Thursday, August 27, 2015

I've finished the first draft of a novel

I've finished a first draft of my science fiction novel, Cobalt Slave. It is a hard sci-fi story set on a new planet colonized by a slowship.

Cobalt is a trace element necessary for human life. In the story, one man realizes that by controlling the entire supply of cobalt he can control this new world. As a result, everyone on the new colony has to do what the Department of Public Health commands, or the department simply lets them die a slow, painful death by vitamin deficiency.

With the planet's irreplaceable, high tech equipment brought from Earth slowly breaking down, the new Director of the Public Health Department is forced to find new ways to maintain his power. This creates an opening for others both outside and within his government to try to seize control of the cobalt. It is a story of intrigue, backstabbing, and rebellion set in a unique world.

This project was just for fun. If you are interested in reading to give me feedback or help me get it published, let me know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

There are unicorns out there

One thing I love about space and science fiction is the incredible number of possibilities. We suspect the universe contains around a septillion stars -- 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Even if we pessimistically assume one in every million stars contains a planet with life, that is still a quintillion planets -- 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 -- an unimaginable number of possible ecosystems.

The number is so great that if certain things are technically possible they become almost probable. Basically, any creature that we can imagine, as long as it obeys the basic laws of physics and would make at least some evolutionary sense, probably exists in some form, somewhere out there.

So on some distant planet, there is likely a species of animal that evolved to fill the same ecologic niche as equines and also have a single long horn for mating displays. There is a very good chance that in some alien forest, there are large, hairy bipeds walking around that look and act just like our mythical sasquatches. At this moment, there are probably large, scaly, winged creatures flying around looking for prey under a distant star which bear an incredible resemblance to dragons.

This is one of the things that has always drawn me science fiction over fantasy. While I won't live long enough to see if we ever find anything like the incredible creatures or worlds some of the greatest sci-fi authors have dreamed up, there is something magical knowing that probability suggests they may really exist in some form out there.

*Andromeda galaxy picture from NASA

Monday, August 10, 2015

My drug sniffing app

I have an amazing business opportunity, and I'm looking for investors. I'm creating a smartphone app that will use the sound of a police officer simply tapping against a car to determine if a vehicle might hold illegal drugs.

Naturally, you might be wondering how I was able to come up with a way to accurately detect illegal drugs with the just the mic of a simple smartphone. The answer is I haven't -- but that does not at all matter. Being able to accurately tell if a suspect might have drugs in their vehicle is simply not a concern for our justice system.

Our current system often uses so-called "drug sniffing dogs," and they are often truly terrible at their jobs. The problem is dogs aren't trying to find drugs. They are trying to make their handlers happy, and often what makes their handlers happy is getting a legal excuse to search a suspect's car. Some dogs will give the alert basically every time they are brought out to a car, regardless if there are drugs or not. Yet American courts still allow these dogs to be used as an excuse for a search.

Since it seems what our police and judicial system really wants is just a flimsy excuse to freely circumvent the 4th Amendment, there is naturally an incredible opening for innovation and tech disruption. It is dramatically cheaper and faster to program an app to indicate that illegal drugs might be present whenever it is convenient for a police officer than it is to program a dog to. Instead of spending thousands on training a dog with a horrible false-positive rate, the government could spend just $1.99 on my app with an equally bad false-positive rate. 

Too many tech companies are too focused on how to make things actually work better or faster. They have missed a real opportunity to make money helping the government do something that doesn't work.