Solar Voodoo: Burnt Offerings to the Sun

In 2017 the Solar Orbiter will be sent to stare directly at the sun, proving that nothing is dumb if you’re smart enough. We’re throwing an outer space gris-gris of space age titanium and burnt bone at the source of all life. We’re rocket shamans.

The shaman cyborg material is in the heat shield: titanium with its surface oxide layer blasted off to be replaced with black calcium phosphate. Aka bone char. The burnt bones of animals. You might think the heat shield should be shiny but in space the big problem isn’t staying warm, it’s keeping cool. There’s no material around you to conduct or convect heat, only space (hence the nam). Insulate yourself and you’ll bake long before you eventually freeze. Which will only happen because you’ve stopped generating heat, caring about temperature, and breathing. Since the Solar Orbiter’s systems generate their own heat it’s more important that they be able to radiate than reflect.

The surface coating isn’t paint: the black calcium phosphate takes the oxide’s place in chemical bonds, creating an armor of dead metal material to stand up against the source of all life. The burnt bone skin is made by Irish company Enbio and is rather brilliantly (and exactly oppositely to brilliantly) called “SolarBlack“.

We’re reducing the sun’s bounty to burnt ash and offering it back to learn more about existence. It’s a scientific sacrament. And will work a lot better than burning good animals for greek gods. Who are good model here, because we’re tackling Apollo like ancient heroes: pitting everything we’ve ever learned (from cave paint to aviation metallurgy) against an awesome power in the heavens.

We’re studying the Alpha and Omega, the source of all life, the shining light in the sky which gathered up our land and sea, which stirred the soup until it started moving around by itself, and even now bathes it with warmth and every way of surviving. Every movement you’ve ever made, every thought you’ve ever had, the creator is there. Because the adenosine triphosphate bonds you’re breaking to exist were all made with solar energy. Which is also the inevitable end of our world. When it swells up red-faced, like a middle-aged Zeus, it will burn our Earth bare of anything even approximating life.

Art often envisages a god as shafts of sunlight, or a blazing ball in the sky, and it turns out the metaphor wasn’t wrong, it was revesed. The sun doesn’t describe a creator. The creator is a description of the Sun.

I love the combination of space-age and cave-age technology. Because they’re both still technology. And they both still work. Sticks still work, and no matter how advanced your iPhone it won’t help when you need to prod something. There are doubtless other ways to make black calcium phosphate, but it’s still best to let something else do most of the work. Biological organisms are still the masters of nanofabrication. Just think of it as an extreme form of smelting.

And I love the idea that the mission to our big star will sit on the outer-space menu with another little star beside it.

Solar Orbiter(*) 1 billion

*This item is not vegetarian.

Space is the Place with

My Dream Drinks App

Gadgets and alcohol have always been fast-tracks to happiness, so cocktail applications should be instructions for heaven. A far better use of technology than poking at facebook, because you’ll discover all sorts of wonderful new ways of forgetting things, rather than remembering assholes from high school you’ve already used the old ones on. There are just a few problems with every mixology app in existence:

  • If I’m searching for a drink I can make with certain ingredients, I should be able to enter the fruits and mixers I have too. I’m not looking for something to do with triple sec and sweet vermouth because those are the only two bottles I could sneak into a fully-stocked greengrocers.
  • An option to exclude all the idiots who thought “an oz of liquor and another mixer” deserved a whole new name. That drink already has a name: it is a THAT LIQUOR and THAT MIXER.
  • A spell checker which replaces all incorrect uses of “martini” with “vodka martini”. I don’t care if you’ve already loaded that poor thing with sour apple chocolate marshmallow and iced, you will call your candy concoction by its real name and not impugn the honour of a true cocktail with their overprefixed presence. Vodka is used to your degradations.
  • Don’t automatically check for updates. If I open this app it’s because I want a drink, and I’ll be goddamned if my own iPad can decide it’s too busy working behind the bar to serve me. Actually, no, I’ll not be goddamned, I’ll be default Manhattaned, and your stupid app will be deleted.
  • I am not a five year old child looking for bright colors, and if I am you should not be serving me. Load the ingredients and instructions first. If you absolutely must, you may then load up a picture. Put it below the text, somewhere I have to scroll to so that I can not do that.
  • If I wanted to drink with social sharing I’d be doing it in a bar. There is nothing wrong with mixing yourself a drink in the comfort of your own home. There is everything wrong with doing that and then clicking little buttons in the hope that anyone else in the world would care.
  • Screen transition animations are flair bartending. Which are like go-faster striped suppositories: you’re wasting your time on something that isn’t meant to be looked at and you can shove them up your ass.
  • If you think a cocktail-listing app should make noise, you don’t think, you’ve been fooled by the noises of the rocks in your head rolling around in all that space. But the rest of us can tell. Because that’s the only reason you could possibly think random extra noises are a good thing.

5 Ass-Kicking Vehicle Weapons Conversions

This article first appeared on the defunct

Some people say that big cars are compensating for something, but when someone uses euphemisms instead of a penis you don’t have to listen to them. Behold five kickass cars which are only “compensating” for the fact most vehicles don’t come from G.I. Joe.

1.  The Gatling Gun Suburban

The first Suburban to justify taking up all that space isn’t screwing around, converting a people-carrier into the exact opposite: a People-Stopper.  And you’d get capitalized too if your roof swung back to unleash a Goddamn Gatling Gun.  For those unfamiliar with kickassology, a Gatling Gun doesn’t shoot people.  It evaporates them with bullets.

If you didn’t watch the video, it fires so fast it sounds like it’s blowing the ultimate raspberry. This is the weapon the French knight from the Holy Grail would use if decided to mock England out of existence.

"I fart in your general direction, but everyone in that direction is shitting themselves."

“I fart in your general direction, but everyone in that direction is shitting themselves.”

The M134D Dillon Aero Steel Gatling Gun is more commonly fitted to warships…

That isn't spray, that's millions of tiny white flags.

That isn’t spray, that’s millions of tiny white flags as the sea surrenders

… and they put one in a car.  Because it’s protecting the President, and anyone trying anything will be turned go from terrorist to terrormist at 50 rounds a second. If this thing kicked any more ass, IT’D be Commander in Chief.

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The Z Machine Is Science-Faction

“The Z Machine” sounds like something out of science-fiction, but it’s the largest X-ray generator in the world. Which sounds even more like science-fiction. And if it that’s what it sounds like, it looks like something Michael Bay would cut from a movie’s storyboards for being too awesome to exist with current special effects.

Which is why physicists built it with real current effects instead.

More lightning than Zeus enraged by Thor rubbing cats on him.

More lightning than Zeus enraged by Thor rubbing cats on him.

The PBFA-Z (Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator, Z-pinch version) subjects a target to a current of over 20 million amps – more than  six hundred simultaneous lightning bolts – and pressures of over 10 million atmospheres. It can reach temperatures of over two billion degrees and melt diamond. Which is the kind of amazing wrong-sounding you get when you adventure into physical realms beyond the calm, damp, and miniscule speck of reality which supports human bodies. You turn diamonds into Dali paintings.

Anyone can create high temperatures by adding Amperes – people with Christmas lights and a deeply misplaced sense of achievement learn that every year – but the Sandia system is piling power against the physical limitations of reality itself. Add enough energy to anything and it isn’t there anymore. The Z Machine is built to pour power into things without melting itself in the process. It’s so far beyond anything we normally understand about machines, it uses water lines to transmit power, and lightning bolts mean it’s working properly.

It’s pure plasmapunk, vast energies barely but definitely channeled by our brilliance.

Checking one of the 36 warp cores they apparently stole from the Enterprise

Checking one of the 36 warp cores they apparently stole from the Enterprise

Science-fiction is all about people and how they react to revolutionary advances. A common metric for the quality of these stories is how well developed those advances are. Science fact develops them as well as they can be – in fact, they only can be because science develops them – and how we react becomes the science-fiction story. Real science uses the world as a narrative. Society is an analog computer calculating stories in response to the ideas injected by the inventors. And the equipment looks every micrometer the part of a machine to change the world.

This is what they look like before the install the restraints and the British secret agent

This is what they look like before the install the transmission lines, target core, restraints, and British secret agent

(All images from

For more glorious technojoy, behold 9 Badass Spacecraft Landings and 9 Amazing Laser Systems.

The Dystopianest Drug Future

Dystopian sci-fi loves the drugs. Because both are fun. But science-fiction drugs are usually about as dystopic as a hangover – unpleasant, but an incredibly predictable result of what we’re already doing. They might have stupider names and grant the occasional superpower, but they’re still the same story of “addiction bad make bad guys bad.”

Even worse, they still make the user feel good. That’s not dystopic. You can’t claim the nihilist bleaktimes when it’s still possible to get high off your laser-tits. People are still making things, feeling good, hell, there’s even an economy. Film all the teal-filtered rubble and sheet metal you want, a world where you can still fly with the magic unicorns is a less scary one.

A truly dystopian future would leach that trade of all value, making a mockery of even wanting to feel good. You’d have hordes of people queuing up to sacrifice their dignity to perform meaningless acts in return for worthless product, abasing themselves to an uncaring machine for tins of sugar water like lab rats with login details.

Which is already happening.

You give the machine access to your facebook feed for a can of soft drink. People selling their digital selves to a corporation. I am tragically disappointed. I always thought virtual hooking would mean TRON-lingerie and mopping up the holodeck. Instead you’ve got “The Like Machine”.


This couldn’t sound more like a social media horror story. Because that’s exactly what it is.

More technojoy with 5 Ass-Kicking Vehicle Weapons Conversions, and The Retro Gaming Drinking Games.