangy cocktail sauce on a Sunday afternoon and a football game on the big screen. An effective seafood cocktail sauce should always contain a generous amount of horseradish, tabasco and lemon in it. But i digress.

Here's an fascinating passage about the mysterious deep sea monster from an otherwise boring book called Moby Dick: more...

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July 30, 2005

USS Midway Photos

i've posted some photos from last weekend's visit to USS Midway. You can find them here. It was interesting walking around a carrier with my dad, who served on one back in the day (not the Midway). We really got the inside story.

According the the Midway's website, it was the longest serving carrier in the U.S. Navy.

The USS Midway set new standards of naval aviation in the latter half of the 20th century. A captured German V-2 rocket was launched off the USS Midway in 1946—the dawn of naval missile warfare. The USS Midway blazed new trails of sub-Arctic air operations off the coast of Greenland. It was the first carrier homeported in a foreign country, calling Yokosuka, Japan home for 18 years. When others came home, the USS Midway remained at the “tip of the sword” on an odyssey shared by 200,000 Americans that spanned the surrender of Japan in WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, the era of détente and Desert Storm.
It's worth a look if you're ever in San Diego.

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May 05, 2005

Aircraft Humour

This may be apocryphal, but it's funny.

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.

Speedbird 206: " Frankfurt , Speedbird 206 clear of active runway."

Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven."

The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"

Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."

Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"

Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, -- and didn't land."

Thanks to Shelly for that one.

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April 09, 2005

Chicks Dig Aerobatics

Mary Madigan at Dean's World has a Quicktime video of a pretty dangerous looking stunt by a Lithuanian aerobatics pilot in a Sukhoi SU-26.

And there's another dangerous stunt captured on Quicktime, posted by another chick, Christiana Ellis.

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April 05, 2005

Problems With Last Night's 24

i'm only willing to suspend disbelief so far. One of the things i have liked about 24 is its plausibility, but last night's episode was not a good example.

As my sophisticated visitors no doubt are aware, it's a common misconception that the F-117 is "invisible" to radar. Not true. The stealth fighter is not invisible, but its radar cross-section is very small - about 10 to 100 square centimeters according to one website i checked. That's pretty small, but not undetectable if you're looking for it, as i'm sure every radar in Southern California would have been after CTU had discerned the threat to Air Force One. Also, detection should have been easier since the F-117 was flying at a higher altitude to intercept the president's plane.

Next, the show's writers appear to have been confused by the nomenclature. "Fighter" is a broad and pretty misleading term. The F-117 is not designed for air combat. It is more properly called a ground attack aircraft. Last night, Bauer was told that the F-117 was carrying "standard non-nuclear ordnance." According to this site, that would include the following ground attack weapons: "BLU-109B low-level laser-guided bomb, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser-guided bomb units, Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles."

Since the terrorist pilot stole the aircraft, i doubt it had been modified to carry the type of air-to-air missiles that would be needed to shoot down Air Force One. The HARM is an anti-radar missile, and i would guess it's not capable of hitting a plane in flight. i don't know if it's possible to lock the Maverick onto a plane, but i would guess that it's not a very agile missile even if you could. But the biggest problem i see would be the warhead.

The warhead is in the missile's center section. Either a 125-pound shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound penetrator warhead can be used. A contact fuse in the nose fires the shaped-charge warhead. The penetrator uses a delayed-fuse, allowing the warhead to penetrate the target with its kinetic energy before firing. The latter is very effective against large, hard targets.
See the problem? The missile has to actually hit something before it will go off. That's easy when it's aimed at a building. Not so easy in air-to-air situations. And a shaped charge is designed to penetrate armor, so it's not as effective if it explodes out in the open

Also, a stealth fighter is not invisible to radar if it's emitting its own radar beam. Once the F-117 had locked onto the president's plane, everybody would have known where it was. There should have been a shitload of flares and chaff ejected from Air Force One and all the escorts to decoy the missile. Actually, i think once the bomb doors were opened, they would have detected it.

Of course this is all nit-picking. i still love 24. And we won't know what happened for sure until next week's episode.

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March 29, 2005

The Spanking Cure

i have no comment on this one.

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March 28, 2005

Time Traveler Busted For Insider Trading

This story reminds me of a very funny Kevin Nealon skit on Saturday Night Live.

Sources at the Security and Exchange Commission confirm that 44-year-old Andrew Carlssin offered the bizarre explanation for his uncanny success in the stock market after being led off in handcuffs on January 28.

'We don't believe this guy's story -- he's either a lunatic or a pathological liar,' says an SEC insider.

'But the fact is, with an initial investment of only $800, in two weeks' time he had a portfolio valued at over $350 million. Every trade he made capitalized on unexpected business developments, which simply can't be pure luck.

'The only way he could pull it off is with illegal inside information. He's going to sit in a jail cell on Rikers Island until he agrees to give up his sources.'

. . .

Carlssin declared that he had traveled back in time from over 200 years in the future, when it is common knowledge that our era experienced one of the worst stock plunges in history. Yet anyone armed with knowledge of the handful of stocks destined to go through the roof could make a fortune.

'It was just too tempting to resist,' Carlssin allegedly said in his videotaped confession. 'I had planned to make it look natural, you know, lose a little here and there so it doesn't look too perfect. But I just got caught in the moment.'

In a bid for leniency, Carlssin has reportedly offered to divulge 'historical facts' such as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden and a cure for AIDS.

All he wants is to be allowed to return to the future in his 'time craft.'

However, he refuses to reveal the location of the machine or discuss how it works, supposedly out of fear the technology could 'fall into the wrong hands.'

The SNL skit was a parody of a Wall Street Week type panel show in which various experts talked about their secret to investing. Kevin Nealon, dressed in a silver jumpsuit, was one of the panelists, named "Future Man." When his turn came to talk about his secret to investing, he held up a line graph and pointed to it, saying that his method was simple: "buy here, sell here, buy sell buy sell buy sell."

i want to believe it could happen, though. Don't you?

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March 01, 2005

You Never Saw Frankenstein Depressed Did You?

A procedure that involves drilling two holes into a person's skull and then implanting electrodes in the brain has shown promise in treating individuals who are severely depressed and resistant to other types of treatment.
This study was done in Toronto, Ontario, which puzzles me, since i keep hearing about what a utopian workers' paradise Canada is. How can anybody possibly be depressed there? Maybe it's all those newly arrived depressed American Democrats.


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February 22, 2005

Robot News: K.I.T.T. Car Comes Closer To Reality

David Hasselhoff's robotic co-star, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, may be one step closer to reality.

senso.jpg

Swiss manufacturer Rinspeed Industries plans to introduce the Senso next month at the Geneva Motor Show.

The 'Senso', which runs on environmentally friendly natural gas, has, not without reason, been labeled the most sensuous car in the world. The 'Senso' actually 'senses' the driver by measuring his (or her) biometric data, and then exerts a positive effect on him with the help of patterns, colors, music and fragrances. A person who is relaxed and wide-awake simply drives better and more safely.
The Senso, while not as articulate as K.I.T.T., seems to care just as much for the well being of its driver.
As both speed and number of cars increase steadily, mobility becomes its own pitfall: the more cars there are on the street, the more stress is induced in the drivers – which might even add to a potentially aggressive mood caused by private or work-related problems. Nowadays, cars are used primarily by individuals, so there is no-one there to soothe the drivers in case of aggression, or keep the drivers awake during a long, monotonous journey. This results in an increasing number of accidents caused by stress or drowsiness.

One solution to this predicament would be a car that reacts to the mood of its driver.

The Rinspeed Senso with zenMotion shows what the future in automotive man-machine interaction could look like . . .

During the trip, sensors constantly measure speed, accelerate-brake-frequency, the driver's pulse, and other aspects that are part of the 'driving behavior'. Depending on the situation, the patterns change to soothe the driver or keep him/her awake, the music volume is adjusted accordingly, and the cabin temperature rises or falls. Of course, this happens in very subtle and unobtrusive ways, so the driver will still fully concentrate on the traffic.

i don't know about you, but the novelty would probably wear off on me after the first week. Then it would just become annoying. Kind of like the show Knight Rider, come to think of it.
The whole project is based on an elaborate sensory system that forms the heart of the vehicle. It consists of a number of sensors that have the job of gathering data about the driver's condition. Firstly, there is a biometric Polar watch to measure the driver's pulse. A "Mobile Eye" camera records his driving behavior, in other words how well and how often he changes lane, and how close and at what speed he approaches the cars in front. Then - this, at any rate, is the vision - a HP board computer evaluates the data and establishes, with the aid of special algorithms, the driver's current state of mind.

. . .

In the 'Senso' – depending on the condition of the driver - four small Sharp LCD monitors emit stimulating (orange/yellow), relaxing (blue/violet) or neutral (green) color patterns into the driver's line of vision. They are integrated into the futuristically designed interior paneling, which lights up over the entire area and bathes the cockpit in dazzle-free ambient light.

. . .

The optical stimuli are reinforced by especially composed sounds stored digitally on a computer. In addition to the eyes and ears, the nose is stimulated, too – by scents developed by the fragrances specialist, Voitino CWS, which flow into the car through the ventilators. Vanilla-mandarin has a calming effect, while citrus-grapefruit is more stimulating.

Interesting. Anyone who has ever ridden in a car with my brother when he has gas can verify the power of odor to keep a driver awake and alert, if not extremely eager to arrive at her destination. But i digress.
Even the tactile senses are included: should the central computer establish any symptoms of tiredness in the driver, electric motors integrated in the seat will shake him awake by vibrating.
A vibrating seat? Now that has promise.

i bet this car will be a big hit in Germany because, as you know, Germans love David Hasselhoff.

[cross-posted at A Western Heart]

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November 06, 2004

The Return Of Aviation Trivia

What is "wrong" with this banner ad, i found while websurfing?

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