Category Archives: Technology

And yet more information on hearing.

Those reading my posts often read of the marvel of the hearing experience. And yes … you guessed it – here is another interesting article. Much of my motivation in sharing these articles is due to the continuing deterioration of my own hearing. But much of my motivation is simply the fascination of learning about such a wonderful system that has been designed and engineered into our bodies.  So let’s delve into this article which shows the Intelligent Design of our hearing experience.

An excerpt from the article —



The Drum Major

Meet Daple, a protein in the inner ear. Those of us whose ears work properly can thank Daple for doing a good job when we were developing in the womb. Deep inside the cochlea of our inner ear, the robot-like Daple was guiding the construction of hair cell bundles, those important antennas that pick up fluid motions and transduce them into electrical impulses in the auditory nerve. Arranged like organ pipes, each hair cell bundle must line up properly to function. The individual hair cells have an assistant protein that puts them in their correct relative position, and another set of proteins controls the axis they need to line up on, but what brings these two functions together?

Until now, scientists did not know how these independent processes were coordinated. We can imagine the confusion of a marching band at half time without a drum major. Who directs the trumpets to go left and the tubas to go right? Who signals when things need to happen? The drum major has been found, a new paper reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and its name is — you guessed it — Daple. News from the Jackson Laboratory explains, how the band “concert” ends up playing on schedule and in tune:


There’s more in the article, and I invite you to read it.

Thanks to the VA, I have what I think is the top of the line in hearing aides and accessories to help me navigate through life’s noises, sounds and conversations. But I can tell you these gadgets are a far cry from the “original equipment.”

For example, I now have a small microphone that I can place on a table and it picks up sounds very well, and voices quite nicely. This is great for one-on-one conversations and watching TV, and a big improvement. But when there are several or more  people talking and multiple conversations, or with the TV on, all those sounds are jammed into that single microphone and transmitted to my hearing aids.  It becomes very difficult to pick up individual conversations in such a scenario, and it is work to try to do so, and it sounds like everyone is in a steel drum. So in these circumstances I soon give up trying and tune out or leave the room.

Part of the wonder of natural hearing is the ability of the natural hearing system to separate out all of these competing sounds into a pleasing pallet of sound – even that bird singing in the background outside. And I do remember those days.

I know many of you reading this have been indoctrinated for years with the idea that all this is due to Darwinian evolution – natural selection over eons of time. I might suggest to you that it is well past time to abandon such thinking. A good place to start on such a journey is with your own body and body parts, as in the article. Darwin was wrong, and so are today’s “smartest in the world” such as a Richard Dawkins. Unfortunately,   those such as Dawkins have a strangle hold in the academic world and don’t allow alternative views to enter the minds of students, or any teaching contrary to the accepted dogma.

On the other hand, those actually involved in research and development in the world of biology (as opposed to teaching) seem to be working in an environment which ignores Darwinian Evolution and embraces Intelligent Design. Much of medical research shows a design and engineering approach to the mysteries of the body.

What say you?

Don Johnson – January 2018


Hearing–The Intelligent Design


Friends of Intelligent Design are often called IDiots, and much worse. But actually, ID is a position that should be embraced by clear thinking people. It’s what we experience in ordinary life all around us as common sense observations – by the highly educated Evolutionary Biologist as well as the ‘man on the street’.

An example, among many, is the hearing phenomena most of us fortunately experience. Let me walk you through a couple of features and functions of the inner ear from my own very practical and experiential background.

The inner ear contains a couple of key components that make life not only livable, but often times extremely delightful, while failure in either of both can cause much distress. And, these features have direct analogies to several significant phases of my life which lead me to understand the validity of Intelligent Design in nature.



First is that part of the inner ear having to do with balance (see picture above). The inner ear has those semi-circular canals which monitor motion in the three-dimensional space of x/y/z and provide the body with a sense of ‘attitude’. In technical terms – roll, pitch and heading (i.e. where I’m pointing at any given milli-second). This part of our inner ear keeps us on the straight and narrow and tells us up from down and left from right when navigating this often topsy-turvy world.

For many years I worked on a system that tracked dozens of highly maneuvering and very fast fighter jets. A key component of this system was a pod, hanging on the aircraft, which contained a strap-down inertial reference system called the IRS. This IRS measured accelerations in all three axis of roll-pitch-heading, and gave the system a sense of what the aircraft was doing, and along with a geographic x/y/z position allowed inter-aircraft interaction for such things as running missile simulations between a fighter and a target.

When things were working well we had a complete capture of the training missions, both in real-time and later debrief. However, when there was a problem with the IRS in a pod, we saw wildly spinning aircraft on the screen or an aircraft that was stuck in a weird attitude until such time as the system could try a re-initialization. If that didn’t work, the pod was written up for off-line maintenance.

In similar fashion, when the inner ear mechanism for balance goes whacky, as it did for me when I suffered from what was diagnosed as Meniere’s Disease, my personal world spun wildly as severe vertigo and nausea set in. The only solution was to take myself off-line for several hours of absolute stillness until the episode passed.

So my personal experience along with a knowledge of the design of my own Internal Reference System points me to a Design Inference rather than some sort of randomly put together material assemblage of parts over some nebulous ‘Deep Time’.

See the previous picture to get a feel for the analogies in context.


The other component of the inner ear is, of course, the hearing phenomenon. And again I will relate to my personal experiences with hearing – or more accurately, it’s degradation over time.

In short, my hearing has degraded in recent years to the point where hearing aids are very helpful, but not near the quality of the ‘original equipment’. Thus, I am now pursuing a technology called ‘cochlear implants’.

Cochlear Implants are different than hearing aids in that they are an implant that place a wire along the path of the natural inner-ear Cochlear, a spiral shaped device which, when healthy, detects the full range of sound frequencies entering the ear and converts these frequencies to electro/chemical inputs to the auditory nerve which are then sent to the brain for further processing. By the way, that is the same nerve bundle used by the balance system I described above.

What the Cochlear Implant does is two-fold; (1) sound frequencies are detected by an external device attached to the skull. (2) Those frequencies are then transmitted down a wire and the appropriate signals are transmitted to the nerve bundle in a fashion analogous to what the healthy Cochlear would do.


An amazing part of the Cochlear is a liquid filled tube (see above) containing thousands of tiny hairs, each tuned to particular frequencies. Those hairs closest to the sound caused pulsating liquid wave are the stiffest, and handle the higher frequencies, and those towards the tail end of the moving liquid wave are more flexible and respond to the lower frequencies.


The implant places a wire alongside the cochlear tube as seen above and sends the audio signal into the hearing nerve bundle.  An analogy would be a high end stereo system where complex audio signals are sent down wires to the various speaker types, each tuned to particular frequency ranges. 


As to how this all relates to Intelligent Design — consider that the scientists, designers and engineers developing these implants must first research and understand how the original (natural) design works. Then they must model the human designed and engineered device to replicate as close as possible, the natural design. To put it into other words, the makers of these implants – scientists, designers and engineers, work in an environment of Intelligent Design.

So I would ask the materialist, the evolutionary biologist — how does evolution explain the two phenomena I have described above. How does evolution in any way come to the aid in developing an understanding of how these phenomena came to be, let alone finding a ‘fix’ for when thing in these designs go bad?

There are many things in the human body, such as the hearing phenomena, which provide physical evidence, and validate Intelligent Design, and creation. These same things also invalidate Darwinian Evolution.

Don Johnson – August 2017

The Hottest New Computer Is: DNA


Further to a previous post here at Take a look at this latest report by clicking on the image above.

By now it seems obvious that many life scientists and researchers doing actual scientific work on life’s designs have bought into the theory of Intelligent Design. This seems counter to the mere “teachers” and popularizers of the  Darwinian Theory of Evolution such as Richard Dawkins and Gerry Coyne.

“ … Intelligent design maintains that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than unguided natural processes. Since ID relies on evidence rather than on scripture or religious doctrines, it is not creationism or a form of religion. ID restricts itself to a simple question: does the evidence point to design in nature? – … “ See more at:

In order to accomplish what these DNA/Computer researchers have done, it is necessary that they approach nature, in this case DNA, from the perspective that there are intelligent designs embedded in the DNA. And much like the old timers such as Johann Kepler they pursue and tease out these designs in their laboratories.  


But don’t expect much in acknowledgement of such thinking, for several reasons:

  • Darwinian thinking is so engrained in society, including the scientific community, that for many it has become an unthinking assumption and assertion.
  • There is very real danger in publicly acknowledging or advocating Intelligent Design. Read my report on Ball State University & Intelligent Design to get a good idea of what is happening in our university system.  Here we have a professor who was severely sanctioned for introducing the very idea of Intelligent Design, let alone advocating it in his course work. It’s called censorship.

Work such as described in these articles on DNA research undercuts Darwinian Evolutionary theory. But Darwinism is a “religion” and Intelligent Design is treated as heretical thinking. Do your own research and your own thinking here. When someone tells you that what you see in nature as design is only an illusion, only the appearance of design – question that thinking. Even if such thinking comes from the “smartest man in the world” such as a Richard Dawkins.   

Don Johnson – March 2017

The Mark of the Beast: When Information Storage Gets Under Your Skin

Check it out!!

Two articles written 2000 years apart talking about the same technology. The earlier one written by a lonely fisherman punished and  banished to the small Middle eastern island of Patmos – the second article written by a modern day journalist describing todays technology which has the potential of enabling the fisherman’s peek into a future time – a time looking a lot like the world I live in today.

The first article – From the Biblical book of Revelation, written in the 1st century.

The second article in yesterdays Wall Street Journal.

Read on …  If you dare! 

“ … The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,

so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.e That number is 666.  … “Revelation 13:15-18


And now from the Wall Street Journal of 9/19/2016

Tiny implants can replace keys, store business cards and medical data—and eventually a lot more

By Nina Adam  and  William Wilkes  Sept. 18, 2016 10:11 p.m.

Patrick Paumen doesn’t have to worry about forgetting his keys and being locked out of his apartment. That is because he doesn’t need a key anymore—he simply unlocks the door with a wave of his hand.

The 32-year-old IT expert from the Dutch city of Heerlen is one of a growing number of people with electronic implants under their skin, mostly to use as keys or for identification.

Mr. Paumen has several such implants, or tags, embedded in the fatty tissue of his hands and his lower arm. He uses separate tags to unlock not only his apartment door, but also his office and the gate to a secure parking lot at work. Another stores information he would otherwise put on a business card—name and contact details—and yet another holds similar information for nonbusiness encounters.

Mr. Paumen says the tiny devices simplify his life. When nearing the secure office parking lot, he says, “I just roll down the window, stick my arm out and let the reader at the gates scan the implant, which is just below my little finger. I don’t have to worry about losing my access card.”

Done in seconds

There is no comprehensive data on how many people have RFID implants in their bodies, but retailers estimate the total is 30,000 to 50,000 people globally.

The fact that the tags can’t be lost is one attraction. Another, users say, is that the tags don’t operate under their own power but rather are activated when they’re read by a scanner. That means they can never be rendered useless by a dead battery like smartphones.

It only takes a few seconds to inject the small glass cylinder containing a tag, the size of a grain of rice, under the skin. It can be done by anyone, but proponents say it is best done by a trained person with sterilized equipment to lower the risk of infection.

Once a tag is implanted, there can be an adjustment period: “They can move a little bit depending on skin type and activities,” says Quentin Inglis, owner of the Kalima Emporium, a tattoo and piercing studio in Worthing, England, who has implanted tags for several customers. Mr. Inglis keeps his business card on an implanted tag. “I do a lot of climbing, so mine moved around a bit until it found a position it was happiest with,” he says.

Medical potential

Implanted tags have a demonstrated potential for use in travel. Andreas Sjöström, the head of digital solutions at Sogeti, a technology consulting unit of Capgemini Group, used an implanted tag loaded with information identifying him as a Scandinavian Airlines customer to board an SAS flight from Stockholm to Paris for the first time in December, and has since used the tag several times for SAS flights. The tag contains the same information some SAS passengers normally have on a sticker used for the same purpose, and is read by the same scanner the airline uses for those stickers.

Electronic RFID tags that go under the skin are being used to store personal information and give users access to secure areas.

Some people list emergency contacts on an implanted tag. And others see potential for the use of the tags in medicine, though one big challenge needs to be addressed for those visions to become reality: Medical personnel or anyone else trying to help someone in a medical or emergency situation will need to have some way to know that the person they’re trying to help has potentially lifesaving information available under his or her skin.

For instance, Kevin Warwick, deputy vice chancellor at Coventry University in England and an expert in cybernetics, says that people who suffer from epilepsy often wear pendants that identify them as having epilepsy and sometimes provide emergency contacts and some basic information on how to help a person having a seizure. But the pendant can be lost or forgotten—a tag cannot. Paramedics and other first responders could be trained to check for tags, he says, and perhaps people with epilepsy could have a small tattoo or some other marker to help other people find the tag.

Another idea for medical use: “In hospitals, you could have a small thing implanted to make sure this is the right patient or person for this operation, to reduce the number of errors there are in medical operations,” Dr. Warwick says.

The tags also can be used to access medical records. Information stored on a tag can easily be updated with the tag remaining in place.

Advocates also hope it won’t be long before the implants will allow them to make payments in cafes or shops, the way smart cards are used. Mr. Sjöström says the technology is capable of enabling such transactions, if software standards are developed to allow them. Data security is also an issue here, he says, as the current generation of implants isn’t capable of the same level of encryption as existing electronic payment systems.

Ethical issues

Skeptics point to ethical concerns that will have to be addressed before tag implants become more common. While there may be no issue with implanting a tag under the skin of consenting adults, things could become tricky if a person doesn’t want it or isn’t in control of the tag’s content.

For instance, the use of a tag “is ethically straightforward and even useful” for people who can’t grip a key because of extreme arthritis or the loss of a hand, says Arianne Shahvisi, a lecturer in ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the U.K. But while tags also could be used by people with dementia to carry identifying information and to ensure that they would never lose their keys, it would be “troubling” in such cases because the patient may not be able to give proper consent to the procedure.

Privacy concerns will also have to be addressed before tag implants can reach their full potential. Although people promoting them say the implants currently on sale can only be picked up by readers in very close range, some people worry that strangers could still tap their personal information without their knowledge or consent.

And while many adults are repelled by the idea of manipulating a perfectly healthy body, young people may accept it as they do most technology surrounding them. Take Patrick and Birthe Kramer, a couple in Hamburg, Germany, who have implants that unlock the door to their home. Their 2-year-old son, whose body remains chip free, already imitates his parents by trying to open the front door with a swish of his hand.


Spooky?  … Yes indeed, but it might be worth your (eternal) while to check it out.

Don Johnson – September 2016 


For You Inventors–A Mother Load of Ideas for Innovation and Invention

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Life on Planet Earth is filled with amazing designs. Designs and machines doing just about anything and everything you could imagine.

From the machines in the smallest cells — to the hands,  arms and legs that produce those last second buzzer beating 3-pointers in basketball.

Those amazing vocal instruments belting out incredible music that we can all hear with those amazing machines called ears.

It’s those new and rapidly growing fields of study call Biomimetics and Systems Biology which looks at those designs in nature — the real ones – and produces inventions based on those designs. 

Here are a couple of articles for you to look at and marvel:

I recently had my own idea of a GPS-less navigation system based on how salmon, turtles birds and other animals migrate and navigate. Unfortunately, I’m late to the party and many others around the world are well along with this idea. But these ideas are based in the designs seen in biology.

So look around you at some everyday things. Things that you may see a better way to build something based in biology … its called Intelligent Design.

Don Johnson – April 2016


GPS-less Navigation: A Study in Intelligent Design

This paper presents my personal study of a potential – design – engineering and prototyping of a GPS-like, but GPS-less navigational system based on the navigational capabilities we see in nature in the form of migratory animals of a variety of sorts – birds, fish, turtles, whales, butterflies …

And right up front I would like to acknowledge and thank the Intelligent Design (ID) movement  – in particular the Discovery Institute , the ID blog Uncommon Descent, and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), for much informative reporting of science over the years that was a major inspiration for this study.


The paper is divided into three main parts; the first being brief descriptions of the migratory/navigational capabilities of various animals, the second part being brief descriptions of some human designed navigational systems and a third part describes a methodology for achieving the desired end product.

I.  Natural/Animal Navigational Capabilities.


The past two Octobers have found us along the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway just east of Quebec City, Canada.  While there we witnessed the annual migration of tens of thousands of Snow Geese as they stopped along the way from the Arctic regions to Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere south. Later on, that same trip, we witnessed a similar migration at Lake Champlain NY. This migratory phenomenon, along with  memories of my professional past as a software developer involved with a tracking intense military training system called TACTS/ACMI, has kindled an interest in how animals accomplish these amazing feats of migration and navigation, and how can we humans learn and benefit from the designs contained in these animals.


Animals … how do they do it?

Cryptochrome protein helps birds navigate via magnetic field

From the report: “ … Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage to traverse such great distances when we need a map just to make our way to the next town over?

Researchers have established that birds can sense the earth’s magnetic field and use it to orient themselves. How this internal compass works, though, remains poorly understood.   … “

Researchers Identify Protein Tied To Avian Navigation Using Earth Magnetic Field

From the report: … Researchers have found a protein that is responsible for the navigation ability of birds. The protein helps the birds in sensing the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. …


Magnetism guides salmon migration, research suggests

From the report: “…One of the world’s great migration mysteries – how salmon find their way home from the distant ocean – may have been solved.

Researchers studying the movement of sockeye salmon from British Columbia’s Fraser River say the fish are imprinted with a magnetic map when they are juveniles. And they later use that map as adults to read the Earth’s geomagnetic field, which guides them back from the North Pacific to the river mouth … “


Loggerhead Turtle Migration Follows Magnetic Map

From the report: “ … The extreme vulnerability of loggerhead hatchlings to predators and the whims of wild oceans begs the question: How do any of these animals survive their marathon migrations?

Surprising new answers come from a research team led by Kenneth Lohmann, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is partially funded by the National Science Foundation. According to the team’s latest findings, which were published in two recent companion papers, loggerhead turtles are born with an inherited “magnetic map.”

The Earth’s magnetic field varies across the globe; slightly different fields exist in different geographic regions. As they encounter magnetic fields at specific locations along the migratory route, the turtles’ magnetic map — a series of inherited instructions — tell young turtles which way to go. The magnetic map allows young turtles, as Lohmann puts it, to use these different fields as “road signs in the open sea.” Differences in magnetic fields at different locations cause the turtles to change swimming directions so that they stay on course along their migratory pathway … “



How do monarch butterflies migrate so far? Hint, it’s in their genes.

From the report: “ …The researchers carried out genome sequences on 92 monarch butterflies from around the world including non-migratory ones as well as on nine butterflies from closely related species. To study the genetic basis for migration, they compared the genetic blueprint of migratory monarchs to those that do not migrate.

“One gene really stood out from everything else in the genome,” Kronforst said. … “



Amazing Navigation Skills Seen in Humpback Whales

From the report: “ …It remains a mystery how these whales are capable of such exceptional precision. For instance, buoys along their routes showed that highly variable sea currents were capable of significantly deflecting their headings.

Animals are known to figure out direction over long distances from the Earth’s magnetic field or the direction of the sun. For instance, researchers of tiger sharks and thresher sharks recently said cues from Earth’s magnetic fields may what enables those sharks to orient themselves and travel spot-on toward a far target.

In the case of the humpback whales, however, magnetic cues by themselves might not help, as the Earth’s magnetic field varied widely along each whale’s voyage, with magnetic north changing by as much as 12 percent and as little as 0.5 percent across these journeys. Similarly, the sun alone could not explain the whales’ success. Humpbacks from the same area were found to follow similar headings despite seeing the sun in different positions in the sky, and they also followed different headings despite seeing the sun in similar positions.

“Although we saw no clear relationship between solar and magnetic directional cues and whale headings, it is entirely possible that they are using both the sun and magnetic field in a coupled system of orientation,” Horton said. … “

How Whales Work

From the report: “ … Transmitters have shown that some whale species travel much greater distances than scientists previously estimated. Researchers have tracked humpback whales traveling thousands of miles in only a few weeks, swimming from high northern latitudes to equatorial latitudes and back again. Male sperm whales seem to be solitary wanderers, traveling from ocean to ocean with no particular pattern. A single sperm whale might easily swim around the entire Earth in its 70-year lifetime. … “



Some Sharks Take Aim and Go Miles for a Meal

From the report: “ … Tiger sharks’ journeys were particularly interesting, because they swam across deep water at night, indicating they were not using their vision for navigation. Smells or sounds possibly provided cues, but given the long distances over which the sharks traveled, those senses were unlikely to be adequate.

It’s possible the sharks are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field and use this sense to orient themselves for long journeys, Papastamatiou said. … “


Animal Magnetism Comes to Light

From the report:

” … The only global force available to make long-distance migration possible for sea creatures is the Earth’s magnetic field — something humans cannot sense. A compass can point a hiker north, but it cannot tell her the intensity of the field at any given point. A map can tell her companion where he is, but cannot tell him which bearing to take. Both tools are necessary, and both are available to many animals with input from the magnetic field.

At long last, Chinese investigators recently reported in Nature Materials the putative discovery of the physical basis of the magnetic sense in animals: “A Magnetic Protein Biocompass.” If their findings are correct, the capability resides in a rod-shaped complex of iron-rich proteins inside particular cells. The abstract explains: …”


It has been known for years now that the magnetic fields surrounding and enveloping the earth provide protection from the destructive and deadly radiation coming from space, primarily from the sun. Without the protection of those fields, life on earth would be impossible. Yet those same fields allow a “good” type of radiation to filter down to the earth which is necessary for life. These “good” rays enable the photosynthesis process in plants, and thus food for the vast array of animal life including you and me and that delicious steak on our plate. 

As shown above, it seems also that a compelling case is being made that certain types of animals can interface with and productively utilize the magnetic fields that surround the earth.


And Now We Humans … how do we do it?

II. Human Developed Navigational Systems.


TACTS/ACMI (Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System/Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) is a system I worked on for many years. The system, in its early versions, tracked fast and maneuvering fighter jets by interrogating each aircraft with a set of four ranging tones (frequencies). These tones received at the aircraft were then re-transmitted to surveyed ground receivers and then passed on to a master station. At the master station, the aircraft position in x/y/z was computed based on the surveyed positions of the ground stations, and the arrival of the four ranging frequencies. In other words, the distance from the aircraft to each of the receiving ground station was measured and thus the position is made known.

The key point here is that the aircraft is maneuvering in the presence of a well understood radio frequency spectrum, and is interfacing directly with that spectrum thus providing real-time navigational data.


Another navigational system developed by humans is the Global Positioning System (GPS). By now most of us are familiar with GPS, and many of us carry a GPS receiver in our pocket smart phone. The TACTS/ACMI system I briefly described above eventually transitioned to GPS as its positioning system. The concepts are very similar, but with GPS, the only dependency on ground stations is to relay aircraft data to a master site for viewing and recording.


Here is another depiction of a joint military operation being conducted using GPS to position a variety of sea-land-air participants.

What these systems seem to have in common; the salmon and turtles – the birds and butterflies – the whales and sharks – TACTS/ACMI – GPS … is they are all bathed in an electro-magnetic spectrum and are in communication in some fashion with that spectrum and are deriving useful real-time navigational capabilities as a result.

Our challenge – the challenge of this study – is to understand how the animals accomplish this interface, and translate that into navigational capabilities useful to humans for a variety of uses.

III. Proposed Methodology for Developing a GPS-less Navigational Capability

Now that we have taken a brief tour of various natural and human navigational systems, we need a Systems Engineering approach to bridge to the next step … a navigational system I can carry around in my smart phone, but with no GPS satellites required … only the earths naturally occurring magnetic fields. Let’s call it the Turtle 1.0, or the Salmon 1.0, or Tern 1.0 … Actually I prefer the Tern 1.0 as in “tern right at the next corner.”

1.  Establishing the viability of the earth’s magnetic fields as a tracking co-ordinate system

This must be the first order of business. Do the earth’s magnetic fields offer the stability and accuracy such that an Earth Centered/Earth Fixed (ECEF) type of coordinate system can be established?  Has this question already been answered by other scientific/engineering disciplines such as petroleum exploration and mapping?

Whatever mechanisms the animals use in their worldwide navigational systems, they seem more than adequate to get them to a pre-determined mouth of a particular river – are there limits as to the dynamics of these animals such as velocity and acceleration? In other words, can this system support real-time navigation of fast moving objects such as automobiles or jet fighter aircraft?

What are the expected accuracies of such a tracking system in terms of x/y/z position, velocities and accelerations?

2.  Establishing the software required to interface with the magnetic fields

Assuming a positive conclusion to III-1 above, what software will be required to translate our current real-time Tern 1.0 position to an ECEF point in space?

Are there commercially available software packages that can be used as is, or modified, to produce the ECEF position?

How do we blend an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) with the Tern 1.0 in order to produce a complete Time Space Position Information (TSPI) picture of the real-time activities of the tracked object?

IV. Potential Application & Market for a GPS-less Navigational Capability

If a Tern 1.0 navigation system as described in these pages is viable, then it would be immune to jamming  (how do you jam the earth’s magnetic fields?).

Targeted end-products of the technology described in this document would most likely be in the military realm. Of interest is that the studies cited in Animal Magnetism Comes to Light come from China. Could it be that the Chinese are studying this navigation phenomena with military applications in mind, perhaps similar to that proposed here.

Commercial applications such as in smart phones are also a potential market.

V. Am I Late to This Party?

As it turns out – yes I am late to the party. Inquiries I have made to contacts in the industry reveal that extensive work is underway to mimic these amazing animal designs and apply them to human use.  This does not surprise me in the least, but on a personal note, I’ll have to postpone that house in the Bahamas, the yacht and the Lamborghini.

VI. Conclusion

In this paper I have followed the long trail of investigators who see design in many of the natural things around us, in this case animal navigation and migration. I have coupled this inference to design with many years of personal experience in human developed systems that are in many ways analogous to the systems used by animals.  A few names for this type of investigation are Systems Biology, Biomimicry and others.

I see actual design in these animal capabilities, and not any illusions or appearances of design that many evolutionary biologists tell me I should be seeing – I see real and intelligent design. And in recent inquiries I have found that researchers also see these designs and are validating these ideas in university and corporate laboratories, and are on the path to building useful intelligently designed systems for human use.


Don Johnson – January 2016

Interesting People I Have Met: Cubic Defense Systems


Edited (3/23/2015): Added Judy Rees
Edited: Added – Wayne Newton, Don Knight, Tom Pekar, Sam Whitt, Bill Norris  – at the request of Wayne Newton … thanks Wayne.


In retrospect, some of the most interesting people I have met are the folks I worked with for 30+ years at Cubic Defense Systems and at the Tactical Air Ranges Integration Facility (TARIF) at China Lake, CA.

I say this because of the remarkable system these folks built which has been the premier on-line training system for US and allied combat air-crews since 1973. Some of us call it the B-52 of training systems because of its longevity and adaptability for continual growth in terms of capability.

The first video below shows the system and the technology as it was when I began my career with ACMR/I on March 1, 1976.  In the film you will see state of the art real-time graphics as it existed in those days. You will also see large  trailers;  but what the film doesn’t show are the 3 large Xerox Sigma-9 mini-computers that made up what was called the Computation and Control Subsystem (CCS). The software of the CCS was originally developed by Systems Development Corporation (SDC) under sub-contract to Cubic, the prime contractor.

My first job in 1976 was to double the number of missile simulations from 4 to 8 within the Display and Debriefing System (DDS), a seemingly simple and straightforward task. This graphics system was built by a Boston company called Adage, and the software was developed primarily by a Mr. Bob Fullford.  Chuck Whitney and I were hired on to Cubic as part of a team of young programmers who were to bring all of the software in-house to Cubic and establish full cognizance and responsibility for the complete system under one roof in San Diego.   The success of that Cubic management decision has been borne out over the many following years as the videos below illustrate.

A key component of the DDS then and now was the Large Screen Displays (LSDs). These were necessary for the post mission debriefs in a theater environment. You may wonder why we just didn’t go down to Costco and get a couple of those 90” TVs. Well  …there was no Costco back then, and there were no 90” screens either … so Cubic had to build custom and very expensive and hard to maintain LSDs because that was what was needed to debrief groups of fighter pilots in a theater venue.

In the first video a program called ACEVAL/AIMVAL is mentioned. That was my first project, and as mentioned above my specific task was to double the missile simulations. Accompanying my relatively modest task was a much more significant task in the CCS. To double the missile systems capability of the CCS, a duplicate of the CCS was built with its own set of 3 Xerox Sigma 9 computers housed in an additional large van parked next to the CCS van. You see in those days, with the technology available, it was very expensive to do what in todays world can be quickly done with a trip to Best Buy and a few hundred dollars.   A few years latter, a project I had at Yuma Arizona required the doubling of the memory in the DDS. Though not as dramatic as the earlier expansion of the CCS, we Cubic were the first customer of an Adage memory expansion that did not work out of the box and required much additional hardware and software work to make it functional.

A couple of interesting and humorous side stories of that graphics memory  expansion come to mind:

Hugh Kohnen, one of our program managers/marketers – a sometimes gruff ex Marine and his equally no-nonsense NavAir counterpart Ray Shriner got into a somewhat heated discussion about this memory that didn’t work. You see, the program under which the memory was purchased really did not technically need the extra memory for the success of the applicable project. So as the story is told, Hugh and Ray are sitting across the table from one another when Hugh states “show me in the contract where it says its gotta work!”  Wow … now understand that Hugh and Ray actually had a good working relationship, so Ray calmly replies “OK Hugh, but we both know what’s coming next at Yuma where the memory will be needed … and guess who’s going to have to fix it and on whose nickel!”  Wow again …

And up next at Yuma was my project which indeed did need the extra memory. This brings up the next interesting side story. You see in those days we had trouble keeping display programmers, and especially those supporting Yuma because that was a tough and arduous task requiring much travel to Yuma and long hours after the flight day was done. The current programmer told me he would quit before going back to Yuma. I took him at his word and started looking at resumes and hired a young San Diego State graduate named Curt Bryan. What I didn’t tell Curt was that he was faced with an impossible task – helping to fix the memory as well as the requirements of the project at Yuma. Well … Curt didn’t know the job was impossible since this was his first real job … and he just went ahead and did the job in an exemplary fashion. Curt and a few other folks in later years went on to start their own software company.

Ault Report – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The “Ault Report”, or more formally the Air-to-Air Missile System Capability Review, was a sweeping study of US Navy air-to-air missile performance during the period of 1965 to 1968, conducted by Navy Captain Frank Ault. The study was initiated at the behest of Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations, who had taken office in August 1967. He was disturbed by the dismal performance of Navy air-to-air missiles in engagements with North Vietnamese fighter jets. Admiral Moorer tasked the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM) to conduct “an in-depth examination of the entire process by which Air-to-Air missile systems are acquired and employed” and further directed that Ault be placed in charge of the effort.

Air Combat Maneuvering Range

One of the critical findings of the Ault Report was that many of the missile failures were due to out of envelope firings due to unfamiliarity of the aircrews with the dynamically changing launch acceptability regions (LAR). Ault proposed to create an instrumented range to help aircrews become familiar with the complexities of firing their air-to-air missiles. This led to development of the Air Combat Maneuvering Range (ACMR) at MCAS Yuma for use by aircraft flying out of NAS Miramar. The Air Force was faced with the same problem and also began development of a similar Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) range at Nellis AFB

Let me back track to the beginnings of the ACMR/I in the early 1970s.  I was not there at the beginning so all I can do here is describe the original system, since I did see it in action and actually worked on it for a few days. This is the system, and those who developed it were the giants on whose shoulders I and many others were fortunate in standing upon. I wish I had been more diligent in the years I was at Cubic to learn more of these early pioneers – who they were and what were there credentials and accomplishments.

The original system deployed on line in 1973 at MCAS Yuma and NAS Miramar boasted these characteristics:

  • 4 high activity aircraft
  • 2 missile simulations
  • 30 mile training range
  • CCS was 3 Xerox Sigma 5 computers
  • image
  • CCS software developed by Systems Development Corporation
  • DDS was Adage
  • DDS software developed by Adage

Now with that background, enjoy this interesting video narrated by Wally Schirra



Between the system you have just seen in the previous video and the following videos representing todays capabilities (2014), there were a number of significant upgrades as follows:–Australias-Largest-and-Most-Complex-Air-Training-Exercise





What stands out in the record of this amazing system is its close correlation and tracking of its capabilities with the advancement of technology  over the years and decades – this being computer technology and the GPS tracking systems.

An incident stands out in my mind illustrates this remarkable transition:

In about 2005, a colleague and I traveled to Eglin AFB  to install and test a latest generation of the system. We had rented a pickup truck for the trip, and stopped by our very small company office to pick up several of the systems and took them out to the base. On the way I turned to my colleague in surprise and said something like this:

“I started my career with this system in 1977  when we had 5 ocean towers in the Gulf of Mexico, a computer system in Carrabelle, about 100 miles to the east, and a complex of large trailers three of which were filled with computers … now – today – we have four systems right here in this pickup, two of which are laptops!”

While working at China Lake, we supported all versions of the Navy and Air Force systems fielded at the time (the decade of the 1990s). They all ran on very expensive multi-processor  mini-computers. At China Lake I often gave tours of the room we referred to as the “museum.” One particular subsystem, the Control & Computation Subsystem (CCS) ,  that we had in that room was a replica of the Nellis AFB  Red Flag system which supported the very large scale missions conducted in the desert North of Las Vegas. The CCS computer system was a 20 computer – shared memory system with something on the order of 20  large refrigerator sized cabinets.  The cost, as I recall, for this system was on the order of $2.5 million dollars, and that did not include the display systems that were scattered throughout the building, another $1 million each.

Now, as we drove onto the base at Eglin, with the back of our pickup truck loaded with 4 systems, we had in each of these laptop and desktop computers … much more user capability and compute power at the cost of perhaps $1,500 each.

And finally but certainly not least: The following are just some of the many people who have contributed to this fine system as I can remember them, going back into the early 1970s – Since I was a software developer on these systems since 1976, most of the names will be from that arena. However, there are so many other names from other areas such as hardware, and I would encourage some of the old timers to add their names as well.
Undoubtedly I will leave off some names, and I apologize and invite someone to add more names to this list.

So let’s begin:
Walter Zable (Founder and lifelong President & CEO of Cubic), Cronkhite, Minton B (Bruce), Bob Fulford; Ed Legerton; Dave Danell; Tom Reese; Fred Small, Steve Sampson, John Beckstom, Roland VanDruff, Dick  Koch, Walt Davis; Rob Law; Don Jacobs; Sally Poor; Chuck Whitney; Don Johnson; Karen Griglac; John Thomas, Rich Smith; Jim Parsons; Larry Williams; Tom Bain; Darrell Smith; Gordon Ritchie; Tom Markle; Ted Clowes; Theresa Clowes; Val Carr; Randy Smith; Mike Dayton; Rusty Dawes; John Phillips; John Hill; Frank (The Wizard) Oswald, Gene Snodgrass; Mike Ilku; Chuck Boornazian; Dave Bansack; Ron VanderGriend; Rick Vandergriend; Jackie Vandergriend; Judy Rees, Barry Moore; Blake Etem; John Towers; Jesse Dolan; Doug Lee; Lou Lopez; Mike Brindley; Dave Lee; Mary Jane Pack; Eric Loos; Al Gramp; John Dill; Bruce Jones; Tim Cockerham; Matt Evans; Lisa Evans; Earl Furman; Naomi Norris; Bob Moore;  Jim Dossette; TR Swartz; Fred Lord, Wayne Newton,  Don Knight, Tom Pekar, Sam Whitt, Bill Norris
… My heavens, my brain hurts and I must take a break, but feel free to jump in and add names.

And don’t forget the many industrial partners who invented the technologies used to develop this remarkable system … not the least of these is Bill Gates and Microsoft whose operating systems we ultimately  settled on.

Hope you enjoyed this travel down technologies memory lane.

Don Johnson – March 2015