Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Archive for April, 2008

The ‘Whine’ Signal

Posted by hyperpat on April 28, 2008

Whine, whine, whine. Seems like that’s all we hear today when people are talking about the economy. Everyone seems to think that if we’re not in a recession already, we soon will be, and that it’s not going to turn around anytime soon. There are bank problems, housing problems, oil price problems, consumer confidence issues, inflation worries, the dollar valuation effects, the lingering occupation of Iraq,  and whatever other perceived problems you want to add to the kitchen sink.

Now is all this whining about nothing? No, the problems are real, as far too many people can attest who have had their house foreclosed, or those living on minimum wage who are finding it even tougher to keep it together, or everyone finding their wallets all too light after filling up at the gas station.

So what can we do about it? I think most of the necessary actions have already been taken: the Fed has very aggressively cut interest rates, which has already had a definite effect on mortgage rates which will eventually translate into less pressure on current homeowners and make new purchases more affordable. The Fed has also effectively injected a large amount of money into the system so that banks will be more willing to make loans and keep creditor confidence up. New laws and regulations are on the table to provide better oversight of the banking industry so they don’t continue to make loans that are very shaky, while making sure that prospective loan applicants have a better understanding of just what they are signing up to pay. The dollar’s fall has been so severe that it has once again made American made goods very competitive in the global market, and that effect is already showing up in some companies financial statements. The steep price of oil is having multiple effects: more people are opting for fuel-efficient cars, people are driving less and taking other conservation measures, solar cell energy generation is becoming a real force, other alternative energy generation methods are receiving more attention and more research dollars. Now all these things won’t produce any instant cures for the current mess, but looking forward it’s clear that we are now establishing a solid base for future growth.

My take on all of this: it’s time to start aggressively buying stocks. This follows a well known rule about stock market strategy – when everyone is yelling ‘sell’, it’s time to buy, and vice versa. All this whining is precisely the signal that if we aren’t at the bottom yet, it’s not far away.

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Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Predicting the Future

Posted by hyperpat on April 17, 2008

Besides all of its other great qualities as a novel, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, written almost 50 years ago, had one great technological prediction, that of powered armor suits for the poor foot soldier. These suits, in addition to greatly multiplying the effective physical strength of the soldier and provide at least some protection against stray bullets, also had weapon racks for carrying and launching some really heavy-duty firepower, head’s-up displays of the tactical situation, and multiple comm-link channels to allow the soldier to stay in constant communication with his buddies and the higher ups. Now, at least part of that prediction is coming true. Under contract for the U. S. Army, the first prototype exoskeletons, unimaginatively named the XOS, that can help increase the soldier’s effective physical strength have been developed.

There’s obviously still a long way to go before reaching anything close to Heinlein’s vision, but it’s at least a start.

So how did Heinlein come up with such a prediction in the first place? Basically I think he looked at what a foot soldier really needed to aid the soldier in his mission, and designed his suit around those requirements, not paying any attention to the then current state of technology or how it would be possible to physically implement such a gadget, other than some hand-waving about negative feedback systems. He did much the same thing in The Door Into Summer, where he predicted the invention of robots specifically designed to do household chores, which has also become partially real, with the introduction of the Roomba vacuum cleaner.

Which is probably not a bad way to come up with a new gadget in the real world. Figure out what you need, then worry about the implementation details. But it works really well in the world of science fiction, as all those pesky implementation details can be ignored.

Posted in Books, Science & Engineering, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF | 1 Comment »

Web Site Demise

Posted by hyperpat on April 8, 2008

My web site hosting service has, once again, and one time too many, updated its servers/database, and in the process has made access to my site (HyperPat’s Science Fiction) impossible. Each time this has happened before, it has taken me a week or more to get things fixed, usually involving emails, phone calls, and sometimes re-writing some of the html code, adding up to quite a bit of effort.

This time they apparently can’t even be bothered to answer my emails about the problem. So I’ve decided to call it quits for that site, which I started in 1999, and move some of the better and more useful information from it to here (no dummy I, I always kept backups of everything I had posted there). Over the next few days you will see new PAGES appear in the top line header containing what used to be on that site; I’ve started with my suggested reading list and my essay on why SF is worth reading. Please peruse these new pages if you’ve never visited my site, and comment appropriately!

Posted in Daily Happenings, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF | Leave a Comment »