Filed under: Babylon 5, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Failure, Gene Roddenberry, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Predictions, Science Fiction, Star Trek, tech | Tags: ars technica, Babylon 5, blogging, David Kravets, Delvon King, jim downey, predictions, Robert Nalley, Science Fiction, Star Trek, technology
One of the oldest Science Fiction tropes is the development of technology intended to enforce compliance through pain. Two notable examples: the ‘shock collars’ used on members of the Enterprise crew in The Gamesters of Triskelion and the ‘pain givers‘ first depicted in the Babylon 5 episode The Parliament of Dreams.
In both cases, and typically through most of the SF I can think of, this is meant to be a cautionary tale, to show how even a nominally benign or at least non-lethal technology can be perverted. The lesson is that the intentional infliction of pain is itself a bad thing, whether or not it actually causes real corporeal damage.
So, naturally, we have drawn exactly the wrong lesson:
A Maryland judge who ordered a deputy to remotely shock a defendant with a 50,000-volt charge pleaded guilty (PDF) to a misdemeanor civil rights violation in federal court Monday, and he faces a maximum of one year in prison when sentenced later this year.
* * *
The deputy sheriff walked over to where Victim I was standing and pulled a chair away to clear a place for Victim I to fall to the floor. At this point, Victim I stopped speaking. The deputy sheriff then activated the stun-cuff, which administered an electric shock to Victim I for approximately five seconds. The electric shock caused Victim I to fall to the ground and scream in pain. Nalley recessed the proceedings.
* * *
The authorities are increasingly using stun cuffs, which are about the size of a deck of cards, at detention centers and courthouses. They are made by various companies and cost around $1,900 for a device and transmitter. Some models can shock at 80,000 volts.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Astronomy, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Fermi's Paradox, Gardening, Habanero, J. Michael Straczynski, Man Conquers Space, Marketing, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, Survival, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Babylon 5, Bad Astronomy, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, Dukhat, feedback, free, gardening, Glen Tickle, Habaneros, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Kurzgesagt, Laughing Squid, Mother's Day, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
(Does not contain spoilers for Communion of Dreams. 😉 )
* * *
Been a busy week. Part of it was putting in my garden:
(That’s just the tomato plants — the super-hot peppers will go in next week.)
Part of it was a MASSIVE job converting a 16 x 16 storage space into the beginnings of a workshop:
(There’s still lots to do, but man, what a change from being hip-high in grungy boxes and scattered junk!)
And part of it was we have a new addition to the family:
(He’s just 6 weeks old, entirely too cute, bold & adventurous, and tiny. For now. No name yet, though given his grey color I suggested perhaps we should go with Dukhat … )
* * *
I’m just now finishing up the first major revision to the working copy of St Cybi’s Well. I already have a couple of people lined up to take a look at it with fresh eyes, but if anyone else is interested also having a preview, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you.
Lastly: for Mother’s Day weekend, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will be available for free. Check it out, download it, share it with others!
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Carl Zimmer, Connections, National Geographic, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech, Titan, Writing stuff | Tags: augmented reality, Babylon 5, blogging, Carl Zimmer, Glass Brain, jim downey, mind-machine interface, National Geographic, Neuroscape lab, neuroscience, predictions, science, Science Fiction, Tholin, Titan
Carl Zimmer has put up a really interesting piece about recent developments which allow for visualization of brain structures which I would recommend:
It’s hard to truly see the brain. I don’t mean to simply see a three-pound hunk of tissue. I mean to see it in a way that offers a deep feel for how it works. That’s not surprising, given that the human brain is made up of over 80 billion neurons, each branching out to form thousands of connections to other neurons. A drawing of those connections may just look like a tangle of yarn.
As I wrote in the February issue of National Geographic, a number of neuroscientists are charting the brain now in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. And out of these surveys, an interesting new way to look at the brain is emerging. Call it the brain fly-through. The brain fly-through only became feasible once scientists started making large-scale maps of actual neurons in actual brains. Once they had those co-ordinates in three-dimensional space, they could program a computer to glide through it. The results are strangely hypnotic.
Yeah, they are, and also very cool. One of the most interesting developments is a new program called the Glass Brain which is powerful enough to allow you to see how the brain is working in real time. From the article:
Imagine, if you will, putting on an EEG cap and looking at a screen showing you what’s happening in your brain at the moment you’re looking at it. That’s what this system promises.
The diagnostic and training potential is obvious. And if you consider the implications a bit, this could be a big step towards a true mind/machine interface. And then all bets are off for what could happen next.
*Referencing Dust to Dust.
And a side-note. While I don’t make a big deal of it in Communion of Dreams, if you stop and think of the descriptions I use for the super-conducting ‘gel’ found on Titan, and what is revealed about it, you might notice that it would seem very similar to how neurons in the brain are structured and behave, though on a vastly different scale … 😉
Filed under: Art, Babylon 5, Book Conservation, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Health, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Kindle, Marketing, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, appendicitis, art, Babylon5, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, G'Kar, health, heliosphere, J. Michael Straczynski, jim downey, JMS, Kindle, leather, NASA, NPR, predictions, promotion, revelations, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Voyager, writing, Z'ha'dum
“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation.”
Sometimes you don’t recognize when things change — the moments of transition — except in hindsight. That could be because the change is incremental enough that you don’t notice it for a while, or it might be that you’re so completely involved in the moment that the realization of what just happened doesn’t sink in immediately.
* * *
This morning there was a news item on NPR which caught my attention: that perhaps the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already left our solar system.
Scientists have known for a while that it was approaching the limits of the heliosphere. The expectation was that there would be a fairly clear change in orientation of the magnetic field when the craft crossed the boundary of the Sun’s influence into true interstellar space. But perhaps that boundary was less defined than we thought. From the story:
How did we miss that? As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely our fault. Researchers thought the solar system was surrounded by a clearly marked magnetic field bubble.
“There’s one at the Earth, there’s one at Jupiter, Saturn, many planets have them. And so just by analogy we were expecting there to be something like that for the solar system,” Swisdak says.
Scientists were waiting for Voyager to cross over the magnetic edge of our solar system and into the magnetic field of interstellar space. But in in the September issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, Swisdak and his colleagues say the magnetic fields may blend together. And so in July 2012, when Voyager crossed from the solar system into deep space, “Voyager just kept cruising along,” Swisdak says. All they saw was a change in the field’s direction.
* * *
Last Thursday my wife had a follow-up with her surgeon to see how she was doing in recovering from her emergency appendectomy. She had been released from the hospital the previous Saturday, but there was some concern over the risk of secondary infection within her abdomen.
Well, without getting too much into the details, tests indicated that she might be developing exactly that sort of infection. The surgeon ordered a procedure called a needle aspiration and scheduled it for the following day.
We dutifully reported to the hospital for the procedure. It didn’t go smoothly, and the upshot was that it didn’t help her condition at all. A couple hours later we left the hospital, and she’s been mostly resting since. We’re now waiting to hear from the surgeon about what happens next. And what it means.
* * *
“Yeah, but it’s like the way that the people involved in your book – the characters – are all struggling to understand this new thing, this new artifact, this unexpected visitor. And I like the way that they don’t just figure it out instantly – the way each one of them tries to fit it into their own expectations about the world, and what it means. They struggle with it, they have to keep learning and investigating and working at it, before they finally come to an understanding.” He looked at me as we got back in the car. “Transitions.”
* * *
Where Communion of Dreams was largely about transitions, in many ways St. Cybi’s Well is about revelations. How we experience them. How we understand them. How we do or don’t recognize them when they happen.
The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams is free today. And you have less than two weeks to enter into the drawing for a hand-bound, full-leather copy of the book. So far only two people have entered. Don’t miss the moment.
Filed under: Babylon 5, Connections, Music, Predictions, Science Fiction, Travel, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: Babylon 5, blogging, jim downey, literature, predictions, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
Thought I’d share something I hinted at last week, and which explains a bit why my posting to the blog has dropped off so much in recent weeks: I’ve shifted over from primarily working on the structure and individual scenes of St. Cybi’s Well to writing the bulk of the text. To use an analogy, I’ve got the skeleton done and am now putting flesh on the bones.
So while I only have about 23,000 words in the manuscript so far, and very little of that is what most people would recognize as parts of a novel, it’s actually probably a significant fraction (perhaps one-third? half?) of the overall amount of work which will go into the book. That’s because I know not only the overall plot and major characters of the book, I also know the pacing, the locations, and how all the major elements will work together throughout. In fact, you could grab a map of Wales and then find each of the locations tied to the individual chapters to get a sense of how the whole thing will progress. Here’s the working list of chapters:
- Prelude: Cardiff
- Chapter One: Pennant Melangell
- Chapter Two: Holywell/Conwy Castle
- Chapter Three: Portmeirion/Caernarfon
- Chapter Four: Snowdon
- Chapter Five: Ffynnon Gybi/Criccieth
- Chapter Six: Pistyll Rhaedr
- Chapter Seven: Pentre Ifan
- Chapter Eight: St. Non’s/St. David’s
- Chapter Nine: St. Govan’s Chapel/Gumfreston Church
- Chapter Ten: Deheubarth
- Chapter Eleven: St. Cenydd’s Well
- Chapter Twelve: Brecon Beacons
- Chapter Thirteen: Maen-du Well/Ffynnon Gynydd
- Chapter Fourteen: Tintern Abbey/Stonehenge
- Chapter Fifteen: Ynys Môn
- Chapter Sixteen: Ffynnon Gelynin
- Chapter Seventeen: Ffynnon Sarah
- Chapter Eighteen: St. Cybi’s Well
- Chapter Nineteen: Castell y Bere
If you care to dig around my various travelogues, you can actually find descriptive passages about each of these places. Those passages will be used as part of constructing verisimilitude through the novel.
And yes, “Prelude” rather than “Prologue.” Partly it ties in with this. Partly … well, you’ll see.