Category Archives: Mad Science

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

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.

SuperVillainHandbook

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

 

Year End Round-up

What is there to say? I’m here to vent my spleen at the science of the day.

  1. Elon Musk wants to put a man/woman on Mars. Well, we all want that. Can his ship land/take off again? Maybe. Looks like a good concept at least. Still, long way from here to trusting a rocket to set my butt down on the red planet. “Many a slip twixt the glass and the lip.”

 

2. Steven Hawkings wants to send sail satellites to other stars. The idea is terrible. I love his work, especially after he decided the Black Hole evaporation doesn’t happen. His current theory allows mini black holes, but enough about that. Let me trash his space probe idea.

Sorry, but just imagine that they do get the satellite up to 3000 km/s, a hundred times faster than anything we’ve done before. How far is a light year again? Look, 3 kklicks is a good number, it means you cross a light year in a hundred years. the CLOSEST target is about 3 ly away. So, the mission, launched in 2020, would arrive in 2320. Exciting, we’d get the return broadcast in 2323. Except, that is a boring dead system. The closest living world is about 10 light years away, so we’d get the broadcast in 3030. I ain’t waiting up. Besides, it’ll only be in that system for a few days. It’ll only be “near” the planet for about a minute.

Great, first principle of the light sail, it doesn’t have a breaking rocket. Not that you could slow down anything at that speed. We’re accelerating it using a super laser for a hundred years. Unless the aliens have a super laser, and want to slow down this beast, it isn’t stopping there, or anywhere. It will just keep going forever…buh bye.

solar_sail_spaceship-spl

3. NASA is getting a change in plan. It hasn’t had a plan in the last 8 years. Constellation, however you want to trash it, was a plan. It had some elements which may or may not have worked. I know, I was there, I worked on some of them. The radiation part, duh. I wrote, had my hands on at least, the majority of the environment documents. It was a plan. The Obama administration killed the plan. They didn’t have an alternate idea, didn’t really want NASA doing its thing. Whatever. Now hopefully a real plan for a Lunar Mission will be articulated. We’ll see.

4. I’ve got a paper to write. so I took a break to vent my spleen. Back to paper writing. I hope everyone has a good summer planned.

North Korea tests a bomb

Obviously, I can’t say anything about what NK did. You can get as much on the news as I can. However, we should talk about how a Nuclear weapon and atomic bomb are done.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/asia/north-korea-seismic-event/

It isn’t as simple as stealing a bunch of “radioactive” materials and … boom! That is the good, ole fashioned, dirty bomb.

marathon-explosion-people-on-sidewalk

Frankly, nails do more damage. We can argue, but I’d win. I don’t feel like it today. Any bomb is bad, a “Dirty bomb” isn’t as bad as blowing people’s limbs off.

The reasonable fear we have is from Fission and Fusion bombs. Fission being the simpler, or Atomic Bomb. One simply holds two near-critical masses of Uranium close together and the critical mass generates heat. Hold it close enough, long enough, you have a bomb. (the techniques are well established, but very difficult to master.)

easy_buster_cropped

The United States, of course, has mastered them.

NK is claiming it produced a Thermo-Nuclear event. This means it heated Tritium, or Deuterium Tritium mix, to fusion temperatures. A Fusion bomb can be much larger than a fission bomb. Thousands of times larger. Or, they found a cool word in the dictionary, that they thought was a synonym for Atomic Bomb, and decided to use it.

Look ignorance is on both sides. We (US, SK, and China reported numbers) measure nuclear events with a seismic detector. An American reporter announced this reported event as an earthquake detected near the test site… I’m sure he can do traffic and weather together every hour, so he’s better than 90% of the public, but most people are ignorant of nuclear matters.

northkorea-nuclear

I’m not sure the NK “reporter” is much better.

Sure, a bomb in the hands of a crazy person is scary. NK is a scary place. Still, this wasn’t anything new or particularly interesting. Imperious Leader just figured that he had been out of the news too long. He needed to break the ISIS ISIS ISIS refrain. Heck, he didn’t know that Obama had already pivoted back to Gun Control. I doubt he’ll get as much time on the 6 pm news as Terry McAuliffe, my anti-gun governor.

vacuba

Maybe you should focus on Knife control.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/on-day-1-in-cuba-gov-mcauliffe-touts-his-states-pork-wine–and-seaport/2016/01/04/f062e9ca-b2ea-11e5-9388-466021d971de_story.html

 

 

Star Wars

starwarsTFA3-970-80What is there to say about Star Wars?

Episode IV was a wonderful movie, V was a good movie, VI wasn’t too bad, had some really good parts. I had some good parts, II didn’t, III was so bad that … it was bad on every level of storytelling.

 

What keeps Star Wars alive, when all around it is failure and bad fan fic? Simple, we all want it.

Explore an infinity of new places, bam. Just get in your hyperdrive capable vehicle and take off.

friends watch back

It isn’t utopia, though there are some utopian areas. It is a real place with a lot of bad, and some really nice good. It is a wild west kind of place, where you carry a blaster and have good friends watch your back.

I actually thought the Disney “Rebels” and “Clone Wars” were very good cartoons. I’ve enjoyed them. I hope that the new movies follow those leads more than the crap of I – III.

What happened to them? Really, it was a film maker who was afraid of his source material. He wanted to look “bigger and smarter” and got shown up as dumb. Writers take note:

Star Wars IV – VI is Arthur, specifically it is Morte de Arthur. Arthur has become the Dark King. Modred in this is our Luke Skywalker, so a likeable boy. He is joined by Morgan le Fae (Leia Organa) and the Druid Knight (come on, he makes a point that he doesn’t believe all that Jedi religion stuff.) His Falcon and Wolf… a Wolfee….

Ok, so the rest is pretty much putting these trappings on a good old fashioned space opera.

space_opera

So the rise of Arthur should have written itself. ANYONE could have written it. But, the usual failings. 1) All the big things have to happened to Anakin at one time. 2) Space Operas aren’t comedic love stories. 3) Character development was in the toilet. 4) Subtle much? Look, a perfectly normal Anakin could have ended episode III. Or he could have been burned and not completely evil, just foreshadowing. Instead, all in. Bad Writing. Bad Story telling.

yoda

Bah, a humbug it is.

NASA views

I guess the good news is that NASA is still funding JPL missions to the outer planets. I’m a bit disappointed in their engine selection, some of their mission choices, but overall, it looks like decent return on investment.

This is a view of Pluto. Nothing too exciting, really. There is a certain uniformity in the ice flows that looks artificial, or at least weirdly large-scale crystal formations. Maybe it is just a feature of liquid flow in a very consistent environment. Maybe if we were closer, could get better resolution, we’d see the same pattern going down, showing natural fractal-ization.

So, any point to all this? yes. Choices matter. We do have information on Pluto because NASA has a budget and some will to use it. Most of the money is trapped in bureaucracy, much of the rest goes to Goddard for Earth exploration, but a little goes to JPL for its regular “big mission.”

sp-100-space-nuclear-reactor-2

Getting a nuclear reactor off the ground is still impossible, due to the Greens. A political choice to demonize nuclear power as a way of reducing the spread of nuclear weapons. Weapons are made in laboratories, not reactors. I keep hoping we’ll get sense in the US, but I don’t see much sign of that happening. Without 1) better launch technology or 2) refueling options. There isn’t much hope of a chemical rocket getting good results in the outer system. Too much Delta V to overcome. I’m still betting on a good nuclear reactor and ion drive for future deep-space missions. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Musical Science – String Theory

Published on Sep 16, 2013

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Dr. Woosley sent this to me the other day. (A brilliant Physicist who also is a friend of mine.) It is a couple years old, but I missed it the first time around. Lovely. Yes, it makes almost no sense unless you’ve done some String Theory reading, (I recommend String theory for Dummies and The Problem with String Theory as primers.) then the words pop out at you fairly well. Ok, does string theory make sense? Yes, but not in any testable way.

Basically, imagine a buddy of yours went to D.C. had a private meeting with the President and some senators, came home with a completely new understanding of how the government worked. One that didn’t fit into laws and such, but seemed to match observable reality well enough. He says that he doesn’t have the ability to prove anything in a court of law, it just is how it works.

You can say that he’s a wacky conspiracy theorist or that he’s a visionary. But, does it matter? Well, yeah, that’s the big question. We can’t seem to figure out Dark Matter, Dark Energy, how forces work at distance, etc. This is my profession, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

The fact is, Physics doesn’t know all that much. I mean, we’ve learned a lot in the last 2,000 years. And a good bit more in the last 200 years. But, the last interesting developments were nearly 80 years ago. Sure, the models are getting better, but having the answers makes models work better…not smarter or more correct. (If I know who wins the Superbowl, my model to predict which football team is superior works every time. If I use it at the beginning of the season, the answer isn’t better than 10% accurate.)  The fact is, we’ve been explaining these results for most of 100 years. I have a paper on my desk, from the 30’s, which explains nuclear reactions with “Magic Numbers.” Her predictions were correct to 3 decimal places. Using Schrödinger’s Equations we can get closer, but what does a decimal place or two mean? We have the results to tweak the fomulas with.

string_theory

picture source – xkcd.com/171/

So,  String Theory isn’t too useful, yet, but might be explanatory. Current theory is not providing much of a look into the future, but has the advantage of being testable. I don’t have a solution, yet, but I have hope that someone will come up with one soon.

 

Fighting Robots

I got an email from Dr. DNA today. Yeah, I’d seen this. I can’t wait… of course, it will all end in tears, but dang, what fun till it does.
First they clean our floors as cute little roombas,
Then the battle to the death for our amusement on the gladatorial arena,
How long before they link up and overthrow the rule of us decadent meat bags?
I have seen that movie…
…it does NOT end well…
sincerely, yours in giant fighting robot science,
Dr. DNA

Nanowrimo

new hill

I’m starting a book for National November Writing Month. (nanowrimo) I’m going to write a new novel in the Waylaid series…which consists of one novel. No great shakes yet, but I’m working on it.

If you want to join in on my pain, look me up on nanowrimo.  @Sablehawk of course.

This isn’t science fiction, but I’m willing to help anyone who wants it. I know science fiction as well as anyone. This novel is more fantasy/history based.