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English Village to be Invaded in Spybot Competition

A village in south-west England will shortly be swarming with robots competing to show off their surveillance skills. The event is the UK Ministry of Defence’s answer to the US DARPA Grand Challenge that set robotic cars against one another to encourage advances in autonomous vehicles. The MoD Grand Challenge is instead designed to boost development of teams of small robots able to scout out hidden dangers in hostile urban areas. [Read more.]

You have to get to the third paragraph to learn that the village is in fact a mock East German village built for urban warfare training during the Cold War. Insert Prisoner reference here.



They got all this machinery, but that ain’t everything. We the machines inside the machines.
—Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

It’s alternative history time, kids! This is something I wrote last year as part of an alternate history writing game. Some explanation follows at the end.

Granville Woods W.C. HandyLewis Latimer
Granville Woods, W.C. Handy, Lewis Latimer


Aka: Handy, John Henry, Gernsback-B

Tesla couldn’t do it. He was never going to do it. J.P. Morgan was standing on his neck for results and it didn’t matter. Tesla couldn’t make his wireless power caster work. Not until Tesla’s assistant, W.C. Handy, figured out the problem: Tesla’s coils were too tightly wound. Isn’t that always the way?

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Superman Returns

Tags: Saucer-Men from Saturn, death of a parallelogram, everybody loves robots, The WPA Guide to Smallville, Kludgeons & Klagons, Freakonomics, Superman Democrats, no good can come of criticizing The Dark Knight Returns.

Now he's just showing off.

I. It’s Superman!

When I wrote about Superman’s secret origins back in Smarch, I mentioned I’d just read two surprisingly non-terrible books about him. I talked at length about Gerard Jones’ Men of Tomorrow. The other book was Tom De Haven’s novel It’s Superman! I assume there are any number of Superman “novelizations” out there, not to mention “graphic novels” (which are neither novels nor, in Superman’s case, particularly graphic–discuss). But It’s Superman! is meant to be an actual novel for grown-ups, or at least Gen-X men. It has a real live author, a loose regard for continuity*, a snappy Chris Ware cover, and no Charles Atlas ads in sight. Read more


History Carnival XXIII

The Public are respectfully informed that
The Much Anticipated
has Returned!
with an Exhibition of
Demonstrations of the Art of

Welcome back to the History Carnival. Our ringleader Sharon Howard gave the carnies New Year’s off, so this plus-size edition does double duty, covering an entire month of historical blogging. Many thanks to all those who sent in suggestions–and only slightly less enthusiastic thanks to those who sent in big heaps of suggestions in the last few hours before the deadline. There’s lots here, and even so, I’m leaving plenty out. I apologize to anyone and everyone I missed or didn’t use. The history blogiverse is growing so fast, and there’s so much good stuff out there. I can’t claim to have seen more than a fraction of it all. Read more