An assorted mix of posts, some original, some favourites previously published in other Al Fin blogs.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Korea to Adopt Robotic Prison Guards
In a break from tradition, the Korean Ministry of Justice intends to replace some of its human prison guards with robot guardians. The robots are designed to patrol up and down prison corridors, to monitor conditions and alert authorities of any violent activity among inmates.
The robots are designed to patrol the corridors of corrective institutions, monitoring conditions inside the cells. If they detect sudden or unusual activity such as violent behavior they alert human guards.
“Unlike CCTV that just monitors cells through screens, the robots are programmed to analyze various activities of those in prison and identify abnormal behavior,” Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University...
...According to Mr. Lee, prison officers have welcomed the idea because the robots can potentially reduce their workload, particularly at night.
Professor Lee denies that the robots are to be seen "terminators," and insists that his team plans to give the robots a humane appearance so as to increase trust on the part of inmates.
It is at least hoped that the terminator robotic guards will be less prone to being corrupted by bribes and payoffs from prisoners, which is a real problem in some locales -- particularly in women's prisons, where sex is often offered for special favours and for the passage of certain contraband items and messages in and out of the prison.
Never leave home without it. A fishing rod that converts into a rifle, or a rifle that converts into a fishing rod. Either way, you should be able to supply the protein needs for yourself and perhaps a small band of fellow survivalists.
Survivalists around the country are rejoicing at the release of the carbon fiber and aluminum rifle fishing rod combined into one handy device. We know. Why didn't anyone think of this useful combination before?
This new lightweight .22 caliber single-shot bolt-action rifle comes has a grip that doubles as a fishing rod when you screw in its reel. Add the telescoping rod and you are in business.
Completely waterproof, the rifle breaks down into two pieces, which can easily be stowed...
...Mountain View Machine and Welding sells the rifle fishing rod for $425... _Dvice
As the animation plays, activity first builds up in the genital area of the sensory cortex, a response to being touched in that region. Activity then spreads to the limbic system, a collection of brain structures involved in emotions and long-term memory.
As the orgasm arrives, activity shoots up in two parts of the brain called the cerebellum and the frontal cortex, perhaps because of greater muscle tension. During orgasm, activity reaches a peak in the hypothalamus, which releases a chemical called oxytocin that causes pleasurable sensations and stimulates the uterus to contract. Activity also peaks in the nucleus accumbens, an area linked to reward and pleasure.
After orgasm, the activity in all these regions gradually calms down.
...In a new technique being developed by Komisaruk, people inside the scanner can see their own brain activity on a screen almost instantaneously. Through this "neurobiofeedback", Komisaruk speculates that people might be able to learn how to change their brain activity, a feat that could perhaps help treat a broad range of conditions, such as anxiety, depression and pain. _Guardian
An interesting form of neurofeedback indeed. We must all wish Komisaruk good luck in reaching his research goals.
Of course it is the sexual partner who actually needs reliable feedback on the state of his partner's pleasure. But we do not want to become slaves to "the standard orgasm." There are all kinds of orgasms, after all. There is no need for some psychologist or other self-proclaimed expert to tell us what we should be doing.
Just help us open the doors of perception and we will do the rest.
China is full of ghost shopping malls, ghost office buildings -- even entire ghost cities in the middle of nowhere. But perhaps the spookiest Chinese ghost property of all, is the ghost "Disneyland," begun in 1998, and crumbling away ever since in a wasteland.
Construction on Wonderland began in 1998 with the intention of building the largest amusement park in Asia. The project was scrapped after funding was withdrawn and the developers and the local farmers could not come to terms over ownership of the land. This past year, UK-based photographer Catherine Hyland braved the harsh land to capture the crumbling park, which has been reclaimed by nearby villagers who regularly tend to the grounds.
Hyland’s images reveal a strange landscape of half-built structures amid corn fields and cracked pavement. The park is strewn with fragments of anachronistic landmarks, anchored by an unfinished fairytale castle whose inchoate construction dissolves into the smog. Had it all been completed, Wonderland may have rivaled Disneyland, with undoubtedly larger crowds and plenty of in the way of spectacle but few genuinely new experiences. In its ruinous state, however, it offers something much more rare but infinitely more interesting. _Atlantic
Interesting? In a morbid way, perhaps. Certainly an excellent example of top-down planning and central command economics.
Burt Rutan is one of the few winners of the coveted "Al Fin Portrait of Competence Award." When such a person retires from his day job, he is not likely to sit around twiddling his thumbs. There are rumours that Burt Rutan is working on a new design for a flying boat.
There’s been plenty of speculation within the aviation world about whether Rutan would stop designing airplanes now that he’s retired from Scaled Composites. Imaginative and prolific, Rutan has been at the leading edge of aerospace design since the 1970s, and few thought he would simply play golf all the time. True to form, Rutan is working on a new aircraft design.
Rutan is famously secretive about designs that have yet to fly, though now that he is “retired” he is letting out a few more details than usual. The engineer told the Experimental Aviation Association he is tinkering with a design influenced to some extent by the lakes and rivers of Idaho, where he now lives after spending more than 40 years in the Mojave Desert. He also mentioned being influenced by the unusual Russian air/watercraft, like the MD-160 Lun-class ekranoplan, he saw shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.
...What Rutan did say is he hopes to design a very efficient winged boat that could be used on a major body of water like Lake Coeur d’Alene and converted into a seaplane to navigate the small lakes and rivers nearby. There are a few other designs out there that use ground effect to “fly” just above the surface of the water, but no one’s seen anything like the design — known simply as 372-3 — Rutan is hinting at. _Wired
Coeur d'Alene is certainly a beautiful lake, but Al Fin prefers Pend d'Oreille, and points north. Regardless, if one has a flying boat, his selection of lakes, rivers, bays, coves, inlets, estuaries, and lagoons becomes quite enlarged.
Rutan is not likely to be wasting his time. Whether he emerges from his present project with a salable product or not, he is likely to be learning a great deal. What a pity that it could not be easier to transfer lessons learned -- and the motivation to learn them -- from one person to another.
The X2 is an experimental helicopter being developed by Sikorsky, an American company, at a test-flight centre in Florida. It recently flew at more than 430kph (267mph), according to a report in Spectrum, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. _Economist
Sikorsky's X2 experimental prototype is being developed in order to bring speed to the commercial helicopter industry. The X2 has already flown faster than the official speed record for helicopters, but not officially.
To make an official attempt on the record, Sikorsky will need to have the flight monitored by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, which compiles airspeed records. But that is unlikely to happen until the X2 is going even faster. Later this year, Sikorsky hopes it will be zipping along at more than 460kph. The company, however, is interested in more than just breaking speed records. It plans to use the technology developed for the X2 in commercial helicopters.
...it uses two counter-rotating rotors that spin around the same axis, one positioned above the other. So in forward flight each rotor can produce an equal amount of lift on each side, thus providing balance. The idea has been around for some time, but it proved difficult to make it work properly.
What has changed are technological advances in aircraft engineering and control systems. Now, vibrations can be reduced using “active control”, which involves placing sensors around the helicopter to detect the onset of vibration and then using force generators on various parts of the frame to vibrate in such a way that they cancel out the original tremors. Advanced computer modelling has also made it possible to design more efficient rotors. A pusher propeller has been fitted at the rear of the X2 to provide extra oomph. According to the engineers, this propeller can also be used to slow the helicopter snappily. And computerised “fly-by-wire” controls allow the X2 to be flown relatively easily.
Sikorsky reckons that future helicopters built using the X2 technology would be extremely versatile machines. They would dash to and from a medical emergency a lot faster. They would also be very agile in flight, which would increase their capabilities in combat. Sikorsky has already produced a simulator so that potential customers can experience what these fast helicopters will be like to fly. Plenty of whirlybird pilots will be keen to get their hands on the real thing. _Economist
The Sikorsky X2 is competing against the Eurocopter for bragging rights:
The X3 has so far only flown once, in a 35-minute flight that tested its hovering behaviour and Billig says it performed as designed. It won't be going for any high speed attempts until late 2011, but they are initially aiming to bust 400 km/h.
Sikorsky is already well on the way to achieving its speed aim of over 500 km/h. In a test flight in September, the X2 unofficially broke the previous record of 400 km/h, which was set by the Westland Lynx in 1986. The X2 achieved 463 km/h, but due to its propellers, it is unclear if the craft will be recognised in the same category by the FAI, the world's air sports federation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, that oversees aviation records. _BrianWang
Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft provide crucial functionality for both military and civilian applications. The race for more speed and maneuverability is likely to continue for some time.
And then there is the race to build a flying car for military use.
DARPA aims to power its flying humvee with a diesel engine, giving it extra range.
According to a company statement, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are going to model the Transformer engine on their EnduroCORE, a diesel engine that generates a “high power-to-weight ratio comparable to gas turbines.” It’ll need to. Darpa’s specifications for the flying Humvee require the Transformer to stay in the air carrying up to 1000 pounds for up to 250 miles without refueling. Diesel’s energy efficiency apparently satisfied Darpa’s suggestion that the Transformer be at least somewhat green. _DangerRoom
Combining land travel with VTOL capability in the same vehicle makes sense for military and expedition-type enterprises. Land travel uses much less fuel, and allows you to take advantage of land-based fuel caches which may not be accessible directly by air. Being able to hop over rivers, canyons, and other obstacles expedites progress toward an objective.
The advantage of a craft that combines the ability to fly, to travel over the surface of water, and to travel over all terrain land surfaces should also be obvious to any would-be Galtist or survivalist.
If you had to fly to an elevation of 95,000 feet, how would you go? One of the least expensive methods would have to be via two-balloon airship, as demonstrated by this team from California:
Remotely controlled from the ground, the all-volunteer group's Tandem twin-balloon airship reportedly ascended to an altitude of 95,085 feet (28,982 meters). That's almost four miles (6.4 km) higher than any airship has gone before. _Gizmag
The aircraft used in last month's flight weighed 80 pounds (36.3 kg), including its balloons. As is the plan for all Tandems, it gained altitude using the lift of its balloons only. After making its way through turbulence from 40,000 to 60,000 feet (12,192 to 18,288 meters), the airship eventually reached its cruising altitude, at which point its motors were remotely turned on. A pilot on the ground then guided it through a series of maneuvers until eventually one balloon burst, at which point the other balloon was intentionally released, and the airship drifted back to the ground with the help of five parachutes.
"The big aerospace firms have been trying to do this for decades, spending hundreds of millions of dollars," said John Powell, President of JP Aerospace. "We've spent about $30,000 and the past five years developing Tandem." _Gizmag
The Tandem is intended to function as a workhorse aircraft. It could serve as a launch platform for small research rockets, and perform various duties for JP's proposed Airship to Orbit program, in which large V-shaped airships would travel from Earth's upper atmosphere into space. _Gizmag