Category Archives: author

Automated Space Guard?

From Kurzweil AI:

No, it’s not a new version of the classic Asteroids video game. Engineers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have envisioned a swarm of small agile satellites flying in formation, firing solar-powered lasers at an asteroid.

According to Dr. Massimiliano Vasile, of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the concept is more feasible than a single large spacecraft carrying a multi-mega watt laser.

“Our system is scalable; a larger asteroid would require adding one or more spacecraft to the flotilla, and intrinsically is redundant — if one spacecraft fails the others can continue,” Vasile said.

Vasile is also investigating the use of the same concept to remove space debris. The number of objects in orbit classified as debris is ever-increasing and with no widely accepted solution for their removal. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde believe the space-borne lasers could be used to lower the original orbit of the space debris (to eventually burn up in the atmosphere) and reduce the congestion.

“The amount of debris in orbit is such that we might experience a so called Kessler syndrome,” Vasile said. “This is when the density becomes so high that collisions between objects could cause an exponentially increasing cascade of other collisions. While there is significant monitoring in place to keep track of these objects, there is no specific system in place to remove them and our research could be a possible solution.

“A major advantage of using our technique is that the laser does not have to be fired from the ground. Obviously there are severe restrictions with that process as it has to travel through the atmosphere, has a constrained range of action and can hit the debris only for short arcs.”

disasteroids3d

A future Space Guard in Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama discovered Mankind’s first contact with alien civilization, could this do the same?

http://www.kurzweilai.net/zapping-asteroids-and-space-debris-with-a-swarm-of-satellites-firing-lasers .

Hat tip to The Daily Grail.

Dystopia vs. Dystopia

Two science-fiction classics of social dystopia, Brave New World and 1984 respectively by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell ( Eric Blair ) remain the yard-sticks by which future tyrannies are measured.

What is little known is that when Blair’s ( Orwell ) 1984 came out, Huxley wrote him a letter of ” congratulation.”

Kind of.

In October of 1949, a few months after the release of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a fascinating letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley — a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published, in the form of Brave New World. What begins as a letter of praise soon becomes a brief comparison of the two novels, and an explanation as to why Huxley believes his own, earlier work to be a more realistic prediction.
Fantastic.
Trivia: In 1917, long before he wrote this letter, Aldous Huxley briefly taught Orwell French at Eton.
(Source: Letters of Aldous Huxley; Image: George Orwell (via) & Aldous Huxley (via).)

Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
Thank you once again for the book.
Yours sincerely,
Aldous Huxley

If Huxley and Blair were alive today, the point would be moot because both types of tyrannies are employed in the world presently.

But I think these are just temparary developments.

1984 v. Brave New World 

Hat tip to Red Ice Creations

‘The Heirs of Prometheus’ by Athena, Dyson reviews books on Global Warming

It’s slightly cloudy — unusual for sunny Florida. The air smells of the ocean, alive with birds: gulls, pelicans, hawks. On a wooden platform, a group of people of all ages and colors is squinting fixedly at a point on the horizon about two kilometers away, where a gantry holds a slim rocket that balances a tiny load on its nose. A level voice announces from the loudspeakers: “The T minus ten holding period is over. We’re going forward.”

The people break into wild cheers, then fall eerily silent. Curious children are shushed and told to look there, there; final adjustments are made to cameras and binoculars. The minus ten holding period is the last chance to abort. The weather was such that until this moment the decision to launch could change.

Like heartbeats, the announcements come. “T minus five… minus three… minus one… T minus thirty seconds… minus twenty seconds… minus ten seconds… Now you can hear a pin drop. “Nine… eight.. seven… six… five… four…. three… two…” All the spectators shiver, holding their breath.

“Liftoff!”

A beautiful essay by Athena of Star Ship Reckless, Astrogator’s Logs

_________________________________________________________________________________

Some words from Freeman Dyson:

In the history of science it has often happened that the majority was wrong and refused to listen to a minority that later turned out to be right. It may—or may not—be that the present is such a time. The great virtue of Nordhaus’s economic analysis is that it remains valid whether the majority view is right or wrong. Nordhaus’s optimum policy takes both possibilities into account. Zedillo in his introduction summarizes the arguments of each contributor in turn. He maintains the neutrality appropriate to a conference chairman, and gives equal space to Lindzen and to Rahmstorf. He betrays his own opinion only in a single sentence with a short parenthesis: “Climate change may not be the world’s most pressing problem (as I am convinced it is not), but it could still prove to be the most complex challenge the world has ever faced.”

The last five chapters of the Zedillo book are by writers from five of the countries most concerned with the politics of global warming: Russia, Britain, Canada, India, and China. Each of the five authors has been responsible for giving technical advice to a government, and each of them gives us a statement of that government’s policy. Howard Dalton, spokesman for the British government, is the most dogmatic. His final paragraph begins:

It is the firm view of the United Kingdom that climate change constitutes a major threat to the environment and human society, that urgent action is needed now across the world to avert that threat, and that the developed world needs to show leadership in tackling climate change.

The United Kingdom has made up its mind and takes the view that any individuals who disagree with government policy should be ignored. This dogmatic tone is also adopted by the Royal Society, the British equivalent of the US National Academy of Sciences. The Royal Society recently published a pamphlet addressed to the general public with the title “Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide.” The pamphlet says:

This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming.

In other words, if you disagree with the majority opinion about global warming, you are an enemy of science. The authors of the pamphlet appear to have forgotten the ancient motto of the Royal Society, Nullius in Verba, which means, “Nobody’s word is final.”

Yes, the famous physicist Freeman Dyson, “that one”, contents that global warming isn’t purely human driven and that the scientific community is dogmatic on the subject by blasting opponents. Dyson’s reviews of these books; ‘A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, by William Nordhaus, Yale University Press.’ and ‘Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto, edited by Ernesto Zedillo, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization/Brookings Institution Press’questions whether or not the meme is economically driven.

Now where have I read that before, hmmm…?  *visions of a certain evangalistic gear jammer driving his tractor-trailer back and forth over the carcasses of a recent Nobel Prize recipient and a person with the same name as a motorcycle…*

The Question of Global Warming

Environmentalism as religion

UPDATE: George Dvorsky, a noted transhumanist and Singularity proponent blogs on this also: http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2008/05/freeman-dyson-on-religion-of.html

Amazing, simply amazing. Dogma permiates discourse in all areas of discussion, science, religion, whatever. And denial flies through the air like farmers spreading liquid cow sh*t.

F*cking amazing.  😕

Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World (1980)

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008, not only was a part-time scientist, science and science-fiction author, he was a follower of Fortean phenomena also. During the 1980s and early 1990s, he along with others produced three thirteen part series titled Mysterious World, World of Strange Powers and Mysterious Universe. His very presence, although brief during any of the shows, lent some credibility to the investigations being conducted.

Clarke never believed in the paranormal and supernatural, but he wasn’t afraid to find out whether they were real or not. I think he was just curious about the truth, as long as it could be proven empirically.

 

The Journey Begins Part One

 

 

The Journey Begins Part Two

 

 

The Journey Begins Part Three

 

Science Fiction Icon, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Now Belongs To The Future

As written by Ravi Nessman, AP writer:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Arthur C. Clarke, a visionary science fiction writer Sri Lanka, has died an aide said. He was 90. Clarke, who won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future, died Wednesday in his adopted home of Sri Lanka.
Clarke had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, died at 1:30 a.m. after suffering breathing problems, aide Rohan De Silva said.Co-author with Stanley Kubrick of Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Clarke was regarded as far more than a science fiction writer. He was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits. He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as commentator on the U.S. Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s.Clarke’s non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

But it was his writing that shot him to his greatest fame and that gave him the greatest fulfillment.

“Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered,” Clarke said recently. “I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer.”

I can’t say how saddened I am by this. It’s like a piece of my childhood died with him. I suppose nobody should be surprised by this, after all the man was 90 years old. Hell, I would be lucky if I lived long enough to draw my puny Social Security with all the health issues I’m treated for. So 90 years is a ripe old age and the guy didn’t waste it.

Not too many people realize this, but Clarke did invent the concept of the orbiting communication satellite after he got out of the British Army after WWII. I wonder if he submitted a patent for it?

I’m not going to go through the litany of books and other literature the man had written, I can say one thing though, I read 99% of his scifi. I even refer to some of his work in my posts, just yesterday in fact!
On the tinfoil side, there was a rumor that he knew about possible structures on the Moon and Mars, real sources for his and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Also he foretold how benevolent super-aliens would force ‘disclosure’ of their existence in his novel ‘Childhood’s End’. Fodder for a later post.

So Bon Voyage Sir Arthur! May you still live long and prosper in a parallel universe somewhere! You showed some of us not to fear the future!
Yahoo!News obituary article

Wikipedia Entry

Saturday Sci-Fi

The final episode of Stargate SG1 is coming soon, next week I think. But I’ve been so busy on Friday nights lately I’ll surely miss it, but I’m certain it’ll come around again during one of these TV show cycles, or recycles. If not, there’s always the DVD boxsets that get pushed around Christmas time. But to me, SG1 stopped being cool when Richard Dean Anderson left the show after the 7th season. Beau Bridges and Ben Browder were alright, but they just couldn’t bring the spontaneity Anderson did. All that will be resigned to the annals of television history now. Count that among the retired shows with Battle Star Galactica, whose final season is coming up in the ’08 cycle. Good sci-fi is hard to come by on the old TV medium as it is, with the ending of these classics, finding quality sci-fi viewing is going to be even more scarce.

The Sci-Fi Channel does try to give its audience quality viewing and it does try to spread various themes around, genetic engineering, weather control, war, drugs, nanotech, fantasy and yes, space travel on its Saturday movies. If you have ever watched the Sci-Fi channel over a period of time, you’ll notice their Saturday movie fare usually has a theme that culminates in a “Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie” at 9 pm Eastern Time (Daylight or Standard). Here’s today’s movie links:

SCI FI ORIGINAL MOVIE   LOCUSTS: THE 8TH PLAGUE    3 PM

SCI FI ORIGINAL MOVIE   PTERODACTYL                              5 PM

SCI FI ORIGINAL MOVIE   REIGN OF THE GARGOYLES     7  PM

SCI FI ORIGINAL MOVIE   STAN LEE’S HARPIES          9  PM

The actual schedule here if you want to see later flicks.

As you notice, the theme today is weird critters getting out of hand and killing humans. Not exactly original, but people like to see fantasy type stuff now-a-days. Not my favorite thing, but I’m just making a point of what the Sci-Fi Channel does on Saturdays. If today’s theme appeals to you, enjoy!

I’m at an impass about my recommended classic novel today. I am nowhere near my stated goal of getting classic stories from my teenage years and rereading them. But after looking back at my blog postings of the past week, the mentioning of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics sticks out the most in my mind. If, or when human beings create an artificial intelligence that has the potential of exceeding human intelligence, Azimov had the forsight to place a restriction of these potential rivals so that the human race could be preserved. The down-side to this was that this new race could be used as slaves, and human history isn’t exactly clean when it comes to that issue. So my recommended reading is any of Asimov’s Robot Series, in any order:

Later, Asimov expanded on the Robots and Empire theme of combining robots with the Galactic Empire. Those novels weren’t too bad, but it kind of watered down the Galactic Empire/Foundation Series I thought.

Asimov was a Grand Master before he died in 1992. If you even claim to be a sci-fi fan, any Asimov series is a requirement for your library.

 

Saturday Sci-Fi

Today I’m dedicating this post to Stephen Baxter. Baxter in my opinion is the successor to Sir Arthur C. Clarke in the realm of hard science- science fiction. In fact, the two have collaborated on some stories the past few years; Time’s Eye, Sunstorm, Firstborn, and The Light of Other Days .

But I’m referring to Baxter’s own works today because he has written about beings that are classified Kardashev Type IV, which ties into what I have been talking about this past week concerning advanced alien societies and their possible ties to humans and planet Earth.

His Xeelee Sequence of novels are set into the far future and (Wikipedia clips here);

“…where humans are rising to become the second most powerful race in the universe, next to the god-like Xeelee. Character development in these stories takes second place to the depiction of advanced theories and ideas, such as the true nature of the Great Attractor, naked singularities and the great battle between Baryonic and Dark matter lifeforms. Examples of novels written in this style: Ring, Timelike Infinity.

The Xeelee are considered god-like and warlike. The Wikipedia description of them are:

 “…baryonic lords as they are known are a hyperadvanced civilisation which has existed for billions of years. Their technology far exceeds that of any other species and in many cases aquiring this technology even in crude form will give any civilsation a huge boost over others.

The xeelee are spread across the universe typicly being concentrated in the heart of galaxies where they use the black holes for their own purposes.

Baryons are real quantum particles, along with mesons, “…belong to the family of particles known as hadrons, meaning they are composed of quarks. Baryons are fermions composed of three quarks, while mesons are bosons composed of a quark and an antiquark. The quark model classification of baryons is based on this construction”.

If you can follow that, I’ll give you fifty bucks. But needless to say Baxter understands it.

Hard science sci-fi is my favorite literature and this series is good entertainment, brain stretching material and just makes you go ‘hmmm’.

Official Stephan Baxter Website with his works.