Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Finally I Like Google Glass.

When I first read about Google Glass I thought it would be a bit shit. It is essentially a basic computer that you wear on your face, with the ability to connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and use your GPS and FaceBook and things. It's a cool concept, but I didn't think I'd ever want one. Really, FaceBook pisses me off enough as it is. I don't need it literally on my face at all times. I really don't.

However, the more I read about Google Glass, the less shit it seems. App developers worldwide are looking at ways that they can make it useful. There are apps designed that will identify people for you, so that you can look at them and the database will tell you who they are, for example. That's a little bit stalkery, but useful for, say, people who have a lot of contacts and aren't too great at remembering names. There are apps being designed that will allow you to take photos by winking, which is kind of adorable and will probably result in many hilarious misunderstandings.

There are already gaming apps about. One that caught my attention was StarFinder, where the goal is to find the constellations in the night sky. Doesn't that sound just lovely? The Glass technology is also already capable of supporting multiplayer gaming, even though no apps have been developed for that yet. But it'll probably be pretty cool when they are, putting the reality into virtual reality.

And it annoys me that I'm starting to get excited about Google Glass. Because I already have glasses.

I don't like going to see 3D films because it's annoying as fuck to have to wear two pairs of glasses, even for just a couple of hours. I would definitely not like to be perpetually wearing two pairs of glasses, no matter what the benefits of Google Glass. So I finally start to like it and I can't even use it because I would have to sacrifice sight itself in order to do so.

And then I came across this, in which it is explained that Google Glass can be altered to fit snugly onto your glasses, and you will look like less of a prick than people just wearing the Glass headset.


I'm officially smitten.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Why would you pick on Disney?

When I was about fifteen, I overheard one of my classmates announce to her friends that, although she loved Disney films when she little and they never had any negative effects on her, she would never let her kids watch them. Ever. She hated it, she said, when her parents let her little brother watch them. Because of all the subliminal dick messages.

Face was firmly planted in palm for much of the remaining day.

Disney has had some unwanted publicity regarding penises, mostly from the kind of fundie nutbags that also have a problem with Harry Potter and Pokémon because they encourage devil worship or some other bullshit. Apparently, the priest in The Little Mermaid has bellends for knees and Aladdin thinks that good teenagers take off their clothes (the actual line is “Good kitty, just take off and go”).
Frankly, this kid deserves a better parent.

I never cared enough to do more than Google for thirty seconds and then shrug half-heartedly. I am still not all that bothered.

But soon I will have a goddaughter, so I have started thinking about responsibility. A little bit. Not an awful lot. But enough. Admittedly, I will be the kind of godmother who purposely teaches her that ‘clitoris’ is a good word to ask daddy to define at the dinner table. But I also want to be the kind of godmother who introduces her to things that she can fall in love with and keep hold of forever. I’m thinking Pokémon and Harry Potter. I’m thinking Adam Ant and Amanda Palmer.

I’m also thinking Disney.

Excuse for a moment that I do not think that Disney peppers its films with dicks.  I actually think that the people who see dicks in Disney films are very sexually frustrated (most of them were teenagers) or in denial about something (a lot of them were fundies) or both. Certainly, they are reminiscent of that do-gooding douche from Donnie Darko who turned out to be into kiddie porn. Or this bitch; she seems like the kind of scumbag who wouldn’t let her poor girl watch Disney films.

Suppose for a moment that it does say ‘SEX’ right here in Simba’s dust.

Well … so the fuck what?

At least it was subtle. That doesn’t even look that much like ‘sex’.

And who is even thinking about sex during such a heart-rending moment in the film?

Kids’ shows get away with a hell of a lot more than most people ever notice. Definitely more than kids ever do. More than I ever did, and I was quite an observant and vulgar-minded child.
Penelope Pitstop had a vibrator in her car.

Frankly, I don’t care that I saw those things. I will happily show them to my goddaughter. And when she asks why I think it so much funnier than she does, I will answer her honestly. Dick jokes are hilarious, no matter what age you are. The countless hours of my childhood that I spent watching The Young Ones and Blackadder with my dad is testament to that.

Fuck. If I’m going to worry about what will be a bad influence on a child, I am going to worry about pretty much every other thing in the world before I get anywhere near Disney. I am going to worry about bitchy magazines that make women feel perpetually fat and ugly. I am going to worry about the fact that we live in a society in which Samantha Brick is allowed to voice her hideous little opinion on a nationwide forum. I am going to worry about the fact that people exist who give a fuck about Katie Shitting Price. I am going to worry about people who think it is appropriate to dress babies in shirts that read “Daddy’s Little Porn Star”. I am going to worry that Rihanna is considered a fucking role model.

I have written a list of things I will buy for my goddaughter. At the top of the list is Aladdin on DVD, partly because the list is in alphabetical order, but mostly because that film is fucking ace. Dicks or no.

And I just can’t deny her this pretty face!

No one this cute would corrupt anyone, surely?

Monday, 13 May 2013

If I Needed Proof to Suspect We Were Living in a Video Game ... Mothafuckin' Pain Rays.

I am beginning to think that the Americans are the bad guys.

Alright, I'm not. They might be a bit slow sometimes, but they're not evil.

But they do have the kinds of weapons you would expect of Darth Vader and his dark side ilk. Over the past few decades, for instance, the US military has spent $120 million developing a pain ray.

And the fucker works.

Every aspect of the pain ray - officially titled the Active Denial - feels like it has stepped right out of some shithot sci fi. The key bit of hardware required to make it work is even called a 'gyrotron', which amplifies microwaves by rotating a ring of electrons held in place by cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets. The electrons and the microwaves resonate, and the resulting waves are passed to an antenna, which shoots the beam at the target.

That just sounds cool, doesn't it? In fact, it sounds so cool that I'm not entirely convinced it wasn't mashed together out of sciencey-sounding works by the writers of Futurama.

Actually, since the late 1980s, the Air Force Research Laboratory has been working with military contractor Raytheon Company to develop this beast of a machine.

The Active Denial target pain receptors called thermal nociceptors, which are less than 0.4mm beneath the skin. In a matter of seconds, the target feels as if the surface of their skin is being roasted. The sensation begins with a tingly warmth which rapidly becomes excruciating, a fiery torture encompassing the whole body until either the beam is switched off or you get the hell out of its way.

And then you feel fine again.

The intensity of the pain is such that the body's natural instinct will be to flee. Once said body is out of the line of fire, it just goes away. The pain subsides and you feel better. There are no measurable side effects yet seen, and research done on this gun has been exemplary in its depth and thoroughness. In more than 11,000 tests, less than ten people received any injuries from the Active Denial at all. Six of the injuries were blisters, none larger than a pea; the worst of the injuries were small burns, none more dangerous than a bad sun burn, easily dealt with and free of complications.

The Active Denial has been designed for use in prisons, war zones and riot situations. It causes less damage than current methods of subduing those who get violent, such as batons and tasers. Those currently in use have to be carted around on the back of huge trucks, but the developers have managed to scale them down to the size of a large rifle. They are working on making them more portable still, but the authorities are reluctant to use them.

All the research suggests that this thing is safe. Various experts support it. Its flawless performance is almost what makes it so scary that something with go terribly wrong. But, as far as non-lethal weaponry goes, this is some of the most advanced technology going.

And it is kind of mind-blowing.

It's a motherfucking pain ray.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Shi-min Fang; a science writer’s hero.

Alright, so I’m not a science writer, and I’m not even an aspiring science writer because I already know that I would get far too fangirly around all those physicists with their big, sexy brains to do it with any degree of serious professionalism. But I do like science and writing, and I respect more than anyone else the people who take risks to get the truth out there into the public sphere, especially when the risks are so high.

Shi-min Fang is a Chinese science writer who has risked far more than just libel cases (which are bothersome enough as it is) to expose the straight-up lies of some people in China. He has recently won the Maddox prize – which is typically awarded to people who promote science despite perhaps facing difficult or hostility in so doing – for exposing scientific misconduct in China.

Since 2000, Shi-min Fang has been exposing fraudulent ‘scientists’ who took advantage of China’s celebration of any science and technology to publicize nonsensical, pseudoscientific articles, flog fake medicines and carry out dangerous medical procedures without clinical trials. He has made it his business as a science writer to root out those who are fakers and expose them, despite whatever threats they offer him, using his website New Threads to make this information accessible to the Chinese general public.

Many have fought his allegations, no matter how truthful they were. He has been sued more than ten times and, due to the inefficiency and bias of the Chinese court, has even wrongly lost once, as well as being assaulted with pepper spray. In 2010 hired thugs attacked Shi-min Fang with a hammer with the intention of his murder when he challenged the efficacy of a surgical procedure developed by their boss as well as the heavily padded CV he used to persuade people of his worth. Shi-min Fang is responsible for opening up a forum for criticism and debate in a society that was otherwise devoid of such freedoms.

Despite all the dangers he has faced, he maintains that it was all worth it because of the good he has done for the scientific community and the general public in China. His one concern, he admits, is the danger faced by his wife and children.

Frankly, that takes balls. And he deserves that prize, and the £2000 that comes with it, and so much more.

And he is not the only one who does. He is one of many people who risk so much just to make the world a little bit more honest. Here is hoping that one day we won’t need people like Shi-min Fang. But until then, let’s just be glad they’re around.