The Image category submissions for the “Uplift Universe” Computer Graphics Society contest are closing on Monday 12th May, so gather up all your little green men and submit them to the contest before the end of this weekend! There is over US$100,000 in prizes being dished out, so get involved before it all gets zapped with a laser. (Those doing movie trailers have a month longer.)
THROUGH STRANGER EYES -- a collection of my book reviews, introductions and essays on popular culture -- will soon be released in the Western Hemisphere by Nimble Books and in the Eastern Hemisphere by Altair (Australia). Included will be those infamous articles about J.R.R. Tolkien and Star Wars, sober reflections on Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail, and Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows ...
...scientific ponderings on Feynman and Gott, appraisals of Brunner, Resnick, Zelazny, Verne, and Orwell... all the way to fun riffs on the Matrix and Buffy! Watch for news here!
------ Speaking of... um... genius. Nathan Myhrvold and his Intellectual Ventures innovation superorganism are subjects of an in-depth New Yorker profile. And yes, I can testify that the tales about Nathan are scarcely exaggerated. Some people really do make better use of both dollars and neurons than others. (My eldest son is especially anxious to see the famed Myhrvold collection of analog and mechanical calculating machines, though I told him he must invent something first, in order to make up for spilling wine across Nathan’s table cloth, when he was a year old.)
------- A way to contribute to disaster relief in Myanmar. Mike Treder has researched what he thinks may be the best avenue... the Burmese monks' cyclone relief efforts.
------- And just when I get exhausted, arguing with dreamy SETI fetishists over whether sapient life in the universe must automatically be altruistic... and I am tired of being the bad guy, the grouch, pointing out that “it ain’t necessarily so”... along http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifcomes something that reminds me that I really am the guy who wrote about dolphins and chimps in space. I really HOPE there’s altruism in nature. And Stefan just shared this heartening example.
------- Some fascinating introductory video on “computer forensics” by fellow nanotech policy theorist Steve Burgess.
And a cute satire of an online discussion forum of time travelers.
===== MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS!======
Two studies provide new insights on exceptional longevity. In a study of risk factors that may be part of the 75% of human life span variation not attributable to genetics, Brigham & Women's Hospital researchers estimated that a 70-year-old man who did not smoke and had normal blood pressure and weight, no diabetes and exercised two to four...
See my essay: Do We Really Want Immortality?
A neckband that translates thought into speech by picking up nerve signals to the vocal cords has been used to make a "voiceless" phone call. (Um, hey, a little cred here?)
Peking University researchers have found five biochemical pathways that may be at the core of the process of addiction. Dr Wei and her colleagues wanted to answer three questions. First, what are the genes and biochemical pathways in addiction? Second, does addiction to different substances involve the same core biochemical mechanisms? Third, does anything in those mechanisms explain why addiction is so hard to shake off? Fascinating article. But still, no one will ask: does this hijack parts of the natural behavior reinforcement process?...
Disney Revives 'House of the Future.'
Converting corn to ethanol in Iowa not only leads to clearing more of the Amazonian rainforest, researchers report, but also would do little to slow global warming. It may often make it worse & exacerbate hunger.
Word of a 40 percent increase in the efficiency of a common thermoelectric material, making possible solar panels and car exhaust pipes that use waste heat for electrical power.
A study group identified 25 potential future threats to the environment in the UK, which they say researchers should focus on. In addition to well-publicised risks such as toxic nanomaterials, the acidification of the ocean and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the list includes some more outlandish possibilities. These include: • Biomimetic robots that could become new invasive species. • Experiments involving climate engineering, for instance and • Increased demand for the biomass needed to make biofuel. • Disruption to marine ecosystems caused by offshore power generation. Experiments to control invasive species using genetically engineered viruses.
=== A WORD ABOUT WORD ===
Re setting standards based upon Microsoft Word... that is like letting Yogi Bera write a textbook on grammar or appointing Harpo Marx to the Supreme Court... not exactly immoral or criminal, but absolutely crazy. I still write using a 1996 version of Word Perfect for the Macintosh... a product that is now totally unsupported and that has gone unrevised for a decade! Why? Because the logical pattern of its commands, its formatting, its toolkit and the far smaller number of outrageously dumb steps made it seem designed by and for humans, not denizens of Planet Regrespa.
Seriously, Word is big and complex and follows a kind of logic. Every time I curse and scratch my head over some vastly complicated, multi-step weirdness that the whole world now takes for granted, because it became the “standard,” I eventually have an epiphany moment when I say “Oh! I see what they’re doing!”
Only then I add... “But... why???” Seriously. I have long suspected that MEN IN BLACK had it right. There are clusters of aliens on Earth, mostly in America, pretty decent folk, paying their taxes, fitting in. Some are inimical, like those pod beings who have taken over NASA Marshall Space-Nonflight Center, doing everything in their power, for thirty years, to keep us out of space...
And others, like a giant hive in Redmond Washington, just want to make money monopolizing our software. They don’t even mean us harm! But their logic is not our logic.
=== MORE MISC STUFF ====
A cute comparison of ten differences between writers and mathematicians.
Want to take part in a survey about sci fi movie cliches? I mean tropes? I mean used-a-lot old stories?
Another brilliant Jared Diamond article, this time about the roots of the human impulse for revenge.
See a fairly long audio interview with me, in which Stephen Euin Cobb asks about what I liked... and hated... about my recent, top-rated, event on Second Life!