Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Geek Shit Wednesday Vol. XVI

Today's Geek Shit Wednesday has two stories that will interest smartphone users and one that will interest the child-at-heart who probably plays too much Final Fantasy.  IE: Me.

Supergay: Super-Offensive?

A trailer for a new iOS game (available for $3.99) has been released.  Supergay is supposedly a groundbreaking game about a superhero coming to terms with this sexuality.

"The game casts players in the role of Dr. Tom Palmer, a scientist working on cloning technology while struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality.

"In traditional comic-book manner, something goes terribly wrong and Palmer becomes the pink and black-clad superhero Supergay, armed with a Rainbow Ray."

I would suggest that any superhero that dons pink, slaps a "G" on his chest, and then runs around spurting rainbows all over the place isn't really "struggling with his sexuality."

The app has some reviewers pissed, however.  Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress eviscerates the game concept:

"You know what American popular culture needs? Gay superheroes. You know what American popular culture doesn’t need? Gay superheroes who come to terms with their sexual orientation by a) beating the hell out of an army of their ex-girlfriends who b) of course have turned into a bunch of evil clones, I suppose by science and the trauma of being dumped."

Meh.  I thought it was cute.  

Rare Earths Discovered In Sea Floor Mud

Due to loose environmental regulations, a vast workforce, and rich deposits China has cornered the world market of rare earths, a group of minerals necessary to build just about anything "smart," from cars to cell-phones to wind turbines.  Even though Australia, the US, and the former USSR together holds about a third of the world's measured (thus far) supply of rare earths, China has a stranglehold on the industry, producing a whopping 97% of the metals used.

Some would like to change that, and a new way has been found.  Japanese divers taking core samples from ocean floor mud discovered that the vast plains beneath the waves are positively covered in these rare deposits.  Not only have critical metals like vanadium, cobalt, and manganese been found in unprecedented amounts, but the vast swathe of minerals generally lack the harmful presence of thorium and uranium, meaning there is little to no risk of radioactivity.

Plus?  It's freaking easy to extract.  Instead of the all that hassle with mining and rooting around underground (plus refining?  Messy!), rare earths can be plucked from the mud by simply putting the muck in a weak acid solution.  

Thanks, planet Earth!  You "rock!"

This is super rad.  Why is the ocean floor so rich in these minerals?  We have hydrothermal activity to thank for that!  Vents that spew chemicals from the heart of our planet have literally littered the seascape with this stuff-- in fact, just one square kilometer of mud from one of these regions could supply one-fifth the world's demand in rare earths.

If the impact to the oceanic environment can be kept to a minimum, this is great news.  I think some enterprising sea-going entrepreneurs are going to become very, very rich in coming years.


This story literally made me scream with happiness and excitement in my house, thoroughly frightening our dog.  I love airships in all their different forms (I daydreamed about owning a zeppelin in my youth, or really I did just yesterday), so anytime I see another application for these airborne behemoths I shoot a geekwad all over the place.  

The current tactic in the military for unmanned spy operations over the past decade has been spyplanes, with the robotic drones quadrupling their "orbits" over contested territories over the past five years.  While they are a boon for intelligence, the damn things are expensive.  Each plane costs about $8,000 an hour to run, and that constitutes a significant resource drain.  Both the Air Force and the Army, however, are developing projects for use in Afghanistan.  Ladies and gentlemen, the spy blimp:


"This is more than some obscure bureaucratic hair-pull. The answer to those questions — and the winners of those fights — could determine the direction of U.S. intelligence-gathering for years to come.

"Here’s why. Surveillance drones like the Predator and the Reaper are starting to lose just a bit of their sheen in military circles, even though their number of “orbits,” or combat air patrols, has more than quadrupled in the last five years. Giant spy blimps are the new hotness. They can stay in the air for much longer than any drone. Instead of a Predator’s single camera, the blimps can carry a whole bunch of surveillance equipment, because they’re so freakin’ huge. Any one of those sensors could spy on an entire town at once. There’s even enough space on board the airship to process all that data in the sky, easing the burden on overloaded intelligence analysts."

I only have one objection to these projects-- why do they have to be unmanned?!  Can I please spy on Afghanistan from a blimp?  Please?

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