Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If You Haven't Read Stross's Accelerando, Don't Bother Now

Just the other day I told someone I was waiting for my Manfred Macx cyber-glasses, like the ones that one of Accelerando's protagonist has in the 2030s. I was half-serious. Google is not.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Swarm, 1978

Clearly, an overlooked masterpiece.

Metal Endorsements in the GOP Race

Above: Rick Rattlehead. Or Vic Santorum. YOU decide. I just hope that the blood so prevalent in metal images isn't replaced, as a result of this endorsement, by another fluid. As a direct result of this graphic I like Gawker more now.

Of course first we had Dave Mustaine endorsing Santorum - which, sadly, unlike his debate with Christopher Hitchens was NOT satirical - and then Alex Skolnick from Testament endorsed Obama, and Randy Blythe from Lamb of God endorsed himself.

And now, we have the most metal statement of all, coming directly from the Prince of Darkness.

Above: the Father of Lies, elated after hearing that Sarah Palin has come out of media retirement.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Matrix for Chickens; Or, "Darkness - Has Taken My Beak"

It's actually not really a matrix, because it doesn't produce a simulation. The purpose of this arrangement is not to replace but to prevent consciousness.

Actually, neurologically we can't really be sure what's going on here based on the description - it's an art installation after all - but it seems as if the idea of the exhibit is to decrease animal suffering by decreasing their consciousness, and that is just as important a question. Maybe we're living in a simulation, but in this simulation we experience pleasure and pain, and the animals we raise for food experience massive amounts of pain. The serious proposal has already been made to engineer livestock that are incapable of feeling pain (yes, at first blush it seems grotesque, but can you make an argument against it?)

And if we really are able to farm fully decerebrate chickens (and not just blinded ones), they cannot be conscious - cannot ever in their lives have been conscious - in any way. Therefore they cannot suffer, repugnant as this may look to us. BTW, remind you of any Metallica videos?

Monday, February 20, 2012


Like OMG! DNA Robots!

The title above (and image) is what the press release title would have you believe. The reality is still pretty cool - the lab created structures composed of DNA and engineered to move in the presence of certain compounds, so that the structures opened when they contacted leukemia cells; then they can deliver therapeutic chemicals to kill those cells.

This is a good innovation that has potential but right now it's barely proof of concept, because "killing cancer cells" does not at all equate to "curing cancer". (That particular inequality is why we have drug development professionals.) The problem here is not in a lab that's doing cutting edge work, it's in (presumably) the university's press office, and the outlets that distribute their breathless releases. The press has to learn to stop swallowing releases undigested, whether they're from Harvard or much more entertaining ones that explain the whole universe - or we have to learn to stop wasting our time on those particular press outlets.

Words Such as Burn, Fallacy 1 (Flow, 2011)

Words Such as Burn hail from North Carolina and present a solid mix of Sabbath, Metallica and cleaner 90s grunge. I wish I could embed something here but go to their Amazon page and check out Fallacy 1.

The Finn from Neuromancer

Some smartass is doing composite drawings based on character descriptions in novels (link below to see others). Somehow I always pictured the Finn as being late middle-aged and overweight. But that doesn't accord with the description lifted from the text to make this image. I was probably imposing some supporting detective characters from late 80s action series.

From The Composites, where you can find more.

Sarcasm Parentheses

Because tone of voice has no representation in print, the internet needs sarcasm parentheses. I propose that the characters%^ should bracket all sarcastic statements when we want to avoid accidentally being taken in earnest.

%^I bet you can't wait to run out and promote this idea.%^

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Designers

If you haven't seen the footage of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing, what the hell is wrong with you.

One my fondest experiences in the Seattle area was going to see the foundations of the old bridge, which remain as concrete blocks just south of where the new bridge meets land on the western side of the Sound. Fond, because it was the Fourth of July, and the nice man who gave me directions to the ruins informed me that every Fourth a group of people traditionally gets badly baked sitting on said stone blocks and invited me to join them. Tempting though the offer was I had other plans in Seattle that night and had to decline (a mistake, in retrospect.) But standing there that day un-stoned and looking at the foundations and the white caps curling in the Sound beneath the pine-covered basalt bluffs, I suddenly wondered: who designed this doomed thing, and what happened to them?

The two responsible engineers were Washington State's Clark Eldridge, and New York's (Columbia's) Leon Moisseiff. Eldridge was apparently told by the Feds he needed a consultant to help him build the bridge more cheaply. Moisseiff's contribution was to make the bridge more elegant. The bridge opened in July 1940 and collapsed four months later. Moisseiff died just three years after that. Meanwhile, Eldridge was working for the Navy in Guam in 1941 when the war began and he was captured by the Japanese. He spent the rest of the war, almost four years, in a Japanese POW camp, but nonetheless survived the experience died in 1990 at the age of 93.

Interestingly, Moisseiff also designed the Manhattan Bridge across the Hudson, and the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philly across the Delaware, both of which are still "alive and well" today. If you have occasion to drive across either in the future, try jumping up and down on your seat to see if the bridge survives it. Hey, don't be too smug left coasters. Eldridge designed the Lake Washington Floating Bridge (i.e., I-90 in Seattle).

Some more interesting and oddly neglected West Coast engineering history here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cast Iron Crow Opening for Death Angel 2/23

But first Cast Iron Crow is playing in the Battle of the Bands, Chabot College, Saturday 2/18 (starting 6pm at the Buffington Performing Arts Center).

THEN, they're opening for Death Angel (yes, that Death Angel) at the Fat Cat, Modesto, Thursday 2/23. Get tickets here. I'll be at the show. There are few if any bands who represent the quintessence of thrash better than Death Angel.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We Are Living in a Simulation: Specifically, Minecraft

[Welcome BoingBoing deviants. You want metal? You want aliens and simulation arguments and singularity stuff? We got all that. Check us out for a while. - Mike]

Forget self-indication assumptions that favor Bostrom's simulation argument. You don't need them. Some parts of the planet don't even bother to conceal the original Minecraft geometry.

From Strange Interesting Facts.

I mean come on. When you see unfinished work like that sitting around, you realize there's no point in worrying whether the Simulators would get mad if we forced them to use more bandwidth by making higher resolution models of the universe. They clearly don't care if we figure it out. This is Roraima Mountain, a tepuy (table mountain of Precambrian basement rock) that lies on the triple point between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. Read this for an account of the isolated top, scrubbed of nutrients by time and rain: "Contrary to our expectations the top was far from flat, with strange shapes eroded by both wind and water forming peaks and troughs..." (Non-Euclidean shapes?) The poor nutrition of the rock and "soil" favors carnivorous plants, and some reproductively isolated black frogs scamper on four legs like lizards. Check out the pictures at that link; the flora and geology at the top looks like a little transplanted South Utah in the middle of the jungle.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This is Why Programmers Suck

"There is a species of magical thinking practiced by geeks whose experience is computers and electronics—realms of infinite possibility that are purposely constrained from the messiness of the physical world—that is typical of Singularitarianism, mid-90s missives about the promise of virtual reality, and now, 3-D printing." I wanted to cheer when I read that; original article here.

Yes yes, if it weren't for programmers I couldn't be writing this and you couldn't be reading it. But you know what kind of programmer thinking I mean. Matter compilers and nanotechnology are the natural end result of overenthusiastic types who don't remember that code can be distinguished from reality because by definition, if something occurs in code, you understand it. It can't be there if you don't understand it in its entirety. Not everything in reality can be predicted from first principles, and this is true even in a rigorous sense.

Quarteto Da Pinga: Jason Newsted's Mid-90s Side Project

Metallica historians will recall that Newsted was almost thrown out of the band ca. 1996 for recording some side projects that weren't even intended as commercial efforts. This was one of them. Back in the days before Youtube and even Napster I actually bought this in cassette form from a guy in Singapore. Yes, seriously. (Thanks Malcolm.) Quarteto Da Pinga also has Andreas Kisser from Sepultura, Tom Hunting from Exodus and Rob Flynn from Machinehead.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

California Man Gets Superpowers After Falling Into Reactor Pool

Not really, although someone seriously did fall into the cooling water pool at San Onofre. I wouldn't make a joke about it unless he was okay, which he was. He got about a chest X-ray's worth of radiation, or a transcontinental flight (they're about the same).

"Hey Sam, will you quit screwing around and take those contacts out and get out of the reactor pool?"

Jam On It, Newcleus (1984)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A New San Diego Intellectual-Type Gathering: Transhumanism

The Transhumanism Meetup! Behold its majesty! (H/T Jamie from Rational Thought@UCSD.)

And while I'm at it, check out the DarkStar library and gaming club at UCSD, which is a central hub for all things awesome i.e. geeky on campus. Not surprisingly it's in the same building as frequent hosters of metal Che Cafe.

And another thing! A new metal satire site. Like the metal Onion. (H/T Ian from Nerd Metal.)

All these geeky groups in San Diego are getting too hard to keep track of (listed here earlier). Pretty soon we'll run the surfers and stoners out of town and people in San Francisco will start telling us to relax and read less.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Welcome, Nerd Metal Listeners

If you want smart metal criticism and reccomendations, along with a healthy dose of discussion about the Singularity, von Neumann probes, thr Fermi paradox and the simulation argiment, you're in the right place. Don't believe me goddammit? Scroll down. By the time you realize what you're in for it will be TOO LATE!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Abigor = Satanic Scifi Metal

Science fiction + metal = awesome, and all too rare. (For more on metal+scifi check here, here, here, here, or here). Check out some of these titles: Satan's Galaxy, Fractal Possession, Cold Void Choir, and Vaporized Tears. AND right at the beginning of the first track on Fractal Possession they cut right to the chase and HAL starts talking. I mean come on. Here we have 3D Blasphemy, from 2007's Fractal Possession:

They play with the mixing and the electronics are more forward than usual. Strikes me as Ephel Duath meets Morbid Angel (with all the trilled riffs and celebratory symphonic aspects.) The person who introduced me to these described them as "happy", although "celebratory" is the closest I can come (H/T Brigham).

Zero Gravity Screws Up Cells

Some fairly major genetic switches are scrambled in drosophila raised in artificial zero-G. This is bad news for any form of space travel involving long-term exposure to microgravity, especially those where children are born and raised from scratch. It makes sense, since until a little over a half-century ago, every single one of our ancestors had been in a gravity field of right around 1.0 g for 3.7 billion years; zero gravity is a huge warranty-violation for biochemistry.

Sex has already occurred in space, but that's easy compared to building a whole new human being molecule-by-molecule.

Kyuss, Thee O' Boozerony (...And the Circus Leaves Town, 1995)

While enjoying delectable brews and grilled cheese at Hamilton's in San Diego's South Park area, someone put some Kyuss on the jukebox. Who has Kyuss on a jukebox? Awesome bars, that's who (hence the plug).

But more importantly I give you the California desert's own sons:

Check out The Law while you're at it. These guys are like Korn, if Korn wrote actual good riffs and didn't try to make their vocals as annoying as possible. Actually I guess they're kind of not like Korn at all. But a super detuned guitar sound from that era does make you think of that.