Gathering some moss

Time to clear out the browser again. Maybe I should make this a separate category of post. Put it under “links” as “dump”.

It sounds gross, but if my StumbleUpon is any judge, an awful lot of people put “link dumps” and “pic dumps” on their blogs without even thinking about it twice.

Anyhow, got some keen things awaiting inclusion clogging up the old Firefox right now, so I figured it is time to line them up, kit them out, give them a stern talking to and a big hug, and then send them out into the world to fend for themselves.

Letting go is always the hardest part.

A Very Interesting Question

A fascinating article over at TechCrunch (where did the E go? or is that a totally different site?) asks a highly pertinent question for our time : Is printing a gun the same as buying a gun?

Not that long ago, this would have been a completely nonsensical question. “Printing a gun” would be as absurd a concept as making yourself rich by drawing pictures of gold bars. You could no more print a working, functional, real world gun than you could print a living dragon.

But with the rapid advances in what used to be called “rapid prototyping” and is now called, much more sensibly, “3D printing”, things are not so clear.

People are 3D printing out all kinds of things. I mean, you can download and print a freaking Stradivarius, for crying out loud.

But somehow, despite my even mentioning the printing of rifle parts in the above linked article, the issue of people being able to 3D print dangerous things never really occurred to me before now. (I guess I was too distracted by the Stradivarius thing. )

The potential implications are vast. The law certainly has no way of coping with this. The entire structure of gun control laws revolves around controlling the manufacture and sale of firearms. The idea that someone without a whit of gunsmith training might just decide to print themselves out an AK-47 and some ammo was never envisioned.

Before we get too excited, I must caution, this is not happening right now. 3D printers print things in plastic polymers, and fairly soft ones at that, so they would make pretty lousy guns. But this is something that we may have to deal with in the near future.

This sort of thing has the potential to make all kind of laws meant to keep dangerous things out of the wrong hands completely obsolete.

A sobering thought, and something to chew on.

The Ultimate Silencer

And while we are thinking dark thoughts about the future, let us talk about this weapon that makes it impossible for people to talk.

Now, the story is a tad sensationalistic. It acts as though this is a magic “silence gun” that could make a whole room full of people unable to talk like it was some kind of mute button on life, and it is nothing of the sort.

Instead, it just plays a single person’s voice back at them with a slight delay. This seriously disorients people and makes them instinctively stop talking to clear up the confusion.

This is no big leap for science. This is technology so basic that I used a similar device at the Ontario Science when I was a kid in 1978. At the time, this Delayed Auditory Feedback was considered a possible explanation for why some people stutter. They hear their own voice echoed back to them.

So anyhow, relax, this is not some totalitarian superweapon. It could only ever work on one person at a time, and a determined enough person could, I think, shake off the effects.

What interests me is the stated purpose of this weapon, to wit :

The researchers were looking for a way to stop “louder, stronger” voices from saying more than their fair share in conversation. The paper reads: “We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking. However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately interrupt other people when it is their turn in order to establish their presence rather than achieve more fruitful discussions. Furthermore, some people tend to jeer at speakers to invalidate their speech.” In other words, this speech-jamming gun was built to enforce “proper” conversations.

To me, that just bristles with the rage of the shy and the unassertive. Like some perhaps mildly Asperger’s engineers got so angry at being verbally bullied by hecklers and highly articulate people who were NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES that they invented what amounts to a “shut the fuck up gun” to insure they would get a chance to speak.

Seems downright mad scientist to me, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But you know, you could take an assertiveness class, or get a better chairperson for your meetings.

I’m just sayin’.

How “Now” Is This?

Finally, a story for this exact moment in history, about how that modern demon known as “autocorrect” actually prompted a major police incident.

Damn You, Autocorrect, indeed.

For those of you who don’t know, “autocorrect” is a feature mostly used in texting via cell phone, where the phone tries to guess what you meant to type and replaces what you typed with said guess.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And in this case, it actually caused a high school to go into lockdown for two whole hours before the situation was resolved.

It all started when a student tried to text a friend “Gunna be at West hall this afternoon”. Seems simple enough, right?

But autocorrect, in all its dubious wisdom, turned “Gunna” into “Gunman”.

And the recipient of said text, instead of say, texting back asking “Did you mean to say gunman??”, freaked out, told the authorities, and madness ensued.

To me, autocorrect makes things worse far more often than better. It is way easier to simply absorb a typo (we cna figrue otu thigns pretyt esaily) than to deal with a completely wrong word in a sentence.

I mean, compare “I have to see you after clsas” with “I have to see you after Callais”.

I rest my case.

But people get caught up in this because autocorrect is turned on by default on most cell phones, and people don’t know they can turn that shit off.

Although after an incident like this one, they might take the time to learn.

That’s all for today, folks! Seeya tomorrow, with SCIENCE!

2 thoughts on “Gathering some moss

  1. I have this weird feeling the NRA is going to be against the 3D printing of guns, just because the universe is perverse like that.

    For years now I have been wishing for what I call a “sonic mirror,” which would be a force field that you put up between you and, say, a screaming baby, or a group of screaming teenagers, at a restaurant, and all it does it reflect their own sound back at them, while preventing it from reaching you.

    It would be karmically perfect. It would be the sonic equivalent of Ghost Rider’s penance stare. You get back exactly what you give out.

    This silence device sounds like that dream being realized.

  2. Hmmm, you know, that’s right.

    Although having its screaming played back with a slight delay will likely have no deterrent effect on a sad baby.

    Probably just make it worse, really.

    But it would make it worse for the parents too….

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