Flying Eye Hospital


Click to enlarge

The Flying Eye Hospital, currently parked on Moffett Field in Mountain View, is a mobile ophthalmological hospital, technological marvel, and surely one of the most extraordinary vehicles on the planet. It is a converted MD-10 wide-body airliner that flies all around the world — it just got back from Bangladesh — performing eye surgeries on needy patients in developing nations while also helping to train their doctors, nurses, and medical technicians.

…One of the most technically amazing things about the Flying Eye is that it is an entirely self-contained hospital: its systems, which run purely on jet-fuel-powered generators, include its own medical gases, its own clean room, its own water purifiers, its surgical equipment, etc., including extremely sensitive equipment (again, this is eye surgery we’re talking about) which has to be stowed such that can survive serious turbulence or bumpy landings on difficult runways without requiring major maintenance…

The Flying Eye is a largely volunteer organization (and part/most of the charity Orbis International.) They have 400 volunteer faculty, including many of the best of the ophthalmological world, many of whom come back every year to work on the Flying Eye for a week or two unpaid. The pilots are also volunteers…

I wonder if the pilots have to worry about being shot down by one of our Free World cowboys [as much as ISIS] when they’re somewhere out of direct sight of journalists?

Coppers using Tasers for Torture


Police Sergeant using taser on handcuffed prisoner

❝ Corporal Matthew Stice pointed his Taser at Martini Smith’s bare chest.

Smith was 20 years old, pregnant and stripped nearly naked, standing in a cell in the Franklin County jail in Columbus, Ohio. She had been detained on charges of stabbing a boyfriend she’d accused of beating her. Stice and a deputy had ordered her to disrobe, take off all jewelry and don a prison gown. But she hadn’t been able to obey one command – remove the silver stud from her tongue.

❝ “Take the tongue ring out,” Deputy Shawnda Arnold said. Smith continued struggling to unscrew the ring, inserting fingers from both hands into her mouth. No luck. Her fingers were numb, she protested: She had been cuffed for six hours with her hands behind her back.

“I will Tase you,” Stice said. The ring was slippery, Smith said, asking for a paper towel. The deputies refused. “I just want to go to sleep,” Smith cried.

Stice warned her again, then fired. The Taser’s electrified darts struck Smith’s chest; she collapsed against the concrete wall and slid to the floor, gasping, arms over her breasts.

❝ “Why did you Tase me?” she moaned. “I wasn’t harming nobody. I can’t just take it out.”

Five days later, Smith had a miscarriage…

Reuters identified 104 deaths involving Tasers behind bars, nearly all since 2000 – 10 percent of a larger universe of more than 1,000 fatal law enforcement encounters in which the weapons were used. Some of the in-custody deaths were deemed “multi-factorial,” with no distinct cause, and some were attributed to pre-existing health problems. But the Taser was listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 84 inmate deaths in which the news agency obtained autopsy findings.

RTFA and begin to understand why most poor or non-white or just ordinary workingclass folks consider our police departments to be something other than institutions chartered to “serve and protect”.

How to build a 4-ton, human-piloted, robo athlete


Click to enlargeJonathan Tippett/Furrion

❝ If Jonathan Tippett had his way, the Olympics of the future would showcase more than mere humans—he foresees human-powered robot athletes, too. And at a Toronto tech event this July, the Canadian mechanical engineer asked us to imagine racing events where pilots would embed themselves in massive exo-bionic mechs. Think of it as a pimped-out version of the dual-arm power loader Ripley donned in Alien or maybe the setups now familiar to Titanfall competitors.

We didn’t have to imagine for long. Tippett soon showed off the first entrant into this idea of mech racing, and the gasps made their way around the room quickly. Tippett had introduced us to Prosthesis, an electric-powered, 8,000-pound, 15-foot-tall exo-bionic platform that amplifies the motions of the pilot sitting within a cockpit in the middle of the mech. Built from chromoly steel, Prosthesis can potentially run at 21mph, jump as high as 10 feet, and operate for two hours on a single charge.

❝ This qualifies as an impressive bit of manufacturing and engineering. But talking to Ars months later, Tippett says his mission is more philosophical than many think. “Prosthesis may be framed as a high-tech machine, but it’s an 8,000-pound metaphor on how tech has enabled us to do what we want and the important role humans still play in robotics.”

I want one. A tad smaller so it’s a better fit for NM dirt roads.

Here comes an electric airplane!

❝ Electric cars and electric buses gaining ground both in terms of innovation and acceptance by the public as being the future of transportation. Models are currently being developed, tested, and rolled out around the world. These events are clear signs that EVs are well on their way to become a common sight on the road — and both companies and consumers will be better for it.

One form of transportation that has yet to see the same amount of progress is airplanes, though that isn’t to say there aren’t any projects focused on bringing the idea of electric aircraft to the skies. The problem is, passengers can’t ride in an electric plane as easily as they can an electric car. At least, not yet…

❝ Now, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and German automation company Siemens have announced a partnership to undertake a project that would convert a plane to utilize electric propulsion. The trio has dubbed the project “E-Fan X,” which involves gradually replacing the BAe 146 airliner’s gas turbines with two-megawatt electric motors…

❝ The three companies will each be in charge of separate parts of the project. Airbus will oversee the aircraft’s overall integration, which includes the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, as well as integration with flight controls. Rolls-Royce will provide the turbo-shaft engine, two-megawatt generator, and power electronics, and Siemens will provide the two-megawatt electric motors, power electronic control unit, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system.

Good thing no one like our fake president is involved. He’d probably want the designers try to make the critter run on coal.

Elon Musk just won a $50 million bet

❝ Elon Musk has won a high-stakes bet after the construction of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery was completed in under 100 days.

The Tesla founder made a bet on Twitter with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes in March that Musk would supply the battery within 100 days or it was free.

❝ Musk said that if he failed to meet the deadline, the project would have cost him “$50 million or more.”…

❝ When fully charged, the battery, Tesla’s Powerpack, is expected to hold enough power for 8,000 homes for 24 hours, or more than 30,000 houses for an hour during a blackout.

Way cool. And well done. Try doing that with a lump of coal sometime.

America’s 2020 Census systems are a $15 billion cyber-security target

❝ Last week, the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee heard that the 2020 census will be the first to make extensive use of electronic equipment. For example, census workers will be given tablets to interview people who can’t be bothered filling in and sending back their forms.

Crucially, the US Census Bureau must patch vulnerabilities and install strong defenses in the computer systems it has set up to find and tabulate American citizens. With less than three years to go, a little more hustle in that department is needed, it seems…

❝ Previously, the census was recorded by mailing paper forms to every household in the country, and then dispatching data collectors to quiz citizens who don’t return their completed paperwork. Dodaro reported that “because the nation’s population is growing larger, more diverse, and more reluctant to participate,” response rates were at an historic low: just 63 per cent of households replied by mail in 2010 compared to 78 per cent in 1970.

As a result, the bureau had to recruit a load of temporary workers to manually obtain people’s details. After the 2010 census, someone had the bright idea to make the process more electronic, with workers using touchpads to input data…

❝ Eugene Dodaro, US Comptroller General, said the US Government Accountability Office has identified 43 electronic systems that are to be used in the 2020 census. None have undergone the required security certification – and one, the code used to tabulate all the data, won’t even finish development until March 2019 at the earliest. Any assessment and debugging of this software will be rather last minute…

❝ The situation is complicated further by staffing turmoil within the bureau. The head of the agency resigned shortly after Trump was elected, and Dodaro reported that as of October last year 60 per cent of positions at the bureau were unfilled…

Census data is used to determine congressional districts for voting by assessing how many people live in a certain area. It is also used to devise education and public sector funding so that the needs of the population can be met.

Dodaro said the GAO is keeping a close eye on the systems and will be conducting further security testing – if the code is ready to do so.

Since Trump represents only the ideologues who prefer no government over functional government, we’re in for a bumpy ride. Especially since Republicans have used every opportunity since the last census to gerrymander existing electoral districts. Trying to hang onto power by any means necessary is the internal slogan of reactionaries everywhere. Including the United States.