Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Apparently the US Navy is starting down the path to Galactic Civilizations 2 Black Hole Gun. Heh. Seriously though the USN announced yesterday that they plan to test fire an electromagnetic rail gun at 10 Mega Joules. That is serious sci-fi stuff. Much realer than the little orange men nut jobs all over the world discovered last week too.

A rail gun is basically a way of propelling something really really fast. So fast that you could technically just have a solid ball or rod and still do tremendous damage to your target just from going fast. Think of car crashes for an idea. Neither car (presumably) has explosive warheads but when they crash together a lot of damage is done just because they are moving.

For given values of kinetic energy it’s probably more effective to just have solid masses instead of actual payloads on the projectile although I’m not familiar enough with the math to know where the sweet spot is. I would assume that the lower the power used to launch the projectile the more likely it would be to have an explosive warhead on them. At some launching power it would no longer make any sense since more damage would be done by the kinetic impact than by the payload.

OK major nerd mode there.

Anyway, rail guns are cool ideas and can be used for lots more than throwing bullets. Massive rail guns could easily accelerate something to orbit and might be a highly effective way to send cargos (if maybe not people because the acceleration stresses would be really high) to space. This summer I rode a roller coaster that used magnets to accelerate the cars instead of using a chain and a gravity drop for the initial boost. Same thing as this gun on a different scale.

Anyway, check out this fun little animation of how rail guns work plus get an intro to the physics over on

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Sometimes I will listen to what I like to call Whack-Job-Nation to fall asleep. It’s more commonly known as Coast to Coast AM (usually) with George Noory. It’s basically a national call in talk radio show but the only twist on this one is that it’s for crazy people. I suppose that is why I enjoy it. I get a kick out of listening to the crazy people talk about werewolves in their sheds or shadow people in the hallway or aliens beaming them hither and yon. Heck I have my own crazy so I probably relate.

In my opinion the host is not one of the “believers” but rather he is an entertainer. And that is how I take the show too. It’s very entertaining to listen to these very sincere people espouse the most fantastical theories and ideas. Last night was fairly entertaining – even though I fell asleep very quickly. There were several calls about some picture that shows an actual Martian captured by the Spirit rover cameras. “Spiffy!” my brain thought, “That is way cooler than the face on Mars.”

The discussion was callers saying they knew it all along and now here is the proof with Mr. Noory egging them on to more and more outrageous claims. Not only was it entertaining but it aroused my curiosity. This morning I did a little Google-fu (and found my buddy Neuron Scream had a link to an article about it in in his IM message) to find out what the furor was all about.

First of all here is the real color panoramic view. See any aliens? You can click on the picture to go to the NASA site where this was hosted for a better view. (BTW: The site is slammed be prepared for VERY slow load times.)

Me neither. Yes, there are people whose job it is to poor over enlarged versions of these pictures with magnifying glasses. These people are called scientists. There are also people who have made it their hobby to poor over enlarged versions of these pictures with magnifying glasses. These people are called nut farms.

Here is a false color version of the same picture. (Again linked to a larger NASA version.) Any aliens now?

Nope. Same here. I can’t see anything but rocks.

OK. Then let me help you. Here is a picture with an arrow. Go back to the big NASA picture and it’s totally easy to see it now right?

*sigh* I must be blind or stupid but I still can’t see the Martians. OK here is another help. This is a zoomed in picture of the panoramic view – still in false color.

Ah Ha! Aliens! Monsters of the inky black! Umm… well at least monsters of the orangey um… orange.

This final close up – the most zoomed in picture I could find shows the beast in all its startling fury and ichors.

Oh. Wait. Never mind… looks a lot like a pixilated rock. Which, it almost certainly is. The principle of Occam's razor is well applied to this situation. If there are multiple possible explanations for something the simplest one is the most likely one to be correct. It’s a rock. It would be fun to have orange, rock encrusted, and pixel-y space neighbors but I’m afraid we only have orange, rock encrusted and pixel-y space um.. rock neighbors.

Monday, January 14, 2008


A fun party with awesome friends turned into a joint effort game review with my lovely fiancee ~J. The results can be read here: Rock Band Review
And a random picture!

Resistance is Futile

(If ohms less than one)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My work has quite a number of Apple fans. It’s no surprise given the nature of this company. There are a number of artists and I support probably one third to one half of our users on Macs. I’m not anti-Mac any more than I’m anti-Windows or anti-Linux. I think they each have their place. When I sell myself to potential employers I emphasize how I like to use the best platform for each application. I have Linux, Solaris, and Windows servers. I have Windows and Mac clients. For the most part I can make them all play nice together. It’s a good thing.

But Apple fans are interesting. They often claim long and loud about how Macs are teh bestest evar and often are hard to convince. I usually avoid these by making my “I’m a best of breed” user claim above. Comparisons between Vista and Leopard have sparked a round of Mac and PC e-mails in my company. That e-mail thread resulted in this little gem. It cracks me up every single time I see it.

Mac: I'm a Mac
PC: And I'm a PC
Mac: Say, PC, what are you doing there?
PC: Oh, nothing, just playing a video game.
Mac: Which one?
PC: All of them.
Mac: :(

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Since there can never be to much hype: My wonderful fiancee has a professional article published today on The Escapist magazine. It's the best article in the issue (he said with only a little bias). No really. You can read the others if you like but it's true. The point of the article is to talk about how we game together as friends. These are wonderful people and I can't say enough good about them. And I'm very grateful and happy (and occasionally hysterically laughing) to be a part of them.

It's funny but the article ~J wrote is all about celebrating the unifying effects of gaming. Games have brought us together as friends and strengthened our lives by creating a social network that goes far beyond just something to do.

Most of the other articles in this issue treat gaming as something shameful to be hidden or coped with. That is rubbish... plus I can say from experience, that hiding yourself just won't work. You'll do more damage in the long run denying yourself.

Embrace the crazy, I say, and be sure to check out the article: Like Calls to Like.

Monday, January 07, 2008


I have a tendency to go back to games that I really liked and play them over again. I’ve done it a number of times like with System Shock 2 and I’ve replayed several of the Ultima Games over. You could even argue that my UFO:Extraterestrial playing is just replaying my X:COM experiences over again.

I’ve revisited the Fallout games a number of times. The first one is nearly impossible to get running on modern systems and once it is up and running it’s very unsatisfying since the program didn’t age very well. Fallout 2 is a better experience although, graphically it’s still a letdown. Fallout Tactics runs fairly well and even plays nicely – to bad that game was just the combat. It’s like half of a fallout game. A fallout game for console (duuuurrr) ‘tards as I suppose Yahtzee would say.

I think it’s great how user mods can extend the life of a game or even revitalize one completely. I read today of the Fallout 2 Restoration Project by this guy over on No Mutants Allowed:

The basis of the mod is to add back additional content that never made the release version of the game. Looking through his release notes shows quite a few new quests, NPCs and even extra Easter eggs. Reading through the thread on the site gives clues that this was a labor of love. I’m highly impressed by his willingness to create such a mod and find myself interested to download it and give it a shot.

My Fallout 2 disks are with a friend who needs to play them (and he also needs to play read my Planescape Torment game too). I won't name names since I don't want to harm his gamer cred but his initals are Coyote. I may have to borrow these back quick - at least long enough to check out this mod.
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