The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to develop a plane capable of flight as well as submerging underwater. “The objectives issued by DARPA are for a vehicle that would have an airborne tactical radius of 1,000 nautical miles, a low-level flight radius of 100 nautical miles (which may leverage surface effects), and a submerged tactical radius of 12 nautical miles.” The hope is that it could carry up to eight people and a 2,000 pound payload (check out their full proposal here).
The problem with developing a submersible aircraft is that air flows around structures differently than water. Developing a body that is efficient through the air as well as water will be incredibly difficult. It may be so daunting that the cost of developing and building working prototypes would render it un-obtainable. The funny thing is, the Navy has wanted something like this for over 60 years. “The U.S. Navy had begun contemplating the merger of aviation and submarine technologies into a single vehicle as early as 1946.” Even the Russians tried to dabble in submersible airplanes (video after the jump).
The Economist reports that a Humvee-mounted laser is already being used in Iraq to detonate roadside bombs which have plagued the military over the years. And yes, it’s named after the Greek God of lightening.
The Zeus laser (I am inclined to say cannon for all you Final Fantasy fans out there) possesses a range of 300 meters (just shy of 1,000 feet) and has been successfully used in Iraq. Although they only possess one Humvee equipped with the laser, plans are in effect to make more.
Why is the military laser-crazy?
Lasers are the dream weapon for the military. You can fire them from incredible distances with pinpoint accuracy and have the potential to be a game-changer in any battle. Advanced lasers could be used to detonate RPGs or missiles before they get to the target, they can punch through walls, and could potentially blow up ICBMs before they get too far off the ground (Reagan’s infamous Star Wars plan). There’s no ammunition concerns, just power, and despite being totally un-serviceable in the field, the lack of moving parts makes the possibility of breaking very slim.
Big Plans are susceptible to changes in the world around us, and even bold visionaries can have wrong assumptions about the future.
After blanketing the media landscape over the summer with The Pickens Plan, T Boone Pickens has announced that he is slowing down his plans to build a massive wind farm in West Texas. Pickens’ $2 billion order of GE wind turbines has not been affected, but scaling up of the project is likely to happen more slowly than originally hoped.
A changing world or wrong assumptions?
Pickens has certainly felt the pains of shifts in the market where money is now in short supply and the global economic slowdown has battered his energy intensive hedge fund. But there have always been flaws to his core assumptions that support the vision that have somehow escaped widespread critical thought or media scrutiny. Pickens deserves credit for his willingness to advance the energy conversation in the US, but it does not free his Plan from closer examination:
#1 Utilities won’t evolve without regulatory changes
#2 Wind needs storage to evolve
#3 Natural Gas is a globally integrated industry, no breaking ‘foreign’ dependency there!
#4 The Auto Industry’s problem is not oil, it’s the combustion engine.
#5 Building transmission lines in my backyard or ranch?! It’ll cost you!
#1 Utilities won’t evolve without regulatory changes
Visa Europe is working hard for your money, and in doing so they have come up with a credit card capable of switching around your security code everytime you enter your PIN on its touchpad. “An alpha-numeric display and keypad is built directly into the card. When making a transaction online, customers type their PIN into the card, which creates a one-time security code.” Visa is working with four major banks, including Bank of America in the UK, to develop this card. Videos of how it works can be found here and here.
This is quite amazing. Having a touchpad on your credit card ensures that the code on the back of your card (that little number, usually three digits, on the back) could never be compromised without a thief knowing your PIN number. I wonder though if the numbers you press would look worn, making it easy for the thief to determine what you PIN is.
Although it’s kind of unnerving to think that your credit card has a battery life, the fact that it can run for three years could help boost confidence. You could possibly even charge it at your local bank every year on a simple flat tray. Of course, someone hacking into it within a few days is possible but by then hopefully you’d have canceled it. All we need now is a credit card that can take your fingerprint.
The UK police are implementing a new policy which has civil liberty groups in an uproar. Called Project Midas, it aims to put small Blackberry-like fingerprint scanners in the hands of police within the next two years. This will allow police to confirm the identity (7.5 million prints on record and climbing) of people they detain.
Officials claim that the fingerprint records will only be used for identification and all fingerprints obtained by the device will be erased. But after reading about the British bomb-sniffing laundromat I have my doubts.
In fact, the UK Police are notorious for invading the civil liberties of their people. With an estimated 1.5 million security cameras around London alone (along with a probable 4.2 million country-wide), it’s no wonder the British people are feeling a little perturbed.
General Motors (GM) and OnStar have successfully demonstrated a prototype technology called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, which does exactly that – it allows OnStar advisors working with law enforcement to send a signal to a subscriber’s stolen vehicle to reduce engine power, slowing the vehicle down gradually.
The exact process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (at right) goes as follows:
- Once the vehicle has been reported stolen to law enforcement, the subscriber can call OnStar and request Stolen Vehicle Assistance. OnStar will confirm the subscriber has not opted out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service.
- OnStar uses real-time GPS technology to attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the stolen vehicle and provide this information to law enforcement to help them recover the vehicle.
- When law enforcement has established a clear line of sight of the stolen vehicle, law enforcement may request OnStar to slow it down remotely.
- OnStar then sends a remote signal to the vehicle that interacts with the Powertrain system to reduce engine power which will slow the vehicle down gradually.
Worried that the wrong car might be targeted? OnStar insists that “Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle is slowed down.”
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown comes along just as more people are installing automobile kill switches to protect their property, bring down insurance rates and protect innocent bystanders in the event of a high speed chase.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, about 30,000 police chases occur yearly and approximately 300 deaths occur as a result of those chases. Kill switches could have a major impact on these casualties.
Shane McGlaun over at DailyTech reports that US government officials are looking into a space-based method of transporting small groups of troops anywhere in the globe within two hours. “The goal of the program is to be able to insert a team of 13 soldiers anywhere on the globe in two hours.” Although many have described this as plain fantasy, the surprising thing is that officials are looking to start a program such as this as early as 2019, giving actual implementation a start date of 2030. (Check out the original doc here)
Is this a viable option?
It would be pretty handy to have ground forces anywhere you need them in just a few hours. The second an Embassy came under attack or an invasion of a friendly country started, a unit of special forces would be there to help keep a lid on things in the knick of time. And if you think a force of only thirteen wouldn’t be able to do much, you might want to check out some of the latest stuff the military is working on for the future.
Atop a garbage heap amidst the expansive Westchester Landfill an iRobot Refuse Quantifier (iRQ) deftly went about its lucrative business.
Credit card receipt: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Check fragment: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Candy wrapper: Almond Joy, smudged fingerprint, image stored to temporary cache. Comb: zoom, hair strand: 92% match. Load level 2 protocols. Letter fragment: stamp fragment, zoom, puncture, contaminated sample. Product box fragment: Nintendo Wii logo, burnt, no data. Shredded tax documents: inconclusive, coordinates tagged in case of reassembly contingent on identity correlation.
The mechanical spider legs pumped and the little scavenger-bot systematically inched left, establishing a better focus point for its frontal laser array. The iRQ began scanning the next set of coordinates.
An identity match for a primary target had been established! Power surged from the tertiary battery outward as the spider maxed both input and broadcast. But something was wrong. The swarm network was not responding. Thus it was highly probable that the iRQ was now invisible to its peers and ultimately its owner.
Re-broadcast for 3 seconds. No ping back. Defensive algorithm, blend. Scan for disruption, risk assessment. Attempt new frequencies. Multiple frequencies inoperable. 84% deliberate disruption, 62% location awareness, evasive algorithm.
Despite the Second Great Depression, the early 20-teens saw tremendous advances in communication, agriculture, fuel-efficiency, medicine and especially robotics. By 2016, the resurgent world world had become saturated with interactive projected interfaces, smart light-weight vehicles of all shapes and sizes, farm-bots and a variety of human Add-ons that both solved serious illnesses and enabled amazing new capabilities. It was not uncommon to encounter citizens with artificial fingers, eyes, hearts, livers and even memory sticks.
Most prevalent and readily visible were prosthetic lower legs that replaced the tibia, ankle and foot. At first these had replaced the damaged limbs of injured human athletes, soldiers, accident victims, and those whose bones had simply worn down, but as the non-cyborg population came to appreciate the tremendous running, jumping and long-distance transport abilities that these Add-ons enabled, a growing number of perfectly healthy citizens decided that they too could benefit by upgrading their limbs. The efficiency increase was simply too great to pass up. Instead of buying a car or leasing certain bots, a person could accomplish the same through elective surgery and incorporation of the iRobot / Stryker co-manufactured lower legs.
As such modifications became all the rage it appeared that humans were rapidly heading toward total body replacement. But then, at 4pm EDT, November 21, 2016 the Crazy Legs virus struck, forever altering the public perception of Add-ons and the prospect of a fully mechanized near-term future.
Perpetrated by anonymous white hat hacktivist “Marty McFly”, Crazy Legs took advantage of a vulnerability in the Ubuntu Body System short-range encryption signal. The blue-tooth signal connecting the artificial legs to the Brain-Ware was compromised and replaced with new instruction codes. The result was an illegal social choreography that reached a never-before seen scale.
Precisely at 4pm every human outfitted with the iRobot/Stryker ver. 2.2 lower limbs started dancing… uncontrollably.
Since the recent signing into law of the US$850b financial legislation, the mechanism to create a unifying force to relieve the impending energy crisis the USA presently faces is now available. Since the SecTres works for the President, a simple executive order to assign 8.5 of those $850b to a specific project would provide ample force, I submit.
Beginning now, the President should direct formation of a contract with Hyperion to purchase 500 of it’s standard power modules on a crash construction basis to enhance the US domestic electric grid.
Here’s the Strategy: The USG offers to pay a one-time fee of US$1,000,000 per unit and to supply sufficient real estate from suitable USG controlled land, limited legislative exemption from construction legal challenge, engineering and regulatory assistance for site and plant design and the sum of US$200,000,000 for each of five purpose-built construction facilities. Additionally, USG agrees to purchase at 50% of the present advertised price of US$25,000,000 apiece, 500 units over the course of 5 years plus one year for construction of the assembly plants. Finally, USG agrees to finance from this allocation the recruitment, relocation, training and housing needs of sufficient workforce to initially staff all five anticipated production facilities.
The U.S. Army recently awarded a $4 million dollar contract to a company hoping to develop wireless communication through brain waves. The hope is that a device will be integrated into the helmet of all troops in the field, allowing for wordless communication and logging.
But the real question is this: is this technology really needed?
The following is a recording of the mental messages sent between a small group of soldiers deep into enemy territory in Argentina. Recorded May 5th, 2045, 08:34:27
Master Sergeant Thomas Wilkinson, Corporals Dave Rosenberg, Veronica Finney, and Cornelius Aarts.
Aarts: “Christ my legs are chaffing. We’ve been walking for over three hours. When the hell are we gonna stop? Why didn’t I join the Navy, they just sit in boats all day.”
Wilkinson: “May I remind you we can hear what you’re thinking Corn?”
Aarts: “Sorry sir, I’m still trying to figure out how to shut out certain thoughts. This goddamned helmet, I’d carry it by hand if I wasn’t holding my gun.”
Finney: “We can still hear you. Can’t you stop thinking and shut your trap?”