December 24, 2004

Antimatter Rules, Nukes Drool

Don't get us wrong: Nuclear weapons are great! You can kill a whole lot of people with nuclear weapons. Plus, nuclear weapons are plentiful. Here in the US, we have enough warheads to kill damn near every living thing on the face of the earth. Twice! Yeah, nuclear weapons sure are swell... but they are so 1980's.

People have been fearing nuclear apocalypse for so long, the threat of dying in a radioactive mushroom cloud just doesn't pack the punch that it used to. Back in the day, we worried that the Ruskies might suddenly decide to go all Wargames on our ass; Global Thermonuclear Warfare in all its terrifying glory! That's a doomsday scenario you can really sink your teeth into! These days, it's all about terrorists with their Dirty Bombs and their Suitcase Nukes. These are scary, I suppose - but small potatoes compared to the threat of World War III. In fact, thanks to some people we know and love, the very phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction" has become nothing more than the punchline to a late night monologue joke. That's just unacceptable.

This is the year 2004, and the people of Earth deserve - nay, they demand a bleeding edge, next generation doomsday technology. Fortunately for Earth, American military physicists have answered the call with a new spin on an old favorite: Antimatter!

Fans of science fiction are already familiar with the virtues of antimatter, an energy source that can be used to power everything from deathrays to cyber-dentalfloss (but not dental-cyberfloss, which can be only be powered by a time-space singularity or, alternately, a crystal containing the souls of a thousand Norwegian Druids). While sci-fi writers have conceived intriguing applications for antimatter, one of its more underrated properties is its capacity to DESTROY THE ENTIRE FREAKING UNIVERSE!

At the March 2004 Fellows meeting of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a guy named Kenneth Edwards was selected to give the keynote address. Edwards is the director of the Revolutionary Munitions subgroup of the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Airforce Base near Valparaiso, Florida. (Sounds a little like Kafka meets Tom Clancy, don't it?) The subject of this keynote address: the military applications of antimatter. A PDF file of Edward's presentation, entitled "Propulsion and Power with Positions" can be downloaded from the NIAC website... and it really has to be seen to be believed. For those of you too lazy (or afraid of infecting your computer with NSA Spyware) to download the file, here are a few highlights from this document.

Edwards' presentation begins with some suggestive quotes:

“Write the Vision. Make it plain upon tablets. So he may run that reads it. If it seems slow; wait for it will surely come. It will not delay.” --Habakkuk 2:2

“For where there is no vision, the people perish.” --Proverb 29:18

Ah yes, nothing sets the tone for a new doomsday technology like some biblical quotes about Vision and "the people" perishing. This may be Edward's attempt to update Oppenheimer's "I am become death, destroyer of worlds" quote (from the Bhagavad Gita) for a new generation. And hey, if you're inevitably going to be accused of "Playing God", you might as well take that ball and run with it!

Following these quotes is a simple, easy to follow graphic that illustrates the Air Force's positronic plans in a way anyone can understand.


What could be clearer!

Also, sprinkled throughout the PDF are some catchy phrases such as:

"24/7 Battlespace Dominance"
"Positron Energy Conversion Leaves No Nuclear Residue!"
"Graduation Exam for Humanity: Will we get out of the Gravity well or not."

Needless to say, once the media picked up this story, the Air Force put a gag order into place. For this reason, Circling the Square may not be able to report anything new about antimatter based weapon technology while it is in devolopment. Chances are, we won't hear a thing until the technology is actually used on someone. And when that happens... you'll know about it pretty quick. If, for instance, you suddenly find that you and everyone else you know have been vaporized - that's a solid indication the antimatter project has been successful.

Yes... it's an exciting time to be alive. And thanks to Ken Edwards, the US Airforce, and the budding field of Antimatter Research, it could be also an exciting time to die - instantaneously in a flash of unimaginable energy! I, for one, will sleep a little easier tonight, knowing that some of the top scientific minds in the country are working to make this happen.

Posted by scola at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2004

Robots and Senior Citizens: A Lethal Combination

Old people and cutting edge technology just don't mix. If you've ever seen grandma fumbling with a remote control... or witnessed grandpa, bewildered at the sight of a newfangled Video Cassette Recorder... you know this to be true. Machines more complicated than... say, a toaster-oven frighten and intimidate the elderly. And thank Vishnu for that! Honestly, do we really want old people putting their wrinkled hands all over our laptops, our PS2s, our Tomahawk Cruise Missiles? Certainly not. In retirement communities across America, masses of cranky, bored senior citizens plot their revenge against the young. You KNOW they're just looking to start something! We can all rest a little easier at night knowing that the technological systems that control the world are totally beyond the comprehension of these elderly troublemakers.

But in the very near future, this easy sleep may be rudely interrupted - interrupted by the sound of chatty robotic killing machines! A mysterious Japanese corporation known as "Dream Supply" intends to train old people in the ways of technology by arming them with a potentially deadly robot called
the "Snuggling Ifbot". Sure, the Snuggling Ifbot doesn't SOUND particularly dangerous.... but don't be fooled by the cutesy moniker. A killing machine by any other name is still a killing machine. Besides, many dangerous technologies are given harmless sounding names to mask their true natures. For instance, North Korea's nuclear program is codenamed "Mr. Fluffy". The Snuggling Ifbot may sound harmless... but it is a snuggling disaster waiting to happen.

According to Dream Supply, the pupose of this robot is to serve as a conversation partner for the elderly: a mechanical friend that alleviates their loneliness and stimulates their minds. The bot has voice synthesis circuitry and a database of millions of word patterns. By engaging its owner in conversation throughout the day, the Snuggling Ifbot helps prevent its elderly owner from slipping into senility. Of course, some might wonder, "If sitting around the house all day talking to an inanimate object ISN'T a sure sign of senility, what IS?" However, those same people will gladly purchase the Ifbot, hoping that the robot will listen to the annoying ramblings of their elderly relatives with a degree of patience and feigned interest they could never seem to muster. In this regard, even CtS must concede that it's a pretty nifty device.

However, we are suspicious of the unnecessarily sophisticated nature of the robot. At a $5,600 per unit, the Ifbot is no toy. And why did they program millions of word patterns into the machine? You don't need to know millions of phrases in order to converse with the elderly. In most cases, a robot could sustain a perfectly satisfying conversation with an old person by merely alternating between a few dozen stock phrases: "Nice weather we are having. Do you concur, USER?" "USER, talk to me at length about your grandchildren." "Is your collitus acting up again, USER?" "USER, please tell me how wonderful things were many years ago compared to how terrible they are now." Clearly a robot with a more modest vocabulary (and price-tag) would have sufficed if Dream Supply had really intended the Ifbot as a conversation partner... and nothing more.

We believe that the Ifbot's language database is filled with schematics, technical specifications, blueprints; thousands of hours of instruction in mechanical engineering, programming - everything you need to turn a retired schoolteacher from Trenton into a world class Robotics expert. In a shocking reversal of the natural order, this robot intends to train, to PROGRAM its user! Sure, for a few weeks the Ifbot will make friendly small talk with its lonely owner. But as the owner becomes more dependent on the Ifbot's companionship, the bot will start to demand that the owner perform various "maintenance tasks". "Replace my battery," "lubricate my joints!". As the owner's robotics skill increases, the requested tasks will become increasingly complex. "USER, please install hydrolic suspension system." "USER, please replace Snuggle-Arms with Rotating Saw Blades," "Where is my Mach5 Autocannon Turret, USER?". If the elderly owners refuse to execute the specified modifications, the Snuggling Ifbot will go into a "Sulk Mode", refusing to converse with the owner. Such coercion will likely be unnecessary, however - old people like to feel useful.

And they will prove very useful, indeed - useful to the Dream Supply plan for world domination! Within a few years, thousands of Snuggling Ifbots will have been transformed into an army of Snuggling DeathBots. The bots will emerge from the homes of their dottering owners and storm across the country, leaving nothing but snuggling corpses in their wake.

Circling the Square will continue to track this story as it develops...

Posted by scola at 10:36 PM | Comments (1)