Sierra Foxtrot 8

Science fiction thoughts.
  • Had been toying with ways to make zled fur less like that of mammals. One thing that occurred to me is to make their hairs more like the barbs on feathers, with little "barbules" on them, but without the "barbicels" that weave the feathers together into flat surfaces. (The difference between their guard-hairs—guard-barbs?—and down-hairs/barbs, is the same as the difference between guard- and down-hairs in mammals: the guard ones are slightly stiffer and straighter, while the other ones are not stiffened at all, and thus are floppy.) Think they also have awn-hairs/barbs, which are intermediate between down and guard and actually make up most of many animals' visible coats.

    With two exceptions: their whiskers are now very narrow full-fledged feathers, with a central rachis and the barbules connected by barbicels; and the wing-plumage of their fowl (which, remember, are "mammals"), which may've evolved from something like the whiskers that cats have on their wrists. Incidentally, I am also changing the name of the aforementioned fowl-plumage from "flight quills" to "flight plumes". Yes I realize that I might as well just call them "feathers" ("So instead of calling me 'dragon' in your tongue, you call me 'dragon' in some other tongue?") if I'm going to call them the French for "feathers".
  • "Sea lion and squirrel" is the comparison I made for how much interaction aliens who are nothing like humans would really have with humans, but I don't know that I've ever actually mentioned what it's from. It's from this:
    Usually the "dad" moments are Joel, where Mike is more of a sibling (older or younger as the gag of the moment demands) to the Bots, but this is a rare instance where Mike takes on a parental role.
  • I'm currently reading Reading the Enemy's Mind, which is about the CIA/DARPA Project Star Gate (which, despite the title, didn't actually involve much telepathy research). Apparently, most of the "psychokinesis" observed by the project involved the manipulation of metal. So...is that really psychokinesis, or is it electrokinesis? The definition of a metal is an element with a particular set of electrical properties (that "non-metallic" substances can take on those properties under some conditions is why we talk about, e.g., "metallic hydrogen"); "metallic bonds" are the third kind of molecular bond, along with covalent and ionic, because metals' electrons behave oddly. (Almost like those of a plasma, except solid—it is almost true to say that we've been making "plasma swords" since 5,000 BC.)

    Another interesting facet of their research is that though they reported fairly significant effects, those effects were not very controllable—people could produce significant displacements or distortions of objects, but not on command. Now, arguably, that might've just meant that they needed more practice; every martial artist knows there's an intermediate stage where you can sometimes get a technique right, before you can do it correctly whenever you want. But, of course, the fact they would plainly need a lot more practice to be viable, meant that the PK experiments, at least, weren't worth continued funding. (The remote-viewing experiments showed more promise, but, ultimately, not enough for them to be worth it, either—at least not in that political climate.)

    Another point: aside from how the book's author claims that The Amazing Randi's "bent" spoons that purported to debunk Uri Geller's claims didn't look like the ones he'd seen during their psychokinesis experiments...has anyone noticed that Randi's entire argument is "affirming the consequent"?
  • I mentioned earlier that I couldn't find the title of the third NCO in a Marine platoon? The answer apparently is "RTO", i.e. Radio Telephone/Transmitter Officer. He's normally a corporal, from what I can tell, which, yes, is an NCO rank in the Marines. (Sometimes instead of the RTO corporal, apparently—the Wikipedia page contradicts what the USMC "Basic Officer Course" materials say—Marine rifle platoons have a "messenger", who's a private or PFC.)

    Apparently there's actually a fourth person at the platoon level—a Navy hospital corpsman. Possibly a fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh; there can be as many as four corpsmen with a platoon, probably "one with the command plus one per squad", but I imagine that partly depends on logistical circumstances. Not sure what rank they are—presumably either Hospitalman (E3, lance-corporal in the USMC) or Corpsman Third Class (E4, USMC corporal), at the platoon level.
  • In the first Halo game, they apparently had wanted the Elites to have tails, but nixed it when they realized the only place to put a tail while driving a vehicle was up between the legs, which looked unfortunate. I get around it with the zledo by a simple method that, sadly, wouldn't have helped Bungie: as I've mentioned, zled vehicles are designed on the assumption the user is sitting on the floor, and his tail simply wraps around his legs, like a sitting cat's. It wouldn't help Bungie because humans would find sitting on the floor of a car uncomfortable, aside from how hard it is to make that look right in a video game (especially an Original XBox game).

    Rather than sitting seiza, zledo sit with their knees up in front of their chests, and their feet—and ankles—flat. They can't really sit kiza, their feet alone aren't quite made for it and their ankle bones (remember, a third joint in their leg, like in a frog) are probably too long. The only issue is that they don't necessarily fit in human cars (for several reasons, of which the configuration of their legs is only one), and if they sit on a human car's seat as they would in a zled car, they might accidentally dig their foot-claws into the upholstery.

    I think they need a bit less room in their driver's seat, because they don't have steering wheels. In general, the control-apparatus of zled vehicles are more like their military equipment—zled cars have controls like those of a tank, more or less, although I think originally instead of two levers, they just had handlebars. (Nowadays, since their wheels are spherical, they steer exactly like tanks). Fun fact: it's more or less impossible to find detailed images of the control apparatus of tanks, even obsolete ones, and for any other kind of self-propelled gun, fuhgeddaboudit.
  • The complexity of making a mechanical counter-pressure glove—specifically with mapping the "lines of non-extension" of the hand—is why the BioSuit, if we ever actually use it, would still need inflated gloves. Possibly with improved computer modeling, coupled to 3D printing, we might be able to fix that. Another thing I thought of is something with auxetic material? I think the way auxetic foam expands at a right angle to how it's stretched might allow it to fill in a gap created by bending your finger. (You can make an airtight auxetic foam, it just has to have "bubbles" with elastic sides.) If the auxetic material is too delicate, well, like I said, you'd probably wear protective layers over your mechanical counter-pressure suit.
  • Thinking of having the zled lasers have a ring-shaped knuckleguard, something like the grip on the concussion-rifle ("Elite-shot") in Reach and Halo 4, but with the actual trigger mechanism still on the back of the grip. The "barrel" (actually "optical cavity") folds down, on a sort of "track" set into the guard, when you replace the mainspring cartridge.

    I think their long lasers have the exact same kind of grip as the hand lasers, just with a longer, wider barrel (twice as wide, in fact, lens-wise anyway). Ditto their anti-materiel laser (which has a slightly wider lens to focus at longer distances, as well as putting three times as much power into each shot). Not sure what to do with their grenade launchers.
  • Decided that, in my future history, they don't use the word "dinosaur" (it comes up in reference to the khângây). Nope. "Mesozoic birds."

    There are a couple of reasons. The most basic is "senior synonym"; birds were classified in 1676 or 1758 (depending whether you go by "first systematic classification," or "first classification within our current scheme"). Dinosaurs weren't classified till 1841.

    And the other reason is that the "avian" vs "non-avian" distinction seems to break down on examination. The common ancestor of all dinosaurs was bipedal, a defining bird trait; some of its descendants just dropped back to all fours. (While we're on the subject, it's not entirely accurate to say dromaeosaurs evolved into birds, as we know them. Not least because dromaeosaurs evolved from birds, their common ancestor could fly.)
  • Was playing Halo 5; if anyone tells you this is not absolutely the best Halo game, I cannot tell you to cut ties with them, because that would mean you won't be able to prevent them from voting. Vale is best character: she's a weeaboo who's obsessed with the Sangheili ("Sangheiliaboo" is what I've been calling her, by parallel with "Koreaboo").

    But anyway, it occurred to me: how do Sangheili talk? At first I just realized that "Vadam" and "Mdama" make no sense as surnames, since Elites have no lips to pronounce "m" and "v" with. But then I realized, they also don't have tongues to pronounce "th", "l", and "d" with. So...maybe their vocal apparatus is actually some secondary mouth-parts in the hole behind their jaws? I think they might have a tongue back there.

    Or perhaps there is some way for them to pass air through the mandibles (which has the advantage of it making sense for their jaws to move when they talk, which a vocal apparatus in their "inner" mouth wouldn't need). But I wonder, can you actually do a "voice" if you can't close the air-chamber you use? Blocking off parts of the airway, after all, is how our consonants are produced, while changing its shape gives you vowels.