Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Pirate Ba has had an ongoing arms race with the media companies that produce the content that they are distributing. The servers are seized by court order, and blocked at the ISP level. To get around this, a new, utterly insane plan has been brought to bear. The new plan is to build servers that operate in aerial drones, reaching the internet through radio link, and periodically alnding to change batteries and other maintenence. To take the drone offline, it wouldn't take a police action. It would require an air force. Due to the current state of international law, the air force would have to be the air force of the local nation (Sweden), or else it's an act of war. Should the authorities convince the Swedish air Force to attack the drones, the drones could quite easily fly to Finland while the planes are taking off. Should the Finnish Air Force then deploy, then the drones would fly to Russia, since Russia doesn't care about electronic piracy. Authorities would have to jam the radio link, which is harder than it sounds.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Psychologist P.F. Skinner was famous for studies of birds in little Plexiglas boxes. When he then made a plywood and Plexiglas box for care taking of his then infant daughter, they were heckled by the print equivalent of Internet trolls until significantly after he died. The younger Ms. Skinner reports that contrary to rumor, she did love her father, wasn't traumatized, was never institutionalized, and did not shoot up a restaurant in Wisconsin, a state which she has in fact never been to. I personally think the box was an excellent idea. The box's environment can be controlled for the infant's comfort, care, and intellectual development. If I ever have to care for an infant, I plan to construct one. The box is elevated, allowing a passing parent (or caretaker) to observe the baby at eye level, and retrieve the baby for feeding and changing without bending over. In the parent's absence, a baby monitor transmits all the baby's utterances. The box is heated to 90F (~32C), yet well ventilated, and a recording of the parents voices shows baby both that he or she is well loved, as well, as teaching a new language. Later, baby grows up and graduates to a real bed. I believe this also has major applications for disabled parents, who will have difficulty taking baby out of a crib when they are in a wheelchair. By setting the height exactly so, the parent can open the doors and take baby without having to prop themselves up first, and can put baby back very gently. This allows them far more autonomy in caring for their baby.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Ever been in a business meeting with one guy who just loves the sound of his own voice? Every culture that has business meetings has at least one of this guy, and it gets on everybody's nerves. Most societies chalk it up as a social problem and leave it at that, but Japan thought differently, and came up with a technological solution. The device is a gun-like device that, when the trigger is pulled, reflects all speech back to the speaker after a very short delay. This effect is very jarring, and while it could be worked around if you REALLY want to talk, it's enough to convince the average Japanese person to shut up, at which point you can put the gun down and continue the meeting. So the next time Yoshi won't shut the hell up about his new condo for seven minutes straight, suddenly you can whip out the gun, reflect his yammering back at him, and continue the meeting, as it'll only take a few milliseconds for him to realize what a doofus he sounds like. The effect is apparent to anyone who's had to work with a PA system or a shoddy cell phone. Hearing your voice after a short delay makes your brain not entirely sure if you actually finished what you've said, so you start getting confused, and after a minute or two of mumbling, the average person just gives up on speech entirely. The effect can be completely countered by plugging your ears, or just pushing on through anyway, as your brain can learn to adapt. Of course, if the gun doesn't silence a chronically disruptive person, the average company will likely resort to more extreme measures, like making the disruptive person leave.
Friday, March 2, 2012
A common element in fiction is to have two characters exchange bodies. Guy A and Guy B swap, so now Guy A's body has Guy B's personality and mind, and Guy B's body has Guy A's personality and mind. How does this happen? It's hand waved away as inexplicable magic, usually, and the plot usually revolves around developing a greater respect for each other, with various comedic misunderstandings along the way, as no one seems to recognize the abrupt changes in behavior and knowledge, or any of the other clues that this has happened. Sometime before the end of the story, they get to swap back. The closest real life version of this is a brain transplant, or more pedantically, a body transplant. After millions of attempts, we finally succeeded with monkeys, transferring the brain of one monkey into another, and vice versa. This was significantly harder than it sounded, mostly due to the difficulties in reconnecting the nerves, and both monkeys were thereafter paralyzed below the neck for the rest of their lives due to the insufficient reconnection of nerves. But what if there was a cheap, reversible, reliable, consequence free means of completely seizing another person's body, which most realistically will be done by putting your brain in their skull and reconnecting every single nerve. (Again, way harder than it sounds. Especially because a living brain is about the consistency of a raw egg yolk, and every severed nerve is basically going to stay severed forever.) I'm imagining that this actually has commercial potential for a lot of people. A body builder and I go down to the transplant center, and we swap bodies. I am now a muscular 25 year old man, and he is now a 31 year old fat bespectacled nerdy man. We also have to register this for security and legal purposes, which I will get into later. Surprisingly, we can both get something out of this. My benefit is more obviously immediate. I'm no longer fat, I can run for miles at a time, I have huge muscles and the strength to lift small cars, or at least motorcycles. I can easily climb the stairs to the top of my workplace without breaking a sweat. However, on the downside, our bodybuilder has also heavily into steroids. This has taken a major toll on his body, and he can no longer work out, his favorite pastime, without breaking his arms. He also may have developed hormonal issues, which can lead to such strange issues and gynecomastia, in which he's developed a case of awkward, teen-esque breasts (likely misshapen) and will need to wear a bra. His body has bizarre pimples and random hair growth from a case of puberty that eternally mutates into a worse version. His genitals no longer function, much to the annoyance of him and anyone he's seeing romantically. Since I had neither the inclination to use steroids, nor the knowledge of where to find them, my body does not have these issues. For him, he regains the ability to work out, and while we should probably remain celibate for the duration lest we cause extremely awkward feelings with our respective loves, he can enjoy some alone time, if you know what I mean. I will also care similarly for his body, and while he'll lose muscle mass and probably gain weight, I won't do steroids, and his body will become more fit for exercise over time, and his hormonal issues will subside as his body, under my control, returns to equilibrium. Under my direction, his body will repair injured muscles as well. He will have significantly better gains when he regains it. With my body, he'll have to start over from scratch, exercise wise, but his exercise hobby will lead to him pushing it quite hard. I anticipate easily losing 10 to 20 pounds from his anaerobic exercise alone, and that's assuming that he doesn't also do cardio exercises such as bicycling, swimming, and other sports popular with weightlifters. We'll remain swapped for two weeks to a month. When we trade back, his body is weaker than before the swap, but still very muscular and strong, fully repaired, fed a balanced diet, and ready for some seriously awesome exercise. His hormonal issues are gone, which his girlfriend will surely appreciate. After just two weeks of exercise (which will be both fun and easy for him), he will be able to show off his body proudly, and people will be able to enjoy looking at it. For me, under his direction, my body has lost weight, and gained serious muscle mass. If he hasn't done steroids while using my body, then my body is now looking quite nice. If he has, then I can treat it the way I treated his body, and the issues will fade. I look quite nice, and my girlfriend will surely appreciate it. I imagine other people will also quite cheerfully swap bodies to handle mutual issues. A cancer patient who can't keep weight down can swap bodies with an obese gourmand. A person who loves a food they are allergic to swaps bodies with someone who has no allergies, but doesn't like that food. (or could live without it.) A person who's too ill to leave the house swaps bodies with a shut-in who didn't want to leave the house in the first place. All sorts of benefits could happen. However, on the security angle, this would have to be tightly controlled. Say I, in a fit of nefariousness, swap bodies with a hobo, and use the hobo's body to commit lots and lots of crime. After the end of my crime spree, I then swap back and leave the country. The police swiftly arrest the hobo, who was seen on camera robbing banks, breaking into houses and stealing from them, punching people that I didn't like, and other highly illegal things. If he's particularly illucid or incoherent, he'll find it quite impossible to defend himself, and spend years and years and years behind bars for my evil deeds. I meanwhile live off my ill gotten gains where they'll never find me. The only way I could be caught would be if there was a record of the body swaps, showing that I was the actual identity of the man on camera committing all that crime. They would also have to catch me before I left the jurisdiction in favor of one with no extradition treaty. There's also the issue of property. The hobo now looks like the man in my wallet, and unless my wallet is taken out of my pants and moved to the hobos at the time of the surgery, he could very easily take it and my credit cards to whatever store he felt like, and I'd have a real hard time arguing that it wasn't me. Of course, Neurology is currently way too primitive to pull this off yet, so this is all moot, at least within my lifetime. The possibilities are truly crazy.