Tuesday, August 2, 2016

18195--Do We Get Bonus Points for Engineering Our Doom with Style?

Leonardo DaVinci gets credit for starting things rolling, I suppose.  He might be impressed with the developments we've made in robotics since his own, but I can't help but think he'd be asking what's been taking so long in the same sentence.  Some animatronic show pieces are delightful to watch go through the motions of mimicry, but they're still far short of the levels of integrated, functional, practical technological tools we imagine when we conceive of ubiquitous cyborgs and robots.

Image result for robot animals

There are advances being made, to be sure, but the pace seems to be painfully slow.  Military thought drives a lot of development.  When those particular deep pockets are absent from involvement, though, we're left with whatever innovations can be wrought from curiosity, altruism, or commercial potential.

Image result for robot animals
Military development has been suspended on the supplemental pack robot "Big Dog" because it has been deemed too noisy for war.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the value of stealth, but it would seem that the level of noise produced by the robot would've been considered long before the many months of work and spending had gone so far in crafting an otherwise nifty support tool for the field.  Is it an awful waste, shelving the proto-terminators and their ilk rather than working out a way to suppress the operational noises?  Probably, but it wouldn't be the first time R&D outlays ended up populating a storage room.  Still, why should that happen here?

Even if the military doesn't want to explore the robo-mule further, there's no reason not to license it out to the private sector.  There are already amazing bird and insect robots that have been made.  If people would stop focusing on flying drones over their neighbors or trying to figure out hoverboarding for a few minutes, they'd probably realize that there are (I'm guessing) probably a lot of people who'd enjoy riding their own robot unicorn around.  Or maybe a robot dire wolf.  Either way, it'd have to be better than a Segway.  Without much alteration, "Big Dog" could carry a passenger or two on a mountain trail hike...seat warmer and Bluetooth speakers optional.  How many cupholders would you like?

Welcome to the 21st century.  The future is upon us.

Image result for robot animals

Thursday, July 28, 2016

18190--No, Bill O'Reilly Doesn't Owe Any Apologies

Fresh on the heels of Michelle Obama expressing her amazement over living in a prestigious national symbol (the White House) built by slaves, the Fox News pontificator felt compelled to downplay the slavery reference by offering that said slaves were well-fed and decently housed.  This is America, so he has the right to do so, of course.

Now, to many of us, the very notion of slavery is sufficiently chafing, but Mr. O'Reilly finds it to be of a higher priority to step to the defense of American slavery rather than focus on the political aspect of what Mrs. Obama was actually talking about.  I'm sure that his theft of focus to make a point of his own has drawn the ire of many.  Despite its wildly successful history (it utterly crushed indentured servitude in its time), slavery continues to carry a tremendously unpopular stigma.

Rather than spend time and energy on directing anger toward Mr. O'Reilly (you knew who he was already and that's not about to change), I would instead offer a challenge to Fox News and its management that is trying to refurbish the organization's image.  Try this: before Mr. O'Reilly starts trying to suggest that the Third Reich offered Jews efficient mass transit and free housing, reassign him to a special field project.  Bear with me.  This would not be a punishment, rather an opportunity for Mr. O'Reilly to prove his point.  Under the scrutiny of Fox News cameras, Mr. O'Reilly will be given "decent" housing and food commensurate with the status of a menial laborer.  Over the course of a television season, he could live in someone's shed, for example, and perform yard work, field work, and other chores during the day.  Perhaps, following the construction theme, he could build with Habitat for Humanity.  I'm sure the management at Fox will know how to make it interesting.

Most importantly, Mr. O'Reilly would be able to show everyone how happy he can be on minimal wages (slavery is still illegal, after all), subsistence nutrition, and "decent" housing so long as his days are filled with the reward of purposeful labor.  Then, he'd have nothing but solid footing from which to stand tall and never ever apologize for any thoughtlessly diminishing comment he might ever choose to make.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

18169--You Think You're So Smart?

Ruling the planet for over a hundred million years just wasn't enough.

Evolving from savage violence, growing into civilization and philosophy...
There's more religious iconography at this site than the last.  Huge multi-ton stones are surrounded by sculptures of creatures no one alive has ever seen.  Still, they were never really able to find contentment.

The engraved tableau we uncovered earlier this week says they modified the genetic code of their mammal food source to increase the meat yield.  No one foresaw the drastic side effects that would come from that.

One step too far?  I suppose.  It backfired on them, after all.  Their whole civilization seems to have imploded on itself after that.

So many achievements over so many centuries spent taming their world and now we still haven't found more than a couple of their cities and random fossil remains.

"Hey, Dave!  You done with lunch?  We want to get back to the dig while there's still daylight."

"Sure.  Just making some notes."

"What about?"

"Thoughts about the dinosaurs, what else?  We've got a lot to learn from them."

"Whatever you want to learn from the past better come from all the pictures you take.  Bulldozers come through in three days, remember?"

"Right.  Can't stop progress, after all."