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Discover New Music

  • Guero

    • 10 out of 10
    • Beck
    • Beck is the modern master of the groove, and Guero is merely the latest example of this. From the opening power chords of "E-Pro," to the Pac-Man cuteness of "Girl," to the dirge-like lullab

  • Odyssey Number Five

    • 10 out of 10
    • Powderfinger
    • Guitar-driven rock out of Australia, Powderfinger has not seen much exposure in the States, but should get a nod for their toe-tapping songs. Building off their previous release, "Internationalist" (
  • Music Has The Right To Children

    • 10 out of 10
    • Boards of Canada
    • This one will haunt you. From the first notes to the last, their sound surrounds you. BOC has put out a fantastic catalogue, and this album is a great starting point for a new listener. Jump straight
  • Suspended Animation

    • 8 out of 10
    • Fantomas
    • Mike Patton may well be one of the hardest working men in showbiz these days, and his latest with Fantômas underscores just about how far out he is willing to travel.

      Suspended Animation

  • Machine Gun Etiquette

    • 8 out of 10
    • The Damned
    • Punk rock is mostly associated with three chords and a bad attitude, but the Damned were one of the few bands of the era bent on bringing musicianship and a good sense of humor to the scene. And while

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LLNL, Blue Beetle, AC-130 & More

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. I was preteen when President Kennedy made his intentions on getting America to the Moon known to the world, but I had already decided that Space was where I was going to live.

Of course, things didn't work out that way, the closest I've ever come to orbital flight was on a transcontinental military transport plane; a KC-135. We were so high up that the sky above us had become a darker, richer blue and the horizon had an distinct curve.

The technical among you may recall that the KC-135 aircraft was used by NASA for zero-gravity training, which is how the NASA plane became know as the Vomit Comet.

The transport I was on was never so grand, it was a cargo plane that had a malfunctioning floor heater, which meant that, while flying at its cruising altitude -maybe 35,000 to 45,000 feet, you could not stand on the floor for more that a few minutes without risking frostbite, even with boots on.

Still, being up there was so very cool to me because I was able to talk to the pilots and see that I was within shooting distance of the threshold of Space. The pilots of that plane never gave it a second thought, it was routine for them, but I would have given body parts to trade places with them.

Space for me and most people is still beyond our reach. It's my opinion that we whimped out on our Space Program. Once we made it to the Moon we just gave up and started playing it safe.

I'm not going to put the blame squarely on NASA, our commercial sector never had the cojones to step up to the Space plate either until recently. We, as an supposedly intelligent species, seem to lack the will to get out there as see wassup for our selves.

We should be mining the Moon and Mars by now. We should have space stations like the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey, that offers Earth-like gravity by slowly rotating, not that gangly, expensive orbiting Erector Set we call the International Space Station.

It will likely be another 20 years at the minimum before humans return to Space in meaningful numbers. Think of all the science we'll miss out of and all of the wonders we won't experience.

OK, so things haven't gone the way they should have Space-wise. I believe it will happen some day. I hope I'm still around and coherent enough to enjoy it.

While we are waiting for a window seat on a commercial flight to Mars we can look in on our scientific communities to see what they are doing to push us ahead as a species.

Remember the Lawrence Livermore National Labs? That was our nuclear (pronounced "new-cli-er") development and testing labs. A nest of brainiacs if ever there was one and they've move beyond blowing stuff up.

Crystal speed-grown for lasers in LLNL

To prove the point they now offer podcasts that showcase some of the extremely deep geek stuff they're working on.

These are great podcasts. They are like home movies where scientists show off their pet projects.

The SPAMS episode, for instance, is where physicist, Paul Steele, shows off his baby, a device that sniffs the air and can tell you what it smells be it biological particles like Anthrax or Swine Flu, nuclear particles from dirty bombs, or odors from your latest efforts at the grill.

The real world applications are enormous and Doc Steele beams with pride as put his super nose through its paces for our enjoyment.

Other LLNL episodes are just as informational, and utterly cool, like the NIF's Crystals episode. There you'll see how high quality crystals, used in focusing lasers, are rapidly grown. The process that would normally take 2 years takes only 2 months for LLNL. This is not like watching grass grow, you can see the crystal get larger, like something out of a Superman movie.

There are 18 of these cool podcasts available. Even if you barely made it out of your high school science class I'll wager real American dollars that you'll find something to like about the Lawrence Livermore National Labs podcasts.

Even the egghead among us needs to kick back every so often. We could take in a movie, but you know, movies only last but so long and then what?

What you need is a good audio drama like the ones they use to broadcast before TV became popular.

How about a audio podcast featuring The Blue Beetle?

What's a Blue Beetle? He's a 1940's hero, a cop with an alter ego. With Vitamin 2X enhanced strength and protected by blue chain-mail that's as supple as silk but stronger than steel, Officer Dan Garrett kicks criminal butt in the name of law and order.

You can find 24 episodes of The Blue Beetle at the iTunes Store and man are they a hoot to listen to.

The audio quality is not all that great, but there's music and sound effects, and the stories are as good as anything available today.

In fact, with the hero craze that has beset Hollywood I wouldn't be surprised to see some studio working to bring the Blue Guy to the big screen.

Good stuff here folks. The Blue Beetle!

Last up, AC-130.

Back during the Viet Nam War one of the most feared weapons in the US arsenal was the AC-130 Spectre. It was a large gunship like no other. It was designed to loiter in an area at night, locate targets using advanced sensors, then train a terrifying array of weaponry on those targets for ultimate elimination.

I saw a firepower demonstration once during my stint in the military that featured the AC-130. This one had a rapid fire GAU-8/A Avenger, and a 105mm Howitzer hanging out of the business side. About a half a mile away from the observation stands was a field of posts, each post had a red balloon attached to it. The field was maybe 300 square feet with the posts about 6 feet apart from each other.

Way overhead an AC-130 circled as the announcer gave details of the demonstration. On cue the AC-130 opened fire on the field of balloons. At first all you heard was a muffled, "cha-chung! Cha-chung!

Suddenly, the field exploded as 105mm rounds made craters in the center of the balloon field. You could see the Spectre take little sidesteps each time the 105mm fired.

Next you heard brief, "Brrrrraat! Brrrraat!" as the Avenger opened fire. In less than a minute every balloon, every stake, every thing in the 300 square foot field was decimated. It was like a hellish lawnmower had gone through that field. The announcer told us to imagine that the red balloons in that field was the enemy.

I got chills thinking about it.

If you'd like to know what it's like to be the guy pulling the trigger in an AC-130 then go grab the iPod app with that name.

The controls are a bit funky, but the view of the targets is fairly accurate. The makers of the game wisely chose to make the corpses disappear after they die. Otherwise the field of carnage, even through an infrared enhanced display, may be too much for some.

Grab AC-130 from the iTunes Store and unleash Hell from the heavens.

Ok, that's a wrap for this week.

Check out more free stuff from the iTunes Store below (with direct links):


Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He’s been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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