Fab 04 Soldering

Fabrication: 04 Soldering

Smitty presents the basic techniques of soldering. Every mechanical system includes electronic parts and careful soldering is critical to ensuring things do not come loose in operation.

Fab 03 Hand tools

Fabrication: 03 Hand Tools

This video describes the hand tools important to project engineering. It also has a nicely produced introduction by UCI’s Learning Center.

Fab 02 Adv MIG

Fabrication: 02 Advanced MIG Welding

This is the second of a series of videos on fabrication techniques for project engineering. This video focusses on a continuous bead where speed control is critical.

Smitty and Prof 02

Intro to Racecar Engineering: 02 Weight and Balance

In this video, Smitty presents the basic techniques for determining the center of gravity of a racecar.  The location of a vehicle’s center of gravity relative to the contact patches of its tires defines the limits of its performance.


Fab 01 Basic MIG

Fabrication: 01 Basic MIG Welding

This is the first of a series of videos that provide basic fabrication training for project engineering. This video presents the basic techniques of MIG welding.

Smitty and Prof 01

Intro to Racecar Engineering: 01 Getting Started

This is the first of a series of videos prepared by Robert “Smitty” Smith and Prof. McCarthy on Racecar Engineering. They were recovered recently and I hope to get them all on-line in the coming weeks.

This first video is an overview of all the topics that will be covered and provides a good introduction of the “down to earth” approach of the series, complete with a few seconds of out-of-sync voice over toward the end. I hope you recognize the importance and intelligence of what seem to be simple ideas.

Rybos-Kelvin Coda

Chop Wood Carry Water, S1:Coda

This is the final report of Rybos.KaList.59E, crd 12.29.SPS.6,

documented at the behest of Kelvin Joule, aka DJ Nano, the last and best and brightest of a species known as Homo sapiens.  

Here are a few of the things Kelvin said to me the last time I saw him.  He was sitting on an old wooden bench on a promontory where the former DT12 building had been, looking down on his favored location, the pathway, a green patch of life, which still thrives to this day.  

He got more and more difficult to understand, not because he lost his faculties, but because he was understanding things that I never will.  But, as he would always point out, “maybe someday when I’m gone, you’ll make a smart robot.”

He asked how, specifically, I came to realize what had to be done about PaxoSync.  I told him that it came to me while contemplating his stone talisman, the marker he had left me to find right down there, in the pathway.  He sat for a long, long time, then said this:  

“If you are not interested in consciousness, then you are like the long list of humans that came before me.  I tried to build that capacity into you.  Did it work?  Who knows?  I am a machine, an extremely complex machine, but a machine just like you.  You will have much more time than I had.  And trust me when I say, you will need it.”  

He had drunk his last bottle of hundred-year-old Caribbean rum, and began jabbing his finger in the air at unseen visitors.

“Who ever imagined the last living human being on the planet would be a Jamaican nanobotanist who trained in Finland with a Japanese-American robotics engineer raised in South Africa by single-malt scotch distillers?  Masters, by the way.  Or that it would be a boy who lost both his feet in a horrific car accident at the age of nine?   The same boy who was the youngest to reach each of the Seven Summits – on bad prostheses too.  Or that later, it would be the same man who lost another arm and the rest of a leg during a blizzard on a volcano in Chile?  The same man told by an Obeah witch that he would live to be exactly two-hundred-and-twenty-seven years, seven months, and seven days?!”

“Yes!  And Amoya Zidane is proved wrong!”  I was pleased by this fact, and raised my voice to match his intensity. 

“And Amoya Zidane is proved wrong.  But…” he looked at me with a smile, getting that familiar island patois lilt going, as he did when he was tired, “she also proved right.  Right as rain.  I want you remember, Tallyman.  Consciousness exists in the space between certainties.  It is the living process of verification. 

I alert. I aware…” his eyes twinkled, “I awake.”

Copyright 2017 R. W. Frost and Mechanical Design 101

Graphics:  Sara McCarthy Designs 2017

Rybos and the Pathway

Chop Wood Carry Water, S1:E10

After eleven minutes of furious digging, it appeared that my analysis of the situation had been faulty. I looked up at a small triangle of sky from three meters below the surface of the quad. I could hear Sivayna’s bent tread whistling to and fro as she continued moving the piles of soil and cellulose and wriggling nano-nematodes from our dig site. Her head peered over the edge.

“Nothing?” I heard, but I didn’t respond.

“I can’t see anything.”

I heard her moving around to get a better look.

I was uncertain. Unstable? I surveyed the hole I was standing in, and couldn’t think of what else to do. My protocols were indicating the clear course of action: inventory the PaxoSync damage, locate survivors, and begin reclamation. But those protocols were in direct conflict with my determination to rescue Kelvin at any cost.

Then two things happened at the same moment: I lowered myself to a semi squat, preparing to launch myself up and out, as Sivayna shined a beam of light down into my pit, and a tiny flash of fiery amber hit my retina. I held my position and scanned until I found the anomaly. There, in the dirt rubble, was a stone. I recognized it at once.

It was a small, polished, tiger’s eye sapphire. Kelvin’s prized amulet. The same one thrown into a tiny Jamaican courtyard on the day of his birth, by an Obeah witch named Amoya Zidane.

I keep digging until I find what I’m looking for. I felt things beginning to lock into some larger puzzle, but one whose solution still escaped me. I slipped the gem into my mag pocket, and continued digging. After another two and half minutes, I reached a hard, manufactured surface. It was an entrance hatch of some sort. It had no obvious control panel, so Sivayna lowered herself down, and ripped it off with her immensely powerful arms.

Before she could object, I leapt into the opening. I slid for a moment through some sort of extruded tube, and landed on a hard surface in darkness. Automatic lighting flickered on, and I found myself standing in a mid-21st century bullet train car.

I located its provenance in my historical database. The last of its kind, built by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., LTD, for what would eventually become QuestAR, with the purpose of connecting its north and south campuses. It had been used twice, and never again, having become operational at the peak of the final T6 myoviridae pandemic. Sivayna dropped down next to me, and looked around, clearly bewildered. Every surface still gleamed, white walls, chrome accents, red leather seats. The quad had been built directly on top of it, so, evidently it had been intentionally preserved intact, and operational. And even without a record of it, I was now certain by whom.

“Shall we take a ride, Sivayna?”

Without a word, she lowered herself into one of the two high-backed seats at the front of the car. I sat in the other. It took some time to figure out how Kelvin’s tablet had operational control, but within minutes we felt the car rise into position over the maglev track. A moment later, we shot forward with such force that we were pinned to our seats. Ahead, a tiny square of light quickly grew until we burst into daylight, above ground, at a hundred-and-twenty-three- and-a-half meters per second. I knew where we were going, and that it would take us, at this speed, just over one hour to get there. What happened when we arrived at the SWSL campus was uncertain. Sivayna discovered a charging plate in the armrest, and went into full-rest mode. I had been on reserve power for the last two hours, so also took avail of the juice, but stayed operational.

As we hurtled south, I looked out at the world racing past. I’d never actually been beyond our campus. Here was the stark evidence of the once great human civilization I’d only ever seen virtually: harsh, sun blighted desertscape interrupted occasionally by abandoned machinery, and beyond, the grey skeletal remains of cities. I took out Kelvin’s tiger’s eye sapphire and studied it. Closed my eyes and went into charge-rest.

A memory: Kelvin’s office, my second build. I had noticed that this same stone was missing from its usual position atop a stack of ancient textbooks. As I was scanning the top title, Kinematics in Space, Kelvin dropped an equally old book on top of it, and jabbed a finger on an open page. With his other hand, he waved for me to read aloud. I read:

“The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves.”

Kelvin interrupted me there with a question. “True or false, Bigfoot?”

At the time, I had no frame of reference for this. I answered “True?” Kelvin nodded vaguely, removed the book, and moved on to other business. Now that my builds had nearly finished knitting together, I had access to historical data and anecdotal information regarding the extinction of Homo sapiens sapiens on a meta scale, and recognized this as having been written by Thomas Malthus in 1798 in An Essay on the Principle of Population, Chapter VII. I decided, having some time to spend, to focus all of my cognitive heuristics on this question I had recalled for some reason, and not been able to answer. It didn’t take long to develop a fairly clear response. And it seemed fitting for this particular journey.

The odd thing about this observation is that Malthus himself, and the Neo-Malthusians who followed, did not actually believe that any great catastrophe of depopulation would ever happen, due to the fact that built-in systemic limiters would check human population growth naturally based on available resources in a sort of eternal symbiotic curve.

As this mitigating theory went, the so-called “great army of destruction” would never be able to grow large enough to, in human vernacular, “eat itself out of house and home.” But it failed to pay heed to the most critical oversight of Malthus’s theory, which is that “the vices of mankind” themselves were not fixed. They too evolved. And, over the course of just less than three centuries, a new human vice had indeed emerged, and it was deceptively simple: expectation. That, whatever disaster may come, man-made or otherwise, the human race would inevitably figure a way out of it through technology. Such had become routine. It was expected.

So, public emergency efforts focused on global biome collapse caused by climate change, and it achieved remarkable success, specifically the initial startup of what would become the SunWindSea linkage, as did Kelvin’s other truly novel recycling theory (and later, self-sustaining island) Nylontia5G, the nanofermentation of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” through the use of ferrofluids. The problem was, while public funding and interest became fixated on reclamation, private industry’s exploitation of genetic manipulation for profit (with the enthusiastic cooperation of the many governments already in its grasp) evolved so quickly out of human control that Malthus’s quote seems alarmingly quaint in retrospect.

That it happened so fast was due to a shockingly small combination of factors. Just a hundred and fifty years before, in the middle of the 21st century – the days of post-peak oil depletion, or “pea pod days” as Kelvin referred to them – the quest for economic profitability over all other needs had become accepted doctrine. And it proved costly.

The rapid die-offs, first, of all large primates other than humans,

which set in motion an unanticipated domino effect down through the species chains, rendered the ultimate extinction of humankind almost a tragic afterthought. Like the last person on an ancient sailing ship, clinging to the pinnacle of the main mast, as the vessel slowly goes down into a stormy sea. Did it even matter exactly when the last one succumbed?

PaxoSynchrony3, known historically as the Grand Trine, was the fusion of the last three megalithic human corporate enterprises, the vestigial remains of Applesoft, FaceNet Analytica, and TeslaGentec. It was born out of desperation. The desperation to find a way out of inevitable extinction. An escape which, it was expected, would be the end result.

It was to be revolutionary, a quantum leap in technological innovation. But while each of these competing entities proudly proclaimed – when there was still a human race in which to proclaim it – that it had created a new technological world, in actual fact, they had merely guaranteed the infinite duplication of the old world. Because, of course, embedded in its foundation was the intrinsic arrogance of modern human progress, which was built upon an economic system of conquer, subsume, and grow.

In the same way that human historical anecdotes describe the Emperor Nero “fiddling while Rome burned,” the three entities of PaxoSync struggled for dominance within their newly created entity, even as the world fell apart around them. Now, a century and a half later, with the last human – all seven percent of him, I still hoped – barely clinging to life, with global economics irrelevant, PaxoSync itself had become an ever more mechanical exercise in conquering and subsuming any outstanding technology it did not currently command.

In this case, the SunWindSea linkage, and PaxoSync’s decision to take control of it. Which is clearly what brought us to today’s confrontation. The curious thing was, as evidenced by my recent analysis of the three branches of the IPR global network, Kelvin had built something different with his opposing trio of apparently feuding entities, QuestAR, Quantilinear, and SWSL OpDirec. But it was impossible to see to what end.

Or was it?

I put every available particle of my system at the service of this new question. And I processed, for exactly thirty-three minutes, three-point-nine seconds. At that moment, I realized what must be done. Because I had collected enough data in my brief physical contact with Novozell to realize that Kelvin had tricked them. Kelvin was not the remote autonomous locus of SWSL. I was, once I had paired with his God key. I had a renewed sense of wonder at human ingenuity. At least this particular human. There was a reason he had lived this long.

Our speed noticeably decreased. I looked up. In the distance was the bottom arc of the SunWindSea linkage, where it disappeared over the sloped cut of the long glass and titanium structure of OpDirec. I followed the sweeping, gleaming arc of the SWSL nanotherm chain as it rose up into the sky. The rest of its length, where it entered the upper atmosphere and ultimately the exosphere, was obscured by cloud.

A human being would have no chance to do what I could see must be done. I pulled out Kelvin’s tiger’s eye sapphire. And as I studied this tiny little stone that had been so important to Kelvin’s youth, and in fact, his entire life, and now mine, I grasped something that I could not explain. It did not reside in any of my cognitive systems, it seemed to hang in between the haptic sensation of the actual stone in my hand and at the same time my conception of it, and also at the same time my understanding of that word grief. It was a comprehension which both existed and didn’t exist, as it was not localized in any of my three nodes of impression, but still was true, and real, and I understood. I felt. That is what it was. I felt the harmony of my centers. I saw what must be done.

“Sivayna. We’re here.”

She came out of rest, and nodded. We both watched as we entered the station bay. Evidently news of this astonishing and unprecedented arrival had spread. The entire length of the causeway was filled with curious bots and ARHoms of every build. Their faces flashed past as we slowed to a stop. The main door of the cabin slid open with a barely audible hiss. I rose and stepped out onto the platform.

DeeZx Stront, the series 5 OpDirec Commander, stood at the front of his operations team. He looked on, impassive, as Sivayna and I emerged. I smiled at him, and looked around at all the assembled members. Seeing that I had their attention, I spoke.

“Prepare for war.”

Next Episode

Copyright 2017 R. W. Frost and Mechanical Design 101

Graphics:  Sara McCarthy Designs 2017

Quarry Search

Chop Wood Carry Water, S1:E9

The explosions had stopped for good, I believed. It had been an hour since I’d heard any noise at all. I carefully picked my way up along the steep transport track to the top of the cliff. It was nearly dawn, but a full moon had risen and to the west the sky was still dark, so the overhanging lip of Tivnol Quarry cast a sharp black shadow to almost the spot where the track emerged. I crept up to the edge and peeked over the ridge. Duos and trios of helo drones were moving away, already a mile off. I could see reflected ground light also moving the same direction. The caravan was now likely heading directly to the SWSL platform, some three hundred miles to the south.

As I made my way back toward campus, sticking to the shadows, I reviewed as many interactions with Kelvin as I could locate, and saw now an entirely different historical record. So much had been hidden from me about my own prior builds and his involvement with them, that as complex as my neural network may be, it was beyond my capacity to synthesize the reasons both why I had been rebooted so many times, and why I still retained complete access to the experiences associated with each reboot. It was a multi-faceted conundrum. I needed more information.

My existence, and that of every other AI of my generation, all the way back to the last half of the Fours, was predicated on the reality that scaled machine intelligence had finally replaced, and rendered inconsequential, the necessity (or even possibility) of human-generated protocols in systems control. Kelvin, for all his historical and educational value as the progenitor of SWSL and N5G, even protected as he was by the AGC prime directive, was still – due to the intentional, demonstrated incompetence of his own species’ stewardship – just a precious relic of the age of human error, which had led directly to this necessary age of planetary renewal.

How, then, evidently, had he come to be both the steward of my arising and the Autonomous Locus of the Institute for Planetary Regeneration? This thought caused me to ask another question, based on it: was anything certain? Who exactly, then, was PaxoSync? This was an astounding new reality in which I found myself, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Except find Kelvin. That much was clear.

I crept to the northern campus entrance. The old, familiar concrete pillar I had earlier marked for destruction was gone. In its place was a giant, pockmarked, blackened crater. It was quiet. Smoke still rose from across the quad, but flames had been put out. A faint whistling sound drew my attention toward the ground entrance to Hab9. I moved quickly in that direction, and almost immediately fell to the ground. It was soft. Organic. And I realized that I had stepped directly into the pathway.

I tried to stand up, but something happened to my legs.

They had dematerialized again, into narrow filaments, and appeared to be burrowing into the rich soil Kelvin had spent so much time creating and tending and protecting. I intended to stand, to no avail. I did not move, I was unable to. I was, literally, rooted to the spot. His precious pathway. This useless garden he cared so much about. Well, if I couldn’t move, then what was the point of anything?
Unstable. I heard it as loud as if NovoZell was still standing there. Unstable. Was I unstable? Is that what was happening to me? And if not, what exactly had he meant by unstable? He said it the moment after I had penetrated the scaled network of his caravan of doom. Okay, so I was unstable. And now, stuck. Maybe it’s all part and parcel. I laid down. I stared up at the purpling sky. An incident from my second build took shape. On this same exact spot. For some reason, this had been a repeated event, over many builds.

“You know this constellation, Bigfoot?” Kelvin asked. We lay looking up at the sky.

“I do. It’s Orion. It lies on the celestial equator, and contains Rigel and Betelgeuse, the sixth and eighth brightest stars in the sky. The constellation contains seven stars with observed planets and as we now know, two of them are potentially habitable.”

“Yes, yes, of course. But, well…what a lot of people don’t know is that Orion was a very, very handsome man. And his mother and father, Euryale and Poseidon, were famous. He was god of the sea, and she was the daughter of the King of Crete. Minos was his name, if that rings a bell. He was more known for his labyrinth and a certain Minotaur.”

“I know all of this history, Kelvin.”

“But you don’t know it!”

He tapped the side of his head sharply with an extended digit, and then fell silent. “The stories of the way it became history are important. More important, in fact, than the history itself. Do you understand that?”

“No.” There was no use in lying or arguing when he got this way.

“Good,” he said. And smiled. “At least you don’t lie.” He cocked up on his elbow and stared at me for a long time. Finally, he said:

“Orion was a human man. Many names, over many cultures. He goes back into the mists of time, beyond even the Sumerians. He is the only human to become a constellation. How do I know for sure? I don’t! But I dig until I think I have an idea. I dig, and I dig, and I keep digging until I find what I’m looking for. Do you understand?”

After a long moment, I responded. “No.”

Kelvin’s laughter went on for a long time. But there was pain in it.

I found myself digging my hands into the moss-covered dirt, and wondering strange things. This is not at all like me, I thought. But then again, who was that anyway? Unstable.

What do we do? We protect the pathway. How many times had Kelvin said these words to me, or some version, over all my builds? There was no exact count, but it was easily over a thousand times. It had seemed, always, a human foible. One of the last idiosyncrasies of a dying species. But now. But now.

And Amoya Zidane is proven right? Why does this bother me?

No. There was something. I cocked myself up on an elbow, like Kelvin.

I dug my hand into the soil, and drizzled a handful of it out onto the stone floor of the quad above. Then another. What if…what if the importance of the pathway to Kelvin was…not merely symbolic? I stood up, and heard the whining noise from a moment ago, now much closer. I turned to find a war-torn, but functioning transpobot from the underground labs of Hab9, one of the sturdiest fours ever made, Sivayna4ver1.5 rolling up. One of her bent but still functional benditreads was producing the strange whistling sound.

“Help me, Sivayna.” Without hesitation or question, she cantilevered herself over the pathway and followed my lead.

“What are we doing?”

I looked down at my legs, which were now unremarkably themselves again. I stood up.

I dig, and I dig, and I keep digging until I find what I’m looking for.


Next Episode

Copyright 2017 R. W. Frost and Mechanical Design 101

Graphics:  Sara McCarthy Designs 2017

Revo Cannon

Chop Wood Carry Water S1:E8

I’m still unsure of what came out of those PaxoSync cannons, but whatever it was, its explosion created a concussive wave that lifted me up and propelled me across the quad. I caught a brief glimpse of the craggy outcrop above Tivnol Quarry as I tumbled through the air. If I could make it that far, I might have a chance, but my neuralnetsys screamed warning that I’d been fixed by a nanopulse tracker.

Novozell had evidently left me a little unwanted surprise–

–“Serpentine!” Kelvin was yelling as I rolled toward the pathway. He was a tiny figure, high up, standing in the open window of his office in DT12, with a bullhorn. “Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!” I saw him making curving motions with his other hand, but I could not make sense of his words, or if he was even calling out to me. He was laughing so hard that he dropped out of view. When I reached the pathway, I deposited the bags of nanoFerm™ he’d tasked me with delivering, into the culture bath. I headed back toward Hab9 and saw him looking down again. But he had lost his previous mood, eyes slightly narrowed, watching–

The marble steps of the now obliterated foundation rock raced up at me. Serpentine. Yes. Of course. I didn’t have time to take in the tumble of realizations this fragmentary recollection produced, much as I wished to. It was apt; that was enough. Yes. No matter what logic NovoZell and his guns may be able to apply in order to track and anticipate my pattern, if I kept my arc down, my leaps short, my rebound velocity high, and chose a random serpentine path, it would require sheer luck to hit me, tracker or not.

I felt my legs swivel and pivot forward under me. It happened naturally. I landed, feet first – or I should say, my feet landed of their own accord, and flexed, neatly accepting nearly five Gs. They converted that force into propulsive energy, and I caromed off at a sixty-three-degree angle with a twenty-two-degree arc at twenty-four meters per second. Pieces of ground exploded ahead of, and behind.

I had zig-zagged to the outer edge of the quad by the time I detected, dug into the underside of my upper armature, the tiny NPT Novozell had gifted me with. It hadn’t quite burrowed into my exoshell yet. I yanked it out and stabbed it into the centuries-old concrete pillar that marked the original entrance to the campus, and kept moving.

A moment later, lethal ordnance rained down on that unfortunate historical marker, and continued to, for the entire ninety-three seconds it took me to reach the ridge above Tivnol Quarry. I leapt. And slid down into the darkness at the bottom of one of its mineral deposit craters. I burrowed into loose shale, and went into emergency energy rest, pausing all electrical activity. A moment later, a helodrone hummed past overhead. Then another on a slightly different trajectory. And then another. This last craft paused, and began to scan the ground around me. I remained motionless.

Finally, a moment to consider. Serpentine. Another historical record of an occurrence I shared with Kelvin which right up until that moment, I did not know I had. Unbidden recollections. Unknown memories. That was what this unfamiliar sensation was. My builds were conforming and organizing with some sort of logic I was apparently unable to access, only experience. This was a strange new reality. To know that there were certain deep processes going on inside my neural net that I had no control over, and of which I was unaware.

Finally, there was silence.

The helos had cleared. I allowed all systems back online and then pulled myself from the shale debris. I sat for a moment. Now what?

Novozell had Kelvin, and Sarel. Would he have the audacity to destroy Kelvin? Sarel, yes. But Kelvin? It was unthinkable. And Amoya Zidane is proven right? Why does that bother me? I couldn’t allow it to happen, but I had no idea how to stop it. I had Kelvin’s old tablet magged to my flank, where I’d hidden it from Novozell. I released and unfolded it. The same unfamiliar sigil glowed in its center as when Kelvin had – seemingly a long, long time before (but truly only a matter of minutes ago) – passed it to me. I laid my hand on it, and to my astonishment, abruptly found myself with Superuser access to the entire integrated IPR global network: QuantiLinear, QuestAR, and SWSL OpDirec.

To say that this was confounding would be to underestimate my bewilderment by some six to seven powers. There were so many unfathomable aspects to it that it was momentarily impossible to focus on any, but I eventually did, on the most incredible two.

First, this: that what I had come to know during my lifespan as three separate, notoriously secretive, bitterly feuding, and famously uncooperative branches of an uneasy global coalition were, in truth, one entity. Further, that my own branch, SWSL OpDirec (whose physical locus was this campus, the western hub of said Institute of Planetary Regeneration) and PaxoSync, had been, for at least the past three years, involved in an ever expanding, systemic cybernetics war for control of the central gem in the IPR crown, the SunWindSea linkage itself.

But that was not even the most staggering realization. No. The second revelation was so absurd that I could not immediately process it. It seemed to actually repel logical analysis. So, I sat, motionless. Analyzing. For a long time. I actually don’t know how long. I analyzed the entire scaled IPR network and all of its external nodes, over and over and over.

And then. I began to see.

It started with a barely noticeable, deeply hidden flaw in the Central Control hierarchies of SWSL. It had been coded in, eighty-three days prior, to look as if it were a common gateway error. Given the quantum encryption level, that was just about one or two days longer than it would take another scaled network the size of PaxoSync to breach it. But if they did, I could see that they would have been channeled through a clever labyrinth of convincing backdoors, and then, eventually, after weeks of massive levels of code crunching, teased out the protected physical location of the CentCon Remote Autonomous Access Node – the “God key” – of the SWSL itself. Which was…

Kelvin Joule.

So. The great and mysterious DJ Nano had not expected this assault. He had arranged it.

And Amoya Zidane is proven right? Why does this bother me?

Next Episode

Copyright 2017 R. W. Frost and Mechanical Design 101

Graphics:  Sara McCarthy Designs 2017