Saudis spent $62+billion last year on armaments. Yemeni Houthis just attacked with $15K drones.

Half Saudi Arabia’s oil production shut down. 5% of global oil supply.

❝ Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on key Saudi oil facilities on Saturday, setting off blazes that could be seen from space and showcasing how cheap new technologies allow even minor militant groups to inflict serious damage on major powers…

It was not clear how badly damaged the facilities were, but shutting them down for more than a few days would disrupt world oil supplies. Between them, the two centers can process 8.45 million barrels of crude oil a day, amounting to the vast majority of the production in Saudi Arabia, which produces almost one-tenth of the world’s crude oil…

❝ The difference in resources available to the attacker and the victim could hardly have been greater, illustrating how David-and-Goliath style attacks using cheap drones are adding a new layer of volatility to the Middle East.

Such attacks not only damage vital economic infrastructure, they increase security costs and spread fear — yet they are remarkably cheap. The drones used in Saturday’s attack may have cost $15,000 or less to build, said Wim Zwijnenburg, a senior researcher on drones at PAX, a Dutch peace organization.

The Global Military-Industrial Complex still hasn’t learned crap about guerrilla warfare. Sure, the Pentagon and their peers know how to spend taxpayer dollars by the bucketload. They’re mostly backed up by political hacks who still think the best solution to civilized inequity is to resolve disquiet and resentment with weapons ranging from bullets to bombs. Nothing cheap of course. No self-respecting graduate of West Point would be found killing significant populations without delivery systems costing million$.

RTFA. Maximum cost per each of these drones was about $15,000. A third of the price of the average new pickup truck bought in the GOUSA.

Gravitational Waves keep rocking all of Astrophysics

❝ Cast your mind back four years, and gravitational waves were the talk of the town. On September 14, 2015, the first detection of these ripples in space-time was made by the LIGO-Virgo collaboration, revealed months later to deserved global fanfare. Now with the fourth anniversary of that discovery approaching, the field has matured dramatically with dozens of subsequent detections made—and the prospect of even more thrilling discoveries on the horizon…

❝ Including that first discovery, a total of 23 confirmed gravitational-wave detections have been made to date across three observing runs. Within those, 20 have been black hole mergers, two have been neutron star mergers, and one is the suspected first known instance of a merger between a black hole and a neutron star. Each has been exciting in its own right, but the sheer volume of detections—moving from one a month to nearly one a week, thanks to upgrades to LIGO in 2018 and 2019 that improved its sensitivity—is hugely impressive…Thanks to that explosive growth, remarkable progress is being made across multiple subdisciplines of astrophysics.

RTFA. Learn a bit more about another window opening in our view of the universe we live in.

Listen to the heartbeat of a stone spire near Moab

❝ Castleton Tower is one of many culturally significant desert rock formations that Jeff Moore, a geologist, and his team at the Geohazards research group at the University of Utah have been monitoring with audio recordings. Like a doctor listening to the beating of a human heart, they hope to learn about the structural health of these arches, bridges and towers and how their environments affect them…

❝ …Castleton Tower taps into the earth’s natural vibrations, finding that it pulsates at about the rate of a human heartbeat.

Way cool. Makes you want to lean up against this critter and listen…even if all you get to hear is the wind.

Who wins, who loses

❝ Camera sales are continuing to fall off a cliff. And will continue to do so as the capabilities of camera phones keep increasing. [Today] Apple…announced a three-camera iPhone 11 —just like Google, Huawei, Samsung and every other phone maker. In 2020, Apple’s iPhone is likely to have cameras with the ability to see how far things are thanks to a new “time of flight” sensor. This will essentially give the phone super sight, and thus, the phones will be great for augmented reality and make computer vision even more powerful…

❝ Apple isn’t the only one who is imagining such cameras on their devices. Phone makers are spending billions of dollars on their camera capabilities because — as Xiaomi co-founder and CEO Lei Jun said in an internal document — “camera functions have become a decisive factor for smartphone purchases among many consumers.” The company set up a separate division and gave it a lot of resources to compete in the market. Why not? It is up against giants, who keep throwing up bigger and better devices…

❝ A lot of traditionalists dismiss my arguments, but in reality, if a generation or two is growing up on a steady diet of cameras-on-phones and consuming visual data on digital screens, they will have little use for special cameras… I also argue that Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei are outspending the traditional camera makers exponentially. That is why we will continue to see massive gains in computational photography and camera-phone technologies versus traditional cameras.

Aside from being one of the smartest writers on the technology block…and a helluva photographer in his own right…Om Malik comprehends time and learning, experience and practice, as motive factors in the course of culture. RTFA.

Leak from White House Dumbass Helps Pinpoint U.S. Spy Satellite

❝ The US President has tweeted an American spy satellite image. After some sleuthing, astronomers were able to figure out which satellite it came from: a (formerly) top-secret satellite called USA 224, an optical reconnaissance satellite.

Trump’s tweet unwittingly revealed some of the capabilities of American satellite imagery. USA 224 has been kept top-secret for national security reasons, so the Intelligence Community is probably not very happy about this. Why reveal your intelligence-gathering capabilities to your adversaries, including Iran itself?

❝ It appears that Trump was briefed with a print of this classified image, and that he took a picture with his phone and tweeted it. You can see the camera flash in the middle of the image. Immediately, people were concerned that he had revealed US surveillance capabilities.


RTFA. More details. More analysis and conclusions. None of which will be making the Pentagon/CIA spooks very happy. The Fake President will laugh it off, of course.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Coppers adopting TESLA Model 3

❝ The Bargersville, Indiana, Police Department is updating its fleet to Tesla Model 3s after they figured out that they will save a lot of money on gas, and that the Tesla Model 3s don’t compromise performance compared to the Dodge Chargers…

❝ The Luxembourg Police converted two Model S sedans to patrol cars, and the largest fleet of Tesla police patrol vehicles is in Switzerland…

❝ As for cost, Model 3 is the clear winner. The Standard Range Plus version that they bought is a little more expensive at ~$41,000, but they expect gas savings of about $6,000 per year, which means that the Model 3 will almost pay for itself over its lifetime (they expect six years as a police vehicle).

And here’s another one of those changes resulting from our recent Great Recession. People realized they didn’t need a new car as often as previous. Lots of folks bought new cars as things got better into the Obama years. Then slooowed way down below new purchase cycles of earlier generations.

Fire cloud — up close


Click to enlargeNOAA/NASA

❝ On August 8, 2019, a team of atmospheric scientists got an exceedingly rare look at fire clouds as they were forming. NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory passed directly through a large pyrocumulonimbus that day as it was rising from a fire in eastern Washington. The flight was part of a joint NOAA and NASA field campaign called FIREX-AQ. Scientists are studying the composition and chemistry of smoke to better understand its impact on air quality and climate…

❝ The photograph above, shot from roughly 30,000 feet (9 kilometers), shows the setting Sun shining through thick smoke at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Particles in the smoke reflect light in ways that make the Sun appear orange…

The flight was the most detailed sampling of a pyrocumulonimbus in history, explained Peterson. A second research aircraft flew over the plume a few hours earlier in the day, and mobile labs on the ground also made detailed measurements.

Amazing photos. Quality and timing should offer useful analysis, learning for future events and their global effect.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

❝ In 1984, photojournalist Steve McCurry was in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. He followed the sound of voices to a tent where he found a group of girls. “I noticed this one little girl off to the side that had his incredible set of eyes that seemed almost haunted — or very piercing,” he tells NPR’s Audie Cornish.

McCurry snapped a picture that ended up on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue. “The Afghan Girl” became one of the magazine’s most widely recognized photographs — and one of the century’s most iconic. To get that shot, McCurry used a type of film that has become iconic in its own right: Kodachrome.

❝ The film, known for its rich saturation and archival durability of its slides, was discontinued last year to the dismay of photographers worldwide. But Kodak gave the last roll ever produced to McCurry. He has just processed that coveted roll at Dwayne’s Photo Service in Parsons, Kan. — the last remaining location that processes the once-popular slide film.

❝ What’s on that landmark roll of film is still under wraps. It will be the subject of an upcoming documentary by National Geographic.

Looking forward to it. I love photography. Started taking pictures in my high school camera club in the early 1950’s. Three cameras gathering dust in my desk include my favorite little backpacker’s special Rollei 35B I bought in 1971. The occasional snaps you see here on my personal blog are – of course – iPhonography.

Navy will stop trying to guide ships by touchscreen


US Navy photo

❝ The Navy will begin reverting destroyers back to a physical throttle and traditional helm control system in the next 18 to 24 months, after the fleet overwhelmingly said they prefer mechanical controls to touchscreen systems in the aftermath of the fatal USS John S. McCain collision.

The investigation into the collision showed that a touchscreen system that was complex and that sailors had been poorly trained to use contributed to a loss of control of the ship just before it crossed paths with a merchant ship in the Singapore Strait…

❝ Rear Adm. Bill Galinis said that bridge design is something that shipbuilders have a lot of say in…not covered by any particular specification that the Navy requires builders to follow…

Rear Adm. Lorin Selby said that the move to achieve greater commonality is not just limited to where helm control systems are installed in the bridge, but how functions appear on the screens of the control systems, and anything else that would contribute to confusion for a sailor moving from one ship to another within the same class.

“When you look at a screen, where do you find heading? Is it in the same place, or do you have to hunt every time you go to a different screen?…”

How long have we been designing weapons of war? It doesn’t matter if the discussion comes down to small controls or large less precise controls. Inconsistency between vessels means the crew running the ship can only reliably operate one particular product. Moving to another ship in the same class prompts disaster.

Moving to digital controls isn’t a problem on its own; but, consider lifelong habit when designing systems, folks. Anyone you know driving a car where the steering, speed and braking are controlled by a touchscreen?

Facebook wants to manage your wifi network for you

❝ Back in 2017, Facebook rolled out the “Find Wi-Fi” feature globally, a feature that lists the nearby Wi-Fi networks that Page owners shared with Facebook. Two years later, Facebook is working to expand this feature from being a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks to a service that manages the Wi-Fi connections on the device.

❝ Facebook needs more geolocation data to hyper-target advertising and information — but mostly advertising — and know even more personal information about you. Of course, it can also learn what services you use and when you use them with this connection manager. They have learned well from their big brother, Google. Sigh!

Which is why I have such a negative attitude towards Facebook and Google. They are exclusively profit-driven creatures. Loyal only to the ethos, motivations of 19th Century capitalism. Given the profit structure of high tech, it’s unneeded. Apple [and others] have proven that.