Category Archives: Transportation

Radioactive Pottery from the Future Past

This Mound-day takes us beyond some stars, to another world with a volcano and savage primitives. And some bad travelers from Earth. But first, some literary and scientific history.

Classic Jules Verne stories, From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon (Wordsworth Classics)

Quotes by Tsiolkovsky

“The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

“I do not remember how it got into my head to make the first calculations related to rocket. It seems to me the first seeds were planted by famous fantaseour, J. Verne.”

“First, inevitably, the idea, the fantasy, the fairy tale. Then, scientific calculation. Ultimately, fulfillment crowns the dream.”

From Space.com, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: Russian Father of Rocketry.
Konstantin Tsiolkosky O'Neil Cylinder

I was listening to a 1950 episode of a science fiction radio show, Dimension X, on Sirius XM during my commute, and thought a plot point using uranium based color on pottery to defuse an atom bomb standoff was ridiculous. Much as I enjoy Spider-Man, it sounded crazy, like getting superpowers from a radioactive spider bite.

Since my listening to the show was interrupted by refueling, I searched for the episode online when I got home, found it on YouTube as audio over a still frame in a video format… The video was taken down, but the audio for Episode 17 is on the following list and can be played from there, https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Dimension_X_Singles. I also found something surprising during that search.

Radioactive material was indeed used to make bright colored pottery! How Radioactive Is Fiesta Ware? Would You Eat Off It?

Also, now we’re getting closer to warp drive. The theoretical basis has changed from being completely impractical due to excessive power requirements to something plausible. The first modest experiments are being done now. At an estimated 10 times the speed of light, some stars could eventually be only a few weeks away. Can we finally break the speed of light? Nasa breakthrough suggests Star Trek’s ‘warp drives’ may not only be possible – but practical.

One aspect of classic radio is how non-politically-correct it gets sometimes. In this case, alien natives are referred to as “gooks” by a stern boss from Earth. I bet you’re wondering if that insensitive fellow gets his comeuppance.

Episode 17 – The Potters Of Firsk.

First broadcast 28 July, 1950.

Stars Karl Weber, Wendell Holmes and Raymond Edward Johnson.

Dimension X was an NBC radio program broadcast from April 8, 1950 to September 29, 1951. The first 13 episodes were broadcast live, and the remainder were pre-recorded.

Dimension X was not the first adult science fiction series on radio, but the acquisition of previously published stories immediately gave it a strong standing with the science fiction community, as did the choice of well established, respected writers in the field such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Robert A. Heinlein, Murray Leinster, H. Beam Piper, Frank M. Robinson, Clifford D. Simak, William Tenn, Jack Vance, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Williamson and Donald A. Wollheim.

Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts adapted most of the stories and also provided original scripts.

In this episode, ‘The Potters of Firsk’, written by Jack Vance and adapted by Ernest Kinoy, a liaison officer from Earth is caught between a steely planetary administrator and a fanatical alien cult who kidnap and murder people to use as raw materials for their sacred pottery.

Visit http://www.scifimike.com – the sci-fi blog covering audio, literature, TV & film.

The video was taken down, but the audio for Episode 17 is on the following list and can be played from there, https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Dimension_X_Singles.

Get Found if you Get Lost

I’ve previously posted about the virtues of using the aviation guard band rescue frequency of 121.5 MHz VHF, Non-Ham Radio Options for Being Rescued.

While I mentioned 406 MHz in passing, it turns out there have been important developments in recent years. The 121.5 channel is no longer monitored by satellite because of false alarms caused by inadvertent activations and interfering signals from a number of consumer appliances. So if you’re stranded somewhere without overhead air traffic and can’t move far, you can look forward to facing your final destiny.

The 406 MHz personal locator beacons are monitored these days, as described in this top viewed video (embedded below) while searching YouTube for the term “PLB.”

Signal mirrors during the day are great (the right ones are, if used properly), but they don’t work very well at night. Maybe during the full moon? Probably not. It seems that there are legal laser rescue flares that create a vertical line instead of a blinding dot for search and rescue pilots to see at night or even during the day.

All this information is demonstrated with excellent advice that reminds me of the first rule of gunfighting, “Have a gun.” In a safe or drawer somewhere isn’t going to help much if you’re suddenly confronted by an attacker. Similarly, in the context of a plane forced landing, the laser flare, mirror, and PLB won’t do you much good in an inaccessible or destroyed cargo hold. These are items to have on your person.

Amateur UAVs, Commercial Drones for Peace

DIYDrones sez FedEx wants UAVsFound a link to Wired Editor-in-Chief, Chris Anderson’s DIYDrones.com site from an online Wired article, “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?.”

UAV stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,” with applications listed at Wikipedia including “remote sensing; oil, gas and mineral exploration and production; transport; scientific research; armed attacks; and search and rescue.”

If the dollar loses its purchasing power, perhaps unmanned aerial vehicles will also deliver goods without the energy and labor costs of transporting a human pilot. Perhaps a robot will load your grocery order into a parcel delivery blimp or model aircraft, which will then travel to your location via GPS, internal map and a radio beacon to guide the craft to its destination at your place, even if you’re off-grid with no roads like in some third world village.

The economics will make UAVs dominant, whether there’s a bigger crash to come or not. Military drone maker Insitu quotes an Aviation Week item on its website:

“It’s official: Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary has outstripped Boeing Commercial Airplanes in delivery rates for air vehicles.”

The April, 2011 issue of Mechanical Engineering features “Drones For Peace” artwork on the cover. The feature article is entitled “Airborne, Autonomous & Collaborative.”

One can imagine the legal hurdles for the operator of such a robotic fleet. Certainly the FAA would be involved at this point. Details of the amateur legal requirements may be found at DIYDrones’ “Regulatory FAQ.”

Autonomous Cars and Growbots

  Wikimedia Commons
Desert to City robot car
If there’s any life in the new car industry in the near future, it looks like any sales will come from the long anticipated finally maturing technological revolution of robotics.

Nobody seems as impressed as I am that several production cars and trucks you could actually buy at a dealer for the last couple of years can freakin’ parallel park themselves! (with some limitations).

Slashdot reports that on the same day a completely unmanned car successfully drove over tricky mountain terrain, a manned aircraft filming it for a commercial crashed. Read the story, “Helicopter Crashes While Filming Autonomous Audi” and the PopSci article it links to for all the details.

I remember reading a similar story a few years ago about the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007. Here’s a link I just found to that description in the The Sunday Times in the UK, in a long article titled “What’s your place in the brave new future?.” Futurist Paul Saffo is quoted in this excerpt:

“The same morning as the Darpa challenge there was a 108-car pile-up on a California freeway. The simple fact is that people shouldn’t drive,” said Saffo.

The writing is on the wall. Human driving will be outlawed–robots only. Skynet said so. Check out Will Smith in I, Robot for another movie with an army of autonomous drivers. Here’s a Wikipedia entry about the DARPA Challenges, with the quite challenging goal for 2007.

“The Urban Challenge required designers to build vehicles able to obey all traffic laws while they detect and avoid other robots on the course.”

With everyone unemployed, cars will transport the aging Baby Boomers places and deliver the groceries right from the nearest Growbot Garden.

For you techies, it looks like an agriculture automation microcontroller project with lots of different sensors is available from Libelium. It has a solar power option. I’d like to see permaculture aware growbot networks providing our food. If we’re lucky, they will replace the current dumb mechanized systems.

We won’t have our biggest export being the topsoil lost by tilling, fewer toxic chemicals needed to handle weeds and pests targeted by growbots, and local gardens eliminating the need for energy hogging transportation. Or at least reducing delivery traffic injuries by using clean electric robot vehicles instead.

Fuel Film Shows Oil Alternatives

  Fuel Film DVD
I turned on the radio this morning while visiting L.A. for relatives’ birthdays and heard an inspiring interview with Josh Tickell. He is screening his Sundance awarded Fuel movie to benefit KPFK Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Tomorrow as I post this.)

I was struck by the number of different solutions that were offered by the filmmaker. He reminded me that electricity costs a penny per mile instead of a dime or more for gasoline and that green sources can be selected by electricity consumers in one way or another.

He also made a point that concentrated energy providers lead to concentrated points of political power and suggested that energy created by individuals and community groups would empower them politically as well. At the least they would be more self-reliant and not dependent on the gas pump.

About the film, the Los Angeles Times said this in a review:

“Fuel is a vital, superbly assembled documentary…doesn’t dwell on muckraking, however; it’s more focused on broadly inspiring viewers than preaching to the converted….Smartly animated interstitials, memorable archival material and a lively soundtrack round out the fast-paced proceedings.”

Amazon said this about the DVD:

“Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Tickell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America’s dependence on foreign oil. Combining a history lesson of the US auto and petroleum industries and interviews with a wide range of policy makers, educators, and activists such as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Animated by powerful graphics, FUEL looks into our future offering hope via a wide-range of renewable energy and bio-fuels. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award.”

The theatrical trailer at YouTube.