Monthly Archives: January 2014

Broken Age: Freedom, Hard Fought For.

There’s no question that the Double Fine Adventure was responsible for showing that the Kickstarter model could work for games. The now miserly looking target of $400,000 blew by quickly and the final tally saw it being funded a whopping 800% over what they initially hoped to grab. Now I’ll have to be honest here, I wasn’t completely convinced that it would be worth backing because whilst I appreciate Tim Schaefer’s ability to make games people love I just haven’t been a big fan of his. My mind was changed slightly after I played through The Cave however and when Broken Age came up in one of the Humble Bundles I figured it was worth the price of admission and the first chapter was released just recently.

Broken Age Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

Broken Age puts you in control of one of two characters. I initially chose to be Shay (voiced by none other than Elijah Wood), a young man who seems to be the only passenger on a vast space ship. It’s not your regular kind of space ship however as everything seems to be very….childish with animated stuff animals running around and all the controls reminiscent of Fisher Price toys for toddlers. Indeed this spaceship seems to act more like a prison than a safe haven as the overly motherly computer foils any attempt that you might make to break the monotony.

At any time though, should you want a change of pace or you’re stuck on a puzzle that just doesn’t seem to have a proper solution, you can switch over to Vella, a young woman who has  been given the honour of participating in the maiden’s feast. Nearly all your family is incredibly excited for you with the notable exception of your grandfather, a grizzled war veteran from a time long past. As you start to enquire about what the maiden’s feast actually entails the shocking truth comes out: you’re to be eaten by the huge beast Mog Chothra in order to appease him and avoid conflict with the village. Understandably you don’t want anything to do with this and vow to defeat Mog Chothra once and for all.

Broken Age Review Screenshot Wallpaper Space Weaver

The art style of Broken Age is simply delightful with every scene exuding this feeling of meticulously hand painted scenes coming to life before your eyes. I’ll admit that the start I felt it was somewhat simplistic but as you play through you get a real feeling for just how detailed many of the scenes are, especially the ones that contain puzzle elements. Indeed when you revisit places throughout your adventure it becomes apparent just how much detail is there which you simply didn’t notice on the first time through. The art style also fits the slightly whimsical nature of the game which makes it even more impressive to me as I’m not usually one for that kind of style.

Broken Age is your typical point and click adventure game where you’ll spend your time shuffling your character around the environment, looking for things to interact with and solving various kinds of puzzles along the way. Unlike other titles in this genre Broken Age doesn’t attempt to put a unique mechanic or twist on the way the game plays through so it is really, truly an old school point and click adventure. Double Fine has gone to the effort to eliminate the inventory hell that plagued traditional point and clicks but apart from that the game would not be out of place, mechanically at least, if it was released a decade or two ago.

Broken Age Review Screenshot Wallpaper Maiden Feast

For the most part the puzzles are pretty rudimentary, usually requiring you to have the inquisitive kind of mind that long time players of this genre will already have. Most of the time you can solve the puzzles by simply clicking around and finding the things you can interact with and, should that fail, a quick rummage through the inventory typically gets you out of trouble. The final big puzzles of both Vella and Shay’s story lines present more of a challenge, definitely requiring you to think non-linearly, but they provide the lone challenge in an otherwise rather easy game.

One tip I’ll give without spoiling any of the story line is that, as far as I could see, there was one and only one solution to some puzzles. There were a couple times when I had thought that I had achieved a certain goal without needing to take a certain (seemingly obvious) path but found out later, after coming up blank on every other path, that I needed to do the obvious thing in order to progress. Thus if you think you’ve managed to skip over a section or picked up a useless inventory item you’re wrong and there’s something you’re missing.

Broken Age Review Screenshot Wallpaper Free at Last

However harping on the rudimentary-ness of the mechanics and complaining about how I over-thought some of the puzzles is a distraction away from the real core of Broken Age: its story. Initially I thought it was rather superfluous and poorly written, mostly due to me choosing Shay’s path first, however as you play on you realise that’s the point of that section and it’s setting you up for the grander plot. What follows is a beautiful story of two people looking to overcome tradition, in one way or another, attempting to cast off the shackles that have bound them since birth.

I will lament the fact that it’s episodic though as whilst I thought at one point this would be the future of games I always find myself wanting to play the whole thing through and grow disinterested in it between the lulls in content. This is not a fault of the game per se, more a gripe from a person who loves to envelope themselves in a game from beginning to end as one continuous experience. I understand the reasons for releasing Broken Age in this way but I would have not been mad if I had to wait another year to play the whole thing in its entirety.

Broken Age Review Screenshot Wallpaper Flight of Jessie

Broken Age is a wonderful game, combining a whimsical art style with the tried and true adventure game play that Tim Schaefer is well renown for. It stays true to its genre, eschewing the current indie norm of adding in mechanics to distinguish themselves and instead opts for the more seamless improvements, ones that long time adventure gamers will be thankful for. Broken Age is definitely a game for the fans of Tim Schaefer and the adventure genre so I’ll stop short of recommending everyone play it but should you fall into either of the 2 previous categories then it’s definitely worth a look in.

Rating: 8.25/10

Broken Age is available right now on PC for $24.99. Total play time was approximately 3 hours.

Stephen Hawking Makes Black Holes Even More Perplexing.

Undoubtedly black holes are one of the most intriguing phenomena in our universe. The current interpretation of them, being a point mass that’s infinitely dense, is quite modern being only formalized some time back in the 1950s although the scientific roots can be traced back a bit further than that. Still they’re far from being a solved problem space as, like all things that use the word “infinite” in some capacity, their behaviour is a little strange especially when you try to explain them using different theories for how the universe works. To us laypeople we tend to be rooted in the general relativity explanation, however once you step into the world of quantum mechanics suddenly they start behaving differently creating quite the paradox.

Black HoleIn the world of general relativity passing across the event horizon, the point at which nothing (not even light) can escape, would be a somewhat peaceful affair. Since you would be in complete free fall at the time you wouldn’t experience a sudden jolt or anything that would indicate to you that this had happened (which makes black holes nightmare material for someone like me who has aspirations for space travel). After a while though you’d start to feel rather uncomfortable as the difference between the gravity at your head and feet became vastly different, eventually leading to a rather untimely demise at the hands of what has been dubbed spaghettification. However if you approach the same problem from the view of quantum mechanics you might not even get a chance to experience that as the world past the black hole’s event horizon is something vastly different.

The current hypothesis say that instead of the event horizon being a peaceful transition (although usually even getting to the event horizon would be quite nasty thanks to the accretion disks they usually sport) there instead exists a violent firewall of energy, ready to tear anything apart that crosses that horizon. Whilst the mechanics of this are well above my understanding it appears to be a quirk of Hawking Radiation, the process by which black holes “evaporate” over time. This evaporation occurs via entangled particles, one which leaves the black hole and another that falls back in. However this must mean that the entanglement is broken at some point which would release a lot of energy. This has led to a paradox which means that we have to either modify or abandon certain principles in physics, something which scientists don’t really like to do unless there’s a good reason to.

Hawking has recently weighed in on the topic through a paper on ArXiv which was then famously misinterpreted as him saying that there were no black holes at all. What he was actually saying was that there were no black holes in the traditional sense that there were distinct event horizons which, when passed, would not allow anything to escape. Instead Hawking has propose apparent horizons which are temporary artefacts, shifting around the black hole. This would then allow information to escape without necessitating the quantum firewall, preserving the more peaceful theory.

The new theory hasn’t been hit with resounding approval however as it raises almost as many questions as it answers. I’ll admit its quite intriguing, definitely worthy of further research, but with so many fundamental changes to the model of how black holes operate it’s hard to take it at face value. Still the mere fact that this has caused such ripples, even outside the scientific community, shows just how important this is to the wider world of physics.


Steam In Home Streaming: Results From the Field.

My stance on Cloud Gaming is well known and honestly barring some major breakthrough in several technological areas (graphics cards, available bandwidth, etc.) I can’t see it changing any time soon. The idea of local streaming however is something I’m on board with as there have already been numerous proven examples where it can work, a couple of which I’ve actually used myself. So when I heard that Valve was going to enable In Home Streaming as a feature of Steam I was pretty excited as there have been a couple times where I’ve found myself wanting to use games installed on my main PC on other computers in the house. Valve widen the beta last week to include a lot more people and I was lucky enough to snag an invite so I gave In Home Streaming a look over during the Australia Day long weekend.

Steam In Home Streaming

The setup couldn’t be more simple. At this stage you have to opt into the Steam client beta, requiring you to redownload the client (around 80 MB at the time of writing) and sign into both machines using the same account. Now last time I remember trying to do that I got told I was already logged in somewhere else and thus couldn’t log in but it seems this client version has no such limitations. Once you’re logged into both machines you should be greeted with a list of games available to play that matches your main machine perfectly and, when you go to play them, you’ll have the option to either install it locally or stream it from the other machine.

Clicking on stream will start the game on the other machine its installed on and, should everything go according to plan, it will then appear in another window on the machine you’re streaming to. The first thing you’ll notice though is that the game fully runs on the other machine, including display the graphics and playing sound. This can be somewhat undesirable and whilst it’s easily remedied it shows you what kind of streaming is actually occurring (I.E. DirectX mirroring). Using such technology also places some limitations on what can and cant’ be streamed by simply clicking on the stream button but there are ways around it.

I first tried this on my media PC which is a HP MicroServer that has a Radeon HD6450 1GB installed in it. Now this machine can handle pretty much any kind of content you can throw at it although I have had it struggle with some high bitrate 1080p files. This was somewhat improved by using newer drivers and later builds of VLC so I was pretty confident it could handle a similar stream over the network. Whilst it worked the frame rates were pretty dismal, even in games which weren’t as graphically intense. Considering the primary use case of this would be for underpowered machines to take advantage of the grunt other PCs in the house can provide this was a little disappointing but I decided I’d give it a go on my Zenbook before I passed judgement.

The much better hardware of the Zenbook improved the experience greatly with all the games I tested on it running nigh on perfectly. There were a couple issues to report, namely when the stream broke there didn’t seem to be a way to restart it so I was just left with a black screen and audio playing. The differing resolutions meant that I was playing with a boxed perspective which was a tad annoying and, unfortunately, it appears you’re limited to the resolutions of the box you’re streaming from (I couldn’t run DOTA 2 at 1080p as my monitors are 1680 x 1050). Still the performance was good enough that I could play FPS games on it, although I wasn’t game enough to try an online match.

Overall I’m very impressed with what Valve has delivered with In Home Streaming as it’s pretty much what I expected, bar it being so damn easy to set up and use. Whilst I’m sure they’ll improve the performance over time it does speak volumes to the fact that the end point does matter and that you will have a worse experience on low powered hardware. Still, even then it was usable for my use case (watching in game DOTA 2 replays) and I’m sure that it would be good enough in its current form for a lot of people.

Friction: A Force to be Reckoned With.

Kinematics was my least favourite part of physics, mostly because I always had a rough time wrapping my head around the various rules and principles that govern the way things move in our world. However one lesson always stuck with me in my head, the one relating to friction and it’s various forms. Whilst I’m sure the teacher delighted in tricking us all by asking us what kind of friction a rolling tire has (hint: it’s either static or kinetic and it’s not the one you’d first think it is) that example rooted the principle firmly in my head. Understanding that made further concepts a lot easier to grasp although I’d never really considered friction a powerful force until I saw this:

What you’re seeing happen here is a process called Friction Welding although in technical terms it’s actually not welding at all. Instead it’s actually a type of forging as in traditional welding two pieces of metal are joined via melting whereas in friction welding no such melt occurs. This process has a lot of advantages most notably allowing 2 dissimilar metals, say high grade aluminium and steel (a common pair in space fairing missions), to be joined together. Doing this process via other means is extremely difficult due to the different melting points of each material and would likely lead to a much weaker bond. Friction welding by comparison always creates a full strength bond without the additional weight introduced via other methods.

Interestingly enough this process can also be used with materials other than metals, specifically thermoplastics which are a type of plastic that becomes pliable under heat. Friction welding can then also be used to join said plastics onto metal surfaces, enabling cross material bonds that are far stronger than those  that could be achieved via other methods.

Pretty fascinating, isn’t it?

Contrast: Between Two Worlds.

The indie dev scene seems to go through periods of obsession with different genres. In the past it was with platform puzzlers as it seemed that every other week brought to me several new titles attempting to put their own twist on the tried and true genre. More recently it seems to have shifted to survival horror as many seek to replicate the success of DayZ. So when Contrast, a platforming/puzzler from Compulsion games, I felt a distinct twinge of nostalgia, harking back to the indie renaissance that was built on games such as this. Like many from that time it’s taken the puzzler/platformer genre and placed its own unique style on top of it resulting in a game that’s quite interesting, even if it has its faults.

Contrast Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

It’s not quite clear who, or more importantly what, you are when the game starts but all you know is that only a small girl, Didi, can see you. In fact this bond seems to be somewhat mutual as you can’t see anyone else but her and the shadows of others that are in the room with you. You and Didi seem to share a bond however as she’s always getting into mischief, usually with your assistance, much to the chagrin of her mother. Still, Didi’s mother tries hard to support her, hoping to rise to fame as a wonderful singer and actress. Everything starts to change when Didi’s deadbeat father comes back into the picture, promising to make everything right.

The art style of Contrast feels like you’re in the mind of a child with many typical elements, such as houses, having a very whimsical nature to them.  It’s all heavily inspired by the art deco movement of the 1930s and 40s with many of the environments having a really distinct BioShock-esque feel to them. They do feel a little dead and empty however which I do believe was done deliberately however it means you feel compelled to not stay in one area for too long, even though the game tries to encourage you to explore. Potentially this could have been solved by adding in more light sources that had shadows walking past it which wouldn’t seem out of place and would make everything feel a little more alive.

Contrast Review Screenshot Wallpaper Didi's Room

As I alluded to earlier Contrast is a platform/puzzler that has an unique mechanic to spice things up a bit. The puzzles are all fairly basic in nature, usually consisting of getting yourself from one place to another or moving an item into another spot that’s not exactly obvious when you first start out. Contrast’s twist however is that when a wall is lit up you can “shift” into it, becoming a 2D shadow on the wall that allows you to move in ways that would be impossible otherwise. This leads to some rather intriguing puzzles where you’re always looking for where the source of light is and how the shadows you can create will help or hinder you in your goal.

There’s also a set of collectables called “Luminaries” which are hidden in various locations throughout the game. They function as an exploration mechanic as well as a kind of in-game currency to progress past certain obstacles. Their presence isn’t fully explained however, although Didi is aware of them for some reason, so the motivation to collect them really only comes about if you’re a natural explorer or you happen to see one that isn’t far out of your reach. Indeed there was only once when I didn’t have the required luminaries on me to immediately continue a puzzle and then it took me less than a couple minutes to find the requisite number.

Contrast Review Screenshot Wallpaper Hotel Excelsior

Unfortunately whilst this mechanic is indeed novel it suffers heavily from glitchy behaviour. True flat surfaces with light projected onto them appear to work quite well however anything with a ridge or a bump in it, like the numerous columns that dot the landscape, have a tendency to shift you back out of the shadow plane. It’s hard to tell if this is expected behaviour or not as you can walk through them, some times, and you can also blast past them again only randomly. The shadow detection itself can also get a bit buggy as Dawn’s hitbox appears to be significantly bigger than the character model, leading to some puzzles either being more complicated than they need to be or being trivialized.

Indeed there were quite a few puzzles where I figured I’d be restarting from the checkpoint again only to find myself standing on air next to the ledge I was trying to jump onto. Whilst I was somewhat appreciative of this at the time it does mean that the game doesn’t function as you’d expect leading to some rather undesirable behaviour. Worst still there are many places where you can find yourself caught in the environment for some inexplicable reason and while I never had to reload to get unstuck it certainly didn’t endear the game to me when it happened.

Contrast Review Screenshot Wallpaper Puppet Show

Contrast’s story, whilst clichéd, does help to smooth over some of the more rough edges of the game. The majority of the voice actors are great with the notable exception of Didi who’s lines seem to be heavily disjointed between sentences. The music is quite good, suiting  the art deco environment aptly. Whilst it might not have the depth of other indie titles it certainly has a little bit of charm to it with everyone being able to identify with the idea of giving someone a second chance.

Contrast Review Screenshot Wallpaper The Final Climb

Contrast is a unique concept, filled with brilliant ideas that are unfortunately hindered by a less than ideal execution. The story, music and scenery are all above average, crafting a whimsical art deco world that’s incredibly delightful. However the core game mechanics suffer from inconsistent behaviour and glitchy collision detection turning the otherwise novel idea of moving through shadows into a laborious experience. Lovers of indie puzzlers will find a lot to enjoy in Contrast however I think that’s the limit of its appeal, at least in its current state.

Rating: 7.0/10

Contrast is available on PC, PlayStation3, PlayStation4 and Xbox360 right now for $14.99, $14.99, $21.49 and $14.99 respectively. Game was played on the PC with 3 hours of total play time and 68% of the achievements unlocked.

Myth Confirmed: Ball Lightning is Real.

There’s a lot of observed phenomena in the world which the only evidence we have of it occurring is from numerous first hand accounts. Whilst these can make for interesting stories, potentially leading to scientific theories to explain said phenomena, the plural of anecdote isn’t data and unfortunately that means they’re rarely the subject of rigorous study. However sometimes serendipity strikes and the right people just happen to be in the right place with the right equipment to capture solid proof of a phenomena, solidifying all those anecdotes with a solid scientific narrative.

And today we now have proof that ball lightning exists:

The video might not look like much but it’s a combination of high-speed video (the little ball on the left) and a spectrograph that details the composition of the spectra coming off the light source. This video was made possible by the fact that Chinese researches were at the Qinghai Plateau to observe regular old cloud to ground lightning and just so happened to catch a ball lightning event in action. The spectrograph allowed them to determine the composition of the ball as well and it closely matched that of soil. This is the first supporting evidence we have of the theory that ball lightning is actually vaporized silicon from the soil as the element, when heated, does seem to act an awful lot like ball lightning.

Interestingly though this only gives credence to one reported type of ball lightning as there have been reports of other types, specifically ones that move horizontally and others that don’t touch the ground at all. Considering how long it took us just to get this observation I wouldn’t be holding my breath to see the other types confirmed any time soon but this does open up the possibility of more research being done in the area. If anything it shows that some weird, random phenomena that have been reported elsewhere might be worth investigation, even if its just to confirm or deny that they exist.

Quantum Generation Responds to The Refined Geek.

I try my best to maintain some of the principles of journalistic integrity as even a writer with a small audience has sway over the opinions of others. Thus, even though this is my personal blog and I can adhere to almost any rules I choose, I try to lay my biases out on the table, reference original research when possible and, when I’m delving into the realm of opinion and hearsay, I endeavour to make you aware of it. Whilst I’ve rarely had to revisit a post based on new information there have been a precious few that have warranted further investigation in light of new evidence and one such article was my criticism of the claims Quantum Generation had made in an email to me.

For the uninitiated the whole saga began early last year when the CEO of Quantum Generation, Arthur Fahy, sent me an email making some rather extraordinary claims about a motor that he had created. I initially responded with heavy handed scepticism, figuring that it was just another elaborate free energy scam, and thought that would be as far as it would go. What followed was an email exchange whereby Arthur revealed more and more information to me, pulling me deeper into the story and made me wonder just what exactly had happened. In the end I wrote the post and figured that would be the end of it, the final nail in a conversation that had entertained me for so long.

I was utterly wrong and the truth is far more interesting than the story that Arthur first told me.

Below is a 14 point response from Arthur Fahy in regards to my blog post:

In reply to your comments on your blog
1. I acknowledge and accept that neither of the university reports makes any reference to free energy or over unity. This was not discussed with either university or the Tech voucher Program. As previously stated the motor unofficially recorded an efficiency of 148%, as it only ran at that efficiency for approximately five minutes before it collapsed, the reading could not be made official. An efficiency of 148% is extremely high so the test would need to be repeated to reaffirm the reading. Since the collapsed motor could not be re started, the reading could not be included in the official report.

All associated UNSW testing equipment was checked for faults and none could be found. So I believe it is very feasible that the 148% was correct though under the circumstance still unofficial.

Graphs and data from both universities along with results from years of R&D show positive unique characteristics and I strongly believe it is possible to replicate the 148% or similar, hence the need to raise further funds to build and test a new motor based on all our data at hand.

The present motor under test is already achieving results that make it stand out.

2. Full detailed reports are not publicly available as the technology is still in development and confidential at this stage. It’s quite normal for a company researching new technology to protect its intellectual property.

Furthermore, the terms and conditions of the report clearly state, in part “Any use of this report, in part or in its entirety or use of names of entities or consultants, in direct or indirect advertising or publicity, is forbidden”. So again, the reports are confidential as per the terms and conditions of the report itself.

3. I have attached a photo of a Quantum Generation motor under test in a laboratory at the UNSW.

4. I have attached an edited copy of the Wollongong University report cover and first page, validating both that the testing was in fact carried out and that the work was conducted through the NSW Government Trade and Investment Tech Voucher program as I have previously stated.

5. I have also included photographs of a letter from Professor Vic Ramsden (UTS,CSIRO) showing when it all started. Unfortunately Vic passed away. I wish he was still around for he was brave, not many academics will get involved in this sort of research because they are fearful that their reputation will be blemished. I can understand that.

6. The illustration of patent drawings of a generator shown in the patent office document that you have shown on your blog bears no resemblance whatsoever to the motor that we are working on today.

7. We have no web presence because we are just concentrating on R&D, not really marketing anything.

8. The company Quantum Generation Pty. Ltd. has an ACN number (Australian Company Number). This nomenclature was later changed by ASIC to ABN (Australian Business Number) for all subsequently registered companies.

9. The de registration notice for the company was posted because a late lodgement fee was not paid on time. Since the company fundamentally does not trade this was a small oversight. The fee was paid and it is registered again.

10. Puthoff mentioned $billions when the motor ran at over unity and not before.

11. I appreciate that NASA are using photons to pull a vehicle through the vacuum and that they put power into the device. They are extracting energy (photons) from the vacuum which says that there is energy in the vacuum that can be extracted. The efficiency of extraction is the key. There are also magnetic waves in the vacuum. The reference merely makes the link that energy can be drawn from the air around us that we live in.

12. Cole and Puthoff (1993) verified that (generic) energy extraction schemes are not contradictory to the laws of thermodynamics. Perlmutter and Schmidt received a Nobel prize in 2011 for discovering that ubiquitous Dark Energy (vacuum) is causing the accelerating expansion of the universe. One of the members of the Nobel prize winning team Prof. Tamara Davis stated “one day we may be able to harness this energy on earth for the benefit of mankind”.

13. CP813,Space Technology and Applications International Forum STAIF 2006, American Institute of Physics 0-7354-0305-035

14. We are carrying out legitimate research and have purposely chosen to use the facilities of a number of Universities for testing the motor so as to optimize the accuracy of test results.

I’ll leave most of these points up to consideration for the reader however in response to a couple:

  • Point 1 affirms my position that the over 100% efficiency results were likely spurious and not repeatable although Arthur seems intent on staying firm to the idea that it’s achievable. However, as I’ll discuss in more detail later, the line “the present motor under test is already achieving results that make it stand out” may in fact have an element of truth to it.
  • Point 11 makes the mistake of confusing the reaction mass with energy as QVPTs still require a power source in order to generate thrust, they just don’t need to bring any reaction mass with them. Additionally this phenomenon only works in a vacuum and would not work in our atmosphere.


Above is the picture referenced in point 3 and I can confirm that from the EXIF data it was taken somewhat recently. It definitely looks like a motor although I’ll admit I’m not terribly familiar with the testing apparatus that it’s connected to. Suffice to say based on this I was convinced that Arthur had indeed created something (the image didn’t appear in any reverse image searches) but whether or not it was what he was claiming it to be was still up in the air at this point.

I sat on this information for a while, mostly because I wanted to dedicate a decent amount of time to this write up. A couple weeks after receiving this response from Arthur I received another email from someone identifying themselves as Darell wanting to speak to me regarding Quantum Generation. I was intrigued, figuring it might be an interested party or an investor Arthur had approached, so I called him on the number provided. As it turns out Darell was in fact an investor in Quantum Generation and had been for quite some time.

As it turns out Quantum Generation, whilst being the brain child of Arthur Fahy, does in fact have quite the number of investors. Darell mentioned that they were mostly friends and family of Arthur who were funding his idea due to the potential applications it might have. Now that my curiosity was piqued I went to ASIC and bought the company’s share register and verified that there are dozens of investors, Darell being among them. Arthur, as the CEO, holds the majority of the stock however.

The story I was able to get from Darell was in a similar vein to that of Arthur however he was a little bit more level headed about the motor and what its potential capabilities were. He was able to confirm that it had been tested at a couple different universities using the Tech Voucher program and that work had been under way on it for several years. I pressed him several times for contacts at the universities in question and, during that phone conversation, he echoed Arthur’s points about no one wanting to publicly put their name against it. A few weeks later though I received a contact name from him for a research fellow at the University of Wollongong and I approached them with a few questions regarding Quantum Generation.

Below are my questions and his responses:

1. Did Quantum Generation provide you with a motor for testing? If so what kind of testing did they contract you to do?

Quantum Generation provided only their motor to UOW for testing. The nature of the testing involved UOW implementing a computer controlled current source to energise the motor and to test the efficiency of the motor under various operating conditions.

2. What was the outcome of the testing you conducted?

The outcome of the testing resulted in an efficiency curve over a wide speed and load range, where the maximum efficiency reached 78%. The efficiency curve remained close to this value over a wide speed range, which is different to regular types of motors where their efficiency tends to significantly drop as the speed changes. It should be noted that the motor was not tested in the most optimal configuration due to a limitation of the drive system. It was concluded to re-test the motor with a suitable system.

3. Arthur Fahy had made some claims about the performance of the motor (specifically its efficiency), would your observations support the notion that it’s capable of efficiencies exceeding 100%?

The measurements and observations of the efficiency (of the motor in its current state whilst being tested at the University of Wollongong) did not exceed 78%. Therefore, the conclusions from our testing can only support a maximum efficiency of 78%.

4. Does the motor operate through a method of action that’s novel or unlike other motors?

The motor requires only DC current to operate, so quite standard from a “blackbox” point of view. However, I do believe there are aspects of novelty in the design unlike standard commercially available motors.

5. Was the device unusable after testing was completed?

The motor was not damaged during the testing at UOW and maintained full functionality at the conclusion of the tests.

Of note here is the notion that the motor maintains a similar efficiency across a wide range of speeds, something that is indeed a novel characteristic that you won’t find in typical DC motors. Arthur had alluded to this previously and Darell re-iterated it over the phone, something which got lost in the over-zealous excitement of achieving over-unity efficiency. Indeed had Arthur approached me with this I would have  been genuinely interested in the technology as a motor with those kinds of specifications would have applications in many areas. Whilst I highly doubt that there will ever be a verified over-unity reading (even though in Darell’s last email to me he mentioned that the University had agreed to build a proper controller to test a new motor thoroughly) there’s definitely something novel about this particular motor and Arthur should focus on those characteristics rather than attempting to create a free energy machine.

Have I changed my mind on investing with Quantum Generation? Well for what it’s worth there’s likely something marketable in there in the form of another DC engine that has a specific use case but it is most certainly not going to be a free energy machine. Whilst Arthur’s response to my initial post still shows his interest in pursuing that idea he’d be much better focused on improving the underlying mechanism of action and marketing the technology’s strengths rather than its spurious readings. I’m sure there’s even more information that I’m not privy to that would speak volumes to investors and so I’d recommend pressing hard for said information so you can make the right choice.

Climate Change: We’re Responsible, Simple as That.

There are few things that can get me as hot under my collar as people who flout scientific facts. Whilst I admit that I get a bit of a thrill every time someone comes on my blog to try and debate me otherwise it still saddens me that there are many people out there who are willing to disregard hard facts in favour of anecdotes and emotional arguments. When it comes to anthropogenic (read: man made) climate change I all too often find people who aren’t willing to believe that there’s resound scientific consensus on the issue, instead wanting to believe the story that there’s still on-going debate. This could not be farther from the truth as the scientific community, and more specifically the ones specializing in climate, are in such unity on the idea that only one, out of almost 10,000, disagrees:

1 out of 9136 Climate Scientists Reject Anthropogenic Climate ChangeThis picture has been doing the rounds on social media for a while now and it aptly highlights that there really isn’t an on-going debate among climate scientists about whether or not anthropogenic climate change is occurring. Still many media outlets feel compelled to provide a “balanced” story, pitting top climate scientists against celebrities, politicians and anyone else who isn’t exactly qualified to comment on where the science stands on this. Such debate thus lends credence to the idea that both are equally valid when, in fact, anyone who’s an expert in the field would say otherwise. Typically I could just write this off however a recent study from 2 universities in the USA has me very worried about how the general public is processing this information.

The report states that the number of people in the USA that flat out don’t believe climate change is happening at all has increased by 7% since the beginning of last year rising to a rather staggering 23%. Worst still they’re becoming far more stubborn about their views with many more people now saying that they’re unlikely to change their stance. The only bit of good news in there is that the majority of the USA believe climate change is happening although the percentage of those that believe its caused by us is declining.Taking the figures at face value I really was surprised to see that this was occurring but the explanation is what blew me away.

So apparently climate change deniers came up with the theory that we’re actually in a global warming “pause” as the amount of warming over the past 15 years has slowed down. Now forgetting for a second that this means they’re agreeing in principle to the idea of global warming (as you can’t say the warming has slowed without acknowledging it’s happening) taking short time slices of a phenomenon that occurs over a period of decades or centuries is a best disingenuous. We could just as easily take a similar time slice from multiple different periods to prove the opposite but instead we’ll just take the large swath of data we have that has shown an upward trend in temperatures that strongly correlates with the amount of carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere.

I know I’m preaching the the choir here but the mental gymnastics I’d have to go through to believe this kind of tripe befuddles me. Sure I can understand that when faced with problems this large with such huge consequences rational thought processes tend to shut down but it’s really not that difficult to take ownership of it in order to start making a positive difference. We all need to stop humouring those who harbour opinions  that not only fly in the face of science but also prove to be extremely damaging to the rest of the world. The longer we entertain the idea that we need a balanced debate about things like this the worse the problem will get and I won’t feel at all good about saying “I told you so” when all of Australia’s beaches are underwater.


Japan to Test “Electrodynamic Tether” in Space.

Ever since getting things into orbit became a routine task the amount of stuff we’ve left floating around us in space has increased exponentially. Typically the debris that surround us are made up of the upper stages of rockets, disused satellites that can’t/won’t de-orbit for some time and, worst of all, innumerable other bits of miscellanea that are the result of things crashing into each other. This is the beginnings of a terrible self inflicted disease called Kessler Syndrome whereby the lower orbits are so littered with junk that launching anything becomes nigh on impossible, save for some drastic changes in technology. Thus it’s in our best interests to come up with some workable solutions to this issue and the engineers at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have come up with a very interesting solution.

Debris Orbiting EarthWhilst most of the debris surrounding Earth will eventually  make its way back down the time frame in which it will do so varies from years to centuries. Since the orbits are unstable it’s likely that they’ll change drastically over time and this means that the chance that they will collide with another bit of debris increases quite dramatically. This is the real crux of the issue as collisions of this nature create much more debris than their individual parts alone (it is also why all the collective space faring nations were a rather pissed at China for testing their anti-satellite missile). Whilst there’s not much we can do for the numerous small bits of debris orbiting Earth there’s a lot we can do for a specific type of space junk, specifically the upper stages of rockets, and this is what JAXA’s latest development targets.

The team at JAXA’s Innovative Technology Research Center have devised what they’re calling an electrodynamic tether to help combat the space debris issue. It consists of a small space craft, one could imagine something of cubesat size, that attaches to a large piece of debris via a long electrically conductive tether. Then, by virtue of the fact that Earth has a magnetic field and the tether is conductive, Lorentz forces then act to drag the two satellites back down to Earth. It’s a rather ingenious way of getting the junk to deorbit as it doesn’t rely on carrying massive amounts of propellant, making the craft infinitely smaller and far more efficient. It might only tackle a specific subset of the debris in space but their calculations show that this should be enough to prevent a runaway Kessler syndrome situation.

Probably the coolest thing about it, at least for me, was the preferred way of attaching the tether to the target. They have explored some regular options, namely coasting up to the craft and attaching it with a robotic arm, but since their targets are going to be the usually thin walled upper stages of craft they’re instead opting for a harpoon that will penetrate the hull of the craft. So in the future we could have a swarm of harpoon carrying cubesats orbiting us, ensuring that any large bit of space junk is brought to the fiery demise it so rightly deserves.

Of course this doesn’t mean the problem is completely solved but this could be enough of a stop gap solution whilst we figure out better ways of cleaning up our lower orbits. It’s not going to be an easy problem to solve, the energies required to get everything up there in the first place ensure that, but things like this show that there are highly efficient ways of dealing with it. All that’s required is for us to find them and, hopefully, deploy them before its too late.

Battlefield 4: This is Your Chance, Recker.

The Battlefield series of games has always felt like the more strategic brother of Call of Duty, opting for a slightly slower game pace that favours more careful, considerate play. As someone who only recently found himself enjoying this genre again it took me a while to get accustomed to this as I had gotten used to the high action spam fest, quickly unloading my entire inventory in the vague direction of where the enemy stood. At the same time Battlefield 3 demonstrated what powerful PCs were capable of with Frostbite 2 engine giving us graphics on a level that few other games had yet to achieve. Battlefield 4 feels like the organic progression of the world that its predecessor set up, offering a very similar experience that’s seen many improvements.

Battlefield 4 Review Screenshot Wallpaper Title Screen

Battlefield 4 takes place 6 years after the events of Battlefield 3 and the escalating tensions between Russia and the USA are at an all time high, threatening to turn into an all out war. At the same time Admiral Chang, a high ranking Chinese military commander, is plotting to overthrow the Chinese government in a coup d’etat. You play as Recker, a member of the special forces squad designated Tombstone, who’s attempting to return vital intel that confirms Chang’s plans. Worse still you’ve found out that should Chang succeed he’ll have the full backing of the Russian government, ensuring that large scale will come to America’s shores. Your task is stop Chang’s rise to power and avert a global scale war.

Just like its predecessor Battlefield impresses with its high standard of graphics thanks to the improvements brought by the Frostbite 3 engine.The environments certainly look and feel more alive, especially considering that nearly everything is destructible now. Indeed everything has a very cinematic feel about it as the level of graphics in game surpasses that of many others pre-rendered cut scenes. Surprisingly even though I haven’t upgraded my computer since the last Battlefield I was still able to play at extremely high settings, albeit with anti-aliasing turned off. The only time I got noticeable slow down was in some of the larger conquest maps where a good chunk of the players were all converging on one point. This is likely due to my ATI graphics card which supports the Mantle API which DICE have included support for in this new engine.

Battlefield 4 Review Screenshot Wallpaper Freedom

Battlefield 4’s campaign is, for the most part, your typical run and gun FPS although unlike most other corridor shooters there are usually several paths for you to take to achieve your objective. It is somewhat more constrained than what I previously remember which I think is partly due to the set pieces DICE chose with many more closed in spaces. Still I can recall multiple moments where I’d see multiple ways of achieving my objective, some guns blazing and others with a much more subtle approach. At the same time there are some paths that look like viable options which simply aren’t but Battlefield 4’s check pointing system is good enough that you don’t feel overly punished for experimenting once in a while.

One of the key differences between Battlefield 3 and 4 is that you now have the option to customize your load out during missions via the use of weapon crates. You don’t have access to all the weapons to begin with however, instead you’ll unlock them by achieving a certain number of points, much like you would during a multi-player game. One thing they didn’t mention, although I will admit I might have missed it, is that you also unlock weapons by picking them up off fallen enemies. This was particularly frustrating for me as since I was favouring a sniper rifle there weren’t any upgrades unlocked through the points system (at least none I can remember) and I only lucked out on an upgrade when I accidentally picked one up. That was when I found out of the 2 different ways of unlocking weapons, something I would’ve liked to have known about a lot earlier.

Battlefield 4 Review Screenshot Wallpaper War is Hell

There’s also a rudimentary stealth system incorporated for some reason and it takes after the Splinter Cell way, showing you a little bar that’s pointing in the direction of the person who can see you. Once it flashes that means they’ve detected you and will alert everyone in that section to your location. Whilst you can get a whole bunch done by taking out enemies stealthily it’s quite obvious that the game doesn’t expect you to do this as you can be right in front of someone and still not break stealth. Additionally there’s no way to reset back to a state where the enemies no longer know where you are, even if you manage to escape without them being able to see you. Honestly it would have probably been better to leave that system out altogether and do the stealth bits via cut scene as it doesn’t really add much to the game overall.

The story of Battlefield 4 is a really mixed experience as there are moments which could have been quite amazing however I just didn’t have the emotional investment in the characters required to make said moments possible. This might also be a function of this genre’s inability to get away from the clichéd plot of America (FUCK YEAH) vs the world as whilst it makes for some intense action and drama it does not make for a deep and engrossing plot. Still I can’t say I was bored during any of it and the length was extended slightly above its predecessors which was honestly just a tad too short. One part where it really fell down however was the ending as I can never give a game props for using the Endotron 3000 to give you multiple different endings.

Battlefield 4 Review Screenshot Wallpaper Dam Busters

However the multiplayer retains that larger than life feeling that I only seem to get from Battlefield games. The new large conquest maps are an absolute joy to play and the chaos that ensues from having a 32 on 32 battle is really hard to beat. It can be a little daunting coming into a game like this so many months after it’s been out as everyone has levelled up way past you but once you find the class that fits you best it becomes quite easy to stack on a few levels and unlock some better kit to help you out. There’s enough unlocks and awards in Battlefield 4 to keep even the most adamant achievement hunter busy for months and even after spending a good 4 hours playing through the various maps I still feel like there’s a lot more to discover.

What lets down the entire experience though, and something I was rather annoyed was still present considering how late I came to Battlefield 4, was the number of crashes, bugs and glitches that plague the experience. I had the single player game crash on me numerous times, often several times during a single mission, without any rhyme or reason as to why it was happening. This continued into the multiplayer where doing certain things, actions which I assumed were part of the core game (like jumping off a tall building and parachuting the ground below) would again result in a crash. This persisted for the last 2 weeks as I stumbled my way through multiplayer and whilst it’s been fixed now (at least I didn’t have any crashes in the last couple days) DICE really needs to get their act together when bugs at that level are still persistent almost 3 months after release.

Battlefield 4 Review Screenshot Wallpaper Conquest Multiplayer

Battlefield 4 is a solid game, improving substantially on its predecessor in many respects whilst being different enough to stand on its own. The campaign is a solid 6 hours of fun, offering you a varying number of challenges that can be accomplished in many different ways. The multiplayer is, as always, larger than life and filled with so many choices that people will be theorycrafting for years as to what the best builds are for various situations. The experience was unfortunately let down by its horrendously buggy nature, something which has only just been recently fixed, but I’m glad to say that people buying the game now are coming in at a stage where it isn’t as bad as it used to be. Battlefield 4 then is well worth the price of admission, especially for long time fans of the series.

Rating: 8.75/10

Battlefield 4 is available on PC, Xbox360 , PlayStation3, XboxOne and PlayStation 4 for $79.99, $78, $78 , $98 and $98 respectively. Game was played on the PC with 6 hours on the campaign and 4 hours on multiplayer.