TV Review: Battlestar Galactica

The reimagined Battlesta Galactica aired beginning in 2003 with a miniseries and continuing for four season.  In this series, the Cylons (a race of sentient robots, originally designed and constructed by humans) attack the human race after a 40-year armistice between the Cylons and the humans.  The Cylons, using nuclear weapons and devious tactics, destroy the Twelve Colonies and chase after any fleeing humans in an attempt to utterly destroy the human race.  The namesake of the series, the Battlestar Galactica (a military carrier and relic of the Cylon War), evades the attacks in the midst of its decommisioning ceremony and puts together a haphazard fleet of survivors and spend the rest of the series running for their lives from the Cylons.

This show takes an interesting look at what it would be like to survive an apocalyptic event both on a post-nuclear holocaust world as well as fleeing through space.  While most of the show focuses on who is and isn’t a Cylon and spirals further into this whirlpool as the show progresses, it actually addresses some of the issues that would be encountered in these situations. 

There’s a whole episode that focuses on how essential water is to survival and how finding it in space would be like trying to find a needle in an infinite haystack.  The President of the Colonies keeps a white board in her office with an up to date tally of the population of the fleet and it really hits home how desperate the situation is for them every time that number goes down.  Eventually, the counter starts to go back up and you feel like they’ve finally arrived.  They aren’t grasping the proverbial precipice for dear life anymore and they might actually re-establish human civilization.

Throughout most of the first season, one of the Galactica’s pilots is stranded on Caprica – one of the nuked colonies – and we follow him as he evades Cylon patrols, radiation sickness, and tries to survive long enough to figure out how the hell he’s going to survive.  Basically, the ultimate survival story.

As they transition from the initial survival stage into a maintenance and rebuild stage, they address the issue of what you do to keep things working without specialists or proper resources.  How do you replenish a squadron of pilots when all the trained military pilots are already flying in said squadron?  What do you do with prisoners that commited crimes under a government that no longer exists?  How do you deal with overcrowding?  What happens when your highly efficient spaceships start to run out of their seemingly endless supply of fuel?

All in all it’s a good series, and it gives a good perspective on what life in the P.A.W. would be like.  Just don’t get disappointed when the show goes bat-sh*@ crazy in the last couple seasons.

How to Pick a Pin Tumbler Lock

DISCLAIMER: The following is highly dangerous or illegal and it is not recommended to be used under any circumstances, except zombies.

In a P.A.W., there is potentially going to be a whole lot of empty buildings with no owners around.  These buildings will be treasure troves of supplies, tools, and shelter, but the more goodies inside a building, the more likely it is to be guarded by locks, barred windows, and thick doors.  The easiest way to gain access to this stuff is just simply break the door or a window or something like that, but that may not always be convenient or the best approach.  To take a scenario from the UK series Survivors, say you come across an inventory depot for a grocery store chain (a warehouse where all the inventory for a number of stores is stored until they need it).  It’s locked up tighter than a drum with serious security (steel doors, deadbolt locks, barbed wire fences, no windows, etc.).  If you happen to find a pickable lock (and you can pick locks) you could get into the building without permanently ruining the security – meaning you can stay there and keep all the supplies inside away from everyone else’s grubby little hands.

How a Pin and Tumbler Lock Works

Cross Section of a Lock

Take a look at any key you have in your pocket.  The shaft of the key is a series of peaks and valleys.  Each of the peaks coincides with a pin inside the lock.

Every lock has a series of pins of varying lengths.  Each pin is divided into two pieces, the top halves all being the same length and the bottom half being the excess length.  If the wrong key (or no key) is inserted into the barrel, the pins prevent the barrel from being turned.  If the appropriate key is placed into the barrel, the pins will line up so that the top portion is perfectly outside the barrel, and the bottom portion is perfectly inside the barrel – allowing the barrel to turn freely inside the lock (and thereby locking or unlocking the door).

Picking Locks with Lockpicking Tools

A Tension Wrench

A lockpicking set (at its most basic) consists of a tension wrench and a pick.  The tension wrench is a strong, thin piece of metal with a 90 degree bend at one end.  As the name implies it needs to be strong enough to withstand a little tension.

The pick can take on any number of shapes.  A masterful locksmith or lockpicker might be able to tell you the benefits of using one pick over another or what benefit different shaped picks have, but for our purposes you only need a simple half-diamond pick.  This is the most versatile pick in any kit and the one pick to have if you only have one.  The half-diamond pick is a straight pick with a triangle-shaped peak at the end of the pick.  The half-diamond pick is used to trigger each pin individually.

A number of lock picks

Insert the short end of the tension wrench into the bottom of the lock and apply a little bit of pressure.  The idea is to create enough force to create a misalignment in the barrel, but not enough to grip the pin and not allow it to move freely in the pinhole.  Finding the right amount of pressure is a trial and error endeavor and you’ll get a better feel for it the more you practice.

Insert your pick into the top of the keyhole and feel your way back to a pin.  I prefer to start at the back and move my way forward.  This gives you an opportunity to count the pins on the way back.  Once you find the pin you are trying to trigger, push it up slowly.  You will feel a faint click from the pin.  This click is the top portion of the pin leaving the barrel, allowing the break in the pin to align with the break between the barrel and the rest of the lock.  Since you’re applying pressure to the barrel, when that break alignment occurs, the barrel will twist ever so slightly, causing a misalignment in the pinhole which forms a lip that the upper portion of the pin will rest on.  You’ll do this pin by pin until all the pins are resting on this lip.  At this point, what you’ve essentially done is simulated inserting the key into the lock and the barrel will freely rotate, unlocking the door.

Alternatively, you can use a rake pick (which looks similar to a saw) to pick locks, if you aren’t so good at picking locks yet.  Just making a sawing motion back and forth until the barrel rotates freely.  This won’t work for every lock, which is why learning with a half-diamond pick is preferable.

Picking Locks with Improvised Tools

The methodology of lock picking doesn’t change, just the tools.  As difficult as lock picking can be sometimes, using improvised tools makes it that much harder.  As far as the tools go, you can use anything that you can think of to do the job.  You essentially need something that fits into the bottom of the lock that won’t bend, and something to stick in the top of the lock that will give you fine manipulation.

For a tension wrench, you could use a small flathead screwdriver, a large flathead screwdriver with the end filed down, an allen wrench with the small end filed down, etc.  The two most common items used as a pick are paperclips and bobby pins.  To use a paperclip, you just need to make a 90 degree bend very close to one end, or if you have access to needle nose pliers, make a very small loop at one end.  You don’t need to do anything with a bobby pin except to break the ball off one end.

Bumping Locks

A 6-Pin Bump Key

By far, the easiest way to “pick” a lock, but requires very little skill and no finesse.  Modern lockpicking enthusiasts frown on this practice, but in the P.A.W. nobody cares.  This may not be a feasible technique in the P.A.W. because you need a bump key, also called a 9-9-9 key, configured for the number of pins in the lock you’re trying to bump.  If you don’t have one of these ahead of time, it’s going to be close to impossible to get one after Armageddon.  A bump key is just a key with the valleys cut as deep as possible (the setting is 9, hence the 9-9-9 key) and a number of valleys equal to the number of pins in the lock.

Place the bump key all the way into the lock and the pull it out until it clicks once.  Place a bit of pressure (about the same as if you were picking the lock) on the key and then hit it with a rubber mallet.  This will force the key into the lock all the way and jolt the pins all the way up, allowing the barrel to rotate freely before they come back down, giving you free access to the other side of the door.

This won’t work on all locks, and a lot of lock companies are now marketing “bump proof” locks that make it harder to bump the locks.

Found on the Internet: How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun

I love love LOVE zombie apocalypse stuff.  Especially when it’s a well thought out experiment in design.  This guest post on The Art of Manliness falls squarely in that category.  Creek Stewart, a survival and preparedness instructor, walks us through the steps of how to modify a shotgun from a single purpose tool into an essential, multi-purpose survival tool:

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to turn my passion into my profession–this being the study of Survival and Preparedness.  I’ve always enjoyed building survival kits of all shapes and sizes.  I enjoy the challenge of fitting lifesaving survival necessities into small compact containers.  I’ve built survival kits using film canisters, candy tins, key-rings, boxes, bottles, tubes, bags and everything in-between.  For this project, I decided to build a survival kit using a shotgun platform–creating the Ultimate Survival Shotgun.  My challenge was that everything had to be included in or on the gun itself–no extra pack items or containers.  Below is what I did as well as the survival logic behind each decision.

[Arming Yourself for the Zombie Apocalypse: How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun] via [The Art of Manliness]

Found on the Internet: How Do I Tell If a Mushroom Is Safe to Eat?

Clearly, if websites were people, The Armageddon Blog would be good pals with Lifehacker.  Or at least, follow Lifehacker around all the time talking about how great of friends they are while Lifehacker tries to ignore the creepy guy following him around.  Yet again, there’s another article on Lifehacker that is relevant to the interests of this website.  If I’ve drilled one fact over any other on the site, it’s that food is probably the most important thing to your survival.  You’ll be able to scavenge food from houses and stores sometimes, but more frequently as time goes on, you’ll need to rely on nature for sustenance.  Mushrooms are one of the more prevalent foods you’ll find in a forest, but they can be potentially dangerous (more so than any other plant you’ll come across).  So how do you know which ones are safe?  Alan Henry let’s us know a few guidelines for determining this:

If you spend any time outdoors, you’ve probably seen mushrooms growing under trees or in your yard, but if you’re out camping or just enjoy foraging, here are some ways to tell if the mushroom you’re looking at is edible.

[How Do I Tell If a Mushroom Is Safe to Eat?] via Lifehacker


Doomsday Ark

Back in 2006, scientists started discussing the idea of a “Doomsday Ark.”  This proposed idea is to create a way to rebuild society should the end of the world come about.  While the idea met with skepticism in the scientific community, it has taken a foothold and was formally presented at a conference in 2008 in Strasbourg, France.

The Doomsday Ark is similar to the seed vault locked away in a mountainside in Norway, which contains seeds for every type of plant we know of so that in the post-apocalyptic world, we can regrow any lost crops.  There is also a similar vault in Great Britain that stores genetic samples for all kinds of life on Earth for the same reason.  The main difference is that the Doomsday Ark would be kept on the Moon.

The initial plan for the Ark is to house hard disks containing all of human knowledge recorded in Arabic, English, Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish.  This knowledge will contain DNA sequences, technological information, agricultural instructions, how to make metal, basically anything that could be used to rebuild civilization.

The initial Ark will last for approximately 35 years, at which time it will (hopefully) be replaced with a more advanced version that will include a synthetic atmosphere which can house living samples of plants as well as the given information from the previous incarnation of the Ark.

This is all well and good, but how do we go about accessing this information.  The plan is constant radio transmissions beamed back to Earth.  There will be roughly 4000 receiver stations that will double as supply stations that contain supplies for any survivors.  The problem here is that if these stations are publicly known, they can become the target for anarcho-terrorist groups who decide that having that knowledge would be bad.  The other problem is that these facilities will be susceptible to any disasters that may befall the planet.  However, since it is a constant broadcast and assuming it transmits in the clear, anybody with a radio can pick up the transmission and get the information.

Just another reason to have a radio on hand for the apocalypse.