Friday, November 30, 2012

Sick puppy

A frankly bizarre tale about how unrealistic expectations heaped upon Japan's youth is causing an outbreak of mental illness. My sympathy is with the sufferers but there was also part of me that wondered how that could be used in a story. I've been kicking around an idea for a cruel story that uses (in the right sense of that word) sufferers of OCD as cleaners. Could the folks who obsessively stay in their rooms be used for anything?

The view from the west

The Californian Ideology is the name of a paper about the philosophy (neo-liberalism) that powered the dotcom boom. I'm slightly ashamed to say that I had never heard of it before now but recognise the traits it describes very well. Technology will save us all. Then again...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aye, eye

A curious post on Ptak about the eyes of John Dee - probably the most famous English magus who was court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I and zealous proponent of mathematics. The article looks at copies of copies of a painting and how that affected one of the details in the image. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pow! Right in the kisser

Again a good series of thoughts about how to depict fights - this time of the hand-to-hand variety not ship-to-ship. I can think of only a handful of authors that do this well. John Sandford is about the best I've read and his trick is to join everything with "and". It gives it a real sense of pace and I've copied it shamelessly. His other virtue is that he has the knack of keeping the details of who is doing what clear. In books that do a bad job of portraying violence I've had to go back and read who did what to whom just to be sure who came out on top.

There's a good point too about how visceral and physical combat is. I have precious little experience of that but often combat as depicted on the page seems more about thoughts and minds that it does a fists and bruises.

Pew pew lasers

More for reference than anything else but this is a great consideration of the problems of space warfare. It's useful as it strives to be realistic and consider techs, particularly for engines, that are plausible rather than fantastical.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brain shapes

If you were to draw a picture of consciousness, what would it look like? A deep dark pool, a mirror, Futurama's hypnotoad? Benjamin Betts got there before anyone and drew geometrical images of consciousness in a book first published in 1887.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Eat me

Why soul cake Tuesday? This is why soul cake Tuesday. You've got to love any baked good that can wring condemnation from a 16th century English pamphleteer.

Fiction v reality

In Lucifer's Dragon, Jon Courtenay Grimwood imagined the consequences (social, technical and political) of re-creating Venice in the middle of the Pacific using old ships as its foundations and biotech to fill in the rest. With the passing of the Lord of Sealand I wondered what would happen to that idea. Satisfyingly, the idea has not died but been resurrected in a different form - now lots of rich folks are going to build it off the San Fran coastline. Even more satisfying, the main mover behind this particular island dream is Patri Friedman, the son of monetarism guru Milton Friedman. This stuff writes itself.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Zero sum game

A strange story of how mathematics was used in the service of anti-semitism in the Soviet Union and which almost put a stop to Edward Frenkel's career before it got started.

Stuck on three

There's one more reason why it might prove tricky to travel the spaceways at relativistic speeds. As spaceships approach the speed of light, or so this paper claims, interstellar hydrogen turns into intense radiation that fries the electronics in a spacecraft and kills everyone inside. The easy way to get round this is to go slower, but that kind of defeats the object of travelling at close-to-light speeds in the first place.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

What he said

It's everywhere but I feel I need to log the location of the paper that explains what Gustaf Johansen saw when he encountered dread Ryleh.