Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Real Hari Seldon

The real-life Hari Seldon is Peter Turchin, a man who aims to find the patterns in history.  One of the requirements for Seldon's psychohistory was that the populations under observation didn't know of the predictions; in the same vein, can we apply patterns from the pre-industrial age to the modern world, or are all bets now off?  Full article here at my socioeconomic blog The Late Enlightenment.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

The VLA and Skynet

The Very Large Array (VLA) is a fairly well-known radiotelescope installation on the San Augustin Plain west of Socorro, New Mexico.  I went there two weeks ago.

These have been used with various degrees of special effects in several science fiction movies, notably Contact, 2010, and most recently Terminator:  Salvation:

Keeping this in mind, when I encountered the wall of notes (above) that past visitors had left for the astronomers, I made sure to add my own to warn them.  (A post-it note is the only responsible way to try to warn someone of the impending extinction of humanity.)

The whole time I was there I did not see a single other human being, so maybe Skynet has already taken it over and is just lying low.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Ain't Never Seen THIS Autobot Afore

From Comic-Con 2012, San Diego.

Oration On UCSD Architecture

"UCSD’s continued expansion into a science-fiction nightmare: It’s been a growing monstrosity for decades. Where there once stood mighty eucalyptus groves and quaint ’70s wooden ranch architecture, there are now mostly big gray concrete boxes. Nothing’s human scale. One of the last campus sweet spots, the charming University Center, with its 1950s Camp Matthews bungalows and grass field, was leveled a few years ago to make way for the giant, hideous Jacobs School of Engineering building. Wanna feel like a cyborg sent for reprogramming in a dystopian future? Borrow $80,000 and get a degree from the University of California. "

Well that's nitpicking isn't it.

I might not join the writer of this erstwhile San Diego preservationist in UCSD-bashing, but in all seriousness, I'm not a big fan of the nearby Salk Institute. Like many people I'm not a big fan of mid-to-late twentieth century institutional modern architecture in general. Anything that attempts to create its own style looks dated very quickly (ever see the quaintly 60s international terminal at JFK? Eero Saarinen, same guy who did the St. Louis Arch. Only the Arch remains in good taste since it's too simple to identify with any one era.) And the worst thing about modern architecture, since it's clearly meant to impress one-time visitors rather than the people that work there? The bathrooms always suck. This is the most important room in the building as far as I'm concerned, and in the Salk they're a disaster, just like in many of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings. Beth Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia, one of his last structures, is a perfect example.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vandenberg Launch 0027 Friday 3 August

The launch of the NROL-36 payload (a spy satellite) was delayed 1 day. This means it will be launched Thursday night/Friday morning at 12:27 a.m. I've seen a launch from just outside Vandenberg but I want to see if it's visible from San Diego - it's 230 air miles but it should be, since these launches are usually visible from San Francisco which is further. Vandenberg launch schedule here. Beware sudden-onset fog at the coast! If this hadn't been delayed, I would have missed it last night for exactly that reason.

Atlas V launch from Cape Canaveral earlier in 2012. 
Skip to 2m20s for the liftoff.