When geek dreams become real life

January 24, 2012

Come on, this is Dungeons and Dragons brought to life, thanks to the mad scientists of DARPA: a Wand of Fire Suppression!

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known to its friends as DARPA, has announced their latest innovation: Instant fire suppression. The goal of the research project, which was part of a joint venture with Harvard University, was to find a better way to put out fires. Instead of conventional tactics, DARPA wanted a high-tech tool that would attack the very physical make up of fire using acoustics and electromagnetism.

You might be asking, “But DARPA, we already have perfectly good means of extinguishing fires, don’t we?” Sure, but each method has some pretty major drawbacks. Chemical suppressants, which interrupts the combustion process, are only effective against some types of fires, often result in collateral damage through their use, and are usually toxic. Water and CO2 suppression work well enough by smothering fires, but they still require a physical delivery system — the logistics of which can be hampered by the tight spaces one might encounter onboard a ship, for instance.

Through their research, DARPA wanted to use the physics of fire against itself. In their own words, they sought, “a novel flame-suppression system based on destabilization of flame plasma with electromagnetic fields and acoustics techniques.” Their research paid off in the form of a handheld “wand” device which snuffs out flames.

Click through for video. The big problem is scalability (perhaps power requirements or the size of the fire), but I imagine that can be fixed with enough research. Regardless, this is beyond way-cool. It’s science fiction brought to life, technology as magic.

Now, if they’d only start working on creating a hot Elf chick in a chainmail bikini…


Keystone pipeline rejection a product of crony capitalism?

January 24, 2012

As they say, Hmmm…

Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.

With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.

“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul.”

The State Department denied TransCanada a permit on Jan. 18, saying there was not enough time to study the proposal by Feb. 21, a deadline Congress imposed on President Barack Obama. Calgary-based TransCanada has said it intends to re-apply with a route that avoids an environmentally sensitive region of Nebraska, something the Obama administration encouraged.

Buffett, aside from being a master investor (1), is also a big supporter of Barack Obama and famously demanded to be taxed at a higher rate, even though a) he can voluntarily pay as much as he wants, and b) his company owed a billion in back taxes as late as last year. (2)

Now, I’m more inclined to think Obama killed Keystone to pander to the enviro-whacko Left, but he’s also shown no restraint about using the power of the federal government to help his buddies. (Solyndra? LightSquared? The UAW?)

As Artie Johnson would say, “Verrryyy Interesting!”

Footnotes:
(1) Seriously. If you invest for yourself, his letters to shareholders are must-reading.
(2) Economist Daniel J. Mitchell has called Buffett “innumerate” for his opinions on taxes.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Now this is a debate I would watch!

January 24, 2012

Sponsored by Hot Air, moderated by Ed Morrissey, intelligent questions on issues that matter, and with a format that doesn’t resemble a version of “What’s My Line??

Sign me up!

PS: Hey, Ed! If you need a Center-Right blogger for the panel, I know someone who might be available…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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