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Forever Fungus October 8, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, geocaching, ideas, inventions, movies & TV, music, sense of wonder, Time, writing.
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Or maybe spores. I didn’t even know there were such things as bacterial spores. But the time capsule from the old Bellevue Hospital has a test tube full of them. But what are they? Gee, have we seen this sci-fi movie a millions time over? But this is real life.

I have always been fascinated with the notion of time capsules and what they pass along to the future. Big things (or things that become big) are never really included because the society will move those right along without help, thank you. And who, other than Steve Jobs, is able to look at something and know it will be bigtime? So the trivial is placed in the capsules for the most part which might be the best possible things to include. These give clues as to ordinary life that likely never gets recorded because, at the time, it is too trivial to even notice, and a chance for ordinary folks to have some fun.

Time capsule time: what would you put in one being buried today? What book or techno gadget or item ought to go inside? Newspapers might be interesting, not for the news but because by the time the capsule is opened nobody will have seen one. But putting in a CD or iPod loaded with music is likely to be a losing proposition. Think how computers have changed in the last 30 years. If I found a 3.5″ floppy from my old Apple ][e, I couldn’t read it. I suppose old Apple drives are around that could read it but the technology would have to be reinvented, whether our next door neighbors in 2111 are ready to flit off to Alpha Centauri for a well deserved vacation or Neanderthals more interest in painting their brand new cave wall.

Print books last centuries. Ebooks don’t. What good would a cell phone or digital camera be? DVDs of movies? The icloud will be long gone, faded into electronic mist and Johnson noise. Unreadable. I think a roll of duct tape might be interesting, even if it would age poorly. Styrofoam packing beads (aka “ghost shit”) reflect a great deal about us. What could we put in to amuse and amaze our ancestors 100 yrs from now? A gold coin? Mostly we have moved on to a culture that’s transient. The 51″ TV ain’t gonna fit (or work). How do you roll up a URL to display then? A set of Wikipedias? Would a Kindle maintain its e-ink page over 100 years? As my dad used to say, “You can’t beat a drum for a Christmas present.”

Maybe the Bellevue scientist who put his bacterial spore in the time capsule was right. Communicate by sending a plague forward in time. That’ll show ‘em!


If It Only Worked This Way September 26, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in End of the World, ideas, inventions, sci-fi, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, writing.
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Scott D returned copies of John Campbell’s Arcot, Wade and Morey books I’d loaned him. Thinking about the stories (pulp super science plots) remained me of something I always realized about the Tom Swift books and other “science” books of the era. Tom or Richard Seaton or any of them could whip up a new stardrive in nothing flat. It wouldn’t work the first time but did after adjusting a valve. Or maybe realizing the theory was all wrong, so it was rejiggered to work right just after lunch. The universe had to be saved before dinner, after all.

This is outright ridiculous and I knew it even when I was an 8 year old reading about Tom’s marvelous inventions. Granted today’s zero tolerance “victory is not an option” makes any given experiment a lifetime project, I prefer the fiction to our new world reality. This only highlights how the pulp writers’ work reflected their world vs ours. Their heroes were super scientists who could come up with complex devices and theories off the cuff. (One exception in YA series of the ‘50s was the Rick Brant series. Rick’s inventions were ordinary in comparison to an ultrasonic cycloplane or inertialess drive and he often developed simple miniaturized radio transceivers over long months, lots of the work taking place “off screen” so the reader only got the result after always-mentioned long and arduous testing)

I wish science worked like the old pulps. Crank out that world-saving invention *now*. Maybe they used time machines to spend the long years of experiment and revision before returning a few hours later with their marvy devices. This would age Tom Swift terribly. He’d be a 90 yr old with a chronological age of 18. Bud would comment on how old Tom looks as he unveils his atomic earth blaster or electronic retroscope–for Bud it might be hours but for Tom it could be years. What price invention?” What price science?

Maybe science has to be done by committee now, overseen by bureaucrats to make sure nothing happens. The pulp era is still a potent wish-fulfillment for me when it comes to mad scientists and major inventions.

This Might Have Zipped Past September 23, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, inventions, movies, movies & TV, science, science fiction, sense of wonder.

…because of the yeehaw! over CERN detecting neutrinos going faster than light. That one, if true, is more a theoretical problem since we’re not going to build neutrino starships and go to Zeta Reticulae any time soon, but the revolution in elementary relativity would be immense. But I’m not talking about that.

This is potentially more thrilling and frightening. If you get stuffed into an MRI, scientists can make a video out of your dreams. Grainy, indistinct, but mappable scenes. Sort of like the first moving pictures. It didn’t take long to go from early Edison pictures to Wizard of Oz. With a technology like this, progress might be even quicker. The people who go into comas for decades pose something of a moral problem for me, but this might be a way of communication–or knowing if anyone ever could communicate. And for whatever evolutionary reason, the people in such comas apparently are content, if not happy. I’d think they’d go completely insane but that doesn’t seem to be the brain mechanism. I remember one of the essays in Lewis Thomas’ marvelous Lives of The Cell where he says that the body can release immense endorphins at the time of death to erase pain.

But dipping into dreams? This is the stuff of science fiction. Even more, a video can be made of what people are currently seeing. This has to open comparisons of the subjective to the objective. Is the color red I see the same as the color red you see? We might agree on the wavelength (700nm) but the subjective part is up for grabs. This can hone in on a variety of visual problems.

Also from Berkeley comes stem cell work on revitalizing muscle tissue. We are reaching the transhuman threshold fast.

Amazon vs Apple September 13, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, inventions, iPad, movies, movies & TV, music, VIPub, web & computers.
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The battle of the titans is about to begin. A month or two? Certainly before Christmas and during the presents-buying season. Amazon is about to launch its color Kindle tablet.

One difference is that the Amazon Kindle is Android app capable. Another is that the initial launch will be wifi connectable only. That can change easily enough since existing Kindles have 3G. What carrier wouldn’t want the chance to hook up a new major source of traffic?

The advantages for AK (would they have the nerve to launch with the numeral 47, making this an AK47? No, I didn’t think so.) are the huge content through Amazon. They are gearing up to compete with netflix, already sell 90% of the ebooks, is moving into music and undoubtedly are innovative. Plus the AK will cost $250. This is half the price of the iPad.

I see this as another nail in the B&N coffin since the AK will go head-to-head with the Color Nook. Amazon is turning into the 800 lb gorilla. The question is in the air how long before they start to screw VIPub authors? They have 750,000 ebooks available. Does it serve Amazon to winnow those numbers? Time will tell.

They have introduced a behind the scenes quality control that hasn’t been obvious to me (or probably to you, either, as a reader/consumer) but a friend said they returned one of his books that had been on sale for some time to correct scanning errors. This isn’t a bad service at all since it gives the author the chance to pick up on what look like typos (scanning can introduce systematic errors–OCR software is good but even at 95% good it lets in mistakes. One I find in a lot of my scanned books is “com” turning into “corn.”) It’s good that Amazon cares enough about what’s on its electronic shelves to request this and it certainly is a boon to authors. Trust me, no matter how many times you copyedit a book, there will be typos. Always.

The AK isn’t a game changer like the first iPad but it is ramping up the competition. Waaaay up. E-ink is striving to have its day, this time with a tablet.

existing Kindle--not the Kindle tablet

All That Glitters… September 11, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, inventions, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, writing.
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…might have come from meteorite impact and not from the actual formation of the Earth. So sez a researcher at the U of Bristol.

I’m not sure I believe this exactly because more than gold would have to have been delivered if this is true. Uranium and all kinds of other starstuff supposedly goes to the core of the planet and surface deposits have to be dropped on our heads. This makes me wonder if Tom Swift and his Atomic Earth Blaster might actually have a point. The book is about drilling down for iron ore, which is rather abundant in traditional mining spots. But what if Tom was munching downward to tap the gold and heavier metals in the core?

But back to the point about meteoric deposition on the surface. If this is true, we ought to find a bunch of gold and heavier materials on the Moon. Could this be the cause of the big gravitational anomalies there? The Grail-A and Grail-B (soon to be renamed something unutterably dumb, I am sure) probes to arrive in January are to go into polar orbit to study such things. Can there be a new gold rush. I hope it’s not the ‘49ers (as in 2049) again since I’d like to see it, but there ought to be more than tritium on the moon since it collects more meteorites than Earth–the back side might be especially fruitful for hunting minerals.

I think there was some dumb UN treaty about not claiming the Moon for any nation. Is there anything about mineral rights? For individuals?

Jim Young has a story in the works about mining the asteroids for rare earths. Might well find a golden asteroid out there. Remember the Doc Smith book Gray Lensman with its sequence about Wild Bill Williams, Meteor Miner?

Brand New Ghost Town To Be Built September 9, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ghost towns, history, inventions, nostalgia, westerns, Wild West.
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I am long fascinated with ghost towns, especially in New Mexico, and dying towns trying to avoid ectoplasmic entropy. Building a brand new ghost town for the purpose of high-tech investigation is a dandy idea. I’m not sure exactly how it will work, or if it will ever be done–it would ironic to start construction of a ghost town, run out of money and then leave it partially completed.

They want a test ground for traffic control devices, urban planning and other things that would be gummed up if, you know, people were around. The location hasn’t been selected yet (and the picture accompanying the above link is White Sands Natl Monument, unlikely to be the site since people can visit there–and should. I have yet to see White Sands during a full moon. Put that on the bucket list. And then tap out some of the white sand (gypsum, really) from the shoes)

New Mexico Tech is famous for blowing up stuff and has a town devoted to just that in Playas, NM. This makes a lot of sense to me, more than the mega millions building an empty town for urban planning. But I am willing to be convinced the Pegasus town is a good idea. It will certainly bring much needed money to NM and maybe stir some interest in ghost towns and their resurrection. And the company also works on Spaceport America.

Speaking of ghost towns, Pat and Scott went to Ft Bayard
near Silver City this past weekend. She regaled me of tales of the Victorian buildings and how well preserved they were on the outside but rotting inside. If you want to take a tour of an important part of NM’s past (let us not forget the Buffalo Soldiers stationed here during the Indian Wars with Victorio and Geronimo). Ft Bayard Days are coming up the 16th and 17th of this month.

Fort Bayard, NM

Simply Fab(ulous) July 26, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, ideas, inventions, science, science fiction, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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I am fascinated with the idea of fabricators. A couple years ago I went to a place downtown where you can rent time on a fabricator. Don’t know if it is still in business. It appealed to the artsy-craftsy crowd doing pots and trivets but the real potential lies elsewhere.

About six years ago I gave a talk on nanotechnology and mentioned fabricators. Huge resistance to the idea. “Takes too much energy” was the general consensus. I came across this video the other day which shows how technology has marched on.

Want a wrench? With moving parts? Let ‘er rip. During WWII building Sten guns was a cottage industry. Easy to make, cheap if not all that great, any fool could do it. Imagine this fabricator going after a Sig or Glock? AK47 would be a piece of cake. Crank up the fabricator out in the jungle and you’ve got yourself a guerrilla supply chain. Power? Put up solar panels and you’re off the grid. Get that 3D printer running and you’ve got yourself a revolution.

Couple this with a nano assembler good for chemicals (eg, gunpowder) and you can make firearms all day long. Untraceable since they don’t have serial numbers (Operation Fast and Furious would certainly have been an even more epic fail if we’d supplied unmarked weapons tot he drug cartels for use on our own Border Patrol agents)

Think of other crimes that can be committed. Fab a pistol, use it in a murder, toss it. Or fab a new barrel (and would every barrel have the same rifling? This is equivalent of a digital photo. How many weapons with the same rifling could be used in different crimes at the same instant? That would be an attorney’s dream defense)

So would such a mystery be sf or traditional mystery? Would mystery readers put up with sf elements (only they are *new* elements, not future ones)?

And, of course, we already do this with books. VIPub!

Heat Death of the Universe July 14, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, e-books, inventions, movies, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Just wanted to start with something cheerful, like our ultimate fate (I can make a case this has already occurred since the avg temp of the universe is about 3degK)

But in an anti-entropy fashion, here is a great interview with Michael Zapp the author of the LegendMaker software I use to generate my ebooks.

Check out the example, too. It’s my “Me and Mr Jones” short story. Snag it for free here.

Tomorrow Mythcon 42 begins and I will be out of touch, here and otherwise, for the weekend. Enjoy the con, see Harry Potter, don’t worry about entropy…

Fun and games!

Chopped Eagle, To Go, Please June 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, New Mexico, Texas, writing.
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For long years I have called wind turbines “Avian Evisceration Devices.” I even thought this was such a good title, I used it in a short story of the same name.

Driving back and forth to OK I went past several wind farms. In NM they are around Tucumcari, in the Pandhandle there are several but the ones closest to the road are around Groom. I seem to remember some in OK, also, but I might be wrong about that. If you’ve seen one wind turbine, you’ve seen ‘em all. There used to be some variation, notably the upright eggbeater design but it seems they have all devolved into 3 blade propellers.

Always see a long semi flat bed on the road hauling a single blade. Those bird-guts-choppers are long. Very long.

It will be interesting to see how green jobs collide with animal rights especially in California where both are elevated to religion status.. The rather specific number 67 is used to enumerate the dead eagles in any given year. I don’t think the wind farm around Willard, NM, has been murdering eagles, but I might be wrong. It’s a sure thing the blades are chopping up birds (and in the case of the NM wind farm, only 26% of the generated electricity is used–the rest is simply run into the ground since the grid won’t take it. No word if Tres Amigos superconducting grid is progressing.

There are always ideas out there. Take the other side and see how the story progresses. Imagine what the world would be like with turbines whooshing about everywhere. And how this would deplete not only our feathered friends but also fossil fuel stores and rare earths and iron and copper and…

Wow, copper thieves. Iron thieves (they are stealing railroad tracks now).

The ideas are out there!

wind farm outside Willard, NM

Juggling Faster May 4, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, inventions, writing.
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…and then the running chainsaws are added.

Fantasy Football season has started. I’m caught up on the instruction mss for the moment. Got the synopsis for the new western completed and will start on the book today. Synopsis for the spy book (first third) done and will get to that in a while. And the God of War 2 rewrite is powering up. That’s work. I had to replace the doorknob into the garage, which gave me insight into a wonderful new bit of technology.

The snap lock broke. No big deal, but I have replaced locks all around the house and have a ponderous key ring just to be sure I can get in somewhere. This would add a fourth key to the ring just for getting into the house. But wait, technology marches on! I had no idea that you can buy locks that can be reset to your existing key. It took about 30 seconds to insert the key that came with the lock, twist it around, insert a shim, take out key and insert my existing front door key, remove shim and voila! The lock was reprogrammed–re-keyed, they call it. I am amazed at the simple stuff.

And I had to replace the god box for my tv. It was becoming increasingly recalcitrant on doing intricate processes like, oh, changing channels. The number buttons had all quit on me. I found that going to the online guide and punching a bright red button would take me to the channel I wanted (no return to previous channel–that button was all gummed up, too). But this was fading, too. Got to Comcast office and the line ahead of me was easily an hour long. Guard comes over, asks if I wanted a new surf board, I said yes, he took old one and handed me a new one and I was out in seconds.

It took me 5 minutes to replace the doorknob. It took me 15 minutes to find the proper control code for my tv. But both work well.

Alas, yesterday I was not working well. Got a touch of food poisoning, queasy, running fever, headache. That pretty well shot doing any work. I admit it. I’m a wimp but I also believe in operant conditioning. Writing and throwing up after I finished a page is not a combination I want to “learn.”

Good stuff waiting to be read. Got a Kindle copy of James Reasoner’s Diamondback for 99cents. How can I go wrong with that? I’m going to be on the road in a couple days and this will be a perfect transit read.