June 7, 2012—In keeping with my perceived reality that most of us are in overload mode with regard to election coverage, The Starting Line will talk about defense, science and technology issues today. We’ll get back into the muck tomorrow, I promise.
Does the Pentagon have the right weapons to fight off an alien invasion? No, but they’re working on it, says Foreign Policy magazine, in a short but sweet review of some of DARPA’s (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency ) more sci-fi kind of projects. These projects include lots of ideas that are not ready for prime time, but show promise for future use by the military.
Perhaps the closest to realization are weapons-grade lasers. The stumbling block with this project thus far is that they can work but are too big to be of use in an actual fight. If the aliens have super fast flying saucers, DARPA’s Falcon HTV-2 might be able to keep up with them. It is an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds, as fast as Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 miles per hour). It’s actual been tested, but not successfully.
They’re also working on the world’s first guided bullet, project name EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance), which would have the ability to actually change its path after being fired. And finally there’s MAHEM (Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munitions), bullets that use “compressed magnetic flux generator (CMFG)-driven magneto hydrodynamically formed metal jets.” DARPA is fuzzy about the details, but it would seem to involve using a magnetic field to push molten metal through armored targets. Don’t you feel safer now?
The Taliban’s nuclear weapon that wasn’t…. New York Times chief Washington correspondent David Sanger is out with a new book titledConfront and Conceal that claims the President was presented with evidence of such a possibility back in 2009. The book says that President Obama decided that he could not take any chances and dispatched a nuclear detect and disablement team to the region. The obvious source for such a weapon would have been Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and it was quickly determined that no nuclear components were missing. One theory about why such information showed up in intelligence reports suggested that Taliban members had been hoaxed and bought ‘nuclear’ material from a third party that proved to be useless.
“Don’t talk about it… write.” Author Ray Bradbury died yesterday at age 91 at his home in Los Angeles. An extremely prolific writer and creative thinker, his humanist visions served to inspire several generations of sci-fi writers and readers. Bradbury’s best known work, Fahrenheit 451, offered up a vision of a future where knowledge is abhorred and being an intellectual is a capital offense. UCSD-TV’s blog has offered up a couple of excellent videos dating back to 2001 where Bradbury talks about his craft. They’re worth viewing if you can take the time to remember this great man.
Just what we don’t need here in San Diego… The journal Nature has an article describing an international coalition of eco-anarchist groups that have been launching violent attacks on scientists. The Informal Anarchist Federation argues that technology, and indeed civilization is responsible for the world’s ills, and that scientists are the handmaidens of capitalism. Three attacks were directed at Mexican institutions and researchers in 2011. We’re sure than Congressman Duncan Hunter has already requested lots of money to protect us.
Has the internet killed pornography? Britain’s Guardian newspaper says that the emergence of free YouTube-style porn sites has radically transformed an industry that once was a byword for easy money. Now we’re told the industry is fighting for its life and that they’ve (ironically) embraced the BBC slogan of “Fewer, Bigger, Better”. You need look no further than Point Loma’s Rock Church this weekend for proof that hard times have indeed arrived in pornoland, where, according to NBC San Diego, world-famous porn star Ron Jeremy has been invited to “debate” pastor Mile McPherson, about whether the porn industry is beneficial or detrimental to society and culture. We’re sure that the church’s neighbors in Liberty Station, who are already up in arms over traffic congestion and parking issues connected to the mega church, will be thrilled.
Military’s not-so-secret space plane to land in California…. Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog offers up a glimpse of the unmanned X-37B, which will be touching down sometime in the next few days at Vandenberg Air Force Base after 453 days in orbit. Developed by the California branch Boeing’s Phantom Works, X-37 was designed to rendezvous with friendly satellites for refueling and repair missions, among other things. In 2011, Boeing announced plans to build a scaled-up version of the X-37B, the X-37C, which will have the capability to transport up to six astronauts inside a pressurized compartment housed in the cargo bay.
Has the Social Media bubble popped? In the wake of Facebook’s belly flop of an IPO, many industry observers are asking that question. The Washington Post has Intel’s Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattne on record as saying the times, they are a changin’ already. They also have Mary Meeker’s Internet trends report, a sort of “State of the Internet” report for investors, which talks about everything BUT social media in the future. Many think the omission is no co-incidence. The Social Media report by thenextweb.com just comes out and says the party’s over. Geez, I can’t believe I just opened up a Facebook account for this publication.
On this day…In 1932 Over 7,000 war veterans marched on Washington, DC, demanding their bonuses. It didn’t turn out so well. In 1993 Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. That didn’t work out so well, either. Seven years later on this date he changed his name back to Prince.
Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets…. Carmel Valley (Canyon Crest Academy5951 Village Center Loop Road ) 3:30 – 7:00 pm, Chula Vista (Downtown, Center St. & Third Ave.) 3 –7 pm, Linda Vista (6900 Linda Vista Road Between Comstock & Ulric)2 – 7 pm, North Park (CVS Pharmacy parking lot, 3151 University & 32nd St.) 3 –7pm, University Town Center (Genesee Ave. at UTC Westfield Shopping Plaza) 3 – 7 pm