Is the end of infectious disease nigh?

IMG_1084.JPG

proimmune

Great piece in Reason, not utterly poo-poohing Ebola fear but pointing to a potential future where infectious disease is conquered.
REASON : Ebola: ‘Dress Rehearsal’ or Show Closer? Rapid biomedical progress will soon make epidemics ancient history

Track Points lower price point Precision Guided Firearms

IMG_1043.JPG
So again ars Technica has a great article on Track Points latest products, $10,000 AR15 class weapons with their tracking/guidance package.

This is a remarkable technology and if I wanted to hunt it’s one I’d consider since you’re much more likely to get a clean kill.

These weapon’s make almost anyone a one shot one kill marksman, eroding a little the ‘advantage’ of a professional and increasing my concerns regarding their use in politically motivated murder.

The use of the weapon wit a remote sight also increases my concern in this area though the existing versions are heavy very expensive and near useless at short range.

However those disadvantages will rapidly dwindle, the technology is not that complex and I can see many bells and whistles I would work in over time.

In the not to distant future advanced combat forces will be using this and derived technology on all of their firearms, the battlefield will become deadlier and counter measures, operational, tactical and technical will be deployed.

Some in the political arena will want this tech banned, they may succeed in the short run. Some may demand it become mandatory, with the development of a human target recognition element and over ride…an expansion of the smart gun push.

But for now, it’s a cool use of technology by some pretty savvy guys and it’ll be fascinating to see where it goes.
IMG_1042.PNG

Lucy the Movie

Lucy_(2014_film)_posterLucy is a disappointing movie. That is not to say it is awful, but I could not argue with someone who said that it was awful.  For me the movie started out very well and was watchable throughout but it left me feeling like I had seen a Hollywood Horror, not the child of the Luc Besson, director of the movie The Fifth Element.   The movie feels like it was cut short.  Started out on a path like, if a bit less out there than, TFE but then got chopped short.  It as if the script was written around a very tight plot but instead of spending time fleshing out the story and the characters it was decided to just get something out the door as cheaply and quickly as possible.  I suppose that Johansson or others were not available for the time Besson needed to do a TFE like work.   Whatever it was this is a very disappointing movie, mainly because it had great potential.

The details:  the violence is what some called ‘over the top’ but unfortunately it’s what I call pseudo realistic; Lucy starts out as a believable type…and ends equally believable but without an audience leading transition ; while the Lucy UberHuman [LUH]is believable I think a more relate-able version was possible ; the LUH’s abilities are fantastical, over the top, a creepier, more understated version was  possible ; the plot is ultra simple and while the plot holes are there they don’t derail the movie ; [SPOILER ALERT] the bad guys are workmanlike if a bit too Bond-Goon-Squadish, but I really really wanted to evil surgeon from the early scenes to get terminated with prejudice ; the end is utterly anticlimactic the ‘happy’ ending wasn’t cheery and had no punch, the LUH metastasizes to another plane leaving behind the USB key fob to the universe, the confused boy toy police guy gets a text message from the beyond and the world goes on…meh.

Details of the details:

LUH’s creation: The crap about the utilization of the human brain was good as a way of thinking about human capacity but its scientific bunk, which spoiled the movie a bit for me.  The drug was TFE Beeson over the top (as was its introduction) but its derivation and supposed affect were not very convincing.  I’d have bought a material that increases intelligence by accelerating and reorganizing the brain, but requires constant new fill-ups or the user becomes a vegetable, it’s the first of a new family of bio-nanotech human enhancement drugs the Chinese mob has stolen, one vial of the stuff could infect hundreds or thousands, who would all become vegetables if they cannot get the fix… a trope matrix that could have been much more scary.

Violence:  I think that LUH had to use violence she had no time to explain.  The emotionless LUH had no compunction about using it which was funny the first time but troubling with no context.  Also the violence was too risk free, humans react to violence, modern training makes us hesitate but there are many among us who would react almost instinctively.  LUH did to some extent explain herself to the surgeon but the hole here was their reaction to her and the lack of a police response in the time it took to take out the bag etc…A couple of soliloquies or appologetic explanations to victims (even dead ones) would have helped and could even have been funny….

Emotionless: Emotions are chemical and triggered by autonomous systems, LUH could suppress them…believable.  But I lost any real human interest in the whole story when I knew she was essentially a machine with a hard stop use by date.  The appearance of the hurting, frightened, grieving old Lucy would not have been hard or out of place, her goodbye to her mother was only part of what should have been a thread through to the end.

LUH powers: Telekinesis, really? Mental control of electronics plays into my idea for LUH abilities but its just magical crap with the trope used.  With ability to control her physiology, and ultra fast processing she could have senses and reactions and strength way beyond the norm, and would have needed to eat like a horse (that was consistent in a way) she might be able to exude skin oils or pheromones with powerful effects, could heal herself fast, maybe even read minds if in contact with the target, etc, etc.  These effects and her having to think her way out of dead ends would have supported the simple story line.  The magical powers she exhibited should have been part of a movie with more complexity / depth in other areas, where those powers play are a way to keep the story moving fast….here they just truncated this already too simple movie.

Bad Guys: OK pretty good in a Bond Villain Goon Squad sort of way but still.  And what about the evil surgeon? he really needed his own poetic if gory end.

The ending:  A more effective ending would have been failure…the bad guys kill her, the bad guy’s die, maybe science guy and boy toy survive to grieve Lucy’s death.  Then maybe a hint that she did not fail but that she had made sure that the bad guys got sucked in and destroyed while the drug or whatever that created LUH will be treated like a mixture of nuclear weapon and Ebola.

 

Go and See Edge of Tomorrow, it Rocks!

The hero and her sidekick Tom Cruise

The hero and her sidekick Tom Cruise

Edge of Tomorrow is a kick ass science fiction action flick.  GO AND SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!!!!!

It is action packed, actually makes sense (in science fiction terms,)has a quirky dark military sense of humor and an odd quirky dark romantic subtext (to me who loves warrior women [and my wife].)

OK Groundhog Day and that episode of Stargate did the reliving the 24hours bit before but not with the firepower (literally) of this movie.

I love the fighting machine, its direct line descent from what we are seeing in progress today and it certainly give the heroes a rational ability to carry REALLY BIG GUNS!

Emily Blunt is the hero here though the action revolves around the time looping Tom Cruise character.  Right now I think she’s better than Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Aliens because she is not so much reacting heroically to the demands of the moment as displaying long-term self-control and holding onto hope long after knowing the chances of survival are in the hands of pure chance.

SPOILER ALERT:    DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE AND HAVE ANY INTEREST IN GOING.

The aliens have invaded, 4 years ago, worse, they’re winning.

Tom Cruise’s character, a slimy salesman in uniform, pisses off the Allied high commander and gets assigned to the invasion force getting ready to push the aliens back from the beaches of Normandy (D-Day with choppers.)  It all goes terribly wrong and TomC gets killed in the first few minutes, along with pretty much everyone else.  But he’s not the utter waste of humanity you first thought.  In a final act of bloody-mindedness he takes an alien commander with him, setting off a time loop around his last 24 hours (which the aliens had set up so they got the advantage of do overs.)

Rita (Emily Blunt’s character) was killed early on during an earlier great battle in similar circumstances. In a series of many hundreds of do overs she finally has enough of an effect to win the battle though she cannot in the end get to the alien’s core (the Omega) and destroy them.   It is never stated in so many words but it is obvious that she learns from, and works with another soldier in this repetitive nightmare, falling in love with him but never able to save him.  At some point after the battle, probably trying to find a final solution, she is wounded in combat and given a transfusion, which destroys the looping.

By that time she is the new Sampson, Hercules, Sergeant York, Audey Murphy…but damned now to live and die just once she has to try to find a way to counteract the aliens’ undetectable, undefeated advantage.  Her friends dead or discredited she has to grit her teeth and allow herself to be used to recruit cannon fodder, in the hopes that somehow, she can help stave off defeat and find a key to victory.

My read of Rita is that she is very near the breaking point by the time the too cute TomC character pops into her life.  Not given the advantage of looping with her guide, each time she has to accept, come up to speed and move out with him each and every time, and it looks hard for her.

The TomC character Major Cage, starts out as a near total waste of oxygen, but his act of rage that sets up the loop is an act of redemption. And somehow, with backsliding, he keeps the redemption train moving.  When Rita first meets him I’m fairly sure she’d really like to pull his head off to see what goo is inside.  But as time progresses he earns her trust (remember this is over a period of less than 24 hours for her) and finally a little bit more.

It’s fairly obvious that Cage falls for Rita, physically at first (Blunt is Valkyrie hot) and then in a far deeper way (after the first several hundred deaths or so) and is also convinced that she (and her mad scientist friend) is the key to not having to die for good eventually.

At the end of the movie they die…after their first (and only) kiss, but the loop acts one last time to toss Cage back to an even earlier beginning, the beginning of a new age as the aliens have been destroyed though nobody has any idea what happened.

Last Scene, Cage in his noncombat officer finest faces the still burnt out and very dangerous Rita but now he is a seasoned warrior under the glow.  He has seen her die many hundreds of time, almost every time knowing that her death was the death of any hope except for his death and a do over.  She is seeing him for the first time, again.

I’ve spent hours thinking about the pick up line after the fade out.  One does not know what will happen, “Hi Rita you don’t remember me but we blew up the alien Omega together.  Just dropped by to thank you for saving humanity with my help,  I wanted you to know that seeing you die several hundred times was a real bitch and dying that last time, I was glad I wasn’t going to survive without you.   Could I take you out for a cold beer and pizza later?”

OK so that’s corny but I bet there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others wondering the same thing.

 

iPad Next

Still waiting for the next iPad. Having used an iPad from its second year on I have decided that it really, really needs an update in the usage department.

What do I mean?
I really have tried to use my iPad to take notes and to do real work, I have a blue tooth keyboard but it requires a table for me to use and is one more item to carry.  Really one needs pen, audio as well as keyboard input, and to be honest I would like keyboard and mouse input because the damn screen is not as easy to interact with as a mouse for heavy writing/editing.

For note taking I worked with just a stylus with several note taker apps but the poor wrist rejection and poor accuracy of the stylus make the payoff poor given the effort it takes to use well.  I bought the Jot blue tooth stylus and its accuracy is absolutely abysmal and the ‘feel’ of the hard nib on glass just sucks.

My little Moleskin note-book is better than the iPad.  It would seem to me that one could create a very useful iPhone size note pad if the screen were a little draggy like pen on paper and the accuracy of the stylus was as good a pen on paper.

There has been commentary about tablet sales topping out, especially iPad sales.  I think that’s because a lot of people who thought they could use the iPad or equivalent as a more general computing tool have slid back to using it as a consumption device and that makes the cost of these high-end devices too high.

To pick up more users and re-energize those of us who have found ourselves slipping into a reader only mode the iPad needs to replace the note pad.  That means the useable surface needs to expand to something more like 8.5 x 11 and it needs to have a high accuracy high feel-quality stylus. Letting the Surface Pro 3 and the Galaxy Tab S go without a strong response will slide the iPad into a lesser position and let MS retain and perhaps expand its Business core. It could even kill the iPad Air sales entirely since for a pure reader the iPad mini is a better deal.

So I hope the rumour of a larger iPad is right and that it has the technology required for a high accuracy high  ‘feel-quality’ stylus.  Even better if they can do this on the iPad mini and iPhone I would expect them to be leading the pack again.

This is not to say that the non stylus start of the iPad was wrong or that the capacitive touch interface should fade.  You do not always have or want the stylus or pen, and learning the new touch interface was important but as the market matures and the users understand how they do and could use devices their wants/needs expand.  And as the Galaxy and the Surface demonstrate to some degree the stylus/pen is a needed adjunct.

One thought here, sapphire might be a very good material for the right type of ‘pen’ sensor, hard enough to allow one to use a metallic tip perhaps?

 

From AW&ST Things With Wings

20140202-203359.jpg

If you have heard of Richard Lugg, you probably know him as the man behind the HyperMach SonicStar supersonic business jet concept. And as if Mach 4 cruise, supersonic laminar flow, plasma drag and boom reduction, and superconducting electric propulsion were not enough, Lugg’s name appears on a new US patent (8,636,241, filed in 2006) for a hybrid jet/electric VTOL aircraft.

My feel is you don’t need SciFi tech to get on this road.

The hybrid jet/electric VTOL design looks a bit more practical and, if not Lugg’s design, then some similar form of distributed-thrust, electric-propulsion VTOL is going to fly sooner rather than later, I am sure.

I gotta say it: The iPhamily refresh I want…

Have to say that the finger print sensor on the iPhone 5s is really a great idea and somewhat unobvious.   As always it was the quality of integration and superior tech selection that gave it the Apple imprimatur.20130911-121516.jpgNow we have a projected 4.5 – 4. 9 in iPhone 6 and possibly an iPhone max at 6 in, and iPad max (Pro?) at 12.9 in.  This is the Samsung version of innovation not Apples.

One of the things about the Apple sparked smartphone race is the well noted but sometimes missed integration of an absolutely crazy (by standards of 6 years ago) set of sensors in every unit.  The iPhone and its genetic descendants are sensor rich platforms that software, skins and blivets modify for an uncountable number of applications.

Apple has identified a key (and missed it with the 5c) people want ease of use, ruggedness, power and flexibility so they can personalize their technological jewel and use it to enhance their life.

SO?

Follow the logic:  Make it more general purpose, more flexibile, more rugged, more capable, easier to skin, easier to add plivets to, while staying bullet proof.

Sizes:   I would think about the iPhone/pad Family:  4″, 4.5″, 6″, 7.9″, 9.8″ and 12.8

Screen size:  I think apple needs to push the screen to the edge and around the edges of the frame [on the smaller models] at least on one side, to enable side scan and programmable side switches.

Physical buttons: Minimize, three in total all programmable though one will need a hard wired on/off/reset function.

Physical buttons, the center finger print sensor [an iconic item that got its start with the iPod. ] :  Bury it under the face and make it part of the functional screen, or make a cutout in the screen for it   [that would be a real game changer style wise and make the tech maximalists scream bloody murder. [Do it for the front camera and speakers and some would go up in spontaneous fireballs.]

Radio:  Every unit should have WiFi and Phone / Data functionality built in.  Work with the pipe suppliers to get them to do what they should want to do, enable the use of Phone/Data flexibly so people get hooked.

Protection:  The smaller units should have a sapphire screen to add even more ruggedness.

Cameras:  Apple, keep up the good work, quality over quantity and work with the guys who want to add specialist lenses to provide more and more camera functionality. The two cameras in the iPhone are key, critical tools in its bag.  I love photos, love cameras but they are doomed to become a relatively rare specialist device.

Speakers: Need to be better, stereo, along with stereo microphones to add acoustic sensing to the repertoire.  Maybe one should put the speakers on the face?

Inductive charging: not in already, really?  Understood its bulky but its needed for the next level of rugged etc.

Waterproof….ehe…the question is how to do the speaker connection (assuming inductive charging) I think one can make the connector waterproof and I don’t think its a problem unless you get salt water in it, in which case some kind of sensor to make sure its not leaking current. [I think that the audio jack is going to last a lot longer than maybe it should.  But I will hope Blue Tooth makes cable-less headphones the standard in 5 years or less.]

Oh well, guess I will wait to see where Apple goes, I hope they see their premier post PC tool the way I do.  Maybe they have even better ideas, we can always hope.