I’m not impressed by Google’s “aerial delivery.” It’s easy to demonstrate a show system. But it will be very hard to create a safe system that can deliver loads of a few pounds, at a distance of even a few miles, much less the 10 that Jeff Bezos apparently claimed. Or to deliver to a specific person in an apartment building.
Here’s a quick response I wrote on Andrew McAfee’s page about this.
I’m skeptical. There are real safety issues here, as well as weight/payload/power issues. To deliver a 2kg package 30 km will take a vehicle gross weight > 6 kg (rough numbers). And helicopters, unlike fixed wing, are “fail-dangerous.” Not to mention problems of delivering to a specific person in an urban environment. So I call “pie-in-the-sky” on this.
Helicopters (actually, multirotors) have very limited endurance and therefore range. You can put a big battery on them, but then you need a bigger machine to carry the weight.
They have limited payload. Four ounces is no problem; but 5 pounds requires, right now, a machine with a total span of about three feet.
At least six motors and props will be needed (called a hexacopter). Otherwise, failure of a single engine would cause an immediate crash. Even with six or more rotors, a total power failure, or a guidance failure, causes a crash. In a crash, the operator has zero control on where the machine ends up. This is unlike an aircraft.
A machine this size that crashes is big enough to kill someone underneath. Especially if some of the motors are still operating. Even professionals are very careful about what they fly over. You can see videos on Youtube of idiots flying over crowded beaches, but a few people have been badly hurt this way, and the number will grow.
Navigation using programmed routes is straightforward in clear areas, by using GPS-based-autopilots. But with obstacles (trees, buildings) a lot of development work remains. This problem, unlike the others, will be solved eventually by Moore’s Law.
If you use an aircraft (wings) instead of a copter, many of the safety issues get much better. But on the other hand, you need a much larger area to land in. You can’t land in someone’s back yard.
Most of these problems are due to laws of physics, not the capability of current electronics. In short, delivering packages is an active area of R&D, but it will be feasible only in situations where it is almost useless:
When you will be flying in unpopulated areas
When you can afford to crash, and lose, a few percent of your vehicles.
When the load is small, and the range is short.
There may be some cases that fit this description, but very few. For the next 5+ years, using drones for that don’t have to land remotely – mainly for remote sensing - is going to be the only practical application. Unless you have a military budget, of course.
This paper finds that the IP law in recent U.S. free trade agreements differs subtly but significantly from U.S. IP law. These differences are not the result of deliberate government choices, but of private capture of the U.S. trade regime.
US trade negotiations on IP have always seemed heavily biased to me. For a while, it appeared that the bias reflected Congressional bias in favor of ”strong IP.” The extreme example of that bias was Congress being taken completely by surprise – dumbfounded, even – by the outcry over the SOPA and PIPA bills. To most of Congress, these bills were common sense. To much of America, they were horrible. See e.g. http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/01/25/who-really-stopped-sopa-and-why/
The USTR’s paraphrasing changes domestic rules into international standards; codifies domestic judicial interpretations as international rules; and omits parts of domestic law that balance IP protection against other values. These distortions shift the cost of lawmaking so that the advising industries bear fewer costs in obtaining the kind of law they want in implementing countries.
This column in Scientific American from a 30-year veteran of science journalism has some good perspective on the ongoing controversy about non-replicability of so many scientific results. I wish I knew a system solution.
Discussing his findings in Scientific American two years ago, Ioannidis writes: “False positives and exaggerated results in peer-reviewed scientific studies have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The problem is rampant in economics, the social sciences and even the natural sciences, but it is particularly egregious in biomedicine.”
Norman’s famous book has finally been heavily revised and reissued. I will probably assign it for my Product Development course next year. Highly recommended for everyone interested in how the artificial world is created and how it works (or doesn’t). … Continue reading →
Have any political scientists tried to model /improve governance of Wikipedia? LOTS of interesting questions there, and seemingly a way for an ambitious young academic to stake out new territory that will be increasingly important. Here’s the author’s view of the cause of problems:
The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.
a few more quotes:
The page explaining a policy called Neutral Point of View, one of “five pillars” fundamental to Wikipedia, is almost 5,000 words long. “That is the real barrier: policy creep,” he says. But whatever role that plays in Wikipedia’s travails, any effort to prune its bureaucracy is hard to imagine. It would have to be led by Wikipedians, and the most active volunteers have come to rely on bureaucratic incantations.
Yet it may be unable to get much closer to its lofty goal of compiling all human knowledge. Wikipedia’s community built a system and resource unique in the history of civilization. It proved a worthy, perhaps fatal, match for conventional ways of building encyclopedias. But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.
Another article refuting Hollywood scare tactics. Apparently even Hollywood studios are coming to recognize that piracy provides valuable free PR, though they won’t admit it publicly.
I fear that ongoing trade treaty negotiations are being used as a backdoor for misguided new restrictions on IP. Because these are being negotiated “in secret” (except from large companies), there won’t be time to hold hearings or have a rational discussion of these provisions when the treaty is presented to the Senate for confirmation.
This is impressive, although perhaps not too practical. They are using lines scribed on tungsten. The underlying data is expressed as QR codes (which will be forgotten in a few centuries at most, but that is a different problem.)
One problem is that they are using 100nm line width. While impressive, at that width it is invisible to optical devices (which have a limit of approximately 1 micron) without very complex optics and electronics. So they are going for high density, rather than long-term readability. On the other hand, it would be great for a 50 to 100 -year storage, which is longer than any existing technology can reliably handle.