March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

DISCLAIMER: This actually has nothing to do with the holiday but is superficially Irish looking and cute.

Art by Tyuga

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A Different Perspective on the Holiday

"...and THAT'S why our ancestors left Ireland for America"

Artist Unknown

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March 14, 2018

The Universe Just Got a Bit Dimmer

Five and a half decades after being being told he would be dead in two years, Stephen Hawking expired in his sleep this morning at 79. Long confined to a wheelchair by his terrible disease this unlikely but undeniable badass divided his time between keeping death at bay through sheer force of will and making tremendous strides in expanding mankind's knowledge of how the universe works. 

This obituary seems to have gotten short shrift as the news today is cluttered with stories of domestic politics, international crises, celebrity asshattery, and the fact that it is snowing in New England in March. However, (if we don't blow it all up) the contributions of this man will be celebrated and studied long after all the other news of the day has faded into the dusts of time. 

Fair winds and following seas Dr. Hawking.
Few have fought so hard and so long against the twin darknesses of death and ignorance.
Thank you sir. 

UPDATE: Issac Arthur has an overview of Hawking's discoveries, rather more in depth than I'm capable of.

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March 11, 2018

On a Lighter Note...

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That Train's Not Coming

Art by Pochi (A.K.A. Poti1990)

Not unless and until it's fixed...and that's going to take some work. 


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March 07, 2018

This is a Useful Tool!

Removes Pintrest from a Google image search result 
Just type it before your search query.

This keeps one from getting bogged down with Pintrest results rather than the actual source.

Pintrest, of course is not, despite what google says, an image credit.

But Girls Frontline is!

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March 04, 2018

A Quick Overview of Putin's Atomic Superweapons

This past Tuesday R.F. President Vladimir Putin gave a State of the Federation speech. The speech is actually interesting for a number of reasons, including a surprising disquesition on the rising poverty in The Federation. Towards the end of the speech Putin mentioned several new nuclear weapons that he says are coming into Russian service in the near future....which is pretty much all anyone is talking about.

In fairness, they are, shall we say, interesting.

SARMAT: The most conventional of the weapons mentioned, this is an ICBM replacement for the R-36 (NATO codename "SS-18 Satan") missile. In the speech , Putin seemed to confirm what has been reported elsewhere; that it has a 10 ton throw weight and that its range is antipodal, that is, it can hit any point on Earth. This means that it can hit shoot at the U.S. over Antarctica and hit North America from the South.  SARMAT seems to basically be the old Soviet FOBS missile but larger and much more capable. 10 metric tons is enough for a lot of 'splody, reports suggest that it will carry 10-24 warheads. Some of them may be manuverable hypersonic warheads.

Kinzhal: This hypersonic weapon may have a non-nuclear warhead option, It appears to be separate from the hypersonic manuverable reentry warheads tossed by SARMAT. It is not new, in fact the technology was enthusiastically pursued by the U.S.A. some years ago but it was put on the back burner for a time, and now the U.S. is playing catch-up. 

Status-6:  Putin asked for a public vote on what the name should be and, not being Brits, the names chosen were not Nuky McNukeface. If unleashed, it's a huge nuclear powered torpedo carrying a huge warhead, specifically, the warhead is alleged to be based upon the Tsar Bomba, the highest yield weapon ever tested. That device yielded either 50 or 58 megatons depending on the source and was a clean/half yield test of a warhead that was intended to have a 100 megaton yield. (Later, when it was briefly considered as the payload of an abortive ICBM the physics package was described as a 150 megaton weapon). So this is basically a torpedo with an atomic waterjet that carries a 50-150 megaton warhead into a harbor that will utterly destroy and irradiate it. This weapon appears to be either operational or in advanced testing.

Nuclear Powered Cruise Missile: A supersonic missile powered by a nuclear ramjet, it appears to have similarities to a weapon that was developed in the United States and abandoned for several reasons that included but were not limited to the difficulty of testing a weapon that would spew radioactive death as exhaust and the issues of firing a weapon that spews radioactive death across continents. It has the advantage of being able to fly low for long periods and evade intercept radars by coming in from unexpected directions. In the video, it is shown to do a tactical dogleg...around Cape Horn, which shows how much range the nuclear engine gives. 

It has been suggested that this weapon explains some anomalous radioactive readings detected in Alaska  recently. 

With the possible exception of Status 6/Kraken none of these seem to be operational and are unlikely to be so in the next few years. 

So don't be alarmed. Our near future is unlikely to look quite like this.

...because our cars are not nearly that stylish.

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I Have Been Wrong

For two years now, the SyFy Channel has been running a show called The Expanse

During those two years, I did not watch it. 

This was a grievous error in judgement on my part which I only recently rectified. 

Now, having purchased both seasons on DVD and having watched every single episode (some twice), I can say that this is a remarkably good show. 

The Expanse follows the crew of the Ice Freighter Canterburry and its crew of working class stiffs as they do their mundane, difficult and absolutely necessary work of hauling ice from Saturn to the frontier metropolis that is Ceres.

Despite a limited budget, the show makes considerable nods to hard science, both with its depiction of spin gravity...

OK, actually, that implies a much smaller spin radius than that location should have, but hey, coriolis!

...and the pernicious effects of its absence. That and a myriad of other little sciency details are remarkably realistic in their depiction and well handled plot-wise in this show, which follows Josephus Aloisius Miller, a cynical, somewhat corrupt police detective on Ceres. Saddled with a 'wandering daughter job' he makes a series of discoveries that blow upon the dying embers of his conscience and idealism threatening to rekindle them both. This could be a fatal affliction on Ceres. 

Despite a SyFy channel budget, Ceres, a major waypoint between the inner and outer solar systems just works as a sort of Noir Dodge City, if Dodge city were a company town where one had to pay for air.

Where The Expanse really breaks the mould is in its setting which ought not to work but does. This, after all, is a show about the Byzantine  day to day intrigues and machinations of one Chrisjen Avasarala, a 70 year old, high level bureaucrat  in the Earth government who uncovers a vast conspiracy. This unlikely protagonist is brilliantly portrayed by  Shohreh Aghdashloo, who just knocks it out of the park. 

Space opera generally requires visually spectacular space battles, which do not comport with scientific realism or SyFy Channel budgets, The Expanse solves both problems by remarkably good writing and pacing. While certainly not super accurate it does have an internally consistent and realistic looking way of portraying space combat, as is to be expected from a show that revolves around a plucky group of Martian Space Marines, and their blood knight squad leader who their ship's captain is trying to keep from starting a war. 

Having now watched the 23 episodes that make up the first two seasons I can say that this show is at least as good as Babylon 5, and that's not something I say lightly. 

Now of course the show is not without its faults, the biggest one being that season three has not started yet.

That looks like it will be rectified on April 11.

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March 03, 2018

Painting By Numbers With Pixels

Well, this review is almost two months late, but RWBY Season 5 has ended and it probably warrants some comment.

Perfunctory is the word that comes to mind.

Mid season, this show was looking to be really good. It was paced very differently from previous seasons, though the collection of quiet character studies was reminiscent of parts of season 4. 

This whole cour had been expertly developing tension that promised a solid payoff and by about episode 8 there were roughly 5 cliffhangers in the plot queue that promised to come together in an intensely satisfying manner. Notwithstanding those, the episodes generally kept a methodical pace as characters were further developed and the cards of the various players were put on the table for the audience to see.

The final battle, in which the heroes are trapped by the villains who have them completely overmatched in numbers, power, and experience is beautifully set up and the first few minutes of it are absolutely riveting.

This whole scene with the villain's entrance was just sublime. 

Annnnnd thennn the battle drug on for FOUR freaking episodes during which the pacing was set to glacial. This was particularly weird because the season ended up with 14 episodes, an odd peculiar number given that the previous seasons had been 12 without the short expository ones. There doesn't seem to have been any reason to pad it out and kill the pacing. It's almost like they were parodying a Shounen Jump show. (There's some irony here. Season three revolved around a sports tournament storyline, which is usually a kiss of death for plotting and pacing, yet that season transcended the trope and was superbly paced and moves the show's story ahead dramatically).

This?  The remainder of the show lacked the dynamism of the show's earlier fight scenes and was punctuated by tedious dialog which is all the more aggravating because there was some STELLAR voice acting delivering these uninspired lines. There were one or two neat moments, mainly due to the delivery rather than the direction, pacing or choreography, but they couldn't overcome the disjointed and padded out nature of the season's last four episodes. If they'd just gone with 12 and compressed this fight it would have probably been better. 

To say this was dissapointing does not do it justice. In addition to the excellent voice work, the technical aspects of the show were impressive and improved in many ways. The season had been quite good until it face planted. 

I do wonder if this season was intended to be much more tightly paced and this finale was supposed to be the halfway point. I engage in this unfounded speculation because RWBY had always been touted as a 5 season show, with a possibility for a spin-off or sequel, and it appears that that was indeed about how much plot they had, because it looks like Rooster Teeth going for six seasons. This is, in fairness not unreasonable since in the show's lackadaisical ambling through the four episode finale, there were several plot threads left dangling (an actual resolution to the main story being the most notable one).  

RWBY Season 5 was good enough until the very end that I do intend to watch it next season, but I look forward to it with a sense of apprehension.

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This is It

This is the end.

It seems that our self appointed betters in Silicon Valley have a new fad...

Now at first glance, there's nothing wrong with that, until one reads five words into the standfirst...

Their pampered birds wear diapers



So first off, these...individuals... presumably have to get special chicken diapers. Cloth diapers seem geometrically unlikely and safety pins are a dubious prospect with Chickens. And face it, Pampers do not take widdles into account. This is horrible.

if you want to have a pet bird not live in a coop, there are probably better ways than to have the poor thing soak its hind feathers in its own poop.

Get a duck.

They're smart, they can be house trained, they...
Can chickens be house trained like ducks?
I've never pondered this before.
It would seem not, 'cause these acknowledged geniuses in Silicon Valley are putting BIRDS, in DIAPERS.


Let's do a bit of research...


Now in fairness, this involved involved nearly 1.5 seconds of using something called "the internet", which may not be an option that naturally occurs to a Silicon Valley Tech Exec...


Perhaps we should follow up...I mean it's possible that the answer to " how to housebreak a chicken" is "You can't." so lets look at...Nope.

A quick perusal of Amazon would further indicate that Chicken Diapers do exist

So yes. 
We're doomed.

Full disclosure: I don't care if these people keep chickens. I used to live in a trailer park and many of my neighbors kept rabbit hutches and chicken coops, until the local zoning board tore them down (along with my neighbor's home, which was damaged by the backhoe in the process) and fined them into oblivion after learning that they did not possess the Hipster Douche exemption to asinine zoning laws. 

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Three Out of Four

Banality lurks below the fold. For those uninterested in my Walter Mitty lifestyle, here, instead, are two girls eating Spaghetti while camping.


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March 01, 2018

Because We Still Can

"Find the thing you love and stick to it."

 It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and took up their residence there...It was absolutely necessary, he said, that the pigs, who were the brains of the farm, should have a quiet place to work in. It was also more suited to the dignity of the Leader (for of late he had taken to speaking of Napoleon under the title of "Leader") to live in a house than in a mere sty. Nevertheless, some of the animals were disturbed when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing-room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds. 

N > 2

 Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.


" I disagree."

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February 28, 2018

2 Down 2 to Go

Midterms continue to vex.

Note that there seemed to be some oblique criticism of our choice of confection in the last placeholder post, so we will, for now, resume posting cheesecake. 

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Does Anyone Have a Website or Contact Point for "The Last Refuge"

...because this would seem to be a consequential bit of reportage.

Of course,  a single twitter account is rather thin sourcing. 
Hence my curiosity as to its provenance.

It's the new name of The Conservative Treehouse

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February 27, 2018

Sadly, It Appears That There Are No Australians in Galaxy M-77

Via Universe Today comes this really cool picture of the accretion ring around the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M-77.

However, it gets neater as they managed to get a good shot of the red-shift of the matter as it's getting flushed into oblivion, and low and's a counterclockwise flush.

Red is moving towards us, blue away. 
One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes explains what this means with regards to antipodeans in the vicinity.

"Nothing. It means absolutely nothing about that because there's no up or down in space, so if we're upside down relative to the accretion disc then that whole galaxy might be full of bunyips,... according to a completely fallacious interpretation of Heisenberg." 

Never mind then.

I'm standing by the accuracy of the post title though.

(Art was by Tony Takakuki)

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February 25, 2018

Three Papers are Done, But Midterms are Upon Me

As atonement, albeit in lieu of any content, here is some rather racy Cheesecake, in the form of cute 2-d females, all rendered by Houtengeki.



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February 14, 2018

On This Singles Awareness Day...

...let us not merely dwell upon those awkward moments we've all had, which this holiday commemorates.

Art by ddochi

We should also take this time to celebrate the scientific and engineering advancements that will make this annual fete a thing of the past*.

Art by Sukabu

*Disclaimer: Side effects of scientific and engineering advancements may include reduced fertility, civilizational collapse and chafing. May be habit forming. Abrasions may result if external covering not installed. External covering sold separately. Internet connectivity disconnect sold separately (and not available on models running software purchased from Google ap store).

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February 13, 2018


This is interesting...

I haven't logged into Twitter in months, and I certainly haven't blocked this fellow.

What's REALLY weird? I was still not logged in when I got this screen either. I'm not sure, but I assume he's been shadowbanned.
As for the Twitterer(Tweeter?) he used to run an aggregator site called 1913intel which this blog had linked to occasionally before it vanished. Fortunately, in addition to Twitter, he's got a Subreddit, which is worth checking out a couple of times a week (though it's not suitable for those who are easily disturbed, or suffer from anxiety or depression.)

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February 08, 2018

I Could Watch This All Day

That may seem like a sub-optimal utilization of resources, but it makes perfect sense for two reasons. 

First; it's a free country and it's Mr. Musk's rocket so if one has an issue with this exercise, one can go pound sand. 

Second; it was the first launch of Space X's Falcon Heavy rocket. No one was going to risk a scientific or commercial payload on a totally new rocket so an inert test payload was substituted, in this case Elon Musk's car. 

The rocket, while having only about half the power of the old Saturn 5 Moon rocket, this is the most powerful rocket in the world right now, its payload capacity exceeding even the massive Russian Proton-M launcher by a considerable margin, it can, for instance send 7,000 pounds of payload to Pluto. 

 This rocket is an entirely new class of launcher and promises to vastly lower launch costs, which, in turn will open the solar system to a far greater number of people and allow for an economical return to the moon, prospecting asteroids and potentially lower cost and more numerous scientific probes. This is a very big deal. 

Musk did this as a private venture and rented the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. This is in stark contrast to NASA's  still unlaunched and non-reuseable rocket that was supposed to have launched in 2016 but instead has burned up 20 billion dollars of taxpayer money

"Well Space-X didn't waste brain cells on any liberative pedagoggies, 'cause they're not asshats!"

Doug Plata, over at Space Review makes a good case that the SLS should be canceled with prejudice and simply place a bulk order for the vastly cheaper (and reuseable) Falcon Heavy, which is quite capable of manned lunar missions (albeit with multiple launches).

It would probably be money well spent.

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February 03, 2018

A Christian a Jew and an Atheist Walk into the Studio

Three Pariahs just sitting around a table talking about politics, religion and morality. 

Update: No. No. No. It's not an off color joke OR a dumpster fire of an interview.

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