Friday, November 30, 2012

Pac Man found on two moons of Saturn

What is that saying about space and the universe?  Weirder than we can imagine?

I like Pac-Man.  It's fun to play those retro game packages, you know the ones that include not just games like Pac-Man but Asteroids, Galaga, and Pole Position as well?  I even have a pair of jammies with Pac-Man on them.

Now, Pac-Man has been found on two of Saturn's moons.  Both Thethys and Mimas exhibit odd tendencies in temperature.  When the surfaces of these moons are viewed through thermal imagining, the shape of Pac-Man appears.  The leading explanation for this is that the moons' orbits bring certain areas of their surfaces into the path of streaming, high-energy electrons.  This causes the bombarded surfaces to compact into a hard, icy texture that does not heat or retain heat as rapidly as the other areas.  Thus, you get the Pac-Man shape.

Yet while staring at the thermal images, I grew more intrigued with the moons themselves than even the Pac-Man association.  The moons are the ubiquitous, frozen rocks we've grown accustomed to finding.  As I considered the moons, my thoughts began to drift to Clarke's 2010, thus taking me away from the science of astronomy and into literary speculation.

In 2010, the events precipitated in 2001 were found to be closely tied in with Jupiter's moons of Europa and Io.  The former is covered in ice and the latter is a volcanic spitter of sulfur, so much so that the spaceship Discovery was found covered in a thick layer of sulfur dust as it trundled end over end in a La Grange Point above Io. Anyway, these moons, especially Europa, had more going on with them than our narrow human speculations could have imagined.  What looks frozen and dead may in reality not be so.

The more I examined the photos of Thethys and Mimas, the further I riffed on concepts.  Concepts that I'm certain many others, many more talented others, have entertained before, but I did it anyway.  Why?  Because I like it.  This would-be biblioklept likes to engage the imagination.  But I digress...

Mimas has fair-sized crater in its northern hemisphere.  It rather resembles the sunken-in cannon of the Death Star.  This brought me back to the whole "the Moon is a spacecraft" whacko theory.  What if the "dead rock moons" really aren't dead?  What if they are spacecraft?  What if having that rocky hide makes them perfectly durable for long spaceflights or perhaps even permanent residency in an orbit that is inconspicuously tucked away around one of our system's gas giants?  The bizarre temperature variations discovered might be due to technology within the moon/mothership.  Or maybe its an abandoned mothership, a derelict craft that wandered aimlessly until captured by the immense gravitational pull of Saturn or Jupiter?

I can hear the skeptics scoffing now.  Of course there is no evidence for this.  That's because this is pure conjecture and riffing.
We could stand a bit more of it.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Powered by pee

You read that headline correctly.

Nigeria...where only half of the population has access to electrical power.  It wouldn't surprise me if the other half has to share that power off and on, much as I experienced in Haiti.

I've been learning more about Africa tangentially through the work that a few of my students are doing.  Among the continent's numerous challenges is infrastructure.  How can nations advance without the energy to do it?  Well, a few young ladies in Nigeria might have found a way: use your own urine.

That's right, folks.  We've seen the future and it is made of pee.  I'm being serious.  This a most ingenious proposal made by these young students.  Their assignment was to take a waste product and recycle it for another use.  Why not use urine?  We all have it.  It's readily accessible and can be easily stored.  As one Nigerian student says in the linked video:

 “We opted for urine, since, one, it’s a waste product, and if we use urine as we carry out electrolysis, if we use urine [sic], our waste product or our exhaust gas is going to be water and that’s not poisonous to our environment.”

The urine goes through an electrolytic cell where it's broken down to nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.  The hydrogen-oxygen is then purified and stored to be used as needed.  It is estimated that the device can produce six hours of electricity per one litre of urine.  They've even added washing soda in to eliminate the foul odor typically associated with urine.  I'm still unclear as to how the toxicity of the urine might play into the process, but perhaps that is what is taken care of somehow during the purification process.

This is the sort of innovation that we need.  I'm mildly impressed with humanity right now.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My introduction to David Adair

One of my students wrote a paper on Area 51.

"I've been there," I told him.  "Or as close as a civilian can get, anyway.
"No way!" he replied.
Smartphone out, I showed him the pics.
"David Adair," the freshman said to me.  "Look him up on YouTube and watch his interviews.  You'll be convinced about UFOs."

So I did, not that I needed too much convincing.  I watched this video interview.
David Adair is from Ohio originally.  He has a low tenor voice pitched towards the higher end.  There's a hint of what a few might call a Southern drawl in there, but I know from family that it's really rural Ohio.  All told, he sounds a little like that character on Family Guy, the one with too many items at the supermarket check-out and who, as a bee, "done stung himself."  But I digress...

David Adair was a gifted young man who loved to build model rockets.  At age 17, he claims to have built a large scale rocket with a fusion containment engine. Adair describes his fusion engine as being "like a chunk of the sun held in a magnetic bottle."  He built the rocket with funds from a federal grant and the finished product earned him a meeting with the legendary general, Cutris LeMay, commander of the Strategic Air Command, arguably the most important asset in America's military at the time.  The rocket, according to Adair's interview, took off faster than could be seen, "like trying to watch a bullet leave a rifle."

This brought young, 17 year-old Adair to Area 51.  In an underground section of the secret facility, he was shown an engine "about the size of a school bus." Here, right around the six minute mark I believe, is where this really ethereal music kicks in.  I kinda like it.

Adair describes the innards of the engine as feeling like a "frog belly" to the touch.  "I don't know if people played with frog bellies, but I did," he says.  Anyway, the surface looked wet and slimy but was smoother to the touch.  Weirder still, it reacts to his touch.  Eventually, Adair begins to realize that this is no propulsion system from Earth.  It is the drive system from a recovered UFO.  

Adair offers his thesis that it was a symbiotic engine.  The engine is alive.  The tubing around it resembles a nervous system, implying that the craft is directed by thoughts.  Somewhat testily, Adair defends this notion, citing that Dr. Robert Jahn at Princeton University has been contracted to devise "mental shielding" for the F-22 fighter, implying that the F-22 is operated by the thoughts of its pilot.  "It's like 'Foxfire' with Clint Eastwood," he says, meaning the film Firefox, I presume.

Still, there were understandable questions.  Everyone wanted to know, "Hey Dave.  How'd you come up with fusion engine for your rocket?" Adair answered that all of the mathematics for it came to him through dreams.  So intricate were the equations he was receiving "behind the wall of sleep" as Lovecraft might say, that those he showed them to compared the formulas to those of Stephen Hawking.  This earned him a meeting with the world renowned astrophysicist.  Not only did he meet him, but Adair even corrected Dr. Hawking's own equations in a moment that sounds oddly similar to the film The Day the Earth Stood Still.  But that's how it went in Adair's account of when he met Hawking, or "Steffen Hawkins" as Adair pronounced the name.

But where were these dreams coming from?  Signals, perhaps?  "I'm not saying it was aliens...but it was aliens."

In time, David Adair fell in with UFO researcher, Dr. Steven Greer and the organization, CSETI.  Adair was swayed that public perception of the UFO phenomenon was headed more towards the positive end of the spectrum and that he would not be ridiculed for speaking out about his experiences.  Together, Greer and Adair testified before Congress, relating their experiences and pressing for an end to UFO secrecy.  Or so Adair says.

My other favorite tidbits from the interview are when Adair asserts that the producers of Independence Day got the look of Area 51 down almost exactly right.  Also, Adair deciphered the meaning behind the alien "hieroglyphic" language found at Roswell.  While not claiming to know the language, he does understand what it meant in the context of the engine he examined: it was nothing more than serial numbers for parts.

Oh boy, where to start?  First off, I found a message board where someone said they checked public record and no Greer, no CSETI, and no Adair testified in Congress.  At least not in the past 15 years or so.  I have not done the checking myself, but this seems like something that would make news.  There is evidence to indicate that a group named CSETI had a lobbying appointment, but that's a far cry from "testifying."  This is one of many reasons why Greer seems to be a contentious figure in UFO circles.

Adair is correct about there being a Dr. Robert Jahn at Princeton who is an aerospace expert and has worked with the dynamics of how humans and machines interface, but as far as I know, the F-22 is not operated by mental waves.  At least not yet.  Actually, they seem to be having a problem keeping their pilots breathing, let alone flying the planes with their minds.

Ultimately, there is no evidence for David Adair's story, rendering it just that: a story.  Why can't he build us another fusion containment engine?  He truly has done a lot of work in the field of aerospace, he must have access to the ways and means of doing so.  If he did it at 17, I fail to see any impediments to his work now.  I know.  It just doesn't add up for poor Mr. Adair.

I'm not calling him a liar.  I just can't verify what he says.  Maybe he...I don't know...watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind one too many times.  Whatever the case, he's going to have to build another fusion engine or produce a piece from a UFO before he can be taken seriously.

Please watch the video for other delicious tidbits, such as Adair's dealings with shadowy government operatives on his graduation day from college.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tunguska-class asteroid on its way


An asteroid "the size of a city block" (as stated on this link) will be soaring past our home next February.  Coming as near as 22,500 km...that's fairly close in astronomical terms...this will be the closest approach in history of an object of this size.  That is a curiosity for astronomers to learn from and a reminder to the rest of of that these enormous chunks of rock are out there, waiting to slam into us.  It's a question of when, not if, one of these asteroids will come close enough to impact on Earth.  Geologist Eugene Shoemaker once calculated that massive asteroid or meteor impacts occur about once every 300 years.  Our planet has seen it numerous times.

One such occasion is the reason why this article caught my eye.  The headline reads "Incoming! Tunguska-class Bolide to Miss Earth by Just 22,500 km on 15 February 2013." While quite sensationalistic, the reference to the Tunguska Event of 1908 is what drew me to read the piece.

On June 30th, 1908, an enormous blast took out a wide swath of Siberia in Russia, about 770 square miles is one estimate.  Given that Siberia was and still is a sparsely populated area, the devastation had a minimal toll of human life.  Just what exactly caused this detonation is never been fully determined. 

The leading explanation by far is that it was a meteor or small asteroid.  Fragments of such a space rock have been found in the soil and in the trees at the edge of the blast radius.  A few estimates say that the object was approximately 330 feet wide and exploded in an airburst overhead.  The resultant yield of the explosion was about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Yeah, we're quite fortunate it didn't hit a populated area.  Yet it should serve as a warning of what asteroid strikes would be like and that we need to prepare options for how to ward one off if need be.

Back to Tunguska, what if it wasn't a meteor, an asteroid, or a comet?  I mean it very likely was but there is another theory that should not suffer immediate dismissal. 
In 1986, I read a book called The Fire Came By. In it, authors Thomas Atkins and John Baxter make their claim that the Tunguska blast came from a crashed alien spacecraft.  Their hypothesis went something like this: an alien spacecraft ran into trouble somewhere near Earth.  Something went wrong with the nuclear reactor powering the craft.  As they attempted to land in an unpopulated area, the reactor reached critical mass and the Tunguska Event resulted.  In 2004, a Russian UFO group claimed that they had found debris fragments of the spacecraft in question, frozen in the rime of the great white north.  No real evidence for this was provided.

It's fun to think about, though.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Able Archer 83

Ever wonder what a post-apocalyptic world would look like?

It's a popular question.  One that has been imagined in any number of genres, going all the way back to 19th Century literature most likely.  In this month in 1983, we came close enough to finding out for ourselves.  Arguably, closer than the world has ever been.

At the risk of dating myself, I was in seventh grade at that point in 1983.  The number one thing on my mind was G.I. Joe.  Not too far behind that, however, was the fear that the world would be reduced to nuclear ash and those of us in rural areas would be left wandering blindly in the aftermath, dying slowly of radiation poisoning.  I have written before on my fear of nuclear war and to say things were tense '83 would be an understatement.  As good a reason as any to fainaigue school.

In March of that year, then President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union "an evil empire." Reagan also announced the deployment of the Pershing II intermediate-range nuclear missile in West Germany.  These missiles would have been able to reach targets in the western section of the Soviet Union in about six minutes.  Additionally, the Pershings were mobile, based on massive trucks and could be launched from pretty much anywhere.  Not too tough to figure out what they were meant for.  They were obvious first strike weapons, even if meant simply as a deterrent.  At the same time, US armed forces were engaged in any number of mind games with the Soviets, such as conducting FleetEx '83, a naval exercise in the Pacific composed of an extraordinary amount of warships, and directing bombers to fly towards Soviet airspace but then turn back and that last minute.

Then in September of that year, things really hit the fan.  Soviet jet fighters shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a civilian 747, after it had strayed into Soviet airspace.  All aboard were lost, including a US congressman.

It is within this zeitgeist that NATO planned an extensive military exercise called Able Archer 83.  Taking place between November 2nd and 11th, the maneuvers were meant to simulate a full-on nuclear exchange between the two superpowers.  This meant following an escalation of conflict from DEFCON 5 (peacetime) all the way up to DEFCON 1 (launch 'em).   Also included in the exercise was the relocation of heads of state (to bunkers, I'm supposing) and new methods of encoded transmissions.  Most alarming for any KGB spook listening in would be the prolonged periods of radio silence.  Imagine the full structure of the United States military going quiet for stretches of time.

All of these aspects of Able Archer fell in line with what the Soviets expected a prelude to nuclear war would look like.  Now the Soviets were made aware that this training exercise would take place, but they suspected far more sinister intentions.  There were those in the Politburo who believed this was all a smoke screen from which to launch a devastating nuclear first strike. 

In response, the Soviets placed their own nuclear forces on alert.  There are accounts of ICBM warheads being armed and fighter-bombers in Poland and East Germany sent to the runways, engines revving and armed nukes under their wings.  Just waiting.  I have read one account that asserts that the Soviets went as far as to enter their missile's launch codes.  The only reason they remained grounded, thereby averting full-out holocaust, was that the codes were wrong and the missiles malfunctioned.  Again, there doesn't seem to be anything to corroborate this, but it's something to think about.

Thankfully, November 11th came and the Soviets realized that it really was just an exercise.  In what I find to be a bit of historical irony, the TV movie The Day After aired on ABC just nine days later.  This movie was a big television event, one that accurately portrayed just what a full tilt nuclear exchange would be like.  Viewing it today, it comes off more as a badly acted "disaster movie of the week," but back in the day we were shitting our collective pants.  Believe me.  Oddly, that's one of the reasons why I still like the film.

There are historians who claim that the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us far closer to armageddon than Able Archer ever did.  No argument there.  By the same token, Able Archer brought us close enough to the brink for my tastes.  But it didn't happen.

Something else to be thankful for this November.

If you'd like to read more about this event, this site is fairly balanced and accurate and is where I got the majority of what you just read.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Will the Net gain sentience?

Jeff Sibel has an idea that should cause us all to take note.

The Internet is really a living thing.  Its wires and systems mimic human brain function in many ways.  What's more, it will only get smarter as time goes on, altering human society in transhuman ways that we cannot yet predict.

Mr. Sibel is a brain scientist and probably knows of which he speaks.  
"When you look at the Internet," he says in the BBC interview linked above, "the Internet is intelligent.  Rudimentary of course, with computers instead of neurons...we're creating a global brain."
We can see evidence of this, he argues, in the concept of "collective consciousness."  Through social media and sites such as Wikipedia, we input our information and our questions and the Internet gives us answers.  Sibel then went through a bit business-speak and my eyes and ears glazed over like a Christmas ham, but he then brought up a concept that I find intriguing: using the Internet to create "real intelligence," not "artificial intelligence." 

Taking a transhuman approach, Sibel talks about what he sees as the most significant change on the horizon: how the human brain is changing as it interacts more and more with the technology of the Internet.  He emphasizes that the Net, as it continues to be fed more and more information, will continue to evolve and grow in intelligence.  Now I know, having information is not nearly the same thing as being intelligent, but it goes a fair distance towards it.

The Internet as a living organism, perhaps one day becoming self-aware.  Far out stuff to be certain.  However, it may not be nearly as far off as people on the street might want to believe.  An aspect of this that truly makes me curious is "what happens when we cybernetically enter direct interface with the Internet?"  Are we essentially entering into another mind?  Will it be more like a hive mind?  Who knows?

I am not scared of what is to come, not in terms of transhumanism.  In fact, I foresee numerous balsamaceous opportunities.  There is, however, pause for concern and consideration of "The Law of Unintended Consequences." 
Wow.  Now I really want to write that play that I wrote about yesterday.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Obligatory Thanksgiving post

I am pacing myself.

I know that this will be a day of food, so I'm having little to eat until the big meal itself.  So far, my intake has consisted of two donuts and my regular coffee.  Plenty of room available for turkey and everything that comes with your typical Thanksgiving dinner.

(Hang on.  It will get positive again.  I just need to take a brief moment to bitch and moan.) 

This day, however, seems to have mutated into a "pre-party" of sorts for other activities.  Given the pic above, I'm sure that you can tell I am by no means a fan of Black Friday.  I'm no fan of commercialism at all, but this day of "man's inhumanity to man" over "gifts at the best price" truly inspires ire in me.  Oh yes, look how far we've progressed as a species.  From the outside looking in, you'd swear we were still Australopithecus, crawling out of our caves and beating each other senseless in competition over a juicy slab of mammal.  Only difference is that we have iPhones.  If you have the guts and the fortitude, try Buy Nothing Day

Additionally, Thanksgiving seems to get blooped over more and more every year to move the Christmas season up by another week at least.  Around here, people took advantage of the moderately balmy weather for this time of year (score one for Global Warming!) to hang their Christmas lights.  While I'm writing out of any true passion for this day and I am looking forward to seeing the Christmas lights in the town square once more, I just don't know where the trend will stop.

That bit out of the way, I will say that I do love a good Thanksgiving dinner.  And I do have much to be thankful for.  While the year 2012 has brought me more terror and sadness than I have ever known before in my life, I can still give thanks.  I know that I am given to hyperbole, but I mean that last sentence with every bit of sincerity I can possibly have.  It's the truth.  So what am I thankful for?  Here goes:

-My family.  Because of them I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and support.  We're weird, but it all works out in the end.

-My dogs are healthy.  There was a scare, now there isn't.  That alone is worth more than its weight in comic books.

-I am better off than many.  That is not a tout or a boast.  Just a statement of fact and a humble counting of my blessings.  It doesn't take much to find out how well off you really are these days.  Just watch the news.

-Barack Obama has been re-elected President.

-My friends.  Those guys and gals are the bestest.  For example, just yesterday I spoke with Bernard Sell about writing a play for his school.  I am excited.  I plan to start work on it after the craziness of NaNoWriMo subsides in December.

-Speaking of NaNo, I am thankful to be involved in that crazy activity.  Writing another trashy "Men's Adventure" with even more firepower than the last one has been a welcome distraction.

Hey, there's a thought.  What if I combine a few of the things for which I give thanks?
You know how the President often goes and visits overseas troops on Thanksgiving and other holidays?  Imagine the following scenario and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE understand that I by no means wish harm on the President.  Heck, I've been writing about how much I support him.

Air Force One gets shot down.  Yeah yeah, it's been done a million and one times, but stay with me on this.  Obama survives the crash and finds himself somewhere in the Middle East, behind enemy lines (his family is just fine, they're all back in DC.)   That's ok.  He knows where a US military base is located.  He just needs to get there.  It won't be easy.  There's a horde of bad guys out there with AK-47s and RPGs.  Yeah?  Well those guys are about to find out that they just fucked with the wrong President!
Can't you see it?  Obama with a .45 pistol in each hand?  Doing Hong Kong-style action moves, that fluid blend of martial arts and guns?  Or wait!  He steals a bus and like Clint Eastwood (oh the delicious irony!) in The Gauntlet, he rams that bus through the streets of some burg out in the sand before crashing through the gates of the US base to safety.  Classic.  I want a movie and action figures.

Face it.  "Ken doll" Mitt Romney would still be crying back at the crash site.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Global Warming: even worse than we thought

That is the cheery, pre-holiday headline from the website, NewScientist.

Doesn't that just make you choke on your giblets? 
There is a veritable battery of articles to support that grim claim. Arctic ice is melting at a record rate, sea level is rising as a consequence, the world cannot keep reabsorbing CO2 at the rate at which it is being produced, there are expectations for dire heat waves in many parts of the world for as soon as next year, and "extreme weather events" are going to become regular occurrences.  An article over at CNN seems to corroborate that last point.

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences at Princeton University, sees "superstorms" such as the recent Hurricane Sandy as a "foretaste of things to come."  He goes on to say that "bigger storms and higher sea levels will pile on to create a growing threat" in the coming decades and that New York City "is highly vulnerable."  Over at NewScientist, that very premise, the growing prevalence of superstorms, is being extrapolated to determine what that means for the future of food production.  The answer is, "nothing good." Food prices will continue to rise as a result, especially in underdeveloped areas of the world.

What I found most troubling (and that's saying something) about the series of reports at NewScientist is the research that has been done as to CO2 emissions and air pollutants.  If we stopped all CO2 flow into the atmosphere right this very minute, we could probably avoid the upcoming rise in global temperatures.  We both know, however, that such a halt cannot and will not happen.  If anything, scientists at the University of Bristol UK have determined that CO2 output levels have actually risen, despite environmental initiatives and a very sluggish economy.  The limp-wristed Kyoto Protocol does nothing, especially without the United States and Canada involved and with China continuing to be the world's foremost producer of CO2.

I'm sorry, but I just cannot understand how anyone can continue to argue that Global Warming is not happening or perhaps worse, that it is happening but human beings have no part in it.  The climate change deniers appear, to me anyway, to fall into five basic camps: 
1) People who will make more money if the environment continues to erode, 2) people too lazy to take the active steps required for change, 3) people who hear the word "regulations" and irrationally break out into hives, 4) complete idiots, and 5) some combination of all of the above.

Unless I can get in on the Singularity (and oh please please let me get what I want), I am likely to spend my twilight years in a time when the stuff really hits the fan in terms of the environment.  That won't be fun.  But I feel especially sorry for those of you who will live almost your entire lives in the aftermath.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

GMO: What is it good for?

So.  That's an attention-grabbing ad. 
Almost like it was meant to do that.

It's a very old ad, one designed by Alannah Currie (yes, the former Thompson Twins member) for a group she founded called MAdGE, Mothers Against Genetic Engineering, an Australian organization (I understand they're active in New Zealand as well) that opposes genetically modified food or GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).  Not sure why they didn't go with "MAGE" unless Matt Wagner has that trademark sewn up.

The old ad campaign (you can read about it in Wired) I have posted was specifically against adding human genes to milk.  As one might imagine, the billboard ads caused a fair amount controversy.  Accusations were made that the advertisements were "denigrating to women." To that, Currie responded that the image was "punk art" and that "more degrading to women is putting human genes in milk."

Let us leave the question of good taste towards women (a viable question however) and explore the larger issue: GMO.
On campus, we have recently examined the presence of genetically modified food in our society and opinions on the matter were mixed.  One camp of students seemed to fall in along the lines of MAdGE.  The science behind genetically engineered food is not entirely understood and we cannot foresee the long-term consequences of consuming such foods.  Others argued that the use of genetic science in creating healthier, longer lasting food is of tremendous benefit to society.

That appears to be the controversy in a nutshell.  And it's not going away.
Just today, organic farmers and food safety advocates condemned a report sent to the USDA.  
This report was, in theory, a study to see how GMO and organic crops could co-exist without fear of contamination.  Contamination meaning, GMO particles getting into the organic side of things.
"Of particular concern in the report is the recommendation that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay to self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination," said a statement by the National Organic Coalition.
"This proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victims of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination," it said.

I'm of two minds on this whole debate.  On the one hand, it's beneficial to scrutinize anything you put into your body, whether it be GMO or organic.  Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that not all GMO foods are labeled as such.  I'd rather not find out years down the road that what I ate, supposedly safe at the time, was in reality quite harmful.
At the same time, I do not want to see this develop into overall backlash against genetic engineering and transhumanism.  This is all too likely to happen as people have the tendency to lump matters such as this into broad categories.

That said, there is an amazing potential for science fiction here.  Any time you start talking about genes being moved between species and the processes involved therein, it translates to good times ahead for the SF writer.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

"Hacktivists" assail Israelis

As if attacks from the actual enemy did not cause enough worry.

Hackers of the organization known as Anonymous are attempting to cripple Israeli websites in response to the escalating conflict in Gaza. Like many nations, Israel fights off hack attempts every day, but the sheer number of attacks has exploded recently.  What's more, cyber security officials now see this sort of thing as "par for the course" in terms of the landscape of the modern battlefield.  So what is the beef Anonymous has with Israel?  According to the linked ABC News article:

"Anonymous - the multifaceted movement of online rebels and self-described "hacktivists," spearheaded the campaign against Israel, distributing press releases and videos denouncing what it described as an "insane attack" against Gaza. The cyber onslaught began after Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza last week following persistent rocket fire."

And Anonymous is not alone.  A regiment of computer hackers calling themselves the Pakistani Cyber Army has likewise joined in the strikes.

Most of these cyber attacks are about what you'd expect, so-called "denial of service" attacks where websites are utterly swarmed with traffic.  What could be potentially more devastating is the deployment of "botnets" where thousands of infected computers are coordinated in a single attack by hackers.  The likelihood and actual occurrence of multiple levels of cyber attacks has once again sounded a new call.  This call is an urging by experts for nations such as the United States to greater secure its "virtual territory" against assaults of these very kinds. After all, what might do more damage: a rocket hit to a neighborhood or the shutdown of a financial institution? 

These sorts of hacks aren't especially new for the Middle East, either.  At one point, a Muslim organization was blocking access to porn websites and routing the surfer to a page with verses from the Koran.  That's relatively harmless in comparison to the sort of attacks we're talking about in this post.  As for Anonymous, I'm not entirely sure what to think of them.

One big plus for them in my book is how last summer they went after the Big Oil corporations.  Anonymous hacked the email identities of over 1,000 employees of Exxon and BP and then used those IDs to sign the Greenpeace petition to stop drilling in the Arctic.  Only way it could have been better is if they covered up the companies' homepages with pictures of cities underwater.

Sorry.  Guess I'm on another anti-oil kick. We had a guest lecturer on campus last week, an oil exec  expounding on the glorious future oil will bring us.  That and BP got off lucky this week.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Guardians of the Galaxy

In the wake of the wildly successful Avengers movie, Marvel Comics made an announcement.

One of their next comics-to-film adaptations will be The Guardians of the Galaxy.  This series was an old favorite of mine, a fun play on the science fiction idea of superheroes in space, somewhat akin to DC's Legion of Super-Heroes.  The movie, however, will not be my Guardians of the Galaxy.  No, this team ensemble will consist of (reportedly) characters called Drax the Destroyer, Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon (Don't ask.  I tried reading that last character's comic and found it to be about as lucid as Yellow Submarine.)  Doesn't seem like Bug from The Micronauts will be involved.

The version of the Guardians that I truly enjoyed debuted in 1969, although I first picked up with them during their 1990 re-launch under the writer's pen of Jim Valentino.  This series took place in the 31st Century, a future timeline of the Marvel Universe.  In this setting, humanity had already moved outward into our solar system to establish colonies.  The people who lived in these colonies all developed abilities and characteristics indicative of their chosen planet.  For more on that, let's take a look at the cast of characters:

Starhawk/Aleta: one man, one woman, sharing a body.  They flip back and forth as the situation warrants.  Starhawk had light-based powers, embodying cosmic energy.  This was a fairly common device found in science fiction comics of the time.

Nikki: she is the last survivor of the colony on Mercury.  As one might expect, she is fast and agile.  She's rather anime-like in appearance and her head is always on fire.

Charlie 27: a man from the colony on the planet Jupiter. Yes, they somehow lived on a gas planet.  Being that it is the largest planet in our solar system, Charlie logically (it seemed at the time, anyway) developed incredible super strength due to the high gravity.

Martinex: the scientist of the group.  He's from Pluto.  In order to survive the harsh conditions there, his body is entirely encased in silicon, giving him an appearance somewhat like that of Iceman from The X-Men.  Funny, one of his hands even shoots ice while the other fires...well, fire.

Yondu: is from the planet Centauri IV.  Given the name of his point of origin, his creators must have thought that it would only be logical that he be a centaur.  A blue-skinned centaur at that, one with a red fin that goes up the back of his neck and head.  He's very good with a bow and yaka arrows.  He is also the most spiritual of the Guardians.

Major Astro: leader of the team.  He is thousands of years old and kept alive only by the all-over, metal bodysuit he wears.  He has the power of telekinesis and a bird-dog fixation on the legend of Captain America.

Ok, so maybe there's not a whole lot of science going on in this science fiction. But that latter point with Astro may be one of the qualities that I enjoyed so much in the series.  It had strong ties to the Marvel Universe of the past and every month I wanted to see what other stand-by Marvel characters would show up in future incarnations.

For example, one of the first enemies that the Guardians of the Galaxy fought was a guy called Taserface.  I'm not kidding, that was the character's name.  Yes, he shot taser bolts from his face.  Dumb as that might be, he wore red and gold armor that looked quite familiar.  In issue #2, we learn that Taserface is of a race called the Stark; aliens who, you guessed it, acquired Tony Stark's Iron Man armor and based a civilization upon it.  Later, the Guardians even fought Galactus!

I would say that this science fiction book is worth it for about the first 20 issues or so.  After that, you're looking at a steep slide downhill.  But it's a fun slide. 

Kinda like a curly slide on the playground only its been in the summer sun too long so it burns you on the way down.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Urban fantasy

I am exploring a new literary genre.

New to me, anyway.  As in it's my first time reading something of its kind.
I am reading Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey.  The novel takes place in contemporary Los Angeles and centers around a man named James Stark.  Stark, being dead for the past 11 years, has recently escaped from Hell.  Yes, you read that correctly.  What ensues is a book filled with magic, love, and vengeance...and is just one exceptionally fun read.  But that is a topic for another time as I wish to recapitulate the book as well as write a full review when I'm finished (about halfway through right now.)

This has made me want to explore the wider territory of the genre.  As is the case with many literary classifications, there are numerous definitions for just what makes "urban fantasy"and the writers and readers of the genre can get quite contentious over the particulars.  After cobbling together a few different viewpoints, I have what I think is a very broad description of the term.  Here goes.

Urban fantasy takes place in a city.  Duh.  Within this setting can be people who use magic, mythological creatures or beings, or paranormal entities.  More often than not, all of it operates outside of the realm of the "normal," just beyond the goings on of the everyday. What exactly is transpiring does not seem to matter as much as the setting of the city.  The story must take place where people pay taxes, take trains to work, have cars that breakdown, get divorces, et. al.  This is not to say that an urban fantasy could not take place in a city in a different historical period.  In fact, there are examples of such tales, as with author Marie Brennan who sets her books in London during Elizabethan times.

Other examples of the genre, besides Kadrey that is, are book series such as the Anita Blake books of Laurell K. Hamilton, Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Zodiac by Vicki Petterson, and the Magic series by Devon Monk.  Also archetypal of the genre are Neil Gaiman's American Gods which I thought was amazing and Neverwhere which I have yet to read.  

Never the ones to miss cashing in on a trend, television and film are replete with examples of urban fantasy.  Lost Girl is a fine example, Grimm is another entry, and there are those who would classify Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this category.  Personally, I would count Being Human amongst the titles as it seems to smoothly dovetail with the genre.

Meanwhile, I shall return to enjoying Sandman Slim...and perhaps a few other urban fantasy titles in the future.  In good news, I see that Sandman Slim has been optioned for a movie.  For once, I think this should translate just fine.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Support Terran Trade Authority

It was inevitable.  I am calling attention to a Kickstarter project.

Battlefield Press is a publisher of primarily role playing games.  I have worked with them in the past, writing short story text for Pulp Fantasy, a game created by Jonathan Thompson and my good friend, Christopher Helton.  Now, Battlefield Press begs you for help in their struggle against underfunding.

Sorry, couldn't resist.  Their new Kickstarter project is a game called Terran Trade Authority: The Proxima War.  This is a game setting based on a series of science fiction books entitled, what else, Terran Trade Authority by British author Stewart Cowley.  This is a sprawling epic of space opera, the sort of storytelling that brings you back to the doe-eyed vision of humanity expanding outward into the galaxy.  If the summary descriptions I've been reading of this series (I myself have never read the books) are accurate, then it has at least one very intriguing aspect to its mythic landscape.  That is the notion of alien relics left behind on various worlds and the nature of the relics left unexplained by Cowley.

The game is set in the time period of the Proxima War.  Apparently, our first contacts with various alien races are not always friendly ones.  Full-blown wars erupt between the Terrans (us) and alliances of extraterrestrials.  It all looks far too complicated to get into here, but suffice it to say that the setting allows for no shortage of ship-to-ship combat in space and even open warfare on strange, alien worlds.

In terms of the game, the RPG is of the Savage Worlds system.  I haven't played actual tabletop RPGs in years so you'll have to head over to the Kickstarter page for information on that game.  If you're a real geek for game system mechanics, you may wish to contact Battlefield Press directly with questions as to how Terran Trade Authority: The Proxima War gels with Savage Worlds.  I sure can't help you.

As with all Kickstarter projects, you give as much as you feel that you can and you are rewarded in proportion to your investment amount.  I'm concerned that in-person RPGs may be a dying form of recreation.  If you have it to spare, please consider supporting Terran Trade Authority: The Proxima War.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Art of Daniel Danger

I saw a link to an artist's page and I am compelled to share it.
Consider it my public duty.

The above painting comes from artist Daniel Danger.  Danger is an illustrator, painter, and printmaker out of New England.  His subjects are, in the words of his site's bio:

"...old houses dead from the fallout of urban sprawl, railway bridges asleep from neglect, and trees that engulf everything; his work attempts to remind you of something you may have said to someone, or something someone may have said to you; back in that time period that's just too far away to remember clearly, but not so long ago you forgot about it completely. His memories and many of his friends are simply ghosts now, shaking him awake with mistimed alarm clocks and the sounds of a television from across the house. Documentation is key to get through the day. Things are always changing and its easy to lose yourself."

I am drawn to Danger's art not simply for its visual aspects, while those are delicious and the most immediately enticing of course, but also for the titles he has chosen for his work.  They are of literary quality.  The one above is entitled, "Or is it the dying little light of the soul." This next one is called, "Do we let it in?  Do we have a choice?"  Ominous for certain.

Danger's other titles are no less captivating.  "I'd sink to your city streets if I wasn't buried in your hands." "I have troubles today I had not yesterday." And my favorite (below), "I should have tried harder.  I shouldn't have given up."

Just look at that piece.  An empty room, perhaps set for a funeral luncheon.  Oh the interpretations one could make.  So much regret fused into one tiny canvass.
The art is moody, oftentimes containing the full spectrum of gray shades, and containing a menacing undertone that is accompanied by a melancholy that is aching to be released.  In the black and white illustrations, I see hints of Edward Gorey, and that is by no means a bad thing.

Danger's art is certain to appeal to fans of the horror genre, but there is so much more to these pictures than that.  In the same way that true "gothic" culture is about far more than death, Danger sees beauty in darkness and in isolation.  That is an aesthetic that I surely have disbosomed an affinity for at one point or another on these pages. But these need not be viewed as frightening or morose pieces.  Not at all.  Examine the paintings of trees at night in the snow, or the wolves or the houses in winter.  I personally can think of nothing more gorgeous than a clear night in December or January with snow everywhere upon the ground.  It has nothing to do with darkness.  Next time you find yourself out on such a night, pay careful attention to the colors that you see.  You'll pick up what I'm laying down.

Daniel Danger is a true talent.  I hope to keep seeing more and more from

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Monday, November 12, 2012

That AI is just not into you

Rejection sucks. 
It's bad enough to get it from an average human but when the "nah thanks" comes from a cybernetic intelligence, that's another story altogether.

An essay by Tracy Atkins at Singularity Weblog discusses the very real prospect of an artificial intelligence that could become utterly indifferent to humankind.  We transhumanists tend to focus on how to create AI that will be beneficial, if not altogether gentle.  And with good reason.  There would be little to be gained from an "unfriendly" AI.  Nevertheless, it is a possibility that should be explored.

This is not the "SkyNet" scenario from Terminator or other such "scorched earth" cases from science fiction milieu.  This is an AI that, in Atkins' words:
"...may look upon humanity in the same light as we view the Australopithecus africanus, a distant predecessor or ancestor, far too primitive to be on the same cognitive level."

That's right.  An AI that looks at humans and remarks, "I can get nothing from these people.  They are unnecessary." Its intelligence might even be so advanced that we would be completely flummoxed as to how to interpret its communications.  I am experiencing something akin to this on a much smaller and far less drastic scale.  I teach college composition.  I know of a student who is having a difficult time reading even a few basic words (yes, this individual is in college and it's a long story.)  I cannot begin to work with them on larger concepts such as organizational structure and the like if I am unable to help them read.  I do not intend to make myself appear falsely hyperintelligent.  Not at all.  I am suggesting that our relationship with a highly advanced AI might be something like this...only X1000.  We might not have a hope for meaningful dialogue until our own cybernetic singularity has reached a sufficient point.

Atkins even suggests that the AI in question might, a la William Gibson's Neuromancer, just decide to discard its troth and pack up and go altogether.  Head for the stars as there just isn't intelligent life around these parts.  Again, it may be pure human arrogance to believe that even our creations would find us interesting.

I am not doing this essay justice.  Please go read it at the link.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Free Form Friday

Ever get that “unmoored” feeling?

Moored, as in a ship to a dock or otherwise stable structure.  If the ship loses its moorings, it goes adrift.  Lost at sea.  It may be my orientation as a science fiction writer that causes me to dwell upon what gruesome reality it would be for my variety of ships to get lost in the void. 

What do you do when the center of your universe falls away?  Try to find it?  Try to replace it?  Or just live with the vacuous hole left behind?  You can compress the wound with all manner of exterior balms and activities, but it still bleeds.  Most frightening of all, it might never stop bleeding.
In looking for material to incorporate into this post, I came across this line from Shakespeare’s Richard II:

“Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay;
The worst is death, and death will have his day.”

The worst?  I’m not so sure I agree with that.  Attempting to live through destruction, ruin, and decay is the far more arduous task.  Even going through woe (and such a thing is relative) can be far worse.  With death, everything is certain.  One way or another, whatever your spirituality comes from the Bible or the bottled kind, you’ll know what happens tomorrow.  There will be no blind fumblings for hope in the dark. 

Don’t take this as advocacy for suicide.  I’m merely attempting to explore those most awful sensations: devastation, desolation.
Wandering around in the aftermath, lost and with no discernible heading.  Where do you go when the universe falls away and leaves you behind?  Maybe not left with nothing, in fact you may still have with valuable people and things.  But there’s that one piece, that one big piece that is now missing and never coming back.  Where do you go from there?

These are not only the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls, they are when I actually begin to envy religious fundamentalists.  They always have a center to their universe and never even question it.  Critical thinkers, while many of us do believe in God, aren’t so certain.  We come up with too many rational avenues for doubt to travel to us. 

I wish I had more philosophies to introduce at this point in the post.  I'm sure there are but I'm just too drained to look for them.  Nothing from Descartes or Hegel.  Maybe just something from a bumper sticker I saw in this rural area: "Keep On Truckin'."

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

UFOs: The truth might not be out there

It might be a real disheartening situation we find ourselves in.

Perhaps, but it is far too unreasonable to say “case closed” because of it.  What I refer to is an article that appeared in the UK’s Telegraph, detailing that local chapters of UFO investigators are thinking of throwing in the towel.  Apparently, they may be leaning towards dismissing the idea of UFOs altogether.  Mr. David Woods, chairman of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, made this startling assertion:

“It is certainly a possibility that in ten years’ time, it will be a dead subject.  We look at these things on the balance of probabilities and this area of study has been ongoing for many decades. The lack of compelling evidence beyond the pure anecdotal suggests that on the balance of probabilities that nothing is out there.”

I see a number of problems with that statement but more on that in a moment.  Wood does in fact go on to make one important point:

“I think that any UFO researcher would tell you that 98 per cent of sightings that happen are very easily explainable.”

Exactly.  When discussing genuine UFO sightings, that is to say cases and incidents that are unexplainable or at least leave questions remaining, they  make up a very thin percentage of UFO cases.  I would go a little bit lower than 98%, but not much lower.  The fact that these so-called “skywatchers” have not seen anything in all their time really doesn’t mean anything.  Sightings of a truly unexplainable nature are a rare occurrence.  If they were otherwise, we no doubt would have an answer to the puzzle by now.

Further muddying the waters is the matter of software.  Photoshop and other digital graphics programs render the faking of UFO pics and videos an insanely simple task.  So much so that I almost automatically dismiss current day UFO images whenever they pop up.  I have often said that I wouldn’t be able to tell the real thing even if it were in crystal clear video right on my screen.  In fact, I would probably be even more skeptical of it.

This proliferation of fake images over the Internet has the unfortunate effect of dismissing any evidential claims out of hand.  Indeed, it is quite difficult to discern the wheat from the chaff in the digital age, especially when the quid is spewed in all directions.  Unfortunately, this impedes us from finding what might be critical sightings.

Additionally, consider how many times the article uses words such as "alien" or "alien spacecraft." Again, the ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis dominates the discussion.  If you're considering that this phenomena must be entirely alien in origin, then you are correct.  The prospects are looking dimmer.  This precludes, however, alternative explanations that are oft neglected and...I hate to consider this...not prone to testable evidence.

Will the matter be dead in ten years' time as Woods suggests?  We've been seeing these things in our skies for thousands of years.  I doubt the mystery will dissolve anytime soon.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thoughts on the election

I don't know if you heard, but Barack Obama has won a second term as President.
There are many reasons to be excited about this, but at the same time there are causes for concern.  Obama swept into office four years ago with promises of change.  He did accomplish at least one major change and that was the establishment of the Affordable Healthcare Act.  But in other regards, change has come slowly, if at all.

Admittedly, much of the resistance has come from the Tea Party and other Republican politicians who automatically said no to any proposal, but that fact is now irrelevant.  Obama needs to double down and stop pointing the finger at Bush who, while he did leave behind a mess, did so more than four years ago and that excuse is no longer valid.  If we expected results from the President before, our expectations are even greater this time around.

Therein will lie part of the challenge.  This was really a razor-thin election in many regards.  The divide between political ideologies is both wide and deep, so much so that I've often mused of the US breaking up into at least two separate nations.  Through their franchise, about 40% of voters chose the opposition over Obama.  Thus far, our President has been fairly humble about that fact, but that will need to remain firmly in his mind over the next four years.  If he is to be truly bipartisan, it will require a truly herculean effort of diplomacy on his part.

That is only if the other side will be receptive.  If Republicans have gleaned anything from the numerous losses they incurred yesterday, I hope one is that "hate doesn't work." The Tea Party has disgraced Republicans by stifling the voices of moderate and intelligent conservatives and replacing them with vitriolic rhetoric of religious self-righteousness, ignorant claims of "socialism," racist allegations of "Muslim," and supposed platforms of "personal responsibility." With the exception of a few elections on the local level, yesterday should demonstrate that the American public just isn't buying that line anymore.  The Tea Party of the aged and the white is quickly losing relevancy and will disappear altogether as their numbers die off from old age.  Republicans will have to embrace youth and diversity if they are to survive.

Truthfully, what exactly did the Republicans offer as their alternative to Obama?  Two guys who scared the bejeepers out of me and when pressed on issues, usually could only answer "we don't like Obama" and offered no solutions of their own...other than to ban abortion and same-sex marriage and to eliminate social service programs.  Additionally, if your party is asked "did the rape guy win?" and you have to answer "which one?" then you are in trouble.  If you are a woman, you really shouldn't support the current incarnation of the GOP.  If you are a man who loves women, you really shouldn't support the current incarnation of the GOP.  If you are a man who loves other men, you really shouldn't...well, you get the idea.

I am excited for another four years of President Obama.  I am hopeful that red and blue can come together and get pink.

"Pink." See, there's that dang "socialism" again.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When UFOs arrive

Of the indicators that we are probably not alone in the universe, many point to UFOs.

While UFO sightings are not exactly ironclad evidence, a body of scientists believes that UFOs and the alien question en totale warrant additional thought and preparation.  In a special edition of Britain's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A., the call is made for the United Nations to have in place an agency whose sole purpose is to be prepared for alien contact, when and if it occurs.  This study is said to have examined the ramifications of UFO contact, everything from scientific to political and social fallout.

There is one aspect of the publication that I found contentious and unsettling.  It was argued that evolution on other planets likely occurred in a Darwinian manner.  This, the scientists argued, proposes that the aliens are hostile, self-centered, and exploitative in nature.  One of the writers even went so far as to warn, "prepare for the worst."

So much is wrong with that thinking.  And that's without even factoring in the dubious nature of the "news source" at the link and its ever-annoying talking head.  Fact is, we don't know anything.  Period.  We're using ourselves as the base model because we have nothing else to go on but that in itself is erroneous.  Evolution is completely dependent on circumstances and there are no doubt circumstances out there that we never would have or could have anticipated.  Therefore, to simply guess that any other life would be as aggressive as we are is just plain fallacious. 

That said, I am rather intrigued by the idea of a UN apparatus dedicated to entirely to setting protocols in place for alien contact.  It's somewhat reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I'm envisioning a frumpy UN detail chasing down UFO witnesses and contactees, always just one step behind the UFO occupants.  How frustrating it must be. 

In the view of this report, however, they must imagine something more along the lines of the incineration of the peace delegation from Mars Attacks.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Are we conscious?

We may be getting closer to an answer.

A study announced at the Society for Neuroscience conference reportedly shows how to distinguish between someone who is minimally conscious and someone who is in a vegetative state.  Such a determination has been a vexing matter for quite a while.  Does a person who is brain damaged, showing no signs of response to external stimuli, have any level of awareness of their situation and surroundings?  We may now be able to determine that by measuring the length of brainwaves.

The research for the study included subjecting six brain damaged and unresponsive patients as well as 32 healthy and awake participants to mild electric shocks.  Brain activity was then monitored on EEGs.  In the brains of healthy patients, an enormous and diverse spike of activity was observed.  For the damaged, there was significantly less brainwave response.  While the implications of these findings still need fleshing out, they may be useful in cases such as those climacteric moments of determining whether to end life support.

I'm still not sure.  I think that the study may be trying to get at something somewhat different from what many colloquially consider consciousness to be.  It's a fuzzy, subjective thing, consciousness.  Just where is it located in the brain?  Is it even within the brain itself?  Is consciousness even something that can be studied, measured, or observed in a laboratory sense?  Perhaps what we term "consciousness" is really no more than a consensual illusions.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Interview with SF author Barry Woodham

Recently, I had the pleasure of conducting an e-interview with science fiction author, Barry Woodham.  The content speaks for itself.
(Sorry about the formatting at the end.  Not quite sure how it got mucked up.)

1.)    What are your inspirations when it comes to science fiction?

I have nearly sixty years of reading science fiction and still possess some of the early magazines such as Worlds of Tomorrow, IF Worlds of science fiction, Galaxy, New Worlds SF and of course Analog back when it was known as Astounding ! I still have that Magazine delivered and have 50 years’ worth stacked away! There are many others that took my young mind on a voyage of discovery. They awoke a burning interest in applied science, astronomy, the evolution of life and the weird and wonderful. It enabled me to look up to the night sky and feel very small!

2.)    What science fiction books did you read in your formative years?

I burned out the senior library before I was sixteen having tracked down everything that they had. I read Asimov, Clark, Van Vogt, Bester, Charles Eric Main, E C Tubb, John Wyndom – the list is immense!  I soon found that the magazines fed my imagination at that time (!950 – 1970) far better than books. Now that the day of the pulp magazine is over, the vast number of authors ‘Out There’ are mining a rich seam of imagination. Now for instance you will not find SF magazines on show; you have to order them! When I was a teenager a vast variety were on show to pick from.

3.)    Describe your writing process.

An idea presents itself and I begin to write. As I write the worlds of imagination fill my mind and plots and characters begin to come into focus. Once I get into my stride the story unfolds as I watch from my privileged position and it unfolds. I have a basic idea of the plot, but very often it will take me on an unexpected journey. For instance when I began to write my first book the idea that presented itself, was that to my annoyance in films etc., when a new world was discovered, a human being was able to breathe the air without being infested by alien organisms. We could never be able to fill our lungs with alien viruses and bacteria with impunity, so I set about trying to solve that problem. One thing led to another and five books came tumbling out!

4.)    Here's your chance to market! Tell us about your books.

If you look on my blog you will find a good description of each book.
Genesis 2 deals with the interaction of humans, intelligent apes and the Gnathe millions of years after the sun has destroyed the Earth.
Genesis Debt brings the integrated society to use a vast group mind to take the Earth and moon out of the sun’s reach through time and space to put it in orbit around a gas giant of a different system.
Genesis Weapon opens centuries later when an ancient sentient weapon destroys the three worlds orbiting the gas giant, reducing them to rubble. Far out on the galactic rim an even greater menace becomes aware of the sentient species ripe for picking. Death is no haven from the Goss!
Genesis Search presents a reason why the sun went early into its red giant stage and why the Andromeda galaxy has speeded up towards its collision with the Milky Way. A search through time is instigated to locate those who defeated the Goss and give them the problem to enable the interstellar civilisation to build a globular cluster and escape with it to the large Magellanic cloud.
Genesis 3 A New Beginning pits the group of aliens and humans against a machine intelligence that has set a trap for organic life to learn the secrets of wormhole manipulation to further its own empire. In doing so, they become pawns in a greater cosmic intellect’s plans to build another universe when this one is finished. They travel through time and space inside a Dyson Sphere only to find that all sentient life has been co-opted.
Elf War is set on a number of parallel Earths and charts the struggle of the Light Elves (Ljo’sa’lfar) against the cannibalistic dark Elves (Dokka’lfar) who use humans as a food source and sport. An elf finds a way to travel to our world where he picks six mercenaries and iron depleted AK 47’s to wrest the kingdom away from the false High King and defeat the Dark Lord Abbaddon who is waiting to breach the poisoned brier. Waiting to invade on the elves’ home world is Molock, father of all the Dark Elves who will extend his rule of cruelty throughout the world of the Ljo’sa’lfar crushing all before him.

5.)    In your opinion, what, if anything, has science fiction not been addressing lately?

Roger Zalanzy once wrote a book called ‘Stand On Zanzibar’. This dealt with the effects of overpopulation of the Earth’s resources. At one time the population of the world could all stand on the Isle of Wight off England’s shore. We are fast approaching Zanzibar. There is a limit to just how many human beings and their foodstuffs can manage. This now seems to be a taboo subject that SF writers have left alone for a long time. I still remember the film Soylent Green where the dead were turned into nutritious biscuits, which seems to me, not to be quite all that way away! After all it is a waste of protein?

6.) Cyberpunk vs. Space Opera. If forced to pick, which would you choose and why?

 I would choose Space Opera as this genre of writing is trying to entertain rather than depress         people! Looking at my efforts to entertain I would firmly place the emphasis on playing my imagination on a vast stage! I have considered the beginnings of the universe, gone right to its end and the possibility of how the next one would be formed. This to me is science fiction, full of alien view-points, strange locations and an attempt to take the reader where he or she has not ventured before.

7.) What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?

I once dreamt that I was there when Atlantis sank beneath the waves. I remember that I could feel the heat and hear the screams of terror as the volcano filled the sky with ash and lava rolled down the streets. To this day a do not know whether or not I survived?

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