Sunday, November 21, 2010

Antikythera Mechanism No Longer at Children's Museum in NYC

I was about to suggest to a friend that we visit it while we're in Manhattan next Saturday but when I looked it up it turns out the Children's Museum doesn't have it anymore. If you want to see a replica in the US, you should go to the Computing Museum in Bozeman, MT. Alas! Still pretty cool to think that this analog computer was built 2,100 years ago.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Singularity Christmas

Get one of these cute AI toys and treat it well so they put in a good word with our coming silicon overlords.

A One-Way Trip to Mars Would Be Easier

This has been proposed recently as a way to accelerate a manned visit to Mars. An unexamined question is whether it would be easier politically for the world's large dictatorships, and I'm thinking of one in particular that has the money to do it, one which just passed Japan to become the second-largest economy on the planet. China has no shortage of people with difficult lives who a) would be disposed to going where the central government tells them, and b) might not even complain if they think they'll at least get a place in history, let a lone have a chance at personal independence. One of the costs of life being good in Western democracies is that people don't want to leave it; do you know anyone personally who would want to permanently leave for the Martian Jamestown? The people who came to Jamestown didn't leave England (and Poland) because things were so great back home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You Wanna Hear About Frickin Supernovas or What

Then listen to this internet radio show featuring celebrated astronomer Ben Weaver from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pluto & Methane-Flavored Cupcakes = Delicious

To a certain reader I say: akana mukav, tut le devlesa. Classmate Kadee bet me that Pluto had blue methane snow on it, with the stakes being a cupcake (a tasty one, as it turned out.) It doesn't (look it up) but she wasn't satisfied about this until she had besmirched the name of our institution and medical students in general by bothering noted astronomers with this question. (Really, she really did email and harass these people. Shameful.) But it appears she has learned the hard way that you never go in against a Dutchman, when cupcakes are on the line!

But now that I have tasted blood I call on others who dare think they can match my astro-trivia wit! I will take on all challengers! But my first act will be to unseat the would-be Astro-Geek Boy-King, the one called Yang. I have heard the peasants speak his name in hushed tones, but I am not afraid! Bring him to me, and I will drive his livestock before me and hear the lamentations of the women!

Above: Yang the Terrible. He will not look so impressive once the topic turns to the subtle nuances of Kuiper Belt Objects.

Why Terminators Suck at Their Jobs

Cracked has re-visited this important issue, which I wrote about here slightly more seriously. Money quote: "Let's put aside all the doubts we've raised thus far and just accept that Skynet is a 'special needs' computer and is doing the best it can with what its got, bless its heart."

Alluding strongly to the Singularity, they add: "...not only did this one-sided war 'span over 30 years,' instead of the more expected 'one really shitty afternoon,' but human beings actually won out in the end."

Behold the Progenitors

Science Cheerleaders!

This is excellent. My Google News Alert for "science cheerleaders" finally yielded results, and boy was it worth the wait. These ladies will in all likelihood kick your ass, both intellectually and athletically. How exactly does one make an impression on a patent attorney/ER surgeon/cheerleader?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That Wasn't a Missile You Schmendricks

(If you heard about the supposed rocket seen off the California coast the other evening, you'll know what I'm talking about - otherwise don't waste your time.)

It was pretty unambiguously the contrail of an airplane, seen head-on. How do we know this?

1) If it were a rocket, it would have had to be the slowest rocket ever. Even from twenty miles away the launch at Vandenberg that I saw recently positively hauled ass into the sky.

2) People north and south on the coast from the sighting area didn't report seeing anything strange. Why? Because to them the same cloud would have looked like a normal contrail.

3) There were likely boats (fishing and otherise) closer to it, maybe even under it. Granted, we don't know if any vessels were in the vicinity. However, the fact that there were no reports from any boats (who might even have heard it if it was a rocket - rockets are loud) is another point off the missile hypothesis.

4) Similar things have happened before, and they were contrails also. (See the link at the end of this post.)

5) Yes, it glowed even after sunset. No kidding! That doesn't mean the cloud was burning rocket exhaust, it just means it was high up, just after sunset. When you're significantly off the surface of the Earth, you get sunlight after sunset. This is true even at the summits of tall, steep mountains. Ever heard of alpenglow?

Needless to say, "Cloud Not From Missile" isn't a good story, so it's not national news. If you still don't believe me, read this pilot's blog. He's even predicted exactly which flight it is, and a) invited the press to film it at the same time, from the same location, with the same weather conditions, and b) asked the chemtrails/conspiracy nuts to give him other evidence. Just a guess - the fact that people notice it this week might have to do with daylight savings.

So calm down dummies.

Your Daily Dose of Narco-Terrorist Metal

Breaking news: ¿El polvo? ¡Sí!

At press time, Brujeria would only add, "Cien kilos de la blanca", because they were busy matando güeros.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Apparent Problem With Self Indication Assumption Arguments

At the always interesting Meteuphoric, Katja Grace says:

What the Self Sampling Assumption (SSA), an alternative principle to SIA, says depends on the reference class. If the reference class includes AIs, then we should strongly not anticipate such an AI explosion. If it does not, then we strongly should (by the doomsday argument). These are both basically due to the Doomsday Argument.

The Self Indication Assumption (SIA) is a compelling topic because it's a tool we can use to think about questions like the Fermi Paradox, not to mention our own future.

As a general rule (read: admittedly sloppy heuristic) - when an outcome of a chain of reasoning depends strongly on how we categorize the involved entities, that reasoning is suspect. This would seem to be a general problem for all SIA/SSA reasoning, although since Katja just finished her degree on exactly this topic, I would refer you to her if you want counterarguments to this suspicion.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Science Fiction in Tijuana

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia, in Expanded Horizons magazine, about the city 25 miles from where I'm sitting. I want more Mexican SF.

The Pro-Tools of World-Building

Celebrated science fiction author Marshall Maresca pointed me to online world-building tools. They are here and here. For good measure here's a real star atlas out to 50 LY.

I'm sure I'm not the only whiner, but doesn't such a tool take some of the fun out of inventing a whole new "known space"? There are several practical upshots for authors and maybe that's the appeal: you might have lots of settings you want to keep track of, and you don't want astute readers catching you in plot holes or continuity problems that you could avoid with a more comprehensive visualization of your universe. Or maybe you could build your story inside a world like Eve, and use that as a promotional vehicle. (Who knows which one would make more money and which would just be a funnel for the core revenue source. That would also presence interesting IP problems, and for all I know probably has already come up.) My concern is that such a program does seem like it risks genericizing science fiction writing to some degree.

I like science fiction or I wouldn't write about it all the time on my blog. But of course, we're just Spaniards writing about two-legged dragons in Patagonia and Baja California as an island of Amazons, and cities of gold in the interior. There's a reality out there waiting for us to find it that will (I hope) obviate all this literature one day, like Las Sergas de Esplandian. Let's build probes! Let's send them to exoplanets! Let's put smaller more chemically sophisticated probes down on Titan and Europa! Now now now!

Destroy the Earth


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good Metal Venues in San Diego?

If you know of any, please email me at Cast Iron Crow will be playing down here and they're looking for suggestions. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Russell and Bashoo Both Hate Me Now

Twelve more syllables
To make this silly haiku