David Hamilton


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Could we orbit a telescopic satellite 1 light hour above the earth, and use it to zoom in on crimes, after the fact?

Just an odd thought... I assume it would be too far to get a clear image... but we are getting much better at that sort of thing...

Could we see if someone was really defending themselves in an infrared shot? A getaway vehicle? Or, is that too far to have any predictable orbit or make out something so small?

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    Jan 30 2013: You're idea requires information to travel faster than the speed of light.

    Let's say a crime taking place somewhere on earth. We send a signal to the telescope to zoom in on that area. The signal we send to the telescope will take an hour to arrive as it can't travel faster than the speed of light. Therefore you can't record or watch an incident from before you sent the signal.
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      Jan 30 2013: For some reason I thought you could use infrared to communicate with the satellite, slightly faster than visible light... but now i'm pretty sure that's not true... Luckily it's not necessary. The flaw in my concept is the "light hour"... We don't need to have time to reposition the camera... We need a camera that is always taking a multi trillion point of light image of Los Angeles (or other crime ridden city)... all the time.. Then we can zoom into a part of that image with programming... After the fact. Good call though, that was a glaring, and obvious miscalculation on my part. Should have spent a bit more time thinking this out before i posted.
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        Jan 30 2013: When we say speed of light it means the speed of electromagnetic waves, which includes infrared. Nevertheless no signal can travel faster than this speed.

        Basically what you are suggesting is surveillance everywhere. Many before you have suggested this idea and you do not need to travel into space to do so. But as much as it would lower crime rate I do not think it is a desirable idea to pursue.
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          Jan 31 2013: Like most things, it would be perfectly fine if people were... yeah, I don't know why for some reason I thought higher wavelength light moved faster last night... just pure brain fart.

          Actually though... what I'm saying is a bit less intrusive. It would be absolutely impossible to view a photo of Los Angeles 24/7... and incredibly inefficient... The warrant system, however, would not be. If you have suffiecient evidence of a serious crime in a given time and area, you could ask for permission to view that area, specifically for that crime. Anything else you see would be inadmissable.

          Obviously, you could do it the super creepy way too, and many governments would prefer that... but this would be much simpler. Ultimately though, yes, I'm just suggesting surveillance of major cities... after the fact. Keep it illegal to look in on people, make it legal to see what happened on the street when shots were fired.

          And of course in my science fiction novel "Thank god we learned to communicate with high speed lasers, so we can view the past" : p
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    Jan 30 2013: wow, that idea so does not work for many reasons. you didn't do any research, did you?

    first thing to research is how long is one light hour
    second thing to research is how far the earth from the sun, and which planet is 1lh far
    third thing to research is what is the highest orbit around the earth (hill sphere)
    fourth thing to research is what spatial resolution would the most advanced telescope has, from it's angular resolution and the distance

    in short: nope.
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      Jan 30 2013: Yup... Didn't even think about it for 2 minutes before posting... just knew something about it was impossible, and something about it was interesting. Impossible... both the orbit concept, and the concept of communicating with something faster than the light on earth changes.

      Interesting... Our cameras are so good, and record so much information now, that you can use programs to actually zoom into their images, after the fact... So, it doesn't need to be a light hour away... It just needs to be taking the most detailed photo of Los Angeles (or whatever city it is designed for), every second... then law enforcement can zoom into the time and place of the crime, after the fact... and possible see a vehicle.

      Infrared for determining self defense is probably still a dream, especially on multi floor buildings... but moore's law + great optics, and you never know.
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    Feb 7 2013: It will be far cheaper planting RFID chips on every human being and pets in a community and have the movements traced for as long as the server can handle. Downside is: you sacrifice privacy.
    In modern societies, we do leave electronic traces of our activities by swiping credit cards, using biometric entries, getting captured in surveillance cameras.
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    Feb 6 2013: Cool concept.1 light/houre would be way out of orbit though.
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    Feb 3 2013: Hi David

    I believe this is what you are looking for:

    Although I understand the need for surveillance, I believe the resources would be better spent preventing crime.
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    Jan 31 2013: couldn't you achieve your desired outcome by simply having solar powered self contained cameras that record a continuous loop. (like a solar powered go-pro). Then when a crime is reported the authorities just download the loops from cameras in the area. I hope I haven't just given the government a scary idea.
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      Feb 1 2013: Yeah... Just thought the big one time cost might still be cheaper than going the London route, and less invasive.
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        Feb 1 2013: Soon we'll all have our own personal surveillance drones that fly around us 24/7 just in case something happens. Sort of like automated twitter really.
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    Jan 31 2013: So, David, what is the charter of Foolish Marketing Solutions? Is this post an experiment?
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      Jan 31 2013: Naw, just goofing off... Knew something was impossible about this idea, and assumed I wouldn't find the direct answer on twitter/facebook etc. figured i'd let some bright people tear into me. Foolish Marketing Solutions, is just a little pet project... Offline viral marketing for small businesses I believe in.

      Basically, I decided to try promoting local businesses, the way you would a concert, fight, politician, or non profit in LA... Venice Beach, concerts, and Public Events. I have an electric motorcycle shop, and small electric skateboard company I work with, but it's barely in infancy. I think I listed myself founder and CEO to remind me to kick my ass.

      The truth is the business model I've designed is viral, so even if my company hits it big I don't own anything. It's like a pyramid scheme, without the pyramid. Promotions are codes, or coupons, which provide physical evidence of a product sold. Each salesman has his own code, and gets paid directly by the vendor. The benefit I get for recruiting and training, is a ground team that can get me more, and bigger clients, and the satisfaction of teaching someone how to support themselves... I work off the same commission as everyone else only when someone uses my sales code.

      Unfortunately people who want to buy motorcycles, don't want electric ones... People who want electric vehicles, don't want motorcycles... and the skateboard is a really awesome toy/vehicle... that kids have to buy for themselves with a job a 16, cus parents aren't that crazy : p

      Suffice to say, I'm not really in position to teach someone else to support themselves yet... but it's a fun side project, that will hopefully be my full time income some day. Has nothing to do with ted though, and i considered doing things on the internet like everyone else, but I like being outside... I like concerts and events. If I can keep it analog I'm going to.
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        Jan 31 2013: Thanks for the bio. I'll bet Wozniak and Jobs voiced lamentations in the infancy of assembling their hairbrained idea. Keep it real dude!
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    Gail .

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    Jan 30 2013: Theoretically, if you had the right telescope and the right cloudless day, yes. That's what Einstein said, anyhow. We don't look at the sun as it exists today. We see only what it was like 8 minutes ago. For some stars, it's millions and billions of years ago. Betelgeuse, which is 640 light years away might already have exploded. 640 light years ago, it was getting ready to do so.

    It would have to be some POWERFUL (as yet non-existent) telescope to see a human crime in the making in his future and your past.
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    Jan 30 2013: Let's assume that the camera technology will exist someday, because it probably will. However, one light-hour from earth is somewhere out around the orbit of Uranus, so it couldn't be made to orbit the Earth. Even Mars is within five light-minutes of Earth, so using cameras to look into the past is going to be problematic.
  • Jan 30 2013: Okay there are real physical / physics limitations on many good ideas.
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      Jan 30 2013: I assumed this was the case... Just curious what they are. The light we detect from hubble was made to appear dramatically more precise through the use of an algorithm I believe... How good is it? Will Moore's law get us there?
  • Jan 30 2013: Very unpractical. Just imagine the tremendous precision it would require just to keep track of earth, not considering it would only see, at most, half of the planet at any given time, other factors like clouds, storms and other atmospheric perturbations would hide wide areas. And the light reaching that satellite, I think, it would be too dim to get any details. Besides it would take at least one hour to send the commands for any required adjustments.
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      Jan 30 2013: Ahh yes... I was considering an orbit above major cities for example... but, the sun is only 8 light minutes away, so an orbit around earth farther away than that would be impossible. Would require 32 satellites... minimum... Pretty insane... better for sci fi than science.
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        Jan 30 2013: But I, for one, am delighted you are back with your ideas and have been wondering whether you were busy putting some of your more viable projects in motion.
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          Jan 31 2013: Thanks for that Fritzie. I miss a few of you guys too. I'm just getting too far off the beaten path to post in political debates now, and that's my favorite stuff talk about, so I've got to find another home for my ramblings. Writing more fiction at the moment.

          If you thought any of my projects were viable, and you know people with drive, tell them to go for it. I'm probably gonna end up living in a forest or a desert somewhere without internet, someone might as well use them, lol.
      • Jan 30 2013: At such distance, I don't think "oribit" (or more accurately spinning around the earth ) is a viable idea, just consider the tremendous speed a satellite like that should travel, at 1 hour light it would have to go at about 100 MILLION miles an hour in order to keep looking at a fixed point on earth, I don't know how much energy it would require, but I'm certain it is a veeeeeery huge amount, and at such distance I don't think there are any fuel stations, and options like solar panels won't provide even a small fraction of it, so how would you keep a continuous supply of fuel for such rocket???, how much would it cost???, who's going to pay for it???

        There are other problems, like: the size of the orbit which in rough numbers is about 2 BILLION miles, so even if the satellite is the size of a base ball, there is a big chance for a collision with something big enough to destroy it... so how would you keep it safe???

        So if the optical technology for such a project existed, a much better idea, from my point of view would be a set of several of such satellites located at "geo-static" locations...

        One last problem: suppose the satellite informs you about a crime that happened 1 hour ago... no wait... the signal takes 1 hour to travel from the satellite to earth so actually the crime happened 2 hours ago... enough time for any criminal to leave the city.
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          Jan 31 2013: Yup completely impossible, didn't even look up how many light minutes away from the sun we were, there would not be gravity to support an orbit. I just came up with this after hearing about the new next gen telescope and programming NASA is working on, which could in essence re focus an image, after the picture was taken... and at the same time thinking about a short story where humans send a faster than light speed craft away from us with a camera, so we can remotely view the past.

          So I just thought... Combine them... Even though the first actually makes the second completely unnecessary.

          As to time though... I wasn't expecting it to be perfect, just give you what cars were in the area when shots went off... etc. Bits and pieces. Geostatic locations are the way to go.
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        Jan 30 2013: more things to look up:

        - orbital velocity and orbital period as functions of radius
        - orbit types and their characteristics (especially geosynchronous and geostationary)
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          Jan 31 2013: The concept of orbit at 1 light hour was just bonkers... didn't think about how close the sun is in light time. It won't even feel our gravity. Geosynchronous (that's the one which maintaines the exact speed of the earth right?), pointed at static dense population centers, taking enourmous data pictures, which could then be subpoenaed, in portion, by law enforcement provided they have compelling evidence a crime was commited... would actually just make sense... but i'm sure they're already working on it, and you won't need a subpoena, or warrant, etc, they'll just pay people to watch us : p
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        Jan 31 2013: In my experience, David, those of us who are kind of "different" can often do a lot of good through unique sorts of creative interventions in the status quo- the "what is someone like you doing in a place like this?" situations. You have to decide its important enough, though, and situate yourself where you believe you can make a difference.

        It can be stressful, and I totally understand the off-the-grid, in the woods pull.
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          Feb 1 2013: I'm not a very stressed out person. I'm just non violent, so I can't really make money in "polite" society. If you're not going to play the game, and make a living, there's not really much for you in cities.
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        Feb 1 2013: I'm not violent or competitive either. What I meant is that trying to change things that just aren't right often means swimming upstream alone, which can be stressful and doesn't feel worth it to a lot of people. I have tended to do that sort of thing, speak truth to power as it were, because I can't just stand by and watch.
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          Feb 6 2013: You're not just standing and watching... You're contributing your energy and taxes... Have done so for your entire life. Society, culture, government, community... whatever you want to call it... It is the mechanism through which violent psychopaths, use fear and sex, to manipulate good men and women into commiting horrifc murders. The only solution, is for people to stop contributing. There is nothing to fear, except the violent nutjobs who believe they have the right to govern you. If something was good, it would not require forced participation.
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        Feb 6 2013: So you don't see, then, how one could do more good than harm by working for something worthwhile?