Not, in this case, meaning the archaeology of extraterrestrial or other non-human societies, but archaeology by non-humans. Specifically, dolphins. According to the story here, a team of U.S. Navy dolphins being trained to locate mines found instead a Howell torpedo dating to 1889. The Howell was the first self-propelled torpedo used by the U.S. Navy – previously, the term “torpedo” had been applied to a wide variety of bombs and mines that were stationary, free-floating, or mounted on the end of long spars and used for ramming.
It’s an impressive find, but for now I’m still not too worried about being replaced by a dolphin. The sites I excavate are generally on land, plus the fact that I have hands does give me a bit of an advantage.
Given my professional interest in the development of technology, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been following Cody Wilson’s project to design a working firearm that can be produced on a 3d printer. For anyone not paying attention, Wilson succeeded in test firing his “Liberator” pistol a few days ago and posted the CAD files for anyone to download. Yesterday, the U.S. State Department ordered him to take the files down, claiming possible violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. In other words, the United States government is asserting that Wilson’s printable firearm, capable of firing only a handful of rounds before wearing out, is a secret defense technology that must be prevented from falling into the hands of any non-U.S. citizens who might be browsing the web. This despite the fact that, before they acted, those files had already been downloaded more than 100,000 times by people all over the world, and that they had also already been uploaded to Pirate Bay. As of this writing, the CAD files for the Liberator pistol can be accessed here. Clearly, somebody at the State Department saw a cloud of dust disappearing in the distance and started frantically looking around for a barn door to shut.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am both a supporter of civil liberties and a strong opponent of idiocy in government, both of which motives have prompted me to write this post. Having tried (and failed) to suppress a small caliber pistol of no conceivable military value, the State Department will no doubt now display even greater alarm at my posting here of technical drawings for a much more powerful weapon; one that has proven military value and has, in fact, been used on the battlefield by the U.S. Army, among others. I present to you now the official patent drawings for Richard Gatling’s famous machine gun (click to enlarge):
Gatling Gun Patent Drawing 1862
Further information, including a full technical description of this deadly weapon, can be found here, courtesy of the infamous weapons smuggling ring known as Google Patents.
In 1911 the Ladies’ Home Journal published a number of predictions about how the world would be changed over the next 100 years. Apart from the obvious misses, there are a few surprising omissions. Airships are discussed, for example, but not heavier-than-air planes, even though the Wright Brothers had flown their Flyer eight years previously. Most of the electronics we take for granted obviously could not reasonably have been predicted, but the massive proliferation of recorded music probably could have been (the phonograph was patented in 1877).
There are, however, quite a few surprising hits. Central heating and air conditioning, long distance transmission of images in real time, and “forts on wheels” (i.e. tanks) making cavalry charges, to pick three notable examples.
Also interesting is the apparent complete lack of any concern given to preserving nature.
The latest Russian Mars probe might have missed the red planet, but it did manage to hit the planet that is closest to Mars.
On October 4th, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik launch, a small vehicle named SpaceShipOne accomplished something that had never been done before in human history. It flew into space under its own power for a second time within a period of less than one week. And it did it entirely without government funding.
The product of a collaboration between aerospace engineer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne was the proof-of-concept vehicle that led directly to the spacecraft that are currently planned to begin commercial flights very soon with Virgin Galactic.
Not satisfied with their accomplishments so far, Rutan and Allen are now teaming up with Elon Musk of SpaceX to develop a spacecraft capable of carrying cargo or passengers into orbit. The partnership is called Stratolaunch Systems. As reported in Wired, the new vehicle will use a carrier aircraft like SpaceShipOne did, but this one will be much larger, with a wingspan of 385 feet, the largest ever. (The current record is the 319 foot wing of the Hughes H-4 Hercules).
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend all three space launches of SpaceShipOne back in 2004, and I hope Stratolaunch succeeds in this new venture.
As with the video about the differential I blogged about earlier, I’m not certain exactly when this documentary was produced. Based on what is shown, it would have to be between 1938 (when the AT&SF 3765 class locomotive featured in this film began its service) and 1957 (the last year of steam operation on the AT&SF). It most likely dates from the earlier part of that range.
One of the things I particularly like about this video is that it doesn’t just explain the technology, but it also shows a lot of the human activity necessary to make these wonderful machines work.
Fox has an interesting short article on various efforts to begin mining the moon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deal with the legal aspect of space development, which may be the biggest obstacle. My understanding is that current treaties make it nearly impossible for any entity, public or private, to gain any benefit from resources on the Moon, or anywhere else in space. I understand and agree with the desire to keep one country from acting like seventeenth century European kings and claiming vast amounts of real estate for themselves, the current situation where nobody can own anything in space (except their own vehicles, obviously) seems to me to be just as ridiculous. And in the long run, possibly even more harmful.
Adding to the Navy ship that dissolves in salt water and the government radios that can be easily jammed or tracked, now it seems that the controllers for Air Force Predator and Reaper drones have been infected with a virus that they can’t get rid of. It sounds like this was primarily due to the system operators not taking appropriate precautions rather than a failure of the equipment itself. However, the fact that the link between the drone and the ground controller is not encrypted is a design screw-up. So once again, I have to ask where did these engineers get their degrees? At a clown college?
For the past few years there has been quite a bit of progress toward using metamaterials to produce an invisibility cloak. Essentially, this involves using special materials to cause light to bend around an object instead of striking it. A team at the University of Dallas, however, has demonstrated invisibility using a different principle – creating an artificial mirage from sheets of carbon nanotubes. They already have a much larger cloak than can currently be built using metamaterials, and it can be rapidly switched off and on. This looks like it might be something with a lot of potential (even beyond the obvious military and espionage uses).