Sunday, May 24, 2009

Announcements... Coolstuff... and Halliburton

See my latest manic comedy story “Gorilla My Dreams” in UNIVERSE Magazine (now available through my website.).  This is a very different flavor of humor than my more - well - level-headed comedic serial “The Ancient Ones.”

And yes, this is one of my catch-all postings, filled with wonders... zipping from topic to topic but ending on a serious (and political) note.)

Please drop by the GoodReads web site and see if this endeavors, helping readers connect with authors and books, appeals to you.  (Of course, it would not hurt to rate your favorite author there!; ) 

Some folks try this and comment! Scribd, an Internet start-up here, will introduce on Monday a way for anyone to upload a document to the Web and charge for it.

See my brief essay on the can-do spirit of Star Trek, in The NY Daily News site.  I have subsequently thought further.  The self-indulgence of including every character from the original series, right away, is as irritating as ever.  (In fact, I hate it.  The characters spanned a wide range of ages, in fact.)  And the massive death toll was disturbing.  And the “red matter” and “supernova” stuff could have done with a technical advisor -- someone savvy in both science and fiction, to make it more plausible and less, well, boneheaded.  Still, it was overall entertaining and cheerfully manic and within range for me to tune my “expectation dials” and have a rollicking good time.

See a mostly positive article in the Washington Post about the involvement of SIGMA - the think tank of science fiction authors - at a recent conference on Homeland security.

Anyone care to study up on this, telling us more than is in the article?  Tantalizing!  Ultra-dense deuterium may be the nuclear fuel of the future.  I wonder if they are talking about Rydberg Matter. (Thanks Mike G.)

Alas, it’s probably to good to be true.  Says Brian Wang: “It isn't even "microscopic amounts" - for "microscopic" means "visible in a microscope". Do the math, fellow NBF visionaries: 2.3 picometers .....   This is not a union-of-deuterons lasting nanoseconds, or microseconds, or milliseconds, or seconds. No, these are the fragments that lasted just long enough for the D(-1) state to hold together in a laser beam for ATTOSECONDS.”  sigh.

Fascinating look at “The Economics of Star Trek.” 

Side appeal:  See BETTER OFF TED on ABC.  It is hilarious and terrifically written and needs some buzz in order to survive.

Thoughts on the “natural burial” movement... or “be a tree?”

"Isolation of a gene called DARPP-32 helps explain why some people fly into a rage at the slightest provocation, while others can remain calm. .. Those who had the "TT" or "TC" versions of the gene portrayed significantly more anger than those with the "CC" version." Telegraph 6th May 2009.

Here’s a cool looking new magazine with an ambitious theme and a quirky title: Build a Model Orbiter  (!)  Seems I’ll be featured in an upcoming article.   

Somebody do a book report for us on Jacques Pitrat's new book Artificial Ethics: Moral Conscience, Awareness and Consciencousness   “...of interest to anyone who likes robotics, software, artificial intelligence, cognitive science and science-fiction.”

=== Miscellany ===

More than 100 schools have partnered with YouTube to make the YouTube EDU channel, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale, and UC.

 Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

 GM and Segway demonstrated Tuesday an electric two-wheel, two-seat prototype vehicle for use in congested urban environments. The 300-pound, zero-emissions vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery and dual electric wheel motors. It features all-electronic acceleration, steering, and braking.

 A new thermodynamic analysis suggests that 10 of life's 20 amino acids must be common throughout the cosmos  for reasons that I explicated in my 1983 SETI review article.

 A roundup of the coolest computer interfaces past, present, and future.

A sixth nucleotide?

 See another TED video about data visualization.  The Allosphere.

 Tweet this: Rapid-fire media may confuse your moral compass.  Um.... duh?

 At a  conference last week, researchers showcased many new and innovative ways to interact with machines, from  to .  Including (out of sci fi) Eye-Tracking Goggles....

 Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic infrastructure of an American city. Its implications, though startling, have gone almost un-reported. That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization.

 Ugolog Creates Surveillance Website To Watch Anyone, Anywhere

  Free Will... or at least the place where we decide to act, is sited in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex, new research suggests.

Looking for signals from distant civilizations might be an effort in futility, according to scientists who met at Harvard University recently. The dominant view of astronomers at a symposium on the future of human life in the Universe seems to be that if other life is out there, it likely is dominated by microbes or other nonspeaking creatures.   If life did develop elsewhere, Andrew Knoll, the Fisher Professor of Natural History, used the lessons of planet Earth to give an idea of what it might take to develop intelligence.

Of the three major groupings of life: bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes, only the eukaryotes developed complex life. And even among the myriad kinds of eukaryotes, complex life arose in just a few places: animals, plants, fungi, and red and brown algae. Knoll said he believes that the rise of mobility, oxygen levels, and predation, together with its need for sophisticated sensory systems, coordinated activity, and a brain, provided the first steps toward intelligence.

Josh D supplied these about ZOMBIE animals... and maybe zombie humans...brrrr...

Achieving WaterIndependence

Living Machines.  Wowser.  And I portrayed them in EARTH, of course.

California Water And Energy does seem to be based on my Kiln People concept.  But that's not my biggest complaint.  It takes forever to load each page of their site, in exchange for lots of gloss and very little actual information.  Frankly, I haven’t the patience to wade slowly through their interface.  Somebody try it and report?

What would you do with a $40 Linux computer the size of a three-prong plug adapter? Marvell Technology Group is counting on an army of computer engineers and hackers to answer that question. It has created a “plug computer.” It’s a tiny plastic box that you plug into an electric outlet. There’s no display. But there is an Ethernet jack to connect to a home network and a U.S.B. socket for attaching a hard drive, camera or other device. Inside is a 1.2 gigahertz Marvell chip, called an application processor, running a version of the Linux operating system.

And finally, lighting the political lamp...

Halliburton exposed.
This is absolutely necessary to view.  A wave of “emergency-override” crony contracts that violated every US contracting law.  Anyone who does not realize that this was the main reason for the war has got to be crazy.  And mind you I wanted to go and get Saddam!  In order to make up for the way Bush Sr. betrayed the Iraqi people in 1991.  But that was never the goal. It was the excuse. 

 Said one viewer: “God, I wish Obama had the balls to go after these bastards. Dig down deep enough, and you'll find the roots leading up to Bush and Cheney.”  Indeed, unleashing totally apolitical auditors and civil servants and prosecutors is precisely the way that BHO can attack without seeming to be pursuing a witch hunt.  Again... see this video! And get others to do so.

*  Oh... and political art dada.


Acacia H. said...

North Korea claims to have done a successful testing of a nuclear device. I can see this having repercussions not only in Asia... but in the Middle East with Iran racing to try and make its own atomic bomb and Israel demanding it be allowed to bomb Iran and stop them.

Hopefully we'll soon learn that North Korea just took advantage of an earthquake to claim a nuclear test. But I have a feeling this isn't a fake-out... and have to wonder how China and Obama will respond.

Rob H.

Woozle said...

The original link to the Star Trek article seems to be missing a hyphen, and goes to a 404 page; here's a working linkI have some related thoughts, but wanted to read the article first...

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of comments this Memorial Day re Iraq, Haliburton, etc.:

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Goering

I was one of those in favor of the invasion of Iraq due to what was (at the time) persuasive evidence presented by one of the few men I really admire, Gen. Colin Powell, concerning Iraq's WMDs. It didn't take much to imagine a nightmare scenario where WMDs were given to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in a manner that would make it impossible to trace the WMDs back to their source. Imagine a world where suitcase nukes, canisters of nerve agents and weaponized viruses are as common as car bombs.

Well, we didn't find any WMDs. The worst that could be said was that Iraq had a program and infrastructure in place with scientists and engineers that could resume WMD manufacturing as soon as the heat was off and UN sanctions lifted. We also know now that Powell was set up and used as a dupe for his presentation at the UN. And now Cheney (who dodged the draft) says Powell doesn't belong in the GOP! Sad to say, Cheney may now days be the "better" Republican, but Powell will always be by far the better man.

(How did the party of Lincoln, Ike and Reagan become the party of Cheney, Limbaugh and Beck?)

Be that as it may I am proud of the courage and skill of our men and women in uniform who, under the brilliant leadership of Gen Petreus, have won the war in Iraq and made democracy there at least possible - and saved W's hash. And they did it by killing large numbers of very bad people. And the world is a better place without Saddam and his charming sons. They won't be missed.

But if W and Cheney deliberately lied about WMDs in Iraq (rather than just erring on the side of caution and assuming the worst from the slightest evidence) then they have committed a war crime - the kind that got Herman and his buddies hanged at Nuremburg. The tactics used to extract information are similar to those that got Japanese war criminals tried and executed. At best the results of "enhanced interrogation" are mixed with rival claims as to its overall effectiveness and timeliness. The FBI remains adamant that good old fashioned police work and standard interrogation techniques accomplished far more than water boarding.

But this Memorial Day I think its time that we remember what John Quincy Adams said about America's place in the world, "But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. ...The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."

Like the Roman Republic, if we chose empire abroad, the American Republic will lose its freedoms at home.

Woozle said...

The "rage" article link also had problems; here's the fixed link.

That one definitely goes in my collection of information about human nature.

WorldMaker said...

Yeah, that new Bruce Willis film "The Surrogates" (the website you posted being an ad site for the movie) does seem to have a lot in common with Kiln People.

It's aparently based upon a comic book:

I wonder if the comic's creators read Kiln People.

Woozle said...

Okay, the Star Trek thing...

The other day, it somehow came up that my hypertwin's 12-year-old wanted to watch the "Devil in the Dark" episode of Star Trek (TOS). Having not watched it in maybe a decade or more, I sat down and watched it with him (from a VHS tape I apparently recorded in ~1987).

For those not familiar with the episode: a human mining colony is experiencing sudden and mysterious deaths as well as missing and damaged mining equipment, all of which are soon traced to a frightening creature who strikes with lightning speed and vanishes, horribly charring its victims with acid and leaving nothing but ashes and bits of bone. The creature even completely removes a pump vital to the colony's survival. The colonists and their leader understandably want the creature killed. Long story short: Spock makes mental contact with the creature, finds that it is very intelligent and that the humans have been unknowingly destroying its eggs; its attacks and vandalism were an attempt to protect the eggs and drive the humans off. Spock arranges a truce, the creature returns the pump, and she and her children begin helping with mining operations, making them all "embarrassingly rich".

At the end, we were talking about how this is an example of why it's better to try and understand your "enemies" than to fight them, and it occurred to me that this is probably the thing I liked most about Star Trek: positive-sum thinking, as exemplified by things like talking to an "enemy" and finding that what they want is totally compatible with what we want, and all we have to do is avoid stepping on their toes; the idea that trustworthiness and communication are more important than weaponry; that we don't have to destroy others in order to get what we want; and so on.

Further, it occurred to me that the basic premise of this episode -- the "devil" in the dark becomes an ally -- epitomizes the exact opposite of the kind of thinking nurtured and promoted by the neocons: there are those among us who may seem innocent but are in fact enemies of everything we hold dear; they must be sought out and eliminated, without negotiation.

Lately I've been having some rather intensive online discussion with a fellow claiming to be a "progressive" conservative. I was initially rather skeptical that "progressive conservatism" wasn't an oxymoron by definition, but it's looking like it may actually be theoretically possible, depending on how you define "conservatism" -- if nothing else, I'm beginning to think that "progressive conservatism" is as good a name as any for a philosophy which is primarily being practiced, these days, by those calling themselves "liberals".

What he hasn't been able to show me, as far as I can tell, is how the public policy choices he supports are any more "conservative" than choices I might prefer.

I had labeled the philosophy I was defending as "rational liberalism", to avoid confusion the wide range of "liberal" values, much or most of which I agree with but which can get pretty loopy in places (albeit generally less alarming or outright dangerous than many neocon beliefs), but after watching this episode I found the phrase "Star Trek liberalism" bouncing around my head...

...and then it occurred to me that what I am actually doing is saying something like this: Neocon/Republican philosophy is a radical departure from the values which seem the best to me, many of which are demonstrated by the better Star Trek episodes. The moral values displayed in those episodes are the values I want to preserve, in the face of the "post-9/11 world" claims that we must clamp down on freedoms and lower our standards if we expect to survive the terrorists (and abortionists and gays and America-hating liberals).

In short: I am a Star Trek conservative.

occam's comic said...

Sorry Dave,
Just because the Bushies
!.) tortured people into giving politically useful false confessions,
2.) that were used to start a war of aggression
3.) a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people
4.) and a war that they financially and politically benefited from
is no reason to get upset and call for investigations. That was in the past and we must move forward. Barrack Obama has made it clear that the politically powerful don't have to follow the rule of law. Laws are for little people like you and me. It would be too “distracting” to enforce the law when the former president and vice president are involved with the crimes.

Stefan Jones said...

Another corrected URL:

David Brin said...

Boy, I did a lousy job with my links, this time! Thanks for the corrections.

Occam, I want jiu jitsu. If we go DIRECTLY after Cheney, he's a martyr and fox gets its beloved culture/ratings war.

If we go after Halliburton and Blackwater and vampire CEOs and secret Cayman accounts,,, all using neutral auditors without a hint of political witch hunting, then the money boys fall, pointing fingers at each other, and at the Cheneykleps. The middle class then wakes up to how we've been ripped off, the GOP dies and Cheney has to hide in his ranch as a despised figure till the end of his days.

Oh... and Fox shrivels up and Limbaugh becomes a laughingstock. THAT is how to fight this thing.

No, when I'll start grumbling about Obama letting us down is when I realize that the auditors haven't been unleashed. If the number of accountants at the FBI and SEC and FTC etc double... when all the Inspectors General are replaced with aggressive men and women and when they are turned into a potent force for transparency, under an Inspector General of the United States (IGUS) (See:

...THAT is when I will breathe a sigh of relief and know that Barack Obama is both smart and motivated enough to win this thing.

Woozle said...

So... we're not disagreeing that Cheney & co. need to be prosecuted, we're just discussing the best way to accomplish that -- in the context of practical politics and so forth.

Sounds good to me. I'll be delighted if that turns out to be the game Obama is playing, and at this point I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has shown himself to be a subtle operator. (Does anyone know how Saddleback and Pastor Rick have been doing lately?)

occam's comic said...

The culture war is not going to go away, so I say we should fight them on the grounds of torture. The Bush administration tortured people into giving false confessions that were used to gin up support for a war of aggression. Its not the ticking time bomb excuse for torture. They used torture for the same purposes as Stalin and Mao: to get politically useful "signed confessions". If we as a society can't prosecute people for this type of war crime, how can any of us our heads up and say "I am proud to be an American".

If anyone would have told me 10 years ago being pro torture would be a core position for the Republican party and the Democrats would refuse to prosecute americans who commit torture for personal profit, I would have said they were bat shit crazy and anti-american assholes, but I guess I would have been wrong.

If we can't win the battle over torture we don't have a society worth supporting.

The advantage of going directly at the ones who set up and approved the torture policy (as opposed to getting them indirectly) is that we reinforce the taboo against torture. Something we are apparently in great need of.

Jester said...

The brother of the Emir of Dubai is currently being held on charges that he tortured a business associate.

Somehow, I really don't want to have to look UP to Dubai to see what moral high ground looks like.


We haven't "won" a war in Iraq. We've got a ceasefire that is fragile and frequently breached, and which is contingent on us getting our asses out when we said we would.

Contrary to media image of the slavering Islamist boogeyman, very few of the Iraqis who have fought for the last five years have been interested in anything other than getting us the hell out of their country.

We didn't burn down British forts while the Treaty of Paris was being negotiated under ceasefire, either.

If we honor the SOFA, what we leave behind after our complete withdrawl in 2011 will be a society less "stable" less "democratic" and less "free" than Lebanon.

It will be, in fact, what Hezbollah is working so hard to turn Lebanon into.

If we don't honor it, we're right back in the shit.

17 members of an Iraqi LBGT rights group have been executed by the Iraqi government since 2005.

Currently, dozens of men are on Iraqs death row for being gay.

If this is what we call a "win", it's time for a bit of weeping.

Chawbat - a day of rest and prayer, celebrated with Skoal.

Tony Fisk said...

Coolstuff (and *that* word again!)

I gather that Mars Science Laboratory rover has just been given a new name.

You can find out what it is 'here (if you're curious! ;-)

Out of the mouths of 12 year olds...

'frizzlea': how one feels after being put into 'flu quarantine for a week.

(Speaking of which, better start stocking up)

TomCraver said...

Uplifting Mice? Mice given human version of Foxp2 gene, related to human speech.

Previous work disabled the gene in mice, apparently showing that the gene is related to motor skills.

lc said...

Bravo, Tony! The rover's name is what humanity is all about!

Anonymous said...

should have been

Anonymous said...

should have been

Anonymous said...

The link to titled "Living Machines" is also broken. It goes to a login prompt instead of to any kind of actual article. Perhaps you posted a link to a private article? Please don't post links to unpublished articles while they remain in that state; hold off until anyone can read them.