Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nanotubes on patrol!

via Slashdot, an intriguing article on carbon nanotube armor. I was involved with C60 and carbon nanotube research, and I can confirm those little tubes are amazingly strong and flexible. What's more, they can be made conductive. That body armor could also be wired for sound (or for powering electronic devices, or built-in sensors, or all KINDS of things. Even head-borne lasers.)

Alas, this is a MSM article. From the BBC, which *used* to be better at researching their stories. They were doing so well until the end ...

Nanotubes are made from graphite which is - along with diamond - one of two common forms carbon takes in nature. In graphite, carbon atoms are bonded in hexagon structures to form flat layers that are stacked on top of one another like sheets of paper.

To make nanotubes, scientists take individual graphite layers and fold them over so they join at either edge to form cylinders.

I don't know where they got that bilge but it wasn't from an actual scientist who knew anything about carbon nanotubes. They are NOT graphite, they are a completely new form of carbon. Smalley, Curl and Kroto got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering fullerenes (the base class for nanotubes), not for atomic-scale origami. Kroto is even British so there's no excuse for such sloppiness. The last sentence is the worst. That may be how the lab assistant demonstrated the appearance of a nanotube to the reporter, rolling up some hex paper, but that is in no way, shape or form how nanotubes form in reality and I would like to see the reporter produce a valid statement, with attribution, that claims otherwise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Piling on is fun

Unless you live under a blogospheric rock it would be hard to escape any mention of the recent adventures of Robert Caina Calvan, Gentleman Adventurer and Journalist. Seems he saw fit to blog about what happened when he said the equivalent of "Do you know who I am" to a Green Zone checkpoint guard instead of showing the requested ID. The entire blog is gone now, either from the concentrated gaze of the Lidless Eye of the Internet, all wanting to verify that he was indeed that stupid, or because he's removing the evidence pursuant to joining the French Foreign Legion to forget. Not to worry, someone thoughtfully preserved in electronic amber a copy of not only the post itself, but the comments. They were the best part, and as others have remarked, quite rare in their complete unanimity that the poster was, is, and likely will remain forever, an ass. This one is my favorite. I laughed so hard I frightened the cats. The spirit of Mark Twain lives on!

82. Glad I’m Not You said:
October 24th, 2007 at 8:24 pm

I’m so glad I’m 42. When I was young and immature, like you, and I made an ass out of myself it was usually in a room with a Fire Marshal-rated capacity of under 100 people. Even if the place was full and each person told two friends what I did, I was still under the 300 mark of people I needed to avoid for a week. And since memories are short and someone else was bound to make an ass out of themselves in a relatively short amount of time it never really mattered that much. But you, Bobby, have the distinction of making an ass of yourself on the World Wide Web, which is currently accessable by just over 1.2 billion human beings. On top of that, your friends - and apparently rather plentiful enemies - can now copy-cut-paste your idiocy and keep it forever. And ever. And ever.

Bobby, in the year 2065, when you are 80 or so, you will receive an email with this blog post in it. All of it. Each. And. Every. Word.

I’m so glad I’m 42. And not you.

Best of luck with that reporter thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


This is not a BCR Labs robot gun. Mine have much better manners AND safety shut-offs. Nine dead, apparently because of a software glitch. May I point out QA is an essential part of the development process, especially when dealing with things-that-go-boom?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Congress springs into action

So it seems there was this massacre of Armenians. Pretty much everyone agrees about this, except the Turks don't want to say it in public. Photo evidence. Congress has its collective panties in a wad and wants to pass a resolution with the words "genocide" and "Armenian" in close proximity to one another, right now. Why? Good question. This only happened back in the days of the Ottoman Empire, an entity that hasn't existed since 1922, so one might wonder what caused the delay.

Your humble Snarkatron, being possessed of a corrosively cynical nature, suspects that Congress waited until absolutely no one, not even the UN, would expect them to *do* anything about this massacre. Ninety-some-odd years is quite a safety margin, but you want to make sure even the infant survivors of said genocide/spontaneous die-in were too elderly to appear at a Congressional Hearing. Of course, stopping the massacre--that, or any other--is simply out of the question. Think of the environmental impact statements, the work-related injury claims, and the unpleasant little fact that if you save the massacre-ees, the massacre-ers are going to say very rude and nasty things about those doing the thwarting. Congress just wants to be loved. As long as it doesn't involve actual work, or sacrifice, or other consequences--for them.

Perhaps I am being unjust. It would be easy enough for them to prove me wrong. All they have to do is replace the word "Armenian" with something a little more current. Darfur is horrible this time of year, despite what Jimmy Carter thinks. If that isn't exotic enough, how about Burma? Might be able to save a few Buddhist monks that haven't been tortured to death yet; wouldn't that be a good thing? Then there is the hardy perennial, Tibet. I hear the Dalai Lama is visiting DC, a nice Congressional resolution would be a thoughtful take-home gift. At least pick an act of oppression where you don't have to communicate with the perpetrators with an Ouija board ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'll remember next year

October 8th was International Cephalopod Awareness Day, and I missed it! This is terrible. I am a big fan of Giant (and even Colossal) Squid, and of course the Pacific Northwest is home to the rare and wonderful Tree Octopus. We like octopi so much we have an octopus count every year. There are giant octopi here as well (and those things can take on sharks!).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Burma bleeding

The slaughter unfolding in Burma makes me want to find one of those enlightened, "reality-based," soft-power-advocating liberals and rub their nose in it. The Burmese junta IS what they like to accuse the United States of being. You can't criticize the junta and live. You *certainly* can't have your own guns, let alone your own opinions. The populace is sadly denied the joys of giant paper-mache' protest puppets and scatalogical jokes on the leader's name. There isn't much more non-violent than a Buddhist monk, and look what's happening to them, just because they dared to march. Nothing else! No Black Bloc stupidity, no vandalism, nothing but peaceful assembly. They are dead. Not inconvenienced, not tear-gassed, not (shudder!) forced to listen to differing opinions, DEAD. And from the photographic evidence, they weren't killed quickly either.

FISA got you scared? How about no Internet at all? How about ALL phones tapped, regardless? How about actual forced labor camps--if they don't just shoot you out of hand?

Think Bush stole the election? (either Bush, any election ...) Aung San Suu Kyi's party won 80% of the vote, everyone agrees--the junta just shrugged it off and kept power.

Think the US only cares about places with vital resouces? Burma is awash in natural gas. The country doesn't *have* to be grindingly poor, if the money was actually used for all Burmese and not just the junta.

Where's all the wonderful nuanced diplomacy of Europe? France doesn't want to pull out of Burma; Total is worried someone *else* might profit from the natural gas pipeline. Where's the UN? Their representative can't get in to see the people in power. Hard to do the nuancy thing if they won't even listen.

So, dear liberals, tell me. Given that the current government ignores sanctions and in the face of protests will calmly slaughter its own people and even foreign journalists ... how do you stop what's happening in Burma?

Hint: starts with v, rhymes with violence ...