Filed under: Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Connections, Fireworks, Gene Roddenberry, Man Conquers Space, NASA, Phil Plait, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Star Trek, Survival, YouTube | Tags: Bad Astronomy, Bill Nye, blogging, jim downey, NASA, Neil deGrasse Tyson, predictions, science, Science Fiction, space, Star Trek, video, www youtube
Unsurprisingly, this has been making the rounds among my friends:
As noted in the various science stories, 2012 DA14 is about 150 feet in diameter, and would have about the same effect were it to hit the Earth as Meteor Crater, depending on the exact composition, speed and angle of approach of the meteor. If you want to play with the variables, here’s a simulator I’ve had fun playing with in the past Impact: Earth!
On one end of the range of effects would be just another bright light in the sky, as the thing exploded in the upper atmosphere. On the other end, another mile-wide crater where a city used to be. Fun, eh? And remember – 2012 DA14 was just discovered last year, and then by pure chance. There are any number of such potential threats out in space. As the Washington Post puts it:
For the foreseeable future, then, Earth will continue to reside in a cosmic shooting gallery with an enormous number of currently unknown objects, some of which may have a direct bead on us without our knowing. While it is probably much more unlikely than likely, a potentially disastrous collision with an asteroid of at least the dimensions comparable to DA14 could occur anytime possibly with little or no warning in our lifetimes.
Keep your fingers crossed that our luck — and our atmospheric ‘shields’ — continue to hold until we no longer have all of our eggs in this particular basket.
Filed under: Connections, Feedback, Gene Roddenberry, Science Fiction, Space, Star Trek, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, Kickstarter, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Star Trek, Tholian Web, writing
…to see the sorts of things which come to mind for people as they read Communion of Dreams. Got the following note via email this morning:
“About I’m 80% through the book, and some niggle I’ve had in my head for a few days finally broke through.
Are you paying homage to the old Star Trek episode, the Tholian Web?”
Just 11 days left – support the Kickstarter!
Filed under: Science Fiction, Space, Star Trek | Tags: blogging, Science Fiction, space, Star Trek, Topless Robot, video
A brief break in the travelogues to share this *surprisingly* good item:
From Topless Robot, who says:
For the rest of you, what sets Star Trek Continues apart from its brethren is that it has a hint of professionalism in the cast, what with Mythbusters‘ Grant Imahara playing Sulu, anime voice actor Vic Mignogna as Kirk, as original Scotty James Doohan’s son Chris in his father’s most famous role. But the real star, for my money, is the phenomenal sets — honestly, if you told me that they were the original show’s sets, just dusted off, I’d be inclined to believe you, that’s how perfect they look.
Another travelogue hopefully later this morning.
From late in Chapter Two:
“All right. Let’s get her inside and get Seth working with her. By the way, what’s her name?”
Jon nodded his head, touched the wafer under his ear. “Seth, download the record of the last few minutes from my pc. Then make the necessary arrangements for us to get inside with the girl. I’ll meet you in the conference room; since she isn’t wired, you’ll have to conduct the tests from the holo projector there. And tell Magurshak I’m on my way to lunch.”
“Let’s go.” Jon looked to Gish and the young girl.
“Oh, and Seth . . . “
“Prepare a Mandarin language program for me, OK?”
“It’s waiting for you.”
From this past Monday:
Microsoft Research has shown off software that translates your spoken words into another language while preserving the accent, timbre, and intonation of your actual voice.
In a demo of the prototype software (starts around the 12 minute mark), Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s chief research officer, says a long sentence in English, and then has it translated into Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin. You can definitely hear an edge of digitized “Microsoft Sam,” but overall it’s remarkable how the three translations still sound just like Rashid.
In order for the translation system to do its work it needs about an hour of training, which allows it to create a model of your voice. This model is then mushed into Microsoft’s standard text-to-speech model for the target translation language. For example, Microsoft’s standard model of Spanish will have a default “S” (ess) sound, but the training process replaces it with your “S” sound. This is done for every individual sound (phoneme) in Microsoft’s text-to-speech model for Spanish. The creator of the software, Frank Soong, says that this approach can be used to translate between all 26 languages supported by the Microsoft Speech Platform, which covers most of the world’s major languages.
OK, first thing: this is *NOT* the universal translator from Star Trek.
But it is *exactly* what I had envisioned as the tech that Jon asks Seth to use in the excerpt from Communion of Dreams quoted above. The idea is that Seth would have such a wide selection of Jon’s phonemes in his knowledge base that it would be simple for him to use that for translation. In this case, all he would have to do is install the necessary program files into Jon’s embedded personal pc – so that Jon could use it to communicate with the girl whether or not Seth was ‘present’.
So, yeah, another prediction nailed.
I decided not to do formal ‘travelogues’ for my recent trip out to Las Vegas for the SHOT Show, but instead do a series of small vignettes, over the course of the next couple of weeks.
It rained more in four days than it rained for all of 2009.
And of course, I was there for it.
* * * * * * *
Well, it’s a good thing that you basically don’t have to go outside when in Vegas. Ever. And that the rain doesn’t present problems for such festivities as taking a gondola ride at the Venetian. Like the Miss America Pageant contestants did.
And I was there for it.
No, seriously. And it was seriously weird.
Me, Jim K, and John E were having some top-notch pizza and a couple of beers at Postrio there in the strangeness that is St. Mark’s Square. When all of a sudden there was some pomp & circumstance happening around us. Of the sort that involves scant clothing on plastic women and men wearing tuxes. One of my dining companions mentioned that he thought the Miss America Pageant was being held the next week, and this must be some kind of preliminary event.
It was. The line of women wandered through the ‘outdoor’ restaurant, just a couple of paces from our table.
I looked up, saw what was going on, then turned my attention back to the pizza. At least that was real.
* * * * * * *
Did you know that there is a Star Trek slot machine game?
And a Star Wars one?
Also ones for Indiana Jones, the Wizard of Oz, and dozens of television shows?
I didn’t. I thought slot machines were all those classic things with just three spinning wheels that contain numbers or symbols.
What a rube from flyover country.
But one morning before I left, I dutifully went over to one machine, donated a $10 bill to it, and played twice.
Oh, sure, I could have gotten a thousand plays at a “penny machine”.
But two hits from that adrenaline pump were quite enough, thank you.
* * * * * * *
My traveling companion needed to get some additional cash the morning we left.
The ATM there on the floor of the casino just gave $100.00 bills.
Tells you all you need to know about the casino business.
Filed under: Art, Humor, Music, Predictions, Science Fiction, Star Trek, YouTube
I had occasion to be poking around on YouTube this morning, looking at some vids of William Shatner. And I came across this odd little item:
OK, now think – how would you explain what this was, and why it was funny/interesting/artistic, to someone in the 1960s when Star Trek was first being broadcast? Hell, I’ve grown up with the culture and I can barely understand it myself.
This is why it is so incredibly difficult to make any intelligent predictions about what sorts of art/music will evolve in the future, and why just about every time I have seen someone attempt to do so in SF it either seems entirely contrived or just absurd.
And if we can’t do this with something as relatively self-contained as art over 40 years, what does that say about making predictions about larger aspects of society over even longer time frames?
I’m sick with a nasty lower GI thing, which might explain why I think this is hilarious:
**GAH! F***ing YouTube pulled it, and I can’t get the Hulu version to patch. Go HERE to see it.**
Anyone who remembers Bill’s other spoken-word stuff will recognize this for the genius that it is.
Some weeks ago, I came across a reference to a TV show from my childhood I had almost completely forgotten about: The Invaders. I checked, and NetFlix had it, so I added it to my queue. This weekend the first disk arrived.
It starts with classic 1960s graphics and ‘dramatic’ music, something like a cross between The Avengers and The Fugitive.
Then you get this introduction (taken from Wikipedia):
The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.
And you’re off and running.
OK, a couple of things. The special effects are about on a par with the original special effects used in classic Star Trek (not the remastered version), which is to say “not great, but acceptable”. Except that introductory sequence, which makes the Moon look like a giant ball of mashed potatoes that has been lightly toasted. Seriously – it’s bad. And you can’t excuse that, since by the time the series was made, we’d already sent a number of probes around and onto the Moon, and it was well known what even the “dark side” of the Moon looked like.
Anyway, I’m just four episodes into the thing (I do intend to watch it all the way through), and I usually cut most TV shows a little slack at first, to find their footing and allow people to settle into their roles. But already the sense of paranoia is more sophisticated than I expected. It isn’t, as most of the comments I have seen about the show, just a rehash of Cold War paranoia a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers or other classic 1950s SF. Rather, it has elements of the counter-cultural distrust of government itself in it – the sort of thing which would come to play such a crucial role in The X Files almost thirty years later, and was considered ground-breaking then.
Looking for something old? You might want to give The Invaders a try.