14 May 2012


In The Atlantic online, Andy Isaacson presents an extremely well-researched and well-written essay titled Can a Better Vibrator Inspire an Age of Great American Sex?  This is not a salacious, nudge-nudge wink-wink essay, but an informed assessment of the favorite sex toy for many women (and some men) ~ its history, its popularity today, and the future of vibrator design.  The hope of one company is that "a better machine could mean better sex for a repressed nation".  And the U.S. without doubt remains among the most sexually repressed nations in the world, a place where one state (Tennessee) has passed a law that defines kissing and holding hands among teenagers as 'gateway behavior' to becoming sexually active.  For the past 30 years we've been regressing as a nation in so many ways, but do we really want to return to prohibition laws, knowing that they encourage what they're intended to thwart?  And holding hands?  Really?

Do you fancy owning and operating your own personal surveillance drone?  One article suggests that you may get your chance.  Until recently only branches of the Department of Defense could obtain waivers from the FAA to fly drones in domestic airspace ~ whether equipped with cameras or weaponized.  The FAA has rightfully cited concerns over safety in the air, since commercial and private pilots are not notified of the drones' presence.  (Not to mention massive concerns over privacy, in a world where government uses the threat of terrorism to intrude itself into our lives in more numerous and onerous fashions as time goes on.)

Now it seems that domestic corporations and individuals are agitating for access to drone technology and operation.  "Congress has told the FAA that the agency must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015 .... Drones come in all sizes, from the high-flying Global Hawk with its 116-foot wingspan to a hummingbird-like drone that weighs less than an AA battery and can perch on a window ledge to record sound and video (see image above, click to enlarge).  Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or 'whirly bird', equipped with imaging sensors, that weighs less than an ounce.

"Potential civilian users are as varies as the drones themselves ~

  • Power companies want them to monitor transmission lines.
  • Farmers want to fly them over fields to detect which crops need water.
  • Ranchers want them to count cows.
  • Journalists are exploring drones' news-gathering potential.
  • The hungriest market is the nation's 19,000 law enforcement agencies, from the U.S. Border Patrol to your local police department and sheriff's office."
Many concerns remain to be resolved.  Currently military drones are controlled by operators seated at a computer, often halfway around the world.  Neither the drones and the operators are required to meet the safety and training standards to which civilian pilots must adhere.  The National Air Traffic Controllers Association would like to all domestic drone operators to have at least an instrument-rated pilot license (a step above a private pilot license).  Further, the uses to which drones may be put give cause for concern .... particularly weaponized drones.  An ACLU spokeman maintains that "The Constitution is taking a back seat so that boys can play with their toys.  It's kind of scary that they can use a laptop computer to zap people from the air."  A recent ACLU report said allowing drones greater access takes the country "a large step closer to a surveillance society, in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities."

Tough issues.  Check out the embedded video at the 'article' link above.

On a lighter note, I recently discovered a website which offers courses from top universities, for free.  "Learn from world-class professors, watch high quality lectures, achieve mastery via interactive exercises, and collaborate with a global community of students."  Coursera offers content from the humanities and social sciences, from mathematics and statistics, from healthcare, medicine and biology, from computer science, from economics, finance and business.  I have not signed up yet, but a friend has taken several courses, and recommends the service highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment