Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Country Dumpster: A behavioral study of humans conducted in a blind.

It was late and Hrvos was ready for the next test.  Thmos spoke "Hrvos, how many more times do we have to tele-operate the creature tonight?"
"At least four more times.  We need a base line for frustrating this particular human then we can move our operations again."
"But we've been here a week.  Don't we have enough yet?"
"Thmos, we will do four more clang and rolls tonight because I'm in charge and I say we need the data.  Can we please try and have some fun with this?"
"Okay Hrvos.  Whatever you say.  Just remember we will need to shut down for a day to do preventative maintenance on the creature."
"I remember, now concentrate.  We're on the path and there is the waste container.  Wow, this guy put steel chains on the thing.  Thmos, push the creatures head against the vessel and try and get it rolling."
"I got it to pivot 90 degrees.  Now what?"
"Can you push it in a straight line?"
"Yes.  Do you want it all the way to the house?"
"Maybe.  Let's start pushing and see how long it is until the human emerges to investigate.  Then we'll escape."
A few minutes later the sound of gravel scrunching brought a man in his sixties to the door of the house.  He grabbed his flashlight and bathed the dumpster with light apparently startling the bear into leaving.  "Damn critters keep trying my patience."  He went back to watching TV and talking with his wife.
"What now Hrvos?"
"Let's wait a few minutes and return to turn the vessel 90 degrees toward the machine shelter."
A few minutes later the bear was back pushing the dumpster to the garage, the wheels not making as much noise this time.  The dumpster bumped against the house and the chains rattled.  The man reappeared in the doorway of the house this time shining a spotlight on the bear and yelling.  The bear ran away and the man got some help from the neighbors to push the dumpster back into place.
"Well Thmos, so far we've gotten him to shine a light and yell.  Let's give it half an hour and try again."
A half hour passed and the bear reappeared.  This time the wheels of the vessel were locked somehow and they just dragged on the concrete and sank in the gravel.  The bear growled and tried to raise the lid with its snout making a lot of noise with the chains.  Again the man appeared in the doorway lighting up the bear and yelling.  He even took a couple of steps off of the porch to feign a lunging attack.  The bear looked at the man and trotted off across the road into the trees.
"Hrvos, it looks like we're making him angry.  I think humans lose intelligence when they get angry."
"Um, Thmos.  That is what we are trying to determine with this study.  We have to prove it, do you understand?"
"Yes Hrvos.  What next?"
"Let's wait ten minutes then get a running start at the vessel, see if we can get it to the middle of the path again.  That ought to frustrate the human."

Next to the property of the dumpster was a cabin with a vacationing family whose eighteen year old son was peering into the dark to determine what was making all of the noise.  He had a very powerful LED strobe light that cast a narrow but blinding beam of light.  When the bear came running across the road he saw the movement of the bushes and a great black form hit the dumpster with the force of a car, flipping the dumpster into the center of the path.  The bear had rolled over the form of the dumpster as the dumpster flipped landing on the opposite side of the dumpster and moving slowly as if stunned.
The boy shined his light on the black form as it began to stand up.

"Thmos, what the hell happened?  We need to get moving before the human comes out and gets too close."
"We will but I must first get out and adjust the creature's head.  We can't see anything right now because the impact jarred the camera alignment."
"Hurry the frizzle up, you stupid delouche."

As the boy watched he saw the eyes of the bear moving then two dessert plate sized ovals of greenish glow appeared between the bear's back legs and moved forward.  A being with a bulbous head stood up and handled the face of the bear moving its eyes further apart on the head.  It then ran to the back legs and disappeared.  The bear stood up and started looking around.  Seeing the pinpoint of light coming from the cabin it started to approach.
The man appeared in the doorway again this time with a spotlight, yelling and a stun gun.  He shot the dumpster and an electrical arc jumped to the bear.  This was enough to get the bear running across the road.

When morning came the man had his neighbors help him turn the dumpster up right again and before leaving for the day the boy went to speak to the man about the bear.  "Does that happen every night?"
"It has for the last week.  They'll probably move on now."
"They?  I thought it was a bear?"  The boy did not want to mention what he had seen hop out of the creature.
"Nah.  It's not a real bear.  It's a couple of grey anthropologists who think they are doing legitimate research.  Here, look at the infrared of the bear.  Me and the missus have been watching them on the television every night this week."
"You know?  Why don't you call the Air Force and capture them?"
"High Command knows about them and let's the farce go on.  It keeps them from getting into more serious mischief.  To tell you the truth I find it really amusing to see them squeeze into those imitation animals of theirs.  It took a lot of years for them to figure out how to cross the road.  You come on back next summer son and we'll start having some fun with them, what do ya say."
"I'm in."

"Hrvos, I want a transfer.  You're going to get us killed."
"Stop whining Thmos.  We have two more years on our sentence then we can take over this stinking swamp planet."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Taxi to ISS and Beyond

     As of today NASA has narrowed the field for crew service support to Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX.  I found this announced on NBCMSN.whatever. Tech and Science News.  Boiling it down to these three are the ones getting future funding from NASA in the competition.  There has been a lot of hot air expelled over why shouldn't NASA just fund one development effort.
     That sort of thing leads to accusations of favoritism, squashes innovation and promotes waste.  Having three levelly matched competitors will most likely result in multiple options for services that will be scalable based on mission.  All three are being designed to carry 6-7 passengers but one will be capable of atmospheric glide reentry.  The other two will make better space workhorses for asteroid missions, interplanetary mission modules, cargo transfer and more uses.
     Unlike the Apollo race I choose to view this one as a race to build a sustainable infrastructure for a space based economy.  The Apollo program and the shuttle program suffered from the inertia of having locked in sourcing which meant if you didn't throw enough money in one company's direction then sooner or later you were going to have a critical shortage of a key component.  The company making that component would be fat for a while then move on or go under due to lack of growth.
     This way the three companies going to completion of human flight will bear all of the responsibilities for providing the service to both private industry and government.  Trimming the budget and getting faster improvement response with more options ready.  Who is stupid enough to find something wrong with that?
     My point is that this model makes better sense and it has taken us too long to get this far.