StratoBus: old tech in a new bottle

Most of my career as an engineer I worked on projects with lots of very new technology. Examples included deep-space probes, orbiting satellites, laser weapons, and so on. But sometimes an old solution to a problem is better than a new solution.

An example is the tethered observation balloon. They were used as early as the French Revolutionary Wars. The StratoBus is a project headed by Thales Alenia Space. It updates the old concept in several ways.

It is not tethered physically but by electronic means: software which keeps the balloon in the desired location by keeping track of its drifting and using small propellers to navigate back to its station. The SW also controls buoyancy to keep the desired altitude.

Its observers are video cameras which transmit information back to people on the ground. This removes one of the biggest weaknesses of the old observation balloons: manning. Other improvements you can discover by clicking on the following video.

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EXO, latest Jumper book available now

Just bought Exo, the fourth book in Steven Gould‘s Jumper series. It is the sequel to the third, Impulse, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read that book. Available in bookstores and online.

Amazon          Apple

Click image to buy in Barnes &Noble bookstore or B&N online

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SHIPSTAR (Bowl of Heaven sequel) available

Still reading Wen’s book while dogsitting. (Lady friend’s visiting sick someone.) Try wrangling a complacent Great Dane, exuberant Aussie Shepherd, and combative Cocker Spaniel and you’ll understand the need for escapism!

I instantly bought Bowl of Heaven when it came out. Collab of Larry Niven and Gregory Benford? No need for thought, just reflex. Grab that sucker & rush to the cashier before hordes of SF fans descend & clean out the bookshelf! But held off reading because I’d heard a sequel was coming. Later when it arrived I read it was the 2nd part of a duology. So I’m now free to read the books without fear of a cliffhanger.

The sequel went on sale some weeks ago but until this long weekend I’ve had no time for pleasure reading. Too busy (obsessed) with finishing the Wonder Woman Rethought book. And waist-deep in The Princess Next Door, a Worldwalkers young adult. So NOW! Fudge brownie for breakfast, caviar (well, Thin-and-Crispy pizza) for lunch, and Champagne and quiche for dinner, and thou, O wonderful books, beside me singing in the … erh, patio. (Well, it IS well shaded by trees & the hillside so CLOSE to a wilderness.)

For ordering links to many sources & several formats see Greg Benford’s web page.

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Latest ELFHOME book on shelves now

Just bought Wood Sprites, the latest book in Wen Spencer‘s Elfhome series – from my favorite bookstore: a B&N walking distance from my home!

This is book 4 and introduces a new set of main characters. The three previous books are not needed to enjoy it, but they are fun and widely available – including public libraries.

First paragraph of the blurb: “Even though they attend a school of gifted students in New York City, child geniuses Louise Mayer and her twin sister Jillian have always felt alone in the world, isolated by their brilliance. Shortly before their ninth birthday, they make an amazing discovery. They’re not alone.”

To read the first several chapters and buy the books in the several formats & from the dozen+ online sites click the cover images.

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Another covert-enemy weapon

The older-style jet fighter aircraft are high-performance heavy-weapons systems which can take on enemies who are very technologically advanced. These include the F-22 and the F-35.

The 21st centuries wars are expected to be mostly waged by terrorists and small forces hiding behind civilians and in detail-dense terrain such as forests, jungles, and mountains. The jet aircraft useful for fighting these enemies are smaller, cheaper, but also technologically advanced.

One example is the prototype Scorpion jet built by the Textron / AirLand consortium. It can fly at 500+ mph and as slow as 100 mph, reach 45,000 feet, and travel 2800 miles. “Cheap to buy, cheap to fly,” it can be quickly reconfigured. It’s useful for sophisticated intel collection, and for ground attack – prime needs for fighting covert or low-tech enemy forces.

It can also be used for cheaply training and maintaining pilot skills, a very important but often overlooked necessity for any air force. Most of the second-world countries such as Iran and North Korea can buy or build advanced military planes but are paper tigers. Any conflict between (say) Iran and Israel, or North Korea and South Korea, would wipe the Iranian or NK forces from the skies very quickly – less because the craft are inferior but because the pilots cannot maintain their skills.

You may want to turn the sound down or off on the following video.

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POTTERMORE site now fully functional

Jo Rowling’s Pottermore site was in beta testing for a long time, which was only right for a site with so much hope and expectations behind it.  It has been fully online for some time and has had some rough edges smoothed off it which weren’t found during testing.

I just signed up and spent a half hour exploring. (You don’t have to sign up to explore it, but it unlocks certain doors for you.) As a web designer myself, I have to give it a top grade.  It’s easy to get around in and find what you want, even more important than for most sites because many of its users will be children. The content is beautiful and styled like the best illustrations used for the book covers. And Jo Rowling continues to engage in it and add content, the latest being a short introduction to the “famous singing sorceress” who was only mentioned in passing in the books.

If it has a drawback, it is the richness of the content.  But with an entire universe to explore, this may also be a plus for those who loved the books and the movies.  Littlest kids may get lost, but that’s sometimes part of the fun of adventures, isn’t it?

To begin your Pottermore journey click the image.

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Warfare Evolving from Overt to Covert

Warfare is evolving from large military forces operating openly. This form favored bombers, fighters, tanks, and large ground forces. The covert form favors small forces using human shields and hiding in churches, mosques, hospitals, and schools in cities, and jungles and mountains outside them.

The covert form can be seen in Ukraine recently, with special forces operators acting to take over the leadership of rebel organizations and supplying their troops with weapons and training. Hamas in Palestine and ISIS in Iraq and Syria are other recent examples.

Countering covert operations requires more use of small-force weapons. Prominent among them are helicopters, which is why the U. S. Army Aviation Technology Directorate recently approved building prototypes and test beds for an upgrade to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter, which could also yield a replacement to the Boeing AH-64 Apache. The joint Sikorsky/Boeing project is called the SB.1 Defiant, a rigid-coaxial rotor helicopter with a pusher propeller for higher speed.

To see larger version click the image.

SB.1 Defiant

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Wonder Woman as a teenager

Here is Annalisa King in her favorite casual outfit – which looks a lot alike Wonder Woman’s classic old-fashioned bikini costume. That gold emblem on her tee shirt? The logo of the rock band WINGZ. To see her in interactive 3D on a separate page, click the image.

Then use your LEFT mouse button to tilt her, MIDDLE mouse wheel to zoom in/out, and RIGHT mouse to pan left/right and up/down. (Takes 30 seconds to load but responses are quick after that.)

Wonder Woman as teenager

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Next stage of the Wonder Woman Rethought series

I just finished the final rewrite of The Star Woman, the first book of the projected Wonder Woman Rethought series. It was little more than a polish but for two half-page expansions to add more emotional resonance to two crucial scenes.

Also spent a full 10-hours-a-day 6-days-a-week search for possible agents. I then began creating submission packages for the first 10 agents, each of whom want their own variation. Some a one-page query only, some as much as query, 1-2 page synopsis, and 5/10/50 page sample.

I’ll give each wave of 10 submissions 2-3 months to work before submitting the next 10. Only if none of the several dozen agents is interested will I self-publish. I’m sorry if you wanted something sooner. But the reality of the publishing world is that trade (versus self) publishing takes time.

Just for fun here is Anna visiting Venus, walking on the surface of that Hellish planet. With no one around, she does not bother having Suit embellish its force field surface with the appearance of a modesty garment. (To see larger version click the image.)

Vesuvius spaceship woman 2

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Wonder Woman’s suit in a civilian version

In my Wonder Woman Rethought book The Star Woman the heroine Annalisa King is given a suit made up of nanobots and force fields. Invisible, it protects her inside and out from threats up to and beyond high explosive. (No need for those ridiculous bullet-bouncing bracelets of the classic Wonder Woman.)

She can have it look like the highest of fashions, a bikini, or nothing at all – and still fight bad guys.  Here she is flying over the Liffey River in Dublin in her favorite everyday outfit: tennies, shorts, and tee with the rock band logo WINGZ on its front. (She’s invisible to everyone except you.)

To see more info and larger version of her outfit click the image.

Anna over Dublin


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