Friday, June 22, 2012

In Spite of the Nail

I'm going to give you an opportunity of an imaginary lifetime -- you can take a two-way trip to anywhere in history, spend thirty minutes there, then return.    After this, the time machine breaks.   Also, causality, schmausality, anything you change there is now permanently part of history, even if it undermines your existence.  (After which you never existed.)   So, where in history do we go?  Please keep in mind that this is the only time we can do this, as the unobtainium used to power the time machine is literally the only one I could find in the entire world.
I can immediately hear the most popular response -- Kill Hitler.
  Yes, German dictator Adolf Hitler can personally be blamed for well over 50 million deaths and was a seriously evil guy.   There are worse dictators, (although not many, I can count them on one hand), and he couldn't have done it on his own, so are you sure about this?   With the right nudge to history, he might instead be a relatively unknown painter, or even a real estate agent if we change...okay, I can see I'm changing none of your minds.   For our thirty minutes in the past, I send a strike team to the eastern front of World War I, between the Russian and Austrian lines.    My strike team quickly guns down Corporal Hitler, and returns to the present.   So we prevented World War II then?

June 18th, 1919
The treaty of Versailles ends World War I with the surrender of the Central Powers.   Although the United States lobbies for Wilson's fourteen points, which the central powers would readily agree to, England and France demand harsher teams for the pain they've suffered in the war.  The Central powers feel compelled to sign these terms, as they have rather literally run out of soldiers.   Nationalists of these nations call bullshit, (as none of the national territory of the central powers actually saw any fighting during the war), but are ignored by everyone else.

January 1923
Rampant hyperinflation strikes Germany, and to a lesser degree Austria.   Even the most basic things require entire wheelbarrows full of money.   People become radicalized as they hope for anything that could even possibly relieve their suffering, even for a moment.

November 1923
An ambition member of the exceedingly fascist Nazi party, Erich Ludendorff, attempts to throw a coup.   This fails and he is sentenced to death for treason.  The authorities are alarmed at the way that he had over 3000 helpers providing direct help for his plan, and probably had additional agents waiting in the shadows.

Sometime 1924
The Dawes plan brings some recovery in Germany.   Support for extremist parties such as the Communist part of Germany and the Nazi party decreases sharply.

October 1929
A massive stock crash leads to worldwide economic depression.  Well, shit.   Hyperinflation returns to Germany, and radical parties now account for at least 45% of the vote in that country.

Sometime 1931
Japan conquers Manchuria from the local warlord.   China protests, but is too disorganized and warlord-riddled to manage an effective response.

Sometmime 1933
President of Germany, Hindenberg, strikes a bargain, with Goering, the leader of the Nazi party, to get them to fight off the communists.   This temporarily works well, then badly backfires when...

April 1934
In a series of "emergencies," Goering increases his powers until having total dictatorial power over Germany.  He declares himself to be "Fuerer," or leader, of the entire nation.

Sometime 1935
Germany and Austria combine into one nation.

Sometime 1937
Japan and China go to war, with Japan demanding effectively all of China, and China demanding the return of Manchuria.

Sometime 1938
Goebbles demands the outer portions of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetanland, on the grounds that it's majority German.   An international committee of England, France, and other allied countries agrees to allow this.  Neville Chamberlain declares "Peace in our time."

About a month after that
Germany absorbs the rest of Czechoslovakia, contrary to previous treaty.

October 1939
Germany demands that Poland hand over Gdanz, known in German as Danzig.  Poland notes its alliance with two world powers, the UK and France, and refuses.   War begins in Europe.

June 1940
France is defeated.   The entirety of the French army, and 2/3rds of the British army are captured.   The remaining 1/3rd of the British army manages to escape and fortify the UK.  Denmark and Norway are quickly conquered by Germany.

June 1941
Germany declares war on USSR.

December 1941
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.  USA declares war on Japan, Germany, and the rest of the axis.

February 1942
Moscow is taken by Germany.   Russian government successfully evacuates to Kalomna.

May 1942
Kalomna is taken.  Russian government successfully evacuates to Novosibirsk.  Considerable help from the USA is required to keep Russia functional and in the war.

Febuary 1943
The battle of Stalingrad is won by Russian forces when the Germans retreat.  The city is effectively destroyed by the battle.

May 1943
Second attack on Stalingrad.   The ruins are now controlled by Germany.

November 1943
Maximum extent of the Axis.  Germany and their various allies controls the entire European continent from the Atlantic to the Urals, minus the neutral countries of Switzerland, Sweden, and Spain.  However, the German high command notes that there are starting to be shortages in manpower, matériel, and armaments.

March 1944
Stalingrad is retaken by Russian forces.   A massive party is thrown in Novosibirsk.

August 1944
Russian forces retake Moscow.   The city is promptly rebuilt, and the Russian command begins to move back.   German forces are in full, perpetual retreat.

September 1944
A British, Canadian, and American army lands on the coasts of France near Normandy.  Allied forces slowly push the Axis out of France, and crush the regime in Vichy.

June 1945
Project Manhattan detonates the first ever atom bomb in a classified test site near Los Alamos, New Mexico.

August 1945
France is liberated.   Charles deGaulle's Free France government assumes control in Paris.    United States bombs the Japanese city of Hiroshima, wiping it off the face of the planet.  Millions die.

September 1945
 Belgium and the Netherlands are liberated.   Their respective governments return from their colonies.    Nagasaki is nuked, and millions more die.

October 1945
Japan surrenders, Korea is liberated.   Italy is conquered and under British control.

November 1945
Russian forces now control Romania, removing it from the axis camp.   The city of Innsbruck is nuked, and millions die.  Chinese civil war resumes.

January 1946
Bulgaria is conquered by Russian forces, removing it from the axis camp.   Greece is liberated.

March 1946
Finland switches the the allied side under intense Russian coercion.    Hamburg is nuked, killing 90% of its population.

April 1946
Hungary is conquered by Russian forces, removing it from the axis camp.   Germany is now the only surviving axis power, and its days are clearly numbered.   Sweden abandons all pro-German sentiment in favor of pro-British, as it is prudent to side with a winner.

June 1946
Russian forces are at the gates of Berlin.   Allied forces liberate the Czech half of Czechoslovakia.

July 1946
German government decapitated when Berlin is nuked and 90% of the German high command, including Goering, are instantly incinerated.

August 1946
Russian forces take the remains of Berlin.   Czechoslovakia and Austria are now fully liberated.

September 1946
Germany surrenders, ending World War II.   8 million people died under German imprisonment, and 5% of the earth's entire population died in battle and/or nuclear incineration.   The world must not forget.  The subsequent party in Russia uses up the country's entire supply of ethanol, starting with vodkas and ending with perfumes.

Huh, that was actually worse.  Since we have no more charges on our time machine, we can only hope that the clock-roaches clean up this alternative timeline.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Voice Controlled Mouse

Computers have made a difference in thousands of people's lives. Partially because of the automation, storage, and processing of information, but partially because it offers an increasing routing around of disabilities, allowing people who used to require an entire fleet of people to function to instead command their computers to do it for them. This seriously reduces the expenses of experiencing a disability.

For example, suppose you lost both your hands in a serious accident. Your life now has serious problems, such as an inability to open doors, dress or wash yourself, and an inability to do huge numbers of jobs out there. But now, you can do some of those things again because you can now control a computer mouse with only your voice.

The program allows you to divide your screen into an arbitrary grid, and then "click" corners of that grid, all by speaking words. Combined with text-to-speech software, a computer can be operated entirely your voice, which would be pretty handy if you for some reason no longer have hands. I can also see this linking up with a domonics system, in which you can command "open door," and it does, "fill the bathtub with 90 degree water," and it happens (this would be the Fahrenheit scale, as 90 degrees Celsius would cause serious burns), "wash my back" and it gets scrubbed down. Within the confines of this type of house, the lack of hands is no longer an obstacle. In the outside world, prosthetics would still be necessary.

This system currently only runs on OSX, but if the applescript component could be ported to Perl, or another openly available language, then this could be ported to other systems as well. Way cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's day

June 17th is father's day in the United States, so I would like to take a moment to discuss my own father.

Ron the Ruthless was born shortly after World War II to my grandparents, a pilot and a school principal. He was an excellent scholar, quickly working his way through a fully funded scholarship at the Univerity of California, Berkley. While his major was officially Literature, he also studied nuclear physics, programming, civil engineering, and underwater basket-weaving to become generally the world's most ultimate scholar. After graduating, he met my mother, and they got married. He had two children with my mother. At the time of my birth, he was working as a school teacher in Chula Vista school district. He was also taking night classes in psychology, until he obtained a Master's degree about the time that I started elementary school.

He was quickly promoted to district psychologist, which he worked for 20 years. He then retired, and about five years after my brother left the family home, he moved to the South pacific with my mother to achieve his new life's goal, world conquest as overlord of the planet. He now daily wages war against his archrival, the overlord Sinister Steve.

His hobbies now include electronics, debate, reading, prank calling Kim Jong-un, war (usually against Steve), managing his current empire of currently five islands, choir, underwater basket-weaving, guitar, cello, spending time with his wife of 32 years (who is my mother) and opera.

Some aspects of this biography may be slightly inaccurate. Intentionally. Because it's funny, that's why.

I'd like to thank him for raising me to study hard, work hard, and encouraging me through my scientific endeavors through even the hardest of times. Happy father's day, dad.

To my readers, can you discuss your own fathers, and what makes them special?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Automated Farming

I love the idea of automated farming. An ever growing population requires an ever increasing amount of food, and I can easily see the day that sunlit space is at a premium. So when a reader of Hack a day produced a small closet, lit with electric lights, watered by drip, and controlled to optimal conditions by an Arduino, I was all in favor. Specifically, our traditional farming is labor intensive, powered solely by the sun, and we're rapidly running out of arable space. Uncontrollable events like weather, wild animals (both of the mammal and insect varieties), and soil conditions can make or break a farm. If there's no rain, well, no more plants. If insects or deer eat up the crops, then, well, the farmer is starving this year. Or, alternatively, if insects pollinate the plants, then fertility is improved. Worms can aerate soil, mix fertility chemicals into much needed positions, and distribute bacteria. Lightning could burn the crops down...or fix the nitrogen that the soil badly needs. With this closet, everything is under control and certain. It may use more energy and be extra complex to set up, but I'm convinced that projects to produce unmeterably cheap energy are just around the corner, and increasing automation will make this project grow cheaper over time. By the time we need it, the distant descendant of this product will be ensuring that the teaming trillions of hungry humans can still afford food.
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