Sunday, April 22, 2012
According to Slashdot, there's a new game coming out. Depending on how you play, it could be free. Or it could be $60, plus another $100 for the ability to speak to other player with a microphone. This fee depends on if you're a nice guy who helps other players, or a shameless troll. The article doesn't explain the exact mechanics, but I assume that there'll be a fee for the game as usual, but players who are well behaved will collect refunds until they have all their money back. Left unmoderated, the average Internet community quickly declines in quality, as trolls and other attention seekers make the area significantly more annoying to be around. The attention seekers will go to any length of effort to be the center of attention, and the trolls just like pissing people off for the sake of being obnoxious. This is bad for business, as you now have a community of people who annoy the crap out of you pretty much for the sake of annoying the crap out of you. And players who get insulted, harassed, or intimidated too often will stop playing. There's not enough funds from these obnoxious jerks to pay for the server alone, so clearly they must be punished. The helpful players, however, tend to encourage additional sales. A community of useful and helpful people is fun to be around, to the point where you'd pay money to stay. And this is what the company is banking on. Most other games just charge everyone the same price, and then ban players who become excessively obnoxious. And even then, the bar is set rather high, as a banned troll will stop paying on the spot. I'm quite familiar with this model, as my own job revolves around removing the unproductive customers that pay $19.99...and then cost the company $10,000 in bad behavior. The parent company, Valve, is now quite famous for their unusual payment plans. They recently made one of their games, Team Fortress 2, completely free to play, but made customization options available for extra cash. These customization are super popular, as it differentiates your character from the teaming masses, and players are gleefully paying out the nose for the chance to show some personality. This is not the first time the Internet confronted these issues either. Cracked's David Wong wrote an article several years ago about the radical moves that would be required to prevent trolls from destroying the Internet. Why? Because people want to make money, and obnoxious people are threatening to ruin that. And if there's one thing I've noticed about America, it's that threatening people's income never goes well.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
In Tokyo, feral crows have become a serious problem. They clog traffic with dropped nuts. They poop on practically everything. They steal food from street vendors. They literally snatch candy from small children, then fly away. The city of Tokyo decided that they might fight back. While most people would have gone on a crow hunt with firearms, or laid elaborate baited traps, Japan's famous for its odd solutions. In this case, they found a teenage falconry expert and had her pet falcon go hunting. This has been more effective than expected. The falcon killed a bunch of crows, and the vast majority ran away in terror, deciding that if the humans can call up predators like that, they're probably not worth dealing with. Problem, crows?
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Fountains are a common civic decoration, in front of buildings, in parks, and in all sorts of locations because we humans just can't get enough of that flowing water. Both the visual element of water spraying into the air, and the sound it makes as it trickles back to its source evoke some very pleasant instincts for us. Unfortunately, fountains are surprisingly expensive. The water must be pushed against gravity for a surprisingly high energy cost. The water will quickly grow full of slime and clog the machines unless regular cleaning is involved, or poisonous water. However, fountains give me an interesting idea. Cars and computers are often cooled by a flowing liquid. This is an old technology. The liquid flows through the hot areas, taking heat with it. The liquid then flows through a radiator, which has a much larger surface area and can disperse far more heat. The liquid is then cool, and can be sent back to the hot areas. Hence my next idea. In my idea, a large radiator is replaced with a fountain, which spews hot water out of the ground using a pump, producing a fancy geyser. The hot water cools significantly in contact with air, until it hits the small "lake in the fountain, and is sucked back into the system to cool the machinery again. Algae and mildew can't build up in this system, as the water is routinely heated by well over 50C, and potentially up to boiling temperature. Even if it could withstand the hot end of the scale, the repeated heating and cooling would kill any living thing by thermal shock alone. The fountain is pretty, and the machine is using a house-sized piece of atmosphere as a radiator. It's sort of efficient...and artistic!
Thursday, April 12, 2012
A coalition of studies between biologists and marijuana junkies have given me something that several of my previous posts have relied upon -- a way to grow plants without the sun. Biologists have the same interests that I do, growing more food and in more places to feed an ever growing population. The marijuana people are mostly trying to conceal the fact that they have any, as it is highly illegal. Either way, the light needs of plants have been discovered, allowing some previously impossible biology feats to occur, and increasing the potential efficiency of farming. Plants need mostly red light, with a small amount of blue. The studies showed that the best ratio is 90% red, 8% blue, and 2% ultraviolet and other colors. Without the blue light, growth becomes misshapen, and seed production also malfunctions. Without red light, the plant starves. Since LEDs can be made to efficiency manufacture light of a certain color, if somewhat dimly, plants can be grown in a box that has a ceiling covered in LEDs, which are mostly red, with an occasional blue or ultraviolet LED. The total electricity use for a square meter is about the same as running an incandescent bulb, but the plant functions so much better. The only way this could get more efficient is if some sort of artificial plant that can directly knit together a nutritious nectar from air and electrical energy could be invented, and I'm pretty sure that if I ever invented that, people would refuse to eat the nectar and constantly protest it as an unnatural abomination.