John Heylin's Blog Posts

Why Future Guns Won't Look Threatening

September 29 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

I’m a huge fan of homemade gadgets. In fact, I have probably three different items around my cramped apartment right now in various states of functionality. My favorite so far is my old LCD screen from 2001 I’ve taken apart and hope to turn into something a little less bulky (2001 LCD screens are kinda large, remember them?). In fact, Hack a Day is one of my most favorite sites to peruse for homegrown goodness. There are all kinds of beneficial devices you can build yourself.

And then you come up with this device.

Basically, if you ever want to be shot by the police for possibly the stupidest reason ever, then please, make your own. This all metal rubber band gun comes with two handles, a laser sight (for those distant targets) and even a flashlight for when the zombies invade your house at night.

If they are hoping that a toy company will pick this up for future production, they are sadly mistaken (then again, with some of the Nerf guns coming out these day, maybe it’s not too far off).

Dust Off those Notebooks — Treasure Abounds

September 29 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 10 Hot

It is amazing when one considers how the very technology needed to save our world from utter destruction might indeed be fifty or more years in the past.

For instance there’s the Stirling Engine patented in 1816 by Robert Stirling who pretty much had no idea how the thing worked, only that it worked. Amazingly, it ran off of heat alone. “it can be driven by any convenient source of heat.” It’s only recently that intense investigation and testing of this technology has occurred.

Most recently, we have a “new” type of refrigerator developed by Albert Einstein and his student Leo Szilard in 1930 which requires no electricity or moving parts.

“Malcolm McCulloch, an electrical engineer at Oxford, is trying to bring Einstein’s refrigerator back. McCulloch explains that the design is environmentally friendly and could prove especially useful in developing countries, where demand for cooling appliances is quickly increasing.”

The usefulness of such a device in our current landscape would be incredible, not to mention the endless benefits for countries in sub-Saharan Africa where electricity can be hard to come by. The ability to refrigerate food would not only help in the storage of food items, but also in the health of the people who often eat unsafe food. Refrigeration is just the thing needed to curb Cholera, Typhoid, Giardia and Amoebic or Bacterial dysentery in these developing countries.

If Einstein was able to throw that together using 1930’s technology, imagine what could be done today.

via Physorg and The Guardian

The Personal Jetpack — Old Dreams Die Hard

September 29 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Transportation   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Ahhh, the jetpack. For almost a hundred years, mankind has been fascinated with this technology, and for almost a hundred years we’ve wasted our time on it.

If you haven’t heard the news, Swiss airline pilot Yves Rossy managed to jet his way across the Channel between England and France in under ten minutes last Friday. What makes his jetpack truly original and fascinating is that it has wings.

“Rossy developed and built a winged pack with rigid aeroplane-type carbon-fiber wings with a span of about 8 feet (2.4 m), and four small kerosene-burning Jet-Cat jet engines under the wings; these engines are large versions of a type designed for model aeroplanes. He wears a heat-resistant suit similar to that of a firefighter or racing driver to protect him from the hot jet exhaust.”

The jetpacks you see frequently on TV are powered using pressurized hydrogen peroxide (typically giving the wearer less than a minute of flying time). Yves’ jetpack is not only powered by kerosene, but the added wing allows the user more directional flexibility and higher speeds, not to mention longer flying times.

But while this latest addition to the world of science blows our minds, do we need a jetpack?

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Robots Rescue and Fix Trapped Victims

September 26 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: 2017   Rating: 5 Hot

October 16th, 2017, 02:12 The dreaded happens.

A 8.1 magnitude quake rocks the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge partially collapses, taking some cars returning to the east bay after a night at the bars into the waters below. The new Oakland span, finished less than a year before, weathers the quake with only minor structural damage. The buildings in San Francisco don’t fair as well.

For Harrison Thomas, the only thing he remembered was that the walls were shaking right before the floor of his apartment suddenly disappeared.

Responders on the scene did a quick survey of the scene and deploy snake-like robots to search for survivors. After twelve minutes Harrison Thomas is found wedged between the flooring of the second and third floor. A piece of wood has speared his leg, pinning him in place.

The crew at the scene uses the robots diamond-edged belt saw to carefully saw their way through the wood in order to aid in his removal. A doctor from St. Louis, on call since the disaster, views the proceedings from his local hospital. Seeing Harrison’s body, he determines that a surgery must be made before the rescue crews get to him in order to save his leg.

Morphine is injected into his leg in preparation for the surgery. UV sterilized tools, located inside the snake, are manipulated over a secure wireless connection to repair the neural and vascular damage done to his leg. Hours later, crews finally unearth Harrison and take him to a mobile hospital set up in a warehouse at Pier 5.

Without this technology, he would have lost his leg, possibly even died.

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Battling the Future — Big Business Weighs In

September 25 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 3

Comcast has been showing up rather frequently in the news as of late due to the issues they are having with users hogging large amounts of bandwidth.

Just recently, the FCC laid down a ruling against Comcast’s practice of limiting the speed of certain websites (torrent sites in particular). “The FCC voted 3-2 in early August that treating certain types of Web traffic differently violated its “net neutrality” principles, which state that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.” Of course Comcast is appealing the decision, saying they should be able to regulate their own business.

Comcast is just trying to stop progress. At some point, another company will come up with unlimited usage which will either force Comcast to take the caps off their connection or chance falling into obscurity.

John Smart, President of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, put it this way, “It is very profitable for large companies to limit innovation and sit on their IP as much as they can. Big cable companies and their lobbies have greatly slowed down the arrival of internet TV, and will continue to do so.”

Stringing out technology is the best way to insure profits long-term, but companies may soon find themselves by-passed by competitors.

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Non-Lethal Weapons Currently in Use or Development

September 24 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 2

Here are some nifty gadgets people are working on in order to limit casualties in war and even at home. Check out my article on how these devices are killing the art of protesting here.

The StunRay™: Coming in a hand held device (range about 100 meters) or vehicle/ship mounted (range about 500 meters), this device delivers a blinding light that incapacitates a person anywhere from five seconds to three minutes. “Application of the 2-second or less stun beam causes a photo-chemical reaction resulting in temporary loss of sight and neural signal overload of the optic nerves.” The best thing about it? Full recovery takes 15-20 minutes, it only requires a battery, and it allows someone to use it from a great distance, keeping them from the threat.

The Dazzler: Another light weapon, it was used in the British and Argentinian war over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas for you Argentinians, sorry you lost) against low-level flying aircraft. The devices temporarily blind and disorient those targeted. Although hated by many advocacy groups due to it’s potential to cause permanent damage, they have even been issued in Iraq to soldiers at checkpoints in order to find a less lethal way of stopping cars that fail to follow directions.

The Vortex Ring Gun: Basically, an explosion is made in a barrel which accelerates air through the barrel towards whatever you’re pointing it at (kinda like in kung-fu movies where a guy stops his punch a few inches from the victim but the air from his fist still knocks the victim down). “The weapon has demonstrated its capability to knock-down a 75kg man-sized mannequin from a distance of 10 meters.” This allows people to get mowed down by air (a modern day fire hose?). And while injuries will probably occur, it’s still fairly non-lethal.

Long Range Acoustic Device: Developed by NORUS Crisis Assessment and Intervention (NORUSCAI) in the UK, you may have heard them in the news a few years back when the ship Seabourn Spirit beat off Somali pirates with their own LRAD. “After dragging his injured colleague Som Bahadur Gurung to safety, he saw off the heavily armed mercenaries by hitting them with a hi-tech sonic cannon.” The device has the ability to rupture ear drums of those it’s directed at. If it can beat away pirates, that is one tough machine.

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How Non-Lethal Weapons Will Kill Public Protest

September 24 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Authority figures sure have gotten a lot smarter in dealing with public protests. In the 60’s and 70’s, public protests were greeted with iconic backlash from police and national guard alike. With the television and camera able to record these protests, they became icons for whatever movement they were fighting for.

There was the Kent State shootings immortalized by the picture of Mary Ann Vecchio screaming over the body of slain protester Jeffrey Miller. Or the famous video of police blasting protesters with fire hoses as well as sicking their dogs on high school students in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

It was due to these images that the traditional way of dealing with protesters had to change radically. In his paper titled “From Escalated Force to Disruption Control: The Evolution of Protest Policing,” Alex Vitale, a former consultant to the ACLU and Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, states the following:

“Prior to the 1970’s police relied on a doctrine of “Escalated Force” in responding to demonstrations. Following numerous reports, civil law suits, and media coverage criticizing the violence that often resulted form this approach, many departments developed a doctrine of “Negotiated Management,” which attempted to minimize violence through improved communication with demonstrators and greater tolerance of disruptive activity.” -Alex Vitale.

Tactics had to change — police could no longer use any force necessary in order to quell a public protest. It’s especially true in this day and age when even videos of earthquakes are posted on the internet within minutes of their occurrence.

A great report by the ACLU (co-authored by Alex Vitale) on the protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention detail how police used mass arrests, detentions, cheap zip-ties, horse charges, intense surveillance and limited access to combat the possible threat from protesters (no one wanted a repeat of the infamous Battle of Seattle of 1999). Tactics have changed, and as a result the voice of the protester is getting fainter and fainter.

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8 Useful Creatures that Military Robots Could Mimic to Devastating Effect

September 23 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

We’ve seen some amazing robots recently. There’s the robotic tuna fish that will hopefully revolutionize the submarine world, there’s the super-realistic cod developed in Japan which still creeps me out, and of course let’s not forget the giant robotic spider that made Liverpool it’s home until it was herded into a tunnel by flamethrowers, hopefully never to be seen again (that thing still gives me nightmares).

The idea that these robots could be used by the military is very realistic. And while robotic fish are a great choice (imagine thousands of silent torpedoes, swimming around the ocean, looking for enemy ships), a giant spider might not be such a great choice. It’s an easy target, doesn’t hide very well, and despite the terror of facing one, you could outrun it easily.

So what things in the world should the military imitate in their desire for the perfect robotic weapon?

Children: My personal favorite. The idea that a simple child could be a deadly robot just makes so much sense to me. I mean, why would you think that five year old huddled in the corner in fear is actually programmed to rip your throat out?

Hornets: Already feared by all, the technology involved in making a hornet capable of delivering a poison sting, or possibly performing recon on enemy sites is too great to pass up. You could let a million of them loose on the countryside, spanning entire continents, looking for any sign of enemy activity (or even spying on other countries in peacetime).

Bats: It’s been tried before in World War II with live bats strapped to bombs (it didn’t work, go figure), but robotic bats would be stealthy and unnoticed. Their primary use would be night surveillance since any other creature flying around at night would be incredibly suspicious. On top of that, they could roost during the day, recharging their batteries with the Sun.

Snakes: Snakes are stealthy, can move efficiently on the ground, and have incredible senses. Now this could mean you could use it for surveillance, crossing a mine field,even silently taking out guards. Don’t forget there are sea snakes too. The only problem you’d run into is if you tried to invade Ireland, whoops.

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Thought Helmets for Future Soldiers

September 22 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: 2020   Rating: 14 Hot

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?”

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How Android will Change Everything (in the mobile phone space)

September 22 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Communication   Year: 2008   Rating: 7 Hot

For all those out there wetting their pants for Google’s new Linux-based phone operating system, Android will be unveiled tomorrow to much hoopla. And while delay after delay has done some damage to the egos of salivating Googlephiles, anticipation is still high.

The reason?

For one thing, nobody likes a monopoly. The iPhone has become the standard when it comes to hip smart phones which for some reeks of domination. The hope is that the Android mobile phone operating system will do some damage to take down the iPhone juggernaut. Although many expect there to be an assortment of bugs since it’s the first release (as well as having choppy graphics), it’s still an attractive alternative for users who don’t want an iPhone or are sick of Windows Mobile (or anything Microsoft).

Secondly, the operating system is based on Linux. Many PC users have been switching to Linux due to problems with the Vista OS. Linux has it’s own culture about it that’s more dedicated than Apple users. They’re fiercely proud of it, it’s free, and anyone can alter it. The idea of a Linux-based mobile phone operating system will be irresistible to any Linux fan.

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