Thursday, May 15, 2008

Robo Eyes and Snooper Robos: The Science of Over the Edge

In Over the Edge, characters use robo eyes to obtain visual and audio information. Snooper robos add tissue sampling, soil, water and air sampling to their audio/visual collecting repertoire.

The June 2008 issue of Discover magazine article titled "Shrinking Spies" reports on efforts to miniaturize un-manned spy planes such as the Predator, pictured above, now in operation over Iraq. "Shrinking such planes so that they weigh less than two ounces would result in the perfect vehicle to get a bird's-eye view of the terrain" without the annoying tendency to be spotted and shot down quite so readily. However, developers have discovered that a plane only 4 1/2 inches wide has its own set of drawbacks.

Peter Ifju, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida, has created a flexible wing plane that can keep a steady course in the face of gusty winds. The bat wing inspired design consists of a "carbon fiber skeleton...covered with a latex membrane that pacifies gusts by acting as a shock absorber," Discover, June 2008, page 12. The downside: the little plane has a flight time of only 15 minutes--can't get a lot of spying done in fifteen minutes, but it still might have its applications even so; that's long enough to determine if a hostile is lurking in the immediate vicinity.

Clearly, the power issue must be resolved before these little planes can be put to serious use, but Professor Ifju is on his way.

photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Watch this video for an update:

Vijay Kumar: Robots That Fly and Co-operate

Friday, March 28, 2008

Deleted Material and Changes Over Time

Greetings Readers;

Ystem Aver, one of my favorite characters from the "Over the Edge" series is featured here in a short story that also appears on He has a distinctively "pirate" voice, made familiar in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series. Many readers who've been critiquing the "Over the Edge, On the Brink" manuscript don't like his pirate voice. And, over time, I've come to agree with them. I could change his voice here and on InkDreams, but I think I'll leave him in his original state in both these locations.

A little trivia regarding the name "Ystem Aver:"

Long ago, when I first began to take my pleasure writing seriously (that is, I said to myself, "What's the point of putting all this time into this science fiction novel series if nobody is ever going to read it? Maybe I should try to get this published...), I was given an Apple II GS computer for writing. This computer sat on a desk near a sliding glass door opening out onto a small porch where an outside electrical outlet is available.

As I was contemplating the character now known as "Ystem Aver," lightning struck. It seemed to me, the lightning pinpointed that outdoor outlet. Fortunately, I had a "System Saver" protecting my computer. When my eyes adjusted to normal light once again and the smoke cleared, my System Saver was dead, burnt. But my computer was fine. In honor of this device which gave its life to save my work, I named the new character "Ystem Aver," a name created by simply removing the first letters from each word in (S)Ystem (S)Aver.

Here's to all the Apple II GS's out there. Some of you know how awesome those computers were. Why did Apple have to abandon that line? And here's to System Savers of all stripes that save our work from harm.

photo credit: