Category Archives: Dragon Con 2014

Dr. DNA, Supervillain, Found Dead in Lair

Dr. Paul Grigoli has died. He was found dead, suicide, on May 28th, 2016. Paul was better known, in Dragon Con circles, as Dr. DNA. I think he’d like the page title.


Dr. DNA strode around the Con in his trademark spotted lab coat, mouse lab-assistant in his pocket. He was one of the evil villains who manned the “Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow” Panel. He also won the “Who wants to be a Supervillain?” contest. His rants were epic. I was going to build a “DNA Mixer” for the next contest, but it involved alcohol (He loved Patron) and we were told to stop the booze on stage. I did get my wife to sew him a Pandagator. Head of a panda, body of an alligator. Apex ambush predator, very dangerous. (Just ask Dr. Granade about that one, long joke.)

I don’t really know what to say beyond that. He was a genius, a great guy and a good friend. Sure, he wanted to take over the world, but he promised me that I could have the first cloned T-rex. (Hey, I personally EVOLVED to eat that guy, I think I deserve at least a leg!)   jurassic

He had a lot to say, loudly, about all the time. But, at the moment you think he’s just crazy, he says something so amazing, science or philosophy, that you have to back him up to repeat it. Genius, on tap. One of the smartest men I’ve met, and I’ve met a lot. Maybe he wasn’t particularly adept socially, (he really worked at eccentric) but he had a lot of heart.

Paul hit some hard times, turned down for tenure at Vanderbilt and Murray state. He was finishing his exams to teach Physics in High School. I asked him to come out to DC, but between his dad, his kid, his ex-wife, his minions, and his friends, he didn’t want to leave Oklahoma. He didn’t want to leave his Lair.

He loved explosions. I was talking to one of his minions last night and she wanted me out in OK if just to blow something up, in memory. (They don’t really like it when you bring that stuff on planes, just saying.) But an explosion for old times sake.

Bikini Atol 1946

Oh, was THAT your secret superhero headquarters? Wow, you’re going to need a new one. yup.

Well, now the superheroes can sleep a little easier knowing Dr. DNA won’t be out to get them. probably. I mean, villains have been known to come back for revenge. I’d just beware of Pandagators, if I were you.


Wherever Dr. DNA is now, his secret Lair will safe forever.


Fermi Paradox – Why can’t we see aliens?

I’ll try to find my Dragon Con presentation from 2014, but here is the question and short answer, for those interested.

Fermi Paradox: With all the stars in the galaxy, there is a high probability of aliens. Why can’t we see them and why don’t they visit?

The first part is simple. We can’t see much of the galaxy. Most of our view is out of the galaxy. If you want to think of our galaxy as rotating around a Z axis,+/- Z is our long view. It is only a few tens of light years. (Still a lot of stars) If you look toward the other directions, we are limited to around a thousand light years.


How big is 100 light years? Imagine that the galaxy is a queen sized bed. Scale runs around 600 light years per inch.

Try an experiment: Take a bunch of quarters and toss them randomly all over the bed. Each quarter is an active, visible, alien civilization. Nice, big pile near the center, maybe a stack by the headboard. A lot of those quarters are touching, right? Those civilizations can see each other.


Good, now put a quarter one foot toward the center from the lower left corner. Did you throw another quarter there? Well, apparently God didn’t either. The Fermi Paradox. There may be intelligent aliens out there, we just can’t see them.

As to why they don’t visit? Because space travel is hard. Star Wars is awesome, Star Trek is sufficient, but both break basic rules. Frankly, if those rules could be broken, they would have been. I expect that we’re always to be limited by light speed. Which basically means our top velocity is 0.1 C. We might plant a colony at 14 light years, but it is a several hundred year trip. The only aliens we’ll ever see with share our DNA.


Plasma Gun – Mad Science Stories


There has been a lot of discussion the last few days about some fellow who printed a “plasma gun” and was shooting a bb at 450 ft/s. I’ve got some experience working with Dr. Mohamed Bourham back in 1992 – 1995. Plasma Engineering at NCSU. So I feel like responding to the usual threads.

The usual crap is:

  1. This must be fake.
  2. Regulate this before someone gets hurt.
  3. Really this isn’t very impressive.


  1. I don’t know much about 3D printing, ask Chad Ramey if you need to know. He runs (ran last year) Georgia Tech’s 3D lab. I’ve done some laser cutting and some milling, mostly plastic but a little steel. But, you can basically 3D print any shape. Usual limitations involve re-curvature and support of extended structures, same as any model building.
  2. Seriously, regulating 3D printing is as purposeless as regulating sex acts between consenting adults. Completely F*d up. Unless you decide to regulate the transfer of CAD files on the internet. You are outa luck.
  3. First off, 3D printing is cool, but milling is better. You can do a much better product with a 3D milling machine and a block of steel. Lexan makes a great ablative barrel material and a good bullet, but that’s it. This is a cute toy which could be sold next to the CO2 powered (paint ball) markers. No more dangerous (unless you shock yourself playing with wiring.)

So, what is a Plasma Gun?

Technical term – Electro-Thermal Chemical Plasma Device. Why? You use an electrical current to heat plastic so that it chemically changes into gas. The gas, mostly Hydrogen, is further heated to become a plasma. You get some Carbon deposition along the walls, which is good for encouraging all the current to flow through the gas. The Hydrogen gets hot, like 30 – 50,000 degrees Celsius. I normally divide by 11 k and call it electron-Volts, so around 3 eV.

The plasma expands at a much greater speed than speed of sound, so it won’t be limited to 1 km/s. Depending on how much energy you can get stuffed into that plasma. Well, a Dragon Con friend of mine asked for a plasma story, so I figure I can write that up today.

So, Here is the story. I was working in the lab and we had an idea to do an experiment, accelerating a 10 gram mass of Lexan with a plasma pulse. We were trying to determine how much momentum was coming down the barrel as a function of V applied. This mattered to some materials experiments we were working on. (Trying to separate out the thermal shock from the physical shock) So Eric and I decided to give it a try.

So, the ETCP device is set up in a wire Faraday cage about 10 feet on a side, lined with lead bricks. Hey, we worked in a reactor, there were lead bricks spare. We built three cubicles out of them, and lined them all with Faraday cages…we made a lot of EMP.

The device is solid stainless steel, bolted to the table, which is bolted to the floor. Very Immobile. The end was pointed directly at the wall, so if we pulled the rear seal off the experiment, the “bullet” er Lexan Mass would fly out of the back and hit a target in the center of the wall. We hooked up a pair of laser beams to measure the crossing speed of our 5 foot racetrack, and got to business.

I carved a bunch of 10 gram Lexan masses. They were about the size of your pinkie fingertip. (Little things) Eric put some bolts into the wall and suspended a chunk of Aircraft Aluminum, 3/4 inch thick, 4 inches wide, a foot long. We ran up a charge on our mass of capacitors. When we got to a good charge, I’d insert a bullet and we’d duck into our control room, turn on the warning light for 5 minutes, and he’d fire the gun. The Lexan converted to plasma on arrival on target, completely destroyed the bullet.

A few hours, a new charge, a new bullet, a new shot, a new velocity. Science! Each shot made a huge, single, noise. Like smacking a garbage can with a hammer. Scared the neighbors something awful.

So, at around 45,000 V, the shot made a sound like ringing a dinner bell, *ding a ling a ding a ling a ding a ling a ling a* It went on for a few seconds, louder, dimmer, louder, dimmer, louder… done.

We looked at each other, what the heck? Checked out the room, no damage, but the target was behind the control station folded in half. Marks on the walls, all the walls. Oh crap. The 10 gram mass of Lexan had folded the aluminum in half and bounced it off of every wall, probably twice. Dr. Doster decided that we didn’t need to be doing that experiment any more. But hey, we got to 3.54 km/s. Beat that.

Torn Knee Cartilidge

Yeah, a torn knee. Supposedly an “atheletic injury.” I suppose that 35 years of martial arts, 20 years of sword fighting, and 45 years of being a redneck hick probably earned me that a few times.

The first time I tore up my knee was biking up a mountain in a thunderstorm – actually just shy of a hurricane, they downgraded it to Tropical Depression that morning. Not that anyone told me. I was in Japan and back in ’93 and I don’t speak the local language, other than “Toire wa, doko des ka?” (Where’s the potty?)

 Mt Yari from Mt Washiba -C White

No, this isn’t the mountain I was biking. (but it is pretty) 

This looks more like the roads I was hitting, when cars weren’t trying to kill me. Not as pretty, but still pretty awesome.

I had a couple days off, my professor was in Tokyo for some reason, and I was biking near Tokai. The coast is mostly flat and a bit boring in the misty foggy rain. The roads near town were either unfriendly to bikes or tiny twisty things that with the constant big walls everywhere, aren’t much fun to ride.

There are a couple interesting climbs and some forest along the Mito line, which I went along for a while. Probably too long. I was getting blown around by the wind, so I headed up the mountain and hid out in some kind of general store for a while. I was soaked, my clothes were super-light weight (Japan was running 100 degrees and 100% humidity that week.) So I’m pretty drowned-rat in a light button down shirt and some khakis. The girl at the desk thought I was cute, so we attempted about two hours of cross-cultural, cross-lingual flirting. Not an epic fail… but pretty much a fail. By the time I got back to Tokai, my knees hurt – and kept hurting for a couple years. I used to run around in mocs, but had to move up to shoes with padded soles. The doctor said that I shouldn’t be biking for about 10 years recovering… well, I recovered. I’m still not back into biking, but I tried spinning yesterday (yes, with the bad knee. Just wanted to try it.) Frankly, unless I find a way to burn off some weight, my knees will have real problems. I’m about 15 lbs higher than I think is my standard weight, probably 25 lbs above ideal for my height/build. Somewhere around 175 lbs I’m a sexy beast. (heh, no, probably not, but a man’s got to have his illusions.)

Ron Rogers, he did preface this move saying, “This is gonna hurt.” It dislocated my shoulder.

Nobody warned me that this guy was big… getting busted by him was hard on the back, but I recovered.

This guy was just plain fun…

The Schola St. George was fun … (busted a finger)

Live steel is Da Bomb – though I had to buy titanium gauntlets to stop the constant string of busted fingers, knuckles, wrist…

But nothing beats chasing down people with swords…

Of course, there isn’t much to say. I keep busting myself up and I keep healing. I’ve broken more knuckles, ribs, toes, than I can count. Everything heals up fine…usually. Finally I’m hitting 46 and I don’t heal as fast as I used to.

I’d take off 10 years to let my knee heal…but that just doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore. I’d be 57 and … well.. I’d like to win a few more tourneys between now and then. Oh well, so I guess I get surgery.

If you pray, pray this goes well. If you don’t pray, I’d appreciate you learning, just for me. I’ll be under the knife around noon on August 5th. Should be back to my old self by Dragon Con 2014. Thanks!

Space and Science Party – Dragon Con 2014


Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls.
1) It is a fun game
2) Its gonna be a great party.

Folks, I’m awesome, but I could use some help. If you are at Dragon Con 2014, if you are working Space & Science in particular, I could use some stuff:
Food, Booze, A good music list (on a good interface, God knows I don’t want to run it from my laptop.), some tails and ears, an appropriate handstamp, appropriate games and prizes.

I’ve got a lot of plans and I’d like it if you felt you could contribute. We can shift this to a private facebook page if it works better, but contact me.


I wish I had more pictures of me in these shades, they are awesome. (I think I look awesome, but I’m known to be a bit biased there.) I bought them from Paul is the maker and – when I called him for an emergency pair before DC, he got them out. I really appreciated that. I hope he does good business. He just added a new cut, the snow pattern, and a zebra-looking paint job.

I swear these should be the goggles for some ice-shooting villain.

If you buy a pair, I recommend some stick-on tabs for your nose, these things are metal. Other than that, awesome. (oh, and I do recommend you buy a pair. They run from about 45 bucks to around 130, depending on metal, cut, and treatments.) Most importantly, he does custom work, so use your imagination. Clearly the brass ones make good steampunk accessories, but the copper has an asian feel to it that I can’t explain. I’ve got to work on some kind of Future Samurai look for those. And obviously everything with color on it could be turned into some version of a super-hero costume piece.

I’m definitely feeling Diesel-Punk this year, so I may have to figure out how to incorporate these.

I want one of these (well, four)

As you might have noticed in the past – jet engines are cool. (I think they’ll help me get chicks.) I know, I’m a nerd, I still think D&D is a sure-fire way to attract women. Occasionally I hit things with swords, I’m sure that makes me sexy. Well, this thing should be affixed on a sled for the damnedest way to run your head into a pole as has ever been invented. Yeah, country roads, a hovercraft, jet engines… I’m there. (yeah, the hospital bill will be immense, but maybe the nurses will be hot.)

I know, i should work on building one myself, but I’m working on a mobile dance-pole for the SPANC party for Dragon Con 2014. Its harder than it sounds.

Dark Matter

The Characterization of the Gamma-Ray Signal from the Central Milky Way: A Compelling Case for Annihilating Dark Matter

New paper came out which is extremely compelling. They are observing a 1 GeV gamma ray signal out of the plane of the Milky Way… from no specific source. This is troubling and needs to be resolved by looking at some of the dimmer galaxies – which have been rotating too fast for their matter. I’m not sure I understand how there could be a spherical expanse of dark matter, but it does match some equations. More importantly, excess 1 GeV signal does NOT match the products of annihilation for a 31 GeV particle. There should be a tail of reactions which go all the way up to 62 GeV. No sign of that has been seen.

Alien x

Ok, so we should be able to detect dark matter Annihilaaargh  (Ben 10 joke) annihilations in our solar system. But not everything has to exist, just because its on some super-hero’s costume.

Does Dark Matter Exist?
+1) it is necessary for gravity to work at Galaxy scale    -1) So our equations/understanding of Gravity is wrong.
+2) It might be one of the cool super symmetry particles. -2) yeah, I love string theory – but I don’t believe it.
+3) It explains a high GeV gamma signal    -3) The universe is a weird place, I can’t explain everything.

Other concepts?
Actually, since Hawking’s Radiation may have been removed, micro black holes may be a more serious candidate again. Interactions between Micro black holes are probably similar to dark matter…and the 1 GeV signature is much more believable. Of course, they are my favorite hammer … so this is a job for Nail!

So, I personally discount my theory. Frankly, I’d prefer String Theory to pull out a win here. Finding WIMPS would do wonders for multi-dimensional theory. The anihilation would be perpendicular to our 3-space, so we only get 1 GeV of leakage in a 60 GeV reaction. There are some particles “created” which cease to exist a nano-second later, each with a convenient shower of lower-energy x-rays, electrons, protons, photons. The “clean” signature we’d expect from an electron/anti-electron event 0.51 MeV assumes all dimensions of an electron exist in this universe. (String Theory is the bomb, but creates all kinds of misery for those who claim to understand its math.)

I wish them luck – and thank God that I’m an engineer who gets to point and laugh at their misfortune. (Up till the time they actually build a Brane Engine and I’m required to operate it in a safe manner and not destroy the multiverse.) yeah, the Risk report is gonna take a while on THAT one.

Ya’ll have a good weekend.

The Calendar!

No, I’m not posting to your calendar, but you might as well know what is going on this summer. I have a ton of activities, personally, that you don’t need to know about, but you might want to know the more interesting Mad Science items.
1) The Party In a Box

You may remember my old “Doom Box” well that needs an update, plus a stripper pole and some more light shows, you can never have enough.

I’ve spoken with my artists, designers, and the Mad Welder, and he thinks it can be done. I will be at Dragon Con – SO, the Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirl party is so far a go!

2) I’m working on an outside device as well, a natural gas flame in the shape of a giant star. Should be a lot of fun. (again the mad welder thinks it can be done.

3) Looking for volunteers for the S.P.A.N.C. party, we’ll need Catgirls and Pool boys. (As well as folks who want to work, put money in for booze & food, etc.

4) In my ample “free” time, I’m doing a lot of survivability work, so we could have further panels on that stuff.  EMP, Chemical Weapons, etc. How to design against the “end of the world.” Russia is making us all feel just that less secure, aren’t they?