Monthly Archives: December 2011

Links, 12/30/11



  • has put up a an animation of the trials, tribulations, and eventual demise of Phobos-Grunt, Russia’s most recent ill-fated Mars probe.
  • A proposal was made at a hacker convention to use dedicated private/cooperatively-owned satellites to evade SOPA and any other restrictive laws that are put into place.  I’m not sure whether they’ve taken into account just how much a reliable satellite communications system costs, or how they may be targeted by an irate space-capable nation.  (“Oh, hey, you guys depend on this satellite network for your acts of cybercrime?  Y’know, we’re getting tired of being hacked, so we’re going to shoot them down.  Sorry ’bout that.”)
  • Here’s an overview of private spaceflight in 2012.
  • As part of DARPA’s Phoenix program, which intends to scavenge parts from defunct satellites and use them to build new ones using robots, there’s a new movement to use the technology that’s gone into medical waldos to create robot space mechanics.




  • If you’re in an earthquake zone, don’t watch the ground for incoming quakes – watch the sky.  Apparently the leakage of radon from the highly stressed rocks of a fault that’s about to let loose can cause significant changes in the atmosphere above a fault, which can be tracked by satellite.

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Links, 12/29/11


According to this report, Stuxnet and it’s baby brother Duqu were only two out of a family of five cyber weapons; the other three haven’t been launched yet.

Google’s augmented reality program, Google Goggles, has an awesome name; I can’t wait to see it applied to AR glasses.

Transistors made from cotton – another step towards ubiquitous electronic clothing.


More drone stuff; this article talks about the program to launch Switchblade UAVs from subs, and the Tempest/Cicada UAV combo, launched from weather balloons.

China’s getting a new armored vehicle, according to Defense Tech.

Here’s a shocker:  Russia just tested a new warhead that they say is designed to deal with the West’s new missile defenses.  Such a surprise.  I may die from shock.  … not.

Here’s an article on anti-pirate technology, featuring lasers, sonic guns, skunk water (!), and the more traditional armed guards.


China’s just announced their plans for future space launches.


Forbes has posted their predictions for biotech and medicine in 2012.

All right, soap-box time: Vaccines save lives.  Yes, they should be tested to make sure that they’re safe.  But once they’re verified as safe EVERYONE should get them.  No ****ing exceptions.  You get even 10% of a population without vaccinations, and the disease will continue to thrive.  We’re seeing a resurgence in measles and other bugs in the US that should have been DYING OUT by now, because some morons think that they’re allowed to put all of us at risk just because they got scared by one (really bad) article.  For ****ing serious, people.  Stop this nonsense.  NOW.


India’s continuing it’s push towards solar, which should (hopefully) do something for their creaky and undependable power grid.

Solar-backed securities – a new way to provide funds to build solar installations.


Seems that bugs are (as usual) more clever than we give them credit for:  some varieties of crop pests are becoming resistant to the insecticide toxin produced by an extremely widespread genetically modified breed of corn.  Oh, fun.

On the subject of environmental investments, this report says that the costs of the EPA’s new air quality regulations will be around $195 billion over 20 years, but the benefits will be close to $1 trillion.


This battery/motor attachment will turn your non-electric bike into an electric bike, just by hitching the thing on.

Whups, turns out that NYT “hack” yesterday wasn’t a hack, it was somebody pushing the wrong button.  That spam was only supposed to go to 300 people, not 8 million.  Oops.

This might technically go in the military section, but it’s so silly that I didn’t want to suggest that I was taking it seriously.  Apparently British troops are in a huff over their new combat uniforms, which aren’t quite as sharp as they expect British troops to look.  They’re too American, apparently.  *cough*Maybe because they work*cough*

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Links, 12/28/11


All right, I keep seeing stories about holographic displays and holographic video players.  My problem is that they’re still in the “flying car” stage – technically feasible (you can GET a flying car today; good luck using it) but not something that will clearly work for consumer use.  Yet.  We’ll see whether they can work the bugs out over the next few years.

Just a reminder, for all those Americans out there:  We’re only 350 million people, out of 7 billion.  As the rest of the world gets rich enough to buy toys like ours, our role as market shapers will go down.  Why do I bring this up?  Because apparently we’re going to see a lot more 3D TVs outside the US.  So electronic manufacturer’s R&D will continue to work on it, even though most Americans think it’s not worth it – they’ll do it for the 300 million rich Chinese, not for us.



The US Customs and Border Protection office on the Mexico border just received its fourth predator drone.

Well duh.  Turkey says it won’t support a strike into Iran.  Did you really think they would?  They’re still growing into their role as a regional heavyweight.  They sure as hell don’t want to upset things the way a strike at Iran would.

Speaking of the Iranians, their VP just brought up their nuclear option:  closing the Strait of Hormuz.  Oh, fun.  Still, a nuclear option is only useful if it remains an option, not if you use it, so I doubt this is anything more than hyperbole.



China just switched on its own GPS system, Beidou.  It’s limited to China at the moment, but they intend to expand it over the next few years.  Europe and Russia are currently in the process of launching the 20+ (each) satellites necessary for their own systems, so the US won’t have a complete monopoly on GPS for very long.



Imagine something: Itty-bitty solar cells (about the size of a period) topped with lenses to concentrate all the incoming sunlight onto them.  This apparently produces a 41% efficiency rate (!), and at reasonable prices, too.  Maybe we’ll start seeing these popping up on the market in the next year or two?

Here’s a follow-up on yesterday’s story on China’s REE quotas.



Congress just finished up their yearly tax bill, WITHOUT renewing the subsidy for corn ethanol.  Finally.



Bwahaha, this continues to crack me up.  Now that the .xxx domain name is out, some people are scrambling to take the .xxx domain corresponding to their site off the market.  However, apparently only 24% of the most popular sites have had their .xxx domains taken.  The rest are still available, and the possibilities for mischief are mind-boggling.

The Antisec wing of Anonymous continues the holiday hacking spree, this time going after’s customer data.

And now the New York Times has apparently been hacked as well?

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Post-Christmas linkage!

Hope you had a merry Christmas!  Of course, the tech blogosphere was on holiday too, so there’s not that much to give you, which is why I’ve collapsed it all into one post.



You know “Sea Shepherd,” that group of anti-whaling activists that likes to pester the Japanese whaling fleet?  They’ve got their own surveillance drones.  Let’s see those nasty whale-hunters get away from them now!  Link 1   Link 2   Link 3

3D printing is the Next Big Thing.  I’m not entirely convinced that it will be as earth-shaking as some seem to believe, but if it takes off next year, like this article suggests, who know what might be down the road a little?



Britain is planning a billion-dollar program to develop armored vehicles and UAVs

The Army is sending three new drone helos into Afghanistan, equipped with wide angle cameras so that they can hover and scan large swathes of territory.   CNET link    Defense Tech link

A Danger Room article on China’s subs, and how they’re really kinda noisy.  China may well be getting more assertive with them, but they’re apparently not that hard to hunt down.



Want to get a better view of our blue marble?  Don’t want to risk the failure of a rocket launch?  Go up in a balloon!  It won’t get you as high, but it’ll still be quite a view.

Here we go!’s list of most-anticipated space missions in 2012.  Keep your eyes out for these.

China just launched a high-rez remote sensing satellite.  This isn’t massively noteworthy in and of itself, except that it apparently breaks the US’ record for most space launches in a year.  Now that’s interesting…



Spinal injuries suck.  The nerves don’t regenerate, which leaves people paralyzed.  Figuring out how to make them regenerate is one of the holy grails of medicine, because if you can make nerve cells regrow, you can fix a lot of neurological problems.  One of the problems with the “figuring it out” part is that you have to slice up the tissue you’re experimenting on in order to see how it’s doing – which has a tendency to distort the tissue and can lead to mistakes in generating a 3D image of the structure.  So now some smart fellows have figured out how to make spinal tissue transparent, so that they can see WTF is going on.

Hrm.  This is disturbing.  I’ve always known that I take my life in my hands when I go out on the freeway, but apparently car crashes are now causing fewer deaths than poisoning, which has been going up thanks mostly to drug (legal and illegal) overdose.  The graph is interesting.



MIT’s Technology Review has a review of emerging technologies in the energy sector

Kites that generate energy.  I’ve been seeing plans and bright ideas on these for a while, but here’s one that seems to actually work.  They have more pictures of it here.

If you’re tracking China’s rare earth element exports, they just released the first tranche of quotas for 2012.



Paragliding is fun, but the problem is that you often can’t stay aloft for very long.  So, why not use trained hawks to show you where the thermals are?  And thus was born the sub-sport of parahawking.

Bones are piezoelectric.  That means that you can make speakers out of them.  A little macabre, but cool.

STRATFOR, an international events analysis and forecasting firm, got hacked on Christmas.  What a great present for all the employees (and especially the CEO) to wake up to, don’t you think?  The spread of the story and the number of articles on it shows how interested we are in hackers; my question is, is it because we’re scared of them, or because we like watching other people suffer from them (a la watching a train wreck or a car crash)?

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Miscellaneous links, 12/23/11

  • Belarus is going to build… the greatest spacecraft ever?  Really?  I just about died laughing when I read that headline.
  • Here’s a cool kite.  Not really anything more than that, just a really nice piece of design and construction.
  • A new radiator design, which tries to look and act like an indoor campfire.
  • Gah.  Christchurch, New Zealand got hit by another earthquake.  Not cool.
  • The Iranians are getting set to rehearse their Doomsday weapon, closing the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Heh.  I like this, it’s a nice way to rethink lighting and flashlight design.
  • Vending machines… for pudding?  And they’re making it able to tell the difference between children and adults, and shoo the kids away without any dessert?  Okay, whatever gets your product out there.
  • Legos + Geeks = Funny projects

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Technology links, 12/23/11

Fast Company writes about two new studies out, which say that cell phone use will explode in the developing world, and that governments will be able to watch and record everything on said phones.  And you thought some regimes were repressive before.

Google’s latest massive R&D project is augmented-reality glasses.  Really cool, if you don’t object to seeing ads being plastered on every flat surface (they gotta make money somehow, right?)

Keep an eye on facial recognition.  Not an earth-shattering technology, but if it becomes ubiquitous and accurate enough, it’ll lead to some… interesting changes.

Optical computers are one step closer:

Using a code made out of gestures on a screen, instead of one using a number-pad, to unlock a smartphone:

*Gulp*  Congress just authorized “offensive use of cyberwarfare.”  Oh boy.  (I’m not sure that this is going to actually change anything, actually; it seems to be more of a legal acknowledgement of what the Pentagon and CIA are already capable of)

Speaking of cyberattacks, the insurance industry is expecting a boom in demand for insurance against cyber attacks next year (and for many years after, most likely):

In support of flexible, lightweight computing power, scientists have doubled the conductivity of organic semiconductors (which may lead to that “flexible, lightweight computing” I was talking about) by compressing them.

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Space links, 12/23/11

NASA ‘Smart SPHERES’ Tested on ISS:  little spherical robots, with smartphones for brains, that are designed to move around in zero-G conditions and help out astronauts.  So cool.

Yet another reason why many exo-planets aren’t going to be habitable: not even a strong magnetic field can save you from irradiation if your sun’s solar wind is strong enough.

How do you weigh something in zero-G, when they’re weightless?  By using a Kinect, apparently.

/facepalm.  Russia had another space-launch fail Friday, as a rocket with a satellite payload crashed after launch.  Many articles on it, understandably.

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