Thursday, December 15, 2011

Using Science Fiction in the Classroom. Plus Media Thoughts - and Coolstuff!

== Using Science Fiction to Excite the Future (minds) ==

Young people - and the teachers and librarians who work with them - can benefit from the inspiration and imagination of Science Fiction.

Teaching-Science-FictionDo you know any educators who might want to learn more about the genre of literature that is fascinated with change and looking to the future? And that does more than any other to inspire children to strive for success?

* Teachers interested in using Science Fiction should check out the extensive resources at to access excellent materials that teach about the literary genre of bold ideas -- one willing to discuss the inevitability of change.

*Also, see a collection of articles assembled at Teaching Science Fiction -- with links and resources for incorporating Science Fiction into the classroom to improve literacy, reading and writing skills.

*An article, Science Fiction Resources for Young Adult Librarians, describes several ongoing efforts to help educators learn about this field. It includes a short note, as well, from one of your favorite authors. On my website, I have an article, Using Science Fiction to Help Turn Kids on to Reading ...and the Future!

 *Science Fiction can be used to illustrate scientific concepts. See this collection of resources related to Using Science Fiction to Teach Science, with links to stories and books that may help convey concepts in physics and astronomy as well as the life sciences. See also a list of Movies that help teach science.

*Julie Czernada's website has a wealth of useful resources for teachers, as well as anthologies for use in the classroom.

*Plus see a list of my personal favorite novels for teens: recommended Science Fiction novels for Young Adults.

Sometimes the right book can ignite a fire that lasts a lifetime -- you never know.

==A Trailer for Existence==

Before diving into media and strange science, here’s a tentative announcement.

I’m thinking about a contest to create a mini-trailer  for my new novel (coming in June) - a great big near-future science fiction saga called EXISTENCE.

I've already sent feelers to the Computer Graphics society, whose members made some shorts based on my uplift books for an earlier contest. I’m also pondering a call for folks interested in doing a live action version.  Like this one done by my friend Jeff Carlson for his terrific book Plague Year.

Can't afford to offer a huge prize for the winner and time is short. But I can promise a nibble... plus publicity and loads of fun. And a chance to read the novel early, for free! Starting with these novellas already posted online.

The Smartest Mob (a parable about times to come!)
Shoresteading --a novella
Aficionado --a novella from Existence.

Later Note: You can now see the marvelous trailer, by web artist Patrick Farley!

== Fanboy Gushing about Firefly ==

Okay, I have spoken before about that great - if tragically brief - sci fi miniseries.  My kids (and wife) adore Firefly. But one episode stands out, written by Joss Whedon himself.  “Mrs. Reynolds” is just plain dazzlingly well-written from beginning to end.  Every sentence - even those just tossed aside - sparkles with cleverness and fun and even (sometimes) real depth.  That’s a fellow I’d buy several beers.

== More Science! ==

* A hundred years late, is Oswald Spengler finally proving right about the Decline of the West? Take this factoid:

”It isn't just Americans concerned about science, though Europeans seem a little dramatic about it.   Currently, America can only employ 16% of its Ph.D.s in academia, what most academics regard as 'science', so there is a glut of post-docs and not enough grants to give them all jobs, but Europeans have a different sort of problem - young people are not going into science at all.”

* In about 18 months a newfound object that’s probably a small, compact gas cloud, will draw near the cosmic orifice at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Its orbit will carry it to within about 36 light-hours of the black hole, roughly twice the distance now separating NASA's Voyager 1  from the sun. If it is a cloud, then some of the material will get sucked in! (A mere star would likely plunge on by, in a very tight orbit.) Very exciting, if this makes the Beast come alive!

* To gather material from asteroids or comets (re my doctoral thesis!), NASA is developing a sample-collecting space harpoon which could be projected "with surgical precision" from a spacecraft hovering above the target.  Seriously, this is what I would have done with my life, if you folks hadn’t bribed me into the arts, instead.

* Best-yet candidate "life-world"? The host star lies about 600 light-years away from us toward the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus. The star, a G5 star, has a mass and a radius only slightly smaller than that of our Sun, a G2 star. As a result, it is about 25% less luminous than the Sun. The planet orbits the G5 star with an orbital period of 290 days, compared to 365 days for the Earth, at a distance about 15% closer to its star than the Earth from the Sun. This results in the planet's balmy temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  It orbits in the middle of the star's habitable zone,

This new exoplanet is the smallest-radius planet discovered in the habitable zone of any star to date. It is about 2.4 times larger than that of the Earth, putting it in the class of exoplanets known as super-Earths. Alert! When you read estimated “temperatures” for such planets, remember it is the raw, black-body calculation based on the albedo of rock and the net insolation at that distance from its star. As we’ve seen on Earth, Venus and Mars, the greenhouse effects of an atmosphere change everything!

== The Frontiers of Life! ==

* Know any researchers or organizations that might be very interested in a possible Conference on Uplift?  Yes, regarding “the plausibility of altering the problem-solving or linguistic intelligence of higher animals or humans.”  Oh it would spark a HUGE row! And get everybody on TV.

* Dolphin language? Here’s new research that pretty much verifies my own hypotheses. “Researchers in the United States and Great Britain have made a breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language in which a series of eight objects have been sonically identified by dolphins. Team leader, Jack Kassewitz of, ‘spoke’ to dolphins with the dolphin’s own sound picture words. Dolphins in two separate research centers understood the words, presenting convincing evidence that dolphins employ a universal “sono-pictorial” language of communication.

“...(he) recorded dolphin echolocation sounds as they reflected off a range of eight submersed objects, including a plastic cube, a toy duck and a flowerpot. He discovered that the reflected sounds actually contain sound pictures and when replayed to the dolphin in the form of a game, the dolphin was able to identify the objects with 86% accuracy, providing evidence that dolphins understand echolocation sounds as pictures.  Kassewitz then drove to a different facility and replayed the sound pictures to a dolphin that had not previously experienced them. The second dolphin identified the objects with a similar high success rate.”

Sonic glyphs based on shape reflections? Quick!  To the Predictions Registry!

* Proof that the unconscious ponders complex matters that affect WHEN or IF we consciously become aware of things.

* Woolly mammoth to be brought back to life from cloned bone marrow 'within five years'.  Um... predicted in both EARTH and  EXISTENCE.

* Remember the “arsenic life” that was claimed from a poison lake in California?  A year later, it is still very interesting, but arsenic has NOT replaced phosphorus in the crucial sites along the spine of DNA. Hyped up? Well... probably.

* Two bitingly funny comics online: A History of the World (according to The History Channel) from Tree Lobsters, and Life After College, from Abstruse Goose.

== Politically Relevant ==

* Federal regulators have tentatively approved a nuclear reactor designed by Westinghouse Electric Co. that could power the first atomic plants built from scratch in the U.S. in a generation.

* In terms of weather, 2011 has made it into the record books. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that during this year, there have been 12 different weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion. The previous record was nine in 2008.

Given these two facts -- um, who are the flexible pragmatists and who are the dogmatists who drove us off a cliff in the first decade of the century?

== And the Land of the Bizarre ==

* Afterlife is a system that involves turning a deceased human body back into its core chemical energy. The decedent is placed into the special Afterlife coffin which features small drains in the bottom. The drains lead to microbial fuel cells beneath the coffin that thereupon charge batteries that loved ones can recover and emblem "Dad" and use for some purpose stated in dad's will.

* Smell your way to intuition? "Participants in the study assessed, with some degree of accuracy, how outgoing, anxious or dominant people were after only taking a whiff of their clothes. The study is the first to test whether personality traits can be discerned through body odor."

== Useful?  Or Chilling? ==

* LocAid can use your full cell phone number to figure out exactly where you are right now. Banks and card issuers are interested in checking where their customers are—as a way to reduce fraud—and of retailers interested in sending deals to people nearby.  Currently, the company claims to have a very strongly protective privacy policy in which each request for the info must be presented to the cell phone owner on an opt-in basis.  A reasonable model, if it works and if it is maintained with power in our hands.

* New research published in Science suggests it may be possible to use MRI to induce brain activity patterns to improve performance on tasks involving visual performance, such as playing the piano. This worked even when the subjects weren’t aware of what they were learning. Inspiring or creepy?

== The Paranoia Lamp is Lit! ==

"The commentator says there's "absolutely no explanation" for the nearly Mercury-size mystery object other than that it's a spaceship. "What object in space cloaks itself and doesn't appear until it gets hit by energy from the sun?" siniXster asked.”

Hmmm. well, the official explanation is convincing.  Notice how the “ship” is aimed right at Mercury, and happens to lie over the pixels where the planet had been the previous day or two.  The supports the STEREO spacecraft managers’ explanation that they “subtract the previous day’s pixels in order to enhance the coronal mass (which is normally quite dim). That subtraction creates a visual artifact where the planet had been, the day before.

Still, these “Aha!” moments are fun! They show how excitable amateurs with keen eyes can interact non-destructively with the professionals.  That is exactly the process for a society that blends common-sense skepticism up-top with a T-Cell approach for swarming those low-probability events... one out of a million of which might turn out to be way-huge.

What is criminal and insane has been the recent trend by cynical media to pit us against each other. And especially the recent campaign to turn 1/3 of Americans against every profession of intellect, knowledge and skill.


sociotard said...

The ISS passes in front of the Moon, or is this mere Photoshop?

sociotard said...

I'm surprised you liked Firefly, what with its look back view. You've disparaged Steampunk in the past, which has some similarities.

It isn't just the cowboy trimmings either. One of the themes in the show is Mal trying to find the right balance between civilization and barbarism , rather than a more Brinian CIVILIZATION AL THE WAY!!! In the show, total civilization destroys freedom (Represented by the Alliance) while total barbarism is pure horror (represented by Reavers). Mal must navigate between this Skylla and Charybdis, balancing civilization and barbarism, cooperation and competition.

And the movie had the core problem arise as Michael Crichton might have written it, with scientists playing God and lacking in transparency.

Anonymous said...

>during this year, there have been 12 different weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion

What good news this is -- it shows how rich we are and remain as a species : it's easier to cause damage in a target rich environment.

Consider : could any of these events have caused a billion inflation-adjusted dollars cost even a hundred years ago? And how recent do we have to get to have all the events tallied worldwide and costed like this?

RRLittle said...

Dr. Brin, in looking at your last two sentences, I am reminded of a little theory I've cooked up about the way social opinion is shaped and manipulated.
When Reagan was elected in 1980, our culture took a swing a little more to the right. By the mid-1980's, we were busy blasting the two earlier decades; the 60's for being too radical and the 70's for being too... brown and avocado. The 1990's roll around, and we have a little revival of 1970's culture, but once again it becomes the butt of jokes with the Bush years.
I may have been young in the 1970's, but honestly I don't recall it being so bad. True, some popular music was bad (gawd awful at times), but even in reminiscing with friends about the period usually results in the same conclusion; it wasn't really such a cultural sinkhole. In some aspects, the 70's seem more futuristic than the following decade. Yes, I remember Carter's famous "Malaise" speech, but I also remember some ambitious ideas that seemed perfectly plausible.
The only thing that I can see that the 70's may have done is to have bloodied the Right's nose, and they were all too eager to erase that. Ditto for the the 90's. Even though Clinton did some things that were, well, unpresidential, the decade ended on a high note. Even before 9/11, it was apparent to me that the Right was, once again, busy trying to paint a different picture of the preceding political epoch, not just politically but culturally. The thing is, it only seems to be the Right that does it, refusing to give credit where due, and they aren't afraid to use a brush so broad that it covers the entire culture of the time. Liberals don't help their own causes at all, of course.
Just something I'm working on (I prefer to write about space and astronomy, but these are perilous times).
Hiphop - Rabbit swag

RRLittle said...

@sociotard - that's a real image. There's an entire cadre of folks out there who specialize in grabbing images of the ISS, videos as well. One of the first ones I saw was in 2002, with a shuttle docked. Amazing things, interesting times.

AZZMWBO - The Arizona Zoological Monitor's Benevolent Organization - We watch the zoos so don't have to.

Paul451 said...

Stealing a comment from Slashdot because I though it was interesting... (The topic was banning cellphones in cars.)


Did you just seriously say that talking on the phone is better than risking dying?

I'm seriously saying that 'X'-ing is better than the risk 'Y' of dying, for cases where the benefit of X is sufficiently large, and the risk Y is sufficiently small. Average samples for percieved and measured values of X and Y across the population, and set a threshold. Everything above the threshold is legal, and everything below it isn't. For example, shooting guns on your property in most rural areas of the US is legal. Shooting guns on your property in most urban areas of the US is not.

There's always going to be assholes no sense of self preservation (or care about others). We can't let them do whatever they want. And there's always going to be cowards who are afraid of everything and would outlaw every risk in order to improve their own safety. We can't let them restrict our freedoms. Somewhere between the "Protecting my rights" crowd, and the "What about the children" crowd, lies the balance.


I think the poster meant his "average samples" in a purely abstract sense, but I liked the idea of literally defining all laws by a pre-defined "calculated risk analysis vs perceived benefit survey" ratio.

No political debates, no ideology. If the price exceeds the cost, legal. If it falls short, illegal. I don't know if I'd like the actual laws that result, but I find the idea of such a society fascinating.

For example, calculate the cost of cellphone-caused traffic accidents to society, divide by the number of cellphone owners. Say it's $17/yr each. Survey cellphone owners and asks, "If using your phone while driving was electronically blocked, how much would you pay per year to get your phone unblocked?" Say you get $25/yr. Thus cellphones while driving are legal (and you might tax them $17/yr directly to fund the medical costs.)

Similarly, how much extra tax would corporations be willing to pay to be allowed to opt out of certain laws? (Or how many extra laws to opt out of certain taxes.) Versus, how much would people each be willing to accept to let the corporation get away with it. If the numbers are compatible...

David Brin said...

Sociotard... well that shows how little you know me! The movie Serenity had as its whole theme the exposure of secretive mischief using utter-open transparency. Malcolm is a bit grouchy but that's charming and the stuff he's grouchy about mostly deserves it.

Firefly does not use Crichton's approach of secretly putting everything back the way it was.

One of the REASONS that science and a science driven civilization are better than all alternatives is because of inherent transparency. And when that transparency... and reciprocal accountability through criticism... fails, then it is a betrayal of science and science CAN become the villain!

Vagabond, you touch on what's actually a broader theme. The Right's absolute jihad against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Anything he stood for is satanic. Period. Even though he left is a towering titan, with BOTH a flat social order (booming middle class) AND vibrant startup capitalism... all at high tax rates.

The right hates outcome analysis. Because if actual OUTCOMES matter, then their record is the worst example of destroying a great nation since Attila the Hun.

David Brin said...

Tried looking at this from every angle and still can't figure out WTH it is:

Paul451 said...

Theory that cancer is the normal default state for cells, not-cancer is an abnormal state induced by chemical and mechanical constraints of being in a multi-cellular form.

(mandesom: What a heterosexual man finds another man.)

Rob said...

David, that book is either a "cliff's notes" of your work, or your lawyer ought to review it for copyright problems. (Lulu is a POD website, isn't it?)

Rob said...


I love this guy:

Dear Lefties,
I am not quite one of you. I am, rather, a creature of the political center, and sometimes you drive me nuts. However, for the last twelve years or so we have been fellow travelers, as the Democratic Party has been the only safe place for people like me—centrists who view with some trepidation the increasing radicalization of the Republican party. So, I speak to you as an ally if not a soul mate.
That said: it’s time to stop all of the “I’m-not-ever-voting-for-Obama-again” stuff. It’s just getting silly. Yes, I suppose he has done some things to disappoint you. He has done some things to disappoint me as well. One of the big downsides of a two-party system in a functioning Republic is that nobody ever quite represents anybody’s ideology. This is just how the system works. Get over it.

vallwarrior said...

"New research published in Science suggests it may be possible to use MRI to induce brain activity patterns to improve performance on tasks involving visual performance"

Combine this with the dolphin sonar language research. I don't want to become a client species when the ships arrive.

the Vagabond brought up the 70's and I wanted to add that I remember Carter putting solar water heaters on the White House. Then Raygun took them down in the mid-80's. My opinion of Reagan is pretty low. I think he started more than a swing to the right, he let the maniacally religious get a foot in the door politically. We used to have the protestants and the catholics to keep each other in check. At least those guys knew separation of church and state was protection FOR THEM.

RRLittle said...

In other news...
I was perusing eBay for space models (I build as well) and came across a model of South Korea's KSLV-1/Naro-1, their first space launch vehicle (built with the assistance of the Russians). Little model, all of 1/144 scale.
Anyway, I decided to do a little digging on the launch vehicle. The two launches thus far have not been successful, but as is typical, they have provided valuable data. It was while I was reading the Wikipedia entry that I came across this -
South Korea's efforts to build an indigenous space launch vehicle is marred due to persistent political pressure of the United States, who had for many decades hindered South Korea's indigenous rocket and missile development programs in fear of their possible connection to clandestine military ballistic missile programs.
While some of this is hard to verify (a clarification is needed for this passage), this is not the first time I've heard about the US pressuring another country to abandon launcher projects; I know that during the 1990's, there was concern that the Brazilian VLS-1 launch vehicle was also a covert weapons program as well, with no evidence supporting this assertion. While I was involved in space activism during this time, I frequently heard these concerns from space privatization as well as industry types; I thought it was much ado about nothing. Today, the US has managed to thwart NASA from using anything Chinese, banning them, after the shuttle stand down, even though the Shenzhou is a perfectly functional spacecraft and can clearly be used for station ops (the recent SZ-8/Tiangong-1 mission was a success).
We tout free enterprise but happily stifle it if it is not ours. When it comes to space policy, we are a nation of hypocrites.
Annyms - Discount anonymous.

RRLittle said...

@vallwarrior -
"We used to have the protestants and the catholics to keep each other in check. At least those guys knew separation of church and state was protection FOR THEM."
I grew up Catholic. My high school had a club called Bible Rap, and I decided to join it. At my first meeting, I was basically ignored during a discussion about the Gospel of Mark; every time I tried to say something, I was cut off. I finally asked the club president why I wasn't being allowed to speak, and she said "well, that's because you're a Catholic, you're not Christian". I went straight to the school principle, who was Episcopalian, and became a pariah; they disbanded the club for the remainder of the year(keep in mind that this was a public school). This was my first introduction into the very reason why we need that separation clause.

RRLittle said...

One minor note; not sure where I stand on the whole China spacecraft thing. While I am a firm believer that space is big enough for everybody, some of the gripes for banning NASA/China cooperation are fairly legitimate. That the whole thing is political goes without saying.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Mr. Brin, I believe you may have fallen victim to one of the newest plagues for e-publishers. Various scam artists posing as publishing houses will 'scrape' Wikipedia articles on a given subject, them bundle them as POD. The bundles usually don't explain that they are NOT collections of the referenced books, but just truncated reviews and articles that are usually available in the public domain for free. People buying these e-collections are usually horribly disappointed to find they aren't getting a definitive collection by their favorite author. I already know of half a dozen sci-fi authors who have had to do some flavor of cease and desist. As soon as one of these fake publishers gets shut down, they're back under a new imprint.


comin: a combination of coumarin and cumin; a very risky condiment

LarryHart said...

Under the previous post, Chip Overclock said:

LarryHart: I think the term you're looking for in your third law is "maximize shareholder value". That's the nomenclature used in the business world for what I think you mean. Shareholders are the owners of the company, which in a publicly owned corporation would be the stockholders. "Value" is nicely ambiguous, making allowances for shareholders that expect the stock price to go up or for the company to pay dividends, or in the case of a non-profit for the corporation to succeed in its mission. Generally speaking, corporate officers have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value.

That's mainly what I was getting at. I hesitated to use the term "shareholder value" because it's been kind of twisted to ONLY mean "the stock price". My point was that, presently, "maximize shareholder value" is presumed to be the FIRST (and ONLY) Law of Corporatics. I was attempting to put it in its place...companies are free to maximize value within the bounds of the First and Second Laws, but ONLY within those bounds.

In the final analysis, though, I would diverge from you just a bit. This was intended as an analogue of Asimv's Third Law, which was about a robot protecting its own existende. So the point of my Third Law of Corporatics is that a corporation must do what is required of it to continue its existence. IF the company depends on the good will of venture capitalists, THEN "maximizing value" is probably the inevitable means by which it ensures its own continuation, but I'm not sure I'd enshrine that specifically into the Law.

Again...the Three Laws are a work in progress. I just like trying the idea out here, because most everybody is familiar with Asimov.

I had actually logged in this morning to reply to another comment by Dr Brin concerning my Second that will be my next post.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin under the previous post:

Laws of corporatics... the 2nd law implies that the state... via democratic-deliberative processes ... can alter or co-specifiy some of the terms of the charter.

Definetly "co-specifiy". I'd have to think a bit about "alter". But the point is...corporations don't exist in nature, they are chartered BY governmental bodies and given advantageous rights/priviliges BY those governmental bodies that they could not otherwise claim. That chartering is done for a PURPOSE. I'm proposing that fulfilling that purpose belongs higher up the scale than "maximizing value". Doing what the owners want is allowed only within the bounds of doing what the corpoation has been chartered to do, EXACTLY the way Asimov's laws allow the robot to protect its own existence only within the bounds of what the robot has been told to do.

Actaully, I had a whole different rant prepared about Asimov's Second Law, which I'll post below.

LarryHart said...

I've been thinking a lot lately about Asimov's Laws of Robotics, specifically the Second Law which required a robot to do whatever it is ordered to do. The more I think about it, the more I believe Asimov was making a comment on the Southern United States' culture of slavery, and of the Jim Crow era's perpetuation of many tropes of slavery, which still existed at the time he began writing. (You cannot read his 1950s novel "The Stars Like Dust" WITHOUT noticing that this is a subject of interest to him.)

Slaves were required to obey their masters, of course, but my limited understanding of the antebellum era (correct me if I'm wrong, please) is that a slave would also be required to obey an order from ANY white person. I'm not sure what (if any) customs or protocols existed concerning a hierarchy of whose orders a slave should obey if they were in conflict. Asimov's second law certainly made no mention of "ownership"--any human being could give a robot any order, constrained only by the First Law.

So in some ways, Asimovian robots were conceived as a way to have slaves without the inhumane aspect of slavery--and then almost immediately began exploring the question of whether robots had human feelings and aspirations, which puts that uncomfortable question of inhumaneness right back there.

LarryHart said...

In the above post, when I said:

(You cannot read his 1950s novel "The Stars Like Dust" WITHOUT noticing that this is a subject of interest to him.)

I actually meant to say "The Currents of Space".

To anyone familiar with the two books (as I know Dr Brin is), that one makes a lot more sense.

Tacitus said...

They are looking for loopholes....

Skynet in Sixth Grade


Tacitus said...

Second try

What could possibly go wrong?


David Brin said...

Heh Tacitus. Fun.

Yes, Currents of Space was about slavery. I always thought the Second Law was vague. In the stories it was clear that a master-owner's commands were higher priority and I bet they were in the old south. Still, non-owners would try to interfere and grab valuefrom a passing slave.

Finding chinks and openings in the master instructions might have made some good asimovian stories but I think the topic made Isaac uncomfortable.

LarryHart said...


the Vagabond brought up the 70's and I wanted to add that I remember Carter putting solar water heaters on the White House. Then Raygun took them down in the mid-80's. My opinion of Reagan is pretty low. I think he started more than a swing to the right, he let the maniacally religious get a foot in the door politically.

The post-Watergate/post-Vietnam 1970s was a time of serious evaluation of the value of formerly-unquestioned American ideals. There are segments of America who are not comfortable having the self-evident correctness of their preconceived notions brought into question. Reagan appealed to this segment by making it fasionable to "feel good about America" again.

The irony is that Reagan did for the "self-esteem" of conservative Americans exactly what conservative Americans contend to be wrong about liberal schoolteachers divorcing actual achievement from feeling good about oneself.

LarryHart said...

The Vagabond:

I may have been young in the 1970's, but honestly I don't recall it being so bad. True, some popular music was bad (gawd awful at times), but even in reminiscing with friends about the period usually results in the same conclusion; it wasn't really such a cultural sinkhole. In some aspects, the 70's seem more futuristic than the following decade.

For purely personal reasons, 1977 was the best year ever for me. Of course that has a lot to do with it being the summer that I was sixteen years old. My brother and I discovered how to get to the Chicago beaches on our bikes. Some of the sexiest teenage girls in town spent the summer babysitting the younger kids in my neighborhood. And of course, it was the summer of "Star Wars" (and for all the grief we give Lucas over the sequels, the original was a wonder to behold).

Understanably, 1977 is the year I spend the most time being nostalgic about. And it favorably colors my memories of cultural elements of the time, such as music and tv shows. So even such obsure songs as "Undercover Angel" and tv shows like "Starsky and Hutch" seem like high culture to me.


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes, Currents of Space was about slavery. I always thought the Second Law was vague. In the stories it was clear that a master-owner's commands were higher priority...

Was it? Except for one bit in "The Bicentennial Robot", I don't remember the issue of whether orders came from a legitimate owner or not ever coming up.

Acacia H. said...

On an astronomical science note, astronomers believe they've detected the smallest black hole yet, this one likely being very close to the lower limit for black holes to form. They detected it through the X-ray "heartbeat" emissions which were similar to another black hole about 14x larger than the sun in mass.

Rob H.

foodab: where those really delicious foods that aren't healthy for you always seem to go

Stefan Jones said...

'The irony is that Reagan did for the "self-esteem" of conservative Americans exactly what conservative Americans contend to be wrong about liberal schoolteachers divorcing actual achievement from feeling good about oneself.'

I had the same thought when I hear conservatives scrambling to show their devotion to "American exceptionalism."

A country, a society, has to EARN prestige and honor, and renew it constantly.

The Onion, as usual, has some splendid relevant snarkery:

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan

"When I heard about Eisenhower's presidential accomplishments—holding down the national debt, keeping inflation in check, and fighting for balanced budgets—it hit me that we'd clearly gotten their names mixed up at some point," Priebus told reporters. "I couldn't believe we'd been associating terms like 'visionary,' 'principled,' and 'bold' with President Reagan. That wasn't him at all—that was Ike."

"We deeply regret misattributing such a distinguished and patriotic legacy to Mr. Reagan," Priebus added. "We really screwed up."

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones:

I had the same thought when I hear conservatives scrambling to show their devotion to "American exceptionalism."

Republicans demand lip-service to the concept of American exceptionalism, such that they'll insist it reflects badly on President Obama if he suggests (for example) that other countries also consider themSELVES to be exceptional. Yet it is so obviously only lip-service, as they're the first to insist on outsourcing of jobs to low-wage or slave-labor countries. The exceptionalism of American workers is apparently not worth paying a premium for.

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones:

A country, a society, has to EARN prestige and honor, and renew it constantly.

Conservatives never understand that when liberals criticize America, it is almost always along the lines of "We should be doing a better job of living up to our own ideals." It's not about hating America. It's about not being satisfied to rest on reputation, but instead trying to improve ourselves. Y'know, the things that conservatives damand of young people and workers?

David Brin said...

In fact, that is one of the main distinctions between liberals and lefties...


Anonymous said...

Dude, about your contest, just pick somebody whose portfolio you like and pay them at least a little bit to do it. I know what you're doing, everybody does it, but I don't think it's right. In these desperate times, many people will work for free, but that doesn't make it right. I know, free markets & liberty, but from my side it sounds like just another rich successful person who wants free things.

Look, I think there's a place for these contests. I think, and this is just my opinion as someone who is not rich and famous enough to get free things from people - that public interest is one thing and private interest is another. If you wanted to have a contest to make a 'Save the dolphins' poster, that'd be cool. A contest to make an awesome Credeiki poster, that's just misusing your celebrity status to get free stuff. George Takei, in my view, is wrong to ask people to design him an "It's okay to be Takei" shirt. If it was an "It's okay to be gay" shirt, that'd be public interest.

When people spend half their lives paying for phony 'education' and 'interning' for free, they rack up debt, and this builds up the debt-pyramid scam society you claim to oppose.

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