Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Buy a Book Saturday (and Sunday, and ...)

(Updated November 29, 2014)

Woohoo! Thanksgiving is upon us! Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry sauce. Pie. Repeat. 

And every bit as traditional, shopping. Me, I'd just as soon that commerce wait till after Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are surely soon enough to start. Between those two now-iconic shopping days comes the recent innovation of Small Business Saturday, meant to encourage holiday purchases that support merchants in one's own neighborhood.

Beginning in 2010 (Buy a Book Saturday), I've allocated at least a part of a post each year at this time to supporting a particular sort of small business: authors laboring away in the privacy and solitude of a home office, den, or other cranny. No matter that they likely aren't a part of your geographic neighborhood, assuming you're a reader -- that's why you visit this blog, right? -- wherever books are prepared is part of your spiritual neighborhood. Why not support small business and nurture your soul?

As I put it in 2012:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Genre-ally speaking

So, what's new in SF?

First off, what's old is new again. By most rankings of such things, 2001: A Space Odyssey is among the greatest SF films ever. Its trailer? Not so much -- but that's being fixed. Over at Entertainment Weekly, check out "See the new trailer for '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 46 years after its release."

What rankings, you ask? Here's one. Forbes (of all unlikely venues), in response to the recent big-screen release of Interstellar, offers, "Top 10 Best Space Travel Films Of All Time."

I've yet to see Interstellar and -- especially after the scientific travesty that was Gravity (see my April post "A mission of (anti-)gravity" -- I'm conflicted about trying another Hollywood SF blockbuster. Certainly I'll wait till Interstellar is available through Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. And if I hadn't already had my doubts, this, from io9 would have decided the matter: "Stop Putting New Age Pseudoscience in Our Science Fiction." As in, duh, love is not a force of nature like, well, gravity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This wild universe

The universe is a strange and fascinating place, about which we continue -- in fits and starts, two steps forward and (hopefully only) one step back -- to learn. Consider a few recent items:

Remember Toon Town?
"Much like characters on a television show would not know that their seemingly 3-D world exists only on a 2-D screen, we could be clueless that our 3-D space is just an illusion. The information about everything in our universe could actually be encoded in tiny packets in two dimensions."

A newly begun experiment will, just maybe, ascertain that we're all toons. See (from the University of Chicago, one of my alma maters), "Do we live in a 2-D hologram? New Fermilab experiment will test the nature of the universe."

A knotty bit of string theory
String theory is a discipline within physics that set out (among its modest aspirations) to unify the nuclear strong force, the nuclear weak force, and the electromagnetic force with gravity. For decades, having failed to come up with any testable hypotheses, string theorists have struggled to show their subject is anything more than fun with numbers. They're trying yet again. See "M-Theory Repositions: Now You Can Thank Us For Quantum Mechanics Too."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chocolate overdose?

The theme that came to mind for this week's post was clearing out miscellaneous and sundry. Sorta kinda like finishing up the Halloween leftovers. They (the  candy, not the eclectic post topics) can't lead me astray after they're all gone, right?

Let's begin with a seriously cool new computer design. As in, "HP’s New PC Can Project a Touchscreen Onto Your Desk." With this configuration, maybe Windows 8 does make a smidgeon (say, one M&M's worth) of sense for a desktop computer.

In addition to acting as a second screen projected onto the surface where your keyboard would normally be, Sprout’s camera/projector mount—dubbed the “HP Illuminator”—also acts as a scanner. The touch mat also has a special coating that renders it invisible to its cameras during scans. You can place documents or objects in front of the computer, scan them with the Sprout’s 14.6-megapixel and depth-sensing Intel RealSense cameras, and then use the multitouch mat to move those scanned objects around and resize them. That work is done in HP’s own Workspace software on the machine, but the company has released an SDK for app developers to tap into those scanning and input features.

You gotta magnify
As Douglas Adams expressed it (like everything else) so well, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." And if you doubt, consider that "This is what North America would look like on Jupiter."