Artificial Flight and Other Myths February 19, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Webcomics.
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a reasoned examination of A.F. by top birds
Over the past sixty years, our most impressive developments have undoubtedly been within the industry of automation, and many of our fellow birds believe the next inevitable step will involve significant advancements in the field of Artificial Flight. While residing currently in the realm of science fiction, true powered, artificial flying mechanisms may be a reality within fifty years. Or so the futurists would have us believe. Despite the current media buzz surrounding the prospect of A.F., a critical examination of even the most basic facts can dismiss the notion of true artificial flight as not much more than fantasy.
We can start with a loose definition of flight. While no two bird scientists or philosophers can agree on the specifics, there is still a common, intuitive understanding of what true flight is: powered, feathered locomotion through the air through the use of flapping wings. While other flight-like phenomena exist in nature (via bats and insects), no bird with even a reasonable education would consider these creatures true fliers, as they lack one or more key elements. And, while some birds are unfortunately born handicapped (penguins, ostriches, etc.), they still possess the (albeit undeveloped) gene for flight, and it is indeed flight that defines the modern bird.
This is flight in the natural world, the product of millions of years of evolution, and not a phenomenon easily replicated. Current A.F. is limited to unpowered gliding; a technical marvel, but nowhere near the sophistication of a bird. Gliding simplifies our lives, and no bird (including myself) would discourage advancing this field, but it is a far cry from synthesizing the millions of cells within the wing alone to achieve Strong A.F. Strong A.F., as it is defined by researchers, is any artificial flier that is capable of passing the Tern Test (developed by A.F. pioneer Alan Tern), which involves convincing an average bird that the artificial flier is in fact a flying bird.
Now we know the goal, but what about the technical hurdles? Our visions of the bird wing are becoming more accurate, it’s true, and soon we may have a full model of every muscle, bone and sinew, but even this is merely information. There’s never been a realistic timetable of how long it would take to replicate even a portion of the wing, whether through biology, engineering or otherwise. And even the most optimistic birds have yet to explain how we plan to accurately rebuild the delicate array of feathers that are essential to flight. Do not misinterpret this pessimism as cynicism, mind you, as I do believe these studies are worthwhile, as we will learn more about ourselves and what it means to be a bird. Replicating birddom, though, is almost definitely out of our reach.
Even if we were capable of completely achieving the above, how would we ever know if it was a true bird? Where does flight really reside? We may build a functioning, flapping wing, but what if the essence of flight is deeper, hidden within the cells or elsewhere? We would only succeed in making a hollow doll that only gives the appearance of flight. If this is the end result, is it a worthwhile investment of our time and resources?
There are religious birds who believe God made Bird in His own image, and while I do not share in most of these beliefs, I do think there’s something to be said about the motivation behind creating Strong A.F. Perhaps, as we are the only creatures on Earth capable of flight, we want to push forward past our current capabilities, perhaps even augmenting our own flying capacities if independent A.F. is an impossibility. This could be interpreted as noble, but I would argue that there’s very little utility in replicating what nature has essentially perfected. Why spend millions on an artificial flier when there are so many birds out of work? Many weaker fliers have already lost their jobs to gliders; is it wise to rush to make ourselves obsolete? A.F. research may unlock some hidden mystery about ourselves, and it may make the lives of some more comfortable, but at best, true Strong A.F. is a pipe dream and at worst a challenge to what it means to be a bird.
Roger Puffin, PhD
Professor of Sleeping with One Leg Up,
Massachusetts Institute of Flying
[lifted in whole from Dresden Codak. I’m so ashamed]
Good thing it’s just a baby February 17, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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This was found at the Lambusango Forest Reserve in Buton, Indonesia. I am still looking for more information. And a fire extinguisher.
Why I Want to go to M.I.T. February 16, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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On the morning of the dedication of the William H. Gates Building, the internet kiosks in the lobby which normally ran Windows XP were changed to temporarily boot LINUX. The screens displayed a welcome message from Tux the Linux penguin. After a few hours, they were converted back to Windows XP.
Not that they would let a 53-year-old guy in anyway (unless I donated a million or so).
Lemurs February 16, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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Hey, this is my blog, and I can write about anything I want…especially lemurs. I realize some people don’t think lemurs are cute or interesting, but they vote republican and are easily fleeced by confidence men and women of easy virtue. So there.
Lemurs are native to and found nowhere else but Madagascar and the surrounding islands (where they were probably introduced by humans). Lemurs migrated to Madagascar after it separated from Africa and, having no primate competitors, differentiated like crazy. There are currently 88 species! Nobody is sure how they got there from Africa, but this video suggests a way.
Lemurs come in cute,
and very cute (the lemur is the one on the left). The mouse lemur is cute and small:
Ring-tailed lemurs are not known for their table manners:
The white-ruffed lemur is a snappy dresser:
Lemurs are sociable critters
I mean really sociable
(in their groups, naturally, not with nosey humans) who give off a variety of calls for safety, announcements etc. [add mp3s here when you get a chance]. The young call to their mothers when they get separated
although they tend be a little clingy.
Lemurs are threatened, endangered or damn near extinct (depending on species) due to logging in Madagascar. These guys seem pretty relaxed about it. Maybe they are counting on us helping them.
It’s only six inches tall, so not exactly accurate.
More Hello Kitty February 9, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Japan, Uncategorizable.
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I took this picture in my local Sanrio store. There was a HK motorcycle also, but for some reason this tire spoke to me. Get it? Spoke?
Fine, if you want to be like that.
You could use this:
No, it’s a real gun:
Not a Photoshop job, like this:
But you probably prefer the happy ending.
Apparently someone ACTUALLY LIVES HERE. In solitude, I imagine:
It could be this guy:
He probably want to meet this nice girl:
You can tell by her look she just wants to meet a nice guy and settle down and have some beautiful children in a happy home.
All this HK stuff makes me sick.
Never fear; I have more. Oh, so much more. 😦
Hello Kitty Pancakes February 8, 2010Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Japan.
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I don’t actually own any Hello Kitty products, but I love looking at them. They generally make me want to slap myself silly for even thinking that what I am looking at is real.
The above photo is from a Harajuku store selling filled Hello Kitty-shaped pancakes.
I should have written a dozen posts about this sort of thing, but I have been busy. Fear not! I will add a Hello Kitty tag so you can read only HK posts by clicking on the link on the sidebar to the right.