Pancake Tuesday : Memo to self…

Egg subsitute and rice milk when combined in the standard proportions for pancake mix make a substance that is probably patentable as a new glue. Non-stick pans don’t stand a chance….

Once the pancake is removed from the pan (throw that pan out by the way, no dishwasher is up to the task, and life’s too short to scrub that hard) put straight in the bin.

Under no circumstances try to ingest aforementioned substance.

Clearing Landmines

Landmine clearance is an idea I’ve given some thought to, but I can’t execute on it right now. So I thought I’d park it here and update it as I find out more about the problem space. As far as my limited knowledge goes the problem is defined by the following parameters,

  • The one common ingredient in all landmines is explosive
  • One landmine costs about $3 dollars to lay and between $300 and $1000 to defuse
  • Landmines (particularily anti-personnel mines) are often scattered indiscriminately over a wide area (often by air)
  • There are over 110 million landmines extant today (mostly in the third world)
  • Clearing landmines is an extremely dangerous occupation

Any solution to the problem must have the following characteristics (to my mind):

  • Be of the same order of magnitude in cost as the cost of laying (lets say $5)
  • Not involve any human interaction
  • Detect all kinds of explosive devices (purpose built landmines and home made devices)

Ergo, build a self-contained, self-sustaining, insect-like robot. The robot will have,

  • A chemical sniffer for detecting explosives
  • Solar power so it can operate without recharging
  • A wireless network capability so it can communicate with its peers
  • GPS so it can pinpoint the location of landmines to its peers (and a master)
  • A simple search algorithm so it can operate in isolation
  • A more complicated search algorithm so it can collaborate with its peers if they are detected
  • A non-lethal tamperproof mechanism to discourage theft, tampering

A network of these could be scattered by helicopter over affected areas and scour the area searching for mines. Once detected the mines need to be disarmed (I don’t know how we might do this at the moment, but detection is a great start). The GPS would allow each robot to indicate its search route and the master could be used to collect and upload search data to a central location. This map could be overlaid over a standard topo map to indicate danger areas, unscanned areas or areas left to be cleared. Each robot would attempt to link to all the others to form a mesh network. This network could then be used by the group to establish new areas to check or to scan existing areas twice etc.

The hard problem is not the individual components, its fitting them all into a resilient, cheap, easy to manufacture package that can be deployed with a minimum of expertise and used directly by locals with a minimum of training.

Potential Problems:

  • Still don’t have a good plan for disabling them
  • Getting everything into a small enough package is a challenge
  • How do we prevent theft damage of the devices before they do their job
  • What if you were to attach a mine to these devices and use them as the weapons they were intended to protect against
  • Can a chemical sniffer be made that can detect all the most common kinds of explosives
  • Is GPS accurate enough to allow safe detection (the mesh network may be able to triangulate itself, though)

My robotics links are on delicious.

Test Post 3

More junk. But we’e getting there. This post on the wordpress support forums seems to be relevant. I use “%postname%” as my permalink and that may be messing things up. Here goes nothing…

Ok, went back to the default permalink structure and that fixed it. Ok, move along, nothing to see here, move along….

Blogbeat – Blog Stats package

I’ve been playing about with BlogBeat a blog statistics and reporting package that TechCrunch reviewed in the last few days. Its an ideal package for which currently just hosting my blog. My hosting provider provides Webalizer but the level of detail is a bit impenetrable.

On the other hand BlogBeat provides a very clean interface, simple installation and offers its reports in very digestible form with graphs of referrers, visitors and pages visited. I’ll post another report after I’ve collected a few weeks data. FWIW the interface is very flickrish.