Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Of the unforeseen, unintended, and unfunny

I've posted on several occasions (most recently, No time to go googly-eyed) about Google Glass. Will it be cool? Yes. Is it a sign of the apocalypse? Probably not. But between ...

You likely won't look this cool
Texting is fairly well estabished as a dangerous distraction to driving. So how about having the Internet in your face as you drive? NOT good. And so: Don't Glass and drive -- lawmakers seek to ban Google Glass on the road. And because Glass is a video recording device, be advised From strip clubs to theaters, Google Glass won't be welcome everywhere.

Still want a pair? Already wear glasses? Then (a note for the deep-pocketed), Prescription Version of Google Glass Expected This Year.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

From many perspectives

For me, one of the striking things about the Boston Marathon bombings, the pursuit of the perps, and how the world followed these fast-breaking events has been the role of modern tech. Last week's tragedy, compared to other terrorist bombings (and would-be bombings) of recent years, seems immersed in the latest technology. And reminiscient of much near-future fiction ...

With non-jarring apps
The investigators had -- and made brilliant use of -- many thousand cameras. Ten years ago, would people in the crowd have had cameras? Sure. But would people in the crowd have taken nearly as many shots and videos as they did with all their smartphones? Probably not.

Ten years ago, would authorities have as quickly blanketed the Boston area with information? As quickly knocked down the rumors and disinformation? With TV and radio, likely yes -- but only to people near a TV or radio. How many people did the authorities first reach via cells and tablets?

(And on that point, hot off the [virtual] presses, from Michael Chertoff [a former Secretary of Homeland Security] and Dallas Lawrence [a former spokesman for the military coalition in Iraq], see "Investigating Terror in the Age of Twitter.")

Ten years ago, how much harder would it have been to reach family and friends in the Boston area, to check whether they were safe and to offer moral support? The phone systems were overloaded and (reports vary) cell-phone systems were sometimes shut down. (If cell systems were locally unavailable, I'm not criticizing. To stymie remote detonations is a Good Thing.) But email, texting (when and where cell systems were available), Facebook, Twitter ... offered access when all else failed.

So what lies ahead?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Poisoning, throttling, and otherwise killing the goose

You know the goose I mean -- the one that lays the golden eggs

DVDs (in which category I'll include Blu-Ray discs) are a big market. In 2011, the last year for which I've found data, movies on disc represented an $18 billion business. Lots of after-theater money for movie producers.

A vanishing breed?
But it's a business that's shrinking -- and all too often, the purveyors of DVDs are bringing it upon themselves.

I enjoyed DVDs. I used to buy lots of DVDs. The picture quality is fantastic. I can watch a DVD movie even when my Internet service is interrupted. But in recent months, almost exclusively, I stream video content.

As a consumer, videophile, and technologist, what's gone wrong with DVDs and (especially) Blu-Ray discs? Let me count the ways.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Maybe another time

Routine be damned ... after yesterday's horrific events in Boston, posting is the last thing on my mind.

Another day ...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The poster child for, well, posts

Welcome to the third annual review of popular posts and topics here on SF and Nonsense. The first such round up, Postscript (or is that post post?), continues to run a strong second place in all-time popularity among my posts.

The winner is ...
The most popular all-time post? That continues to be, in a cake walk, the October 12, 2010 post Betrayer of Worlds. It's hardly intuitive that the announcement of book four (of five) in the Fleet of Worlds series (with Larry Niven) should be so popular. My theory is that a page name that is a straight book title -- rather than my wont, a play on words incorporating the book title -- ranks higher in Google's secret search algorithm.

Number three, down a single peg from second place in previous years, is Trope-ing the light fantastic (life-sign detectors) (from February 25, 2009, about a particular SFnal trope). Does this post draw Star Trek fans? Biologists? I don't know. Other entries in my Trope-ing the light fantastic post series aren't as popular.

Ranked fourth (up from sixth a year ago), from February 11, 2011, we have Creative Destruction. That's another Lerner book title, drawing upon the concise description of capitalism by economist Joseph Schumpeter.

To those of you Googling the phrase "Creative Destruction" out of dismal-science curiosity, two comments. First, my Creative Destruction -- a themed collection of eight stories, ranging from flash fiction to a short novel -- deals with computer science. IMO, computer science is a primo example of Schumpeter's virtuous cycle of the better supplanting the no longer competitive. Second, beyond my techiness, I have an MBA.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Quoth the Gw'oth ...

I won't say nevermore—if only because never encompasses a very long time—but there are no plans for further novels in the Fleet of Worlds series. And so ...

Debut of the Gw'oth
I invented the Gw’oth for Fleet of Worlds (coauthored with Larry Niven); the little guys returned in three (of the four) sequels. As often happens with species- and world-building, much background is merely hinted at in the eventual story or is omitted entirely. That’s okay. I needed to understand the Gw’oth before putting them through their many-tentacled paces. Hence: four novels after their debut, some details about the Gw’oth remain untold.

I recently wrote "Alien Aliens: Beyond Rubber Suits" for the science side of Analog Science Fiction and Fact (see the April 2013 issue). The Gw'oth served in the article as an extended example of how an author might go about creating alien worlds and alien aliens.

If you read the zine (and if you enjoy hard SF, you really should), check out the article. And if you don't? Read on for an extract (slightly adapted) from the article for a peek at the science and thinking behind the Gw'oth.

But be advised: bits of what follows are spoilers for Fleet of Worlds (though not the remaining books of the series) ...