Category Archives: Science & Technology

Indoor Autogyro

I saw indoor F/F flying for the first time–other than still photos–back in the ’80’s when the AMA Nationals came to Chenault Field in Lake Charles. I’ve seen and even built small ornithopters, but an indoor autogyro in new.
It’s still amazing that these aircraft can fly so slowly. This one is comfortably circling a living room at less than walking speed.


“Understanding Creation” on SU

1 Corinthians 1:22-25
22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Now we have groups with different names, but mostly the same misunderstandings. Adherents of Science want the Universe to be a somewhat limited puzzle, ultimately explicable by some combination of mathematics (including statistics), physics, and the heroic exertion of personal intellect. In Religion, on the other hand, some practitioners insist that God perform as required whenever the correct ceremonial affectations are presented. Others demand that His Universe must be a static diorama of the creations of a fully comprehensible God.
But the Universe was not designed for the convenience of human understanding. Creation is the work of a Mind beyond anything we can know how to ask about or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)!
This is a boundless mystery of wonders to be explored, but we have to know where to look (James 1:5).

—STS-133/Discovery External Tank Drama Continues

Spaceflight Now | STS-133 Shuttle Report | Shuttle Discovery launch delayed to late February.

“While a single root cause of the cracks has not been determined, it appears the stringers in question were made using an aluminum alloy from a batch produced in 2002 that has a mottled appearance and may not be as strong as engineers expected.”

No word here on when this was noticed. You would think they would have run something like a coupon of the batch through structural testing before using it for a critical system like the ET. What other compromises have been made in STS production and processing over the years?

They will try to put doublers in this tank and will “probably” get away with it a couple more times. Then they can put these things in museums and let historians argue whether it was all worth it.

—More on the Truth Project

1 Corinthians 2:14

14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

We watched the 4th or 5th episode in the series The Truth Project  from Focus on the Family[] with the Sunday School class yesterday,  which focused on evolutionary theory, Intelligent Design, and philosophical and scientific ideas on these topics. 

Class members appeared to agree that species change, adapt to their environments, appear, and disappear [I feel that requiring God to have created a static Universe to accommodate our literary comprehension is also a mistake].   It is the replacement of the Creator with a statistical fluctuation that  defies reason and sober judgment.  Worse, modern science has adopted as dogma that the Universe must not have been Designed—and will not tolerate questions that confront this principle, in defiance of its own most fundamental ethos. 

Moreover, the narrator of the series didn’t begin to plumb the depths of the preposterous conclusions necessary to omit God from our understanding of the Universe.  I have seen a number of additional examples– Richard Dawkins, who was mentioned several times in the episode, figures prominently in several:

“VOICES OF SCIENCE – Available Now on DVD
Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss, PZ Myers, David Buss
Four fascinating discussions between Richard Dawkins and some of today’s top scientists.”

Steven Weinberg, who is required to conclude that it’s still a stochastic fluctuation, regardless:

One of my favorites, which shows that the spontaneous appearance of self-aware beings from nothing in the middle of nowhere is actually >more likely< than 6 billion sentient observers randomly showing up on a nondescript, rocky backwater planet:

[The presence of this species is thermodynamically preposterous.  Please stop existing all over our tidy Universe.]

Then there’s Steven Hawking’s “Top-Down Cosmology”, a quantum-mechanical abstraction that requires that the history of the Universe is being written as—or because?—we observe it, which means that we are creating the Universe as we speak, but the possibility that an intelligent Creator ever did so must apparently be excluded as contradicting scientific >dogma<:

“Hawking is now pushing a different strat­egy, which he calls top-down cosmology.  It is not the case, he says, that the past uniquely determines the present. Because the universe has many possible histories and just as many possible beginnings, the present state of the universe selects the past. “This means that the histories of the Universe depend on what is being measured,” Hawking wrote in a recent paper, “contrary to the usual idea that the Universe has an objective, observer-independent history.””

Another summary of the concepts above:
“God or a multiverse?”
  By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, December 9 2008, 08:16 – Science

“Quantum physics says goodbye to reality”:

My earlier weblog comments on these articles:
—On Science
—Some Other Questions[—Integrity? and/or a failure to communicate?]
—It’s Science Again

—Or, Why There are No Climatology Rock Stars

Scientists Respond to “Climategate” E-Mail Controversy: Scientific American

U.N. Climate Talks Deadlocked as Clashes Erupt Outside – Europe | Map | News –

Watch a TV show about Astronomy or Physics, or maybe Paleontology, and you will likely hear a lively discussion about various alternate hypotheses about observed phenomena, witness something of the scientific process of trying to understand the Universe, maybe even see a heated argument or two.  Every time a bird drops a scrap of baguette in the  Large Hadron Collider, it’s front-page news.  Guys like Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson are very popular in their efforts to communicate the discoveries of current scientific explorations to the general public—probably the closest scientists get to being rock stars.

Ask a professional climatologist how he arrived at theories of global warming and carbon trading, and you will likely be branded a knuckle-dragging Republican.  What is the difference?  Why is it okay for a field of scientific inquiry to be conducted by ad hominem tirades and squiggly lines as innocent of demonstrated statistical integrity as a Scientology tract?  

The difference is that the climate debate isn’t about science, or the climate, and it’s certainly not about the welfare of the species or the planet.  It’s about a political opportunity to intimately control people, by restricting their access to energy, by taxing them for living their lives. 

People will not stop eating, breathing, and moving about the world because of a squiggly line that curls up on the end.   If the proponents of anthrogenic climate change theories and radical intervention in energy production and global weather won’t rationally discuss their reasoning and the basis for their findings with the rest of us, we will have to reach our own conclusions without them. 

And if there really is a looming climate crisis, this sneering condescension does the species a grave disservice.

–Car DVRs for Driving Safety?

Gizmodo:  Specialized DVR For Cars Could Make Teens Better Drivers

Spy-in-the-cab could improve teenage driving – tech – 08 November 2009 – New Scientist

Some of us had this discussion recently.  I posted a suggestion about something similar some time ago.  Looks like others are thinking about it, too.  But why only teens?  Cars will need full black boxes with 360° video coverage for delinquents of all ages to stop the psychopathic butchery of tens of thousands on U.S. roads annually.  We have become so desensitized to this staggering loss of life that people will probably stall any corrections with squabbling about “privacy”, and so on, but something has to be done.

Or we could start driving sanely, with greater concern for the welfare of others than for our own convenience and egotistical dominance. 

Try an experiment:  The next time you’re in the grocery store, and you’re ready to check out, don’t wait in line—just force your way to the front, and push any elderly people or preoccupied moms with coupons out of your way.  It’s your line, no waiting!  Who gave them the right to be in front of you?!

What would you say if you saw such behavior in public—stupid, inexcusable, should be arrested, or maybe you think nobody would actually act like that?  So why do you drive that way?

—ARES 1-X Test Flight

Ares I-X launches – managers claim successful test flight |

The main ascent components seemed to work, although no telemetry results have been revealed yet.  As the dummy upper stage/spacecraft/abort system separated, it tumbled violently instead of coasting along the flight path, as if unguided.  As it appeared certain to swing around and impact the coasting booster, they froze the NASA-TV feed.  According to, only two parachutes on the booster deployed.  There was no live coverage of the descending booster, and controllers appeared to have lost all live communication with the flight systems.

[nm about the ascent plume business—I suspect it was a view as the nozzle gimballed away, then they switched flight cameras.]

Mostly successful in that it didn’t hit the tower and fly sideways into Atlantis on the other pad, or shake itself to bits on ascent.  But since it was essentially a Shuttle SRB in a manned spacecraft costume, the relevance to future development will be a matter of marketing rather than actual engineering.

—The Cray 1 Supercomputer: Computing in the Good Old Days

Cray 1-2116

The photo is of a Cray-1 from the Smithsonian Air&Space Museum in Washington, D.C. [Maybe I’ll get around to posting some of the aircraft later] They used to call these “supercomputers”.  This one, use for early weather modeling and atmospheric research, was a 64-bit machine, and had a mind-boggling 1 megabyte of memory! The memory, and the liquid freon cooling system it required to operate are no longer with it.  The rat’s nest in the middle of the trademark cylindrical shape of the Cray is what we old people used to call “wire wrap” connections (I still have two of the tools used to make wrapped connections on little square posts).  Another display says that because of the circular shape, although there are “over 60 miles of wire in the Cray”, no connection is more than 2 feet long. 

If the Cray-1’s processor was fully “hard-wired”, as opposed to the micro-coded CPU’s we use now, this thing is even more mind-boggling.  Try to imagine the patience needed to hand-wire all those connections, squinting at some telephone-book-sized wiring diagram.  Then try to imagine how one would correct a mistake later.  One of Cray’s earlier machines was so complex that it basically couldn’t be kept running. 

Granted that many peripherals probably have this much computing power today, and air cooling generally suffices unless you’re a die-hard FPS’er, but it’s good to consider how we got to the incredible little boxes of computing power under our desks.  Our personal computers represent a lot of very expensive lessons, many learned the hard way. 

I think Texas A&M still has the horrible old Amdahl in the basement of its engineering building that I had to punch cards for in 1979.  The past isn’t as distant as you may think.

—Apollo 11–40 Years Later

The original step-off footage of Armstrong:

40 years ago—I remember staying up all night to watch Walter Cronkite and the Moon landings. I had to explain patiently to my mother why I was staying up so late (I think Armstrong stepped out at around 3am local time. The wiki says 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969)

In a serious setback for the fake-Moon-landing cultists; photos of Apollo 11 landing site from the current Lunar orbiter:

Apollo veterans had a lot to say about the current state of manned spaceflight on the occasion of the 40thanniversary—apparently little of it complimentary:

ApolloAstronauts Blast Today’s NASA – Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News –

And shows that if people have enough time on their hands,they can find something sarcastic about nearly anything:

—Internet Surveillance: Links

I’m just beginning to look for information about how this stuff works,  inspired by efforts to maintain communications with citizens of repressive regimes, such as Iran and China.  There is a lot of information about proxies, relay systems, encryption, and so on, but in many cases the authors start by telling you why the stuff you just spent thirty minutes reading about can’t possibly work.  Each approach to defeating surveillance appears to have serious limitations and dangers.  Eventually, run-of-the-mill Internet criminals, spammers, and hackers will jump into this melee and find new ways to exploit people that use these external web-based defenses, sometimes in defense of their lives.

General summary of how surveillance defenses work, maybe:

Internet Surveillance And Iran: A Primer – The Atlantic Politics Channel

More general information:

Outsmarting the Online Privacy Snoops – PC World

Then there’s:

Can you ever be anonymous on the Web? –

Tor, which is apparently a network of open relays to allow users to disguise their original IP address  [which used to get you in all sorts of trouble with your ISP] : 

Tor: anonymity online

Some of the anonymizing systems apparently intend to profit from the misfortunes of repressed citizens.  Freegate’s description says, for example, “Without license, user may be able to use it for a few minutes.”  If you’re trying to post a video clip to YouTube of your family being clubbed and dragged away , this is going to be inconvenient, at best:

The Privacy Blog Freegate – Free software downloads and reviews – CNET

One of numerous accounts of how to set up proxies.  There are also numerous accounts of why proxies aren’t working against the Iranian regime—at some point, you have to tell someone inside Iran where the proxy is.   Encryption, likewise, requires the key to be available to the target audience.

Ubuntu Tutorials : Dapper – Hardy – Intrepid – Jaunty / Create Anonymous Squid Proxy For Iranian Election Protestors

A forum with specific discussions of anti-surveillance tactics in Iran:

Why We Protest – IRAN – Keeping Your Anonymity In Iran

Change IP Address » Blog Archive » Change IP Proxy – Leave No Footprints

Since the Internet is essentially amoral, however, the usual crop of thieves, spammers, and salesmen have already started to invade the discussions and Twitter hashtag groups.  Whether the stuff they offer even works is a matter of speculation.  Meanwhile, actual information from inside Iran seems to be drying up.

[The claim by the Wall Street Journal—which I quoted earlier—that Nokia/Siemens had provided Deep Packet Inspection technology to the Iranian government has been vigorously denied by the company:  There doesn’t seem to be anyone trying to refute the denial, either.]