Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Already a wacky year

A potpourri sort of post (say that quickly five times) ...

Video games meet cryptocurrency. What could possibly go wrong? "Organized crime is laundering money through Fortnite's in-game currency." As in:
Criminals are using stolen credit cards to buy Fortnite V-bucks, then selling the in-game currency for bitcoin at a discount on the dark web as a way to launder money.
How about a non-crypto crisis in the making? Consider "The world is running out of phosphorus." And any such shortage would matter because:
... phosphorus is biologically vital. The average human body contains about 0.5kg of phosphorus, most of it in the form of phosphate to make bones and teeth strong. Phosphorus also crucially holds together DNA and RNA molecules – the backbone of these long chain-like structures contains two phosphate groups per pair of nucleic bases. Without phosphorus, it is hard to imagine any kind of life at all.
Some things we homo saps can do right
But on the positive (and seriously cool) side, we  have data streaming home -- from about four billion miles away -- of the New Horizons probe's New Year's Day flyby of Ultima Thule. The data only get better and better.  See "Craters, bulgy mounds and a collar." If nothing else, you gotta see the latest image.

To close, let's look ahead at some tech (loosely defined) predictions for 2019. Some forecasts you'll like. Some you won't. (Me? I'm happy to see a prognostication that shared electric scooters are already fizzling. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. Or without waiting ...)

Now I had best turn my attention to the oeuvre(s) in progress, lest my 2019 prove an accident waiting to happen ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Counting on ten left thumbs?

Software is incredibly important. It's essential to everything from managing power and communication networks, to the routine operation of vehicles and industrial processes, to the record-keeping that underlies pretty much all modern finance, to enabling blogs like this one. Which is why bad and/or over-hyped software is so problematical.

I've commented (vented? harangued? ranted?) often enough about privacy violations and security breaches in major software-based systems. Think: the OPM hack, or the compromise of every user account at Yahoo!, or the Starwood Hotel data breach. But today's post deals with other ways for software get us into trouble ....

It's too often like this. Right?
Are you one of the millions (billions?) who depends on Windows for at least part of the day? Have you noticed that not until January did we read "Windows 10 October 2018 Update is at last being pushed automatically." So what's been the delay? Try this: "Worst Windows 10 version ever? Microsoft's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad October." Which concludes with the bone-chilling prediction:

... come next April, when the 19H1 version is approaching public release, a lot of people will be holding their breath.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Clears throat awkwardly ...

This being, after all, a science- and SF-oriented blog ...

The Hugo Award process is currently accepting nominations. Are you a Hugo Award voter?(*) If so -- and it goes completely against the grain to mention this -- my lone nonfiction book is eligible this year in the Best Related Work category.

If this is a category in which you might nominate, I respectfully request your consideration of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

For a bit more about this book, see Amazon, this Tangent Online review, or my website.
(*) "Members of Dublin 2019 and the 2018 Worldcon, Worldcon 76, can nominate works in each of the categories. Voters are encouraged to nominate up to five works/individuals in each category that they believe are worthy of a Hugo."

For more about the awards, award categories, and the overall process, see https://dublin2019.com/hugo-awards-wsfs/the-hugo-awards/ (the site from which the forgoing paragraph is quoted).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Enjoying the new year so far

Beyond having concurrent fiction appearances this month in three zines:
  •  "I've Got the World on a String" at Galaxy's Edge (That short story is, for now, appearing in its entirety at http://www.galaxysedge.com/. To check out the story, do a find on the zine's home page for: world on a string)
  • "Clockwork Cataclysm" at Analog
  • "The Company Mole (Part II)" at The Grantville Gazette

... I'm delighted to report the recent sale of "The Company Bane" (also in two parts) to run later this year at The Grantville Gazette. "Bane" completes the "Company" story arc.

Every year should begin so well :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A week to restore one's faith in humanity

Clearly, I refer to nothing in the political sphere. But think of the milestones (kilometer stones?) science and technology reached this week. From closest to farthest, we've got:

"China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft makes historic landing on far side of the Moon."

The lunar far side
The Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 has landed on the far side of the Moon and has begun relaying data and images back to Earth. It is the first mission to operate on the far side, which is the  hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. This half of the Moon has a much more rugged and varied landscape than the hemisphere that is visible from Earth and studying its geology could provide important information about how the Moon and the rest of the solar system formed.

Also, NASA's "OSIRIS-REx probe goes into close orbit around asteroid Bennu and sets a record."

Artist rendering
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft today maneuvered into an orbit that takes it within 4,000 feet of the surface of Bennu, a diamond-shaped asteroid that’s 70 million miles from Earth.

The orbit sets a record for interplanetary travel. The quarter-mile-wide asteroid is now the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft, and the spacecraft is tracing the closest sustained orbit around a celestial body.
And (IMO, the most awesome of all) in the distant Kuiper Belt, Nasa's New Horizons: 'Snowman' shape of distant Ultima Thule revealed."

4 billion miles away
"[Ultima's] only really the size of something like Washington DC, and it's about as reflective as garden variety dirt, and it's illuminated by a Sun that's 1,900 times fainter than it is outside on a sunny day here on the Earth. We were basically chasing it down in the dark at 32,000mph (51,000km/h) and all that had to happen just right," the SwRI scientist said.

We Homo saps actual can accomplish great things when we cooperate and focus.