Saturday, October 21, 2006

Antimatter Driven Sail for Deep Space Missions

NIAC was one of the projects I worked on in grad school in my Advanced Planetary Sciences class. My proposal was a combination of 3-body gravity assits (i.e. slingshot effects) and solar sails. It got you to the outer solar system in about 3 years and to the ISM in about 15.

This idea though, seems exceedingly clever and takes the solar sail idea up a notch. The basic idea is to build a sail embedded with fissile uranium, build an antimatter source and then throw antiprotons at the sail to cause the uranium to undergo fission. Total amount of antimatter needed to reach the ISM? 30 milligrams. (that seems small, but truthfully it's an enormous amount. 30 milligrams is ~ 2x10^21 antiprotons, and a typical accelerator will produce 10^5 or so per reaction).

The primary question relative to the performance of this concept is the momentum delivered to the sail by the fission of the uranium. If just the two fission products are released then the momentum is determined by the velocity and mass of one of the products. The antimatter induced fission of uranium produces a spectrum of masses. The width of this distribution, however, is relatively narrow and can be approximated by using palladium-111 as the average fission product. The energy released in the fission is taken to be 190 MeV. Thus, the velocity of the fission product is 1.39x10^7 m/s and the mass is 1.85x10^-25 kg/atom. The velocity would equate to a specific impulse of 1.4 million seconds.

It's actually more complicated than that, and the proposal goes into much more detail. I have some questions though about the secondary particle decay chains.

It's an interesting concept.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Candidate seeks textbooks as shields


OKLAHOMA CITY --A candidate for state superintendent of schools said Thursday he wants thick used textbooks placed under every student's desk so they can use them for self-defense during school shootings.

"People might think it's kind of weird, crazy," said Republican Bill Crozier of Union City, a teacher and former Air Force security officer. "It is a practical thing; it's something you can do. It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there."

Crozier and a group of aides produced a 10-minute video Tuesday in which they shoot math, language and telephone books with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm pistol. The rifle bullet penetrated two books, including a calculus textbook, but the pistol bullet was stopped by a single book.


Crozier's experiment began with shots fired at a calculus textbook from an AK-47 Russian-style assault rifle. The shot penetrated two textbooks at once.
"We need to look at protection of young people that sometimes people may think you are a little smarter than everybody else or a higher IQ or whatever. They need to look at what the end result would be," Crozier said.

My suggestion: Give the candidate a calculus book, give his opponent a gun, and test this! Seems only scientific!

Video of Republicans shooting science books here

I have a better idea, lets give them bibles for this instead.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

She can Eat Nails and Shit Lightning

Well, actually, it's half true....

MONDAY, OCTOBER 9 This week of emasculating pastels, incriminating tattoos, and glorious and surprising triumph kicks off today with a blast of lightning from a Croatian lady's anus. Details come from the Associated Press, which reports 27-year-old Natasha Timarovic had just finished brushing her teeth in the bathroom of her home in the Croatian city of Zadar when lightning struck. "I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building," said Timarovic to the Zadar news channel 24 Sata. "I don't remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had traveled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body. It was incredibly painful. I felt it pass through my torso and then I don't remember much at all." What Timarovic can't recall, an emergency worker supplies: "She was wearing rubber bathroom shoes at the time and so instead of earthing through her feet it appears the electricity shot out of her backside," said the unnamed medic to 24 Sata. "It appears to have earthed through the damp shower curtain that she was touching as she bent over to put her mouth under the tap." Despite suffering great pain and severe burning to her anus, Ms. Timarovic remains a lucky woman. "If she had not been wearing the shoes she would probably have been killed by the blast."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Second Life News

Reuters has dispatched a full time reporter into Second Life to... well.... report I guess.

Mr. Pasick, a Reuters technology reporter who was formerly earthbound with the news agency, is heading up Reuters’ first virtual news bureau inside the online role-playing game Second Life. While many independent journalists and bloggers have published inside such virtual worlds, Reuters is the first established news agency to dispatch a full-time reporter to do so.

“This is a very serious, old brand that stands for things and has principles, but that doesn’t take itself so seriously that it wouldn’t play in a gaming space,” Mr. Glocer said. “This appeals to a younger demographic. Even for people who don’t go in and play in Second Life, it shows Reuters has a certain with-it-ness.”

I've tinkered around in Second Life and, frankly, found it wanting. The interface would have been considered sub-par in the 90's, movement, object creation and interaction are all surprisingly difficult and, there is very little to do, apart from struggle with the application.

I passed on playing for any length of time, give me City of Heroes or even WoW anyday. I'm guessing the half-life of the Reuters reporter is about 3 months.

Coffee Spitting Quote

I need to time my coffee drinking better or I need waterproof monitors. I ran across this quote today, which I found very funny:

Dumbest Congresscritters countdown Radar profiles the ten dumbest nose-pickers in Congress, awarding top prize to Katherine Harris, a Republican from Florida:
If dumb Congress members were the X-Men, Harris would be their Wolverine

Unique Image of Saturn

Awesome image of Saturn, in the infrared, from the Cassini probe.

Buddy Jesus Serves in Iraq

I would never have thought of this, but it's a complex, highly interactive world.

As a result, his visage -- with a "ceramicized" or cartoon-like countenance -- earned an afterlife as a sticker, t-shirt, poster and dashboard figure. Not content with that action, however, Buddy acquired a recent feature role in an all-too-real drama starring the Mahdi of Sadr City and the U.S. military.
Carolyn O'Hara of the FP
blog is not sure how the whole thing got started. One possibility is that the Iraqi's inserted Buddy into a forged U.S. pamphlet outlining potential abominations to be inflicted on the local militias. The other possibility is that U.S. soldiers had been circulating Buddy as a joke, or even an article of incitement. Either way, Buddy made the rounds, with the terrible result that the locals mistook him for one of their holy own.
As you can tell from the image, the mistake -- once discovered -- was not appreciated.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Key to the Extraterrestrial Messages

From Bruce Schnier's Cryptogram. I've done some contract work for the NSA as part of what we were working on at CertCo, but I never got access to Crypto Quarterly.

Indexes to NSA Publications Declassified and Online

In May 2003, Michael Ravnitzky submitted a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) request to the National Security Agency for a copy of the index
to their historical reports at the Center for Cryptologic History and
the index to certain journals: the NSA Technical Journal and the
Cryptographic Quarterly. These journals had been mentioned in the
literature but are not available to the public. Because he thought NSA
might be reluctant to release the bibliographic indexes, he also asked
for the table of contents to each issue.

The request took more than three years for them to process and
declassify -- sadly, not atypical -- and during the process they asked
if he would accept the indexes in lieu of the tables of contents pages:
specifically, the cumulative indices that included all the previous
material in the earlier indices. He agreed, and got them last month.
The results are online.

This is just a sampling of some of the article titles from the NSA
Technical Journal: "The Arithmetic of a Generation Principle for an
Electronic Key Generator" - "CATNIP: Computer Analysis - Target Networks
Intercept Probability" - "Chatter Patterns: A Last Resort" - "COMINT
Satellites - A Space Problem" - "Computers and Advanced Weapons Systems"
- "Coupon Collecting and Cryptology" - "Cranks, Nuts, and Screwballs" -
"A Cryptologic Fairy Tale" - "Don't Be Too Smart" - "Earliest
Applications of the Computer at NSA" - "Emergency Destruction of
Documents" - "Extraterrestrial Intelligence" - "The Fallacy of the
One-Time-Pad Excuse" - "GEE WHIZZER" - "The Gweeks Had a Gwoup for It" -
"How to Visualize a Matrix" - "Key to the Extraterrestrial Messages" -
"A Mechanical Treatment of Fibonacci Sequences" - "Q.E.D.- 2 Hours, 41
Minutes" - "SlGINT Implications of Military Oceanography" - "Some
Problems and Techniques in Bookbreaking" - "Upgrading Selected US Codes
and Ciphers with a Cover and Deception Capability" - "Weather: Its Role
in Communications Intelligence" - "Worldwide Language Problems at NSA"

In the materials the NSA provided, they also included indices to two
other publications: Cryptologic Spectrum and Cryptologic Almanac.

The indices to Cryptologic Quarterly and NSA Technical Journal have
indices by title, author, and keyword. The index to Cryptologic Spectrum
has indices by author, title, and issue.

Consider these bibliographic tools as stepping stones. If you want an
article, send a FOIA request for it. Send a FOIA request for a dozen.
There's a lot of stuff here that would help elucidate the early history
of the agency and some interesting cryptographic topics.

Thanks, Mike, for doing this work.

In reality, I suspect the NSA salted the list. It's what I would have done in their position.

FTR: I shot my resume over to them. You know, just in case...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Super Snark

Kieth Olbermann is fast becoming my favorite commentator on current events.

I sometimes dispare that I am one of the few Americans who remembers what the constitution says.