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Friday, January 21, 2022

Map of power outages caused by squirrels, with bonus squirrel-related links

"I don't think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels." 

~ John C. Inglis, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency 2015.07.09

The war with the squirrels continues unabated - from Cyber Squirrel 1 (who is, unfortunately, no longer updating):
This map lists all unclassified Cyber Squirrel Operations that have been released to the public that we have been able to confirm. There are many more executed ops than displayed on this map however, those ops remain classified.
Screenshot from CyberSquirrel1

The data is gathered from Twitter and then listed on a filter-able Google map. You have the option to narrow the data by year and by month, and can even choose to only view the cases related to squirrels, non-squirrels, or all animals, including birds, raccoons, snakes and beavers. The interactive map is available here.

Related posts/links:

Video: The Narcoleptic Squirrel Song.

I'm pretty sure this flesh-eating-squirrels-because-fracking movie never got made, but if it ever happens, I'm in: Squirrels - Pre-production Sales Trailer.

A fire that heavily damaged an apartment complex was started by a resident using a propane torch to remove a squirrel's fur.

Scottish brewery releases $20,000 beer in taxidermy squirrel.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The worlds strongest, explosive powered nut cracker

The worlds strongest, explosive powered nut cracker:

If you’ve ever tried to use a nutcracker, you soon realize they don’t have much in the way of actual force. So, YouTuber Shane Wighton decided to design and fabricate, from scratch, a nutcracker that could bite the hitch off a pick-up truck.

To power it, he used the explosive blank shells that are used in construction to drive nails into concrete. The video animates and explains the physics involved - he creates and machines each component, then has to re-design and re-produce those components to correct his mistakes. 

Pretty cool. Watch full screen.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Thurber's fable "The Bear Who Let It Alone"

One of my favorite authors is James Thurber, and one of my favorite (very) short stories of his (actually one of his fables) is about a bear who drank too much, then gave it up.

Thurber's fable The Bear Who Let It Alone:

In the woods of the Far West there once lived a brown bear who could take it or let it alone. He would go into a bar where they sold mead, a fermented drink made of honey, and he would have just two drinks. Then he would put some money on the bar and say, "See what the bears in the back room will have," and he would go home. But finally he took to drinking by himself most of the day.

He would reel home at night, kick over the umbrella stand, knock down the bridge lamps, and ram his elbows through the windows. Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

At length the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform. In the end he became a famous teetotaler and a persistent temperance lecturer. He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of drink, and he would boast about how strong and well he had become since he gave up touching the stuff. To demonstrate this, he would stand on his head and on his hands and he would turn cartwheels in the house, kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows through the windows.

Then he would lie down on the floor, tired by his healthful exercise, and go to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

Moral: You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


Getty Images, Mehmet Kaman

Imagine a few years from now, U.S. supply troops have just wrapped up a field exercise in Poland, showing solidarity with the country in the face of saber-rattling from nearby Russia. As the sun sets, GIs rest next to their trucks, knowing the Russian 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division is encamped just a few miles away.

The soldiers hear a faint buzzing in the distance and see a dark cloud crossing the horizon. Suddenly, a solitary scout drone swoops low over the Americans—it’s seen them. Like a predator catching the scent of prey, the cloud stops dead in its tracks, then rushes toward the soldiers with astonishing speed. Following programming orders, each of the 60 drones scans the ground below and picks its target, while AI ensures no two drones aim for the same vehicle. The drones arm their explosive payloads just as the first bursts of gunfire begin lancing out from the American position.

“The first use of autonomous weapons in war won’t be heralded with a giant fireball in the sky. It may just look like an ordinary drone.”

Sometime around March 2020, this longstanding trope of science fiction—autonomous attack drones eliminating human beings on the futuristic battlefield—crossed over into science fact. That’s when, during the Second Libyan Civil War, the interim Libyan government attacked forces from the rival Haftar Affiliated Forces (HAF) with Turkish-made Kargu-2 (“Hawk 2”) drones, marking the first reported time autonomous hunter killer drones targeted human beings in a conflict, according to a United Nations report.

Unmanned combat aerial vehicles, loitering munitions, and the Kargu-2 “hunted down and remotely engaged” HAF logistics convoys and retreating fighters, the UN report found. The autonomous drones were programmed to attack targets “without requiring data connectivity between the operator and munition,” meaning they located and attacked HAF forces independent of any kind of pilot or control scheme.

The Kargu-2 is a quadcopter drone developed by STM, a Turkish defense contractor. The drone features sensors and an electronic brain, and is designed to carry a weapons payload. In marketing materials, STM explicitly says Kargu-2 is capable of carrying out an autonomous attack.

Here’s how it works: The drone operator loads a set of target coordinates into the Kargu-2’s software. The drone then takes off and travels to the coordinates, searching for objects on the ground that fit the profile of preferred targets. Once the drone identifies a target, it swoops down on the target at high speed and detonates an onboard explosive package, with an effect similar to that of a shotgun blast.

“The first use of autonomous weapons in war won’t be heralded with a giant fireball in the sky,” says Zachary Kallenborn, an official U.S. Army “Mad Scientist” and national security consultant. “It may just look like an ordinary drone. The event illustrates a key challenge in any attempt to regulate or ban autonomous weapons: How can we be sure they were even used?”

The Evolution of Military Drones

One major difference between a remotely controlled attack drone and an autonomous drone is the software, which might be difficult to obtain from scattered bits of plastic for forensic analysis.

The U.S. Army is working on autonomous drones, including the Bell Textron M5 medium robotic combat vehicle. The M5 is an uncrewed, 10-ton tracked armored vehicle that looks like a miniature tank and has a top speed of 40 miles per hour. It features a 30-millimeter XM813 chain gun and is designed to operate alone or as a wingman to M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

The key difference between the Army’s drones and the Kargu-2, however, is that the Army insists on a “human in the loop.” The drone might search for targets autonomously, but it can only open fire once a human operator gives permission. This allows the operator to call off an attack if the drone has mistaken a civilian for a soldier.

Some events in the history of mankind, like the 1945 atomic bomb test at the Alamogordo Bombing Range in New Mexico, are so profound, they serve as a divider between one social, economic, or military era and another. The events in Libya may similarly divide the time when humans had full control of weapons and a time when machines make their own decisions to kill.     

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It's the first day of Fall - autumnal equinox science, videos, poetry, music

Here on the east coast, this year's autumnal equinox (wiki) occurs on September 22 at 3:20 pm EDT, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. The equinox is the moment at which the sun appears to cross the celestial equator from north to south - or more simply, the first day of fall, with equal hours of light and darkness. In Latin, the word equinox is composed of two words meaning "equal" and "night."

I seem to remember that when I was a kid, the first day of each new season was always considered to be the 21st (of March for Spring, June for Summer, September for Autumn, and December for Winter). I guess it's more accurate now.

Mechanics of the equinox:

Science of the equinox. More here and here.

More science - why leaves turn different colors.

The 1869 version of Chambers' Book of Days has a post on the equinox (you may need to scroll down), including this interesting comment on the science of equinox-related weather:
As is well known, both the autumnal and vernal equinoxes are distinguished over the world by the storms which prevail at these seasons. The origin of such atmospheric commotions has never yet been very satisfactorily explained, but is sup-posed, as stated by Admiral Fitzroy, to arise from the united tidal action of the sun and moon upon the atmosphere; an action which at the time of the equinoxes is exerted with greater force than at any other period of the year.
Here's a 2 minute Nat Geo video:

No, you can't balance an egg on the equinox.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold....
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands, I used to hold
Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear ol' winter's song.
But I miss you most of all my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.

~Johnny Mercer, Autumn Leaves (see Nat King Cole singing this, below)

Mark Steyn has a long, comprehensive article on Autumn Leaves.

Nat King Cole singing it.

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.

~ Samuel Butler

Autumn wins you best by this, its mute
Appeal to sympathy for its decay.

~ Robert Browning

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.

~ Albert Camus

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.

~ Hemingway (A Movable Feast)

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

~ George Santayana

The teeming Autumn big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime
Like widowed wombs after their lords' decease.

~ William Shakespeare

It's not generally appreciated that perhaps the best-known of all works of baroque music, Le Quattro Stagioni ("The Four Seasons") (wiki) by Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi (ca. 1675-1741), was first published with four Italian poems - likely by Vivaldi himself - that describe the several scenarios represented in the music. 

Below is Vivaldi's poem Autumn, and here's a performance of the third movement of "Autumn" in Venice's foggy Piazza San Marco:


Celebra il Vilanel con balli e Canti
Del felice raccolto il bel piacere
E del liquor de Bacco accesi tanti
Finiscono col Sonno il lor godere

The peasant celebrates with song and dance,
The harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely,
And many find their relief in deep slumber.

Adagio molto

Fà ch' ogn' uno tralasci e balli e canti
L' aria che temperata dà piacere,
E la Staggion ch' invita tanti e tanti
D' un dolcissimo Sonno al bel godere.

The singing and the dancing die away
As cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
And the season invites each and all
To a sweet sleep, without a care.


I cacciator alla nov'alba à caccia
Con corni, Schioppi, e canni escono fuore
Fugge la belua, e Seguono la traccia;
Già Sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
De' Schioppi e canni, ferita minaccia
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.

The hunters emerge at dawn
With horns, shotguns, and dogs baying.
The quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified by the dogs and wounded by the guns
The prey struggles on,
But harried, dies.

The two revolutions, I mean the annual revolutions of the declination and of the centre of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the centre. Hence it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their timing, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves to the east, but rather the equatorial circle moves to the west, being at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the terrestrial globe.

~Nicolaus Copernicus