Category Archives: communications

The Helmet of Truth v the Thinking Cap

Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been around a while now. I suggested one of the future social problems we’d have to deal with is electronic drugs, where different parts of the brain are either effectively switched off or stimulated while drugs in smart release capsules can be ingested in advance by the clubbers but stay inactive until commanded remotely by a club DJ.

Similar technology is used in the Helmet of Truth. Although in a somewhat murky area of international law, it is used to get captives to tell the truth, just like a truth serum, but by deactivating parts of the brain by rapidly changing magnetic fields instead of chemicals. The magnetic fields needed for this are very high, but graphene is a superb electrical conductor, so lends itself well to making powerful electromagnets. Combining fields from phased arrays allows currents to be stimulated at specific locations deep in the brain. Electrically stimulating specific regions in the brain can cause memories to be stimulated involuntarily. Since thoughts can already be detected with sufficient accuracy to tell what video a person is thinking about, this could be used to scan a subject’s memory for secrets. As it progresses, though recognition will be capable of recognising a wide range of thoughts and emotions. Coupling this to TMS and phased array technology therefore provides the basis of a painless but effective interrogation process, albeit one of dubious morality.

Should anyone use such a tool? Under what circumstances? Under what jurisdiction and supervision, with what safeguards? I’d feel quite uneasy about letting hem have this, but it won’t be my choice.

It does have a more positive side though. TMS is already being researched and used for medical treatments, and also to increase the learning capacity, and improve concentration. If it can be used to scan the memory to replay memories, hence refreshing them, then it could be a valuable learning tool that keeps learned knowledge from being forgotten so badly. Wasn’t it Edward de Bono who proposed the thinking cap? I guess this would fill that role nicely.


High altitude balloons using graphene foam

Graphene foam can be made up of tiny spheres of graphene that contain a vacuum. The graphene spheres are large enough that the average density of the graphene and vacuum is less than helium, so I suggested it as a helium substitute. Here is my original article:

It wasn’t long after I wrote it that a Chinese group achieved it, and they subsequently discovered it makes an ideal platform for cultivating stem cells, something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. But that’s engineers for you. Someone invents one idea and someone else runs with it and makes something far better. Anyway, graphene foams already exist today that are 6 times lighter than air.

We hear a lot about high altitude balloons being used for communications, e.g. Google’s Loon project. As is the norm for Google, the idea predates their’s considerably, but never mind, at least they are developing it where others left it on the drawing board.

High altitude balloons so far use helium to achieve the low density. In stark contrast, a huge solid balloon could be made out of graphene foam, and it could be lighter than helium yet stronger than steel. Graphene foam is therefore ideal for making solid balloons for a wide range of purposes.

Way above clouds, the top surface of such a balloon would be perfect to produce solar power for use inside, and the lower side is perfect to transmit this to the ground house communications transponders or simply reflect communication signals.

It could be ideal to house a death ray too, but let’s not think about that for now.

A large, solid, strong balloon could act as an excellent base for a wide range of activities, but it could also be mobile, just like an airship. A combination of special carbon motors such as graphene electron pipes directly powered by energy stored in graphene capacitors. These would be charged with solar electricity generated by from the intense sunlight unimpeded by clouds, the movement of a carbon wire through the magnetic field, thermocouples, solar panels, or harnessing power from high altitude winds. They could even use power harvested from hurricanes and tornadoes, saving many lives and a lot of property too:

Balloons could also used to deal with forest fires, collecting and storing water directly from clouds and dropping it onto the fire. In fact, these highly positive emergency uses may ultimately be the main reason such a large object would be allowed to remain up in the sky unchallenged in spite of its potential misuses (such as acting the role of mother-ship to a fleet of smaller airships or other weapons). With no need for helium, this kind of solid balloon would be much more environmentally friendly than the traditional variety, perfect for sustainability.