How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
"What was his weapon? Trust. Over and over again, he shook the hand of a parent and said, 'It's OK. I'll take care of them. I'll make her a better person.' Instead what he did was rob them of their innocence and change the scope of their lives."
SB Nation on Mel Hall - "a flamboyant baseball player, a charismatic coach, and a sexual predator."
SB Nation on Mel Hall - "a flamboyant baseball player, a charismatic coach, and a sexual predator."
(tw: rape) Kathleen Hale reflects on her assault, the subsequent trial, and the relationship between predators and prey.
Prestige scientific journals are bad for science, and we should avoid them. "Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of bonus culture, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals." So argues Nobel laureate Randy Schekman, urging scholars to shift their work to open source journals. [more inside]
Though humans often liken themselves to top predators such as lions, a new study (paywalled) used FAO data to calculate the human trophic level (HTL), i.e. the position of Homo sapiens in the food chain, and found that humans are actually on a par with anchovies and pigs with an average trophic level of 2.21 (vs 1 for plants to 5.5 for bears and orcas). Values vary by country, from 2.04 in the 97% plant-eating Burundi to 2.57 in the 50% fish-loving Iceland. As meat consumption is growing in countries like India and China, mankind is globally becoming more carnivorous and has been improving its trophic level by 3% since 1961. [more inside]
The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike
Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here. But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities.[more inside]
Fish Fear Robotic Predators, Unless They're Drunk. Scientists swear they had a really good reason for building a robotic fish, getting some other fish drunk, and then chasing them around with it. The robotic bird head, too. Direct link to research: A Robotics-Based Behavioral Paradigm to Measure Anxiety-Related Responses in Zebrafish.
In southern Sweden, scene of recent sheep-killing incidents perpetrated by wolves, llamas are being introduced to see if they will kick wolf-butt and protect the sheep. In the US, the guard llama is becoming a more common "first line of defense" on ranches. [more inside]
We've all seen it. The off-white UAV is seen side on, nose tilted slightly down, a stubby missile caught at the moment of launch beneath it, a blue and grey landscape of treeless mountains behind it. There's no motion blur and none of the markings on the aircraft have been obfuscated. It's a perfect shot. Except for one or two details. [more inside]
Chris Stokel-Walker of BuzzFeed explains the motivation and technology behind last year's “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” viral video sensation. [Previously]
Four Canadian film students were assigned a project: Create a YouTube hoax video that gets 100,000 views. They got nearly 42 million instead. Here’s the definitive behind-the-meme look at how—and why—their homework snowballed into one of the most popular and rapidly spread videos ever.
Golden eagle snatches kid. (Warning: slow motion section features inexplicable music choice.)
"When most Americans think of surveillance drones, it conjures up an image of a Predator drone in a far-off land unleashing a missile against a terrorist suspect. The last thing they think of is a flying surveillance vehicle over their own city. But an increasing number of federal, state, county and municipal police departments are purchasing drone surveillance vehicles of one sort or another to watch Americans. And a few have even discussed arming the drones." - Drones over America. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to more than double its fleet of Predator drones for surveillance missions inside the United States. Despite Problems, there is a push to expand domestic use. Much of that push comes from a "powerful" lobbying group that most Americans have never heard of: the Unmanned Systems Caucus. Drone Makers Push Congress to Move Up Domestic Deployment Date (follow the money). More? ACLU blog posts related to domestic drones. Here is a Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations, last updated in April. Insiders assure You have nothing to worry about, but a little remarked-upon court decision may bring the domestic drone age one flight closer to your doorstep. (previously)
In 2003, the BBC reported that a population explosion of Great Gerbils had destroyed more than 4 million hectares of grasslands in China's north-western Xinjiang region -- an area about the size of Switzerland. By 2005 the damage covered 5 million hectares, and the Xinjuang Regional Headquarters for Controlling Locusts and Rodents were reported to be breeding and attracting pairs of golden eagles to curb the gerbil population. So McSweeney's Joshuah Bearman was assigned to the story. His report: An Investigation Into Xinjiang's Growing Swarm of Great Gerbils, Which May or May Not be Locked in a Death-Struggle With the Golden Eagle, With Important Parallels and/or Implications Regarding Koala Bears, The Pied Piper, Spongmonkeys, Cane Toads, Black Death, [and] Text-Messaging..
Guardian/Greenwald: US drones are coming back after initial attacks to target first-responder rescuers.
So it was with uncontainable excitement one Saturday afternoon that I went round to Alan Walters's house to watch something with the promising title of Predator. I knew only three things about it: it was certified 18, it starred the great Arnold Schwarzenegger – the WH Auden of ultraviolence – and it reputedly featured a scene in which someone's eviscerated chest cavity was on full display. My favourite film: Predator The rest of the series.
Anchalee Saengtai is a Thai sculptor who makes incredible Transformer statues out of recycled scrap parts. | Her Predator creations | Alien | Megatron Tank | furniture | and more. Bonus link: Transformer art in Mexico.
A Tragedy of Errors. On Feb. 21, 2010, a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians headed down a mountain in central Afghanistan and American eyes in the sky were watching. "The Americans were using some of the most sophisticated tools in the history of war, technological marvels of surveillance and intelligence gathering that allowed them to see into once-inaccessible corners of the battlefield. But the high-tech wizardry would fail in its most elemental purpose: to tell the difference between friend and foe." FOIA-obtained transcripts of US cockpit and radio conversations and an interactive feature provide a more in-depth understanding of what happened.
From the always reliable Monster Brains (previously) comes the crossover you've all been waiting for: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Predator. But wait, there's more (Google translation): Evil Candy Plans, Forbidden Bat-Love, an awesome batmobile, and lots of plain old what the fuck.
Feds under pressure to open US skies to drones. Last week, the FAA released a fact sheet, which states in part that "one of the most promising potential uses for small UASs is in law enforcement." They've already allowed the Border Patrol to use Predator drones as a "key force multiplier" along the Mexican border. Local law enforcement wants in on the game. Britons, you're next - or first? [more inside]
The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010 (PDF). "Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts, about two-thirds of the total on average. Thus, the true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32 percent." [more inside]
Predator vs *: Na'vi, Tintin, Punisher, Batman, Jason, Ewoks, Spiderman, Power Rangers, Alien, Wikipedia, Wikipedia vs Predator, Robocop, Predator.
Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones. "Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations." [Via]
A red-billed blue magpie doesn't have anything on Predator. The 2005-2006 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season, on the other hand, would blow that intergalactic hunter out of the water (literally).
"This is Romeo Foxtrot. Shall we Dance?" Killer Drones to get sound system. Many different broadcasts were tried, including the celebrated “Wandering Soul."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Jane Austen, who last year, along with her sisters, engaged in the deadly earnest fight against "unmentionables" in Seth Grahame-Smith's work, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has sadly fallen prey once more, this time to aliens. Coming next year to a theater near you, from Elton John's Rocket Pictures.
Aliens vs Predator: Whoever wins, you lose - MeFi's own jscalzi talks about the worst Sci-Fi film of the year. Meanwhile Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott suggest making another alien movie - with Ripley but without any aliens. It's may not be all bad news for xenomorphs though - 2009 will see the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines is still just around the corner, hopefully.
The U.S. Military's Assassination Problem: "Software like 'Bugsplat' is supposed to keep decapitation attacks precise. So why do we keep blowing up Iraqi wedding parties?" [more inside]
Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators These days, if Rian Romoli accidentally bumps into a child, he quickly raises his hands above his shoulders. "I don't want to give even the slightest indication that any inadvertent touching occurred," says Mr. Romoli, an economist in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. Previous article by same author.
The story began quietly enough on May 18, 2002, when an angler caught an 18 inch fish in a Crofton, Maryland pond. In 2005 a fisherman is reported saying "We would throw one in the cooler, two others would jump out and we'd have to chase them through the woods." Frankenfish, timeline of the snakehead story in the USA. The snakehead is a voracious, predatorial fish, capable of walking, attacking men, living up to 4 days out of water and now spreading from state to state. Video of snakeheads eating (disturbing). Another kind of snakehead, the smuggler of humans. Mentioned previously on MetaFilter. [via]
We've knelt on the altar of the Predator UAV and paid homage with tax dollars (see related MeFi thread) but the Army (and possibly Hollywood [PDF]) and others want to go smaller and more efficient. With massive budget increases for UAV/MAV technology over the last two years and increased use of UAVs for border surveillance, [PDF] one wonders when the tiniest of cool toys starts becoming a tool for surveillance as the legal arguments for and against will almost certainly heat up. Face it - cool RC toys aren't just for amusing/terrorizing your pets anymore.
Aliens Loves Predator — It's kinda like Seinfeld meets Evan Mather Star Wars videos meets online comic strip. Hey, "In New York, no one can hear you scream."
Built for the Kill. No Halloween costume? How about going as a chameleon? deconstructing the world's deadliest killers. A game by World Archipelago for National Geographic Channel Europe. Guide your Namid chameleon, barn owl, American alligator, grassland cheetah, and Komoto dragon around the screen using the cursor keys. Your stealth and power need to be up to capture prey or they will escape. Finally, guide your Orca around the screen using the space bar to dive under boats or attack prey that are beneath the water. When you reach the beach use the space bar to launch an attack on the seals. (Flash and music ahead....)
Who hasn't longed to see close-up pictures and diagrams of rabbit genitals? Before sexing your rabbit at home, be sure to know the signs of rabbit anger. And watch out: "Some rabbits are so 'mean' they seem more like predators than prey."