Generals Are Always Prepared For The Previous War

Candice eetimesIt’s a classic truism and remains true today.  When new tech obsoletes the planning, training, and doctrine of an older leadership, proven experts in the older tech.  Examples?  The stirrup used by the Norman’s defeated the Saxons in 1066, introducing the mounted knight.  The Welsh longbow that proved that the days of the mounted knight were over at Agincourt.  The infantry squares w/ bayonet mounted on rifles that showed that mounted cavalry and massed infantry doctrines were over.  The machine gun and trench warfare that showed that the European military love of fast calvary was over.  Airplanes and tanks that showed the Maginot line was useless.  The GPS system that showed Iraq’s doctrine that tanks would get lost in the trackless desert was fatally mistaken.  The large drones that allowed death from above that showed that hiding in the desert didn’t work.

Now, our military is confounded by a new system that utterly obsoletes older doctrines… the cheap, small, multi-rotor drone.  It serves as both intelligence gathering and explosives delivery vehicle.  Our military is not ready for them.

But they could be, if they start letting young officers perform wargames using them.

First line of defence is electronic counter measures.  Find the frequencies that enemy forces are using and hijack them or jam them.  It won’t be easy, not with spread spectrum technology and cheap encryption.  But start researching the problem now!

Be ready for the next tech development: AI.  The next step is to make the drones independent using AI if the command signals are lost.  The AI can continue the mission… even use image recognition to find our soldiers.  Uniforms are easy to identify.  Today’s camo is designed to confuse HUMAN eyes, not AI.  Time to start researching the problem now!

We might find that low tech solutions can be used.  For example, the weak point of multi-rotors is the rotors.  Imagine high tensile strength fiber nets to entangle the rotor blades.

That may not be the only solution… but time to war game them and see what works… NOW!

Further External Reading:

https://taskandpurpose.com/.amp/news/drone-swarms-middle-east-centcom

Crisis or Opportunity?

Candice eetimesFor decades, the start-up entrepreneur’s mantra has been “disruption”.  If one was to have a successful start-up, it had to disrupt it’s industry.  Well… here today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, is economic disruption on a global scale.  Nearly every industry has been effected.  So, as opportunity is the obverse of crisis, now is an excellent time to take stock of entrepreneurial and investment opportunities.

First, the obvious.  Businesses that depend upon in person transactions such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, personal grooming, etc. have been hit hard by the need to maintain physical (we mislabel it “social”) distancing.  It may be several years before we can comfortably return to taking such close contact for granted.  These closures and restrictions have also disrupted their supply chains.  For example, food distribution to restaurants have been disrupted clear back to the farms that source the food.  These are clearly areas of opportunity for new businesses, new models.

Already, we can see some readjustments in some of these businesses, as take-out and delivery replace in house dining.  Even more interesting is supply chain adjustments to deliver raw foods directly to households.  This will continue and will likely create new opportunities.  Oddly, it is also a throw-back to an earlier time when the butcher, green-grocer, and the milkman all did home deliveries largely because most households either had no car or only one, such that the homemaker couldn’t drive to a supermarket (which only came into existence when the second car became available to the suburban household).  Providing these services efficiently will be a challenge and the firm that figures it out will be the big winner.

This need to maintain physical distance has ironically turned conventional wisdom upside down.  For a generation of teenagers, people wrung their hands at how young people were glued to their smartphones, talking, texting, or browsing, instead of in person socializing… or paying attention to the droning lecture from the teacher in the classroom.  We now see that they had been in training for this moment.  And this means that they are ready to adopt new modes of entertainment and education.  The firms that figure this out will clean up.  Forget large movie houses or even the multiplex.  Forget large classrooms with mediocre instructors.  They won’t be missed by the younger generation.  (Read my essay on the past and future of education.)

The pandemic has disrupted manufacturing supply chains.  For several decades, the mantra was ‘just in time’ supply.  It made sense in that it reduced Work In Production (WIP) and thus capital tied up in inventory.  But we had already seen issues with natural disasters interrupting supply chains… but when an entire global economy is interrupted?  The new mantra will have to be something more like ‘resilient & agile’ as well as ‘just in time’.  Manufacturers and logistics firms that solve this puzzle will dominate the next century.

We’ve seen contradictory developments in health care delivery.  On one hand, some hospitals have been overwhelmed with sick and dying patients, while others and many clinics, have been shuttered by others avoiding them lest they be exposed.  We’ve seen that our earlier ideas about mobile emergency hospital ships have proven nearly useless, yet the idea that developed out of warfare, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit proved itself.  Yet, we still didn’t have enough in some places and too much in others.  Solving this will be BIG.

Imagine if you will (said in Rod Serling voice) a simple at home sample that one licks and seals.  It has a grid of chemical reagents that detect compounds and antibodies and changes color.  One then takes a photograph with their smartphone.  One’s fitness wearable has constantly measured other variables.  A web based system analyzes the photo and provide instant diagnoses and even orders one’s new meds if it detects changes in disease, etc.  If the system detects something that requires it, an appointment for a video conference with a physician is scheduled.  Vaccinations are provided annually via peel and stick patches mailed to your home.  Another lick and seal antibody test days later confirms one’s immune status.  Clinical visits would be rare.  But when they do occur, one would walk through a whole body scanner at the entrance and the medical AI will have delivered it’s evaluation before you see the physician and if needed, personalized medication is being fabricated by a machine at a local pharmacy.  It might be a CAS9/Crisper fix for a genetic disorder, or it might be a designer virus to treat a bacterial infection.

Murder By Any Other Name

Candice eetimesWith recent calls to “open the economy” and even armed protesters blocking the streets of Michigan, there has been a recent talking point among a certain class of political pundit, echoed by the usual suspects, that efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 epidemic infringes upon their freedom and liberty.  I’ve even seen it being described as taking away the dignity and future of those who have become unemployed as the restrictions required are ‘carpet bombing the economy’.

Equating minor and temporary economic hardships with loss of liberty, dignity, and future?  No one has less liberty than someone in body bag, no one has less of a future.  I’ve been unemployed numerous times.  Hell, I was intermittently homeless as a late teenager / early 20s. I still had liberty, dignity, and a future.  But to claim that a job (or some financier’s stock portfolio) is worth knowingly allowing people to die when we could have prevented that?  I judge that to be depraved indifference homicide, murder by any other name.

How to make homemade masks more effective…

candicecoverAs there is a shortage of N95 masks that should NOT be hoarded by non-medical care providers, there is a growing movement to make homemade masks.  Such masks are just not as good as the manufactured medical grade masks, but are better than nothing.

As an inventor and technologist, I’ve been thinking for the past several days how to make homemade masks more effective and protective using materials available in many homes or at least easily available at most supermarkets. I believe I have an easy solution. The masks need to be laundered after wearing to maintain cleanliness… but they should be HAND laundered in very hot water using real soap such as Ivory Soap bars then rinsed in dilute white vinegar. This will leave a film of lipids on the fibers as the acetic acid in the vinegar will convert the soap to a chemically neutral lipid that will cling to the fabric. (making the cloth feel softer, a nice bonus) Here’s why this will work to protect the wearer. Corona viruses are spheres of RNA surrounded by a lipid coat. That’s why washing one’s hands with soap and water works, soap tears that lipid coat apart allowing the RNA to be destroyed. The mask fibers treated with real soap and then vinegar will have lipid coatings that will chemically bond to the lipid coating of the virus particles, trapping the virus, FAR better than conventionally washed fabric.

I’ve been asked what fabric they should be made from:  The best choice is smooth tight knit, fuzzy yarn (but NOT terry) white cotton tea toweling.  Avoid dyed and especially print cloth.

Please share this widely. It could save lives.

Video Review: DEVS

candicecoverThe only good thing that I have to say about this show is that it avoided the silly SciFi trope of using transparent displays.  My take away?  This show is cheezy anti-tech, anti-Silicon Valley agit-prop.

The show kicks off with the juxtaposition of a high tech couple leaving their nice San Francisco apartment, stepping over a homeless man camped literally on their doorstep, exchanging cheery morning greetings by name.  They then take a private commuter bus down the penisula to the over-the-top woodland tech campus with a creepy & cheezy giant, full color, statue of a little girl in modern clothing, which turns out to be the companies brand image and company name.  There is a hint that this is the Founder / CEO’s dead daughter.  And when we met this CEO, for just a moment, we would be forgiven for thinking that this is the same homeless man that was sleeping in the couple’s doorway.

One of the couple is promoted to work on a super secret project in a super protected and shielded bunker like building.  The inner sanctum is covered in what a good technologist would recognize as an oversized representation of a fractal antenna, like what can be found in modern cellphones… save that it fails to maintain the fractal pattern down to the small size that an actual working device would require.  This signals to me that the visual look was borrowed by the Hollywood set designer with no or little clue as to its actual function.  Then one goes into the sealed off room to see what is instantly recognizably an unshielded quantum computer.  This newly promoted employee turns out to be an industry spy who uses his ‘Dick Tracy’ watch, takes pictures of the code.

Bad Move.

He is discovered and murdered by the CEO and his security goon.  Thus, we are told, as if none of the rest of the obvious allusions didn’t, that they are evil.

The murder is covered up and the victim’s girlfriend tries to figure out what happened to him.  Oh… and there’s another reference to tech workers invading space that doesn’t belong to them when she approaches her old boyfriend for help, and they meet up in a bar in the Castro… get it? Heterosexual tech workers use the gay community’s space as if it was theirs.

OK, let’s unpack some of this shall we?  The well off tech workers stepping over the homeless man… pretty obvious huh.  Then the commuter bus, an icon of gentrification of The City that earlier escapees (always willing to shut the door after they get theirs) from the surrounding burbs have protested for raising the cost of rents and then bussing them to Silicon Valley.  This is clearly supposed to represent and demonize facebook and Google, etc.  The disquieting resemblance between the homeless man and the CEO… cute huh?  The list goes on and on.

As someone who grew up in Silicon Valley yet spent much time as a member of the LGBT community in The City my whole life, I can’t find this amusing nor enjoyable.  It’s crapping on everything I hold dear.  It’s a lie write on the small screens that I helped to develop by a Hollywood team that ungratefully uses all of the tech from people like me.  I won’t be watching it further.

Religious “Liberties” is a Sham

Candice eetimesRecently we have seen a movement to create “Religious Liberty” laws and a Federal Executive Order that are pitched as a protection of individual and group religious groups rights to “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

They are a sham.  Their real aim is to circumvent both the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and anti-discrimination efforts, most notably those laws protecting LGBT people.

The laws and edict are designed to force government to fund religions that discriminate against others who aren’t living up to their religious edicts.  For example, they require that State and Local government to fund private adoption agencies who use “sincerely held religious beliefs” to deny government funded services to same sex married couples, unmarried people, and transsexuals (married or not).  Another example is that they require both private and public schools to fund religious based campus organizations that discriminate against LGBT people nullifying those schools’ and even States’ anti-discrimination rules and laws, under penalty of losing their Federal funding.

Proponents of these so called “liberties” laws claim this is to protect the right to believe and worship as they chose.  BOLLOCKS !

No one has lost the right to believe, or worship as they chose when a law disallows FUNDING for a group that discriminates against others. But when the government denies funding to an institution for DEFENDING the rights of people against discrimination, or of nullifying anti-discrimination laws by requiring funding of religious based organizations, that is a form of both discrimination and of establishing the power of religion to demand funding from taxpayers in the face of that institution, local government, or State’s “sincerely held beliefs / values” of non-discrimination. Thus in essence, this is not about religious “liberty”… but about bigoted people’s ability to use government power in the name of religion as means to empower themselves and their religion over others.

True religious liberty doesn’t demand this power. True religious liberty in history demanded that government NOT allow this kind of power. Historically, in many of the colonies, and then the States, said polities had laws that demanded that everyone had to tithe to the government sanctioned (both meanings of the word intended) church, no way around it even if others attended another church or no church at all. Some colonies and townships even fined people if they didn’t attend said church. When the authors of the Bill of Rights wrote about Freedom of Religion, that is exactly what they were talking about, the power of the government to force monetary support for a religion that they themselves didn’t believe in and were often mistreated by.

Today, these so called “Religious Liberty” laws are a de facto means of using the power of the government to demand that monies, specifically public taxes be used to empower churches that mistreat others in the same (but sneaky) way that the Bill of Rights was meant to disallow forever.

Fight for our Bill of Rights. Don’t be fooled.

Video Review: Star Trek: Picard

With only two episodes released, it may be early to give a serious review but there are things I feel I can comment upon.

First, Wow… this is so much better than Discovery!

Some things I like, it expands the canon rather than messing with it.  The dialog feels better.  What violence exists moves the plot rather than the other way around.  In just two episodes, we have been introduced to both the longer term plot and to interesting characters, with the promise of more to come.

But there are some silly tropes that I reacted very negatively to.

First is the horrendously dumb visual trope of transparent displays.  As a display technologist and inventor, this just bugs me and I’ve explained why before, but the second episode really demonstrated why its so dumb.  In one scene we have a double agent spy master with open windows viewing a video call on a transparently projected virtual screen with an incredibly low contrast because one can see the brightly lit view of the sunny view outside the window competing with the image on the screen.  Please, please, can we dump this dumb trope?  It’s as dated as silver lame clothing as a SciFi movie trope.

Next is the anachronistic presence of a mid-20th Century lamp shade in a Star Fleet office.  What would a spy master’s minimalist office decor be doing with such lamp shades in the late 24th Century?  Design usually follows function and technology. The modern lamp shade is a late 19th Century invention that came about because of the introduction of bright filament incandescent light bulbs.  Yes, we saw lots of such lamps and shades in Picard’s home.  But then, he is an antiquarian living in a home filled with antiques.  They made sense there.  But not elsewhere

What also didn’t work for me is Picard’s vineyard.  Amazing how much France looks like California’s wine country, complete with dry wild oats between the rows and a California live oak visible in the distance.  Perhaps I’m the only one who even noticed, but it pulled me right out of the story seeing my local wine country being used as a set for France.

Finally, why antagonize the SciFi reading audience with Picard, who is one to read Shakespeare, who refered to Azimov’s robot series as “the classics”, saying that he didn’t “get” science fiction?

Magnetic Misalignment In Aviation

Screenshot_2018-06-15-13-57-18I’m a Flight Instructor (CFI, CFII, MEI).  I love teaching my students.  But there is topic that is a growing concern in navigation; magnetic field changes.

The magnetic compass was perhaps the earliest navigation instrument to be installed in an aircraft; And why not, it had been successfully employed in nautical navigation for centuries.  It is self contained and self powered.  However, it has several drawbacks in an airplane.  First, it is only points to the magnetic heading when one is in straight and level flight.  Start a turn and it leads or lags one’s actual heading.  (This is compensated by using a gyro stabilized directional instrument that is periodically aligned with the compass when in straight and level flight.)  The compass also has errors because of electronics and magnetic metals in the aircraft which the pilot has to compensate For another, it doesn’t actually point to “north”, but to “magnetic north”.  And even that isn’t actually pointing to the north magnetic pole as the Earth’s magnetic field isn’t a simple bar magnet.  Global and local distortions exist.  So, the pilot depends upon geomagnetic surveys that are updated periodically.

And therein lies the rub.  That magnetic field is changing, shifting, faster than ever.  Aviation maps are updated several times a year, but there are other references that are updated much less infrequently.  This leads to different “magnetic north” references that can be very confusing to the pilot.

First up, land based radio navigation aids, particularly the Very high frequency Omnibearing Range or “VOR”.  These radio stations transmit “light house” like rotating radio beams whose relative timing (phase) compared to reference signal tells instruments in the cockpit of an aircraft what the bearing is from the station.  But, since the system was put into place with the assumption that airplanes all had compasses as their one and only reliable directional instrument, those stations were all aligned and calibrated to the local magnetic field.  This is a problem.

The rapidly shifting magnetic field has left many VOR stations no longer aligned.  As instructor, I have had to supplement my students navigation instruction on how to use the VOR ‘magnetic bearings’ as idiosyncratic, independent references that only roughly correspond to the magnetic bearing indicated by their compass.  Fixing this problem would be simple, provide a magnetic flux compass on every VOR and it would ALWAYS remain aligned.  However, this would cost money and the FAA has other plans.

The FAA is shutting down most of the VOR stations, leaving only a minimum network of stations as a back-up to GPS navigation.  But here’s the fun part; those GPS units also report direction of flight and bearing to waypoints and airports using magnetic reference!  The GPS system suffers from the same shifts in magnetic fields as the compass vs. the calibration date of the on-board GPS data base.  That magnetic data base is only updated very infrequently, unlike the data base for the location of waypoints and airports which is defined by latitude and longitude.

The mismatch between the VOR and GPS system can be very noticable in flight, often by several degrees.  Yet another thing I have to teach my students is how to keep these in mind and not get confused.  This difference can lead to very different locations in airspace for what is nominally the same point.  For example, not far from my home base of Santa Rosa / Sonoma County / Charles M. Shultz Airport (Shultz was the creator of the Peanuts comic strip) is SNUPY, an intersection (a point in airspace) that is defined by the intersection of two VOR radials (magnetic bearings) from two stations and is also in the GPS database.  But those two points, which by definition should be identical, are actually a bit over a mile apart.  I’ve never been able to get a straight answer from the FAA which is right.

Research suggests that the rapid shifts and reduced strength of the Earth’s magnetic will continue.  Thus, problems with navigation will continue.  However, their is a very simple solution provided by the increasing sophistication and decreasing cost of avionics.  The “glass cockpit” (named from the use of glass substrates found in Liquid Crystal Displays, LCD) can be driven by differential GPS receivers that detect heading & track, displayed as true, with no need for reference to the Earth’s magnetic field.  All our maps, instrument procedure charts, everything would be with respect to true north, no matter the location, vastly simplifying navigation, reducing pilot workload, and reducing training requirements, increasing aviation safety, and lower costs by eliminating the need to update charts as the magnetic field shifts.

This is a plea to the FAA and ICAO, please update our navigation philosophy.  Its time to switch from magnetic to true.  Its time to have a TRUE 21st Century navigation doctrine.

New Energy Economy

candicecoverSometimes, public policy gets it backwards.

Recently, there has been a growing movement to ban the manufacture of new housing that uses “gas” for heating or cooking so as to reduce green house gas emissions.  While a laudable goal, it is missing a key point about our new energy economy with its growing installation of renewable electricity.

You may be thinking, what is she getting at?  Is she crazy?

Stop and think for a moment about where we are generating the most electricity from wind and solar, where we need electricity, and when.  One of the key problems of wind and solar is that it is intermittent.  We need a way to store it.  We also need a way to transmit it from where it is most abundant to where is most needed, when needed.  The current electrical grid has severe losses moving energy across continents.  And we still don’t have a good way to store the energy until needed.

But there is a very good way that we could do so with very little investment and we can do it progressively, without major disruptions to our present systems.  I’m speaking of energy storage and transport as hydrogen gas mixed with our current natural gas pipelines.  Over time, as more hydrogen is created from excess wind and solar generation, more hydrogen will displace the natural gas in the pipelines and our homes.  The conversion will be gradual and cost effective.  We already have the pipelines.

Far from banning the use of gas in new housing, they should be designed to use mixed gas in anticipation of clean burning hydrogen.

Further External Reading:

https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/german-pipeline-operators-present-plan-for-world-s-largest-hydrogen-grid/2-1-810731

https://cleantechnica.com/2020/05/18/bp-smacks-exxon-upside-head-with-new-green-hydrogen-scheme/amp/

Bad Science Journalism(tm)

candicecoverAdding to the generally poor science literacy, Bad Science Journalism™ distorts the public understanding of modern science.  It is not just because the journalists themselves aren’t science literate, it is because the very format required by the media requires that the story be badly represented.

It starts with the headline.  It must be ‘click-bait’.  A headline that reads, “New Study Adds Subtle Nuance to Well Established Theory” is not acceptable, even if it is the most accurate possible.  Instead, it must read, “Shocking New Study Overturns Decades Old Theory”, even if it is very far from the truth.  Even worse, the headline may read, “Study Shows Scientists Were Wrong”; which plays into the anti-science myth that science gets things wrong all too often; So why trust any science?

Another requirement of Bad Science Journalism™ is that there must always be a practical purpose to the study, usually one that the Average Person™, can relate to, always.  Science for knowledge sake, with no clear direction where or if such research will lead to anything that the Average Person™ will benefit from, is absolutely forbidden.  To this end, there will always be a paragraph or two, perhaps with a quote from somebody that has no connection to the research, making the most tenuous and labored claim such as, “This may someday lead to a cure for cancer.”

Some of the blame for Bad Science Journalism™ is the laziness of the journalists, the time pressure to push out more copy, and the perverse incentives found in research institutes to create sensationalized stories.  Many universities and institutes rely on grants and donations to fund basic science.  They have professional public relations departments who produce publish ready copy for use by overworked journalists.  The more mentions of pioneering research that they can into press, the more donations and grants they will receive.  Educating the public on the actual import of a given study is not one of their priorities.

This problem needs to be addressed by more than bloggers with pet peeves.  All those who care about science education must hold those responsible to account.  Start by not clicking on obviously hyped headlines.

Further Reading:

Seriously Sad State of Science Education

Examples of Bad Science Journalism™:

https://scitechdaily.com/scientists-were-wrong-about-dna-it-is-actually-held-together-by-hydrophobic-forces/amp/

https://news.rutgers.edu/theory-earth’s-climate-last-15-million-years-wrong/20190920#.XYqIQohlA1J