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DARPA Celebrates 50 Years of Pushing the Envelope

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the big-envelopes dept.

The Military 83

holy_calamity writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was founded in 1958 after the Soviets shocked the world by launching Sputnik. New Scientist recounts the history of the agency charged with protecting the US from 'technological surprise' and lists some of its most spectacular successes and failures."

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Spectacular miss (3, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437428)

FTA:

The mechanical elephant: Frustrated by a lack of decent tarmac in the jungle, DARPA sought to create a "mechanical elephant" during the Vietnam war. Its vision of high-tech Hannibal's piloting them through the forest never came true. It is alleged that when the director heard of the plan he scrapped the "damn fool" project immediately in the hope no one would hear about it.
Subsequent to the pulling of funding for the mechanical elephant, the head of the project suggested, "What if we build a large metal badger...?"

Seriously, tohugh, sounds to me like someone wanted to build an AT-AT.

Sweet.

Re:Spectacular miss (0, Offtopic)

maGiC_RS (946022) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437558)

frostr piss

I wish this one wasn't killed.... (5, Insightful)

Hankapobe (1290722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437542)

FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.

I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (5, Insightful)

TheRedSeven (1234758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437702)

Mod parent up.

This is another example of how politicians screw up what could otherwise be a good idea.

One could introduce an idea of how a terrorist might attack the country. If others think it's viable/vulnerable/highly possible, they buy the 'share'. As the share price goes up, it gets more attention (and hopefully response). When the response negates the risk, the viability/vulnerability/etc. goes down and people start to want to sell.

Seems a good way to use market forces to address real issues. Politicians saying, "Gosh! You're going to be proactive and creative in addressing terrorism rather than using the politically expedient FUD?! We can't have that!"

Freakin' politicians!

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (4, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437958)

I don't know if I would mod this up or not. Here [iwar.org.uk] is a little more info on the program. There are a lot of obvious holes. For one, gaming national security is always a downside, and markets can be gamed. Another is the fact that government intelligence agencies would have great sway over which way the market went. With that in mind, think about how often cronyism and nepotism crop up in government. There would be huge risks in such an investment. In the end, it may be a unique idea, but I don't think it would have worked.

The important point in all of this though is that, for all the pork and excess, DARPA does foster innovation. Bringing new ideas to important problems is a good thing. If only we could create a DARPA project to lead to a solution for cutting government wastefulness.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442962)

With that in mind, think about how often cronyism and nepotism crop up in government

With that in mind it is worth mentioning that Poindexter was right in the middle of this one without adult supervision. Whisteblowing about corruption costs you the chance of ever having a Federal Government job. Being the heart of the corruption apparently does not.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438932)

While it wasn't canceled for this reason, terrorist could game the system, or at the very least, wait until it was at a low point and then hit.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439884)

It was for internal use by people involved in the intelligence community.

Pork barrel (1)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439398)

You are forgetting that once a remotely decent system for predicting terrorist attacks exists, there are about 400 congressional districs that have a velk's chance in a supernova of getting homeland security money. Mmmmmmm, bacon

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

danielpavel (243201) | more than 6 years ago | (#23441328)

Yeah, sounds like an interesting project. With a bit of work, I bet it would work at least as well as the futures banking & investment markets!

Um...

I mean, really, the bad guys would never think of trying to game the system, like buying shares towards a specific scenario, and divert security efforts from their real target!

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437842)

Some stuff is just unspeakably evil, or unspeakably dumb.
A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example.
This is one of those can/should discussions: the fact that an action is possible doesn't make it a bright idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs-ATG1AP3E [youtube.com]

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (5, Interesting)

Hankapobe (1290722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438186)

Some stuff is just unspeakably evil, or unspeakably dumb. A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example. This is one of those can/should discussions: the fact that an action is possible doesn't make it a bright idea:...

Who would get hurt if there was a market of this type? If anything, it would save lives. I don't see anything unethical about it. If there was anything that was unethical it was the politicians killing this for political points.

There's a huge industry that bets on when people will die. Is it unethical? It's kept many families from becoming destitute after the death of the bread winner. I'm talking about life insurance.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439516)

Sometimes people are killed for their life insurance [rivkinradler.com] .

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (2, Insightful)

MikTheUser (761482) | more than 6 years ago | (#23448140)

A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example.

Who would get hurt if there was a market of this type? If anything, it would save lives.

Right! Actually, Dr Mengele was saving lives when he took Auschwitz inmates and subjected them to the most outrageously inhuman procedures for medical insight (and a bit of sick pleasure, no doubt). Nothing bad could come of a system that would allow such people to even make a profit out of such practices!

And don't you try and tell me such things could only happen in a dictatorship. I'd bet you anything that somewhere out there is a CIA agent that enjoys waterboarding so much he'd be more than willing to keep records of how long the 'terrorists' can take the torture for an extra buck.

You, Sir, are a sickening egoist.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438750)

My faith in the future of mankind just dropped a few points after watching that!

That's just incredibly Darwin Award-like. Wow!

Hopefully he has not passed his genetics along yet, and hopefully never does.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Flamebait)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439134)

Guess what, you and I are probably paying for his truck right now with our insurance premiums. Probably paying for his medical bills and welfare checks as well.

Now you see why idiots love socialism?

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439226)

I just can't seem to come up with any valid, rational, or reasonable arguments against anything you said.

Hmmmm.....Nope!

P.S. I had to show that video to my 17 year old stepdaughter.
She sat there silent for a moment, then remarked:"Somehow I feel mentally violated by that. It makes me almost ashamed to be part of THAT human race."

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23440298)

Yes, because auto insurance is a tool of socialism. And where do you live that has socialized medicine?

If you must post off-topic trolls, at least *attempt* to make an argument of some sort.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437892)

Apparently other people are also interested in weather markets can predict things:

http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem/ [uiowa.edu]
http://www.intrade.com/ [intrade.com]
http://www.google.com/search?q=political+markets [google.com]

Notice at Google that major media outlets are running them now. UIowa was pretty early if they weren't the first.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437922)

Make that "whether". Stupid homophones.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (-1, Offtopic)

Comboman (895500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438738)

Stupid homophones.

Don't say that, it's homophobic!

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Offtopic)

turgid (580780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439032)

They're not homophones if you're Scottish. We still pronounce the "h."

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439240)

Scottish huh. Is that like Irish?

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Offtopic)

turgid (580780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439520)

It could be worse.

If you are from Essex, Kent or London, "think" and "fink" are homophones in addition to weather and whether (although they'd replace the internal "th" with "vv"). The "er" would become "a".

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Offtopic)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439826)

Scottish huh. Is that like Irish?
No. Not really, though some seem misguidedly to think so. The Irish are like Glaswegians (or the Glasgow conurbation -- about a 5th of the population), because much of Glaswegian ancestry is Irish. The rest of the inhabitants of Scotland aren't really much like the Irish at all.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23440006)

Glasgow huh. Is that like Dublin?

(So, note that I could probably go on doing this...)

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438428)

FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.

I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.

Um.. or maybe the idea didn't sell because there is absolutely no logic to it? If share prices go up for "terrorist incident in country X" does that mean that it becomes more likely that a terrorist incident occurs in said country? No. It just means that the share price went up. If Al-Qaeida says that they are planning to blow up something in country Y and that causes the share price to sky rocket, then yeah, the "market" worked. But you don't need a bloody stock exchange for that!

Plus, you would need thousands of players playing this stupid zero-sum game and essentially doing the same job that one terrorism analyst could do hundred times better.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23438710)

Take a look at the Delphi Markets in John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" and "The Shockwave Rider" for the genesis and interesting treatment of this idea.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439234)

Just look at horse racing.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439834)

I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.
Same here. It's really interesting to see the slashdot discussion from 2003 [slashdot.org] about the project, with plenty of commenters freaking out about it with various knee-jerk reactions.

Earthweb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23439944)

Marc Stiegler took the concept about as far as it can go in his book 'Earthweb'

I'd summarize, but its been too long since I read the book.

ABIL (Anon Because Im Lazy)

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439964)

FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.
Robin Hanson (one of the pioneers for using futures markets to predict this sort of activity) has a really interesting post-mortem analysis of the project and the media reaction to it:

http://hanson.gmu.edu/innovations.pdf [gmu.edu]

Here's an excerpt:

The past few years have seen an explosion of interest in prediction markets. We
have long had speculative markets in gold, currency, pigs, and other commodities,
which as a side effect do a remarkable job of aggregating information. Prediction
markets turn this side effect into the main effect: if you want to know more on a
topic, create and subsidize betting markets on that topic to elicit more accurate
estimates. I have long been interested in how prediction markets can be used to
improve decisions in the public arena. From 2001 to 2003 I had the opportunity to
guide research on such markets that was sponsored by the U.S. government. The
project, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), showed
that general acceptance is still a long way off.Yet the academic support for the concept
of prediction markets is old. In addition to the large literature on the information
efficiency of financial markets (see Text Box 1), for several decades economists
have been creating markets in the laboratory, showing since 1988 that markets
with just a few traders trading for a few minutes can aggregate trader-held
information.1 Also since 1988, researchers at the University of Iowa have used a
special legal exemption (which no one else has obtained) to run a series of real
money betting markets on U.S. elections. Although these were far from the first
election betting markets,2 the added researcher-control they allow has led to new
insights and academic attention. ...

On July 30, seventy-eight media articles on PAM appeared, even more negative.
Newspapers reported that Poindexter resigned that day, and two months later
all IAO research was ended. Over the following days, weeks, months, and years,
more than 600 more media articles have mentioned PAM, many at first, and then
gradually fading in frequency. Interestingly, the coverage gradually became more
positive, and the most recent fifty articles on average give readers a positive impression
of PAM.
In a statistical analysis, eleven indicators of how informative an article is--
including time from the events until the article was published, citing someone with
firsthand knowledge, article length, a news or an editorial style, author anonymity,
and the awards, circulation, frequency, and topic specialties of the periodical--
individually predict that more informed articles give readers a more favorable
impression of PAM. In a multiple regression model using six additional control
variables, including media types, political leaning, and the author's gender, all six
of the statistically significant variables predict that more informed articles favor
PAM more.14 The more informed articles were more favorable, and eventually the
average article was favorable, but the political decision to cancel PAM seems
unlikely to be reversed anytime soon.

Re:I wish this one wasn't killed.... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442944)

It was John Poindexter's sinecure - I don't think it was ever designed to work and was most likely just a second scam. I really do not understand how anyone could put him in a position of responsibility again after embezzlement, destruction of evidence, dealing arms to Iran and most likely treason.

The Internet? DARPA? (-1, Offtopic)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437544)

Everyone knows it was Al Gore who invented the Internet.

Re:The Internet? DARPA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23438424)

What Gore actually said was:

During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet
And here is a message from Vint Cerf [wikipedia.org] and Bob Kahn [wikipedia.org] supporting what Gore stated:

Al Gore's support of the Internet, by V.Cerf and B.Kahn [politechbot.com]

Re:The Internet? DARPA? (-1, Offtopic)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439450)

Your sarcasm meter is broken.

Re:The Internet? DARPA? (1, Funny)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439186)

Al Gore invented Global Warming you dumbass.

And Bush Says... (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439782)

And Bush says..

Global warming, what global warming? (Paper shredder noises in the background)

Re:The Internet? DARPA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23446076)

You misunderstand. What Al Gore did is he took the initiative in creating Global Warming.

Summary for those who don't RTFA (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437618)

Successful projects: The internet, GPS, speech translation, stealth planes, gallium arsenide
Failed projects: Hafnium bombs, the mechanical elephant, telepathic spies, FutureMap futures market for terrorism, Orion nuclear-bomb-propelled spacecraft

Conspicuously missing:
Successful Projects: Slashdot
Failed Projects: CowboyNeal Dating Service

Re:Summary for those who don't RTFA (1)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437812)

You left out one of their failures-- Metal Gear.

STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR, By Solid Snake. (3, Funny)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439830)

(Adapted from an awesome post from many years ago on Gamespy.com)

STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR
By Solid Snake

Hello. My name is Snake. You probably know me from the first time I destroyed Metal Gear. Or, you may remember me from the second time I destroyed Metal Gear. Or, the third and fourth times I destroyed Metal Gear. Perhaps, instead, you may be familiar with me as we eagerly await the fifth time I'm going to destroy Metal Gear, due for release in June 2008.

Sometimes people ask me -- a renowned Soldier of Fortune and virtually invisible stealth operative -- how we can best keep the increasingly global threat of terrorism at bay. Time and time again the united governments find themselves at the mercy of elite squads of terrorists who, often during sweeps week, hijack indestructible robots armed with nuclear strike capability and -- for reasons that even I can't fathom -- one lone operative (me) always has to stop them against all odds. Well, I have an answer to your little terrorist problem, Mr. four-star general and united world government military advisers.

STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR!

For heaven's sake, it seems like every couple of years some pathetic spongecakes in suits are sitting around a conference table and one of them says, "Hey, let's build the Metal Gear again." Then they say, "Certainly those pesky terrorists won't attempt to hijack the Metal Gear this time." Then when all the hell and the hurting happens, they're not the ones strapped to a table getting electrocuted by some pony-tailed punk who looks like Colonel Sanders.

I mean it. Certainly we can figure out something else to do with giant robots aside from using them as mobile platforms for 20 megaton nuclear warheads, although offhand I can't think of anything. Why do we need giant robots at all? Why can't we all just raise dogs, like I do when I'm not silently killing people from behind? I like dogs. Dogs are always happy to see you. They jump up and lick your face. Rarely do they don invisible Predator-esque stealth outfits and gang up on you in an elevator. Hardly ever have I seen a group of dogs pre-meditate a global holocaust by assaulting a giant robot stronghold. Primarily they spend their time smelling one anothers' butts.

In Conclusion, I cannot stress enough the problems associated with giant robots. One minute they're secure on a military compound quietly protecting the free world, the next thing you know there's a floating bald dude in a gasmask convincing your girlfriend to blow her own brains out. I'm drawing the line! Next time you jackholes build the stupid Metal Gear, I'm not going to save your asses. I'm gonna hang out in Alaska, munchin' cheetos on a bearskin rug while some husky licks my face.

You hear that, DARPA chief? The next time you build a Metal Gear, you, your advisors, and your giant robot can collectively suck my stealthy ass. Just try to find me! Hah hah!

Thank you for your time.

-Snake, Solid.

Re:STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR, By Solid Snake. (2, Funny)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 6 years ago | (#23440842)

Just try to find me! Hah hah!

! ...just a box.

Re:Summary for those who don't RTFA (1)

Mastadex (576985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439162)

Whoa whoa whoa.......whoa.

This is so bogus! Everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet.

And, without the internet, we wouldn't have Slashdot. Therefore, Al Gore also invented Slashdot.

Yes but who invented Al Gore? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23446026)

Hmm????

DARPA's continued importance (4, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437792)

When I hear arguments for cutting DARPA's budget, or for eliminating it completely because "the Cold War's over, and China won't be a threat for 30 years", I think of how long the agencies successes took to come to fruition... GPS, the Internet, etc. It took decades of work. Its not like we could shut DARPA down, re-open it in 20 years, and then just magically start churning out big results again.

Re:DARPA's continued importance (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438486)

It'd be a waste to shut it down anyway. The DARPA budget is tiny compared to the military budget as a whole, and new technology has a better chance of making a difference than another couple of fighter planes.

Interesting "Failures" (5, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437806)

"The mechanical elephant: Frustrated by a lack of decent tarmac in the jungle, DARPA sought to create a "mechanical elephant" during the Vietnam war. Its vision of high-tech Hannibal's piloting them through the forest never came true. It is alleged that when the director heard of the plan he scrapped the "damn fool" project immediately in the hope no one would hear about it." So we could be 30 years ahead in robotics instead of 10 years behind. Thanks, asshole.

"FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians." Politicians. No further comment required.

"Orion: Set in motion shortly after DARPA was created, Project Orion aimed to drive an interplanetary spacecraft by periodically dropping nuclear bombs out of its rear end. The entire craft was designed like a giant shock absorber with the back covered in thick shielding to protect human passengers. Concerns about nuclear fallout and the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty ended the project in the early 1960s." Fallout - OK. Test ban treaty? More like political cover for killing a program disliked by the No Nukes folks.

3 of 5 were not technical failures, but political ones. Another, the "telepathic spies" project, is listed as a failure even though it did produce something important - evidence that telepathy is bullshit. The Halfnium bomb is another one. So it didn't work - BFD. are they saying that NO important research data was gained?

hear hear (4, Interesting)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438132)

Really, just calling them failures shows a considerable failure on the part of the folks compiling the list. Lack of political will is not the same as lack of technical ability. And demonstration of negative results is also good for when the matter comes up again. The telepathic spies WILL come up again within 20 years as we get more and more unthinking morons in positions of budgetary power.(and the current crop of "consensus scientists" will need to find another scam when they hit middle age)

And calling the exoskeleton a "current" project? There has been ongoing research into this before RAH ever dreamed of the Mobile Infantry.

Re:hear hear (3, Interesting)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438686)

"current" project = project with "current" funding. It didn't say 'hot new project ideas'. The Army has a current project to develop Silicon Carbide power electronic devices. It's a decade or so old now. Significant progress has been made. There's still more to come. The idea is old. The project is current. See?

Re:hear hear (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438808)

And calling the exoskeleton a "current" project? There has been ongoing research into this before RAH ever dreamed of the Mobile Infantry.

May not be a success for DARPA yet, but it's been huge for Marvel Entertainment. Not to mention various manga artists.

Re:hear hear (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439130)

"And demonstration of negative results is also good for when the matter comes up again."

Excellent point.
Is'nt this a basic keystone of Good Science (tm) and research.
Every time you fail to get your expected results, then investigate why/how/what the causes, you learn something about it.

'Hmmm....can't get there from here like that-well,back to the drawing board!'
Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Sooner or later you narrow it down to what works, then test and refine. Or maybe you get lucky because your SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) works, then you have narrowed things down considerably.

Re:Interesting "Failures" (3, Informative)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438618)

Orion overlapped a non-DARPA project called SNPO [atomicinsights.com] (pronounced "Snow-Poe") which was concerned with practical nuclear-powered space vehicles. For some reason, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere became unpopular and the project was shelved, but not until working engines had been built and tested.

Re:Interesting "Failures" (1)

rxmd (205533) | more than 6 years ago | (#23440196)

Orion overlapped a non-DARPA project called SNPO [atomicinsights.com] (pronounced "Snow-Poe") which was concerned with practical nuclear-powered space vehicles. For some reason, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere became unpopular and the project was shelved, but not until working engines had been built and tested.
They definitely picked some idiotic names for their project. Snow Poo is just one of them, another is from the article you linked:

The reactors were tested in Nevada at Jackass Flats.
I know it's probably the public anti-nuclear sentiment that stopped them from getting off the ground, but their name choices were really unlucky.

BFD. (0)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437818)

Postal Service has been doing it for longer.

Newman out.

I'd never heard of Project Orion but... (3, Interesting)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23437874)

The top cruise velocity that can be achieved by a thermonuclear Orion starship is about 8% to 10% of the speed of light (0.08â"0.1c). An atomic (fission) Orion can achieve perhaps 3%â"5% of the speed of light.[citation needed] A nuclear pulse drive starship powered by matter-antimatter pulse units would be theoretically capable of obtaining a velocity between 50% to 80% of the speed of light.[citation needed] Missions that were designed for an Orion vehicle in the original project included single stage (i.e., directly from Earth's surface) to Mars and back, and a trip to one of the moons of Saturn. One possible modern mission for this near-term technology would be to deflect an asteroid that could collide with Earth. The extremely high performance would permit even a late launch to succeed, and the vehicle could effectively transfer a large amount of kinetic energy to the asteroid by simple impact. Also, an automated mission would eliminate the most problematic issues of the design: the shock absorbers.
Interesting. I'm not sure about the efficiency claims but interesting nonetheless. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

Re:I'd never heard of Project Orion but... (2, Interesting)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438084)

This topic seem sto get a lot of play here on Slashdot. Basically, the limits of chemical propellants have been reached. The next step up could be "Nuclear Pulse" engines such as the one developed for Orion. They would allow MUCH larger payloads to be put into orbit, and my understanding is that the number of "bombs" needed do not correlate linearly to the mass of the payload as it increases, allowing for a very efficient, by today's standards, method of travel.

Re:I'd never heard of Project Orion but... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438550)

Lot of space geeks are enamoured of the Orion.

Politically, though, we can't even use breeder reactors to reduce our nuclear waste stockpiles, more less start trying to launch satellites full of nukes. The inevitable EMP would cause problems near earth as well.

Re:I'd never heard of Project Orion but... (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438690)

Someone has been reading too much Vernor Vinge. Don't they know you have to be able to create bobbles first.

DARPA and open source (3, Interesting)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438064)

When I worked on the DARPA COUGAAR distributed agent project [cougaar.org] they used lots of open source code and had no problems with donating code back. The whole PMD [sf.net] source code analysis tool started there and has lived on long after the sponsoring program ended... good stuff.

Re:DARPA and open source (3, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438596)

I'm not going to follow your links. You're probably just hyping some older woman/younger man dating service. Through agents no less.

Re:DARPA and open source (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442300)

Hate to say it but the Cougaar link is dead one.

Re:DARPA and open source (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442458)

> Hate to say it but the Cougaar link is dead one.

Oops, yup, must have killed it... ah well, at least the PMD link lives on :-)

(mental image based on title) (-1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438090)

Ivana Trump [google.com] -like woman on sidewalk with using a cane to move a manila envelope forward.
On her shoulder, of course: PRADA [google.com] .

Proving liberals wrong... (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438534)

That research and progress can come from goverment spending. a democratic-socialist signing out.

Re:Proving liberals wrong... (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438914)

A massive number of people in the US just completely misunderstood what you said.

Re:Proving liberals wrong... (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442720)

It's my revenge against them for shattering my sanity with their insane political enviroment, which for some reasons i can't take my eyes off.

Failure =/= Mistake (4, Insightful)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23438792)

I don't like the fact that they call several of the failed projects "mistakes" or "blunders." Their entire mission is to push the envelope farther than what they can imagine other people going. They're not going to come up with crazy-ass successes like the internet and stealth planes without also coming up with some crazy-ass ideas that wind up not working, like a spaceship that uses nuclear bombs for propulsion and psychic spies. Those things did fail, but that doesn't make those things mistakes - they're a natural byproduct of a process aiming for both high creativity and high productivity.

Re:Failure =/= Mistake (1)

lekikui (1000144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23441198)

Interestingly, the spaceship one did actually work. They built chemical propellant models that flew successfully.

The main issue, as noted, is something to do with the fallout and the like. For some reason it was considered unfriendly.

Go have a read of Freeman Dyson's book "Disturbing the Universe" which, among other things, contains some accounts of his work on the project.

Re:Failure =/= Mistake (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#23443010)

Their entire mission is to push the envelope farther than what they can imagine other people going

Personally I think the problem with the futures exchange is that it would push the envelope into Poindexter's wallet. Where you have rewards for failure you will see a lot of failures.

Re:Failure =/= Mistake (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23446216)

I don't like the fact that they call several of the failed projects "mistakes" or "blunders."
It's so New Scientist's readers can feel superior.

(I must admit pro-DARPA bias, our contract monitor once bought me a really nice hamburger!)

AI still eludes DARPA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23439154)

Artificial intelligence [sourceforge.net] still eludes DARPA.

Lack of an AI Theory [virtualentity.com] is the problem.

Very impressive (2, Funny)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439180)

I don't care what anybody says. I'm still impressed that the DARPA Initiative was able to slow time down on that Island and create that cool underground bunker where those scientists had to enter the code every 108 minutes.

Remote Viewing (1)

Darth Cider (320236) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439218)

As to "telepathic spies," the Army's remote viewing program (a.k.a. STARGATE) shouldn't be regarded as a failure. It's an interesting topic, difficult to research due to an abundance of pseudo-science, but there are valid academic [ucdavis.edu] studies [nytimes.com] which conclude that the phenomenon is real. Oddly, remote-viewing success seems to be related to local sidereal time (pdf). [jsasoc.com] The Telepathy episode [nationalgeographic.com] of National Geographic's Naked Science examines some of the program's achievements and features Joe McMoneagle, who was agent 001 of the Stargate program, doing a successful demonstration.

DARPA deserves credit for being open-minded about a topic so easy to ridicule.

Re:Remote Viewing (2, Interesting)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23439752)

As to "telepathic spies," the Army's remote viewing program (a.k.a. STARGATE) shouldn't be regarded as a failure. It's an interesting topic, difficult to research due to an abundance of pseudo-science, but there are valid academic [ucdavis.edu] studies [nytimes.com] which conclude that the phenomenon is real.


Heh. Right. And there are "academic studies" which supposedly disprove evolution. The thing is, as soon as you start to examine these studies you generally find that either the researchers involved in the study have a personal stake in reaching a certain result, or you find that they've simply been mislead. I suggest you check out James Randi's Project Alpha Hoax [youtube.com] for a good example. There you'll find an example of respected scientists performing a study for a major university who are made to look like utter fools by slight-of-hand tricks performed by two magicians. The problem is simple - these scientists WANTED a positive result, and they didn't use proper scientific procedures to perform their tests. Scientists are people too - they make mistakes just like the rest of us.

Anyway, as of this date there is absolutely zero credible evidence to suggest that "psychic viewing" - or any other powers which "mentalists" claim to possess - are anything more than tricks played by frauds and charlatans. If you think you can prove otherwise, I suggest you go and apply for James Randi's "Million Dollar Challenge". Over the last few decades thousands of people have taken the challenge, yet somehow Mr. Randi continues to hold on to his money.

Re:Remote Viewing (2, Funny)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442274)

I knew you were going to say that!

Re:Remote Viewing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23442310)

"Anyway, as of this date there is absolutely zero credible evidence to suggest that "psychic viewing" - or any other powers which "mentalists" claim to possess - are anything more than tricks played by frauds and charlatans. If you think you can prove otherwise, I suggest you go and apply for James Randi's "Million Dollar Challenge". Over the last few decades thousands of people have taken the challenge, yet somehow Mr. Randi continues to hold on to his money."

I'm able to remote view, I don't make public claims other than this one, I don't work for anyone, I don't feel the need to prove it. For some of us with the gift, money, fame, and all of that mean nothing.

Re:Remote Viewing (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442690)

I'm able to remote view, I don't make public claims other than this one, I don't work for anyone, I don't feel the need to prove it. For some of us with the gift, money, fame, and all of that mean nothing.


Ah, yes, the typical response of the fraud: "I really DO have powers, but I don't need one million dollars!".

What a load of crap that is.

Tell ya what, how 'bout you go win the challenge, claim the prize, and then donate it to charity? Maybe you don't need the money, but there's plenty of sick kids and homeless people who could use a hand. Are you so heartless that you won't even give a couple hours of your time in order to help the less fortunate?

Re:Remote Viewing (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 6 years ago | (#23443236)

Your first link is based on cherry-picking the results of a post-hoc meta-analysis -- a double bias. The second (about PEAR) isn't any better [skepdic.com] . Also, note that those two articles contradict each other -- PEAR claims evidence of psychokinesis, while the SRI/SAIC analysis of the same claims a null result.

Re:Remote Viewing (1)

dfedfe (980539) | more than 6 years ago | (#23446336)

Yes. People forget that experiments can produce results showing an effect that seems real even if the effect is not real, just through dumb luck, basically. Then only those successes are reported and all of a sudden it looks like there is a real effect where there is none. Whenever this comes up I direct people to the file drawer problem [wikipedia.org] .

FutureMap (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#23442446)

FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.
$50 says that this project still exists, albeit underground

Re:FutureMap (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#23443042)

$50 says that this project still exists, albeit underground

It couldn't because it relied on a lot of people making bets so would need a lot of suckers for the bank to get a decent cut. To make the situation even more bizzare - John Poindexter of embezzlement and Iran/Conta fame was behind it.

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