News Briefs 14-08-2015

"The Tao is like a well: used but never used up..."

Quote of the Day:

“...It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.”


News Briefs 13-08-2015

Forget the Berenst#in Bears problem...was it Interview with the Vampire or Interview with a Vampire?

Thanks @ForteanWriter and @WeirdAustralia.

Quote of the Day:

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.

Frank Zappa

Jane Goodall on the Advanced Mind and Emotions of the Chimpanzee

The wonderful Jane Goodall discusses what separates us from the chimpanzee...very little.

Once we're prepared to admit that after all we're not the only beings with personalities, minds, and above all feelings, and when we start to think about the ways we use and abuse so many other sentient, sapient creatures on this planet, it really gives cause for deep shame.

News Briefs 12-08-2015

Know the Unknown.

Thanks to Tommy.

Quote of the Day:

What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning

Werner Heisenberg

The USAF's New Fighter Jets Were Built Using Flying Saucer Technology

The Avrocar

The F-35 Lighting II is the latest addition to the USAF's fighter jet arsenal. At around $100million per plane, they don't come cheap (though the US government has ordered around 2500 of them...) - but in the modern world, air superiority is key in warfare, and a large fleet of cutting-edge fighter jets is one way to ensure your military might.

How cutting-edge? One of the new models, the F-35B, will be the first operational jet fighter to be supersonic in speed, able to avoid detection via stealth technologies, but also be capable of short take-offs and vertical landing (STOVL).

Interestingly, a new paper on arXiv ("Avrocar: a real flying saucer") points out that the STOVL capability of the F-35B has its origin in an experimental 'flying saucer' vehicle developed by the USAF more than 50 years ago, the 'Avrocar':

One of the most unusual military V/STOL aircraft programs was the Avro VZ-9 “Avrocar”. Designed to be a real flying saucer, the Avrocar was one of the few V/STOL to be developed in complete secrecy. Despite significant changes in the design, during flight tests, the Avrocar was unable to achieve its objectives, and the program was eventually canceled after an expenditure of 10 million US dollars between 1954 and 1961.

[However] the concept of ground effect produced by a fan at takeoff and landing did not die with the Avrocar. In 1963, Bell Aerospace initiated studies of a landing system for air mattress (ACLS), which was later patented. These studies were directed by the former head of Avrocar project, Desmond T. Conde. The Avrocar also ended up producing the prototype Boeing YC-14 and McDonnell Douglas YC-15. The latter was adopted and evolved into the Boeing C-17 transport, which went into series production. This concept lives today as a key component of Lockheed X-35 Joint Strike Fighter contender.

Here's some video of the Avrocar in action:

What inspired the USAF to explore the 'flying saucer' design of the Avrocar? Did it arise out of the flying saucer craze that was at its height in the 1950s? Or was the design more to do with the circular nature of the fan system?

In any case, we can at least now proudly take off our tin-foil hats, and safely state that the U.S. military's latest jet fighters rely on flying saucer technology...

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Has an Egyptologist Discovered the Lost Tomb of Nefertiti?

Is this Nefertiti's Tomb

Few archaeological discoveries have captured the public's imagination more than Tutankhamun's tomb. Since Howard Carter first uncovered the lost burial site of the boy pharaoh, people have marvelled at the artefacts recovered, spun myths about the curse of Tutankhamun, and speculated about how he died.

But King Tut's tomb may hold one more object of fascination - indeed, something that would likely be considered a more important archaeological moment than the discovery of his own tomb: the whereabouts of the lost tomb of the iconic queen of the 18th dynasty, Nefertiti.

Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves has put forward the startling theory that Nefertiti may lie buried right beside Tut's tomb. His interest was piqued when he noticed a number of fissures and cracks in the walls of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, suggesting the presence of passages that had been blocked and plastered to conceal their existence:

One of these would probably lead to a storeroom; its position and small size mirror that of an already-uncovered storeroom inside the multi-chambered tomb. The other, bigger possible doorway in the north wall of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber suggests something much more exciting.

There are several oddities about Tutankhamun’s tomb. It is small compared with others in the valley. The objects found in it, while magnificent, seemed hurriedly placed and were found to be largely second-hand; even the boy-king’s famous gilded funerary mask sports the strangely unmanly feature of pierced ears. The tomb’s main axis is angled to the right of the entrance shaft, an arrangement typical of Egyptian queens rather than kings.

Noting that the bigger of the two doorways he may have located aligns perfectly with both sides of the tomb’s entrance chamber, Mr Reeves thinks it could conceal a corridor continuing along the same axis, in the scale and shape of other nearby royal tombs. All this, as well as evidence that the tomb’s decoration and construction were executed at different stages, leads him to conclude that this corridor would lead to the burial chamber of a queen, or perhaps several princesses.

Link: A tantalising clue to the location of a long-sought pharaonic tomb

News Briefs 11-08-2015

Top tip: If your 'all-powerful god' needs *you* to kill the heathens for him, he's maybe not such an all-powerful god...

Quote of the Day:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Dwight Eisenhower

First Trailer for HBO's Artificial Intelligence Series 'Westworld'

Artificial Intelligence seems to be the current plot device du jour for science fiction television and movies, with multiple series and features exploring what might happen when machines become sentient: Person of Interest, Humans, Her and Ex Machina (see our review) all being fascinating recent releases. And now TV heavyweight HBO, makers of the epic Game of Thrones, have stepped into the ring with Westworld, "a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin", starring the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Thandie Newton.

Westworld is based on the 1973 movie of the same name, written and directed by Michael Crichton, which tells the tale of an adult amusement park where visitors can engage in various elements of the 'Wild West' theme enacted by humanoid robots - and by engage, I mean do everything from fighting to screwing the androids. Which sounds pretty much right up HBO's alley...

The series is being brought to television by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar) and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company - the same pairing which produced Person of Interest. PoI's multi-season run on CBS has been a hell of a fascinating story arc about artificial intelligence, punctuated by its fair share of mundane mainstream TV procedural elements - so I will be very interested to see what Nolan and company are able to do on a network with a bit more dedication to long-form story-telling.

Westworld will air in 2016.

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News Briefs 10-08-2015

Connect the dots...

Thanks @MarkStaufer.

Quote of the Day:

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

William Shakespeare