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Word Lens

Not quite the Babel fish, but this is only version 1.0:

Future versions that work with Kanji and Arabic could change the world.

H/T: Maggie’s Farm


The World is Awash in Oil

Not in the greasy-pelican pollution sense, but in the magic of higher prices leading to increased production:

As an article last month in The New York Times observed: “Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.” Further still: “Another wave of natural gas drilling has taken off in shale rock fields across the United States, and more shale gas drilling is just beginning in Europe and Asia.”

A few years back, when oil was $120+ per barrel and gasoline was over $4 per gallon, the economically ignorant were concerned about the end of oil. Then the depression started and oil dropped back to the 60s for a while. The price of crude has drifted upward into the 80s over the past year. But the break-even price to make all those new fields viable was in the 40s.

So North American drillers kept working their plays.

With rising production from shale fields, the U.S. surpassed Russia last year to become the world’s largest supplier of natural gas.


Grassroots Warfare

Recent travels along the intertracks have led me outside my usual routes and on to several military-focused bloggers. I used to be a big-time wargamer (never a real soldier, though), but that interest has been dormant for quite a while. Nevertheless, I still find it fascinating.

Military procurement is as much a political issue as an economic or technological one. That hasn’t changed since I stopped paying attention. Expensive and flashy weapon systems always get priority when Congress decides on military funding. The ordinary infantryman has no lobbyist in Washington.

From my studies of war, I remember that infantry is called “the Queen of Battle”. Everything else in war is ultimately deployed to support the infantry. The goal of war is to enable your troops to occupy unmolested a given patch of ground. It’s about control of territory. And that’s what the infantry does.


Do or Dazzle

If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

Quoted from: Bring the Heat

Post Style: 

Chinese Set Rail Speed Record

A Chinese passenger train smashed World speed records after hurtling at speeds of over 300 miles per hour.

The speed record was set during a test run of the yet-to-be opened link between Beijing and Shanghai according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Reaching 302 miles an hour (486 kilometers per hour) the train clocked up the fastest recorded speed by an unmodified conventional commercial train.

The new line is due to open in 2012 and will halve the current travel time between the capital Beijing and Shanghai to five hours.

Total War at the 38th Parallel

The two Koreas have been posturing for each other for over 50 years. It seems a hopey-naïve view to think they’ve been doing it just for the theatrics.

Isegoria posts:

Marching, shoulder to shoulder, into machine-gun fire is the height of folly. No amount of élan or “heart” is going to overwhelm entrenched machine-guns. To modern Americans, even marching at a line of enemy soldiers armed with muskets seems downright insane.

But soldiers did it, right behind the officers who led them. Napoleon, who knew a thing or two about warfare, declared that the moral is to the physical as three to one — it’s not the size of the dog in fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Why would he say that?

Because it’s true — largely — just not for marching into modern automatic weapons or massed rifle fire. Throughout most of history, posturing — convincing yourself and your enemy that you’re bigger, meaner, and scarier — has been far more important than physical fighting ability:

It is widely known that most killing happens after the battle, in the pursuit phase (Clausewitz and Ardant du Picq both commented on this), and this is apparently due to two factors.



Here’s how Google Maps instructs you to get from Japan to China:

Google map showing direction from Japan to China

Of particular note is Direction #43.

Similarly, getting from Seattle to Honolulu will require unconventional means.

Pack a lunch, for sure.

H/T: My Bar Night pallys and Theo Spark.


Just What I See

Technology allows our culture to document itself. Some elevate that opportunity to the level of art:

Just What I See features the iPhone Street Photography of Greg Schmigel.

Why the iPhone?

I believe that about 90% of photography is about what the photographer sees. The choice of camera makes up for the rest. My iPhone just happens to be the camera that's always with me.

Woman standing in front of shop window mannequins

The Human Network

Cobb thinks about computers and the future:

First off, the fundamental thing that IT gives is the ability to overcome time and distance. It enables human intercommunications on levels never achieved in the history of mankind. In and of itself, this is an economy pulled out of a hat. Without disintermediating planes, trains and automobiles, there are new ways that people interact that make IT a non-zero sum game. Look at a movie from the 80s and find all of the plot holes and crazy situations that could have been obviated by today's cell phone networks and GPS.

Transportation is essentially the most physical form of communication. Communication is required for people to negotiate and cooperate. And more cooperation leads to greater prosperity.

Bionic Eyes

Technology can now restore sight to people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa:

The device, called a sub-retinal implant, contains some 1,500 light sensors and sits underneath the retina. It works by directly replacing light receptors that are lost as a result of the disease. After the light detection stage, it uses the eye's natural image-processing functions to produce a stable visual image.

"It proves the concept that in a patient who has been blind for many years and is unable to see anything, the optic nerves can be re-awakened for them to be able to see again," MacLaren, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.


And It Still Sounds Like Crap

Back in the 70s before surround sound and iPods, Steve Martin had a comedy routine about a stereo system. It was more than quadrophonic, it was googlephonic. But the sound was still lacking. So he replaced the diamond needle on his turntable with a moon rock needle.

Uncompromising audiophiles like Martin now have the ultimate cable to connect their components, the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. It’s five feet of copper wire for $2,500.

But how does it sound?

Amazon has 400 reviews posted. They’re pretty funny.

H/T: Borepatch

Don Quixote’s Economics

The world’s largest windfarm has just opened in the U.K. For all the tingles this must give to greenies and various other anti-human factions, in economic terms, it is tilting at windmills:

[taking] courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.

An article in the U.K. Telegraph lays out the silliness hidden behind this particular mega-project:

No tool chest is complete without a Notch Remover and a Kink Wrench

Over at Sippican Cottage, they know about labor. The kind that makes your body sore. The kind of labor that the workers we’ve forgotten used to do. Due to that work experience, Sipp knows about tools, too. And he can spot it when someone knows little about either one:

Popular Mechanics doesn't disappoint with their: Tools Everyone Should Own. It's a terrific, haphazard mess of twenty arbitrary thingamabobs, written in the breathless prose usually reserved for paperbacks with pictures of Fabio on their cover and the tears of countless overweight data entry clerks dappling the pages.

Oral Surgeons

Nutrition science, which after all only got started less than two hundred years ago, is today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650—very promising and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you?

Quoted from: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

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Another Example of the Miracle that is Duct Tape


During a private “fly-in” fishing excursion in the [Alaskan] wilderness, a chartered pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane. A bear smelled it and destroyed the plane.

Airplane torn apart by a bear


Birdy Count Update

The Deepwater Horizon seems to have finally become background noise in the news cycle. The New Orleans Times-Picayune isn’t featuring a “day counter” on their website anymore. Up through about Day 78, it was at the top of the front page.

It‘s Day 84, and BP may be about to close the leak with a new cap. That’s no cause for panic or angst, so I guess it isn’t worth top-value pixels.

And after 84 days of wailing and hand-wringing, how many birds have actually died?

Less than 200:


BP’s Failed BOP

Via TJIC, a graphic explanation of how a blowout preventer works, and what failed on the Deepwater Horizon.

Take a look. And remember, this thing is installed and operated by remote control a mile under the sea. Cool. Except the “failure” part…


Can She Handle It?

It’s 1949, and what’s a well-dressed lady going to drive?

1949 Nash Airflyte Ad -- Long Hood

The daring ones drive a Nash Airflyte:

Its aerodynamic body shape was developed in a wind tunnel. Nils Wahlberg's theories on reducing an automobile body's drag coefficient resulted in a smooth shape and enclosed front fenders. The "cutting-edge aerodynamics" was the most "alarming" all-new postwar design in the industry.


Chicken Little Blew it Again

A month after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Big Media is finally getting some pictures of oily birds and mucked-up shoreline. It’s the story they wanted to tell:

When it began April 20, Louisiana and the world feared a quick and dramatic result, a black tsunami washing over one of the world's most productive and valuable coastal ecosystems. Expecting a disaster with iconic images to rival the environmental mugging of Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez, the planet's media rushed to the scene. Within days fishing towns like Venice and Hopedale became datelines in newspapers from Paris to Hong Kong, which painted pictures of a culture bracing for ecosystem Armageddon.

It is certainly true that valuable and delicate things are being harmed. But this is unfolding not so much as a major disaster and more like an accidental tragedy:


Nothing But Net

From the Facebook page for Deepwater Horizon Response
(post at 7:08pm, May 6th):

To help stop the flow of oil from the source, BP intends to drill two relief wells. The first well was started on May 2 and proceeding as expected. This process usually takes 2-3 months and involves going 5,000 feet to the seabed, drilling an additional 18,000 feet, and reaching a target the size of a basketball.

That’s a mile of seawater, then three miles of earth. By remote control. In hurricane season. Accurate within fifteen inches.



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