Thursday, December 19, 2019

Shoppin' Silly, the Amazon Way! #3

We all know that websites, especially sellers, use algorithms to analyze our transactions.  They then tailor “suggestions” targeted to our presumed buying practices.

But sometimes those algorithms produce silly results!
A fine item, this universal remote.  What has it to do with vacuum-cleaner bags?  Why, to turn up the volume because the vacuum cleaner is on!
 I suppose having bought a carpet cleaner, I might wish something to dirty the carpet with?
Similarly, the relation between Keurig-style single-serve coffee pods and carpet deodorizer might be conjectured as reverse cause and effect?  You tell me, effendi!

Anyway, see you on Monday for something perhaps more substantial.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.
            In Star Trek’s “The Devil in the Dark,” Dr McCoy jokes that he’s beginning to think he can cure a rainy day. Weather control is often a feature of pie-in-the-sky techno-futures.  Superman’s Silver Age bottle city, Kandor, even had a mini-sun on a sort of roller-coaster track. 

Of course, some may call it cheating if you’ve got a closed environment, such as Ray Bradbury’s domed cities on Venus, or those featured in Logan’s Run.

            You could call terraforming a type of large-scale Weather Control, as discussed in Dune or as delivered with a bang by Star Trek’s Genesis Project.

            In the 1900s, a German chocolatier, Theodor Hildebrand & Son, produced a series of views of the Year 2000, including a Weather Control Machine:

The classic low-tech example is cloud seeding, originating in the 1940s.  Besides instigating rainfall in dry areas, it’s also been used preemptively, for hail and fog suppression near airports.  Did you know that rockets were used for Cloud Seeding before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in an attempt to prevent rain over the Opening Ceremonies?

            Many conspiratorial types see attempts at Weather Control around us today.  Some warned that the HAARP project in Alaska was also a secret government program to zap the US’s enemies with bad weather vibes.  Similarly, the contrails of high-flying jets are sometimes seen as weather or other climate-control attempts.

            Here’s hoping that in real life, a little humility and awareness of the doctrine of unforeseen consequences will prevent an artificially generated weather apocalypse.  We’re still a long way from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ “Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator.”  Anyway, what if a colony of vegetarians lives downstream?


            Becoming see-through on demand was a property of the Cap of Invisibility, used in various Greek tales of Hermes, Athena, and Perseus.  The concept is also featured in the Dragon Quest RPG and Percy Jackson and the Olympians, after being earlier popularized as the Tarnhelm, in Wagner’s nineteenth-century operas about the morals of power, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

          Other invisi-gadgets abound.  Harry Potter’s got a cloak that blots you out completely, while Elven-cloaks in LOTR are great camouflage if you hide under one.  As of 2012, the technology was under construction.

          And while the One Ring may hide you from mortals, it unveils you to supernatural nasties that are far worse.  Tolkien probably drew this aspect of Sauron’s Ring from such artifacts of myth as Plato’s Ring of Gyges, which was used as the basis for an argument over how an otherwise  moral person might act if they knew nobody could catch them being naughty.

          In HG Wells’s 1897 The Invisible Man, and the TV or movies based on it, the usual emphasis is likewise on the concept of this secretive power leading to moral corruption. 

          However, there are plenty of other invisible folks who get along just fine being able to sneak into locker rooms — such as Sue (Storm) Richards, Violet Parr of The Incredibles, or Danny Phantom.

           The “cloaking devices” of Star Trek and other fiction usually mean non-detectability to sensors and the like, not outright vanishing.  Modern-day research into the idea has resulted in various assemblies of lenses to bend vision around a stationary object.  We are probably far from the day when you can spill “invisible ink” over something and make it fade away! 

See you on Thursday with some more silly Amazon suggestions!

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© by Mark Alfred