Thursday Mar 22, 2007

Boeing 747 Supertanker

I recently visited the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos and bumped into a pilot who used to fly for United but now has a new, and much more interesting, job flying 747s to extinguish forest fires.

I couldn't believe it. As a kid I spent two summers fighting fires for the Alberta Forest Service and was frequently awed when a DC3 would come hurling out of nowhere just a few dozen feet above the tops of the trees around me.

But that was a DC3. This guy was talking about 747s.

A 747 has some big advantages over a DC3. It has much longer range, and can travel to longer distances in shorter times, resulting in improved response times. And of course a 747 holds more fire retardant. Seven times as much in fact.

The pilot (Buddy) told me that holding tank is 24000 gallons, which can be filled in 30 minutes using a special pumper truck. But get this, they can dispense those 24000 gallons in just ten seconds. And they can do so flying 200 feet above the tree tops.

Just don't ask how many acres of forest go up in flames if one of these puppies fails to negotiate a turn.

Friday Mar 16, 2007

The Ultimate Computer

I'm a long-time fan of Ray Kurzweil. Several years ago I bought one of his keyboards, a PC88, which he built based on his pioneering work on audio synthesis. At the time it was by far the most realistic sounding electric keyboard on the market.

Since then I've followed his work in speech recognition, OCR, music synthesis, and lots more.

I'm now reading his book "The Singularity is Near" to which my reaction keeps oscillating between powerful optimism for the future of humanity, and "What is this guy smoking?"

He dedicates several chapters to an analysis of Moore's Law and the exponential increase of the capabilities of technology that has been going on for years. He then extrapolates to the future with some extremely off-the-wall ideas.

For example, he states that by 2080, for $1000, you will be able to get a 2 pound "ultimate portable computer" that would "be able to perform the equivalent of all human thought over the last ten thousand years (assumed at ten billion human brains for ten thousand years) in ten microseconds."

I'll definitely want to get one of these so I can run emacs on it.

Of course, it's easy to make far-flung predictions for the distant future when there's no chance of anyone we know being around then. But wait, he plans on being alive at that time.

Wow, that's amazing. Or should I say, "I want some of what he's smoking?"

About

john

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today