Filed under: Art, Humor, movies, Reproduction, Science Fiction, Society, Space, YouTube | Tags: humor, jim downey, movies, Peter Serafinowicz, Science Fiction, space, video, www youtube
No, really … whoa.
Filed under: Art, Astronomy, Fireworks, Music, NASA, NPR, Science, Space, YouTube | Tags: art, fireworks, Jerry Lee Lewis, jim downey, music, NASA, NPR, science, Solar Dynamics Observatory, space, www youtube
Via NPR, this gorgeous, stunning vid:
And while I think the music they use is wonderful, I think they missed an obvious choice …
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, ACLU, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Emergency, General Musings, Government, Guns, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Mark Twain, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, RKBA, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Terrorism, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Boston, firearms, guns, jim downey, literature, Mark Twain, Nevil Shute, police, predictions, Roman, Rome, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, terrorism, Tom Wolfe, violence, writing
Any work of literature is, to some extent, part of the society in which it was written, and needs to be understood within that context. Whether you’re talking The Bonfire of the Vanities or On the Beach or Life on the Mississippi or just about any novel you care to name, it is, to some extent, a reflection on the culture surrounding it.
Writers react to the events around them. Even science fiction authors like yours truly. We really can’t avoid it.
I mentioned events in Boston the other day. Just a blog post. But it is some measure of what has gotten my attention. So it would be safe to assume that to some degree it will show up in St. Cybi’s Well. And it will. But perhaps not exactly as you might think.
Almost five years ago I wrote this:
This is nothing more or less than the peace of the gun. This is the abrogation of civil liberties as a solution for incompetent governance. Of course people like it – let things get bad enough that they fear for their lives more than they value their liberties, and you can get people to do almost anything.
Now, I don’t think that what happened in Boston was anything like what led to that blog post about HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. in August of 2008. In that instance, it was chronic problems with crime rather than a couple of domestic terrorists which brought about de facto martial law.
And I think that the police agencies involved in determining who was responsible for the attacks, and then seeking the suspects in a major metropolitan area did a very professional job. Just compare it to another recent dragnet and you’ll see what I mean.
But I keep coming back to that earlier blog post. Why? Because seeing a major city shut down, and then para-military operations going house to house searching for a suspect, gives me pause. I certainly can’t fault the police for taking precautions intended to protect their own lives and the lives of citizens. SWAT equipment and tactics have been shown to be very effective.
… I feel somewhat like the owner of a couple of highly trained and massive guard dogs, who has just watched those dogs chase off/control a threat. There’s a satisfaction in watching them do the task so well. But there’s also a nagging fear that maybe, just maybe, things could be bad if they ever decided that they no longer wanted to obey commands.
Nah – no need to worry. That has never happened before.
Filed under: Astronomy, Brave New World, Jupiter, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Saturn, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech | Tags: blogging, David Charbonneau, exogenesis, exoplanets, Goldilocks, jim downey, Jupiter, Kepler mission, NASA, NPR, predictions, Saturn, science, Science Fiction
As something of a follow-up to yesterday’s post, news today of the discovery (thanks to the Kepler mission) of three exoplanets which are very good candidates for harboring life. First, their size is within an order of magnitude of Earth’s — and, specifically, less than twice the size of Earth — meaning that they’re not gas giants such as Saturn or Jupiter. Secondly, and at least as importantly, they fall within the “habitable zone” in their star system. That’s the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” where liquid water can exist (it’s not too cold and not too hot).
This is exciting! As it is put in the article:
Two of the three detailed in the new findings in the journal Science are of particular interest: Kepler-62-e and Kepler-62-f. William Borucki, the chief scientist for NASA’s Kepler telescope, says the planets are slightly wider than Earth, but not too big. Kepler-62-e is a bit toasty, like a Hawaiian world and Kepler-62-f is a bit nippy, more Alaskan, Borucki tells the AP.
“This is the first one where I’m thinking, ‘Huh, Kepler-62-f really might have life on it,’ ” said study co-author David Charbonneau of Harvard. “This is a very important barrier that’s been crossed. Why wouldn’t it have life?”
Filed under: Astronomy, Brave New World, Connections, movies, Music, NASA, New Horizons, NPR, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Society, Space, tech, YouTube | Tags: 13.7 Blog, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Drake Equation, exoplanets, jim downey, Kepler mission, Marcelo Gleiser, music, NASA, NPR, Pink Floyd, predictions, science, Science Fiction, SETI, space, technology, TESS, The Wall, www youtube
From the opening pages of Communion of Dreams:
Jon sat there for a moment, trying to digest what Seth said. According to what pretty much everyone thought, it wasn’t possible. SETI, OSETI, META and BETA had pretty much settled that question for most scientists decades ago, and twenty years of settlement efforts throughout the solar system hadn’t changed anyone’s mind. Even with the Advanced Survey Array out at Titan Prime searching nearby systems for good settlement prospects, there had never been an indication that there was an intelligent, technologically advanced race anywhere within earshot.
It’s one of the very basic questions of space science: are we (sentient beings) unique? Rare? Common? There are a lot of ways to think about it, and here’s a nice piece on NPR discussing some of the relevant parts of the question and what we’re doing about it. An excerpt:
So, to address the first part of the question we must find out how unique the Earth is. We then should figure out how unique life, and humans, are. Fortunately, thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission, we are making huge progress in the first part of the answer. A key finding is that the majority of stars (around 70 percent) have at least one planet orbiting around them. Based on the data so far (2,740 planet candidates and 115 confirmations), Kepler scientists estimate that some 17 percent of these are Earth-size, meaning with similar mass and rocky composition as the Earth, and possibly close enough to their parent star that water, if present, could be in its liquid state.
More good news arrived on this front earlier this month as NASA authorized the construction of Kepler’s successor, TESS (for Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite). With launch scheduled for 2017, TESS will survey a much wider area of the sky than Kepler, while focusing mostly on stars that are closer. This way, it will use spectroscopy to resolve at least part of the atmospheric composition of the exoplanets. The goal is to find telling signs of life-related compounds such as ozone, water, carbon dioxide and, if we’re really lucky, even chlorophyll. Successful detection would be very exciting, as it’d point to what optimists expect, a few fairly close Earth-like planets with metabolizing beings.
I hope I live long enough that science is able to make a definitive affirmation of life, then intelligent life, outside our own planet.
Until then, well, there’s science fiction.
Filed under: Book Conservation, Connections, Kindle, Publishing, Religion, Society, tech | Tags: Amazon, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, caligraphy, direct publishing, economics, Erik Kwakkel, history, jim downey, Kindle, technology
A lot of folks don’t know it, but I have an undergraduate degree in Economics (and another in German). And, while I haven’t really done anything with that degree, it does still largely inform how I see the world: in terms of economic forces at play.
So this nice little explanation of how the industry of making books worked during the Medieval Period … and the forces which led to it … as well as how it relates to modern publishing … well, let’s just say it ties a lot of my interests together. Here’s an excerpt:
The professionals who made books for profit were usually found near the biggest church in town. This was a well-chosen spot as canons and clerics (i.e. people who visited the church and who could read) formed an important part of the clientele. By the 14th century true communities of the book had formed in the neighborhoods around churches and cathedrals. Evidence from such cities as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, London and Paris suggests that in these communities a diverse group of artisans interacted with clients and with each other. It was a world bound not only by the book, however, but also by profit.
The whole thing is worth a read, and it’s actually quite brief. Brief, but insightful.
Filed under: movies, Science Fiction, Travel, YouTube | Tags: movies, Science Fiction, time travel, travel, video, www youtube
A very old trope, with a good interpretation: