Archive for July 2014

Otherworldly Escape   Leave a comment

images-10

Credit: The Speculative Scotsman, May 2012

Today I attended a seminar on what could have been a rather interesting subject.  In fact, I found the keynote speech to be so compelling that the workshops following that speech should have been equally interesting.  My friends joined me, and we found seats in a darkened room, preparing to pay close attention to the speaker and her presentation.

And then?

Not much.  I blanked out.  So did one of my friends.  Perhaps the subject was presented too broadly, or the speaker lacked the confidence to deliver her speech with conviction.  But anyway, there we were, passing notes via our text messages, on a wide variety of commentary.  Were we bad?  Possibly.  Were we wasting our time?  Never.

See, it’s times like these that I take advantage of a darkened room and allow my thoughts to drift constructively.  I spend this time constructing plot lines and allowing my imagination to transport me to places where I normally struggle when planted firmly in front of my computer.  It’s my little trip to the unknown, where I explore my inner world in search of an exemplary adjective.  I’m writing a book, actually the second in a series.  I know exactly what’s going to happen in this second entry, start to finish.  No plodding plots here, folks.  That’s all squared away.

All the characters have received their job assignments.  They stand waiting patiently in the wings, looking for their cues to enter the stage of pages wherein their part comes alive, ready to jump into action.  Unfortunately, they have no way of articulating it.  Why?  Because I’m still wrenching out the exact prose their fictional lips are about to utter.

I’ve developed my craft with wit, a hint of sarcasm and a touch of irony, laced it with suspense and a hint of romance (just a tidbit, mind you, because let’s face it, characters need love too).  But I simply can’t bring myself to compose dull, lifeless conversation like this:

“What’s going on, Rachel?”

“Don’t worry about it, Pete.”

Ugh.

Those two sentences are my sculptor’s clay.  Those words are what the characters are thinking, but I want them to deliver them so the reader’s clinging to the book with sweaty palms, anxious to turn the page in the hopes that Pete and Rachel are going to…going to…going to…oh, my God! is THAT what’s up???

So as I shivered in the refrigerated, darkened conference room, I leaned back in my leatherette chair and stared into the PowerPoint presentation.  I allowed Pete and Rachel to swallow me whole, as they wrestled with that dilemma that floated beyond their reach.

Here’s what came of it:

Pete glanced at Rachel, worried.  “And what’s your plan, if I might ask?”

“You need not concern yourself.  I’ll probably slug my fist into a few protesting jaws and guts, but beyond that, nothing worse,” she said, smiling assuredly.

Oh, there’s more, but you’ll have to find out later.

 

 

Posted July 29, 2014 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi, science fiction

Tagged with ,

A.I. Vs. Me   Leave a comment

images-9

Famous actor who should have been smarter or known better

One always hears that sooner rather than later, artificial intelligence will win the battle over humanity.  People will become unnecessary, robots will rule the earth and humankind will vanish with a flicker of a dying match.

It’s true.  I read all sorts of articles from many sources that discuss both sides of the issue.  Many valid arguments from both sides.  However, I can’t get past one thing: humans build these things, don’t they?  Not machines, but flesh-and-blood types, the kind that need air to breathe and run on food instead of…well…whatever it is that AI runs on.

To be honestly, I’ve yet to see a real valid example of a machine building a machine smarter than it.  In fact, I’ve yet to see any sci-fi out there regarding a droid, robot, gizmimee or quelnodder, screwdriver in hand, lifting the lid off of the head, chest and guts of a counterpart, carefully placing a chip inside and closing it up, then miraculously watching that God moment when all becomes too real and rises up to become the conquerer of the universe.

Droids/Robots constructing improved units also presents another item for discussion: why would it?  What does a D/R have to gain by creating an improved version of itself?  That improved version might notice its creater’s a bit dimmer than it, find the kill switch and be done with it.  True. that can be part of the program and if the God D/R had any sense, it might write a code that includes a directive a al “I, Robot”, in that “do no harm” is a real and true order.  Even that statement up for interpretation.  If the God robot wants to kill its progeny, it’s preserving its own life with the successive, smarter D/R catches on that it has one chip up on its Daddy.

Bearing this in mind, why would a person create an object than can outsmart us?  Frankly, humans are too clever for their own good to do this.  First of all, we’re competitive.  Egos are sensitive enough as it is.  Some of you might remember Garry Kasparov losing to IBM’s Deep Blue, after beating it previously.  He didn’t take it well at all.  And then there’s that “Jeopardy” match with mere mortals.  Although that took some doing, again, people got the short end of the stick.

So apart from these novelty versions of AI, what else can we cook up that won’t kick our pride in the shins?  No one’s going to brag over their vodka gimlet and state to the bartender, “Say, want to hear the latest?  Remember that droid I slapped together in October?  You’re not going to believe this.  It approached my boss, got my job – AND – a raise!  Then, it locked me out of my office, drained my bank account and ran off with my spouse!  I’m lucky I had enough chump change to buy this drink.”

Of course, we all know that drink was expertly served by none of than Bob the Botender, programmed to sympathetically listen to life’s ups and downs, collect tips and cut you off when you’ve had a few.

 

Mapping the Red Planet   Leave a comment

23mars-master1050-v2

Credit: USGS

Mars, the alluring tempter of a planet, now exists in map form, easily accessible at the touch of a computer key.  That’s it, just above the copy of this blog post.  As you can see, there’s peaks and valleys, plus polar ice caps.  From the shape of things, one can imagine where water might have flowed and accumulated.

Here’s another view: rotating Mars

The last map was created in 1987, when technology and resources were scant and crude, compared to today’s standards.  Previous maps consisted of data taken from Viking probes and other sources.  What made this latest incarnation possible is the use of the Mars Global Surveyor and the laser altimeter, which bounces up to 600 laser beams to the surface.  Such details, as ages of rocks, were gathered from these sources.

On the United States Geological Survey pages, you can find more details of the map and how it was produced.

Prepare to be fascinated!

Be a Star Wars Star!   Leave a comment

Hey, folks!  Just keeping you updated on the latest Star Wars controversy as we wait impatiently for the latest, newest incarnation!

J. J. Abrams, the director of Episode 7, makes an appeal to directly to you, the nerds and the geeks (that includes me, my husband and just about our entire social circle) to donate to UNICEF and if you do, you, yes, YOU might get a chance to win a part in “SW7”!

See here for yourself:

From a press release that accompanied the video:

All Wings Report In! On the set of Star Wars: Episode VII, Director J.J. Abrams was interrupted by an X-Wing pilot and rogue robot as he announced the chance for fans to win an advance private screening of Star Wars: Episode VII. “We are so grateful for the support that the fans from over 119 countries have shown for Force for Change,” said Abrams. “As we close this final week, we’ve added an additional prize that allows the fans the opportunity to see the movie early as a thank you for supporting such a great cause as UNICEF’s innovative, lifesaving work for children.” By contributing at any level by July 25th, participants will be eligible for all prizes including a chance to be in the movie.

Now comes the controversy.  It appears that the vehicle that J. J. Abrams is standing in front of is not really an X-wing fighter.  Even my friend has told me so.  It appears to many to be a Z-95 Headhunter.  Apparently, this is IMPORTANT.

What do you think?  Does the viewing audience/people who claim to be Jedis know their stuff better than J.J?  Or is this a genuine case of mistaken identity?  Remember, we’re looking into the future here.  Could be a whole new class of fighter vehicles!

Watch the clip and decide.

 

 

Wanted: A Planet to Call Home   2 comments

solarsystem1-250x200

Credit: NASA

Clearly, we’ve grown bored with the Earth.  It’s that lover one always strives to please, yet somehow no matter what one does, it’s never right.  In the end, one gives up and goes elsewhere to find love and acceptance.  Its inhabitants have, in equal parts, loved and abused it, ignored its warnings and acted surprised when it fought back.  In the end, we all know it’ll get its way and beat us, but no one who borrows time trodding on its grassy plains and thick muddy fields ever thinks about that prospect.

Instead, our eyes shift upward, looking elsewhere for a better situation and a second chance.

Ever since the discovery of exoplanets, or those outside of our own solar system, space explorers have been determining which of those planets will host life and, optimistically, life that we can identify, and, how we’re going to to meet up one day.  Average citizens, whose off-world opportunities are rather limited, have to rely on imagination and conjecture to supply possibilities.  After all, those alien spaceships have to come from somewhere, right?  They can’t all be bad.  Those Antarians from the movie “Cocoon” did benefit the forgotten population of greying Floridians, even supplying a ride back to Antarea to seniors deserving of a new life.

Closer to home, it’s simpler to take advantage of our backyard planets and subsequent moons.  Once humans figured out what planets actually were, they’ve also contemplated living upon them.

Take, for instance, the moon.  Relatively ancient technology got us there and back for a short visit way back when.  Nowadays, it’s entirely feasible to build a craft to ship us there en masse to create a colony there, given its relative nearness.  We already know there’s a supply of water and rare earth elements just hankering to be mined.  Nearly every genre of science is hankering to conduct experiments there, driven by desire, curiosity and the uniqueness of the lunar environment.  Americans, Russians, as well as private interests all have plans in the works to get up there by the 2020s and make a homestead claim.

Humans attach great meaning to the color red.  Anger, temptation, danger and naughtiness are all meanings associated with it – just about everything we’re not supposed to have and desperately crave.  I’m assuming that’s the subliminal reason why Mars is so magnetic.  After all, this red planet practically begs someone to come hither.  Probes coyly hint at the richness of Mars’ treasures.  Water’s there, too, although not behaving the way we’d like it to be, adding more to its mystique.  And like a forbidden love, the more determined we are to have it, the more money it costs to secure it.  I’ve no doubt there’ll be a batch of humans trying to tame the Wild Red Planet’s surface, but it’ll come at a price, no one will be happy, but we’ll be never be satisfied until we at least have a first date.  Then we’ll see.

Until then, I’m going to bide my time and see what openings Virgin Galactic has in the near future.  I might want to book a ride.

A Gorgeous Video about Our Universe   3 comments

I  can’t seem to get enough of this stuff.

Dark matter illustrated and explained for you:
Recently astronomers have used a cosmic web imager to visualize simulations of dark matter,
showing how the the large scale structure of the universe grows and the nests in which galaxies are hatched.

Click on the link – I can’t seem to get the video up on the blog for some reason!

Posted July 16, 2014 by seleneymoon in The Universe

Tagged with , ,

Worming One’s Way Through Space   Leave a comment

What’s your preferred method of space travel?  Is it this?

ds^2= - c^2 dt^2 + dl^2 + (k^2 + l^2)(d \theta^2 + \sin^2 \theta \, d\phi^2).

Or this?

ds^2= - c^2 \left(1 - \frac{2GM}{rc^2}\right)dt^2 + \frac{dr^2}{1 - \frac{2GM}{rc^2}} + r^2(d \theta^2 + \sin^2 \theta \, d\phi^2).

I know, I know.  Pretty hard to decide which one to choose.

Allow me to provide you with a clearer example.   This is a depiction of the first equation:

Wurmloch

CorvinZahn – Gallery of Space Time Travel (self-made, panorama of the dunes: Philippe E. Hurbain)

This is the second:

220px-LorentzianWormhole

Credit: Allen McC

Give up?  Here’s a clue:  There’s a connection between this:

10418463_10154337998890603_349570926636102332_n

…and the space it occupies.

And the answer is…WORMHOLES!

Okay, okay, maybe I’ve gotten a bit esoteric for you.  I’ll get simple.

The first mathematical equation is otherwise known as traversable wormhole, or one that allows you to move from one end of the universe to the other.  The second one represents a Schwartschild wormhole that, for the most part, is a black hole that allows travel usually in one direction, but also connects one universe to the other.

The definition of a wormhole is a method within the theory of relatively of moving from one point in space to another without crossing the space in between.  To properly explain a wormhole properly means one has to drag out the big guns (i.e. Einstein) and spew forth a lot of verbiage that’s guaranteed to gloss over the heartiest of eyeballs.  A short history of the term is this: Albert Einstein and his colleague  Nathan Rosen came up with the basic principles of wormholes and their relation to time and space in the 1935 and called their concept the “Einstein-Rosen” bridge.  John A. Wheeler, an American theoretical physicist coined the term wormhole in 1957.

Science fiction writers have jumped on the concept ever since.  Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, Iain M. Banks, John G. Cramer, Stephen Baxter and many, many others have all used wormhole technology to develop their plots, as well as popular shows as the Stargate franchise.

With wormholes, one easily solves the problem of traveling great distances in short times, as long as you don’t exceed the speed of light (a wormhole no-no).  Just about anything can travel through them as well.  The mightiest of space vehicles right down to tiny gnats can zoom through distant reaches to discover, conquer or just make new friends.  It’s a simple device that captures everyone’s imagination because it’s so freeing and limitless.  Need to get someplace?  Hook up to a wormhole, and in seconds, you’re there.

In Stargate SG-1, the cast would travel so quickly through these things that bullets came flying right out of the gate, thanks to the wormhole.  Conversely, robotic probes made their way out into the new planet, seeking information regarding conditions.  True, a proper stargate was needed to connect two points together.  It wasn’t without its risks, either.  Wormholes invite all sorts of malfeasance, if one isn’t careful.  Evil characters often took advantage of this plot device and wreaked havoc, threatening Earth and its inhabitants over and over again.

Next time you look up at the sky and gaze at the stars, think about this: somewhere out there lurks a bridge to another time.  One day, maybe soon, some thing might be transversing it to visit.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: