Everybody knows that the early 1900's was when manufacturing was born, and that many of the industrial processes created during the 20's and 30's are still in use today. However, many of them have been replaced by robots in the last 20 or so years. Because of current AI limitations, the tasks these robots can perform are very helpful, but also limited. Robots are still unable to perform a complex non-repetitive task, making expensive laborers a necessary part of the industry. However, all of that is going to change soon. Currently, the biggest drawbacks to industrial robots are awareness and maintenance. Manufacturing rigs usually have to be surrounded by a cage due to the fact that they have no awareness of objects around them, and would slam right into a worker that wondered into its path. A robot called Baxter is currently being built at Rethink Robotics to avoid this. Baxter is equipped with advanced sensors that let it detect nearby workers and avoid them. Another problem is programming. In terms of physical maintenance the yearly electricity and upkeep cost of a robot is less than that of a worker. However, factories have to pay a highly trained computer engineer to write the code for the robots, which often consist of hundreds of lines to perform a simple task. If just one character is wrong, the code will fail to execute or the robot could fail catastrophically. Baxter also solves this problem. To train it to do something, simply move its arms in the desired sequence, and it will repeat it. Although Baxter probably won't change the face of modern manufacturing, the concepts demonstrated could be what changes the world. There are, in fact, many benefits of robot manufacturing. The first is that cheap robots will remove American dependence on foreign manufacturing. Cheap robot upkeep and fewer human workers will make it cheaper to manufacture domestically This is important because not only will it bring back American jobs, but it will protect us from the danger of China's massive real-estate bubble. Second is the theory of robot replacement. If a job is taken by a robot now, the next generation won't have to do that job, so they'll do something robots can't do (like teaching or R+D, etc.). The cycle continues, and causes humans to discover new ideas and occupations that we can't even comprehend, all because they don't have to do those other tasks.
This past week
I've been completely knocked out with the flu, missed two days of school, and
still haven't fully recovered. Before getting sick, I figured I needed a break
from school to just chill and relieve some of the stress of working so hard.
Of course, I probably got it at the worst possible time. The first day I
missed was a pretty important lesson in math class about the connection between
theoretical probability and expanding high-degree polynomials, and the second
day was the Chapter 6 test. As a result, I had to do the review work for the
test (which I may or may not have completely bombed),and homework I had missed
from two other classes, and that's not even the worst part. Tomorrow is a
cumulative test in math (which I'm almost 3 days behind in studying for because
of my other makeup work), and this upcoming Saturday I have to present my
Synfig animation at a technology conference (which I'm still not done with).
This is going to be really fun.
Today's blog is on a more sentimental note (which is a rarity for me), and it was brought about pretty much the same way all of my other blog ideas are. I was laying in bed looking at all of my posters and little plastic trinkets I've accumulated over my childhood, and I started to recall how I'd acquired them. I was suprised to see how much I remembered about each one. The human mind's capacity to remember events, especially those linked to physicial objects, is truly remarkable. Just looking around I can see a picture I drew in seventh grade, which I was frustrated at because the person's clothing in my source image was badly lit. I can see a purple game controller (one of those 25-in-one plug and play Atari games), which I bought at an antiques store in Colorado for $8. I can see a Spore poster, which I got with the $50 deluxe edition of the game (even though I didn't realize I was overpaying for it at the time). I can even see a Coke can that I got on a flight back from Washington DC, and I kept it because it was made in Austria and was a different shade of red than most cans. Anyway, that's my little sentimental bit.
I'm a pretty seasoned PC gamer (as I've been doing it for the better part of my childhood), and I've sort of grown unimpressed with the new games coming out. Either they're just a clone of another game (take every COD game in the last 5 years), they're short (Limbo was good for the 2 hours it gave me), they're overpriced ($60, really?), or the gameplay isn't interesting enough to keep me playing. With seemingly nowhere to turn, I've started to take interest in older games. I just recently purchased Dues-Ex Human Revolution (a newer title) and received the two older iterations of the game (the original, and Invisible War). I also have an old copy of Fallout 2 and a Majora's Mask N64 ROM that I can use with Project 64. In playing some of them (if only for a little while) I've come to see that some old games are, in fact, better than the glossy commercial products that many new gamers have come to know. I do say though, the Happy Mask Salesman is still really creepy.
Recently, I've decided to make a short animated presentation at a technology conference, mainly so I can be more comfortable speaking in front of an audience and so I can give my self a deadline for learning how to use 2D animation software. Since I'm only 13 years old and don't really have very much money, I started searching for a free, open source, and easy to use animation program. My search eventually led me to find Synfig, and I'm happy it did.
In the past I have had many frustrations with animation programs. When I was younger, I was bold and thought myself smart enough to jump right in to Blender (a free 3D modeling program) and teach myself how to use the UI with no help from tutorials or the user manual. Let's just say that didn't go down so well. Since then I've been trying to use these sorts of programs to very little success, so I figured now would be the perfect time to start again. It's a fact that if there's no deadline for a person to do something, often times it just never gets done (especially if the task requires lots of thought and technical issues). That's why I figure giving myself a month to learn Synfig and make a ten-minute presentation is a good idea.
Anyway, on to why I like Synfig so much. The great things about it are that it's easy to use, free, saves in a number of useful formats, and easily integrates with programs I already have (like GIMP and MovieMaker). It's so easy because of a feature called "animate editing mode". Basically, it's a feature that automatically keyframes all of the adjustments you make to onscreen objects while its active. Ie. I create a circle in frame0, then I turn on AEM and move it to the other side of the screen at frame12. Now, the program tweens all of the positions between just like that. No manual keyframing required!
Last night I was really tired (long day), but I couldn't fall asleep because I had just come back from a party (chocolate fondue). So, I made my way downstairs and started watching random things on Netflix, and I eventually stumbled upon a howstuffworks documentary on corn. Corn is actually one of the most amazing crops known to man, and I'd like to share with you what I learned about it.
Corn is in almost everything that is edible. Soft drinks, whiskey, bread, and even inedible things like synthetic rubbers and plastics. It's an extremely versatile plant, and there are 2 main reasons for it. The first is its quantity. Over thousands of years of evoloution and selective breeding, corn produces more biomass more quickly than any other grain in the world. The second reason is what it produces. Each of those little yellow kernals contains a ton of stored energy in the form of starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, and it carries more energy per gram than dynamite. Because of these 2 things, corn has nearly limitless potential for human and animal consumption, and industrial applications.
For instance, corn syrup is an example of a common corn product. It's produced by combining the corn with an enzyme, which breaks down the starch molecules into glucose. It's used in soft drinks as a sweetener and to keep the sugar from crystalizing inside the container.
An industrial application of corn is zanthin gum. Zanthin Gum is a type of lubricant and thickener, and is an essential part of hard rock oil drilling and other industrial operations. It's a waste product produced by the zanthinomus bacteria, and is produced in excess when the bacteria feeds on sugars derived from corn (corn syrup). Zanthin gum is a sort of viscious slime that is usually used to suspend dirt particles in oil shafts, but is also used to thicken things like toothpaste.
Before I get started with this blog, I'm going to define a couple of terms.
Developer/Dev - Company who creates a game
Publisher - Company who advertises, manufactures, and distributes hard copies of a game
Independent/Indie Developer - A Developer who sells their game without help from a publisher
Console/Platform - A device that can be used for gaming (Xbox, PlayStation, PC, etc.)
Port - A version of a game for a console (other than the one it was originally developed for). Can also mean the action of making a port.
Development/Dev Kit - A license and set of software tools that allow a developer to port their game to a console. Dev Kits are sold by the manufacturer of the console to game developers.
Open Source - A hardware or software item whose copyright license states that it can be used or modified by anyone as long as credit is given to the creator.
Many people don't understand how games (or many types of media) are created and sold, and a knowledge of that is required to explain why the Ouya is so revolutionary in today's world of mass commercialization. When you start a game, usually two or three little "intro videos" will play. It's a common misconception for people to think that EA developed the game just because their logo flashes on the screen first. EA is both a publisher and a developer, which means that many of the games with their logo stamped on the front are actually developed by somebody else (Dice, Maxis, and Popcap are just a few devs who publish through EA). In fact, very few companies at all are capable of publishing their own games (I can only think of seven off the top of my head). This is because most publishers and console manufacturers charge so much for publishing and dev kits that new game studios don't have a chance at getting their game on a popular console. This keeps new ideas from getting in to the mainstream, and something needed to be done.
This is where the Ouya comes in. The Ouya is a console for the TV, made completely with open source hardware and software (running android OS). On release, the Ouya is set to be priced at $99, and has been purpose built to bring independent games back to the TV. Because the technology to make a game on an open source android platform is so readily available, the dev kits are very cheap, and almost anybody can do it. I think it's amazing that Indie games are making a comeback into the mainstream, and I'm posting the Ouya's website for anybody who's interested.
*Note: This post was originally written BEFORE the Sandy Hook School Massacre.
I live in Chicago (for those of you reading this on blogger), and recently there's been a lot of controversial discussion. Illinois has had the strictest laws restricting firearms of any state in the country, and now, they've been declared unconstitutional. This means that gun laws must now be more lax, and at this point, it's anyone's guess what will happen next. I personally don't know, but I am a supporter of controlled carry laws. The argument against guns is that they will cause more shooting. However, I think the reverse is true. Gangs, Cartels, and other criminals will get guns regardless of their legality, and if law-abiding citizens are not able to carry weapons, the criminals can walk up to somebody and rob them. However, if criminals expect people to be carrying guns (or see a gun on somebody's hip), they'll think twice about robbing them. However, a large number of shootings are accidents caused by people who don't know what they're doing. That's why I think citizens should have to learn how to dissasemble, clean, reassemble, and safely carry their firearm before they are able to purchase it or get a gun license. Anyway, that's just my opinion, so feel free to debate in the comments.
Zombie Warfare Part 1 : The Zombies
Preface - The following is a compilation of the ideas of myself and others on a plausible but unlikely scenario known as the "Zombie Apocalypse". I do not own any of the works cited in this article, and will give credit to their creators. Most of this is based off of my knowledge and a little research, so if I have any details wrong in this article, or have left something out, feel free to comment and let me know.
If you live in the 21st century, you're probably pretty familiar with the idea of zombies. Zombies used to be human beings, but are now reanimated corpses, using only the most basic survival instincts in the human brain to survive and multiply. Destroying all living things in their path, a zombie's only thought is its next meal. In American mythology, there are many characteristics of zombies that differ between stories. These include different types of transmission, movement, responses to stimuli, senses, physical strength, and appearance. The worst part of all these discrepancies is that many of them are plausible in the event of zombie apocalypse. In part 1 of Zombie Warfare, I'm going to be taking you through all popular zombie mythology and explaining why some scenarios are more plausible than others, ultimately making what would be the most likely zombie to come lurching out of a hospital sick bay. This zombie will be what we prepare our defenses against in Zombie Warfare part 2, coming soon to Improvised Blog Title.
The Zombie Apocalypse starts with the disease. Nearly all zombie mythology agrees that a pathogen, parasite, or invasive fungus is the most likely to create a zombie. Most also agree that, whatever this invasive organism is, it works by shutting down all parts of the brain but those controlling basic survival instincts. This results in an animal with no fear, no compassion, and with only one motivation; to eat. If zombie apocalypse is to occur, it would be better to know what makes zombies, for the possibility of a cure.
- Virus -
Viruses are a commonly cited cause for zombification. However, that scenario is actually less likely than most think The biggest reason I can think of viruses are implausible is that they have surface proteins that target specific types of cells. If those cells are brain cells, they would continue to reproduce using the brain cells, and would not destroy a part of the brain, but the entire brain. Instead of a zombie, you would end up with a corpse (which would actually be preferable for the survival of the human race).
- Bacteria -
Bacteria are not specifically cited very often, but they are more likely than viruses for a couple of reasons. First, is that they reproduce independently of host cells through binary fission, so they do not necessarily need to destroy all of one type of cell. Another is that they are capable of independent locomotion. It's very limited, but it gives the bacteria a chance to move about the body, so they're not as localized. However, the bacteria is a living thing (whereas the virus is not), and it needs to eat. I suppose it would be possible for a bacteria to first infect the brain, and then travel through the bloodstream to the digestive organs and feed, but that would require a very advanced bacteria. What would be more likely is that the bacteria multiplies until it runs out of food, and then dies, leaving the zombie to walk around. However, this would limit the time frame necessary to transmit the living bacteria, and a month-old zombie would probably not be able to infect anyone new.
- Parasite -
This is also a likely cause. Now I don't know much about parasites, so most of what what's in here is going to be speculation. I figure that a parasite could disable the brain in an attempt to suppress resistance against the parasite, and then move to the digestive tract to feed and reproduce. It would explain the deteroiration of flesh, as the body would be malnourished due to the parasite, and it would explain the zombies being slow and lumbering for the same reason. They're also complex organisms, and would be more likely to exhibit complex behaviors such as this one. Another less known theory is the sentient parasite theory. This one's pretty rare in zombie mythology, and I've only ever seen the idea once (Stargate SG1). The idea is that a species of sentient parasites (usually from outer space) are capable of controlling the brain and would reproduce by transferring its larvae to other humans.
Of these, I think the non-sentient parasite is the most likely to carry a zombie payload.
Now that we've established what types of zombie diseases exist, we need to know how it spreads. There are many ways this disease is supposedly transmitted, and we'll determine whether they're possible, and then whether they're plausible. Since zombie apocalypses occur in as short a time as a couple of weeks, we'll assume that all forms of the disease are transmitted horizontally (not through offspring).
- Airborne Transmission -
Because of the fact that most parasites are many-celled complex organisms, this one is less likely. The extra weight that a many-celled organism has over a virus or bacteria gives them a major disadvantage in terms of being able to fly long distances. However, parasites are very diverse, so the zombie parasite could very well develop some sort of adaptation tat allows it to travel long distances through the air.
- Waterborne Transmission -
If we're talking parasites, this seems more likely than airborne. The fact is, water locomotion is a much more basic form of movement than airborne, and nearly all microscopic organisms live in water or travel through water to get to a host. However, in today's modern world, a parasite would have to find a way around the water purification plants that exist in nearly all first-world countries, and would be less of a pandemic and more of a localized catastrophe (as our water plants are designed to control diseases such as this one).
- Blood/Fluid Transmission -
This one is the most common in pretty much all zombie lore, dating back to the very first zombie movies in the mid 1900's. A bite, scratch, or other blood contact spreads the disease, making more zombies to do the same. Not only is this the most common, but it's also the most likely. The outbreak starts because the parasite takes a while to spread through the blood and infect the host, so people transmit it to each other without knowing there is a zombie disease. As soon as the first case occurs, enough are infected to spread the disease manually. There is no transition phase between infections because transmission is direct, so the disease won't die while traveling from place to place. Finally, the fact is that people will get infected because they are killing the zombies. They'll shoot them or stab them or hit them with a blunt object, and the infected blood will splatter all over the person.
Although all three types of transmission are plausible, we're going to assume that the one we'll be facing is blood transmission. This is because of the fact that water and air-transmitted diseases spread so fast that the only survivors are those who are immune (which gives you as an individual a pretty slim chance). It's so unlikely that you'll survive an airborne disease that we won't plan for it, but instead plan for the one we actually have a chance in.
Appearance/BehaviorWe now know (more or less) what we need to protect our bodies from, but now we need to know what will happen to those who aren't so lucky. How will we tell them from the uninfected populace? How long will it take them to turn? Will they be physically superior or inferior? These are all very good questions, and we'll answer a few of them here.
- Appearance -
This is a difficult topic to cover because there are so many possibilities. They could be covered in boils and hives, be all skin and bone, or look exactly like normal people. It's nearly impossible to say exactly what they will look like, but we can eliminate a few things. For one, they probably won't have glowing eyes, long claw-like nails, canine teeth, or any superhuman strength. These changes would require energy from the host, which it can't spare because it's already using its energy to support the parasite. Also, the changes would require some sort of genetic mutation (which, as far as I know, a parasite couldn't do to a person). What I think are most likely are the following: boils or hives, deteriorated flesh (similar to that of a leper's), missing limbs (see feeding), very skinny with little fat tissue, bald or mostly bald, and missing extremities. Most of the above things are results of either the body's reaction to the foreign organism, signs of malnutrition, or leprosy (the result of the brain's pain center being shut down).
- Fast or Slow? -
A major debate between different zombie lore is zombie locomotion. Some say they'll be able to run, climb, and overcome any obstacle to get food. Others say that they're slow, lumbering creatures that just limp along after you. I think it could go either way. On one hand, they should be slow because they are malnourished and weak. On another hand, the biggest enemies of human endurance are pain and doubt. Because the zombie's pain centers and conscious mind are gone, they experience neither of these, so they basically would run until they catch you or keel over dead. On a third hand, (if that's even possible) it could vary between cases, depending on what the person was like when they were alive, or how the disease affects different people.
- Feeding -
Most zombie stories agree that zombies have to eat. Whether its brains or just flesh in general, its something all living things need to do to survive. If we're following the parasite model, then the host must eat in order for the parasite to survive. A zombie's diet would most likely be made up of meat exclusively, and here's why. The zombie is created by shutting down the parts of the brain that control conscious thought and pain, leaving only those that control basic motor functions, hunger, and basic senses. Primal humans, before they discovered they could eat plants, ate meat exclusively. Therefore, without knowing that plants are edible, zombies would do the same. The Walking Dead shows that after a person is infected, the zombies feed on parts of it (such as limbs or extremities) and the rest of it is reanimated.
So in Part 1 we've established that zombies (at least the ones that we are planning for) will be caused by a bloodborne parasite, and they will be easily distinguishable from the uninfected populace prior to infection. In part 2, we'll learn how to kill them.
The Night of the Living Dead - George A Romero
Left 4 Dead - Valve
Half-Life 2 - Valve
The Walking Dead - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, AMC, Telltale Games
Stargate SG1 - Brad Wright, Johnathan Glassner, Metro Goldwyn Myer
The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence
- Donald Rumsfeld
That's a quote from Donald Rumsfeld, 13th Secretary of Defense prior to the Iraq war. I heard it in a popular TV cartoon (which I won't cite because I probably shouldn't be watching it), and it gave me a thought. Many tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories are based partially (if not mostly or entirely on this idea. So in this blog I'm just going to throw out a couple of weird things I read on the internet (they MUST be true if they're on the internet!). Here's the IBT Top Ten Tinfoil Countdown!
10) Water Fluoridation
Honestly, this one is just stupid. Water Fluoridation is the process of dissolving fluoride gas in tap water to reduce tooth decay. However, it's supposedly part of a plot by the New World Order (see number 1) to take over the world (what?). This one made it on the board for its show of complete ignorance and for making absolutely no sense whatsoever.
This theory states that in the universe exists a type of energy not yet discovered by the scientific community. This energy, called Vril, was discovered by Nazi Germany and was used to build flying saucers. However, this technology was stolen and taken to massive underground tunnels. The people who stole the Vril, whose names are not known, used it to build a Socialist Utopian Matriarchal society in their underground caves, with the Vril providing life support and making them food and water. The Subterranean Matriarchs present a very REAL danger to surface dwelling societies, and need to be stopped. (you can help stop them with a donation of $20 to stopthevrilldwellers.org)
8) Barrack Obama Nationality Conspiracy
If you've seen any news articles from 2011, you've probably heard of this one. Sometime in the middle of Barrack Obama's first term, a largely circulating rumor started that, because neither of his parents were natural-born Americans, he also wasn't. This would then make him unqualified to be president. The rumor spread so out of control that the president had to present his birth certificate on national television to stop the rumor. The rumor then, of course, was changed to include that his birth certificate was falsified, but by that time it was pretty much taken care of.
7) Tsunami Bomb
Explosives have been around since black powder was invented in ancient China. Ever since there have been explosives, there have been people experimenting with them (often with disastrous results). It was quickly observed that a bomb's shockwave was transmitted more efficiently through water (or any liquid) than air. This concept led to an idea known as Tsunami bomb. The idea was a very large conventional bomb (such as a MOAB) or a shaped blast detonated under the sea could create a large tidal wave capable of destroying coastal cities. Allegedly, the US and New Zealand conducted weapons tests to create a Tsunami bomb, and that they used it to intentionally cause the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
6) The FDA
Every year, the American Food and Drug Administration releases a set of dietary guidelines (usually in the form of the food pyramid website) for people to follow. This theory says that the maximum calorie intake (among other things) is altered to cause health problems. Because of the resulting heath problems, people would have to buy dietary supplements and have surgery, bringing money back into the medical industry. The increasing number of obese people in America is also sometimes attributed to this.
5) DTV Transition
Back in the summer of 2009, the United States switched over to digital television from old analog broadcasting. This was done with a couple of reasons in mind, but mainly that it was increasingly difficult (if not impossible) for engineers of broadcasting equipment to add new features (such as closed captions) to broadcasts because of analog's limited bandwidth. They needed to add new features to keep their channel competitive but there simply wasn't enough space to broadcast everything they needed to. Digital was the solution. However, Conspiracy theorists say otherwise. Supposedly those little black boxes you bought to let your analog tv receive digital contain government cameras, recording devices, mind control technology, etc. Another theory was that the government switched so they could control tv by use of fake static to censor things they didn't want said.
4) The Oil Monopoly
Ever since the late 1800's, petroleum has been one of the most profitable industries in the world, and as long as there are rich, powerful people involved, there's going to be a conspiracy theory. Most of them involve some sort of technological suppression (ie. man invents 100% efficient carbuerator, but is killed by oil producers and his design destroyed to prevent the fall of the oil monopoly). However, the most widely known and believed is that oil companies have been suppressing the electric car for a long time (ever since Henry Ford and Thomas Edison in the early 1900's).
Probably the most well known conspiracy theories to people in the 21st century are "Apocalypse", "Armageddon", or "End of the World" conspiracies. Ever since the Bible said there would be and end of the world, people have been trying to describe it and predict it. This lead to the rise of the "Zombie Apocalypse" fiction, as well as movies like 2012, which say that the Mayan Calendar predicts the end of the world on December 12th, 2012. However, it's been one of hundreds of predictions, and I personally don't give it any more merit than the others (since we're still here and all).
2) Assassination of John F. Kennedy
I'd call this one the second most well known conspiracy theory (after 2012 of course). This theory says that the assassination of the 35th president of the United States couldn't have been carried out by one man (who official records say is Lee Harvey Oswald), and that he was actually killed by a second sniper on Elm street. This theory is supported by a number of ballistic reports, film footage, and the fact that the original investigation was not very conclusive. Of these theories, this one is among the few that is widely accepted as fact.
1) The New World Order
This, without a doubt, is the mother of all conspiracy theories. The idea of the New World Order is that one day all humans on this planet will be united under one government and will be treated equally, regardless of race or political opinion. However unlikely this Utopian society seems, supposedly it exists already. The conspiracy theory behind this idea is that there is a group of unknown, secretive power elites who is either attempting to, or has succeeded in, uniting the world under one government (depending on the variation of this theory you read). They secretly control all or many governments, but let them continue to exist to give people the illusion that everything's normal and prevent uprising. This idea has also been associated with the "End of Days", saying that whoever controls the New World Order is the Antichrist. This takes the cake as the number one conspiracy theory because it's got all of the biggest traits of one, it's the cumulative work of nearly 200 years of speculation and research, and, most importantly, I think it should be #1 (after it is my blog)
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the top 10 conspiracy theories of the internet (at least that I could find). If you think this list should be modified, comment below.
A pretty nerdy teenager, aspiring to be a maker or programmer (in the distant future).
BE SUPER AWESOME AND CHECK OUT THE FULL BLOG AT: improvisedblogtitle.blogspot.com