Monday, 18 March 2019

Research: Mission to Mars

Before I began looking at A Brief History of the Future by Charles Joynson, I was reading Robert Zubrin’s book Entering Space, subtitled Creating a Spacefaring Civilization. I wrote a couple of posts on what he said about Mars, Mars Direct and The Mars Society.

Now A Brief History of the Future has got to speaking of Mars too. A mission was launched in 2071.


To keep the astronauts from feeling isolated on the ten-month mission to Mars, they set up a connection so that:
… anyone on Earth with a webcam and internet access could ask an astronaut, cosmonaut or taikonaut a question, leave words of encouragement or make useful suggestions. Insults or negative comments were screened out by AIs and the travellers spent much of their time each day answering questions with a camera bot following them as they spoke and worked.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Building a Castle: Defensive Towers

Caerphilly Castle
Early castles had walkways along the top of the walls on the inside, but it was soon realised that towers provided much better defences. Not only did they stick out from the walls, providing better angles to shoot attackers, but arrow slits or loops were built in at each floor level to enable archers to shoot without getting shot at.

Initially towers were open on the inside, but later the back was built and provided extra accommodation. Towers were rectangular or hexagonal, but master masons found round towers more stable, especially since a major technique in attacking a castle was to undermine the walls or towers. Providing more defences was no good if the towers could be undermined and toppled. Some castles had D-shaped towers built onto the existing walls.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Research: Internet

A Brief History of the Future makes a very interesting proposition regarding the future of the Internet. Already we are feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available. He suggests that:

In the 2070s the Internet of computers changed from a World Wide Web of information to the R Net of relevant knowledge. This meant that people were fed information triggered by position, direction, occupation and requirement. All this information was delivered through AR glasses and voice activated AIs. Most websites disappeared and activation engines appeared to replace search engines.
There are already applications which access GPS and give you information relevant to your location, and map applications can track your position as you travel. Company servers hold databases of information relevant to your occupation. But how do you specify your requirements except through a search engine?

The answer is voice and image searches.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Building a Castle: Mortar

Once you have the stone to build your castle, you need mortar to fix it together. As well as the quarrymen and stonecutters for the stone, you need mortar makers to prepare the mortar and mason layers to put the walls together using trowel, plumb line and mason's level.

Mortar was made from lime, sand and water, using different proportions depending on the quality of the materials. They kept the recipes secret and passed them down from father to son. Just as they used three different types of stone (see last week), they used three types of mortar: a flexible type for arches and vaults, a fine type for facing walls, and a coarse type for the rubble core of the walls. This last type can take hundreds of years to set, to allow for the stones to settle over time. Archaeologists have found mortar in the centre of some castle walls that is still not set, centuries after it was mixed.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Research: Bioengineering

A Brief History of the Future suggests that in 2070 bioluminescent lichens using DNA from squid were grown on buildings to provide lighting when the street lights failed, and other engineered bacteria and algae were used to provide power.

So I Googled it, and most of what I found was too technical for someone with no science background to understand, but I did get these examples:
  • Already bioengineering is producing fuel from algae to use instead of petrol.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Building a Castle: Gatehouses

Chepstow Castle
The most vulnerable point in a castle's defences was the gate. No need to smash down the walls or climb over them if you can capture the gate. Some castles were built with a tower gatehouse, but  in about 1190 William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, remodelled Chepstow Castle based on his extensive experience fighting in France and the Crusades, and had the gatehouse built with twin towers.
Arrow loop or slit
The towers stand forward of the arched gateway and had defensive arrow loops on two levels. The gateway passage also has a machicolation slot – an opening in the roof for dropping missiles. There were also two portcullises with a pair of gates between. This was a pioneering design – the first in England and Wales with rounded twin gate towers.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Research: Self Driving Cars

Jurvetson Google driverless car
Research has been conducted in cars that drive themselves since the 1920s. The Google driverless car project has a fleet of cars that have already driven over 2 million miles. Already certain states in America have passed legislation allowing driverless cars on public roads.

When driverless cars become the norm it could mean the end of traffic jams and accidents. Traffic would move at a constant speed and proximity sensors would ensure they didn't crash. But it would only take one human driver or careless pedestrian to cause chaos.