Car that can fly? No. Plane that can drive? Yes

The Transition Roadable Aircraft carries two and will cost nearly $200,000.

The FAA has allowed a small weight exception for the The Transition Roadable Aircraft, developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm Terrafugia. Basically, this allows it to be 1,430lbs instead of 1,320lbs and still be classified as a light sports aircraft. This is not that big an exception, as seaplane light sports aircraft are also given this limit - so going on the road = going on the ocean more or less.

This thing, much as reports would like you to read it that way, is not a flying car. It is a plane that you might be able to drive on the road (not sure what kind of exceptions it is going to need for that - no way it will pass passenger car safety tests). It will however go about 70mph on the roads - which is not bad. However, at about $200,000 this is not going to be flight for the masses just yet.

Actually, what interests me more than a $200,000 plane which you can drive to your private airstrip is just how interested people are in the idea of flying cars. People really care about flying cars. This is the kind of tech story you would normally find on wired, popsci, and maybe engadget - and its a top story on CNN instead. A few years ago I remember reading that the bestselling PopSci issues are the ones with flying cars on the cover - they try and work one in every year it seems. In essence, we really really want a flying car.

Personally, I think the Goodyear Inflatoplane was possibly the coolest attempt, with an inflatable rubber wing, rear fuselage and tail, which could then be stored.

File:Gooyear inflatoplane in air.jpg

from wiki:

Although it seemed an improbable project, the finished aircraft proved to be capable of meeting its design objectives although its sponsor, the United States Army, ultimately cancelled the project when it could not find a "valid military use for an aircraft that could be brought down by a well-aimed bow and arrow."

Yeah - I still would have flown one. Of course, the only downside is mixing spinning blades and an aircraft made of rubber and pressurized air... hrm...

Down with AAPL

CNN gets what so many of the fanboy tech writers dont: the iPhone 4 is flawed. Like do-not-buy-one-there-will-be-a-massive-class-action-lawsuit flawed

"According to documents leaked to Boy Genius Report today, AppleCare representatives are being given a strong company line to deliver to unhappy iPhone 4 owners who complain about reception issues.

Employees are told to say that the device's reception performance "is the best we have ever shipped" and that its critical antenna flaws are "a fact of life in the wireless world." They are told not to perform service on iPhones with these problems and instead to give customers a PR-driven recitative instead.

Outside the reality distortion field, on the other hand, we and many others have been able to duplicate the issue being discussed: When held by its sides, which are composed of a metal antenna band, the phone's reception quality drops dramatically. iPhone owners in our newsroom have seen reception decrease from five to two bars simply from holding the phone with two points of contact between the owner's hand and the antenna band."

Apple is the hot girl who gets away with treating people like crap. For some reason - the apple fanbase (hipsters and the alternative set) seem to really like this. Like my previous argument about IPA it lets them validate their inherent hipness.

Thankfully, its importance and pull is fading, as Android quickly takes over. And of course, I have to give a sad callout to Palm and webOS - at least we are above Windows Mobile...


Russia is crazy

You think that Norm would not comment on the spy scandal? Hell - I love spy scandals - but I think this one is especially interesting.

First of all - you have the Russians going all Cold War on our ass. Literally. None of this digital stuff, we are talking about dead drops, secret passwords, maps with stamps on them, microdots etc. They did also do a little bit of online transfers (embedding things in images for example) and a lot of lying and building up cover stories on social networking sites, but overall the tradecraft was pretty much in line with the beautiful 1979 Lada.

The interesting thing is that these people were pretty much living their legend (legend being the long-term cover story, background, and current livelihood of the spy) - these spies were seriously embedded - like a tick on a rhino's ass.

So deeply embedded that it is kind of hard to imagine. Many of them were married, with kids, yet living in the US with false documents, false pretenses, etc etc. The idea of building a family while giving your life also to the motherland - pretty interesting stuff, and pretty screwed up really.

But what is perhaps more interesting is Russia's reaction to the whole thing.

The near universal reaction in Russia is that is was all made up by US hawks, and is an attempt to derail the improving relations lead by Obama. Most Russians think the spy scandal clearly plays into Putin's hands, and shows Medvedev in a bad light. Yes - Russia is a different world.

"So stupid! US special services let their president down conducting the silliest operation to capture sham Russian spies."
- Tvoi Den, one of Russia's most popular tabloid newspapers

More, from a news article:

'Mass-circulation newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets -- known for its close ties to the Kremlin -- said that "it would be more logical to assume that the main target in this story is Obama who has a lot of ill-wishers in his own country."

"There's more politics than intelligence in this scandal," it added.

Quoting an unidentified high-ranking source in diplomatic circles, Kommersant said all the country's "eloquent speakers" had been ordered to refrain from making public comments so as not to fan the flames of the spy scandal.

Many of the commentators, who usually speak on behalf of the Kremlin, refused to comment on Tuesday.

The White House said Obama knew the FBI was closing in on the 11 alleged spies when he met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a warm White House summit and chummy burger bar trip last week, though did not mention it.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was repeatedly goaded in his daily briefing to condemn Russia's action, but styled the operation as solely a "law enforcement" matter.

Gibbs said Obama had known about the unfolding operation against the alleged ring of sleeper spies, in four northeastern states, before he met Medvedev here last week and at G8 and G20 meetings in Canada'

Then there is the whole President vs. Prime Minister aspect of it:

Here is the Russian reaction:

"It really looked like Medvedev was gaining points, starting to close the gap between him and Putin in terms of who is most capable," says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow.

But now Medvedev looks like he fell into an American trap, by making concessions on Russia's Iran policy and other issues amid the warm glow of Obama's hospitality, then getting hit with these spy allegations just as he was leaving, Mr. Konovalov says.

"This scandal shows Medvedev as not so tough, not so experienced as the former intelligence officer Putin," in the eyes of people who really matter in Moscow, meaning the military and security establishment. "So, objectively, this can only play directly into Putin's hands," he adds.

You see - Medvedev is not so weak as Putin would have liked, and has been setting himself up to challenge the modern-day iron man of Russia. Elections are still two years off, so there is still plenty of time to invade former Soviet Republics or commit genocide against ethnic groups within Russia, not to mention illegally take over national or foreign assets, or murder critical reporters.

Politics is just more exciting in Russia. And by exciting, I mean a power, revenge, and vodka fueled rampage.

Dos Equis

Dos Equis - Sharks Have a week dedicated to him

Really Dumb Headline

Looking at the news this morning -came across this gem of a headline and tagline. Journalistic excellence... not to mention - who the hell cares about the middle of the curve?

New Mexico ranks 32nd fattest in U.S. - ‎1 hour ago‎
New Mexican's are less fat than most states, but still rank as the 32nd fattest in US, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation .

FIFA F's up - says "maybe" to technology - sorta

FIFA is about as responsive to customer complaints as your typical Chinese eBay seller - they don't give a damn.

But they did say they would consider goal-line technology so that the above bullshit shenanigans never happens again. To not consider it would be "nonsense."

At the same time, they completely ruled out the possibility of even considering the 21st century video replay so that when their refs are paid off totally blow it they can still get their kickbacks only have to face possible assassination by angry Brits, Mexicans, Americans, and possibly a few more (from this world cup alone).

My Non-Libertarian View: Guns

I don't believe in the right to bear arms.

I am a libertarian and think that the protection of an individuals rights is the most important aspect of society.

But I do not think that the right to own a specific kind of weapon ever has been or ever will be a fundamental right. The argument for them is usually a secondary one: owning a gun increases your ability to protect your other rights, and thus they are critical to civil liberties.

I think not. Guns do little good, and contrary to the NRA's campaigns, it is guns that kill people. In the UK, you have a higher rate of violent crimes and a much lower murder rate. Surprising? not really. It is much harder to kill if you don't have a gun - and that is a good thing.

The number one argument given as to why guns should not be banned is a practical one: bad guys can always get them, and then the good guys (usually in the form of "me") would not be able to get one.

I will concede that is likely the case - it would be possible to get a gun - but it would be much much more difficult. Again - in the UK most criminals do not carry guns, gangs don't have access to guns etc. Every once in a while someone gets hold of a gun and goes crazy or commits a crime - but this is not an argument for allowing guns but rather an argument for why they should be completely banned and removed. Studies consistently show that the only things likely go up when you own a gun are your own chance of dying, committing suicide, or harming those around you.

Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):

Homicide Suicide Other (inc Accident)

USA (2001) 3.98 5.92 0.36
Italy (1997) 0.81 1.1 0.07
Switzerland (1998) 0.50 5.8 0.10
Canada (2002) 0.4 2.0 0.04
Finland (2003) 0.35 4.45 0.10
Australia (2001) 0.24 1.34 0.10
France (2001) 0.21 3.4 0.49
England/Wales (2002) 0.15 0.2 0.03
Scotland (2002) 0.06 0.2 0.02
Japan (2002) 0.02 0.04 0
Data taken from Cukier and Sidel (2006) The Global Gun Epidemic

Still support guns?

Let us review what is actually written in the Bill of Rights, as passed by this nation's Congress:
" A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

However, the original proposed text read this:
"A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person."

The idea of the founding fathers was clearly that the nation should be allowed to protect and defend itself and have a military force. The last sentence in this version shows how closely linked (nearly interchangeable) the notions of "bearing arms" and "military service" were. In a nation of farmers, this military force was by necessity largely comprised of citizen-soldiers formed into militia. As the nation matured, this role was then filled by a professional armed forces - who have the right to bear arms.

The other aspect of the right to bear arms is and was the moral check against the power of the state. This is the other way in which the founding fathers saw the right to bear arms as a necessity. In order to protect your rights, the people should be able to defend themselves against a tyrant government.

Again - using guns to do so made sense. Two hundred years ago. When a military was pretty much made up of untrained guys with rifles. Today the idea of individuals taking up arms against the US government? Untenable.

Gun proponents put forward the practical argument that getting rid of guns would be difficult as their main defense, I put forward the practical argument that individuals using guns against the modern military in order to defend themselves against tyranny is near on impossible. "The people" still are a bunch of untrained guys with rifles. The military has moved just a little beyond that. It would be akin to the colonial wars in Africa, and I mean the British or the Germans, not the Italians: rifles against rockets, handguns against network-centric battlefield command and control. The idea of using guns to protect your rights against the government is a technical and practical impossibility, and as such is a moot point - interesting academically, but irrelevant.

I believe that the government should be afraid of its people, but the power of the people is not based on the barrel of a gun but the ability to engage in and even "overthrow" a government through peaceful means. The modern conception of rights and political theory has no room in it for the idea or necessity of owning a weapon designed and needed only to kill another person. It would be like arguing that dueling is a sensible way to settle disputes, chopping off hands prevents thieves, or murder is effective method for handing over executive power. It is outdated and barbaric, and leads to the ridiculous murder rate in this country and the pathetic truth that South American and Mexican drug cartels get their weapons by, legally, buying them in this country.

This was all prompted by the fact that the Supreme Court just struck down Chicago's 28yr old ban on guns within the city. Previously, the 2nd amendment applied only to Federal areas (it did not apply to the States - ever, until now. Literally, until today, it only applied to Federal Laws and Washington D.C.)

In other words, cities facing rampant gun related crimes and deaths, staggering murder rates, violent crimes on a daily basis, and significant risk for individuals who chose not to be involved (and thus their rights are violated) as well as police and public services, are not allowed to limit the "right" to bear arms.

Ridiculous. Of course - I actually agree with the ruling - as far as the legal developments go, interpretation of the 2nd amendment, etc. Honestly, I think it is the only place where the Constitution hamstrings this country from developing - most of the time I would be a fan of striking down a limitation on a "right" - it is just that the right to bear arms should never be considered a fundamental right (but that is not for the Supreme Court to decide - it is for the people to figure out).

Apple Responds to BoN review

Well, kinda. They put out this statement on the holding-with-the-left-hand-means-no-more-talky-talky issue:

"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your Phone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

Doesn't Apple just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Runaway Train

Congress has lost control.

"After the Wall Street collapse in the 1930s, Congress laid the groundwork for historic reforms with a meticulous investigation of the misdeeds of corporate bankers by the Senate Banking and Currency Committee – known as the Pecora Commission after the panel’s chief counsel, Ferdinand Pecora. But the 111th Congress didn’t wait for completion of a probe to propose fixes. The ongoing Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, chaired by former California state treasurer Phil Angelides, is to report to Congress in December."

Instead they are going to try and ram through a bill which fixes what caused the financial crises, by getting rid of the huge downfalls of a mixed economy created by Freddie and Fannie and government regulation which creates asset bubbles and false security.

Wait, whats this? The bill does not even mention or deal with Freddie and Fannie? But everyone knows they were the root of the issue. Ohh - too hard to deal with, so you are going to screw over companies which did nothing wrong in order to appeal to your emotional fan-base, by imposing regulations which have nothing to do with what went wrong and then taxing those same companies to pay for them. Right. Good work. Makes sense to me, you chicken-shit excuse for a congress.

Democrats in bed with the NRA

This is just pathetic. Congress passed a new campaign finance bill because its old one got torn to shreds by the Supreme Court - and this one is even more arbitrary and likely unconstitutional.

Even more sickening, it passed with a carve-out for the NRA and large labor-unions. In other words, the regulations apply to any business or smaller group in America, but not the NRA and major unions. WTF is that?

Really gooddamn sickeningly pathetic is what it is. How can you claim this has anything to do with freedom of speech when it creates a two-tiered system. Where the hell in the constitution is the justification that large organizations should have more freedom than small organizations?

This is "Hope and Change" in action.

The only thing that will let us survive the Obama era is that most of these bills are and will likely eventually be ruled as unconstitutional.

In passing this kind of utter crap, Congress has lost all sense of dignity, honor, common sense, and basic fairness.


Drilling Ban

A little while ago I wrote about how the drilling ban in the gulf was an idiotic (and luckily shot down by the judicial branch - so far) decision on the part of our President. So... par for the course from Obama really.

But more and more article have come out in the last couple days about how everyone in Louisiana, after being hit hard by Katrina and now this seemingly endless disaster... is against the ban as well.

They realize that a) the events leading up to this disaster were rare, unlikely to ever be repeated, and not representative of the overall industry and b) this is a really friggin idiotic time to be heaping more economic disaster on the gulf region.

Obama trying to get BP to pay for all the rigs that Obama arbitrarily shut down is ridiculous again. Let me give again the example that this would be like one airline having a disaster, and the government banning all air travel and forcing that company to pay for it. Ridiculous.

Anyway, I feel really bad for Louisiana, they have certainly not had it easy, but it is good to see that their top desire is to get things done - the real American way - rather than blame others and destroy rather than create.

Soccer, the other football

Soccer it seems is on the up and up in the land of made-for-TV sports. I mean, I like watching American football and all - but the game is usually about 9 minutes long but takes 2 and 1/2 hours to play. Something is wrong there.

Soccer is 90 (usually 94 total actually) minutes long.. and takes about 20 mins more than that to play. There are sometimes longish periods without goals, but rarely are there long periods of nothing going on - especially at the highest level. It always surprises me that this is American's number one complaint about soccer, when baseball can go for hours with nothing more exciting than a close call on a strike.

Regardless, it seems that attendance at MLS is now higher than the NHL, and the ABC/ESPN ratings for this world cup are much higher than the last few (though I think '94 was still higher).

A number of commentators are talking about this as the rise of America actually caring about soccer. And to a degree I think that is true. My generation grew up playing soccer - it for a few decades now has been the most popular sport for kids.

But there is something else not really mentioned as often as it should be - the US is growing increasingly more interested in soccer at the same time the US is growing increasingly more hispanic. When I lived in Salt Lake City, the MLS team was very popular - Real Salt Lake (thats ree ahl Salt Lake, as in Real Madrid - not "real"), but not with the white mormon folks - the main fans and supporters came from the hispanic population.

So I am really glad about the fact that the US is starting to care more about soccer, but I think commentators often fail to connect the dots between demographics and changes in attitudes.

Pics of the day: USNS Mercy and Comfort

These ships are an example of why America is a great nation. The third largest class of ship in the US Navy (after the two nuclear carrier classes), the Mercy class is a massive floating hospital. They have been deployed only once for war – the Gulf war – but spend much of their time in the Pacific and Atlantic respectively offering free hospital care to hundreds of thousands and support in times of need and natural disaster, from the tsunami, to Katrina, to broad tours around the globe.
File:USNS Mercy off Jolo.jpgFile:USNS Comfort Statue of Liberty.jpg

Great Stuff from Craigslist

best of craigslist > new york > penis caught in my zipper at el biet - m4w Originally Posted: Fri, 1 Jan 22:21 EST

penis caught in my zipper at el biet - m4w

Date: 2010-01-01, 10:21PM EST

i had just gone in for a normal pee, but the way you pounded, and pounded, and pounded on the door screaming "out! i have diarrhea! out! for the love of god come out, its coming out of my butt, pleeeeease!!!" got me so turned on that i got an erection. then, because your kicking started splintering the door, i quickly yanked up my zipper and caught my penis up in the process. i'm sorry again for the screaming as you pushed me down and sat down with the door hanging off it's hinges, but the look of sheer horror and embarrassment we shared in front of the staff and other patrons looking on before you ran out the back door and climbed over the fence has captured my heart. please describe what i was wearing so i know its you.

  • Location: williamsburg
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 1533449788

best of craigslist > washington, DC > The Grinding Wheels of Justice Bunkbed Originally Posted: Sat, 2 Jan 10:05 EST

The Grinding Wheels of Justice Bunkbed

Date: 2010-01-02, 10:05AM EST

So there you are, suddenly single after fifteen years of faithful monogamy that came to a crashing halt when you discovered that the other �partner� felt that monogamy only applied to one of you, and it wasn�t her. Now, despite the fact that you�ve been a hard-working sole provider for a decade and a half and you technically own half of a really nice, big, house in the burbs, you find yourself sitting in an unfurnished crappy little two-bedroom apartment little bigger than the one you first moved into straight out of college. You have an old table with one chair, a beat up couch you got from your folks back in the early 90s and which they got in the 70s, a mattress with no frame, and thank god, a tv. (But that bitch wouldn�t let you have the remote, would she?) You�re not exactly at the top of your game, but what�s worse is that you don�t know where the kids will sleep.

Yea, the kids. They still love you. They want to come and see you. They did nothing wrong. But now you have nowhere (other than the couch) for them to sleep.

Sound familiar? Well then have I got a deal for you. Feast your eyes upon the Grinding Wheels of Justice Bunkbed.

You see, it will get better. The wheels of karmic justice may grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. You will reconstruct your ego, and your life. Then you�ll slowly start having a social life. You�ll fix some of those things about yourself you always wanted to fix but didn�t have the time/energy because you were so busy being provider/husband/father. You�ll meet a brilliant and gorgeous woman who, coincidentally, happens to be much younger than you. You�ll fall in love. For her part, your ex will fall into bankruptcy, get all sorts of inappropriate tattoos, and basically ruin her own life without any help from you. But the first step to all of that is having somewhere for the kids to sleep. That�s where the bunkbed comes in.

As you can see from the picture, it�s steel framed, relatively new, comes with two mattresses, and the bottom bunk is a couch until you pull it out into a futon. So here is the scale:

If any or all of this applies to you, if you are the one who was cheated (male or female) on and you STILL had to move out and need somewhere for your kids to sleep: $75 and hell, I�ll throw in some pillows for you.

If you are a single mother or father, perhaps for other reasons, it�s still a bargain at $100

If you are a young couple, working hard to make ends meet but doing pretty well, with your whole lives in front of you: $101

If you are the one who cheated in your marriage/partnership, the one who had to leave the house because you could not stop your libido from overruling your vows: $3,275. And I get to punch you in the face. In fact, I'll probably do that anyway, on the principle of the thing.

  • Location: Capitol Hill
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PostingID: 1533779057

best of craigslist > seattle > World's most uncomfortable saddle Originally Posted: Fri, 1 Jan 23:41 PST

World's most uncomfortable saddle

Date: 2010-01-01, 11:41PM PST

Like a ghastly specter from your darkest nightmare, this saddle has returned from the grave seeking vengeance. Its previous master thought it had banished it to the blackness of the abyss for good, but nay, it was only for an epoch.

*Steel rails forged by LUCIFER himself
*Genuine Auroch hide seat provides maximum chafing

I am reaching the end of my strength, as the madness contained within this dark artifact threatens to consume me. I cannot merely throw this adamantine saddle on the rubbish heap, lest some unwary passerby become transfixed by its lightless glow. No, I must only give this to one with the courage to look into the bloodshot eyes of insanity, and the strength to master it. A wizard with the cunning to master this beast gains an ally of unspeakable power: the ultimate theft deterrent. At the moment the thief straddles your steed, his fate is sealed. Eager for revenge upon mortals, the saddle will visit his arse with blisters that rival the torment of fire and brimstone... a dire lesson he will not soon forget. This same fate will befall any unworthy mortal who in his arrogance, attempts to mount the saddle of doom. Are you worthy?

  • Location: Green Lake
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PostingID: 1533612838

best of craigslist > new york > 1500 live ladybugs, accidently bought while drunk, feels bad. Originally Posted: Sat, 5 Dec 15:34 EST

1500 live ladybugs, accidently bought while drunk, feels bad.

Date: 2009-12-05, 3:34PM EST

So, after consuming pot brownies and getting a little too drunk on thanksgiving a friend and i decided to buy 1500 live ladybugs from amazon, which was a great idea until they came in the mail. Now they're sitting on my windowsill and I have nothing to really do with them. If i set them free they'll die in this weather, if I leave them on my windowsill they'll die.

So, if you have a greenhouse or some kind of animals to feed them to it'd be awesome. I don't want to ruin 1500 lives.

Email me and tell me what your'e gonna do with them, and if you can come pick them up. And they're yours.

  • Location: park slope
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PostingID: 1496543734

World Cup Odds - bookies guess the groups (automatically updates - so check back)

Some of the groups are set. Indeed, the US and England, the two teams I really care about, already know who they will be facing in the next round. The US will face Ghana, certainly a winnable match, but the interesting part is that one of the teams from among the U.S., Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay will be in the semifinals. A fairly unlikely crew.

For England, it is in a corner of the bracket with Germany, Argentina, and Mexico.. which is.. not good. If it beats Germany (and I really hope it does) it will then have to get past Argentina, which will be... difficult. Not to mention the fact that England loves both the Germans and the Argentinians (for those who dont remember such things - the Falklands war was between the UK and Argentina in '82 - we spanked them like a German at a sex-expo).

File:The empire strikes back newsweek.jpg

Anyway - here are some simulated odds pulled together - perhaps the most interesting is that Spain, which came in as #2 in the world and with many people expecting them to win it all, has under a 70% chance of advancing and is ranked below Uruguay and well below Argentina in terms of odds to win the cup.

As you may notice - this thing updates itself, so check back to look at the odds. Will put up a new one once we are out of the group stage.

Norm's iPhone 4 Review: Apple Losing It

If you go around the web you can find any number of glowing reviews of the new iPhone. Not here.

Lets go over the main new features in terms of software:
"In addition, the iPhone now includes an updated operating system—which also can be installed free on the prior model—that introduces catch-up software features such as limited multitasking (the ability to run apps simultaneously); folders for grouping related apps; and, for email, a unified inbox for multiple accounts and the ability to present messages as threaded conversations"

All of this crap is something I have had for a year on my Pre, and is built into every version of Android. In addition, webOS has full, not limited multitasking. Android, though not as good on that front as the crystal-clear card view of webOS, is still much more powerful than iPhone OS 4.

In terms of hardware, the phone now has a 1ghz chip and a higher resolution screen, along with a front facing camera you can use to video chat with other iPhone users as long as you are both connected to wifi, not a cellular connection. Woohoo. Honestly, that does nothing for you. The new screen is nice, sure, but is in the same class as the screens on the HTC EVO 4G, Droid X, or any of the latest and greatest. Same goes for the processor.

Its just more of the same - and the iPhone now has to contend with Andriod (I wont pretend webOS has really made a dent itself - Palm really blew it as I have gone over before - but Android 2.0+ borrows heavily from webOS - something Google has openly talked about), which is better, faster, more versatile, and less constrained. And you can get it in whatever configuration you want, on whatever carrier you want, at a price point that you like (your monthly phone bill should not be in the same league as your car payment).

More and more people buy phones based on their OS (whether they think about it that way or not). They like phones that are easy to learn and use, are powerful, simple, and take care of everything for them while allowing them to be more mobile. iPhone OS 4 is playing catchup with Android (and even webOS) - no longer is Apple in the driver's seat. Every new feature on the iPhone 4 is already available from a competitor. And guess what, with the EVO 4G - you have (you guessed it) a 4G connection to go with that shiny new processor, giant hi-res screen, and forward facing camera. And oh yeah, you can make video calls to any Android phone or any computer, anywhere, anytime.

Honestly - the best thing about the iPhone 4 is that cool built-in antenna. Which is only ironically sad because it really needs it because ATT's network is so totally shot by the number of iPhones on it (and the lack of coverage compared to Verizon). But even more than that...

It turns out that the antenna causes you to drop you call any time you hold the phone with your left hand. You see that little line in the metal band down on the right side of this photo? That is where the cellular and wifi/bluetooth antennas split. If you hold the phone with your left hand, your palm bridges the gap between the two, and presto, no more call. To solve the problem, you have to put your phone in a rubber case... which totally mitigates the beautiful industrial design and concept of wrapping the antenna around the outside.

So there you have it - the iPhone 4 is now officially behind the curve.

The Tesla IPO - Irony and History in motion

It is more than somewhat fitting and slightly ironic that Elon Musk chose "Tesla" as the name of his electric car company.

The original Tesla, Mr. Tesla himself, was a brilliant scientist who was a founding father in the study and use of electricity.

He was also chased after impossible pipe dreams, made it damn near impossible to tell his truths form his lies, his brilliant revolutionary theories based in fact from his wishes based on dreams.

What lives on from Tesla is not a behemoth of industry such as conEdison. No, what lives on from Tesla are a string of brilliant ideas, a fundamental way in which the world works, but a feeling that he was always looking forward too far, to something always not quite there, and that he knew he would not be able to actually achieve. To this day, Telsa, a genius, a scoundrel, a brilliant inventor, has an air about him of wishes and dreams, what could have been but never was.

And today, Tesla, the motor company, is going cap-in-hand to investors, trying to sell itself through an IPO. Recognizing the fact that the company is broke, the founder is broke, the company has had only one quarter of profit (and that was a stretch accounting wise), and the company since its inception has lost a few hundred million and is living off an idiotic loan from Obama at the cost of taxpayers - the IPO is not quite the usual fare.

You see, from the start, Tesla has been all about the technology. It was started in Silicon Valley, its early investors were all tech investors (including the founders of Google, among others). Though it has sold only 1,000 cars, it has been in the news incessantly. Though the next generation car has yet to be built, hell there is not even a rolling testbed, many people know and have heard of the Tesla Model S - our President has even mentioned it. And yet here is a company claiming that though it has only built and sold 1,000 cars, in 5 years it will sell 20,000 a year. That though it currently has 50 dealers and no one knows how to service the cars, they will be adopted with open arms by consumers. Though in a 30mpg family sedan (hell even the 305hp 2011 Mustang gets 30mpg) 100,000 miles only costs $11,667 at $3.50/gl gasoline - Tesla expects a massive pent up demand for an electric sedan which costs $25,000 more than its competitors.

In other words, what Tesla is selling, just like the original Tesla, is a dream. A beautiful dream to be sure. The difference is that Nikolai Tesla once tore up a contract which could have made him the first world's first billionaire, because it might have bankrupted Westinghouse and quashed Tesla's dreams of free energy for all: he let Westinghouse and eventually the world use his AC current and AC motor free of royalties. Tesla Motors has already traded away its technology, for some cash from Mercedes and an old factory from Toyota. I am not sure there is much more left in it.

Last December, when valuing internal stock options, the company priced them at $6.63. In March they were $9.96. Now the company is trying for an IPO at $15, which would value the company at $1.5 billion. But it has only sold 1,063 cars, has lost $150 million to date, and wont have a new model to sell until about 2013, at best. In addition, Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, Renault, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Subaru, Nissan, Ford and GM are all planning or already selling (in the case of Nissan) all-electric vehicles or hybrids that can run purely on electric power such as the Chevy Volt.

In other words - the hottest thing about this stock will probably be the cost to borrow it in order to short the hell out of it (bet against it in the stock market).

This is from an investor who was invited to the IPO roadshow:

"I went to the IPO roadshow for potential institutional investors yesterday in San Francisco," he says. "They were hand-picked technology types. The investment bankers (the IPO is underwritten by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Deutche Bank) are clearly aiming this IPO at the tech/Silicon Valley investor crowd, not at industrial investors, who would have laughed them out of the room. For that matter, the Tesla types are not car guys, either. They spent the time pounding their chests about [their] Sili Valley pedigrees. I doubt anyone there knew the difference between oversteer and understeer."

The targeting of tech investors seems overtly cynical, but given the insular nature of investing and the possibility of competitive concerns from industrial investors, it's probably a shrewd move. When discussing the actual viability of Tesla as a more mainstream manufacturer, rather than a boutique builder, things get interesting. The 258-page company prospectus features 42 pages of risks, risks associated with everything from Tesla's relative car-building inexperience to the public's perception of electric cars.

Our attendee: "Someone in the room asked about availability of service, given lack of dealerships. Blank look on Elon's face: 'Well, these cars don't really need service,' he said. 'You don't need, you know, oil changes and things.'" This is, of course, most concerning from a support and repair perspective. The company plans to have just 50 Tesla dealers worldwide by the time of the 2012 Tesla Model S launch — a vehicle that it hopes to sell some 20,000 examples of per year. Even without oil changes, the limited number of locations will mean trouble for regularly scheduled maintenance. Not only is the dismissal of regular maintenance items troublesome, but specialized service will likely be required for the high-powered controllers and battery packs.

As far as production plans are concerned, the company will be bringing everything in house, utilizing the the former NUMMI facility in California, the facility that Toyota essentially traded for an equity stake and subsystem/expertise sharing. "Most of the NUMMI factory will be empty," our insider says. "[Tesla plans to use] only a small portion of the floorplan, with the remainder reserved for future production and upgrades." There was some discussion of production plans, but it sounded like a Silicon Valley production mentality: Build a fab[rication shop], build pilot production at a loss, but expect production costs to fall dramatically as volumes increase and manufacturing expertise improves. That would sound ludicrous to industrial investors, but it makes perfect sense to Sili Valley types. (Think Apple iPhone v4, hard drives the size of a fingernail, etc.)"

Here's the kicker: If the plan to lose cash on the outset and make up the difference in volume and cost savings sounds familiar, it should — it's one of the practices that led to Detroit automakers losing money hand over fist and turning out lackluster products for decades. According to our insider, "they want to sell 20,000 units a year of the S Model (sic) at about $58,000 each, although fully optioned cars could boost that by as much as 50%. Break-even is said to be 12,500 units." Even considering the supposed pent-up demand among environmentalists for a car like the Model S, those are ambitious goals for a small company planning to launch a niche luxury product into a soft market.

Frankly, we're skeptical. We've seen how brutal and unforgiving the market can be, and other automakers aren't simply going to roll over and surrender that volume to Tesla. Nissan is leading the way with its bargain-priced Leaf, and the Chevy Volt, although a different breed of vehicle, will compete almost directly with the Model S at half the price. It may be that their plans are very carefully arranged and well thought-out, but that doesn't come through in the presentation.

If Tesla and Musk can pull their plans off, they'll have established the first new and major independent American automaker in a half century, and that's something to root for. But they're going to have to do a better job of convincing us that they're up to the task."

For even more reading - check out this WSJ article:

Japanese like Italian "Thrusting Motion"

Mazda is giving up on its "Nagare" styling theme. Though it produced some truly beautiful show cars, the swoopy organic lines were hard to translate onto production cars, specifically boxy shaped vehicles such as the Mazda 5. In addition, the main designer behind Nagare left about 18mo ago for Tesla, which means he will be getting a chance to draw a lot of art and build very few vehicles.

In search of a new design direction, Mazda has stated it is looking to become a Japanese Alfa Romeo. As such, its new design direction will be known as "Thrusting Motion".

Seriously. The Japanese want to be more like the Italians so they are copying their "Thrusting Motion"...

Nokia Tablets to Save Nokia

Nokia remains the largest cellphone company in the world, but its smartphones... well... they are terrible. Do you know anyone rocking the latest Nokia N-series? Maybe the N98? No? No one?

Yeah - thats because they are barely even sold over here, largely because the operating system is about as up-to-date and attractive as Windows Mobile. Nokia phones have been stuck in a pre-iPhone world, and couldn't break out.

Nokia even paid $1 billion to buy Symbian, the company which makes the software for Nokia phones (and some other companies as well before that). But symbian was unable to make an effective modern operating system, which is why as of today a little known science project of Nokia's will step up to try and save the company.

By this I mean Nokia's line of internet tablets, one of which I bought for my brother a few years ago, and I loved it so much I got one for myself. For their time (came out in 2005) they were revolutionary little guys running a touch-friendly version of Linux known as Maemo. They were popular really only among the geek class (its was true to Linux - you could adjust everything, but even installing programs could be a pain) but were very powerful for their time. But really, it was always just a small sideline for Nokia - a company that measures major product lines by billions of units sold. Even the latest and greatest, and the first to be a cellphone as well as a internet tablet (though even mine has a mic and a speaker - so you can hold it to your ear when using it to make Skype calls - pretty cool really) was released as a sideline project for Nokia and was stated to not be for general consumption.

Well no longer. Nokia has now said that all new high-end smartphones will be based off MeeGo (nee Maemo) and that Symbian will be used to power cheap low-end smartphones, while featurephones all but disappear from everywhere but the developing world. Good use of $1 billion Nokia... at least they recognized they needed to do something.

Anyway, this is my little guy, the n770, and then its great-great-grandson the current n900 beneath it:

What it means is we will hopefully again see innovative and interesting phones from Nokia. So far, looks like the major phone OS's are lining up to be iPhone, Windows Phone 7, webOS, Android, and whatever Blackberry does to replace its current OS (they bought a Linux company - so likely will be pulling a similar move to Nokia in the near future)

Domenech Douchebag, Dumbass Dunga

There are some crappy coaches at the World Cup. Indeed you wonder how they get to be coaches at the World Cup.

You have Fabio Capello for the English team - who I am not a huge fan of. He refuses to play some of England's best players (Crouch) and has failed to create a cohesive and effective strategy. Currently, Rooney--probably the best player on the team--doesn't seem to know where his position is or what he is meant to be doing. But Capello has nothing on my two least favorite:

There is Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri - known as Dunga. The coach of the Brazilians.
He was a very prominent player for Brazil from the late 80's to late 90's, including captaining the winning '94 squad. The time is known as 'era Dunga' for the slow boring style of game he brings. By the end of his playing time a young whippersnapper, Ronaldinho, was stealing the show with his amazing playing (Along with Ronaldo - who scored 12 goals in the 2002 world cup, a performance which was simply amazing). Ronaldinho went on to be the FIFA footballer of the year twice. For this world cup, Dumbass Dunga kicked Ronaldinho, one of the best 5 players in the world, off the team because he said he was "too showy" - in other words Dunga didn't like the fact he was more famous and better than him.

But probably the worst is, or really was, Raymond Domenech, the coach of France. He was a complete disaster. In this tournament, he manged to piss off the players so much that before their last game against South Africa, they refused to practice, and instead sat in their bus.
This is because Nicolas Anelka was sent home by the Frenchie Football F*ers (FFF) for shouting at Domenech during the embarrassing 2-0 loss to Mexico, and then refusing to apologize. Domenech, a world-champion eyebrow-grower, was unable to deal with the situation as a grown man, instead relying on his political FFF ties to have the striker literally sent home from the World Cup. There's some real maturity and leadership for ya. This is the same Freaking Frogeating Fainters who keept Domenech around after failing to make out of the group stage of Euro 2008. Their response to totally blowing it? “The FFF, speaking through its president, apologizes for the unacceptable conduct of the players that are representing our country,”


You see the thing is - the French media blames the players on the team for all this. Which is true to a degree. They are a bunch of overpaid brats who are not that good at football, give up when the going gets tough, are terrible at defense, and like to blame their failures on others while claiming others victories as their own. In other words, they're French.

But the coach is also to blame. He was a lame duck, due to replaced after this tournament, he failed to mold the team into any kind of cohesive unit, and he showed the leadership ability of a French General (go to Google, enter "French Military Victories" and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky"). He was a complete disaster.

Which was a good thing really, because the frog-eating surrender monkeys are out of the tournament! Woot woot.

A dose of the ridiculous and ingenious

Decided it was time for some just plain ridiculous stuff. In my opinion - no explanation necessary here:

Russia destroys Ice Road Truckers: Meet Mud Road Russia

Yeah - so we all thing our "Ice Road" truckers are badass over here in North America. This is what one of the Russian trucking "roads" can look like. Yeah.
Наихудшая дорога в мире (20 фото)

Наихудшая дорога в мире (20 фото)

Наихудшая дорога в мире (20 фото)

Too Fast To Race - Group B Rally Documentary

Group B Rallying was epic. Though you may think that most racing and rallying done today pushes the limits, it doesn't. Group B did. They did not bother limiting the cars to what humans would be able to handle - and that is exactly why Group B eventually supernovaed.

Sail away with me

Japan's space agency has successfully deployed the first solar sail. There was a US outfit which tried this a few times (not NASA) but never got it to work. Now, IKAROS has its beautiful sail unfurled and is ready to ride the solar winds.

There is something incredible about the idea of literally sailing through the cosmos, reaching for stars in the same way that mankind reached for new lands and continents. Of course, solar sailing is not the fastest way to get around, but it does allow infinite propulsion, which is not a bad thing.

from wired:

The unfurling of a Japanese solar sail, the first demonstration of a new space propulsion technology, went exactly according to plan.

According toJAXA’s blog posts and photos from the event, the IKAROS spacecraft’s sail appears to be in place. It’s a big step in its attempt to travel driven only by sunlight.

“This is the first sail ever deployed in space, and if they succeed in using it for solar-sail flight — it’ll still be a few weeks before we know that — it’ll be a milestone,” said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society, an organization dedicated to promoting space exploration, which is readying its own solar-sailing mission.

A solar sail uses the pressure from photons striking its surface to push the spacecraft through space. Materially, the 650 square-foot sail is made of incredibly thin, aluminized plastic that’s only 0.0003 inches thick, a little thicker than spider silk, or about the diameter of a red blood cell. When a photon strikes its surface, it bounces off, imparting its momentum to the sail. Each photon might not deliver much thrust, but over time, all that light adds up.

“The actual force might be just a few millionths of a g, but because it acts continuously, it allows you to build up large velocity changes over time,” Friedman said. “That’s where a sail really does its work is long missions.”

The Japanese sail also has thin-film solar cells built into it. They could be used to generate electricity to drive an engine that would work alongside the sail.

The key difficulty with such a thin and large object is that it’s hard to deploy. “The things we’re watching for are all their dynamical behaviors that you ultimately can’t model and that might cause undue stress on the material,” Friedman said.

In the IKAROS design, the sail was unfurled by using centrifugal force generated by spinning the craft.

Space-travel proponents are particularly interested in the technology because it doesn’t require fuel, which makes it the leading (and basically) only candidate for very long-distance travel.

“It’s the only way we know — that anybody knows — to ultimately do practical interstellar flight because you don’t have to carry your propellant along with you,” Friedman said. “Anything else you do, whether it’s nuclear or advanced engines, you’re always carrying propellant and the mass becomes too great."

England and the US through!

Both my teams made it through to the round of 16, but damn they could have made it easier.

England managed to score a grand total of 2 goals in three world cup games, including this game against Slovenia where they should have ended 4 or 5-0, but failed again and again to have any skill in actually finishing.

The US was in serious danger of elimination, as Algeria had some very good chances to go ahead, and the game was not nearly as lopsided as the England match. Thankfully, they managed to pull it out in the 92nd minute on a somewhat ugly goal, but I'll take anything.

Anyway - it is ridiculous that the US and England, who had one of the easiest pools, should have to have narrowly avoided elimination. That said, France is out and there is a good chance that Germany could go out - so I suppose it is not all that unusual this year. Speaking of which, it is a good time to be from S. America - they have won 12 games, lost 0, tied 2. Pretty damn impressive.

Judge Drills Holes in Drilling Ban

Thankfully - a federal judge has recognized that the federal government overstepped its bounds, a situation all to common these days.

The ruling that the 6mo ban on all drilling in in the gulf in water over 500ft was "arbitrary" seems pretty damn logical to us simple folk, but the administration has vowed to fight it.

Looking at it another way - this would be like banning all air travel on the west coast for 6mo because a plane crashed when trying to land in LA, and you already knew the cause of the crash.

In other words, the ban was an idiotic and arbitrary decision, designed to appeal to the hearts of the mob rather than the brains of the majority. Or, in other words again, it was business as usual for the current administration.

Anyway - it will be upheld, but I doubt any judge will find this ban as anything but arbitrary.

Yet again - I have more faith in the unelected branch of government than any other.

BLM Gets it wrong

I dont really support solar as a power source. I use a solar panel in my truck now, because the battery tended to go flat if I didn't drive it for a while. And I think solar panels for boats and cabins are pretty damn cool. But solar does not and never will (at least in the next 50 years) make sense for large-scale electrical generation.

However - that is not to say we should prevent people from trying, especially if idiots in CA are willing to pay for it.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sets the rates that companies have to pay to lease federal land to build their solar plant on. They recently set out their rates, and they, well, totally screwed up. Really idiotically screwed up. I mean, is anyone there or in the administration even paying attention to this? The POTUS spouts off about alternative energy all the time, and on his watch this is what we get:

There are two costs to the lease, the first based on the cost per acre of the land, tied to local land values. Fair enough.

But the second is a megawatt fee. And this is where it gets stupid. The agency is charging different capacity fees for different solar technologies. Photovoltaic power plants, which deploy solar panels like you played around with in a science kit once, are assessed $5,256 a megawatt.

But more efficient solar thermal power plants, using mirrors to heat liquids to generate steam that drives a turbine, pay $6,570 a megawatt. The same rate is charged for concentrating photovoltaic farms that use mirrors to focus the sun on a highly efficient solar cell. So if your technology is more efficient, you get charged more. WTF?

The kicker is that if either technology uses energy storage systems, so that they can you know, provide baseline power, the fee jumps to $7,884 a megawatt. Why?? Who the hell knows.

What this regualtion does is encourage using old-school solar panels with no energy storage. Way to go BLM. In addition, wind plants are charged a flat fee of $4,155 per megawatt. Why? Who knows. It is an idiotic system, and totally at odds with the administration's stated goals, and yet it barely gets a mention, because lets be honest here - this would require follow through and ability, two things sorely lacking in the current administration.


Giant Surfing Crocodiles

The estuarine crocodile is a bad swimmer. So how has it managed to colonize northern Australia, eastern India, part of southeast Asia and multiple South-east Pacific islands separated by enormous swaths of ocean?

It loves to surf. Specifically, it loves to ride ocean tides and currents:

Using acoustic telemetry and satellite positioning or tagged crocodiles, the researchers found that both male and female crocodiles regularly traveled more than 30 miles by 'surfing' river and ocean currents. They always began their voyages within an hour of the river's tides changing, so they could take advantage of the current. When the tide turned against them they pulled up onto the riverbank to wait for the next day's tide.

They also analyzed data showing that one satellite-tagged crocodile traveled 360 miles over 25 days. A second male, went 255 miles in 20 days.

The paper is in this month's edition of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology.

The estuarine crocodile is the world's largest living reptile. Males can weigh up to 2,900 pounds and reach up to 20 feet long. Crocodylus porosus lives mostly in rivers, mangrove swamps and estuaries and cannot survive long-term away from land, where it gets its food and water.

The researchers speculate that the crocodile used their ability to surf the ocean currents to fan out throughout the South-East Pacific. Populations of the giant reptiles are found in East India, Sri Lanka, Southern China, Thailand, the Philippine and Sunda islands (including Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes, and Timor), to northern Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon islands.

There are anecdotal reports of sailors sighting these crocodiles far out to sea, but no one had previously tracked their long-term movements and showed that they used the currents to move themselves quickly between far distant habitats.

The research also helps explain why the various far-flung populations of the crocodiles haven't evolved into separate species, despite the distances between them. They appear to travel frequently enough to maintain a unified genetic profile.

Honestly, that would be one of the craziest things to ever see - you are 200 miles from shore in the Indian Ocean - and chilling in the water is a 20+ ft croc. That would be bizzare.

It could also lead to one of the most epic battles in history - croc vs. shark:


The Aurora Australis, As Seen from the ISS on May 29 NASA

Sometimes you're just at the right place at the right time. Astronauts aboard the ISS experienced just such a moment when they captured this captivating image of a rare aurora australis over the Southern Indian Ocean likely caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun late last month.

A Man I Agree with

Finally, an environmentalist who gets it right. Which of course means other environmentalists hate him. Because to most of them, it is more about the look and the feel of the thing, the raw emotion of the natural world rather than the practical needs of a modern society.

I would love to build an off-the-grid cabin in the woods of NH, with my own little ski rope-tow, some solar panels, a fresh stream, and a rally course to tearass around on in Subaru Imprezas.... err greenies should ignore that last bit... but that does not mean I think this is a sensible solution to the worlds energy needs.

Neither does this guy, which is why I like him:

Environmental Visionaries: The Nuclear Revivalist

For environmentalist Jesse Ausubel, going green means land conservation and energy efficiency—and forgetting “boutique” renewables like windmills and biofuels

Burying Nuclear Waste What to do with nuclear waste? One proposal is to bury it 37 miles beneath the ocean floor, letting its radioactive heat melt through the rock. Kevin Hand

It’s 2070. You’re on a train from New York to Boston. If you could see outside, it would be mostly open landscape. Maybe a nuclear plant or two, but otherwise green space—none of the urban sprawl, wind farms, solar arrays or biomass operations we’ve been taught to expect from an ecologically responsible future. But you can’t see outside, because you’re underground, traveling 300 miles an hour on a maglev train alongside superconducting pipes transporting the energy from those nuclear plants.

This is 2070 as Jesse Ausubel sees it, anyway, and his vision—a brazenly pragmatic one that puts land conservation and energy efficiency above all else—isn’t making him a lot of friends in the environmental movement. “Some of my colleagues have put forth what are called green or renewable solutions or technologies, and they’re OK at a boutique scale—single households,” says Ausubel, who is director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University in New York City. “But when you look at two billion households, you find out that the solution isn’t green at all. Things that work on a boutique scale don’t necessarily work for billions of people and terawatts of power.”

Simultaneously a technology-loving futurist and an ardent naturalist, Ausubel points out that a wind farm delivering the same energy as a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant would cover 308 square miles; a solar plant, 58. Even organic farming, he suggests, is justifiable in the context of landscape preservation only if the per-acre yields equal those of conventional farming.

Dismissing moves toward renewable and organic initiatives as misguided flies in the face of green dogma. Papers and presentations with titles like “Fallout from Renewables and Consequent Directions for Energy Research” and “Does Climate Still Matter?” haven’t helped Ausubel’s standing in the mainstream green movement.

But although environmentalists may disagree with him, they can’t simply write him off. In addition to his role at Rockefeller, Ausubel is vice president of programs for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, where he oversees the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year, 80-plus-nation effort to catalog the biodiversity of the world’s oceans. As a fellow at the National Academy of Sciences in the late 1970s, he was, he says, “one of the first half dozen or so people to be paid full time to work on global warming.” He was also one of the organizers of the first U.N. World Climate Conference in 1979. The man has earned the right to have opinions.

Ausubel has spent most of his career modeling a future that assumes a population of about 10 billion—what many experts believe the world will bear over the next century—and reasoning backward from there to explain how such a world could be powered and fed, and how much land could be spared for nature.

Part of what alarms his critics is how un-alarmist his conclusions have turned out to be. For example, instead of using policy to change how people will behave in the future, Ausubel prefers exploring technological responses to what he believes people are going to do regardless. His favorite defense of this laissez-faire approach is to explain that, absent any policy dictating that it should happen, energy consumption over the past 100 years has steadily “decarbonized.” That is, humankind has moved to fuel sources with progressively better ratios of carbon atoms to hydrogen atoms—wood at 10:1, coal at 2:1, oil at 1:2, natural gas at 1:4 and, eventually (in the future Ausubel envisions) 100 percent hydrogen. He thinks technology inevitably improves things. “That’s not to say I don’t worry about the downsides of technology,” he says. “A lot of my work is about that. But my general interest is new and high-tech ways of dealing with problems.”

The high-tech world in 2070, as Ausubel sees it, will look something like this:

ENERGY: Within a few decades, after methane plants have replaced coal plants, according to Ausubel’s decarbonization model, the move is on to full nuclear. His plants would produce electricity during peak daytime hours and be used to dissociate water to make hydrogen by night. “With the nuclear industry making two products instead of just one,” he says, “the economics become more attractive.”

Where to get all the uranium for the hundreds of new nuclear plants that Ausubel’s world would require? Extracting it from oceans, he believes, could supply enough energy for 10,000 years or more. The low concentrations in seawater—about 3.3 parts per billion—make the extraction process difficult, but Japanese researchers have successfully mined uranium from ocean currents, although not yet at costs that would be economically feasible.

NUCLEAR WASTE: Ausubel cites Russian and British research into “self-sinking balls” of nuclear waste with shells most likely made of tungsten and heated by their radioactive contents to the point where, once disposed of in deep holes in the Earth’s crust, they would melt the surrounding lithosphere and bury themselves several miles deep. “Nuclear waste is hot and heavy,” he says. “The idea of self-sinking capsules takes the heat and gravity as positive attributes. The idea is quite straightforward.”

While the capsules remain theoretical for now, Michael Ojovan, an engineer at the University of Sheffield in England who has published extensively on the concept, says that in addition to removing waste, acoustic monitoring of the capsules could reveal data about the structure of the Earth’s interior. “The [scientific] importance of launching such a capsule is on the order of an expedition to Mars,” he says.

TRANSPORTATION: It’s all fuel-cell cars and planes (using hydrogen from the nuclear plants) and maglev trains. “Take the problem of airport congestion,” Ausubel says. “Having planes take off every 20 or 30 seconds is hard. But you could subtract all those shuttle flights from high-flux routes like New York–Boston by connecting them with maglevs. Put those shuttle routes underground with the maglevs, and save the runway slots for the routes where you can’t justify building expensive tunnels.”

And why tunnels? “I want to leave the surface alone. Disturb it as little as possible.” In fact, he has even proposed dual-use tunnels that would put both the maglevs and the superconducting lines of a future energy grid underground.
Train tunnels, of course, are older than the New York subway. China’s commercial maglev train can zip passengers along at 300 miles an hour, and the U.S. Department of Energy is pouring millions of dollars of economic-stimulus funds into superconductor research. It all comes back to Ausubel’s core concepts: The best way to save nature is to stop extending into it. The best way to limit human encroachment on nature is through hyper-efficient land use. And the best route to maximum efficiency is through technology. “A lot of other people who come from strictly biological or ecological backgrounds just don’t like machines,” he says. “I do.”

Ancient Ocean of Mars

Seems like Mars really is our long lost brother. Recent work shows that the planet, long suspected of once harboring an ocean, did at one time look a lot more Earth, with about 1/3 of the planted covered in an ocean. Interestingly, this was about at the same time life was developing on Earth - personally I would love to find evidence of life on Mars - if only to show that life is a common, not shockingly rare, occurrence, and that a lot more human endeavor should be based around expansion off-earth.

Read on:

A vast ocean covered the northern lowlands of Mars some 3.5 billion years ago, suggest planetary scientists.

In the current Nature Geoscience journal, Gaetano Di Achille and Brian Hynek of the University of Colorado, Boulder, looked at Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) measurements made from NASA's 1996 Mars Global Surveyor. The pair find 17 of 52 delta features appearing in the data correspond to a common sea level, suggesting an ocean once covered about 1/3 of Mars.

"Collectively, these delta front elevations approximate an equipotential surface at the mean elevation of -2,540 m (-8,333 feet) with a standard deviation of 177 m (580 feet). Indeed, a contour traced at this elevation effectively outlines acomplete closure within and along the margins of the northern lowlands, delineating the boundary of the basin within which the deposits formed," says the study.

G. Di Achille.
The contour corresponds to an "Arabia shoreline" feature noted by earlier studies. Valleys feeding the ocean all seem to occur at about the same heights with distance from the vanished sea:

"The latter observation probably suggests a progressive retreat of the ocean after its maximum extension during the Late Noachian. Furthermore, the distribution and outlet elevation of the 210 known martian palaeolakes within open basins is also consistent with the elevation of the enclosure: a negligible number of lake outlets show terminations below this level," says the study.

All told, the ocean would have covered 36% of Mars to an average depth of 1,805 feet. "Collectively, these results support the existing theories regarding extent and formation time of an ancient ocean on Mars and imply that surface conditions during that time probably allowed the occurrence of a global and active hydrosphere integrating valley networks, deltas and a vast ocean as main components of an Earth-like hydrological cycle," conclude the authors, at about the time that life was getting started in oceans on Earth.

By Dan Vergano

G. Di Achille.