Amazon is discontinuing the Kindle Cloud Reader

Monday, July 13th, 2020

If it’s true that Amazon is discontinuing the Kindle Cloud Reader, I will be sorely disappointed:

Over the course of the past week, Amazon has been pulling features away from it and it looks like it is on the verge of being discontinued.

We conducted a review a couple of weeks ago on the Kindle Cloud Reader, and since then, the navigation tabs to download ebooks from the Cloud have been removed. The only books you can read, are ones that have been previously downloaded, no new titles can be accessed. Ebooks from certain publishers with DRM cannot be opened anymore, even if you had previously downloaded them. There is a popup window that appears, notifying readers to download the Kindle app for iOS or Android. Amazon also pulled the ability to read books offline, you need a dedicated internet connection to read.

The Damascus-like sample was significantly stronger

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Damascus steel is practically synonymous with artisanal forgework, but a new study led by Philipp Kürnsteiner of the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research shows that it is possible to do something very similar with laser additive manufacturing:

Traditional folded steels combined two steels that varied by carbon content and in their microscale structure, which is controlled by how quickly it cools (by quenching). In this case, the researchers were using a nickel-titanium-iron alloy steel that works well with these 3D printing techniques, in which metal powder is fed onto the work surface and heated with a laser.

Rapid cooling of this steel also produces a crystalline form as in quenched high-carbon steels. But further heat treatment leads to the precipitation of microscopic nickel-titanium particles within the steel that greatly increase its hardness—a pricey material called “maraging steel.”

The team’s idea was to use the layer-by-layer printing process to manipulate the temperatures each layer experienced, alternating softer, more flexible layers with layers hardened by that precipitation process. While printing a cubic chunk of steel, they did this simply by turning the laser off for a couple minutes or so every few layers. The top layer would rapidly cool, converting to the desired crystalline form. Then, as additional layers were added on top, temperatures in the crystalline layer would cycle back up, inducing the precipitation of the nickel-titanium particles.

The first test piece was thrown under the microscope for an incredibly detailed analysis, including a close-enough look at the hard layers to see the precipitated particles. The researchers even atom mapped the layers to verify their composition. So the researchers were able to confirm that the process definitely accomplished what they were aiming for.

[...]

For comparison, they printed another block continuously, producing no hardened layers at all. Both were stretched until they fractured and failed.

The Damascus-like sample was significantly stronger, holding up to about 20 percent more stretching force. It didn’t reach the strength of a typical, traditionally made maraging steel, but the researchers note that this requires “a time-consuming and costly post-process ageing heat treatment.”

No man-made vehicle has ever presented such an awe-inspiring spectacle

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

When Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program was considering a nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship, Mechanix Illustrated suggested something even better, an Atoms-For-Peace dirigible. What could go wrong?

Unlike a ship, the dirigible moves in an aerial ocean that completely envelops our globe. Hence, it can display its wares anywhere on the face of the earth. Seas, mountains and deserts present no barrier. Neither, considering its mission of peaceful education, should national frontiers.

atoms_dirigible_0

A modern dirigible would be unique, the cynosure of all eyes. Unlike the ship, one-third of whose bulk is hidden by the water in which it rides, the dirigible discloses every inch of its dramatic size as it coasts along against the clear backdrop of the sky. The lower it flies, the more majestic it appears, as anyone who saw the Akron, Macon or Hindenburg will testify. No man-made vehicle has ever presented such an awe-inspiring spectacle as a giant airship breaking through a low-hanging cloud or cruising above the rooftops of a darkened city.

atoms_dirigible_1

Its effect upon the peoples of the world would be many times more potent than that of an ordinary-looking, seaborne freighter. The fact that the dirigible, traveling at relatively low speeds and altitudes, a silvery giant by day and dramatically illuminated at night, will be visible to practically everyone en route, makes it the perfect Atoms-For-Peace transport. It can show our flag in every nook and corner of the globe, scattering as it goes messages of good will in every literate dialect.

atoms_dirigible_3

I suppose that part’s true. What did they propose?

Magnesium, titanium and strong, lightweight Fiberglas promise greater ruggedness and durability with less poundage. This improved weight-strength ratio opens new possibilities to the dirigible engineer. For instance, the single, bottom-keel structure, an outgrowth of age-old surface ship design, might be augmented by external side and top “keels,” containing additional passenger accommodations. These extra stiffeners would vastly strengthen the airship longitudinally without too great a weight penalty.

atoms_dirigible_4

In place of the Akron and Macon pickup gear and airplane hangar, a modern helicopter landing pad and internal hangar deck might be installed atop the hull’s center section. Built in the form of a shock-absorbing elevator, the pad could lift the copter clear of the hull for take-off and after landing, lower it to the level of the protected hangar deck for the safe, comfortable unloading of passengers. This is merely a reversal of the earlier airplane setup with the added safety advantage that both copter and airship travel at the same speed. The copter could provide a ferry service en route and at points where it is inadvisable or impractical to land the airship.

atoms_dirigible_5

Another possibility is the development of water landing gear. A seagoing dirigible, embodying a water-tight hull and lower gas bag, was recently publicized in Germany. MI feels, however, that retractable pontoons of inflated rubber would prove lighter and more efficient. They need not be large, as airships can be trimmed so as to be almost weightless. Water, pumped up from the surface — using the hose gear long since perfected — would provide ballast to hold the ship down when anchored.

Due to the horsepower limitations of the early internal-combustion engines, dirigible designers have always had to install multiple power plants, scattered along the length of the ship. This has not proven too good an arrangement. In addition to difficulties in coordination, the propeller slip-streams have added to the skin friction of the hull with a consequent increase in drag. Modern research indicates that some form of dragless stern propulsion would better the airship’s efficiency and speed by as much as 15 per cent.

With this in mind, MI weighed the various power plant possibilities.

The final solution proved to be the easiest to apply and the one that offers the maximum advantages weight wise. This is a midship atomic steam plant using turbines to generate electricity. Comparatively lightweight wiring car ries the juice to the stern of the ship where an electric motor drives a huge, four-bladed, reversible propeller. To assist in landing and take-off maneuvers, ducted fans are mounted in gimbals in the forward and after stabilizers. These enable the skipper to move his ship up, down or at sidewise angles.

The fission plant is of the latest type, consisting of a central reactor contained within the core of a cylindrical heat-exchanger, the whole being enclosed in lightweight, laminated shielding. Its operation is simple. Steam, generated in the exchanger by the heat of fission, is ducted to twin turbine-generator installations set on either side of the reactor. Passing successively through high and low pressure turbines, the used steam is condensed and routed back to the heat exchanger in a closed system. The turbines drive twin generators and the electricity thus produced, passes into storage batteries. While heavier than a single installation, the duplicate turbine generators provide a safety factor, one being always available in the event of mechanical failure or repair work on the other.

This compact arrangement is mounted on a reinforced deck within the hull and may be readily reached from the exhibition hall directly below it. Galleries around the engine room permit visitors to inspect the unique plant without interference or danger to themselves. If the public exhibition is considered sufficiently important, a water shielded “fishbowl” type of reactor might be used. While heavier and less compact, it would provide a more impressive show.

The power plant used in the atomic submarine Nautilus weighed roughly three times as much as the entire Hindenburg. That seems like a stumbling block.

The flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter

Monday, June 15th, 2020

In a recent Jocko Podcast on the Boer War, he and Echo wondered aloud about how big a signal mirror would have to be to be seen at 40 miles. Not that big, it turns out:

Most heliographs were variants of the British Army Mance Mark V version (Fig.1). It used a mirror with a small unsilvered spot in the centre. The sender aligned the heliograph to the target by looking at the reflected target in the mirror and moving their head until the target was hidden by the unsilvered spot. Keeping their head still, they then adjusted the aiming rod so its cross wires bisected the target. They then turned up the sighting vane, which covered the cross wires with a diagram of a cross, and aligned the mirror with the tangent and elevation screws so the small shadow that was the reflection of the unsilvered spot hole was on the cross target. This indicated that the sunbeam was pointing at the target. The flashes were produced by a keying mechanism that tilted the mirror up a few degrees at the push of a lever at the back of the instrument. If the sun was in front of the sender, its rays were reflected directly from this mirror to the receiving station. If the sun was behind the sender, the sighting rod was replaced by a second mirror, to capture the sunlight from the main mirror and reflect it to the receiving station. The U. S. Signal Corps heliograph mirror did not tilt. This type produced flashes by a shutter mounted on a second tripod (Fig 4).

Heliograph

The heliograph had some great advantages. It allowed long distance communication without a fixed infrastructure, though it could also be linked to make a fixed network extending for hundreds of miles, as in the fort-to-fort network used for the Geronimo campaign. It was very portable, did not require any power source, and was relatively secure since it was invisible to those not near the axis of operation, and the beam was very narrow, spreading only 50 feet per mile of range. However, anyone in the beam with the correct knowledge could intercept signals without being detected. In the Boer War, where both sides used heliographs, tubes were sometimes used to decrease the dispersion of the beam. In some other circumstances, though, a narrow beam made it difficult to stay aligned with a moving target, as when communicating from shore to a moving ship, so the British issued a dispersing lens to broaden the heliograph beam from its natural diameter of 0.5 degrees to 15 degrees.

The range of a heliograph depends on the opacity of the air and the effective collecting area of the mirrors. Heliograph mirrors ranged from 1.5 inches to 12 inches or more. Stations at higher altitudes benefit from thinner, clearer air, and are required in any event for great ranges, to clear the curvature of the earth. A good approximation for ranges of 20–50 miles is that the flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter, and farther with a telescope. The world record distance was established by a detachment of U.S. signal sergeants by the inter-operation of stations on Mount Ellen, Utah, and Mount Uncompahgre, Colorado, 183 miles (295 km) apart on September 17, 1894, with Signal Corps heliographs carrying mirrors only 8 inches square.

A hot air balloon is almost entirely hot air

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

hot air balloon is almost entirely hot air — even by mass:

Component Pounds Mass Fraction
Envelope 250
3.3%
Basket 140
1.9%
Burner 50
0.7%
Fuel Tanks 405
5.4%
Passengers 750
10.0%
Sub Total 1595
21.2%
Heated Air 5922
78.8%
Total 7517
100.0%

The air transport market requires both high specific power and high energy density

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Existing lithium batteries have a low energy density, while existing fuel cells have low specific power. The air transport market requires both high specific power and high energy density:

Forecasting that suitable lithium battery technology might be as much as 15 years away, the HyPoint team began focusing its efforts on a fuel cell design specifically targeted at eVTOLs. To keep things lightweight, it would have to be an air-cooled design; liquid-cooled fuel cells, says Ivanenko, work well in the automotive world, but the associated coolant tanks and pumps add parasitic mass that literally isn’t going to fly in the aviation world.

But today’s available air-cooled fuel cells, he says, have limited power capacity and lifespan, and they only work in temperatures between -5 and 30 °C (23 and 86 °F). So the HyPoint team set out to develop something faster and hardier, and came up with what they call the “turbo air-cooled fuel cell.”

“We boost the power of the fuel cell stack by placing it inside an air duct, where pressurized, humidified and thermally stabilized air is circulated by fans,” says Ivanenko. “The compression of air is maintained about 3 bars inside by a compression system, and the air with reduced oxygen content is charged through a control valve, and replaced with fresh compressed air with normal oxygen content.”

The extra oxygen on the cathode side of the fuel cell stack, in conjunction with a new High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) technology HyPoint has developed, allows you to force three times as much hydrogen through the fuel cell as a traditional design, tripling its specific power output without adding any parasitic cooling mass that might weigh a VTOL aircraft down.

With the entire system taken into account, the HyPoint system delivers 2,000 watts of power per kilogram of mass. The best of the liquid-cooled fuel cells deliver between 150-800 W/kg, and other air-cooled fuel cells sit at about 800 W/kg.

The energy density of the full system comes in at around 960 Wh/kg, where lithium batteries typically sit at about a third of that figure and other air- and liquid-cooled fuel cell systems come in a little over half – all according to HyPoint’s own figures.

The system has some other huge benefits as well, says Ivanenko; it accepts “dirty” hydrogen that’s only 99 percent pure, which is a fraction of the cost of the 99.999 percent purified hydrogen you need for an LPTEM system. “That’s a huge decrease in a significant operational parameter for a commercial eVTOL operation,” he adds.

It works at more or less any real-world temperature, from -50 to +50 °C (-58 to 122 °F) and beyond. And while it’s still in the lab at this stage, the team projects these fuel cells will last some 20,000 hours without maintenance, where LTPEM systems typically last around 5,000 hours – another very significant factor for a commercial operator.

California trash-to-hydrogen plant promises dirt-cheap, super-green H2

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Lancaster, California will be home to a “greener than green” trash-to-hydrogen production plant three times the size of any other green H2 facility:

SGH2 says its process is the cleanest of all on the market, while matching the price of the cheapest producers — and pulling tens of thousands of tons of garbage out of landfills.

[...]

According to a recent memorandum of understanding, the city of Lancaster will host and co-own the SGH2 Lancaster plant, which will be capable of producing up to 11,000 kg of H2 per day, or 3.8 million kg per year, while processing up to 42,000 tons of recycled waste per year. Garbage to clean fuel, with a US$2.1 to $3.2 million saving on landfill costs per year as a sweetener.

[...]

The process, developed by SGH2′s parent company Solena, uses high-temperature plasma torches putting out temperatures between 3,500 and 4,000 °C (6,332 to 7,232 °F). This ionic heat, with oxygen-enriched gas fed in, catalyzes a “complete molecular dissociation of all hydrocarbons” in whatever fuel you’ve fed in, and as it rises and begins to cool, it forms “a very high quality, hydrogen-rich bio-syngas free of tar, soot and heavy metals.”

The process accepts a wide variety of waste sources, including paper, old tires, textiles, and notably plastics, which it can handle very efficiently without toxic by-products. The bio-syngas exits the top of a plenum chamber, and is sent to a cooling chamber, followed by a pair of acid scrubbers to remove particulate matter.

A centrifugal compressor further cleans the gas stream, leaving a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This is run through a water-gas shift reactor that adds water vapor and converts the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide and more hydrogen gas. The two are separated, neatly capturing all the CO2 as hydrogen comes out the other end.

A Berkeley Lab lifecycle carbon analysis concluded, says SGH2, that each ton of hydrogen produced by this process reduces emissions by between 23 and 31 tons of CO2 equivalent — presumably counting emissions that would be created if the garbage was burned instead of converted into hydrogen. That would be between 13–19 tons more carbon dioxide avoided than any other green hydrogen production process.

What’s more, while electrolysis requires some 62 kWh of energy to produce one kilogram of hydrogen, the Solena process is energy-positive, generating 1.8 kWh per kg of hydrogen, meaning the plant generates its own electricity and doesn’t require external power input.

The 5-acre facility, in a heavy industrial zone of Lancaster, will employ 35 people full-time and create some 600 jobs in construction. SGH2 is hoping to break ground in Q1 2021 and achieve full operational status by 2023. The company is in negotiations with “California’s largest owners and operators of hydrogen refueling stations” to buy the plant’s entire output for a 10-year period.

Heaviside can take advantage of slim and low-drag aerodynamic forms that are just not practical on cars

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft can be surprisingly energy-efficient:

Under the EPA’s standard freeway driving test, a 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus uses about 275 Watt-hours per mile when it averages 50 miles per hour. It can comfortably seat four, but its average occupancy is somewhere around 1.6. Thus, the Leaf’s energy consumption is about 171Wh per passenger mile across all trips.

Our current Heaviside prototype uses about 120Wh per passenger mile, and does so at twice the speed of the Leaf: 100 miles per hour (of course, we can fly much faster, if we choose). We can save another 15% of energy because while roads are not straight, flight paths usually are. All together, Heaviside requires 61% as much energy to go a mile.

Why is Heaviside this efficient — doesn’t it take more energy to go faster? Yes, and it makes the high efficiency we’ve achieved even more dramatic. The answer is that Heaviside can take advantage of slim and low-drag aerodynamic forms that are just not practical on cars.

Detonation is chaotic and much harder to control

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

A type of rocket engine once thought impossible has just been fired up in the lab:

Engineers have built and successfully tested what is known as a rotating detonation engine, which generates thrust via a self-sustaining wave of detonations that travel around a circular channel.

As this engine requires far less fuel than the combustion engines currently used to power rockets, it could eventually mean a more efficient and much lighter means of getting our ships into space.

“The study presents, for the first time, experimental evidence of a safe and functioning hydrogen and oxygen propellant detonation in a rotating detonation rocket engine,” said aerospace engineer Kareem Ahmed of the University of Central Florida.

The idea of the rotating detonation engine goes back to the 1950s. It consists of a ring-shaped — annular — thrust chamber created by two cylinders of different diameters stacked inside one another, creating a gap in between.

Gas fuel and oxidiser are then injected into this chamber through small holes and ignited. This creates the first detonation, which produces a supersonic shockwave that bounces around the chamber. That shockwave ignites the next detonation, which ignites the next, and so forth, producing an ongoing supersonic shockwave to generate thrust.

This should produce more energy for less fuel compared to combustion, which is why the US Military is investigating and funding it; this new research was funded by the US Air Force, and it’s not the only such project the military are looking into.

In practice, however, there’s a reason rockets are generally powered by internal combustion instead, in which the fuel and oxidiser are mixed to produce a slower, controlled reaction to generate thrust.

Detonation is chaotic and much harder to control. In order for the whole thing to not blow up — very literally — in your face, everything needs to be precisely calibrated.

(Hat tip to Hans Schantz.)

Seismic technology to probe the Earth adapted to probe the brain

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

For decades, geologists have used sound waves travelling through the Earth to search for oil, image fault lines and attempt to predict earthquakes:

But in recent years seismology has been supercharged by a computational technique called full waveform inversion (FWI), which uses complex computer algorithms to scavenge ever more information from seismic data, and make much more detailed and accurate 3D maps of the Earth’s crust.

Now scientists at Imperial College London have adapted the same technology into a prototype head-mounted scanner that produced imaging information they say could be used in the future to produce high-resolution 3D images of the brain.

synthesized-wavefield-crossing-the-head

The device uses a helmet fitted with an array of acoustic transducers that act as both sound transmitters and receivers. The system uses low frequency sound waves that are able to penetrate the skull and pass through the brain without harming brain tissue. The sound waves are altered as they pass through different brain structures, then the signals are read and run through the FWI algorithm. In simulations the team got results that make them confident they can produce high-resolution 3D images that may be as good, if not better, than more traditional approaches.

Such a device, because of its simplicity and presumably lower cost, could make brain imaging much more widely available.

If developed into a small, portable version, it could have a powerful impact on the diagnosis of brain injury. For example, doctors in emergency rooms or paramedics would be able to do instant brain scans of accident victims with head injuries, or stroke victims.

Current brain scanning technology is very expensive so its use is effectively rationed, with long wait times for non-emergency appointments. It’s also cumbersome, not very well suited to some emergency situations, and can’t be used on some patients. MRI, for example, can’t be used on patients with metallic medical implants or victims of accidents who might have metallic foreign bodies in them. They’re also huge, loud and confining, which can be a big issue for some patients.

How to create the best at-home videoconferencing setup, for every budget

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

TechCrunch explains how to create the best at-home videoconferencing setup, for every budget:

Level 0
Turn on a light and put it in the right place
Be aware of what’s behind you
Know your system sound settings

Level 1
Get an external webcam (e.g. Logitech C922x)
Get a basic USB mic (e.g. Samson Meteor Mic)
Get some headphones

Level 2
Use a dedicated camera and an HDMI-to-USB interface (e.g. Elgato Cam Link 4K, IOGEAR Video Capture Adapter, Magewell USB 3.0 Capture)
Get a wired lav mic (e.g. Rode’s Lavalier GO)
Get multiple lights and position them effectively

Level 3
Use an interchangeable lens camera and a fast lens
Get a wireless lav mic (e.g. Rode Wireless Go)
Use in-ear monitors (e.g. Shure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitor System, Bang & Olufsen E8)
Use 3-point lighting (e.g. Elgato’s Key Lights)

Level 4
Get an HDMI broadcast switcher deck (e.g. Blackmagic ATEM Mini)
Use a broadcast-quality shotgun mic (e.g. Rode VideoMic NTG)
Add accent lighting (e.g. Hue Play Smart LED Light Bars)

Some innovation is speeding up, but some is slowing down

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic reveals that far from living in an age of incessant technological change, we have been neglecting innovation, Matt Ridley says, in exactly the areas where we most need it:

Faced with a 17th-century plague, we are left to fall back mainly on the 17th-century response of quarantine and closing the theaters.

It is commonplace today to say that innovation is speeding up, but like much conventional wisdom, it is wrong. Some innovation is speeding up, certainly, but some is slowing down. Take speed itself. In my lifetime of more than sixty years, I have seen little or no improvement in the average speed of travel. Congestion on the roads and at airports has in many cases increased the scheduled travel time between two points. A modern airliner, with its high-bypass engines and less-swept wings, is designed to save fuel by going more slowly than a Boeing 707 did in the 1960s. The record for the fastest manned plane, 4,520 miles an hour, was set by the X-15 rocket plane in 1967 and remains unbroken. Boeing 747s are still flying half a century after they were launched. Concorde, the only supersonic passenger plane, is history.

Moreover, recent decades have seen innovation stalled or rejected in a number of technologies. Nuclear power has been unable to roll out plans for new reactor designs. Genetic modification of crops was effectively rejected by Europe. The flow of new pharmaceutical drugs has slowed to a trickle. Ride-sharing apps have been banned in many cities. As the investor Peter Thiel has pointed out, innovation is now largely a digital phenomenon, because bits are lightly regulated and atoms heavily regulated. On all sides we hear arguments that innovation threatens jobs, the environment, privacy and democracy.

Of immediate relevance to the current emergency, the development of vaccines has languished in the 21st century as an orphan technology, insufficiently encouraged by governments and ignored by the private sector. New vaccines are rarely profitable. By the time a company develops one for a new epidemic, the worst may be over. Last year Wayne Koff, president of the Human Vaccines Project, warned that the world was poorly prepared for a pandemic because vaccine development “is an expensive, slow and laborious process, costing billions of dollars, taking decades, with less than a 10% rate of success.”

It is not just vaccines. Throughout the economy, with the exception of the digital industry, the West is experiencing an innovation famine. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s “perennial gale of creative destruction” has been replaced by the gentle breezes of rent-seeking. Two recent books argue that big companies in cozy cahoots with big government increasingly shy away from change, sheltered against competition by regulation and intellectual property rights. In “The Captured Economy” (2017), Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles make the case that to the extent that incomes have been stagnating and opportunities for social mobility drying up, the cause is not too much innovation but too little. In “The Innovation Illusion” (2016), Fredrik Erixon and Bjorn Weigel argue that Western economies have “developed a near obsession with precautions that simply cannot be married to a culture of experimentation.”

Innovation relies upon freedom to experiment and try new things, which requires sensible regulation that is permissive, encouraging and quick to give decisions. By far the surest way to rediscover rapid economic growth when the pandemic is over will be to study the regulatory delays and hurdles that have now been hastily swept aside to help innovators in medical devices and therapies, and to see whether such reforms could be applied to other parts of the economy too.

[...]

Surprisingly, there is no good evidence that patents are helpful, let alone necessary, in encouraging innovation. A 2002 study by Josh Lerner, an economist at Harvard Business School, looked at 177 cases of strengthened patent policy in 60 countries over more than a century, finding that “these policy changes did not spur innovation.” James Watt, Samuel Morse, Guglielmo Marconi, the Wright brothers and many others wasted the best years of their lives in court defending their intellectual property, when they might have been busy developing new devices.

The expiration of patents often results in a burst of innovation, as with 3-D printing, where the recent lapse of three key patents has resulted in notable improvements in quality and a drop in price. The historian Anton Howes, of the Royal Society of Arts in London, points out that the French government bought out Louis Daguerre’s patent for photography in 1839 and made the technology freely available, unleashing a burst of creative innovation. Dr. Howes argues, “As we look to fight coronavirus and any future pandemics, we should perhaps consider which patents—for antivirals, vaccines, ventilators and other hygienic equipment—might be bought out in order to remove…innovation bottlenecks.”

Execution matters as much as the creative idea:

Charles Townes, who won the Nobel Prize for the physics behind the laser in 1964, was fond of telling the story of a beaver and a rabbit looking up at the Hoover Dam. “No, I didn’t build it myself,” says the beaver. “But it’s based on an idea of mine.”

That’s adapted from Ridley’s new book, How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom. I have some catching up to do on his previous books, but I’ve been a fan since I read The Red Queen.

Actual underwater combat occurs silently with very little reaction time

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Submarine movies such as Crimson Tide and Hunter Killer use torpedo chase scenes for dramatic effect:

The reality is that a torpedo maneuvering and hunting submarines that are frantically trying to evade is the least likely scenario in a modern submarine attack. As already noted, in a 21st Century torpedo attack, the target will likely never know it’s about to be destroyed. Modern submarine torpedoes have sound silencing built into their design and, unless they use their active sonar modes, they may not be detected until the moment before detonation.

A common event observed in naval exercises is two submarines passing within a few hundred meters of each other, detecting each other at the same time, and racing to get a shot off before the other. The other type of engagement is when one sub detects the other sooner, and often at range, resulting in a first shot, first kill. So, the underwater prolonged dogfights that are such beloved set pieces of modern submarine thrillers are just not the reality. Actual underwater combat occurs silently with very little reaction time to fend off an impending attack.

[...]

65cm Wake homing torpedoes, like the Russian 65-76A, are large long-range torpedoes designed to search for a ship’s wake and follow it. 65cm torpedoes have enough fuel to travel in excess of 100 kilometers at 50 knots for just over an hour. This makes evasion a very time-consuming affair, allowing the attack submarine time to evade and re-engage. There are ways to actively defeat a wake homing torpedo, but a salvo of this kind of weapon is a carrier killer.

They still think what Palo Alto brought to the table was computer science

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Most Americans remember when Washington couldn’t build a website, Mencius Moldbug says, and Palo Alto bailed it out:

They still think what Palo Alto brought to the table was computer science.

Actually, plenty of people in DC can code just fine. What Palo Alto brought was the ability to execute at scale. Back then, some website seemed important. Now we know what important means.

Coronavirus is kickstarting the 21st Century

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

A global pandemic has done what 30 years of internet manifestoes never accomplished — a mass migration into our screens: