Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Quickie Link

Toyota has come out saying that they will be selling household robots in 2010. Intended to do mundane housework, they'd also potentially be used for caring for the elderly and child care. ugh. I'm all for automating a lot things, but that might be a little ... extreme. All we need then is a PS2 accessory to help boys figure out how to date too. ;)

A weekend update

We're back. Thank goodness its over. We ran down to Sin City for the holiday. I took off friday and we drove down. I wanted my wife to have a chance to taste another part of America by driving. Flying saves time and energy, but you miss everything in between. Often there are interesting things lying along the way. I have to confess I hate road trips and I am sometimes willing to miss out. However, seeing America for what America is happens to be rather important for me. My daughter will not grow up with my town is the world for an attitude. Lyuda saw some spectacular views of the desert. She also saw what I call 'natural SoCal': the semi wooded (with oaks) with lots of dry grass. She thought it was very, very beautiful. And she never would have seen it otherwise.

Sin City wasn't that interesting for me. I am not a gambler. Not with my money. Not that way. The bright lights and such will only hold my attention for a quick tour. The Forum Shops for Caesar's Palace were nice, but...I couldn't help but be sickened in a way. All that expensive marble and stone...for a mall. I guess I love old monuments that are lasting and interesting. How much of that are we building? How much of that will be around like the pyriamids? The victory arches in Rome? The Hagia Sophia? The Acropolis? Instead...we're building an expensive mall and hotel attached to a casino. *sighs*

Oh well. I got to see an old friend (she lives in LV). Suzanne is someone I have known since 1995. She's a chemist and quite bright. We hadn't seen each other for a long time. She took Lyuda out to see the Strip, go dancing, etc. I babysat Avrora and talked with Greg (Suzanne's husband).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Eurabia: Coming or not?

Randy wrote an interesting article over in geen expression about whether or not Eurabia is truly coming. Have a read here.

Do I think that Eurabia will come about? hrm. Not really. It's possible but not likely. Demographics are a fickle beast and it looks like Europe will be far more hardy than most would give it credit for.

CCSM Conference June 21st through June 23rd

This is primarily a working group for the Community Climate System Model. I'd like to participate actually with an eye to the paleoclimate working group. However since I am working on multisystem file systems right now, I'd have to say that the likelihood of participating is very, very little.

I am headed to Seattle, if approval comes down, for StorCloud for SC2005. I'm the file system guy: the one that prior to SC2005 will be setting up the cluster file systems for everyone to use. The problem is that those are tied to the applications and those haven't been settled on yet. Messy.

So, any of you polymaths that wish to participate in CCSM, go register.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Spanking about Space Weapons

Dwayne Day is a man that I have interacted in the past online. He's quite an intelligent man and he's graduated to pundit for space related topics. He wrote an interesting article about the NY Times response to the 'weaponization of space'. All I can say is ouch. He's got an extremely good point: milspace does have serious issues with cost overruns. I happen to believe that it has more to do with the culture perpetuated by the defense contractors and their related teet, ahem, procurement system, but c'est la vie.

I'll stick to my guns though that you don't slow down so others can catch up technologically nor militarily. You do your damnest to increase that lead in an intelligent manner.

Space Based Radar antenna

As you all know, I am a big fan/advocate of space based weapons. It's teh high ground that's not so easy for most countries to get involved in. The USAF wants to deploy a space based AWACS system: the so-called Space Based RADAR. DARPA has been working on a demonstration of technologies needed: the Innovative Space Based Radar Antenna Technology (ISAT) program. Read about the recent downselect here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tomorrow's gonna be crazy busy

So I thought I'd cheat with some photos tonight.

Billiards with Asteroids

I have a "good" one for you guys today.

It seems that a foundation that has been established with the sole purpose of altering - in a controlled manner - the orbit of an asteroid by 2015 claims that there's an asteroid that will swing very close to the Earth in 2029 and has a strong possibility of schmacking us the next time (or so) around in 2036. In the Pacific Ocean. The paper in PDF form is here.

There's a future WI for ahf: an asteroid smacks us in 2036 in the Pacific, uber tsunamis all over the Pacific. Japan, the American West Coast, China, Canadian West Coast, Mexican west coast, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, etc. get trashed. Forget any islands. They're toast. Oz might get waaay splashed too. India and Europe come out triumphant as the new superpowers of the latter half of the 21st century?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cosmos 1 shipped to loading site

Read here. Solar sailing takes another step forward.

CNN on the National Ignition Facitity

Take a look here. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab has long been something I have been curious about. It's intended to simulate nuclear explosions - so the scientists convinced the administrations past/present and Congress. It's had its serious - and sometimes embarassing - ups and downs. The scientists believe that they will get a fusion reaction out the system once they've had some time to iron out bugs. Right now they are saying they'll be finished in 2008 with the construction. They think they'll get a fusionr eaction in 2010. This style of fusion is not one that can be used for powerplants, unlike what is being proposed for ITER. The differences are that one is magnetohydrodynamic fusion (ITER) and the other is inertial confinement fusion (NIF).

There is one use that the article doesn't mention: its more than half way to a fusion drive for spacecraft.

China's Oil Dilemma

Jane's has another interesting article about China again. This time it is about China's strategy to expand its influence in Southeast Asia. With the increasing energy dependance on the Middle East for China, it is seen as necessary to be able to keep the Straights of Malacca from being closed to the flow of oil. Right now China is unable to do so. Should there ever be a situation where a hostile power should oppose that flow - like say a tussle with the US over Taiwan - 32% of China's oil supply gets cut off. That'd be crippling. China had been thinking that it would not seek a first rate blue water navy until the 2050s, but with its rising energy needs either it will have to move that goal to the nearer term or seek basing agreements with some of the nations in SEA.

They're not likely to accomodate this...willingly. Vietnam already fought a war with China in the 1970s (and clobbered her). Laos has a 'problem' with Chinese settlers coming in and doing better than the locals making the all the more sensative about China. Thailand has a historical head butting with China. IDK about what Cambodia's relations with China are, so i shall refrain from commenting. Myanmar would probably be cooperative, but with a rising India, it might be a little cautious.

The Rise of China will be interesting to watch. She has a lot of pitfalls to avoid. Many of them are not the same ones that the West has already encountered. Having an ubersquared size population makes industrializing the way the West did in the past a little more difficult and there are some radically different technologies available now then we had then. The environment is going to be one of the biggies that China will have to be concerned about. Alternate energy sources would be another. We'll see how the Three Gorges Dam project works out: a friend of mine that goes to China on a regular basis - since his wife is a Chinese citizen - has expressed some concerns about the construction quality of the dam itself. He actually expects it to fail in the relatively soon after its finished.

Right now, the USA is the lone superpower[1] and is expanding its economic influence further in the Western Hemisphere. Europe is rising, but has a different set of priorities that seem, at least to me superficially, to be more inward looking. China and India are also rising. Russia has decayed and may fall further and further behind. Japan is attempting a fascinating transition in its economy. If it works, it may decouple at least a portion of the relation between population and economic capability. If it suceeds, it might rise up to one of the superpowers itself.

Definitely the 21st Century looks to be interesting.

1. Hyperpower is, uh, an overblown term here folks. If we could clobber the NKers and Iranians at the same time keeping our current undertakings from be undermanned, I'd agree with the idea and position, but we can't unless we greatly expand our military and at this point that'd compromise quality far too much.

Friday, May 20, 2005

My political grouping...

I'm an Upbeat!


This is from a survey here.

Have a good weekend, folks. I'm off to pinch the wife and snuggle the baby.


Based on your answers to the questionnaire, you most closely resemble survey respondents within the Upbeat typology group. This does not mean that you necessarily fit every group characteristic or agree with the group on all issues.

Upbeats represent 11 percent of the American public, and 13 percent of registered voters.

Basic Description
Upbeats express positive views about the economy, government and society. Satisfied with their own financial situation and the direction the nation is heading, these voters support George W. Bush’s leadership in economic matters more than on social or foreign policy issues. Combining highly favorable views of government with equally positive views of business and the marketplace, Upbeats believe that success is in people’s own hands, and that businesses make a positive contribution to society. This group also has a very favorable view of immigrants.

Defining Values
Very favorable views of government performance and responsiveness defines the group, along with similarly positive outlook on the role of business in society. While most support the war in Iraq, Upbeats have mixed views on foreign policy – but most favor preemptive military action against countries that threaten the U.S. Religious, but decidedly moderate in views about social and cultural issues.

Who They Are
Relatively young (26% are under 30) and well-educated, Upbeats are the second wealthiest group after Enterprisers (39% have household incomes of $75,000 or more). The highest proportion of Catholics (30%) and white mainline Protestants (28%) of all groups, although fewer than half (46%) attend church weekly. Mostly white (87%), suburban, and married, they are evenly split between men and women.

Lifestyle Notes
High rate of stock ownership (42%, 2nd after Enterprisers).

2004 Election
Bush 63%, Kerry 14%.

Party ID
56% Independent/No Preference, 39% Republican, 5% Democrat (73% Rep/LeanRep)

Media Use
Upbeats are second only to Liberals in citing the internet as their main news source (34% compared with 23% nationwide); 46% also cite newspapers. No more or less engaged in politics than the national average.

Note: All descriptions and percentages are based on the national sample of adults surveyed by telephone in December. Based on your answers to the survey questions, you most closely resemble survey respondents within this group, even though you may differ significantly on one or more issues or traits.

In the overall typology there is a ninth group called “Bystanders” who are defined as adults who are not registered, who do not follow news about government and public affairs, and who say they rarely or never vote.

FEMA Analysis of the effects of a Nuclear War

Have a look here.

Interesting stuff. Texas, California, and New York are smoking slags in their opinion. This was circa the 1980s.

House Appropriations Committee: Fusion Funding News

Blatantly stolen (and mildly reformatted) from the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News

Up 8.1% or $22.3 million from this year's budget of $273.9 million.

"The Committee recommendation for fusion energy sciences is $296,155,000, an increase of $5,605,000 over the budget request but with a significant redirection of funds as outlined below. The Committee is concerned that two-thirds of the proposed increase for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) would be achieved by reducing domestic fusion research and operating time on domestic user facilities. Under the proposed fiscal year 2006 budget, operating time at the three major fusion research facilities (DIII-D, Alcator C-Mod, and NSTX) would be reduced from 48 weeks in fiscal year 2005 to a total of only 17 weeks in fiscal year 2006. If the United States expects to be a serious contributor to international fusion research in general and to ITER in particular, the Nation needs to maintain strong domestic research programs and user facilities to train the next generation of fusion scientists and engineers. The Department's proposal to increase support for ITER at the expense of domestic fusion research is unwise and unacceptable. Such an approach is not only short-sighted, but inconsistent with prior Congressional guidance. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department to utilize $29,900,000 of funding proposed for ITER and the additional $5,605,000 to restore U.S.-based fusion funding to fiscal year 2005 levels as follows:

$7,300,000 for high performance materials for fusion

$14,305,000 to restore operation of the three major user facilities to fiscal year 2005 operating levels

$7,200,000 for intense heavy ion beams and fast ignition studies

$5,100,000 for compact stellarators and small-scale experiments

$1,600,000 for theory

As in previous years, the Committee directs the Department to fund the U.S. share of ITER through additional resources rather than through reductions to domestic fusion research or to other Office of Science programs. If the Department does not follow this guidance in its fiscal year 2007 budget submission, the Committee is prepared to eliminate all U.S. funding for the ITER project in the future."


Mild clue from the House? WTF is the world coming to?

Not a big clue or else they'd be beating DOE over the head with a bat to do more in house fusion work, but...its progress.

Space Power Theory Revisited

A very kind soul emailed me[1] and gave me a link to an online version hosting by the Blue Beanies. It seems that same individual built a wikipedia page dedicated to James Oberg's publications and biography.

1. Thank you Andrew!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Space Power Theory: #$&*!!!

James Oberg wrote a book for the US Air Force entitled Space Power Theory back in 1999. It was intended to be the equivalent of Mahan's works on naval theory. I can't find the link at the moment, but here's Oberg's own webpage on the book. Amazon doesn't have any for sale or else I'd snap one up for a reference.

For some reason I swear I read the whole thing in PDF back in the day. It was rather dry reading and not as profound as the author wanted it to be...at least to these eyes.

Suicide. A horrible personal plague

Yesterday I found out that a man that I intensely admire had considered suicide[1] in 2002...or so I read his livejournal. This rather upset me. No, I wasn't upset with him. It's a little late to comment in his LJ, so I'll talk a bit about my feelings here. Hey, its my blog, ja?

Suicide has been something that has been a plague upon my existance. When I was 13 an acquaintance and friendly guy in my middle school PE class put a shotgun in his mouth and blew himself away. When I was 15, a friend of mine slit his wrists in school and I dragged him to a teacher's attention. When I was 24, a very close friend's bf killed himself with speed...intentionally...and left a note blaming her. That same woman that I was very close to killed herself because of the guilt two months later. Sleeping pills. In 1999, my exwife was going through a second divorce and shot herself.

All of these people were awesome people. All of them were very, very creative people. All of them were very intelligent people. All of them, save Randy and Scott - the friend I dragged away to the teacher - ended their lives. All of them saw no hope in their situation for a future life. The impact of their decisions are still reverberating with the ones that they left behind.

My ex's family, esp her mother, has all but been broken. This is the woman that the whole time I knew her well was made of iron. She'd taken a helluvalota crap from her ex in court and out. She'd gone on to get her master's and have a good career despite having two children of her own. Yet, after her only daughter's death...she barely musters the strength to even cook at all anymore. She had been quite an accomplished cook when my ex and I were married and prior.

My femme friend, Erica, that died - as much as I love(d) her - ripped the bleeding heart out of her family. Her mother and father are very devout Catholics. They've been in intense therapy ever since. Erica'd been the glue that often held together her brother and parents...and with her passing her brother and the bonds between her brother and rest of the family imploded. All because someone she cared so much about was on some substances that he promised he'd get off, went violent, and she threw him out.

For myself, I cannot watch a suicide scene in a movie. It eats me up. It makes me furious. It leaves me at night when I am tired with the fangs of depression biting at me too. Its made me suppress my emotions far more than I ever could before. It had at one point nearly overwhelmed me. It fills me, even with my wife's healing touch and my daughters burbbling love, full of pity.

Some of these individuals were going to go on to amazing heights if they kept their heads about them. My ex was an staggeringly intelligent woman: she picked up fortran overnight and in a couple weeks was coding for Cray YMPs. Erica was an extremely articulate writer and thought provoking interviewer. She had an incredible future ahead of her. Her bf's band had just landed their first multimillion dollar recording contract. Their contributions to the world could have been heady stuff.


They're dead.

Their lights have been snuffed out by their own hand. They felt denying the world any further peak at themselves or their own insights or amazing accomplishments yet to come.

Gone. Never to return. Leaving us all behind. Ravaging our spirits in deep and malign ways.

Save two.

Scott despite his youthful mistake has gone on to be a computer consultant and working towards being a fulltime bassoonist for a Chicago professional orchestra. Randy pulled himself from back from suicide's siren song somehow. I'm delighted. I can't say that it hasn't brought back all the horror and dread feelings that my second marriage and baby's birth had by and large banished though.

With Randy, even though I have never met him, it seems that I had a very hard time with this. He's past that stage, but he seems like he'd be a tragic and terrible removal from the great intellectual online community. Some of the stuff he's written about and he's shared with me in our interesting discussions has been damned insightful and incredible in many, many other ways. That is not to say I am fawning. There are things that we couldn't disagree more on: me salivating over the prospect of annexing Canada is one of them: I want him to be a cabinet official in the White House circa 2028, damnit. His dislike for a lot of things American is another: Rottenstadter boogiemen, frex. That's fine. In fact, if we agreed on everything I'd be intensely worried about my own beliefs. Or his. Or both. Opposing view points are very healthy. And fun.

I am not angry with Randy at all for his confession. I like and admire the man. What I am feeling is nothing more than baggage from the past. A past I had thought was left by and large behind me. Except for moments that come up and bite me. Like this.

Ramblings done. On with life.

1. EDIT. 15:37 PDT I got an email explaining that I was mistaken and that it was that he considered it not attempted. I read it wrong. *cringes* However, even considering it is a horrible thing. I'm glad that he didn't.

Not a Good Sign for Russian Democracy

I am stealing the free lead-in from a Jane's article. Those of you that want to pay for the whole shindig can.
Russia launches war against 'spies'

For months, JID's well-informed Russian sources have been warning that a range of charges - including allegations of espionage - are set to be brought against leading NGOs and their local staff in a bid to neutralise criticism of human rights abuses, weapons proliferation and environmental pollution, as well as cut off support for Russian opposition groups. The issue was first raised publicly by President Vladimir Putin in his May 2004 State of the Nation address, but Patrushev's recent speech before the Russian State Duma (parliament) suggests that the next phase in the crackdown against the NGO sector is about to begin.

Patrushev's blatant attack against NGOs was significant because he outlined what are likely to be the key charges against both entire organisations and individuals. According to the FSB chief, weak legislation and lack of "state oversight" have created "a fertile ground for conducting intelligence operations under the guise of charity and other activities". He promised deputies that new legislation will soon be submitted to "regulate" the activities of NGOs in Russia. In particular, registration for foreign organisations is to be tightened.

However, what this campaign against 'spionen' portends is simply...bad news. Democracy in Russia is something fragile and tenuous right now. Yetlsin wasn't the best leader for Russia after the fall of teh Soviet Union. He was certainly no George Washington. The one thing that he did do though was the peaceful transition of power from one President to the next via the electoral process. That's no small thing...even if he didn't do anything else for the country save extract it from the Soviet Union.

Putin is coming across as John Adams' evil twin though. I had high hopes for him in the beginning. By brining in a former member of th KGB as a lead politico it pulled those individuals that had been largely ostricized from the government after the fall of the Soviet Union back into the fold. Those individuals had often ended up being the heart and soul of the Russian Mafia etc because they could no longer participate in the government. This might help Russia veer away from its impending doom by saying that these individuals, often brilliant and strong, were useful to society as participants in legimate government.

Or so I hoped. Now I'd have to say that my hopes were...misplaced.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

NASA Venus Mission Profile

Here's a link from Eureka Alert.

Space Based Weapons

The United States Air Force is making the request to President Bush to pursue space based weapons. In 1996 President Clinton made it clear that the United States would not, under his watch, be seeking to develop or deploy such things. There is no legal frame work that would constrain the United States from deploying them. In fact even under the ABM Treaty there was nothing to prevent the US from doing so...so long as they were not intended to stop incoming ballistic missiles (re SDI: A View from Europe, a book I inadverantly permaborrowed from a friend that I have no idea where to find anymore).

What use would they be? Consider orbitting lasers. You could very easily deny a country use of their air space with them above 30k ft and probably, with technologies being developed, even below within moments of the start of a crisis. Enforcing the old 'No Fly Zones' would be a piece of cake and there would have been no need for deploying troops into Saudi Arabia...at least as far as the Blue Beanie Fighter Jocks are concerned.

Orbitable bombardment of fixed installations is possible, but the flying crowbars of SFnal fame are largely out. Namely that Thor doesn't work. However, I'd be happy to ditch the nukes, by and large, in favor of a few orbitting asteroids. Heh heh heh.

There are, of course, the traditional ABM related weapons as well.

There are other potential uses as well, but that's sufficient for now.

There are counters to these guys: the nominally discussed one is a ballistic missile with a lot of ball barings. That requires a bit more technical know-how than most countries have.

There are some interesting legal issues as well. All of the weapons in space will be unmanned. So, if Nation X takes out a laser battle sat, does that constitute an act of war? Are there precendents for such? If a nation on the sea tampers with mines or bouys is that an act of war?

Personally, I am all for putting weapons in space. It's going to happen at some point. I'd like to see it be to our advantage. We have the technological and economic edge as yet, so...


Oops: Edit. Links here and here for the articles at the NY Times and CNN respectively.

NASA: Immensely disappointed...again

It seems that the new NASA chief, Mike Griffin, is cutting a swathe through NASA programs already. While I whole heartedly applaud the moving forward of the CEV from 2014 to 2010 for its first manned flights, I am horribly disappointed with some of the other aspects of what he is doing.

The first bit of dissappointment is the hacking and slashing of the aeronautics side of the house. The basic research done there since before there was a NASA has been fundamental for American aeronautical industries. In this day and age where Airbus is getting a lot of funding helping hands, I have to say the aeronautics industries need that research help especially badly.

The second big disappointment is what he is doing with Pat the new NASA chief, Mike Griffin, is cutting a swathe through NASA programs already. While I whole heartedly applaud the moving forward of the CEV from 2014 to 2010 for its first manned flights, I am horribly disappointed with some of the other aspects of what he is doing.

The first bit of dissappointment is the hacking and slashing of the aeronautics side of the house. The basic research done there since before there was a NASA has been fundamental for American aeronautical industriesroject Prometheus. It was going to produce the first real spaceships. I don't mean SSTOs I don't mean satellites and orbiters. I mean first real attempt at craft capable of entering and leaving orbit of different moons and such. The demonstration mission was going to be JIMO - Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. That's not going to happen now and there are no plans at all for new outer systems explorers...other than the Pluto mission (New Horizons) and perhaps the Jupiter orbiter to explore its magnetic field. Europa and her sister moons are crying out for a lot of indepth examination. Titan is too if not more so. A standard capable chassis like that would immensely help.

Alas though...

One of these days, I'll dig through the exact NASA budget figures and show what I'd do. But until then, I'll just sigh and see when I can start lobbing my own rockets. Not for a few years yet I think.

Baby's First Words...sorta

Baby Baird is babbling. In that, she's much like her old man[1]. She has twice made noises that are suspiciously like words.

The first time my wife and I were just talking while Lyuda breast fed the lil ceca sucker. Avrora's head popped off the teet as she occasionally does and she blurted out, "Ooom Boyz." We were so stunned that we didn't know what to say. We gawked for a whole two minutes as she went back to eating quite happily. I later quipped that I will be doubly worried since her first words were something about boys[2]...already...at less than three months. Boggle.

The second time around my wife and I were discussing her family and the problems they are having and what, if anything we could do: Ukraine's a messy, problematic place. Avrora popped off her dinner source, and said, "Babuhka". That's suspiciously close to babushka...or grandmother. We were stunned again.

We realize that Avrora's not really talking. She's 'just' making noises and vocalizing. It's just that these noises sound like words. Words in two different languages that inhabit our home. They won't count as words until she can use and understand what they mean. We'll get there...just not quite yet. She's a wee bit young. ;)

1. Yikes! I just called myself, what?

2. Unfortunately, since I made that joke I've been worried about it a lot. My wife doesn't quite grasp my feeling on the subject of teenagers and daating. She never went through the hellacious dating scene in high school. Additionally, she always had men chasing her (for uber gut reason). I, on the other hand, was in the Untouchable Caste (wrt to girls) until I was almost 18. Then after that it wasn't so much of a problem...but those years made their mark. Still the Ukrainian high school equivalent and American high school are rather different beasts. Esp in the social order of things.

Cuteness OD: Wife & Baby Pict

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Janes' Link: Chinese Economy Overheating?

Curses! Right after I write up my spew on world building and the implications of technology in SFnal worlds, I found this article. Its not the whole enchilada, but its enough to make me get curious what real economists think.

Writing Technologies of the SFnal Setting

There are some important technologies that I think need to have their implications thought through if I am going to use them in the SFnal setting I've been pondering. Often a writer it seems through san idea out there and then explores it a little without thinking about the knock-on effects of that tech. Some writers admit they did this: Larry Niven about his Known Space books, frex.

However, that's not really what got me thinking this way. It was actually SHWI that started me pondering knock-ons and effects. Spinning out an idea for historical What-ifs might be fun, but you can't have Saladin lose in the wars with the Crusader kingdoms and expect that there will still be a Winston Churchill, WW2, and the subsequent Cold War. The earlier and more radical the change, the more profound the following effects.

This definitely doesn't just apply to historical events. This also applies to the introduction of technologies. In computing, esp in supercomputing, we talk about disruptive technologies. These are ones that appear out of left field and radically change the way our industry is run. Let's take the PC revolution and teh associated developments there. During the 1980s, PCs started pouring out of the labs and into the home at an ever increasing rate. It hita critical mass, oh say about the late 1980s. Computer technology started being driven more by the PC folk than the supercomputing crowd there. This launched in the early 1990s the so-called 'Attack of the Killer Micros' where first Massively Parallel Processors and then clusters of computers ravaged the traditional supercomputing technologies, sidelining them based on price/performance ratios. This killed numerous HPC companies. There is really one dedicated supercomputing company left in the USA. The others are branches of much larger companies like IBM, HP, and SGI. That was a knock-on effect. No one would have thought that those PCs would almost kill off a very innovative industry when they started out.

That's a pretty good example of what I mean. SFnal authors often toss out tech w/o thinking about it that much. If you're to do that, I think, then you ought to think about what that means. Not just scribble a note and move on. If I want a world where widespread MHD fusion usage, cheap automated manufacturing, brain-to-machine direct interfaces, and interstellar travel are present, I better have the knock-ons - or at least plausible ones - ironed out when I set fingers to keys.

That, however, is just my thoughts on the matter.

This also wasn't what I planned to write about too actually. Nichevo.

Monday, May 16, 2005

One very good little Restaurant

My wife and I went up to Dillon Beach on Sunday. We had an okay time. She got a little car sick from the twisty road that Shoreline Highway becomes racing along the Tomales Bay. We passed a lot of small towns - places that you sneeze and miss them - and noticed a lot of interesting construction: houses sitting above the water or interesting attempts at doing home made fill.

After we made it to Dillon Beach, we explored the town a bit. It has a very not so nice section to it. It also has a very upscale development to the north part of town. After a while we wandered down to the beach. We sat and munched while it was 70 degrees and shrouded in fog. Really, really thick stuff that fog. Thick enough that you couldn't see more than a about a hundred feet. At times the visibility went down a lot and you couldn't see even 50 ft.

On the way back home, Lyuda really, really wanted to stop and try a restaurant. We seen some on those fly speck towns we whizzed through. We stopped at one after some discussion over whether or not it was a good idea. We decided on Tony's Seafood in, iirc, Marshall. We ended up ordering a bowl of clam chowder, a plate of BBQ oysters, and some fried prawn and calamari. The oysters and clam chowder were excellent. They were the Uber Double Wow! Amazing! type stuff that almost makes you want to make noises that have no place in public. It would have been a perfect meal if not for the fact that the calamari and prawns were a little dry. We were thinking that we'd like to try it again next weekend. A plate of oysters or three and a bowl of clam chowder each would be more than enough. We're planning on getting one bowl and plate again and then getting a different dish to see what we can get.

Scouting out Marin has become a bit of a hobby of ours. We're enjoying it a lot between the forests, beaches, and the general lack of people...that the East Bay is definitely the opposite of. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A little more from the Russians about spionen

Sorry about the badly transliterated Russian there.

Anways, more is out.

Is Belarus Next?

The Russians are showing some of their classic paranoia. They're making the accusation that the NGOs (Non Government Organizations) and youth groups that receive foreign funding are actually fronts for foreign intelligence agencies. The point of the foreign intelligence agencies doing this is to weaken Russia's influence on the area. This is to happen through producing more revolutions like what happened in Georgia and Ukraine. The NGOs and youth groups were, in fact, instrumental in those situations. However, the assumption that its a 'Russia-vs-The West' situation is rather Cold War-ish by some of the Russians. :S

Some of Russians I suspect are salivating about the idea that Putin countered for Lukashenko's for the Nov-USSR that Belarus just be annxed to Russia. If a color coated revolution comes to Belarus, that gets chucked out the door as Belarus would start the road - and it'd be an extremely long one even compared to Ukraine's - to being a part of the EU.

I suspect that a color of your choice revolution will come to Belarus. What happens afterwards ought to be...interesting. If for nothing else, because the EU will be on Russia's border and Russia reacts rather badly to major foreign powers there.

Isreal as a part of NATO

Jane's has an article that has an excerpt they've shared with the world rather than charging for the whole enchilada. It's interesting.

While on the whole, I am a supporter of the existance of Isreal, I have to be a little concerned about the prospect of NATO getting involved in the Palestinian problems. There are no saints in that conflict. There is noone that comes out without being tarnished. I'd rather not have US Marines sitting there "artbitrating" between settlers and Palestinians in a kinda, sorta 5.56mm way. :S

Actually, after there's a Palestinian state, offering the guarantee each state's (Palestine and Isreal's) security through having them join NATO might be an interesting idea to play with...after the current dust is settled. Please.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

[SFnal Setting] Future EU From the Atlantic to the Pacific

It occurred to me if the EU were to absorb Russia that it'd stretch across to the Pacific. That means that EU would have access, no control, of the resources of Siberia. The minerological resources of Siberia are staggering and almost completely untouched! The Europeans would be extremely good at exploiting them in a far better way than the Russians of the early 21st century could. The economic boom that would follow would be extremely interesting.

Imagine that the EU has control of its own petroleum on the scale that the Siberian fields have. It'd be interesting to see if that'd be sufficient for the EU's oil needs today. Just imagine if the Eu had it now. Indeed if it were sufficient for EU's energy needs might it be that the Union would be a net zero importer-exporter?

However, the SFnal here has functional fusion and efficient electric transport for mobility. So gasoline and such might only be exportable to nations that haven't made the techno leap yet. Gee, not all of the world has the same level of technology? What a shocker!

Yet, as nifty as this might be to play with, I haven't seen how I can make Russia join. Esp in a very federal and unified EU.

More Solar Sail Info

Wow. I didn't realize that there was a solar sail website. Shoulda looked before.

Baby Baird update

We went to the Dr on Monday. Avrora is 10 lbs 8 oz and 21 1/2 inches.

We didn't get our regular Dr this time (*dark muttering about HMOs*). The one we did get was very professional, but obviously didn't know our child's history: she didn't even know that Avrora was born a month early.

She clucked and brought out the growth and development charts. Avrora did pretty poorly according to the comparisons to other kids at this point. I was taken aback a bit. Avrora is 12 oz from doubling her birth weight: according to this that doesn't happen until 6 months for most kids. Avrora can push herself up. She coos and even has a differentiated cry. She has excellent head control, etc. I guess tho for her weight and height total its still low. I asked if the fact Avrora was a month early made a difference on all that and the Dr said 'yes' then didn't want to discuss it.

After all that, the Dr said we were doing an excellent job and Avrora was in wonderful health.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

New Scientist on ATK's solar sail

Look here.

Damnit I need to work on this paper.

The LANL Blog

Read here.

Interesting stuff. I have more than a passing interest since I work at one of LANL's sister labs; my father still works at LANL; I worked at LANL (as a student); and I grew up in Los Alamos.

Crafting an SFnal Setting: EU Ponderings

The setting is a relatively near future one. I am thinking that it ought to be between the late 2030s and the early 2050s. However, there ought to be a few important notes to be made about the setting. There is no world government. The states that are around are the ones that have been around still today. There are some changes to them. One of these is that the European Union has evolved into a more cohesive state than it is now and it is larger than it is now. This one seems like a straight forward consideration of its current trends. The 'core' EU has expanded out to Ukraine and Belarus in the east, Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey in the southeast for sure. However, there are two 'ummmmms' still with the EU.

The first is whether or not the Mediterranean nations have joined: this means North African ones stretching from Morocco to Egypt plus Syria, Lebanon, and Isreal. This entirely depends on whether or not Islamists are still a force there and if Isreal would ever trust itself into Europe's care. The latter I doubt. They have a very much go it alone attitude that I think has gotten too deep into its national character and culture. The former...I am not sure. I have a feeling that for the next thirty years the fundamentalists in Islam are going to be a royal pita. Religious trends like that just seem to don't go away in most parts of the world in a generation. It might be that some of the nations have joined though: Morocco, Lebanon, and Tunisia seem like the greatest candidates. In fact, Tunisia looks like, with anotehr couple decades of development and political reform to be the leading candidate. I'll mull here. Still pondering what it'd mean to have these nations as participants in the EU.

The second big 'hrm' is Russia. The further east that the EU and NATO moves, the more paranoid that Russia will become about others on their border. In some sense they have some right to feel that way: whenever they've had a major power on their border, they've gotten the short of it. This has been especially been true of major European powers. Whether it was the Swedes, Germans, French, or others, the Euros have loved to thump Russian skulls. Not always that successfully, but tis happened, painfully, repeatedly in cultural memory. On top of that, the Russians are not exactly a humble people. They have what I like to call the Great Russian Mentality. That they have the same or larger cultural chip on their shoulder with respect to the rest of the world that Americans do, but doubly so with respect to other neighboring cultures: their attitude towards Ukrainians, frex, is there is no such thing as a Ukrainian. They're Little Russians, inferior peasant Russians, but still Russians: the Malorus. Ditto for the Belarus (White Russians). Unless they've been humbled in some sort of a deeply cultural manner, I just can't seem them joining the EU by 2020, 2030, or maybe even 2050.

The problem for the Russians is that in the next 50 years unless there are some radical changes, they're going to become like France or Germany is today: a second tier power. If the EU grows at the same rate it ahs been it will end up with an economy somewhere in the $50 trillion PPP range. The US will prolly (barring uber stupidity) between $55 - $65 trillion PPP range. China will be somewhere around the $85 trillion PPP range. India will be around the $60 trillion PPP range. At best, Russia will have a $25 trillion PPP economy. This will be in line with Brazil (assuming Brazil doesn't find a gimic growth area like IT has been for India).

So, the question becomes do I want Russia in the EU of my writings. I could write a Russia that doesn't accept its second rate status and over spends on its military making it an economic basket case. I could write a Russia that has been humbled, but not part of the EU. I could also write a Russia that's a part of the EU. That means the EU stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The problem still remains: what changes that cultural quirk of the Russians? There are some possibilities that I can see. Either the Russians get thumped - bad, really bad - in a war. Perhaps with China? Or there is a possibility of a civil war that rends Russia from end to end enough that they seek outside help? Or would an extreme nastiness environmentally do the trick? Cheronbyl style meltdowns all over + the global warming fun?

The war with China has some appeal. It'd be a grim war though and have global repurcussions. I'd have to think it through. It'd also set up the EU has being not so friendly to China either. We'll see. I'm thinking in type here.

[Link] Scientists are Rethinking the Laws of Physics

Look here

Huh. 50% Conservative 50% Liberal

I still don't like the possible answers. There are other ones than they show for the same issues. Frex, fixing education: I don't like vouchers. I don't like No Child Left Behind. I think some basic competancy requirements on the part of teachers and sufficient dinero for them to live off of and show our appreciation would help immensely. Also the ethics section and Defense and Crime section are 100% BS.

Your Political Profile

Overall: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day Postmortem

My wife and I had our first Mother's Day as a family. We had a very good day, actually. It wasn't quite what I had planned originally, but we still had a very good time.

1. I made breakfast. That isn't unusual in and of itself. However, I made a breakfast burrito with my homemade mango salsa and eggs.

2. My wife had been complaining that she doesn't have much in the way of simple jewelry that she can just wear day to day and not be that fancy. I picked up two pairs of earrings: the first is a pair of Amethyst butterfly earrings. Our daughter was born on Feb 28, so that seemed appropriate for Mother's Day. I also got her some simple ruby earrings: rubies being my wife's birthstone. Turns out that I'd picked out, by mistake, the same ruby earrings she already had. I'm normally VERY good at remembering things like that, but this time...ouch. She confessed she didn't wear them that much - actualyl she hadn't in the last year+ - so she understood why I didn't remember them. That was the first misstep on my planned day.

3. The second misstep was...well...not something I could plan for. The day before when Avrora and I went shopping, it was gloriously warm: 74 F or approximately 23 C. The sun was out and not a cloud was in the sky. However, Sunday...it was pouring rain most of the day. ARGH! The pan had been to whip up some burgers - my wife loves my hamburgers - and go up to the beaches in Marin: Stinson, Muir or some such. The crowds haven't yet started to congregate, so it'd be peaceful and fun. Obviously that didn't happen.

4. The only thing I salvaged out of that plan was that I swooped over to Cold Stone Creameries and picked up some ice cream. I called her with the possible selections and she settled on a tub of Mocha with marshmallows and coconut blended in. I came back and we munched while the rain pounded on the windows.

5. I took over caring for Avrora and sent my wife off to Michael's. This is a crafts store. My wife loves to sow or draw or crochett or numerous crafty like things. She had a wonderous time wandering around digging through all the nifty trinketts there. She also got to do it unrushed. Her daughter and husband normally are not patient enough when we're in the store with her. She spent two hours just browsing and finding what she wanted.

6. Dinner. We went to Chevy's: it's a Mexican restaurant that's walking distance from our apartment/flat. We got a sampler for my wife and I wasn't so hungry, truth be told. I got myself some chicken done in their own way and I tasted everything my wife got. I wasn't so impressed: I've become a Mexican food snob since I lived in New Mexico for most of my life. The Market Street style taht's so popular here is weak and too sweet for me. Whimpy Californians wouldn't survive smelling a good chile roast let alone eat the results. Unfortunately, neither can my wife survive it either. She had some medium heat green chile stew once when she was pregnant and she almost died: it burned her from the beginning to the end.

7. There was enough of a rain break for us to walk home slowly and enjoy the Bay side. It was dark and you could hear the lapping of waves.

We had a very good time.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pulled from usenet: East African Rift Island

I posted this to usenet...it got zilch reception. So, I'll tag it here:

A long, embarrasing time ago, Chet once posted a thread that recieved very, very little attention:


There were a few issues with the original post. The first was that there was an awful lot of hand waving. The second was that there was very little extrapolation of the consequencesof his proposed changes to the TL.

But it is still an intriguing idea!

Let's make it work. Or at least try.

No matter what we do, because of the time frames involved we're going to get a very different TL. I think it's best to not destroy humanity in the process so that we have some sort ofhistory and keep the whole shindig on-topic.

Modern man seems to date from about 200k years ago. That's a long, long time from the civ POV. The arisal of modern man puts an ancient TL bounds on when we can start this process moving faster. I'd rather have it take place at about the 75k yo range since that's the beginning of somemajor toolkit changes. We'll see if that works.

The mechanism is that we move (here's my handwave, smack it if ya like) one of the hotter hotspots from southeast of africa in the mantle to under the East African Rift Valley. We'll assume that we get the upperbounds of rift spreading(13 cm/year) with the extra heat.

The Somali Plate can move southeast 26 km if we use the 200k year start point. We only get 9 3/4 km if we use the 75k year start point. I'd say we're out of luck for going with a Middle Paleolithic PoD then. Even 26 km isn't that much and the resulting channel, if its there, willprobably be only 10 km wide at best.

There's probably not that much difference in fauna or flora. 10 km of shallow - 155m deep or less - gulf make it more like the Bosporus than the differences between Arabia and Africa. The shoreline between Africa and East Africa is more in common with Crimea than something on the Med North African Coast...but stretching for very, very long distances. The climate is prolly not that different from now, but then we have a very warm and shallow sea that stretches from the Gulf of Aden to almost Madagascar[1]. This might get interesting climatic effects. The tides might be less, but with the warm water we might get some nasty currents. Warm and shallow, we might find this sea - the Olduvai Sea? - to be rather fertile.

There will be some intersting consequences of this spread though for historical purposes: there would either be no Nile or a much reduced Nile. So! There's probably no *Egypt arising. However, I don't think that there's much difference in where Civ is going to arise elsewhere though: The Middle East, Ganges, and Chinese Rivers are likely to be the cradles of civilization still. It's just the *Nile that might get jipped. I don't think that we'll see anything arise here that's a First One civilization, but once the others start ship building, something may take root on the northern tip of the Great East African Island. The diseaseenviroment is not going to be improved much, I think. :)



Friday, May 06, 2005

"no less than the first culture war in cyberspace"

You gotta read it here to believe it.

It seems that Google is the latest Anglo-American plot TO RULE THE WORLD!!!!!!


*insert glyph of rolling eyes*

Spoke a bit too soon

My wife wanted me to buy a case for our digital camera from Amazon. I found one that'd fit the bill, but it was $10: she wanted the free shipping which to get you have to spend $25. I bought another book: Centauri Dreams : Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration. Not exactly rockets, but its something that isn't too far off. That pushed the order up just past the required dinero mark.

Reading list for May

I've been finishing off the phytoremediation book. It's been taking so fracking long! Now I remember why I dislike chemisery so much. Bleh. I'll let that one gel and move onto the next phytoremediation book next month. Once I'm done I'll be reading,a s much as Avrora and Lyuda let me, the following books:

First off will be Charlie Stross' Singularity Sky. I need a mental rinse and spit after so much chemistry and biology. Charlie's book is supposed to be good, so why not?

Following right after will probably be Sea Dragons: Predators Of The Prehistoric Oceans. Like I said, I love dinos and other exotic prehistoric critters. The mesosaurs and other sea going critters are something I've neglected in my reading. Something on the pterosaurs might be next for my prehistoric reading, esp if its really recent.

Gregory Benford's Tides of Light will follow suit, but I'm not expecting anything really special nor interesting. I liked the previous two books, sooo...

The Pentagon's New Map by
Thomas Barnett will follow. I don't have great hopes for it, but I have a feeling I need to get myself spun up more on the political leanings of all these bipeds I coinhabit the US with. That's not to say I've not been over time nor have I not been paying attention to the news and such. It's just I've not been picking up their books and reading them. This is a Neocon text, so I better dig through it to ponder our Glorious (*hack*cough*choke*) Leader.

Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels by Gustav Davidson will be after that. I'll be using that for something I am writing that I've not released into the wild yet and my Machiavelli in Morea. I had an interesting idea there. Moreans are more religious in some ways than Italians...Mach can smell it.

Finally for this month will be
AI for Game Developers. An O'Reilly book. I'm not actually reading it for the PoV for game development so much as I am for some mental cross pollenization.

There might be more, but I am unsure what the topic would be. I'd like to delve back into rocket propulsion tech again, but the books are outside my play budget at the moment with what I've spent so far.

Being married to an accountant has certain perks and...drawbacks. *chuckles*

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Baby Baird Picture: Viva la revolution!

The Proteus Project (An Extrasolar Planet of sorts)

A different subject altogether. Some friends and I have been working on a project. it's been a lot of fun. The background has started to become very detailed and fascinating. The funny part is that background past a point isn't important. As a matter of fact, it's really getting waaaay more detailed than it ought to be. That's ok, cuz its fun, but it'll prolly almost all be ignored when the time comes. I'll post a map in the future.

Proteus is a moon of a gas giant, Poseidon. It's about 1.2 times the size of Earth and has a similar density. The atmosphere is breathable. Proteus went through a very long period - almost 300 million years - of a relatively inactive geology. At the time, the continents didn't move and the ecologies were biologically isolated. About 75 million years ago, the orbital resonances with the other moons of Poseidon reheated the core sufficiently that the continents drifted again. About 15 million years ago, 5 of the continents began to collide to produce a supercontinent. Each subcontinent had a radically different ecology.

Currently there are three "continents". One occupies the same position as Antarctica and is named "Hecate". Really it's something of a clone of Antarctica, but it will have its own twists. An ecology of warm blooded plants might be one idea in some remote valleys.

The second continent is Hellas. It's a very long and thin continent that seems like an overgrown blend of Greece and Norway. It's very rocky and mountainous, full of isolated valleys and canyons, mountains and mesas, beaches and tepuis. It makes for a very diverse, yet fragile set of ecosystems.

The supercontinent doesn't have a collective name. Each of the subcontinents are named. Sunken Mars, Bactria, Scythia, Aigyptos, Pallene, and Asbystes are the subcontinents.

Aigyptos was originally called Bull's Eye. It's in the center of the supercontinent. It has Himalayan style ranges on almost every side. Only on a very narrow - 200 mile/320 km - face does it meet with the sea at all. There it's extremely wet, being like Thailand. Interior wise though is much like a blend of New Mexico (USA), the South American tepuis, and Tibet. Very dry with a lot of temperature extremes.

Sunken Mars is something of a cross between Polynesia, the moon, and The Great Barrier Reef. It is west-southwest of Aigyptos. During the ecologically inactive stage of Proteus, this was very bombarded by meteors and then worn down by erosion. As the crater lips ended up being weathered away, corals began growing on the barely submerged lands. This ended up reinforcing and preserving, over time, the shapes of the impacts, many hundreds of millions of years past the bombardment. Sunken Mars is semiequitorial and where its plate has pushed up against Aigyptos a Himalayan range has risen. I originally lobbied for this to be called Greater Polynesia...but I lost. :)

Pallene is south of Aigyptos. It looks like an enlarged, flipped, and stretched version of Indochina Pennisula. It's a land of jungles, both tropical and temperate.

To the northeast is Scythia. It's closest analog would be Australia in climate. An isolated area of forests, but the majority is desert and plains.

To the northeast is Asbystes. This is something of an Asia analog, but not really at the same time. It stretches from its impact range where it abutes Aigyptos all the way up to the North Pole where it wraps itself around a very large bay like the Hudson's where the Arctic ice cap sits. The Pennisula that wraps around the arctic stretches south again. There it meets up with Bactria, a very small continent.

This is a sample of what's coming from the Bactrian wildlife. Bactria is the small subcontinent that was once called minime. It is a continent that looks wrinkled from orbit. It looks a lot like someone had taken the Rockies and made them into a continent. Due to its position in on Proteus, Bactria is a taiga biome. So, if you were to look at the comparable place from Earth, it would be the Canadian Rockies. Amusingly, a kids' website gives a good run down: here.

Originally, Bactria had been an equatorial continent and the wildlife reflected this. It was a land of rolling hills and a handful of mountains. Lush, the primary biome had been a rainforest. Thus, the soil poor even if the wildlife teemed and the plants were lush. The preeminent animal life was in the form of large arthropods and amphibians. The animal life could be best described as analogous to Carboniferous Age on Earth, but with accents that look like they could have come from the Cambrian. The plant life was actually more evolved than the equivalent Earth life: the flowering and fruit bearing plants were present.

However, over the last 50 million years, Bactria has marched its way northwest across the temperate and into the taiga zones. The mountain building for Bactria began several million years ago (about 20) when the continental shelf began to close in on the very far north of Asbystes. This caused a ecological crisis. The once very connected ecology of the continent became fragmented. With the still relatively poor soil, and now extreme temperatures being exasperated by the now uplifted terrain.

The fragmented areas made for a lot of places for creatures to evolve in isolation. Interestingly, it seems that the combination of temperature stress and isolation gave rise to a very odd symbiotic form of life. Where the lichen is an alliance between the fungus and the algae, the critters of Bactria are a similar alliance between animal and plant. About 10 million years ago, the Cardian Dualists burst out from their valley and overran the whole continent. So successful were these creatures that it is suspected, barring unforeseen events, the Cardians will supplant the last of the nonCardian native creatures in Bactria. There are even some that have successfully crossed the Great Barrier Mountains to the north and are spreading, albeit very slowly, in Asbystes.

Consider the Spiny Back. It's an amphibian that would have be noted, had it been in Earth's fossil record, as a step between the amphibians and reptiles. It has a horned, spiny back not unlike a porcupine, but remains a creature than needs water on a regular basis. Its layout is not unlike a salamander, with a long strong, but vertically spiked tail. The females grow to be a good 6 ft in length, like a small croc. The female is an herbivorous browser, like a goat. The males are much smaller, about 6 inches. The male is also a nectar eater, like a hummingbird, or some bats. What makes the Spiny Back so strange is that it has a fruit bearing plant growing in the female's body. The plant grows such that it entangles the reproductive system. When the Spiny Back mates, the plant releases a hormone to prevent the female from laying the eggs. Indeed, the plant even encystes each egg and nuzzles a seed up to each embryo. Over time, a female would be carrying dozens of eggs. In addition, the plant will begin filling the "empty" spaces of the female with tubers of collected sugars and such. During the last stages of a female spiny back's life, she develops a great deal of bright colors. This is because she has become poisonous, the plant itself is excreting the toxins, which the female is immune, but it is necessary to have a new line of defense because the female has become so slow due to the metabolic demands of the plant and eggs. When the metabolic stress from carrying the tubers and all those eggs gets too much, the female dies. The plant quickly uses the body and the tubers as fuel to grow into a tree.

The eggs of the Spiny Back are kept in well-protected fruits, until the fruit is ripe. Until it is ripe, a hormone is released by the now tree like plant that retards development of the embryo, but does not stop it. Once embryo has hit a tadpole stage, the liquid filled fruit is moved from inside the branches out to be exposed to the air. Once the tadpole has transformed into a anatomically mature, though very small (6") adult, the fruit has ripened and drops to the ground. There the Spiny Back eats its way out and wanders out into the world. The whole time a seed has been in the back of the creature. By the time it is sexually mature, the plant will have grown to the female sexual form and be waiting to be pollinated. The males of the Spiny Backs do just that by eating the nectar of the adult "male" tree and bring it with them when they mate the female spiny backs.

The great advantages are that the symbiotic plants get spread very far and wide being dropped over 20 miles from where they originally "treed". The Spiny Back gets a protective place for its tadpoles to grow, especially during the colder winter months, since the adult tree cultivates decomposing bacteria that give off heat to keep the tadpole "warm enough".

There is a great deal of variation on this theme in the Bactrian ecological landscape. Plants that ally with the vertebrates seem to be mutually beneficial and the most predominate. There are some that are purely parasitical and try to infect whatever nearest mobile animal is present: the Cardian critters are generally protected because their plants start a herbicidal war to protect them. That is why the arthropods are slowly going extinct: the infectious parasites are wiping them out by infecting, then eating them up inside, and finally overwhelming them and growing a plant to infect others.

As a result, niches formerly filled by insects and their analogs are being filled by small Cardian vertebrates. Despite what would seem like a chance for nature to create a great deal of valley specific ecosystems, the nature of the Bactrian flora-fauna has made the subcontinent a very homogenous ecology.

The Extrasolar Planet Encyclopaedia

For over a decade now, Jean Schneider of the Paris Observatory has maintaining The Extrasolar Planet Encyclopaedia. This is really the definitive guide to all the planets detected or suspected around other stars than our own. If you're looking for a star to set a story around, this is the place. If you're looking for just a reference guide, ditto. I am sure that from all of this data that there is a paper profiling the discoveries to date is just waiting to be written.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More on the CEV

Take a look here. It's Lockmart's CEV homepage.


I love dinosaurs. I have since I was a kid. When I was four, I could name dozens of them. I follow the new discoveries with a passion. However, I've since branched out into other paleontological crittes as well for fascination as well. However, recently there have been two dinos that caught my attention being in the news and all. The first one was a a new pachycephalosaur. The second is a new therizinosaur.

Images of them attached below:

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I am really looking forward to this...

Alien Planet looks to be very interesting. It's based off of Wayne Barlowe's Expedition. I found this book my senior year of high school in Los Alamos in our little local book store. I loved it. In the same vein as this program was The Future is Wild which was also run on the Discovery Channel. Since I was a kid, world building exercises have held my attention far, far more than anything else: Dougal Dixon's After Man and New Dinosaurs being good examples. Of the ones that I have participated in, James Nicoll's Behind the Green Door has been the most fun. James and my discussion of sea going ratites from another thread seems to be in the plans to be fed back in.

Anyways, I gotta get some paperwork done for turning over my rotation at 1 pm to the next lucky soul. ha ha ha.

Lockheed's Crew Exploration Vehicle Proposal

Glimpse here, here, and here.

Quick Comments:

The lifting body I can see appealing to the NASA types. They've been in love with lifting bodies since the 1970s.

Damn the Mars version looks small. I couldn't see being in that for 6+ months.

I dinna see where you'd dock with anything else. hm.

Northrop Grumman and Boeing were supposed to be working on versions as well, but all I can see right now in some of the articles is that NorthGrum is working on one. No word on Boeing.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Solar Sails

It seems that NASA has decided that solar sails are tres kewl again. NASA Glen is testing out some solar sail material developed by ATK. I fell in love with solar sails back when I was in high school. It was because I discovered the book by Louis Friedman (cofounder of The Planetary Society) on the subject matter: Starsailing.

I foolishly tried to get involved with the Columbus 500 Space Sail Cup (or whatever its name was) while still in high school. It was a great idea a little before its time and I was a very young and foolish kid that really didn't know up from down there. Friends and I rolled a proposal that was technically a mess and moderately incoherent. We never made it very far and hopefully the technological review panel didn't laugh too hard when reading it. I did get to communicate with Dr Friedman though about it and being a kid I was delighted with the contact. Right now The Planetary Society is pushing through the Cosmos 1 solar sail. It launches on May 31st of this year! I really wish I was a participant.

I never quite understood why the technology didn't get adopted wholesale and sooner than now. I mean, you can get 'clipper ships' in space, damnit! It's also not uber high tech nor very expensive. I think that successful development of this is almost as important as the now moderately infamous CATS (Cheap Access To Space). Think of it as cheap access to the inner solar system for unmanned payloads. It seems like the ideal transportation method for asteroid mining.

Think of it as yet another technology on my Important To Develop list.