A very big ship, and a very big building

Here’s a fascinating video for those who think that size matters more than almost everything else.  It shows a brand-new cruise ship, AIDAnova, emerging from her immense construction shed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.  The ship is the first of a new class of cruise liners fueled by liquid natural gas, rather than fuel oil or diesel.  She’s being built for AIDA Cruises, the German arm of Carnival Corp., ‘the world’s largest travel leisure company’. I suggest watching this in full-screen mode, and comparing the size of the ship to the people visible dockside and aboard the vessel.  She weighs over

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Why modern cars are becoming “disposables”

Over the past few decades, I’ve noticed that it’s more and more expensive, and less and less practical, to fix any appliance or electronic item that breaks.  For a start, labor costs per hour are prohibitive;  then there’s the almost complete absence of critical spare parts, particularly electronic ones.  In the old days, a soldering iron and a couple of transistors, or a replacement plug-in card, could fix most things.  Today?  Fuggetabahtit!  The average personal computer used to consist of a fairly simple motherboard, with all peripherals and add-on components on separate, plug-in cards.  Nowadays, a motherboard contains everything, and has little or

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Quote of the day

From an article at Breaking Defense titled “Killer Angel On Your Shoulder: Army’s Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft“: “Nothing takes an enemy’s mind off shooting your aircraft like running him over with a tank.” Y’know, I can see how that might work! It’s an interesting article, discussing future aircraft, weapons and technology as the US Army seeks to develop its next-generation equipment and tactics.  Recommended reading. Peter

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Youngsters today . . .

I’ve already run into something like this, more than once.  Makes me feel old.  (Click the image for a larger view at the comic’s Web site.) Let’s not talk about rotary dial phones, party lines, washing machines with mangles, the complete absence of air-conditioning at home, and so on.  Kids today just gape in horror when you describe those things. Peter

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Yeah, us too

The Wall Street Journal points out: Rising new-car prices are pushing more buyers to the used-car lot, where they are finding a growing selection of low-mileage vehicles that are only a few years old. Demand for used cars was unusually strong this summer and will remain at elevated levels through the year’s end as higher interest rates and rising prices on new cars continue to stretch buyers’ wallets, industry analysts say. While used-car values have also increased in recent years, the gap between the price of a new and preowned car has also widened and is now at one of its

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The T-X competition has a winner, and it’s a good one

It seems the Boeing/Saab T-X has won the competition to provide the USAF with its next-generation advanced training aircraft. Here’s a brief video showing one of the T-X prototypes taking off, and performing a roll. I think it’s a great choice, for three reasons. It was the only “clean-sheet” design submitted for the T-X program.  Lockheed Martin teamed with Korea Aircraft Industries to offer a derivative of the latter’s KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, which first flew in 2002 (and was itself derived from the earlier F-16 fighter).  Italian firm Leonardo went through several potential US partners before settling on the T-100, a derivative of its M-346 Master trainer,

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Weaponized “hobbyist” drones – what did I tell you?

On several occasions I’ve warned about weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles of the sort used by hobbyists, for example in this article.  A number of readers expressed skepticism, claiming that the payload of such drones was simply too small to be useful.  Unfortunately, terrorists and criminals continue to ignore such criticism.  Drones are now a real and present danger. The first terror groups to use drone technology as a platform for IEDs originated in the Middle East. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) was the most prominent of these, even using “drone swarms” to attack military and civilian targets. ISIS’s black-market UAVs are still

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The brutal battlefield economics of “swarm warfare”

Raytheon has produced a number of publicity videos for its proposed high energy laser weapon.  They obviously showcase the company’s products, but they also provide insight into what the battlefield of the future may well look like.  From an economic perspective, they demonstrate how both attack and defense are dealing with the application of so-called “swarm intelligence” to drones and unmanned vehicles. First, this brief video showing Raytheon’s current product offering.  I apologize in advance for the damnfool music soundtrack the company added to the clip – why, I have no idea. It would have been far better without it. 

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How NOT to win friends and influence customers

What’s the old saying?  “Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.”  A British banker should have borne that in mind. Banks are facing a furious reaction from customers after saying they should foot the compensation bill for fraud by paying a tax on every transaction made. UK Finance chief Stephen Jones told MPs on the Treasury committee today that banks shouldn’t always have to cover the costs when criminals con people into transferring money out of their accounts. A tiny levy on each payment made in the UK could be a solution to covering the rising cost of

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Another interesting military application for drones

Last year, I wrote about the early days of mine detecting vehicles in Rhodesia and South Africa, of which I had a certain amount of personal experience.  They progressed from looking for metallic land mines, to using ground-penetrating radar to look for the holes dug to take them (which allowed them to look for plastic or wood mines as well). Now the same approach appears to offer promise when adapted to small, low-cost drone aircraft. Most civilized nations ban the use of landmines because they kill indiscriminately, and for years after they are planted. However, they are still used in many places

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