...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

April 20, 2008


Anybody have a recommendation for a good 24" flat panel monitor? I was looking at the Samsung at Costco, but I hear ViewSonic is also good.

Posted by annika, Apr. 20, 2008 | link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

April 18, 2008

Bonus Friday Science Poem

Here's a poem, which purports to explain Schrödinger's conjecture. It's by Cecil Adams, a long time idol of mine, in response to a poem by one of his interlocutors. This post itself was inspired by Stewy.

Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our pussy still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."

Posted by annika, Apr. 18, 2008 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Poetry & Science & Technology

April 30, 2007

Fire Melts Concrete

I don't know. It looks like a controlled demolition to me.

I'm just saying there are unanswered questions is all.

Posted by annika, Apr. 30, 2007 | link | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

April 26, 2007

Calling All Smartypantses

That means you, Will.

Due to the intense boredom initiated by "a very special American Idol," I began channel flipping and became transfixed by the excellent PBS documentary called ENRON: The Smartest Guys In The Room.

[Aside: Let me note for the record that chief Enron assholes Lay, Skilling and Fastow were all baby boomers.]

Anyways they mentioned that Enron was a major promoter of the early "weather futures" market. When I heard that, I thought, weather futures? wtf? now I've seen everything.

But it's a real thing, and apparently weather futures have exploded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In fact, volume on the CME jumped 64% in the last year alone. It's now a 45 billion dollar market.

But what is it? How do you trade weather? According to CME's website:

CME created a weather derivative market which enables those businesses that could be adversely affected by unanticipated temperature swing or unusually high snowfall, to transfer this risk. It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of the U.S. economy is directly affected by the weather. As a result, the earnings of businesses can be adversely impacted by summers that are hotter than normal or winters that are much colder than anticipated. Just as professionals regularly use futures and options to hedge their risk in interest rates, equities and foreign exchange, now there are tools available for the management of risk from extreme movements of temperature. This sector of hedging and risk management products represents today's fastest growing derivative market.
A reasonably concise primer can be found here.

I guess the deal is that you can buy insurance to protect against catastrophic things that have a low probablility of occurring. But you can't easily insure against high probablility, low risk events like variations in the weather. Playing this market is a way for businesses to offset weather related losses. For example:

A ski resort depends on cold weather to stay in
business. To protect against the possibility of a warm winter, the resort can sell (go short) CME HDD contracts at a level they decide upon with assistance from a
weather-analysis company. A warm winter will result in a low HDD index, and the resort will hope to buy back its contracts at a lower price and use the profit to offset losses in the business.
I still don't get how it works though. I confess I don't understand futures trading as well as Hillary Clinton, but is this all smoke and mirrors bullcrap, or is it the wave of the future? And how, if at all, can this market be used to mitigate the effects of global warming?

Posted by annika, Apr. 26, 2007 | link | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

April 07, 2007

UC Berkeley Education At Work

A couple of geniuses from my alma mater came up with this idea.

Perhaps it needs a little fine tuning, but it's a great idea, no?

h/t TechEBlog

Posted by annika, Apr. 7, 2007 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 21, 2007

Breaking News



I have discovered amazing evidence that Global Warming is real, that it is caused by human activity, and that we are quickly approaching the end of the world.

I looked at my TTLB stats tonight, and the graph for average daily visits to my blog looked frighteningly familiar. By consulting my scientific sources (i.e. I googled it) I was able to find a graph showing the recent increase in average global temperatures.

Sure enough, when I superimposed the two graphs, an inconvenient truth emerged!


The debate is over, the science is in: My blog is at fault for global warming.

Well, as soon as I realized this, my first thought was, "how embarrassing." My second thought was, "If I am to blame, what can I do to save the planet?"

So now you know why, in sixty days time, I will retire this blog. Sorry about that.

Posted by annika, Mar. 21, 2007 | link | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: On The Blogosphere & Science & Technology

February 08, 2007

Apple Spoof

Have you seen those commercials for Apple lately? This spoof is pretty dang funny.

Posted by annika, Feb. 8, 2007 | link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

February 05, 2007

Did You Hear About The Crazy Astronaut?


This is some pretty wild shit.

An astronaut drove 900 miles and donned a disguise to confront a woman she believed was her rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, police said. She was arrested Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

. . .

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport to confront Colleen Shipman.

Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, police said.

Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to an arrest affidavit. Police officers recovered a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

. . .

When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop to urinate, authorities said.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman's car, the affidavit said.

Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called.

During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.

Inside Nowak's vehicle, which was parked at a nearby motel, authorities uncovered a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein. They also found a letter "that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein," an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman's home address and hand written directions to the address, the arrest affidavit said.

Police said Nowak told them that she only wanted to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein and didn't want to harm her physically.

"If you were just going to talk to someone, I don't know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. "It's just really a very sad case. ... Now she ends up finding herself on the other side of the law with some very serious charges."

If convicted of attempted kidnapping, Nowak could face a maximum of life in prison.

Her first mistake was going to Nick Nolte's stylist before the arrest.

Posted by annika, Feb. 5, 2007 | link | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

January 20, 2007

Alternate Bronco Bombers

The real Bronco Bomber, for you aviation enthusiasts. Apparently, not a reliable piece of equipment.


Or, if you prefer, here's the most famous Bronco, bombing.

Posted by annika, Jan. 20, 2007 | link | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology & Sports

December 29, 2006

Kraken Caught Off Chichi Jima


Two years ago someone shot film of a giant squid swimming in the deep. Now someone's caught one. It's believed to be the first time anyone has ever done such a thing, ever.

Giant squid, formally called Architeuthis, are the world's largest invertebrates. Because they live in the depths of the ocean, they have long been wrapped in mystery and embellished in the folklore of sea monsters, appearing in ancient Greek myths or attacking the submarine in Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

The captured squid was caught using a smaller type of squid as bait, and was pulled into a research vessel "after putting up quite a fight," Kubodera said.

"It took two people to pull it in, and they lost it once, which might have caused the injuries that killed it," he said.

The squid, a female, was not fully grown and was relatively small by giant squid standards. The longest one on record is 60 feet, he said.

More giant squid blogging from the depths of the annika's journal archives, here.

Posted by annika, Dec. 29, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

December 11, 2006

Hope On The Global Warming Front

As I'm sure you know, the scientists are predicting that global warming will destroy the world in a couple of years. Because even a change in global temperature as small as two degrees could be catastrophic, you know. But now, the scientists are also predicting that a small scale nuclear exchange involving countries like North Korea or Iran could help to reduce global temperatures by about two degrees. Just what the doctor ordered!

The new studies looked at the consequences if two nations dropped 50 Hiroshima-size bombs on each other's big cities. By analyzing population data and distance from blast, scientists predicted a regional nuclear war would kill 3 million people in Israel and up to 17 million in China. The U.S. would see 4 million blast deaths.

But the researchers say black soot from the fires would linger in the atmosphere, blocking the sun's rays and causing average global surface temperatures to drop about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the first three years. Although the planet would see a gradual warming within a decade, it would still be colder than it was before the war, the scientists said.

No wonder TIME Magazine has been so soft on Ahmadi-Nejad. He and Al Gore are the only guys out there with a plan to save the planet!

P.S. The AP article I linked is notable for another very surprising reason. It is the first time I have ever seen an article by a major anti-American media source that admits "Iran is also pursuing the development of nuclear weapons," without including the standard preface: "the White House claims that..." Someone must have been asleep at the editor's desk for that to slip by.

h/t Possumblog

Posted by annika, Dec. 11, 2006 | link | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

September 30, 2006

News Flash



Thank goodness we have scientists to study this kind of stuff.

Actually, the story I'm referring to, by John Stossel and Gail Deutsch of ABC News, is mildly interesting. For instance:

'So when they look at babies in the first 72 hours of life, they find that males and females are not identical in the way they behave,' [a researcher] said. 'Males startle more than females. If you give a little puff of air on their abdomen, they startle much bigger and much more likely to startle than females, and females rhythmically mouth. They suck on their tongues. They move their lips and so forth more than males do.'
Uhh... am I the only one who reads anything sexual into those results?

Another tidbit:

'The male brain … actually has a harder time processing the female voice versus the male voice, which is a possible explanation to why we don't listen when our wives call us,' Dr. Billy Goldberg said on '20/20.'

. . .

They said it was true that men listened less because of biology.

'Male babies make less eye contact, for instance, with their mothers than female babies,' Leyner said. 'So what we're talking about are different ways of relating to people that start at the earliest possible age.'

So can men say, 'Honey, it's not my fault. It's my brain'?

'I like to use that excuse,' Goldberg said.

Posted by annika, Sep. 30, 2006 | link | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

August 30, 2006

SOCOM - Combined Asault

Here's a preview of the upcoming Playstation 2 release, SOCOM - Combined Asault. It looks pretty cool, except for the annoying music track.

I'm so glad I don't have a video game console. Of course, if my boyfriend happens to read this, I do accept early Christmas gifts.

Posted by annika, Aug. 30, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

August 20, 2006

My Solution To The Planetary Crisis

There's currently a big brouhaha about whether to demote Pluto from its planetary status, or whether to keep it as planet under a definition that would also include hundreds of other objects in the solar system.

I don't understand what the problem is. When I learned the alphabet back in kindergarten, I learned that there were five vowels. They were a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. Now if you count the vowels in that list you get six, not five. But that doesn't change the fact that there are five vowels, and y is one of them, sometimes.

So why can't we just say there are eight planets, and Pluto is one of them. We can then define "planet" with a definition that excludes Pluto, while giving Pluto some kind of honorary planet status.

We do things like this all the time. There are crayolas called "white" and "black" despite the fact that those are not real colors. And Canada is a member of the United Nations, despite the fact that it's not a real country. Also, Paris Hilton recorded a CD despite the fact that she's not a real singer.

So let's just call Pluto a planet and move on to more urgent global problems.

You're welcome. That's what I'm here for, to solve the big issues.

Posted by annika, Aug. 20, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

July 18, 2006

Basic Rat Facts

Today I'll discuss some basic facts about your common rat, rattus norvegicus. Odds are every rat you've seen, from white lab rats to the brown rat on the streets of DC (or wherever you live), is rattus norvegicus.

1. Average life-span is about 33 months. There is one unsubstantiated (and, quite frankly, unbelievable) report of a rat living 7 years. Personally, my gf and I have had one rat live to about 44 months, but in that calculation we're taking the word of a member of the psych. department of UNC-Wilmington that he was about 30 months old when we adopted him.

2. Average weight in the wild is between 400 and 500 grams. In our house, our well-fed rats frequently top 650 grams, and I had one monster fat rat who was over 1200 grams. Yeah, that's an obese rat.

3. Teeth: Rats have sixteen teeth in total--twelve molars and four incisors. The incisors grow 24/7 and are self-sharpening. The incisors are sharp enough, and rat jaws strong enough, to bite through human fingernails. Rats have no canine teeth to hold their prey; instead, their lower teeth can separate into a V-shape to better hold their prey, or do more damage should the finger prey escape.

4. Rats have five toes on their back feet and four fingers on their front feet. In addition, a small fleshy nub on the hand serves a purpose similar to a thumb, allowing rats to grip food, cage bars, and fingers.

5. Rats are semi-color-blind and cannot see reds; however, they can see into the ultraviolet. Rats also have poor visual acuity--about 20 times worse than a human. Pink-eyed whites--PEWs to rat people, lab rats to the rest of the world--have even worse visual acuity.

6. The sense of smell is more important to a rat than sight. It's been calculated that about 1% of rat DNA is related to the sense of smell.

7. Rats can hear rather high frequencies. Rat laughter is inaudible to humans.

8. Rats are omnivores. Cheese, blueberries, Pop Tarts, dog food, bugs...man, rats'll eat anything, especially if another rat is eating it, which frequently leads to squabbles. Avocado is crack for rats.

9. However, when faced with something new that may or may not be edible, rats will eat only a small bite. If they feel sick afterward, they won't eat it again.

10. Rats are as intelligent as dogs and are very trainable. Rats are excellent mousers, and I believe they've been used to pull cabling (or fish tape for cabling purposes) thru conduit in the construction of aircraft. (I admit I might be wrong on that part--perhaps it was ferrets. But even if it was ferrets, they should have used rats.)

11. Rats are sexually mature at five weeks. Gestation is about three weeks--so, yeah, theoretically, a rat born today could be a grandparent in about two months. Litters average between eight and fifteen pups.

12. Male rats have large testicles. Massive. If a human had testicles in proportion to rat testicles, you'd have cannonballs hanging between your legs. Seriously, these things are fuckin' huge. Bandit likes showing off his balls:
OTOH, rat copulation lasts about two seconds.

(NOTE: I know this stuff by heart, but for most of the numeric details I am indebted to the most excellent Anne's Rat Page at ratbehavior.org.)

Posted by Victor, Jul. 18, 2006 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

June 20, 2006

The Udvar-Hazy Center

Romeocat recently visited the National Air & Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center recently. You can see pictures of her trip here. This annex, near Dulles Airport, houses the first Space Shuttle, the Enola Gay, the Concorde, and many other awesome sights, including an SR-71, the most kick-ass airplane ever built.

Posted by annika, Jun. 20, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: On The Blogosphere & Science & Technology

June 19, 2006

Sukhoi Highlight Reel

As far as I know, the Russians are famous for two aerial manuevers: "ramming" and the "cobra." Ramming is pretty self explanatory. It's what Russian pilots did in WWII when they didn't have any ammo. The cobra is a modern tactic, and if you've ever wondered what it looks like in practice, there's a textbook example by an Su-35 pilot in this Sukhoi highlight video (at 4:15).

There's also a cool shot of an Su-27's 30mm cannon firing (at 3:24).

And that Su-47 is a freaky lookin thing. It looks straight out of a Japanese monster movie.

Although the cobra manuever looks like something you'd use in a dogfight, it's real purpose is to confuse AWACS radars. The idea was for a group of four planes to fly towards the AWACS plane, with two in the front and two hidden closely behind the leaders. Then when the American radars got a lock, the two Russian planes in the lead would pull up into a cobra. In theory, this would confuse the radar long enough for the two lead planes to hit the deck, and when the radar regained its lock, the radar operators would think that the two trailing planes were the ones that they had been looking at originally. Then the two planes that had escaped the radar could attack from below.

If you ask me, it doesn't sound plausible, but that's what I read.

Update: More ultramaneuverability here, from what I think is an Su-37.

Posted by annika, Jun. 19, 2006 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

May 26, 2006

Badass Cars

I know you all really liked my Dukes of Hazzard banner for the car. Well, if you're a fan of the R/T, you should go here. Michele (yes, that Michele) has a post about it with some nice pictures.

By the way, I actually saw a sweet General Lee replica driving around town the other day. I wish I was quick enough with the camera phone.

Also (and this news doesn't have anything to do with Chargers, but it is related to the 70's car theme), one of the great car chase scenes ever filmed is now on DVD. The obscure 1973 film The Seven-Ups, starring Roy Scheider and Tony Lo Bianco, features a really long chase that takes place in and outside New York City. My brother, who's an expert on these things, says this chase scene is better than Bullitt's, and I can't disagree.

Posted by annika, May. 26, 2006 | link | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Arts & Science & Technology

April 20, 2006

In Memoriam: Scott Crossfield

Yesterday we lost one of the great legends of aviation, and an American hero. Scott Crossfield was the first man to travel twice the speed of sound. He died when his single engine Cesna 210A crashed in Gordon County, Georgia.

On November 20, 1953, Scott Crossfield's Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket dropped from the belly of a B-29 and accelerated to 1,291 miles per hour at about 72,000 feet over California's Mojave desert. He had just lapped the sound barrier, twice.

If you would like to see actual footage of the Skyrocket launching from a B-29, go here.*

If aviation fanatacism were a religion, the entrance gallery of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum would be its Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Mecca all rolled into one. As any visitor to this temple knows, all you have to do is look up and you will see alongside the Wright Flyer** a constellation of the greatest planes in the history of the world. One of these planes is the North American X-15.

Scott Crossfield was the first man to pilot the X-15, in its dual rocket configuration, on June 8, 1959. He was one of 12 test pilots, a group which also included Neil Armstrong. The plane flew 199 times, launching from under the wing of a B-52. Thirteen of those flights exceeded 50 miles in altitude, bestowing the title of "astronaut" on the pilots. Two flights exceeded 65 miles.

One X-15 pilot, Michael Adams, was killed when the plane began to spin and hit 15 g's before it broke up over the desert.

Here's a picture after a hard landing with Scott Crossfield at the controls. This was the X-15's third flight, and one of the rocket engines had exploded after launch. Amazingly, Crossfield walked away from this landing unhurt. Stud.


Scott Crossfield survived 30 flights in the X-15, including another mid-flight engine explosion. His last flight was in 1960, and all of the speed and altitude records were set later, by other men. But it was Scott Crossfield who made the courageous first test flights of this amazing and historic aircraft.

The X-15 could go 4,520 mph, almost seven times the speed of sound. It set altitude records that were not broken by any plane except the Space Shuttle until the recent flight of SpaceShipOne. The fifth American to enter space did so in an X-15!

Its highest flight made it to over 67 miles (354,199 feet). The X-15's rate of climb was 60,000 feet per minute. Contrast that with the 767 I flew in recently, which gets to its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet at about 2,400 feet per minute.

But those are just numbers. Wanna see how bad-ass this thing was? And how insane pilots like Scott Crossfield were to fly them? Check out this unbelievable video from inside the X-15, looking backwards as it launches. I had to run it a few times, and each time I was moved to shout something like "holy shit..." in disbelief. Keep an eye on the upper left, and you can see the contrails of the B-52 launch plane disappear in about five seconds as the X-15 rockets into space.

Just amazing.

Albert Scott Crossfield: pilot, American hero; born October 2, 1921 in Berkeley California; slipped the surly bonds of earth April 19, 2006.

* By the way, the Dryden Test Center site is amazing. There's so much good stuff here. Check out this fly-over shot of my alltime favorite jet. It's absolutely awe-inspiring!

** Not a reproduction, mind you. I'm talking about the real actual very first airplane ever.

Posted by annika, Apr. 20, 2006 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & Science & Technology

Coolest Thing On The Internets Of The Day

For F-16 fans, a cool video of low level flying through the fjords of Norway. Takes a while to load.

Hat tip to Shelly.

Posted by annika, Apr. 20, 2006 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: C.T.O.T.I.O.T.D. & Science & Technology

April 05, 2006

Scientists Find Weird Fish Fossil Way The Fuck Up In Canada

A bunch of scientists found a weird fish fossil that looks like it might be a transitional species between fish and lizard. Or frog. Or whatever. Between fish and something that crawls or slithers on the land.

When I flew to Europe our plane went over the Hudson Bay. I was amazed at how barren it looked down there. But these scientists were working much farther north than that. In fact, the article says they all carried guns just in case a hungry polar bear came by.

Interestingly, when this fish/lizard was alive, it lived near the equator in the mud of a now non-existent continent called Laurentia. Yeah, 400 million years ago. You gotta love plate tectonics.

Posted by annika, Apr. 5, 2006 | link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 28, 2006

Coolest Thing On The Internets Of The Day

Anyone who tries this, let me know if it works.

Posted by annika, Mar. 28, 2006 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: C.T.O.T.I.O.T.D. & Science & Technology & The Huh? Files

March 26, 2006

First Woman Osprey Pilot

Congratulations to Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, USMC. She's the first woman to take on the very tricky V-22 Osprey aircraft. Good luck to her. She sounds like she has the right stuff.

Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah spent the first five and a half years of her career in the Marine Corps as a CH-46E “Sea Knight” pilot, but when Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263 began transitioning to the Osprey Program while she was stationed there, she became one of the first female pilots to begin training on the controls of the tiltrotor aircraft.

. . .

“She’s going to go a long way because she never quits. She can succeed at anything she puts her mind to,” said Okoreeh-Baah’s father, Isaac K. Okoreeh-Baah Sr., a native of Ghana, North Africa. “She gets that from me, I think.”

The controversial Osprey is supposed to take off like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane by tilting its huge propellers forward.

Here's some cool video of the Osprey in action.

Before the Osprey, there was always a trade off between fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The spinning blades of a helicopter make it inherently slower than a regular airplane, with a shorter range and a lower top altitude. But fixed wings need a runway. The Osprey gives you get the best of both worlds: the speed, range and ceiling of an airplane, plus the vertical take-off and hovering capability of a helicopter. The V-22 is designed to replace the big dual rotor CH-46 Sea Knight, which has been around since 1960.

The Osprey is controversial because the military spent a lot of money on it and then it started crashing. A lot. There was a time when the DoD wanted to cancel the program. All I know is when I tried flying my dad's computer game Osprey, I kept crashing it. So I've not always been a fan of the plane (or helicopter, or whatever).

The 1986 estimated cost of a single V-22 was about $24 million with a projected 923 to be built. The first Bush administration cancelled the project in April 1989, by which time the cost of a single craft was estimated at $35 million. However, Congress continued to allocate funding for the program in a November 1989 authorization. Throughout Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney’s tenure, he and Congress wrestled over the question of the V-22 as he felt the project would cost more than the amount appropriated. Eventually he relented, proposing that $1.5 billion be spent in fiscal years 1992 and 1993 to develop the project. The arrival of the Clinton administration into the White House in 1992 provided new support for the program.

Osprey crashes have resulted in 30 deaths. No one died in a June 11, 1991, Osprey crash, but a crash July 20, 1992, in Virginia killed three Marines and four civilians. The Osprey was grounded for 11 months after this crash. A crash in Arizona April 8, 2000, killed 19 Marines, grounding the aircraft for two months. Another crash in North Carolina Dec. 11 of the same year killed four Marines. After the December crash, the Osprey was grounded until May 29, 2002.

One of the crashes was caused by something called "vortex ring state," which happens when a helicopter descends through its own air turbulence. To correct this, Osprey pilots are supposed to descend slowly, although some say that Ospreys should be able to descend faster than conventional helicopters.

Supposedly all the bugs have been worked out. So I'll keep my fingers crossed, and hope that the Osprey lives up to its promise.

Posted by annika, Mar. 26, 2006 | link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 25, 2006

This Is How They Get Ya

I saw no reason to want a video Ipod, until I discovered that there is a "Strong Bad Email" video podcast. Now I must have one.


Posted by annika, Mar. 25, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 17, 2006

New Boys' Toy

Best quote: "I thought this thing was sick."

Have fun guys!

Posted by annika, Mar. 17, 2006 | link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 05, 2006

Coolest Thing On The Internets Of The Day

The Robotic Mule.

Wanna bet the second generation will kick back?

Posted by annika, Mar. 5, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: C.T.O.T.I.O.T.D. & Science & Technology

February 15, 2006

Plane Crash In Roseville, 2.0

Sheesh, I'm taking unexpected criticism for my "fuel feed problems" statement in my post about the Glasair II crash in Roseville. The manufacturers' reps must be trolling the web. Here's some clarifying points to remember.

  1. I never said that the Roseville crash was due to a product defect. Obviously, I have no idea and if I had to guess, I'd blame pilot error first.

  2. Just as obvious, if the pilot was indeed doing aerobatics over a populated area, he would have been clearly negligent.

  3. One thing that should be investigated is how many hours that particular plane had been flying. There is a rule that you cannot have passengers in an experimental plane until a certain amount of flight time has been logged. I can't remember the requirement, maybe some of you know it.

  4. Perhaps I should have said fuel feed "challenges" instead of "problems." But, come on. There is a difference between low wing and high wing aircraft fuel systems. The difference is gravity. On a low wing plane, fuel has to be pumped to the engine. If air gets in the line the engine could die. The danger is magnified if the plane is doing stunts. I'm certainly no expert, but I did learn that to prevent cavitation in the fuel lines, tolerances have to be exact throughout the system. Also, some low wing planes do not allow a "both" setting on their fuel selector switch.

  5. It may be that kit planes are made with higher quality materials, as one commenter said. That's not my beef. I would much rather be in a plane that was mass produced, since there's a greater likelihood that any design problems will have been previously discovered by some other sucker, and not me. Also, I would expect quality control to be somewhat better at a factory than in Joe Blow's back yard.
That is all. Have at it.

Posted by annika, Feb. 15, 2006 | link | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

February 12, 2006

Plane Crash In Roseville

A plane crashed into a house in Roseville, northeast of Sacramento today. From the video, it looks like a missile strike. The house is toast. Four people are feared dead, including possibly two inside the house.

The aircraft was a Glasair II, low-wing experimental kit plane. As a law clerk, I worked peripherally on a case involving the crash of a kit plane very similar to the Glasair II. Due to client confidentiality, I can't get into the specifics of the case. But suffice to say, you'd never catch me getting into one of them kit planes.

I don't know what possesses pilots to build their own plane when there are plenty of reliable manufacturers out there. Especially a low-wing plane with it's inherent fuel feed problems. Today's crash occurred after witnesses say the pilot was doing some aerobatics. Not smart over a populated area like Roseville.

Posted by annika, Feb. 12, 2006 | link | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

January 21, 2006

Long Live The Whale

I could only come up with four flippant* comments about the whale. They are as follows:

  1. Haven't seen this many Londerners lining up to see a dead body since Diana's funeral.
  2. Why make such a big deal over this whale, when thousands of fish are lost along the Thames every day, and no one tries to save them. It's species favoritism, I tell you.
  3. Is there a way they can blame Bush for this one?
  4. "Unsuccessful attempts had been made during the night to encourage the Thames whale to swim back downriver." Maybe they should have tried a bikini whale.
Extremely lame, I know. Okay, so you can do better?

* Five if you count that pun.

Posted by annika, Jan. 21, 2006 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

December 26, 2005

Nano Nano

i love my new Nano. It's the perfect size. If it were any smaller, you wouldn't have anything to hold on to. If it were any thinner, you might bend it. And it's so pretty, it's like a work of art. When it finally craps out i'm going to sell it on eBay for a profit. i wish i had kept my original Walkman, i could have made a few bucks off it.

Interestingly, i just got done listening to "Night Prowler," by AC/DC, which ends with the words "nano nano." How cool is that?

Posted by annika, Dec. 26, 2005 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

September 28, 2005

Speaking Of Monsters

Remember my Job post from a few weeks ago, where i made reference to the giant squid? [to great rhetorical effect, i might add] Turns out that about a year ago some Japanese scientists obtained film of a live giant squid ― the first time any human being has ever seen one alive! You may have seen the story. It's listed among the most popular links at Yahoo news.

gsqd.gifPeople are fascinated by giant slimy things i guess. The giant squid has always held a particular mythological importance. Mainly, i think, because so little is known about it. As a monster it was known as the Kraken, and you can see it in the corners of those old time maps, usually clutching a square rigger within its tentacled death grip.

Maybe it's the fact that those things can grow to the length of a football field. Or those ten snakelike tentacles, all studded with suckers the size of pie plates. Or the fact that it spews forth black ink when it gets excited. Or that vicious parrot beak that can bite off the head of a pig.

As for me, i like 'em sliced up and fried in beer batter with tangy cocktail sauce on a Sunday afternoon and a football game on the big screen. An effective seafood cocktail sauce should always contain a generous amount of horseradish, tabasco and lemon in it. But i digress.

Here's an fascinating passage about the mysterious deep sea monster from an otherwise boring book called Moby Dick:

In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed before our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus glistening for a moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once more arose, and silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick? thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on re-appearing once more, with a stiletto-like cry that startled every man from his nod, the negro yelled out - "There! there again! there she breaches! right ahead! The White Whale, the White Whale!"

Upon this, the seamen rushed to the yard-arms, as in swarming-time the bees rush to the boughs. Bare-headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on the bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave his orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction indicated aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo.

. . .

[N]o sooner did [Ahab] distinctly perceive the white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave orders for lowering.

The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab's in advance, and all swiftly pulling towards their prey. Soon it went down, and while, with oars suspended, we were awaiting its reappearance, lo! in the same spot where it sank, once more it slowly rose. Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.

As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice exclaimed - "Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!"

"What was it, Sir?" said Flask.

"The great live Squid, which they say, few whale-ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it."

But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel; the rest as silently following.

Whatever superstitions the Sperm Whalemen in general have connected with the sight of this object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being so very unusual, that circumstance has gone far to invest it with portentousness. So rarely is it beheld, that though one and all of them declare it to be the largest animated thing in the ocean, yet very few of them have any but the most vague ideas concerning its true nature and form; notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the Sperm Whale his only food. For though other species of whales find their food above water, and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the Spermaceti Whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and only by inference is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that food consists. At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length. They fancy that the monster to which these arms belonged ordinarily clings by them to the bed of the ocean; and that the Sperm Whale, unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it.

There seems some ground to imagine that the great Kraken of Bishop Pontoppodan may ultimately resolve itself into Squid. The manner in which the Bishop describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with some other particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond. But much abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he assigns it.

By some naturalists who have vaguely heard rumors of the mysterious creature, here spoken of, it is included among the class of cuttle-fish, to which, indeed, in certain external respects it would seem to belong, but only as the Anak of the tribe.

That's from a chapter entitled "Squid," one of the less boring passages in the book. The previous chapter is about plankton and the next chapter in Melville's "masterpiece" is a scintillating page turner about rope.

You may remember that i wasn't too fond of reading Melville, the most overrated author in American literature.

Some say that the monster Scylla, from Homer's Odyssey, is based on the giant squid.

And therein dwelleth Scylla, yelping terribly. Her voice indeed is no greater than the voice of a new-born whelp, but a dreadful monster is she, nor would any look on her gladly, not if it were a god that met her. Verily she hath twelve feet all dangling down; and six necks exceeding long, and on each a hideous head, and therein three rows of teeth set thick and close, full of black death. Up to her middle is she sunk far down in the hollow cave, but forth she holds her heads from the dreadful gulf, and there she fishes, swooping round the rock, for dolphins or sea-dogs, or whatso greater beast she may anywhere take, whereof the deep-voiced Amphitrite feeds countless flocks. Thereby no sailors boast that they have fled scatheless ever with their ship, for with each head she carries off a man, whom she hath snatched from out the dark-prowed ship.
[i'm thinking i like this monster blogging. Maybe it's the key to breaking the blog slump.]

Posted by annika, Sep. 28, 2005 | link | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

July 30, 2005

USS Midway Photos

i've posted some photos from last weekend's visit to USS Midway. You can find them here. It was interesting walking around a carrier with my dad, who served on one back in the day (not the Midway). We really got the inside story.

According the the Midway's website, it was the longest serving carrier in the U.S. Navy.

The USS Midway set new standards of naval aviation in the latter half of the 20th century. A captured German V-2 rocket was launched off the USS Midway in 1946—the dawn of naval missile warfare. The USS Midway blazed new trails of sub-Arctic air operations off the coast of Greenland. It was the first carrier homeported in a foreign country, calling Yokosuka, Japan home for 18 years. When others came home, the USS Midway remained at the “tip of the sword” on an odyssey shared by 200,000 Americans that spanned the surrender of Japan in WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, the era of détente and Desert Storm.
It's worth a look if you're ever in San Diego.

Posted by annika, Jul. 30, 2005 | link | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Science & Technology

May 05, 2005

Aircraft Humour

This may be apocryphal, but it's funny.

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.

Speedbird 206: " Frankfurt , Speedbird 206 clear of active runway."

Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven."

The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"

Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."

Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"

Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, -- and didn't land."

Thanks to Shelly for that one.

Posted by annika, May. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: Science & Technology

April 09, 2005

Chicks Dig Aerobatics

Mary Madigan at Dean's World has a Quicktime video of a pretty dangerous looking stunt by a Lithuanian aerobatics pilot in a Sukhoi SU-26.

And there's another dangerous stunt captured on Quicktime, posted by another chick, Christiana Ellis.

Posted by annika, Apr. 9, 2005 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: Science & Technology

April 05, 2005

Problems With Last Night's 24

i'm only willing to suspend disbelief so far. One of the things i have liked about 24 is its plausibility, but last night's episode was not a good example.

As my sophisticated visitors no doubt are aware, it's a common misconception that the F-117 is "invisible" to radar. Not true. The stealth fighter is not invisible, but its radar cross-section is very small - about 10 to 100 square centimeters according to one website i checked. That's pretty small, but not undetectable if you're looking for it, as i'm sure every radar in Southern California would have been after CTU had discerned the threat to Air Force One. Also, detection should have been easier since the F-117 was flying at a higher altitude to intercept the president's plane.

Next, the show's writers appear to have been confused by the nomenclature. "Fighter" is a broad and pretty misleading term. The F-117 is not designed for air combat. It is more properly called a ground attack aircraft. Last night, Bauer was told that the F-117 was carrying "standard non-nuclear ordnance." According to this site, that would include the following ground attack weapons: "BLU-109B low-level laser-guided bomb, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser-guided bomb units, Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles."

Since the terrorist pilot stole the aircraft, i doubt it had been modified to carry the type of air-to-air missiles that would be needed to shoot down Air Force One. The HARM is an anti-radar missile, and i would guess it's not capable of hitting a plane in flight. i don't know if it's possible to lock the Maverick onto a plane, but i would guess that it's not a very agile missile even if you could. But the biggest problem i see would be the warhead.

The warhead is in the missile's center section. Either a 125-pound shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound penetrator warhead can be used. A contact fuse in the nose fires the shaped-charge warhead. The penetrator uses a delayed-fuse, allowing the warhead to penetrate the target with its kinetic energy before firing. The latter is very effective against large, hard targets.
See the problem? The missile has to actually hit something before it will go off. That's easy when it's aimed at a building. Not so easy in air-to-air situations. And a shaped charge is designed to penetrate armor, so it's not as effective if it explodes out in the open

Also, a stealth fighter is not invisible to radar if it's emitting its own radar beam. Once the F-117 had locked onto the president's plane, everybody would have known where it was. There should have been a shitload of flares and chaff ejected from Air Force One and all the escorts to decoy the missile. Actually, i think once the bomb doors were opened, they would have detected it.

Of course this is all nit-picking. i still love 24. And we won't know what happened for sure until next week's episode.

Posted by annika, Apr. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (15)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 29, 2005

The Spanking Cure

i have no comment on this one.

Posted by annika, Mar. 29, 2005 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 28, 2005

Time Traveler Busted For Insider Trading

This story reminds me of a very funny Kevin Nealon skit on Saturday Night Live.

Sources at the Security and Exchange Commission confirm that 44-year-old Andrew Carlssin offered the bizarre explanation for his uncanny success in the stock market after being led off in handcuffs on January 28.

'We don't believe this guy's story -- he's either a lunatic or a pathological liar,' says an SEC insider.

'But the fact is, with an initial investment of only $800, in two weeks' time he had a portfolio valued at over $350 million. Every trade he made capitalized on unexpected business developments, which simply can't be pure luck.

'The only way he could pull it off is with illegal inside information. He's going to sit in a jail cell on Rikers Island until he agrees to give up his sources.'

. . .

Carlssin declared that he had traveled back in time from over 200 years in the future, when it is common knowledge that our era experienced one of the worst stock plunges in history. Yet anyone armed with knowledge of the handful of stocks destined to go through the roof could make a fortune.

'It was just too tempting to resist,' Carlssin allegedly said in his videotaped confession. 'I had planned to make it look natural, you know, lose a little here and there so it doesn't look too perfect. But I just got caught in the moment.'

In a bid for leniency, Carlssin has reportedly offered to divulge 'historical facts' such as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden and a cure for AIDS.

All he wants is to be allowed to return to the future in his 'time craft.'

However, he refuses to reveal the location of the machine or discuss how it works, supposedly out of fear the technology could 'fall into the wrong hands.'

The SNL skit was a parody of a Wall Street Week type panel show in which various experts talked about their secret to investing. Kevin Nealon, dressed in a silver jumpsuit, was one of the panelists, named "Future Man." When his turn came to talk about his secret to investing, he held up a line graph and pointed to it, saying that his method was simple: "buy here, sell here, buy sell buy sell buy sell."

i want to believe it could happen, though. Don't you?

Posted by annika, Mar. 28, 2005 | link | Comments (10)
Rubric: Science & Technology

March 01, 2005

You Never Saw Frankenstein Depressed Did You?

A procedure that involves drilling two holes into a person's skull and then implanting electrodes in the brain has shown promise in treating individuals who are severely depressed and resistant to other types of treatment.
This study was done in Toronto, Ontario, which puzzles me, since i keep hearing about what a utopian workers' paradise Canada is. How can anybody possibly be depressed there? Maybe it's all those newly arrived depressed American Democrats.

Posted by annika, Mar. 1, 2005 | link | Comments (2)
Rubric: Science & Technology

February 22, 2005

Robot News: K.I.T.T. Car Comes Closer To Reality

David Hasselhoff's robotic co-star, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, may be one step closer to reality.


Swiss manufacturer Rinspeed Industries plans to introduce the Senso next month at the Geneva Motor Show.

The 'Senso', which runs on environmentally friendly natural gas, has, not without reason, been labeled the most sensuous car in the world. The 'Senso' actually 'senses' the driver by measuring his (or her) biometric data, and then exerts a positive effect on him with the help of patterns, colors, music and fragrances. A person who is relaxed and wide-awake simply drives better and more safely.
The Senso, while not as articulate as K.I.T.T., seems to care just as much for the well being of its driver.
As both speed and number of cars increase steadily, mobility becomes its own pitfall: the more cars there are on the street, the more stress is induced in the drivers – which might even add to a potentially aggressive mood caused by private or work-related problems. Nowadays, cars are used primarily by individuals, so there is no-one there to soothe the drivers in case of aggression, or keep the drivers awake during a long, monotonous journey. This results in an increasing number of accidents caused by stress or drowsiness.

One solution to this predicament would be a car that reacts to the mood of its driver.

The Rinspeed Senso with zenMotion shows what the future in automotive man-machine interaction could look like . . .

During the trip, sensors constantly measure speed, accelerate-brake-frequency, the driver's pulse, and other aspects that are part of the 'driving behavior'. Depending on the situation, the patterns change to soothe the driver or keep him/her awake, the music volume is adjusted accordingly, and the cabin temperature rises or falls. Of course, this happens in very subtle and unobtrusive ways, so the driver will still fully concentrate on the traffic.

i don't know about you, but the novelty would probably wear off on me after the first week. Then it would just become annoying. Kind of like the show Knight Rider, come to think of it.
The whole project is based on an elaborate sensory system that forms the heart of the vehicle. It consists of a number of sensors that have the job of gathering data about the driver's condition. Firstly, there is a biometric Polar watch to measure the driver's pulse. A "Mobile Eye" camera records his driving behavior, in other words how well and how often he changes lane, and how close and at what speed he approaches the cars in front. Then - this, at any rate, is the vision - a HP board computer evaluates the data and establishes, with the aid of special algorithms, the driver's current state of mind.

. . .

In the 'Senso' – depending on the condition of the driver - four small Sharp LCD monitors emit stimulating (orange/yellow), relaxing (blue/violet) or neutral (green) color patterns into the driver's line of vision. They are integrated into the futuristically designed interior paneling, which lights up over the entire area and bathes the cockpit in dazzle-free ambient light.

. . .

The optical stimuli are reinforced by especially composed sounds stored digitally on a computer. In addition to the eyes and ears, the nose is stimulated, too – by scents developed by the fragrances specialist, Voitino CWS, which flow into the car through the ventilators. Vanilla-mandarin has a calming effect, while citrus-grapefruit is more stimulating.

Interesting. Anyone who has ever ridden in a car with my brother when he has gas can verify the power of odor to keep a driver awake and alert, if not extremely eager to arrive at her destination. But i digress.
Even the tactile senses are included: should the central computer establish any symptoms of tiredness in the driver, electric motors integrated in the seat will shake him awake by vibrating.
A vibrating seat? Now that has promise.

i bet this car will be a big hit in Germany because, as you know, Germans love David Hasselhoff.

[cross-posted at A Western Heart]

Posted by annika, Feb. 22, 2005 | link | Comments (1)
Rubric: Science & Technology

November 06, 2004

The Return Of Aviation Trivia

What is "wrong" with this banner ad, i found while websurfing?

Posted by annika, Nov. 6, 2004 | link | Comments (11)
Rubric: Science & Technology

February 06, 2004

Did You Know About This?

i just checked out CW's blog, nosuchblog. He has a post about a disturbing occurrance that i hadn't heard about before. A Boeing 727 disappeared last year and no one knows where it is.

When last seen, the 727 was being taxied to the runway without clearance by a known airplane "repo man" from Miami named Ben Padilla.
Padilla? Shit, i hope it's no relation to the other . . .

Whew, apparently not.

There are actually a lot of jetliners out there being operated "on a shoestring" by various fly-by-night charter operators . . . . Occasionally the charter operators default on the lease, and the owners will send an airplane repo man to get the jet back.

. . .

But what makes this case unusual is the 727 never showed up anywhere in the world. Despite a concentrated search by the world's security services, there hasn't been a trace of the missing airplane since it took off from Luanda. What makes this case more interesting is the economics of old 727s. They generally aren't worth much. The cost of stealing one, flying it around the world, repainting, and refitting it is generally more than it is worth. You'd be better served to simply buy a nicer one close to where you are.

That's what makes me suspicious. i'm not generally a conspiracy nut, but a stolen jetliner sure would help a terrorist get around the flight 93 problem. Apparently, before this plane was taken, it had been refitted to hold extra fuel.
A big suspicion, because of the extra internal fuel, was that terrorists had procured the aircraft to use in a Sept 11-style attack. This is why just about everyone in the world was looking for this plane.
Be on the lookout, they haven't found it yet.

Update: At Freedom of Thought, Claudia posted this e-mail, supposedly from Mr. Padilla's brother, and this update back in August.

Posted by annika, Feb. 6, 2004 | link | Comments (13)
Rubric: Science & Technology

February 05, 2004

GWB's Airplane

Without entering the fray on the AWOL controversy, (You probably can guess where i come down on that one, anyway.) i wanted to shed some light on the plane George W. Bush learned to fly back in the day. Kind of a bookend to my famous post on his father’s plane (and this gives me an excuse to recycle that link yet again).

Truth be told, the F-102A was almost obsolete by the time George W. Bush began flying them. But in it’s day, Convair’s Delta Dagger was pretty badass. It was billed as the first supersonic all weather fighter. It first flew in 1955 and began operational service about two years after the Korean armistice. Nine hundred and seventy-five were built by the Convair division of General Dynamics between 1955 and 1960. It was used sparingly in Vietnam. Later, some planes were sold to The Greek and Turkish air forces, and it flew during the Cyprus conflict of 1974.

It was big. If i’m not mistaken, i think it was the biggest fighter we’ve ever had. At over 68 feet long, it was almost six feet longer than the F-4E Phantom, which was no midget itself. But with only one engine, the Delta Dagger weighed half as much as an F-4.


The weight difference makes sense when you consider the mission of the F-102A. It’s kind of misleading to call it a fighter, because that’s a term that encompasses a wide variety of planes that were designed to do vastly different things. It’s more accurate to call the Delta Dagger an interceptor.

To understand the job of an interceptor, as opposed to a pure air superiority fighter, you have to remember what we were afraid of back in the Fifties and early Sixties. These were the early years of the Cold War, before intercontinental ballistic missiles. If a nuclear war happened, it would have been fought by long range bombers penetrating the enemy’s homeland to drop bombs just like in World War II.

To defend against these long range bombers, the superpowers relied on early warning radar to detect an attack and interceptors to stop it. The idea was to shoot down the bombers as far away from the homeland as possible. Early warning radars needed to detect the bombers while they were still far enough away for the defending interceptors to take off and get within range.

Thus, speed was the one overwhelming requirement for a true interceptor. Maneuverability was not so important. These planes were like dragsters, not formula one cars. They needed to get within range of the bombers fast, so they could shoot them down before the bombers crossed into homeland territory or got near their targets. The Delta Dagger had no guns; interceptors weren’t intended for dogfighting.

We had the Delta Dagger, and it’s unbelievably fast successor, Convair’s F-106 Delta Dart. The Russians came up with the Yakovlev Yak-28 and the huge Tupolev Tu-28 Fiddler. Perhaps since it was the first of its kind, Bush’s Dagger was relatively slow compared to the Delta Dart and the Russian Fiddler. The Dagger’s top speed was only 825 mph, while the Dart went 1,587 mph.

The strategy was for interceptor units to be ready to scramble on a moment’s notice, in the event of a nuclear attack. They would race towards the incoming bombers and fire air-to-air missiles as soon as they came into missile range. i would guess that the range of an interceptor was important, but then the range of the air to air missiles would be added to the aircraft range.

i don't want to sound like i’m minimizing the contributions of the brave pilots who flew the F-102A. Those men stood guard so my parents could sleep at night during a very dangerous period of the Cold War. Still, flying the F-102 was not the same as flying a Phantom over Vietnam. Interceptor pilots sort of pointed their plane in the right direction and stomped on the gas pedal. The radar automatically guided the plane into attack position and fired the missiles.

Thankfully, we never discovered whether interceptors would have been enough to stop a nuclear bomber attack. There was a period of time when military planners thought that the wave of the future would be faster and faster bombers. But that ended in the early 1970s when strategic planning had abandoned the idea of nuclear bombers penetrating enemy territory. The new method of nuclear war relied on inter-continental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and submarine launched missiles. Obviously the interceptor was no defense against these newer strategic weapons. The nuclear missile made the long range bomber obsolete. And when the bomber was no longer needed, the interceptors became extinct too.

Although the Delta Dagger remained in service until 1974, the U.S. Air Force began moving its interceptors to National Guard units at the end of the sixties. So by the time George W. Bush graduated from his T-33A trainer into an F-102A at Ellington AFB, his unit’s mission had already begun the transition from air defense on 24 hour alert status to pilot training.

It’s a tricky thing to try to place a value on one individual’s service in the Armed Forces. Who am i to judge? i have a friend who has the seemingly cushy task of serving on the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman as an administrative clerk. Besides the fact that she’s sitting in a gigantic floating target, she’s doing a hell of a lot more to serve her country than i am doing, even if her duties are somewhat mundane. i would never denigrate her service, because she volunteered and every person in the military is there to protect me.

Obviously, flying an obsolete plane in a training squadron is different than driving a boat in the Mekong Delta. Still, they also serve who only stand and wait. Bush had the misfortune (or good fortune, depending on your perspective) of being born a few years too late for his chosen mission. We shouldn’t hold it against him that he became an interceptor pilot at a time when that mission was winding down for reasons he probably was not aware of when he joined. If he had served in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group a few years earlier, he would have been on the front lines of the Cold War, a far more important and potentially dangerous war than Kerry’s Vietnam. i don’t think that lessens the value of his service to our country one bit.

Bonus trivia question: What is the plane in the picture doing?

Posted by annika, Feb. 5, 2004 | link | Comments (29)
Rubric: History & Science & Technology & annikapunditry

February 01, 2004

Supermarine Spitfire

You gotta see this video of a Supermarine Spitfire in flight. It's hilarious.

"Fuck me!" LOL.

Just watch it.

Thanks for the link Matt. It's best viewed on a high speed connection. But if, like me, you are on dial up, just click the link to save it (right click: select target as . . .), then after it's downloaded it should run in the Windows Media Player without all those annoying pauses.

Posted by annika, Feb. 1, 2004 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: Science & Technology