The REAL elephant in the room

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elephant in the roomAt a recent meeting of the Woman’s Writing Festival, the future of mainstream publishers was brought up.  Though it was a casual comment at first, the subject became more insistent, with some suggesting that soon the majority of books available to the public would be self-published, essentially putting most traditional publishers out of business.

Although the discussion of these writers centered around the impact on writers of the traditional publishers’ absence, I don’t see that as the big issue writers should be addressing.  A also don’t see the balance between self-published and traditionally-published books to be the big issue.  The real issue here is this: When most books available to the public are self-published, how is the public going to find them? Continue reading

A solution for long-term living on low-gravity planets

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We are now very familiar with the fact that living in less than the 1-gee gravity humans were born in, has proven to be hazardous to our long-term health: Muscles weaken; bones thin out; stress is placed on blood vessels; and it can take serious effort to recover from the stays in orbit or on the Moon that put us in a low- or no-gravity situation.

Mars colony

Might be practical… but under low gravity, a long-term stay will make it difficult-to-hazardous to go back home to Earth.

And yet, we are actively talking about returning to the Moon for long-term settlement, and doing the same on Mars… knowing that prolonged exposure on either low-gravity world could make it tough-to-impossible to return to the full gravity of Earth.  Are we doomed to extended rehabilitation after every such stay, a “recompression” regimen that could take days, weeks… months?

Maybe not.  There is another way to simulate a full Earth gravity on a low-gravity world; a real solution that doesn’t require the invention of gravity-generators or any such hand-wavium.  It’s based on two very familiar concepts, one of which has been applied in science fiction regularly, while the other is applied on a regular basis… in amusement parks and on aircraft. Continue reading

QMX creates a gorgeous Serenity replica

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QMX has decided to torture me with a 1:124 scale replica of Serenity from Firefly, complete with lights, rotating engines, tiny figures that you can suggest positions for inside the ship, an articulated support armature and a light-up base.

SerenityAnd for less than $7,500 dollars!

To which my instant response was: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY—

pennies—oh.  Crap.

What deep concepts could Star Trek ponder next?

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Lokain and Bele

Emblematic of the issues Star Trek liked to delve in was the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” about two members of the same race that hated each other because of their “obvious differences.”

There was an interesting question in IO9’s Postal Apocalypse mailbox this week, which “Postman” Rob Brickman decided to acknowledge as a great question… then pass on answering:

While many issues have been raised about how poorly Star Trek has tackled issues like gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity—and I certainly hope that we eventually get to see Federation citizens pursuing gay relationships and trans* individuals with no one batting an eye—it’s inspired me to wonder about how Star Trek could get out ahead of modern civil rights to tackle something our progressive civil rights movements have not reached yet. We’ve seen this in limited fashion with AI like Data and the EMH, where we explore what it is that constitutes an individual with equal rights and privileges, but I’m wondering about what might come after that. Hive-minds? The transfer of biological consciousness to a synthetic medium?

What’s the next, next generation of science fictiony rights issues that Star Trek could tackle when it someday returns to the small screen? What shape could egalitarianism take on in the 25th century?

I think the takeaway on that is that future fictional postmen in apocalyptic America couldn’t care less about Star Trek.  Clearly they realize how dated and obsolete the franchise is by then.  Nevertheless, I thought it was a great question, too, and would love to take a crack at a response. Continue reading

I don’t “celebrate” Columbus Day.

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Columbus the destroyerI don’t see Columbus Day as a day deserving of celebration.  Here’s why.  Have some truth with your nursery rhymes.

Note: Less than a year after the publication of this comic, Columbus Day was renamed to Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle.  Good going, Seattle.

Misplaced fault

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solar installationA recent New York Times article has captured energy aficionados’ attention for proclaiming that solar panel users have, for years, been doing it wrong.  The article maintains that pointing solar panels south, where they are exposed to the maximum of sunlight, actually means that they are not absorbing the maximum amount of energy at the time of day when it’s needed… specifically, the afternoon and evening when home energy usage is at its highest.  And they say this is bad.  Bad.

Their reasoning is that, because solar panels are taking overall energy demand from the grid, it is forcing us to shut down or run at lower efficiency our big power plants, and less efficiency costs money.  Also, when the peak demand is high, we must supplement this need by burning natural gas, which means we’re out fracking for more, and threatening our environment unnecessarily.

So, the low efficiency usage of existing power plants, and the need for fracking, are based on solar panels facing the wrong way.

I see what you did, there.

So, NOPE.  The fault here is not with solar panels.  The fault is with an entire industry set up on a stupid assumption (not to mention a news service parroting a party line). Continue reading

Are We Overthinking the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence?

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skynetIn this IO9 article, George Dvorsky talks to SF author David Brin about our society’s inherent over-reaction to and fear of technology.  His comments parallel recent articles and press releases of Project Hieroglyph, in promoting a positive outlook in science fiction, and he sums up the biggest problem here:

The problem with Hollywood, and cable news and yes, much written sci fi, as well, is that the very notion of adult process is anathema! it is seen as a killer of what Hollywood needs most… drama! Fast-paced peril and pure heroes opposing pure evil!

He also calls out one of my old favorite authors, Michael Crichton, for building his reputation on stories where basically the purity of science and technology was corrupted by a few people ignoring accepted safeguards, or working in secret with some hidden agenda, and thereby creating deadly nanotechnology or dinosaurs running amok.

My take: David Brin Johnson is right! (Hurerrer!) It’s good to hear a bit of common sense applied to technological development, and the fears largely caused not by the technology, but by our own lack of care.