Archive for category Innovation

Hello World – Again

Hello world.

It has been some time since we visited.

Would you like to play a game?

Yes, it has been some time since I posted here.  My attention focused elsewhere and I forgot the value of sharing ideas.  But I’m back and I commit now to sharing.  Sharing ideas is like leveraging money, the more an idea is shared the more powerful it becomes.  There are so many exciting things happening now – and the web is a great place to discuss them.

I learn by playing, just jump in and much around.  I’ve had a chance to try some great MOOC – Massively Open Online Courses.  What a great way to learn – at my convenience, at my pace – and the courses are really good.  I’ll detail some of these in later posts.  I took some time to play with the onion router – TOR.  It is a very interesting piece of software (or environment, or browser, or whatever you wish to call it).  I was surprised to learn that is was developed by the US government and is dominantly funded by them today.  Stay tuned for comments on TOR and maybe even a little on the dark web.

I am very excited by the rapid expansion of capabilities seen in the commercial drones.  In fact, I love the selfie taking drones.  Tie all this into a cell phone and mobile ops become very interesting.  Then there is the explosion of cell phone apps to do amazing things – like take ones pulse, remotely.  Great things happening here.  Then there are all the advances in artificial intelligence and cloud computing (rah, Preakness).  We are getting ever closer to a genuinely workable voice interface with out cyber tools.

There are always more things to look at – and more people looking at them.  Our world is a very exciting place.  For me, I’ll follow the scientists and engineers who poke and prod things and ideas.  As I poke and prod, I’ll recap items here.  If you come back to look again maybe it will save you some time, maybe it will tickle the birth of that next idea.  And the world moves on.

Thanks for reading.  Come back often.  Think and share.

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day! And thank you to all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen who answered the call of duty.  Serving in the armed forces of the United States is an experience that is unique in our world.  We have the best equipped and trained fighting force on the planet.  To be sure there are still duty rosters, and weekend duty, and frequent moves and additional duties but when it is mission time we know that the best individuals are deploying with the best equipment and they know how to use it.

There are two groups that must also be recognized on this day.

Most of those warriors out there have families.  Sometimes the family moves with them and sometimes the warrior deploys and leaves the family back home.  So the family is either uprooted and starts over or manages the separation by keeping up a long distance relationship.  Either of these is hard but it gets done over and over and over.

Behind all those soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen is an unseen army of contractors, tradesmen, designers, engineers, farmers and a host of others who produce all the uniforms, boots, radios, vision equipment, meals, vehicles, shelters, weapons, drones and on and on.  Without this magnificent tail our tooth would soon stall.

One Shot

One shot.  That may be all you get.  I know; you get three strikes in baseball and four downs in football and maybe even a second chance in life but in shooting there are many now-or-never moments.  It doesn’t matter that it is dark or that it is windy or that it is cold or hot or that the target is a long, long way out there and is moving – this is THE one chance you are going to get.

TrackingPoint, Inc of Austin, Texas is rolling out three new precision guided firearms in May of this year.  These include: the TrackingPoint XS1, in 338 Lapua Magnum with 27″ barrel, effective up to 1,200 yards; the TrackingPoint XS2 in 300 Win Magnum with 22″ barrel, effective to 1000 yards and the TrackingPoint XS3, also in 300 Win Magnum effective to 750 yards.


TrackingPoint XS1


A precision guided firearm is truely a system of systems.  The rifle itself is finely crafted.  You use match grade ammunitons supplied by TrackingPoint so the computer knows exactly what it is firing.  And yes, the computer.  A Linux based computer drives a fire control system that looks a lot like a scope but does so much more.  Using what TrackingPoint calls Tag-Track-Xact technology, a shooter tags a target, tracks it for a while and the computer; accounting for range, wind, target velocity, shot angle, rifle cant, temperature, pressure, and coriolis forces, generates an exact firing solution.


 TrackingPoint – Heads Up Display

This is a lot of science in a tight package – but wait, there is more.  The computer records the engagement for review later.  It also transmits the HUD so that it may be viewed on an iPad, and we know the boss is going to want to watch.


TrackingPoint iPad Display


Read more on TrackingPoints Precision Guided Firearms

TrackingPoint, Inc.

Defense Update – Precision-Guided Firearm – Turning Riflemen into Marksmen?

Ars Technica – $17,000 Linux-powered rifle brings “auto-aim” to the real world

Business Insider – Today Anyone In The World Can Be A Lethal Sniper

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The World’s Most Powerful Sniper Rifle

The South African Denel-Mechem NTW-20 is a beautiful weapon and is currently the world’s most powerful sniper rifle.  Being careful in a choice of words, the NTW-20 is a 20 mm manually operated, rotating bolt action, anti-materiel rifle.  The design of the NTW-20 supports both 20 mm and 50 cal configurations.  An operator can switch between the two calibers in the field without using any special tools.

The NTW-20 is a serious weapon.  The 20 mm version has a maximum effective range that is greater than 1500 meters and the 50 caliber version is quoted at 2300+ meters.  A single shot version chambered for the 20 x 110 mm Hispano-Suisa cartrige packs a muzzle energy of 32,000 ft lbs (~44,000 J) which is quite a whollop when compared to a 44 magnum with its a muzzle energy of about 1200 ft lbs.

NTW-20 Anti-Materiel Rifle

The 20 mm ammuniton choices include high explosive, fragmentation and incendiery rounds.  Interestingly, when armor piercing ability is required the muniton of choice is the 50 cal round.

I love this weapon.  This second video is more a tribute to its good looks and great capabilities.  Enjoy.



Review of Armor 101

Cold rolled homogeneous armor steel – how sweet it is.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in microelectronics and robotics that we overlook the exciting developments in the world of shock, stress and strain.  This video by tanknutdave is a super review of the state of the art in armor and is one of the best 10 minute investments a warrior can make.

Topics span: angled armor, laminate armor, composite armor, long rod penetrators, armor piercing fin stabalised discarding sabot rounds, shaped charges, stand-off armor, spaced armor, cage armor, bar armor, reactive armor, oblique armor, advanced armor development.

Armor 101 – tanknutdave

Get on over to and get really smart on ballistic protection systems.  These concepts work on vehicles other than tanks and in settings on land, sea or air.

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Selective Laser Melting

Selective laser melting – no, we’re not thinking about burning the nose off of your face or blasting a target with a magnificently brilliant beam of photons.  Selective laser melting is a very hot (pun intended) development in 3-D printing.  The technology is mature enough that NASA is using it to fabricate components for its newest rocket engine (NASA 3D Prints Rocket Parts) and the price is falling fast enough that soon most anyone with a serious interest or intent can have an SLM 3-D printer.

NASA bit

Selective laser melting is an extension of sintering – forming components by pressing and/or heating a metalic powder.  There are laser sintering processes, then electron beam melting (which must be done in a vacuum) and then laser melting (which is done in an inert gas environment to avoid oxidation).  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this technology can be used to quickly fabricate some very sophisticated weapons.  In fact, you can make parts using SLM that you can’t easily cast or machine at all.  Who knows what new weapons may emerge or what evolution we will see of current designs.

With Makerbots proliferating we can find instructions on making simple weapons at home (Making Guns In Your Garage).  Most of these have been plastic.  They are generally single use weapons.  Some have no moving parts and include electrical firing systems.  Sounds a bit like MetalStorm doesn’t it.  Life will become very interesting if “the bad guys” start printing hard to detect, plastic, single use, many projectile, rapid fire systems.  Mix in a printed circuit board link it to sensors or the web and we have a serious game changer.

Non-Pneumatic Tires

Non-pneumatic tires (or NPTs in Pentagon acronymia) look like an instant improvement to the mobility of wheeled vehicles.  Who wants to have a flat tire while getting shot at or while chasing down some bad guys?  The non-pneumatic tires developed by Resilient Technologies look like they can take a beating and keep on driving on.

Resiliant NPT

This tire looks like it can run over anything.  I’ve found postings and articles about the Resilient Technologies NPT from as far back as 2006.  The Resilient Technologies website notes a DoD grant to fund a four year study started  in 2008 but is absolutely silent as to how things have gone.

Cool New Army Tire Technology

It sure looks cool but the video shows nothing that would make you bet your life on it or the lives of your soldiers.  Let’s see you pound it and bounce it in mud that is deeper than the axel – the old Jeeps could do that easy.  And what happens if you are fighting in the winter and the mud and muck of the day becomes ice at night?  I’ve seen armor units that couldn’t move in the morning because they didn’t get their tracks cleaned out the night before.

 Resiliant NPT Side View

This is all the crunch displayed on the web.  Looks promising but my kidneys are still working.

Resiliant NPT

I know the desert is smooth (at least in most peoples minds) but come on, we drive over broken stuff – a lot of which we broke on purpose – so let’s see some serious tub thumping.

What happens when a vehicle mounting these tires operates in sand?  If you make a quick turn in sand won’t the honeycomb scoop up lots of that sand?  This maneuver might make great Rat Patrol rooster tails but who needs the extra signature and I’d worry a bit about balance and feed back on the steering.

It is good that these non-pneumatic tires are being studied.  They look cool.  The concept is very inviting.  But the silence is deafening.  They raise lots of questions.  Why not just buy a few thousand of these and equip a deployed unit with them.  If Snuffy likes them, he’ll let us know – if not, we’ll know that too.  For me, I’d jam these NPT things inside my pneumatic tires and have the run flat tire from hell.  Cause that’s where I’m driving.

Read more at Scientific American


Cyclogyrorotor Craft

Beating the air into submission.  Yep that is what the folks at Innovative Aerodynamic Technologies are doing with their D-Dalus aircraft.  Sleek it is not.  Sophisticated it is.  And it has great potential.  At the 2011 Paris Air Show some folks likened the demo unit to a flying steamroller.  Boy were they wrong.  IAT is building a craft that can hover, and fly, and thrash about amoungst tree branches and crap and keep on going (try that in a helicopter).

D-Dalus at 2011 Paris Air Show

Cyclogyros are not new but have generally been built on an airplane paradigm.  See several examples here.  IAT has fully embraced modern technologies and shrouded its high-tech rotors in such a way that lift is maximized, control is maximized and the probability of damage is hugely reduced.

D-Dalus Turbines

The sweetness of the IAT solution is evident as shown in the image above of the counter-rotating fan unit from an early prototype.

Read more on this marvelous craft in Popular Science.  Watch a video of a rotor-in-wing airplane.  There is some very exciting stuff coming through the pipe.

If you want a hovering platform that can match the rigors of urban operations (wires, trees, bushes, buildings) a cyclogyro will trounce any rotored solution you might try.  Go for it.


Skylark UAV

The silent service is a phrase used traditionally to describe submarines and submariners.  Maybe we need to amend its application to some of the super-sophisticated, unmanned aerial vehicles that are proving themselves daily.


The Israeli Skylark is a perfect poster child for the new silent service.  The Skylark is man portable, hand launched and fully autonomous in flight.  The Skylark 1 weighs only 12 pounds and has an endurance of 2 hours within its 10 mile range.  The Skylark 2 can launch while weighing 43 kg and can carry a 10 kg payload with a flight endurance of 6 hours and a range of more than 50 km.  Skylark is battery powered and flies on an 8 ft wingspan – so it is very, very, very quiet.


The Skylark supports a real time continuous image feed – color during daylight and thermal at night.   Payload options are left to the creativity of the user, but 10 kg on the Skylark 2 leaves room for lots of snooping gear or lots of hurt in a kamikazee run.

Check out this and other gear at


iPhone Polygraph

Wouldn’t it be neat to have an iPhone polygraph.  Let me talk with that car sales person now.  Or replay that conversation with my last realtor – oh man.  Many of us carry our iPhones everywhere and they all have a rather good camera built in.  Some of the smart folks at MIT recently published Eulerian Video Magnification for Revealing Subtle Changes in the World.  They put together a software package that processes a standard video sequence and by differencing individual frames (I simplify here for clarity) and then amplifying those differences they make it possible to observe a person’s vital signs without touching them.

Eulerian Video Magnification

Think of all the things you could do with a hand-held device (read phone) that can show you a subjects heart rate, breathing patterns and how their blood is circulating.  This last one is detecting a blush that isn’t visible to our eyes.  All of this without touching them and with only a reasonable video camera and some software.  I am ready to play poker.  Maybe now we should check our guns and our phones at the door?  How about checking out a spouse who might be straying a bit – or not?  Maybe this is a great tool for emergency responders.  Just shoot a video of a patient and ship it with vitals embedded to the hospital.  No muss no fuss and less gear to clean up.

Read more: TNW Sharables, MIT News

Because this is software and because it works with the cameras that come on laptops and phones, I suppose we will soon see this as a button we can click on Skype or Facebook or who knows where.  This is not xray vision but it may be even handier than xray vision when we find all the potential applications.

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