Stanley Steamer: Fastest Steam Car in History?

The demolished Stanley Steamer Steam Car

The demolished Stanley Steamer Steam Car
Attribution: Richard H. LeSesne (1907)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1906, an automobile traveling 50 mph was considered extremely fast. Then Fred Marriott and the Stanley Steamer came along. The Stanley Steamer was a steam car, created by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. In 1906, an early race car driver by the name of Fred Marriott used it to become the fastest driver in the world, topping out at 127.659 mph. He attempted to break the record in 1907 used an improved version of the steam car. Unfortunately, he hit a rut while traveling 140-150 mph. The steam car gained flight and when it hit ground, broke in half (see picture). Fred Marriott survived the crash but chose not to pursue another record.

Fred Marriott’s milestone was broken in 1910 when a Blitzen Benz, armed with a gasoline engine, reached 141.7 mph. However, he held the steam car land speed record for more than a century, until it was finally eclipsed by Charles Burnett III in 2009 with a mark of 139.843 mph. Here’s more from Daniel Vaughan at ConceptCarz.com.

The Stanley Brothers built their first steam-powered car in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1897. Within a decade, they created the ‘Fastest Car in the World,’ the Stanley Rocket. F.E. Stanley fathered the project, completing the design, build and test work in 1905. The Rocket made its public debut on Ormond Beach in January 1906.

The Stanley’s chose Fred Marriott, a daredevil racer, to pilot their car. The first day on the sand the car won the Dewar Trophy and set a record in the one-mile steam championship. The next day he set a record in a five-mile open race. On January 26th, Marriott set a one-kilometer record at 121.6 mph, the first person to traverse two miles in less than a minute. Two hours later, he upped it to 127.7, a record which lasted until 1910…

(See the rest at ConceptCarz.com)

SETI: The Search for Aliens comes up Short?

Will SETI ever find Aliens?

Will SETI ever find Aliens?
Description: Alien attacks the warship Thunderchild
Attribution: Illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa for The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1906 Edition)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

SETI’s latest search for aliens has come to a disappointing conclusion. Part of the problem is our own technology. We just aren’t that advanced. SETI is only capable of searching for Type II civilizations, who utilize and channel an energy source equivalent to the sun. So, yeah…there probably aren’t too many of those.

The other problem is even more challenging to overcome. Searching for aliens has always struck me as a long-shot. Sure, the galaxy is vast but so is time. And the odds of our civilization overlapping with a similar one (actually a much more advanced one) on a distant planet have got to be miniscule. Here’s more on the latest SETI search from Ian O’Neill at Discovery News:

In an effort to search for intelligent extraterrestrials, SETI astronomers have completed their first “directed” search. Unfortunately, it turned up no evidence of transmitting aliens. But that’s hardly surprising.

By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope, located in West Virginia, on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: “No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.”

(See the rest at Discovery News)

The Drones are Coming

MQ-9 Reaper Drone

A MQ-9 Reaper Drone flies above Creech AFB (2008)
Attribution: Paul Ridgeway
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The drones are coming and not just by air either. In the next few years, an explosion of drones is expected to invade the U.S. by air, by water, and even underground. Here’s more from Robert Beckhusen at Wired.com:

It’s been 10 years since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started up operations. During that decade, DHS has moved to the forefront of funding and deploying the robots and drones that could be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

DHS funds research and development for surveillance robots. It provides grant money by the hundreds of thousands to police agencies to buy their own. And sometimes it’s bought and deployed robots — for their skies, the ground and the waters — of its own, usually concentrated along the border. It’s not clear how many of those robots police operate, and law enforcement isn’t by any means the only domestic market for the ‘bots. But the trend lines point toward more robotic spy tools for law enforcement in more places — with more DHS cash.

But it’s not going to be simple. The Federal Aviation Administration is cautious about opening the skies to unmanned vehicles — so much so that Congress and the Obama administration ordered it to ease up on restrictions by 2015. But not all spy robots fly. DHS is also developing robots that resemble fish, and deploys tunnel-bots deep into drug-smuggling tunnels along the border…

(See the rest at Wired.com)

The Turk: History’s First Chess Computer?

The Turk, history's first Chess Computer

The Turk, history’s first Chess Computer
Attribution: Engraving by Karl Gottlieb von Windisch for his 1784 book Inanimate Reason
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Two centuries before Big Blue, there was the Turk, history’s first chess computer. From 1770 to 1854, this mechanical marvel played and defeated all sorts of challengers, including many top-ranked chess players as well as Benjamin Franklin. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Turk’s secret was revealed…it was a giant fake. Here’s more from  Krešimir Josić at the University of Houston:

The Turk was touted as an early robot that could play chess at the highest level. Built in Vienna in 1770 by the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen, the machine consisted of a large pedestal, housing intricate machinery on top of which stood a chessboard. To this box was attached the upper half of a men dressed in oriental robes and a turban. Each performance began with an elaborate introduction to convince the audience that the Turk is really a machine. The automaton would then face a challenger.

The Turk first dazzled the court of the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. The machine moved its own pieces, and would instantly recognize illegal moves by its opponent. It offered a surprisingly good game of chess! The automaton soon became a sensation, toured Europe and North America, and was matched against some of the best chess players of the time…

(See the rest at the University of Houston)

 

Living…without Breathing?

People need oxygen to live. Without it, cardiac arrest and brain injury will occur. Until recently, just four to six minutes without oxygen caused brain cells to die. But now, a new life extension technology promises to keep non-breathing patients alive for a much longer period…maybe even up to 30 minutes.

Doctors perform surgery (1922)
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

New Life Extension Technology

In 2006, Dr. John Kheir treated a little girl who suffered from severe pneumonia. Unfortunately, it caused her lungs to bleed and reduced her oxygen levels. She experienced brain damage. Before Dr. Kheir could hook her up to a heart-lung machine, she passed away. Afterward, Dr. Kheir began searching for an oxygen-substitute to use for life extension purposes. Recently, he and his research team at Boston Children’s Hospital designed tiny microparticles that can be used to swiftly provide oxygen into a person’s bloodstream.

How’s it Work?

The microparticles have a size of 2 to 4 micrometers, making them invisible to the human eye. They contain a pocket of oxygen gas which has “three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells.” This gas is surrounded by a layer of fat-based lipids. When entered into the bloodstream, the lipids deform.

“[The] deformable particles…dramatically increase the surface area for gas exchange and are able to squeeze through capillaries where free gas would get stuck.” ~ Dr. John Kheir, Injecting Life-Saving Oxygen Into a Vein, Science Daily, June 27, 2012

The idea is to inject these microparticles into the bloodstream via a syringe. In other words, they would be portable and thus, could be used in the hospital as well as carried by emergency personnel in the field.

The Bottom Line

The microparticles have already proven successful with life extension for poorly oxygenated animals, restoring blood oxygen saturation to “near-normal levels” within a matter of seconds. For animals that experienced blocked tracheas, the microparticles kept them alive for 15 minutes without breathing while simultaneously reducing their risk of cardiac arrest and internal injuries. It’s believed the microparticles could work for as long as 30 minutes.

“This is a short-term oxygen substitute — a way to safely inject oxygen gas to support patients during a critical few minutes. Eventually, this could be stored in syringes on every code cart in a hospital, ambulance or transport helicopter to help stabilize patients who are having difficulty breathing.” ~ Dr. John Kheir, Injecting Life-Saving Oxygen Into a Vein, Science Daily, June 27, 2012

We here at Guerrilla Explorer have a deep interest in life extension technologies like cryonics. So, we’re excited about these microparticles. 15 to 30 minutes may not sound like much, but when a life is on the line, it’s an eternity. If it’s as successful with people as it is with animals, it could ultimately save millions of lives.

Telepathic Soldiers?

Not to be outdone by DARPA’s never-ending list of sci-fi projects, the U.S. Army has decided to step up its game. In the next five years, it plans to spend $4 million in taxpayer funds in order to develop real-life telepathy.

Does telepathy exist?

Does telepathy exist?
Description: Subject in a Ganzfeld experiment
Attribution: Nealparr
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Synthetic Telepathy?

The U.S. Army’s version of telepathy is called Synthetic Telepathy. It bears some resemblance to the style of telepathy seen in the popular Metal Gear Solid 4 video game. But where Metal Gear relied on nanotechnology, this real-world telepathy relies on mind-reading.

Here’s how it works. Soldiers wear helmets containing electrodes. The electrodes read electrical activity in the brain and identify code words. Those code words are then relayed back to a central computer before being dished out to other soldiers in the field. Currently, computers are able to identify 45% of the code words. By 2017, the U.S. Army hopes that number will be closer to 100%.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Incidentally, this project first received funding back in 2008. At the time, researchers estimated Synthetic Telepathy would take 15-20 years to develop. It appears they’ve progressed fast enough to shave 6-11 years from that original mark.

At least some soldiers seem pleased by the development. On the other end of the spectrum, civil libertarians are worried about how it could be used by governments against their own citizens. It’s difficult to say exactly how this new telepathy technology will impact our lives. But one thing seems certain. Synthetic Telepathy is coming…and it’s coming quickly.

The Mystery of the Flying Car?

During the 1970s, Williams International built a one-man vertical take-off and landing machine known as “The Flying Pulpit.” This strange flying car stood four feet high and was capable of flying in any direction for as long as 45 minutes. It could speed up, hover in the air, and rotate as well as reach a top speed of 60 mph.

The Flying Pulpit - A Flying Car

The Flying Pulpit
Description: Side view of Williams X-Jet Flying Car on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight
Attribution: Gallimaufry (2006)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Flying Pulpit – The Mystery of the Flying Car?

The Flying Pulpit bore more than a passing resemblance to the Magnetic Air Car, which was featured in the Dick Tracy comic strip during the 1960s. That should come as no surprise. Dick Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, was somewhat of a futurist and dotted his famous strip with numerous inventions which have since come to pass, including the 2-way wrist radio and the portable surveillance camera.

So, what happened to these strange flying cars? Well, as best as I can determine, they were constructed for military use. However, the U.S. Army found them wanting in the 1980s. Apparently, the flying cars were consigned to the dustbins of history.

While The Flying Pulpit might’ve made for a poor weapon in the face of other aircraft, I’m a little surprised it was never released for civilian use. Who wouldn’t want a personal flying car? Check out this video to see The Flying Pulpit in action.

America’s Heat Gun?

The other day, the U.S. military unveiled the newest weapon in its arsenal…Active Denial System. The Active Denial System emits invisible electromagnetic beams of intense heat, intended to disperse unruly crowds. In other words, it’s a massive heat gun.

America's Heat Gun - Active Denial System

The Active Denial System – America’s Heat Gun
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Active Denial System: America’s Heat Gun?

The Active Denial System heat gun is a nonlethal weapon. It’s mounted onto vehicles and used for crowd control purposes.

“You’re not going to see it, you’re not going to hear it, you’re not going to smell it. You’re going to feel it.” ~ Marine Colonel Tracy Tafolla

Supposedly, the Active Denial System heat gun doesn’t cause “cancer, or fertility problems, or birth defects.” And it’s being touted as a safe alternative to traditional crowd dispersal tactics like rubber bullets and pepper spray. That might be the case…unless, of course, something goes wrong and the heat gun burns the crowd to a crisp.

The Pentagon hasn’t placed any orders yet for the Active Denial System heat gun but expect to see it on the battlefield sometime soon. After that, it’s only a matter of time before the heat gun gets rolled out to police forces across the nation…

An iPad…from 1935?

Back in 1935, Everyday Science and Mechanics published what just might be the world’s first attempt at an electronic reading device geared toward the individual. In other words,  the first iPad.

The First iPad?

Microfilm Reader: In 1935, Everyday Science and Mechanics proposed using what might be called the first iPad, which consisted of a microfilm reader mounted on a pole.
Attribution: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The First iPad?

The so-called first iPad consisted of a microfilm reader mounted on a pole, complete with readily-accessible controls to adjust the screen and turn the pages. You can see a picture of the first iPad here. Can you imagine having that thing in your living room? Here’s more on the first iPad from PaleoFuture:

The future of the book has quite a few failed predictions in its wake. From Thomas Edison’s belief that books of the future would be printed on leaves of nickel, to a 1959 prediction that the text of a book would be projected on the ceiling of your home, no one knew for sure what was in store for the printed word.

The April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics included this nifty invention which was to be the next logical step in the world of publishing. Basically a microfilm reader mounted on a large pole, the media device was supposed to let you sit back in your favorite chair while reading your latest tome of choice…

(See PaleoFuture for more on the first iPad)

DARPA’s Real-Life Transformer?

DARPA-employed researchers are at it again. A few months back, they were trying to predict future crimes. Then they were building invisibility cloaks and creating battlefield illusions. Now, they’ve created a robotic Cheetah capable of running at 18mph, making it the “fastest legged robot” in history. Look at that thing go…

Source: DARPA

The DARPA Cheetah: A Real-Life Transformer?

Of course, Cheetah would get crushed in a race against a real cheetah, some of which can reach 70 mph over short distances. Still, 18 mph is more than enough to destroy the old robotic record of 13.1 mph, set by an MIT robot named Planar Biped back in 1989.

Eventually, researchers hope to get the prototype up to 20-30 mph. If it reaches the latter, it’ll pass another milestone, officially becoming faster than any living human (Usain Bolt reached 27.45 mph in a 100 meter race back in 2009). Science fiction has long predicted the rise of mecha warriors. It would appear we are drawing very close to the day when that fiction will become a reality.