Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to Analytics

When I reviewed the site analytics, I saw something tragic:

how to get girlfriend back

This poor unfortunate soul. Girlfriend's gone, heart's broken, and wants her back at all costs.
I don't know the entire situation, but she's probably gone forever. When people break up, that's usually the end of that relationship. I would advise, if this person asked, to get a new girlfriend. The earth has 6,900,000,000 people, and at least 3,500,000,000 of them are female. at least one of them would almost assuredly want a relationship with you.
If you really want to pursue reversing your breakup, you face a very uphill battle. You must remove the condition that made her leave you in the first place. Which requires you to first figure out what that was, which may lead to some very painful introspection. Did she disapprove of some habit (which you will now need to quit at all costs), dislike your lifestyle (which you must totally change), or was it something else? If there's a new person in her life, you will need to displace them, by being that much better than he (or she) is.
I don't guarantee success. Even if you changed everything, sometimes she's just tired of your face (or something else you can't help).
(Also, how did that lead to me?)

Other searches were more...prosaic:

2088 olympics and pollution

I predict that the 2088 Olympics will be held in a city of some kind. (Well, obviously, Sherlock!) It will be a summer Olympics by schedule. The city hosting it will face the paradox that faces all Olympic hosts: to develop the infrastructure that the Olympics requires, typically attracts industries that pollute like crazy, but the athletes at the competition expect a pollution free city to exercise in. What's a city to do?
Probably some sort of clean-up project, sane or insane.

engineering a ditch

Depending on the scale, what you want is a "shovel" or a "backhoe." Very big holes can also involve "explosives." The smaller tools are preferable for smaller ditches because there are fewer ways to accidentally injure yourself with them.

materialism computer science

Materialism is the philosophy that only the physical universe exists (or is important). Computer science is the field of study of storing and manipulating information. Materialist philosophers would point out that there is a physical basis to the information represented. In a computer's case, the software is a pattern of electricity in the processor or memory, and stored as a pattern of magnetic fields on the disk when not in use. So, no problems there.

And now, team WTF, the confusing ones:

electrical sex

You won't find that here, if at all.

diaper change simulation

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mars Base

Someday, I'll retire. Right now, my career is beginning, but it will someday end, as I am not some sort of immortal robot, but a very mortal flesh-and-blood person, who will slowly age and such. Of course, based on the progression of the ever-pushing-back retirement age, this will occur when I am about 130 years old or so.
In all seriousness, I think I'll move to Mars. Where I'll have an entire planet, with only people I deliberately bring with me. And I'll have to use my super science to survive. I'll fly over several cargo-loads of materials and goods, ending with a number of vehicles, and finally myself in a space suit. I'll prop up a shelter-tent that NASA recently designed, and use a scouting vehicle to scout for a good site. I'll be looking for a cliff, kind of like this:
A tall raggedly cliff on Mars..
Yes, the sky is blue on Mars. Well, a muddy, icky sort of cyan, but definitely a blue.
I will then use my construction tools to hollow it out, and build an elaborate base, which I have crudely doodled up with a paint program:
A many roomed-complex as large as a building has been carved into the cliff's face
This complex would have enough room for not just me, but also a whole host of support staff, any astronauts NASA sends my way, any members of my family that chose to come with me, entire planeloads of random friends, and possibly a few fans that demand to join.
To make up for the low quality of the picture, as I am not an artist, I have produced an annotated version:
If you can't see the picture, the description will have to be good enough...
1. Airlock, for allowing vehicular exploration. Also how astronauts enter and leave the complex.
2.Vehicle Garage. Also a good spot for storage and perhaps a laundry room.
3. Coal power plant. Burning coal is actively a good idea on Mars, which is deficient in carbon!
4. Factory / fabber. Would start as a large empty room with a fabbing machine, and would ramp up production with new machines as I go.
5. Steel Mill. Steel would be the main economic production here on Mars, I think. Coal fired.
6. IT center. Massive mainframes operating all numerical/logical challenges here.
7. Water tank and pumping room. It keeps the site's supply of clean water, and pumps it to areas needing/requesting it.
8. Gym. I may hate working out, but it's probably a medical necessity so as not to have my bones turns to goo in the lighter gravity.
9. Science lab. Biology, Chemistry, and/or physics.
10. Personal quarters. Many lockable rooms like a hotel, because I plan on there being...guests. Guests who I don't want barging in anytime they feel like it. So I would have a room, and a buddy can have a room, and the astronaut that arrived yesterday can have a room, and we can all have our privacy.
11. Entertainment complex. I think definitely a movie theater, billiards room, swimming pool, and anything else anyone suggests be brought in. I may not want to do those things every day, but since it's on Mars, going back to Earth means a six month journey and a price tag of several billion dollars. So if I don't bring it, I don't have it.
12. Massive greenhouse. This produces all the food the complex uses, and scrubs carbon from the air so that we don't all suffocate.
This would be like a city, on Mars. I would want to be in contact with NASA, for warning in the event of solar flares, and for resupply of coal. In return, astronauts would be welcome to the facility, to use the lab, the sleeping quarters, the entertainment complex, and the factory to supply all their needs, in the name of science.
I could also be persuaded to help travelers establish similar sites across Mars. Mars has a lot of resources, untapped mostly because it's hard to get there, and hard to survive once you do. And anything using Mars's resources is not using Earth's, so we all could only benefit.
Not depicted in the drawing are dehumidifiers, which recycle the clean water supply, and stairwells and hallways that connect the site together. If I've forgotten any rooms, I think I can just dig them out elsewhere. (Maybe under the garage, or deeper into the cliff from one of the hallways?)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

News Summary

NPR says that the best way to survive in a falling elevator is not to jump at the last second, as is popularly believed, (as you could not possibly jump fast enough), but you should instead lie on the floor, and try to wedge yourself between the two walls at the last second. You'd take a beating, but you'd live. After all, it's not the fall that kills you, so much as the sudden stop at the end. Hopefully my readers will never need to know this information, but better to have and not need, then to need and not have.
Discovery News reports what female friends of mine have said to me all along: If you're female, your own body hates you with the ferocity of a thousand suns. Estogen clusters in ovulating women make it hard for them to think straight, brain scanning studies of American women showed that they want to be thinner, sometimes thinner than is biologically possible for them. Confrontation with the idea that they might be fat, even if demonstrably false, sent part of their brains into existential crisis.
There was also reported to be a crisis in groundwater, in that at the rate it is being used faster than it can be replaced (by rain, underground water flow, etc). Complete depletion would result in a massive and disastrous desertification of the area. (I do not believe their claim that this is connected to sea level rise. Groundwater has always gone towards the sea since there was a sea to begin with. Groundwater didn't come about by magic, but by rain from evaporated seawater.)
They also report that before airplanes, there were still intercontinental exchanges of disease causing viruses and bacteria, carried by duststorm. Bacteria and viruses would travel with the dust, blown by the wind, until deposited on a new land, with new hosts to infect. The disease would arrive in a weakened state, having to survive both a dry wind storm and a large amount of UV radiation, which was only partially blocked by the supply of dust.
Fark leads me to a story by ABC news, which says that a mall in St. Louis, Missouri, banned groups of unaccompanied teenagers, to the immense annoyance of said teenagers. The mall also discovered that said teenagers were not their primary patrons: the policy made all store's profits go up, even the ones catering to teenagers. The large groups hanging out tended not to spend money, preferring instead to horse around and irritate others around them.
Tomorrow I return to the mad science.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bread and Circuses

In the later part of the Roman Empire, the roman government spent fortunes providing bread and entertainment to the masses. This was not out of the goodness of their hearts. One enraged person can be ignored, but riotous masses have a way of ruining everything when they get past a certain amount of frustrated. Namely, they tend to take what they need to survive by force. And then set things on fire just to show how truly pissed off they are.
In fact, in the countries where communist revolutions succeeded, I've noticed three common factors:
1. A useless and insufferable aristocratic class
2. A large body of intellectuals
3. Starving and enraged peasant masses
The local communist party recruits its main body from the intellectuals, and makes promises to the peasants along the lines of bread, circuses, and employment, and blames everything on the aristocrats. Which they then have killed as a way of solving those problems. Allthough Karl Marx was still thousands of years in the future, as was his idea of communism, Rome was trying to prevent this sort of thinking, which wouldn't have ended well for the aristocrats. And worse for the emperor himself, who was usually at the forefront of helping out.
A good economist can draw a modern lesson from this, I'm sure. And probably something lest costly than free bread and stab shows.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Watching the Watchers

The Roman poet Juvenal once asked "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", Latin for "Who will guard the guards themselves?" Referring to the ever-recursive problem of corrupt police and other officials. The police are expected to protect you against crime, but if the police themselves are corrupt, then society is just sort of out of luck on that aspect. Worrisome, as there are two kinds of people who want to be police officers. One type wants to be helpful and bring peace to the community, and should be encouraged, but the other loves power, and to boss people around, and should be discouraged. (The second kind is also deeply corruptible, further harming everything around them.)
In most modern police forms, this is answered with a police-of-police department, called Internal Affairs. Their job is to investigate complaints against police officers, and arrest those who engage in illegal acts. The Internal Affairs department is unpopular with the police for the same reason that police are unpopular with the general public: they're the ones telling you that no, you can't, and the rules apply every time with no chance of exceptions. No you can't plant evidence on a guy you don't like. No, you can't beat up people who pester you. No, you can't except bribes. Not even this one time. (Just as the regular police tell you that no, you cannot have a loud party at 3am. Not even just this once.)
The other day I was thinking about this, and jury duty, which is expected of the American population, and this gave me an idea. What if, in communities with low trust for the police, we call in random people for police-oversight duty? When called, you become an internal affairs officer for the day, investigating and rooting out corruption. Random people will gain insight into police activity, why they do as they do, and police officers will have every incentive to do their jobs properly and professionally. The watchers will be watched everyone.
Probably excessive, as I hear that Internal Affairs does a good enough job as it is.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Impractically Terraforming Venus

I think this plan is impractical, but the coolest possible way I could terraform Venus. As I mentioned before, Carl Sagan had a plan to have a city encased in a plexiglass bubble, filled with Earthlike air. Placed in Venus's atmosphere, this floats like a balloon, about six miles over Venus's inhospitable surface, where the temperature and pressure are Earthlike.
We deploy millions of these in a Dyson-like swarm. (Dyson's sphere, as described by Dr. Dyson, is not a solid object, but a swarm of satellites in clever orbits that never quite collide, and prove dense enough to capture 99% of a star's output.) The swarm orbits around Venus, and when they're close enough to each other, we connect them with steel rods, and then form "bowls" with metal plates in the area between the rods and the bubble cities. Venus now has a second "surface". Below, the supercritical carbon dioxide cools in the darkness, while above, a large planet with lots of room. We fill one bowl with imported soil, and grow plants in it. Preferably crop-plants. Any waste shucked off by the farming is put into the other bowls to compost. When the composting is done, they are super-fertile farming areas. The process accelerates until the entire surface is full of greenery. At that point, the plexiglass can be removed from the bubble cities, as human beings could now breathe this planet's air.
Down below, the carbon dioxide cools in the darkness until it is a liquid. It probably won't reach solid temperatures at this pressure. I can imagine the farmers above siphoning small amounts off on occasion. As this gets used up, the rocks below can become a second resource. Or, thirdly, the gap can be used for waste disposal, because no human being's ever going down there.
Now at the beginning, I said this was impractical. Even one sagan-bubble city would be a massively expensive trillion dollar undertaking, with some very difficult engineering in the process. This is talking about making millions, possibly even billions, of them. And as for the connecting stage, I'm not sure earth even has that much steel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Genetic Laptop

Embedded programming is kind of different than the kind that made your web browser. The programmer is constrained to much smaller limits. The programmer is not executing it in the same environment that the program is written with. (Most embedded computers don't even have screens!) As a result, they have developed all kinds of interesting tools to make their process far less headache inducing.
For one, embedded computers are often completely redesigned by the electronics expert, in order to accommodate some new requested feature, or because better hardware has been invented. (Desktop computers use slots, so you can just remove obsolete parts and pop in the replacement. No such luck in the embedded world -- the parts are permanently soldered together.) If this doesn't work, then the cost of fabricating it is wasted. So the circuit is first designed completely in simulation, so no silicon is ever wasted. They're not manufactured until proven to match the standards given perfectly. When it runs perfectly in simulation, then the real thing is made and compared. If they don't match, lots of research goes into why not.
I think I want to use this with genetic programming to invent the perfect laptop. We apply genetic programming to circuits. The fitness function calls for a laptop that runs a fixed OS image, with the minimum amount of electricity, at the maximum possible speed. So laptops that evolve with, say, no CPU, will be selected against. (The OS doesn't run with no CPU.) I similarly plan to have it eliminate devices that have no input, no output, or no sound. Circuits will also have genetic components for various types of CPU, various makers of sound chips, ram chips, north and south bridges, video chips, and wiring to connect them. I predict a very good design will emerge within 1 billion generations.
I will want to have this design studied. Did it evolve one CPU, or several? Did it use a video chip, or expect the CPU to handle all video rendering? (That's common with microcontrollers that have video-output. A video chip costs extra, so they make the CPU do it instead.) What manufacturers did it select? How long can I run it on this cheap lawnmower battery? What is it using for storage? (Traditional hard drive? If so, SATA or IDE? Flash chips? SSD? Something different altogether?) Did it skimp on any particular feature to save power? (Maybe it's sparse on RAM chips, as those have to be kept powered continuously so as not to lose their signal.)
My last question will be: "What would it cost to manufacture?" Quite possibly, it could prove...profitable.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Rack is Good for you

Generally speaking, torture is bad for you. The level of pain that a torturer wants you to feel generally only comes about by extreme injury.
Medieval Europe really had a thing for torture, inventing many horrible ways to do it. Things that crushed fingers, things that crushed skulls, things that terrified you with knives before stabbing the living daylights out of you, and "The Rack," which pulled your arms and legs until all your joints dislocated. All agonizing, incredibly evil tortures.
And yet, modern sports medicine practitioners point out that in lesser amounts,"The rack" would actually be good for you. Wait, what? Apparently if you did it slowly and stopped well before the first hint of discomfort, the gentle pull actually relaxed the joints and muscles. A slight pulling was like a chiropractic massage, only more in line with mainstream orthopedics. (The average chiropractor manipulates joints abruptly, whereas orthopedics suggest slow and gentle manipulation.)
Many things are only painful or pleasurable by degree. The brightness of sunlight on a warm summer's day is pleasant to look at. The brightness of sunlight from staring directly at the sun in unbearable. Music played at your favorite volume is something that we actively seek out and pay money for. Music played at twice that volume causes us pain. A jump in a cold pool on a hot summer's day is a welcome relief from the heat, but if I poured liquid nitrogen on you, you'd probably scream in agony, no matter how insufferably hot the day was.
If you need me, I'll be in the back room. Deploy ratchet!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cybernetic Replacement Parts

Sometimes we lose parts of our body from accidents, or worse, intentional mayhem. In the earliest of times, we'd make a crude prosthesis to allow the person to function, at least marginally, again. A peg leg wasn't as good as a real one, but at least one could hobble about without falling over. A hook for a hand allowed you to at least grab a sandwich, and operate a few tools. A patch, or a glass eye, allowed people to not vomit from seeing your empty eye socket. You still couldn't see, but you didn't look like a freak anymore, which helped immensely.
In modern times, prosthesis technology is way better. You can get a leg that resembles a real leg so strongly that most people won't notice the difference. (Well, when you're wearing shoes and pants. Take off the shoes and there's an obvious mechanical joint at the ankle, and if you wear shorts, the knee is also obviously mechanical.) You can get a rubber and metal hand that allows you to handle objects as well as your flesh one originally did. The hand can even "feel" heat, though is otherwise deficient in the sense of touch.
I think a team of prosthesis crafters and neurologists should team of for a next generation of prosthetics that tie into the nervous system. We could have artificial hands that have a true sense of touch, one that works as well as our flesh hands. We could have "eyes" made of camera that allow true vision. (We currently have cameras that are on the sides of dark glasses, that have an inductive tie into the nervous system, allowing a very low resolution greyscale vision. It's enough to walk around and not walk face first into a wall. Most sightless people who've received it describe it as more distracting than useful.) Neurologists would be part of the team because the prosthesis would have to receive its operating signals from the nervous system, and send data back, and using the part would be not any different than using the part you had before.
I'd suggest having the prosthesis surgically grafted to remaining bone and muscle, making it a replacement for what was lost. It should have integrated blood vessels, with "vampire" power support, a system that powers itself by extracting glucose from blood and burning that for energy, as your body does now. This technology exists now, but is rarely used.
And ultimately, I'd like to see a cyberbrain developed. A part that attaches to my nervous system and extends the ability of my brain. I know that this is possible from experiments in which mice brain cells were grafted onto electronic chips, and they integrated into each other. The resulting system was then taught to operate a flight simulator. Immediately, I would expect to achieve sharper senses. Vision uses a huge amount of our neural processing ability, but if one loses it, the brain concentrates on the other four senses, which become significantly sharper. It would also, as a mechanical part, be able to interface with non-brain objects as well. Perhaps it could connect to a computer, which I could now operate by thinking commands.
At some point in this process, I think we could develop prosthetics that are superior to our original parts. Imagine having the arms of a body builder, but not needing to exercise. Camera-based cybernetic eyes will never develop Glaucoma, cataracts, presbyopia, or macular degeneration, and would also lack the "blind spot" that our eyes have from the retina being on the wrong side of the back of our eye. Cybernetic ears could be made that respond to frequencies higher or lower than current human hearing allows, and could be made arbitrarily more or less sensitive according to the needs of the situation. (Or could even be turned off for meditation or sleeping. No more being bothered at 4am by some obnoxious guy with his stereo up way too loud.) Even obesity becomes a thing of the past. If you eat too much, you could plug yourself into the wall and power your house for a bit. (Your power bill promptly becomes replaced with your grocery bill.)
I'd also like to see cybernetic replacements for organs, which could save millions of lives worldwide. If I had an artificial heart as good (or better) as my current biological one, I'd cheerfully replace it, and my original biological one could keep alive a person who would otherwise die. (This assuming that the dying person opposes cybernetic replacements as "unnatural" or something. More likely, those dying of heart disease are the ones who wind up with artificial hearts.) Artificial kidneys would make the expensive and difficult process of dialysis a thing of the past. Artificial livers would make hepatitis a thing of the past, as its mechanical nature proves impossible to infect. Also, cirrosis as caused by alcoholism no longer need kill you. Quality of life worldwide would massively improve, and organ banks would always be able to fall back on the cybernetic versions.
The research to invent these things would be very expensive. Perhaps a corporation could be persuaded to invest for the royalties, which would assuredly be massive. Expenses would be recouped, one invention at a time.
I'd like to thank the Chinese Guy for inspiring this post.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Water Mine Disarm

Discovery news is reporting today that the US army is disarming mines in Afghanistan, not with wire clippers or other metal tools, but with water. Wait, what?
Almost every schoolchild knows that you can use water to dig, and most engineers are familiar with pressurized water being able to slice through steel, but why mines? Because mines are a danger to people and property. This system, positionable by both humans and robots, sacrifices a bit of water and energy to slice IEDs in half, whereupon they explode. You lose only some dirty water and maybe a piece of hose. Both are very cheap in Afghanistan. Expensive assets, like human personnel, are quite safely out of the area when the mines explode.
And I'm all for it, with the aphorism that "One who saves one life, saves the whole world."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Computer Security

Different kinds of computers need different kinds of security, just as different kinds of physical sites need different kinds of security. A level of security appropriate for, say, a private house, would be woefully insufficient for, say, a bank with millions of dollars in its vault. And the bank's security would be woefully insufficient for, say, a military base. On the other end, too much security for the site is also bad. A private residence's owner would go bankrupt trying to achieve the base's security level, and would be infinitely inconvenienced. (You lost your RFID badge?!?! IMMEDIATE LOCKDOWN!!!!!)
When it comes to computer break-ins, the most vandalized site in the US is the Pentagon, as the centralized hub of the US military. It's not clear how much of these attacks are spies hoping for an edge, and how many of them are pimply-faced youths who want the bragging rites of claiming that they "hacked the government." Thankfully, the government has enough competent IT that nothing of value is ever lost.
If for some reason the Department of Defense were to contact me tomorrow and ask me to start managing the website, this is how I'd do it:
1. Make sure the website is not even on the same network as the computers with the top secret stuff.
2. Virtualize the website. Colocate this at a major ISP in the Virginia area. (The Pentagon is in Virginia, and I want to be able to take the top brass to see it at their request.)
3. Tighten security as best I can. Close ports, update the kernels, and close every "Free access" and escalation technique I can read up on. No sense in making it easy to hack.
4. Set up a script to scrub and replace it on an hourly basis. (Or, if the situation is worse than I feared, this can be changed to a half-hourly, or even minutely basis.) This is made easier by the virtualization step. I can now do this by hand with three commands, but will more likely set up an automated cron job. This way if it is hacked, nothing of value gets lost.
5. Set up a script to dump logs from the scrubbed copies before deleting them. I will want to see if any particular technique is used to violate security, and develop countermeasures. I will note if the page was vandalized or not, and if it was, who claimed credit for vandalizing it. I will note the access logs and produce a graph of significant figures.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Now I'm imagining a medical bed, for hospitals, that has a multitude of sensors. Thermocouples embedded in the bed notice the heat output, and hence, body temperature, of the patient. (Calculated with some complex math and physics.) Motion sensors notice the turning of the patient, and suggest moving them when this grows insufficient to prevent bedsores. Ideally, I would even like it to find a way to determine pulse rate and breathing.
All of this is logged to a small computer at the bottom, for extraction and analysis by a doctor. (Or even medical computer. The doctor should be able to retrieve a well-laid-out chart rather than seeing a table of raw numbers.) Also, alarms if certain conditions occur, like a body temperature above or below a certain point, pulse above or below a certain point. High body temperature would suggest fever, or perhaps foreign object resulting in fire danger. Low body temperature suggests hypothermia. (Or death, but I think one of the other sensors would have noticed first.) High pulse suggests distress, or imminent heart failure, whereas low pulse suggests imminent brain damage.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Combating AIDS

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or "AIDS," is a disease that throws entire populations into panic. It's sexually transmitted, assuredly fatal, and rather miserable to have. I had to endure many public services about it in school, because it wigged people out so severely that the department of education felt compelled to step in to inform us that no, you cannot get it from toilet seats, or handshakes, or really anything that doesn't involve other people's bodily fluids going into you.
AIDS is caused by a retrovirus, HIV. (Human Immunodeficiency Virus.) I know people who deny this, but they have no evidence for that belief. Retroviruses are one of the hardest to fight, because of how they work. I had to go into a bit of biology to explain this.
Our cells are made of protein, which are controlled by our DNA. To operate DNA, it's copied into RNA, which arranges proteins into complex structures, and folds them into their final shape. Most viruses are RNA-only, because they exist to endlessly replicate themselves, and try to convert your cells into virus factories. Retroviruses, however, know how to convert their RNA back into DNA, and replace chunks of your cell's DNA with its DNA, so the next time you copy that cell, you copy that virus too. Even if you purge all the viruses out of your body, the virus can reemerge from that cell, which is the scary thing about retroviruses. However, they can also be used for good. Genetic therapies exist in which a benign retrovirus is modified to inject beneficial genes into yours, and then the virus malfunctions and "dies" afterwards. (Well, it's debatable if viruses count as "alive," as they are just chunks of RNA and protein, but it malfunctions such as to be nonfunctional.)
So, AIDS is quite prevalent in some parts of the world, and immensely terrifying even in places were infection is rare. And yet, no part of the world is totally free of infection. Is there any surprise that there's an immense demand for a cure?
We've made a lot of progress, but aren't there yet. HIV has proven quite polymorphic, responding to all attempts to fight it by rearranging itself until it is immune to what we throw at it. And yet this strength is also now its biggest weakness. One can literally mutate it to death. Unfortunately this doesn't help medically, because the virus tends to reemerge from older, more effective forms, stashed away in a random cell's DNA.
Another discovery is that a small percentage of the population is immune to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the 1300s. These people are also immune to AIDS, for reasons that we don't readily understand. (This mutation assuredly developed from the plague, in which the non-immune population of Europe was devastated, leaving only those unexposed or immune to reproduce.) I see no possible connection: bubonic plague is caused by a bacteria, and AIDS by a virus. There must be some sort of third-party connection, in that some aspect of the bubonic plague immunity also makes it harder, or impossible, for HIV to gain a foothold. More research is required.
So if a person with AIDS asked me for a treatment, I think I would start with a bubonic plague innoculation, and extremely agressive genetic therapy. Along with the traditional anti-viral drugs like AZT. I would hope to reconfigure their genes until the existence of retroviruses in their body is impossible. This would also mean that any children they had would not resemble them in the slightest, but it's a small price to pay in the face of miserable death.
Also, AIDS does not kill you directly. It just destroys your immune system so that the first other disease to come along rages through your body unopposed until you die.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Understanding the opposite sex

If there's one sociological problem that totally baffles people, it's dealing with the opposite sex. Especially when they're heterosexual and dealing with a significant other. Poll after poll suggests people's confusion and aggravation.
Part of the reason is people's ignorance of the other side's socialization. We were not magically created as adults, but began life as babies, who grew up into children, then to teenagers, and finally adulthood after many years. During our formative years, we learn things, culturally, about how a man or woman is supposed to act. These lessons quickly become subconscious. We act on them without even realizing it.
As an example of this, emotional expression. Men in American society are taught that it's unmanly to show any strong emotion other than anger. A man can be weakly happy or sad about something, but a man who bursts into tears expects to be derided as pathetic for doing so. On the other side of the gender divide, an American woman is expected to show more happiness than her own feelings have. She's expected to be majorly happy in minorly happy circumstances, mildly happy in neutral circumstances, and neutral in mildly sad circumstances. Also, she's not supposed to show anger, no matter how much she feels. Typically, she sits on such feelings until they explode. Both of these lead to major misunderstandings. She finds his apparent indifference infuriating, and he finds her abrupt outbursts irrational. (Because she's not just angry, she's burning inside with the fury of a thousand suns, and if she were merely angry, she would have kept silent.)
A common complain from both genders is a lack of observational skills. You changed your clothes, or your haircut, and your significant other doesn't even notice! I usually hear this from women, though a poll I read suggest that many men feel gripy about this too. Perhaps you worry that if your partner doesn't notice that big a change, then maybe they wouldn't notice if you were replaced with a completely different man/woman (insert as appropriate) altogether! Though I think this is normal. People do tend to be change blind if it happens behind their back. If a man doesn't watch his girlfriend's hair get cut, then he'll run into her later, and stop his noticing at "my girlfriend is here." That's good enough for him, but not for her. Apparently, the other way around works too.
I have a report here, from Japan, about the top ten things that Japanese women are confused about their boyfriends or husbands, and 9 out of 10 of them apply to American relationships too.
1. He was desperate to date you, but once you started dating he no longer cares
I think this is a "thrill of the chase" thing. When he was single, acquiring a relationship was a major goal. Now that he has a girlfriend, doing things to further the relationship don't occur to him.
2. He thinks he’s really doing well if his girlfriend can cook a stew
[there appear to be some substantial differences in opinion between the sexes as to how easy it is to prepare Japanese cuisine based on stewing, or "nimono"]
I think this is Japanese-cultural specific, because it means nothing to me. Stew? It seems to be saying that the men in this relationship are impressed with things that the women consider trivial. (He's impressed because he can't cook at all, and she's not impressed because she's made this a gazillion times while single, what's the big deal?)
3. He thinks it’s all over once you get married
In both America and Japan, women expect their standard of living to go up when they get married, as they will share in their husband's resources, get higher status in society as a household leader, and present a unified face to society, and she can now have socially respectable children if she desires.
The men in both societies, however, are expecting their standard of living to go down. They expect that their now wives will take the relationship for granted and stop trying to impress them. They expect to be pressured to buy expensive things to improve the wife's social status. Many of the things that affect him now are now out of his control. If his wife wants children, and he doesn't, he will be pressured to have children anyway, and society will mock him as selfish for resisting. If his wife doesn't want children but he does, he will be expected to again cooperate with the wife's wishes and ignore his own. (Though society does encourage women to want children, and pester them if they don't. A husband is not permitted to be the source of this pressure.)
4. Even though he has a girlfriend he still goes on group dates (goukon) for fun
I'd want to know how serious going for a "group date" is in Japan. Assuming the worst, that it is a romantic kind of thing, I suppose one could see it innocently as enjoying the attention (but coming home to the girlfriend every day, thus choosing her over the other girls), and at worst as being a total womanizer who wants a massive harem.
5. Whenever he’s with his friends he starts talking tough
This is a socialization thing in both our societies. He's expected to show a tough and macho face to his friends.
6. He thinks he can see his girlfriend any time he likes so she becomes a low priority
Did you know that neurological studies show that considering the opposite sex makes the part of our brain associated with tool use light up, and the part associated with dealing with people remain quiet? (Shame on him anyway.)
7. He tries to impress with his manliness by eating large helpings and hot dishes
This is a socialization thing again. Men are expected to extremity any factor that distinguishes them from women, hence what started with eating more because he's larger (and requires more food to maintain his body) turned into eating even more than that ... because he's male. The spicy thing is because men are expected to be stoic in the face of pain, to the point of inviting it to demonstrate his might. (I'm not afraid of spicy! Rrrarrrgh! ow ow ow ow make it stop)
8. He says he doesn’t see the point in marrying so he won’t marry
He thinks his quality of life will go down, and doesn't fully grasp how his girlfriend's quality of life would go up.
9. He won’t ask people about things he doesn’t know as he doesn’t want to be indebted to them
A man in American society is expected to be independent, and to know things. Not knowing things (or at least admitting as such) is being dependent on other people. For an American man to admit that he doesn't know something will make him feel like he's being childish. Apparently a different, but related, dynamic appears with Japanese men.
10. He ignores his girlfriend and talks solely about himself
He knows himself better than he knows his girlfriend. Been together longer, you see. This is probably a bad habit left over from single days when he was only expected to look out for himself.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bionic Animals

People care a lot for animals. What sucks the most for them is when they loose limbs. It further hinders their ability to survive.
However, bionics as a field has stepped up to the plate. I've heard of everything from a turtle being given new fins, to dolphin getting a new tail, to an eagle getting a new beak, to a cockatoo having its entire legs replaced.
Perhaps people feel that it's silly to expend so much effort on an animal, but it's good practice for us humans, who also lose body parts at a larger rate than we'd like.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The parts of my computer are held together with screws. Very tiny screws. Maybe a centimeter in size. Sometimes I have to take them apart. Usually for cleaning, as they attract crazy amounts of dust. Or, alternatively, to upgrade something. (New hard drive, more RAM, replace something that broke, new CPU, or whatever.)
I try to keep the screws organized. Mostly, because if I lose one, there is no hope of ever replacing it. Despite the standardization in screw sizes, they have no real names. "Screw with length of 1cm and hexigonal head and pitch size of 5mm." Well, more like "Case screw," "extension card screw," and "Fan attachment screw." The extension card screws are like a slightly smaller version of case screws. All of them use a philips head screwdriver, and the only way I have of getting new ones when I lose one is to order a new part, which will come with new screws for pretty much this reason.
I have a dismantled power supply, which I took apart to clean the dust out of it. It's from a dead computer. I can't put it back together, because I put the screws in my big screw case. I cannot find the big screw case. Accordingly, unless I somehow cough up eight "fan screws," and four "tiny screws," I can't fully put it back together. It sits, semi-dismantled, on my desk.
These screws cannot be terribly expensive, but without a name for them, I can't order more. Not without buying YET MORE PARTS.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Philosophical Zombies

I think the idea of a philosophical zombie is incoherent, and therefore wrong. Allow me to explain.
A "philosophical zombie" is the idea of a person who, while indistinguishable from everyone else, is not conscious. They experience no qualia, and have no internal mind, but still act like people hat do. Philosophers and cognitive scientists often debate the implication of such a thing happening. So this is a person who, when poked with a needle, automatically recoils, makes a noise like "Ouch," and takes actions to protect themselves from further poking, but does not actually experience pain. Because they're not really a thinking person, but more like an automatic device.
Consciousness is a strange thing. We can only really be sure of our own, because we experience it. A philosopher once compared it to if we all had boxes, and the only way to know what a "beetle" was, was to look into your box. You couldn't look into other people's boxes, somehow. In fact, people might have completely different things in their boxes, and some people's boxes might even be empty. Hence ideas like solipsism where you only know that your mind exists, other people are illusionary, and even the whole physical world might be an elaborate fraud that you dreamed up because you got bored.
So like most people, I reason by analogy that most people do have minds like my own. They experience certain sensations when exposed to certain stimulation. Not always the same sensation for the same stimulation! (Take color blind people. Shown a "red" brick and a "green" brick, I'll see them as having different colors, but the color blind person will see them as being the same color.) They like pleasurable sensations and dislike painful ones. They have preferences that they seek out. They have abhorred things that they avoid.
However, at the beginning, I said that the very idea was incoherent. Let me get more into that. Human behavior, as psychologists and sociologists are aware, is extremely complex. People have myriad responses to things that come up in their lives, and many of these responses are unusual. Even irrational. While I suppose it is technically possible to have an automated system doing these kinds of responses, such a program would be unmanageably large. It would have to have trillions of responses ready to any given stimulation, and chose kind of consistently among them according to past behavior. This is beyond the capability of supercomputers whose parts fill an entire skyscraper, and you expect me to believe that somehow this is all done in our 3-pound, wet and squishy brain?
More likely, the complex behavior of human beings is because they have minds, which model past events and future expectations, and try to bring their human being to the best possible options. Minds give people personal preferences, like favorite foods, and favorite colors, and also fears of things that they suspect will harm them.
William of Occam was a scholarly monk in the middle ages, who came up with the famous "Occam's Razor." Basically, the model that requires the least number of assumptions to back it is probably the correct one. "Everyone has minds" proves less assumption riddled than "Some people have no minds, only the appearence of having one." Having the appearance of a mind without a real mind is more complex than everyone just having minds in the first place, so almost assuredly every person has a mind.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Automated Candy Factory

So about a week or so ago, I was watching an episode of one of those factory shows, where they detail the start-to-finish manufacturing of something. The episode was about candy. How to make jellybeans, jawbreakers, chewing gum, and things like that. I noticed something very strange: Everything was only semi-automated.
Yes, much of it was automated, using conveyor belts, rolling drums, mixing vats and so on. But so much more was done by hand. Sugar and flavoring could have been added via a hose, as they were introduced in liquid form, but were instead ladled in by hand. Transferring from mixing vats or rolling drums could have been done by upturning the vat onto a conveyor belt...but the candies were moved by hand instead. Why?
Okay, sometimes people break automation steps as a quality control measure, on the grounds that a human being moving candies can notice if one is misshapen, unevenly colored, or in some other way defective. On the other, shovelling candy from a mixer to a conveyor belt seems like a really crappy job to have, and the pay can't be that great. Also, the candy workers have to put a lot of effort into remaining sterile. People are going to eat these candies, and people do occasionally have to touch really gross things. I'm sure the workers do great at that, as food poisoning from candy has not happened (to my knowledge) in the entire history of the united states, but with automated equipment it would not be possible at all, as automated equipment would touch nothing but candy.
If one did create an automated candy factory, it would operate 24/7 for cheap. And clean. And reconfigurable by computer. (Well, okay, not by default, but the way I'm imagining it, it would be entirely computer-operated and controlled.) With a computer controlling everything, and able to arbitrarily rearrange the factory, the factory could, with its excess capacity, do some experimentation. Try mixing flavors, or varieties, or try to come up with entirely new candy varieties. Ones no human had ever thought of. In fact, let's apply genetic programming here. Experimental candies are tested with focus groups, and their results quantified. Candies that test well feature heavily in further experiments. Candies that test poorly are avoided.
For randomization, programmers would have a Malbolge-like interface. (Malbolge is a programming language designed specifically to frustrate programmers. Their are multiple steps where the code is encrypted in a way that doesn't make intuitive sense, making all its programs difficult to understand in any way. A finished program resembles a chunk of line noise.) Their flailing attempts to design candies are the seed genetics, which get refined from there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Inductive Highway

Electrical cars would be great. Low maintenance. Cheap to power. Super efficient. Extremely quiet. (Unless you want it to be loud, in which case we can make it sound like a well-tuned sports car.) Just one problem: With existing technology, you have a range of at most 50 miles before you need to recharge it. That's not enough in America, where our petroleum-powered cars go 200-300 miles on one tank of gas. (Depending on the efficiency of the car, and the size of the tank. A police cruiser getting 8 miles to the gallon just isn't going to go as far as a small hybrid that gets 60 miles to the gallon.) And where to charge it on the road? The American owner of an electric car probably can't find anywhere to charge it other than his or her own house.
But: All car journeys in America are either short trips around the city for errands, in which case 50 miles isn't that restrictive a limit, or trips to another city, which involve long freeways that are restricted only to cars. Pedestrians may not set foot on a freeway, as it is simply too dangerous. (Freeway speeds vary from 45 - 85 MPH, with the higher speeds being the more remote highways.) And with these two factors, I came up with a way that the freeway itself could power the car.
Electrical engineers have long had a technique to transfer electricity to things that are nearby, but not quite touching: Inductive current. So we would make the entire highway have inductive-current lines down the middle of each lane. Driving the electrical car down the freeway would charge it up, and use this electricity to go faster still. And at the driver's destination, they still have full batteries.
The devil of how to pay for this rears its ugly head, though. People are going to want a free ride, but the operators of electrical plants understandably want to be paid. I suppose while we're using non-contact technologies, Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, can come to the rescue. The driver would have an RFID tag on the bottom of their electrical car, which would indicate an account, and if it was valid, then that section of road gets inductive current turned on, and at the end of the month, the account gets a bill. You're charged per distance of road, which pumped a set amount of electricity into your electric car. This is fair.
The two things I wanted to avoid was accidental contact with pedestrians, which is why I wouldn't put it in ALL sections of road. Basically, the centers of road lanes could at any time become "third rails" (a railroad-based induction charge system), which has killed people in the past. (They touch it, or get very drunk and pee on it, and wind up electrocuted.) I'd also want to make sure this would be safe for gasoline-cars, which show no sign of going away, and even if they were, there would be a long transition period while they were still on the road. If the road set a driver's gas tank on fire, that would be bad.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I'd really like to increase efficiency. More work for less fuel. And less money. More for less. But you can only do so much.
Physicists have proof that there is a maximum level of efficiency possible, due to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy. Any more and you're getting a free lunch, as prohibited by the rules. You will have less than 100% efficiency, and you will have entropy, and there's just no getting around that.
For car engines, for instance, the French physicist Carnot proved about 180 years ago that the most efficient possible engine using a combustable fuel would depend on the temperature (Thanks wikipedia):

"Tc" being the temperature, expressed in the absolute "Kelvin" scale, of the cold area around the engine, and "Th" being the temperature of the exploding gasoline in the engine, again in Kelvins. Siince most of us don't operate cars in absolute zero, or even Arctic conditions, efficiency isn't very good. We're also limited by the heat tolerence of the engine. Make it too hot and it just kind of melts. Or malfunctions in some other way. You can expect maybe 20% efficiency.
Of course, one way around this is to not use a heat cycle in your engine, using some other means to generate the force. Like electricity. Electrical engines are 90% efficient. But we don't use them because we can't store it well enough. Cars use huge amounts of energy, and electrical cars as exist now have tons and tons of batteries and still have a really tiny range before the batteries are all depleted.
This gives me an idea, I'll discuss it tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things that Make Things

I understand there's a whole movement to machines that can make arbitrary objects. Usually, they're step-motored plastic fabricators, that melt plastic into specific shapes, given to them by CAD design. They also have a second compound that melts away in water, so one can cast shapes that would have fallen apart without support, but can become their final shape after a quick rinse. (Like an arch. It would have collapsed without support while building, but once built, the supports can be taken away because now the keystone holds it in place.) Most of these can make a very large percentage of their own parts, thus being semi "self assembling."
Some examples of this include the reprap, the "cupcake", Fab@home, and even a "gadget printer".
I love it because it's the closest we can have with today's technology to the "replicators" of science fiction that can grind out anything of your choosing. And maybe 99% of all jobs would disappear if that sort of thing became common, but in the right milieu , so would the need for jobs. I especially like that they can make copies of themselves, as most of them are rather expensive. (The cheapest one costs $500 USD!) And yet the plastic parts they're made of cost maybe 50 cents total, and the metal nozzle on the extruder is maybe another $3 at most.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


One of the weirder things about cell phones is that you have a huge number of people inexplicably talking to themselves in public. As phones shrink, it becomes less and less apparent that they're using a device to speak to another person, and looks a lot more like a crazy person babbling to themselves. This is strange.
I'm imagining an implanted device, that controls like a phone, but can be operated by thinking. Imagining a number at the phone would make it dial, and imagining talking to it would modulate speech into the connection. So you could "talk," but without talking.
Probably too invasive to actually build, but it would help people with vocal chord paralysis, and allow people to make phone calls without, you know, endlessly talking to themselves in public.
I'd also like to see this applied to computer interfaces, where it could first type from your thoughts. Then cursor from your thoughts. Then replace the monitor with directly injecting to your "mind's eye." And in the end, I compute while walking down the street, with no one the wiser.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quantum Computing

The news likes to report about Quantum computing as if it were a device that you could plug in to your wall, attach to your monitor and keyboard, and then immediately begin typing away at. This is wrong.
Quantum computing is an emerging technology that we're still working on the theoretical level. Like DNA "computers," which you can't type on, because they're a beaker full of bio-goo that they leave overnight to solve whatever problem, and then take apart the goo the next day. The goo often finds interesting solutions to complex problems, but it's not going to show up on a screen.
Similarly, existing quantum computers are series of atoms entangled in a very complicated way such as to allow researchers to "read" their properties, and "write" them by changing them. If the technology is ever commercialized, it'll be an add on card for your existing computer, not a brand new machine.
Quantum computing's main advantage is taking advantage of "superposition," in which atoms can have more than one state at the same time, but this collapses if meddled with. And atoms being small as they are, even "reading" their position collapses them. So they specialize in problems where the correct solution can be verified, but there's no better way to find it than to just guess until you get it. You basically make a superposition, guessing at every possible answer at the same time, and the superposition collapses to form the correct answer, which you then verify with traditional silicon computing.
As of this writing, the most powerful quantum computer in the world had only 7 "qubits." basically, 7 linked atoms that could have about 49 distinct states. This is nowhere near being able to do any sort of practical thing, but you have to crawl before you can walk. They're working on one with 9 qubits, but to do anything practical, you'd need at least a hundred, and preferably a thousand.
Also, we'd have to have some way of reliably electronically "reading" and "writing" the atoms. Your quantum computer isn't going to be very valuable to you if you have to hire a quantum physicist just to learn what the results even are.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life Analysis Device

Once upon a time there was an artist/engineer who made a system he called the Narsci-system, after Narcissus, the greek legend of a man in love with himself, and system, as it was made of multiple sensors that communicated with a single point for concatenation and analysis. Also, because it was "Narcissistic" to pay so much attention to the goings on of his own body.
So I'm imagining a medical version of this. It would continuously scan and record the goings on of the user's body, and communicate back to a sophisticated computer for analysis. The computer, using the best advice medical doctors could give, would give advice about certain situations. If one hadn't gone to bed for 20 hours straight, it would suggest doing so. It would suggest morning jogs, and even tell you to speed up or slow down. (There is an ideal heart rate to achieve in aerobic exercise.) It would complain if you moved too little, as measured by the accelerometer, as this suggests laziness, or a lack of exercise, or too much, as this suggests the need for a day off. If it found a problem it didn't know about, it would suggest a medical checkup.
And in extreme situations, maybe it could even actively intervene. Heart rate dangerously low? Stimulant injection! EEG showing abnormality? Cortical stimulation! Dangerous level of vibration? Deploy airbag!

Monday, September 6, 2010

In which I attempt to design a CPU, part 2

At this point, we'd lay out the electronics, grouping similar parts together. All the math circuits are near the logic circuits, combining to form an ALU, Arithmetic and Logic Unit. The Control circuits are nearby, and with our leftover space, we have little chunks of super-fast, super-expensive, memory, called Registers.
This is typically so complex that developers turn to software tools, like Verilog, which takes a list of the requirements, laid out like a C program, and passes them onto a program that lays out a circuit design that accomplishes what was specified. Then that can be given to your fabricator, who cranks out the chips.
But before you crank them out, first you get one, and you test it. No sense in paying for defective chips, right? In fact, that's part of the reason for all the computer support. They can simulate your chips before you even make them, so you know your design is good before you've made even one. Then you make one and test that to prove that the simulation was accurate.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In which I attempt to design a CPU, part 1

The CPU is a chip at the core of your computer. It does all the "work" that lets you do useful stuff: all the math, all the logical processing, to create an environment in which you can work. It receives your input. It sends your output to a graphics chip for processing, or if none is available, makes the picture itself. It does all your calculations. And it's very very complicated.
So if I'm going to make one, first I'll need an instruction set, that controls what it can do. First I have to decide what it needs to do: Math, logic, control, and manipulation. Also, a little bit of storage, so the calculations we do last until we can put them in memory.

* Math
- Addition
- Subtraction
- Multiplication
- Division
- Modulo (Divide, throw away the result, and provide the remainder.)

* Control
- Unconditional jump ("Goto")
- Branch if ("If X then Y")
- Store (in memory)
- Load (from memory)
- Interrupts (little microcode programs that do everything from print to quit)
- Rotate left (Shift every bit left by one, carry over the leftmost to a flag, and the flag to the rightmost. Encryption uses this.)
- Rotate Right (Like rotate left, but in the opposite direction)
* Logic
- AND (Both conditions required)
- OR (Either condition required)
- NOT (Switch to the other)
- XOR (One, or the other, but not both)
- Compare (Is X the same as Y?)

* Redundant (things that are covered by the above, but I want a special code for because the special code can do whatever FASTER.)
- Increment (Add 1)
- Decrement (Subtract 1)
- Shift left (Effectively, multiply this by 2)
- Shift Right (effectively, divide this by 2)

Each of these will need to be assigned a number, which tells the CPU to use that operation. And then either we'll have to have circuits that perform that action fabricated, or microcode to perform that operation written. Most CPUs these days use microcode, because it's faster and cheaper. I think, though, that I'd rather implement with hardwired logic, on the grounds that a more power-efficient design can be made that way. Besides, this is supposed to be simple.
Now arguably, multiplication and division are redundant operations too, because multiplication can be implemented as a loop of additions, and divison as a loop of subtractions, but they're so common in computer operations that I think they do deserve their own opcode. Besides, I do expect to be able to do floating point stuff.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Diet Donut

You know what everyone wants? To eat sugary fatty donuts and not exercise and still somehow lose weight. And while we're dreaming, I'd like a trillion dollars and an elaborate laboratory on Mars. Under a glass dome, filled with trees.
Back in reality, most "junk food" that people eat could be made way healthier. I'm imagining a donut made with vitamin enriched flour, with a blend of sugar-alcohols for sweetener, so it's actively good for your teeth, plus won't give you the runs. (Such a combination technically exists, but is hard to manage.) The jelly inside in made of a rich apple pectin, giving it a gooey consistency that still cleans your insides like an apple. Several important minerals are also provided (in trace amounts so it doesn't affect the flavor.) Eating this donut is surprisingly good for you.
If you replace half the food in each of your meals with one of these donuts, maybe you could lose weight.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why Space

I'm a big advocate of space travel. Partially because the entire earth is small as an atom compared to the vastness of space, but partially because the engineering required to live well in space often has implications for earthly living. Space is infinitely big (or nearly so), but travelers must live in tiny spaces with few resources, lest their air supply be sucked away by the vacuum.
Our little journey to the moon in the sixties gave us improved computers, TANG, improved radios, memory foam mattresses, and improved thrusters. We also got some technology that doesn't quite help as much on earth, like space suits. (People living on earth are highly unlikely to encounter high vacuum.) Though space suit technology may prove useful for improving, say, dialysis. (The space suit has to provide quite a lot of life support systems.)
So if we go forward with the proposal to visit Mars? We'll need to develop cramped quarters that still keep everyone alive for 3 straight months, up to six, we'll need medical support so that the astronauts' bones don't turn to mush along the way, we'll need to develop space farming, because otherwise the cargo burden is unbearable, We'll need to pack all this into a very tiny, low weight space. We'll also need all the instrumentation to do the experiments that make this financially worth while.
Medicine, materials science, and construction engineering would all gain a direct and major boost. And who knows what else might be discovered?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Antimatter Garbage Disposal

Even if we couldn't capture the output, there'd be one big advantage to disposing of toxic waste with antimatter. Namely, both would be permanently destroyed. It can't leak from containment, it can't be dug up for sinister or stupid purposes, and it can't be stolen. It literally no longer exists any more.
The whole powering the entire earth thing is only a beneficial side effect.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cleaning Electronics

You know what I hate? When dust or dirt gets into my computers. It's such a pain in the ass to clean.
Electronics such as computers generates heat from electrical resistance, and state-transition, while operating. This heat must be removed, for the continuing health of the computer. Usually, this is done with a small fan, which blows cool air over the hot electronics. The air takes the heat with it as it blows away.
However, this air brings with it dust. Meteor debris, fibers from my clothing, bits of my discarded skin and hair, and small bits of debris combine to form dust, an annoying and quasi-sticky grey substance. It smells. It has excellent thermal insulation, and it loves to stick to electronics. The more dust it has, the harder it is to keep cool. Damn it. So, periodically, the dust has to be removed. From small tight places that cannot be washed, because water plus electronics equals extremely bad short circuit.
I've typically been using a damp (not wet, damp) cotton swab, and a damp paper towel on larger areas, to take out the dust, then leave it off for an extra hour just to be sure it's dry. Most computer professionals prefer compressed air, which makes short work of all the dust in the computer in one fell swoop. (Though it's really bad for the fans, which get accelerated to ludicrous speeds.)
The strangest available solution is to make a fishtank computer, which is sealed and cannot possibly get dirty. Wait, what? One takes a fish tank, those little fishtank rocks, the computer parts, and several gallons of mineral oil. Arrange the computer parts in the tank, with the hard drive outside. The hard drive must be in air, because it has a pressure equalization mechanism that gets ruined if exposed to mineral oil, breaking down the entire drive. Unless it's an SSD, then it's okay. Make sure all the wires are connected, and turn it on to prove that it works. Then add the mineral oil. Your computer now appears to operate "underwater." The mineral oil works because it's as clear as water, but unlike water, it is chemically nonpolar, so it will not interfere with the operation of the computer.
For best results, an electronics expert should build "port repeaters" on the lid, so you can plug everything into the lid, which plugs into the computer below. And lo, it runs, and it cannot attract dust, and it vents all heat into the mineral oil, which the fans swirl around, and use the glass as one big heat sink. Also, it muffles all sound produced by the computer, eliminating that annnoying fan whirr.
One downside is that if the electronics ever have to come out of the mineral oil...they're covered in mineral oil, and rather icky to the touch.
Readers: How would you clean electronics? Mind you, wet electronics will insantly short circuit if switched on, so water (and other polar chemicals) should be avoided at all costs.
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