Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Occasionally, I'll stumble across an interesting website that I can share with all of you here at "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold," but I must admit, my latest find was like discovering the "Lost Dutchman's Mine". Titled "GROUND ZERO" it was produced by a mysterious, shadowy figure known simply as, "Carlos", at a place called appropriately enough, "Carlos Labs". Basically, what this site does is allow you to pick your city and then your weapon of choice, ranging from the first nuclear warhead ever detonated (the famous "Little Boy" 15 kiloton bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima) all the way up to to infamous "Chicxulub Impact" that wiped out the dinosaurs. NEAT!

So off I went to Carlos' laboratory to see what effect these various instruments of destruction would have on "yer fair City of Pittsburgh". As Chuck Noll might have said after seeing these results, "Pittsburgh has many problems and they are great." I encourage you to try it out for yourself so that you can see how bad your neighborhood gets it.

ABOVE: Nutjob Kim Jong Il of North Korea is a known Steeler-hater. Chances of the Burgh getting nuked are therefore very high.

After blowing up Pittsburgh with a number of different bombs, I got to thinking, "What type of a person designs something like this, and why?" So I set off an an international pursuit of the elusive "Carlos". When I finally tracked him down, he was in Sydney, Australia!  Can you imagine how much this story has already cost me to produce? But for you loyal readers of "P.B. & G.", you deserve only the best since you pay so dearly for access to this blog site!

ABOVE: A simulation of a 1961 vintage Russian warhead striking, of all places, New York City.

Carlos was very squirmy about answering some of my more personal  questions, but here now is my interview with international reclusive programmer "Carlos". By the way, for those of you who right now are thinking this is a joke, well it's not!

"P.B. & G.": (courteously) So tell me a little about yourself. What is your full name?

CARLOS: I will omit answering personal questions. I'm sure you will understand my point of view.

"P.B. & G." (miffed): Are you, or have you ever heard of the infamous "Carlos the Jackal"?

CARLOS: As I said, I will omit answering questions of a personal nature.

LEFT: File photo of famous international terrorist Carlos "The Jackal". He looks nothing like Carlos of Carlos Labs, so I can only assume that he is either A) Not Carlos "The Jackal" or B) He has had a successful face transplant.

"P.B. & G" (pounding table): What is Carlos Labs and what other clandestine projects are you working on?

CARLOS: (now shaking in fear) Carlos Labs is the result of my experiences in business and systems development-. I reached a point where the 9 to 5 jobs did not satisfy my personal expectations. At that point, I quit a well-paid job as data team leader in one of Australia's major banks, and started building the concept of a small consulting firm. Having my partner working in a full-time job has definitely helped me balance the stress of a consultancy and the normal debts of a household, with the moral satisfaction of working on my own terms.

At the moment, I am working on two commercial projects and at the same time two private "Carlos Labs Open Source" prototypes that might be released before the end of the year.

"P.B. & G.": I know that you won't tell me the name of your school, but what is your educational background?

CARLOS: I completed a B.Sc in Computer Science in the early nineties, with systems architecture and databases as majors. I also had the opportunity of receiving training in graphic design and pre-press management--all these skills have somehow been jumbled together in Carlos Labs: be it in website management, bespoke projects or database integration.

"P.B. &. G.": What led you to design something as bizarre as "Ground Zero"?

CARLOS: My son (at that time seven years old) asked me about it after watching the "Crystal Skull" episode of "Indiana Jones", in which a nuclear weapons test in shown. He then asked me about the effects on us if a bomb exploded over Sydney, and at some point I got the idea for creating a mash-up using Google Maps and some background data. The result was the first version of "Ground Zero".

This explains the "sparse" user interface.of the application and the simplicity of the concepts--it was designed from the ground up to be used by school children and educators.

"P.B.& G.": Where did you acquire the information as to the severity of each weapon?

CARLOS: The U.S government has published extensive information about weapons testing during the Cold War, and some of the basic principles of nuclear weapons design are freely available in the public domain. Most of the background data comes from: - Wikipedia- Federation of American Scientists- and Google. 

"P.B. & G.": How long did it take you to design "Ground Zero"?

CARLOS: A couple of days for the first prototype; with one week for the final, revised mashup. The second version, "Ground Zero II" had several extras from a "wish list" produced with some great ideas that came as feedback for the first version.

"P.B. & G.": There is rampant speculation in the U.S. that on Dec. 21, 2012 (the end of the Mayan Calendar) that there could be a shifting of the magnetic poles. Do you think you could design something that would show the effect that the ocean change would have around the world? It would really be fascinating to be able to dial up your city and find out if you'll be under water or not!

CARLOS: There is an application that tells you if your city / suburb will be underwater as an effect of global warming - FloodMaps is a fantastic idea that I wish I had thought of earlier... Being a skeptic myself, I find it extremely improbable that the world will come to an end in 2012. I do believe that a cataclismic event could wipe out civilisation (i.e,Indian Ocean Tsunami, Chicxulub Asteroid, Global Warming etc.), but I also believe that nuclear weapons (and rogue governments) have a much greater chance of ending the world as we know it. The fact that the Cold War is no longer a reality does not diminish the risks of nuclear weapons...

After thanking Carlos for the interview, and satisfied that he was not Carlos "The Jackal", I boarded my Qantas jet and headed back to the states. But my brain was now aflame with ideas about how a post-nuclear or asteroid-type event would affect the two most important things of all, the Steelers and the NFL! 

Tomorrow: Part II: A ground-breaking study on life "after the big one".


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