As you might have noticed, we’re taking Holy Week a bit easier than usual—parvusimperator is traveling for Easter; I’m in the church choir, have had spring yard work to do, and am preparing for the first USPSA match of the season on Saturday.
Happily, there’s been a lot going on in the world, so we have a longer-than-usual WWRW (unless I miss my guess, the longest ever, in fact) to tide you over until we return to our usual pace.
- China releases pictures of a sailless submarine – Which buys you one or two knots of speed in exchange for a whole host of technical problems. This one’s about 150 meters long by 15 across the beam, which is small for anything beyond a technical demonstrator, but proportioned the same as e.g. the Virginias.
- Anti-jamming GPS antennas: how do they work? – A cogent explanation fit for laymen such as myself.
- XM913 50mm cannon test firing – Nifty.
- F-35C readiness rising – Clearly, my joke from last week about how the Marines would whip the project into shape is coming true.
- Speaking of F-35s, the ALIS maintenance/logistics system just doesn’t work – The story says something along the lines of, “Alice won’t be a popular name for children of Air Force technicians.”
- Letters of censure for Fitzgerald‘s officers, but no criminal charges – So, a big old torpedo going off under the keel of career aspirations, but no jail time.
- The Navy’s past decisions on holding off on building Columbias leaves no margin for error – At present, we build two Virginias per year. The ramp-up plan is for four Virginias and one Columbia per year, which (since shipbuilders estimate a Columbia is twice as much work as a Virginia) represents a request to triple submarine-building output. That’s fraught with risk.
- Book review review: The Hundred-Year Marathon – The book lays out a theory that China has a long-term plan to build itself up to a global hegemon. I don’t think this is all that controversial. The controversial parts, per the reviewer, are that 1) the book suggests that China’s long-term plan can be discerned by diving deep into Chinese history and legend, and 2) that it’s written like a Dan Brown thriller, with the author searching hidden archives for ‘secrets’ which turn out to be readily available in translated-to-English form in university libraries across the country. 2) is a valid critique. I’m not so sure about 1)—one or two thousand years ago, China already was a global superpower, for its definition of global at the time, and was dealing with similar problems to a modern superpower, and the ancient Chinese outlook on life is nearer the modern Chinese outlook than, say, the Roman and European outlooks. Chinese folklore from the Han dynasty bears more directly on modern Chinese problems than either Caesar’s Commentaries or Arthurian legend does on, say, England.
- Counterpoint to an article from last week: the USAF should not buy F-15EX – My counterarguments: 1) 22 AMRAAMs. 2) The most important form of stealth in the mid-21st century is going to be EW, not shaping, because it’s only a matter of time before someone works out the math for getting targeting-quality information out of a few long-wave radars working in concert. The fact that the F-35 is stealth-shaped and the F-15EX is not will matter less than the relative qualities of their EW fits.
- On that note, the USAF is refocusing on EW
- “Snipers are a bloody nuisance” – An ex-Commando of the British Army discusses spotting snipers.
- The Hellfire-replacing (and Maverick- and TOW-replacing) Joint Air-to-Ground Missile is coming soon – They made it to LRIP last year. Now they’re aiming to acquire 3,000 missiles in 2020 and 1,500 in 2021. Parvusimperator wrote about the predecessor project, the AGM-169. JAGM is the same project, just delivered over a longer period of time for annual-cost reasons and renumbered to fool the Congressional committees.
- UK recycles Greatest Hits Names, dubs next-gen fighter ‘Tempest’ – The actual story is that the project is attracting some potential partners.
- Cutting nuclear deterrence funding: unwise, and not a big savings in the first place
- Camo netting: a new spin on a classic technology – Namely, modern camo netting should not block vision alone, but also thermal and RF emissions.
- If USAF retires B-1s, give them to the Navy – A supersonic bomber with room for 24 LRASMs? Yes. Yes, I think that will do nicely. Parvusimperator says you could fit more if it weren’t for “some dumbass treaty”, too. Also, he’s written on LRASM before, too.
- A nifty picture of the M270 integrated crane
- The V-280 Valor tiltrotor (i.e., the next Blackhawk) hits a few milestones – 300 knots in flight, 200 hours of rotors-turning testing, 100 hours of flight testing.
- More on the Lightning Carrier concept – It doesn’t rhyme, but it’s still a cooler name than ‘Harrier carrer’.
Science and Technology
- Amazon contractors listen to Alexa conversations – Feeling real good about my lack of smart home technology right about now. Until I can run my smart home entirely on a server in my basement under my direct control, we’ll get up and turn lights on and off with switches, like cavemen.
- Wifi’s new WPA3 standard is… already badly insecure – Oops. Maybe if they’d developed the standard out in the open, like security researchers suggested…
- Intelsat 29e exploded? – It’s a geostationary communication satellite, which looks to have flared up on telescope views, then shed a bunch of debris. Also, evidently there’s a company out there which points telescopes at objects in geostationary orbit. Also also, the comments mention a Russian accusation of an American satellite which roams geostationary orbit, photographing things there. Not necessarily implausible—such a thing would be easy to build, and a cell phone camera at 1km has better resolving power than a 10-meter telescope peering from ground level to geostationary orbit, so it would have its uses, too.
- SpaceX sticks the Falcon Heavy landing, but loses a booster to the sea – The barges have grabbers which can snag the booster by the ‘octaweb’, the bit of framework which holds all the engine nozzles in their appropriate places, but the Falcon Heavy center core has a different octaweb, so the grabbers can’t get a good grip. The barge encountered 10-foot swells on the way back home, and the center core went over the side.
- More people streaming movies rather than buying physical copies – See my above Luddite-hood on smart homes for my opinion on this practice; see parvusimperator’s DVD stack for his.
- The future is here, and it’s a cyberpunk dystopia – Satellite-based advertising is on its way, courtesy a Russian company and PepsiCo.
- Pepsi clarifies: we’re only testing the technology, by running an orbital ad once – Pardon me for not jumping for joy. The only good thing about this is that it’s a Russian space company, and they never deliver on their promises.
- Declassified U-2 photographs are helping archaeologists find canals, roads, and other features hard to spot from the ground – In terms of count per unit area, there wasn’t a lot of military interest to find in Central Asia, but evidently there’s at least something of historical interest.
- Don’t call it PlayStation 5 yet, but Sony releases details on their next console – The spec list may look like an ordinary gaming computer, but remember that one of the huge advantages with console hardware is the integrated memory architecture—there’s no conception of separate graphics memory like there is on your average computer, so you don’t have to worry about getting something from system memory to video memory like you do on a PC. (That’s why bus width is so important on computers and not really mentioned for consoles; it isn’t really a concept worth bringing up for the latter.)
- Google Fiber’s divorce from Louisville is complete – In other words, don’t trust Google with your stuff in the long term, because they don’t care enough about marginal products to bother keeping them around. I read a good article on that subject this week, but didn’t stick it in our WWRW chat, so I can’t link it here.
- OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beats human players, but shows the weaknesses of machine learning – See the section titled, ‘A rudimentary Chinese room’.
- Stratolaunch takes flight – We have a new record-holder for ‘largest wingspan on an airplane’! I would even go so far as to say that it’s not useless, either, which is a bit of a spicy take. There are two main arguments against the flying-booster-launcher: 1) it doesn’t save you much fuel; 2) reusable rockets make it moot. In re 1), the bit which takes the most fuel is precisely getting off the ground and to altitude, because your rocket is the heaviest and you’re moving through the densest atmosphere. Skipping the densest atmosphere lets you design your first-stage nozzles for more nearly vacuum conditions, which means your first stage can burn effectively for longer. In re 2), reusable rockets still require a lot of launch infrastructure, whereas a plane-launched rocket can dodge weather and get you on track for nearly any orbital direction or inclination with minimal steering losses.
- A security researcher drops three 0-days against… WordPress plugins… – Just a minute. … Okay, we’re good. … drops three 0-days against WordPress plugins to protest “the moderators of the WordPress Support Forum’s continued inappropriate behavior.” Grudge-based webserver-pwning! What a world we live in.
- Building the System/360 mainframe nearly killed IBM – Also includes photos of real, straight-from-central-casting 1960s computer programmers.
- Have a crated P-47 on a truck, but lack a hangar, hydraulic jacks, cranes, and power tools? – Here’s how you assemble it, using only hand tools, the truck/trailer it drove in on, and 50 of your friends.
- Historical public transit systems (and transit system proposals) vs. their modern counterparts – Content warning: The Guardian.
- Baseball twitter is usually good for a few laughs
- Baseball should end service time manipulation – Unfortunately, doing so would require both the players and the teams to sacrifice something for the benefit of Baseball As A Whole, which is not the typical aim in CBA negotiations.
- Sports leagues embrace gambling – It’s fan engagement! Pennsylvania is one of the states which legalized sports betting; the local sports talk hosts have lately been singing the praises of the sports book at the local casino. A showdown between the gambling operators and the leagues is brewing; the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour want a percentage fee on every bet placed on their games—initially, they said 1%; lately, they’ve said 0.25%. Of course, illegal sports gambling was recently estimated as a $150 billion industry, so…
- Restaurants are too loud – As it turns out, the modern industrial-chic style absorbs zero sound, which is unpleasant. There’s a sushi joint near my mother’s house that has some sort of magical sound-dampening technology—every seat can be full, and yet it’s never loud enough to disrupt conversation at your table, and it’s one of the most pleasant dining experiences in the area.